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This next bit was confusing, but not because of the movie -- I'm just bad at knowing which ships are the good ones, which are the bad ones...they all look like spaceships to me. I think it comes from not watching football. Serenity makes her way back through the creepy Reaver detritus and toward the ion cloud. Unseen, a smallish vessel detaches and shadows her. Several tense seconds go by, in which we can hear Mal's voice: "Wash, we almost through?" River stares, and breathes. The small Reaver vessel extends ugly pincers, like a crab. "Now!" screams Wash, and Mal opens up, on Serenity's topside, where the gunport has been attached -- he takes out the crab ship like a total bad-ass, igniting rage in all Reavers ever, because they like to get mad and it's shiny.
On the Operative's ship, still in orbit beneath the ion cloud, "activity" is noticed. The crew readies to lock on Serenity once she clears the cloud. "You should have let me see her," murmurs the Operative. "We should have done this as men. Not with fire." Oh, you will. Serenity clears the cloud, and the Alliance gets a lock. Serenity flies straight towards them, and the Alliance crew almost laughs. "Bastard's not even changing course!"
Through the ion clouds burst a million Reaver ships, following behind Serenity, dwarfing her with their poking-out parts and their creepy spikes and whatnot. It's impressive. The Operative loses a millimeter of cool: "Target the Reavers. Target the Reavers! Target everyone! Somebody fire!" There is a huge space battle between the Reavers and the Alliance ships, which, again: not that interesting to read about. It is noted that seeing a billion Reaver ships -- knowing what they know -- in battle with Alliance fighters is satisfying now on several levels. Wash zips Serenity to and fro through the huge battle going on, explosions and casualties and insurance claims and medical co-pays, justifiably proud of himself: "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar." He soars magnificently.
Wash and Mal have hilarious and overexcited conversations ("No! No! No!" "Yes! Yes!") as they dip further and further through the atmosphere. The Operative's ship is clearly going down as well -- he drops through an actual escape chute into a space pod, and we see his face at many G's, lying in his metal coffin, dropping down toward the surface. The Reaver ships continue to attack, and Serenity is caught in a very excellent-looking EMP laser, shutting down all their shit onboard. Mal orders them all to strap in, as they drop down toward the voice of the universe, little Firefly and little escape pod, every second dropping 32 feet-per-second faster than a second ago. You know? Talk about stress. Jayne grabs Kaylee and straps her into a drop chair. "Check!" Inara. "Check!" Jayne gets thrown. Wash angles Serenity, flying without an engine, gliding her in toward Mr. U.