AN: So this idea came to me at insomnia o'clock the other night and it just might collapse under its own weight... but I couldn't NOT try it! In the Downton-verse, we're in S2, 1916 or 1917 - before Downton Abbey was set up as a convalescent hospital. As for Whedon-verse, no fixed time... but well before the events of Serenity.

I haven't watched Firefly or Serenity in a while, so apologies for any lapses in detail.

Something was wrong.

Of course, something or other was always wrong with this bucket of bolts: Captain Malcolm Reynolds had only the vaguest idea how Kaylee managed to keep the thing spaceworthy, and he was happy to delegate that responsibility. But this time, something was obviously catastrophically, cataclysmically, disastrously wrong.

He supposed the engine going dead was his first clue. "Kaylee!" He bellowed into the radio, from the bridge.

"On it, boss!" her voice chirped back.

Being dead in the water made him nervous, especially out here. They were in the boondocks; past the boondocks, really. Easy pickings for bandits. Or Reavers. He didn't know which was worse.

His next indication that something was amiss came a couple hours later when they drifted into the gravitational pull of a nearby planet. "Should we try to land?" Wash asked him.

"Maybe. Where are we, anyway?"

His pilot pulled up the nav charts and frowned. "What the -" he muttered. "I must be looking in the wrong... Uh, Mal? this isn't charted as a planet."

Mal looked out the porthole at the body they were orbiting: oceans, land, blue and green, dotted with fluffy white clouds. "Surely does look like a planet. A habitable one, too."

"Yeah, I know, Mal. What I'm saying is, it's not marked anywhere on here." Wash looked again. "According to this, it doesn't exist."

The ship suddenly quaked to life, and Mal's radio crackled. "I think I got it!" Kaylee shouted triumphantly. "We're gonna have to put down somewhere soon, though. I need to get at the compressor outside."

"Copy that," Mal responded. He raised his eyebrows at Wash. "Well," he said, "I guess we're gonna have to land on this rock... whether it exists or not."


The landing had been rough, to say the least. Kaylee must've gotten the engine running with little more than string and prayers, because it had abruptly gone out again soon after reentry. Wash felt lucky to have been able to find an open field in which to crash - er, put down. Of course, his own superior piloting skills had played no small part.

They appeared to have landed on the green of a large manor house, surrounded by outbuildings and manicured gardens. "Wow," Zoe Washburne marveled, peeking out the window. "This looks pretty built up for being on a planet in the ass-end of space."

"Not even a planet," Wash agreed.

"Wonder how this got out here," his wife mused. "Some minor shan zhu setting up his own fiefdom outside Alliance reach? Doesn't make sense."

"The whole planet looked pretty well populated, what I could see of it on the trip in," Mal said, reentering the bridge in time to catch Zoe's words. "But that ain't our concern. What is our concern is getting Serenity fixed and getting the hell out of here."

"Ah, yeah, Sir," Zoe said, taking another look out the porthole. "Along with the guys coming out to greet us. They look... curious about why we're in the middle of their field."


Mal, Zoe and Jayne strode down the gangway toward their welcoming party, hands free but well away from their weapons. No call to antagonize anyone right off.

"Afternoon," Mal greeted the one who appeared to be their leader, a very upright silver-haired gentleman in a tailcoat and a seemingly permanent scowl. He was eyeing Zoe as if she were a zoo animal. The other two, a middle-aged man who walked with a cane and a younger one in what looked like riding trousers, were taking in the ship wonderingly. "Sorry about - " Mal waved a hand at the scorch marks on the grass - "all this. We'll be fixed up and out of your hair in a jiffy."

The other man had appeared struck dumb, but now he shook himself slightly and drew himself up even more. "Sir," he said, "May I ask - " he stopped, seemingly nonplussed about how to proceed. It didn't last long; the man had poise. "May I ask who you are and why you have landed a - " another pause, with an astonished look at Serenity - "what appears to be a very large aeroplane on Lord Grantham's green?"

Mal wondered what kind of planet this was, anyway. Aeroplane? "Captain Malcolm Reynolds," he offered, along with his hand. "Pleased to make your acquaintance. These are my first mate, Zoe Washburne, and my... my associate, Jayne Cobb." They nodded coolly. "We had a bit of engine trouble, but like I said, as soon as we can get it repaired we'll take right off again."

The man regarded Mal's hand as if it were a scorpion. "I am Carson, butler to the Earl of Grantham," he bit out. "Captain... Reynolds, is it? Lord Grantham asked me to extend an invitation for you and your... crew to join him in his library. Please follow me." He turned on his heel and began to stalk toward the house.

"Now wait just a second," Zoe called out. "Who is this Lord Grantham? And what exactly does he want with us?"

"Easy, Zoe," Mal said in an undertone

"Don't worry," Jayne remarked. "They try anything, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve. And my pants leg. And down my boot." He chuckled, absolutely no humor in the sound.

They followed the men into the manor.


Robert Crawley was just about fed up. First he'd been turned into some sort of a... mascot for the army, instead of getting to actually serve his country like a man. And then, just as he was coming to terms with the idea that at least he'd have the comfort of his home to console himself, Mrs. Crawley had started in with her insistence that they give most of it up to a lot of convalescent soldiers. It looked as if that was going to happen with or without his approval. Why, he might as well not even be here, for all anyone listened to him.

And now this. Whatever "this" was: it was truly unprecedented. When they heard the noise, everyone thought this was it: the Germans were invading. Robert experienced a brief shot of excitement: he might not be going to war, but it was jolly well coming to him! But it soon became clear that the authors of the invasion, if that was what it was, were not Germans. He wasn't sure what they were.

The family - including his mother, who had come over for tea - had assembled in the library at the first sign of trouble. Robert sent out three of the few men still on the place (thank God Branson had been about) to see what was what. He hoped very much that he hadn't sent them into peril, while he remained in safety.

It seemed not: the three strangers entered the house peacefully enough. He was a bit taken aback by the appearance of the woman (such clothes!) but tried not to show it. Who knew where these people might be from, or what strange customs they observed? And they were armed, he noted.

"Lord Grantham, I presume?" one of the men greeted him. "Captain Malcolm Reynolds." He introduced Jayne and Zoe. "And that out on your field is my ship. I was just telling your, ah, butler here that we'd be out of your way just as soon as - "

Robert put out his hand for Capt. Reynolds to shake. "No trouble at all, Captain," he told him, though he was not at all sure that was true. "Please allow us to offer whatever assistance you need. We're happy to contribute to the war effort in any way we can."

The man looked mystified, but appreciative. "Well, thank you kindly, sir."

"Can I offer you some tea? My family and I were just - "

"Sir, Sir, your Lordship!" a panicked female voice, along with the patter of running feet outside the door, announced Anna Smith's presence a moment before she appeared, the evening newspaper fluttering in her hand. It hadn't even been ironed. "We've got to run! That ship! They've come here! It's -" she skidded to a halt, taking in the trio of strangers standing in the center of the library. Her eyes nearly doubled in size, and she became so faint that she had to sit down quickly on an upholstered bench near the door.

Bates and Carson made their way over to her: Bates to offer a glass of water and feel Anna's forehead, Carson to take the paper that seemed to have so upset her.

MASSACRE IN BRIGHTON, screamed the headline above the fold on the front page.

Carson frowned at the article. "Good God," he murmured, after reading the first paragraph.

"Well, what is it, Carson?" Robert demanded.

The butler began to read aloud. "Several hundreds of citizens were killed this morning in Brighton after a mysterious aircraft landed without warning in the centre of town and disgorged a mob of barbaric belligerents who proceeded to murder or maim every person they came across, with no regard to age or sex. Most of the hooligans were eventually shot down by the Local Defence Volunteers, but this did not occur before they had quite lain waste to a significant portion of the town. They - Sir, I don't know if I should continue. It's quite... graphic." He glanced at Cora and Violet, seated on the settee.

Mal stepped forward and took the paper from him, reading through the rest of the story. "The craft they piloted was motley, covered in what appeared to be skins and belching black smoke," he mumbled, sending a wide-eyed look toward Zoe and Jayne.

Jayne blew out a breath. "Ohhh, crap."

"Reavers," Zoe whispered.

- to be continued -