“Target the Reavers. Target the Reavers! Target everyone — Somebody fire!”
―The Operative, ordering the Alliance fleet to attack the approaching Reavers
The Alliance fleet was originally in orbit of the planet tasked with capturing the Serenity, in order to prevent Malcolm Reynolds from delivering the Miranda recording to Mr. Universe for broadcast over the Cortex. Unbeknownst to them, Mal had lured the Reavers after him, which attacked the Alliance ships and continued to pursue Mal’s ship.
The Union of Allied Planets Navy is the main space-borne military force of the Union of Allied Planets. Alliance ships have the registry prefix I.A.V. (Interstellar Alliance Vessel). Though currently stretched quite thin, the military is still impressive. Massive cruisers – the size of small cities – patrol space, keeping a watch for smugglers, illegal salvage operations, and pirates. No one in the system is willing to take on an Alliance cruiser – except the Reavers, that is.
“If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And, if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.”
“I’m going to show you a world without sin.”
Reaver ships are usually older or obsolete models, modified with a wide array of weapons or offensive devices such as a magnetic grappler, an EMP cannon, or a spear gun (think Mad Max in space). Reavers are a breed of cannibal pirates.
The Reaver fleet was stationed in the Reaver space above the planet Miranda. For years, they would sporadically send raiding parties out to Rim planets and distant territories. When Malcolm Reynolds provoked the Reavers by blowing up a crab-shaped vessel, most or all of the Reaver fleet pursued Serenity in unison. They followed Serenity until they passed through the ion cloud above Mr. Universe’s planet, where they confronted—and were eventually destroyed by—a large Union of Allied Planets fleet in the Universe battle.