The First Fight
Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mal's first battle where he meets Zoe. And, yes, I suck at describing them, so read on my fools.


This is training? Asked Mal to himself. I worked harder on the ranch.

It was true, there wasn’t much included in the concept of training for the Independent Forces. Some pushups and sit-ups and basic weapon handling. Mal had learned how to use a gun at the age of twelve and had ample opportunity to hone his aim to a science. So, in training, Mal found himself often bored and somewhat limited. But his previous weapons' experience and his ability to learn quickly put him on the training fast track.

"Straight backs. Knees locked. That's the attention formation." The officer barked.

"Uh, sir," Mal dared venture, "What about the passing out that tends to happen after a body's knees are locked?"

"You better not pass out, soldier!"

"No sir," Mal said and stood at full attention, with his knees relaxed.

Sure enough, after some minutes, one poor kid fell straight over backward.

Well that was dumb. Mal was more frustrated with the officers than with the under-trained conscripts. He wondered again why he had decided to join. Oh yes, Alliance cut off Shadow. Hwoon dahn. The import and export of Shadow had been 'monitored' by the Alliance. That is to say it was stopped completely, and all the ranchers lost their livelihoods and many their lives.


It wasn’t long before Mal was deemed trained and shipped off with a bunch of other volunteers to a world experiencing battle.

That was where he met her.

She was an unofficial scout for the unofficial guerilla force on the world Spartan. The Alliance had been trying for months to close down all trade routes, but the locals were putting up stiff resistance. It was in the best interest of the Independents to help the guerillas eradicate the Alliance and bring them into the fold.

Mal was pulling guard duty after the stiff march from the landing site. He was tired, but forced himself to stay alert. But he didn’t know they were there until almost too late. He heard some rustling off to his right and stood to investigate. A cold blade slid up to his neck and a steely hand gripped his arm.

"Independent." A hard woman's voice said to near his ear. She released him and he turned.

"Guerilla." He answered, looking her up and down. Her battle-worn camouflage was soiled by the approach. He surely was no better off. His tan uniform pants were stained with dirt and his once-shining boots were marred by dust.

"Up." She said rather loudly. Mall was confused. Then all around the camp stood similarly garbed soldiers, appearing as though from the air.

Mal turned to his com and woke the officer in charge.

Lieutenant Tig arrived at their position minutes after the guerilla leader appeared. The Lieutenant was rubbing sleep from his eyes and his uniform was rumpled. When he saw the guerillas he straightened and proffered his hand. "Lieutenant Tig of the Independent Forces."

The guerilla leader grasped his hand. "General Beatie of Spartan. And this is Zoe Alleyne." His title was purely self-given, but he carried it well.

Zoe also took the Lieutenant's hand and Mal saw him wince under her grip.

"You have a plan other than sleep?" Zoe asked Lieutenant Tig.

The Lieutenant looked aghast that she would address him at all, let alone without the proper 'sir'. Then his expression changed to embarrassment when he saw the same question mirrored in the General's face. "I was hoping for contact with your, ah, army so we could discuss a battle strategy."

"In other words, it's up to us." General Beatie said coldly.

"Oh no, sir. I just thought we should collaborate." At this point Mal became rather glad that they were ignoring him so he could listen in.

"Of course. And when were you going to make contact?" The General was deliberately trying to make Lieutenant Tig uncomfortable.

"Well, I was certainly going to wait for a more reasonable hour." Tig tried.

"Reasonable. Alliance ain't reasonable." Zoe said, again Tig looked agitated that she spoke up. "Alliance is quite the opposite, in fact."

"Well, ah, Ms. Alleyne"


"Zoe, I was hoping to discuss things with your superior."

"Guerillas are equal enough, Lieutenant." Beatie broke in. "Let's discuss."

"Yes, please, General, come to my tent and we'll look over some maps."

"Here will do fine. I need no maps."

"Yes sir, but I do. And there are soldiers about."

"You plan to make a strategy they don’t know about?" Beatie raised an eyebrow.

Mal decided he liked the General and could learn a lot from him.

"It isn't policy to discuss plans in front of the men." Lieutenant Tig's voice was weak, he knew he was loosing.

Beatie suddenly wheeled on Mal. "You won't sell us out to the Purple Bellies, will you, soldier?"

Mal's eyes widened. "No sir!" He said it with more passion than he realized he felt.


"Private Malcolm Reynolds, sir." Mal saluted.

"Good then. We all know each other." He turned back to Lieutenant Tig. "Shall we?"


The Battle of Spartan wasn't a particularly tough one. The Alliance was already all but defeated and the extra troops routed them, easily claiming Spartan for the Independents.

Mal made it a point to fight with the guerillas. He realized that their knowledge of the lay of the land was superior to the formations of the Independent Forces. He found himself fighting side by side with Zoe Alleyne.

She was cold towards him at first. "Spartan small potatoes to ya?"

"Not at all!" He shrugged. "This is my first battle."

She eyed him. "That so?" After his nod she continued. "Well, stick close, watch my back and I'll watch yers." He nodded again and checked his weapon.

He liked how she didn’t scorn his inexperience, didn’t patronize him, didn’t try to teach him. It made him feel that much stronger.

They were hunkered against a rocky ridge that overlooked a port town. The Alliance had claimed the port as their official hub of operations. Their headquarters. The plan was so simple that Mal felt sure it would work. Their mission was to crest the hill and storm the port with a surprise attack. The attack would be in waves with the guerillas, and Mal, first. It had taken them the entire morning to move surreptitiously into place. It was now early afternoon and the maneuver was soon to be initiated.

"So, Zoe, where ya from?" Mal asked, and instantly felt dumb.

"Spartan." She said. And that was all. He thought he saw a slight eye roll under that stoic face, but he couldn’t be sure.

"What did you do? I mean, before the war?"


"Uh, okay." Mal let it go at that. Obviously the woman was no talker. Odd, he'd always been told that a woman would talk a man's leg off as soon as look at him, and Mal had seen that demonstrated. He checked his gun again.

"Keep doin' that and you'll foul somethin' up and then we'll all be in a mess."

"Hey, I know how to handle a gun. Just you wait." He suddenly felt he had to prove something to her.

The signal came then. A slight buzz on the coms then: "First wave, initiate."

Mal leaped to his feet and bounded over the ridge of rock. He found himself tackled to the ground before he could take another step.

"Don't ever be the first. To lead is to die."

He looked at Zoe in puzzlement. "That ain't so. To lead is to live!" He jumped back to his feet and followed the soldiers down the embankment. This was it. He was finally acting on his whim. Finally he'd pay back the bastards that ran his mother's ranch into the ground. His breath came easily and his limbs moved as if on their own accord.

"Left flank." Mal was surprised to hear Zoe's voice close to his ear. She was running right along side him.

They veered left as the shooting began. The Alliance had indeed been caught with their pants down. But that didn’t mean that they were without weapons or training.

Mal crouched behind a hovercraft and fired a shot from his rifle. The bullet reached its intended target and the man slumped to the ground without a sound. Mal didn’t have time to reflect on his killing. He just fired more shots into the fray.

The time moved both slowly and quickly. It seemed everything was in slow motion, yet over so fast. Mal ducked and dodged, killing and watching his brothers in arms kill and be killed. Zoe stayed with him. He was surprised and grateful. Many a time she saw an attacker before he did, and sunk a round before he could respond. They covered each other's backs. He quickly learned to trust his back to her. And to guard her as she did him.

The battle was a short one and the victory total. The remaining Alliance retreated to the safety of space and the joint army took Spartan back for the Spartans.

"You did real good." Zoe said to Mal as they trekked back to the transports.

"I'm surprised you'd say so. Seasoned veteran and all that."

"This was my first battle."

His jaw dropped.


Because of the quick and thorough victory, Lieutenant Tig was awarded a promotion. Mal scoffed when he heard about it, but found that he too was promoted along with most of the soldiers in the fight. The guerilla army was assimilated into the Independent Forces, but General Beatie and his troops were not awarded anything.

Mal found that Zoe was assigned to the same unit he was in. He was glad of that. He'd learned to trust her gunning.

"So, here we are again. What is it this time, Ulruk?" Mal glanced at his briefing.

"Seems so, sir."

"Aw, c'mon now, Zoe. Don't call me 'sir'."

"You're superior now." Her eyes twinkled.

"Hrmph. Shoulda been you got promoted."

"Not so much. You have the tactical mind."

"How so?" He was genuinely interested in this bit of information.

"Good judgment. I trust that above a good gun."

"Me, good judgment? Tell that to my mother." But he smiled at the compliment.



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