Last Stand
Monday, November 12, 2007

Mal faces his Alamo and rallies the troops going into the last week of the battle of Serenity Valley. Short standalone story.


“What valley was that? The one you couldn’t drive us out of? The one we held for a good two weeks after the war?”

“We beat you, that’s what history’ll remember,” said the disgruntled official.

“No, I imagine history’ll remember a squad that held a valley until they was ordered to lay down arms. Maybe even recall it as your biggest defeat,” responded Mal, his voice even.


Rain was falling, running into his eyes, washing sweat and dirt out of his hair and down his face. It was mud he knelt in, mud that served as a bed and quite possibly the final resting place of one very defiant purplebelly. The soldier's eyes were sleepy with morphine, but it didn't dull his anger. “You ever heard of winning the battle and losing the war, Sergeant? We’re gonna mow you down like – “ he started coughing, grimacing in pain, throwing up blood. The medic gave Mal a warning look.

“Recall hearin’ that more’n a week ago,” said Mal. “Seems to me we’re still here.”

“Not for long. You’ve lost. You must wanna be a hero real bad to die here too.”

“That wouldn’t be the plan,” said Mal, standing.


Mal scanned the weary group of men, the scattering of women. All slumped on the ground, all looking to him. It was the closest he was going to get to a formation; only a brute would ask these men to stand now. They still held the valley, but their grip was slipping. It was easy for men to be heroes when they were fresh and pumped full of adrenaline. Another matter entirely when they were surrounded by an enemy that never stopped coming, one that that threw new troops their way as fast as they could kill them. When they'd give it all up just for a good night's sleep, when the ache of fatique and wounds and the faces of dead friends just couldn't be set aside.

You’ve lost. Not yet, not until we give up.

“Been told we’re going to loose. Some tell me you’re afraid to die for nothing.” He paused, looked down. “Haven’t lost until we surrender. And - seems poor form to surrender when you’ve held the mightiest army in the verse at bay for more’n a week.”

“They've got us surrounded,” protested one soldier.

“Now that just simplifies things,” said Mal. “Saves us the trouble of finding 'em.”

He walked closer to the hundreds of exhausted faces looking up at him, some of them numb, some on the brink of tears. It was all he could do to stay on his own legs. He never knew being tired could hurt so rutting bad, and the last meal he could recall was a couple bites of protein pack the day before. And now he had to drive the lot of them to do the impossible. Not just now, but tomorrow, the next day, and as far as the eye could see.

“History – may celebrate the winners. But seems what it cherishes are the ones that lose with courage. It remembers them, idolizes even. The Battle of Thermopylae. The Alamo. It’s fun to fight when you’ve winning. But this – this isn’t fun. And I know you’re lookin’ over that ridge at an army fixing to have us for breakfast. Must say, they didn’t find us so tasty earlier." He grinned. "But that ain't the point.”

“Point is – if we lose – if – we can do it with our hand in the air begging for mercy, or we can make a stand that’ll be all manner of historical. Stand that’ll be remembered well after their fancy civilization comes to ruin.”

He turned and looked out over the valley. Graceful sort of place. Pretty, if you were feeling generous enough to overlook the scorched earth and the dead folk lying all about. Not so bad for a final resting place.

"Last stand sounds romantic. Don't imagine it ever has been. The kind of courage it takes to go into battle in a case like ours is legendary. Don't happen that way by dint of bein' something you see all the time. Takes special people. I - I reckon we're special. I know we are. So we'll make our last stand, tomorrrow, next day, day after that. And your mothers and your fathers won't be the only ones proud of you."


Mal raised his head to look at the official. “History’s set down by the victors. But it’s the heroes people remember. When was the last time you heard a man say the name of that valley without respect? That’s writ in blood for all time. Can’t be erased. Not ever.”


Tuesday, November 13, 2007 6:29 AM


A goodly comment on the end of the war but where was Zoe? Seemed all manner of wrong for Mal to be addressing the last of their troops in the Valley with no Zoe beside or in front of him. I liked his speech too. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 9:34 AM


I loved this the first time I read it. Still love it -- particularly this line:

He turned and looked out over the valley. Graceful sort of place. Pretty, if you were feeling generous enough to overlook the scorched earth and the dead folk lying all about. Not so bad for a final resting place.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 1:19 PM


Iv'ebeen working on a Mal war story for a while. If it turns out half as good as this I'll be happy. Great work

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 5:22 PM


Loved this when I first read it and I love it still.


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The Losing Side, Ch. 63 - The Art of Insanity
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