Learning Curve-Chapter II
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Private Malcolm Reynolds and his new Sergeant have a job to do.


They had split up. Bonitelli and Dancer had proceeded straight as Mal and Morgan flanked the right cannon. The THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, of the cannons continued. Each thump was followed by a loud WHOOSH as the missile shot from the cannon would ignite and streak towards the sky. Sarge motioned him to stop. Mal dropped to one knee, and looked back. He could see the small red flashes on the gray shadows in the distance. Mal could just make out one transport coming back down. The angle of decent was too steep. Others still continued up trying to reach the safety of the black. Tears swelled in Mal’s eyes as he watched the destruction. A hand gently touched his shoulder.

“If you want to help them, see to the job at hand.” He paused and looked Mal in the eye. “Things will always go wrong, how you handle that makes you who you are. Dong mah?” Mal nodded as the Sarge spoke calmly into his comm. “Light em up”

Bonitelli and Dancer started firing on the right gun. Two of the five man team stopped loading and returned fire. The spotter grabbed his headset and started to speak. The bullet from Morgan’s rifle silenced him. The gunner seated on the other side of the cannon, continued to fire, unaware his spotter was dead. The third loader struggled to load another compliment of missiles into the rack. He looked up just in time to see Morgan and Mal charging. Before he could reach his weapon, Mal ended him. The two soldiers firing at Bonitelli and Dancer were both dropped by Morgan. Circling the cannon from both sides they closed on the gunner. He was gone. Mal pointed towards the second cannon. The gunner was sprinting the 50 yards between guns to warn them.

Mal and Morgan poured fire towards the second gun. Their attack elicited the response they needed, the second load crew split and returned fire. The gunner showed exception athletic skills as he dodged and duck his way towards the second cannon.

“Bonitelli move up. Take the gun now.” Morgan shouted into the comm.

“Sarge the gunships will be here soon let them take em out.”

“Move Gorammit” He screamed.

He grabbed his binoculars and scanned Bonitelli’s position. Neither man had moved. Scanning back his eyes locked on an officer staring back at him through his own optics, the gunner had made it and was pointing towards Bonitelli’s position. The officer dropped his binoculars. Morgan saw the man smile. He ducked behind the sand bags as the officer redirected fire to both positions. Pinning them both down.

“Son of a Bitch” Morgan exclaimed “We had em.” “Gunships will finish the job Sarge” Mal said firing between a gap in the sandbags.

“I don’t think so”

Mal looked at Morgan quizzically. Morgan was looking behind the gun they had taken. Mal followed his gaze to small sand dune 20 yards behind them. It was another camo tarp. Mal scanned the second gun. Sure enough there was a second hump behind theirs as well. The com crackled in Morgan’s ear. ”Sarge, their deploying smoke” Bonitelli said.

Mal and Morgan had moved to the camo tent. Unlike the Alliance gun they didn’t have smoke cover. Bullets whizzed passed them as they tugged at the tarp. Pulling it free they uncovered a Norcon T-44 fast burn rocket shuttle. A ramped pit had been excavated for the shuttle to rest it. . The T-44 was basically a tube with an engine attached. The swept wings were short and only spanned a distance between the two seat cockpit and the infantry section making it less maneuverable than most ships.

The cannon stopped firing.

“Their leaving. Gunships must be close.” Morgan said.

“Don’t seem right them getting away”

“They ain’t got away yet. Load up.”

“You can fly one of these?”

Mal followed Morgan down the ramp. Mal climbed the ladder and strapped into the co-pilot seat behind Morgan. Just as Morgan had fired the engine, Mal saw the second shuttle rocket into the sky. Before he could point it out, he was sucked back into his seat by the force their own launch.

“So do we have a plan” Mal yelled into his headset. “Working on it.”

Each shuttle streaked into the sky. Mal strained against the g forces to look out the cockpit. He had never seen a launch from this point of view. On Shadow he had seen ships come and go but until the day he ship off to war, he had never set foot on one. All of his trips since, had been in transports, cramped into a bunk or strapped into a seat, with the only view available being the bunk above him or the soldier next to him. This was much better. Mal began to float out of his seat as the shuttle rolled over and broke atmo. Rocket shuttles didn’t have artificial gravity. He pulled his harness straps and settled back to his seat.

“We following them back to their ship?” Mal asked.

“Don’t think they have one. Air defense would have spotted a ship in orbit. I think their going sub orbital. Use the planet rotation and drop on the other side of the world.”

“So we call ahead and set up a nice welcome present for em?”

“Not that easy, the com encrypted. More important, the entry computer is too. When they drop back in we’ll have to match them manually”

“I take it that’s not a good thing”

“That’s right. When the time comes, I’ll need your help. Till then sit back and enjoy the view.”

Mal looked up, which was down at the planet below.

They had been flying for over an hour when Mal worked up the nerve to ask Morgan about Bonitelli’s accusations. “Sarge, it true you were a Major with the Alliance?”

No reply. Mal immediately regretted asking. He was thinking of a way to cover his mistake when Morgan spoke.

“Normally I would tell it’s none of your goram business, but seeing as how we’ll probably burn to death on reentry I guess you can know. No I wasn’t a Major with the Alliance. I was a Captain. I had a surveyor ship, The Rainier. Once the war started she was converted to a Fast Combat Support Ship. We were resupplying a cruiser group off of Aton, a piss ant moon out on the rim. The Browncoats had fled by the time we arrived. Once we resupplied the cruisers, we were told to link with the battle group. I was prepping for pursuit, when the orders came in to raze the cities below. Alliance wanted to teach them a lesson bout siding with the Independents.”

Mal listened intently as Morgan continued. “I didn’t obey the orders. Not that out little gun would have made a difference once the cruisers opened fire.” Morgan paused. Mal could hear his heavy breath over the com. “When it was over the moon was scorched….nothing left. I was relieved of duty and brought up on charges.”

“How did you...” Mal started

“Escape? Luck I guess. The Rainier was on the way back for supplies and prisoner transfer. They ran into a Browncoat patrol and were taken. Once my story was verified I was offered the rank of Colonel and a ship.”

“Colonel? Then how’d you end up an infantry Sergeant?”

“Chose it. I didn’t want to be telling men to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself.”

Mal had a new respect for the man in front of him.

“Their going in.”

Mal looked ahead and could see they had relit their engines.

“Take the controls when I roll her over. She’s going to buck. I’ll try to shave the vector and match their entry. You help me keep her steady.”

Mal took the controls as she leveled out. As soon as Morgan adjusted the vector the ship began to shake. Mal fought to keep it level. The heat in the cockpit increased. Mal could see the red glow coming from the front of the shuttle. Suddenly gravity came back to the ship. The weight pressed Mal back in his seat and his grip loosened on the controls.

“Pull it back” Morgan yelled

Mal head was thrown into the canopy and everything went black.

The heat from the fire woke Mal. He jumped to his feet trying to escape the burning fuselage. Pain shot to his head and knocked him to his knees. He was crawling away from the flames when he heard a voice.

“Easy there Mal. Lay back down and rest a spell.”

He turned towards the voice and saw Morgan. Behind him was the shuttle intact and not on fire. He looked back to see a small campfire and collapsed.

The next morning was easier on Mal. He slowly got to his feet and inspected the small camp. Morgan was gone but had left water, a ration pack and Mal’s weapon near the fire. Mal slung his rifle and took a long pull from the canteen. He walked over to the shuttle. The landing gear was collapsed and a puddle of hydraulic fluid had formed under one of the wings but other than that she looked in good shape. Coming back around the shuttle Mal saw Morgan enter the camp.

“They get away Sarge?”

Morgan laughed “Hell boy, we must of over shot em by a hundred klicks, maybe more. After you went down things got a might tricky, but we made it through.”

“I’m sorry Sarge.”

“No need to be. You did damn good yesterday.”

“So what now?” Mal asked.

“There’s a small town north our position. We’ll head there and see about getting a lift to whatever docks nearby.”

As they followed the game trail through the forest, Mal’s curiosity got the better of him again. Normally he knew better than to pry into others affairs but normally he didn’t meet people quite like Morgan.

“Sarge.. You mind if ask you another question”

“Guess that depends on the question. Seeing as how we’re not facing down death at the moment, I might not be as eager as I was yesterday.”

“I was wondering just how a ex Alliance officer came to have such a rim world vernacular. I thought the Alliance breed prim and proper officers.”

Morgan let out a small laugh.” Hell boy. I was born on Wittier, raised on a farm. I spent plenty a days looking at a mule’s tail there, and while the Alliance did on more than one occasion comment on my back water ways, I can put on a good front when needed. Besides that Rainier was a surveyor ship. We spent most of our time our in the black.”

“Your family still on Wittier?”

Mal saw a little sadness in Morgan’s eyes.

“You said a question, and I answered. Towns just though this thicket.”

The next day, they arrived at the docks. Morgan left Mal to find transport while he checked in with command. Mal was nervous, as he had never had to negotiate passage on a ship before. Booking passage into a war zone wasn’t an easy task. After two attempts had not gone well, he decided to treat it like a horse deal. He had done plenty of those and for the most part he had come out alright. Mal spotted a crewman peeking under a tarp being loaded onto a ship. Mal watched the man smile and follow the load into the bay. Waiting a few minutes Mal walked up the ramp. He was met at the top of the ramp by what he assumed was the Captain.

“What ya want?’ The scruffy man barked.

“Just looking for passage to Verbena, is all”

“You got the wrong ship, move along”

“Well now you haven’t heard my offer yet”

“Don’t care what your offer is. Off my boat” His hand moving towards his gun.

“Ok, ok” Mal said backing away. “Seemed like good fit, you wanting to avoid anyone snooping around for that cargo I just saw you bring on, but for some reasons not in your hold right now, and us being Independent soldiers who would be shuffled right through any inspections to get us to the front”

Mal started down the ramp.

“Hold up a sec.” The man came down the ramp. “Verbena huh? How much can you pay?”

Mal waited outside the transport for Morgan. He arrived carrying a package and a small crate under his arm.

“Firefly, good choice.” he said as he walked up the ramp.

Mal followed “What did you find out?”

“We’ll talk later.”

Morgan did talk to him later. The Independents had taken a big hit. Four transports had been destroyed. Two had crashed back to Hera, the other two abandoned in space. Several other vessels had sustained damage and loss of life, including the transport carrying Morgan’s Platoon. They were all gone. As Mal left the Sergeant’s quarters he saw the man open the crate and pull out a bottle.

Mal spent the two week trip to Verbena exploring the Firefly. At first the crew was cautious around him, but after he breezed them through the second inspection point, they eased up. Mal moved freely about the ship. The first mate had let him see the crew quarters. He even knew where the most of the hidden storage areas were, although he never looked inside them. Mal made a game of it, moving though the ship until a crew member would run over and sweep him away to see another feature of the boat. Had they left him alone he would have missed most of them. Morgan stayed in his quarters. Mal brought supper to his room each night. He would be either sleeping or drunk. He didn’t talk about losing his men and Mal didn’t ask.

On the day they would make land fall Morgan came out of his quarters. He was clean shaven, his black hair trimmed and combed, his trousers tucked into his boots and a fresh shirt underneath his brown Drover style coat.

“Morning Mal, too late for breakfast?”

“No sir should be ready soon” Mal answered.

“Good. Is the Captain on the bridge?”

“I… think so sir.”

“I’ll see about using the Cortex and getting some orders.” Morgan said as he headed towards the bridge.

The large round table in the center of the dining area made for cramped quarters while eating. Mal sat across from Morgan who was seated beside the Captain.

“Captain, I saw a wave on the Cortex, mentioning something about a theft of some antique weapons on Hera.” The crew stiffened as Morgan continued. “Looked to be pretty close to the area we took off from.” “You don’t say” was the Captain’s reply as his eyes shot to his first mate.

Mal started to worry. If Morgan had a problem with the payload the crew had, they would be out gunned and most likely out an airlock in the next few minutes.

“I’m just curious because I always liked older weapons. The weight and balance fit better then those new high tech polymer models.” He said as his hand moved under his coat. Two of the crew stood, hand poised over their pistols as Morgan’s hand came back into view.

“You boys are a might jumpy” Morgan commented as he set a stack of platinum down on the table. “You see my new Corporal here needs a side arm. Be nice if he had a rig by the time we hit atmo.” With that Morgan rose from the table and left the room.

Oct. 2056 Hill 243, Verbena

Corporal Malcolm Reynolds stepped into the staging area and checked the tie down on his holster. Morgan was right, the older weapon fit him well and the balance was perfect. He admired the bronze finish of the pistol.

“Mal…Mal! Get it in gear we’re moving out.”

Mal acknowledged Morgan with a wave, then spun the pistol into his holster and lit out.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007 6:28 AM


I'm in awe of your battle descriptions. And it was interesting to see how Mal got his gun! Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 7:45 AM


No wonder Mal likes Fireflies, and how come he knows all the little hideyholes ... and nice bit with the gun. It seems to fit him so well, too!


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