Learning Curve- Chapter IV
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mal and Morgan meet the man responsible for killing Morgan's platoon. Then things get worse.


Mal heard the cussing in Chinese behind him but didn’t stop to help the two people he had knocked to the ground. He watched Morgan duck into an alley ahead. Mal still hadn’t spotted the man they were chasing. Morgan said it was the officer from Hera, the one that had attacked the transports. If that were the case it would be ugly once Morgan caught up to him.

Mal was moving to fast as he entered the alley. He scrunched his shoulder as he slammed into the brick wall, then careened off and landed on the ground. He looked up to see Morgan turn right onto the next street. Mal got to his feet and lit out behind him.


Major Erik Engel knew the man chasing him. After Hera he had used the promotion he received for his success in the attack, to research the man who had nearly bested him. His position as Section Chief at HIC (Human Intelligence Collection) gave him the clearance to learn everything about Nathaniel Morgan. After Morgan’s betrayal to the Alliance and subsequent escape, the powers that be took their wrath out on his family. His parent’s farm was seized and they were taken as co-conspirators. His mother died in the interment camp and her death push his father into insanity. His wife was core born and her family had connections, so the same approach could not be used. Instead they froze his account and then froze her out. She was denied the life she enjoyed as an officers wife. The Alliance threatened her friends with criminal charges if they associated with her. Her debts piled up and with no one to turn to, she was forced to return to her family. Once there, under pressure from the family to clear up their good name, she filed for divorce. It was quickly granted and she has since remarried. The only misstep they had made in his opinion was leaking this information back to Morgan. They had hoped to demoralize him, instead it reinforced in his mind that the Alliance had to fall, and now that grim determination was chasing him through the streets of Port Comfort. He had been in the town overseeing interrogations when the surprise attack had occurred. He was knocked unconscious during the aerial bombing. When he came to, the town’s library, they had used as a command center was abandoned. Donning civilian clothes he had been attempting to escape when Morgan had spotted him.


Mal lungs were starting to burn as he caught Morgan. They were moving to the outskirts of town. Mal could see the officer still well ahead.

“We’re closing on him” Morgan said.

The officer turned into yet another alley ahead of them. Mal followed Morgan’s lead and drew his pistol as they rounded the corner. The alleyway was narrow and the two men’s shoulders almost brushed as they ran side by side. Mal saw the officer stop ahead of them, his gun drawn but he didn’t aim at them. Morgan trained his pistol on the officers back. Mal was half expecting the killing shot to echo any second, instead they both slid to a halt as the alley opened up to a small courtyard behind an apartment complex.

“That’s far enough” a voiced boomed from above them.

Mal aimed towards the voice and saw a grungy bearded man standing on the balcony. Around and below him were several other unsavory types. Half of them pointed weapons at the officer the other half at Mal and Morgan. Morgan kept his pistol trained on the officer. Engle now aimed at Morgan.

A small rat faced man stood next to the bearded one.” I thought you said it was safe to move this stuff now?”

“Shut up Gutter” the leader said staring down at Mal and Morgan.

Mal shifted his eyes around the courtyard. I stack of crates were next to the wall and two mules, hitched with trailers were half loaded.

“We’re not here to cause you any trouble Captain” Morgan addressed the man with the beard. “We just want this man.” pointing at the officer. “He’s wanted for questioning by the Independents.”

“Got no use for the Independents, soldier. Cause of you I got to work with worms like this just to keep afloat” He said jerking his head towards the rat faced man.

Major Engel spoke “You’re a transport Captain? I happen to be looking for transport. If you will eliminate these two men I will happily pay you double the regular fee.” He stepped towards the center of the courtyard.

“I got ever less use for the Alliance.” The Captain replied.

He eyed the three men below closely. “But now I got me a dilemma. Killing all of you seems to be the best answer.” Mal, Morgan and Engel all tightened the grip on their triggers. “But I don’t think it’s likely you won’t put a few holes in my crew ‘fore I accomplish that.” The Captain tugged at his beard with his unarmed hand. “Here’s the deal. You three holster your weapons. You” he pointed at Engel” Keep moving up that way. You” pointing at Morgan” Back the way you came. We’ll keep you both covered just to see you both get out safe.” He said with a smile.

“Once we’re unarmed you’ll kill…” Engel started but Morgan interrupted.

“Done” he said holstering his pistol. Mal followed his lead. The men aiming at Morgan and Mal looked to their leader. He nodded his head and they turned their weapons to Engel. Engel had Morgan in his sites but knew he would be dead the second he fired. Slowly he lowered his weapon.

“Ok” The Captain said “turn around and be on your way.”

Mal and Morgan turned and started down the alley, both looking over their shoulder. Mal saw Engel doing the same. The ships crew moved into the alley covering both of them. “How’d ya know they wouldn’t kill us?” Mal asked.

“Ships Captain always has to look for a way out of bad situation. We weren’t walking away otherwise, so I took a chance.”

Mal nodded then looked back again. The officer was almost to the street on the other side of the alley. Mal frowned. “I know you always say sometimes you have to pick between walking away and being carried away, but every once in while I wouldn’t mind limping.”

Morgan stopped just feet from the street and looked at Mal. “You sure bout that?”

Mal locked eyes with Morgan “Yeah…Yeah I am.”

Both men spun drawing their pistols as the bullets erupted from the crew guarding them. Each got a shot off at the officer. Engel still looking back had no time to react Mal’s bullet creased his fore head, Morgan’s round shattered his knee cap. He went down hard and crawled into the safety of the street. Morgan shoved Mal into the street as a bullet clipped his thigh. Mal leaned back into the alley to return fire and got a bullet hole in his new coat and his shoulder. Morgan looked at Mal from his side of the alley. “Got a limp yet?” he asked.

Mal, his back to the wall, had switched his pistol to his left hand and was firing blindly down the alley. He leaned his bloody shoulder forward and nodded. “Guess we can go then. Medical was setting up south of town. See ya there.”

Both men covered the alley as they moved down their side of the street. It was two weeks later by the time Mal and Morgan were released for duty by medical. The city wide search for Engel had failed to locate the Alliance officer. Although they both hoped he had bled out somewhere on Jiangyin, they knew more than likely he had escaped again.


June 2507 Onboard the Reliant in route to Dyton

The alarm now blaring over the comm was different than the several others they had heard in the last few hours. This was a boarding alarm. The frigate they had been combating for most of the day had gained position and was docking. Mal, Morgan and the rest of the squad had been given orders to secure the armory room. With the weapons stacked and the crates deployed as cover the eight soldiers waited. Static filled the comm as jamming frequencies were activated by the Alliance boarding party. Mal could hear the dull thumps of weapons fire coming from the decks above.

“You think they can stop em” Jennings asked Morgan.

Morgan turned to Mal. The grim look on his face answered the question.

“We’ll be fine Jennings” Mal lied.

“What are you going to do after the war Mal?” Morgan asked

Mal stood in shock. It was a question that was asked by almost every soldier at some point. Usually it was during a lull in the fighting or on the long transports between planets. Morgan had never asked or answered the question. The fact that he was asking now sent a chill down Mal.

“Suppose I’ll head home go back to ranching” Mal said. “I always thought I would get ship, find a crew and just live out in the black” Morgan said. The impact that they were not getting out of here sunk in. “We’re that humped huh?”

“The abandon ship will be ordered once they get down here.” Morgan said.

“We can try to slow them down. We have a good cross fire set up. Do what we can then fall back to the escape pods.”

“No...Won’t matter. They’ll just shoot the pods out of the sky.”

“So what do we do? I’m not fond of the idea of buying it here but I ain’t looking to surrender either” Mal asked as the sounds of gunfire grew louder.

“Well surrender maybe an option for you but I don’t think it would be much different than dying for me. I’m a traitor remember?”

Mal had heard the stories of how Independents had been poorly treated in POW camps but he had never considered what they would do to Morgan. Morgan began to scan the armory. It was a large room with gun racks along each wall. Most were empty now as weapons had been distributed to the crew. In the center was the heavily armored vault with doors on each side. Inside, were the explosives, grenades, and the larger ordinance that could cause a hull breach if discharged. The first purple bellies appeared at the hatch. They bottlenecked at the hatch door and the squad cut them down easily. The second wave tossed in concussion grenades. The soldiers crotched behind cover and the explosions echoed through the room.

“You conjure up a solution yet, or should I ask them to come back later?”

“Yeah I got something.” Morgan said as he drew his pistol and rose from behind the crate. He fired a single shot that tore through both Purple Bellies entering the hatch. “We have to blow up the ship.”



Thursday, January 24, 2008 1:24 AM


ah - you have a real cinematic/action sense that i definitely struggle with. great!


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