Learning Curve- Chapter V Final chapter
Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mal makes Sergeant.


Sweat burned Mal’s eyes and the slag, kicked up from the torch he was using, burned his bare hands. He had to hand to Morgan. Of all the crazy plans they had used in the past to get out of tight spot this was the craziest. They were going to blow up the Reliant.

Morgan explained to Mal, lighting off the armory wouldn’t be enough to damage the Alliance frigate that was docked to them. They had to destroy the drive core. If they were lucky the explosion would take out both ships and the escape pods would be safe. The problem was the drive core was one deck down.

Mal used a rifle butt to pry up the plate he had just cut. He swore when he saw the I-beam underneath, and went back to cutting. He and Morgan were both inside the vault. They had closed the door facing the hatch and opened the one behind. Morgan was rigging the explosives as Mal was making a hole. Outside the abandon ship recording could be heard between the gunfire and explosions.

Since they were blowing up the ship, Morgan saw no reason they couldn’t use the deadlier arsenal against the Purple bellies. The grenade launchers and heavy machine guns were holding back the invading troops. Mal could see Jennings and Kelly guarding the route to the escape hatch through the vaults back door. They would signal if the rest of the squad was overrun.

Morgan swung the crane used to stock the armory into position and latched the hook onto the I-beam. With the cut complete, Morgan used the chain pulley and they muscled the beam free. Four foot down another beam blocked the plate to the engine room.

Mal leaned into the hole “Can’t reach it”

“The crane” Morgan yelled.

Mal shrugged off his coat as Morgan tied the cable around his waist. Once secure Mal went head first into the hole. Mal knew there was no time to bring out the other beam. He would have to cut through it and the floor. He didn’t look up. He just saw to the task at hand. It seemed like an eternity in the hole. Each breath he took choked him as the smoke filled the tiny crawl space. Finally the plate broke free and fell to the floor below.

Mal took in the sweetest breath of air he could remember ever tasting and hollered up the hole. “We’re through”

Morgan started to pull him up.

“No time” Mal yelled “Drop the charges I’ll set em.”

Morgan nodded and released the chain. Mal fell to the engine room floor. When he looked back up Morgan was smiling at him.

“Fahng-tzong fung-kwong duh jeh. You did that on purpose.”

Morgan was already retrieving the crane hook. He lowered back down an improvised shape charge. ”Place it front of the core, so the blow back will breach the casing”

Mal moved it into position and returned to the hole. His duster fell through the gap. Wrapped inside were small radio detonators.

“Place them around the charge. We’ll blow this room first, then the core.” Morgan said holding the small Det trigger for Mal to see.

Mal placed the detonators and hooked his foot into the crane cable and looked up. His eyes widened at the sight. Morgan was firing back towards the escape hatch. They had been overrun. Mal started up the cable. Before he could reach the engine room ceiling he saw Morgan’s body jerk violently and fall. Morgan fell half into the hole. The blood stain across his chest dripped into Mal’s face.

“Go Mal” Morgan voice growled as blood entered his lungs. “Head aft and up to the pods.”

“Give me your hand” Mal screamed, pulling himself up the cable. Morgan coughed blood and shook his head no. In his left hand he held the Det trigger. “I’ll give you as long as I can.”

Tears filling Mal’s eyes, he screamed “Nooo! Give me your hand.”

“Gorammit Mal, move your ass.” Morgan whispered.

Mal saw the purple gloved hands grasp Morgan’s shoulders. As the Purple belly pulled him out of the hole, he saw Mal and opened fire. Mal threw himself off the cable and rolled across the engine room floor. He took a step back towards the hole and stopped. He wiped the tears from his face and looked at his blood covered hands. Then turned and headed to the escape pods.

Mal ran hard up the stairs to the next deck. He followed the twists and turns of the corridors until he reached the escape pods on that deck. Most of them were already launched. He stood in front of the four man pod. He had left Morgan three minutes ago, bleeding and in enemy hands. Morgan had ordered him to go. Mal looked back in the direction of the armory where he left him, then stepped in to pod. He flipped the safety switch. His finger trembled over the launch button. Then he shot out of the pod. Pistol drawn he moved back toward the armory. Any second now Morgan could trigger the explosives to destroy the ship. With each step Mal pictured the fireball engulfing him but he didn’t slow down. He made it the main access corridor and picked up speed. Four more turns and he would be there. Mal skidded to a stop as he made the first turn.

“Don’t shoot” Private Jennings said. He was carrying Private Kelly, both had been shot. “Jennings, did you see Sarge?”

“He’s gone Mal. He’s dead.” Jennings answered.

“No” Mal said pushing past him.

“Mal he’s dead, I saw him. We fell back when they over ran us. I saw them. They pulled him out of the vault, threw him down and shot him again.”

Mal stopped.

“Linda’s hurt Mal you have to help me get her out of here”

Mal walked back to Jennings. He checked Private Kelly’s pulse. “She’s gone Jennings” he said softly, then closed her eyes.

Jennings fell against the wall and dropped to his knees crying.


Mal strapped Jennings into the escape pod seat. “Not sure we’re doing much but delaying the inevitable. That Frigate can still pick us out of the sky.”

Jennings didn’t respond. Mal looked at him. He was going into shock. Mal covered him with his duster, strapped in and hit the launch button.

The pod shot away from the Reliant. Mal had little control of the pod. He could only set the launch vector. He set it to send the pod down and away from the Reliant. He had done so to use the captured ship as cover. If they were lucky by the time the Alliance ship came into view they would be out of gun range. Nothing would stop them from coming after them once they secured the Reliant, but it was all Mal could think to do. It had been almost twenty minutes since he had left Morgan. He closed his eyes, placed his head in his hands and began to pray. Because of this he missed the bright flash of light coming from the Reliant as her drive core exploded.

The force of the blast jerked the pod. Mal thought it was the Frigate firing on them. He looked to the window and saw the secondary explosions igniting throughout both ships. The blast hadn’t taken out the Frigate but it was crippled.

“Jennings he did it.” Mal shook the man. “You were wrong. Morgan did….” Mal looked down at Jennings lifeless body. “He did it” Mal said softly.

Mal floated for a week before he was found by Independent troop transport.

------------------ July 2507 Athens

“The Captain is ready. This way Corporal” The soldier directed him into the small bunker. Mal stood in front of the Captains desk at attention.

“At ease Corporal.” The Captain continued to scan the holo screen in front of him. “The investigation into your actions aboard the Reliant has concluded. Yours and Sergeant Morgan’s actions, however unorthodox, did save a lot of lives.” The Captain shifted in his seat and continued. “It was surmised the Reliant would have fallen into enemy hand and could have been used against us.”

The Captain rose from his seat and approached Mal. “With that said, I am to present you with the Karin Star of Valor.” The Captain handed Mal an open box. Mal looked at the medal without emotion. “Sergeant Morgan will receive the same posthumously.” The Captain held out the second box. Mal looked at him quizzically. “You understand Sergeant Morgan’s past. He has no family we can present this to at this time. I…I thought you might…”

“Yes sir, I’d be honored.” Mal said taking the box. “Yes, I thought you might.” The Captain said. “He was a good soldier, He’ll be missed.” The Captain returned to his desk. “There is something else Reynolds.” Mal looked up from the medals in his hands. “You’re getting a field promotion. Sergeant Morgan’s and your squad were to join the 57 Overlanders. Now the position is yours Sergeant Reynolds. Your platoon is rallied at Sec 5.”

----------- Mal made his way over to Sec 5. Soldiers were spread out checking equipment and preparing to move out. Mal took a look at the soldiers he would be leading. He spotted a Corporal sitting on some sandbags cleaning her weapon.

“Excuse me” Mal said “I’m Sergeant Reynolds. Lieutenant Dulusk said I could find my Corporal here?”

“That would be me sir. Corporal Alleyne” She stood and shook hands.

“What’s your first name Corporal?”

“Zoe Sir.”

“Well Zoe, have em fall in. Let’s get the introductions out of the way.”

A few minutes later Mal stood in front of the assembled troops. “Ladies, Gentlemen, I’m Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds. You can call me Sarge, Sir or if I’m having a particularly good day you can try Mal.” Mal felt a pride spread over him. “Load up lets go site seeing.”

---------- U-Day Years later- Onboard Serenity

Mal was sitting at the dining table when Zoe came down from the bridge. He laid a cloth out on the table as she approached and started disassembling his pistol for cleaning.

“Wash will have us on the ground in a few minutes sir.”

“Good. Tell him drop us north of town and then go fuel up. Oh and tell Jayne he’ll be joining us.”

“You expect trouble sir?”

“No just might take a while to meet our contact. Thought the three of us could have a drink, maybe play some Chinese checkers.”

“Checkers?” Zoe questioned.

Mal put on his best insulted look. “What are you implying Zoe?”

“Nothing sir we’ll be ready for…checkers.” She said with a smile.

“That’s right, see that you are. Oh and Zoe make sure our two new fugitives know to stay on the ship and out of site.”

“Yes Sir”

As she left the room Mal pulled the cloth off the table and picked up the two medals. He looked at them in his hand for a moment, and then placed them back in the small box.

---------------------- Same day other side of the Verse – Prison Transport Tolerance

Special Service Commander Eric Engel docked his shuttle with the floating prison. “Everything is as you requested Commander” The Warden reported. “Make sure I’m not disturb Warden.”

“Of course Sir.”

He limped behind the Warden as he was escorted to the cell. Engle entered the holding cell and looked at the man chained to wall. His hair was long and graying and dirty. His beard was the same. He looked up and Engel when he entered the room. His blues eyes locked with Engel. The same blue eyes he saw in the alley on Jiangyin.

“Hello Eric, been a year already?” Nathanial Morgan said.

“Yes it has.” He limped over to the table between them and inspected the torture devices set before him. “You have healed up nicely since my last visit.” He observed.

“Yeah I did. I see you still have that limp I gave you and that nice scar my Corporal put on your head. If you want I can ask if they have an ointment you can put on it.” Morgan smiled.

“That won’t be necessary Sergeant”

“Well then let’s get on with it. I want to be done by supper” Morgan sneered. “I don’t think you’ll feel much like eating tonight.”

The end


Wednesday, January 30, 2008 1:39 AM


sorry for the delay in catching up with this - but i have really enjoyed your saga!:)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 1:46 PM


I've been absent for awhile, but just wanted to say that I enjoyed the story, and am always impressed with your attention to detail.


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