The Losing Side, Ch. 62 - Aiding the Enemy
Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mal saves the life of an Alliance guard, and starts having serious doubts about his own mental state.


Author's note: Sorry about the long delay in posting. Things in my life have been a huge mess lately and still are...but consider this a small step towards getting back on track.


Gruenberg and Thompson, the two friends from Cody’s drawing, were standing at the gate making ineffectual attempts to get through it. The guard on the other side of the fence was staggering, gripping his throat. "He's choking," yelled Gruenberg. The officer outside collapsed just as Mal reached the gate. "He wanted help, and-"

Mal cut him off and yelled at the guard. "The card! Throw me your access card!" It was Lang, the guard who’d spoken to him with kindness after the trial. Responding to Mal's words, he waved an arm at his belt and went limp, an expression of pleading terror still lingering on his face.

"Ta me da," muttered Mal, eying the gate. Fellow was worth saving, worth trying for, and here was him about to be caught standing over another dead rutting guard. 'Course, if he just stood there, they might see their way clear to blaming him for that too.

Mal tossed his jacket over the spiked top of the gate and motioned to Thompson and Gruenberg. "Help me over." Landing heavily on the other side, he grabbed Lang's communicator off his belt and tossed it over the gate. "Call for help."

He flipped the unconscious man over. His face was a purplish color. Ironical. A few carefully placed thrusts, and Lang started coughing weakly, but his breathing stopped as quickly as it began.

Mal looked on in distaste. He never enjoyed this, not with his own men, certainly not with a guy keeping him locked in a living death. You're tryin' to save an Alliance guard – why? A playful grin and a snowball lobbed questioningly in his direction, sincere concern for a hurt stranger, a voice of reason trying to protect him from Lambert's insanity – Mal started breathing for him, as determined as if it had been one of his own men. Hell, at the moment this boy was one of his own men, his life as much Mal’s responsibility as any one of his soldiers.

His efforts were rewarded with a sudden convulsion, gagging movements. Mal rolled Lang onto his side and let him cough. The guard tensed in panic as he started to regain consciousness, and Mal patted him on the back, reassuring. "You're okay. Not fixin' to die." Lang's body went limp, but he was breathing, after a fashion.

The young fellow seemed uncommonly vulnerable, lying there at Mal's knees, struggling to breathe. His gun was holstered inches from Mal's hand, and Mal eyed it, eyed the heavy black electrical baton that could cause so much pain. The baton was twisted and pinned under Lang's hip; it looked painful, and Mal tugged it out from under him in an abrupt fit of caring. The barely conscious Lang relaxed, his body reflecting an instinctive response of trust. “That’s it, son,” said Mal gently. “You’re gonna be fine.”

Mal felt the uneasy rise and fall of the guard's chest and slid a hand under his neck, supporting his head and keeping his airway clear. His thumb was resting just to the side of Lang's windpipe, and there was no way not to think on how easy a few pounds of pressure would end a life. He felt his finger press down slightly into the soft flesh, and he released the pressure with a chill running down his spine. Reason number six hundred and eight why a body should wield power carefully. This is how fast the balance can shift between weak and strong.

He turned his attention to the armed mob heading his way, and raised his hands. The nose of a gun pressed into the side of his head, and the barrel of a shotgun was jammed painfully against his ribs. He looked up at the guard holding it. "Ow?" he complained, meeting the man's eyes. His expression was stern and wary, but he pulled the weapon back.

“He was choking,” Mal explained in a hurry. “I’m just helping him.” What with all the confusion and shouting, the guard holding the shotgun on him was the only one who heard, but it was enough to keep the scene from descending into chaos.

Lang tensed, coughing and gagging. "Everyone quiet!" yelled a commanding voice. Daniels was running up, breathless but controlled. He looked from Lang to Mal to the group of prisoners inside the gate. He pointed at them. "You men, inside the building."

Daniels studied Mal for a split second, then nodded to the five men holding him at gunpoint. "Put him in the yard. Take care you don't hurt him any."

Mal stood slowly with his hands in the air, keeping his eyes locked calmly with the man holding the shotgun. The guards did as they were ordered, and with Mal contained Daniels knelt down beside Lang, holding him and reassuring. "Doc's on the way, you're okay." Lang nodded weakly, retching and going limp again.

Daniels looked at Mal. "What happened?"

"Choked," said Mal. "He went unconscious, so I took the liberty of climbing the gate to help him out." Two medics reached Lang's side with a stretcher and eased him onto it, and pausing only for a friendly glance in Mal’s direction, Daniels followed them out of the yard.

~~~~~ The intercom startled the distracted group of prisoners, all of whom were coming off a collective adrenaline rush. Most had simply watched from inside the building, the safest and smartest vantage point, but all had needed their hearts removing from their throats afterwards. “Sergeant Reynolds, this is Sergeant Daniels. A word please?”

Mal stood from his bunk, relieved to have an excuse to get out of the building. Despite his show of calm, nobody knew better than him just how close he’d been to getting his ass royally kicked. All it would have taken was someone other than that calm man holding the gun in those tense seconds, and two guys would have been hauled off to the hospital. To have risked that for an Alliance guard was an oddity.

“Hey, Sergeant,” greeted Daniels with genuine warmth. "You saved a really good fellow’s life out here today," said Daniels. "Thank you." He took a deep breath, looking tired.

Mal nodded. "He's a nice kid." Damn fun in a snowball fight, too. "He be all right?"

Daniels nodded. "He's fine. They're going to hang onto him at the hospital for a few hours, but he's good. Doesn't know who rescued him yet, I'll tell him in a bit. They have him dosed up pretty good right now." He gave Mal a steady look. "I’m sorry for all the guns."

Mal shrugged. "Did me no harm. You handled that well, by the way. So did your lead response guy."

Daniels smiled, genuinely pleased by the compliment. He met Mal's eyes impulsively, waving at the gate. "Would you walk with me for a while, Sergeant?"

He wanted to, badly. To leave the confines of this yard and walk like a normal person, not be marched about – he shook his head. "I got twelve boys in there who can't afford to wonder if their Sergeant's fixing to walk off with the enemy." He was trying to be standoffish on general principle, but it was hard not to feel instantly at ease with Daniels. There was no attitude of caution or superiority in this man; when he spoke, he spoke to an equal.

Daniels nodded in understanding. "I shouldn’t have asked. Look – I’ve heard quite a lot about you, but – you took a big risk out here today, and it wasn’t for one of your own."

"Mind if I ask who's so divulgitory?" inquired Mal, effectively dodging the remark. Wasn’t something he was sure about himself, not near enough to talk about.

He’d both risked his neck to save that boy and contemplated killing him, a dichotomy that made his skin crawl. Was this what happened when a man lived long enough in a place where he was treated with dignity and honor one day and beaten the next? Was he taking on the psychotic unpredictability of the Alliance along with making friends with their officers and saving their lives?

Daniels smiled. "Two docs, a shrink, one Sergeant, four guards, Lee, and a file so long it made me doze off in the reading. Can’t help but know you’re somewhat infamous. I’ve been watching all the newswaves.” His winced in sympathy. “Pretty appalling.”

“Can’t disagree,” said Mal.

“Can only say I’m sorry,” said Daniels sincerely. “Torture wasn’t a word we knew from your boys. I spent more than two and a half years as a prisoner, and I never saw the inside of a cell or a set of handcuffs. I don’t even think you guys had them. I must say, it’s been a bit of a shock coming here. Real, honest-to-God prison, this.”

“Yep, that it is,” said Mal. He studied Daniels; the pleasant face was young, but lined. There was an air about him of a weight not long lifted. “Somehow I’m not imagining any prisoner has an easy time of it, though. No way for a man to live.”

Daniels shook his head, his face taking on a worn, slightly lost expression as he looked away from Mal, staring at nothing somewhere beyond the fences. “No.” After a few moments, his gaze refocused on Mal. “Just know I understand.”

Mal nodded. “You read all your prisoner’s files?”

“Yes,” said Daniels with a small smile. “But yours in particular. I get the impression they don't think you're wildly stable, and I'm supposed to keep you that way. Stable, I mean."

Mal snickered. "Good luck with that."

Daniels grinned. "And there's the smartassedness they told me about."

"What else I got a reputation for?" asked Mal. "So I can – you know – uphold it."

"Oh – ah, well, you're completely cooperative, cheerful, get along with everyone, hav-"

"Nice try," interrupted Mal. "And you was callin' me a smartass?"

The look Daniels gave Mal was unabashedly friendly. "Well, I need to go. You gonna stay on your side of the gate for a while now?"

Mal grinned. "What, you don't want me to take my evening walk about the place?"

Daniels grinned back and touched his hat. "See you later, smartass. You boys take care in there, all right?"

“All right,” said Mal. “Thanks for stopping by.” He meant it; he’d genuinely enjoyed talking to the man. Made it easier to dodge the notion that he might be turning into a sociopath.


Sunday, April 20, 2008 3:51 AM


So glad to see more of this story. RL has been problematic for many people lately. Loved the insightfulness into Mal's state of mind throughout this piece, but I think you captured a very important essence of Mal. That no matter what was done to him, they couldn't destroy the fundamental core of decency in him. Something RL could really use more of right now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008 3:51 AM


Jetflair, good to have you back! Excellent chapter by the way, you really have a grip on Mal's psyche.

Sunday, April 20, 2008 4:19 AM


Hooray! I really thought we wouldn't be getting more of this story so hanging out the flags in celebration for another brilliant chapter. Loved this and for the temptation Mal has - just for a moment or two - to end the guard's life not save it. Glad he chose the right option but equally pleased that he wasn't set upon by Alliance bully boys for his good deed. Maybe things are finally going to start looking up for Mal? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, April 20, 2008 4:45 AM


So happy to see a new chapter! And a fine one, at that. You have the flow and feeling down completely smoothly and believable. A nice, subtle look into Mal's head in that moment, too.

Hope your own life settles down in a good, stable way, too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008 6:32 AM


Welcome back.

Good to have you here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:21 AM


Yeah! You're back!
Another great chaper! I love the way you write Mal. This story is brillant & it's one of my favorites.
Hope to see you at the Emerald City Con!

Sunday, April 20, 2008 9:48 PM


The way you write Mal all I want to do is give him a big hug. Can I? Please?

Monday, April 21, 2008 2:54 AM


Your Mal prowess continues apace - i have been hanging on this for the longest time!:)


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The Losing Side, Ch. 63 - The Art of Insanity
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The Losing Side, Ch. 62 - Aiding the Enemy
Mal saves the life of an Alliance guard, and starts having serious doubts about his own mental state.

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