The Losing Side, Ch. 67 - Bombshells
Monday, August 18, 2008

Everything changes in the space of minutes when Mal is taken to Lee's office and confronted with two very different shocks to the emotions.


“I do seem to drop bombshells on you, do I not?” Mal looked at him, unspeaking. Lee extended the envelope. It didn’t look much different from the one containing notice of his trial.

“What’s this, my execution order?” asked Mal, taking it as a sudden chill spiked through him, making the question not as flippant as he’d intended. He relaxed as he forced himself to withdraw the documents. Lee was no coward; he hadn’t forced Mal to read the war crimes documents to learn their contents, hadn’t shied from anything.

“Bombshell one,” said Lee, his voice gentle and grave.

Mal unfolded the paper. He read the heading, blinked, looked away. He tried again, this time unable to tear his gaze away from the overblown script on the page.

Allied Planets Amnesty and Discharge

On this day of November twelve of the year two thousand five hundred eleven, the Army of the Allied Planets hereby takes command of all forces of the Independent Armies, restoring Unification.

Let it be known that Malcolm Reynolds, formerly serving the Independent Forces in the 57th Brigade, obtaining the rank of Sergeant, is hereby DISCHARGED from service.

In accordance with the Unification Armistice, and in the spirit of binding divisions, let it be known that Malcolm Reynolds is also hereby granted AMNESTY for service, duty, and actions performed against the government of the Allied Planets during the war for unification.

Mal gulped, trying to contain the wild hope that this pompous certificate meant what it appeared to. He knew what amnesty was supposed to mean, but what did it mean to the government with the gall to intertwine its insignia with the Independent military patch, his patch, in a downright revolting display of unification by graphic design? He turned to the next sheet, a plain white page with stark black text.



By order of the Administrator: The Unification and Armistice Committee has acknowledged receipt of orders pardoning the above prisoner for crimes against the Allied Planets. Prisoner is hereby ordered to be released from custody within 72 hours of this notice.

Mal held up the papers, staring at them without seeing. He gave up and looked directly into Lee’s face, trying to ground himself in reality. The shock of learning that rather than spend ten years in captivity he was slated to walk out this very day felt surprisingly like the shock of learning that he was going to be tried as a war criminal. He hunted around in his brain for joy or elation, certain they had to be there somewhere. He settled temporarily for a mild sense of relief. Celebration wasn’t going to take place within these walls.

Lee looked at Mal with one of his rare smiles. “It’s for real.”

Words seemed inadequate to thank the man who had just handed his life back to him in a brown envelope. Even thought seemed inadequate; he was simply and plainly unable to react. “Thank you, sir. Got a notion you had a lot to do with this.”

Lee touched his arm and led him wordlessly to the couch, pressing a glass into his hand as he sat and filling it with brandy. Mal looked at it numbly but didn’t drink, remembering the last time Lee had given him alcohol. This time there was no prison sentence looming, no power-hungry sadist to pin him down and shock him.

It’s for real. He repeated Lee’s words over and over again in his head until they melded with Daniels’ quiet voice asking him to have faith that it might yet turn out. That was a hope that had been eradicated in a valley of fire and death and its resurgence shattered by angry men with clubs, heartless bureaucrats, and fear of time. And now –

Amnesty. Release order. Those were words of dreams and press releases, not – he clutched the papers in his hand harder, irrationally afraid the precious documents might slip away.

“I suppose I did,” said Lee. “I had quite a lot to do with it, actually.” He held up his hand as Mal started to speak. “Before you thank me, I need to tell you how I did this.”

Lee’s demeanor shifted, his voice taking on a deeply serious note that chilled Mal. “Bombshell two. I have deceived you only once, but I think you deserve to know about it.”

“This promises to be bloodcurdling,” said Mal.

Lee nodded. “When I told you I didn’t give an order that you were to be taken into solitary and tortured, I was telling the truth. I didn’t order it. But I did stack the deck in that direction, then I went home and let it happen.”

Mal’s jaw went slack. “You-”

“I used you,” said Lee, his expression completely sober and focused. “I used you to create an outrage and to make my own predictions come true. I made a gamble that you’d be able to survive whatever horrors they put you through, and that you’d forgive me once you knew why I did it.”

“Which was?”

“To get you that,” Lee said, nodding at the papers in Mal’s hand. “And to turn the tables. There are talks underway about amnesty for the others. The sort of talks that actually get results.”

Mal gripped the glass tightly in his hand and gulped down the brandy, images of what had been done to him in that office turned torture chamber running through his mind. He didn’t let them out often; it was a horror he managed to lock away with a whole handful of others.

He stared at Lee, feeling a knife slicing down his stomach as vividly as the day it had happened. His whole being felt vulnerable and fragile, hollow. Somehow, knowing that he had been tortured by misguided, angry, even sadistic men had been – understandable. Tolerable, when a man knew the why and how of it.

Knowing it had been set up coldly by a man in an office, a man he trusted, left him hollow. He was breathing heavily, the room spinning about as he fought the urge to throw up. I went home and let it happen.

Lee talked to him, not really expecting an answer or even that the other man would listen to him. The sound of a voice speaking with calmness and humanity was all he hoped to provide; his own brand of comfort. “If it matters, I cared a great deal. I’ve never had a man tortured. I hate every – dimension of what it does to people. Never could justify that under any pretence, not until I had it done to a man I respect and like.”

“An’ you thought that was my ticket out?” Mal’s voice came out a whisper. “A thing that could’ve - that nearly killed me?”

“People care about prisoners of war, but they could care less what happens to a criminal. It takes something dramatic, something horrifying, to get the reporters interested. They go hunting for side stories, find out their victim’s only crime was fighting past a murky cease-fire. Suddenly you go from war criminals to persecuted soldiers, and people demand a different kind of justice.”

Mal raised his head and looked at Lee for what seemed an eternity, neither man breathing or making a sound.

“And what if I didn’t? Survive? That ever occur to you?” Mal asked, his voice coming out hard and clipped. There was a part of him, a sickening intuition of sorts, which knew he had come terribly close to dying. It was the same part of him that was trying its best not to pass out on Lee’s couch.

“Yes,” said Lee with a grave nod. “I was more concerned about emotional survival than the physical kind, but yes. I made a gamble that they wouldn’t be bold enough to kill you. And, I suppose, one that a man who held a valley for two weeks against legendary odds might have the spirit to endure it.” He studied Mal for a minute. “You’ve never gambled with a man’s life?”

Mal nodded. “I have. Funny thing about gambling – sometimes you loose.”

“And sometimes you win a good man a ticket out, and pave the way to free thousands stuck in a prison for no good reason,” said Lee. “And sometimes you meet a person you know deep down is just noble enough that he’d die for such a goal if he had to.”

Mal closed his eyes, shuddering within. “The Alliance used me – my freedom as a bargaining chip. My life for their goals.” He looked at Lee. “You did the same. If it means getting those people out, I would have – I would done it - willing. But you were wrong not to tell me.”

Lee sat down beside Mal, looking him directly in the eyes. “I know. I’m sorry. But even very brave people will do things they don’t want to. I couldn’t have you telling them this was some plot I cooked up. And – you were already having a day I’m guessing was close to unbearable. If I deserve to be called humane at all after this – it’s for not wanting you to go through that with the fear of what was going to be done to you when you got back.”

Mal looked back, wondering how to convey this, wondering if it was even important. “No way to tell you what a violation it is. To have people do a thing like that to you, and to have it be because – you’re someone else’s pawn. You wanted your way, so I got –”

Lee interrupted, his voice very soft. “I can comprehend.”

“People’s lives ain’t a thing you can just take an’ play with. They’re – just not.” Mal stopped. It was the very core of the Alliance, this deeply decent and moral man who accomplished his acts of kindness through manipulation and cruelty. When a person became willing to use brutality for a greater good, it was a questionable sort of affair. When a whole government ascribed to the notion –

“I know what I did to you,” said Lee. “I know its impact, and I hurt for you very deeply that night.” He paused before continuing. “And I know there is no way you can forgive these past years of your life, or the role the Alliance played in them.”

Mal looked down, studying the grain of the leather on the couch as he processed the emotions floating around in his head. He was a free man. No more prison, no more Alliance. And the man who handed him that gift had done so by having him tortured.

“What about Dye?” asked Mal. “He’s facing jail, thanks to this little manipulation of yours. Not certain he’s the sort to deserve it.”

Lee nodded. “Dye – don’t get me wrong, he’d never gone so far as to torture a man before. But he could be extremely cruel. Not physically, but – he was either going to develop a taste for hurting people, or have something like this go so far that he remembered what it was like to feel for another person. I think doing that to you, and deciding to help you, gave him his conscience back. I think a brief prison sentence won’t do him any harm.”

“And Gunderson?” asked Mal.

“Needed shooting since the day he got here. Never thought I’d be lucky enough to get the chance,” said Lee in a wry tone of voice.

“You don’t mind my sayin’ sir, you got yourself a mighty twisted approach to solvin’ the odd personnel problem.” Their mutual attempt to lighten the mood failed, and the two men simply looked at each other, shaken. Mal by his own memories, Lee by facing the hurt of what he’d done.

“There are a few people who didn’t get sent back here,” said Lee. “They’re in a pretty bad spot right now.” Mal nodded, his heart sinking. As much as being here was destroying him, he knew well enough just how lucky they were. The thought of any Browncoat – Lee cut into his thoughts, an act of mercy. “What you went through may just save them.”

“Okay,” said Mal. He had no other words.

Lee touched him soberly on the arm, and Mal shifted his gaze to Lee’s hand. “Remember the good people,” said Lee. “For those three men who were willing to hurt you, think of all the ones who hurt for you, and wanted to help and protect.”

Finally Mal nodded. “You’re a fine General, sir.”

Lee’s eyes twinkled. “And you’re a fine master of carefully used words.” He leaned back in his chair. “You need to know a few other things. I’m not the only one who was aware of the impact this would have, and people willing to send basically innocent people to jail don’t cavil at playing dirty. The best way to blow this up would have been to discredit you. To frame you for something, catch you at something, anything that would make a big splash in the newswaves and remind the public that you were indeed a criminal, and by proxy, all the others.”

“Hence the fuss about keeping my nose clean?”

Lee nodded. “There’s a young man in your housing unit, named Cody Patton. You owe him quite a debt.”

Mal’s head snapped up, his mind and vision clearing at the same time. “Sir?”

“Young Patton has a long sentence ahead of him, he was once pushed by an authority figure to abandon his ethics and commit murder, and he’s a passive, submissive prisoner. Makes him a pretty good person to pick if you want your agents to find someone to bribe or bully into indicting a cellmate on false charges.”

Mal blinked. “What did they –“

“They were good at disabling recording equipment, but I managed to bug them part of the time. They promised he’d walk free if he agreed to parrot their story, threatened to send him to a hellhole prison if he didn’t. Told him in horrific detail what would happen to him there, told him you were a murderer and a rapist, every dirty trick in the book. Every time they came, the bastards would hammer at him with blame and horror stories and inevitably have that poor kid sobbing his guts out for hours.”

Mal closed his eyes. He could tell Lee cared, but somehow Mal still didn’t want Lee to see the emotions he was feeling. That poor, rutting kid. Returning so shattered all he could do was climb into his bunk and collapse, never once saying he was giving up his future to protect someone he barely knew. He heard Cody’s voice asking uncertainly if he could stay – good Lord, was he that loyal just because I didn’t throw him out?

“He never did it,” said Lee. “If you want to know how I can still love human beings…” His voice trailed off, thick with emotion.

Mal opened his eyes, trusting that emotion. in Lee. “He’s not getting out with the rest, is he.” It was a statement that ripped his heart out, more than a question.

“No,” said Lee. “Chances are this facility will close, and he’ll be transferred to a criminal prison.” He met Mal’s gaze, and they simply shared the moment of helplessness and heartache.

No. Not because I didn’t throw him out. He did it because this time ‘round he was going to do the right thing no matter what it cost, or how hard it was.

“This was his shot at redemption.” Mal didn’t realize he’d given voice to the words until he heard them come out of his mouth.

Lee nodded. “He might just have won back his soul.”

“Why – didn’t you tell me?” asked Mal. “When I fought Lang and Daniels, when Cody was going through that – why didn’t you just tell me?”

“Because I can’t imagine anything crueler than dragging you through the ups and downs of this process, or giving you false hope.” He eyed Mal keenly. “I did tell you, when I broke the news about the charges, that I would be trying. But this hasn’t ever been a sure thing, not until those papers showed up today. You’ve been pardoned three times, actually. This is the only one that stuck. Your conviction was also upheld, with rather sickening finality, after two of those pardons.”

Mal winced. “I’ll give you that one, sir. Thanks for not tellin’ me.” To have these papers snatched from his hand would be unthinkable.

He stood, walked to his desk, and picked up a slim sheaf of folded documents. “I have some more paperwork for you.”


NOTE: The Allied Planets amnesty paper text and design are taken from Ben Mund (Whitefall)’s document.


Monday, August 18, 2008 10:41 PM


At last! The light at the end of the tunnel does indeed seem to be freedom, and not an oncoming train. But Mal's right ... Lee is a man willing to do anything to make things right, the way he thinks they should be. Truly Alliance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 12:53 AM


Wow! This chapter packed a true emotional punch! Very good work!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 2:38 AM


Thank God! There were so many times over the course of this huge story that I just sat staring at the words with tears running down my face at all the twisted forms of torture - both mental and physical - that you put Mal through. You can't see it but I am jumping up and down with both joy and relief, just hope this is REAL and not going to be rescinded the moment Mal gets to the gates of the prison. Really hope he gets to meet back up with Wash again. While I appreciate Lee's diabolical plan I can't quite forgive him for the brutality of it, all of which could have proved fatal. So gorram happy it didn't. Loved this chapter to little bitty pieces, *xie xie ni* for making it finally happen. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 2:39 AM


“For those three men who were willing to hurt you, think of all the ones who hurt for you, and wanted to help and protect.”

Another awesome chapter, and another dramatic twist about redeeming your own soul back. Wow. Beautiful piece of writing, and wonderful study of humanity. Lee portrays the benign cruelty of the Alliance perfectly. Poor Cody - what a waste. Suffering can be tolerated if it has purpose, and now Mal was given his. No wonder he can now survive as a tougher and wiser unrepentent Browncoat who knows to avoid to Alliance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 5:40 AM


Brilliant!! Loved it! So glad Mal is out. Now what about Zoe? LOL I really enjoy your story. Thanks so much.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 4:15 AM


I saw this coming, to an extent, so the pardon wasn't a surprise, and I think it wasn't meant to be. What you did with Lee was more of a surprise, yet in that absolutely "of course, it had to be that way" sort of way--a seamless progression. Bravo. What a wholly enriching aspect to Lee! Excellent, excellent.


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