The Losing Side, chapter 5 v3.0
Saturday, November 26, 2005

While very much Mal's story, this is dedicated to the characters within it; our beloved Mal, Zoe, and Wash. It explores what happened after the defeat of the Browncoats, leading up to Mal's purchase of Serenity. In this chapter, we find out what happens to Mal when he wakes up.


At long last, here's the latest chapter. Your input would be appreciated; this is pretty much exclusively a dialog piece, and since I'm inexperienced with fiction, dialog is the hardest for me to write. This version has been edited quite a bit since the first.


Mal awoke to find himself lying on a couch in a quiet, warmly lit room. For a fleeting moment he thought himself home on Shadow, waking from a peaceful sleep. He spent several seconds trying to fit pieces together in his head, cringing internally as he recalled his last conscious hours. Interesting surprise, finding himself not dead.

Cautiously, he tried to move his body and quickly thought better of it as pain shot through every muscle he so much as thought about moving. The pain wasn't bad when he wasn't trying to do something stupid like breathing too deep; he figured by the way the room was swimming about that someone had done him the kindness of doping him up pretty good.

Mal's eyes roamed the room, taking in the simple, homey furnishings, the Alliance flag hanging from an old-fashioned brass pole, the box of medals mounted on the wall before coming to rest on the uniformed man tapping thoughtfully at a screen.

Noticing the attention, the man looked up and met Mal's eyes with a steady gaze. After a long moment, he spoke quietly. "Welcome back, son. I'm Matthew Lee. I'm more or less in charge of this place." Mal listened silently, unsure as to the man's intentions. "How you feeling?" asked Lee.

"Halfway human," Mal replied, pleased to find that his voice was obeying him again. "I got you to thank for that?"

Lee gave a slight smile. "I suppose," he said as he continued to study Mal with a calm inquisitiveness. Finally, he tapped again on the screen.

"I got a set of perfectly matched reports in front of me saying how you killed two of my men in cold blood, put another in the hospital. I don't take too kindly to that, and what I'm finding even more unsettling is the bit where you shot them because they interrupted your plan to roast fifteen men who fought on your side of the war." Mal's mouth flew open to protest, but Lee's up-thrown hand and stern glare halted him.

"What I've also got is a handful of interviews with those soldiers, claiming you saved their lives. They seem to hold that it was my men who tried to light them on fire." He looked directly at Mal. "I'd pull the surveillance feed, but it seems they were having some technical problems yesterday. Feed kept blanking out at random, and one of those entirely random periods just happened to be when our little incident was unfolding." Lee paused. "I need to hear your end of this, Sergeant."

Mal was relieved to get the opportunity to set someone straight on what had happened. Although it did cross his mind that this might not be the most brilliant way ever to win over his latest interrogator, if he was going to be tortured to death or shot he'd prefer they at least got their facts straight as to why. Lee listened intently to every word without interruption as Mal explained his actions the best he could. "Sir, I'm - sorry about your men," he finished simply. "Couldn't see any other way to go about it."

Lee studied him keenly. "This is not what a man in my position wants to hear. It's a believable story, but your calling my men liars and murderers......not a thing to take lightly." He stood, and Mal tensed, relaxing slightly as the officer walked to a large window and looked out quietly before turning back to Mal.

"Could present a quandary. Thing is, I was watching. Saw everything." He paused to let his words sink in, seeing Mal's eyes widen and blink once in surprise. He walked slowly towards a chair a few paces from Mal and sat.

Leaning forward quietly, he waited for several seconds to speak, trying to find the words to comfort the man before him. "I would have stopped it, you know. I'm not tied into the officers' com system, I wouldn't have let.....I guess I'm trying to tell you I'm sorry."

Mal blinked again. "I - what?" He gave Lee a slightly punch-drunk grin. "Uh, apology accepted. Go back to - you were watching?"

"Kind of ruined my day, tell you the truth," said Lee.

"Well, it did wonders for mine too, I can tell you that much," Mal replied ironically. It was almost a reflex with him. Truth be told, he was feeling anything but flippant or ironic; he was hurt, and scared, and now incredibly confused.

Lee's face became dead serious. "No need to make light of it, son. Horrible thing for any man to have to go through." Mal swallowed and looked away. He was a courageous man, and more stoic than most, but not being superhuman he found the memory of his recent ordeal considerably unpleasant.

In the uncomfortable silence that followed, Mal realized that against all reason, he was beginning to trust this man. Still, the presence of a uniformed Alliance officer called up some vividly painful memories, and he closed his eyes momentarily, trying to still his heart's sudden pounding in his chest. Noting his prisoner's tension, Lee relaxed back in his chair and picked up a bound book, a rare collectible that rested on a small table at his side. He read quietly for nearly 30 minutes before his eyes returned to the man in front of him.

He addressed Mal gently. "One of the biggest fallacies in the verse is this expectation that if you do good things, the favor will be returned, that there's some sort of reward for the noble. Truth is, it's more'n likely to come back to haunt you. Take that kid who walked into my office this morning. Mal, do you know why you're alive?"

Mal shook his head, confused. "Seems you made an impression on one of your guards. After he got off shift, he couldn't shake the image of you from his mind. So he broke ranks and overstepped every known link in the chain of command by coming to me. I thought you were in the hospital, seeing as I gave an order that you were not to be harmed. Boy's a hero, and may well pay dearly for it. If what he did comes out, it'll be the end of his career at this place, maybe worse." Lee paused significantly. "That he may regret it later doesn't change the fact that he saved your life."

Mal returned Lee's intelligent stare. "Thank him for me, will you?" Lee nodded with a smile. "So what's my immediate future looking like, sir?" Mal asked bluntly. "Can't imagine this is gonna vanish in a peachy haze of joy and goodness."

Lee nodded his head slightly. "You're right about that, and I got no plain answer for you." Standing, he walked back to the window with a slight limp. "I got a career that means a lot to me and a family to mind. If you were to die, I'd catch a bit of flack about my security, letting one of those rebellious Independents go on a rampage. Nothing a list of new security protocols wouldn't fix. Two of my men will have died a heroic death in the line of duty, and if a few prisoners emerge from here with wild tales of murderous guards, well, what can you expect from bitter men?" Mal stared at him, confused. His instincts told him this man was a member of the good-guy contingent, but if so this was one scary gorram good guy.

He walked back to Mal and sat. When he spoke again, his voice was softer. "I let you live, I got to let the truth come out. I might be able to kill a few stories from disgruntled prisoners, but you're another matter entirely, Sergeant. Those cuts on your wrists, cracked bones, who knows what else - they tell a pretty plain tale, and they'll show on a scan even after you've healed up. I'll have God knows how many of my men up on the worst sorts of charges. News'll get out, I'll have the scandal of the year resting squarely on my shoulders, and I can kiss everything I've worked for good-bye." He gazed at Mal, a troubled expression on his face.

"You know, your killin' me...," Mal's voice cracked slightly. "It wouldn't be the worst thing. Can't say I like the idea as much as I would've earlier, but you've treated me decent, and if that's what you gotta do...." he swallowed hard as his voice trailed off.

Lee looked down and rested his head in his hands. "Not to worry, son. I'll be living with this for the rest of my life, and my fancy career's no use to me if I can't look myself in the eye. I just can't see a path out of this that sets right with me." He looked back up. "I'll see you don't suffer in the process."

Mal wished he could think of something graceful to say in reply. He felt a deep sense of relief at finding himself in this comfortable, almost peaceful room after weeks trapped in the cold, modern, sterile world of an Alliance prison, and Lee had gone out of his way to offer kindness and reassurance. But like all halfway decent things in his life lately, this comfort wasn't going to stick around to enjoy itself.

"We'd best be getting you back to the hospital. My boys patched you up a bit, but they weren't happy with my stealing you away from them before they could finish the job."

More bits that Mal didn't particularly want to think about. "Can they? Patch me up, I mean?"

Lee looked at him soberly. "You're gonna be okay, Mal. It'll take more surgery and more time than you'll be happy with, but yes. You'll be safe, you'll be among those who've taken an oath to do no harm, and you'll recover." Mal nodded, relieved and nervous all at once. Lee continued. "Before I send you back, I'd like you to tell me, is there anything at all I can do for you?"

Mal was a little startled by the question, and started to say the first thing that popped into his head before he thought better of it and stopped short. Lee looked at him shrewdly. "I got no need to play games with you, son. If I wanted to hurt you, I'd not resort to party tricks to do it."

Mal considered carefully before he spoke again. "I got family back on Shadow where I come from, my - my mom. I've not been able to get word on if she's alive, if the ranch still stands...."

Lee nodded as he stood. "I'll find out."


Jessi Clark-White


Saturday, November 26, 2005 8:29 AM


I liked this step beyond the stereotypical Alliance officer and am sure incidents not unlike this one have happened in every war that ever was. A good man is inherently a good man, no matter which side he fought on and this chapter shows that very nicely. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, November 27, 2005 3:03 AM


Edited a bit. What do you guys think of this latest version?

Sunday, November 27, 2005 6:24 AM


I read it both before and after you edited--can't spot many particular differences, but it did seem smoother on v-2. The content of your dialog is good--your character voices and such--but it would be far easier to read if you separated each character's dialog into its own paragraph. Technically the paragraph structure you're using is correct in that each paragraph is a complete subject thought. Visually, however, having two different characters' dialog in a single paragraph is confusing; makes it very hard to figure out which is speaking. Readability and clarity suggest it's better to have only a single speaker in each paragraph. Don't shy away from "said" tags--they add clarity without clutter; are almost invisible to the reader.

You may consider me a 'fan' of your writing ;-). I like what you write and how you write it--this chapter included. You create a nice sense of feeling in a low key way. It's well done. I would have liked a touch more of Mal's POV description on how he felt physically throughtout the scene. From the descriptions of the beating in previous chapters, I suspect there'd be a lot more serious damage than cracked bones.

"doped to Kingdom Come" jumped out at me for some reason I can only half-define. 'Kingdom Come' to me suggests an ending--death--so it read as "doped to death" (to me--others may not get it that way). "doped to high heaven" seemed like the more natural phrase.

Very much looking forward to another chapter! Thanks for sharing your work.

Sunday, November 27, 2005 1:01 PM


Thank you SO much for your thoughtful review! So very helpful! I'm gonna keep it firmly in mind when I do more editing tonight:)

Sunday, December 4, 2005 12:57 AM


Edited again....I think I may finally be happy enough with this to move on to the next chapter. What do you guys think of this version?

Sunday, December 4, 2005 7:28 AM


awesome job! I didn't realize there was a v3.0 until I started reading ch.6 and you started out with the doctor bits. If this is your first fanfic, I certainly hope that you choose to continue writing more! You have a keen sense of who your characters are. It is quite obvious that you can picture them in your mind down to the last detail. It is those details that can make or break a story, for me at least, and I have awaited each installment with baited breath.


You must log in to post comments.



The Losing Side, Chapter 68 - Farewell to Bars
Mal is finally released by the Alliance, and says his goodbyes to friend and foe before being assigned a job in stapler quality control. In the meantime, Wash rebels against the perfection of his new job by buying dinosaurs and loud shirts. This is NOT the end of the story! :)

The Losing Side, Ch. 67 - Bombshells
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.

The Losing Side, Ch. 66 - Nature of the Beast
A long chapter full of conflict, trust, and musings....and a cliffhanger! An evil, evil cliffhanger.

The Losing Side, Ch. 65 - Trouble in Paradise
Wash wants to strangle the captain of the shiny new luxury cruiser he's flying, and Mal learns that something dangerous may be afoot....with his name on it.

The Losing Side, Ch. 64 - How to Win a Losing Battle
It's a tricky tightrope between trauma, rage, and finding yourself....but Mal is learning to walk it.

The Losing Side, Ch. 63 - The Art of Insanity
Mal may have more then he bargained for in Cody Patton, the mysterious and potentially deranged artist in his housing unit. Is the one real war criminal among them a threat, an asset, or just a damaged young soldier?

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.

The Losing Side, Chapter 61 - Juggling Frustrations
Mal keeps on finding new and disturbing facts about one of his fellow prisoners, and Wash learns to juggle (and smuggle) goslings.

The Losing Side, Chapter 60
Wash gets a job, and Mal perfects his Alliance-taunting skills while developing an unlikely fondness for getting shots. Oh, and there's an artist who's a mite off.

The Losing Side, chapter 59 - Sharing the Night
Mal, Wash, and Zoe spend a sleepless night together, and Wash experiences some of the first joys of freedom.