Title: It's not dark yet, but it's getting there
Date Posted: 3 February 2006
Author: Van Donovan
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Mal
Pairing: none
Word count: 1,092
Warnings: Spoilers for Serenity the pilot and The Message.
Summary: In the end, Mal was defeated.
Notes: This is the second 25 sentences to my 50 one-sentence character challenge on LiveJournal. It was written in dichotomy, with the first 25 reflecting the other side of Mal. The title is from the Bob Dylan song "Not Dark Yet" which should totally be made into a Mal-video (the first verse, at least). Thanks to John for playing beta. ?


#26 – Hands – With four thousand eager hands and two thousand firmly convinced hearts under his control, Mal felt that nothing could stop them from being victorious, not when they so clearly were fighting the just cause.

#27 – Freedom – Mal wasn’t fighting for greed or lust, nor for money or fame, but for freedom, and when he looked into the eyes of his troops, he was proud to know they were fighting for the same thing.

#28 – Last – His troops were young, some of them barely even adults, and he knew some of them wouldn’t last through their first tour, but he looked each man or woman right in the eyes and let them know how great their contribution to the cause was, and they believed in him because he believed in them.

#29 – Scab – He was proud to be the scab that bothered the Alliance, proud to keep them picking and reopening their own wounds, and even as his troops began to fall around him, he kept up that pride because he knew he was fighting on the right side.

#30 – Crown – That pride was shaken the day he saw a soldier, one of his friends, get the crown of his skull blown clean off by shrapnel, but eventually Mal remembered that causalities had to happen for the greater good, and he said a silent prayer and moved on.

#31 – Time – There was no place for time-out on the fields, no moment of peace and quiet to reflect or find solace, and yet time weighed heavily on all of them, ticking too fast and too slow.

#32 – Rice – They ate rice and beans for every meal until the weevils got into the grain and destroyed the crop; morale dropped all around when he issued out bland protein rations instead, and he felt his own spirits sink.

#33 – Worm – The rain brought the worms, drew them out of the earth and into their socks and food and clothes and into the bodies in the tent morgue – and there was nothing Mal could do about that.

#34 – Paint – After the storm, the paint on the supply boxes ran to streaks of black, and some things that should have been kept were lost, and some things that should have been tossed were kept, and Mal had to take the responsibility for the unhappiness it caused his already disillusioned soldiers.

#35 – Ache – Months of sleeping in too small cots or on the hard, rocky ground caused aches in his body and in the bodies of his soldiers, and his own performance, as well as theirs, decreased daily because of it.

#36 – Cherry – During the Battle of Du Khang, Mal got separated from the majority of his troops; the Alliance set off cherry bombs over the home base, and when Mal returned, he was wracked with guilt as he found three-hundred men and women had been killed in the covert attack while he’d been elsewhere.

#37 – Library – Mal took the task of taking the names and the rank of the deceased upon himself, and in the end, he had a veritable library of corpses at his fingertips and found only himself to blame.

#38 – Win – Every day more of his troops were injured or died, and he struggled hard to assure the rest of them that they could still win the battle and turn the tide.

#39 – Loss – The losses weren’t just with Mal’s platoon – the Alliance was eradicating the Independents from every valley and crevice they had dug their heels into on Hera – but he carried the burden of that on himself alone; his troops didn’t need more reason to lose morale.

#40 – Fold – Each night, he folded his hands in prayer for those fallen and those delivered and asked the Lord to see the Independents through the war, to give them the freedom that they deserved; the prayers were all that allowed him to sleep at night.

#41 – Music – In his dreams he would hear tuneless music playing in his head, but whenever he tried to chase the sound, he startled awake to the screams of the injured and dying around him, and though it happened often, it chilled him to the bones each and every time.

#42 – Bell – He lost another fifteen troops in the middle of the night when an air-to-land missile collided into what they called the barracks; he was so close to the explosion that all he heard was a loud bell tone for days after, drowning out the cries of the dying around him.

#43 – Sleep – No one slept anymore, not even Mal in his most exhausted, barely functioning state; too many had drifted off to sleep and never woken again.

#44 – Contact – Headquarters contacted them and pulled Mal and the remainder of his troops out of Du Khang: they were being reassigned, somewhere more important.

#45 – Electricity – The glare of electricity was blinding to Mal after having spent endless months in the field, but the light wasn’t as blinding as the knowledge that, with just over one thousand troops still under his command, his was the platoon that had taken the least causalities.

#46 – Milk – His troops were fed milk and meat for two days, and then he was assigned another seven hundred wearied and tired souls and sent into the Valley.

#47 – Wild – The fighting was vicious and his troops were wild, but Serenity Valley was a decisive location, and Mal knew if he could hold it, they could have a chance: it was the redemption and hope he and his troops been seeking.

#48 – Expectation – Against the odds, Mal’s expectation had been to hold the Valley, to push the Alliance back, and to strike a decisive blow; it hadn’t entered his mind that perhaps God’s plan was different.

#49 – Mechanism – Fighting a war he believed in so strongly, that knew was for the good of humanity, was supposed to matter; the underdog was supposed to win and the whole operation was supposed to turn like a well-oiled mechanism; so when the battlefield quieted of even the dying cries of his last fallen soldiers, Mal found the darkness creeping slowly in around him and no longer tried to keep it at bay.

#50 – Finale – The finale of the war didn’t end with a bang nor a whimper, but a deathly, cold silence that penetrated Mal to the core of his being, clutched tightly at his heart, and crushed all that remained in him of hope and light and goodness.

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