#01 – Snow – Mal’s first memory was of Snow, a silver dapple mare his mother taught him to ride when he was three.
#02 - Child – After his father had died and been buried, he asked his mother in a voice laced with the wonder of a child, “Will he grow now that we’ve planted him?”
#03 – Brick – His mother’s body was firm and solid as a brick, carved that way from years of hard, thankless work on a farm, and yet when he curled into her lap and felt her cool hand upon his brow, he felt utterly safe.
#04 – Judgment – He had read his Bible through when he was seven, so he knew that it wasn’t his place to pass judgment upon the men who came and tried to take their home away, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch them make his mother cry.
#05 – Powder – Teddy gave him his first gun when he was eight and showed him how to load it, packing the gunpowder in correctly; it made him feel like a man.
#06 – Grim – He fired the gun and shot a bird on his first try, but it fell out of the sky, twitching at his feet as it died; horrified realization choked him and he flung the gun away, grimly trying to save the bird, but it was too late.
#07 – Trap – It was rare for his mother to give him presents, so when she gave him the Lord’s cross on a chain and told him to look to Him any time he felt trapped, for the Lord would deliver him, he believed her completely.
#08 – Star – He learned about the stars from Carl and thought it strange that some people would choose to live out amongst them instead of with their feet firmly planted on the ground.
#09 – Possession – While out riding with his mother, without prompting, she told him, “Love is knowing what someone needs before they tell you and being completely willing to fulfill that need, thanklessly.”
#10 – Bandage – His mother and Pat watched him bandage up his first mare, and the proud look in their eyes when he finished made his heart swell with joy; in that moment, he knew exactly how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
#11 – Pearl – The Alliance feds arrived on Shadow for the first time when he was fourteen, and they brought with them ugly, painted ladies, glittering with fake diamonds, pearls, and cheap perfume; for the rest of his life, he associated one evil with the other.
#12 – Glass – The Alliance slowly turned the local town into a city of glass, chrome, and artificial lights, and within the year he stopped visiting it altogether.
#13 – Classified – The goings-on in the new federal installation were marked as classified, but Mal knew as well as anyone else that the Alliance was storing weapons of unfathomable destructive power just below the surface of the earth, and he feared that fact just as much anyone else.
#14 – Buttons – He avoided going into town for as long as he could, but eventually they needed new needles or more buttons or fresh linen, and he’d have to ride in on Snow and pretend he wasn’t unhappy with the changed cityscape.
#15 – Closet – Alliance men didn’t need horses, and Mal and his mother felt the strain as the money dried up; Mal’s mother cleaned out her closet, selling everything she still had that had once belonged to his father except for a worn brown deerskin coat, which she gave to Mal.
#16 – Ash – They were worshipping at church when the ash first began to rain down from the sky upon them; the Alliance ‘testing’ had begun.
#17 – Definition – He boyishly told his mother he was going to single-handedly stop the Alliance and make them leave Shadow alone; she just shook her head and gravely told him what her definition of a hero was.
#18 – Staircase – He sat on the steps of the church beside Shepherd Jackson, praying against the evils being done to their world, while they watched the black clouds of destruction rolling in toward them from the east.
#19 – Nail – People began slipping into the black as the city quietly began to evacuate, but Mal and his mother fought tooth and nail to stay and keep their ranch: Shadow, and nowhere else, was their home.
#20 – Prey – Alliance became the hunters, and people like Mal and his mother became their prey, and Mal made a vow to her that he would end the suffering; she told him it wasn’t his place to decide that, and for the first time in his life, he ignored her.
#21 – Backwards – There were no Independents on Shadow, so at the age of eighteen, he decided to attack the Alliance backwards and signed up to join the Army of the Union of Allied Planets.
#22 – Trouble – His superiors knew he was trouble within the year because he openly defied orders and stood up against his commanding officers; his first tour, they sent him off world for the first time to fight on the bloody moon of Hera.
#23 – Little – They mentioned the razing of Shadow like it was a little thing hardly worthy of reporting, but it sickened him beyond reason, and that night he marched off base, straight into the camp of the Independents, and played the spy no longer.
#24 – Collar – He dropped his Alliance uniform into the Independent’s campfire with relief, burning away everything from his home world except the Lord’s cross, which he kissed and slipped beneath his collar.
#25 – Circle –The Independents knew his first-hand knowledge of the Alliance made him invaluable, so they quickly promoted him, assigning him two-thousand troops whom he gathered in a circle and preached to with utter conviction about how together, with God on their side, they would turn the tide and win the war.