Passage to Greenleaf
Passage to Greenleaf
2509—Battle of Rossak
Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds’ nose itched. In his experience war seemed to consist mostly of long periods of boredom occasionally interrupted by bouts of violence. He didn’t much mind the boredom. A man could find all manner of activities to occupy the time. Nor did he mind the fighting. It was what he’d signed up for. It was what he was good at. Moments like this though set his nerves all raggedy. Neither bored nor fighting. Just waiting for violence to ensue. It made Reynolds feel more than a mite unsettled.
“Easy boys,” he said softly. “Wait for the signal. Think of it. All ‘em purplebellies sleeping the night away. Ain’t got a gorramn clue what’s coming. But we know, don’t we?” He glanced around. Dirty tired faces stared back at him. They all looked so young, but they’re eyes burned with belief. “We are,” Reynolds said. “We’ll sweep them right off this rock and chase the Tyen-sah duh uh-muo the whole rutting way back to Londinium. Cause no power in the ‘verse can stop us. ” He nodded at Private Hayes and ruffled the kids hair. Slowly he made his way from one end of the battle line to the other. A few kind words here, a joke there. Finally he sank into the mud to wait. God how he hated waiting!
“You’re getting awful good at speechifying, sir.” Zoe’s eyes were laughing.
“Comes free with the stripes, Corporal,” he said. “Let’s have ourselves a proper shindig.” Reynolds snapped his ammunition in place. An explosion ignited the night sky. The sound of gunfire cackled angrily in the distance.
“Arial assault’s started, sir.”
“Sounds about right.” Reynolds agreed.
“Report sergeant!” Another figure dropped beside them in the mud.
“All present and accounted for sir.” Mal sketched a half-salute. “Waiting for orders.”
Major Orman returned the salute. “Shouldn’t be long now.“ He nodded at Mal. From Major Orman that was the equivalent of a pat on the back. He wasn’t one to make speeches or hand out praise lightly. He didn’t drink or cuss, but give him an objective and he carried it out with ruthless precision, one way or another. Orman’d had moderate success early in the war and been made a regimental commander. But not everyone who could command a company was suited for a regiment or the other way round, for that matter. So here he was, demoted, just a Company commander again. Mal smiled. He thought everyone was better off for it.
The Major’s COM beeped. “Alright sergeant,” the Major said. “The order is given.” Mal nodded and turned to Zoe. He could see his own thought mirrored in her eyes. About gorramn time!2517—Serenity
Mal scratched his nose. It was going to be a long three days to Greenleaf. He saw the crew’s eyes brimming with questions. They hadn’t asked yet but they wouldn’t keep their peace for long. Wash had already had a whispered conversation with Zoe. Arguing most likely. Some stories weren’t hers to tell. Hell! They weren’t Mal’s either. Besides they owed Pryce and Gunn ten times over. He just hoped little River didn’t do something crazy-like. There were too many gorramn secrets on this boat. He bounded down the hall into the dinning area and ground to a halt.
The table was covered from one end to the other with all manner of guns and knives. Jayne was talking animatedly, pointing to each one proudly. Gunn had an excited gleam in his eye, like his birthday had come early. There was something a mite unsettling about their newfound friendship. Jayne leaned down and lifted the biggest gun of all almost caressing it.
“This here’s Vera,” he said reverently.
“He names his weapons?” Mal turned at the question. Pryce was leaning against the wall, watching the scene with amusement.
“Seems like. I reckon this here’s a side of Gunn I ain’t never seen before.”
Pryce shrugged. “You can tell a lot about a man by his weapons. Especially in his line of work.” He nodded at Jayne. Mal’s eyes narrowed.
“You ain’t trying to steal my crew from under me are ya?”
“Well I am in the market for a tracker and knowing people’s useful. Besides, he won’t be your crew forever. I just like to keep my options open.”
“Why don’t you just take my mechanic while you’re at it?”
“I’ve already got a genius mechanic of my very own.” Pryce smiled. “But thanks for the offer.”
“You haven’t changed, Wes.”
“You have.” Pryce said.
Mal sighed. “Yeah. No one leaves Serenity. No one can.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Mal glanced up sharply. “Where were you two on Hera?” He asked. Pryce didn’t respond and Mal didn’t press. The silence was answer enough.
2509—Battle of Rossak
The purplebellies were running. Mal charged forward firing fiercely. He’d never seen so many of ‘em run. He roared a wordless shriek of victory. All around the 57th echoed his battle cry. They was winning! A huge explosion thundered in the distance. Mal peered into the night. He could just make out flashes of light and heard the telltale racket of gunfire. The battle was heating up to the right. Ol’ Garth’s boys sounded like they were in a right mess.
“Sir!” As he turned, Zoe darted into him sending them both careening to the ground. A stream of bullets whizzed overhead. She rolled over and came up firing. The hapless Alliance soldier fell to the ground dead.
“Gorramn it, Zoe!”
“Just saving your life, sir. Won’t happen again.” She reached down to help him up.
“See that it don’t,” Mal said as he groaned. “I think you broke my back.”
“Don’t be such a baby.”
“Is that any way to address a superior Corporal?”
“Don’t be such a baby…sir.” Zoe snapped a perfect salute.
“Better. Seen the Major about?” Mal asked. Zoe nodded silently at the field piled with bodies.
“He’s dead, sir.”
“Oh.” Mal blinked. Death was an occupational hazard, but he’d half expected the Major to outlive them all. “That’s a right shame.”
“He was good people,” Zoe agreed.
“Yeah he was.” He glanced around. “Seems to me we’ve run our way to victory, and we best stop running before we run ourselves all the way out the other side to defeat.”
“Probably for the best, sir.” Zoe agreed. They’d both seen what happens when troops get too excited and stick their neck out too far. She stopped and spun around. Two Browncoats were running towards them. “We got company, sir.”
“See ‘em,” Mal said. These days folks wearing brown weren’t always Independents. As they got closer, he could make out a taller black man with Sergeant’s stripes and a shorter Lieutenant with cold eyes.
“Lt. Pryce,” he introduced himself. “68th Overlanders.”
“Sergeant Reynolds, the 57th,” Mal answered in kind.
“That was a mighty impressive charge Sergeant, Corporal.”
“Thank you, sir.” Mal said. Zoe nodded.
“Your officer about?” Pryce asked.
Pryce nodded in acknowledgement. “Think your boys have got another charge in ‘em?”
“Hell Lieutenant,” Mall grinned. “Today they could drive them all the way to Londinium if given half a chance.”
“That ridge will do for a start.” Pryce pointed. “The assault on the right has failed. We’re the extreme left flank, Sergeant. If we don’t hold they’ll roll up our lines, and the long arm of the Alliance will be a little longer.”
“Gorramn it!” Visions of victory were starting to slip away leaving only grim determination. “Give me twenty minutes to form my boys up.”
Pryce nodded. “Our orders are to take and hold that hill at all costs. Gunn go with them and coordinate deployment.” He waited for Gunn’s nod, then darted ahead to scout.
“Sergeant…Gunn?” Mal raised his eyebrows skeptically.
“That’s my name.” Gunn smirked. “Born to it all proper like.”
“Huh,” Mal said. “Well that were strangely prophetic. Known Pryce long?”
“Since before the war.”
“Figured. Well let’s get to work.”