Preacher's Prayer - Ch4 and 5
Friday, March 19, 2004

Book's past causes trouble for the crew of Serenity.


Disclaimer: Characters do not belong to me. Until Joss's movie comes out, I'm just entertaining myself and others.

Not Beta-ed, all mistakes are mine.

I will note that I don't have any military experience -- tried to keep everything general though. Almost done now!

Summary: Everyone except River and Kaylee are at the kidnapper/vigilante's camp and the trial is about to start.

Ch 4 Chinese Shide - yes Zhuzui – quiet, shut up. ta-ma-de hwu dan – mother humping son of a bitch ***

Nate rubbed his face tiredly and decided it was probably time to wake Mayli. The men were getting restless about the possibility that the settlement might call the feds in and were eager to be rid of the preacher and the rest of Serenity's crew. He'd watched their interactions carefully when he could and he was beginning to think that it would be difficult for Mayli to get all of these people to agree to condemn their friend. The short man didn't appear to hold grudges while the Companion was impossible to fully predict. Neither of them appeared to have ever experienced anything that would cause them to fully sympathize with Mayli's anger.

Of course, if you only glanced at Mayli in passing, you'd never imagine what she was capable either. When he'd found her in the wreckage of her home nine years ago, Mayli had just turned twenty and looked all of fourteen. At least until you looked at her eyes, he thought. That haunted look had been the reason he'd requested permission to stay on Temburong when the unit his med team was attached to received orders to leave. Since there had been so many injured and very few doctors or healers had survived, his commander had agreed grudgingly that their unit could spare a lowly medic. Mayli had been confused when he told her he'd left the Independents. All of the enlisted people she had seen had either been idealistic or angry. She decided in turns that he was either a coward or had joined to escape something and had watched him carefully when she informed him of her judgments. Secretly, Nate had fibbed here and there enough to keep her interested, anything to give her the strength to want to make it through the night to question him again. Slowly she had healed, but with every day that passed he grew more attached to her, more determined to help her move past the grief. In their tent, he found Mayli awake.

"Wondered when you were going to make an appearance."

Nate nodded and sat on the cot beside her. "Figured you could use the rest," he replied as he studied her.

"I've come to find that sleep is highly overrated," Mayli replied crankily.

"Mayli, are you sure you want to go through with this?" Nate mentally kicked himself for the question when he saw the woman's face light up with anger.

"How can you even ask!"

He sighed. In for a penny, might as well have the argument. Maybe this would be the time she'd listen. "Gorram it, calm down and think this through logically for once. You saw this man's face on a cortex screen in the media and you're convinced that he deserves this? You don't even have any real evidence he was with the ships that bombed. . ."

His face stung when she slapped him. "You said you would do this with me," she said quietly.

"And when have I not done everything to help you. We spent two years in the core trying to find him. When we came here, I thought you had finally given this up. We were happy until you spotted this chunren in that bar!"

"No!" Mayli shouted as she stood and walked as far away from him as she could in the tent. Catching herself, she continued more quietly, "You were happy, I was just here. Did you search his room like I told you to?"

"Shide." He leaned forward offering her a small object. "It took longer than I'd have liked, but I found his Ident card. Don't know how you think this helps though – we don't have any means to scan it."

She almost smiled when she took the card from him. "They don't know that though, do they?"

"You're crazy if you think that Captain is going to let you kill that man with a bluff."

"We'll see, won't we?"


The monotony of their relative captivity was finally ended when Weera, one of Nate's men, dragged the preacher from his tent. Book's hands had been tied in front of him and Weera used the bindings to pull the other man after him. Finally, Book was roughly pushed down in front of a tree and Weera backed off a few yards.

"Finally!" Jayne said quietly. "Sitting around on a planet ain't any fun if there's no booze or women around."

"Glad to know your priorities Jayne," remarked Zoe.

Jayne looked at her confused. "Just got better ways to spend my time is all."

"Zhuzui!" Mal whispered.

The rest of the camp began to gather in a rough circle around Serenity's crew when Nate and Mayli exited their tent and took a position between Book and the others. Nate glanced at them before he started speaking. "Well Preacher, you've had a night to think things over. Want to save us all some time and get anything off your chest?"

Book smiled up at the other man. "Nothing that I can think of that would interest you I'm afraid."

Nate shook his head. This man seemed too peaceful. In the face of threats he was showing no guilt or even worry. Nate sighed and glanced at Mayli. He'd agreed to follow her plan, but he wasn't sure that she'd get the results she hoped for. "Well, I have an idea, how 'bout you tell us what your name was before you took your vows then."

"That's in the past. I don't see how it has any bearing on today," Book answered, his serene smile still locked in place.

When Mayli put a hand on Nate's shoulder, he stepped back and joined the men behind them. With an aggressive smile, she approached the shepherd slowly as she spoke. "Shepherd, I'm sure those vows say some pretty specific things about falsehoods and the like." After he nodded, she continued. "So you won't deny that the name Harold Malm was given to you by your parents?" Mayli's smile only grew larger when she heard Serenity's captain and first officer begin to curse loudly.

When she turned to face them, both were on their feet. "Hang the ta-ma-de hwu dan now. Enough of our time's been wasted as it is," Mal shouted. Simon and Inara just looked at each other in confusion.

"Mal, no. This is supposed to be a trial, not a vigilante's lynching," Inara protested.

"If she'd said that name a day ago, we wouldn't even be here," Zoe told her.

"But we are and the rest of us don't understand," the Companion argued.

Wash put his hand in the air as he spoke. "I'd like to know why we're hanging our FRIEND too. Just to help me sleep at night you know."

Mal turned his glare at Book. "Go ahead preacher. Tell 'em what you did before you found your god."

"Everyone has acts that they would like to take back, Captain. I've changed who I am to try to atone for mine."

"How's that working out for you so far? Have you been forgiven for any of the planets you destroyed yet? Do you have to do extra penance for the women and children?" Mal questioned.

Inara stood up and confronted Mal and Zoe. "So he fought in the war – horrible things happen in wars Mal. Does that negate all the good he's ever done? He saved your life for God's sake."

"He's the best cook on the ship too," Jayne offered.

Inara turned pleadingly to the rest of the people in the camp. "You said this was to be a trial! What do you think the Alliance is going to do when they hear you lynched an officer for his name?"

"She's right you know," Nate told Mayli.

"Fine, we can hear all about the man's good works and new leaf tomorrow. And I think Malcolm Reynolds is just the person to tell us all about it," Mayli said as she turned her back on the now divided crew.


Chapter 5

After dinner, Mal was forced to join the preacher in his tent. "So is it Harry or General?" he asked scornfully.

"Captain," Book greeted tiredly. "Guess I should be thankful that they didn't think to appoint Jayne my advocate."

"Could be that would have been a better choice the way I see it."

"If that's your opinion, then I guess I might as well get a good night's sleep."

Mal walked over and stood over the preacher. Pulling the pistol concealed in his waistband, he slowly spoke his threat. "That's my opinion preacher. But before you do any type of sleeping, I think you should convince me why you should ever wake up again."

Book looked past the barrel of the pistol and into Mal's eyes. He had hoped to be able to explain things to the younger man in his own time, in a way that didn't include the hatred he now saw in Mal's eyes. Why God had seen fit to allow this turn of events before he had managed to bring the Captain back to his faith, he didn't understand. But perhaps if he could get through to Mal now, then maybe they had a chance to get through to Mayli and Nate.

"It was war, Captain."

"Funny, ya see, I musta missed the section of boot camp on the slaughter of non-combatants. Why don't you 'splain it better than that?"

"You already know most of it, I reckon. My unit was in charge of putting down revolts at first . . ."

"Meaning Shadow and all those other worlds where infantry landed, occupied, and imprisoned the families of Independents?"

"Yes. It was distasteful, but necessary. Those worlds were still under Alliance protection and the majority of their populations wanted things to stay that way. I was following my orders," Book explained with conviction.

"Temburong and the other planets where the settlements and cities were bombed to the ground? That was orders too? Funny, but I don't recall them being on your all's sides of the lines," Mal accused.

"Then think for a minute like a leader rather than a sergeant! Those worlds were providing the Independents with everything. If they had been allowed to continued, the war probably would have continued for another three years at least! And no, the outcome wouldn't have been any different, we still had more men and more ships. Their settlements were near the farmlands, their factories in their cities, and the supply depots well hidden. We had no choice but to accept bystander casualties."

Mal trembled with anger as he held Book's gaze. "Shepherd, you sure as hell have an odd way of arguing for your life."

"Captain, Mal, I believed in what I fought for just as much as you did. Yes, as time went on, I began to question some of the methods, but I believed the Unification was necessary and good. By the time I stopped to question the means, I convinced myself it wouldn't have mattered – someone else would have eagerly stepped up to give the orders as I was hauled off for treason. I saw it happen to others. However, I regret it and will answer for it. But not this way," he demanded.

Mal answered with cold fury, "And why the hell not? Seems as good a way as any."

"Are you not even going to ask then?" Book questioned.

"Ask what?" Mal questioned. "Don't figure there's a lot of asking to be done," he answered as he cocked his gun.

"Think it through. Why do you, Zoe and those other two even know my name?"

"Fine, then. Why?" Mal asked shrugging his shoulders slightly.

"I didn't even realize at the time son, but as I was following my orders, I was being portrayed as a hero of the Alliance. Why, I'm sure if you ask Simon to think past his studies, he probably even recalls the war vids of it. Of course, I looked a bit different; hair was regulation and all then. When the war was over, I was congratulated by complete strangers for what I had done. For killing their counterparts who couldn't fight back. I couldn't take it anymore. The guilt began to eat at me, it all seemed empty." Book stared off into space remembering those few weeks he'd spent at home. His wife hadn't understood. To her, he'd done his duty and there was no shame to be had in it. She was angry that he'd felt guilt where she thought he should feel pride. Their marriage was just one more casualty of all the obeyed orders, all the deaths. "So I left it all, went to the only place where I was condemned for all that I had done, condemned but forgiven."

"So you found God and bygones are bygones now? That's supposed to make it all alright," Mal stated, his face showing his distaste.

"Hell, no Mal. It doesn't make it right!" Book shouted back, jumping to his feet. "And the years I spent there didn't make the guilt go away either. But in the end you can't judge me, not unless you want all the families of all the boys and girls you've killed to come seeking justice too. Like I said it was war."

Mal lowered his gun finally and backed up a few steps. "So that's what you want me to tell that girl out there, who I'll remind you didn't fight in our war?" he asked accusingly.

Book sighed. "Not particularly, no. But do you understand? Only God can judge us for what we did during that war, we didn’t break any laws of men. And I can't make up for what I've taken away from her, from you or anyone else. Instead, I'm trying to live better, always be a help. Letting her kill me won't take away her pain, her anger. It will only leave her hollow Mal. What do you think will happen to her then?"

Mal considered it. He remembered the anger and hate he felt when he'd heard about his Ma's death on Shadow and about the hands that'd been sent to camps while their lands were taken away. It had kept him going that last year of the war, kept him fighting and gave him energy to give to the men he lead. But in Serenity Valley, he'd found the hollowness too.

Looking into Book's eyes now, he saw that the other man had felt the same hollowness at one time. The only thing that had kept Mal from bowing to the hollowness and finding an end was Zoe. And then later, the freedom he felt when flying his own ship in the black, that had been the first time he'd felt any emotion since the Valley other than emptiness. It had been a long time coming, but it had been worth it. The hollowness was still there, still hung over his shoulder like ghost haunting him, waiting to possess him the moment he lost anything dear.

If all Mayli was living for was vengeance against Book, she wouldn't be long for this 'verse afterward. And if not, well, maybe Book's God would judge him after he died a natural death. 'Course, Simon might actually kiss Kaylee too, but stranger things had happened. Mal holstered his gun and turned to go.

"Well Captain?"

"She said we were the jury. We'll see what the other's think." Besides, he thought to himself as he left the tent, it wouldn't do Book any harm whatsoever to stew over it.

*** TBC in Preacher's Prayer: Conclusion


Friday, March 19, 2004 11:32 PM


Excellent. I loved the diaglogue between Mal and Book in particular. The notion that vegeance cannot buy back a soul but only propel it into a yawning abyss of emptiness is a poignant reminder that when we think like the enemy we can so easily become the enemy. Well done, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, March 20, 2004 11:08 AM


Wow, this one is really building up nicely! Love the dynamics between Mal and Book.

The one thing that kinda bugged me was Book remembering his wife, he states twice in Serenity that he was never married. But then, I guess we do have to take most of what Book says about his past with a grain of salt...LOL

Saturday, March 20, 2004 2:17 PM


Actually forgot about Book mentioning not being married. Ahh well, artistic license and all:)


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