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WAR DIARIES OF A SINNER Chapter 10
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Book wasn't born a shepherd, he was born Brian M. Yong, an ex-colonel surprisingly, and unwillingly, brought out of retirement by the Alliance to fight in the Unification War.----Spending several months in a POW camp on Three Hills gives Yong time to think about the reasons behind the war.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1377    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

It had been over two months now since Yong and the troops of his that had got cut off with him had surrendered to the Browncoats on Three Hills. They were not the only units that had been left as dead or missing by the Alliance command after things went South. There were actually several thousand men and women crammed together in a POW camp outside of Apachin, or what had been left of Apachin after the constant and futile artillery barrage from the Alliance. Generally, the prisoners were treated rather well by their captors, at least as far as Yong could tell. Of course food and drink was scarce, and sanitary conditions were not exactly core world standard, but the Independents and the locals did not have it any better. After all, the engagement in what now seemed like ages ago had destroyed everything that had once passed as infracstructure out here on the border. That was one of the reasons why the Alliance prisoners were not subjected to constant mistreatment and reprisals at the hands of the victors. There were of course some instances where people had been badly beaten up by some Independent soldiers off duty. There were rumours there had been some killings, but that could just as well have been the result of fighting among prisoners. Right at the beginning, of course, the officers had been separated from the rest of the troops, some feared to be summarily shot. That had not been the case, but there had been interrogations. Yong’s own had luckily been fairly soft, compared to some reports he had heard of others. There had been screaming and shouting, the blinding light, and he had been slapped on two occasions to get him to talk, but that was it. He could not tell much anyway. The Independents had apparently caught two officers of the rank of brigadier general, or maybe even above, who proved to be much more interesting subjects than a colonel like Yong. The rumour went that their interrogators had tortured them for several days, beating them, cutting on them, until they had finally died. One of the locals claimed he had seen them being thrown in a ditch, but whether that was true or just a story to scare them nobody could say. The interrogations and torture ended abruptly when the preacher of the Apachin church, who was also the most respected leader in the town, stepped in and put a stop to the practice. Instead he demanded that the prisoners should be put to work in the rebuilding of Apachin “as an act of penance”. Even though it amounted to slave labour they did not have much choice. It was three weeks now since they had started rebuilding Apachin, basically from scratch. The Alliance artillery had not left standing much apart from the foundations. Ironically enough, Shepherd Errin – that was the name of the preacher – insisted on the remaining Browncoats working alongside the POWs, possibly because he blamed them just as much for the destruction of his town as the Alliance. After all, they had chosen to make their stand in Apachin, so they were partly responsible. Even though the preacher would have liked to see his church being put up again first, the civilian buildings had priority. After a good number of buildings had been rebuilt and could serve as shelter for many more families until their homes too were habitable again, work started on the church.

Yong was just working with a couple of soldiers from his company on the churchtower for the entire afternoon when Shepherd Errin called them all down for supper. A bowl of soup, a vile concotion of overcooked vegetables and dissolved proteines, was handed out to every worker on the shift, and then the preacher said grace. Yong found it very odd that Shepherd Errin could just as easily have people’s undivided attention as any officer could but without having to shout orders. His authority was just natural, not derived from some notion of rank or insignia, but maybe from some greater… No, that thought just was a bit too far for Yong. He shook his head and smiled about himself. He was not exactly an atheist, but neither did he genuinely believe in some benign higher being watching over the human race. He believed in what he saw, real, actual things. The Alliance was real, it was not perfect, but then what was? It meant progress, civilization. Yes, this civilization was now at war, but only so everyone could eventually benefit from what it had to offer, in peace. That was what this war was about. It was not pretty, sure, and the preacher’s sermons about the sinfulness of their deeds and their crimes before God had a point somehow, but spending several months on this moon with this preacher would surely not turn Yong all religious. While he was forcing down the soup, the sun was slowly going down behind a bend of the canyon touching everything around with its reddish glow. Meanwhile Errin was droning on about some passage from the Bible, Yong did not really pay too much attention. After the meal he did not go directly back to the camp but strolled a but through the town. On the road he met captains Dao and Mendes who were talking to Shepherd Errin.

“Dao! Mendes! Good evening, shepherd.”

“Oh, hello Colonel, nice to see you”, said Errin. “We were just talking about?”

“How is that?”

“Oh, your officers here were just telling me what a legend you are meant to be in your unit. I’m quite impressed.”

“I guess most of it’s exaggerated”, Yong said with a sheepish grin.

“Likely so, likely so, but in every tale there is a grain of truth”, Errin said.

“Is this part of your sermon?”

“Oh, no”, Errin laughed. “It’s just difficult to get out of the preacher talking when you have a normal conversation.”

“Is this a normal conversation? It almost seems as if you were questioning my soldiers about me.”

“Is that what it looks like? Sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

“What did you tell him anyway?” Yong asked Mendes.

“Well, not much, Sir. What you did on Osiris, and of course on Sihnon. Especially Sihnon. With the factory.”

“Yeah, that was really…”, Dao added.

“Really what?” Yong interruped.

“Well, heroic, or inspiring, maybe that’s the right word”, Dao said. “Not many officers would have done that.”

“Maybe because it was also very stupid”, Yong said.

“Well, you seem to inspire loyalty, Colonel”, Shepherd Errin said. “Genuine loyalty. You lead by example.”

“I was just a common soldier myself once. Maybe that’s why.”

“Oh, I think you’re too modest. You’re a good officer. Why else would Alliance have brought you back out of retirement?” the preacher asked.

The unexpected question made Yong suddenly very suspicious. “What do you know about that?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing. Just hearsay, from your men, other officers, you know”, Errin said evasively. “I just asked Dao and Mendes here about some of those rumours to find out if there was actually any substance to them.”

“Is that so?” Yong asked Mendes and Dao with a threatening glance.

“Well”, Dao said hesitatingly, “he asked about rumours about your military past, before you were recalled into service, and why you actually left service for several years.”

“Interesting. Could you help him with any of his queries?”

“Well, no. I don’t know anything about that. Only superior officers have access to your files. What would I know?”

“But you already know something, don’t you?” Yong asked the preacher.

“Yes, I…”

“Let me guess. You got hold of files that were left back when the Alliance retreated. Gleaned some information from the inerrogations of other officers. That sort of thing.”

“Yeah, I admit, there were some files that were found, and they did not make much sense to me, so I just went to investigate a little…”

“Investigate? What are you, a Shepherd or an Operative?”

“Operative? Hell no. I’m just a very curious person, honestly. I find you fascinating in a way though, I must say.”

“I hope that was meant as a compliment.”

The preacher seemed genuinely embarassed. “Look, I’m not trying to get you into trouble, or prod around in your past. Well, maybe I am doing the prodding, but I really mean no harm. I just find it strange that after over twenty years of service you quit for no apparent reason, and now after that long break you’re back. It confounds me a bit I must say.”

“I quit, is that what it says in the files.”

“Well, not exactly, no. It says dismissed, but I didn’t…”

“There’s no need to be too diplomatic”, Yong said calmly, but inside he was furious. What had Major General Baker said on Osiris. ‘Erased from the records. Bygones be bygones. All shiny.’ All shiny his ass, Yong thought. They had not erased a single thing, it was still all there so his superiors could use the old evidence as pressure against him, and now, obviously the Browncoats too.

“Well, the files don’t give specifics, so I thought your officers might…” Errin said, still trying to get back on the good side of Yong again.

“We couldn’t tell him anything much, Sir”, Dao said, a bit too quickly to be true. “There are those old tales from the 37th you know. But tales grow with time so I never, really never put anything into them.”

“What did the tales say?”

“Erm, something about you disobeying an order.”

“Well, that’s one way to look at it. Mendes, do you have anything to add to that?”

“No, Sir”, Mendes replied. “Heard the selfsame stories. Only know there was a lot of respect among the rank and file for what you did. Don’t know exactly what it was then. Some say a matter of principle. That’s about as far as it goes.”

“Okay, I think you know more already than I’m comfortable with, but before you hear anymore botched accounts or half-truths, I’d rather have you hear my side to the story.” -------------------------------------------------

Disclaimer: For the events of the war I am loosely orienting myself on the unofficial timeline on the Fireflywiki. The ‘Verse is of course Joss Whedon’s. But Book’s alter ego Brian Yong is essentially my creation.

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Comments are always appreciated.

COMMENTS

Friday, November 10, 2006 5:06 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Ooh...that was mighty interesting;)

But damn it! Now we gotta wait to find out about Book's past:(

BEB


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