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WAR DIARIES OF A SINNER Chapter 11
Saturday, November 25, 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.----Finally, Yong sheds some light on his past and why he was kicked out of the army before.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1226    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Shepherd Errin took Yong, Dao and Mendes to his house where he said they wouldn’t be disturbed. He lit a few candles and bid his guests to take a seat around the kitchen table. While the preacher prepared some tea, Yong looked around. This house had barely been touched by the artillery fire that had left most of Apachin in ruins. The walls showed some cracks that had been repaired with filler, but apart from that there were no obvious signs of damage. A nicely carved bookshelf caught Yong’s eye. Instead of sitting down at the table he went over and looked at the covers of the books. There was, of course, the Bible, several actually, in different formats and conditions. He pulled out one that seemed particularly old, with a worn-out leather cover. He leafed through the pages. The paper was old and yellow, stained on some pages and the letters sometimes faded. There were illustrations too, in the style of traditional Chinese woodcarvings. He put back the book and looked at the titles of other volumes. There were other philosophical and religious works, among them teachings of Confucius or Lao Tzu, but also history books and books with fairy tales and legends from Earth-That-Was. Yong chose one of the latter and looked at the pictures inside again. He didn’t notice that Errin had stepped behind him.

“Funny you should look at that picture in particular”, the preacher murmured.

“Why?” Yong responded and took a closer look at the picture in front of him. It showed two men flying through the sky with wings. One of the men was plunging towards the sea underneath them, his wings burning.

“Well, that’s the story of Daedalus and Ikarus, an old Greek myth from Earth-That-Was. They crossed their king and build wings to escape, but Ikarus, he was flying too close to the sun. He got burned and died. A bit like you, without the dying of course. You crossed your masters, and you were flying a bit too close to a certain sun, and you got burned in a way. You paid a price.”

“You really know far too much about my past than I like, preacher, I must say”, Yong said a little cross. “And it’s more than you could have possibly gleaned from some security dossier on me that just happened to be left behind. What are you doing, do you read my mind?”

“Reading minds?” Errin hesitated for a moment, as if he was actually considering Yong’s throwaway remark. After a pause that seemed a bit too long for Yong’s taste the preacher added: “Well, let’s just say I have a special way of relating to people and their feelings. But why don’t you just put back that book and come sit with us at the table and tell us your story as you promised. Tea is ready.”

Yong followed the preacher over to the table where Mendes and Dao where already sitting.

“Finally”, Dao said. “I thought you’d never let go of them books over there, Colonel.” Although the comment was inappropriate for an officer to make to a superior, Yong let it slide. He could understand that both captains were excited to hear about his past.

“I just find books fascinating”, he said. “Especially since you can get everything in digital form from the cortex today.”

“Well, not everything”, Errin objected. “Mostly what’s approved of by the authorities and what’s profitable. Not the really hot stoff. At least it’s very hard to find on the cortex. But I’ll admit that books are indeed a rare commodity nowadays. Most of them belonged to my parents. Family heirlooms so to speak. The others I bought, or found, or traded.”

“It’s a very nice collection you have there, shepherd”, Yong said.

“Thank you, Colonel. But why don’t you end these young folk’s anticipation, and mine of course, and finally tell us about your side of the story.”

“Okay, but this is strictly between us, dong le ma?”

“Allright, Sir”, Mendes promised, and Dao nodded in agreement. Yong turned to the preacher.

“Don’t look at me. I’ll file this night’s stories under ‘confessions’ and that’s all there is to it. No worry.”

“Allright”, Yong said and cleared his throat. “I assume you have all heard of the Eavesdown Incident?”

“It rings a bell”, Dao said. “But I’m not quite sure which one.”

“I think I have heard of it”, Errin said. “Wasn’t that ’97, or ’98? A week of rioting? A mutiny or something? Lot of casualties, if I remember correctly.”

“It was ’98. June 2498 to be precise”, Yong continued. “And yes, there was rioting and there was mutiny. But that’s only part of it. Why people rioted is what’s more interesting. Back then I was commanding the 37th Regiment of the 3rd Persephone Airborne Infantry Division, the same regiment I am commanding now, or did until we got stuck on this lovely rock of yours, preacher. Blue Sun, then only one of a number of Alliance defense contractors, was at that time testing performance-enhancing drugs and immunity boosters, so-called innoc supplements almost identical to those they apparently mix into our survival rations now. They were testing them on some companies in my regiment and in the 36th. However, rumour in the Eavesdown Docks had it that Blue Sun had also been testing the stuff on some locals, people they had just lifted off the street that nobody would miss. I don’t know if that was actually true, but people seemed to believe it. Apparently, there were several deaths under mysterious circumstances in the slums, and that seemed to support the rumours. On the first day it was just a relatively peaceful demonstration in front of the Blue Sun factory, which was in a district close to the docks. The Feds dispersed the crowds easily. A few people got arrested.”

“Sorry, Sir, but what does that all have to do with you and your discharge from the army”, Dao asked impatiently.

“Give the man time, Clarin”, Mendes interjected. “Please continue, Colonel.”

Yong noticed that Mendes was calling Dao by her first name, but he didn’t really want to know what that was all about. “Actually, captain, I was just going to get to that. On the second day, I think it was the 19th, other issues and grievances of the community got mixed in with the indignation at those few people’s deaths. The PIWU, the Persephone Industrial Workers Union, an illegal organization by the way, demanded higher wages for the Blue Sun employees, health benefit, and risk bonuses. Totally unacceptable demands for Blue Sun, of course. They called in the Feds, and they called for backup from us. No shots were fired, but three people got crushed in the panic when my soldiers dispersed the crowds with water-throwers and tear gas. That only fuelled the anger of the crowds, and the next day the demonstration had grown to over 400,000 people. That day the people attempted to storm the factory. It would have been a blood bath if the soldiers had tried to stop them. There were just too many, they had to retreat and let the more radical elements occupy the factory.” Yong made a pause to sip on his tea. “Then a few unfortunate events coincided. Someone had been circulating leaflets about the side-effects and the dangers of the test drugs among the soldiers involved in the testing of Blue Sun’s innoc supplements, and how the alleged deaths of the civilian test persons had occurred. So the companies in question were already on the verge of disobedience, and understandably very concerned about their own health. Then overnight, two of the military labrats went into shock and died a little later in hospital. On the fourth day, when we were besieging the occupied factory on the one hand, while keeping a still massive demonstration in check on the other hand, word of that spread rapidly among the troops. Around midday several companies, mostly those involved in the test scheme, including some of the officers, mutinied and went over to the occupiers in the factory.”

“And you were one of these officers?” Mendes guessed.

“Hell, no”, Yong protested. “I’m a soldier and I don’t fraternize with radicals, and I certainly don’t condone mutiny among my troops. I didn’t go over, but some of my boys did, as did two entire companies of the 36th. They demanded that Blue Sun made public all the records of the tests they had run, and on any observed side-effects or damage, and that they pay compensation to the families of those who had died in the experiments. These demands were on top of the previous ones of course. I’m not saying I didn’t sympathize with some of what they wanted, but it wasn’t the right way. Anyway, these Blue Sun zang huo on the other hand demanded, almost ordered us to storm the factory and protect their corporate and government property at any cost. They especially insisted of using a new riot-control weapon, a gas that was only being beta-tested at that time, and turn it against the crowds and the men inside the factory. And that was the moment when I and the other commanding officers on the ground refused the orders.”

“Well, by the looks of it, you had pretty good reasons”, Mendes said, sounding almost furious.

“That’s what we thought too. First, some of my soldiers were on drugs that were obviously having side-effects, so it had already been irresponsible of having them deal with the riots before. But using an experimental gas weapon on civilians? No, that was beyond irresponsible, that was insane. For all we knew, the gas could very well have been lethal, and there were still hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating. Imagine how many could have been killed if we had followed that order. And finally, and the other officers and me totally agreed on this, troops don’t fire upon fellow troops. That’s basic military convention. You don’t shoot your own. Even if they wre mutineers, it was for the courts to deal with them, not their own comrades. Mendes, Dao, I don’t have to tell you this, but preacher, you might not understand this: If you order soldiers to fire on their comrades, you totally destroy troop morale, and you only invite more mutiny. We could just hold our position and hope the people would eventually give themselves up. Which they did eventually, after three more days. All those soldiers involved in the occupation of the factory were court-martialled and summarily executed, as were the civilian rioters and the PIWU activists that the Feds could get their hands on. The officers, including myself, who had disobeyed a direct order, were put before a military tribunal too, charged with jeopardizing Blue Sun and Alliance property and trade secrets, and of course with disobedience in the field. Actually I was surprised that it said Alliance property in the charge. At the time I had been very unaware of how far Blue Sun was already integrated into the government. Anyway, long story is short, we were only dishonourably discharged, but for men and women who have pursued a military career for over twenty years like me that comes very close to a death sentence, believe me. All I had worked for, all I had lived for for most of my life, and all my savings for my retirement were gone from one moment to the other.”

“That was a hell of a story”, shepherd Errin said.

“No wonder you didn’t want to talk about it before, Colonel”, Dao said.

“Well, it felt kind of good somehow to get that off my chest. But only that we’re clear here. No word to anybody else. This was an exception.”

“Okay, okay”, Dao said quickly. “But I’m still curious. What did you do after you were discharged?”

“Oh, this and that. Minor jobs, whatever I could get really. I hadn’t learnt much apart from handling weapons, tactics, and commanding soldiers. So I stuck with what I knew and tried to get by that way.”

“So what did you do?” Dao asked.

“Just leave, Clarin, will you”, Mendes said.

“I’m only asking him a question, Mike. It’s not like I’m forcing him or anything.”

“Let’s say I worked in personal protection on a contract basis.”

“A mercenary? You, Sir?”

“If you like that expression. But honestly, Captain Dao, I do not feel the need to discuss my entire career outside the military now as well. It wasn’t always within the bounds of the law, but you probably knew that already, so let’s just leave it at that. I think we should go back to the camp now. It’s quite late. Thanks for the tea, preacher.”

“Thank you for your openness, Colonel. And good night.”

----------------------------- Chinese: Dong le ma - understand Zang huo - bastards

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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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Sorry for keeping you waiting this long. I just didn’t feel in the mood to write recently and I have a lot to do for uni at the moment. I’m still going to continue and finish this story, it will just take some time. Comments are always appreciated.

COMMENTS

Saturday, November 25, 2006 4:38 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Hmm...one has to wonder at a tale like that. I wonder if the gas Blue Sun wanted to see used on the protestors was the Pax? Cuz that would have been mighty disasterous, having 400 or so Reavers born from concentrated exposure to the gas:(

Anyway...glad to see this back at the BSR, rainstick! Definitely been waiting for the explanation of Book's original dishonourable discharge:)

BEB


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