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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Serenity arrives on the Suri Madron.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2611 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Thank God!” the sergeant said, as the hatch to Serenity’s cargo hold opened onto a sad and decrepit old shipping bay. The sergeant didn’t look much better than his gloomy station – his uniform was several years out of date and unbuttoned, exposing his faded undershirt, his cap was on backwards, and the smoldering stump of a cigar protruded from the left side of his mouth as if it had taken root and grown there from a seedling. If his face had seen his razor recently, it hadn’t been a long reunion. “I’ve been getting my gorram ass chewed out for days, wondering when this fei oo is gonna be in!”
Malcom and Kaylee were already moving the pallet that held the relay around to prepare it to move down the ramp.
“Well, ni hao to you, too,” Kaylee muttered. It was typical, she thought, whenever they put in on some forsaken frontier shithole, it didn’t matter what the situation was, everyone was always nice and polite. As soon as they docked with anything corewise, it was automatically a hurried, rude business. She could deal with it – had to deal with it – but after a week dealing with real mechanics and engineers who had fallen all over themselves to help her tend to the girl at the Gopher Hole, this was a rude awakening.
“Someone order a pizza?” Mal quipped as he steadied the relay. “Got a hot charter outta Persephone –”
“Yeah, yeah,” the sergeant dismissed. “Part of that was keeping your mouth shut. Remember that.”
“This some kinda secret spy base?” Kaylee asked, handing the sergeant a clipboard with the shipping receipt attached.
“Yeah, that’s us, keeping the Alliance safe from the alien hordes,” he grumbled as he inspected it. “Your tax dollars at work. I’d keep your questions to yourself, missy, if you know what’s good for you. Kwan ni ju ji du shu!”
Kaylee pouted, but nodded. The sergeant looked up at her expectantly. “This relay all you brought? You guys didn’t, uh, didn’t bring anything decent for a little off-the-books trade, did ya?”
Mal affected a crooked smile. “The purchasing agent on Persephone sent a couple of pallets for you – mostly protein, toilet paper, office supplies, medical supplies, some spare parts . . . all there on the manifest. Said since we were headed out here anyway, may as well get the most out of the charter and sent part of your next run. But we’re a general-purpose medium transport,” he nodded. “Got lots of stuff, ‘specially ‘off-the-books’ kinda stuff. Whatcha need?”
“Booze, porn, prophylactics, smokes . . .”
“Done, done, done, and done,” the sergeant said with a grin. “Always need all of them.”
“We got some o’ each,” confirmed Mal. “Whatcha got in trade?”
The sergeant shrugged. “Credits.”
“Alliance credits?” Mal asked, skeptically.
“As purple as a new born babe,” the sergeant said, suspiciously.
“That all you got?” Mal asked, rubbing his chin.
“Why? What’s wrong with credits?” the sergeant demanded.
“Well . . . y’all might have been out here a powerful long time,” reasoned the captain. “But Fed credits, they ain’t worth what they used to be. Platinum’s trustier.”
“Well, I’ll alert my banker and have some drawn,” the sergeant said, evenly. “Until then, you want my gorram money or not?”
“Oh, we’ll take it,” considered Mal. “And probably more’n you’re thinkin’.”
“Isn’t like I’ve got anything better to do with it,” grumbled the Alliance soldier as he checked through the rest of the manifest. “Whatever. Just – hey! What’s this? A CM-3A8? You brought in a ‘supercargo’?”
“Yeah,” Mal said with a smirk. “Be right glad to sign off on it, too.”
“What is it?” the sergeant said. Then his face fell. “Oh, God, please tell me it isn’t more gorram monkies?!”
“Not if my parents filled out my birth information correctly,” a high, clear voice called form the back of Serenity’s cargo deck. Kaylee stifled a giggle as Simon strode confidently to the ramp, his bag in hand, his . He looked so dashing in his crisp, carefully-tailored uniform, she had to suppress the urge to sigh, and instead threw him a well-practiced scowl. He stopped and surveyed the hold of the Suri Madron with obvious distaste.
“Good God,” he said, sternly. “Out of one deathtrap and onto another. It might smell . . . marginally better,” he argued to himself. He noticed the sergeant staring at him in slack-jawed wonder. “Although I see little prospect in an improvement in service. Sergeant, please notify the captain that I have arrived,” Simon said, stiffly, tucking his brilliant golden-headed baton of office under one arm. His uniform, his demeanor, his impeccable hair made a striking contrast to the rest of Serenity. She started to breath hard without realizing it.
“And you would be . . . ?” the sergeant asked, swallowing hard.
“I would be on the other side of the solar system if I had any say in the matter,” Simon shot back, acidly. “But I don’t. Instead, I received emergency orders to quit my assignment and proceed here . . . for a Parliamentary special committee authorized review of the operational history of this facility.”
The sergeant’s cigar hit the floor. “You’re the inspector?”
Simon looked at the man sympathetically. “I’m guessing you weren’t in the top of your kindergarten class. Yes, sergeant, I’m the dreaded inspector. Now please inform your Captain, because I am not about to break protocol and enter this vessel without his direct permission.”
The scrambling that ensued amused Kaylee to no end, and she could tell Mal was tickled as well. The sergeant hastily radioed his supervisor, then buttoned his shirt (getting the buttons wrong), pulled his cap around and did his best to stand at attention. It took nearly five minutes before his supervisor, a worn-looking master sergeant, appeared in slightly better uniform. Once he was convinced that the inspector had arrived, it took another ten for a fleet lieutenant to arrive from the Bridge with an honor guard of four dour looking troopers.
“At last,” Simon said, rolling his eyes with exaggeration as an officer of suitable rank had finally arrived to welcome him. He straightened. “Permission to come aboard?”
“Permission granted, sir,” the lieutenant said, snapping a salute and offering a bow. Simon had tried to explain to Kaylee why this was necessary when they had been practicing his background – it had to do with some obscure history between the Alliance Fleet operations, the Alliance Infantry operations, and the role of the Parliament and its representatives, and it was all very obfuscated. She didn’t pretend to understand the protocol involved – but Simon had mentioned that his apparent Parliamentary rank corresponded to an infantry Major or a fleet Commander, so being welcomed by anyone less than a fleet lieutenant would violate protocol. And inspectors were all about the protocol.
“Fine,” Simon said, tossing his bag to one of the guards, who almost dropped his weapon as he caught it. “Let’s go see the . . . Captain, I suppose it would be.”
“Yessir, I’ve alerted the Bridge,” the lieutenant acknowledged, leading Simon away. “You, there!” he barked at the sergeant who had met them. “Get this relay down to the locks and let’s get it installed soonest. And get these . . . people out of here,” he added, looking scornfully at Serenity and the crew. The way he said it made Kaylee feel dirty, somehow.
“Belay that!” Simon shot back. “It took me days to arrange transport, and I don’t intend on wasting away here one moment longer than necessary. I won’t be stranded. The ship stays until I’m ready to go.”
“That weren’t the deal, Inspector!” Mal protested, shaking his head. “I got runs to do, people to pay—”
“Then you’ll be compensated,” Simon said, narrowing his eyes threateningly. “Thrice your normal fare. You have to stay long enough to sort out that engine trouble, don’t you? Then don’t whine about getting paid to do so. Lieutenant, see to it. And pay the man in platinum if you have it, will you? It’s the only language these . . . people seem to understand,” he sneered.
Suddenly Kaylee wanted very badly to hit Simon in the teeth. She knew he was just playing a part – and playing it well – but still . . .
The lieutenant swallowed and nodded towards the sergeant. “Sergeant, please go over the rules with our . . . guests. Arrange for a suitable fee to be paid from the vault . . . in platinum. And send for a security detail. I want two guards on this bay at all times while they are here. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” the non-com snapped, coming to attention. He saluted as Simon and the lieutenant and the guards all left in a swift-moving formation. When they had passed, the sergeant assumed his previous casual attitude.
“All right, spacers,” he said, a growl in his voice. “You stay put. Period. You don’t talk to anyone but me, you don’t leave your ship, and if you got needs, I’ll take care of them. And yes, yes, we’ll pay you,” he groaned. “Probably come out of my budget, too. No matter.” He tapped his wrist and summoned two guards from somewhere, and then spent a few moments bantering with Mal about the possibility of some contraband exchange until they arrived. Then he snapped a load lifter on the pallet containing the relay, activated it, and floated it out the door and into a cargo lift.
When the door closed behind them, Mal sidled over to Kaylee. “Right smart fella, that doctor,” he admitted in a low voice. “Now we get paid. And in coin, not cash.” He rubbed his chin. “I admit to being curious whereabouts they might keep that vault they mentioned, though,” he added.
“Mal,” Kaylee said warningly, hitting him lightly in the arm. “We got our orders. This ain’t a time for little freelance thievery, I’m thinkin’.”
“It’s always time! Just keepin’ it in mind,” Mal encouraged. “Just in case, y’know, when everything goes to hell no one might notice one little robbery. Got to protect ourselves. Don’t we Jayne?” he called out. From the recesses of the cargo hold, Jayne called back,
“Damn right we do! How come you didn’t let me shoot no one?” The voice was muffled. Jayne was crouched inside a crate, his pet sniper rifle aimed at anyone who might look dangerous. Rachel was in another crate at a different angle. Between the two of them, they covered the entire operational field of fire. Inara and River were staying safely out of the way in the cockpit. Well, Inara was keeping River safely out of the way.
“’Cause now I’m thinkin’ about some whole different prospect that don’t involve me getting killed just yet. Come down here, you, too, Rache, and let’s chat.”
“You’re gonna mess things up, Cap’n,” Kaylee said, shaking her head wistfully.
“Now, when have I ever done that? I ask you!” Mal said with a grin, heading back inside. Kaylee felt a stabbing yearning in her gut.
“Zoe, where the hell are you?” she asked no one in particular. “An’ why ain’t you hear to keep Captain Heroic Idiot from humpin’ this up ‘til next Tuesday?”
“I trust you had a pleasant journey, Inspector?” the lieutenant – his name was Hoag, Simon remembered – asked as they walked briskly down the deserted, dimly-lit corridors.
“I was traveling on an antiquated Firefly class transport that should have been scrapped in my grandfather’s time,” Simon said, acidly. “The crew were barbaric, one step above pirates, the food was abysmal, and the ship was barely spaceworthy.”
“Yet you did not dismiss them when you had the opportunity,” Hoag observed.
“As I said, I don’t want to be stranded here a moment longer than necessary. My directive from Parliament was quite clear about the expediency of my investigation, in consideration of the serious nature of the . . . problem.”
Simon could almost feel the color leave the man’s face. Still, instead of wisely shutting up, the lieutenant continued to probe him. “May I ask what just what the nature of the problem is, Inspector?”
Simon stopped so abruptly that the guards behind them nearly collided with him. He turned to face the lieutenant with exaggerated patience.
“The . . . nature of the problem, lieutenant, is the fact that no less than six major Parliamentary committees are clamoring my superiors’ office for answers about a mysterious military research project that no one seems to know anything official about. A project where – well, they kept the details to a minimum to keep from prejudicing my investigation, but I assure you, my report will be of intense interest to persons of power in the highest levels of the Alliance. For the next several days, the fate of every living thing on this miserable excuse for a post is in my hands, and every word, gesture, scrap of paper, fragment of data, wisecrack, dumbass observation and secret thought that runs through your brain is a component of that investigation. I’m only going to tell you this once: don’t lie to me, don’t try to distract me, and may God help you if you piss me off unnecessarily. Feel free to share this information liberally.”
The lieutenant stiffened. “Yes, Inspector.”
“From the moment I stepped on this ship, I began my investigation. I am not a military inspector, for which you should be eternally grateful, I am a Parliamentary inspector. That means there are no rules. There is nothing that is forbidden to me. There is nothing that can be hidden by me. I have extraordinary powers as an authorized deputy of the Parliament. And I’ve had three days of bad air and it’s making me cranky. So no more talk: get me to your gorram superiors and then scuttle away before you get blood on your uniform.”
The lieutenant’s eyes were wide – but he was used to being chewed out the way only a career soldier can be. Still, Simon could tell he passed the authenticity test – within an hour it would be all over the ship that the Inspector was here and wasn’t apt to be trifled with.
Before Hoag could answer, his comm. beeped for attention. He nodded to Simon and pulled it open.
“Hoag!” an older man’s voice said. “Have you met the Inspector?”
“Yes, Colonel,” Hoag replied, never taking his eyes from Simon. “I have him with me now.”
“With the Inspector’s permission, I would like to meet you at the officer’s lift in the White section. I will escort him to the Captain, personally.”
Simon nodded permission. “The Inspector agrees, Colonel. We’ll see you there in five minutes.”
“Excellent. Chen, Out.” The connection went dead.
“Who was that?” Simon asked, casually. He resumed walking, and the others followed suit.
“Colonel Chen,” Hoag explained. “My C.O. He has operational control of the . . .” he hesitated.
“Lieutenant, spit it out. Leave out nothing,” Simon urged. “Tell me, who is Colonel Chen, is he a power on this ship, and what should I know about him?”
Hoag swallowed. “Colonel Chen has responsibility for the prisoners, Inspector. He’s in charge of security, quarters, rations, and non-research medical care. He is the second most powerful man on the Suri Madron.”
“After the Captain, of course,” Simon nodded.
“No, Sir – the Captain is . . . he’s not as functional as ceremonial, actually. The Suri Madron hasn’t been under-way in over a decade. Captain Chen is the top military officer, regardless of his actual rank.”
“Then the most powerful person would be . . . ?” Simon asked, patiently.
“That would be Dr. Romano,” Hoag offered. “Head of Research. He’s the one with the answers you’re going to want. And if he wanted something done that Chen didn’t, well . . . more likely than not, it would get done, if you understand me.”
“Yes, I think I do.”
“Chen’s job is to keep the prisoners healthy, secure, and docile. Romano is the mad scientist who runs this place. He’s the most responsible,” he added, in a lower voice.
“Responsible for what?”
“For –” the party had come to an intersection in the corridor, and after the barest moment’s hesitation Lt. Hoag took a right – and almost tripped over a four-foot high baboon who was wheeling a small cart full of boxes down the hall. The simian stopped, startled, and bared his teeth slightly in confusion.
Simon’s eyes widened and bulged with surprise. He watched the monkey chitter a moment at him, then perform an exaggerated bow before returning to push the plastic cart.
“For the strange stuff,” Hoag finished weakly. “Like monkeys running errands in restricted zones. And more. You might not understand it all, but—”
“I’m a doctor, Hoag, and a highly trained medical scientist. I’ll muddle through,” Simon said, sarcastically.
“Yessir. Well . . . Dr. Romano is the visionary behind everything on the Suri Madron. Everything.”
“Lieutenant . . . was that a monkey?”
“A baboon, sir, yes, sir.”
“A . . . baboon.” Simon studied the officer carefully for a moment. “Please tell me he isn’t in the chain-of-command.”
That earned a smile. “No, sir. They’re technically surplus laboratory equipment, but on the Suri Madron, you learn to use whatever resources you got. They’re very intelligent, after what . . . after Dr. Ramon’s experiments. Very intelligent. I’m not certain the chain of command would suffer much, were they included.”
“This place . . .”
“Sir,” Hoag whispered. “Don’t let the monkeys fool you. It gets worse, much worse. But I expect Col. Chen will fill you in on that. That’s him, there.”
Hoag nodded to a tall, grim-looking man in pristine uniform, surrounded by armed guards. The scowl on his face had worn permanent lines into it, like a boulder long weathered by the rain. But the presence the man had was as imposing and immovable as a boulder. He snapped at attention and offered a low and respectful bow as soon as Simon appeared. His men likewise went to attention, their deadly-looking weapons held at port arms.
Simon returned the bow, limiting to a quarter-bow as the man’s station demanded.
“Colonel Chen, allow me to present Inspector . . .” the lieutenant blanched, as he realized he had never asked Simon’s name – a major breech in protocol. Simon spared a half a moment for a withering stare in the lieutenant’s direction before interjecting.
“Inspector Simon Marshal, Parliamentary Agent. I shall be more than happy to allow you to inspect my credentials and bona fides after I’ve been introduced to the Captain.” He patted the locked black leather satchel suspended from one shoulder, the shiny titanium emblem of Parliament riveted into its lock.
“No need, Inspector,” Chen said, gruffly. “Your very presence proves whom you are. You could not be here if you weren’t sent from Parliament. No one else is aware of the existence of this facility.”
“So it would seem,” Simon said, evenly. “When shall I be able to meet the Captain?”
A troubled look crossed Chen’s face. “Shortly,” he said, diplomatically. “The Captain is attending to urgent ship’s business, and will meet with you as soon as he possibly can. He apologizes for the regretful inconvenience, and has asked that I offer you refreshment in the Officer’s Club until he is available. I thought I’d also take the opportunity to bring you up to speed on the Suri Madron before you begin your inspection.”
“That is highly irregular,” Simon said, letting frustration seep around his mask of protocol. “But of course I would be grateful of an informal . . . chat, and a drink, before I meet the Captain.”
Chen nodded and dismissed the lieutenant, before escorting Simon into the lift and punching in a code. “Of course, we would have prepared a proper welcome for you, had we known of your itinerary,” Chen pointed out.
“It isn’t much of a surprise inspection if people know when I’m coming,” Simon replied, blandly.
“No, I don’t suppose it would be,” Chen admitted. “Well, Inspector, welcome to the Suri Madron. The last place in the ‘verse where the Unification War is still fought.”
“I beg your pardon?” Simon asked, feigning confusion.
“They didn’t tell you?”
“They told me little. The scope of my investigation is boundless. The Parliamentary committees don’t reveal too much about the nature of the target when they assign an inspector, for fear their instructions will unnecessarily prejudice the investigation. I was, literally, pulled off another investigation and given orders to proceed through an unlikely serious of circumstances to here . . . and investigate. I will do so, write a report of my observations, and testify in committee, if necessary. So I know little of this ship, save that it is not a known Alliance base, it’s clandestine, and has been since the War.”
“I was afraid of that,” Chen said, grimly. “Then it falls to me to explain things to you.”
“Yes, that would be lovely,” Simon said as the doors to the lift opened. I’ve inspected clandestine facilities before, but never one quite like this.”
“Very well, then,” Chen said, carefully, as he led Simon down a hall and into a small, cozy room made up like a shabby pub with a military motif. There were tables and chairs and a long wooden bar, the lighting was dim, and a decade and a half of cigarette smoke clung to everything. The place managed to be depressing and cozy at the same time, and was, at this hour, deserted, save for a bar man and two baboons who were cleaning up.
“Monkeys,” Simon said, shaking his head in wonderment. “Yes, Colonel, I am most anxious to hear the tale of the Suri Madron.”
They took two seats at the bar while the guards spread out and made themselves unobtrusive. Chen took off his cap and laid it on the bar and signaled for the bartender. Simon ordered a whiskey, while Chen ordered a brandy.
“To Unification,” Chen said, in toast.
Simon joined him, but was surprised. “I haven’t heard that toast in . . .”
“As I said, aboard the Suri Madron, the Unification War is not over,” he began with a sigh. “Inspector, even before the War began, during the long wind-up towards the Independence movement, the problem of keeping control of the colonial populations was a hot topic of debate in academic circles in the Core. Many solutions were proposed, but few were ever implemented, and those that were tended to be abject failures. The problem wasn’t in organization, it wasn’t in resource management, it wasn’t in how the social hierarchy was constructed . . . it was that people persisted in being people even when it was damn inconvenient to the authorities.
“So a number of experiments were designed to find some way of making people less aggressive, less likely to resort to violence under duress. The feeling was that a more docile population would be more controllable. Follow me?”
“Yes, that does seem simple,” Simon said. “Continue.”
“Just before the War broke out, the Parliamentary Committee on Colonial Affairs and the Parliamentary Committee on Defense Preparedness authorized this project, a multi-faceted approach to the problem. A group of distinguished scientists were gathered, given unlimited funding, and told to go to work on the problem. Behavioral psychologists, geneticists, biochemists, neurologists, even nutritionists were brought together and encouraged to work out the details of how to pacify the unruly colonists.
“After a few years their theoretical work was advanced enough to allow for early-stage animal and human trials on a number of promising areas of study. The problem was, they needed a large population of aggressive humans upon which to experiment. The types of humans that were most likely to be prone to violence, without an underlying pathology ab initio.
“Luckily, the War had broken out, by then. The first Alliance victories in the Delta and Epsilon systems yielded a few thousand prisoners of war, only there was no recognition of them as prisoners of war, because the Alliance had yet to legally recognize the existence of the Independent government. These people were officially classified as ‘outlaws’ or ‘insurgents’, not enemy soldiers – a gray area and a flimsy loophole, I admit. However it was enough at the time to have nearly four thousand of the earliest POWs assigned to the Suri Madron, as a temporary prison ship. Then the Suri Madron headed back towards Londinium and officially disappeared with all hands.”
“You look remarkably well fed for a castaway,” Simon quipped sipping his whiskey. It was mediocre at best, a bland blend that nonetheless fortified him.
“Indeed. The ship went clandestine, and all references to her were classified. Only Military Intelligence, the chartering committees, and the corporate staff and officers of the research consortium were aware of her existence. All through the war she sat more or less in this same place. And the work continued.”
“I take it all of the prisoners consented to the research,” Simon asked, warily.
“Not . . . as such,” Chen admitted. “But they didn’t need to.”
“What? That’s impossible! Research subjects must always give voluntary consent to participate, that law is older than spaceflight! Even prisoners in a time of war – hell, there are whole sections of treaty dedicated to just that thing! How—”
Chen continued, although it seemed painful for him to do so. “Parliament designated the Suri Madron an Emergency Quarantine Zone, under the Public Health Omnibus Act, and it was countersigned by the Alliance Surgeon General. The affecting disease or disorder is ‘uncontrolled aggression’.”
“Oh, my God!” Simon gasped. He allowed his original outrage at the whole idea of the Suri Madron to come sweeping back, coloring his responses.
“Under said Act, traditional protections on patient rights may be curtailed temporarily while the Public Health Emergency is dealt with. That includes any and all research programs designed to advance a cure of the affecting disease or disorder. If a designated Ministry of Health official declares it medically necessary to administer an experimental treatment to an infected patient, that patient has no right to contest it. Consent is implied, due to the nature of the medical emergency.”
“But those soldiers weren’t infected with anything,” Simon observed, darkly.
“They were infected with uncontrolled aggression, if you read the paperwork. Why else would they rise up in rebellion against the Alliance? Please, Inspector, the outrages get worse. And I’m not trying to justify them, merely explain what happened.”
Simon sighed, rubbing his temple. “Continue,” he said, waving his hand.
“For the first several years, while the war raged, progress was fairly advanced. The primate models in several areas were promising, and we continued on to human models with some success. Our biggest success came with the development of Paxalon. That was a biochemical agent developed by Dr. Solomon Lauer’s team. It seemed to work well – we put it to use during a riot to immediate effect. We’ve used it ever since in various concentrations to keep the prisoner population docile. It’s a delicate business, of course – we have to be careful how we deploy it, else my men become infected as well.”
“Of course – pacifistic prison guards would not be effective.”
“The Pax was so effective, in fact, that it created quite the buzz. Towards the end of the War we had two Ministers and several MPs tour the facility. Dr. Romano, the Administrator, proposed a full field test. The tiny new colony world of Miranda was chosen and . . . well, the rest is bloody history, isn’t it?”
“Not here, it isn’t,” Simon reminded him. “Here there was no Serenity Valley, no surrender.”
“Oh, quite right. A controversial, but necessary precaution. It was decided at the end of the War that the prisoner population might prove . . . embarrassing to certain parties if they were discharged and released into the civilian population. The reconstruction process in the Rim was delicate enough – no need to fan the flames of rebellion again.
“So – without consultation with us, I might add – it was ordered that they should not be told of the end of the war. Not yet. Too many were in the middle of treatment, and even though Miranda went to bollocks, there were other promising lines of research to continue. So the charade was born in which the War, as far as they knew, was dragging on and on and on. Only a few of my men were let in on it, and the officer corps, of course, and security is strictly maintained. The charade is only rarely spoken of openly, and only in secure environments such as this,” he said, waving around the club. “So far, the general prisoner population hasn’t caught wind of it.”
Simon glanced at the monkeys sweeping up the club. “I suppose it’s unlikely that the servants will gossip. But . . . let me get this straight: the prisoners don’t know that the War is over. The Ministry hasn’t lifted the quarantine, and all of them are now, legally speaking, free citizens of the Alliance who have been systematically deprived of their rights for over a decade, now, under false pretenses. And during the War, the thinnest of legal justifications was used to conduct illegal and unethical experiments on them without their consent.”
“Essentially correct,” agreed Chen, finishing his drink. “In the name of public order I’d encourage you to refrain from making any public pronouncements about it, however. Shipboard riots are nasty things, and even with the Pax at our disposal, people get hurt. I have to run this command until someone relieves me, so while I am in charge there is a standing order that the charade be kept up. Is that understood, Inspector Marshal? The war is still on, it’s still bloody on both sides, and the horror is just too much for you to discuss with them. Are we clear?”
“Oh, I won’t say anything,” Simon said, quietly. “I don’t think a riot in my honor would look good on my record. But I now have a billion or so questions for your people, Colonel. And my personal opinion is that there will be accountability for this fraud. The exposure of Miranda to the public changed many things, Colonel, including the government. The people want accountability, they want someone’s head. And soon – those ‘flames of rebellion’ you were worried about are starting to smolder again, in some quarters. A full and complete report on the matter is going to be the only way to appease them. I’ll need to talk to the head of your research team, of course, after I see the Captain.”
“I’ve been informed he’s planning a light dinner in his private compartment in a few hours, in your honor with his senior staff,” Chen said, nodding. “After you meet the Captain – a ceremonial post, by the way – the Captain is a drunk who has maintained a twelve-year long bender. He runs little outside of his bridgecrew and Engineering. Lucky for us, because the man is a complete incompetent. Still, protocol demands you meet him. But I’m glad we’ve had this little chat first, Inspector. My role in all of this has been simple: keep order, keep them alive, and keep them healthy. I’ve been able to achieve all three.”
“Then I’m sure you have nothing to worry about,” Simon said, pleasantly. Until, he added to himself, the attack begins. Then your sadistic, war-criminal ass is likely to get spaced. But he didn’t say anything, of course. He stayed firmly in character, even though the whole situation made him want to crawl into a bottle and hide. “Let’s go see the Captain,” he said, setting down his empty glass. A baboon scooped it up and started carrying it away before he was even off of his stool.
Sunday, February 10, 2008 8:50 AM
Sunday, February 10, 2008 9:30 AM
Sunday, February 10, 2008 3:49 PM
Sunday, February 10, 2008 6:22 PM
Monday, February 11, 2008 5:01 AM
Monday, February 11, 2008 5:49 AM
Monday, February 11, 2008 9:45 AM
Monday, February 11, 2008 8:30 PM
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 6:23 AM
Saturday, March 8, 2008 6:34 AM
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