BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

EBFIDDLER

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (14)
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In which we find out more about Miranda


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1883    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12)

Part (14)

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Follows WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11).

The series so far:
A LION’S MOUTH (01)
ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02)
SPARKS FLY (03)
EXPECTATIONS (04)
BREAK OUT (05)
THE TRIAL (06)
SHADOW (07)
ONE MAN’S TRASH (08)
BANDIAGARA (09)
TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10)
WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11)

In which we find out more about Miranda

* * *

As they approached Bernadette, Ip felt increasing pressure to try to draw the Captain out about Miranda. If he really meant to leave the ship when they got to Bernadette, he needed to get to the bottom of this matter without further delay. Even if he didn’t leave the ship, their stop in Bernadette was the perfect opportunity to take the Captain to meet Professor Rao, his thesis advisor and mentor. If he couldn’t persuade the Captain to talk about Miranda, perhaps Dr Rao, with her natural warmth and her persuasive manner, could convince him to describe what he saw there, and if they were lucky, maybe he’d recount conditions on Shadow in the years preceding the catastrophic terraforming failure.

How differently things had gone from what he’d anticipated! When he first came aboard Serenity, Ip’s idea was that he’d simply ask about Miranda and the Captain would tell him what he’d seen when he visited the place. Ip would ask a few follow-up questions, incorporate the answers into his researches, and write up a paper.

If only it were that simple.

It turned out that any time he so much as hinted at his interest in Miranda the Captain would either divert the conversation or shut it down, while overt questions made the whole crew draw into a tight protective circle with Ip on the outside.

Ip was a good observer of facts. He wasn’t so good a reading people. But if he had to give an assessment of the situation, he would say that whatever it was that had occurred on Miranda, it had drawn the tight-knit crew of Serenity even closer together.

Ip’s plan lacked subtlety. It was blunt and direct. But the Captain did not like complications. He did not like it when people said one thing and meant another. So, towards the end of a good meal of Kung Pao chicken-style protein, with all the crew but River gathered round the table, replete and relaxed, Ip simply said it.

“Captain, I want to talk to you about Miranda.”

Everybody froze. Ip watched the Captain, who held his chopsticks midway between his plate and his mouth—watched as a shield dropped into place in the Captain’s eyes, watched the man close off, watched the others circle the wagons. But this time Ip wasn’t completely shut outside the circle. His experience with River on Beaumonde, nearly getting killed by the Blue Hands, left a window open for him.

It was Jayne who spoke. “Nobody wants to talk about Miranda.”

Ip looked at Jayne, then all around the table. The pieces fell into place, and though he spoke softly, he was confident. “You’ve all been there. All of you.” Simon had told him about a desperate battle with Reavers on a remote world. So that was it—they’d been through a battle together, faced a common enemy, pulled together and bonded—on Miranda. “我的天啊 Wǒ de tiān ā. You fought the Reavers on Miranda.” Had the Reavers chased them to Miranda? Just what had happened there?

They were staring at him, with looks that ranged from shell-shocked to hostile, as each person’s face reflected their reaction to recalled trauma. Kaylee and Simon drew closer together. Zoe looked profoundly pained. Jayne’s face reflected his heartfelt concern for her—made all the more noticeable because Ip hadn’t imagined that Jayne could display such feeling. Mal and Inara shared a look of distress with each other, then the Captain looked grim. No one spoke.

That part, at least, Ip had anticipated. Looking at the Captain, but speaking to them all, he said, “Well, I’ll lead the way. Share my confidences first. Then you can judge how much you want to share yours.”

Ip shifted in his seat. What he was about to do violated all the non-disclosure agreements he had signed when he left his corporate job. But they had violated that trust first, hadn’t they? When they sent a corporate assassin—Bill—to kill him. He didn’t owe Blue Sun anything anymore.

“When I left Blue Sun,” he began, “I signed a non-disclosure agreement. I had access to some sensitive information in the course of my job there—a low-level security clearance. No major state secrets, no big secret corporate plans, but access to insider information that Blue Sun didn’t want its competitors to know about. But you aren’t a company in competition with Blue Sun, and I’m beginning to think that you, of all people in the ’Verse, have a right to know.

“I think you’re all aware that Blue Sun’s research facility on Bernadette is the main site for terraforming research for the entire corporation. All the terraforming operations in the ’Verse that are run by Blue Sun—and that’s most of them—come under the consideration of our division in one way or another, whether it’s to consult our expertise about recommended parameters for a prospective terraforming operation, or to have our group analyze what went wrong in case of mishap.”

“Did they actually have the gall to call what happened at Miranda a ‘mishap’?” Simon inquired with a scathing edge to his voice. He was ready to say much more, but Mal shut him up with a look.

“Let’s hear what the man has to say,” the Captain directed, taking control of the proceedings.

“So one day, a meeting of our section’s scientific staff was called. Our group supervisor explained that a new look was being taken at the terraforming disaster that had occurred about ten years prior on Miranda.”

“Weren’t no terraforming disaster,” Jayne inserted. “Air’s breathable, gravity’s earth-norm. Only thing wrong was just that Pax 狗屎 gǒushǐ they put into the atmo conditioners.”

闭嘴 Bìzuǐ,” the Captain ordered. “Ip has the floor.”

“A scientific report was issued shortly after the disaster occurred, of course,” Ip continued, “before I started working for Blue Sun. Apparently some members of Parliament were calling for a fresh look. Blue Sun having been the company responsible for terraforming Miranda in the first place, it fell to our department to revise the report.

“Obviously, some parts of a report like that are simply political gobbledegook designed to appease various factions of Parliament, but the technical aspects were referred to the Terraforming Research Division. Of course, high management would be the ones actually writing the report, but they needed input from the researchers. Our group supervisor then shared with us a number of observations that needed to be explained, and asked us to speculate as to possible mechanisms, hypotheses to be tested, and plausible theories that could account for the data.

“I was given a subset of data to look at, and the task of explaining reports of anomalous earthquake patterns preceding the disaster. I want to stress that none of this data was from my own observation—I never had a chance to take data on Miranda myself—”

“’Cause you’d get et by Reavers if you tried,” Jayne asserted.

“—nor did I see the raw data feed from the instruments and sensors that took the measurements. The data I worked with had already been processed. I was supposed to look for patterns, and come up with a plausible explanation for them.” Ip drew breath. The next part was critical.

“I wrote up an analysis, and sent it off, thinking little of it.”

“Little of it! That calamity!”

“Zoe,” Ip explained patiently, his sympathy evident in his voice, “it was just one of dozens of terraforming analyses I worked on while at Blue Sun. Terraforming mishaps are much more common than you’d think. It’s just that very few of them have catastrophic consequences.”

“Catastrophic,” Kaylee echoed. “I’ll say.”

“Some months later, I was called to my supervisor’s office. Not Dr Das, my direct supervisor, but several levels up—Dr Clarke. When I arrived, a draft of the Miranda report was lying on her desk. I figured she was going to ask me about it, so I began reading the section that related to my work.

“Well, I could soon see that the section I had worked on had problems. I was beginning to take notes when Dr Clarke returned.” Ip remembered it well—details that only later began to seem significant. How the supervisor’s greeting (“Dr Neumann! You’re here already!”) while seemingly benign, had seemed more startled than was warranted by the mere fact of his sitting in her office reading a report he had been specifically invited up to see, or so he thought. He remembered how so much of what Dr Clarke then said to him had seemed inconsistent with the situation, and confusing. “I immediately began to point out the problems with the report.”

“Don’t that just figure,” grumbled Jayne, while Simon’s lips twitched in a smile. The Captain remained stony-faced.

“As I did so, Dr Clarke’s faux jolliness evaporated and she became very guarded. She told me the report was none of my business.” At the time, it had astonished him. Had he not been asked to read it? “I objected, telling her that I had contributed to the analysis in the seismological section, and that the report did not accurately reflect my findings. She told me that the purpose of the meeting was about something else entirely, and re-directed the conversation. She seemed pretty miffed that I had brought up objections to the report, so I didn’t pursue it.”

“Didn’t her behavior raise your suspicions?” the Captain asked.

“Well, no, not at the time. I’m quite accustomed to being told to shut up,” Ip added, not without humor.

“So the report was buried?” Zoe asked.

“Well, no. The final version of it was presented to Parliament.”

“Did you see it then?”

“Yes. It’s a matter of public record. I acquired it from the Parliamentary cortex site.”

“The report still have problems?”

“It certainly did, Captain. When I read it, I recognized some of the speculative ideas generated by my colleagues, but most of them were not particularly well-supported by evidence. It was frustrating, because so many of the key parts of the explanations were redacted—”

“Rejackted? What’s that mean?” Jayne asked, his eyes crossing as Ip’s scientific vocabulary flew by him.

“They cut them out, Jayne,” Simon explained.

“—redacted for ‘reasons of Alliance security’,” Ip continued, “and I couldn’t see any good security-based reason for the redaction. There was also a frustrating lack of appendices containing raw data, or even the processed data that I had had access to in creating my analysis.

“The report was puzzling, and Dr Clarke’s reaction was confusing, but still I did not attach any special significance to it until several months later, when I saw the Miranda broadwave. It was only then that I realized what the report really was.”

“Hogwash,” Simon offered.

Ip looked at Simon. “Exactly. The entire report was an attempt to mislead.”

“Didn’t you do nothin’ about it?” Mal asked.

Ip shrugged. “By that time, I had already left my job at Blue Sun. There wasn’t anything I could do.”

“Just how, exactly, did you come to leave Blue Sun? You never did tell the story of that.”

Ip was reluctant to talk about it. He had shared these confidences in order to invite the Captain to do the same, not to have the Captain re-direct the conversation. Deciding more openness was still the best route, he said, “I began to be dissatisfied with my job. The data I dealt with were processed, always one or more steps removed from the raw field data. I was always viewing the terraforming accidents through the filter of one or more scientists who had processed the data before I ever saw it. The work I did involved processing this data further, and coming to conclusions that were expected, never surprising. I longed to see some data that were directly from the source. Unprocessed.”

“Or untainted.” That was Simon’s contribution. Ip looked at him sharply. When had Simon become so cynical? Perhaps it had something to do with finding out that River’s supposed school was really an institute for carrying out illegal and unethical experimentation on non-consenting teenagers.

Ip continued with his account. “The work became boring. I wanted to recapture the excitement I felt when I first studied terraforming. I wanted to see the far reaches of the ’Verse. I thought I could do both. So I turned in my resignation.”

Only now did Ip remember Dr Clarke’s curiously satisfied look when Ip tendered his resignation. “You’ll go on to better things, Ip Neumann,” she told him.

* * *

“So you were pushed outta your job, on account of you seein’ the holes in this whitewash report on Miranda,” Mal stated.

“I resigned,” Ip countered. “I wasn’t pushed out, or fired, or…” Ip trailed off as he finally realized the meaning of the significant looks his supervisors had passed between them, of the strange feeling he had felt especially in the presence of Dr Clarke, who must have been significantly involved in fabricating the report, of whispers and rumors whose meaning he had utterly failed to comprehend while he was still employed at Blue Sun. And which he might never have comprehended had not fate—or karma—or Brother Chan ’eil Cail—propelled him into the company of Serenity’s crew. Ip looked up at the Captain. “I was pushed out of my job, because I had dangerous knowledge of the cover-up of the disaster on Miranda. Only I was led to believe that I had left of my own volition.” How naïve he had been!

“Clearly some pretty slick operators work for your old company, Ip.” Mal gave a wry half-smile. “You’d think Blue Sun was used to puttin’ their own spin on everything and havin’ the public accept it, hook, line, and sinker.”

Hook, line, and sinker. Ip felt more than ever that he’d been played, betrayed by his former employer. He felt like the ’Verse’s biggest fool. Might as well slap a label on his forehead reading, “Use me. I’m naïve.”

“You said this report was a matter of public record?” the Captain inquired.

Ip nodded.

“And it was presented to all Parliament, by way of explaining why an entire planet of thirty million people suddenly laid down and died?”

“Yes.”

“And I s’pose it also explained why thirty thousand people turned Reaver and started terrorizing the ’Verse as a result of their miserable 不要脸的东西 bùyàoliǎn de dōngxi Pax experiment?”

“The report didn’t explain that part—though perhaps that was in the redacted portions.”

“And the politicians didn’t do nothing about it, when they read that hogwash?”

“Only a terraforming expert would know it was hogwash, Captain,” Ip smiled thinly. “It was too poor a job to fool an expert, but it could—and apparently did—fool most of the politicians in Parliament. When the broadwave came out, most people—members of Parliament included—were taken completely by surprise. It caused quite a firestorm.”

A firestorm that Ip remembered very well. The broadwave was seen on all cortex channels, pre-empting regularly scheduled programming. It was re-broadcast and posted everywhere, and the news organizations pounced on it and showed clips and commentary for more than a week. Public outcry was great, and people organized protests on the steps of Parliament. Someone was at fault, and someone would have to pay.

Rumors and speculations abounded. It had been sent by a whistle-blower. It had been sent by a hoaxster. It had been sent by a terrorist cell composed of discontented ex-Browncoats trying to overthrow the government. Parliamentary factions formed and aligned themselves in support of the various theories on the broadwave’s truthfulness and origin. Reporters tried to dig up the source of the signal, officials accused each other of negligence and cover-ups, scapegoats were selected, and heads rolled. Some members of Parliament were forced to resign. Others gleefully stepped into their places and took up the reins of power.

When no whistle-blower stepped forward, no hoaxster was uncovered, and no terrorist group made demands, the firestorm subsided. The cantankerous members of the public found something else to become indignant about, and Parliament settled back down into its ordinary state of captious bickering. The ’Verse wakes up for a spell, then rolls right over and falls back asleep. But during that wakeful period, realignments had occurred. The political situation had subtly altered as a result of that Miranda broadwave.

The Captain looked strangely satisfied by Ip’s remark about the firestorm, and Ip was left wondering about his more-than-casual interest in the Miranda broadwave. “Seems to me we need to have a little chat, Ip.” He leaned back in his chair, his hands steepled on the table before him, and settled in to tell the tale of what he deemed fit for Ip to hear. He drew in a deep breath. “I suppose it all starts with River, in a way. She—”

“Captain, we’re about to enter controlled airspace,” River’s voice spoke through the comm.

“—but it’ll have to wait,” the Captain continued, to Ip’s immense disappointment. “Got some flying to be done. I’m needed on the bridge.”

* * *

*

*

*

glossary

我的天啊 Wǒ de tiān ā [Oh my god]

狗屎 gǒushǐ [crap]

闭嘴 Bìzuǐ [Shut up]

不要脸的东西 bùyàoliǎn de dōngxi [shameless and sub-human (of less worth than an object)]

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COMMENTS

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 3:46 PM

BYTEMITE


Haha Ip. Psyche!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 4:57 PM

NUTLUCK


Not nice to leave it like that for us or IP. :)

Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:57 PM

AMDOBELL


At last! It has taken a gorram long time for the dime to drop for Ip. Man has been way too trusting and to the wrong people. I really liked finally finding out more from Ip. Nicely done, Ebfiddler. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, June 1, 2013 2:17 AM

EBFIDDLER


Thanks, glad you all have found this chapter interesting. I was worried it would read like a technical manual.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 3:49 PM

EBFIDDLER


Hi ZM, nice to see you back. I was beginning to think only three people were actually reading this story. Yeah, sorry, but I'm such a tease. Mal was saved by the bell, and didn't reveal anything in return. Those MP's hire their own experts, but they only hear what they want to hear, what it's politically expedient to hear; they're very good at not hearing things that complicate their political agendas. I like your theory that some of those experts may not be able to disclose all they know due to prior agreements with Blue Sun.


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