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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Who is the girl? Why was she beaten and abandoned? I'm still not quite sure where this is going, but my muse tells me it's gonna be interesting! Please let me know what you think.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1743 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The women were waiting as Hank brought the shuttle in, barely having docked before Simon had the door open.
“Honey, do you have –“
Kaylee held out the stretcher and he smiled. “Thanks.” He disappeared back inside and a minute later Jayne came out backwards, manoeuvring the girl through the hatch. Mal had the other end, and Simon was at her side.
“Get the infirmary ready,” Mal said to Freya, who nodded and ran off down the steps.
“Who is she?” Inara asked, looking down at the teenage girl’s face as she was carried past.
“She’s got no ident on her,” Hank said, coming out of the shuttle. “Nothing except this.” He held out a small piece of metal. “No idea what it is.” He hurried down the steps.
Inara took it, turning it over in her fingers, then glanced sharply at Jayne and Mal lifting the stretcher carefully down the last few steps towards the infirmary.
Zoe looked at the Companion. “Do you recognise it?” she asked.
“I … don’t think so,” Inara said slowly, handing it over.
Zoe looked at it lying in the palm of her hand, an oblong of dull grey, the numbers 9503 inscribed on one side, and some form of glyph on the other. “A dog tag?”
“Maybe. Probably.” Inara flashed a smile and followed the others.
“Don’t you believe her?” Kaylee asked, standing close to Serenity’s first mate.
“Not sure,” Zoe admitted. She glanced at River. “Can you pick anything up?”
River shook her head. “Not from either of them. But Inara’s been practicing.”
“Building walls to keep me out.” River wasn’t embarrassed in any way, just stating the facts.
“You can do that?”
“I can teach you if you want.”
“Do I have things I don’t want you to read?”
Zoe glared at her while Kaylee stifled a giggle.
Freya scrubbed up to help Simon, while Mal stood in the corner, ready to assist when needed.
“I don’t know how she survived as long as she has,” the young medic said, looking at the scans. “She’s got severe bruising internally, some bleeding … I’ll need to operate to stop them.”
“She’s so young.”
“Seventeen, eighteen. Something like that.” Simon turned back to the medbed.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Actually, I think Mal will be first.” He looked up. “The bones in her arm and leg have started to mend – we need to re-break them to align them properly, otherwise she’ll be crippled.”
“Re-break?” Mal repeated. He wasn't squeamish, couldn’t be after seeing what he’d seen in the war, but to calmly speak of breaking a young woman’s bones, of deliberately …
“We don’t have a choice.”
“No, doc, I see that.” He moved closed to the bed. “Tell me what to do.”
Kaylee stood next to Zoe outside. “How could they just leave her there?” the young mechanic was asking. “It was luck we landed, even more that the Cap’n’d take it into his head to go treasure hunting. If they hadn’t found her …”
“She’d be dead,” Zoe agreed. “Someone wanted this girl dead, but weren't brave enough to kill her.”
“You think that’s it? They didn’t have the courage?”
Zoe shrugged. “I can’t see why else they’d leave her here. It was sadism, pure and simple.”
“That ain’t pure,” Kaylee said darkly.
“No, but it’s very simple.” Hank stirred, leaning on the handrail from the cargo bay. “I've known men who could do that. Beat up on a woman and then leave her.”
“This was more than just a beating,” Zoe said slowly. “This was methodical.”
“You think she was tortured?”
“I don’t know.”
“But surely they’d only do that if they wanted something from her,” Hank said. “She’s so young, what the diyu could she know?”
There was the sound of a crack like a gunshot, and Zoe glanced down at Kaylee, hoping she hadn’t realised what it was, but the paleness of her face suggested she did. “Mei-mei, you’d better get back to the engine. Mal’s likely to want to get off this rock soon as we can.”
“It’s going to be a day at least, yet,” Kaylee said, aching to be away from that awful sound. “I meant it when I said we needed to be grounded. I ain't got the part I need so I’m having to –“
“Then go do it,” Zoe interrupted.
Kaylee nodded, hurrying up the stairs towards her own, much more peaceful domain.
“Was that what …” Hank began.
Zoe nodded. “If she’d been like that for a few days, Simon would have had no choice.”
Hank’s face went white. “Zoe, I don’t think …” He stared at her, willing her to understand it wasn't cowardice on his behalf, only compassion.
“Best you be getting back to the bridge. See if you can figure out a way to tell you dumped her here.”
Hank exhaled with relief. “I’ll be there, if anyone needs me.”
Zoe smiled a little at him, and he darted from the room. From inside the infirmary came the sound of a second bone breaking.
Jayne, in his bunk, heard the noise and shivered. Not right, not doing that. He pulled Vera from her roost and starting to take her apart, consoling himself with the routine. “Ruttin’ ghost stories,” he muttered. “Ruttin’ doctor. And that qingwa cao de liumang of a captain. Takin’ us off …” He continued to talk, just letting his mouth run on as he made sure his weapons were ready.
Inara stared at the metal tab in her hand. It couldn’t be true. It wasn't possible.
Inara looked up guiltily, see River in the doorway. The young psychic was staring at her, her dark eyes huge in the light.
“What isn’t what?”
“Where’s Bethany?” the Companion asked, trying to draw herself together.
“She’s asleep.” River stared at her. “You know who this girl is.”
“You think you do.”
Inara stared at her, willing the walls within her mind to stay strong. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“If you didn’t you wouldn’t build defences like that. But if I wanted I could bring them crashing down around you.”
The other woman shuddered, well aware of what River was capable. “It isn’t your affair,” she said softly.
“Mal wants to know who she is. Why someone did that to her.”
“Can’t you find out for him?”
River shook her head. “Her shields are much more impressive than yours, and she’s still unconscious.” She pointed to the metal tab. “What is that?”
Inara glanced down at it, still lying in the palm of her hand. “River, if I tell you …”
“It isn’t me you need to tell.” The girl turned on her heel. “When they’ve finished, you have to tell everyone.”
Simon finished suturing his incision, dropping the forceps and needle back into the bowl, the scissors following a moment later. Carefully he pressed the dressing Freya held out to him in place.
“Well, doctor?” Mal asked.
“I've done what I can.” He checked the bags dripping into the girl’s arm. “I'm rehydrating her, giving some nourishment, and I think I caught all the internal bleeds. There’s nothing I can do about the broken ribs, but her arm and leg should be all right.”
“What about her mental state?” Freya asked, watching him strip the gloves from his hands.
“That I can’t say. It would be an ordeal anyway to have gone through what she did, but then to be abandoned in the desert …” He lifted the blanket carefully to show them her knees. “I’d say she dragged herself to where we found her, trying to get to shelter. Her hands are skinned almost to the bone. Although how she did that with those injuries …”
“She must be very strong,” Mal said quietly.
“I hope so.”
“Can you tell how long it took? To do this, I mean.”
“Why?” Simon asked, surprised.
“I'm just trying to figure out if it was long-term abuse, or if someone just took a serious dislike to her.”
“Mal, they’d have to really hate her to leave her on this moon.”
“I conjure you’re right. And that opens up a whole new set of possibilities.” He nodded towards the girl again. “So, which is it?”
“I …” Simon paused. “It’s difficult to be sure, but if you pushed I’d say these were done pretty much all at the same time. There’s no sign of prolonged abuse.” He lifted one of the girl’s hands. “In fact, I’d say she was from a privileged home.”
“What makes you think that?” Freya asked.
“Her nails are manicured, her hands well cared for. Until now she’s not been malnourished, and she more than likely kept herself fit.”
“Was she raped?” Mal asked shortly.
Freya glanced at him, but it was an honest question.
Simon answered just as honestly. “Not that I can see. She’s not a virgin either, but there’s no indication she’s been forced … no, not raped.”
“Which is equally strange.” Mal tightened his lips slightly. “Maybe a kidnap gone wrong?”
“Perhaps. But we won’t know for sure until she wakes up.”
“That, Captain, is in the hands of God at the moment.”
“I’d rather it was in yours, doctor.” He strode out of the infirmary.
“Does he really think like that now?” Simon asked. “I thought he had come to terms –“
“With God?” Freya shook her head. “Not quite. It seems to be more of a love/hate relationship.” She looked down and moved a stand of hair gently from the girl’s face. “She’s pretty.”
“How can you tell?” Simon asked in surprise.
“Bone structure. If you look beyond the injuries …” She glanced up. “Maybe Mal’s right, and this is a kidnap gone wrong. If it is, she might be on the Cortex.”
“No-one’s going to recognise her from this.”
“No, but maybe River can draw her.”
“Take away the injuries?”
“It’s worth asking.”
Kaylee stopped by the door. “Inara wants us all in the galley,” she said, her eyes darting to the girl on the medbed. “Says she’s got something she needs to tell us.”
“You go,” Simon said to Freya. “I need to stay here.”
“So?” Mal asked, standing at the head of the table, his arms crossed. “What do you know that we don’t?”
Inara tossed the metal tab onto the wood. “This. I recognise it.”
Mal was surprised. “Why didn’t you say before?”
Inara glanced at River. “I … wasn't sure.”
“How could you not be …” Mal took a deep breath then exhaled noisily. “Okay, we can get into that later. So what is it?”
Inara looked around the table at the others. “It’s a Companion demerit.”
Zoe picked up the piece of metal as Inara spoke. “It’s issued to Companions who have failed in some way, either as a warning, or as a final dismissal.”
“Can you tell which one?” Zoe asked.
Inara was very uncomfortable. “It’s … not usually something that’s discussed outside the Guild,” she said. “And that number ….”
“And?” Mal asked impatiently. “What does it signify?”
“The number – 9503 – indicates the infringement.” She stopped.
Mal was getting angry. “Inara, just spit it out, will you?”
“It’s … for a child. Whoever this belonged to, she had a child without the permission of the Guild.” She looked down at her hands.
“But that girl …” Mal shook his head. “She ain't old enough to be a Companion.”
“Then maybe she’s the child,” Freya suggested from the chair next to him.
“It might not be either,” Hank put in. “Maybe she stole it. If she was a thief, it could explain why they did what they did.”
“Nothing explains that, nor condones it,” Mal said firmly.
“I didn’t say it did.” Hank bristled with indignation.
“And what about the symbol?” Zoe put in quickly. “On the reverse.” She held it up so everyone could see. “Looks like a running animal of some kind.”
“It’s a tiger,” Inara explained. “It indicates she was barred from ever calling herself a Companion again.”
“Could they do that?” Kaylee asked. “I mean, make someone not be a Companion no more?”
“The rules are very strict, and any infringement …” Inara sighed. “Yes, they could. And if the infraction was severe enough, all the accounts in that person’s name would be withdrawn, all support taken away.”
“But people leave,” the young mechanic insisted. “Nandi did. And Saffron …”
“Leaving isn’t the same, mei-mei. That’s a choice, and any Companion worth their salt would make other provision. This is worse. This is having your entire meaning stripped from you, without your consent. Everything you own, everything that makes you a woman … A Companion who has this demerit placed against them is shunned, left with nothing but a simple set of clothes. Literally nothing else.”
“That’s barbaric,” Hank said.
“And you’re allied to them?” Mal asked, looking Inara in the eye.
“You just don’t break the rules!” she said vehemently. “And this is the ultimate deterrent. There would have been warnings, some kind of ways to make recompense, to repent –“
“Repent?” Mal stared. “Repent of what?”
“Mal, you don’t understand. You never did.” Inara stood up. “Being a Companion is a calling. Much like being a preacher. We have to minister to our clients, just in a physical rather than a spiritual way.”
“Whoring ain’t anything like being a preacher!”
“Mal.” Freya wasn’t looking at him, but that one word had him stop. She was trembling slightly.
He looked down at her, sitting next to him, and was ashamed. “Is there any way we can find out who that thing belonged to?” he asked, pointing to the tab still in Zoe’s hand.
Inara shook her head. “I don’t think so. There’s no distinguishing marks.”
“What about talking to the Guild?” Kaylee suggested. “It ain't likely this has happened to many Companions, is it?”
Inara raised her eyebrows. “No, it isn’t. But I don’t think I’d better put in an official request. I’ll wave Sheydra, see if she can shed any light on this.”
“You do that, ‘Nara,” Mal said, much gentler than before. “If that little girl down there don’t wake up, it may be the only way of finding out who she is.”
“I’ll do it now.” Inara hurried out of the galley.
“I’m still trying to …” Kaylee glanced at Zoe. “You think you could give me a hand?” she asked. “I need an extra pair, and try as I might I ain't persuaded Simon yet to graft me a second.”
Zoe nodded, following her out.
“I'm gonna get back onto trying to figure out who came here,” Hank said, heading for the bridge. “I’ve got a coupla fingers in pies that maybe I shouldn’t, but I'm hopeful.”
As he left the galley, Jayne stirred. He hadn’t spoken throughout the argument, but now he stood up. “It ain't right,” he said, “what they did to her. No matter what. Kill her, okay, if she’d stolen from ‘em, or worse. But not this. And that fei hua about the Companion Guild? Hell, ‘Nara’s better’n that.” He stalked off towards his bunk.
“She was afraid,” River said, climbing from the easy chair where she’d been curled.
“Afraid? Why?” Mal asked.
“That you’d react like you did. She knows the gulf between you, and it just got a little wider.” She wandered sadly away.
Mal watched her go, then sat down next to his wife. “You okay?” he asked, putting his hand on her thigh. She was still shivering a little.
“It’s what I grew up wanting to be,” Freya said slowly. “I longed to be a Companion, to wear those wonderful clothes, to go to all the parties, meet people …”
“Not the sex?” He was trying to make her laugh, but it didn’t work.
“I was six when I first told my mother,” she said pointedly, looking him straight in the eye. “I wasn't that precocious.”
“Sorry.” He squeezed her leg. “But you didn’t know about any of this?”
“Not a thing.” She shook her head. “I thought it was glamorous. It never occurred to me there would be rules and regulations.” She half-smiled. “I’d never have made it.”
“What, not been one of the best?” Mal was affronted for her.
Now she did smile. “I would have been thrown out on my ear after about six months. I wouldn’t even have got to the sex part.”
“Well, I'm kinda glad you have now.” He leaned forward and kissed her softly.
He grinned, then became serious again. “You know, we’re assuming that girl is too young to have had a child. But maybe she’s older than she looks. I mean, I’ve no idea how old Inara is. Do you?”
Freya shrugged. “Never asked.”
“I have and she won’t tell me. Says a gentleman doesn’t enquire.”
“She has a point.”
“Anyway,” Mal said, drawing out the syllables. “The point is that the girl might be the mother.” He glanced out of the galley. “Inara didn’t say what they did with the children, if they were allowed to go with her.”
“Simon said she was well-cared for. Manicured. I doubt a woman left with absolutely nothing could afford that.”
“No, I agree. But what if the child was placed elsewhere, and she’s searching for it?”
Freya looked into his blue eyes, and saw the need in them. “Maybe,” she whispered. “Won’t know until she wakes up.”
“Well, we can find out if she’s ever been pregnant right now.” He stood up and held out his hand. “Time to have another chat with the doc.”
Inara sat on the sofa, staring at the demerit, wondering why she had lied to them. Kaylee was right – there weren't that many Companions who had been dishonoured in this way, and only one in recent years. And everyone knew – she was an example held up to them all.
If the girl in the infirmary wasn’t a thief, hadn’t stolen this worthless piece of metal, then she was the daughter of an old friend. Someone Inara hadn’t seen in a very long time.
to be continued
Thursday, December 7, 2006 7:42 AM
Thursday, December 7, 2006 8:21 AM
Thursday, December 7, 2006 1:19 PM
Thursday, December 7, 2006 3:51 PM
Tuesday, December 12, 2006 7:02 PM
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