It took an hour to get from the space port to the house her father had procured for her. She stepped out of the cab and just stared. “What does he think I’m going to be doing, inviting half the city to live with me?” she asked. She punched in the security code and walked inside.
Lights came on as she passed through the entryway. The house, what she could see of it at least, was fully furnished. The food prep unit was fully stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, and non-synthetic protein. That had to have cost her father a small fortune here in the core. Fiera walked through the house, counting bedrooms and checking out the other amenities. When she was finished, she sighed and leaned up against the wall.
She went to the comm unit. She checked the time on Sorus. It was late enough in that planet’s day that her father should be at the house. She tapped in the comm code and waited. Her younger brother answered the call. “Hey Fiera.”
“Hey squirt. Where’s dad?” Fiera asked.
“He’s right here. I’ll get him,” her brother said. He vanished and a moment later her father moved into view.
“So what do you think?” Eire asked.
“I think you’re insane for renting me a house this large,” Fiera said. “I don’t know that I’ll find enough people to share the expenses with.”
“I didn’t rent it. I bought it. And your expenses won’t be that much because that house has all of the latest tech in place to keep costs down,” Eire said. “I thought of the fact that you’d be a while finding housemates to help you cover things. So how did the flight go?”
“I never want to spend that long on a transport ship again,” Fiera said. “It was horrid. Not to mention the sneers I got from people who were forced to sit next to me. I mean you told me that core worlders don’t like colonials but I didn’t realize just how bad it was. I also have no clothes and all my e-vids and holos were destroyed because I’m a colonial.”
“Really? Did they give you anything to replace them?” Eire asked.
“No,” Fiera said. “They told me it was up to me to replace everything.”
“That means you’re going to have to wear core worlder clothes,” Eire said. “I’ll transfer some more money onto your card. You’re going to need it.”
“Frakking core worlders,” Fiera said. “Why am I here again? I could’ve gone to school on Qotania and stayed in the colonies.”
“I put you there for a reason, and you know what that reason is,” Eire said.
Fiera sighed. “Yes dad. I know.”
“I know you don’t like it. That’s why I want you to make friends. Let them do the socializing,” Eire said.
“You know how picky I am about my friends,” Fiera said.
“I know how protective of people you are,” Eire said. “You’ll find friends faster than you think, Fiera.”
“Oh yeah, dad, remember Jontan? I told him if his job didn’t work out to come talk to you,” Fiera said. “He was headed for Aglyyria, to the shipyards.”
“I remember Jontan,” Eire said. “I’m surprised he hasn’t come home yet. Want me to do some checking?”
“Yeah, because I thought he’d be home by now. It’s only two weeks out from Sorus,” Fiera said. “Now I’m worried. Will you let me know what you find out?”
“I’ll call as soon as I know something,” Eire said. “Anything else?”
“No. I’d probably better go get this over with. I hate shopping,” Fiera said.
“Stick to the mid level shops,” Eire said. “The ones with three to four on their rating scale. They’re well made but they won’t break the bank. If you need more money, let me know.”
“I will. Thanks, dad,” Fiera said. “Give mom my love and tell the rugrats to behave themselves or I’ll come home on holiday and beat them all at whatever I feel like challenging them to.”
“I’ll tell them,” Eire said, laughing. “Try to stay out of trouble as much as possible.”
“Yes dad,” Fiera said. She waved to him before cutting the link. She sighed. She went to the other console and tapped in her search requirements. A three dimensional map of the city appeared in the air in front of her, with several buildings highlighted in green and her house glowing red. She frowned as she twisted the map around, looking at all the angles.
There were two shops within walking distance of her house, both on opposite corners from each other. Fiera looked at the fairly simple path to take and decided she’d rather walk than call for one of the auto cabs. She tucked her credit chip into her pocket and walked out of her house.
The first of the shops was closed, but the second was open. She walked inside. A young woman glanced up at her. “Oh honey, colonial wear is so last decade,” she said, coming around. “You really need to modernize your wardrobe.”
“I don’t have a wardrobe,” Fiera said. “That’s why I’m here. The Port Authority destroyed all my clothes.”
“You mean you’re actually a colonial?” the woman asked, a look of horror on her face. “And you’re in my shop?”
“I need clothes, don’t I?” Fiera asked.
“Well, if you need clothes,” the woman said. She motioned for Fiera to stand on one of the platforms. “Let’s see what we have to work with here.” Fiera climbed up the three short steps and stood in the middle of the glowing disk. Light flashed around her. A three dimensional image of Fiera’s body appeared above a panel. “Any particular places you’ll be spending your time?”
“I’m a university student,” Fiera said.
“Then you obviously aren’t as poor as that outfit makes you look,” the woman said, relaxing a little. “Now, I’m not the best out there but I’m far from the worst. What I do is simple but elegant.”
“All I care about is can I move in it, can I fight in it, and is it decent,” Fiera said. “No dresses. I hate dresses.”
“Honey, if you’re going to be a university student you’ll need to attend some of the parties that are thrown,” the woman said. “Trust me, you’ll need at least a few dresses.”
“I’m a fighter, not some socialite,” Fiera said.
“It doesn’t matter. There are social engagements that are required of university students,” the woman said. The woman played with a few things and then nodded. “All right, step down and I’ll show you what I have in mind.” Fiera stepped down and walked over to where the woman was standing. She did something and a series of outfits appeared on the image of Fiera, each one different from the last. “These are what I think would work well for you.”
Fiera argued each design with the woman, changes being made to each of them to suit Fiera’s tastes. Finally Fiera settled on seven outfits and two dresses. “So how long will it take to have these ready?”
The woman looked surprised. “Why honey, they’re ready now,” she said. “I invested in the finest technology so there would be no wait once a final design was decided on. It’s helped me out so much.”
Fiera shook her head. “Sorry, still used to the colony way of doing things. No tech out there. Clothes are handmade,” she said.
“Nothing in the city is handmade,” the woman said. “Well, nothing except what you might get at the really expensive restaurants. You know, the ones where you have to have a reservation months in advance before you can get a seat? I’m pretty sure those are the only places you can get handmade goods in Sio.”
“Interesting,” Fiera said. “I’ll have to remember that.”
The clothing was taken out of the processing unit, all folded and sealed into individual packages. The woman tucked them into bags and handed them to Fiera. “That should do it for you. Now, if you’ll place just tap your credit chip on the pad we’ll have you on your way.” Fiera did as she was told, wincing a little at the expense of the new clothes. She took the bags and started home again.
A terror filled scream stopped her about a street over from her house. She dropped her bags and turned towards the sound. Three men in rough clothing had a petite girl cornered. They were pawing at her and Fiera watched as one of them tore the girl’s shirt. “Frak this,” Fiera said. She jogged over. “What do you scrag heads think you’re doing?”
“Mind your own business, bitch,” one of the men said, turning and glaring at Fiera. “Or we’ll do you next.”
Fiera’s foot lashed out and caught him in the knee cap. He yelped as he went down. She drove her foot into his crotch and whirled around to face the next man. She caught his wrist in a tight grip and turned, flipping him over her shoulder. He too got a boot to the groin. The third man took off running.
Fiera grabbed the swaying woman and looped one of her arms over her shoulder. She went back along the street, stopping only to pick up the bags of clothes she’d dropped. She half carried the other woman to her house. She keyed in the entry code and dragged her inside.
“I don’t understand it,” the other woman said, looking up with fear filled eyes. “Why did you help me?”
“You were about to be raped. I’m sure as frakking hell not going to stand by and let that happen,” Fiera said. “Now, what’s your name and where are you supposed to be?”
“Liliana,” the woman said, pulling the tattered remains of her shirt over her chest. “Liliana Farriday. I was on my way back to the dorms when I ran out of money. They’re not that far. I was just going to walk home. Then those men cornered me and I don’t know. I was scared and I couldn’t do anything.”
Fiera took hold of the other girl’s wrists. “You’d be broken in two if you tried to fight,” she said, turning the thin, delicate hands over. “Where are the dorms?”
“East of here, I think. I got turned around running,” Liliana said, tugging her hands free.
“Well I’m sure as hell not going to let you walk out of here,” Fiera said. “Why didn’t you call a friend to spot you the credits for the cab?”
“I don’t have very many friends. Most people don’t like me because I’m so strange,” Liliana said. “I just try to keep to myself and not bother anyone.”
“Do you have anything that can’t be replaced at the dorms?” Fiera asked, looking around the house.
“No,” Liliana said. “Just my clothes, and tomorrow I can go get my stipend and buy new ones.”
“You live in the dorms. Are you there because of a partner or because you’re a student?” Fiera asked.
“Student,” Liliana said. “I just finished my first year.”
“Then you’re staying here,” Fiera said. “I’m not going to let someone as fragile as you wander around loose without a protector. I’m surprised you’ve made it this long without getting raped or beaten.” Liliana paled. “Frakking hell, you have been assaulted.” Liliana nodded. “Did you ever report it?”
“No,” Liliana said in a small voice. “I’m not wealthy. I’m a Ward of the Planet. That’s how I was able to pay for school and how I get my necessities. No one would have listened to me.”
“You are not going back to the dorms. And we’ll get you some new clothes tomorrow, on my credits,” Fiera said.
“Why are you doing this?” Liliana asked. “Who are you?”
“My name is Fiera Rezouac and I’m starting at the university in a month,” Fiera said. “I’m also now your protector.”
“What if I don’t want a protector?” Liliana asked.
“You want to be assaulted again?” Fiera asked. Liliana shook her head. “You need a protector. Now, either you can take my offer or you can find yourself a boyfriend to do the same.”
“I don’t like men,” Liliana said. “And none of the other women are any better than I am at defending themselves.”
“Then take my offer and stay here with me,” Fiera said. “All I ask is you help with the expenses of the place. And after tomorrow, you’ll take care of your own clothes. Food is debatable. Depends on if my dad is going to keep supplying me with food from the colonies or if I actually have to break down and use the replicator. If dad’s going to keep us fed, then you don’t have to help. If it’s the replicator, you help buy the feeds for it.”
“You just met me and you’re already willing to do so much to help me,” Liliana said. “Why?”
“Habit,” Fiera said. “I tend to pick up defenseless people and want to protect them. If you don’t like the offer, I’ll pay for you to get back to the dorms.”
“No, I’ll stay here,” Liliana said quickly. “I don’t like the dorms.” She shrank in on herself. “Too many boys there.”
“Pick a room and settle in for the night. Oh frak,” Fiera muttered. “I forgot to buy sleep suits. Oh well. I’ll just sleep in my clothes tonight. I can pick some up tomorrow.”
“What am I going to do for clothes?” Liliana asked.
“You can borrow one of my new outfits tomorrow, until we can get you into a shop and buy you new ones,” Fiera said. “You hungry?” Liliana nodded. “I’ll fix us something for dinner. Here are my bags. Pick something that somewhat fits.” Liliana took one of the packages out of the bag and slipped off down the hall.