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 cost. 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 slender girl cornered. They were pawing at her and Fiera watched as one of them tore the girl’s shirt. “Slag that,” Fiera said. She jogged over. “What do you scrag heads think you’re doing?”
“Mind your own business, ketch,” 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 half carried the other woman to her house. She put the clothes down again long enough to punch in the security code before helping the young woman inside. Fiera got her sitting down in a chair.
“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. You expect me to let a bunch of scrag heads do that?” Fiera asked. “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. I was just going to walk home. Then those men started chasing 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.
“Why didn’t you call a friend to spot you the credits for the cab?” Fiera asked.
“I don’t have very any 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 on campus. 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. “Slag it, you have been assaulted.” Liliana nodded. “Did you ever report it?”
“No,” Liliana said in a small voice. “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. “You need a protector and since you haven't found one yet, I'll take care of that for you.”
“Why are you doing this?” Liliana asked. “Who are you?”
“My name is Fiera Rezouac and this will be my first year at the university,” Fiera said. “I hate seeing someone who is defenseless get attacked. That's why I stepped in today.”
“What if I don’t want a protector?” Liliana asked.
“I'll spot you the credits to go back to the dorm,” Fiera said. “Is that what you want to do?” She sat down beside Liliana. “You're going to need either a boyfriend or a tough girlfriend to keep you safer than you've been.”
“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. After tomorrow, you’ll take care of your own clothes.”