(Doubtful by Liviu)
Title: New Home
Rating and Warnings: NC-13, just to be safe.
Disclaimer 1: This is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic
results if they really want to.
Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.
Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here.
Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.
Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science
Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please
accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.
Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these
Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most
likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.
“” stands for someone talking English, -- the Outrider language
A/N: My entry for the Challenge 2004. Topic three: The Outriders have won. ... It was just too tempting. I just had to write it.
Jean Claude usually avoided coming to the market in what had once been Dome City. Even now, almost two years after the final victory the place still showed traces of the war.
Back at home all the debris had long been cleaned away, the lesser damage repaired and the buildings renovated and adapted for Outrider use. Jean Claude could still see the Fleshling architecture in them and identify most buildings' former purpose, but to the less well informed the Fleshling past of the planet wasn't visible at the home of Elhessar clan at all.
They were recovering fast from the hardships of being homeless and at war.
The city however hadn't been so lucky. Some of the larger building complexes now belonged to clans that had already partially recovered as well, but the smaller buildings that were too well adapted to the small family units the Fleshlings had preferred were of no use and in many cases had been left to rot.
In some parts of the city impoverished common clans had settled into the ruins and were just barely getting by. They'd carted away the debris, patched up roofs and windows, occasionally even built or torn down a wall or two, but couldn't afford real repairs.
Other places had been simply too badly damaged to attract any settlers and nobody had bothered to clean them up. There poor children in rags were climbing about among broken bits of pavement, bricks and metal, playing with the leftovers of wooden furniture and unidentifiable plastic items, while nearby their parents got drunk on cheap spirits sitting on the piles of bricks that had once been the foundations of buildings.
In those useless places the craters left by the explosions of weapons two years ago hadn't even been fenced off and you had to be careful where you stepped.
In an attempt to bring some life to even the worst places the market had been placed in the middle of one of those zones. A large space had been cleared for it, shops set up and even a few roads had been built to get the people there safely.
As a consequence the market had drawn all sorts of strays into that part of town. Clanless beggars and thieves hung about at all times eyeing the shoppers hungrily and even though Jean Claude knew that house Elhessar was still poor by noble standards he seemed quite rich compared to the poor folk of the city.
Normally he'd send a servant to do his shopping for him, but this was an emergency. He was here for very special pet food. His half a year old cat-of-war kitten appeared to have developed a food allergy and as of yet it remained unclear exactly what food agreed with him and what didn't. In order to find out Jean Claude required samples of several different kinds of meat and meat was rarely sold in Outrider markets at the best of times. The task required some searching around and Jean Claude doubted any of the servants would be interested enough to make a sufficient effort.
While he was here he decided to have a look at what else was on offer as well.
The tightest crowds were found where the food was sold and Jean Claude hesitated outside one of the fruit stores trying to make up his mind whether he was hungry enough to venture inside to buy, yet.
As he stood there yet another thief's hand darted out of a shady corner snatching for his money pouch.
Jean Claude slapped it against the wall hard and tried to grab the wretch's arm, but the thief was apparently experienced enough to keep his head despite the sudden pain. He nimbly avoided the grip and didn't even cry out. Slippery like most of his kind he darted out of his corner and tried to disappear into the crowd.
Jean Claude threw himself after him and managed to tear him down as he went tumbling over a row of pots.
In fright the thief glanced back. Their eyes met and for a second both of them froze in surprise.
The thief tore himself loose and took off again before Jean Claude could even think to react leaving only a piece of torn and dirty fabric in his hand.
Jean Claude kept an eye out for teal haired beggars in dirty rags as he continued to search the market for pet meat and his mind tried to accept what had just happened.
It simply wasn't possible! At the end of the war Nemesis had promised that Jesse would be well cared for. Back then several people had asked to be allowed to keep the Fleshling as a mascot or pet. Gattler had even offered to buy him for twice the usual price of a Fleshling slave. None of them had wanted to see him shipped off to work in the mines or on the fields of an abusive owner.
But Nemesis had insisted that Jesse would be much better off at the zoo.
-When we first took him in we agreed to return him to the wild after the war so he could live a natural life with his own kind, didn’t we?- Nemesis had asked them.
-But there are no more wild Fleshlings.- someone had argued. -We've taken all their planets away, not just some as we planned back then. There's no place for them anymore.
-That's why we're building them a habitat in the new zoo on Yuma.- Nemesis had promised. -There they'll live just as they used to in the wild. They'll hardly notice that they aren't free anymore. Jesse will be happy there.
Back then Jean Claude had decided to visit the zoo often and every time he went he'd make sure to walk past the humans' pen and check up on Jesse.
He'd never actually been to the Yuma zoo, though, and apparently Jesse hadn't been happy there after all and run away. Maybe because all his old friends seemed to have deserted him? Maybe he'd run away to try and find them?
And now he was living half starved on the streets.
It wasn't right. Jesse shouldn’t be alone and hungry.
On the way back home Jean Claude looked over at the packages of meat he'd put on the seat beside him. 'Jesse would find all that edible.' the thought came to him out of the blue. 'Right now he'd probably consider it quite a treat, but I'm taking it home to pampered little Raszt who probably will refuse to even try some of it.'
Having never gone hungry in his short life the kitten was quite fussy about his food.
Maybe he should save the leftovers and give them to Jesse?
Then again too much meat wasn't healthy for Fleshlings. Fruits and vegetables were very important for their health.
Yes, now that he thought about it Outrider dishes were a much better choice to feed Jesse on than cat food.
Thus it came that the very next day Jean Claude was back at the market once again, this time carrying a box of fine vegetable stew and not even glancing at the items for sale at the stands.
The stew was cold, of course, but still tasty. He'd had some himself before packing it up.
"Jesse?" It was strange to speak the Fleshling language again after so long. "Where are you?"
No answer. Maybe Jesse was unsure about his intentions? Jean Claude had attacked him when he'd tried to steal from him, after all.
"I've got something nice for you." He held up his box. "Come on, you'll like it and I know you're hungry."
People looked at him oddly and no hungry Fleshling showed up. Maybe Jesse hadn't heard him? Maybe he was in a different part of the market today?
For an entire day Jean Claude trudged up and down through the market checking and re-checking every dark corner he could find.
Finally, when the last stands had shut down and he was standing alone in the almost completely dark market place, Jean Claude realised that he hadn't eaten anything himself since breakfast.
With a sigh he turned back towards his hovercar where he turned on the light above the driver's seat and got out the lunch he'd packed for himself. It was getting a little cold, but Jean Claude didn't want to close the window and lock out the fresh air, so he set his lunch down on the seat and climbed deeper into the car for his cloak.
He'd had to leave it in the back corner, hadn't he?
After a little stretching and a few fruitless attempts he finally managed to grab it and pull it into the front. Triumphantly he turned around and burst into laughter at the sight before him.
Jesse was leaning with his arms on the windowsill regarding him with that same old cocky smirk of his while holding his lunchbox.
-Oh, you'd rather have that one?- Jean Claude returned the smirk as best he could. Nobody could get quite the same expression as Jesse. -You could have just told me that a few hours ago, you know.-
He wasn't even aware that he was talking in his own language.
Jesse cast a hungry look at the food, but apparently was too proud to just follow his instinct and wolf it down.
-You were running around talking in a forbidden language.- he stated. -That draws too much attention.-
Jean Claude shrugged. Of course a thief would grow used to having to hide from everybody. He pushed the button that opened the door. Jesse started as it slipped away under him.
-Just hop on in and eat.- Jean Claude invited. He should have brought some clothes as well. Those rags were only fit for burning anymore.
Jesse hesitated. -Leave the door open?-
-You don't think I'm trying to trap you, are you?- Jean Claude asked, but nodded his agreement.
-You guys sold me out once before.- Jesse stated matter-of-factly.
-Nemesis promised to give you to the zoo.- Jean Claude defended himself. -You were supposed to have it good there, a nice home, always well fed and nobody would hurt you.-
-A zoo animal? Is that all I am to you? Do I look like some exotic creature to you?- Jesse demanded angrily. -You'd never have won that damn war without me. I was better than all of you and what do I get in return? Life in a damn cage!-
-Nemesis promised a nice big pen, with other Fleshlings. It was supposed to be almost like being free. You were supposed to get to raise a family, be happy there.-
-I'm not some stupid animal that will be happy with a flimsy illusion of freedom.-
-So you ran away from the zoo to be free.- Jean Claude stated.
-No? Then why?-
-They sold me.-
-The zoo. Among others Nemesis also gave them the surviving tin stars. They told everyone who I was of course.-
-I thought they all died when we shot down Ramrod.-
-Nah, Colt and April died in the crash, but the other two made it through after all. Fireball kept a stiff leg, though and Saber was badly concussed. He never regained the memory of that battle.-
-So they turned the whole group against you?- Jean Claude pulled out the box of vegetable stew he'd intended to give Jesse. He was still hungry after all.
-When we kept fighting all the time the zoo decided I didn't fit in and sold me to the arena.-
Jean Claude almost dropped the stew. -The arena!-
And he'd thought it would have been the worst, if Jesse had ended up a working slave in an underground mine. Compared to the arena, though ...
The arena was certain death. No matter how good a fighter a slave was, sooner or later he'd lose and some monstrous creature would tear him to bits. Few Fleshlings had gone there, though. They didn’t quite look formidable enough.
-That's where I ran away from.-
-I'm amazed you managed that, you know.- Jean Claude tried to distract himself from what Jesse's fate would most likely have been, if he hadn't made it. -Without even ... Oh wait, you speak our language! How'd that happen? You're not supposed to be intelligent enough to learn.-
-Not intelligent enough?- Jesse hissed. -Excuse me. Just who made up most of our strategies in the war? Did you ever actually take a look at some of the idiots Nemesis had on staff?-
-Okay, okay, point taken.- Jean Claude conceded. -You're clever, you speak our language, you escaped the arena. It still didn't get you very far, though. Why didn't you come to me for help? Or Point, or Gattler. I remember several people wanted to buy you after the war.-
-I get by.- Jesse declared angrily and Jean Claude suddenly remembered how proud and temperamental the Fleshling had always been. -I'm not going back to being a zoo animal in a cage.-
-I've got an offer for you.- Jean Claude decided. -Come home with me. You'll like it there. I'll see to it that you're always well fed and clothed ...-
-I'm nobody's pet!- Jesse glared at him.
-I'm sure we can find a way for you to be useful.- he suggested.
-You can't have me, Jean Claude.- Jesse hissed slipping out of the car again. -I won't be anybody's property. Not a pet and not a slave either.-
-No, wait!- Obviously the wrong thing to say. So now what?
Jesse hesitated eyeing Jean Claude distrustfully through the open door.
-That's not what I meant.- Jean Claude continued choosing his words more carefully. -I could find you a job ... In my clan. As a servant, not a slave.-
-You'd be part of the clan.- Jean Claude explained. -A common born member of a noble clan is still more respected than any other commoner. And servant doesn't necessarily mean we'd make you part of the cleaning crew.-
Jesse's frown deepened.
-I was thinking of the house guard actually. Sometimes commoners can even reach command posts there.- That seemed to suit Jesse a little better. -Of course my father hand picks the guards, so I can't guarantee they'd take you right away. You could always tend my kitten for me, though.-
-Kitten?- Jesse sounded insulted again.
-Cat-of-war kitten.- Jean Claude amended. -Not a Fleshling pussy-cat. They're big cats, like lions and tigers. With long fangs and ...
-I know what they are.- Jesse interrupted rubbing a spot on his left arm. -I killed one.-
Killed one? ... Oh! Jean Claude shuddered.
They had gone to an arena breeder to look for cat-of-war kittens for a reason. Pet shops rarely bothered with the rather difficult to keep animals. The arena however always had a use for big deadly beasts. There were few creatures more impressive than a cat-of-war.
Maybe he shouldn't have reminded Jesse?
-Raszt is a tame cat.- he assured the Fleshling. -You'll like him. He can even do tricks. ... Well, sort of. I only just started to train him.-
-That thing didn't look like it could be tamed.- Jesse stated still rubbing his arm.
Had that cat left him a scar there?
-The arena doesn't care for tame beasts. They're made wild from an early age.- Jean Claude hesitated. What more could he say to convince Jesse. -Just come with me and take a look around, see what we've got to offer. You don't have to make up your mind right away.-
Jesse looked over the car again.
Still too afraid of getting caught, Jean Claude realised. If he even got him into the car again, he'd panic the moment the door closed behind him and the car's safety programming made it impossible to drive with an open door.
He dug out a piece of plastic instead and held it out to Jesse. -Well, if you change your mind, or ever need my help, here's how to reach me. And maybe we could meet again next time I'm in town? I'll bring food.-
Jesse nodded. -Just come to the market. I'll find you there.-
And with that he disappeared into the darkness.-
Jean Claude finished his stew with the door still open, then sat for a while looking out into the darkness, but Jesse didn't return and he finally closed the door and drove off.
From his perch on the top of a nearby ruin Jesse watched the car disappear on the horizon, then looked down at the plastic card in his hand.
He’d have to light a log to be able to read it and he only had five matches left. He shouldn't waste them.
But he was too curious and when he found pieces of broken furniture on his way back down it was too tempting.
Jesse dragged an old shattered table leg into a protected corner where he was sure no scavengers would notice the light and lit it.
It was worth it! The moment Jesse saw the address he burst out laughing.
This was hilarious! He should have known that the Outriders would have found a use for the old Cavalry Command headquarters, but that they'd make it a simple clan residence was unexpected.
Well, Elhessar wasn't an ordinary clan.
He wondered what it looked like now. Were the old students' quarters still standing? And if so, what use had the Outriders put them to? Quarters for lesser, unmarried clan members perhaps?
Maybe, if he accepted Jean Claude's offer, they'd even give him his old room back!
Damn, it would be a really long walk there, but he'd have to take a look and he sure as hell wasn't going to ride in Jean Claude's car.