Disclaimer: Mutant Enemy/FOX are the proper copyright owners. I just borrow.
Summary: Saffron considers the importance of names to a true history.
He says to her, “No, don’t reckon there’s many you killed. Just put ’em in a position to die easy.”
Malcolm Reynolds has no idea. Not about her, not about killing, not about anything. He doesn’t even know her *name*, though there’s not many who know it, including herself. In fact, she expects it’s just her mother, the midwife, and the computer it was recorded on.
All three are long since obliterated, their names as forgotten as hers. They took her to the authorities when she was three, a pretty girl-child as pale as milk and with strawberry blonde hair and freckles like gold speckled over her nose.
“What’s the wench’s name?” the magistrate asked. The prospector who found her shrugged. He didn’t know; found her crying in a corner with her mama’s body rotting in the chair. Whole town dead but her, and she told him what she told anyone who asked. She’d been out in the woods picking berries or chasing a bird. When she came home, they were all quiet and frozen like that, looking like they were about to scream.
“Don’t know. Don’t know that she knows, neither,” he said. The magistrate turned to her, kneeling down.
“What’s your name, child?” he asked. “Be a good girl and tell us.”
She spat in his face; he cuffed her halfway cross the room and wrote it off. When she was sixteen, she went back to that backwater world, and made sure the magistrate was dead. Prospector, too. It was unbearable, thinking anyone knew who she’d been, a little orphan girl from a dead village. Wouldn’t be good to have them poking around about how that village got to be dead.
The magistrate put her on an Alliance ship, figuring some wealthy family would want a pretty girl like her for a daughter. It took five years, but his thought came to fruition. A rich man named Nathan Wu took her in as a maid for his daughter, Veronique. They called her Alice and she stayed there four years more, until she was twelve.
She ran away on a world that was all ice and snow. Nathan Wu and Veronique were going skiing and ice skating while she neatened Little Missy’s clothes and made sure cook understood that Mr. Wu did not eat that gou shi. He ate like the ancient Chinese on Earth-that-Was. Alice also made sure that the Companion recruiter who’d also been vacationing was impressed by her skills as a servant and a woman. The woman…a beautiful blonde named Qing-Jao…thought Alice was fifteen, which was a bit young for Companion training, but she was so eager, so clever, speaking not only the common language, but at least five patois that had sprung up on various central worlds.
Qing-Jao kissed and caressed Alice like a particularly beautiful doll. “You have the most beautiful hair. Like sunset on Wiletz. No one will ever mistreat you again, Alice dearest,” she promised, perfuming Alice, dressing her in simple, thin garments, and making love to her every night.
It was almost too easy. Alice explained to the Companions that she was only twelve, and she knew that was too young, but Qing-Jao had been insatiable, insisting she was perfect for the Companions. She never saw the woman again, and the guild paid for the next four years of her education, under her new name…Veronique Chen.
Veronique was talented, brilliant, with wonderful psych ratings, and a touching gratitude to the Companions Guild despite the failure of their recruiter to follow basic laws of decency. Any number of instructors were touched and willing to give dear, sweet Veronique a bit of extra help, a lesson here, a lesson there, so when she was sixteen and old enough to join the Guild and get an education as a Companion?
Mademoiselle Veronique Chen politely demurred, saying that having thought about it, there was nothing in the world that could make her join a profession with as many whores as the Companions. Rather unusually for her, Veronique didn’t ruin anyone when she made her escape; she’d learned the importance of having a hoard of cash for discreet getaways, especially on Central worlds.
She became Yolanda when the money ran out.
The rest, as they say, is history. And now she is trapped in a garbage container, with the police on their way, and that damned Malcolm Reynolds and his adjunct Companion, lovely, simpering Inara, to blame.
Alice-Veronique-Yolanda-Saffron-Bridget sits in the trash and considers her next move.
“I tried. I actually tried,” she says to herself, thinking of her future in the dark, airless wet. And she did, but what is trying? What did she try to do? She survived; isn’t trying if you succeed. She thrived, off and on. Mal thought, she believes, that she’d tried to be a good girl.
Funny, that. The kind of man who believes that at the heart of every woman, no matter how nasty and deplorable, sits an angel with clipped wings. She thinks it’s an expensive vanity to have when you’re as holier-than-thou as Mal and his band of so-called rogues. Women, she knows, aren’t any more clipped-wing angels than men, and she knows Inara knows better than Mal.
Except Inara, oh that dark-haired, melting temptress in her vaguely exotic dress, giving the impression of a fairy-tale princess ready to make all those desires, romantic and otherwise, come true in a dream called reality, she hopes. Why else stay with a useless ship like Serenity? Inara could make a fortune, even with the increase in overhead, away from that fei wu ship and its endless round of outlying planets, each one poorer and stupider than the next. She doesn’t understand Inara. Inara has quality in her, and that’s something Alice-Veronique-Yolanda-Saffron-Bridget can’t feign. Red hair, curves, pale skin…on a Central planet, they’d know her for what she is.
Colonial white trash, a pig dressed in make-up and silk. Gou shi. Bu hui hen de po fu. Best that she stays light on her feet and being what she is, but she’s got no respect for a woman who could be quality and instead sides with the trash.
Wo de ma, it stinks like shit in this damned coffin. The authorities were taking their sweet time to get her out and take her to a holding cell. Maybe a little jail time would clear her head.
Maybe oxygen, too.
She said so many foolish things to Mal. “I thought if I had everything, I wouldn’t want…”
Her name. At this moment, with the walls closing in and the alternatives being suffocation and indentured servitude in lieu of jail time, she wants her name. Not, as some fool like Mal would suspect, her mama or a shepherd to give her false peace. If she had a name, maybe she’d have some truth to herself.
She can be Yolanda or Saffron or Bridget, but they’re not who she is. Who she is was forgotten a long time ago, or maybe she’s just stayed that way because it was simpler. Doesn’t do her much good to want a name because chances are? Whoever that little girl in the woods was, she’d be as unreal as Alice or Veronique or anyone else she’s been.
Her name does not make her real, but she wants it anyway.
Her name, a shower, and to be out of the box.
And someday, to have Mal Reynolds somewhere he can hang, naked and dry and far away from any help, so he can scream for her. He’s right — she hasn’t killed many.
But for him and maybe his pampered princess of a Companion, if she could bear to kill something so pretty and valuable? She’d make an exception.