Her hair looked like gold in sunlight pulled back from her face softly, even though her features were held in a hard expression at the moment. Petite and round, she wore two small pink spots on her cheeks from high emotion, and she held a pulse iron on the men now gesturing wildly at her.
“Do not come back here, do you hear me? I will end both of you.” Her voice told him she was in deadly earnest as she pointed the iron from one to the other. The two massive men thought about her threat, but Ra saw the moment they decided it was no real threat to them at all. The men advanced on her in unison. Ra’dan moved toward them quickly.
There were only a few styles of fighting he hadn’t studied in his quest to work off his inner demons, but he generally had a mixed preference in actual fighting because stupid and untrained opponents couldn’t guess your moves easily. Here he suspected he had the unique combination of untrained stupidity. He had been inching his way toward the woman since he’d seen the altercation. Now, he hurried between her and the two big criminals. He went for the quick take down, since the opponents were likely to be belligerent about getting beaten and possibly a threat to bystanders. The biggest one went down first to a quick tap of his kidney and lay moaning. The second man would have a headache when he woke up. Keeping an eye on the man still moving on the ground, he asked the woman, “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine”, he heard her say softly.
The human on the ground groaned as he crawled to his knees. A few passersby stopped to see the excitement of a Sorian disabling human attackers. It was clear that didn’t happen often around here. Ra’dan walked closer to the woman. He noticed for the first time that she wore the long red coat signifying she was Imperial medical personnel.
Ra squatted down next to the man on his knees. “I think you will stay clear of this place from now on, my friend. Yes?”
The unconscious man began to stir as his partner dragged him up under his arms. Ra watched them limp away quietly until they were well and truly away down the boardwalk. He looked up at the building. He wondered what kind of clinic would draw patients like those two.
“Thank you”, said the quiet voice behind him. He turned to be confronted with eyes the color of the storms on Taarken, deep gray with flashes of blue. They were mesmerizing. So different to him, so alien. Her pert nose gave her whole face an innocent, childlike appearance, and her small stature added to the illusion. Her figure, however, completely corrected the impression. Her body was full and lush, curved in interesting places and very beautiful. Also, very unlike the women of his home world.
“You treat humans like those here?”
“I treat anyone who’s injured, but not like those, no. This clinic is for Sorians primarily. I operate off a grant from the Empress’ philanthropic foundation. It’s a fund to provide medical care to indigenous populations in hardship.”
She shifted from foot to foot, still holding the pistol in her hand. Ra smiled at the sight. “Did the empress donate that?” He nodded at the cold metal in her hand.
Sheepishly, she smiled back a little putting it behind her back. “No, no. That I brought with me. This isn’t my first position working with mistreated indigenous peoples. You learn to expect resistance.”
He found himself fascinated. “So, this is a free clinic?”
“Yes,” she answered. “You don’t live here?”
“No, I captain a ship. I haven’t been home for many, many years.”
Surprised, her mouth bowed in a silent oh. “Well, why don’t you come in and see what we’re doing?”
Ra inclined his head, suddenly entertained as he hadn’t been in a long while. She led him inside the small clinic’s currently empty waiting room into an examination room filled with medical equipment, fairly advanced medical equipment. Beyond it, he could see a cramped office with a cot in the corner. He stuck his head into the office looking around. “You live here?”
She smiled again. “It feels like it sometimes, but I have a house just past the tree line out back. The townspeople built it for me.” She spoke with great affection. Suddenly, she looked up at him. Ra’dan found he couldn’t look away, even had he wanted to look anywhere else. “I’m sorry. I’m Dr. Nina Quell.” She held her small hand out for his.
He took it slowly, liking the sound of the name, Nina. The way the I drew out into a longer sound due to her accent. Her hand warmed his own. “Ra’dan Sevarus.”
Then she gave him a genuine, uninhibited smile, and the whole room lit up. “Captain. Happy to meet you.” Her sun bright hair caught and held the light from the lone window above them. Ra thought for the first time in a long time, he was happy to meet someone too.
His brow furrowed as he looked around at the clean, bright office. “Those men?”
“That’s my fan club”, she answered sarcastically. “Hired muscle from the local Slavers. They don’t like my clinic.”
“Why would the slavers care about a small clinic?”
She stood clutching both hands together, not nervously. More restlessly, like she had more energy in her body than it could feasibly hold. “I send back reports to the Foundation, telling them the condition of the planet and its people. Admittedly, I’ve been lobbying lately for an end to the slavery on the planet. The empress is less enthusiastic than I’d like, but she’s giving the matter some attention which is about all I can expect. I had a text comm from her office.”
Ra shook his head disbelievingly. Was it in the water? “Do you know how dangerous this game you’re playing is, Doctor?”
She drew back, a shocked expression on her face. Of course, she was shocked. He just met her and he was questioning her judgment. These women were going to get themselves killed going after slavers.
“I would think a Sorian would understand the risks versus the rewards.”
“I don’t understand suicidal urges. Slavers are not going to allow you to meddle in their business like this and live.”
The doctor practically sputtered, “Slavery is a thing that must be fought, Captain Sevarus. Whatever the cost.”
“So you have no value for your own life? No one values you?”
It was clear she was offended now. “I value life. I value the friends I’ve made among your people. It would appear I value them more than you do.”
Ra stepped a little closer. “To die for a thing is beyond price, Doctor. Be sure it has worth before you commit body and soul.”
“Do you understand the horrors perpetrated on your people or are you so self-involved you don’t care?”
Ra’dan felt the weight of the woman’s opinion. But, to a degree, he’d provoked her reaction by telling her what to do, by expressing his disapproval. He had enjoyed talking to her. She wasn’t the first woman he’d offended over the issue today.
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