Inspired by various tumblr posts.
Humans quickly get a reputation among the interplanetry alliance and the reputation is this: when going somewhere dangerous, take a human.
Humans are tough. Humans can last days without food. Humans heal so fast they pierce holes in themselves or inject ink for fun. Humans will walk for days on broken bones in order to make it to safety. Humans will literally cut off bits of themselves if trapped by a disaster.
You would be amazed what humans will do to survive. Or to ensure the survival of others they feel responsible for.
That’s the other thing. Humans pack-bond, and they spill their pack-bonding instincts everywhere. Sure it’s weird when they talk sympathetically to broken spaceships or try to pet every lifeform that scans as non-toxic. It’s even a little weird that just existing in the same place as them for long enough seems to make them care about you. But if you’re hurt, if you’re trapped, if you need someone to fetch help?
You really want a human.
“Looks like someone for you.”
Jon kicked Ginna’s boots, which were currently resting on the table, and she glanced over toward the door. A clump of knee-high aliens, plump and round and covered in golden fur, were lifting their little pink noses into the air – scenting the air in the bar.
Ginna quickly downed the last of her drink and dropped her feet to the floor. The Gentleman of Fortune was full to the gills of professional companions looking for work, she wouldn’t be the only one in here with a fondness for sashrans. She needed to work quickly if she wanted a chance at whatever job these ones were hiring for. The sound and vibration of her boots caught the attention of the group, and Ginna followed it quickly with a greeting in the quiet shushing sounds of their own language.
A universal translator would take care of most of the talking, but by knowing a little of their language Ginna proved she had worked with their kind before and cared enough to learn it. Caring was probably the most important skill a companion could cultivate.
It paid off. The group of sashrans centered quickly on her and darted over, still in their clump.
“I am human Ginna, companion for hire,” Ginna introduced, tapping the side of her visor to activate the display.
“Sala and Rini, with crew. Spice collectors,” the largest of the sashrans introduced, tapping at their own earbud. Their information began to stream onto Ginna’s display, while her own would be playing in their ear. She was proficient in everything from weapons to mechanics to medicine, xenobiology to politics, and of course survival in any kind of situation from atmosphere decompression in space to a tsunami on a planet. The more varied the knowledge they had the better a companion a human could make, and Ginna prided herself on being one of the best.
As for the sashrans, they’d found a jungle planet with a plant that was delicious to their senses. Cultivation efforts had failed thus far, so the price was high enough to support the risk of hunting for it on its home range. A six-month tour was on offer. It seemed they’d contracted with another professional companion a few times, a man named Drix, and Ginna quickly switched over to the guild’s internal records to see what he had to say of these sashrans and the planet they were harvesting from.
The sashrans themselves would be able to check what Ginna’s former employers had to say about her too.
Drix had enjoyed working with Sala and Rini’s crew, it dripped out of every line of his reports. He’d included good detail about life aboard their ship and the risks of the planet, that Ginna would have to look into closer later to be prepared.
All she needed to know at the moment was that they paid well, the risks were not unacceptably high, and that they treated their human companions well. It sounded like a job for her.
“Sala and Rini and crew, I would take this job,” Ginna told them.
The sashrans shushed and buzzed together, their tones sounding happy to Ginna’s relatively untrained ear, and she hoped she was reading them right. They were such beautiful little creatures, and she’d always enjoyed working for their kind before. They were close enough she could have reached out to touch them, pet their soft velvet fur, but she resisted. Touching them uninvited would be rude.
Finally they turned back to her. “Sala and Rini and crew will, with joy, contract to hire companion Ginna,” the lead one answered.
Contract negotiations went quickly enough, using the standard guild template and modifying it here or there as both parties preferred and agreed upon. Sashrans were easy to haggle with, not like the argumentative akskar. Soon enough Ginna had a contract and three days to prepare her effects for travel.
“It has been a pleasure,” Ginna told the sashrans. “I look forward to being your companion.”
She would have expected them to leave, then, go get their own things ready for launch. Instead the smallest one pushed forward – all wrapped in pale gold velvet fur and their sweet little pink forepaws resting on Ginna’s knee.
“Companion Ginna will now engage in petting for promotion of pack bonding?” they asked hopefully.
“Of course,” Ginna reached out toward the sashran, let them smell her palm, but it seemed this sashran wasn’t shy at all. They immediately pushed their head into her hand. There was nothing in the galaxy so soft as a sashran’s fur. Ginna dug her fingers in around the ruff of the sashran’s neck, gently scratching, and then smoothed the fur all the way down their back.
The sashran made a dreamy-soft pleasure sound, and Ginna mimicked it back. “Oh you sweetheart,” she murmured. Already she could feel that little melting tug in her heart, that protective urge that set some humans on the path to professional companionship.
Come hell or high water, Ginna was going to keep these sashrans safe.
Aw, yes. Look at the adorable scifi! I’m proud to have inspired it.
(I’m so glad you enjoyed it!)
Six months was just about right for a jungle planet tour with a group of sashrans. Ginna loved Sala and Rini and the crew to distraction, and there was still nothing in the galaxy softer than sashran fur, but she was ready to move on. Being regarded as furniture a lot of the time, once they were used to her presence, got tiring after a while. Sala and Rini weren’t looking for a permanent companion, and Ginna wasn’t looking for that either. She’d joined the guild because she wanted to see the universe and meet all the peoples in it, after all.
The spice expedition had been a great success. The sashrans’ hold was full to bursting of dried twigs and leaves, and Ginna had gotten a healthy bonus on top of her already generous pay. There’s only been the one incident with a large angry herbivore who decided the sashrans were infringing too close on its breeding grounds. Still, Ginna had thwacked it in the face with a dead branch and distracted it long enough for the sashrans to make their escape, and only gotten the one cracked rib for her trouble when it tried to run her down.
Ginna hugged and kissed each sashran on the crew one last time. “If you ever need me, don’t hesitate to call,” Ginna told them, wiping a stray tear. Sala and Rini and crew endured this human foible, and were off to sell their goods.
The Gentleman of Fortune was the same as ever, serving interesting foods and drinks from across the galaxy and full of professional companions between tours. Her friend Jon had shipped out with a hunting pack of akskar, but May was finally back from er three-year stint in a lintran colony and they had a lot of catching up to do.
It was great to be back among humans, it really was. Ginna sent some money home and laughed and drank and celebrated with people who had the same base template and urges she did. For about two weeks, it was great. Then Ginna got that itch again and started watching the door of the Gentleman of Fortune, scoping out her options.
Vivid jehes, stolid orhides, hovering mellisugans – none of them felt quite right, and Ginna didn’t approach any of them. Other companions gladly worked up contracts and left for exploration expeditions and disaster relief efforts and new colonies.
Then a big bull barbax pushed into the bar, weight resting on xir heavy knuckles and ducking far far down to fit but still scraping xir cracked and weathered shoulder-spikes on the frame. The barbax swung xir heavy head from side to side, small beady eyes – well protected under a heavy brow – sweeping the space.
Ginna jumped up to stand on top of her chair and screamed as loud as she possibly could. The barbax rocked back, then sprang forward toward her, slamming xir knuckles hard against the floor in pleased approval.
Three days later Ginna was shipping out for a nine month tour with a crew of barbax miners. The desert planet they were headed for would be a nice change of pace from the muggy humidity of her last tour, and the barbax being so much bigger and heavier-armored than she was meant she didn’t have to worry about being a body guard on this trip. Much more relaxing.
Barbax liked shiny things, and already they’d bought Ginna a cute cropped jacket with imitation shoulder spikes to match them, and several bracelets and necklaces. It would have been rude not to wear them, and Ginna had to admit she looked good even if it wasn’t her usual style.
The bull barbax, Zab, absently grabbed Ginna by the waist and settled her on xir shoulder. Ginna easily settled in between the big spikes – they made good handholds as she was carried onward to the ship.
“Twisted xeno freak!” some human snarled after Ginna and the barbax crew. “You’re a traitor to human-kind. You make me sick!”
Gina laughed. “Jealous you lack the emotional capacity to cut it as a companion?” she mocked.
The xenophobe’s embarrassed and angry expression was the last thing Ginna saw of the station. Then the ship doors closed behind them, and she turned to face her next adventure with a smile.
Ginna returned to her home base at the Gentleman of Fortune absolutely glittering with platinum and rough citrine.
A fact – For all their strength, a barbax is not fast enough to evade a nest of sand snakes. For all their armor, a sand snake’s teeth can still pierce them.
A human companion, fueled by adrenaline, is more than fast enough to evade. But they might instead dive in between the panicking barbax and destroy the sand snakes attacking them.
Another fact – a sand snake’s venom is deadly to a barbax. Their blood coagulants are destroyed and they bleed out from even such a tiny wound. Their armored hide is too strong for the tourniquet that might save them. A human, bitten by a sand snake, gets off with a painful wound and some bruising.
Ginna tied her bandana around the bleeding wound on her thigh and got to work. Zeb and Gnar and Agi were bitten. The crew, their family, piled around them, drumming against their hides in mourning. They had two hours to live, according to the barbax medic.
Ginna delivered a cure in 30 minutes. Thirty minutes with the clock racing. Thirty minutes far too long, with death creeping up on her friends. She drew a liter of her own blood, repurposed a mining centrifuge to separate it, and filled three big syringes with plasma. Her red blood cells would be toxic, foreign to the barbaxes bodies. She could only hope her plasma was less so.
They might die of it; but they would die if she didn’t try.
Facts – the only place a barbax is tender enough to be injected by even the strongest medical needle is in the vein along their gumline.
– it takes five minutes for blood to circulate all the way through a barbax’s body.
– it takes another minute after that for a sand snake wound to clot, and the blood loss to cease.
The barbax crew trumpeted and pounded their knuckles against the floor with surprised joy. And only then, only when the slow bleeding had finally stopped, did Ginna sit down and cry with relief. She was shaky and dizzy from drawing so much blood, and badly bruised from getting jostled by the panicking barbaxes, and the wound on her own thigh was very painful now that she had nothing else to focus her mind away from it, but she’d done her companion’s duty and saved her friends.
She was fussed over, tended to and praised. She explained what she had done, and was given far more sweets and water than she could possibly consume to replenish herself when she explained that’s what she needed to recover.
Zeb and Gnar and Agi were sick for a week, with the aftereffects of the sand snake poison and purging their bodies of her alien plasma, but they lived. That was the important part.
It turned out that having given a part of herself into the barbax (nevermind that it was just plasma and their bodies purged it afterward) Ginna had done literally what was done symbolically for a barbax crew-bond. She was now crew-bond to the barbax she’d saved, and since Zeb was the senior bull and crew-bond to the entire crew, that meant she was too. She was family – married to the whole lot of them, in essence.
Ginna was not exactly sure how she was going to break that to her moms.
Thankfully the barbax had a laze faire concept of marriage. None of them thought it odd that Ginna planned to leave still at the end of her contract. They would have gladly kept her if she wanted to stay, but she didn’t.
They would have weighed her down with a quarter ton of jewelry, to be decorated the same as one of them, but thankfully Ginna talked them out of it. Her crew were miners by trade, but they were craftspeople by inclination, and they made her beautiful sets from the platinum they were mining that weren’t too heavy for her fragile human limbs. The style was armor-like and spiky and set with beautiful rough citrine that would have been discarded as mining waste otherwise.
Ginna wore it proudly. She spent one last evening drumming with the barbax crew, and then she was back among humans, back at the good old Gentleman of Fortune. Elizabeth was fresh back from the jungles of Shur with a lathan colony, and they had a lot of catching up to do.
Ginna was in no rush to head out again. She took some classes offered through the guild, brushing up on her knowledge base, and pondered her options carefully. She wanted something new, something different.
Late one evening – or maybe it was early morning by that point – a faint high note echoed through the Gentleman of Fortune. There was a collective intake of breath, an uncomfortable quiet, and Ginna looked to where everyone else was looking. A roughly human-sized shimmer was drifting deeper into the bar.
A tintillian. Ginna had never actually met one, she’d only ever heard of the telepathic aliens. They were not strictly corporeal in the same way most contacted species were.
The tintillian chimed again, hopeful, almost plaintive. And no one was answering.
Ginna was singing back the tintillian’s note before she really thought it through. It chimed again, a lower note thankfully or Ginna might not have been able to hit it, and Ginna again mimicked it. As Ginna held the note, it chimed a double note in harmony with her, and drifted closer.
The note Ginna was singing cut off, her heart in her throat, but the tintillian recoiled and drew back before it touched her. Began to drift away.
Metal. Right. They couldn’t abide concentrations of heavy metals and Ginna was encased in platinum. Ginna began ripping all her jewelry off, stacking it in a loose pile on the table. What had possessed her to wear so much of it?
“Help!” Ginna pleaded, turning her other ear toward Elizabeth as she struggled with the earrings. “Liz, please.”
Elizabeth laughed and relented, quick to help her out of all her platinum. Ginna took her boots off too, they had metal eyelets. And her pants had zippers, so they had to go. And her bra had an underwire, so Ginna wrestled that out through her sleeve and finally stepped toward the tintillian in just her shirt and boxers.
No one else was trying to approach the still-chiming tintillian. Telepathy was beyond what most of them were comfortable with. There would be no universal translator for this interaction, it would be direct. Mind to mind.
At least Ginna halfway stripping was far from the weirdest thing that had ever happened in the Gentleman of Fortune.
Ginna sang the note again, and the tintillian harmonized and moved back toward her. It changed as it got closer, until Ginna was almost looking at a mirror – a transparent shining woman. It lifted its hand, and Ginna echoed the motion. Her fingers were shaking, but Ginna cleared her mind and was full of only curiosity and affection when the tintillian merged hands with her. Like a point of golden light.
Suddenly, through it, Ginna was weightless, boundariless, her self wrapped around by the fear and curiosity of the others in the bar. Ginna laughed aloud, that joy echoed, rebounded, and strengthened as the tintillian drifted forward to merge completely.
Ginna’s affections were bare, all the connections she’d made with her contracts exposed, her trainings mulled over, her self weighed and judged and found adequate. The burning curiosity that had made her approach it pushed Ginna to delve into the tintillian in turn. It was all starlight and nebulas, ancient and brand new.
The job on offer was midway between exploration and rescue – a star nursery where an expedition of the tintillian’s mind-mates had disappeared. They had two months to map what they could, and recover the lost mind-mates if possible.
Ginna’s physical and psychological needs would be met, and the terms of her regular contract were seen as acceptable.
The merge faded, and the tintillian winkled out – off back to its vessel to prepare. Ginna dropped back into her own body and sagged into her chair.
“So?” she was asked, people crowding around. She didn’t need the tintillian to practically feel their burning curiosity.
“I got a two-month contract,” Ginna said.
She took a small seated bow for the cheers that echoed through the bar, and accepted the celebratory drinks that were passed her way.
First professional companion to contract with a tintillian. This was definitely going to be one for the history books.
[ THE END ]
I will write no more of these. Thank you! I’ve had a lot of fun in this ‘verse.
If you want to read about Elizabeth, please turn your eyes toward the very cool fill that Chrissy did utilizing the Gentleman of Fortune and companions guild concept. [link]
(if anyone else uses these headcanons please let me know I’d love to read it!)
(lol I lied have another Ginna fic)
Loren’s first run as an apprentice companion was supposed to be an easy one. A short contract, with low danger and a seasoned companion of the guild as mentor. Loren got along great with both Jon and the akskar crew. Every conversation was an argument, a test of skill and ingenuity. Some humans found akskar to be exhausting, but Loren felt right at home. It was just like being back at the old shipyards with er sibs.
So it was great, it was really great until they ran into danger way above Loren’s paygrade. Space was dangerous, vast and unexplored and unpredictable. So on Loren’s first practice run e ended up stranded with a dead ship on a dead planet. At least Jon and the akskar weren’t dead too.
Theirs wasn’t the only ship downed.
“Jon? That you?” A voice crackled faintly in through their companion visors while the akskar were still folding their long limbs into their own protective gear.
“Ginna!” Jon answered, relief obvious in his voice as he tapped the side of it to answer. “I’ve got an apprentice and a family of young akskar politicians. What have you got?”
“Jehe musicians and a dead ship. My scans show a cave we can shelter in near enough to both ships for scavenge. Coordinates incoming.”
Loren had no idea how this Ginna had managed to scan for a cave through the radiation bursts, but e was glad of it. Loren was surprised the coms were still working when everything else was totally fried–but they did say that companions guild coms and universal translators were always the last thing to go. They could pass through the pinch of a black hole undamaged, they said.
Jon relayed instructions, which Loren and the akskar followed, so they were weighed down heavy with emergency supplies and broken ship bits when they headed out onto the planet’s ravaged surface.
Ginna and her crew had already made it to the cave and were sealing it into a habitable zone by the time Loren’s group arrived. Loren couldn’t tell much about Ginna other than that she was tall and she’d managed to keep her jehes from fluttering and panicking, which was impressive.
Once they were sealed in, and the akskar were comfortable enough to start a circular argument and the jehes to rest, Jon pulled Loren over to conference with Ginna. Ginna’s hair was all tight corkscrew curls tied back with a bandana, her smile big and friendly, when she took off her helmet.
“We’ve got food, we’ve got water, we’ve got radiation shielding – but we’ve only got about a day’s worth of air,” Jon started, once brief introductions were over.
“A day and a half,” Ginna corrected. “The akskar and jehes balance each other out a little bit.”
“And I can give us another two or three if I can repair the jehe and akskar air filters, or splice them together. There’s got to be enough working parts between them to make one functional filter.” Loren volunteered. It wasn’t so different from tech splice e’d done as a kid, just to see if something could be made from what was supposedly junk. Loren had grown up doing this stuff.
“Air first.” Ginna nodded. “Then we need to get word out, let people know where we are. It’s time to call in favors. What are our best contacts, other than the main guild office?”
“These akskar are offshoots of the grand trunk,” Jon said, which Loren had not known. They were practically royalty! Minor royalty, but still. “If we get word to the trunk, they’ll send help. And their line is allied to the fruiting bough consortium. One of their main officers owes me a favor.”
“Good,” Ginna nodded and turned toward Loren as if expecting em to chime in.
“I don’t…” Loren floundered. “I don’t know anybody.”
Ginna’s expression softened. “First time out?“ she patted Loren’s shoulder when e nodded. “Don’t worry. Jon and I have both been in tighter spots and lived to tell. I’m thinking my best contact will be the barbax miners. A little radiation storm like this is nothing to them, and they’ll send people if I call. I’m kind of married to over fifty of them now, they keep expanding the crew.”
“Married? To fifty barbax?” Loren boggled, but Ginna and Jon just laughed.
“It’s the kind of thing that happens on accident,” Jon said. “It far from the weirdest thing you’ll see if you stick with the guild.”
Loren kind of hoped e’d live to see weirder things. Being stranded on a dead world with two dead ships was bad. Really bad. But Jon and Ginna kept joking back and forth with each other, smiling and laughing. And if experienced companions like them were in good spirits that had to be a good sign.
Loren worked on the air filters. E worked on the air filters for a very long time. Loren got one working at about 31% to give them another half day, and then went back to the ship to scavenge parts from the kitchen to get the other one up to 67%, and that was the best e could do with what was available.
“I couldn’t have done better myself,” Jon praised. He and Ginna were working on cobbling together a communications array that would punch through the radiation storm, which was difficult with everything fried. They tried and tested and argued companionably back and forth–when they weren’t looking out for the crews they were contracted to. The emotional labor of keeping the akskar from falling into despondency while confined and the jehes from fretting themselves sick, and keeping them from antagonizing each other with their different needs and ways of being, was weightier than Loren would have expected.
Jon and Lauren had their work cut out for them figuring out new arguments and games to play with the akskar to keep them entertained. Ginna spent a lot of her time grooming and singing to the jehes in their own chirping language to keep them calm.
That was what being a professional companion was all about.
Not that Loren was all that sure e was going to get the chance to earn professional status. One day became two, became three, and nothing any of them tried was working to get a message out. Loren scavenged from both ships over and over again, with Jon and Ginna and alone, but nothing e brought back helped.
Loren couldn’t give up, though. That was why peoples from all over the galaxy hired human companions. Because humans didn’t give up, not until their last breath. Loren repurposed parts of a water filtration unit to get the more broken air filter to 72%, but that was only going to give them a few more days, and e went back to figuring out ways to make a stronger emergency beacon with Jon.
Loren found her up in the top of the cave, right by the entrance where their radiation shielding was weakest. She’d stripped down to her underthings, her body marked with scars here and there, and decorated over and around them with gleaming ivory-white tattoos against the warm brown of her skin. Loren could see the languages of akskar, sashrans, barbax, and others she wasn’t familiar with. Ginna was sitting cross-legged on the ground, eyes closed and face turned up to the dark sky. She was humming a long droning note under her breath.
“What are you doing?” Loren demanded.
“Trying to think in tintillian,” Ginna answered in a faraway voice, not opening her eyes.
“We can’t send a pulse, ping, or beacon out of here strong enough. So tintillian.”
Loren stamped er foot. “What good is thinking like another species going to do!? You could be helping us brainstorm better ideas. You can’t just stop. You can’t give up and die. We’re companions! Our contracts are counting on us!” Loren’s voice broke, tears far too close to the surface, and Ginna finally opened her eyes.
“Nothing in the galaxy can communicate better than a tintillian. They are connection,” Ginna explained, very gently. “They’re not individual. They’re like… fractals. Music where each note is a symphony and what we perceive as an individual is just the echo of a single riff. I contracted with them, once. I was inside it for two months, like a misplaced f flat in a nebula-choir of angels and starlight, and sometimes I can still feel it. Connect.”
Loren’s breath caught at the realization. “Stars and galaxies. You’re that Ginna,” e breathed. She was only one of the highest ranked professional companions, and came up in dozens of case studies. She’d provided the baseline measurements for companionship in more new species than anyone else. There wasn’t a species she’d shun, or a challenge she’d back down from.
Ginna smiled, that warm friendly smile that immediately forgave Loren for interrupting and being suddenly starstruck. “I’m that Ginna.” She tapped her visor where it was laying beside her. “And I’ve got two hours left before I have to do a radiation decontam, so I’m going to spend them being a very loud f flat.”
“Right. Sorry,” Loren backed away as Ginna’s eyes closed and she took her hum back up. “Thank you.”
Loren retreated, awkward stumbling back over er boots, and hyperventilated at Jon for a little bit. Jon just laughed.
“Careful with that puppy-crush, kid,” he teased. “Ginna’s ace. She doesn’t go for anybody.”
About an hour and a half later–when Loren was in the middle of a spirited game of leapfrog with the akskar crew to keep them entertained–Ginna returned. There was a pinging sound, like metal heating under the sun, a faint smell of ozone, and Ginna walked into the main part of the cave haloed in a shimmering glow. There was music, vast and incomprehensible under her voice when she spoke.
“Strip to your skivvies, Jon, and figure out what you want to say to the guild! We’re in contact.”
I LOVE GINNA I LOVE HUMAN COMPANIONS
@ts-porter I had to draw it.
OMG It’s perfect! That’s exactly what Ginna and the sashrans would look like. Thank you!