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[personal profile] catko posting in [community profile] firefly_fanfic
For a challenge at [ profile] gameofcards, to write a backstory for a character. I picked one of my favorites, Zoe Alleyne Washburne. I've touched on this headcanon about the seven year thing elsewhere, but this is a past!fic, of course, so see what you think.

Zoe, Before
Fandom: Firefly
Rating: G
Word count: 885

Zoe wriggled in her seat as she stared at the lumpy cake that sported seven burning candles. The glow cast a light around the big, battered table, glimmering off the faces of those gathered around to celebrate her special day: family, lots of extended family, crew, and passengers on board the ship that was the only home she’d ever known.

Not an easy life, scrabbling for steady work transporting people and goods for pay, landing down dirtside to work for hire building towns, harvesting crops, or other projects come what may. But it was a life her people had chosen a generation ago, choosing this over being homesteaded on dusty worlds, or worse, herded into sterile, makeshift ‘cities’ designed to replicate the urban centers of Earth-That-Was. Her folk had neither resources nor history to establish themselves among the wealthy and powerful, so a life in the skies was the best, and most free.

Of course, little Zoe had no inkling of this; though she’d seen the lives that others lived, she never thought to question that there was any choice in the matter. What was on her mind now was that she’d never had such a thing before, a cake nor a party, though of course she’d had birthdays—might give rise to a toast at dinner, or hugs and pinches ‘round the ship over the course of the day—or what they called a “day” in the curious timezone of lifetimes spent circling the worlds.

Her mama leaned down from behind her and gave a quick hug. “Seven’s special with our folks, you know, girlie,” she murmured. “So blow the candle-fire forward to light your way ahead for the next seven.”

Zoe closed her eyes, and tried to grab at the thought of something she’d want in the years ahead. But nothing came, just the picture of the faces ringed round the table, the clang and sigh of the metal spaceship as it powered through the Black, and the dark warmth of the life she was a part of.  Taking a deep breath, she blew as hard as she could.
Zoe slouched under the shuttle console and fingered the folded piece of paper, sealed with a bit of wax, and with her name, her full name, written across it. Zoe Mayalin Alleyne. She scowled at it as from somewhere distant in the ship she imagined she could hear laughter, and cups clinking, and scraping of plates as people ate cake, her cake, with the fourteen candles.

Dumb old tradition, anyway. What was the use of looking to the future when all it showed was the same old thing—flying around in the Black, getting pushed out further and further from civilized folk ‘cause of the Alliance patrols and all their gorram rules and regulations, being stuck on board this creaky old rattletrap with nothing to do but stare at the same old faces of your own relatives and people you’d been staring at your whole tamade life.

She felt her anger rise up, and in a fit she started to crumple up the envelope. But something stopped her, and instead, taking a deep breath, she slid her finger under the wax seal to read what her mother had written for her this time.
Zoe stared at the crumb-covered chipped plates setting on the rickety table, and had a small laugh that it was a good thing they had no money for candles, anyway, since twenty-one of ‘em would likely set up a flame could burn this little tinderbox house down.

Looking around her, she could feel the usual disgust being overlaid by an upwelling of sadness. Wo cao, she thought bitterly, feeling homesick for this dump, that’s no way to go. Gotta face what I got ahead of me—get in touch with the fight inside of me.

That fighting spirit that had buoyed up her clan through generations, right up until that last stand, with the Alliance finally bearing down on them three years ago. And what had that fight got them? Three dead, two crew and an uncle—him with a wife and three children, now fatherless. Ship stolen—“confiscated” they’d said, but stolen out from under its rightful owners, sure enough—and the clan scattered to the winds, left to find their way dirtside in one of the many ragged towns that housed others like them—refugee camps, really, but called “relocation villages”—as if that ugly name made it any better. Her own father, dead months after they’d been grounded, from that kuhwu lung disease that came in on the dust and wouldn’t let go.

Zoe roused herself and moved to her cot, pulling out and opening the trunk from underneath. She stared for a moment at the object laying there nestled in a thick wool blanket, running her hand over it, remembering her father’s proud words as he promised it to her for her twenty-first birthday. “Mare’s Leg’ll never let you down, little girl. Just gotta learn how to handle her, and she’ll be true.”

Taking a deep breath, Zoe slung the gun into her knapsack, and, rising, took one last look at her mother’s bedroom door, and strode out the front to go enlist in the war.
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