While many of the nations that combined to create ISACC were democratic, Akupara itself was not. There was too much at stake in a project like this, and the chain of command was militaristic. Audrey was Commander-in-Chief. Though there was a small Board of Directors, of which Jackson was a part, it was mostly for show. True, it provided a certain level of checks and balances, but ultimately, Audrey's word was law. ISACC had trained her rigorously for this position, as she would in turn train her eventual apprentice, to adhere to the Akuparan Mission Manual. It placed the mission above certain rights that people were used to, depending on nationality. Americans, while keeping the right to bear arms, were not allowed to have those arms be weapons of war. The Jururei used the same arms in both hunting and war, but they had also sworn to give up war activity. A right to trial was given up in offenses against the ship or a member of the ship. Audrey was sole judge and jury in such instances.
Because Jennifer was technically a child, Audrey wasn't hard on her so much as she wanted to scare her. Water was brought after half an hour, a cool pitcher with a small cup was pushed through a slot in the door. After two hours of idleness and confinement, which Jackson knew could feel like forever under such disorientation, he and Audrey went in to question her.
“Jennifer Machate, we have come to believe that you're responsible for the libelous vandalism found in the men's room at the university today. Can you tell us what happened please?” Audrey's voice was crisp and commanding, and she remained standing, scowling over Jennifer. Jackson took a seat across from the girl and gave her an encouraging smile.
Jennifer's eyes went wide and she glanced wildly around the room, looking everywhere but at Audrey. “I didn't do anything! I don't know what you're even talking about.” She looked up at Audrey and pleaded, “Can't my dad come in?”
“Girl, I will tolerate some things, and occasionally stupidity is one of them. What I will never tolerate is lying! Did you or did you not carve 'Zinta is a feral cunt' into the wall of the men's room?” She pounded her first into her hand, and that was all it took. Jennifer burst into tears.
“I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I was pissed off, okay?”
“What would possess you to do such a thing? And why deface the beauty of the university you have been given?” Jackson knew that the anger in Audrey's voice now was no longer her bad cop show.
Snot dripped down Jennifer's nose, and Jackson silently handed her his handkerchief. She tried to answer, but it was a bit hard to understand through all of her sobbing and hiccuping. “I just don't like her, okay? She's a whore. Everybody knows she's a whore.”
Audrey cocked her head and thought a moment before answering. “Do you mean a whore in the technical sense of the word, as in she takes money for sexual favors? I haven't actually ruled on prostitution yet, and since everyone on board has highly regulated birth control, then what she's doing may not, in fact, be wrong.”
The girl's sobbing stopped and she stared at the captain. “Are you serious?”
“I always am.”
Jennifer shook her head and looked away. “I didn't mean like that, anyway. I mean she's easy. And a bitch. Okay? I should have used a pencil or something.”
“No, you shouldn't have done that at all!” Audrey threw up her hands and stalked to the door. She brought in a canvas fold out chair to sit on, then leaned forward into Jennifer's face. “I cannot have harassment of my crew! We cannot have petty fights that damage the infrastructure of the next generation! You insulted a young lady of a warring culture, the Chief's daughter, and he wants to declare honor war. Over some catty teenage idiocy. Do you understand that? Do you think that's okay? What did she do that makes this okay? Explain yourself.”
Jennifer started crying again, but quietly this time. She took a deep breath and spoke, staring at her hands the whole time. “Look, she is. She's indecent. She walks around in her little skirts and little grass shirt that her titties show through, and she ruts around in the woods like an animal, and she's all the other boys ever think about now.”
Her shoulders shook. “Ged, specifically, if you must know, but he's not the only one. I thought we were close to dating before she arrived – he even took me to the carnival – but then she came and the stories of her doing things nice girls like me and the others won't. And now all the boys ignore us,” she wrinkled her nose, “except for the girls who agree to vie for those kinds of stories.”
“What stories?” Jackson asked her.
“Ged's brother hangs out with Woljiki sometimes. They do projects together and stuff, and Woljiki is teaching him to trap. Legally,” she was quick to add with a glance at Audrey. “They mostly release them. Anyway, Dan was on his way home from the tribelands and he saw Zinta and Mbussu together. She did all sorts of icky things and then they went at it like animals, up against a tree. It's really disgraceful. He told Ged and everybody else, and now Ged just stares at her sideboob all day and stopped even trying to be nice. He just wants someone to suck his cock too. Stupid Zinta thinks it's funny how he pants after her like a dog. All the boys. She revels in it, and it ain't right.”
Jackson raised his brows at Audrey. While he could probably see Zinta happily going at it against a tree, he didn't think she was the kind who would flaunt it or be overly promiscuous. “So Dan just saw them the one time?” Jennifer nodded. “And when was this?”
“Like, maybe a month ago. A little bit before we were out of school for that snow.”
“And the boys have been talking about it and drooling over Zinta since then?”
“Just Zinta, or Aenoa too?”
“They do seem to like the little grass shirts,” Jennifer sulked.
“The gardão is a significant religious symbol to the Jururei, and all religious customs are openly accepted here,” Audrey said. “I'm sorry that your own puritanical upbringing causes you to find it disgraceful, and--”
“Not just the shirts! The wh--”
“Yes, the rutting. Don't ever interrupt me, child. When you're older, you'll understand the allure of passionate animal sex in your own private wilderness. It's a shame that Dan stumbled upon it and made it the talk of the high school. Since they are of age, it's actually quite fine. Unfortunate, but fine. I will speak with them and make sure that such activities are not done in public areas or near pathways, of course. I will not require them to stop wearing their gardão. I cannot. I can only counsel discretion. And work on educating you children a little better.”
“I'm of age too.”
“Yeah, but you're not the one acting like it, are you?” Jennifer fought back another wave of tears. “You will have to stay in holding until I decide a suitable punishment,” Audrey told her. “Since you were honest with us, you may be released from the questioning room and taken back up to the cells. You can have half an hour with your father, but then visitation is over. I'll have to go organize a night watch for you now. Your choices ripple across this ship, you see. I'll be sure the other children understand it too, Zinta included. Jackson, if you don't mind processing Jennifer? Yes, I'm afraid this will have to go on your permanent file. I'm going to question the others involved. I think I'll have Kyle bring them in, even.”
Jennifer shook as he took her arm and led her back upstairs. He felt Audrey was enjoying herself a bit too much, but it was true that criminal activity could not be tolerated. Audrey moved swiftly ahead of them, soon disappearing as she headed to duty. Once she was out of ear shot, he said quietly, “She's like to go easy on you, since this is your first offense. Just keep being honest, and polite, and you'll see she's fair. Learn something from it, and she'll be more than fair.”
The girl sniffled, but nodded. Jackson hoped she wouldn't grow too pissed off at Audrey. Apparently Jennifer needed a better outlet for when she was pissed.
Kevin Machate ran to them as the door open. He was already on his feet, no doubt alerted by Audrey. He took Jennifer into his arms, looking at Jackson with concern when he saw her red, puffy face. “She's fine, Kev. Look, I'm sorry, but I've got to process her. I'll do it quick and then you can spend some time with her, but Audrey's keeping her in lock down overnight.”
Kevin looked angry, but he nodded and let go of his daughter. “Overnight, huh?”
“I'm sorry, Kevin. She can't go easy on her, even though we're friends.”
“No, she should go easy on her because she's a child.”
“Did you hear what she wrote? She's got the mouth of an adult. Don't get angry with Audrey.” Jackson's voice was hard on that last part, and Kevin swallowed and nodded, backing down. “You can have a seat until we're finished processing.”