Sunday, February 23, 2014

Deed of Paksenarrion chapter 2-3

It's so nice to be reading a book where shit actually happens. If this were a certain book series about sexy vampires we'd probably still be discussing who gets to ride shotgun on the way to the first crime scene or something. Instead...
It seemed to Paksenarrion that events had moved with blinding speed. Only that afternoon she had been a file leader, and Siger had praised her. Now she was shivering on the stone sleeping bench of an underground cell, out of sight and sound of everyone, cold, hungry, frightened, and in more trouble that she'd dreamed possible.
Yep. Something happened to Paks. We don't get to know what it is right off, but she's hurt pretty bad and her superior officers are about to throw her out of the company, naked and shaved. Now, I've read this before, but I'm gonna play along like I haven't, because it's...well, you'll see.

She insists she did not start the fight, so apparently she got into it with one of the other recruits. Stammal insists that she had to have, because she is a new recruit and this other guy has been with them five years, and is a personal friend of half the company. So Paks tells her story and...

"And tried to get me to bed him. And I said no, and he wouldn't let go, but went on—" She glanced at Stammel again . His expression did not change; her eyes dropped. "He said he was sure I wasn't a virgin, not with my looks, and that I must've bedded— someone— to be a file leader—"
Yeah. It's the aftermath of a rape scene. And apparently it's her word against his and--you probably guessed it--Korryn the asshole. And Stammal starts nodding and listening to her. Maybe not believing her, but listening. Then he asks her if she's had a lot of trouble with Korryn. She says yes, but that she kept her mouth shut because she thought she had to. Stammal responds thusly:

"You aren't supposed to act like a new wench in an alehouse , no. But no fighter should have to put up with that sort of thing from a companion. When you refuse, they're supposed to drop it; there's plenty enough that are willing. I wish I'd known; we'd have put a stop to that." He paused briefly. "Are you a sisli?"
"I— I don't know what that is. He— the corporal—asked me that too."
 "Like Barranyi and Natzlin in Kefer's unit. A woman who beds women. Are you?"
"No, sir. Not that I know of. Does it matter?"
 "Not really." Stammel shifted his weight again and sighed.
I kind of want to marry all of that.

Then Stammel notices that Paks can't stop puking--she's dry-heaved through this entire conversation--and asks her if it's because she's scared. No, it's because she got punched in the stomach multiple times, and everywhere else. He asks her to stand, she has a lot of trouble standing, and he realizes that the people full of bullshit probably aren't Paks. Stammel promises to get to the bottom of things, and apologizes for having to keep her in the cell overnight. He leaves, and the POV switches over to his. He is pissed off, and decides that everybody involved--witnesses, participants, he doesn't really care--needs to be isolated and under guard until he figures out what the fuck is going on.

So he interviews the guys who showed up when either Korryn and the other guy were done beating Paks, or Paks was done beating the other guy, and they compare stories and also realize something stinks:

"Come to think of it," Devlin interrupted, "most of that story came from Korryn, remember? Stephi hardly said a word— nodded when Korryn said 'isn't that right'— muttered a little, but that's all."
Then they pull the kid who went to get them out of the barracks and have a nice talk. The kid is one of Paks's friends, and he insists she wouldn't have done it. He wasn't there for the beating, but he did hear what the ranking officer said to Paks, and his story backs up hers. He's convinced, but he's got to talk the presiding captain into turning this investigation over to somebody else, or to at least let Paks out of the cell so she can get decent medical attention.

I think the thing that I like about this scene is that it's not being treated as a sexual thing. It's being treated as something that is fucking wrong, and everybody is giving Paks's word weight. It's not perfect--she's sitting down in a cell--but people are listening and trying to do the right thing. If there's one thing that kind of bugs me it is that violence against Paks is being used to develop the characters of the men around her, but it doesn't bug me enough to outweigh the "positive" aspects of how this is being handled. Because shit like this DOES happen, boys and girls, and far too frequently we shrug and look the other way. One thing about writing that I do believe is that it should be positive whenever possible. And I don't mean positive as in sunshine and roses. It should be positive as in this is how shit ought to be. I mean, compare this to the "Buyers Remorse" scene in Harlequin. In that shit-fest Anita and Edward are dismissing some unseen girl's accusations because they like Peter more than they do the girl. EVEN THOUGH HE RAPED MORE THAN ONE GIRL. Meanwhile we have Paks, who is getting a fair shake by a superior officer who likes one of her accusors more than he does her. BECAUSE IT'S THE RIGHT FUCKING THING TO DO. Somebody gave me the statistics on rape accusations, and you know what my dear male blog-readers? You are statistically EIGHTY THOUSAND TIMES more likely to be raped than you are to be falsely accused of rape. This shit is important and it's being treated as something important. And it's happening early enough in the book that it doesn't have to happen again. Moon is acknowledging that rape in the military happens, that the sexual pressure on female soldiers is enormous, and that this is how it needs to be handled--not ignored, not excused, fucking squashed-- when it would probably have been easier and less controversial for her to just ignore it and move on to the next part of the story. Instead? We're doing a rape scene that doesn't actually involve rape, just the reaction to it. And when it's done? We will NOT be revisiting this subject.

So Stammel is insisting on a full trial of Paks AND his friend, to a superior officer who has already made up his mind against Paks's story. And he keeps on insisting until the guy finally caves. Yep, he stuck his neck out there, not because he cares about Paks--she's a good soldier, but he was willing to hang her out to dry a few pages ago--but because it's the right fucking thing to do. The arrogant captian caves, and agrees to take evidence--ie, look at the injuries--the next day. The asshole won't let her go to the medical facilities, but he does allow a healer to go down and check on Paks, as long as nobody goes down there alone.

Stammel agrees to this, passes on the orders, and the chapter ends.

Chapter three opens with Paks getting dragged out of the cell. Dragged is literal--she's too stiff to walk very far, and has to be carried out to the evidence tribunal by her guards. The corporal and Korryn are just fine and dandy, thank you. They strip all three people and take a look at the damage. The boys have, basically, bruised hands and maybe a couple broken knuckles. Paks is pretty hurt, though, and doesn't react well to having her injuries listed:

Paks, listening to the list of her injuries, felt the descriptions as an echo of the blows that caused them. She was determined not to faint in front of everyone, but her knees loosened and her head drooped. The dark guard shook her arm. "Don't listen to that," he muttered. "Look up; count the mess hall windows. You can make it." Paks stared at the windows, trying to shut out the mayor's voice.

This also brings up another point: Rape isn't about actual penetration, and the emotional fallout can exist with or without it. We, like the court-appointed people, were not wittnesses to the attempted rape. The only people who know exactly what happened are Paks and the people who hurt her. Moon gave her that much privacy, something most authors just don't do. Instead, we get the story the way we usually get the story--through the repeated words of the victim. By removing the things we could be titilated by, Moon removes everything we could focus on, other than the crime itself. There's nothing sexy or sexual about this sequence. It's just fucking wrong. And then you've got this guy comforting Paks. I don't think he ever gets a name. Not only has he accepted her version of events without question, he's trying to help her as best he can. I can't say "This is something that few rape victims get", but it wasn't something that I got. Adding just that, that little detail, Moon is showing us that this is how it ought to be handled. Nobody is asking Paks what she did. Nobody is trying to imply that somehow this is justified. Instead, their first reaction is to help her. Help her get justice, which is important, but also help her get where she needs to go. Tell her "Don't listen" and give her a coping skill for when it gets overwhelmed.

And what the official witnesses say is just fucking beautiful:

"Captain Sejek , when one finds a woman beaten up like this, and two men only lightly marked, the usual interpretation is that the men assaulted the woman." The dark woman's voice was brusque, with an edge of sarcasm. "But she is in chains, so I suppose she's charged with assaulting them. On the evidence, without testimony, that's absurd.
Because the first thing we do to a rape victim is ask them what they did wrong.

(Answer: Nothing. They did nothing wrong.)

So yeah. I kind of want to marry all of this.

So then the soldiers give their testimony, and this happens:

"Did the woman say anything yesterday? Did you question her then?"
 "No. The other recruit did all the talking. She didn't argue. It seemed obvious."

Beaten to within an inch of your life, and you're still expected to talk in your own defense. Yep.

Stammel adds the stuff about talking to Paks in the cell later. Then they get Korryn's version of events--she attacked the corporal out of the blue after he asked her to bed him--and then they haul one of Korryn's friends up, and the guy panicks, tries to lie, and somehow manages to confess that he was posted as lookout while he tries to sew together a coherant story.

And then they go to question the corporal who started this whole thing...and he can't remember any of it. At all. And not in that "I don't remember so you can't touch me" kind of way. The guy was scared shitless that he couldn't remember anything before he found out that he had either beaten or been beaten by a girl, and now he's foaming at the mouth scared that he might really have hurt this girl.

And he thinks he did do it. And he's completely disgusted with himself.

"Sir— Captain— I cannot remember anything. But I'll tell you, sir , he must be lying. What we've seen and heard—" 
"You say that even if it condemns you?"
"Yes. Sir, it's obvious. That girl didn't beat me up—and honestly, sir, there's no way she could have." Stephi conveyed all the confidence of a senior veteran, sure of his own fighting ability.

And then Korryn the idiot screams that he did tell Stephi what happened, how could he not remember, and the entire scheme basically falls apart because these guys are dumbasses. Korryn attacks the guards, which, given that he's a new recruit and these are all guys trained in ass-kicking on a daily basis, is about as smart as trying to fight a shark with a toothpick. He gets his ass handed him by a girl. It's kind of great.

Stammel then suggests that it is entirely possible that Stephi might have been drugged, because something really weird is going on with all of this, and that they need to take the investigation someplace very, very private. The chapter ends.

1 comment:

  1. Dealing with the aftermath rather than directly showing the titillating* details: Good. Using an attempted rape to advance the plot and provide character development for the men: Not so good.

    * And no matter how it's done, if it's "on screen" someone will find it titillating.

    This whole thing is a pretty good sign that something is wrong with this mercenary group. It's clearly a competent organization, with systems set in place to investigate criminal acts within the group, yet it fell completely for a set of blatant lies. It also managed to miss that one of its NCOs is acting out of character and has been obviously drugged and/or mind-blasted.