The note didn’t tell me much about our meeting place. When I first read the word ‘Sanctuary’ I thought my cousin Robertson wanted to meet me in the north of Winterfell. But the place he referred to was another place known as Sanctuary, a much different place in another time.

It was the 26th century here and yet the surroundings had a strangely familiar feel. Although my Victorian style of dress was different than the people I passed by, they did not seem completely miffed as they glanced my way, though glance they did. Still, it was a glance not a stare. I stopped to ask directions to Crazy Ivan’s bar. The man I asked seemed a bit surprised by my question but just a bit. His own clothing was more rustic, a la Wyatt Earp but with a dash of Buck Rogers, as odd as that may sound.

Sanctuary is a frontier town, if town is the right word. ‘Settlement’ might be better. There were tents along my route, gathered together not far from my arrival point which was in a very large stone building which I did not have time to explore.

I found my way through the brush and hills to Crazy Ivan’s, a large establishment in the middle of nowhere. There was a man outside who seemed to be standing guard though he paid me no attention as I walked up the steps and entered. Loud music with a heavy beat surged through the place, pulsing across the floor. The bar was empty except for a woman dancing on the stage. A beautiful, scantily clad woman, dancing around a pole. My grandfather would have described her as an exotic dancer. An apt description.

I sat myself down at the bar and waited for a bartender to show but none did. After a while, the dancer called out a hello which I returned. The guard appeared to have left his post or resumed his patrol, so it was now just the dancer and me. She left the stage and came over to the bar and offered to fix me a drink but mentioned she had not done that sort of thing for awhile. I thanked her but stated I would fix my own and that I was sorry to interrupt her dance, which I was. I had enjoyed watching her. She smiled and returned to the dance pole.

She continued to talk with me as she danced, revealing more of herself by her actions and her words. She removed her top, leaving only a skimpy undergarment between her breasts and my eyes. As she did so she told me that she was not working in the bar, just practicing. The exotic dancing was her hobby, a chance to “cut loose” from her real job.

She asked me to guess what that real job might be. I am not a big fan of guessing games. But the lady was beautiful and I did not wish to break her focus on her hobby. I asked a question or two, trying to narrow down the possibilities. Just then another woman walked in and introduced herself as Jacquie, a hostess at the bar. I figured this was the end of my conversation with the dancer and of her dance as well. I was wrong.

She continued dancing and there was some small talk amongst the three of us when a man entered the bar. He gave hellos all around and proceeded straight to the far corner of the bar, behind a screen. Jacquie joined him there. It was as if they were expecting to meet. The dancer continued to do her thing, announcing she would remove an article of clothing for every new person that entered the bar. I looked up from my drink to see her remove her tiny skirt, revealing a g-string. As I watched her gyrate around the dance pole I heard the sounds of sex coming from behind the screen where Jacquie and the gentleman had gone.

This was just a place I’d come to have a drink, a resting spot on my way to meet Robbie. I hadn’t expected any of this. Robbie hadn’t told me anything about the place other than it was the only place to stop and that most of the people here were friendly but to be wary as you never knew who might come in. At this point, “friendly” seemed an understatement. Or was I to be wary of these people? Or maybe the “wary” warning explained the guard.

The dancer asked if I had given up on guessing her occupation. “No,” I stammered, having been distracted by all that lay before me, “no. Ah…” Before I could pose a new question she stated, “I am the local coroner.” Ah, a woman of science!

Another man arrived and took one of the ringside seats along the stage. The music churned on, the dancer did too, removing her bra, the sexual encounter in the corner behind the screen continued. I sat there, a bit stunned, sipping my drink and gazing upon the dancer’s breasts.

The man sitting by the stage got up and left. He had only been there a few minutes and hadn’t said anything. Once he was out the door, the dancer removed her g-string. She wore just stockings and boots now. Her long, red hair flowed through the air as she danced around the pole. I looked her up and down, it was impossible to do otherwise. I had never seen a coroner naked before. A coroner sees you naked, you don’t see a coroner naked. It had never even occurred to me that coroners got naked.

Now Jacquie and the gentleman, whom she referred to as FireStorm, came out from behind the screen, sat at a table and rejoined the conversation. I mostly listened to the others at this point, not wishing to say too much but jumping in from time to time for I did not wish to say too little either. I was trying to be low key in what was very surely not a low key kind of place.

Finally the dancer stopped and began to dress. Our little crowd applauded her. “Helluva show, Doc.” I hollered. “Thank you. And it’s Miss Emer if you please. ‘Doc’ can give people the wrong idea.” She said her goodbyes to the others and had to pass by me on her way out. She stopped and, glancing at my clothing, asked if I was of nobility. “Well, I do have a title back home,” I offered, as matter-of-factly as I could. “Oh, that’s great,” she said, “I always love to talk with nobility.” I just smiled, not knowing what to say and not wanting to give any indication how out of place I felt. For Robbie had told me that time travel was not known in this world, so there was no way I could tell of my real home back in Winterfell. “And where is ‘back home?'” she asked, the question sounding more coroner or investigator than dancer. “Persephone,” I answered, without missing a beat. It was the answer Robbie had given me, should I need it. “Persephone! Well, you are a bit beyond your orbit, aren’t you?” She said it as a joke but I could tell she was curious. “How shall I address you?” she asked, looking for my title. I didn’t know if there are any Dukes on Persephone so I said, “Oh you can just call me Danko.” But each answer led to a new question. “And what brings you to this part of the ‘Verse, Danko?” she asked. “Just tending to a business matter,” I said, trying to make it sound rather boring. But another question followed. “What type of business?” Trying to put a stop to the questioning, which hit me as being a bit methodical, I lowered my voice. “Oh, a very exciting business,” I said while motioning her to come close so no one would hear. She looked at me, smiling in anticipation. I looked around to be sure no one was paying attention, she looked too. I whispered, “Farming.” Her face went blank. I laughed. She realized my joke and laughed as well. She wished me luck and exited the door.

I was just about to do the same. As I finished my drink, I wondered if I would see that dancer again. Here I was in the middle of some God-forsaken nowhere in the 26th century and yet I had this feeling that is not the last I will see of the naked coroner. Though it seemed unlikely I would see her naked again. After all, how many times does one see a naked coroner in one’s lifetime? Unless, of course, I happened in to Crazy Ivan’s during another of her practice sessions. It then hit me that she used the word ‘practice’ rather than ‘rehearse.’ A dancer would say rehearse but maybe a coroner, a doctor, would say practice. Does a coroner have a practice? I suppose they do. Just not much in the way of return patients. I guess a coroner can’t be one of those doctors who “isn’t taking new patients at this time.” Apparently I had had enough to drink at this point.

I stood up from the bar and Jacquie invited me to join her table but I made my excuses and walked out. I had to move on if I were to meet Robbie by the next day. I thought what a kick he would get out of hearing my story of Crazy Ivan’s but the purpose of our meeting was for me to hear his story. I was quite curious, if not I would not have made this trip. I have been doing a lot of time traveling lately for one who describes himself as semi-retired from the field. But Robbie said it was an important matter. Important enough that he had asked me to come all this way, through space and time. A matter involving the very exciting business of…

Farming.

Sometimes telling the truth is the best way to throw someone off track.

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Editor’s note: The scene above took place in Sanctuary in the Soros sim in Second Life and the places and terms should be familiar to those interested in the Firefly – Serenity stories. You can easily become familiar by searching these names or by joining the Firefly Roleplayers group inworld. It appears this story will continue on these pages.