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Thread: Homeward

  1. #1

    Thread Semi-Open Homeward

    The station was a crowded mess, and the smells and emotions assaulted him from everywhere. He couldn’t understand how people could stand it, but then he’d actually found himself coming to bear it after living on Imperial Centre for the last year.

    The Citadel itself, despite also being continuously growing and filled with people of all kinds, was thoroughly clean and the air was meticulously recycled, and incredibly strict standards of cleanliness and conduct meant that garbage and the general detritus that comes with life did not build up within its walls.

    The air bus opened its doors and people of all kinds were almost vomited out; they spilled from within in a way that coincided with the sudden ‘noise’ of their emotions and presences in the Force. With his training, he was much more aware of these feelings, and much more aware of how they were not his.

    He clenched his fists and focused, breathing deeply and letting out his anxieties, frustrations, and allowing the frenzy of all the people around to flow through him without really impacting his frame of mind. It was all about self-awareness, at the end of it. As long as he was aware of what was his, and what wasn’t, he’d be able to weather the torrent of feelings Imperial Centre carried with it.

    “Now boarding,” chimed over the speakers from within the bus. He stood and stretched, and padded lightly to the eighty-seater, keeping his head down. “Now boarding. Stops in Tarkin, Pellaeon, Palpatine Forums; continues to Chiba, continues to Chiba.”

    Khoovi found a seat and settled in quickly, curling down and looking out the viewport as the bus filled up, and wondered how long it would take before he’d be noticed, either for his size, or for his appearance. Most other Shistavanen he’d seen were shaggy and unkempt, whereas his fur was trimmed and neat, if still a bit wild. It singled him out as different, and even on a planet where ties and loyalties were often formed on the basis of one’s (former) homeworld, if you didn’t really look or feel like the rest of your species, you weren’t really one of them.

    With one clawed hand, he reached up and mussed his hair.

  2. #2
    There was a point, shortly after stepping on a third set of toes, that Jeryd abandoned all hope of successfully navigating the bustling currents of commuters and simply allowed them to pass by. He waited, with quiet dignity, like a solitary boulder in a stream, and drew to mind lessons learned from meditation class with Knight Iscandar. No-one seemed to notice him, which he ought to have interpreted as a job well done, but now that he was there, mixing it up with the Average Joes of the world, it was hard not to take it personally. Back at the Citadel, he'd sought out the advice of Chiba District veterans, Thida and Pash; together, they rifled through his belongings and picked out an outfit that they agreed made him look not entirely like an entitled rich boy. He took their word for it. So he wore tan trousers, military chic, because that was the only style he owned, and his dullest brown boots, a boring belt he borrowed from Dallan Oder, and a dark brown jacket, Corellian leather. The only concession made, at his request, was that he was allowed to wear his old Mantasharks captain's shirt, a throwback from his glory days at Manarai Military Prep; it was faded, and a little snug, baby blue and white. The collar was popped because that was how it was worn. He'd wear that shirt until there was nothing left of it.

    As the crowds thinned, he advanced once again, albeit tentatively, and even allowed his gaze to wander to drink in the sights around him. Humans were still very much the order of the day, here, but already he'd seen some Rodians, a couple of Twi'leks, and one of the fish races. Not the Mon Cals, the other ones, with the tentacles. Everywhere was dirty, too. Not that anyone seemed to notice, or care. Every inch of duracrete looked like it had been lightly powdered with soot from years of pollution; he could taste it at the back of his throat, the air was thick with it, like boiled vegetables. He was reminded of old school field trips to museums, weapons factories, and such, where the intensity of new sights, tastes, and smells were multiplied. Not that he'd say that out loud, of course. That would be rude. And the fascination remained, regardless.

    He boarded the air bus at the same point he saw Khoovi enter, and looked around. Misery encroached at once. Nowhere was there to be seen a single table or a foot rest, it was like a troop transport, with nothing but rows and rows of narrow seats. Remembering the drill, he turned sideways and shuffled forwards until he found Khoovi. The tiny Shistavanen fit neatly into his seat and looked lost in thought. Jeryd folded himself into the spot beside him and offered him one of the flasks he was carrying.

    "It's fresh namana juice," he gave a shrug, "Never had it before, but there was a big crowd outside the stall. Got to be worth a try, right?"

  3. #3
    "It's got to be worth a try, right?"

    Khoovi had jerked, hackles raised but with no real aggression, when Redsun appeared. The familiarity, tenuous but still familiarity, had eased him though, and he calmed. The rising headache from the press of people around him had a big part in it also, their jumbled feelings hammering at him and psychosomatically making his ears ring. He breathed slowly and deeply, letting the swelling of his lungs and the rhythmic action calm and focus him again. The pain in his head lessened slightly.

    I should know this by now, he thought to himself. I should be better than this.

    I'm going to be late. What Forum do I need to get off in again? Where is she? The Mynocks lost?!

    Redsun had asked him a question.

    "Ah, thank you," he said, nodding and taking the juice from the human boy. He opened the flask and sipped from it. Somehow, the sugary sweetness of the drink helped ground him, and the headache lessened more.

    "Thank you," he said again, a little more genuinely and present now that he was able to split his attention without having his head throb. He glanced Jeryd over, taking in the frankly odd but still somehow Jeryd attire. "I appreciate it. Where are you going? A reconnaissance assignment?"

  4. #4
    "You could say that," Jeryd said, with fleeting consideration. A verbal shrug, if nothing else. He took a swig from his own flask and winced at the overpowering sweetness of the namana juice. It was not what he'd expected. His distaste was sucked through his teeth and he promptly screwed the top back on.

    "When I heard you were going to Chiba District, I figured I'd tag along for a bit. See the sights, you know?"

    He was already sweeping his gaze left and right to peer out of the windows on either side of the air bus, just in case he missed anything. But there was nothing of interest to be seen. Khoovi was looking less dazed, now. He was a strange kid. He reminded him of the pasty science kids who, without exception, winded up on the fast-track to Intelligence. Khoovi also had intelligence with a capital 'I'. He gave him a playful nudge.

    "And you have been officially promoted to the rank of Tour Guide." He said, with a winning smile. It would be good for them to spend some time together in Khoovi's neck of the woods. A proper bonding experience. Assuming, of course, it was Khoovi's neck of the woods. His brow furrowed, at that.

    "What's the deal, anyway? You, uh... got family in Chiba?"

  5. #5
    "Yes," Khoovi answered. "My father. We're not from there, but he moved there after my application to the Citadel was accepted."

    He stopped and gave Redsun a bald stare.

    "Wait. Why would you want to go to Chiba, with me?" He asked. Redsun started to speak, but Khoovi shook his head. "You, want to go to Chiba, with me. Why not Parvizal, or Nebbil?"

    It looked for a moment like he was going to say something else, but instead he stopped talking and breathed deeply again.

  6. #6
    "Why would I? They don't know shit about Chiba." Jeryd retorted at once, as if the answer was plainly obvious. He turned an incredulous stare on Khoovi. The way he repeated himself, it seemed almost like he thought Jeryd had something to hide. No point in dressing it up, he decided. Remembering his surroundings, he proceeded in a discreet undertone:

    "Look, you're an alien. I mean a, uh... non-human species. Right? And I heard that Chiba District was mostly non-human. It makes sense that I join someone like you and get to see the real Chiba District rather than a watered-down version plucked from the pages of Your Empire and You. That's a travel brochure for, well, I guess for someone like me."

    He watched Khoovi, intently. It was probably asking a lot of him to follow his implicit reasoning. Maybe he could read between the lines. Maybe not. He attempted a different approach, next, to hedge his bets:

    "Do you... mind me joining you?"

  7. #7
    "Oh. No, I don't, not really."

    Khoovi's ears flattened and his head dipped slightly.

    "I don't really know much about Chiba, either, though," he said, feeling the jolt as the air bus stopped at another platform. Not theirs; there were still too many humans on board for them to be close to Chiba. He glanced at Redsun. "I came to Imperial Center after I was accepted. My father moved here after that. I really only know how to get to his... uh, they're not dorms, are they? Flats, apartments?"

    He shrugged.

    "Maybe he can help you, if that's what you're looking for. He lives there. I just visit, sort of."

  8. #8
    "That sounds cool," Jeryd lied. Being escorted around the alien quarter by some old dude was not exactly what he had in mind. They'd probably go to a park, or go shopping for groceries or something.

    "And if it makes you feel any better, I have lived here my whole life and I've never been to Chiba District."

    It was a dubious track record that he toasted with another sip of namana juice, which he instantly regretted. He fastened the flask for the last time, and discovered the air bus didn't even have cup-holders; it was like they'd been suddenly transported to some Outer Rim backwater world. There was a hiss as the doors closed, and a low whine from the repulsorlift engines which sent them on their way. Again, he glanced out the windows, expecting to see something remarkable. But it was just more of the same.

    "Where do you and your old man come from, then?" he said, then suddenly, "Wait. You said you were accepted into the Citadel programme? Does that mean you applied?"

  9. #9
    Khoovi drank some more of the namana juice, not quite enjoying the taste but more the way it somehow kept him from focusing too much on the feelings all around him.

    "Wait. You said you were accepted into the Citadel programme? Does that mean you applied?"

    "Yes," he answered, somewhat taken aback at the shock in Jeryd's voice. "Once I was verified as being a sensitive, it was the first thing I did. The headaches and stuff could keep me locked in our quarters for days sometimes when transports and stuff came through, so we visited a lot of doctors and saw whoever we could. One of them had a hunch I guess and tested me for midichlorians. I'd seen the first adverts for the Knights and my dad was reading up on treatments or therapies for me, and when the test came back I told them I wanted to come to the Citadel and become a Knight. I could get trained so the headaches and fits would go away, and my dad could get benefits."

    He shrugged and glanced out to the vista of Imperial Center itself. The air bus was descending now, and the buildings around them were looking noticeably older and dirtier, with far less lighting on the balconies and platforms and streets that lined the sides of the air ways.

  10. #10
    As soon as Khoovi answered in the affirmative, Jeryd was poised, ready to brand him as clinically insane. It could be the only explanation. But he never got the chance, because Khoovi started to talk about headaches and fits and therapies, and it was not at all what he had expected. There was nothing in Khoovi's account that rang true of his own, not in his experience as a Sensitive, and certainly not with regards to his recruitment. It seemed they came from different words, both literally and metaphorically. He listened intently, and found himself not quite able to make sense of what he was being told.

    "That's, uh... that's heavy, little man." He gave a sombre nod, and grasped for the silver lining, "But you're ok now, right? No more headaches? Or fits?"

  11. #11
    "The headaches aren't as bad, and the fits are almost gone," the Shistavanen replied, not quite understanding the 'heavy' remark. It's just how it was, wasn't it? "Outside the Citadel, as long as I can keep my focus, I'm all right."

    The air bus jolted as it stopped again and most of the humans exited.

    "Next stop, Deren Square, Chiba. Deren Square, Chiba."

    "I guess you didn't apply then?" Khoovi asked. "You sounded pretty shocked about it."

  12. #12
    "I wanted to be in the army," he said, at once. It was the same story he told everyone who asked, "Just before my transfer to Carida, I received my latest medical results, and the rest is history."

    It was not untrue, he reminded himself. He'd given it a lot of thought, too. How to phrase it just right, so it sounded innocuous enough to anyone passing by. The redacted stuff he'd discussed once, with Luka, and now he was gone, too. But the memory lingered, like a festering wound in his mind. It invaded his dreams, sometimes, forcing him to relive the night of his greatest shame; the night he turned his back on the Empire. And when it did, he took solace in the progress he'd made during his time at the Citadel. He finished with a shrug.

    "It came as a shock because I wasn't given a choice. And if I had, my arse would be on Carida, right now."

    With each stop, the air bus was filling up, except this time, most of the remaining humans were replaced by a surge of aliens. They packed in tight, filing into the aisle, to stand; there were plenty he knew, and some he recognised, but didn't know the name of - like the big slug one looming near the door. He caught himself staring and pretended to be interested in the contents of his flask, instead, forcing him to take another unwelcome sip. Somewhere behind him, there were voices raised, buzzing at each other in some garbled language. It fell on his ears like an argument, but on-one else seemed to notice.

    "These headaches," he said, leaning in to Khoovi, once again, "Do they get worse with noise? I mean would it help if I spoke more quietly?"

  13. #13
    Khoovi really couldn't picture why anyone wouldn't want to be a Knight. Joining up, getting citizenship, receiving benefits, training, authority, advancement. He, Khoovi Wan, would be able to speak with and defend and possibly even have the ear of one of (if not the) the ultimate powers in the galaxy. He would give orders to Humans. Humans.

    "The doctors at the Citadel and Knight Iscandar tell me that it's a psychosomatic symptom," he said, shaking his head. "Do you remember that one Force Basics class, where Iscandar told us about the Force being like a stream and then took us to that stream in the Green Room and upped the strength of the flow until we fell? It's like I'm a rock in the stream, and all the little sticks and pebbles and dead leaves and stuff get stuck to it, which gets more stuff caught and so on until I can't handle the load and break down. That stress manifests as physical pain, usually headaches and emotional outbursts and fits. Everyone's a lot calmer or more in control of themselves at the Citadel, so it's not so much of an issue."

    It's also another reason why he was kept with older students rather than those his age, but he kept that to himself.

  14. #14
    Jeryd's eyebrows climbed as he considered what he'd just been told.

    "Wow. I had no idea. I'm sorry."

    He was thinking about all of those times he'd lashed out, especially near the beginning, snapping at the cadets he considered weak or unworthy. The hatred he'd carried in his heart for the lowly freaks who'd somehow been granted a place in one of the most prestigious military sites in the galaxy, but, most of all, the hatred he'd carried for himself. For months, he'd taken it with him wherever he went, and it had been exhausting. And, to think, he thought he had issues. Had he been forcing Khoovi to bear the weight of his misery, too? What was he carrying, right now?

    "I couldn't have been easy to be around, back then." He offered him a small smile of consolation, "Was I a pain in the arse? You can tell me. I can take it."

  15. #15
    "No more than everyone else at the beginning of their courses," Khoovi answered, the beginnings of a small smile on his muzzle. "It's really hard for me to tell the difference between my own feelings and someone else's sometimes, and I'm not even close to being able to tell, you know, your emotions from Jensen's or Nebbil's. All of it blurs together into a really scary blob of emotions and feelings. I'm getting better at it, but it's not easy. After the Force Basics, things eased up a lot, and if it gets really difficult, I can go to the medics who can put me to sleep for a while, which helps."

    The air bus turned sharply, and then stopped, jolting the passengers around almost like it meant to do so, and took enjoyment from it.

    "Here's the stop."

    the ramp opened and lowered, doors further down opening as well. Despite being a lower level, the section of Chiba Ward was fairly open and bright, and the sky was clearly visibly above, though no skyline was available. The sun beamed down on the milling populace, and most of the conversations were bright cheery things; the dangerous and skulkers tended to avoid open, bright spaces.

  16. #16
    Jeryd followed Khoovi in something of a stupor, like a toddler tentatively balanced on uncertain legs. His advanced halted at erratic intervals to indulge full rotations while he took in his surroundings, unwilling to miss a thing. What struck him, first and foremost, was just how normal everything looked - at a glance, at least - closer inspection revealed aliens. Everywhere, aliens. A colourful and irregular foreground of characters set against the most generic background. In truth, the typical trends of Coruscant architecture had reached Chiba District, and, upon reflection, Jeryd had to ask himself what he'd honestly expected. There was an answer to that question that he elected to ignore, for it wore its ugly prejudices on its sleeve.

    "There's some good sky, down here," he noted. A feeble offering, and he knew it.

    It was surprising, and an impressive trick of design that afforded the residents of Chiba District such an unblemished view of the capitol's blue sky. In his mind's eye, he imagined the skyline in steady descent, very much like a bowl or a petri dish. He was sure if he were to step out onto the roof of one the surrounding buildings, he'd see a grey wall of stratoscrapers, looming like mountains in the distance. It was a little disappointing, to be denied what he had assumed would be journey into the gloomy and foreboding underbelly of the planet's sub-levels. But, on the other hand, good for Mr. Wan.

    They reached the bottom of a sloped walkway, which deposited them on the ground level of an expansive plaza flanked on all sides by multi-storey buildings. There were shops tucked tightly into the spaces where duracrete met the pavement, and the balconies above were festooned with ribbons of sun-bleached laundry. There were bursts of greenery in the centre, in small, clearly defined squares fit for a couple of trees. In the shade of one of these trees, he saw a Mon Calamari mother and what he assumed was her little boy, whose face was gooey and soiled from the skewered lizard he was eating; they were locked in the age-old battle of a tissue-wielding mother and the gross kid with no attention span. It went on for some time, circling the tree, until there was a tactical intervention from the grandmother, and they caught him in a pincer movement. The kid's muffled cries of protest were the last thing he heard before they turned a corner and lost sight.

    "So what do you do for fun when you come to the Chiba District?" he said, suddenly. Then he dragged his gaze away from their surroundings to consider his young companion, as if for the first time, "Actually, Khoovi, what do you do for fun, at all?"

  17. #17
    "I enjoy running, and playing sports. Wegsphere is okay, but I'm not really big enough to take hits so I can't play that much. My dad and I play games when I come here, usually training ones like discus at one of the bigger gymnasiums, or the batting and pitching cages. I have a lot of energy and have a hard time focusing if I don't burn through a lot of it. At the Citadel I'm usually running or studying so I can catch up. Some of the upperclassmen are nice enough to tutor me in things like vector physics..."

    He trailed off, feeling guilty and embarrassed as he tried to remember the Chiss girl's name, but couldn't. They had walked some distance from the square, and buildings crowded in now, the walkways cluttered and busy and the lighting dimmer, but still colorful and spilling out of several different establishments, large holosigns blinking and scrolling to catch passersby's eyes.

    Khoovi turned onto a walkway between two of the stratoscrapers. A small group of children were playing in the middle of it, but stopped and stared shamelessly as Jeryd and Khoovi passed them by. Khoovi remained silent, turning to the right and opening a door into a cramped and dim housing foyer, the superintendent (a greying haired wookiee, wearing a thick vest and with much of his shaggy head braided) sitting behind his desk and screen in the back and watching a game of smashball. Despite the feel of the place, it was fairly clean and seemed kept up with regular repairs, even if it seemed that the repairs took time coming in many cases.

    The wookiee roared at them, only glancing over to see who it was.

    "This is a classmate," Khoovi responded. "Is Dad in?"

    The Wookiee waved his hand and kept watching the game.

    "Guess he's not in yet; sometimes he gets emergency calls from the other housing units," Khoovi said, gesturing for Jeryd to follow him to the lift. "Come on."

  18. #18
    Being one who typically thrives off of attention, Jeryd found himself feeling somewhat self-conscious as he passed the silent watchful alien kids. He was reminded of his first day at the Citadel, when it felt like eyes were on him for all the wrong reasons, looking at him like he was some kind of freak. He assumed that they didn't get humans down this way, very often. A safe assumption, he felt. And, whether it was a rational curiosity or not was irrelevant, the moment he stepped into the humble foyer and got roared at by a Wookiee. In an instant his spine turned to durasteel and perhaps his bowels turned to water - he'd find out, soon enough. What a sound; he actually felt it rumbling inside his own chest. And when it was time to move, again, he discovered his hand frozen, poised over the blaster at his hip that did not exist.

    "Your old man got a spare pair of pants, Khoovi?" he muttered, as they stepped into the lift, "Because I might need them."

    While Khoovi worked the controls, Jeryd pressed himself into the corner of what was essentially a box scarcely big enough for two people. It was fortunate that, for as large as he was by human standards, Khoovi was mercifully small; the thought of sharing a space like this with someone like that Wookiee was unsettling to say the least. He swore the whole thing dipped when he stepped inside. The doors closed with a chorus of unlubricated gears, and the lift took off with a low whine. Daring to take his hand off the rail, he inspected his fingertips, and, to his pleasant surprise, discovered them unsoiled. It was as clean as it looked, then, just... well, a little on the poorer side of things.

    "You said your dad gets emergency calls. So, is he like a... technician? A mechanic?"

  19. #19
    "He does general repairs for this building and a couple others," Khoovi said, still snickering a bit at the whispered pants comment. He'd forgotten how intimidating Brour could be once he'd learned the old Wookiee was hard of hearing. "Technician, mechanic, repairman, he does it all. He used to work on starliners and starships and ran a crew for the Shipworkers' Union. That old wookiee down there used to work for him, actually, until he couldn't keep up and had to retire."

    The lift stopped and they stepped out into a fairly well kept and well lit corridor. Khoovi led him down to a door with no real special markings, and entered the code in the panel to the side.

    Inside the unit was a bright and well lived room, with many colours in the unfolded blankets and what looked like a wampa skin rug on the floor, and a long section of the wall open to a balcony. Holographs and pictures were placed liberally around mostly of Khoovi at various ages but also of other Shistavanen, as were small knickknacks: a small flag hung by one corner with script that read go friya u!, and a prominently placed hologram showed a burly and seemingly snarling example of that species shaking hands with a terrified human. The hologram was captioned G. Wan receiving award from H. Erebaner, USW366984.

  20. #20
    When Jeryd followed Khoovi into the humble living area, the first thing he noticed was the smell. Every home had its own distinct smell, but this was unlike any other he'd encountered. Concentrated by the diminished space, it was thick, and heavy, and coated the back of his mouth with every breath. It wasn't exactly unpleasant, he supposed, just very different. There was a scent in the air, too, aromatic, like there was something spicy cooking somewhere. He glanced around for any sign of a kitchen area, but found himself distracted by all the colour, and the decor. The door closed behind him with a soft whoosh. He took off his boots, and tucked them to one side. Then he padded after Khoovi, over the luxurious rug, in his blue and white striped socks.

    "This place is..." Fucking tiny. "It's something."

    From his vantage point, he attempted to inspect the view from the balcony, but all he could make out was the face of another building, pockmarked with hundreds of little alien homes. Each with their own strange smells and decorations, no doubt. His attention was drawn next to the flag, it was unfamiliar to him and the inscription made no sense at all. He assumed it was the flag of Khoovi's people, of his homeworld, and that got him wondering about the man he called his father - was he another patriotic patriarch, like Captain Weximan Redsun? He should've read up on Shistavania, or wherever it was they came from. Beyond the myriad family mementos, the only other thing of any interest was...

    "Seven hells."

    Jeryd approached the ornamental holo and studied the two figures closely; the quivering human was dwarfed by something that reminded him of an old holo he once saw, about a a cursed man that transformed into a savage beast at night. It had been seared onto his impressionable 11 year old brain, the night his parents attended some out-of-town gala, and he and Aryn had the house to themselves. Aryn chose the holo, of course. That was back when he was cool and not a complete dickhead. He recalled that first transformation scene vividly, for it had haunted him for weeks: bones snapping like dry wood, flesh shredding itself into ribbons, limbs that stretched like elastic, and the gnarled spine that warped like an old tree, until all that was left was the fur, and teeth, and claws. After spotting the name in the inscription, he took a sharp breath.

    "Is that your dad?"

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