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Thread: Homeward

  1. #21
    Khoovi grimaced, looking at the goofy grin his dad was sporting in the hologram, and sighed.

    "Yes," he said, both embarrassed and proud at the same time. He was slightly on edge and defensive, as the unit must have seemed like such a classless affair, but any sort of conversation he could have made to attempt to distract Jeryd was stopped at the sound of thuds and pounding foot falls that seemed to reverberate through the walls. The two only had time to look at each other before the door slid open and a wide eyed and panting Shistavanen of similar colouring shoved his head through the widening gap.

    "Khoovi!" the monster growled, and burst into the tiny unit and swept the little puppy into a hug. "Khoovi! Sorry I'm late, had a leak over in building twelve and I had to rush over. Sorry the place is a mess, the call caught me while I was out shopping for tonight!"

    He dropped the little puppy and tousled the little mane he'd grown, and stomped over to the balcony to pull open the balcony door, and a large bag of foods, seeming small when compared to his frame was visible for a moment when he turned around. He then stomped back and tossed the bag into the kitchen unit with a deftness that might have been missed while he straightened the place out.

    "I'll air the place out a bit, I missed you, Khoovi! I got to brag about you to the Duros over in building fourteen, you know the ones, those haughty gambling parlor owners, the ones who tried to get their daughter into Tarkin Memorial, but they didn't believe me! Can you believe that? So I ran back here and grabbed those holograms of you, the ones you tried to keep the Citadel from sending me, your hologram and the still and your dress uniform pictures. Your mother, oh, she would have been so proud of you, son. Just proud. Like me! Well I showed them those and you should have seen their faces, son! Oh, they looked so shocked! I almost laughed myself to tears, and you know how hard it is to do that! Say, you didn't say you'd brought a friend, here, here!"

    The Shistavanen crouched down to look Jeryd in the eye and smiled at him.

    "Hi there! My name's Gruff Wan, and I'm Khoovi's dad. What's your name?"

  2. #22
    In retrospect, Jeryd wasn't proud of the way he felt, when Khoovi's father bounded into the room. From the moment that large muzzle, full of teeth, appeared through the door, his whole body tensed up, poised, ready for action. And, as he watched him bear down on little Khoovi, it was like the bottom fell out of his stomach. Frozen, like a krahbu in headlights. Of course, it wasn't only fear that kept him in place - fear of the looming holoflick nightmare, before him - there was reasoning, too. Reasoning of the obvious. Over the throb of blood pounding in his ears, he was able to discern the low rumble of Khoovi's father's voice, and then as reality and disbelief met, he was able to follow his words. The Duros in Building Fourteen, their daughter, the holos, his mother. It was chatter. Just friendly chatter. His gaze followed his every movement with intent, to the balcony door, then towards the kitchen unit, and then, suddenly, he found himself face-to-face with it. Him. With him.

    "Jeryd Redsun, sir," he answered, his internal gears shifting at breakneck speed.

    Just as it was at the Citadel, he reminded himself not to behave any differently around these people. This was Khoovi's father, after all. And it was no different than meeting Dodge's old man, or Bosh's parents, or even Muldoon's knuckle-dragging dad. Although, none of them looked like they could rip his arms out of their sockets, or tear his throat out with a single bite. Emperor's bones! Was that supposed to be smile!? To the best of his ability, Jeryd returned the gesture in kind.

    Dispelling his concerns, he recalled his manners, and offered his hand in greeting.

    "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Wan."

  3. #23
    "Hah, would you look at this, a human calling me 'sir'!" The Shistavanen laughed, short and loud and pretty stereotypically. He gripped the boy's hand gingerly, and shook it once, and then twice, and let it go. He leaned over to Khoovi, who looked about as unamused as a child could possibly look. "Did you hear that, Khoovi? He called me 'sir'!"

    "Yeah, dad, I heard it," the cadet said.

    "Well, mister Redsun, was it? Any friend of Khoovi's is a friend of mine! Are you his friend? His tutor? Make sure he pays attention in theoretical maths, he hates that stuff."


    "What? You do. Don't start 'dad'-ing me, little guy. And you must've grown a couple inches since last time, I'll bet you'll hit your growth spurt in no time, then you'll be able to show your old man a thing or two, eh?" Gruff playfully boxed his son's shoulder a couple times, finally eliciting an eyeroll and a smile.

    "Well, since we have company, why don't we make a night of it, eh? Let's go get something to eat, my treat!" Gruff gathered the two boys closer to him, his giant clawed hands dwarfing their shoulders, and waggled his eyebrows, his wide tongue hanging smile still on full display. "There's a great noodle shop this twi'lek lady told me about, not too far from the mag-train platform. Says it's the closest thing to a real Pad'rylot she's ever had. You boys like spicy food?"

  4. #24
    There was a lot going on at once, around him. And, in the face of the unknown, Jeryd reverted to what he knew: the cool indifference of a proper Imperial. Now that he was sure he was under no immediate threat of attack - he'd looked to Khoovi for the cues - he kept Mr. Wan at a metaphorical arms length. He watched the animated interplay with his son, careful not to give anything away with his face, and weathered the relentless barrage of words words words with a polite razer-thin smile. At first, he thought himself in some sort of daze, still reeling from the sudden and striking appearance of Khoovi's father, but, the more he watched, the more he realised it was something else that had him so squarely stumped. It was not the teeth, nor the fur, not the claws, and it was not even the way he seemed to fill the entire room; the most alien thing about Mr. Wan was his behaviour.

    From the moment he practically bounded into the room, everything about him had been dialled up to the max. In the way he moved from place to place, filling up the space with broad sweeping gestures, as if everything was as once fascinating to him, and had to be touched. Especially Khoovi. He studied the young Shistavanen, throughout. The whole thing seemed to make him uncomfortable. And he could sympathise. Father's didn't behave that way, they where the example to be followed, the figureheads of the family. And the way Mr. Wan was acting... Oh, shit. What if he was on drugs? There was a second sharp sinking feeling in his stomach, as realisation struck. He was a single father, in a crummy apartment, making ends meet as a glorified janitor. Of course he was on drugs!

    "I like spice," he answered, "In my food, I mean. Food spice. Good old-fashioned heat."

    He was feeling the heat, already. It prickled his face while he prattled on like he was having a stroke. Mr. Wan was patient with him, while the ground swallowed him whole, and still with the teeth! What was that? The way he kept going on about 'Sir' this, and 'Sir' that. Was he mocking him!? The funny little human who came to visit. Unless that made him anxious. Jeryd found himself wondering if the theatrics were Mr. Wan's way of overcompensating to impress his human visitor. That would explain why Khoovi seemed so embarrassed by it all. He considered that large angular face and that elongated muzzle. It was impossible to tell; he might as well not have a face, at all. In lieu of any meaningful response, he deferred to the one ally he had in the face of all this:

    "How about you, Khoovi? Do you like spice? In your food. Spicy food."

  5. #25
    "You know I don't really like spicy food, dad," Khoovi said, and Gruff nodded, looking only a little disappointed. "...but you love it, so I can get something not as spicy there, I guess."

    Gruff smiled widely and ruffled his son's hair again.

    "I appreciate that, son," he said, pressing his nose to Khoovi, who fidgeted and pushed the big Shistavanen away. Gruff only laughed and slapped the puppy's back, causing Khoovi to stagger slightly. The big non-human then padded over to the door to his bedroom and began audibly digging and sniffling around inside. "Now the weather report said that rain was scheduled for 1900 tonight, so did you bring some rain gear?"

    Khoovi glanced up at Jeryd, and then back at his dad.

    "I didn't," he answered, and a bright parka with small cartoon character in different poses printed on it was tossed to the young pup. "Dad, don't you have anything else?"

    "What do you mean? That one was your favorite. It has Danger Rotvailer on it. He was your hero, wasn't he? Besides, it'll still fit."

    "I'll be fine, Dad—"

    "It'd be one thing if you caught a cold from an unscheduled rainstorm, Khoov. But a scheduled one? On our weekend? Do your dear old dad a favor and wear the parka, okay? And how about you, Mister Redsun? Don't want to send you back to your school with a cold now, do we?"

    Gruff poked his head out from the bedroom. "I think I got something that'll fit you, right here!"

  6. #26
    "Oh, no, Mr. Wan, that really isn't-" Jeryd was as polite as he could manage, one hand raised to ward off the advance of any parka-based attacks, but it seemed his objection was received about as well as Khoovi's. Mr. Wan vanished, resuming his search. It was like he was immune to contradiction, entirely.

    He turned to Khoovi, and found him studying the colourful parka, opening it up, sizing it up against himself. Jeryd could never imagine him growing out of it. Physically, at least. For as long as he'd known him, Khoovi had always been the small, and deceptively cute, cadet who always punched above his weight. And considering his size? He imagined that had been a lifelong battle. But the suitability of the offensively bright thing ended there. Khoovi always struck him as the more sombre and serious type. Okay, a nerd. Not the kind of kid who had time for frivolous distractions, such as... Danger Rotvailer. Whoever that was. Maybe it was like Captain Coruscant, but for alien kids. Or Republic Rangers, even. That was a classic.

    "Is your dad always this-?"

    When Khoovi looked up, he aborted his question, immediately. There had been something there, a flicker of light in his eyes that he'd never seen before. Just an instant, but he swore it was there. If this kind of hyperactive fuss and rainbow fashion made him happy, then he wasn't going to be the one to take it from him. His arms folded, while he backpedalled.

    "I mean, you're so different from each other."

    A new ominous clatter came from the bedroom. Where, once, Jeryd had worn an expression of undisguised amusement, now that he shared in his friend's misfortune, he was a picture of apprehension, studying the door for any sign of the horrors that lurk within.

  7. #27
    "Dad's always been there, no matter what," Khoovi said, quietly. Inside the bedroom, Gruff was talking to himself and sniffing around.

    "No, no, that won't work. But this? No, I don't want to embarrass the Khoovster. Where'd those bigger ones go?"

    Khoovi smiled and shook his head slightly, and pulled the bright and ostentatious parka over his head; despite the small size of the garment, it was still somewhat large, and hung down to his thighs.

    "AHA!" Gruff shouted from within the room, and slid out, a wide smile still on his face. He was wearing a faded old hooded parka with a pom-pom hanging from the top of the hood. The parka itself looked like nothing special, with generic designs and patterns printed onto the fabric, and hung down to his knees, save for the wagging tail. "Look what I found, Khoov! It's the pom-pom parka you and mom made for me!"

    He shook his head, letting the little ball bounce gaily atop his head. Khoovi let out a low groan and kept his face hidden inside the hood.

    "And, mister Redsun, er, Jeryd? Here you go!" he thrust forward another hooded parka, this one festooned with stylized depictions of starships and stars and moons and planets of all kinds. "I had a hard time finding one that wouldn't completely drown you. Go on, put it on!"

  8. #28
    "Thank you, Mr. Wan. You really didn't have to do that." Jeryd accepted the coat, smiling like he'd just stubbed a toe. It was unfurled and examined at arms length: a ghastly affair, and rather on the small side. Mr. Wan was watching his every move. Careful to keep his eyebrows pinned to his forehead in a display of grotesque enthusiasm, Jeryd gave a nod. "I had a coat just like this, back home."

    When I was five.

    There was also something strange about the coat that had nothing to do with its dubious fashion merit, there was a weight to it, as he turned it over in his hands. Like gravity, pulling him in. His grip tightened around the fabric, kneading it gently between his fingers; it was warm, but not to the touch. His brow creased, first in confusion, then as a stray thought occurred to him. He reconsidered the questionable garment and the two other people in the room: too big for Khoovi, too small for his father. With deliberate care, the parka was folded neatly over his arm, and his gaze drifted out of the window.

    "The weather is fine. If it rains, we're prepared." He afforded Khoovi's father a smile that was at once polite and, by orders of magnitude, more sincere, "Have you ever heard of the Thousand Spice Flamboona? It's a dish from a world called Tattooine, where everything is hot and will probably kill you. My old man makes the best flamboona, this side of the galaxy. If you enjoy spicy food, Mr. Wan, and aren't afraid of a little challenge, then I'll have to treat you to it, sometime."

  9. #29
    "It looks a bit small, now that you're holding it," Gruff acknowledged the human's unsaid critique. Or one of them. It wasn't clear that he'd even registered the tone or context of Jeryd's words, though the description of Flamboona had his tongue lolling out in anticipation. He turned back to the bedroom and leaned in, grabbing another, much larger parka. Decorated almost identically to the one Jeryd held, it was a veritable blanket.

    "I'll hold you to that, Mister Redsun, but you should probably take this one. It's mine, so it might be a bit big. Don't be shy, put it on!" With almost uncharacteristic gentleness, he took the smaller parka he'd first given Jeryd and put it back into his room. "All right, Khoov, lead the way!"

    "But I don't know where it is!" Khoovi yelped, even as he moved to the door.

    "Sure you do, the mag-train station, the mag-train station!" Gruff laughed. He gently herded the two boys to the door, but leaned in to whisper to Jeryd. "You won't get as many stares wearing that. Less chance of a kidnapping attempt, too."

  10. #30
    When Jeryd conceded to Mr. Wan's wishes, wishes that washed over him like tsunamis of unbridled enthusiasm, it was with a deep resignation that put lead in his muscles. Slowly, the coat unfurled, and came down around him like a circus tent, covering his hands and knees in brightly spangled starships. Now no-one could see his Mantasharks jersey. He was already halfway through formulating an excuse to remove the parka the moment they got outside, when Mr. Wan whispered something to him that stopped him in his tracks. He gave the large Shistavanen a glance, expecting the moment of uncharacteristic sobriety to break into something more typical of Mr. Wan, like a bombastic burst of laughter and jovial dismissal that all was fine. But it seemed, against all odds, that Khoovi's old man was serious, this time.

    The sound of the door opening snapped him out of it and snatched a hundred questions off his tongue. Khoovi was waiting in the corridor outside, blissfully unaware of the exchange that had just happened. Sensing Mr. Wan's intentions, Jeryd pressed on. The walk along short stretch of corridor was punctuated by a couple of precautious over-the-shoulder checks, just to be sure. And, where the thought of sharing the humble lift with a third party had once left him uncomfortable, Jeryd wasted no time getting cosy with Khoovi and his old man, and squeezed into that glorified cupboard with them.

    "So," he said, having finally found his voice and a way around the unuttered question that was not glaringly obvious, "Do you get humans down here, often?"

  11. #31
    "More and less than you're thinking, I'm thinking," Gruff answered, his personality filling the lift like his bulk did. While he didn't seem anxious or embarrassed, he did attempt to take up as little space within their little box as he could. "No upper crusters like you, or at least not many of them. But we see security officers, and investigators, and plenty of others doing their jobs like delivery or transport. Nice guy owns a laundromat down at building seventeen, used to be in the Army as he says, his wife was born here and he came to live with her after serving his enlistment. She died a while back, but he's still there. He and a Besalisk guy, Bax, they run a little boxing ring and gym together."

    The lift stopped and he waited for the two boys to exit first; he had to turn to the side a bit to fit through the door.

    ("I am going to have to fix that turbolift one of these days," he murmured while trying to exit.)

    The Wookiee roared again, still fixed on the holo of the game. One of the players was making a victory lap after having scored, and the Wookie did not seem happy.

    "You're going to give yourself an aneurysm there Rowl!" he called. "That's what happens when you support the Fifties!"

    Rowl finally glanced back at them, roaring again and shaking his arm as they walked out into the slowly waning daylight. The group of kids had left in the time they'd spent inside, but the crowds milling about on the walkways and the traffic buzzing by through the air had not lessened one bit.

    "Well, let's get going boys! Food awaits!" Gruff patted his stomach. "I'll tell ya, I'm about famished. Haven't eaten in... maybe four hours. I'll waste away at this rate!"

  12. #32
    Jeryd smiled knowingly. It was a familiar sentiment - the bottomless stomach - made even more amusing by virtue of Mr. Wan's remarkable size. He considered Khoovi's father, in all of his entirety, "Something tells me you are going to be just fine, Mr. Wan."

    Out in the open, fears of a sudden and dramatic abduction took a backseat to his newfound curiosity in all things Shistavanen, though Jeryd made a point of giving crowds a wide birth whenever they passed by. Having Mr. Wan nearby helped, too, at least for the sake of appearances. Though, considering first impressions, Jeryd wasn't entirely sure if Mr. Wan would react to danger by tearing someone's throat out with his bare hands, or by rolling over and hoping for a belly rub. At this point, honestly? It was 50-50. He was reminded of the time he met Bashbie Quavering-Tosh's Great-Aunt Imperia. She was a queer old bird who owned an island on Naboo, where she bred racing nunas and hunted Gungans; there were four wall-mounted heads in the dining room, or so the rumour went. The unspoken rule was that, once you acquired an especially outrageous degree of wealth, you could become as weird as you wanted. It seemed that, somewhere along the way, Mr. Wan had skipped a rather critical step.

    "You're quite a specimen, Mr. Wan," he said, elaborating, "If you don't mind my saying so. You would've made a hell of a wegman, sir."

    His eyes narrowed in thought. Up ahead, there was an invisible line in the conversation that he was fast approaching. And the pitch in his voice climbed a tentative fraction, as he feathered the breaks:

    "Is this... normal for your kind, or are you an exception? What I mean is... putting it delicately... is Khoovi going to be an absolute unit?"

  13. #33
    "Wait, you mean he's not already?" Gruff asked, leaning down to eye his son closely.

    "Dad..." Khoovi groaned, but couldn't hide a laugh as the larger Shistavanen hauled him up and tossed him over his shoulder. Khoovi himself simply sighed. "He does this every time."

    "Well, I myself come from a pretty big family," Gruff said, scratching his chin in thought. He then smiled. "In every sense of the word. My dad was only a bit shorter. Almost all of my brothers are bigger, though."

    "Chances are he'll be around my size, most likely bigger I think, but I'm not sure." He ruffled Khoovi's hair again, a softer sort of smile on his muzzle. Jeryd's curiosity was badly hidden. "Well, his mother was your size, maybe a tiny bit shorter. And I never met the rest of her family. And even then, the biggest determiner for height and weight aside from genetics is your diet during your growth period. The more you give your body, the more body you get!"

    Their little piece of the Chiba Ward was getting almost brighter as night fell and the lights on the walkways and the stratoscrapers' facades were activated. Crowds were milling about, mainly young adults, but a fair number of families with children as well. The older teens and young adults stuck mainly to the edges of the buildings and in the small nooks and alleys to be found between the massive edifices, most moving and carrying boxes and pushing crates.

    "Hey look, it's Gruff!" a young female voice called out. A pink Zeltronian girl with a dense and intricate sleeve tattoo waved from her perch next to a pile of droid parts. "Thanks for the repair work on the water system! It's nice to be able to water the plants again. Hey, is that your son? Hi Khoovi!"

    Despite the girl's demeanor and Gruff's equally cheery response ("Where ya headed?" "That Twi'lek place by the mag-rail station!" "Ooh, nice!"), the others around her watched them somewhat warily as they passed.

    "Nice girl," Gruff said. "Hangs out with a rough crowd though. Tried to rob me the first time I answered a repair call in their building, though! Said that they'd be nice to me if I did the job for free."

    "Did you?" Khoovi asked.

    "Of course not!" Gruff laughed. "I didn't charge them, though. I charged the building administrator. I work for the Ward, after all, Khoovster!"

    The mag-rail station was bright and crowded, with various stands and eateries in the surrounding area all vying for the commuters' attention. Off to the side of the major open space that dominated the station's plaza was the small Twi'lek place Gruff spoke about. Standing in front of the door, Gruff seemed to loom over the everyone around more than usual. He set Khoovi on the ground and leaned down to look inside.

    "Looks like there's some room! Come on boys, can't you smell it? It's calling our names!"

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