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Saga - PT The Captain, the H-Goater, and the Voorpak (Zeb/OC, Lasat OCs; OTP #19)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Findswoman, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Author: Findswoman
    Title: The Captain, the H-Goater, and the Voorpak
    Era: Saga–PT, a year or two before the Siege of Lasan (i.e., around 12–11 BBY on the Lasan Series timeline)
    Characters: Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, Shulma Trilasha Orrelios (OC), Garashai “Shai” Orrelios (OC borrowed from @Raissa Baiard), Gron, Groz Spargstaung (OC borrowed from @Raissa Baiard); mention of Captain Halmarr Porifiros (OC borrowed from Raissa); other Lasat OCs, borrowed and non
    Type: Short multichapter
    Genre: Humor, some family, some romance, and a critter.
    Contents: 1 (below) | 2 | 3
    Summary: In honor of the Lasan High Honor Guard’s acquisition of a long-awaited new vehicle, Zeb, as captain, must perform a Guard tradition that brings to the surface some of his deepest fears. But with the help of his siblings and his wife, he will be able to surmount them—right?
    Notes: Part of the Lasan Series. Written for OTP Challenge #19: The Return of Romcom in Space, in which my prompts were “Debilitating phobia” and “Sibling(s).” The story will also incorporate various other non-deadline, non-competitive challenge prompts in subsequent chapters, and I’ll give more detail on those once the relevant chapters are posted.

    As usual, I thank @Raissa Baiard for beta reading, advice, and encouragement. @};- It so happens that I am posting this very first chapter on her birthday, so please join me in wishing her many happy returns of the day! [face_party]


    1.

    “Well, there she is, boys.” Captain Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios crossed his arms proudly. “Isn’t she a beaut?”

    “Aw ’bast, just look at that!” exclaimed Senior Lieutenant Barogroz “Groz” Spargstaung.

    “Sir, a mighty fine vehicle, sir,” added Middle Lieutenant Tarbigron “Gron” Stultzfoss.

    “Whoa! That’s so wizard!” breathed Junior Lieutenant Garashai “Shai” Orrelios, the captain’s younger brother by five dust seasons.

    Captain Orrelios and these three lieutenants stood on the central parade ground of the Lasan High Honor Guard base, gazing admiringly at the newest addition to the Guard’s fleet: the long-awaited HG-ATR-X. This heavy armored transport, recently released by the Lasan-Rovara Corporation, was the newly enhanced and extreme version of the Guard’s staple transport, the HG-ATR (Honor Guard All-Terrain Rover, familiarly known among the ranks as the “H-Goater”). It constituted the first major improvements to the HG-ATR in several dust seasons, with four redoubtable-looking turbolaser cannons mounted at each of its corners, Lasan-Malamut Armament Corporation’s new compact-model ion cannon mounted at its top, and enhanced extreme-terrain mobility, with the ability to alternate between tread mode and walker mode. It was painted in the dark green and yellow colors of the Honor Guard, and the great seal of the Guard, with its rampant konculors and three crossed bo-rifles in three different modes, was emblazoned on either side.

    Zeb placed his hand on the polished side of the HG-ATR-X, next to the seal of the Guard. “Yup, this is a new era for the Guard, all right. Defense Ministry’s finally startin’ to take the Imperial situation seriously. With these babies, we may actually have a chance.” The others nodded gravely. “An’ just in time to unveil it at the ball next week, too. Couldn’t’ve worked out more perfect.”

    There was a moment of silence as the four Guardsmen continued to contemplate the wonder of military technology before them. Then Shai, with a glint in his eyes and a smirk on his face, sidled up to his brother and said:

    “So, are you gonna perform the voorpak ceremony?”

    “Heh, sure, I guess,” Zeb began absently, waving one hand.

    Then the double-take hit him. For while the domesticated carnivorous mammal known as the voorpak was popular as a pet and known to be friendly to most bipedal sentients, it also had eight legs. Eight.

    And ever since he was a tiny kit and had had a pygmy ginntho placed in his sip-cup by a mischievous older sister, Garazeb Orrelios had been absolutely, debilitatingly scared to death of multi-leggers. Anything more than four appendages was superfluous, if you asked him.

    And Shai knew this, the little moof-milker. Zeb’s ears bristled as he spun around to face his younger brother.

    “The what ceremony?”

    “The voorpak ceremony. Remember when Captain Porifiros got those new staff speeders, he took a voorpak—”

    “Aw yeah!” Groz chimed in. “And stuck, like, some raw meat or somethin’ on top of the canopy! And put the voorpak down on there, and had it eat it!

    Aw karabast, Zeb thought. That meant it wasn’t just some prank Shai was making up. In any case, Zeb could immediately see why he had blocked that particular happening from his memory. It sounded downright bizarre, and that was putting it lightly.

    To make things worse, Gron joined in. “That’s been a Guard tradition for quite some time,” he said. “You know that old holo in the mess hall showing some of the old Super-Goaters from the Cathar Campaign? If you look really closely, there’s a cute little Theedside Doodle standing on one of them, chomping on a dead—”

    “Arright, arright, arright!” Zeb cut him off, wanting to hear no more about multi-leggers eating things on top of vehicles. At least this way, he hoped, maybe Gron would think it was the part about chomping on dead stuff that he primarily objected to.

    “Sir, sorry, sir.”

    “No worries, Lieutenant.” Whew—it worked. “I’ll—er—erm—look into it.”

    “WOOT! All right!” roared Groz. Zeb grunted.

    “You go, Zebby! I mean, Captain!” cheered Shai, another smirk lighting up his face as he thumped his older brother on the back. Zeb grunted again.

    “Sir, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir,” added Gron, “I’ve been curious to see the voorpak ceremony ever since I was a cadet, sir. You see, my aunt and uncle in Quartzite Downs had this adorable little—”

    “Well, when the ball comes around, you might finally get to see it, Lieutenant,” Zeb cut in, by now more than ready to put the topic of multi-legged carnivorous pets to rest as soon as possible. “Arright, dismissed, you three. An’ remember, no blabbin’ before the ball. But you know that.”

    “Sir, yes, sir,” chorused the three lieutenants.

    They loped off, and Zeb stood alone beside the HG-ATR-X. He thought of what he had just said to Gron: you might finally get to see it, Lieutenant. And he sent up a silent prayer to the Ashla, if it was out there and listening, that “might” might be the operative word.

    * * *​

    Once he arrived back home at the Captain’s House—the ancient residence of the captains of the Honor Guard, which stood on a low hill at the center of the base—Captain Garazeb Orrelios did two things.

    First, he fixed himself a nice hot, thick, strong mug of caf, because his nerves needed it after that whole voorpak conversation.

    Second, to make absolutely certain, he looked in the Guard historical database to see what documentation he could find of this voorpak ceremony. He was more than a little dismayed to find that Gron had been right: it was, in fact, a longstanding Honor Guard tradition for dedicating new vehicles, dating back to at least the Second Colonial Age. Not only those Super-Goater transports from the Cathar Campaign and those staff speeders under Captain Porifiros had been inaugurated this way, but also a small fleet of Z-95 starfighters during his mother Herleva Orrelios’s captaincy, some all-terrain supply transports during the War of the Red Mountains, and even an ion ballista long ago during the time of Zangorr the Redoubtable, among many others. From what Zeb could gather from reading the records of these events, the ritual went something like this:

    1. A voorpak was placed on top of the new vehicle, along with some suitable food for it to eat.

    2. If it ate, that was a good omen.

    3. If it didn’t—well, that had never happened, as far as Zeb could see.

    And what did it mean? As best as Zeb could tell, the idea was something like this: if a voorpak—a creature generally considered an epitome of loyalty, honor, and faithful companionship—felt comfortable enough to eat in the vicinity of the new equipment, then said new equipment would likewise be a bastion of loyalty, honor, and faithful companionship, in the true spirit of the Honor Guard. Or something along those lines; the abstract-symbolic-allegorical stuff had never been Zeb’s strong area.

    But what disturbed Zeb most of all was the fact that the voorpak ceremony had always, throughout its long history, been administered by the captain of the Honor Guard and no one else. Thus there was no possibility of, say, passing the whole thing off on Gron, who seemed fond of the furry little bogans.

    “Aw, karabast, karabast, karabast!” Zeb found himself exclaiming aloud, his ears drooping as he buried his face in one massive hand and pounded his desk with the other. Why? Just why? First of all, no one had ever told him being captain of the Lasan High Honor Guard was going to involve silly animal rituals. Second of all, if he was going to have to perform silly animal rituals (and it very much looked like he had to—couldn’t let the men down, after all), why couldn’t they at least involve some more... normal kind of beast? Sure, he understood why the konculors from the Honor Guard seal were out of the question. But what would have been wrong with a nice tooka cat? Or even an anooba—weren’t they symbols of loyalty and whatnot, too? But no. It had to be this karabasting foofy puffball that went about on eight (eight!) skinny, spindly legs—

    Zeb shuddered vehemently just thinking about it. He took a fortifying swig of caf but almost spilled it, his hands were shaking so much. Aw, just look at you, Garazeb Avishai Orrelios, a peevish little voice in his head started to scold. Some Honor Guard Captain you are, reduced to a quivering mass by some fluffy critter…

    Zeb rubbed his brow ridge and sighed. He clearly needed a bit of time to collect himself before Shulma returned home. Fortunately, he had that time; today was Centaxday, the day she stayed late at the Academy of Shamans with her study group. And until then, there was always the day’s datawork to do. Taking another swig of caf, Zeb closed out of the Guard historical database and opened a file for his daily report to the defense ministry. It would at least take his mind off things.

    He had been working for several minutes when the gentle rustling of cloaks and skirts filtered into his hearing, a lithe arm slid around his shoulders, and long, dark tresses tickled his bare arm. “Hello, Zeblove,” said a familiar voice.

    “Aw, hey, darlin’.” Zeb cracked a smile as he turned to look into his wife’s emerald-green eyes. In a strong but gentle motion he drew her onto his lap, and they shared a kiss. “How are ya?”

    “Reasonably well, especially right now.” Shulma nuzzled the side of her husband’s face. “But what about you, dearest? Is something the matter?”

    “Oh, uh, erm, well…”

    She touched his brow ridge with two fingers. “Your currents seem somewhat… turbulent.”

    That’s one way of putting it, Zeb thought to himself. Of course she could tell something was eating him—Ashla, and all that. “Aw, just, y’know…”

    “Is it the Imperial situation?”

    “Well, yeah, heh, always… but…”

    “But?”

    “Well, that, plus somethin’ kinda... weird I have to do for the Guard.”

    “Something… kind of weird?” Shulma asked, her ears twitching quizzically.

    “Yeah… at the ball next week.”

    “What do you have to do?”

    “Well, er… erm… a kinda… ritual type thing.”

    “Ritual?” Her eyes widened with interest. “Well, consider my shamanic curiosity piqued. What is the nature of this ritual?”

    “Well... er…” Zeb paused. It was a long pause, because he wasn’t sure if he wanted to get into it. Aurek, if he brought up those disgusting leggy things one more time, he was only going to get himself all shaky and worked up again. And besh...

    …well, besh was, what would she think? Sure, she was his wife; sure, the two of them were supposed to share everything that was on their minds; and sure, she knew about his dislike of multi-leggers. But here was the thing: he had always kept her under the impression that “multi-leggers” just meant the kind of arthropodal creepy-crawly things that most sentients didn’t like anyway. She had no idea, at least not yet, that it also applied to certain species of pet puffballs. So what impression would she get of her brave warrior Honor Guard husband if she learned that he had as much aversion to voorpaks as to spiders and millipods?

    And a worse thought slammed into his mind: would she trust such a husband to keep her safe, given how the whole Imperial thing was going…?

    No. Safest thing to do was just man up, accept it, and not bother her with it. He was a Guard, after all. He could manage.

    “Well… you’ll see. At the ball,” he said finally. “An’ just—don’t worry about me, arright? I’ll be arright.”

    “Spoken like a true Honor Guard captain.” She ruffled his jaw fringe half lovingly, half playfully.

    “Heh, well, thanks.”

    “And now I am going to make myself some tea and see what the prep droid has for us for supper. Shall I see you shortly?”

    “Yeah, sure, darlin’.”

    “Very good.” After one more kiss, she dismounted his lap and left the room. Zeb listened to the rustle of her cloak and skirts till it disappeared down the hallway, then returned to his datawork. A true Honor Guard captain, eh? He sure didn’t feel like one at that moment, but he’d try his best—for Shulma, for his men, and for the honor of the Guard.

    And one of the things a true Honor Guard captain did, when faced with difficulties, was to come up with a plan of action. For starters, it was necessary to get hold of an actual voorpak. Fortunately, Zeb knew exactly whom to start with. Unfortunately, that person was a certain mischievous older sister...

    He filled out the last few fields of the acquisitions order he was working on and closed out of the Guard adminbase. Then, picking up his mobile comlink and drawing a very deep breath, he punched in a comm code and a message.

    HEY ZEFFY

    Soon a reply flashed: HEY LITTLE BOTHER I MEAN BROTHER HOWS IT GOING

    JUST FINE Zeb wrote back. SAY I GOT A FAVOR TO ASK...

    to be continued

    Voorpak: https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Voorpak (the Theedside Doodle breed is my own creation, based on the fact that voorpaks originally come from Naboo)
    Ginntho: https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Ginntho (the pygmy ones, which I imagine to be roughly pet-tarantula-sized, are my creation)
    Millipod: https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Millipod
    spider (yes, like ducks and dogs, the GFFA has them, too): https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Spider

    Zefora (“Zeffy”), Zeb’s eldest sister, is borrowed from Raissa Baiard. You’ll see more of her soon!

    Konculors are the creation of Raissa Baiard. See our fanon post here, under “Wildlife.”

    All Honor Guard vehicles, historical events and personages, corporation names, locations on Lasan, and voorpak breeds mentioned throughout this story are my own fanon creations.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] An excellent use of your OTP prompts! My goodness, but the Lasan history is full of rich detail what with rituals and such for the Honor guard, etc. Too bad Zeb cannot delegate this particular responsibility. :eek:
     
    amidalachick, Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  3. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Aww, sweet little voorpaks! [face_laugh] I get it though, we sure don't get to pick what brings on the creepy crawlies. Really enjoying Zeb's complete lack of convincing-ness when it comes to how totally okay he is with this tradition. (Interesting bit of lore there and reminds me a bit of some of the sailing superstitions that came up in a podcast I was listening to earlier.) Somehow the whole ignore it and it'll be fine idea seems like it's going to not work out as planned...
     
  4. amidalachick

    amidalachick Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Oh, this is off to an excellent start! :D I love all the cultural details and you write Zeb so well. I can totally hear him.

    Oh, poor Zeb!

    Such a sweet moment between him and Shulma, even with all the other (aka eight-legged creepy crawly) things on his mind. [face_love]

    I feel like this plan will not work out as well as he hopes it will. :p

    And then that message to his sister... [face_laugh]

    Awesome work, and looking forward to more!
     
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh my, but this is going to be brilliant! [face_laugh] [face_laugh] [face_laugh] Well, erm, maybe not for Zeb, but certainly for us! There's no doubt in my mind about that!

    Where to even begin with this? First of all, I loved all of the guys being guys about a new high powered toy to marvel over. Though, in their defense, the 'H-Goater' does sound to be a true beaut worthy of such praise.

    Then, it's sobering to see the ominous foreshadowing mentions of the Empire's growing aggression, both here and throughout the introduction.

    And, third: YAY A BALL!!! One more fancy dress story, I look forward to see, for the win. Because what is a romcom without a fancy party, I say? Mmmhmm, but this is going to be all sorts of awesome coming up . . .

    Ha! What a great throwback. Really, this entire story is a fantastic way to explain what was behind Zeb's dislike of the kyrknas - beyond the obvious, of course. I have to agree with Zeb, though. Superfluous indeed! Yeesh . . . [face_worried]

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] As much as I was thoroughly entertained by his reaction, I still can't say I blame Zeb in the slightest. That tradition is quite the, uh, the tradition. :eek:

    Also: Shai, you little snot.

    Yep, I'm still here with Zeb in feeling all sorts of yucked out.

    Aw! I love how Shulma knew that something was up right away. It's lovely to glimpse their relationship at such a mature point here, and I can't wait to see how the romcom elements work in with them. [face_love]

    Again with that shadow hanging overhead . . .

    Of course Shulma is going to be all sorts of interested! :D

    Oh honey. =(( I just wanted to hug Zeb here. It always hurts me when Zeb doesn't see himself as the hero he really is - now and down the line - but it especially hurt here. Because, no matter how unfounded they are to us, his fears are very real to him. Of course he wants to be a bulwark for Shulma with the uncertainties of the future ahead, but he is that bulwark. I look forward to him being reminded of that soon to come - as I suspect he shall. Even with his healthy . . . erm, respect for multi-legged critters and all. :p

    There you go: courage isn't the absence of fear, but what you do with that fear. And Zeb seems to be ready to march forward and confront this foe head-on in true Honor Guard fashion. I'd expect nothing less!


    I can't wait to see what Zeb has up his sleeve, especially with the reinforcements he's called in. [face_thinking] This is off to a fantastic start, and I truly look forward to more. :D [face_love]


    =D= [:D]
     
    Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you all so much for these wonderful comments! :)

    Thanks! It was fun to go a little crazy here in creating this particular ritual/tradition. I had the vague plot bunny about having Zeb or Shulma or both of them having to do something wacky to dedicate a new Honor Guard vehicle/weapon/building/etc. for a while but didn't really have a good excuse to do anything with it—until that "debilitating phobia" OTP prompt came along! So the rest, of course, is history, I guess! :D

    Aren't they cute? I love the pages on them in that SW Wildlife Guide, but they really are just the sort of thing that would freak out someone with a thing about multileggers! And yes, this was very much influenced by superstitions of that type—I've heard of a few colorful ones that ocean fishermen have or had, too (and I would be curious to hear about the sailing ones you learned about). Zeb is really going to have to screw up his courage in a big way on this one, as you shall see!

    Thank you so much! I really appreciate that, because as you know, I have quite a soft spot for the character! :zeb:

    Yeah, they never told him this would be part of the whole Honor Guard Captain packahe! :D

    Aw, thanks! I feel he deserved a soft moment like that after all this day has put him through. [face_love]

    I feel you are onto something there! [face_batting]

    Don't you know it... "siblings" was one of my prompts, and between Shai on the younger end and Zefora on the elder end, I intend to take it whole hog! :D

    Thank you so much—so glad to have you here, as always! :)

    Thank you so much! Always a joy to have you here as a reader and reviewer, and I am so glad you're enjoying this! :)

    Aw, thanks! That was a fun scene to write, for that very reason. (And I want to say @Raissa Baiard was the one who suggested the nickname "H-Goater, too, so I have to thank her for that, definitely! <3 )

    Yes, I'm afraid I kind of couldn't not get that in there, in a way. More on that below.

    Yes, a ball there will definitely be! That’s in the chapter after the next one, but I think you’ll like the next one all the same. Though I am very much looking forward to writing the ball, too, I have to say! :D

    Oh yes, I am definitely right with him there, as well! Again, as soon as I saw that “debilitating phobia” prompt, I knew what I was going to write about.

    I can't really blame him either, I have to say—I think I would feel similarly if it were me! And yeah, that's exactly what Shai is here. :p

    Just a teeny bit odd and bizarre, eh? :p Well, I know I did my job, then! :D

    Thanks! They’ve been married a while at this point, and she definitely knows his currents very well by now, as well as she knows her own. @};- You’ll see more of her a few chapters from now, as well!

    Yes, afraid so. I hope it isn't ruining things! I guess I was trying to strike a bit of a balance between (a) the fact that the imminent Imperial takeover was a definite reality for Lasan at this period, and (b) the wonderful, crazy, funny "before times" on Lasan with no loss and no hurt. (Just as I see Zeb trying to strike that balance in his own memories.)

    Most definitely! This sort of thing is right up her alley!

    That tendency is something that I’ve always seen as part and parcel of Zeb’s character, and it’s an aspect of him I wish the show had explored more. But I can still explore it in my own humble way in these little stories, and so I try to! He is indeed a bulwark to Shulma and everyone in the Guard, and he will get a chance to show it. He is already showing it by going through with this whole voorpak ceremony—can’t let the men down, after all!—and he will show it in the bravery he shows against the Empire later on, as we know. <3

    Exactly! That is the essence of Zeb, right there, and it too is an aspect of his character I just love exploring in these stories, in some small way. Overcoming a personal fear is as much of a triumph as overcoming any foe in battle.

    Well, thank you so much! You shall see very soon what he’s planning—and with whom! So glad you are enjoying, and so thrilled to have you here, as always. :)
     
  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    And here, finally, is chapter 2! Many thanks, as always, to @Raissa Baiard for beta reading and for the gracious loan of Zeb’s OC family members. @};-


    2.

    Zeb’s eldest sister, Zefora Herrikruff, née Orrelios, lived with her family in a comfortably sized home in the lightly forested countryside of Lasan’s Westlands. It was a nice enough place, with idyllic meadow-forest scenery and calm weather all year round, but Zeb always felt a little out of place whenever he was there. Part of it was that his Honor Guard uniform and shiny official staff car always stood out like a sore toepad in these rural surroundings—all the more so now that he was captain. But part of it (probably most of it) was all the karabasting animals. They seemed to be everywhere. A ginger tooka blinked enigmatically from a window—well, that wasn’t so bad, but then there was all that obnoxious chattering from the chookens pecking around the doorstep. Three nunas bawked and squawked as they strutted vapidly around the yard, looking disconcertingly like bloated, bow-legged Imperial scout walkers. Two large anoobas frolicked raucously in the yard, yapping wildly and tumbling over each other as they competed to retrieve a chewed-up orange plastoid discus. Running after them, whistling and calling, came a lanky adolescent Lasat boy-kit with a head of unruly hair. (Technically that was Zeb’s oldest nephew, Ushelev—though “animal” wasn’t necessarily an inaccurate way to describe him, either.)

    And then, finally, there was that ominous-looking wooden hutch- or shedlike building looming off the back corner of the house, which bore a large banner reading “HERRIKRUFF’S GOLDIES.” Although none of its inhabitants were visible now (thank the Ashla), Zeb was pretty sure that was the home of the dreaded eight-legged voorpaks. For Zefora and her husband were particular aficionados of the confounded things, even to the point of breeding them for show…

    Zeb shuddered vehemently at the thought, quietly thankful that his nephew was too occupied with the anoobas to see. Taking a deep breath and picking up the large, flat box of toknut butter Wookiee-ookies he had brought as a treat for the family, he climbed out of his staff speeder. Cautiously he made his way up the front walk, giving the various creatures as wide a berth as possible. He was almost at the porch steps when Ushelev noticed him and came running up, the two anoobas barking close behind him.

    “Hey! Uncle Zeb!”

    “Aw, hey there, ’Shlev.” With one large hand Zeb pulled his nephew into a hug (deliberately away from the anoobas), then noogied his tousled head heartily with the other. “How you been doin’, big guy?”

    “I’m good,” Ushelev replied, then called out toward an oak tree in the other direction: “Hey, Fin! Uncle Zeb’s here!”

    “Uncle Zeb!” The tree rustled as a girl-kit, similar in age and appearance to Ushelev, clambered down. For a moment the anoobas turned and barked in her direction—but only for a moment, as she too ran over to Zeb and joined the hug.

    “Heh, hey there, Finla.” He gave her a peck on the head, and she giggled a bit.

    “Are those ’ookies for us?” she asked.

    “Yeah, ’course they are,” Zeb smiled. “After lunch. Say, where’s your ma?”

    “Studio, I think,” answered Ushelev. “Right, Fin?”

    “Yeah, probably. C’mon!”

    So saying, Finla pulled her uncle toward a low-lying, flat-roofed annex coming off the back of the house (very close, in fact, to the dreaded shed or hutch). Ushelev followed, as did the anoobas, having abandoned the orange discus in the middle of the yard. Zeb did his best to ignore their all-too-eager whuffing and snuffling.

    The annex was the studio where Zefora did her weaving and fiber work, and it was a crowded, colorful place. Intricately patterned woven fabrics hung from racks; threads, yarns, and twists of all imaginable colors and textures were arrayed in shelves on the walls; and an assortment of implements and notions on tables and shelves. Working at a large loom at the center of the room was a tall, solidly built Lasat female with long, braided hair, who carried an infant in a fabric sling across her chest. Two younger boy-kits, one mid-school-aged and one about three dust seasons younger, played flipstones on the floor nearby. And, of course, there was yet another animal: a blue-green tooka, curled up beside the two boys, who immediately ran over to engage in a sniffing contest with the two anoobas.

    “Ma, Uncle Zeb’s here!” Finla announced.

    The woman at the loom immediately got up and went over to Zeb. “There you are, little brother!” she exclaimed, pulling him into a vigorous side hug. “So good to see you! Ooh, are those toknut butter ’ookies? Nice, thanks!” she added, noticing the box Zeb was carrying. “Just set them over there.”

    “Thanks.” Zeb put the box down on a nearby work table next to what looked like a very large but half-finished knitted vest. “Great to see you an’ everyone, too. Anja here’s really gettin’ big.” He stroked the baby’s mop of purple-brown hair. She burbled in response and peered up at him with round amber eyes.

    “Oh, she’s been growing like a weed!” Zefora laughed heartily. “Can’t keep up with her! Never been able to keep up with any of them, but that’s how it goes! You’ll find out someday, ha ha!” She came closer to her brother and poked him in the chest. “By the way, what’s up with that? I want to know when you and Shulma are finally going to give these guys some cousins!”

    “Aw, c’mon, Zeffy.” Zeb grunted, his ears drooping. This was a painful subject for him. “You know we’re tryin’ as best we can.”

    “I know.” She gave him a gentle pat on the back; he just grunted again. “You should have her drink some of that cambylictus berry leaf tea. I hear that can really do the trick. Anyway, let’s go take care of what you came for, shall we?”

    “Yeah, good idea.” Zeb never thought he would feel relieved that the topic was changing back to voorpaks, but there it was.

    “All righty.” Carefully she began to extract little Anja from the sling and placed her on the floor next to the younger boys, who were still immersed in their game. Their older brother and sister were now sitting on the floor watching them, and the anoobas and the tooka were now rolling together playfully in a ball of fur, claws, and drool. “Finla, can you keep an eye on Anja while I take Uncle Zeb out to the voorpak hutch?”

    “Sure, Ma,” Finla answered, reaching out her arms to her little sister, who waddled over for a hug.

    “Good. Ushelev, it’s soon going to be time to feed Boko and Tash. Remember to give them their Resist-O-Plus. And Ushmor, Ushbaz”—she addressed the two boys playing flipstones—“I need you two to start setting the table for lunch. The prep droid should almost be done, and your father will be home soon.”

    The younger boy’s ears sagged in disappointment. “Aw, Ma, can’t I come with you an’ Unkie Zeb to the voorpak hutch?”

    “You can come with me later, at feeding time. Right now, I need you to help Ushmor.” (At this, the elder brother stuck his tongue out at the younger.)

    “All right, Ma,” conceded the younger brother as the elder began gathering the flipstones up into a cloth pouch.

    “Oh, and one of you bring the ’ookies in there, too, please.” She gestured to the box on the table.

    Ushmor stepped up. “’Kay, Ma.”

    “Great! Now, come on, big-little bro!” Zefora gave Zeb a hearty back-slap. “Let’s get you a voorpak!”

    * * *​

    Protecting those who cannot protect themselves is the beginning of honor… protecting those who cannot protect themselves is the beginning of honor… protectingthosewhocannotprotectthemselvesisthebeginningofhonor… protectingthosewhocannotprotectthemselves IS THE BEGINNING OF HONOR, BLAST AN’ ’BAST IT...

    In the various perils in which he had found himself throughout his Honor Guard career, Captain Garazeb Orrelios had often found that an expedient method for calming his nerves and dispelling fear was to repeat the Honor Guard code to himself. He found himself doing it again now, as he stood with Zefora in the voorpak hutch. But while this technique had served Captain Orrelios well when caught outside during dust storms, hanging at edges of cliffs on extreme-ops maneuvers, or harrying Imperial armored transports across the scorching plains of the Eastbarrens, the Bogan could take him if it was doing him a single blip of good now.

    There were twelve voorpaks in this hutch. That meant, Zeb realized with a shudder, a total of ninety-six legs. Some sat up or pressed forward eagerly as their mistress approached; some were snuffling up meaty-smelling kibble from troughs in one corner; others tumbled over each in play. The adults came up to knee- or thigh-high on an adult Lasat, but there was also a litter of tiny pups that looked like nothing so much as shaving sponges with legs. All of the animals had fluffy, tawny golden-brown fur—they were all Highland Goldens, as Zefora had explained—but a few had individual splotches of white or black as well (“natural mutations and highly prized,” she added with some pride). And they were all purring—every one of them—in a bizarre burbling-rumbling cacophony that echoed uncannily off the close walls of the hutch. Zeb suddenly felt very confined, not to mention rather shaky.

    Zefora, meanwhile, was bustling busily about the place, giving her fluffy charges pats, head rubs, belly rubs, and friendly coos as they gamboled about her feet and rared up her ankles. “Now, let’s see here,” she said. “You’ll want one that’s not too young and not too old. Not too young, because you want it to know basic obedience skills. And you definitely want one that’s interior-trained.”

    “Er… yeah.” Zeb shifted uneasily, feeling something round and fluffy nudge his ankle.

    “But you also don’t want one that’s too old, because the older ones sometimes get a bit disoriented in an unfamiliar environment.”

    “Got it…” And now two fuzz-topped antennae were brushing his knee…

    “That, and some Goldies are known to become a little… incontinent with age.”

    “Ah… er…” Did… not… need… that… image—especially not with four twiggy forelegs raring up against his lower leg…! Zeb staggered backward, tripping over several of the beast’s round, fluffy hutchmates before slamming ungracefully into the wall with a grumbled “karabast.”

    “You all right there, little bro?” Zefora ran over and took her brother by the arm. “Hey, what’s wrong? You feel kind of shaky; you okay?”

    “Yeah, yeah…” Zeb breathed, face turned toward the wall so he wouldn’t have to see any of those things. “I’ll be fine… it’s just... all the legs, y’know. I don’t do well with all those legs...”

    Zefora erupted in a loud laugh and gave her brother’s shoulder a hefty punch. “Oh, don’t tell me you’re still on about that after all these years!”

    Zeb faced her with a fierce look. “Yes, I am still on about that,” he growled. “Some of us have a long memory, y’know.”

    “Oh, well, now that you’re captain of the Honor Guard and all, I think you’ll be able to manage a few little—aw, will you look at that!”

    “Wha…? Oh…”

    Zeb looked down to see that the voorpak—or at least a voorpak—was once again raring up eagerly against his lower leg. This one was medium-sized, with long fur of deep tawny gold and a large, almost perfectly circular splotch of white across its face. It goggled happily up at Zeb through blue-green eyes, all the while purring like an idling load lifter.

    “I think Baldo likes you, little bro!”

    “Baldo…?”

    “Yes. Short for Baldomero.”

    “Baldomero.” Zeb’s voice dripped with incredulity as he looked from the white-faced voorpak (which was now pawing enthusiastically at his leg) to his sister and back. “As in, Baldomero the Bold from the comic books, I suppose.”

    “Exactly. Now, don’t look at me like that!” She poked him. “Ushelev named him. Actually, you know, he’d be perfect for your ceremony thing!”

    “Oh, is that so?” Zeb shook his leg to try to free himself from Baldo’s spindly little claws, but to no avail.

    “Yes! Seven dusts old, in impeccable health, super smart and sweet boy. Aren’t you, Baldo-boo! Awww, yook at yoo yuvvin’ on sweet old Uncle Zebbers!” She reached down and gave Baldo a vigorous head rub, to which he responded with an even more tenacious grip and even louder purring. “But wight now I’ve gotta take you off. He yuvs you, too, but he’s not used to you yet, no, no.” (“Hmmph,” Zeb grumbled.) “Yeah. Dere we go. Good boy.”

    So saying, she gently unclasped Baldo’s legs from around Zeb and set him on the floor. His antennae drooped a bit and his purring softened, but his eyes still had a cheerful glint. Zeb, for his part, slumped against a nearby wall and drew a deep sigh of relief.

    “Oh, come on, you big wimp, you!” his sister laughed as she slugged him on the shoulder. “Here, let’s get you some lunch!”

    * * *​

    For the midday meal, Zefora’s family’s prep droid had laid out a tantalizing tray of assorted meats, vegetables, breads, and sauces, with fresh-made berry cordials to wash it all down. Zeb ate heartily, partly by virtue of being a hungry Guardsman, partly because he didn’t get to enjoy fresh country food like this everyday, and partly in a nervous attempt to clear his mind of anything having to do with voorpaks—or any animals, for that matter.

    But several things made it difficult. For one thing, the blue-green tooka that had been in Zefora’s studio kept climbing onto the table and had to be shooed down again and again. For another thing, the two anoobas, Boko and Tash, simply would not stop begging (and it did not help matters that Ushmor and Ushbaz insisted on sneaking them all their vegetables). For a third thing, Zefora’s husband, Rashelev, who had a veterinary practice in a nearby small town, had come home to have lunch with his family and brother-in-law. This would not have been a bad thing in and of itself, as he and Zeb had always gotten on well. But the moment Zefora mentioned the voorpaks and Baldo and the Honor Guard voorpak ceremony, her husband began gushing with stories of Baldo’s apparently fairly illustrious showing career.

    “Oh, we are so proud of Baldo, aren’t we, ’Fora?” (His wife nodded.) “Did you know on his very first show he broke the all-Lasan record in agility events for medium sporting breeds? And he was just two dusts old! Of course, that time he only won Best of the Opposite Sex. But guess what, the very next season he won Best in Show at the All-Westlands Kennel Club Open! I remember, right at the beginning when the judge was examining his joints, he said he’d never seen a Goldie of his age with such strong, agile, supple—”

    It was at that point that Zeb excused himself, mumbling something about having to use the ’fresher. When he came back a little later, the family was tucking into the toknut butter Wookiee-ookies he had brought, but he only took one for himself.

    * * *​

    After lunch, with all the kits looking on (and with Ushelev this time wearing the sling with Anja), Zefora helped Zeb load Baldo’s carrier, half a large bag of YUARS Healthy Voorpak Chow (Grain-Free Nerf Kidney Recipe), and a crate of assorted toys, bedding, and supplies into the Honor Guard staff speeder. As she did, she gave her brother complete details on the care and feeding of the prize-winning animal he was borrowing.

    “Give him a cupful first thing in the morning, another at midday, and another at supper time,” she advised, “More if he’s extra hungry—and don’t worry, you’ll know if he’s extra hungry. He’ll need at least three walks a day—use that blue harness, it goes between his two pairs of forelegs. There should be some of those decomposing waste bags in there, too. Oh, and please make sure he gets one to two uninterrupted hours of free physical activity a day, because he’s going to the Lira Zel Companion Canids Show next season, and we won’t settle for anything less than Best in Medium Sporting Breeds!”

    “Er…” Zeb paused a moment to make sure he had it all right. Three cupfuls, three walks, one to two hours of free activity, two pairs of forelegs, decomposing waste bags… “Yeah, got it. I think.”

    “Excellent!” Zefora slapped him on the back. “I know you’ll take great care of him!”

    “Will try,” Zeb replied, cautiously. “And… cheers, Zeffy.” He touched her shoulder. “I, er, really appreciate this.”

    “Oh, my pleasure! He’ll be the beau of the ball, ha ha! And remember”—she gave her brother one last emphatic poke in the chest—“holos or it didn’t happen!”

    “Yeah, ’course.” Brother and sister hugged, and there were hugs, shoulder punches, and hair tousles for all the kits, who waved to their uncle as he sped off back toward Lira Zel.

    * * *​

    Later that day, Captain Garazeb Orrelios stood in an unused munitions shed at a far back corner of the Honor Guard base with Lieutenant Tarbigron Stultzfoss, an open animal carrier, half a bag of YUARS Healthy Voorpak Chow, and a crate of assorted toys and supplies. Somewhere in the massive, open structure, a spherical, tawny-gold animal frolicked, making excited burbling-rumbling noises as it chased an orange rubber ball. The captain did his best to ignore it as he briefed his lieutenant on his newest duties.

    “Arright, so, give him a cupful of this stuff”—he indicated the bag of YUARS— “first thing in the morning, then at midday, and then at supper time.”

    “Sir, yes, sir.”

    “More if he’s extra hungry. I’m told you’ll know if he’s extra hungry.”

    “Sir, certainly, sir.”

    “Make sure he gets one to two uninterrupted hours of physical activity a day. An’ three walks a day. There’s a harness in there and some… waste bags.”

    “Yes, sir. Er… if I may ask a question, sir.”

    “Mmph?”

    “What kind of harness is it, sir? Collar or underbody?”

    “Eh… it’s one that goes between his two pairs of forelegs. An’ no, I don’t know which ones are his forelegs. I’m sure a capable Guardsman like you can figure it out.”

    “Sir, that sounds like an underbody, sir. That’s the kind my aunt and uncle in Quartzite Downs had for their—”

    “AN’ OF COURSE I don’t need to tell ya to keep him here in this area of the base an’ not blab to anyone before the ball on Benduday.”

    “Sir, absolutely, sir!”

    “Very good, Lieutenant. Any questions?”

    “Sir, no, sir, everything is perfectly clear. And if I may say so, sir…”

    “M’yeah?”

    “Thank you so much for this opportunity, sir. I feel extremely honored to be able to assist with this venerable Honor Guard tradition in some small way.”

    Zeb smiled wryly. “Some small way,” eh? he thought to himself. Believe me, Middle Lieutenant Tarbigron Stultzfoss, if it were up to me, it would be in a much bigger way. As in, you performing the actual ceremony at the actual ball instead of me. But it’s not up to me, karabast it

    “Heh, you’re welcome, Lieutenant,” he said at last. “Couldn’t think of a better man for the job.”

    He saluted, and Gron saluted back. Then, making sure not to take a glance at the spherical, tawny-gold animal still playing in the distance, Captain Orrelios went home and fixed himself another extra large, extra strong mug of caf.

    to be continued
    Zefora and Rashelev are the creations of @Raissa Baiard, but I came up with their last name and their kits’ names.

    Chookens are the creation of fuzzydemolitionsquad (another one can be seen in this drawing).

    “Protecting those who cannot protect themselves is the beginning of honor”: The Honor Guard code is borrowed with gratitude from Raissa Baiard’s The Beginning of Honor, as is the name Baldomero (Baldomero the Bold being a fanon comic-book character mentioned in the same story, also Raissa’s creation).

    Some Wookieepedia links: oak tree (yes, really), cambylictus berry, nunas, anoobas

    YUARS: Fanon. You know IAMS pet food? Well… get it? :p
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2021
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] I loved the large family of potential "cousins" [face_mischief] And the fact that Zeb is relieved when the subject is changed off of "When are you and Shulma going to expand your family?" [face_shhh] And I see it's a universal thing that the one who isn't fond of animals always seems to get latched onto :eek:

    I was amused and impressed that Zeb could get Gron to "help out" ;) =D=
     
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  9. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Apologies for being late to the party.... Oh dear, this is quite the predicament poor Zebby's found himself in, isn't it? You have to feel a little sorry for him and yet[face_rofl]
    Part One
    First of all--the H-Goater Extreme. Of course there's an extreme version, because a regular H-goater isn't cool enough for the Honor Guards--honorable, strong and extremely extreme men and women that they are! Boo-yah! Second, this :
    Oh yeah, that's my Shai :D He knows his brother's aversion to multi-leggers. Of course he does! Why do you think he brought it up? He's going to be watching the proceedings with a bowl of bang-corn. He can do this stuff now that he's too big for Zeb to thump. But, aw karabast, the other guys corroborate Shai's story--though I love that he goes home and researches the tradition, fortifying caf in hand, just make extra sure what he's dealing with here. This ceremony, with all it's abstract symbolism and whatnot, seems like one of those superstitions that made some kind of sense when it started but over the years has lost most of the context that made it meaningful, and now it's something that's just done. (Rather like Groundhog Day). But Zeb can't Disappoint His Men, so he's stuck dealing with the "karabasting foofy puffball ". I think he would actually prefer dealing with a wild konculor , because that would be manly and he could laugh in the face of danger. Instead, he feels like he can't even tell Shulma what's going; what would she think of her brave Honor Guard Captain then? (Oh Zeb, Zeb, Zeb....really? How long have you and Shulma been together and you still think she would think less of you over something like this? *eyeroll*)

    So, since one sibling got Zeb into this mess, it's up to another to get him out. I love Zefora's not-Freudian "slip" about "little bother, I mean brother" :D That's some real big sisterly love there...

    Part Two
    And what fun it is to meet Zefora and all the members of her busy, noisy family. I love how you've fleshed out this branch of Zeb's family tree from my initial vague ideas and passing references. Zefora's got some of her mother, Herleva's indomitable matron vibe going on, although n a less regimented way. She's got her hands full with all her kits--and then all the animals on top of them (figuratively and literally!). And then Zeb goes from one menagerie to another---straight into the lion's den, er, voorpak hutch ;). Surrounded by floofy puffballs of all ages and sizes (and I love that he thinks the babies look like shaving sponges!), even repeating the Honor Guard motto which has sustained him through so many death-defying situations can't quite overcome the crawling heebie-jeebies--you know that's bad! And of course since he's Not Into the Whole Voorpak Thing, one decides that Zeb is his new best, best friend (cue Dug the Dog from the movie Up: "I have just met you, and I love you! Come to think of it, Dug is a golden retriever...[face_thinking])

    Baldo (ironically named after Zeb's childhood hero--thanks for the call back!) turns out to be just perfect for Zeb's needs--and he yuvs his Unkie Zebbers, yes he does! :) I think Zefora's baby talk probably made Zeb want to toss his 'ookies there, but if it didn't there was all the enthusiastic voorpak-fancying from Rashelev (I like him, too! Yay for Lasats--and SW characters in general--with ordinary jobs) and then all of Zefora's extremely detailed care instructions to push him over the edge. Makes you wonder if she would have given him such a laundry-list of stuff if he'd taken the baby home instead... Poor old Zeb's had just about as much as he can stand, so he foists little Baldo off of the earnest and extremely honored Gron and goes home to have some more caf to steady his nerves. Karabast...

    I always love reading your Zeb humor and when you add siblings and pets into the mix, hoo boy-- I can't wait wait to see how the ceremony turns out! Will Zebby overcome his fear? Will he learn to yuv widdle Baldo-boo as much as he yuvs sweet Unkle Zebbers? Thanks for sharing this fun story.:zeb:
     
  10. amidalachick

    amidalachick Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Oh, such a great update!

    I love meeting Zeb's family, and their place sounds lovely. And animals, yay! [face_love]

    I love the description here, it really brings the scene to life.

    And I really love that Zefora breeds voorpaks! Show voorpaks at that! Now I'm imagining the GFFA equivalent of fairs and livestock shows and it's just such an awesome idea. :D

    I laughed at this line, even though I feel bad for Zeb. Poor guy!

    Again, I'm simultaneously laughing and cringing in sympathy for him. And of course one of them wants to be his new best friend! :p It reminds me of one time my family was visiting friends who had a cat. My mom is not a big fan of cats, so guess who the cat went straight for? It curled right up on her lap and didn't want to move even when we went to leave. She was not impressed. [face_laugh]

    I love the lunch scene as well. And then all those instructions for taking care of Baldo the prize-winning show voorpak! I think that would make anyone nervous. [face_laugh]

    [face_laugh] One more time, poor Zeb! Also, I just love the siblingness and how warm and close their family seems to be.

    An excellent, if temporary, solution!

    This was such a fun update, even though I do still feel sorry for Zeb, and I really enjoyed reading it! I can't wait to see how the ceremony plays out. =D=:D
     
  11. Vek Talis

    Vek Talis Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Oct 12, 2018
    Well, naturally. Duh.

    Well, there's always taking initiative to start a new tradition of fobbing off your work on an underling... Am I right? :p

    The inner workings of a man's mind. Ah, brings me back. :p

    I've only read the first chapter so far, but really enjoyed it. :)
     
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  12. Vek Talis

    Vek Talis Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Oct 12, 2018
    Now, now, no stereotyping. Just because they're cats, doesn't mean they have to like chicken. [face_talk_hand] I can't go on. [face_plain]

    I always preferred Correlian Do-Se-Do's. :D

    [face_laugh] :_| [face_laugh]

    Kitty-kudos for the quick math. They taught him well.

    Can't. Stop. The. Sugar. Overload. [face_rofl]

    Can't wait to see how you wrap this up. I wonder if Zeb will have an epiphany and end up with a voorpak as a new friend?
     
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  13. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    This continues to be fantastic! [face_dancing] [face_dancing]

    I loved the imagery in your prose here! Such great writing.

    [face_laugh] Too true, too true! I could so see my niece there . . .

    Beg pardon, but they do what? :eek: [face_worried] Well, if Zeb is looking for a place to get over his . . . dislike of creepy crawlies, he's certainly come to the right spot.

    (That said, I love the creativity of the idea of voorpak breeding and showing! Only in a galaxy far, far away, right? :p And it was so wonderful to get to know more of Zeb's family in greater detail. [face_love])

    Well you know I loved this! Three cheers for all of the creative ladies and adding culture and craft and art to the SW 'verse. [face_love]

    This hurt my heart - just as you know that these references always do. =((

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    I lost it with Zeb here . . . :p

    WAY TOO MANY LEGS!!!!!!

    Eugh. Even the pups are much too large, let alone a beastie that comes up to the thighs on a Lasat! :eek:

    You know, I can't say I blame him. :p

    Also: SIBLINGS!!! I loved everything about their bantering and vibing from start to finish. So much sass! So much love. [face_love]

    Aw! Baldo sounds like an adorable little monster. It's hard when they're cute! (My best friends son has a collection of all sorts of animals, including tarantulas. This one tarantula he had was huge, but it was afraid of everything, If would run to its log whenever he was spooked, with only his big ol' butt sticking out, like if it couldn't see you then you couldn't see it. He was so cute and docile that I almost gave in when I was invited to hold him. But I was scared that I would freak out at the last moment and then throw the poor dear, so I declined.) Baldo here is no such fraidy-spider, but the sweetheart vibes are the same. [face_love]

    And Baldo! I like what you did there. [face_mischief]

    I loved the contrast between siblings here! [face_laugh]

    Ha! Like IAMS!!!! :D

    Best. Sibling. Vibes. :D

    Way to delegate there, Zeb. :p But something tells me that the true hijinks have yet to ensue and I can't wait to see how this goes wrong - and where Zeb and Shulma will come in to make a true romcom out of this. [face_mischief]



    As always, it's so delightful reading your work in this 'verse, and I remain riveted for more! =D= [:D]
     
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  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you all so much for reading and commenting! :)

    Thanks so much! Zefora and her big family (of pets as well as kids) turned out to be a lot of fun to write. What you say about animals always going for the non-animal-lover definitely fits with my experience, too—growing up, it was both my dad and my grandmother that the cat always made sure to make extra nice to. They have a sort of “radar” that way, don’t they!
    Yeah, and it sure was lucky for him that he was able to, given the circumstances! :p Thanks again, as always, for enjoying and commenting! :)

    No worries at all, and thanks so much, as always! And yes, that is exactly the point of a story like this, exactly: simultaneously feeling sorry for him and enjoying tormenting him. :D

    Of course, of course! Only the best for the extremest fighting force in the Outer Rim! :D

    Yep, it all starts with Shai—of course it does! And he knew, or at least suspected, he would be Starting Something by bringing that up. As soon as I got that “siblings” prompt, I knew he had to be implicated in it somehow! :D

    Yeah, pretty much exactly along those lines—by now it’s just some quaint little thing the Guard has just Always Done, so that Zeb is honor-bound (!) to continue it! And of course he feels that "honor-bound" very strongly, being the way he is.

    He absolutely should know—you and I both know that—but this is the kind of thing that can happen with a man who holds himself to such a high standard. In a way, it's part and parcel of larger things that are troubling him at the same time, with the Imperial situation starting to escalate—there's a larger fear lurking behind this in his heart, and that is that he won't be able to successfully defend his wife, family, and people if things get really bad.

    Yes, exactly what I was thinking with this prompt! And it’s arguable she gets him even further into it rather than out of it, too, at least from his perspective as a non-voorpak-person! :p

    Thanks so much, I’m so glad you are enjoying what I’ve done with this side of Zeb’s family—those initial ideas were great raw material, I have to say! :) I had my elder sister-in-law (who also has/had a big family and multiple pets) very much in mind in writing Zefora; there was always some chaos afoot at her place whenever we visited, which wasn't always easy on a person like me. :p And very spot-on comparison with Dug! Apt observation about his coloration, too; from my experience, that orange/gold/ginger coloration seems to be associated with an outgoing temperament in felines, too (and, indeed, the Findscat is that color—perhaps a subconscious bit of inspiration, there).

    Oh, yeah, poor Zeb was on the point of 'ookie-tossing at multiple points, there, for sure. And with Gron getting in on the voorpak-fancying, too, it doesn't end even when Zeb gets back to the base. A definite "when it rains, it pours" type situation! Making Rashelev a vet seemed to fit with the family's animal-loving propensities in general, and also because I too love giving GFFA denizens "regular" jobs.

    Ah, you shall see, you shall see, very soon! :D And thank you so much for all your help and advice in shaping this story; I really couldn't have done it without you and the family you crafted for our dear Zebby! <3

    Thanks so much! Yep, family plus pets equals the ultimate chaotic fun, always—it was a combination I simply couldn't resist! And again, I had some mighty fine raw material to work with in the family members Raissa devised, and it was a joy to flesh them out.

    Thanks so much! Zefora being a weaver is one of the first things that Raissa came up with about her, so I just figured I'd take that and run. :)

    Ah, now, I know that a pet show does come up in a few Legends books! I love the idea, too. :) (And although it's not necessarily about animal shows per se, I highly recommend Bob Carrau and Terryl Whitlatch's Wildlife of Star Wars book.)

    I feel bad for him, too, but again, in a way that is so much fun! :p

    Oh gosh, yes, I have had similar situations in my own family—again, the cat always, and I mean always, made an extra point of making nice to the people who were the most lukewarm about her! And that was their reaction most of the time, too! :p

    Yep, I know I too get all kinds of nervous when anyone gives me detailed instructions like that—especially about a living being, and especially when it's clear that that person has forgotten what it's like to be new at the job! :p The prize element of course adds an extra dimension of jitters!

    Thanks so much! I'm glad the brother-sister banter came off well—sibling talk is one area that I'm never sure I'm doing quite right, because I'm an only child, though it's definitely fun to try my hand at. And, again, I had an excellent foundation to work with in Raissa's Orrelios OCs!

    Hah, yes! But every little bit helps, at this point!

    Thank you so much, as always, and I am so glad you enjoying this! The ceremony is right around the corner, so do stay tuned. :)

    I have to say I agree, too!

    It's a place to start, and worth a try, anyway! :D

    Yep—see above about men who hold themselves to high standards!

    Thanks so much, so glad to hear that and to see you back! :)
    Ah, perhaps they raise them primarily for the eggs! ;)

    Perhaps he'll bring those on his next visit, when he doesn't have to worry about pets and such things! :p

    It's just how things go, sometimes!

    The Royal Lasat Military Academy has a comprehensive and wide-ranging curriculum! :D

    Yeah, pretty much! You know how some pet fanciers can get! (Points at yours truly...)

    Ah, just wait and see—it's right around the corner! Thanks so much once again for reading and commenting. :)

    Thank you so much! Always a joy to have you here, and so glad you've been enjoying this! :)

    Thanks so much! "Chicken walkers" are definitely aptly nicknamed, I'd say. And of course at this point Zeb definitely has things Imperial on his mind...

    Yes, there's a certain age when the "animal" aspect really comes out, isn't there! :p

    Hah! I suppose that is one way to see it! :p

    Thanks so much! I couldn't resist that idea, either—you have to be a really hardcore pet fancier of a very specific variety to go that route! And again, I'm so glad you enjoyed what I did with Raissa's Orrelios family members—they were great fun to work with.

    Thanks so much! I am all for more creative ladies in the GFFA, as you know—Raissa made Zefora a weaver from the start, so I figured I'd run with it!

    Ah, that's exactly why I continue to put them in there. ;) Just teasing, just teasing! :p

    Oh, me too, me too, I won't lie! :p

    I KNOW, RIGHT?!!

    Yep, at least insect-sized multi-leggers can be easily squashed if one is in the right mood—these puppies, not so much! :p

    Oh, I definitely don't!

    Thanks! It was great fun to write. :)

    You're absolutely right—it's a completely different matter when they're cute! That tarantula sounds like he was very adorable in his way, but yeah, I'm not sure if I would be game to hold one of those guys, either, cute or not!

    Yep, just like Zebby's favorite childhood comic book hero! :D

    Thanks—it is a contrast I envision going back a very long way, to the days of that infamous sip-cup incident. :p

    EXACTLY! You got it in one! :D Though I know you and/or your family are pet owners, too, so I figured if anyone might catch that, you might! :)

    Thanks again—and those, too, I imagine go back a long way!

    Oh, you soon shall see, very soon! :D

    Thank you so much, as always—always a pleasure to have you here reading and enjoying! :) More is right around the corner...
     
  15. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    And here, at last, is the third and final chapter! Once again, many thanks to @Raissa Baiard for beta-reading. @};-


    3.

    The Honor Guard Ball was just a day away.

    And most of the time, Captain Orrelios was totally fine with that. He enjoyed the Honor Guard Ball, and he knew all his troops did, too. It was a chance for them all simply to kick back, socialize, and enjoy themselves, which was always a good thing for morale—and their morale needed a lift more than ever now, with the Imperial situation threatening to escalate any day. It was typically held near the middle of the growing season, after Lasan’s landscape, atmosphere, and people had fully recovered from the dust season, so everything would be alive and bright and flourishing. There would be festive decorations in the grand mess hall, live music provided by members of the Guard music corps, and superb food—and of course, for Zeb, there would also be the perfect opportunity for a night out with his lovely wife, who deserved a break from her busy schedule of the Academy of Shamans. her intense shamanic studies. Perhaps that was what he looked forward to the most.

    But this year, Zeb wasn’t so sure he was looking forward to any of it.

    It was not because of the looming Imperial situation. Karabast, war could break out that very evening, and Zeb knew his troops could spring into action right then and there if they had to—they were Honor Guards, after all. Nor was it because of the unseasonably warm weather—what was a little extra sweat to a Guard? Nor even the younger Guardsmen’s usual tiresome braggadocio about dates—he was more than used to that by now (and used to do exactly the same himself, back in the day).

    No, it was because this year, at this ball, Zeb, in his capacity as Honor Guard captain, would have to perform the time-honored ritual of placing a fluffy, spherical creature with eight legs on top of a large vehicle to see if it would eat. All as a symbol of loyalty, honor, and faithful some-such. In front of all of his troops.

    And in front of Shulma.

    Shulma... aw, karabast… she could tell something was eating him, of course. She always could. She probably thought it was just (just!) the Imperial business, and as far as Zeb was concerned, she could just go right on thinking that, because it wasn’t like that was wrong, either. He could say to himself that he wasn’t going to let some fluffy, spherical, eight-legged symbol of loyalty spoil a perfect evening out with her, but was it true? Could it be, given that the very thought of so many legs gave him the shakes? Nor did it help matters that Shai kept ribbing him about it (“Hey, Zebby, you excited for tomorrow? Ha ha!”) and that Gron kept giving him unsolicited, detailed daily Baldo updates. (“Sir, today he fetched not only his ball and his discus but also his Binky the Bogan squeak toy, sir! And sir, did I tell you he can shake hands with all four forelegs, sir?”)

    Still, Zeb did his best to keep his chin up and carry on. Shakes or no shakes, he was resolved to give this voorpak ceremony thing his best shot. All a Guard could do, really.

    And, in the meantime, he would fix himself another extra large, extra thick cup of caf.

    * * *​

    “Heh-heh-HRRRM.” The elderly, scar-faced Honor Guard quartermaster, Supply Sergeant Droglak Skaavatou, who was standing by the entrance to the grand mess hall, cleared his throat with great solemnity. “I present Captain Garazeb Orrelios and Shaman Shulma Trilasha Orrelios, First Prime.”

    Applause and cheers filled the room as Zeb and Shulma entered and saluted the sergeant. Zeb was spruce and gallant in his full dress uniform, luminously polished ceremonial armor, and dark red cape; his beard and jaw-fringe were combed and trimmed, and his rank insignia and decorations glistened on his broad chest. Shulma cut a graceful, regal figure in a gown with a gold brocade bodice and flowing layered skirts of various crimson shades, with a shawl of delicate gold lace cascading over her bare arms. Together they went through the hall, greeting friends and comrades and making casual conversation with them as the musicians tuned their instruments.

    Soon the music began, and with it the dancing. There were the formal social dances for couples, both the sedate ones danced in lines or circles with the feet low to the ground and the fast-paced, aggressive ones with much running, kicking, jumping, and throwing of partners into the air. (Fortunately, everyone was caught and no one hurt, though that had not been the case at every past ball.) Among the centerpieces of the evening were the traditional Guards’ formation dances with swords, javelins, and bo-rifles. Dance was part of the curriculum of the Royal Lasat Military Academy, and the formation dances in particular were intended as displays of perfect physical discipline. Not only the young and strong took part but also elders like Sergeant Skaavatou, who despite his stooped frame was still capable of some impressive swordplay.

    And of course Captain Orrelios participated in all the dances with gusto, for he had always been an excellent dancer. The familiar exhilaration of the traditional dances—and the pride of being able to join in them with such a beautiful, graceful partner!—was almost enough to take his mind off that certain ritual he would have to perform later in the evening.

    Almost. The whole voorpak business had been nagging at the back of Zeb’s mind all evening. According to the printed, posted program of the ball, he was to make An Announcement at twenty-hundred—no one but he (and his three main lieutenants, who had promised not to tell) knew what that announcement was. It was difficult not to keep looking at his chronometer as it slouched closer and closer to the dreaded time. Shulma, unsurprisingly, was aware of his unease, for as they danced she kept touching his temple or brow ridge to get a read on his currents.

    “I’m worried for you, Zeblove,” she said to him as they led a line of couples during one of the stately procession dances. “When I feel your currents right now, I feel a mountain trying against all odds to hold back a maelstrom.”

    He chuckled. “Heh, not a bad way o’ describing it.”

    “It’s this announcement or ritual or whatever it is, isn’t it?”

    “Well, er…”

    “Something about it is troubling you, ai Garazeb.” She touched his ridge again. “And yet you won’t tell me or anyone, and you keep dancing, never missing a step or jump or thrust or parry. I’m really rather… impressed.”

    “Hey, endurance under impossible conditions is one o’ what we Guards do best,” he answered with a smile.

    She smiled back. “That may be. But please, love, go easy on yourself. We are only mortal Lasat.”

    “Don’tcha worry about me, darlin’.” He leaned over to nuzzle her cheek with his nose. “I’ll be all right.”

    Just then, they passed another line of couples, led by Shai and his partner, a gray-violet-furred First Corporal with curly hair and bright amber eyes. As his brother came near, Shai sidled up to him and said with a wink:

    “Can’t wait till twenty-hundred, Zebby!”

    Upon which Zeb immediately proceeded to trip over Shulma’s foot with a loud “Aw, karabast!” The other dancers turned and looked, of course (and Shai tried, not very hard, to stifle a laugh). But Captain Orrelios righted himself, and the dance went on.

    * * *​

    The signal-chimes of the central watchtower rang out twenty-hundred hours. As the musicians began to wrap up their last dance of the evening, the lieutenants and Sergeant Skaavatou began shepherding guests out of the mess hall and along luminaria-lit walkways to the main vehicle depot for the captain’s big announcement. Captain Orrelios was already there, and he paced in front of the black curtain concealing the HG-ATR-X as he mentally rehearsed the remarks he would soon be giving. He pulled aside the curtain and looked at it again, from its crowning ion cannon, to the four turbolasers, all along the formidable and brightly polished armored chassis—where the bo-rifles of the Honor Guard seal on its side seemed to blaze like the real thing—and finally down to the mighty terrain-defying treads. An impressive vehicle, indeed; a few brigades of them, and the armed forces of Lasan would be more than capable of standing their ground against the Imperial invaders...

    That, he decided, is what he would try to focus on as he addressed his comrades. Think positive thoughts, Orrelios. Positive thoughts that don’t involve puffy little—

    He jumped as he felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned. It was Shulma, there before any of the others, and she too was peeking through the gap in the curtain at the H-Goater.

    “Hey, no peekin’, darlin’,” he chuckled, pulling the curtain closed as he leaned over to kiss her.

    “Don’t worry, Zeblove,” she laughed as they separated. “You can count on me not to blab. I wouldn’t know what to blab about even if I wanted to. My automotive knowledge stops at the SoroSuub X-31.”

    “Lucky for me, I guess, heh.”

    “Indeed. But, dearest—”

    “Yeah?”

    “Well, if you don’t mind my saying so, I would not have guessed that something like a tank—”

    “It’s a troop transport, darlin’.”

    “—I would not have guessed that something like a troop transport—sorry—would have gotten your currents so… worked up.”

    “My currents are not. Worked. Up.

    She poked his brow ridge. “Oh, really, ai Garazeb?”

    Zeb sighed. She was right, as usual. “Look, just… you’ll see in a few minutes, arright?”

    “Fair enough, love.” She leaned close to him and nuzzled his shoulder wistfully. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t make light of it. I know how serious the situation is right now. Shall I chalk the Eight Strengths on the ground for you?”

    “Yeah, sure.”

    From a pouch on the sash of her dress, Shulma took a thick piece of chalk, then used it to draw eight glyphs—mostly stylized animal forms—on the duracrete floor of the depot, in a row in front of the black curtain. Then, in front of them, she drew a stylized version of the Honor Guard seal’s three crossed bo-rifles. Zeb watched her; her graceful motions had always been one of his life’s simple joys—not to mention another thing to take his mind off the task at hand.

    When she finished, she nuzzled his beard and gave him another kiss. “The Ashla stands beside you, Zeblove.”

    “Thanks, darlin’.”

    The guests were now beginning to file into the depot, and Shulma joined them. Zeb looked about. Shai was there and ready with what he had been told to bring from the commissary. All the other lieutenants were there as well, except for Gron, which was as it should be. Not because of anything he had against Gron, of course, but because of Gron’s next task, which was one Zeb was trying at that moment not to think of.

    Once everyone had arrived and taken their places, Zeb took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and began:

    “Er, right. Honorable comrades-in-arms, esteemed guests, and others…” There was laughter for a few moments. “G’devening and welcome. So, you’re probably thinkin’, huh, isn’t the vehicle depot kind of a funny place to be called to at the Honor Guard Ball? And you’d be right. ’Course, this Honor Guard Ball isn’t like most Honor Guard Balls. Let’s be honest, this Ball’s got a shadow hangin’ over it, with the Empire startin’ to throw its weight around in our corner of the galaxy.” A sober hush fell over the crowd at this. “Not that we did bad out in the Eastbarrens. Heh, not at all! But we can’t forget, that was only one moff’s worth of troops and materiel. We just don’t know what might be comin’ from them next, an’ we gotta be ready.

    “An’ that’s why I’ve brought you all to this place, because believe it or not, there is hope. The Defense Ministry just approved funding for some very important and much-needed equipment upgrades that’ll help give us the edge we need against those Imps. An’ I’m gonna show you the first of those right now, somethin’ we Guards have been askin’, hopin’, an’ prayin’ for many, many seasons, now.” He went to the edge of the black curtain and took its cord in his hand. “Honorable comrades of the Guard, lemme present to you the Honor Guard All-Terrain Rover EXTREME!”

    With a single yank of the cord he pulled the curtain open to reveal the HG-ATR-X, its magnificent bulk towering overing the assembled guests as its dark green and golden yellow sides gleamed in halogen spotlights. A mix of gasps, oohs, ahs, and cheers went up from the assembled guests.

    “Yep, there it is, Guards,” Zeb continued, crossing his arms and puffing his chest out proudly. “Four, count ’em, four turbolaser cannons, plus Lasan-Malamut’s new compact ion cannon. Enhanced extreme-terrain mobility, with ability to alternate between tread mode and walker mode. Maximum speed sixty-five KPH, thirty passengers, forty-five tons cargo capacity. Long story short, it’s the Goater upgrade we’ve all been waiting for, an’ cavalry units will report to this depot tomorrow at oh-eight hundred to learn all about it. But right now I’d say it’s time to celebrate, ’cause I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a fitter transport for the finest fightin’ force in the Outer Rim!”

    At this the crowd burst into enthusiastic cheers and applause that took some time to die down—a fact Zeb did not entirely mind, as the next thing he had to say was:

    “An’ now, as captain, I, er… have the… honor of inaugurating this magnificent new addition to the Honor Guard fleet with a... timehonoredGuardtradition… mayitbeastrongholdofloyaltyhonoran’faithfulcompanionship. Yup.” Yup, indeed, nothin’ to do now but go through with it, for the honor of the Guard, an’ all that...

    Zeb took a deep breath, turned, and gave a sharp nod of command in the direction of the depot’s side door. At this signal, the Honor Guard drum corps commander—Senior Lieutenant Maranga Patithi, a rangy, angular female with short, bobbed black-blue hair—marched in, stationed herself near the front of the H-Goater, and began a roll on the large drum strapped to her chest and waist. Next, Shai marched in, holding a large paper-wrapped package with both hands. He presented this, very correctly and militarily, to Zeb, and they saluted each other. As the drum roll continued, Zeb climbed carefully up the side of the H-Goater, package in hand. When he reached the top, he unwrapped the package to reveal a large, raw, and very juicy nerf steak, which he then set down, on its paper, beside the ion cannon turret.

    Cheers began to ripple through the crowd, but Zeb ignored them and simply hmmphed to himself as he climbed back down. Once back on the ground, Zeb faced the side entrance and gave a nod. This time, Gron marched in, and in his arms was the carrier containing the dreaded Baldo, whose blue-green eyes gleamed through the grate of the door and whose burbles of excitement could already be heard. Gron presented the carrier to Zeb, and they saluted each other. The drum roll, of course, continued.

    And finally, Zeb took another deep breath that he hoped the assembled guests couldn’t see, and faced the beady little blue-green beast-eyes googling out from the carrier. This was it—no turning back now. Protectingthosewhocannotprotectthemselvesisthebeginningofhonor...

    Zeb opened the carrier door. Baldo bounded out and went right for his leg, which he encircled with a few forelegs and began nuzzling affectionately and insistently. Summoning every shred of courage he had, Zeb bent down to pry those forelegs off (gingerly, because those little claws were sharp), then picked him up (also gingerly, because he didn’t want Zefora getting sore at him for manhandling her prize pet). He could hear his heart pounding up in his throat and feel sweat lubricating his palms and fingertips as he lifted the spherical beast—who was a good bit heavier than he looked, karabast it—onto the front chassis of the H-Goater and set him down with a mumbled “off you go, now.”

    But Baldo did not go off now. He stood and sniffed around for a moment, perhaps catching a whiff of the steak up by the ion cannon, perhaps not. And then, once again, he turned to Zeb and began nuzzling his face, just as affectionately and insistently as he had nuzzled his leg earlier.

    “Aw karabast… arright… arright already…” Zeb’s heart pounded louder in his throat as he tried to pull away from Baldo’s affections. “D-don’cha want’cher nice n-n-nerf steak? Mmm-mmm-mmm n-nice t-tasty yums?”

    But Baldo just kept nuzzling. If anything, he did so even more affectionately and more insistently, for this time his tongue joined in the process, lavishing Zeb’s face and impeccably trimmed beard with slobbery foam. Then, as if that weren’t enough, he extended an indeterminate number of spindly forelegs to encircle Zeb’s neck in a strange, tickly approximation of a hug. Aw, karabast, karabast, karabast...

    Meanwhile, Lieutenant Patithi’s drum roll had dwindled to nothing, and quizzical murmurs were percolating through the crowd, who certainly had never expected this time-honored Guard tradition to go like this. As his heart continued to pound and his fingers continued to sweat and waves of slobber continued to slosh across his face, Zeb continued his attempts to extricate the voorpak from his person, wondering if anything like this had happened to any previous Honor Guard captain at any previous Honor Guard voorpak ceremony. It was considered a good omen if the voorpak went for the food placed atop the vehicle, that much he knew—so what in the Bogan’s name did it mean if the voorpak ignored the food and went for the captain instead? Was that a bad omen? Was he a bad omen? KarabastkarabastKARABAST protectingthosewhocannotprotectthemselves istheBEGINNINGOFHONOR—

    He glanced around at the assembled guests, as if for help; they were all looking at each other, murmuring, shrugging, shaking their heads, impatiently tapping feet. He was pretty sure Shai was giggling into his fist, the little nerfbrain. But Shulma—she was looking right at him, her emerald eyes agape with astonishment.

    And then she… opened her handbag and took something out…? And held it up…? What the…? And—

    Then something happened.

    Baldo stopped licking. Then he stopped nuzzling. Then, very slowly, he loosened his grip around Zeb’s neck and placed each of his appendages, one by one, back onto the chassis of the H-Goater. Then, turning his pug-nose proudly upward to sniff the air, he made his way up onto the vehicle’s roof and began tucking into the nerf steak, with snuffling gobbles and slobbery om-nom-noms.

    And the guests burst into raucous cheers and applause. And Captain Orrelios heaved a gigantic sigh of relief, not caring who could see.

    He ventured another look back at the crowd. The cheering was now ebbing somewhat as the strains of the Honor Guard hymn swelled from hundreds of joyful Lasat voices. But Zeb noticed Shulma wasn’t singing. Her eyes were closed, and she held one arm extended before her while the other, close to her breast, held something—her focusing stone, he could now see, which glowed red-gold. The chalk lines on the floor, he noticed, were glowing as well. But neither glowed like the smile she shined in his direction as she slowly opened her eyes (those eyes!).

    And Baldo, Ashla bless his little voorpak heart, kept right on eating.

    Zeb smiled back at his wife, wanting nothing more than to grab her in his arms right then and there in front of everyone and give her a huge kiss. But that, he figured, had better wait. Right now, he would just be content to stay where he was and thank the Ashla that that multi-legged thing was off him at last.

    * * *​

    Later that evening, after the festivities were over and Baldo was safely back at the munitions shed with Gron, Zeb and Shulma relaxed together on the balcony of the Captain’s House, nuzzling each other under the twinkling stars.

    “Well, another Honor Guard Ball in the bag,” Zeb began.

    “A beautiful evening, as always,” his wife replied. “And very good news about the new H-Goater. Perhaps things are finally looking up for us now.”

    “Yeah, I think it’ll give us what we need, ’least I hope so… Say, darlin’...”

    “Yes?”

    “So when I unveiled it an’ put Baldo—er, the voorpak—on there… you did that, didn’tcha?”

    “It was the Ashla, but… yes, essentially.” She took his hand and stroked its fur. “You looked like you could use some help.”

    “Heh, yeah, I guess.”

    She smiled, and a few quiet, starlit moments passed. Then she said, “Was that what was troubling you all that time, ai Garazeb?”

    “What?”

    “A time-honored Honor Guard ritual with a voorpak. That’s what was disturbing my poor Zeblove’s currents, no?” She slid one finger lightly from her husband’s brow ridge down to his fringe as she spoke.

    “Well—er—erm—” This was it. She’d figured it out—of course—and this was where the captain of the Lasan High Honor Guard was going to have to confess to his wife his profound aversion to an animal widely considered cute and cuddly. Or something. “I don’t really—I mean, voorpaks aren’t really—I mean, I—”

    “Oh, I can’t stand them, either. They give me the shakes.”

    “Wait—wha—huh?” Zeb perked up. This was unexpected—if not in a bad way. “R-really? Why?”

    “Rrhu’karabast’aka, they’re anooba-sized mammalian spiders! Does one need any other reason?”

    Zeb found himself exhaling, relaxing, and snuggling closer to his wife. Yup, definitely not in a bad way. “Well, when ya put it like that…”

    “Chorz had one when we were kits. It was the creepiest, bizarrest creature you ever saw. I enrolled in Shaman Marballees’s mental communication course just to learn how to get it to leave me alone.”

    “Wow—er—that… says something…”

    “Yes. Now, on the other hand... ” Her green eyes gleamed as she turned toward him, a new smile blooming on her face. “A nice tooka-cat…”

    “Aw, now, don’t you start in with the pet talk, heh heh!”

    She leaned closer. “Or even better, a nice nuzzlecat.”

    He leaned closer, too. “Now that I’ll take.”

    And Captain Garazeb Orrelios and his wife nestled together and kissed in the starlight, like the nuzzlecats they were.

    fin

    Supply Sergeant Droglak Skaavatou (OC) comes up in Raissa Baiard’s The Beginning of Honor (unnamed), and in my From the Mountain’s Heart and Our Big Fat Lasat Wedding.

    Lieutenant Maranga Patithi, commander of the Honor Guard Drum Corps, is an OC who appears in my Romance among the Stones and Our Big Fat Lasat Wedding (unnamed). She is also mentioned in Shaman, Traveler, Oracle, chapter 19.

    Shaman Marballees: This is the elder Marballes who gives Shulma grief in Light of Lasan, chapter 3.

    The SoroSuub X-31 landspeeder is the Orrelios family vehicle in Raissa Baiard’s The Beginning of Honor and my Our Big Fat Lasat Wedding.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2021
  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] [face_dancing] Oh wow! Shulma doesn't like them either And she helped out when it really counted, the darling!

    I love the closing cuddle between them. They really are too adorbs for words.
     
  17. Vek Talis

    Vek Talis Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Oct 12, 2018
    Very nice. Hilarious, with that spider nuzzling and slobbering all over a proud military-cat. Having a pet spider would be pretty cool, though. ;)
     
    Raissa Baiard, Kahara and Findswoman like this.
  18. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Oh, Zeb Zeb Zebby Garazeb... :D His debilitating fear of multi-leggers (even the cute, fluffy kind) continues to wreak havoc on him as the Gala and THE VOORPAK RITUAL loom larger. ("The Voorpak Ritual" would make an excellent title for an in-universe thriller). His helpful lieutenants aren't quite as helpful as he might wish. My boy, Shai, is a bit of a snot here, isn't he? :p Though I have no doubt that if the tables were turned Zeb would do the same to him. Meanwhile Gron has gone full-on pet parent with all his breathless updates. I wonder if he will adopt a Highland Goldie when all of this over? And Zeb is still worried about What Shulma Wwork aill Think of her big, tough Guardsman when she learns that he's afraid of cute little poofballs.

    Then the Gala-- wow, it all sounds fantastic. As always, you do a fantastic job of painting a vivid scene, from Zeb and Shulma's finery--and her dress sounds absolutely gorgeous--to all the dancing, to the H-Goater EXTREEEEEEME. Boo-yah! I tell you, if Zeb ever needs a secondary career, he could always go into transport sales! I love the way he details all of the H-Goater's fine features
    What would it take to put you behind the steering yoke today, eh guards? :D

    And then comes the moment Zeb's been dreading, when he has to put that karabasting foofball on top of the transport, because time-honored ritual and loyalty and faithfulness and all that---and the karabasting foofball is more interested in his Unkie Zebbers than he is in his tasty yums! I've got to admit, I felt a little bad for Zeb here (Even as I was laughing in my sleeve with Shai). I love animals, but I am more a cat person, and slobbery dogs are kind of ewww. :p So I can't actually blame him for not enjoying Baldo's enthusiastic licking. I do love how even as Baldo's (loving) assault continues, his primary thought is what this means in terms of the ritual:
    Karabast, no!

    Fortunately, Shulma is on hand to work a little Ashla magic and convince Baldo that he'd rather have that tasty nerf steak after all--cue the collective sigh of relief from the audience, and the loudest, most heartfelt sigh from Zeb! When he's forced to confess his guilty secret to her, it turns out--she can't stand them either
    D'oh! As usual in RomComs our hero could have been spared much anguish if he'd just been honest in the first place. At least then he would have had his loving wife's moral support the whole time. Perhaps he'll learn that he doesn't always have to present the macho Captain image to her...or perhaps not :p But at any rate, Zeb can be assured that Shulma won't want to adopt a shaving-sponge-like voorpak pup from his sister! (Though that sounds rather cute to me; and I kind of want to write a story in which Uncle Ezra helps Zeb's kit(s) find the Perfect Pet---something round and poofy...)

    In the end, all's well that ends well for our two nuzzlecats. Thanks for sharing this fun story; I'm always up for the continuing adventures of Zebma!
     
  19. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    This is such a fantastic ending for a fantastic story. [face_love]


    Oh, but isn't that the sad truth? :( The shadow over this day of rejoicing just made the mush all the sweeter in the end, though. You know, treasured moments and all that.

    The word braggadocio had me cracking up. As did Zeb finding amusement in the youngsters he seemingly was one of not so very long ago! :p

    I think I blanched a little there, not gonna lie . . .

    And there, that's our quintessential Garazeb, isn't it? No matter what, he's going to do what needs to be done like the true Honor Guard he is. [face_love]

    [face_love] Again, it made me so happy to see their relationship at this mature phase. And that dress! And that uniform! What a handsome couple, so beautifully described. Yay to all of the fancy dresses. :p [face_dancing] [face_love]

    [face_laugh] As always, your Lasan dances and festivities are a treat!

    This had such a Jane Austen vibe to it that I loved! Yep, I bet that Zeb has all the fancy feet and then some in this case. :p

    Beautifully expressed! [face_love]

    SHAI!!!! He's cruisin' for a bruisin', I swear to goodness . . .

    [face_laugh] [face_laugh]

    I adored this bit of banter. [face_love]

    Not. At. All. [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    This was beautiful - the ritual and Shulma performing the ritual and Zeb's appreciation for Shulma performing the ritual. Easily one of my favorite moments of the story. =D=

    KEEP IT TOGETHER, SOLDIER! I swear, but my heart was in my throat for Zeb here.

    (Plus, what a beaut! I love how all of the mech jargon came together in his speech! =D=)

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] :eek: :eek:

    OH NO!!!! ZEB HAS NERVES OF STEEL, NO MATTER HOW ADORABLE THIS CRITTER MAY OTHERWISE BE!!!!!

    Nope. I think that Zeb had it right at karabast. [face_mischief]

    Now, that said, what kind of an omen is that, if the voorpak blesses the captain and not the vehicle? [face_thinking]

    Shulma, you are an Ashla send. [face_love]

    Rrhu’karabast’aka, indeed! Shulma has the right of it here!

    And I just adore that she and Zeb are so well matched. In this and every way. [face_love]

    [face_love]!!! With excellent mush like that, all's well that ends well.



    This was such a sweet, fun story, and I enjoyed every word. As always, it was so much fun delving into this world once more and journeying alongside these dear characters with you. I can't wait to see what you have in store for Zeb and Shulma next.


    [:D] =D=
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  20. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks so much for the reads and comments, you all! :)

    Thank you! Just another way in which these two are always there for each other—sometimes without even knowing it! Of course, the other side of that is that maybe Zeb should have confided in his wife when this all first came up—because she would have completely understood! As to cuddling scenes between them, well, you know I just can’t help myself after a point! :D [face_love] Many thanks again!

    Ah, well, you see, a pet spider is one thing, and a dog-sized pet spider is quite another! :p At least when you’re a proud military-giant-lemur-cat who has to borrow one for a Time Honored Guard Tradition, it’s only a temporary situation. Though I think Gron would be game for such a pet! :D

    Hah, yes, kind of has the same ring as the Sherlock Holmes story “The Musgrave Ritual,” doesn’t it! Yep, I’m afraid I did make Shai a bit insufferable; sorry about that, though you’re right that both brothers have had ample chances over the years to be that way toward each other, so perhaps it evens out! ;) I could see Gron as an eventual Pet Dad, too—perhaps that is exactly what he plans to do, though we of course know what event intervenes before he can. =((

    Thanks so much! And I realized, I forgot to mention in my notes the source of that dress design—it was one of your Sims mock-ups, and it was so pretty and so very Shulma that I just had to use it, so many thanks again!
    What would it take, indeed! I am sure all the Guards, and especially the cavalry units who will be dealing with them most closely of all, can’t wait to take them for a spin! :D

    Oh, I felt bad for him too, because I have that exact same attitude toward canine slobber. :p As someone who holds himself to a very high standard, I thought that’s something that would immediately jump to mind for him as he recalls what he’s read about how this ritual has played out in the past. (And of course, if you like, you can take it as a foreshadowing, or something of that nature—I’ll leave that up to you all as readers!)

    Yep, he made it through after all, with a little help—and there is nothing at all with wronh with having help! (As we know he learns during his time on the Ghost, too.)

    EXACTLY. Got it in one!

    With him, it could really be some of both! :D

    With more than four legs! :p Oh ho, a good bunny, there—good material for one or both of our hutches! :D

    Thanks so much! Of course it was going to end with the two of them enjoying a good nuzzlecat nuzzle together—that was always a given (and one of the most fun parts to write, of course!). [face_love] Many thanks again for enjoying this story, and for all you did to help me bring it to completion! <3

    Aw, thanks so much! That means a lot to me coming from you, and I’m glad you enjoyed! :)

    Exactly—those moments are really the whole raison d’être of this series, of course. @};-

    Thanks—it just seemed like the perfect word for the situation! :D And I actually do have in mind a plot bunny involving his (and Shulma’s) very first Honor Guard ball that I hope to write sometime if the opportunity comes along!

    Oh, same here, same here!

    You better believe it! Booyah! :D

    Aw, thanks! :) I have to say, I love writing them at this stage, too, and of course there’s no self-indulgence for a fanfic writer like a nice formalwear description, I have to say! (And of course I had a beautiful model to work with with Raissa’s dress design, described above!)

    Thank you so much! They too are by way of a writerly self-indulgence for me, so I am gratified to hear they are appreciated by others, too! :)

    Hah, thanks! This is a headcanon I have always had about Zeb from when I first knew he was an Honor Guard—back in the day on our own Earth, dance was considered an essential skill for military men because of the physical discipline it required, so why not on Lasan, too!

    She does have that poetic, rhetorical touch, Shulma does… ;)

    Oh, he is, he is, and he only gets away with it because his Big Bro has to keep to a certain amount of discipline and self-control as captain! :p

    Thanks again! The right terminology is important, as y’know! :D

    Not. In. The. Least. Grrr. :p

    Glad you enjoyed, thanks again! I thought they could use a tender moment like this right before Poodoo Starts Going Down. :p

    He’s tryin’, he’s tryin’! I think mine was, too, though! :p

    Thanks so much—I’m glad, because that jargon was one of the things I was worried about writing convincingly, as a lot of the in-universe tech stuff is outside my wheelhouse. The Wook's AT-TE entry was helpful as a model.

    Oh yes, you know it’s bad when he starts doing that!

    He is indeed braver than he gives himself credit for in the face of such an onslaught! :p

    Agreed, he definitely did! :p

    Now, that is a very good question! Definitely something I’ll have to think on further. [face_thinking] I think it be… not necessarily the exact, specific good omen that was intended, but not necessarily a bad one either. Especially knowing this captain!

    I agree, if I do say so myself!

    Agreed here, too!

    Well, thanks, I appreciate that so much, because I try. They both deserve it—again, if I do say so myself!

    Exactly what I say, too [face_love]

    Thank you so much again—I know I’ve been saying that over and over again, broken-record fashion, but I mean it completely, each and every time! It means so much to me that you take an interest in this series of stories and have been enjoying them, and you can rest assured there will be more to come, for sure! [:D]
     
  21. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Honest to goodness, I almost choked on my coffee reading this. YES, one of you brilliant ladies needs to get on writing this, stat. You know, for reasons. :p [face_batting] [face_mischief]

    I'd like to cast my vote for this plot bunny too! What a happy hutch this 'verse has going for it right now. :p ;)

    Aww, never broken-record! Unless it's just as broken-record as me saying how much I appreciate the love and consideration you both have so clearly put into cultivating this 'verse. These characters have become even dearer to me than in canon as a result of your fine efforts, and, really, isn't that we here as a community of transformative works are all about? Truly, keep up the good work! [:D]
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Yay for the mention of going back to Zeb's and Shulma's first Honor Guard ball!! I adore filling in those kinds of blanks LOL ^:)^
     
    Raissa Baiard and Findswoman like this.