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! 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 Spoiler: Notes 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.