Sliding Time 1:Cracked and rusted metal, rotten organics and scum-filled water was all he had found in days on board this monstrous vessel that was supposed to be an active Plutarkian flagship. So far the only indication of activity was the rumbling whine of the engines that propelled the ship through space. It was that sound alone that took him further away from the teleported room that had brought him on board from the last ship he'd been on; a Plutarkian freighter that had turned itself into dust only minutes after he'd left it.
No Clash of Cultures
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F/M and M/M sex
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
He'd need to find a supply hold soon as well. The meager resources he's managed to scavenge from the freighter would only last a few more days, even when rationed.
He sniffed the air and caught a whiff of life. At least two Plutarkians were very close. The rumble of his stomach overrode what few qualms he had left about hunting those who had destroyed his world and exterminated his people. These two would have special deaths among their sickening kind. They would die to give another life.
SunWind of the Endless Storm closed his eyes and dropped to all fours as his form flowed into an enormous quadruped canine with the elegant double helix horns of half of his heritage, the long, bare whip-like tail and large round mouse-ears of the other and the translucent red antennae that both shared.
His mind narrowed to what was before him: a feast to fuel a body that had not eaten well for months.
Even if they were Plutarkians, they were edible. Low standards helped. He was too hungry to turn down anything he could digest.
"I'm tellin' ya, there's just no way they're gonna put us on another haul out here. There's nothin' left to guard! We'll be back on Plutark before ya know it," one of them said to his partner. "The malfunctions that keep blowing up the freighters are all the better reason to pull as much back as they can."
SunWind couldn't help but smile. It was nice to know his efforts were enough to be noticed.
He stretched his mind out, placing his targets and confirming it was just the two of them. Easy pickings.
He gathered himself, muscles bunching, and launched himself around the corner to barrel into the closest target to rip it apart. It was messy and smelled terrible, but without a blaster, it was the most effective way to kill to the bipedal fish-creatures.
Besides, eating them would be messier.
"Shit!" The one he'd heard first swore, turning and firing wildly.
SunWind snarled as one shot impacted his side, an admittedly large target, and he turned from his still-gurgling first kill to assault the standing one. Between knowing the blaster wouldn't hurt him much and having several times the mass of his target, the frontal assault was over with in a single crunching bite that shattered the Plutarkian's skull.
With any luck, no alarms had been set off by the blaster fire. He couldn't hear any at least as he began to tear large chunks of flesh and bone from his kills to swallow almost whole. It was times like this that he was grateful beyond words that his larger canid forms could pack down a couple hundred pounds at a sitting. Within minutes there was little left of the two Plutarkians beyond their pale red blood.
With a burp and rumble for a pleasantly distended belly, he padded off towards the sound of the engines once more.
He had to be a bit more careful not to be noticed; it wasn't as easy to hide like this as it was in his Maru form. Still, the guards all seemed to be as inattentive as the first batch ... though the deeper he got, the more of them there were. All were just as lazy, but harder to dodge when they were twice as thick.
By the time he saw the signs pointing to engineering, it had become evident that not even waiting for the night shift would clear the place out enough to be completely unnoticed. It wasn't completely unexpected, and for a moment the carnage he now had an excuse for brought a smile to his muzzle.
He swept the area with his mind, picking out those of rank and training that might be able to undo his damage in time to save the ship.
Then the hunting began.
Guards, officers, engineers. A half dozen races from all over the galaxy. One at a time he separated them from their companions and crushed their skulls with a single bite. It was quick work and largely silent. Like every other ship he'd taken on in the past decade, this one had no idea what was happening until it was far too late.
Soon only two Plutarkians were still in the area; both low ranking engineers. He licked his muzzle clean and flowed into his most deadly form; a giant humanoid canid killing machine that struck faster than his targets could turn around.
Now alone in the engine room, he went to work sabotaging it with a combination of brute force and computer hacking that would give him enough time to escape to his next target.
Before long, the console was starting to break down, alarms starting in far-off portions of the ship. He'd have to run fast; this place was going to go up soon.
It was something he was used to as he slipped back into the giant canine form of Lupki, grabbed one of his more editable-smelling kills in his jaws and bolted with no more care for whether he was seen or not. The crew had bigger concerns than him right now.
Obi-Wan held a groan silent, keenly aware that he was not in a familiar place. He tried to remember back, trace what had happened that resulted in him laying on his back in a grassy meadow.
He and Qui-Gon were on Agodina, negotiating a trade agreement between the Republic and the Queen and her court. It had gone well, and been easy. The Queen knew of Jedi and their appearance was taken as a mark of respect to her and her court. It had turned a tense situation into a fairly friendly one almost overnight.
It was a reaction that would never cease to amaze him.
The Queen had asked them to demonstrate their lightsaber skills before her court. When it was done, the entire room had changed its mood to a very receptive one, yet it was not based in fear.
From there, the negotiators, and particularly the Jedi, were treated as honored guests. They were invited to many events and special access tours.
One of those tours had been of a secret project of sorts. A mass teleportation device. It was boring to listen to the explanation the excitable scientist of his prototype that didn't yet work, but he had listened attentively anyway while he silently talked to his Master some miles away having tea with the Queen.
Then there were sparks, an explosion, and reality went dark.
Whatever that explosion had done, it hadn't been injuries. Physically, he was fine except for a headache. His mind ... he could tell his bond with his Master was intact, they were both alive, but that was all it provided. Wherever he was, it was a long ways from where he had been.
He reached out with his Force-senses to explore the area around him before he gave an indication he was conscious. No buildings ... plant life, some small animals... mostly things he wasn't familiar with, but it seemed as if he was out in the wilds of where ever he was. He could hear vehicles passing by overhead, but nobody seemed inclined to stop and check him out just yet.
As he opened his eyes vision confirmed what he'd sensed. In addition, there was a large city on the horizon when he stood up and looked around.
"Wonderful." He muttered slightly and patted himself down, pleased that at least his lightsaber and equipment was still intact and working. He looked around one more time and spotted the control device he'd been shown not long before the explosion. He scooped it up and put it in a pouch before heading for the city and some hope he was still in the Republic, or at least known space.
A city was usually a pretty good sign that he could find out where he was. He had yet to meet the language he couldn't become passable in within days when he needed to be.
As he walked, he couldn't help but feel uneasy as he saw the ships flying around above him. They didn't look anything like the designs he was used to. All angles and lines, clearly designed for speed and probably for combat. He couldn't imagine any planet he knew having such an active space fleet without a battle going on.
As he got closer, he was even more sure this was not anywhere in the Republic. The architecture was all wrong, and the species mix he was beginning to see was just as far off.
Humanoid animals, every one of them. Rabbits, Foxes, Cats, Birds, Reptiles, a couple of Frogs ... all manner of species, dressed not too unlike what he might expect to see on the streets of Coruscant, walking about and doing their business. Their clothing was either closer fitting or far more flowing than the robes most in the Republic wore, but they were clearly for more than just protection from the environment given the variety in color and design.
To judge by some of the looks he was getting from passersby, he was as unusual to them as they were to him. Possibly even more so.
The chatter on the street was also a language, or a mixture of languages, he had no clue about. He knew he wasn't fluent in all the languages of the galaxy, but anywhere with a spaceport he was sure was around would have some people taking in at least one of the couple dozen major languages he was familiar enough with to recognize.
But not here. No Hutteese, no Basic, Rodian, Devaronian, Twi'lek, not even one of the tongues that he would have expected from some of them, given their shapes. There was not even Trade being spoken, and it was spoken everywhere. Here, language sounded more like muttering or mumbling rapidly between each other, with the occasional semi-bestial sound.
He noticed a Wolf in light body armor and a decorative metallic and blue eye patch covering the left side of his face watching him curiously. However, he didn't seem to be following as Obi-Wan worked his way into a shopping district. This the young Jedi recognized more of; clothing, jewelry, books, decorative items, children's toys. The language remained the same though, and more people looked at him nervously.
He could see the spaceport from here, however, and worked his way in that direction. If anyone here could speak with him, it would be there. As he began making his way towards the spaceport, he became keenly aware that there seemed to be more focused attention on him. Everybody made room for him without hesitation, and he knew he was being watched.
A bright red-wheeled vehicle pulled up in front of him as he approached an intersection, the Fox behind the wheel stopping in his path and looking up at him. It was clearly not a law enforcement vehicle as far as Obi-Wan was concerned. It was designed for speed and show rather than rough and tumble work, but you wouldn't know it to look at the driver. He was wearing a light vest that had concealed light armor plates visible in it and there was a blaster near his off-hand.
He said something in the local language; while the young Jedi couldn't understand him, he was pretty sure from body language that whoever this Fox was, he wanted information about the new arrival that was so clearly different and had the authority to demand it.
"I am sorry. I do not understand you." He made his tone apologetic and his body language as friendly as he could. It may not be exactly the kind of posture and gestures the Fox was used to, but with hundreds of races worth non-verbal communications signals in his repertoire, he was sure he could at least manage 'I am not a threat' for this alien.
The Fox frowned, reaching up to tap the headset he was wearing roughly and trying again. The sounds were vaguely similar, almost like somebody rapidly trying to learn Basic. He was sure he made out a 'you' in the middle, shortly before the Fox nodded towards the back seat of his car.
Obi-Wan hesitated, but when an empathic scan picked up nothing hostile or deceptive about the Fox, he got in.
"My name is Obi-Wan." He offered, not sure if it would be translated yet.
"Obi-Wan?" The Fox repeated uncertainly, starting the vehicle again and pulling into a u-turn, driving towards one of the other large facilities in the city. He was saying that himself, and his muzzle wasn't really built for it. "Fox McCloud," he said, the device translating the name into Basic. It did seem to be picking up the language fairly quickly ... this might be a good sign.
After all - if they had translator devices like this, it meant they probably weren't that unused to aliens with strange languages.
"What world is this?" Obi-Wan asked, hopping the device was up for the questions he wanted to ask first.
"You... on Corneria...." The Fox said. There was more, but that was all he understood so far. "People... about you. You... quite a...."
Well, at least he was getting more of it.
"What is your title?" Obi-Wan kept up the conversation, hoping it would eventually learn enough to really talk.
"Rank?" The Fox asked him.
"Rank, job, what do you do?" He elaborated. "I would like to teach your device faster."
"Commander Fox McCloud," the Fox told to him, reaching up and fiddling with one of the settings on the headset. "Are you military?"
"No," he shook his head. "I am a Jedi. We are negotiators, diplomats, warriors when we need to be."
"New one to me," Fox mused. "You can understand me pretty well now?"
So much for it being anywhere with any contact with home. He'd be hard pressed to find a world, civilized or not, that wasn't at least aware of the Jedi. They may not have all seen one, but they all at least recognized the title.
"Yes," he nodded. "Why did you stop to pick me up?"
"Good, means Slippy's finally getting the bugs worked out of it. I got a call from General Pepper; seems you caused quite a stir when you started walking down the streets. Nobody was quite sure what you were, so they called in. I was off-duty, but the Star Fox team usually handles anything involving strange aliens showing up in Corneria City."
"I'm not the first then." Obi-Wan nodded with the confirmation of what he'd suspected. "What happens next?"
"Well, first I take you back to base, so we can make sure there isn't anything that's a biological threat that came with you. Slippy'll work on getting you a translator of your own, programmed for the local languages. Then we'll try and figure out how the heck you got here, since you didn't have a ship that I saw," Fox chuckled. "You hide one, or something weird happen?"
"Something weird happened." He confirmed. "I was listening to a scientist about his latest project and a power surge blew things up. I woke up not far from the city."
"You still have the device?" Fox asked him, slowing down as they approached an obviously military compound, pulling his ID out and showing it to the guard on duty before pulling in.
"No." he shook his head. "The device was the size of a very large room and exploded."
"Ouch," Fox winced. "Well, you might just be stuck here for a while then, if we can't figure out some other way to get you back. What's your home planet?"
"Coruscant." He supplied easily. "There are several hundred I can make my way home from as well."
"Okay ... you ever hear of the Lylat System?"
"Can't say as I have." Obi-Wan admitted and watched the controls as Fox parked the vehicle. Being able to drive one of these could prove useful. "The races here are also new to me. A few could be from back home, but I doubt it."
"Definitely going to be around here for a while then," Fox said, pulling the keys out and pocketing them. "Come on, I'll introduce you to the others. Maybe Slippy'll end up having some idea how to get you home."
"Or something I can do while I am here at least." He suggested, following the Fox towards the building, their difference in dress very obvious.
"Oh, that I'm sure we can find for you," Fox chuckled. "Even if things are pretty peaceful since Andross went down the last time, we've got plenty of work for anybody who's on the good guy's side."
"How many worlds have people on them, that you trade with?" Obi-Wan asked curiously as they entered the main building.
"On a large scale, or counting the reclamation stations?" Fox asked as they walked through quiet halls. It wasn't particularly busy at this hour; the few passersby there were giving Obi-Wan strange looks but continued on when they saw the much shorter Fox with him.
"Large scale." Obi-Wan decided, looking around and taking in everything.
"Four others, for now," Fox said. "Katina, Sauria, Titania, and Macbeth. The other planets are still being recovered after the last couple wars against Andross."
"Sounds like you took some hard losses." He said sympathetically. "Are all the worlds in this system?"
"Yeah, unless you say Sauria is outside of it. Still orbits our star though, so it's an academic argument. We don't really have inter-system travel yet, honestly. Not that's really any good," Fox said with a slight shrug as they approached a lab. "You're not really used to people like us, are you?"
"No," the Jedi admitted. "I've seen many races, but never the concentration of humanoid animals that are here. A few races look familiar, but not many."
"Well, just so you know, Slippy's a Frog. Smart as anything though. We've had a few folks come through who weren't very comfortable with amphibians."
"I've worked with insectoids and giant slugs before. I don't expect any problems with an amphibian." Obi-wan smiled slightly. "I grew up surrounded by many kinds of people."
"Sounds like it," Fox chuckled, thinking about the idea of insects and slugs as people. "I've worked with a couple people who've grown up never meeting an alien that didn't want to erase their planet. It gets ... interesting." The door slid open, revealing a three-foot tall Frog that looked even smaller scrunched down under a console.
"Hey Fox!" The Frog called out, his voice almost painfully high. "You bring in the new arrival?" He asked, crawling out from under the computer and turning to see Obi-Wan. "You're not a Mouse," he observed, cocking his head at the furless giant.
"No I'm not." The Jedi agreed with a smile and slight bow. "I am a human."
"So we do have two coming in," Slippy observed, turning to hit a button on the console. "Hey Rob! Set up scans for two new arrivals, not just one!" A viewscreen turned on, revealing a droid on the other side who looked like an archaic design from back home.
"Yes Slippy," the droid answered. "A second translator is also in production."
"Great," the Frog grinned at the droid. "Thanks Rob!"
"You're welcome, Slippy," Rob answered, the viewscreen turning off a few moments later.
"So ... what is this about a Mouse?" Fox asked.
"After you went out after your friend, we got a second call," Slippy explained. "A giant Mouse with antenna. I thought it was just additional details, but Falco's on his way to check it out."
"Oh no," Fox groaned, shaking his head. "This could get ... interesting."
Falco grumbled to himself as he watched the scanners of his Arwing. Of all the nights to get called out to look for a strange alien, it had to be a night he was planning to spend with Katt.
"There you are," he muttered as the scanners picked up an alien life form. He gunned the engines, streaking out over Corneria City towards the nearby hills. The lush green grass and trees were unscarred by any crash, but the alien was there all right. A big biped Mouse with mottled tan fur and red antennae was standing in a hip-deep stream with clothing in his hands.
Not far away was the bloody body of a very large Rabbit, one nearly as big as the alien Mouse.
"Please don't let that be somebody local," Falco muttered quietly, throttling down the engine so he was a bit quieter in his approach. He didn't think it was; Rabbits didn't usually get that big, but if it was he'd be filing reports for the next week explaining all this.
The washing Mouse looked up, the two green squares of his eyes became apparent as a pair of glasses after a moment as he started at the incoming craft. An instant later he hit the ground on all fours in a gigantic canine form with metallic horns glittering in the sunlight and grabbed the Rabbit in his jaws before bolting into deeper cover of the forest.
"What the fuck?" Falco swore, hitting his comm. "Base, I've made contact with our new arrival ... he turned into some sort of four-legged wolf or something and bolted into the woods. Possible casualty ... going to try and track him down."
"Understood Blue Bird." Peppy's calm voice replied even as the sensors of Falco's Arwing traced the alien running fast threw the dense forest under him. "Do you need assistance?"
"Not directly, but if you could have somebody bring my bike out here. I might have to chase him down, and I am not up to running him down if he's as fast as he looked."
"Krystal will bring it out," he said after a moment, a light voice beyond him likely the Vixen in question. "She might be helpful in calming it down too."
"Any indication whether we are dealing with a person or animal?" Krystal took over the frequency on a head set as she headed to pick up Falco's bike.
"A bit of both, I think," Falco said and brought the Arwing to a higher altitude. It might settle down without such an obvious pursuit that flying low made and the sensors could track the alien easily enough from altitude. "Looked like a biped, but he dropped to all fours, picked up a body next to him in his mouth and bolted as soon as he heard my Arwing. Was wearing some glasses though."
"Most likely a sentient then," she said as much to herself as to him and started the bike's engine. "I'll be there in a few."
"I'll circle and track," Falco answered easily. "Let me know when you're here," he added, flipping the comm off and focusing on what the scanners were telling him. The alien clearly didn't know the forest that well ... either that, or he was really trying to lose the Arwing. More likely exploring as much as hiding, trying to find a good spot to stop and settle.
After all, it hadn't been an hour yet from the energy surge that had brought him here.
"That's right, calm down and settle." Falco encouraged the creature he could only see by his scanners. "Krystal will be here any minute and we'll know what kind of critter you are."
"I'm at the stream," Krystal opened the comm line again. "There are jeans, a leather jacket, boots ... was the dead one still dressed?"
"Yeah, but not like a local," Falco said easily. "Some sort of uniform ... so either he came from where ever the Mouse did, or he was on his way to one weird costume party. Think he's starting to settle down."
"Then if you keep out of his awareness, he'll likely come back for his clothes and weapons." She nodded to herself. "I'll be waiting for him here."
"You just be careful," Falco told her seriously. "Fox'd kill me if you managed to get hurt."
"I've got your bike, and I'll know before you do if he's not going to accept contact." She reminded him. "I'll be careful. I have no intention of being his next meal."
"Doesn't mean I'm not gonna be watching close," Falco muttered, flipping the comm back on to make another report to base. There was no way Fox would accept anything less than up to the minute information with his girlfriend on the front line against something that had already killed at least one person.
Several miles away SunWind dropped his burden onto the leaves littering a thicket. He knew he should have left it, but too many hungry months had kept the heavy kill in his jaws despite how much it slowed him down.
He raised his head and sniffed the air again, his large, sharp ears searching for the sounds of engines that marked his pursuer. He knew he'd been turned around a few times from the need to stay under cover, but the stream wasn't too far away once he was alone again.
With the silence he let a breath of relief out and licked his muzzle clean before slipping into the much, much smaller Luprani form and cautiously worked his way back to stream where his meager possessions were laying.
There was somebody there with them, watching them. Blue fur ... a Vixen that was only a bit larger than his current form, but biped. She was on a bike, watching for him.
His things were where he'd left them.
With a silent grumble he settled under some bushes to wait her out.
"~Hello?~" A gentle, friendly mental voice spoke to him, making him jump and look around frantically until he realized it was in his head.
He looked up, directly at the blue Vixen, not quite sure what to make of the first mind-to-mind contact he'd had in a very long time.
The truth of the contact warred with a decade and more on the run, and curiosity lost.
He made a dead bolt towards his kill and away from the contact he was desperately hungry for.
As he broke cover he felt a searing bolt of pain burn through his shoulder as a blaster rifle hit him hard. The force sent him rolling to the ground, but he landed on his feet in Lumari with a roar that rattled trees all around and launched himself towards the source of attack.
He heard a bike's engine roar, and before he reached his attacker, the blue-furred Vixen was between them on the bike.
"~Stop!~" She told him, turning away to face the one who had attacked him, shouting something at the Elk before turning back to SunWind.
He stood there in a quadruped form taller than as she was, just staring at her in bewilderment while the Elk behind her dropped his weapon and held his hands out, showing they were empty.
"~Friend.~" She projected as much calmness and acceptance as she could, not completely sure if he'd understand the word.
"~All dead.~" SunWind didn't know how else to respond to this creature that talked as an ally but protected the one who had shot him. It barely came out as words anyway, more a concept of alone and loss as he tried to work his mind round her presence and the challenges it created.
She meant what she said.
She was a stranger. A danger. She smelled of machines and aliens.
She wasn't lying.
"~New friend,~" she offered. "~He made a mistake,~" she said, indicating the Elk behind her. "~They aren't familiar with shapeshifters here. Didn't know what you are.~"
SunWind trembled slightly, only understanding some of her words but getting all of her intent. He sank down into his smallest form, one only slightly smaller than she was, but quadruped so he was much shorter. He was still debating what to do when the roar of engines grabbed his attention and he bolted back into the cover of the forest.
"Damn it, Falco," Krystal swore quietly as the Arwing touched down and the Bird in question climbed out. "I was making progress!"
"How was I to know the blaster shots weren't an emergency?" He shot back, then sighed. "So how what?"
"Now we get General Pepper to close off this area and give him some time and space to settle down." She said firmly. "He's not a hazard unless he's threatened and there is plenty of game for him until I can convince him we're friendly."
"He has killed somebody." He pointed out.
"From wherever he came from." Krystal countered sharply. "Did you get a look at him? He's been through hell, is badly scarred and most of his ribs are all showing." She sighed and shook her head. "Falco, I touched his mind more than once. He's scared, desperately lonely, and has been on his own so long he's almost forgotten how to talk. He's not dangerous unless he's threatened."
"It's the definition of 'threatened' that I'm not sure we agree on." Falco shook his head.
"Umm, Star Foxes ... what just happened?" The Elk asked as he retrieved his blaster riffle. "And what the hell was that creature?"
"We don't have a name for them yet." Krystal turned to look at him. "This area is about to be closed to the public. I would suggest you head back to your camp and get ready."
"Yes' ma'am," he nodded and turned to leave. "I'm sorry if I caused a bigger problem."
"It's done now." She said acceptingly. "It may have even been for the best."
"Come on, let's get back to base." Falco touched her shoulder. "This has gone way past a normal first contact."
"You mean this is a normal first contact?" She raised an eyebrow teasingly at him.
Falco just rolled his eyes and headed back to his Arwing while Krystal revved the bike's engine and took off.
SunWind was still trembling when he got back to where he had stashed the Rabbit he'd killed on board the Plutarkian ship. Despite having gorged to his limit less than half a day before, he was hungry again. It was testament to how run down he'd become that he could have burned that much energy so quickly. In his prime, such a feast would have sated him for a week or more.
The Rabbit, dead for less than two hours, was good meat he needed, but still he hesitated. That blue Vixen had reminded him that people were real and that eating them was taboo unless he was far more desperate than he was right now.
With a sigh he shifted to the gigantic canine form of Lupki and began to dig a long, shallow ditch to bury the body in. He was still more than strong enough to bring down an animal to eat. He'd scented enough large game already to feast well and recover his full strength.
His prime ....
He paused as the description passed through his mind again.
How old was he, anyway?
Nineteen years with the Endless Storm, about the same with the Biker Mice from Mars, and Haloeth only knew how long on his own. At least six or seven years, possibly as many as fifteen, though it felt like several lifetimes.
With a less brutal life, he'd only just be entering his prime now. As it stood, he felt old and half expected that much of his fur would have turned grey by now.
He shook his head sharply and half dragged the Rabbit to his grave and buried him quickly, then turned to sniff the air, intent on a meal to fuel his body's attempts to right itself.
"I thank you for your hospitality," Obi-Wan inclined his head as Fox led him to his temporary quarters after a brief medical exam confirmed that he had nothing contagious to the local population. "I will not take advantage of it."
"You're welcome, and I know," Fox nodded. "Things can get a little tight around here sometimes though; it's mostly habit to mention it. The Star Fox team isn't officially a part of the Cornerian military, so we're at the mercy of employment offers, Slippy's royalties, and the occasional endorsement deal to keep all our stuff maintained. The Great Fox is not a low maintenance ship," he chuckled as he stopped in front of a door that opened to Obi-Wan's temporary quarters.
"Even as a Jedi with official support, I've been on enough missions that were like that to understand." He nodded easily and stepped inside. "I'm still grateful for a soft bed and warm meals."
"I've been in the field enough to know the feeling," Fox nodded. "So, what are the Jedi?" He asked. "Some sort of warrior-priest, from what you said earlier?"
"Something like that," he nodded and sat down on one of the two padded chairs in the small reading corner of the room he was to occupy for a while and motioned to the other for Fox to make himself comfortable in. "We serve the Force, as much as we use it. We do not consider it a god, however."
"Just as well," Fox chuckled as he took a seat. "Last guys we met that claimed to be followers of an actual god were trying to tear their planet apart for him. Literally. So what is the Force?"
"It is the energy all around us. It is generated and influenced by all living things, as much as it influences those who can sense it. Those who can manipulate it can create effects around them, and the strongest can learn to become Jedi." He explained.
"You should talk to Krystal some time," Fox chuckled. "She'd probably understand this a lot better than I am just now. Upshot of it; it's some sort of magic?"
"That has an opinion of what you should do sometimes." He nodded.
"Destiny and that sort of stuff?" Fox asked, the question at least partly rhetorical. "Yeah, you and Krystal will get along great," he chuckled. "I'm not so sure about that sort of thing myself; I've heard too many people try to pass the buck for what they've done to destiny."
"Sometimes," Obi-Wan nodded. "Most of the times I know of are warnings of what could happen. The Force isn't much on giving direct information about the future. It is far too much in flux to have anything set, but sometimes a person will get a strong premonition or vision of a likely future. It up to them to figure out what it means and what to do about it, if anything."
"That's a bit better," Fox conceded. "That sort of destiny still means it's your fault if you screw something up, usually at least. So are Jedi common where you're from? Because I've never heard of anything like that, at least not that's native to our system."
"We are not common at all." Obi-Wan shook his head. "There are about ten thousand Jedi, and over a hundred trillion people in the known galaxy."
"So one of you for about every...." Fox did the math in his head quickly. "One for about every ten billion people? Must keep your guys stretched pretty thin."
"It does," he agreed. "There are never enough Jedi to answer all the calls of need. We have never been many; there simply are not enough people capable of it to train. It usually takes twenty-five years to train a full Knight, the rank where you are considered ready to operate on your own."
"So what's your rank?" Fox asked him. "After all, you didn't seem to have anybody else with you when you arrived here."
"My Master was not caught in the accident. He was elsewhere in the city at the time." He explained. "I am a Padawan," he fingered the long, slender braid behind his left ear. "An Initiate has not been selected for individual training yet. A Padawan has been, but is still in training. A Knight has completed their formal training and can be sent on solo missions. A Master is one who has successfully trained a Padawan."
"You're probably looking forward to getting home then," Fox mused. "Too bad there isn't anything left of the machine that brought you here. Even info on how it worked might've helped."
"I can't really help you there." Obi-Wan lied easily and smoothly. "Things have a way of working out in the end." He added to cover his acceptance with the truth.
"Well, I should probably get going," Fox said, checking his watch and standing up, a move that Obi-Wan went with easily. "Need to go keep an eye on a few things. See you around Obi-Wan. Maybe when Slippy is done with cleaning up his current project we can do some work on getting you back home."
"Sounds like a good plan." Obi-Wan stood to show the Red Fox out, then turned back to examine the rooms of his quarters a little more closely.
The bed was simple but quite comfortable and suitable for his height; clearly some races around here were normal-sized to him. So was the fresher room and its large shower, toilet and vanity. Everything needed to live comfortably except a kitchen. Given this was a military installation, he had no doubts food would be in a cafeteria of some sort. It was something he should have asked about too, even though he would not feel the need to eat for several more hours.
There was even enough space to perform many of his katas and meditate. It would be quite a pleasant place to be while he worked on getting home.
Obi-Wan drew in a deep, centering breath and removed the large bracelet/ arm guard like device from it's home on his belt and began to work through his memories of the inventor's descriptions with new importance on understanding them and what had happened to bring him here.
"Don't be too upset with him." Peppy chuckled as he set up their tent and Krystal built their campfire near the center of the restricted zone in a sizeable clearing near a creek. "He's just trying to be a good leader."
"And an utterly paranoid mate." She rolled her eyes, though there was good humor in it too. "I just hope he can hold that trigger finger still if we meet one of our new arrival's bigger forms. The two big ones are impressive to say the least."
"Fox knows what he's doing," Peppy reassured her. "He doesn't really do trigger happy, so if he shoots it'll probably be because we're already in trouble."
"True," she sighed. "He wants to be here so badly it's giving me heartache."
"He'll be fine," Peppy told her, finishing up the tent with a groan. "So, how much of a feel for our target do you have?"
"A fairly good one for as little contact as I have." She opened two folding chairs and knelt to start the fire. "My biggest challenge is going to be the fact that he's been without social contact long enough he barely remembers what it is to talk on top of a language barrier. I'm half surprised he understood as much as he did."
"You're sure it's a he?" He asked and sat down with a grateful groan.
"Definitely." She actually chuckled. "I did see him naked, and his mind is decidedly masculine."
"Do you think he obeyed you because you're female?" Peppy asked quietly, forgetting that she could catch his concerns as easily as if he'd said them.
"He might see me that way eventually, but not right now." She shook her head and sat in the other chair as the daylight began to fade. "It's not the right time for scent to trigger anything."
"Good," the Rabbit nodded. "Last thing you and Fox need is an amorous alien. So how do we plan on finding him? Without an Arwing's scanners, we're a little short on range."
"That's one reason I'm here. With so few people around, he's a bright spot when I look out there with my mind."
"Makes sense," Peppy agreed. "I'd use our scanners, but they're not strong enough. Think he'll approach our camp?"
"He already has," she told him very quietly with a nod in the general direction. "He's very, very lonely. It might take a few days for him to be ready to make contact. He's been alone and on the run for a long time."
"Any clue what happened to him?" Peppy asked quietly, not giving any indication that Krystal had just alerted him. "And do you think it'd be a good idea to try and make contact, even passive contact?"
"All his friends and kin died fighting whatever hurt him, but not much beyond that. His mind is very much in there here and now." She looked over at the elder Rabbit. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well, it's probably too soon for you to reach out to him. But if we left some food out, showed him we're friendly, it might help."
"It's unlikely to hurt." She nodded and stretched upwards from her seat. "Perhaps a beef stew for dinner and make enough for three?"
"Sounds good to me," Peppy nodded. "I'll cook, and leave a third set of field-dishes out, make it pretty clear it's intentional."
Not far away SunWind watched the blue Vixen who'd spoken to him before and a well-fed older Rabbit set up camp and talk.
It drew memories from long ago, of what the fabric constructs and fire meant, and made him even more curious. Not long before, the military had come through and herded everyone out. He wasn't sure what to make of things when one of them saw him and the startled Cat in uniform had torn her eyes away and gone on without so much as a shout or raised weapon.
It wasn't at all what he'd grown accustomed to. It was memories from another time and place long ago that matched with this best. A time and place of good memories and comfort with kin and friends.
The Rabbit started setting things up so he could cook, putting together a meal ... they seemed remarkably relaxed, even knowing he was in the area. Nobody seemed to fear him ... not much, at least. Nobody seemed to be actively hunting him, either.
It was very strange. Even the nervous Fox watching from hiding on the other side of the camp wasn't like anyone he'd met in a long time. There was no intent to kill in him. He was there to protect those dear to him.
It was a sensation that triggered memories from long ago and a longing that drew SunWind to this camp and it's dangers.
It was a drive that made him whine softly at the ache in his chest for not having anything to protect anymore. It gave a little hope to him too. If these people had such intense desire to protect, maybe he could live here. The land was lush, the game plentiful. It wasn't like Haloeth, but it was very much a place he could learn to call home.
And if they were willing to step in, stop fights like the one that had almost started earlier, they might be willing to accept him. They didn't seem to know about Loup Maru here ... they didn't know about Maru either.
They didn't hate him.
They didn't fear him either.
The Vixen came out to join the Rabbit as he cooked, helping him as they chatted with each other. It didn't seem to be about him ... probably just bits and pieces of their lives.
It was comforting in a way, just to be this close to people behaving normally. Maybe he should see if they'd let him closer?
The Vixen glanced his way and he crept back a few inches. She knew. She smiled at him and extended a hand briefly, then turned towards the fire and meal.
The smells were almost enough to make him risk it. He was beginning to think he'd never feel full again.
The Rabbit set out an extra bowl and a canteen. They seemed to be willing to let him decide, but they were still making it clear that he was welcome. How long had it been since somebody had had the resources to make a gesture like that?
Both the Rabbit and Vixen where honestly friendly. His mind told him that. He knew it was true. Yet a lifetime of well-warranted paranoia made him hesitate.
The smell of cooked meat was enough to make him tremble. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd eaten cooked food.
He could feel the Vixen's awareness as he crept forward, his nose just poking out of the bushes at the edge of the clearing, but she didn't turn to face him. Yet there was an unmistakable wave of welcome and acceptance that came from her while she talked to her companion.
Very slowly, he crept forward in his smallest form, his entire manner subordinate and submissive.
The Rabbit looked back towards him, shifted a bit to make room, but turned back to the pot of stew he was cooking and cut some vegetables into it.
SunWind kept looking up towards where the Vixen's mate was hidden, but he seemed content to accept the display so he moved a few more tiny steps forward. The smell of food was driving him, but so was a much more difficult hunger to sate; a hunger for company.
"~You're welcome here. My mate won't harm you; he's just concerned for all of us,~" Krystal told him gently, deciding to make more direct contact with him, since he'd accepted it well before.
Again she realized only some of the words were actually understood, but the intent was picked up and he straitened his legs a little for the next few steps.
He had almost made it to the fire when Peppy ladled out three bowls of stew.
"~Serve him last,~" Krystal told him hurriedly when he would have done the opposite, shielding her comment from SunWind. "~He is lowest in rank. He eats last.~"
Peppy nodded slightly, serving Krystal first, then himself, then the third bowl for SunWind. Krystal took it after taking a bite of her own meal and offered it to the lightly trembling horned canine as he looked up at her with mechanical eyes.
"~Eat with us.~" She projected images as well as words, using his biped Mouse-like form sitting on a log nearby and clear images of how to eat with the spoon.
He hesitated a long moment, then slowly stood up on two legs as his body morphed into a tawny furred Mouse with translucent red antennae much taller than either of them.
She smiled as he took the bowl and spoon and sat down, but he didn't eat right away.
"Sthik ru," he struggled to say the words his mind conveyed much better.
"You're welcome," she nodded, making sure the meaning was clear. She didn't think it was time to try giving him a translator yet. It would not likely help too much, given the problems at hand. It wasn't just a matter of not knowing the language; it was a matter of not being used to using language, local or otherwise.
That he even attempted to use language was a real advancement, but it also indicated he was even more lonely than she'd thought.
Now that she got a closer look at him, even dressed his chest and arms were bare, she was amazed he could move as well as he did. The scars she knew about, and that he was seriously underweight, but she hadn't realized that much of his missing or discolored fur wasn't scars; it had fallen out.
He ate like he hadn't had a meal in a long time too, though he managed to use the spoon until the end when it couldn't get the last of the juice from the bowl and he resorted to his tongue to get every last bit.
She smiled slightly, eating her own meal more slowly and trying to make him feel welcome without pressuring him. This was already going much better than she'd expected, even more than she'd expected in the next few days.
"More?" She offered, indicating the still half-full pot, most of which she expected he would be eating.
He looked at their bowls, still half full and hesitated for a moment until the offer of hot food overrode any social reluctance he had left and he nodded, offering the bowl so she could determine the portion.
She went ahead and filled it for him, gradually forming more of a picture of him. Smart, resilient, lonely and trying very hard to be civilized despite having a difficult time remembering just what that was. He'd be a fine asset to the community once he had time to adjust to being around people again.
"We have plenty here," she tried to explain, glad that she had a translator on at least, along with Peppy. It wasn't much help yet, but it was something. He understood far more than he could speak.
"Tha'k ou." He smiled at her, his words a little more clear now.
"Would you like a place by the fire tonight?" She offered, including the appropriate mental image while he went to work on the second bowl with relish.
SunWind ducked his head, a light green tinge apparent where his fur was thin. She could feel how much he wanted to say yes, how grateful he was to have the offer. Despite that, he shook his head, still playing by a set of rules she only half understood and he barely remembered.
As frustrating as it was for her, the very fact that he was trying to behave in a socially acceptable manner was heartening. There were too many people she knew that hadn't been isolated that wouldn't make anything close to the effort. It spoke well for his chances in the long run.
"Please, eat your fill before you go," she offered, and was pleased when he nodded agreement and finished the bowl before slipping back into the small canine form with it's gold and silver double helix horns and translucent red antennae.
She half expected him to leave, but instead he sank to the ground and moved a little closer to both the fire and them. Not close enough to touch, but closer than ever before, and settled to watch them for a while and simply be around people.
Obi-Wan drew himself out of his meditations at a light chime from the door the next morning. He could sense her controlled nervousness and excitement even before open opened the door to a sleek black female Cat in a very un-military dress and clipboard.
"Hello, ma'am. How may I help you?" He asked with a friendly smile.
"Actually, I think I'm here to help you," she smiled up at him. "Obi-Wan Kenobi?" She asked him, checking her clipboard quickly.
"Yes, ma'am." He nodded easily and stepped aside to let her in. "Please come in. I was told you would be here today."
"Good," she smiled, stepping inside. "I'm Casey Tenna; I've been assigned to help you with adjusting to life in the Lylat System, while you're here."
He nodded easily and motioned her to have a seat if she wanted. "What is first?"
"Well, the first thing to do would be to make sure all your personal information is correct, and have you fill in a few blanks for us," she smiled. "Were you able to review the datafiles on Lylatian?" She asked him.
"Yes," he nodded seriously. "What did you want to know about me?"
"Local age, date of birth if it means anything here, that sort of thing," she said easily, showing him the clipboard and the blank spots on the entry. "We don't know how long your years are, so we're not sure what to fill in exactly."
"Judging from the planetary rotation from your records, I am twenty-two here, which would put my local date of birth around the eighteenth of Caysis, 488."
"All right," she nodded, filling in the information. "So, what sort of work do you have training in, or enjoy?"
"Mechanics, electronics, piloting, combat, wilderness survival, tracking, diplomacy, negotiations, languages, teaching, medicine." Obi-Wan listed off his primary skills. "Those are my best skills at least. I can pick up nearly anything."
"I would say so," Casey said, clearly impressed. "Well, medical certs would have to be taken again here before you could practice those skills, for obvious reasons ... probably harder for you too, since nobody here has the same anatomy or tools as you're used to. Do you have any interest in ecology or ecological systems?" She asked him.
"Some, yes." He nodded. "I studied farming and plant biology when I was much younger."
"Well, most of them aren't nearly that far along yet, but if you have any interest in seeing more of the system, we might have a place for you on Zoness or Aquas' reclamation team. Zoness was the planet hardest during the first Lylat Wars," she explained. "Aquas wasn't hit nearly as hard, but it's also a water-world; some people aren't too thrilled with the prospect of living on one."
"Either would work," he nodded thoughtfully. "I have helped on a reclamation project before."
"Well, we'll consider that then," she smiled. "Most of the people at the stations are either military and mercenaries providing defense, or scientists there to help fix things. Somebody who can do both would be quite welcome. So; how would you like to get out and take a look around Corneria?" She asked him.
"I would like that." He nodded and politely offered her a hand to her feet.
"Thank you," she smiled, standing up. "You're definitely the polite one," she added cheerfully. "We have a touring shuttle cleared for our use today; hope you don't mind if I fly, at first at least?" She asked with a chuckle.
"Not at all, Casey." He smiled warmly. "You are more knowledgeable about its operation."
"Some people are touchy about it, particularly ones that Commander McCloud likes," she chuckled as they left his room. "You prefer natural areas, or a tour of the city first?"
"The city first." He nodded and followed her out. "I think I make him slightly nervous. He keeps mentioning how I would get along great with his girlfriend."
"She's another person from out of system," Casey explained. "Her planet blew up a few years back, and she's one of the few people we've met who can claim to have magical abilities that can't be defined by science in any way we've found. Anything more than that ... well, it's not my place to talk about that sort of thing," the Cat shrugged slightly. "He does seem to like you though, on principle at least. I think it's the 'warrior brotherhood' thing I keep hearing about," she chuckled.
"That does sometimes happen." Obi-Wan smiled faintly in amusement. "Though you now have two, possibly three."
"According to our records, very true," she chuckled. "You'll probably find people very interested in you for just that reason. I think the only reason Krystal isn't still being hassled is because she set the last scientist's tail on fire." They turned towards the hangar, the sounds of various starfighters taking off and landing clear to Obi-Wan's trained senses.
"That wouldn't deter any of the scientists I've meet," he mused quietly. "Of course, most of them can also put me on my tail in a sparring match."
"They probably wouldn't be as fascinated either," Casey pointed out. "If it's more common in your neck of the universe. They approached a large, old-looking transport that was set up near the launch bay. "Ah, good, they're ready for us. You're lucky I managed to get one of the transports like this, instead of my usual one," she smiled. "It would be a little cramped, most likely."
"Not designed for someone my height?" He half guessed and boarded with her.
"Not usually," she confirmed. "Most of my cases are locals, so I only have to have a transport that'll hold somebody about my height. Just be glad you weren't picked up in an Arwing; Falco's the only one who's had his modded enough that you can even fit a second pilot my size into it comfortably, let alone anybody else."
"The hazards of a world of shorter people." Obi-Wan nodded as they sat down in the still-tight confines of the larger transport. "What is first on the tour?"
"Shopping district, maybe?" She suggested. "No offense, but those robes stand out more than your species does."
"All right," he glanced down at his cream and brown robes. "Never thought of that before."
"Robes are pretty unusual around here," Casey nodded. "They look good on you, but pants and vests are more usual. Is that what Jedi usually wear?"
"Yes," he nodded and watched everywhere, everything, including how she drove the vehicle. It wasn't that different from fighters he was familiar with; things were just labeled and arranged differently for a pilot her size and using the local language.
They slipped into a busy aerial traffic stream, not nearly as organized as he was used to from Coruscant, but effective all the same. People darted all over, flying up to higher levels of stores or parking areas before touching down, with seemingly little to no concern for the other pilots around them.
No wonder people tended to take ground vehicles when they were relaxing.
"Well, I'm sure we can find something that fits in a bit better that's similar," Casey said easily, turning the transport nearly on its side to avoid a smaller, single-man ship that darted through. "Damned kids," she muttered.
"I am sure," he agreed easily. "A few more traffic controllers would likely be useful."
"Yeah, they probably would be," she agreed. "But it usually works out; this is the only place that's really this chaotic, most of the time, and the ships are designed so it's almost impossible to have a serious crash. Only time I've seen one was back during the wars, about 10 years ago, and that's because Andross practically made his ships out of tinfoil."
"Sounds like he went for quantity over quality." Obi-Wan mused as she maneuvered into a rooftop parking lot for one of the large clothing stores.
Krystal reached out mentally, searching for Fox as she woke up the next morning.
"~Go home,~" she told him. "~We're safe, and you need sleep.~"
"~I'm fine,~" he replied faintly.
"~You say while you're using the bike for a pillow,~" she pointed out. "~Go home; I want to have a warm bed when I get back,~" she said, giving him a few mental images for extra incentive, giggling to herself as she 'heard' his response. Still, the engine revved in the distance, and she was sure he'd be glad to see her later.
As she was debating about going back to sleep for a couple more hours, she felt their alien approach the camp on silent feet, then a fairly heavy thud of something landing on the ground that snapped Peppy into wakefulness.
"Krystal?" Peppy lifted his head, his long ears twitching to locate the source of the sound.
"Our visitor brought us something," she answered and slid out of her sleeping bag. She straightened her clothes a bit before opening the flap. She smiled at him and her eyes fell on the large bull elk that was bleeding next to a fire that the alien Mouse was tending back to life.
"Well, thank you," she said, somewhat surprised. It was very dead, though it could still use butchering. Given his other forms, there was a very real possibility that butchering was something he'd never think of.
"He brought breakfast, I think," she told Peppy. "You have a skinning knife?"
"Yeah, should be in the kit," the Rabbit nodded, indicating the pack as he got out of his sleeping bag. "Guess he's an early riser."
She nodded, quickly found the knife and headed out to start butchering the half-ton animal as SunWind watched her curiously.
A few minutes later, while she was still removing the skin, Peppy came out to help, dressed more or less appropriately for the work and pulling a second knife out. It was definitely a two person job; it weighed more than the two of them combined, and there was a fair amount of work involved just getting to what they needed to work on.
Before too long, they'd discarded most of the entrails they weren't about to eat, and had some of the main organs out to be cooked up for breakfast.
"These are for eating," she motioned to the liver, kidneys and heart that had been set out on a towel and included a mental image of cooking and eating them. Whether he understood her or not, it seemed right to explain what they were doing given how curiously he was looking at their actions.
He nodded and looked around before moving off and coming back with several sticks suitable for the size of the organs and some regular meat.
"N'me?" He struggled to get the word out, but his mind-image of wondering what her personal identifier was came across more clearly. He busied himself with skewered the heart and liver on one stick and held it over the fire he'd rekindled while she worked on the carcass.
"Krystal," she said with a smile, glad to see he was getting more interested in trying to socialize. "This is Peppy," she said, indicating the Rabbit next to her, cutting some meat off one of the elk's legs. "Yours?"
"Ssnnn ... Snnd." He growled softly in frustration and sent her an image of the sun shining brightly, then the wind blowing the heat around.
"Sun Wind?" She asked him and got a nod. "Don't worry, there's time for you to learn again."
"~B'n too long,~" he murmured silently. "~N't wh't I used too be.~" He sighed and focused on the meat he was cooking. While it was only half words and half image-feelings, the overall grief at what he'd forgotten how to do was intense.
"I understand," she reassured him, reaching over and putting a hand on his arm lightly. She hadn't gone as long, but she'd had her own stretches without anybody but herself to talk to. Eventually, you just stopped. She could easily follow that progression to barely thinking in language. In many ways, his 'path abilities were a real saving grace. They would at least allow effective communication while he relearned how to think and speak in words. "It will come back to you in time."
He looked at her, his body unconsciously leaning into the touch, as he comprehended there was a common experience between them.
"Thank you." He said very slowly, with careful attention to his voice.
"You're welcome," she smiled. "And that was much better," she added. "So, breakfast?"
"I'm ready to eat." Peppy added. "Those smell good."
SunWind simply nodded and offered the stick they were on. He stood and shook himself out into his largest form, one with a mass significantly greater than his kill and purely predatory, and dug into the elk with a relish of wanting to for some time.
Despite a lot of self-control, Peppy couldn't quite help but shiver at the creature tearing off and swallowing chunks of meat nearly as big as he as was.
"~SunWind? Would you like me to help you remember some language after breakfast?~" Krystal asked him as they all ate. She had to agree with Peppy that it was a decidedly unnerving sight, even more so when she thought about the size of creatures that a pack of his kind must have hunted. Likely not as big as the HighTops of Sauria, but still huge.
It made her ever more grateful that he was sentient and friendly. He could have caused a lot of damage if he wasn't.
He looked up, startled by the question. With a quick toss of his head upwards he swallowed the chunk of meat he had in his mouth and licked his muzzle clean.
"~Yes. Thank you.~" He nodded as well.
"~You're welcome,~" she nodded, the three of them settling into a relatively comfortable quiet.
Krystal smiled and scritched SunWind's small, four-legged Luprani form between his long horns, then under his jaw while Peppy was outside working on the camp. As much as he enjoyed it, the pleasure he radiated from the simple contact warmed her immensely as well. In the past few days, he had gotten more physically affectionate and less subordinately needy as he got better at talking and she paid attention to him.
She reached over to pick up her communicator. The light on it was beeping, and she was sure it was Fox.
"Hey," she said quietly.
"Hey," Fox replied. "How's it going?"
"Well," she smiled, still scritching SunWind's jaw. "I think we'll be able to come back in soon ... he's making a lot of progress now."
"Good." He sounded relieved. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too," she said warmly. "I'll be back as soon as I can, and I think you'll like SunWind when you meet him."
"Have you asked about that Rabbit?" He said very quietly.
"Not from here," she explained as SunWind looked up at her, now fully aware that the conversation was about something he'd done. "He was working for the Plutarkians invading his home system ... you ever hear of them before?"
"From some old refugees," Fox told her. "Nothing good ... if the Rabbit was working for them, he's either grateful to be dead or deserved it."
"He did bury the body," Krystal told him. "If anybody back there wants, we could exhume it for a proper burial."
"I'll mention it to Pepper in today's report," Fox said easily. "Anything else I should know?"
She glanced down at the horned canine looking at her with languid pleasure that hid a sharp mind that never quite stopped analyzing things. "He's going to need significant medical attention for old injuries, does not like doctors or labs and could really use a companion to stay with him while he makes friends here. Loup Maru are highly social and he'd been alone so long he'd forgotten how to talk."
"What sort of companion?" Fox asked, already thinking about the options.
"Someone willing to have a large dog in bed with them, pet him and talk a lot with his Mouse form about anything and nothing. General socialization. He's taken very well to my efforts so far and it would be best if they aren't interrupted before he's comfortable again." She smiled indulgently at the canine she was doing just that with. "I don't think he's remembered what sex is yet. Oh, and he's a telepath like me, so honest interest is a real plus."
"Right," Fox said with a nod she could almost hear. "Think you can send in an up-to-date picture, we can look for takers?"
"Sure," she nodded even as SunWind rolled to his four feet and trotted outside. "Give me a minute and they'll be along."
"Be sure to get all the forms he'll be likely to use," Fox reminded her as she got up and grabbed the camera before following SunWind outside.
"I will," she rolled her eyes privately and hooked the camera up to the phone. "Peppy, would you stand next to him so there is a good size comparison?"
"Sure," he nodded and moved over to stand next to the horned canine.
"Okay, this first form is called Luprani. It's the smallest and the one he favors when not trying to act like us," she told him and took the picture, her communicator transferring it along with her words. "It is also non-verbal for our language, though it can speak canid and has a basic understanding of the local variant.
"The next one is Lupki. He hunts in it, but not much more," she said as he took the cue and shifted into the several hundred pound canine with gold and silver double-helix horns and the translucent red antennae that all forms had in common. "Also non-verbal.
"This is Lumari, the war-form," she said as he shifted into a biped form that Peppy barely reached the digitigrade knee of and the mass of a not-so-small tank. "Very rarely used outside of combat or when moving a heavy load like the bull elk he brought us the other day. He can talk like us in this form, but it's more difficult than in Maru.
"This one is Marki," she said as he shifted into a tall, heavily built Mouse type that still had decidedly primitive features. "He doesn't like it." She added as he moved into his Mouse form as soon as the picture was taken.
"And this one is Maru, his default person form." She finished with a last picture.
"Thanks," Fox said. "We'll show these around, see if anybody's interested. Let me know when you're going to be coming back."
"I will," Krystal smiled. "Love you, hon."
"Love you too," Fox told her. "Hope to see you soon," he added before closing the line.
"So," she looked at SunWind, who had stayed in Maru form while Peppy had gone back to getting breakfast ready. "Do you think you're about ready to try being around friendly people again?"
"Soon," his long, slender tail twitched a little uneasily, but they both recognized it was only nerves and not a real reluctance. "What if no one is willing to be around me?" He asked softly, looking at the ground.
"Then you can stay with me until you do find a friend here." She said firmly. "Fox will agree."
Peppy couldn't help but chuckle. "If he knows what's good for him, he will."
"Thanks," SunWind felt a bit more tension dissipate as they settled down for breakfast, only to catch a knot in his stomach as Krystal started to think.
"Go ahead and ask," he told her softly after several minutes.
"What are Plutarkians?" She looked over at him, only a few feet away and unable to shield his reaction to the word. "You don't have to. I can ask Fox."
"Fox wasn't there." He sighed and gratefully accepted a large mug of a spicy drink with a heavy shot of something decidedly sweet and intoxicating in it. "And I'm not anymore." He wrapped his hands around the warmth and stilled.
"They are a huge empire build on subterfuge and outright conquest." He began, his voice a bit distance and he put together a lifetime of hard lessons for her. "They came from fish, or at least look like it. Fat tadpole like fish that only know how to use. They used up their homeworld and went hunting for new places to plunder for natural resources. Most worlds that find aren't habitable afterwards, some aren't even worlds anymore."
"But surely they lose sometimes." She looked at him with a bit of horror in her eyes at the thought of their eventual arrival.
"Probably," he shrugged. "I haven't heard of it. They start by impersonating native life or gaining local agents and then use the legal system to their advantage to just buy up most of the world. With the resources of a thousand worlds behind it, it's easy to pay any price that is asked. By the time the locals have gotten wise to what's going on it's usualy too late and they own so much of the planet and politicians that they don't even need to bring in their own forces. When they do, it's with overwhelming force now. Dozens of ships, millions of mercs and technology that few even dream is possible."
"Now? They didn't used to?" She looked at him and saw a spark of pride muted with loss.
"I helped teach them that." He chuckled mirthlessly. "Mars, my Haloeth, we've always been an independent lot for having a world government. They didn't understand that owning the government didn't buy them all that much protection, not even from the government itself, much less the rest of us." His face fell. "They won, but we made them pay for every inch of land and Martian life they took. We did it again on Earth, and on Itassa, the third habitable world in our system. I kept on making their lives difficult after that, going from ship to ship and destroying them. I only took out a fraction of their fleets, but they noticed my efforts."
He drew a deep breath and settled in with his drink for a while.
"They won't be stopped until they cross paths with an empire as big and advanced as they are that's willing to exterminate them. All winning a war against them means is that they'll be back with ten times the forces and no intention of anything but obliterating you."
"Ready to head in?" Krystal asked SunWind a couple days later as they broke camp, a transport on the way.
"As I will ever be," he nodded with a nervous breath, but stayed in Maru form as they quickly packed. Even years after the last time he'd done this, the movements came easily.
"It'll be fine." Peppy smiled up at him. "You'll feel a lot better with all that gunk out of your system and your fur back in."
"Gunk?" He looked at the much shorter male curiously.
"Well, between what I know of the fish-faces and the regenerative ability you've already displayed, you've probably got something nasty in your system or your fur would have healed back in, even if your eyes can't." He said easily and glanced at as a ship comprised of all angles and spars came in for a landing. "I can't say if it's a poison, radiation or something else, but I'm sure something is hurting you nearly as fast as you can heal."
He considered the Rabbit for a long time as the ship set down. "You're probably right."
"Can you think of anything that might be the problem?" Krystal asked as the back of the transport opened up and they started loading it.
"Plenty," he actually chuckled, though it was a rather raw sound lacking in mirth. "None much that I know the name of though. Green goo that made your head spin, red liquid that made you so hot you boiled in your own skin, glowing orange stuff that caused delusions. Lab mice weren't usually informed what was being done to them, unless it would make us scream more. I never was much of one to scream."
Krystal shuddered as the door closed and they lifted off.
"I got off easy too," he added a lot more softly. "I wasn't very entertaining as a subject. A lot of good folks were. They liked to make me watch, cause that would get a rise out of me."
"Well, our crew isn't anything like that," Peppy reassured him. "Hell, if anything, you'll scare them, even without your big form."
"I'd scare them?" He looked down at the Rabbit in utter bewilderment as they sat down in seats behind the pilot.
"Slippy's shorter than I am," Peppy pointed out, looking up at SunWind who already had a couple feet on him, if you didn't count his ears or antennae. "He wouldn't do anything that'd hurt you anyways, he's not the sort, but you can be pretty intimidating. If you did use your war-form, he'd be just about bite-sized."
"Oh," he murmured, trying to work the idea of being the big, scary one over in his mind with only some success. He had been, but he'd never thought about it, and he was always the one that was afraid, when he felt anything at all.
"Don't worry," Krystal smiled softly. "Slippy's an unashamed geek, but he wouldn't hurt anybody who was a patient. He's good about that sorta thing, and so's Rob. You don't have problems with Frogs or robots, do you?"
"I ..." he shuddered unconsciously and swallowed with difficulty. "I think it will depend on how he feels."
"Understood, and he'll understand too," Krystal reassured him. "Especially if you're willing to explain some of what happened to you."
"I don't want to make an enemy of him." SunWind murmured.
"Why would you?" Krystal asked him as they lifted off. "He's pretty easygoing."
"Creatures similar to him destroyed my world, exterminated my people and I've been fighting them for my entire adult life." He reminded her. "I don't know how much of that's going to show."
"I'm pretty sure he won't hold it against you," Peppy reassured him. "I've known Slippy for a long time. He knows better than to hold somethin' like that against a guy."
"I hope so," he nodded and tried to relax for the short ride.
"If it gets too rough, just explain it to him," Peppy said confidently. "Worst that happens is he could turn you over to Rob, or somebody on the main staff."
SunWind nodded and they fell silent for the ride to the base Star Fox called home and came to rest in the main landing bay.
As the door opened up, SunWind saw an assortment of people at the hatch. In the lead was an orange and white Fox who'd been watching him before, who was apparently called 'Fox' and was Krystal's mate. A slender blue-feathered Falcon was next to him and felt familiar, though he was sure he'd never encountered him before. The Frog they'd mentioned, Slippy, stood next to a brown-furred Mouse a bit taller than Slippy, and a robot almost as tall as he was to complete the greeting party.
Despite his best efforts, he knew he showed some of the horror-filled knot in his stomach from looking at the creature that was supposed to examine him.
He swallowed, but the overall feeling from the group was a mixture of curiosity and welcome as he followed Krystal out.
"This is SunWind," Krystal offered. "SunWind, this is Falco Lombardi, my mate Fox McCloud, Slippy Toad, and the robot is Rob. I'm afraid I don't really know you, yet," she said apologetically to the Mouse.
"No problem," he chuckled. "Name's Tony Musculi," he offered, looking up at SunWind. "You really are as big as you looked in the pictures," he observed.
"Are most Mice your height?" SunWind looked at him curiously, grateful for the distraction from the Frog nearby.
"Around here they are," Tony nodded. "You're taller than most folks except for the Big Cats, Bears and species like them."
"That'll be different," he kind of chuckled.
"Yeah, just means everybody's going to have to look up a lot," Tony chuckled. "I hear you're looking for somebody to help show you around after you're on your own?"
"Yes," SunWind nodded, the subject making him glance at Slippy uneasily while Krystal whispered something in the Frog's ear-hole. "You volunteered?"
"Yeah," Tony nodded easily. "You looked interesting," he smiled, a hint of something more than just being around each other in his mind.
"So, are you ready to get all that nasty stuff out of your system?" Slippy asked, his voice almost painfully high, but his manner friendly and concerned for his new patient in a way it took SunWind a while to place as concern for his patient's well-being.
"As I'll ever be." SunWind nodded.
"The scanners are just through here," Slippy explained as they moved away to let the transport be unloaded. "If you'd like, we could have Rob run the scans, it's not too hard."
"I ... think I would," he admitted, his nerves gnawing at him as they got closer to the medical labs and the familiar mental patterns of those doing work on people became ever more clear.
"Look closer," Krystal touched his arms gently. "They are all concerned with helping their patients."
He swallowed and nodded, managing to step into the main lab's room when the door opened.
"Have a seat, Throttle," Rob suggested. The Loup Maru complied, grateful that it was a normal looking seat and to be out of the cybernetics lab.
The robot looked him over, no visible signs of the medical scans that were currently going on inside Rob's powerful computer brain. Before long, it was done, Rob preparing his diagnosis.
"You have a very strong immune system," the robot started, "but you will need medical care soon. You have been exposed to several bio-agents of unknown nature, your cybernetic implants need maintenance, and -" He was cut off as a tiny black speck jumped off SunWind and landed on one of his optics. "And could probably use a flea-bath," Rob concluded, squishing the insect.
For the first time, SunWind looked truly embarrassed. It had been a decade and more since he'd seen anyone that it would matter too, and nearly as long since he'd cared about the parasites. They were simply a fact of life for him with no real way to deal with them since Itassa had fallen to the Plutarkians and ended life in his solar system. "The bio-agents would be Plutarkian. I don't know which ones."
"Anything we need to be concerned about?" Fox asked with the focus of a group leader.
"You will want to spray down the transport and field gear for anything living that may have crawled off," Rob decided.
"I'll give maintenance the head's up," Fox chuckled slightly. "There anything in the datafiles about the Plutarkian bio-agents?" He asked Rob. "Or anything you know?" He asked the silent Loup Maru, respectful of just how terrified SunWind was despite the well-controlled exterior.
"I don't know anything useful about them." SunWind admitted.
"No, they do not seem to be contagious anymore." Rob stated. "I would recommend a few days medical isolation while we analyze the agents and develop a cure, just in case."
"Well, probably going to take that long to make sure your cybernetics are kept up," Fox mused. "Going to be any real trouble, SunWind?" He asked the Loup Maru, not missing the signs of tension that rippled across his broad frame as the beginning of a fight response.
"I do not get along with medical labs." He said, not quite ready to fight, but not about to take it without a challenge and reassurances he could believe.
"We can give you a set of quarters; medical isolation only means that you're under a limited quarantine," Krystal explained before Fox could. "We'd want to keep your contact to people who've already been exposed. You know what those weapons can do; we just want to be sure they don't spread any farther if we can help it."
"All right," he nodded and relaxed significantly. As long as it wasn't a cell or lab, he could go with it. It did make sense after all.
He turned his head to look at the strong telepathic mind that had just come into the room.
"Hi, Obi-Wan." Fox nodded to him. "This is SunWind."
"Ah, the one Krystal has been out with?" The human asked with a pleasant smile for the stranger.
"Yes," she nodded and smiled at their nervous guest. "He's been a treat to help."
"Do you know of Earth, Sol system?" SunWind asked the Jedi, even as he flushed light green under his tawny fur and ducked his head at her praise.
"I'm afraid not, SunWind." He answered with a sympathetic tone. "Something like me lived there?"
"Yes," he nodded, disappointed but not surprised.
"What class star did the system have?" Rob asked. "With how many habitable and uninhabitable planets?"
"A single young yellow star with three formally habitable planets in positions two, three and four, an additional nine uninhabitable planets and three asteroid belts." Throttle supplied. "Depending on who you ask, it was called Ramilz, Sol or Cobon."
"We don't have a formal name for it, but I believe we have an entry in our database for your home system," Rob offered. "It is on one of the outer arms of this galaxy, I believe. If you do not mind, I would appreciate any information about it you can give us. Even if the system is dead, its history would be welcome."
"I'll tell you what I can." SunWind agreed. "It is in an outer arm. I know where, and where a lot of Plutarkian planets and facilities are, or were before I got there." He added with a kind of vicious pride at the past tense he had the right to claim on them.
"I'd also like a briefing on as much as you can tell us about these Plutarkians; their technology, methods, locations, known allies and such." Fox said.
"Of course." SunWind nodded.
"Thank you," Rob nodded. "If you would like, I can lead you to your quarters. If you would prefer replacements to repairs for your current cybernetics, we can offer you those too," he added, almost as an afterthought.
"How long before new ones would need maintenance?" He asked simply, torn between the temptation and not trusting them that much.
"Routine maintenance taking a couple hours every six months to a year is recommended, but unless something happens to alter the shape of your skull they should last for your lifetime," Rob said easily.
"It's a modification on the design I've used for Rob's own optics," Slippy explained. "You've had bad run-ins with cyber-techs before, haven't you?"
"You could say that." SunWind tried to keep his tone level with decades old and the pain and terror was as fresh as the day it happened. "None of these were voluntary, or replacing anything already damaged. Just one more thing I can credit to my first Plutarkian imprisonment."
"Jerks like that give the rest of us a bad name," the Frog muttered. "I can understand not wanting to trust anybody to do that sort of work for you again, but from what Rob's scans found, I'd have to say it's a good idea. The eyes are sub-par, and not designed to work with the way your brain's wired."
"I know," he admitted softly, put a little more at ease by the Frog's manner. "They're thirty-something years old too. Happened when I was in my teens still. You mentioned a pest bath?" He changed the topic to something he was honestly looking forward to a lot now that he'd thought about it to stop himself from blabbering more information than he wanted out. "Or just a bath."
"Sure thing," Slippy said. "We'll get you to your quarters, and everything you need'll be there. Don't have to worry about money for a while either; until we get you set up here, you're on our ticket."
"Just keep it reasonable," Fox chuckled.
"I will." SunWind promised and followed Krystal and Tony after she made a quick hand signal to Slippy and he nodded.
"For what it's worth, they weren't that noticeable," Krystal said quietly as they left for his quarters. "Our shampoo is pretty effective at pest control even after a couple weeks."
"Good," SunWind nodded. "I haven't thought about them in a long time, but it will be nice to be free of them."
"Yeah, and then we won't all get put in quarantine," Tony chuckled. "They're a little up-tight about off-world things like that sometimes. You gonna want some help washing up?"
SunWind startled slightly, then looked at the significantly shorter Mouse and nodded with a grateful look. "If you don't mind."
"~Remember, just friendship,~" Krystal warned Tony mentally, and privately. "~He's not ready for more.~"
"~Please stay out of my head,~" he responded respectfully. "Not at all," he said out loud. "It can be hard to reach where they hide sometimes, I know."
"I think I know where some pest combs and incense to get the burrowing ones out are," Krystal added after opening the door to guest quarters designed for the taller races. "The shampoo can take a while to work."
"Besides, grooming can be very soothing." Tony added with a grin. "I know I always feel special after a good grooming."
"That ... that would be great." SunWind actually shivered in anticipation of the attention.
"You really have been alone for a while, haven't you?" Tony asked him gently as Krystal looked for the drawer with the grooming kit usually included in all rooms.
"Yes," he nodded a bit sadly and took in the room was suited to his six plus foot frame and not the short people he'd seen so far. It smelled good, the bed looked softer than any he could think of, and the bathroom ... it had a hot water shower to clean up under and a large tub with water jets to swirl the water around to relax in. "Ten years, I think."
There was also a platter of simple fresh foods and drink on the table that could be easily eaten while in the water too.
"Here it is," she smiled when she found the box and carefully checked her reactions to seeing SunWind strip with a sensual grace that was completely unconscious. "If I can have those, we can replace them by the time you are done with cleaning up." She offered as she heard Tony turn the shower on in the other room.
He looked startled again, and another shiver of anticipation at the idea of fresh, clean clothes competed with the anticipation of being clean under a hot shower.
"That would be wonderful," he murmured and handed the pile over.
"I'll be back with some incense and fresh clothes." She smiled and made a tight bundle of the seriously abused cloth and leather before leaving SunWind to his newly rediscovered pleasures.
"Water's hot." Tony called from the bathroom before stepping under, his own clothes in a neat pile near the door.
SunWind couldn't help but tremble a bit in anticipation as he stepped into the shower that was more than big enough for him and Tony.
"Sweet," he whispered to himself and stepped under the spray, just standing there for the longest time as the loose grime and dried green blood was hydrated and washed away to be removed from his world by the drain between his feet.
Even without touching or looking at himself, he knew he was in bad shape. Fur was missing, or would have to be cut off to the skin to unmat it. Most clothing would cover if he wore more than usual, but he wouldn't be presentable without a careful check for what was showing for several months if he kept his true nature a secret.
Yet the Mouse behind him didn't seem to mind at all.
At least he didn't have mange. It was a small miracle he was more than grateful for.
"Want to kneel down, so I can reach your back?" He asked, squeezing out some shampoo into his hand as the water finished washing away most of the dirt.
SunWind nodded and moved to his knees even as his tail flicked up to move the showerhead down so it still rained down on him.
"Handy," Tony chuckled, starting to work the shampoo into a lather and carefully scrubbing it into SunWind's fur, watching his exposed skin carefully. "Let me know if I do anything that hurts, or makes you uncomfortable."
"I will," he groaned in a blissful half-awareness. "That feels good."
"Good," Tony smiled as he continued working down from the broad shoulders in front of him. He knew this wasn't likely to get sexual for a long time, but it was amazing to see just how much pleasure SunWind took from such simple things. He couldn't remember the last time he took such pleasure in a simple shower.
He could see the parasites running around as he worked the shampoo down to SunWind's skin and the caked on green blood that had build up for years in some places. It was amazing the Loup Maru was in as good a shape was he was.
Even as Tony was absorbing why he needed to be slow with SunWind, it was beginning to sink in for the Loup Maru with the achingly pleasant heat and touch that he was not only back in civilization, but a civilization that wasn't on the verge of being slaughtered.
That realization weakened his body as something that had kept him up and going for so many years began to dissipate.
"Free ... the world is safe." He whispered and closed his eyes as a shudder ran from his skull to the tip of his tail. Slowly he sank down in the steaming hot shower, the tears he hadn't had time to grieve with beginning to fall emotionally, if not physically.
Tony wrapped his arms around SunWind's shoulders as best he could and tried to make soothing sounds. He couldn't even begin to imagine what was going on inside the alien's head to cause such a statement and reaction. It made him grateful for the warnings Commander McCloud had passed on from Krystal before he accepted doing this.
Obi-Wan knelt in his quarters and gradually slipped into a meditative state. It had been difficult here at first, where the Force felt so different and his Master was so far away, but now it came more easily. He had found, much to his relief, that once he adjusted to the local resonance, everything worked as before. He had even managed to see into the Moment enough to see the most likely futures.
All the most powerful ones reunited him with Qui-Gon and glowed with Light. It was a comfort to see that, even knowing that no future was set. Things could change, but the Force didn't seem to want to keep him away forever.
Which left him wondering what he was supposed to accomplish out here, so far away from everything familiar.
He knew SunWind was heavily involved with his life for some time. Even with only meeting him briefly, the Loup Maru had a strikingly unique Force signature. They drifted apart near where he was reunited with Qui-Gon, but there were others on the journey as well; people he had not met and so very many twists and turns he could understand nothing of. He had a long, complicated path home, but he would get home, all the likely futures indicated it.
He gradually drifted out of the Moment to consider his next move.
The first step, of course, would be to figure out the remains of the device, how to use it to get anywhere. He was sure that his path wasn't to stay in the Lylat System until they had the technology to send him back. He'd be here for a time, but not that long.
Another would be to learn more about SunWind.
He had no doubts that the other people who would travel with him would make themselves apparent to him.
SunWind was an interesting subject all by himself. A shapeshifter, though one with fixed forms. A potent sensitive, though much of his skill had been atrophied by mental scars and lack of use. And the almost painful sense of loneliness ... it would be good to get to know him just to help that go away. SunWind wasn't the sort who was meant to be alone in any sense of the word; Obi-Wan was sure of that much.
He wasn't much of a healer, but he was sure he could help SunWind rediscover much of his former skill by giving him a reason and another sensitive to use it with. Krystal would be a great help there as well. Her 'path skills were much more on par with SunWind's in form and potency, and they both used them instinctively, rather than needing to formulate the intent to use it.
SunWind also had a deep trust of her already, something that was critical when trying to deal with the mind-powers of a 'path.
He'd have to talk to her about it ... though first, he wanted to get to know SunWind better. He didn't think that would be too hard; Tony did have other things he had to do sometimes, so if he could catch the smaller Mouse some day, he could set up a chance to talk to SunWind on his own.
Obi-Wan knocked politely at the door to SunWind's quarters the next day; Tony had asked him to spend some time with the Loup Maru while he ran some errands. He was actually looking forward to meeting the new arrival that had created so much commotion when he'd arrived. Time to actually talk with him more than the brief exchange in Slippy's lab the day before.
When it opened it revealed a slightly damp and only mostly awake SunWind, though he was dressed in a pair of heavy jeans not very different from the ones Obi-Wan now wore and a set of hard leather boots designed for long wear in hard conditions. His bare upper body was quite an insight in both his chronic injuries and his overall condition. Despite the missing fur and the way his bones still showed a bit, his muscles were hard and well filled out given his condition only a couple weeks before.
"Hi," SunWind smiled at the human only a couple inches shorter than he was at eye level. "Thanks for coming over."
"It's not a problem," Obi-Wan smiled. "I've been looking forward to speaking with you, actually. May I come in?"
"Really?" He looked surprised even as he stepped back and motioned Obi-Wan in.
"Well, you are the only other person who's had an arrival anything like mine recently," Obi-Wan pointed out with a smile as he stepped in. "How have you been?"
"I've been feeling a lot better without the parasites, and Slippy's concoctions are doing some good too." He nodded and settled into an overstuffed chair in the sitting area that was half closed off from the main room. "I still haven't quite gotten it into my head that there will always be hot water and nobody looks at me strange for asking for the extra food."
"Glad to hear it," the Jedi nodded, taking a seat across from the Loup Maru and easily slipping into the half open, half shielded conversation mode the Loup Maru liked best. "I haven't heard of Plutarkians before, but from what's been said back and forth, I suspect that's a good thing, for both sides."
"Your kind could take them on?" He looked over with a curious and not-quite-believing look.
"I don't know them as well as you do, but possibly," Obi-Wan nodded. "The Republic spans the greater portion of a galaxy; I believe the resources would be available, particularly once the Jedi became involved."
"Are the Jedi a race or a group?" SunWind happy settled in to talk with another skilled 'path. It felt so good to have the shields and information flow work both ways. The idea that there was somewhere that was strong enough to be all but immune to a Plutarkian invasion was enticing too. How long had it been since he hadn't had to fear discovery?
"A group," Obi-Wan explained. "We are teachers and mediators, but warriors as well. We are in tune with the Force, and know how to make conscious use of it."
"Ah, that," SunWind nodded after a moment of working through the information Obi-Wan brought to the fore of his mind for him. "You have an interesting view on it, I must say. I'm not sure my experience supports it, though yours clearly does."
"It took our people several thousand years prior to our recorded history and developing inter-system hyperspace before we figured it out," Obi-Wan chuckled. "I wouldn't be surprised to find that most places have different systems and observations. Though I'll admit, I would be interested in hearing about yours, if you're willing to talk about it."
"I am, though I don't have much but experience to go on," he didn't quite shrug. "I wasn't old enough to have learned many gifts when my pack was killed. The real difference is that it is just energy to me. It doesn't have a good or bad side, though the spirit creatures comprised of it can be. From my experience, the times you thought it was telling you something was really when a fairly powerful spirit was trying to guide you, but their individual nature just didn't come across."
"It sounds like spirits are more common for you than they are for us to deal with," Obi-Wan mused. It wasn't an uncommon belief, of course, form what he'd encountered, particularly among pre-hyperspace societies. "Of course, some think of the Force itself as a sort of spirit. It certainly does seem to have a will of its own."
"It could be," he nodded thoughtfully. "A Triat is at that level. They usually work through lesser spirits, but it was said that at one point they communicated directly with the living and were more direct in their actions. It seems strange to me, but there is no reason one might be more intimate with the living than those I am used to. You are from a completely different galaxy, and I expect completely different Triats. If that is true, you are probably actually interacting with two, possibly three different ones. Light, Dark and there may be a neutral one as well."
"That would definitely put a different light on things," Obi-Wan murmured, thinking it over. It could be possible, though nobody particularly credible had ever claimed to have interacted with the Force as though it were fully sentient before. "Explain a few of the more unusual facts, too."
"They aren't sentient like you are thinking," SunWind said softly. "Triats are more than animals, but they are not complicated like people either. That falls to their generals, the Celestials, who are said to have limited omniscience, but are also very difficult to understand. The three who created our worlds and people were Celestials, and there are hundreds of them. It is the next level down, the Incarna, that are the highest-ranking spirits that actually understand the limits of the living enough to have a conversation with one in words. Each Celestial has created several of them. It is not until you get down to Jagglings that you have common interactions with people.
"Triats are ... they are more like the forces of creation. The Weaver creates order; she makes things as she weaves the Pattern Web. The Wyld is the force that keeps things from becoming stagnant; she is a force of pure change. The Wyrm keeps the balance between them by destroying parts of the Pattern Web that become too stiff and guiding the Weaver to spots where the Wyld is too strong. It has much the same feel as your understanding of the Light and Dark side of the Force."
"It does sound much like it," Obi-Wan agreed. "Of course, there's little way to tell, without the lesser spirits you mentioned to help figure things out."
"If they exist, I do know how to find them." SunWind said softly. "I was young when my education ended, but not so young that I did not learn how to cross the Gauntlet and deal with the spirit life there." He paused and considered the Jedi across from him. "There is another way things happen there. Sentient minds do influence things. If enough people in an area believe something, it becomes real."
"Which would also explain it, though it may simply be that the our different parts of space operate under different rules ... to be honest, I think the first two options explain it better."
"Is it likely to be a bad idea to bring this up around most of your kind?" SunWind cocked his head slightly. "I am used to keeping quiet about such things."
"That depends on who you're speaking with," Obi-Wan admitted. "Though the Jedi tend not to be zealots. The worst you'd probably run into would be somebody who wasn't willing to consider it and possibly a heated argument. More likely a lengthy debate," he chuckled.
"I will keep that in mind," he nodded. "Are you trying to get home?"
"I am," Obi-Wan nodded. "I understand you don't have much of a home to get back to... if you wish, I think you would be welcome in the Republic."
"I think I would," he nodded. "Corneria is nice, I think I could live here easily, but it would be nice to have a home that isn't so susceptible to invasion. Everyone is so short here too." He paused a bit. "What is the Republic like?"
"Well, most people are somewhat taller, for one thing," Obi-Wan chuckled. "There are a variety of races, so you wouldn't stand out too much in most integrated worlds. I'm sure you could find a way to earn a good living too, given your experience. Is there anything in particular you're interested in knowing about?"
He really did have to think about that; about how to voice the niggling thought that had been at the edge of his mind since he'd first brought meat to Krystal's camp.
"What are the odds there is a race enough like me to have a family?"
"If there wasn't, one could be arranged within a few decades, depending on how long it takes for your people to mature," Obi-Wan smiled slightly. "There are races in the Republic that have raised the science of cloning to a veritable art form, and they have proven willing to help found or repopulate species in the past."
SunWind just stared for several long moments, his mouth slightly open as his mind raced to absorb that idea.
"From just me ... the Loup Maru could be rebuilt?" He finally asked, still rather stunned.
"I'm not an expert," Obi-Wan cautioned him. "But from what I understand, it would be possible. Of course, there are some things that might prove beyond their ability to reproduce, particularly connected to your spiritual gifts. Force ability doesn't always clone true, from what I understand."
"Do you have any races where all members share an ability you would consider a Force ability?" He began to run down a pattern of questions to test the odds of it.
"Several," Obi-Wan said easily. "The Miraluka are the most obvious; as a race, they are blind, but they all have the ability to sense their surroundings through the Force, and many have an uncanny gift for similar abilities."
"Do you know if any of those races have been successfully cloned?"
"I'm not sure," the Jedi admitted. "Though general ability does seem to carry over to some extent. All I know for sure is that the Kaminoans make few promises regarding that, at least not that I'm aware of. They're the species that handles the majority of cloning work in the Republic," he explained.
SunWind nodded in understanding. "All Loup Maru can shapeshift, all the people of Haloeth were telepathic. Beyond that, it varies a great deal and had more to do with education than ability. This is still more of a chance to rebuild than I ever expected."
"A reasonably good one, at least for the basic abilities," Obi-Wan agreed, warmed by the hope and renewed interest in life his meager information could offer and that SunWind did understand the limits of that information. "I would be surprised if those gifts were purely spiritual, since they are so very wide-spread amongst your species."
"How common are wilderness worlds? Or at least a continent somewhere that we could rebuild in relative peace. I don't mind contact with others, but if my kind really can be brought back, it would be best not to have too much influence until things have settled down."
"Quite common, though most that aren't settled haven't been for a reason," Obi-Wan explained. "There are still many worlds with very dangerous wildlife, and the most dangerous predators aren't always the big ones. What sort of wilderness would you normally prefer? Desert, forest, tropical forest...?"
"Anything, really." He finally admitted after thinking about it. "Haloeth was a varied world and we lived everywhere. It was dryer than Corneria is, and very red, but fairly comparable overall. We were the top predator, but we were never immune to the dangers of life."
"There would be worlds you'd be comfortable on then," Obi-Wan nodded. "Some with native settlements, many without."
SunWind nodded, still thinking. "Who would I need to deal with to arrange for all this?"
"The Jedi would help you get set up at first," Obi-Wan explained. "At least give you the necessary contacts. You'll have to find something too do until you have the resources necessary; cloning isn't particularly cheap, but you could earn enough, depending on the sort of work you were interested in. You do seem to have a good grasp on what's generally involved in this sort of thing," he said approvingly. "That will help."
"For a chance to rebuild my kind, whether I find the work interesting isn't very important." He said simply. "There are some things I won't do, but whatever pays the best for my skill level is what I'll do."
"Understood," Obi-Wan nodded, pleased that there were limits. This was the kind of situation that no moral restrictions would create a problem he would be sent to fix later. "I take it, then, that you are interested in coming back with me?"
"Unless there is a similar ability here, I think so." He nodded. "It's pretty hard to top the possibility of rebuilding my kind."
"At least enough that you could have a pack again?" Obi-Wan suggested with a smile. "While there might be something similar here, I haven't heard of it yet. They would be better able to answer the question, of course."
"Enough for a pack is enough to rebuild with," he smiled slightly, his mind off in the distant past and stories of better times. "We all trace back to a male and two females. More would be faster and better, but it can be done with a single pair."
"That sounds like an incredible amount of genetic variability, to keep your species thriving off that small a pool," Obi-Wan agreed. "It might make it easier for the Kaminoans. Do you want to tell me any of your people's stories?" He asked.
"Sure," he looked a bit surprised. "Care to share you history?"
"Fair is fair," Obi-Wan nodded easily as they passed the time sharing stories of where they came from.
"There, I think that's the last of 'em now," Tony said the next day, picking the last of the fleas out of SunWind's fur and popping it between two hard fingernails that were heavily stained with green blood from more than an hour of killing the little bloodsuckers. "Feeling better?"
"Yes," he smiled languidly and slipped his tail around Tony's torso in a caressing thanks. "It still creeps you out and you do it anyway."
"Hey, somebody has to," Tony smiled slightly. "Lemme go wash my hands, then I'll give you a real grooming?"
"Sure," he rumbled and watched the smaller Mouse head into the bathroom for a minute to clean up and dispose of the significant pile of dead parasites that had still been crawling around in SunWind's fur despite the effects of the shampoo. As good as it felt to have someone getting rid of the pests, being brushed out was heaven.
A few minutes later, Tony was back, straddling his waist and starting to brush out his shoulders.
"You're not going to get the chance to get that bad again," he chuckled. "Not if I've got anything to say about it."
"Ohhh, you'll have no trouble with it from me." SunWind moaned softly and shivered under the sure touch. It felt so good to be cared for again. Even if Tony wasn't a Bro, he was honestly friendly and his touch felt incredibly good.
"So, want to tell me a bit more about yourself?" Tony asked him, slowly brushing out his fur, including the patchy spots where it was starting to grow back.
"What do you want to know?" SunWind asked, his body relaxing and his tail playing lazily along Tony's torso.
"Well ... how about before the war you were in? What it was like growing up, if it's not too painful to think about?"
"Those were the good times," he smiled to himself in utter nostalgia. "It was only a few years, the time before I was ready to go out with the pack, but the days I was at the den were great. All I had to worry about was wrestling my siblings to the ground, chasing insects, listening to the adults about our history and being curious about whatever wondered in. Mom and the others took care of everything else and made sure we were safe, well fed and warm."
"You have a big family?" Tony asked him, moving back to brush out a bit lower on his body.
"I guess it was," he had to really think about it. "We weren't the largest pack, and we weren't as closely related as many were. There were enough that Mom never lacked for help in whatever needed to be done."
"Still bigger than most families out here," Tony chuckled. "Not surprising though; most packs are. Any other good memories you want to talk about? Girlfriends, boyfriends, that sorta thing?"
Tony paused when he felt him tense sharply, then relax again.
"I have terrible taste in lovers," he murmured quietly. "One turned out to be a traitor and the other was the wrong species. Things were already pretty ugly by the time I was old enough to notice anybody that way."
"Ouch," Tony murmured. "Sorry to bring it up. I hope the one who was the wrong species was good, at least?"
"Yeah, Charlie was really good," he smiled in nostalgic fondness. "She was one of the best people I've met. We would have never done as well on Earth without her. She loved bikes, riding, independent ... she understood what it meant to be fighting for what was right as well as for your life." He sighed softly. "I still miss her, almost as much as my Bros."
"I'm sorry," Tony said sincerely, finishing up on SunWind's legs and moving up to brush his short hair out quickly. "Your Bros were your partners?"
"Partners, pack, family ... we weren't related, but that's the closest tie you can have with someone." He tried to explain something he never really thought about. "It's not just someone you'd die for, fight for, but live for too."
"I hope you can find somebody else you're that close to," Tony said, setting the brush aside and curiously touching one of SunWind's antennae. He nearly jumped at the sharp response. SunWind's body stiffened and arched, and the low moan that came out couldn't be anything but sexual, and intense.
"Sorry," Tony apologized, pulling his hand back, not sure if he was going too far or not.
"They're ... just a bit sensitive." SunWind managed to say as he tried to catch his breath and calm down. Only he didn't want to calm down. The small Mouse straddling him asked if he'd had a boyfriend like it was nothing. Tony's desire to do more than just touch came across achingly clearly so often, as did his complete lack thinking anything was wrong with those desires. No one had to know if he gave in, maybe no one would even care.
"I guessed that," Tony chuckled. "I just don't want to push you or anything."
"Why ...." he rolled over to face the smaller Mouse, who could now feel very clearly what that single touch had done. "What do you want?" He eventually managed, torn between the shamelessness of the one above him and his own upbringing.
"What do you mean?" Tony asked him, not sure what he was referring to exactly. He could tell, even through the green shades, that SunWind was looking directly at him. It wasn't too hard to read the conflict and confusion on the rest of his face.
SunWind swallowed, then decided to simply give in for now.
"What do you want to do right now?" Came out in a soft, rather seductive tone that almost didn't fit with the male using it.
"What do you want?" Tony asked him back, nuzzling SunWind's chest lightly. "I'm not really looking for anything long-term," he admitted, deciding to get it all out in the open. "But you are attractive."
"I'm not used to this being okay," he breathed sharply and arched into the contact, his tail instinctively snaking up Tony's chest to caress the top of his head with a gesture that would have stimulated the full length of both antennae on another of his kind.
"It is here," Tony murmured, reaching up to rub one of SunWind's broad ears, touching the base of his antenna again for another ragged moan. "What have you done with a guy before, if anything?"
"Just a little touching," he lied, unable to admit to the full truth yet even as he lifted his hands to explore Tone's well-toned chest.
"Do you want more?" Tony asked with a light rumble, leaning down to nearly kiss him, but letting SunWind finish the gesture. He couldn't help but be a bit surprised when the kiss was a good idea more than the basics and a tongue pressed into his mouth to explore. Large, strong hands ran down his sides and the full, hard cock he'd admired several times pressed against his body with a needy demand.
"I ... I don't know," he all but whimpered at the feel of another aroused male body pressed against him.
"Why don't we start there, see where it ends up?" Tony suggested, kissing him again just as heatedly and reached between them to take SunWind's shaft in hand. The skin was hot and dry, his fast pulse thrumbed against Tony's palm as SunWind's breath caught again.
He nodded, his voice stolen by the touch, and tried not to thrust up against the welcome contact.
"Go ahead," Tony chuckled. "Mmm ... but first, you're a little dry." He let go of SunWind's shaft, licking his fingers and slicking them down before taking it back in his hand, starting to stroke lightly. He knew from that first touch that this wouldn't take long. He had to admit it didn't surprise him either. Not with how long the Loup Maru had been alone.
He really wished he could see SunWind's eyes, but even without that it was easy to tell he was close.
A low, guttural groan escaped SunWind's throat and he thrust up into Tony's hand, his balls tightening with the pleasure that raced through his body from the simple contact.
Tony pressed close, knowing he'd get splattered with the larger male's seed, and looking forward to it. He kissed him deeply and stroked faster, very much enjoying the idea of being a friendly introduction into being with another guy for SunWind.
He was barely aware that SunWind had used his tail to pull his shorts off until a large hand took his away. SunWind then wrapped his arms around Tony's body to use the friction of the Mouse's downy fur and hard cock to push himself to the edge and over with a sharp, almost startled, cry.
Tony rumbled, feeling SunWind's thick, hot seed spatter along his cock and in their fur, matting it together as he kept rubbing against the larger male, nuzzling his chest and savoring the feeling and scent of his orgasm. He moaned when SunWind's snake-like tail slipped between them to curl around his cock and did a very respectable job of mimicking the feeling of being inside someone as SunWind claimed a slightly more lazy kiss and squeezed his ass.
"Ooh... that's a new feeling," Tony groaned, kissing SunWind back as he started to rub against him, his tip leaving furrows in the Loup Maru's come-soaked fur even as SunWind rumbled and moved his coiled tail in a counter motion to Tony's thrusts.
"Oh fuck," the smaller Mouse panted, pre dribbling from his tip. "Close...."
"Good," he murmured and kissed him, eager to swallow his cries of pleasure. He didn't have to work for long to get the chance; Tony moaned into his mouth, spraying his cum over SunWind's tail and onto his belly.
They were both panting as they wound down in each other's arms. It didn't take long for Tony to realize that SunWind wasn't softening under him.
"Mmm ... been a while, hasn't it?" Tony asked him, kissing his chest again. "Want to try something new, maybe?"
"Yeah," he slowly unwound his tail from Tony's cock. "What do you have in mind?" He asked cautiously.
"Mmm ... I've heard I have a real good mouth," the smaller Mouse winked playfully and let the startled look he got pass with a reminder to himself that where SunWind was from, this was not accepted, if not criminal.
"If ... if you'd like to." He managed to breathe as he ran his hands down Tony's body and controled his own eagerness to feel a mouth around him again.
"I would," he rumbled, sliding down SunWind's body. "Want to know how you taste," he added, starting to lick the Loup Maru's cock clean.
"Anything you want," SunWind groaned deeply and spread his legs to give Tony better access to him even as his hands found the Mouse's large round ears and gently massaged them.
"Mmm ... want you to keep doing that, first off," he grinned up at SunWind before shifting to swallow his cock, working it with his tongue and mouth as he slowly bobbed his head up and down the salty, bittersweet length. He tasted a bit coppery, not so much that it was a distraction; more of a hint in the background that reinforced the fact he was with an alien.
SunWind wasn't the biggest he'd taken on, but it was a very nice mouthful and moaned so readily. He couldn't help but think how good it would feel stretching his ass wide. Or of how SunWind might react to having his antennae get this attention.
Tony moaned around the thick cock in his mouth as SunWind's tail once again made itself felt by wrapping around his half hard cock and balls and working them slowly.
He started to fondle SunWind's balls, reaching back a bit to tease his tight anus with his fingertips. The sharp tension that rippled thorough the Loup Maru's body was strikingly at odds with the moan and way SunWind spread his legs a bit further apart.
Unsure, he kept the attention up a bit, focusing on the fact that he was enjoying it. He pressed down, taking SunWind into his mouth until his nose was pressed into his pubes and the hard length was well down his throat. A sharp sound as SunWind's entire body trembled warned him it was close.
He pulled back a bit, so he could taste it as SunWind came, and reached up to squeeze his balls lightly. It was all the encouragement SunWind's body needed and he exploded into Tony's mouth, sending a wave of pleasure through the Mouse even as he swallowed greedily, more than a bit of it dribbling from his mouth as he tried to get it all down. When SunWind was finally done, Tony licked his muzzle clean sheepishly.
"Wow," Tony murmured, grinning up at him.
"Yeah," SunWind grinned down at him a bit loopily.
"Mmm ... so, think you're wound down for a bit now?" Tony teased, sliding back up his body and hugging him.
"I think so," he murmured and wrapped his arms around the smaller male. "Thanks."
Tony whistled a cheery tune as he came back from giving his daily report to Commander McCloud and General Pepper. Even though it meant that his duties with SunWind were likely coming to an end soon, he knew how pleased he'd be to get out of quarantine. He was putting on a brave face, but it was easily to tell he was really starting to feel the cooped up and it wasn't something he handled very well.
He shifted the pile of new clothes he was carrying and knocked, just out of habitual politeness. It wasn't like he hadn't seen SunWind in the nude plenty of times already, he'd even hand his hands nearly everywhere between showering and grooming, but that didn't mean there wasn't company there. The other new alien, Obi-Wan, had been around a lot and SunWind liked him and his company.
There was a fairly long pause, long enough that he wondered if SunWind might be asleep. He was just about ready to go double check with the sensors when the door opened with a slightly surprised sound from the Loup Maru inside.
"Um, hi." SunWind managed after a moment and stepped back. "Sorry, I was in the shower."
"I should have guessed," Tony chuckled, blushing brightly as he focused very hard on looking up from where his head was level with on the very naked and quite wet tawny-furred alien Mouse. The healthier SunWind got, the more difficult it was to keep things clean. "How are you feeling?"
"Better than this morning," he cracked a grin and headed back to the bathroom to finish his shower. "I can't remember that last time I didn't have the feeling that something wasn't healing right."
"Cool," Tony grinned and followed him. He undressed quickly in a pattern they had indulged in many times in the past few days. "I got some great news for you too."
"Oh?" He looked down, very curious.
"Yeah, Slippy said you're off quarantine now," he grinned up at the bright, wide grin that spread across SunWind's face. "And he's got new eyes for you whenever your ready to have them put in. No more relying on your shades. They look really normal too."
"All right," SunWind cheered. "I am so ready to get some fresh air."
"I bet." Tony nodded and picked up the shampoo. "Want a back scrub before you try on the extra clothes. There's even a good clubbing set in there."
"Clubbing?" SunWind glanced back at him and knelt so Tony could reach.
"Yeah, night clubs. Going out with friends after work to drink, dance, maybe pick up a date." Tony explained as best he could, once again struck by the odd gaps in SunWind's knowledge. "Maybe we can go out tonight, since you're off quarantine now."
"I think I'd like that," SunWind smiled back at him, actually sounding a bit shy.
"Great," Tony nuzzled his neck before he thought about it. "Lunch first, though?" He suggested. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready top eat."
"I'm always ready to eat." He laughed a bit.
As they pulled out of the base to go to Event Horizon that night, SunWind let himself really focus on the city that seemed to have adopted him. It was bigger than Chicago had been by far, bustling and busy and populated. Various types of ships flew through the sky, the vast majority apparently unarmed. People went about their business happily, stopping to chat with each other without worrying that they were about to be picked up by a passing patrol.
It was alien on a level he couldn't even explain. Even before the Plutarkians life hadn't been this peaceful, at least not for his kind. He couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever stop looking over his shoulder or waiting for someone to point to him and call for a mob to hunt him down.
They drove into a part of town that had a lot more flashing lights and music pouring out of clubs, obvious street walkers on a few of the corners, more than a few people noticing the large Mouse with antennae as they drove by.
"Here we are," Tony said, "the Event Horizon. One of the newer clubs around here," he explained as he parked his car and hopped out.
"Feels good," he rumbled, welcoming the semi-drunk feeling of so much energy in the air. If ever there was a night to just lose himself, this was it, and this was how.
"So, mind giving your ride the first dance?" Tony asked with a grin as the walked into the building, passing by the bouncer without any trouble once he saw the smaller Mouse. It was definitely a busy night; the place was packed with people dancing, talking, drinking - just having a good time and letting go.
"Not at all." He grinned and slipped his tail around Tony's waist on the way to the dance floor, even as he tried to remember how to dance. By the time they joined the throng, SunWind had given up on that idea and just began to move with the music.
It seemed that was good enough for people around here. Tony started dancing along with him, moving with the music and the larger Mouse nearby, occasionally brushing their tails together as others noticed the newcomers, particularly SunWind. Round ears that high up was an eye-catcher, adding red antenna between them made him that much more noticeable.
It was an environment that encouraged SunWind to let down his tight social self-control just a little. His tail gently began to explore Tony's much smaller form, though he was careful to keep it from being too suggestive to those watching. The rush of having someone feel good nearby was something he didn't want to give up anytime soon.
Tony certainly didn't seem to mind; SunWind could pick up the arousal from the smaller Mouse's scent and mind alike before too much longer. It was a decidedly enticing sensation, especially when backed by the ambient nature of the club. The music shifted, and Tony nodded over towards the bar.
SunWind smiled and slipped his tail around Tony's waist again, the tip of his tail slipping under Tony's belt to tease a bit of fur.
"How 'bout a drink, handsome?" Tony asked him, running his own tail up SunWind's leg a bit.
"Sounds good," he nodded and glanced at the large decorative menu, confirming that he recognized next to nothing. Scent told him it was all alcohol and probably all quite drinkable. "I'll try whatever you like."
"Like to live dangerously, huh?" Tony chuckled. "Two G-Bombs," he told the bartender, hopping up onto a relatively tall stool, glancing at who else was there. He noticed a Wolf sitting further down the bar with an intricate metal eyepatch, and turned away quickly, indicating another stool for SunWind to sit down at. "Get to look you in the face for once," he chuckled.
"That and I don't have a clue what any of those are." SunWind chuckled and settled down as he cast a quick look at the Wolf that Tony had looked at, curious what had drawn the smaller Mouse's attention.
"Well, if you don't want anything real hard, speak now, before the bartender takes another order," Tony chuckled. "I might be small, but I'm not a lightweight."
"Let's start with how hard this stuff is compared to what I am used to, and what my tolerance has done in the last couple decades." SunWind rumbled agreeably. "The atmosphere is likely to do more than the alcohol to me."
"The atmosphere?" Tony asked as their drinks were served, bright orange sandwiching a layer of a white, creamy liquid.
"We're empaths," SunWind answered softly and downed the shot, alcohol burning the back of his throat as the light orange flavor flowed over his tongue briefly. "When a group this large is in the same kind of mood, it's hard not to go with the flow."
"This must be pretty intense for you then," Tony chuckled.
"A good kind of intense," SunWind nodded as his tail slipped along Tony's leg and caressed his ass.
"The best kind then," the smaller Mouse grinned, his own tail returning the attention with a little less skill.
"Hey, back off you creep!" Somebody said across the crowded room. A woman, from the sound of it ... and from what SunWind could sense, she meant it. Not complying was also in the air near her.
He was part way across the room before Tony even realized his date had moved, but it wasn't hard to spot SunWind's path. The crowd was quite willing to part for him.
The smaller Mouse was following shortly, not entirely sure what he'd end up doing once they got there - but hoping it was just escorting the 'gentlemen' out.
On the other side, a young Squirrel fem was facing a Fox who'd clearly had a few too many.
"C'mon babe," he rumbled, leaning in close to her, blocking easy ways away from him. "Just a little kiss, eh? No hard feelin's?"
"She said no." SunWind grabbed the Fox's shoulder and spun him half around, clearly willing to take advantage of his substantial extra height and mass to back the words up. "It's time for you to leave."
"What the fuck are you?" The Fox asked, looking up at SunWind, focusing on a Mouse with over two feet height on him as the Squirrel quickly moved to get away from them.
"Someone you don't want to piss off." SunWind rumbled darkly. "You can leave on your own, or in an ambulance."
"I was about to say the same thing, Rat," the Fox growled. Suddenly, there was a squawk from behind SunWind.
"You know, I really hate it when people don't have the balls to fight fair," Tony muttered, holding down a Dog who'd been trying to come up behind SunWind with a bottle. The rest of the crowd seemed to be clearing room, just in case this didn't go any better than it seemed to be going for now.
"Thanks," SunWind nodded slightly to his date.
It was just the opening the Fox was looking for and he landed a hard punch into SunWind's gut.
"Bad move." SunWind snapped and closed his fist, putting all his considerable strength and experience behind a punch to the Fox's jaw. He kept his hand on his shoulder to stop the Fox from rolling with it and was pleased with the crack of bone. "You can let the mutt go, Tony." He added and wrapped his tail around the Dog's neck, lifting him up by the base of the jaw and skull when Tony was out of the way.
"Think we've got trouble coming," Tony said, looking around as a couple of their friends moved forward out of the crowd to help their clearly outclassed, and beaten, pals.
SunWind snapped his tail around, throwing the Dog into one of the oncoming targets, and dropped into an easy crouch that came instinctively after a lifetime of being outnumbered but rarely outclassed.
This situation wasn't much different; even if they were good fighters normally, which he was sure some of them were, most of them had more than the one drink he had under their belt, and didn't have much beyond guts in their favor. Tony at his side didn't hurt a bit; he was smaller than SunWind, but only a little shorter than most of his opponents, and sober to boot.
The two of them were holding up pretty well, but a half-dozen different guys, including the Dog once he picked himself up, still managed to get a few shots in.
A large part of that was SunWind constantly reminding himself that this was not a fight to kill in. Defend himself and others, yes, but these weren't Plutarkian goons or collaborators. They weren't people he could kill freely.
The small brawl was interrupted by the familiar sound of a blaster going off into the air, everybody spinning to look at the one-eyed Wolf who'd fired it. He holstered his weapon as the bouncers hurried in, grabbing the drunks who'd come after SunWind and Tony and hauling them out.
"Thanks," SunWind nodded to the other war veteran as things calmed down.
"No problem," the Wolf said gruffly, glancing down at Tony as the smaller Mouse watched him warily. "Don't worry, I've been off the clock for the past few years. And I did just save your tails," he pointed out.
"I'll give you that," Tony admitted grudgingly.
"Care to join us for a drink?" SunWind offered, his instincts to accept another lonely Wolf-Kin and own need for a packmate, overriding his desire to go with Tony's dislike of the one-eyed Wolf.
He couldn't miss the obvious surprise the Wolf had for the offer ... or the pleasure at it.
"Sure," he said, cracking a bit of a smile. "Thanks for the offer."
"It's only fair," SunWind nodded and relaxed his body language a bit, showing the lupine pack nature he tended to keep hidden. "It sucks to be alone."
"Tell me about it," the Wolf chuckled ruefully, offering SunWind his hand. "Name's Wolf O'Donnell," he said.
"SunWind." He offered and shook his hand firmly. "I take it you were a merc?"
"Still am," Wolf said with a bit of a shrug. "Just pickier about who I work for now."
"Not hard, given you used to be working for Andross," Tony said pointedly.
SunWind winced at that. Replaced 'Andross' with 'Plutarkian' and Wolf would be dead right now. He couldn't hide all his surprise that Wolf was even allowed on world, much less survive the company around here. What really hit him though, was Wolf's expectation to be sent away now, and that he truly regretted what he'd done for his paycheck back then.
"Only during the first war, and that was a mistake," Wolf said quietly. "A hotshot pilot who made a fucked up mistake when he listened to the wrong wingman. I wasn't anywhere near the front during the second war, and would've been on the right side that time if they'd taken me."
"Yeah, well I don't blame 'em for not doing it," Tony pointed out. "Even if they did clear you afterwards."
"Look, I've already done everything the courts wanted me to," Wolf said, ears pressing back, trying not to growl. "I only fought in the war, even if it was the wrong side."
"Tony, have you ever been in a war?" SunWind shifted his gaze to the smaller Mouse, the tip of his tail twitching in irritation.
"Not as a soldier," Tony admitted. "But I was on the base at Katina with my family when it was almost turned into a glowing crater. And when Wolf's team was trying to keep Star Fox from stopping it."
"And I didn't know there were civilians on the site," Wolf pointed out. "You're a soldier now; you should know as well as I do that military targets are targets. Besides; I'm not the one who blew up the facility on Macbeth."
SunWind couldn't miss the mental wince from Tony when that was mentioned.
"Look," Wolf concluded with a sigh. "If you guys want me to go, then I'll go. I just figured I'd help out with that fight." He turned to leave, a result he was clearly far too used to.
"I'd rather you didn't." SunWind said quietly.
"Thanks," Wolf said, turning around with a bit of confusion and relief all at once, glancing at Tony.
"If SunWind doesn't want you to go, then it's his call," the smaller Mouse said.
"Warmest welcome I've gotten in about a year," Wolf chuckled slightly, cracking a slight smile.
"You're a pretty good person," SunWind returned the smile. "Besides, I'm not one who can judge anymore. My own government thought I was a terrorist, my people thought I was a traitor ... I was just doing what had to be done to have any chance of winning the war. We almost saved enough to rebuild too."
"We'll have to talk some time," Wolf nodded slightly. "Tonight, let's relax, right?"
"That was the idea," he nodded agreeably and tried to put the past out of his mind as he looked at Tony. "A toast to you remaining as innocent as you are?" He suggested.
"Yeah," Tony half-chuckled a bit. "Another drink does sound like a good idea right about now. C'mon, this one's on me."
Tony groaned lightly the next morning, snuggling up close to the broad-chested Loup Maru next to him, nuzzling his chest with his long muzzle. Despite SunWind's unwillingness for anal sex either way, they had one hell of a night. It was something of an eye-opener for Tony, for the pleasure to be that good without anyone being penetrated. If that had been SunWind after ten years of abstinence, it would be incredible after he had some more experience to refresh his memory.
In there somewhere it had really sunk in for him just how incredibly lonely SunWind was, being the only one of his kind, and the only one he had to talk to, for more than a decade. It was hard to think of just being close to another could top an orgasm for pleasure, but he believed it now. He didn't understand it, but he believed.
For now, Tony was more than content to stay in bed with him, nursing his slight hangover. He glanced at the clock on the wall and was even more grateful he had the day off today; he was really not inclined to leave bed for a duty shift just now. His bedmate didn't seem to be inclined for a morning person either, and it was a good enough reason to settle in and take another nap wrapped in the warm strength of his companion.
He blinked awake after drifting off to the tension that ripped through SunWind's body and the insistent nudge he got.
"Someone's at the door." SunWind told him, likely not for the first time.
"Want me to see who?" Tony offered, reluctantly reaching back to grab his pants off the floor, having to roll over and reach down to get them from the taller bed. "It's your room," he pointed out.
"I'll get it, but you might not want to be naked when I do." He chuckled lightly and grabbed his own jeans to pull on before opening the door. "Hello?"
"Hello," a smaller Cat on the other side smiled, Obi-Wan behind her. "I'm Casey Tenna. Hi Tony!" She called out, glancing around SunWind with a bit of a grin for the smaller Mouse as he dressed.
"Hi Casey," Tony said, waving slightly before grabbing his shirt.
"I'm here to help you around the city," Casey explained to SunWind, seemingly not letting the definite scent of sex in the room bother her at least, or their half dressed state. "Would you like a chance to get dressed and get some breakfast first?"
"Yes, at least a shower." SunWind nodded definitely. "We can talk over breakfast?" He suggested with a glance between all three of them.
"Sounds fine to me," Casey nodded easily. "I'm your case worker, by the way; we'll be going over a few questions to help you find a job too."
"Mind if I join you?" Tony asked, asking Casey as much as SunWind.
"Not at all," Casey smiled. "Glad to see somebody's making him feel welcome on Corneria," she winked.
"He definitely is." SunWind cracked a momentary grin. "Do you want to wait here, or meet somewhere?"
"I don't mind waiting," Casey said easily. "We can talk on the way then, get some of the boring stuff out of the way."
SunWind nodded and stepped back to let them in. "I'll try to keep the shower short." He added as he grabbed a fresh set of clothes and motioned Tony into the bathroom with him.
"That is so like that Mouse," Casey chuckled as she closed the door surreptitiously. "By the way, Obi-Wan, thanks for coming along with me," she said, turning to face the human behind her.
"You are welcome," he bowed to her slightly before sitting down to listen to the two very different Mice under the water. Even as shielded as he was normally, he couldn't miss how intense SunWind's pleasure was at the simple act of a hot shower. "I recognize some things about him that are not common here."
"I don't doubt it, from what I've heard," she nodded, sitting down near him. "It's never easy, integrating people from warzones into a relatively peaceful society. And that's when they handle what they've been through well."
He could not help but nod. "Considering he is still able to socialize and not lash out as soon as he's uneasy, I would say he is handling things well." Obi-Wan pointed out. "As erratic as I expect him to be for a while, he is remarkably stable."
"He seems to be," she agreed. "Though sometimes it's hard to be sure up front. Mostly, I'm worried about what Counselor McCloud's report says about him saying he didn't know anything but fighting. If he's been a soldier that long, he might be a while getting ready for the work force. But we'll have to see; he might have a few skills he doesn't remember just now," she said optimistically.
"Even if fighting is all he knows, he has other skills." Obi-Wan assured her. "He's not a foot solder, he's a survivalist ... special ops, I believe it is called. It's just a matter of finding something he wants to do. He's smart enough to pick up any skills he's missing."
"Maybe a mechanic," she mused. "Well, at any rate, he seems to be getting along nicely so far; should be a good sign."
"Something like forest ranger or law enforcement may also suit him very well. I get the feeling he is well-adapted to wilderness life." He considered the bathroom door for a moment. "Reclaiming a planet may do a world of good for him. Help offset his loss by doing what he couldn't do for his homeworld."
"Assuming he'd be willing to visit a planet that was only green because the water's still mildly radioactive, it might," she mused. "Thanks for the suggestion," she added as the sound of water from the other room quieted to be replaced by the hot air blowers. "Well, that was a bit faster than I expected," she giggled.
"They can both focus when they need to." He chuckled softly and stood to greet the pair when they came out a short time later.
She stood with him, the door sliding open to reveal SunWind and Tony, Tony's outfit clearly wrinkled and from the night before.
"You two ready to go?" Casey asked them easily.
"I think so," Tony said. "I'll probably go change after breakfast, leave you three to handle the business stuff."
"And maybe meet up again afterwards," SunWind winked at him, though it was largely concealed by his shades that never came off, not even when they were in bed together or in the shower.
"Maybe we will," Tony winked back, Casey shaking her head.
"Xenophile," she teased the smaller Mouse lightly.
"Jealous?" He smirked back with the familiarity of long friendship.
"That's not fair," she smirked. "I have to keep my relationships professional. So, anybody have any preferences for breakfast?" She asked, not sure what SunWind's preferred diet was yet.
"Fruit, pizza ... but I haven't met the meal I wouldn't eat." SunWind offered up.
"I think the cafeteria will work for everyone." Obi-Wan suggested to nods from the other two males.
"Let's go then," the Cat said cheerfully, leading the way there. "So SunWind; think you'll be able to fill out some personal information while we eat, or on the way?" She asked him as they walked.
"As best I can," he nodded with a very subtle shift in his body language as he settled fully into a place in his mind that he hadn't been in a long time.
"All right," she said easily. "I'm going to need your birthdate and age around here, if you can do the math up in your head. If not, we can figure it out later on."
"I don't know." He shook his head slightly. "I'm ... probably between forty-five and fifty-five back home. I lost track a long time ago."
"Must have an impressive lifespan," she mused. "It's not that important, probably; you're clearly old enough, physically, for any age related legal issues to be out of the way. We'll probably just split the difference and figure out what fifty back home means here, if you don't mind."
"That's fine," he nodded easily.
"That'll make things easier," she nodded, mentally running through her checklist. "Any particular job skills you have? We understand that those things aren't as important on a planet that's in the middle of a warzone, just helpful to know."
"Demolitions, stealth, mechanics, urban survival, wilderness survival," he drifted off for a while as he thought over his experience. "Teamwork, I'm a crack shot and I haven't met many things I couldn't turn into a bloody pulp."
"Are you interested in mercenary work, or would you rather stick to something a little more peaceful for a change?" Casey asked him as they climbed onto the lift.
"You don't have to be a fighter anymore," Tony pointed out quietly.
"I am not a merc." SunWind said rather forcefully. "And yes, something more peaceful would be welcome."
"Not a problem," Casey nodded, privately noting not to bring up anything that he would likely take as mercenary work again. "You mentioned you have good mechanical skills; there's always somebody looking for a good mechanic around here. Do you want to stay on Corneria, or are you interested in seeing the rest of the system? Possibly helping out on one of the planets we're cleaning up?"
"I'm not sure," he admitted, seeing benefits to both ideas. "How is travel between worlds here?"
"It's not usually that hard to come back for a while," she said easily. "Barring some sort of mishap in space, it's usually a day's trip from here to Zoness by jump-drive."
"Good," he nodded, working that into the choices.
"Either choice would be fine, ultimately," Casey explained as they entered the cafeteria. "You'll be handy anywhere you go, I'm sure, and nobody's about to blame you for staying here if you'd rather not go to Zoness. Not sure if you've read anything about it, but it's pretty bad there."
"It can't be as bad as my home system." SunWind reminded her. "Rebuilding ... it would be nice to create something for once." He added softly.
"You'd definitely have the chance to do that," she reassured him. "Bring a planet back from the brink to somewhere it's increasingly inhabitable."
"You would have a familiar face there too." Obi-Wan added as they got into a lift. "I'm going to be working on Zoness as well."
"Sounds pretty good, with coming back here to camp and such." SunWind nodded, the idea really beginning to appeal to him.
"Well, after breakfast we'll see about getting you scheduled for some tests and take a bit of a tour of the planet," Casey offered. "You have any questions for me?"
"May I see that sheet you're filling out?" He asked politely.
"Certainly," she nodded, offering him the clipboard and what information she had on him, sketchy as it was.
He checked it out, working on some of the words in the new language, handed it back, and took a bit of a breath.
"I have also been known as Throttle and Blood-Face." He began, then paused uneasily. "I did a little looking. You don't seem to have any real take on were races...."
"Were-races? Shapeshifters?" Casey asked, taking a moment to place the phrase and link it to her notes on him.
"Yes," he nodded cautiously and stepped out of the lift when it stopped.
"As far as I know, we've never met an entire species capable of it," Casey admitted. "As such, we don't really have a take on them in general. Can you control it?"
"Yes," he nodded seriously. "Five forms, this being my default one."
"People didn't accept your kind for what they were in your home system, did they?" Obi-Wan asked, picking up on the tension and fear in SunWind's frame.
"We're hunted," he nodded. "All three worlds had their local kinds, none were considered people."
"That won't be an issue here," Casey said firmly. "You might run into some folks who are frightened, but you're not about to stop being a person or having rights because of that."
"And I know it doesn't bother me," Tony piped up, even though it had already come up a couple times.
"I've dealt with many kinds of shapeshifting races, SunWind." Obi-Wan added seriously. "It is nothing that bothers me."
"Thanks," SunWind told them quietly as they entered the cafeteria.
"Would a trip out into the country, away from people, be good enough for a look?" Obi-Wan asked, knowing Loup Maru was as eager to have their reactions proven as he was nervous about it.
"Yes," he nodded slightly. "The Lumari form is very large."
"And probably good for freaking people out when it shows up in cities?" Tony guessed as they started getting some breakfast.
"It's called a war-form for good reason." SunWind nodded, his voice low as he got in line and began to select his breakfast of fruit, several kinds of meat and pancakes. "I'm around ten feet tall and close to a thousand pounds of killing machine in Lumari."
"Yes, that definitely sounds like something better to adopt where you have plenty of room," Obi-Wan observed, selecting a light breakfast of his own, mostly fruit and a mixture of yogurt and sweetened grain.
"That's definitely not something we have around here," Casey nodded, clearly impressed by the notion. "Would you mind if I take better pictures of these forms for the file?" She asked as she poured a large cup of coffee. "Do your kind have a racial name for yourselves? I'm afraid Krystal couldn't translate what you told her into a verbal form. It's been listed as 'Haloeth Mouse' right now."
"You can record it," he agreed, emboldened by this acceptance and the lack of anything but a positive interest in the subject. "We call ourselves Loup Maru, though both Martian Mouse and Haloeth Mouse are generally accepted."
"If you'd like, I'll make the change from 'Loup Maru' on your file then," Casey said. "If not, I'll just include it as a note."
"I think so. It is what I am." He set himself to be what he was born to be, now that he was free. This was an easy world to hide in too.
"Once we get to our table, I'll make the change," the Cat said easily, adding some sugar to her coffee. "Not a problem at all."
SunWind nodded and followed her to a table suitable for both the tall and short members of the party, a mixture of fear and excitement at what was happening in him still sinking in.
The others followed, taking their seats and starting to eat quickly.
"You don't need to be afraid," Obi-Wan told the larger Mouse quietly. "At least today, you will be safe."
SunWind looked at him, an expression on his face as the two warrior-empaths, one from each end of the experience spectrum, regarded each other with an understanding and acceptance of what they had in common and the bond of circumstance and experience that they shared.
"SunWind?" Tony worked the new name in the silence that lasted a little too long for him. "Are you still you in all those forms?"
"Yes," he nodded clearly. "Each has a bent that can color my reactions, Lumari most of all, but I'm fully sentient and me in all of them."
"As long as none of 'em think I'm an appetizer, I don't see any reason I'd be too scared then," Tony reassured him.
"Only if I'm starving, literally, and that has its own set of rules." SunWind said seriously. "Lumari has a very short temper and likes to kill. It's not that social, but what do you expect of a walking weapon?"
"You said it was still you, though." Obi-Wan pointed out.
"Yes, it is me," he shifted to look at the human Jedi, "but it is very difficult to resist the bloodlust or a call to battle in that form. It is not much different from how this form is much less predatory than most of the others. The quadruped form, Luprani, is very canine, and much more instinctive. My mind is there, but the razorwolf instincts are strong in it. It's what that form is about." He paused to fiddle with a strip of bacon for a while. "There is a lot of social and historical stuff involved in it I'd rather get into when I'm free to shift and show a bit better."
"I think I understand the idea," Casey nodded slightly. "If you're not comfortable discussing this in public...." She trailed off, fairly sure the offer was clear.
"That, and it's not a short story, or one to take in parts." He drank deeply of his milk. "What I am is closely tied to a lot of history and many races across three world. It's been a long time since I really thought about it, for all I do know our histories. I'd like to teach you, but I want to teach it right." He looked up with a bit more pride. The first he'd really shown here, or in years even to himself. "I want to represent my people correctly, not in bits and pieces."
"I can respect that," a new voice said from nearby. Turning to look at the newcomer, they saw a blue-furred vixen, lighter blue on her face and neck leading down to the dark-blue flight suit that clung to her slender body beneath her vest. "Mind if I join you?" She asked.
"Not at all." SunWind grinned at her in a truly warm welcome. "It's good to see you again."
"I'm glad that you're getting along so well with Tony," she grinned back at him.
"Obi-Wan, this is Krystal McCloud," Casey explained. "Last name adopted, not official yet," she added.
"I'm working on it," Krystal chuckled slightly. "We have met briefly. I'm sorry to jump into the conversation, but I overheard what you were saying. It's good to find somebody else who wants to keep their people's memories alive."
"I believe that would be all three of us," Obi-Wan stood graceful to bow to her and motioned her to pull up a chair as he set her tray down. "I believe SunWind simply has the most to tell of us."
"So where are you from?" SunWind asked curiously, trying to call up the jumbled information he had gotten from her when they were reminding him how to talk.
"Cerinia," she replied, pulling up a chair and sitting. "Thank you, Obi-Wan," she smiled, nodding politely to the Jedi. "And it's not a name I'd expect anybody to recognize; my planet blew up years ago," she explained.
"A war?" SunWind asked, liking her a bit for her strength at being the only one of her kind as well.
"I don't know, for sure," she admitted. "Whatever it was, I was the only person off-planet. I spent the next few years looking for answers before I got tangled up in the Sauria incident. It was very similar, but I don't know for sure if the same thing happened."
"What was that?" Obi-Wan asked for SunWind as well as himself.
"On Sauria, it turned out that the SharpClaw tribe had stolen a number of magical artifacts that were literally holding the planet together," she explained. "When they stole them, it started falling apart until Fox managed to return the stones, and we returned the Krazoa Spirits to the Temple. It's possible that there were similar artifacts on Cerinia; the ruins on Sauria reacted to my staff the same way ruins and temples on my homeworld did before I left. Somebody stealing or destroying them could have caused Cerinia to detonate, if it was as unstable as Sauria was."
"Wow," SunWind murmured, more than a little stunned at the idea, and just how plausible it was.
"Yeah," Krystal nodded. "There's no way to prove or disprove it ... but I take some comfort in knowing that whoever or whatever was responsible was either natural, or died along with Cerinia. We only had one space vessel, and that was only to be used for the Testing Rite. Something best not explained over breakfast," she added quickly, cutting off Casey's unanswered question.
The move earned her understanding chuckles and grins from around the table.
"So how is life here for you?" Obi-Wan asked more conversationally.
"Quite well," she smiled. "I've learned to keep my mind to myself after the first few weeks, and found out some very interesting things during that time, including how to make General Pepper swallow his lollipop."
"That happens when nobody warns the General that he's about to meet a casual telepath after a top-secret briefing," Casey pointed out.
"I didn't realize nobody else around here was one," Krystal shrugged. "But I've adapted pretty well. Life around here isn't that different from Cerinia, once you ignore all the extra spacecraft, and it's a lot better than wandering from planet to planet and hoping you can work for supplies."
"Very true," Obi-Wan agreed to SunWind's nod. "Have you been to Zoness?"
"I've seen it," she nodded. "There's a great deal of pain there, for all that it's slowly improving ... it's almost like Sauria, without anything like as quick a fix available."
"You can feel a world's condition too?" SunWind suddenly looked much more interested in her.
"Sort of," she explained. "I'm not sure if it's the world, or the background generated by the creatures on it, but I can empath the sense of fear or desperation when a world is in crisis. I try to avoid staying on Zoness for very long as a result; Corneria's much more comfortable for me."
"I don't doubt it," SunWind nodded. "It's alive, though. It can be helped."
"Yes," Obi-Wan nodded. "That is the point of reclamation. It is a mess, but it can recover."
"I'm sure it can," Krystal agreed. "And when it is, I'll be happy to visit it more often. Just that for now, it's a little loud for me, even with my shields up. I've always been a little too strong an empath for my own good."
"That can be a major headache," SunWind nodded seriously, a bit sympathetic to the condition.
"So are you coming with us for the tour and display of abilities?" Obi-Wan asked casually, keeping a mental eye on SunWind's reaction.
"If you guys don't mind," Krystal nodded. "It's up to you though; I'm not about to invite myself along."
"I don't mind," SunWind said, knowing full well it was directed mostly at him. "She's already seen, and stood down, the Lumari."
"If you don't mind, I'd like to see your magic at work." Obi-Wan suggested. "I've heard you can create some very interesting effects."
"The full deal, or what I can do personally?" She asked him easily. "I'll have to bring my staff along when I go to meet you if you want to see my full talents."
"The full deal," he smiled at her. "It is a use of energy I haven't heard of before."
"I'll get it from my quarters before heading out then," Krystal said easily, finishing her light breakfast. "If you don't mind, I would appreciate seeing what you're capable of as well."
"That will be part of the demonstration for Casey," he nodded. "Though you are welcome to ask questions as well."
"Same here," SunWind nodded in agreement.
"Well, I should go fetch my staff then," Krystal said easily, standing with her tray. "If Casey could send me the ID code for your ship, I'll meet you in a little bit."
"Sounds good to me," Casey nodded. "Should we be going then?"
"Yes," SunWind nodded, feeling happier about his situation than he could remember in a long time.
"I am ready." Obi-Wan nodded in agreement.
"Well, I'll be seeing you around then, SunWind," Tony said easily, standing with a smile and taking his tray. "Give me a call if you're looking to hit the clubs again later," he grinned.
"I'm sure I will." He smiled at the smaller Mouse and followed Casey and Obi-Wan to drop off his tray and get a good tour of the city and surrounding areas.
Casey rolled her head, stretching out her neck after a quick shopping trip to pick up a couple less biker-like clothes for SunWind and a tour of the city. They'd just gotten out of a quick trip to the Cornerian Zoo, taking a look at some of the native creatures of the Lylat system - and a real quick primer on which ones he and Obi-Wan could expect to run into and have to fight on Zoness.
"So, ready to head out to Battle Park?" Casey asked SunWind and Obi-Wan cheerfully as she lifted off. "Best place to do things like we were planning on; not too many people visit it during the week."
"Sounds good." SunWind nodded with Obi-Wan's agreement.
"Great," she nodded. "I know you two are empaths, so I should warn you," she said as they flew off. "It's on the site of the climactic moment of the Battle for Corneria. No great loss of life, but I've heard it can be a little overwhelming the first time you go there."
"We will keep that in mind." Obi-Wan nodded seriously; very grateful she had gotten a larger transport today.
"Okay, sending a message to the Blue Fox," Casey said to herself, quickly keying it in and pulled their transport to the side abruptly as a smaller military ship zoomed by, everybody moving hard and fast to get out of its way. "We'll be there shortly."
"What is that about?" SunWind almost demanded, his tone sharper than he intended as he picked up Obi-Wan's interest in the other ship.
"Traffic accident," she explained. "In Corneria City, the military usually provides police services too."
"Ah," Obi-Wan nodded and relaxed back.
"Is that common?" SunWind asked curiously as they left the city and the traffic slackened up drastically, much to the relief of both aliens. They passed out over the green surrounding the city, mountains nearby stretching up above the ship. Occasional signs of battle were visible, craters and patches of scorched earth, but most of it had been cleaned up and replanted.
"Accidents, no. The military doubling as police, it is around here," she explained. They touched down at a small facility for spacecraft, remains of what looked like a giant robot scattered in the valley that served as the main park.
"Here we are," she said cheerfully, opening the door. "Feel free to take a look around, probably be a few minutes before Krystal's here."
"Just what was that thing?" SunWind asked, his eyes wide as he took in the sheer size of the robot scattered about.
"That was the Granga," Casey explained. "Andross' attack juggernaut during the battle. Star Fox destroyed it before it could reach the city, thankfully. We established the memorial park around the remains of the final battle."
"It is much more pleasant than most memorials I have encountered." Obi-Wan commented as he looked out across the green valley.
"It's a memorial of a battle that very few people died in," Casey pointed out. "Thankfully. The valley was about a foot and a half shallower prior to the thing exploding."
"I do not doubt it," he nodded and looked up to see a smaller ship coming in for a landing.
"I think I will be some time getting used to seeing green again when it isn't my own blood." SunWind murmured as he looked around, breathing deeply of the fresh, clean air.
"Well, hopefully you will get used to it," Casey smiled as the ship touched down, the cockpit opening and Krystal hopping out, still in her flight suit, though she wore a jeweled circlet on her brow and carried a golden staff strapped across her back, a bright red gem in its tip.
"An impressive item, Krystal." Obi-Wan commented as he felt the power enshrined in the staff. It was as potent as his lightsaber, though quite different in feel.
"Very," SunWind added with a low whistle.
"Thank you," she smiled. "It's an ancient relic of my people. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure how Fox managed to wield it on Sauria. I'm not even sure how half of its powers work yet."
"Knowing Fox, a lot of luck," Casey chuckled. "So, here we are; who's going to go first?"
SunWind looked around. "I brought this up, I'll start."
"Sure thing," Krystal nodded, indicating a nearby picnic table that'd work for all four of them and joined Obi-Wan and Casey while SunWind gave himself some space.
"My world, and the solar system it is in, is one that is not like most I have encountered or heard of. It was created by a very powerful entity, a creature we call Ramilz, or the First Mother. She gave birth to three daughters, Itassa, Enderonth, and Haloeth and gave each daughter a world in her system to create as they wished.
"Haloeth had the fourth world from the sun, a smaller, red world and began to create a creature to tend it while she did other things there. That first guardian was Lumari." He paused and relaxed into the massive shift that doubled his normal height and added many times his mass, and turned him into a biped saber-fanged killing machine with a sleek dark tan mohawk than ran down his spine, a very canine head with rounded mouse ears and long silver and gold double helix horns. His bright red antenna were still apparent between his horns.
"Very impressive," Obi-Wan observed, assessing the new shape and deciding that SunWind hadn't been exaggerating its abilities.
"Like something out of a myth," Krystal agreed, seeing it for the first time outside of an emergency.
Casey took a picture for the file before SunWind shifted back to his Mouse form.
"As Haloeth continued to work on her world, she created the seeds of intelligence in two of the creatures that had grown from those first seeds of life and charged Lumari with caring for them and guiding them to the point where they would be equals. It was a task he greeted with pride and joy, for he had long been very lonely as the only person on the world.
"As the Maru, the Mice, and Luprani, the Razorwolves," he dropped to all fours into a sleek tan canine with small silver and gold double helix and red antenna. He paused for Casey's picture before shifting back. "Began to gain intelligence and numbers, Lumari asked Haloeth for assistance and she agreed.
"She created two females similar to him in form and gave them all the ability to shift between the forms that she wished for the Maru and Luprani to grow into. From these three, Lumari, Maru and Luprani, the Loup Maru came. When they grew older, they passed their duties onto us. The protection of the world and the care of its people.
"Loup Maru have two other forms; larger, more primitive versions of the Maru and Luprani," he shifted to each and waited for pictures to be taken. "We are not very sure when or why they exist."
"When did things start to go wrong then?" Obi-Wan asked softly. If they were protectors... it seemed strange that the people would turn on them so thoroughly.
"When we lost our unity over how to treat them," he said quietly and sat down. "The Maru in particular had a great deal of difficulty controlling their own population. It was simple when they were not sentient yet. We culled them as we culled any other creature that grew too populous.
"But once they were intelligent, there was a great deal of contention over how much authority we really had over them. Most believed that until they could control themselves, they were still no more than animals and it was our duty to control them as needed. Many believed that it was now our duty to educate them gently, to teach them what was right and wrong as you would any pup. By the time they had true cities and had begun to systematically eradicate the Luprani, there was a group that believed that we had failed completely and it was now our duty to wipe them out and start over.
"None of those approaches were taken well by the Maru, even though we agreed to try with educating them before we turned to violence. Twelve generations we tried to teach them. We did not cull a single Maru. We helped them with their cities and tried to teach them how to live with the world without destroying it.
"We failed completely. By the time we realized it, they had powerful weapons, weapons that could actually kill us, and they had the numbers to hunt us." He finished, the grief at failing in his duty to Haloeth more potent than his failure to save his world from the Plutarkians.
Krystal and Obi-Wan were both quiet, his pain palpable. They both had their opinions, but they kept them to themselves for now.
"They weren't a particularly old species then, when the Plutarkians arrived?" Obi-Wan asked, hoping that moving beyond that point would give SunWind the chance to leave his pain behind for a time.
"No," he shook his head slightly and pulled himself together with difficulty. "They had only developed true sentience about fifteen thousand years before."
"And only twelve generations without the culling?" Krystal asked him, sure they weren't that long-lived that it was any appreciable amount of the time they'd been sentient.
"That is how long it took before they declared war on us." He sighed. "When they began to hunt us, it changed a lot of minds and that changed policy."
"And you were born during a time when they had already nearly driven your kin to extinction, weren't you?" She asked him, her own emotions well-shielded as her mind worked to put what pieces she had together. His words, his emotions... he was relieved now, mostly because he hadn't been attacked for what he'd already said, and she could understand why.
She wasn't wholly sure what she thought of it, but she was sure that this story was one of the most morally complicated she'd heard in years.
"And the other sentient race on Haloeth," he nodded. "They started hunting the Luprani first, then they hunted us. I've spent most of my life as a Maru, even since my mother's pack was destroyed trying to broker a peace treaty. My Bro's were Maru. I still don't understand them very well. Why they were so bent on destroying the other races on our world."
"Even the ones you were closest to?" She asked, surprised that he'd have associated with somebody who had done something like that.
"Fate and Plutarkian prison camps makes for strange mates." He chuckled weakly. "Vinnie's family were some of the deadliest hunters on the planet. Don't know if he did too. Modo ... he was from an area that made a point of shunning people-hunters of all kinds. Fine warriors, but they didn't hunt. What got us together was survival." He looked at her seriously. "I've sided with pure evil before to defeat a greater evil, or just survive long enough to defeat it. You do things like that in a war."
"I can understand that," she said, inclining her head towards him in respect. "It is just odd to think of. I hope you can find peace here, SunWind, even if you can't find anything else."
"So do I." He nodded slightly. "I hope I can accept it too. It's a very strange idea sometimes."
"You seem to be doing well so far," Casey pointed out. "And if you find yourself needing help, we can get it for you. There isn't anything about your situation here that we haven't seen before; we're willing and able to help you with it."
SunWind nodded and looked over at her with a look of gratitude that he didn't quite have the voice to express just yet.
"Should we move on to somebody else?" Casey offered. "I don't know if there's anything else you want to talk about just now."
"I will go," Obi-Wan offered and stood. He put a reassuring hand on SunWind's shoulder and felt the gratitude for it. "Is there anything you wish me to start with?"
"How about showing SunWind and Krystal some of your skills?" Casey suggested. "Telekinesis... or maybe some of what you can do with your 'lightsaber'?" She suggested, indicating the weapon at his side.
He nodded and stepped a bit away from the group. "How about that?" He pointed to an empty picnic table.
"As long as it's in one piece afterwards, they're not attached to anything," Casey nodded.
"It will be," Obi-Wan assured her and focused on the table. The response was not immediate, but soon the object lifted up smoothly and followed his slight hand motions to turn around and set down in a different location.
"A lot more control than I have," Krystal told him. "How fine is it?"
"I can type, but I can not write yet, though with practice I should be able to. It will never be as finely control as with my hands." He explained and put the table back where it belonged.
"Mine has best been described as explosive telekinesis, so you're hardly far behind the curve," Krystal chuckled. "It's an excellent level of control, by all that I've seen."
"Thank you, Krystal." He bowed slightly to her. "Much of what I have learned has little to display; the ability to survive on very little food or water, in hostile environments and other subconscious physical controls. The most interesting display of my training is usually with a lightsaber." He unclipped the weapon and relaxed into a basic open stance that was the beginning of so many katas and lit it.
"Don't see those often," Krystal said, leaning back to watch him work with his energy sword.
"Never seen anything like that before," SunWind murmured, entranced by the sheer deadliness he saw in the simple display.
Obi-Wan came to a stop and tipped the weapon to his left. "SunWind, would you try to shoot me?"
"What?" The Loup Maru stared at him.
"I will be perfectly safe," Obi-Wan assured him. "A single shot, near me if you prefer."
The dark tan Loup Maru nodded and fired a shot almost too fast to see just over the Jedi's left shoulder. Obi-Wan's bright blue lightsaber was up before the bolt had even reached him, the beam deflected off into the sky by the lightsaber blade.
"At this point, I'm capable of deflecting beams from several practice drones at once for a relatively prolonged period of time," Obi-Wan explained. "Typically quite long enough to handle most firefights without being in undue danger."
"Very impressive." SunWind admitted. "How hard is it to make one of those?"
"Quite difficult," Obi-Wan admitted. "It takes a certain level of technical knowledge to produce the technical components, and Jedi training to properly tune the weapon to function as a true lightsaber. More importantly, it requires years of training to wield a lightsaber properly and deflect blaster bolts."
SunWind nodded in acceptance. "It seems like it would be useful as more than a weapon." He observed.
"It is," Obi-Wan nodded. "Mostly for carving through doors and walls when negotiations become strained. One of the reasons the training is so difficult; it can carve through an inch of durasteel like soft butter, and it's not easy for an untrained user to keep track of the blade in use."
"And loosing track is a very dangerous thing to do." SunWind nodded in understanding.
"Is there anything else you'd like to demonstrate, before we get into your people's history?" Krystal asked Obi-Wan.
"I do not believe, so." He inclined his head to her politely and sat down. "The Jedi were founded roughly twenty-five thousand years ago. Life was already long established in the galaxy, but we had recently developed hyperdrive, a means of traveling from one system to the next at a relatively swift speed. Many different races had already discovered the Force; with the advent of hyperdrive, we were able to communicate with each other, share information, and come to a unified philosophy regarding its use and training."
"So you are the only people that have power?" SunWind asked curiously.
"No, we are not," Obi-Wan said, shaking his head. "We are the dominant group that uses the Force, but not all Force users are Jedi. There are other groups in existence, and some individuals who, for whatever reason, were not trained. There is also a rival organization to our own, but they have been extinct for a thousand years."
"It is unusual that none have risen in their place," SunWind mused. "Power hates a vacuum."
"Some have tried, but the Jedi are there to confront them when they do," Obi-Wan explained. "The Sith were the opposite of the Jedi in every way. Where we consider the Force an ally, and believe in helping others, the Sith valued only strength and ruthlessness."
"You have mentioned the Force several times," Krystal pointed out. "What exactly is the Force?"
"It is the energy all around us; it feeds and is fed by life. Those he can feel it can sometimes use it to create effects. Telekinesis, enhanced senses, speed, foreseeing, empathy, telepathy, likely your magic as well, all draw on the Force."
"Different names for the same thing then," she nodded slightly.
"Quite possibly," he nodded. "Through the following centuries, the Jedi helped guide the Republic, protecting justice and order throughout the galaxy as it developed. We have helped to maintain the peace, and freedom, of people throughout the Republic."
"How good a job do you think the Jedi do at it?" SunWind asked with a morbid kind of curiosity.
"Better could be done," Obi-Wan admitted. "However, given that the Republic encompasses thousands of systems, hundreds of sentient species, and many of them consider each other to be food, I feel the fact that it has survived for over twenty thousand years says a great deal about how well the Jedi have helped it to hold together."
"Yes," he agreed with a slight nod.
"Well, if there are no more questions, I think I've reached the end of the condensed version," Obi-Wan chuckled. "I'll admit, I do hope to get home some time soon."
"It sounds like you have quite the home to get back to," Krystal smiled. "Well then, I think it's my turn to show and tell."
"Yes," SunWind kind of grinned at her. "What can that staff do?"
She stood up with a chuckle, pointing it skyward and taking it in both hands, firing off several bursts of flame that arced through the air, the staff recoiling with each shot like a blaster rifle.
"As you might imagine, Fox was thrilled when he discovered that ability," she chuckled a little dryly. "I can also cause it to release a blast of freezing vapor," she explained, swirling about agilely and spraying the grass with the blue liquid, causing it to frost over instantly. "Extremely effective against large, slow enemies, I've found."
"Oh, I can imagine." SunWind perked up a lot. "You said that was a relic of your people, I believe?"
"It is, an ancient one," she nodded. "The Testing Rite I mentioned to you was a temple on one of our neighboring planets. The planet was deserted, but the ruined temple included places to use the rest of the staff's main powers. With a properly reinforced floor plate, I can use its telekinetic abilities to launch myself into the air, or to create a shockwave through the ground. It could also unlock certain doors.
"The idea was that a Priestess would have to reach a certain level of training before she could reach the inner chambers of the Temple. A master Priestess could reach the central chamber, which was rumored to contain a great secret about our people... nobody had reached it in centuries though, myself included," she admitted.
"Is that world still in existence?" SunWind asked, his interest peeked.
"It is, but without somebody to help me unlock the remaining abilities of the staff, I can't get any deeper than I already did, and it's about a two-year trip even in the Great Fox."
"Who, or what, is required for you to unlock those abilities?" He was even more keyed up, his mind working on something that had latched onto his interest.
"Without the resources from the temple, probably a fair amount of time to study the staff and try to find out what I have to activate to bring out the rest of its powers," she explained. "And to work on doing so myself. I haven't really focused on doing it... needed to get settled in, and once I was it seemed far enough away that it wasn't important."
"And it means facing the pain of being the last one." SunWind said softly, understanding a little too much.
"Yes," she admitted, nodding slightly. "And the fact that I, of all people, should have been there to try and stop whatever happened to Cerinia. The Priestess is supposed to be the planet's protector as well."
"I understand," he nodded, willing to let it drop. "It's something to do when you are ready."
"Thank you," she smiled, nodding slightly. "It might well be a while," she admitted.
"Are you part of the Star Fox team?" Obi-Wan asked in the lull that followed.
"Yes," she smiled, taking her seat again. "I'm filling in the gap that Peppy left when he retired from the field. Not half the pilot he was, but I'm getting better."
"What does your team do, when you aren't rescuing lost travelers?" SunWind asked curiously.
"Special jobs for the Cornerian military," Krystal explained. "The Lylat Wars were before my time, the incident on Sauria... honestly, there hasn't been much aside from some space pirates that happened to be in our part of space for a big job. From what I understand, the team had almost fallen apart before Sauria... maybe there's a little caution because of that yet."
"Sounds like they've been through some rough times." SunWind said quietly. "What holds them together now, when there isn't a war going on?"
"The same thing that holds any group like that together," she smiled slightly. "They're partners. Peppy's been a part of the team since before Fox was born. Slippy doesn't have many friends, and he's loyal to the ones he has. Falco and Fox... they're something else," she chuckled. "Falco's left the team once in a while, but he always comes back. He and Fox are about the best friends you can find, and sometimes I think that drives 'em both crazy. There's not much that could create a real, permanent rift in the team."
SunWind nodded thoughtfully, fully aware that there were parts to it she just wasn't going to go into some parts of this on her own. "Do you know anything about a Wolf named Wolf O'Donnell?"
"Oh yeah," Krystal said, shaking her head. "He used to be one of Fox's best friends in the Academy, but went with Andross in the first wars, along with Pigma from the old Star Fox team. From what I understand, he decided he'd made a mistake after the first Lylat War and was eventually cleared. But he's the reason the team almost broke up right after the second War, not that he'll ever admit to it."
"He was a Star Fox?" SunWind looked at her in real surprise. "How ... what convinced him to leave?"
"Wolf wasn't," Krystal said firmly, shaking her head. "He left before Fox was part of Star Fox, officially. Pigma was part of the team, but he betrayed it to Andross in exchange for a small fortune. I hope the fat fuck choked on it," she growled, then shook her head.
"I'm sorry; Fox's father died when Pigma betrayed the team. Then, later, the team reformed when Fox, Falco, and Slippy joined Peppy to go against Andross. Wolf had already gone over to Andross; he, Pigma, Andross' nephew, and a mercenary named Leon had formed Star Wolf, Andross' answer to Star Fox."
"Wow," he murmured, more than a bit stunned and trying to correlate that story with the person he'd met the night before. It wasn't an easy match.
Of course, it was also Krystal's version of events, which was probably mostly Fox's. There'd be some differences... might not hurt to get Wolf's take on it some time.
"And it gets worse from there," Krystal sighed, leaning back against the table and looking skyward. "I don't have all the details, but after the second War, Fox ran into a sort of perfect storm of personal disasters. Major personality clash between the two new members of the team and the older ones that had Peppy about ready to leave at the same time Fox found out that his girlfriend at the time had been cheating on him during the last months of the war. With Wolf, of all people."
SunWind had to shake his head. "Sounds like it was a real mess. He seems to have recovered some, though."
"He has," Krystal nodded. "Think he was ready to move on when Sauria came up, just didn't want to yet. He's notoriously stubborn when it comes to carrying a grudge, and he still hates Wolf pretty seriously."
"I can't say I blame him," SunWind admitted. "That's some heavy stuff to go through with a former best friend."
"Especially when he keeps trying to get in touch, and you don't want to hear it," Krystal nodded, a sharp beeping coming from Casey's communicator, the Cat checking it out.
"SunWind, will your shapeshifting require any changes to be made to your new eyes?" She asked him, checking the message.
"These work with it." Was the best he could manage. "I don't really know."
"If you're ready, Slippy just messaged me to say he'd finished designing your replacements and was ready to swap them out for you." She told him.
"All right," he nodded, abruptly very nervous again.
"~I'll be there, if you'd like.~" Obi-Wan reached out with his mind gently.
"~Thank you.~" SunWind nodded to him, grateful for the support.
"~You want somebody else there too?~" Krystal offered. "~Somebody cleared to cream Slippy if he screws something up?~" She suggested, trying to lighten the mood.
"~Yes,~" he looked down at her with a slight smile.
"~I'll meet you back at base then,~" Krystal told him with a smile of her own. "~And double-check with Slippy to see if there's anything he can do at the last-minute to make sure they work for you in all your forms,~" she added, standing up.
"~I will,~" SunWind agreed.
"Well, I'll see you guys back at base," she said. "It was good getting to know you all."
"Yes it was." SunWind stood and offered a hand in parting.
She accepted the offered handshake, and returned Obi-Wan's bow, then climbed into her Arwing and took off.
"You three were having a bit of a conversation without letting me in on it, weren't you?" Casey asked them with a chuckle. "Not that I mind, I'm used to it."
"Yes," Obi-Wan told her. "Some things are for private."
"I'm ready to go." SunWind added as they stood.
"I understand," Casey nodded, leading them back to the transport. "Just keep in mind that most folks around here aren't used to it, so you might want to downplay it a little bit."
"I understand," Obi-Wan nodded.
"I'll try," SunWind added as they got in the transport. "If there are not many telepaths around, it won't come up often. I'm used to speaking to most people I'm not kin to. It's just reflex to answer the way I'm spoken to."
"It's a common one," Obi-Wan added.
"Oh, I understand," Casey chuckled, climbing into the pilot's seat and taking off. "I hope everything goes well, SunWind. Cybersurgery isn't too common yet, but Slippy's one of the leading experts."
"He can't be worse than the guy who put these in." He muttered darkly. "At least Slippy'll use an anesthetic."
"Oh gods," Casey said softly, shaking her head. "Yes, yes he will. That explains the note about doctors in your file, doesn't it?" She asked him as they flew in towards base.
"Yes," he nodded slightly. "I haven't had a very good history with them, or labs of any kind."
"Understandable," she nodded. "That was Andross' one good point; he preferred robots to experimenting on the living."
"Small favors," SunWind sort of chuckled as the group relaxed into silence and the two aliens focused on watching the scenery pass by.
They reached the base quickly, touching down near the hangar they'd first come to where the Arwings were based. SunWind noticed that Krystal's was already back, the blue stylized fox on the wing making it clearly. Slippy was waiting for him, looking at a datapad and seemingly oblivious to the transport that had touched down just a few inches in front of him.
"So what am I going to look like after this?" SunWind asked evenly as he exited, his nerves solidly under control, though he knew Obi-Wan, Krystal and Rob would know without a glance just how scared he was of what he'd agreed to.
"How do you want to look?" Slippy asked, looking up at the Loup Maru. "The color's not set for a few hours, gives me the chance to tweak with it if you change your mind. By the way, would you mind if I got a scan or two of your other forms? I need to know how much give to put in for the change to your skull shape."
It was almost comforting how at ease the Frog seemed with the idea.
"Brown, round pupils." He answered, remembering the shade he'd only actually seen for a few months between when his mother's pack had been slaughtered and when he'd been captured by the Plutarkians that first time. "Scans are fine." He added with a nod as they entered the Frog's lab/workshop.
"No problem," Slippy said easily, his high-pitched voice prattling on as he set up the scanner. "Could you shift through your forms? All of 'em, I need to know the shapes to go through."
SunWind nodded and dropped to all fours in his smallest form as Krystal came in the room.
"That is a Luprani." Obi-Wan supplied, waiting for the Frog to indicate that the scans were done before SunWind moved threw the other four forms in order: Lupki, a dire wolf sized Luprani; Lumari, the monstrous war-form that had to stay on all fours inside; Marki, a brawny ancient Maru; and Maru, his base form.
"Okay, don't need to change too much," Slippy mused as he looked at them. "And what I do need to change is just one setting; your eye sockets don't change too much. I should probably warn you, your eyes won't actually change colors or visible shape when you shift. That a problem?" He asked.
"Neither do his current ones, Slippy," Krystal pointed out.
"Just asking," the Frog shrugged.
"No, that will not be a problem, as long as they work." SunWind assured him.
"That they'll do, SunWind," Slippy nodded.
"I'm afraid I've got another appointment; give me a call and let me know how it goes?" Casey looked at SunWind apologetically.
"Sure thing," SunWind nodded.
The Frog moved over to a short computer console, two cybernetic eyes sitting under a glass case. He tapped a few buttons, a gas filling the case and obscuring the eyes.
"Okay SunWind," he said, turning back to the Loup Maru. "You still want to stay out of the medlab?" He asked.
"I can handle it if it'll go better there." He decided quietly.
"It's set up for it better," Slippy nodded. "I don't think I'm going to have to go in too deep, but I might have to replace some of the interface from what you've said about the butcher who put them in." He opened the door to the next room, heading in. "You'll be under for all of it though."
SunWind nodded and followed him in. The disdain Slippy held for what had happened to him helped a lot, as was the promise of not feeling it. He trusted Obi-Wan and Krystal to protect him in this too. He just kept telling himself that he'd be fine and when he woke up, his eyes would be better. Maybe even good enough to drop the shades as a requirement.
Sweet Haloeth ... that would be a welcome change. Having real eyes again, or at least being able to pretend he did.
"Take a seat on the table," Slippy said, changing behind a screen. "Krystal, can you help him with the mask? SunWind, the anesthetic is going to smell pretty bad, but you'll have to take deep breaths until you're under. I should have it calibrated for your body, but it's hard to tell with new species."
"All right," he nodded and didn't fight it when the blue Vixen held a clear mask to his face and the foul-smelling gas came out. It took all his self-control to breathe deeply of the chemical-laden air, especially when he began to get woozy.
He was being given a second chance like none he had ever dreamed of. He couldn't let his fear and past destroy it for him.
Suddenly he felt a light touch to his mind; Obi-Wan was there, his clarity and calmness helping out tremendously as he closed his eyes and his head lolled to one side, only just on this side on consciousness.
"He's almost out." Obi-Won spoke quietly, monitoring the Loup Maru's mind as his body surrendered to the gas. He admired him for being able to do this with so little assistance. Even with what little he knew of SunWind's past, it was an incredible display of self-control and trust.
SunWind couldn't feel a thing as Slippy came out from behind the screen, but his mind and ears picked up occasional details.
"I made better eyes than this when I was in college," Slippy grumbled.
"He's starting ... under, Slippy," Krystal said some time later, her voice and mind concerned. SunWind remembered that he'd smelled something else after that, his mind clearing a bit.
"Starting to come out of it," Obi-Wan warned them.
"I know what I'm doing," Slippy said firmly, as firmly as he could, even as the light floral scent was replaced by the sickly sweet anesthetic again. "By the way, why'd he change his...."
"Have to replace all of this," Slippy sighed again later. "You two keep an eye on him. Rob...." Some time passed before he remembered anything more, the sickly-sweet smell becoming stronger and putting SunWind completely under for a time, his mind too far out of it to focus on anything.
"Okay, he's coming out of it," Krystal finally said as SunWind woke up, feeling incredibly tired as the lighter floral scent brought him out of the drugged state.
"So, how do we look?" Slippy asked SunWind as he started to wake up.
"Still a bit out of focus, but a lot better than before." He answered, his movements slow as he looked around to adjust to the clarity and level information his brain hadn't received in decades. Everyone in the room felt it when it hit him just how real this was; that he finally had a home again, a place where he wasn't hunted for what he was born as.
"This better?" Slippy asked as his eyes slowly came into focus, actual lids closing as SunWind blinked.
"Yes," he drew in a sharp breath of surprise to have real feeling eyes again. "Thank you."
"No problem," Slippy grinned. "Those just handle regular vision, but your sunglasses should still do different types of light for you with 'em," he offered. "Want to try shifting, see if they're soft enough?"
"All right." SunWind nodded and drew a breath as he dropped to all fours in the relatively small space to accommodate the huge Lumari form.
"I can see fine," he said after a moment, his voice tinged with awe and gratitude. "Nothing feels like it's pulling."
"Good, I thought I had them right," Slippy grinned, obviously proud as SunWind slipped into his Luprani form to test them, finding that the outside of his eyes seemed to adjust to match his shape now. It was a lot more comfortable than the dull ache he'd gotten used to years ago.
These actually felt real.
"These are amazing." SunWind murmured after shifting back to Maru and touched his face with a hand, eventually brushing over his closed eyes. "Truly amazing."
"I do my best," Slippy grinned. "Glad they're working out. Now like I said, they'll need a little maintenance every few months to keep working perfectly, but as long as you don't get your head smashed in, you ought to be fine."
"That would either kill me, or I'd heal from." He chuckled slightly. "Thank you." He said very sincerely. "I'd forgotten what real vision was like."
"Have a good day, SunWind," Slippy said cheerfully, stretching out. "Oh by the way, it took a bit longer than I expected, so if you've got anything planned for the afternoon yet, better get going."
"Right now, I think I'm going for a run." He grinned, a ripple running down his spine at the excitement of simple exertion just for the fun of it. "I'll see you around."
"~Thank you,~" he added to Obi-Wan and Krystal.
"~You are welcome, SunWind.~" Obi-Wan smiled at him. "Have a good run."
SunWind looked at himself in the mirror of his quarters, pleased at the extent his fur had grown in since his arrival here. He was still marveling at his eyes. They not only looked perfect in his face, but they worked as well as his natural ones.
It was a good day to be alive.
He'd spent nearly three hours running himself out in Luprani, had a long shower behind him as well and was now dressed, groomed and ready to hit the clubs in search of Wolf O'Donnell and a few more answers.
He shook himself out and headed out. It'd be a very pleasant run to the area in Luprani, which would save him having to feel Tony's reaction to Wolf and Wolf's reactions to Tony.
As he ran, he found that a lot of people were looking at him. He'd shown the authorities, but they'd probably still get reports about him. Hopefully they'd figure it out and not send anybody out after him.
When he made it into the proper part of town, he found an alley and shifted back, smoothing his fur out a bit before going to get into the Event Horizon. The same bouncer was at the door, and he smiled at the body-builder Panther.
Fortunately, he recognized him, and didn't seem to have any trouble letting him in on his own.
"The Boss'd like you to have a word with the manager," he told him on the way in and motioned to a door in a back corner by the bar.
"All right," he nodded and headed the way while he checked out the patrons.
Wolf was there, at a table in one of the back corners, talking to a much younger woman, probably only barely legal to be in the bar on her own. SunWind reached the back door at just about the same time somebody whispered something to her and she did her best to make a quick, relatively polite exit.
SunWind barely needed his empathy to know why. Someone had told her his full name. He sighed and worked his way over to the table before Wolf could disappear.
"Hey SunWind," Wolf said, noticing the Mouse and brightening up. "Here on your own tonight?"
"Yap." He nodded, leaning against the edge of the table. "Looking for you, actually. I need to chat with the manager, if you'd stick around."
"Sure," Wolf said with a smile and a bit of a shrug. "If I'm lucky there might be somebody else at the table when you get back, but I wouldn't bet on it."
"I'll be back, then." SunWind smiled at him and headed back towards the manager's door. He knocked when he reached it, waiting a moment before the door opened, revealing a much shorter Pomeranian on the other side. The powder-puffed tan canine looked up at SunWind, blinking his beady black eyes.
"Wow, you really are as big as they said," was all he could say. "You SunWind?"
"Yes," he nodded easily.
"Heard you were involved in a bit of a scrap last night," the Pomeranian said, ushering him in. "Some rowdies giving a lady a hard time?"
"Yes," he nodded again and sat down when motioned to. "He wouldn't leave her alone when she made it very clear she didn't want to be near him."
"That's about what I heard," the Pom nodded, sitting down in his own chair, tall enough that he could look into SunWind's face without too much trouble. "From what they said, you held your own pretty well. Know how to fight, and how to do it without breaking anybody's neck. And to look at you, I don't think you're from around here; most of our Mice don't have antennae," he chuckled. "So, I was wondering; are you planning on sticking around long enough to be looking for work?"
"I don't know for how long, but yes." He nodded. "I'm probably going to go to Zoness to help with the reclamation. At least eventually. They want a lot of proficiency testing first."
"Heh - you don't strike me as the scientist type," the Pom chuckled. "Well, if you're interested, I could use an extra bouncer, part-time, while you're on Corneria. When you're ready to move on, you can, no problem."
"Sounds good so far," SunWind agreed. "What is the pay and duties?"
"Come in on your shift, keep an eye out for trouble or shady characters at the door. If somebody comes in your don't recognize, either check that they're a member or that they pay the cover charge, unless it's a member bringing 'em along. If any of the customers get surly, one of the bartenders'll give you a call to come in and make sure they get surly somewhere else. As for pay, fifteen cred's an hour, at least to start."
It was good pay, SunWind recognized already. Even at part time, he could live on his own if he was reasonably careful about it. "When do you want me here?"
"Come in day after tomorrow at three in the afternoon for paperwork and training, we'll get you on next week's shifts," the Pom offered. "Already have everything scheduled for the rest of this week, so that'd be the soonest you could get started."
"It works for me." He agreed easily. It would give him some time to hunt up a place to stay and work out how to eat off the base.
Fortunately, he had a feeling Casey'd be willing to help him with that even if it wasn't her job. The woman really did love her job and making aliens feel welcome here.
"Great; I'll see you then, along with the owner. He wanted to see you himself," the Pom chuckled. "Have a good night; if you want to hang around, feel free, don't worry about the cover."
"Thank you," they shook hands before SunWind stood to head back out to the club floor and Wolf.
"So, how'd it go?" Wolf asked him, waiting at the table along with an extra beer for SunWind.
"I got offered a bouncer job." He chuckled and sat down. "Thanks." He lifted the beer. "I hope you don't mind talking tonight."
"Not at all," Wolf said, taking a drink of his own. "Glad you came back."
"I ended up hearing Fox's side of your story today. I was hoping you'd tell me your side ... more than just that you made a mistake. Like why you are trying to contact him still."
"Because of Fara," Wolf said, closing his eyes for a moment. "I'm going to guess that Fox told you I stole his girlfriend during the last war, when I was back here because nobody wanted me near the front?"
"I heard it from Krystal, actually, and that was kind of said." SunWind took a moment to organize what she'd said before repeating it. "She said that you and Fox were best friends in the Academy, but you went with Andross in the first wars, along with Pigma from the old Star Fox team. She did acknowledge that you decided it was a mistake and were cleared. I think there is a lot more anger towards Pigma than you, honestly, though you're number two on the grudge list. Fox's former girlfriend going with you was part of it, and the timing with other issues. Including that you keep trying to contact him."
"Well, they're right about Pigma - when I went that way, I didn't know what he'd done. He and Andross said that the accident that had killed James McCloud was rigged by the Cornerians, to get rid of Star Fox. Made a lot more sense than Pigma doing it himself, he'd have stood a good chance of dying along with the rest of them. That was before I knew just what that waste of flesh would do for a credit.
"What happened with Fara was more complicated. You want the short version, I'm guessing?"
"Probably," he nodded. "I'm not looking to pry secrets here, just get your side of things."
"I understand," Wolf nodded, grateful and a bit surprised that anyone would bother to. "First off, I didn't know that Fara was with Fox, not until just before he got back. Hell, I barely knew who she was at first. She was working as a test pilot and would have painted herself all over the walls of Rykert's Run if I hadn't saved her. We went out for dinner, I told her who I was ... she didn't seem to really mind all that much. I was still officially not supposed to be on Corneria at the time, so that meant more to me then than it does now."
SunWind could feel that he was telling the truth about that; at the time, he had a feeling Wolf would have gone to the ends of the system for somebody willing to look past his background. There was a time when he would have too. He was still mostly there.
"The two of us started going out," Wolf continued, "and a few months later they decided that I could be cleared publicly. I only found out she was involved with Fox the day he got back from the front. We had an argument about it and I left ... she had a bigger one with Fox when he caught me about to leave, and she came looking for me when it was done."
"And after that?" SunWind asked softly.
"We left," Wolf said, looking into his drink. "Her father disowned her, but we really did love each other. It was good at first; I wasn't made to be a lone Wolf for all my life. Then, a few years back, Fara started getting sick. She finally told me what was going on when I threatened to drag her into a hospital in restraining cuffs.
"She'd been exposed to some sort of toxin during the Battle of Corneria, she said. Everybody thought she'd gotten away from it, but she was diagnosed with some... interesting types of cancer a few years later. Nothing that would respond to the traditional treatments. She was the only person at the scene of the final confrontation who was outside a controlled environment, so nobody else knew about the various consequences of exposure. Since her father had disowned her, she'd been ignoring her treatment, and it was finally catching up with her.
"The reason I started trying to contact Fox was because... she just wanted to apologize to him, before it was over," Wolf sighed, closing his eyes. "Fox wouldn't respond to any of our messages, and any time either of us tried to get in touch with him in person he stormed off before we could say anything. He actually told me once, to my face, that Fara and I were lying about her being sick to just try and get some sympathy. I guess she never told him about it. She died about a year ago."
SunWind could feel Wolf's grief, old but still painful. He was still trying to carry out his mate's last wishes, which explained the continued attempts to get in touch with Fox.
Did Fox and Krystal even know what had happened? Did they care if they did?
"Krystal might listen to me," SunWind offered. "At least long enough to hear the basics. She's got the best odds of getting Fox to hear it."
"It wouldn't be fair of me to drag you into this, SunWind," Wolf said, shaking his head. "Thanks for the offer though."
"Have you tried to talk to her, without Fox around?"
"Not easy to do," Wolf chuckled. "Haven't tried too hard, but most of the time I see her, it's with Fox there too. I might give it a shot if I get the opening though," he conceded. "Gods know she's the only one on the team who might listen. Her and Falco, and that depends on the mood he's in."
"She also has the advantage of being his girlfriend. He'll listen to her, if he knows what's good for him." SunWind chuckled slightly. "Care to dance?"
"Long as you don't mind that I haven't really danced in a couple of years," Wolf chuckled.
"Since last night was my first in over a decade, I definitely don't." SunWind smiled and stood to offer his hand to the big Wolf.
Wolf finished his drink and took it, standing with a smile as he squeezed SunWind's hand lightly and allowed himself to be drawn onto the dance floor by this person who knew his past and not only accepted him with it, but was interested in hearing his side of things. It wasn't as intense as that first time Fara accepted him, but it felt damn good.
And there was the added bonus that he was pretty sure the Loup Maru understood him a lot better than most anybody else, even Fara, ever had. There was something about his scent and body language, about the way he moved, that reminded Wolf more of one of his kin than of any Mouse.
Somebody like Tony didn't need company. Even Foxes were a species that got along fine on their own. Most Wolves needed a pack, and Wolf had been without a real one for the better part of a decade now ... if you could say Star Wolf had even qualified as a real pack. He wondered why his partner was alone ... maybe he'd have to ask him about that, some time.
His thoughts were soon distracted by the brush of SunWind's body against his own. It was a light contact, but thrilling all the same when combined with the clear, canine body language of interest.
It was surprising as all Hell, to Wolf. He'd known he was interested, but assumed it was just friendly. And he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to turn him down out of hand. It had been a long time since Wolf had thought about guys like that, but he still could, if he tried to, and SunWind wasn't the sort of guy you'd turn down if you had a pulse.
The tawny-furred Mouse might not have danced for years, but it was clear he knew how, that he'd been good at it once. He still had the grace, and decades of combat training and experience that perfected his knowledge of his body and how to move it. He was muscular and well-built too; probably any of a half-dozen different guys here would jump at the chance, and more of the girls.
Wolf returned the gesture, a little tentatively, but trying to get into it. It would be so good not to be alone again. It earned him a smile and serpentine tail around his waist. A tail that was decidedly playful, but not too bold.
Wolf smiled back, brushing up against SunWind and brushing his tail against the Mouse's thigh. He was making an effort to relax, but it was working.
Before he'd even realized it, Wolf was being guided off the floor and towards the bar. Several songs had passed as he enjoyed being accepted and the subject of a bit of flirting.
"Beer, or something stronger?" SunWind asked as he drew Wolf as close to him as he felt he could.
"Who's driving, if this goes beyond the club?" Wolf asked seriously, but quietly.
"You, if we have to drive." He matched the low tone. "I don't have a local license yet, or vehicle."
"Beer then," Wolf said. "Still legal after another one," he chuckled.
"Beer and a dark ale." SunWind ordered when the bartender looked his way.
"So, take a cab to get here?" Wolf asked him while they waited. "Or you have another date I didn't hear about yet," he teased lightly, though SunWind could tell he was really hoping that it was just teasing.
"I ran." He chuckled. "It's a nice night and not that far."
"You're not staying on base then?" Wolf asked him curiously, taking a seat as their drinks arrived.
"I am for now," he sipped his ale. "I'll explain better somewhere more private."
"Okay," Wolf shrugged, sipping his own drink. "You must have a weird definition of 'not far'," he chuckled.
"Most likely. Running fast helps," he grinned over the rim of his mug. "So do you have to work tomorrow?"
"Nah," Wolf chuckled. "Still a merc; got back from a job night before last, so it'll probably be a while before I'm out again."
"Care to spent the night together?" He asked softly.
"I'd like to," Wolf said honestly. "Just ... not sure what I can promise you, for tonight. Been a while since I've thought about guys like that," he explained apologetically.
It was met with an understanding look and a gentle touch along his jaw.
"I'm not looking for just a quick roll in the hay," SunWind murmured. "I think we're both looking for a pack to belong to again. That takes time."
"You're right," Wolf nodded slightly. "Just wanted to make sure you knew what page I was on," he smiled a little shyly, a look that was at odds with the one-eyed veteran's usual demeanor. "If you're interested in just spending the night though ... I think I'm up for that."
"I am," he slid his fingers along Wolf's jaw again before putting a little more space between them so it didn't feel like he was pushing. "Don't get me wrong, I think you're an attractive Wolf. But right now, a warm body to sleep next to is worth a lot more than a little pleasure."
"That sounds good to me too," Wolf smiled, reaching up to take SunWind's hand lightly. "Been way too long since I've had that, and for you too, I think."
"Far too long," he nodded. "Feel like another dance before we leave?"
"Sounds good to me," Wolf grinned a bit, following SunWind back onto the dance floor, the two of them starting to move to the music again. He wasn't past noticing how SunWind kept glancing at others, females. Particularly a Dalmatian bitch that was making it fairly obvious that she was interested in the unusual Mouse.
"What do you think of her?" SunWind asked quietly as they danced.
"Attractive," Wolf decided after a moment to reflect on her. "Certainly wouldn't blame you if you wanted to go with her tonight instead," he winked.
"I was thinking of getting her between us," he winked back. "If you're amiable to that."
"Oh I think I could live with that in a few ways," Wolf rumbled deeply, grinning a bit at the thought. "Want to find out if she's interested? Pretty clear she's interested in you."
"Back in a bit, then." SunWind dropped a quick kiss on Wolf's cheek before walking over to the Dalmatian with a bit of a swagger intended to make a good showing of his hard body for them both.
"Hey handsome," she rumbled, looking SunWind over as he made his way to her side.
"Hello yourself," he grinned at her. "What's your name?"
"Friends call me Perry," she offered. "Yours?"
"SunWind." He grinned and leaned against the counter. "Interested in a private party tonight?"
"Mmm ... just how private?" She grinned back at him, edging a bit closer, her long, thin tail brushing his furless one as he slid his tail up her leg to cup her firm ass.
"Just the three of us." He nodded towards Wolf slightly.
"Ooh, the rugged type," she giggled, looking Wolf over from a distance. "Thought he was with you. Your friend have a name?"
"Wolf," he answered simply, quite intentionally leaving off his last name.
"You two planning on heading out soon?" She asked with a canine grin, leaning over to lick SunWind's cheek lightly and found him turn into it for a kiss.
"Fairly soon, if you care to join us." He nodded and brushed his hand along her shoulder and arm. He knew it was normal for her breed, but spots were exotic to him.
"Gladly," Perry rumbled and pressed a little closer. "Now why don't you introduce me to your friend before I go home with him," she teased, winking at Wolf as he took in her body, a pair of jeans and short top the only things concealing her dark spots and bright white fur.
"Sure thing," SunWind chuckled and slid an arm around her back to guide her where Wolf was on the edge of the dance floor. "Perry, this is Wolf."
"Good to meet you," the Dalmatian grinned, leaning over to lick Wolf's cheek, to his clear surprise. "Hear you two are looking for somebody for a little private party?"
"If you're interested," Wolf grinned back. "SunWind's got good taste," he added with a rumble as he got a better look at her.
"Yes he does." She grinned and ran a hand down SunWind's ass. "I'm definitely interested in you two."
"Mmm ... so, back to my place?" Wolf suggested. "Bed's sized for company," he winked.
"Sounds like a good plan," she grinned at the pair.
"Let's go then," Wolf grinned back. "Good thing I drove the car tonight instead of the bike," he chuckled as they started out.
"Very good." SunWind agreed, delighted by this little pack for the night.
The three of them made their way out to Wolf's car; it was a couple years old, not a particularly fancy model, but it'd do the job. Even better, it had a wide enough front seat that three could sit together, Perry sandwiched between the two males while they drove into one of the mid-scale neighborhoods of Corneria.
Wolf didn't take any real chances driving, but it was clear that he enjoyed having company to try and impress by pushing the limits of legality. SunWind could only imagine what it'd be like in a fighter, where the lupine was more at home. They pulled up into a parking structure on the third level, near the entrance.
"Here we are," Wolf rumbled, climbing out and offering Perry a hand out the driver's side while SunWind got out the passenger side.
SunWind had to admit, merc work must still pay well even when you were more careful. This was nicer than anywhere he'd ever lived, and most places he'd seen that weren't owned by Plutarkian top brass.
They quickly got close again and let Wolf lead the way to his apartment. It was about half-way down the hall, near the elevator from the ground floor - easy access to the flight structure above the parking garage, SunWind realized.
He paused by the door, the built-in lock scanning Wolf quickly before clicking to admit him.
"Come on in," he said, making room for Perry and SunWind to follow him in. SunWind noticed that he was setting a picture near the door back behind a counter as they came in, but didn't ask about it. It wasn't hard to guess that it was probably a picture of Fara he hadn't thought about before they'd gotten back.
"Nice place," Perry smiled as Wolf closed the door behind the three of them.
"I make a decent living." Wolf cracked a grin and continued into the apartment, passing through the living room quickly and into the large master bedroom.
"Somebody's interested in getting to the point," Perry giggled, following him on in. The room wasn't heavily decorated, but it was hardly spartan; more along the lines of military comfort. The room of somebody who knew he might have to leave for a long time fast. Still, the bed was large enough for the three of them, comfortably at that.
"It's a good point to be getting to," he pointed out, moving behind her and kissing the back of her neck, inhaling her scent. "Agreed?"
"Oh, definitely." She shivered as SunWind slipped in front of her to press her between their hard bodies, his slender tail finding its own amusement between their legs.
"You're good with that," she rumbled, kissing SunWind, licking his muzzle lightly. She raised her arms as Wolf slid her top off, reaching around both male's bodies to rub their asses lightly as they pressed against her. She tilted her head back, exposing her throat to SunWind as Wolf nuzzled her shoulder, his powerful hands wrapping around her to knead and massage her breasts.
"It knows other tricks too." He chuckled and slid his tail up the leg of her jeans to brush along her sex while he kissed her and worked her jeans open and to pool at her feet, his tail quickly returning to her naked sex.
"Somebody's a naughty girl," Wolf rumbled deeply, his sheath bulging beneath his own pants as he rubbed it against Perry's ass.
"You two have no idea," she rumbled lustily, her breath catching as SunWind's tail-tip teased her clit. "You guys are... ooh... wearing way the fuck too much."
"Why don't you get on the bed, while we fix that." SunWind winked at them both. "Before Wolf ruins his jeans."
"Like you're in any better shape," Wolf smirked as Perry moved to the bed, laying on her belly to watch the two of them.
"Not a bad pose for her," Wolf rumbled quietly to SunWind, slipping his vest off of him. "Which end you want first?"
SunWind chuckled and unbuttoned Wolf's shirt to push it off, kneeling to lick at his nipples while his hands ran down the Wolf's powerful body. "I was thinking you could take her pussy while I got her ass, but it's all good." He chuckled.
"Mmm ... we'll see what we get around to," Wolf rumbled deeply. SunWind pulled his belt loose, slipping his pants and underwear down, Wolf's thick, musky, tapered shaft springing free.
"Don't I get any say in this?" Perry teased, reaching off the bed to trace the backs of her fingers up Wolf's shaft, earning a shudder of pleasure from the powerfully built lupine.
"Of course," SunWind grinned and her and left Wolf to her attentions while he got his own boots and jeans off before getting on the bed with Perry to run his hands along her sides as he kissed her neck, his weight over her and hard cock rubbing against her ass.
"Got any lube around here, handsome?" The Dalmatian asked Wolf, drawing him closer and taking his shaft in her palm.
"Mmm ... should be some in the top drawer of the nightstand," Wolf rumbled, nodding towards it for SunWind's reference. He groaned as Perry slipped her hand down towards his base, licking his tapered tip with a broad grin.
SunWind quickly retrieved the dusty jar and opened it, pleased to find that the lube was still good and got a good amount on his fingers to stretch her ass and ease the passage for them both.
"Then how 'bout SunWind plugs me from behind, and you make sure nobody hears the howling?" She suggested, her eyes twinkling up at him.
"Sounds good to me," Wolf rumbled deeply, reaching down to stroke her long, dark ears.
She moaned and kept her long thick tail up for SunWind as he stretched her out with his fingers. Wolf rumbled, pressing his cock up into her mouth to be swallowed eagerly. Perry clearly wasn't a virgin in back, but she was still plenty tight for SunWind's tastes. He stretched her out, adding a third finger once two were moving inside of her fairly easily.
The Dalmatian closed her eyes, squeezing down around the Mouse's fingers in her ass happily, bobbing her head up and down Wolf's cock as he fondled her velvety ears.
It wasn't long before SunWind was content with her readiness and added a layer of lube to his cock before pressing inside her slowly as much to savor the feeling of it as for her comfort. Even after a night with Tony, the sensations of being inside a willing body were exquisitely fresh.
Perry wasn't as tight as Tony had been, mostly because she was significantly bigger, but she was good at this, milking his cock with her hot ass as he adjusted to how she felt.
"Mmm ... we've got someone who really likes it up the tail here," Wolf groaned as the Dalmatian's broad, velvety tongue caressed his length. He started thrusting lightly as his knot started to swell, letting his lover control the speed for the most part, bobbing her head up and down his length with a grin.
"All the better," SunWind groaned deeply, his balls tightening as his breath sharpened. "Good at it too."
The smell of the trio's arousal filled the room as Perry's tail flicked along SunWind's chest, taken at both ends by the males she'd come home with. Her pussy slowly dribbled juices down her thighs, tingling hotly, feeling achingly empty as she redoubled her efforts, moving a hand up to squeeze Wolf's knot as she pulled back, focusing her attention on the most sensitive flesh at his tip, lapping at his cock like her favorite candy.
"Good at more than that," Wolf panted, his own balls twitching as he came close. "Won't be... nnngh... long!"
SunWind shuddered and leaned forward to grab her scruff in his teeth, careful not to puncture the skin with the long front ones as he let go of holding back and slammed into her ass with the last few thrusts before he came.
He could hear that Wolf's cock really was keeping her from howling - but it didn't stop Wolf from doing just that as the vibrations around his shaft drove him right over the edge, spraying his seed into Perry's mouth, pleasure streaming through his body after far too long. The Dalmatian let his shaft fall from her mouth, smiling as she nuzzled it lightly, licking him and her lips clean.
"Oooh... I love the way that feels," she groaned, squeezing down around SunWind's shaft while he panted above her "And tastes," she winked up at Wolf.
"So what sends you over the edge?" SunWind rumbled, shifting his weight to one side to free his other hand to play along her body and breasts.
"How kinky you two want to get?" She asked with a grin, groaning as she pulled off of SunWind and rolled onto her back, spreading her legs.
"Depends on how kinky you want us," Wolf chuckled, climbing onto the bed.
"Both of you, eating me out at the same time?" She suggested hopefully, blushing beneath her white fur. "Think you two can figure out how to pull it off," she winked.
SunWind grinned. "I think we can accommodate that." He slid down between her legs and gave her a long lick from ass to clit.
Perry groaned, then cooed as Wolf moved down next to SunWind, licking the Mouse's muzzle lightly before turning his attention to the enticingly fragrant pussy that was attracting him. He spread her labia with his tongue, SunWind taking one and she taking the other, finding a rhythm that left one of them licking her clit at the same time the other was teasing the entrance to her sex with his tongue.
SunWind chuckled deep in his throat and caught her clit in his teeth, nipping lightly as he lavished it with his tongue and Wolf pressed his tongue deep into her sex.
Perry whimpered for a moment, then clutched the sheets, her body arching up into their mouths as Wolf's broad tongue flicked up against her g-spot, cumming hard, flooding both their senses with the smell of her arousal and filling Wolf's mouth with a flood of her pussy-juices, sweet and making his cock surge with desire to be inside of her.
"Want her ass or pussy?" SunWind asked as he continued to tease her clit lightly.
"Pussy," Wolf rumbled without hesitation, tilting his head up to kiss SunWind lightly on the lips. "Maybe you can join me after you've filled her tail again," he winked.
"Well now let's see how full I am... mmm... after you've tied me, hunk," Perry panted, reaching down to fondle each of their ears lightly.
"That can always be in the morning," SunWind grinned at Wolf and shifted away so Wolf could settle under Perry and fill her pussy. "That is a delicious view." He commented as Wolf fondled her breasts, both of them holding still with a bit of difficulty while SunWind rubbed against her back and then sank into her ass again. "Oh yeah."
"So hot," Perry groaned, squeezing down around the two males as they started to thrust slowly, Wolf quieting her as he kissed her deeply, probing her long mouth with his tongue, tangling it with hers as his knot started to swell slowly, popping in and out of her with each thrust.
For SunWind's part, between the tightness around cock, the heat of her body and the incredible feel of another male to rub against inside her body, he was well past words. All he could manage were whimpering groans as he fucked her, his hands squeezing her breasts and her scruff in his mouth. Not long ago, he could have sworn he'd never get to experience something like this ever again. Now, with a lover between him and a potential packmate, he was about ready to burst.
Wolf wrapped his arms around them both, Perry and Sunwind, shifting his thrusts to rub his shaft more against SunWind's, his tip grazing the Dalmatian's g-spot as she yipped in pleasure. She licked at Wolf's muzzle hungrily, her tail wagging madly, thumping against SunWind's powerful chest as the males worked as much in contact with each other as with her.
SunWind was panting, right on the edge, when he finally figured her body out and shifted just a bit to rub her g-spot from both sides as Wolf's knot squeezed into her body and refused to come out.
It was an incredible rush to feel the two canine's pleasure at being tied. Maybe sometime, he'd remember to shift to a canine cock before his pants came off.
For now, it was intense enough as it was. Perry and Wolf's muzzles locked in a heated kiss, SunWind getting enough of a look beneath his new pack-mate's eyepatch to see that the lid beneath was stitched shut. He filtered it out for now; maybe he'd ask about it later on, or maybe just leave it be.
There were more important, and much more pleasant, things to deal with now.
Perry rumbled softly as she woke up the next morning, spotting the clock on the dresser and groaning inwardly. At least she didn't have to work this morning, but she would definitely need to get home soon if she was going to be ready in time for the evening shift.
Which meant getting out from between the two very attractive, very welcome, bodies pressed against her. She gave Wolf's muzzle a light lick, disentangling herself from their limbs and slipping out of bed, smiling softly as SunWind moved closer, snuggling up against Wolf directly.
They were definitely cute like that ... she wondered if they really thought she wouldn't guess they had only been a pack for a night before she'd met them, if that. They clearly hadn't been together long. Wolf was a little too timid around SunWind, despite being an obvious alpha by demeanor. Then again, so was SunWind, and the strange Mouse seemed a little more comfortable being in charge. He acted like he'd done it most of his life, not just that it was his nature like Wolf.
She wondered if that would be a problem for them, in the future... hopefully not. They were a good couple, she thought. Something about them both that said they were alike, that they understood each other in a way that not many others would. She took the sheets and pulled them up over the Wolf and Mouse, then headed off towards Wolf's shower, hoping he wouldn't mind - quite frankly, there was no way she was going to take a cab home reeking of sex.
If she wasn't raped by the cabbie, then her roommate would certainly do it for him... and, while it might be fun, if she wanted to get fucked again she'd just stick around with the two guys here for a little morning fun.
The Dalmatian quickly climbed into the shower, before she talked herself into doing just that, and calling in late for work later. As fun as it would be, she needed the hours and she suspected that SunWind had only picked her up to make Wolf more comfortable. Not that she was complaining, they were both hunks, but she'd caught the little things all night that looked for all the world like the strange Mouse was trying to gently seduce a virgin.
She smiled softly in the shower as hot water cascaded over her body. She wished him luck; they'd be a cute couple, and one she'd be happy to see again in the future. Her fingers slipped between her legs as she let some particularly pleasant mental images make up for the lack of time to play around with the two of them, and started to moan softly as she fantasized about the two males together.
Meanwhile, Wolf realized that there was something distantly different about the body in his arms. Not unpleasant by any means, but he was damned sure that Perry's breasts were larger. He opened his good eye, noticed SunWind and heard the shower running in the other room, and quickly put things together.
"Mmm ... you up yet?" He asked SunWind quietly.
"If I need to be," he murmured, more than content to stay where he was. "You smell good after a night playing."
"Thanks," Wolf rumbled, nuzzling SunWind lightly. "You do too," he added, rubbing his back. "Mmm ... and while we don't need to be awake, there is the distinct possibility of breakfast for three," he offered.
"Okay, you know how to get me up." SunWind laughed easily and leaned forward to kiss Wolf lightly, asking no more than had already been given the previous night. Wolf returned the kiss, lingering for a moment before crawling out of bed.
"Not many folks I'd sleep with it doesn't help," Wolf chuckled, stretching out languidly, making an unconscious display of his attractive, powerfully built body, his tail swaying as he pulled on a single layer of clothes quickly. "And don't worry, the 'bachelors can't cook' bit doesn't apply here. I've learned from some of the best, thankfully."
"Good, because while I can field cook, it barely passes for food." He cracked a grin and pulled his jeans up and boots on, but left the rest on the floor where it hand landed. "I'm almost grateful for your bad luck, or I would never have gotten a chance with you." He murmured in Wolf's ear while he embraced the powerful canine from behind, relishing the feel of another hard body under his hands and against his chest before letting go.
"Never know," Wolf shrugged slightly, not particularly wanting to think about most of it just now. "Except for one of the bits, you might be surprised; you're a heck of a guy," he smiled back at SunWind.
"Thanks," he smiled almost shyly and claimed another chaste kiss.
"Very cute." Perry grinned at the pair from the bathroom door, her fur clean and dry but completely uncovered.
"Just like you," Wolf smirked back. "I'm guessing the early shower means an appetizer's out of the question?" He asked with a chuckle.
"Sorry," Perry laughed, shaking her head. "Mmm ... much as I'd like it, I've got work tonight."
"Well, I hope you can at least stick around for breakfast?"
"If it's good enough, I'll promise to come back for a repeat next time I've got the morning and night both off," she winked.
"I think that's a challenge," SunWind grinned at Wolf.
"One I can meet, unless you're used to gourmet food," Wolf smirked back at both of them and heading into the kitchen. "I learned from the best, and then practiced for one of the pickiest eaters in the system," he short at them from the kitchen, starting to pull out what he needed for breakfast.
"Mmm... want to grab a shower while he cooks?" Perry asked SunWind. "Should be plenty of hot water left, and I can take care of teasing him while you're busy," she winked.
"Good, he needs to be teased," he winked back and headed for the bathroom. "Back in a few."
"Right," Perry smiled, heading out into the kitchen as Wolf cracked some eggs into a bowl, starting to scramble them up as thick slices of bacon fried.
"So, enjoy your shower?" He asked her, sure he'd picked up on her arousal when she'd opened the door earlier.
"Yes," she ducked her head a blushed lightly. "It would have been better with you guys in it. Just didn't think I had the time."
"Hey, I understand," he said easily, turning the bacon and heading over to his fridge to pull out some fresh mushrooms, chopping them up quickly. "What do you like in your omelets?"
"Meat, cheese and anything else." She grinned, sniffing the air. "It all smells good."
"Good," Wolf chuckled. "Won't have to split up the mix then." He pulled the bacon out as it was finished, starting to sauté the mushrooms in the leftover grease. "So, did the two of us live up to your expectations?" He asked, raising an eyebrow as he looked over at her.
"And then some." She shivered in memory of the previous night. "It's been a while since it's been that good."
"Tell me about it," Wolf grinned. "Mmm ... one hell of a way to start getting back into sex," he rumbled, leaning over to give her a light lick on the muzzle as some of the sizzling grease popped and landed on her naked fur, causing her to yelp and jump back.
"I'd say so." She nodded and carefully wiped the grease off her fur with a cold, wet towel Wolf handed her. "That would have hurt if my fur was any shorter than it is."
"Sorry," he said apologetically. "It goes against every one of my instincts, but you might want to grab some clothes, or at least one of the big towels from the closet there," he said, indicating the door in question.
"Considering I need to actually leave within an hour, dressing will be a good idea," she nodded and disappeared into the bedroom for the clothes she'd worn the night before.
Wolf turned back to cooking, only to look up a minute later to SunWind coming out with Perry to lean on the breakfast bar between the kitchen and dinning room.
"Smells really good, Wolf." SunWind rumbled.
"Thanks," Wolf smiled, sliding the mushrooms off onto a separate plate and pouring a thin layer of eggs, starting them cooking for a moment before he added the meat, mushrooms, and cheese appropriate for the omelet. "There's milk and juice in the fridge, if one of you wants to grab that, and some bread for toast in the cupboard," he told them.
"I'll grab them." SunWind nodded and went to fetch the bread. "What do you want to drink?" He called back to them both, finding that there was also soda and beer in the door of the fridge next to various ingredients that most people wouldn't bother using when they were cooking; fresh herbs and spices, things that SunWind couldn't identify but knew were probably for higher-end cooking.
Apparently Wolf hadn't been kidding.
"I'll take milk," Wolf told him, sliding the first omelet off onto a plate and handing it to Perry.
"Juice here," she called in.
"Got it," he pulled out the milk and a rich reddish-orange juice, one in each hand.
"Glasses are to your left." Wolf added and watched in fascination as SunWind fetched three of them with his tail and came over to the counter to set them down and poured one glass of milk and two juices.
"Y'know, that's just not natural," he said, shaking his head in mild disbelief as he started SunWind's omelet.
"And very handy in the bedroom," Perry giggled, winking at the Mouse who'd put that tail to good use the night before.
"Yes it is, to both." He chuckled and handed Perry's juice to her. "Everyone's tail was like this where I'm from, even the wolves."
"That hurts just to think about," Wolf chuckled. "Unless they had tails that were longer and didn't have fur either."
"Longer yes, and not nearly as much fur." SunWind explained and poured a glass of juice for himself and milk for Wolf. "Of course, they also had horns and antenna too. You'd never mistake a razorwolf for a wolf, even before you realized they were sentient and could pick you up with their mind."
"You've got some strange critters back home," Perry chuckled, starting to eat. "Mmm, this is good!" She added as Wolf gave SunWind his food.
"I think you have strange critters." SunWind pointed out and happily dug in. "Very good." He added after a couple bites.
"Thanks," Wolf chuckled, quickly putting his own together and sitting down to eat. "And that's fair enough, I guess. Different chunks of space and all that."
"And plenty of sentient interference in mine." SunWind nodded. "You get all sorts of interesting things when life is designed and shepherded into a desired form."
"That'd do it," Perry said, shaking her head a bit. "Though I've gotta say; if they designed people like you, they've got good taste at least."
"I like to think so," he replied softly.
"Mmm ... as much as I'd love to make you blush more," Perry smiled, leaning over to lick his cheek as she finished breakfast, "I've got to get going. See you guys some time next week, maybe?" She asked. "I left my number on a note in the bathroom," she explained.
"I'd like that," SunWind grinned at her.
"I'll let you two fight over who gets to call me," she winked, giving Wolf a quick kiss on the cheek before grabbing her purse and heading out the door, calling for a cab already.
"That's the best I've had a date go in over a year," Wolf rumbled, watching her head out.
"It helps to get out of public before someone can snitch on you." SunWind nodded. "It helps that you have a common first name too."
"Yeah," he chuckled. "Thanks for last night," he smiled. "You want me to drop you off somewhere?"
"I did promise I'd explain a few things last night." He offered. "But it'll require space, preferably out of town."
"What sort of space?" Wolf asked him. "Just more than the apartment, or lots of open space? I know some good places in the canyons."
"Somewhere with at least twelve feet of headroom." SunWind explained. "Canyons sound good."
"Plenty of space in Rykert's then," Wolf nodded. "So, want to fly out, instead of drive?" He suggested with a grin.
"Absolutely," He grinned back.
"Great, I'll get to show you my baby," Wolf chuckled, finishing his breakfast. "She's not an Arwing, but she'll still clear a battlefield just by showing up."
"I bet that's as much because of her pilot as her." SunWind grinned and wrapped an arm around Wolf's waist on the way out of the apartment.
"Heh - I like to think so," Wolf chuckled. "Only good thing that came out of working for Andross; when I booked, I took her with me, and I've made a few tweaks to her myself over the years."
"Sounds like my bike, back when I still had her. Lady was something else, even for a cyberbike."
"What's a cyberbike?" Wolf asked as they got on the elevator, heading up towards the top levels.
"A cybernetic motorcycle. They have a partial artificial intelligence computer on board, along with a load of weapons and jet thrusters."
"Sounds like quite a piece of work," Wolf mused as they stepped out into the fairly well-stocked hangar above the parking structure.
"They were," he nodded and took in the place. "You do all your own maintenance?"
"Don't trust anybody else with my Wolfen," Wolf chuckled. "At least not who's still alive."
"I know the feeling," SunWind nodded seriously and followed as Wolf led to way to a gleaming, perfectly kept ship, broader and larger than an Arwing, built more like a saucer than a dart, but still with angles everywhere.
Wolf whistled three notes in sequence, the cockpit opened in response. "Climb on in," he said, a set of stairs folding out of the ship. "Should be plenty of room for you."
"Definitely more room than an Arwing." He grinned and settled in the back seat.
"Usually keep a second seat in here, instead of loading the bomb bay," Wolf chuckled, "Don't know what the inside of an Arwing's like, but it's a lot more cramped when I'm expecting a heavy firefight. As is, I can afford space."
As SunWind looked around, he saw that it was clearly a warship. The pilot's instruments were set up to be reached easily, and the control sticks had probably three different triggers on them for various weapons.
"I'm glad for it." SunWind grinned, delighted to be out and about with a companion again. "Maybe later this week you can meet Obi-Wan. He's another alien that showed up when I did. He's a good guy. Came by and talked to me every day for hours while I was in quarantine."
"No fur?" Wolf asked, raising his eyebrow slightly as he climbed in.
"That's him." He chuckled. "It's called a human."
"Think I already saw him," Wolf chuckled. "'Bout a week or so ago, causing a bit of a ruckus on the streets that he didn't notice."
"Dressed in cream and brown robes, young adult, really short pale hair, pinkish skin? Definite warrior material."
"Yep, that's him," Wolf nodded, closing the cockpit and starting to key in the launch sequence. "Good to know somebody picked him up; figured somebody had, or I would've heard about it, but good to know all the same."
"Yeah, Fox brought him in. I'm half surprised it wasn't the same thing that brought us here, but his was an accident and I used a Plutarkian teleporter."
"You know if the fish-faces had any way to track your teleport?" Wolf asked SunWind, glancing back over his shoulder before he took off.
"Not a chance." He shook his head. "That ship was turned into dust about twenty seconds later."
"Good," Wolf rumbled. "I don't know much about them, but what I know says I don't want a damned thing to do with 'em that doesn't involve them dyin' hard."
"You and me both." SunWind growled deep in his chest. "I was taught that everything has a purpose and everyone has some good in it. It's not true."
"Oh they have a purpose," Wolf muttered. "Giving the rest of the galaxy a bad example of how to live. Overheard Andross talking about them a couple of times; sounded like they were about the one thing that scared him."
"Might be because they have no real opponents." SunWind sighed. "I've been jumping from ship to ship for a decade now, gathering intelligence and blowing things up, and there is nothing in this galaxy that can actually challenge their full forces. Only reason they haven't taken over is because they are as divided and unorganized as they are greedy."
"Well, let's just hope they don't show up here," Wolf said softly. "They wouldn't win, but I don't know that we would either."
"That's what's so bad about them. All they are after is resources; water, minerals, food, materials. They start by legally buying as much of a planet as they can, then just obliterate the rest and strip it to the core and take that too. If you manage to destroy one fleet, they send three for the next wave and an even more ruthless, and higher ranking, commander to do the job right."
"Have to admit, the tactic works," Wolf admitted. SunWind noted that most of the other ships were staying some distance away, giving them room. "Self-feeding system. They feed to get bigger to conquer more so they can feed."
"And they'll be here eventually." He added softly. "Maybe with enough advanced warning, this system can make it not worth the investment to strip. I gave the government pretty much everything I know about them and their methods. You'll at least be in better shape than Ramilz when it comes."
"Did your people have the same sort of tech we did?" Wolf asked him.
"Overall, fairly comparable. We had better blasters and combat computers, but not as much space technology." He decided. "Your real advantage, besides forewarning, is that you have a united government. My world had a united government of sorts, but it was ineffective at best and didn't acknowledge two of the three races as existing, except for the bounties on our hides. Enderonth was in even worse shape with more than a hundred governments, most at war with someone else on the planet. Itassa wasn't much on combat, for all that they were well organized."
"Well, that's something," Wolf murmured, shaking his head. "Come on, let's worry about the here and now, for now. The fish-faces are light-centuries off, last time I heard."
"True," he nodded and pushed it away as best he could. "Sorry for being a downer. It's what I've lived most of my life."
"Maybe we can talk about it some other time... the parts that don't hurt as much," Wolf suggested. "We've both had rough lives, yours rougher than mine, but we're both still alive - can't have all been losses."
"Part of me wants to talk about it, all of it." He shifted between looking out the cockpit and looking at Wolf from behind. "It's been years since I've even seen someone I wasn't about to kill. We weren't meant for that kind of life, being that alone." He blinked and brushed his fingers over his eyes in memory of everything they represented ... his heritage, his losses, the kindness of strangers. They felt so real. "I've had some really good times too. Just not so recently."
"How long have you been fighting?" Wolf asked him softly. "And how much of it on your own?"
"My first real fight was before I could really walk. A couple hunters found our den when the pack was away. I was lucky they didn't know what they'd found until after I'd torn one's throat out. Then mom and the den-guard were on them." He repeated the brief memory, his first taste of blood and fear and victory and the rush of the war-form. "The last ten or eleven years has been alone."
"What sort of hunters would be looking for you and your kin?" Wolf asked with a growl.
"The ones in charge," he sighed. "The Maru, the Mice, took over a few thousand years ago and have been doing their best to exterminate the other sentient races on Haloeth since. There's been a bounty on every canine race for a very long time."
"But you're a Mouse," Wolf pointed out as they left the city, heading into a deep canyon.
"That is what I want to show you. I'm Loup Maru. A Wolf-Mouse. A shapeshifter." He managed to say almost smoothly.
"Yeah, I can see why you'd want to do that out of town," Wolf said seriously. "Your people were unofficially at war with the regular Mice?"
"Something like that." He nodded. "We went from their teachers and caretakers to the enemy shortly after they achieved sentience. Our children began to hunt us ... a lot of packs didn't know how to deal with it. Then they had the weapons and numbers on us and we were pressed just to survive, much less protect our other charges. I've pretended to be Maru since my teens, when my mother's pack was wiped out trying to barter a peace treaty."
"And then, when they thought they'd finished taking out your people, the fish hit and they didn't know what to do," Wolf guessed, setting down in a secluded portion of the canyon. "Shit."
"Yeah," he whispered, shocked to feel tears running down his face. How long had it been since he'd cried? Since he even could?
The cockpit opened, and he felt Wolf climb around behind him, wrapping his arms around him from behind.
"I'm sorry," Wolf said softly, meaning the words for all that SunWind could tell he didn't think they could help.
It broke something deep inside the Loup Maru and he turned into the comfort for the first time since Modo had died so many years ago. He let himself slip outside thought and simply let go, trusting the person holding him to deal with a sobbing warrior until it finally passed.
"Feeling better?" Wolf asked him softly, once he had gotten most of it out of his system and started to relax a bit.
"I think so," he murmured, grateful for the arms around him. "Been a while."
"Had a hunch," Wolf smiled softly, brushing SunWind's fur back into place a bit where the tears had matted it down. "You seemed to need it, badly."
"Yeah," SunWind sighed and relaxed a bit more. "I think I'll be okay for a while." He added, though he made no attempt to move.
"Want to stay here for a bit, maybe head back?" He suggested. "If you still want to show me, that's fine too, but you don't have to if you don't feel like it right now. Believe me, I'd understand."
"Honestly, some time to run and just move free would be really nice right now." He stood as Wolf let him go and jumped to the ground to look around. He looked up at Wolf, a few feet above him, and drew a deep breath as his body rippled and flowed into the huge Lumari form.
"Whoa," Wolf blinked, looking up slightly into SunWind's eyes, and then further up to the point of the gold and silver double-helix horns that reached noticeably above the fuselage of the Wolfin. "That's still you in there, right?" He asked, not even consciously realizing that his hand was resting on the butt of his blaster.
"Yes, it's still me. All the forms are just that; forms." SunWind confirmed, his voice much deeper and rougher, but distinctly his. "This form is how I survived as a pup. The hunter grabbed me and I shifted. Even that young, it's big enough to cause real damage if you can latch on, and I did. It earned me my first name; Blood-Face, because of what I looked like when my mother found me."
"I can imagine," Wolf nodded, hopping down to the ground, his eyes never leaving SunWind's monstrous form as the Loup Maru dropped to all fours and crouched to keep them roughly on eye level. "Probably just about made him shit himself too, when it happened."
"His friends did, just before Mom charged into the den area and turned them into a smear of green." He nodded and slipped into the small, sleek, four-legged canine with the same horns, antenna, and whip-like tail with a feathering of fur on it.
"That's the razorwolf?" Wolf guessed.
The medium-sized canine nodded and flowed back into SunWind's base form. "The big one, Lumari, is why I didn't want to do this in town." He stepped closer to Wolf, half expecting the rejection Wolf was used to in the clubs. "I also like the wilderness."
"Yeah, I don't think my ceilings are tall enough to fit that one," Wolf chuckled slightly. "And I don't blame you; sounds like you grew up in it. Does anybody else know about your other forms?"
"Obi-Wan, Krystal, Peppy, Slippy, Tony and Casey have seen at least some of them. They're in my records here." He nodded.
"Okay, so it's not a huge secret you're keeping from everybody, just not making it a matter of overly-public knowledge," Wolf nodded. "Well, the big one's more than a little intimidating, but that's the whole point of it I guess. If you ask me," he chuckled slightly, "the razorwolf's actually kinda cute."
"Right," he ducked his head slightly at being called 'cute'. "I make enough of a stir walking around, I don't need to be going around like that. Besides," he smiled weakly and stepped a little closer, "your world is so not built for a thirteen-foot frame, never mind the horns."
"No, not really," Wolf chuckled, closing the distance between he and SunWind to give him a bit of a hug, realizing that he needed the reassurance. The way the other male all but melted into his arms was more confirmation than he really wanted. As easily as SunWind had shown him this secret, there was a lifetime of danger behind him about showing it and Wolf understood the cost of that kind of revelation.
"Thank you." SunWind whispered against Wolf's thick fur.
"Don't mention it," Wolf murmured, rubbing his back. "Shouldn't have to be scared to let people know who you are."
"Strange idea, but it's why I told it for the record." He straightened a bit and slid his arms around Wolf to pull him close, nuzzling his neck. "I can survive hunted, but I want to live free."
"I can sympathize," Wolf nodded, returning the nuzzle. "Want to stay out here for a while yet?"
"Yeah, I'd like to get a nice workout in. Run off the stress. If you want to head back, I can get back to the base easily enough."
"Nah," Wolf chuckled. "I'll stay out here," he offered, pulling a communicator out of his vest pocket. "Take this with you, in case you get lost or need some help? I'll make a canyon run."
"I will," he promised and slipped it into a pocket before shifting into Lumari and dropping to all fours to tear down the canyon, and along its walls.
Wolf shook his head, watching SunWind disappear. It was one hell of a sight, he had to say that much.
He climbed into his Wolfen, taking off and peeling back to the start of the canyon, ready to make a run through it against his records. As long as SunWind was having fun on the ground, no reason he shouldn't in the air.
"Ready to head home?" Wolf asked well past noon when SunWind had finally burned off enough energy to come padding back to their starting point.
"I guess," he stretched upwards in Maru form. "Do you have any suggestions for a place to live now that I have a job?"
"You don't have a place already?" Wolf asked him, getting his ship ready to head home.
"I've got quarters on the base, they aren't going to kick me out, but I'd rather be somewhere else." He ducked his head a bit. "It's way too medical there for me."
"Well, if you don't mind putting up with somebody who can have a schedule straight out of Hell, I've got space," Wolf offered, trying to stay neutral, despite his clear hope that he'd accept.
"Serious?" SunWind didn't bother to hide just how hopeful he was that Wolf wasn't just being nice or something.
"Yeah," Wolf nodded. "I mean ... we can at least see how it works out, right? If it doesn't work out, we can try to find another place for you nearby."
"Oh yeah," he reached around the pilot's seat to hug him as best he could. "If you don't mind waiting near the base, I can put my thing together and let them know where I'm going pretty quick. I don't have much more than what I'm wearing."
"No problem, especially if you don't mind a bit of a walk if they don't want me too close," Wolf smiled. "And you might want to just give them an address, not your roommate's name."
"I don't mind, and I will." He nodded. "Anyone who cares to can find out, I expect."
"Yeah, they can," Wolf nodded. "Just might be easier for you to get out without having to get an earful from somebody if you don't tell them," he chuckled, starting to take off. "SunWind? Thanks."
"Thank you," he leaned forward to nuzzle the Wolf. "It means a lot to me too."
Obi-Wan stretched as he stood from his morning mediations. He had a minimum of three months left in this area, and the next portal was on Zoness if he was translating everything correctly. It was long enough that he should do something besides taking advantage of the local hospitality, even if it was only unofficially helping those supporting him.
Right now, however, it was time for breakfast for the Star Fox team. It should be interesting to see them all in the same room. They'd invited him to join them, and it was about time to get going. Just as he finished dressing, he heard a knock on the door and went to answer it. While he was still not completely comfortable in the local clothing, it was far from the strangest thing he'd worn.
"Good morning, Fox." He greeted the notably smaller warrior.
"Morning," Fox said cheerfully. "Ready to go?" He asked him, not at all perturbed by the person a third again taller than he was.
"Yes," he nodded and stepped out of his quarters to join the Fox.
"Great," Fox said easily. "Hope you don't mind taking the car; air traffic's pretty heavy, and I don't think you'd want to try and fit into my second seat," he chuckled.
"Not at all. Where are we going?" He asked as they began the walk to the parking lot.
"Well, I thought you might like something other than cafeteria food," Fox explained. "So we're going to grab breakfast at Grey's Cafe. Bill's an old friend of mine from the Academy, food's great."
"Sounds good," Obi-Wan nodded agreeably, though he wasn't at all tired of the cafeteria. It was quite good food as far as he was concerned. Not quite as varied as the Temple on Coruscant, but many hundreds of times better than field rations he'd lived on for a fair chunk of his Padawan years.
"Glad to hear it," Fox smiled. "Krystal's waiting with the car - we've got a bit of a proposition for you."
"All right." He accepted that and didn't press about what.
The two of them left the base, Fox's car waiting outside with Krystal in the passenger's seat. This one was a bit larger, not nearly as bright and sporty as the one Obi-Wan had first met him in. Fox opened one of the rear doors for Obi-Wan, climbing in the front himself.
"Load up," he said easily and closed the door after the Jedi had gotten in.
"How's it going?" Krystal asked Obi-Wan as they pulled away.
"Quite well," he decided. "I've finished the testing for the position on Zoness. I'm just waiting on the schedulers to sort their end out."
"So you're going for that option?" Fox asked him. "Guess we got to you a little too late then," he chuckled.
"It's the best that's been presented." Obi-Wan looked at him curiously. "Too late for what?"
"Krystal was telling us about what you can do," Fox explained. "We'd talked it over last night, and were going to offer you a chance to try out for the team, if you were interested. Don't know how well you fly, but what she told us about is impressive enough on its own."
"The fact that Casey had records to prove I wasn't exaggerating helped," Krystal chuckled.
"So what would be involved being on the team?" Obi-Wan asked, clearly interested. "I am a reasonably good pilot."
"In order to qualify, you'd have to demonstrate your piloting skills and meet our standards," Fox explained. "They're set pretty high, just so you know ahead of time."
"I barely qualified at first," Krystal chuckled.
"Once you're in, most of our work these days is pirate-chasing, handling problems on various planets - not that heavy a workload, honestly, but it's always good to have another good pilot around, especially one with special talents."
"Zoness will always be there," Obi-Wan decided with a smile for the pair. "I will need a quick briefing on the controls and performance specs of whatever craft you wish me to fly as I don't know any of the local setups."
"Understood," Fox nodded. "We can take a few days to give you the crash course."
"I wish you wouldn't call it that," Krystal said, rolling her eyes.
"At any rate, it won't be a problem," Fox chuckled. "Give you a little time to meet the crew today at breakfast."
"That sounds good." He nodded easily and relaxed in the seat. It would be good to see some action and the Star Fox team was as close to the Jedi as anything seemed to be around here.
"Oh you'll see it," Krystal chuckled as they approached a small restaurant not too far from the base.
"My Master would be so displeased I thought that." Obi-Wan chuckled and shook his head as they drove into the parking lot, pulling up next to a sleek motorcycle. "And even more than I let it slip."
"The money's pretty good too, for the amount of work it usually is." She added. "And sorry, I didn't realize you were just thinking it," she chuckled.
"You're very strong." Obi-Wan inclined his head in respect to her. "The pay is a plus, now that I have to pay my way."
"Yeah, though I have the feeling you'll be saving most of it up," Fox chuckled and got out of the car. "And a request? If you guys start doing the telepath thing, just let the rest of us know?"
"I will." Obi-Wan nodded seriously as he and Krystal followed him into the restaurant.
It wasn't hard to spot the rest of the crew; Peppy, Slippy, and Falco were all sitting at a table, a pink-furred Cat was next to Falco and they all talked and joked with each other with the comfort of a combat team that had fought and survived hell together several times.
"Obi-Wan, this is Katt Monroe," Fox said, introducing him to the feline quickly before pulling out a chair for Krystal, the Vixen sitting down.
"A pleasure to meet you," he bowed politely to her before sitting in the only empty place left.
"Good to meet you too," Katt smiled. "So, now that the whole gang's here, can we finally order?" She asked with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.
"Somebody's been looking forward to coming here for a while now," Falco chuckled.
"Hey, I was out bl ... uhm, working for the last month," Katt said defensively, glancing at Fox out of the corner of her eyes.
"I don't want to know," Fox said, shaking his head as a grey-furred Dog of mixed breed came out and Obi-Wan hid a small smirk of his own.
They were definitely quite a group.
"Hey Bill," Fox grinned.
"About time you guys paid me a visit," the Dog smirked.
"No kidding." Katt grinned at him. "I'll have the seafood medley."
"You always have that." Falco rolled his eyes. "Roast rabbit."
"And you always have that," Katt pointed out with a smirk. "We're both predictable about our meals, let's just make sure it doesn't leave the dinner-table, hmm?"
Falco blushed slightly, trying to hide the gesture as he took a drink of water.
"You manage to get your supplier to double-check what sort of eggs he gets in?" Krystal asked Bill.
"Oh yeah," the Dog said, shuddering a bit. "Only that one time, and I just about rearranged his face for that one. Then I changed suppliers."
"I'll go for the Saurian skillet then," the blue-furred Vixen said easily.
"Same here, vegetarian," Peppy said, the Rabbit's age showing as he looked up at Bill with a friendly expression.
"Aquan beetle bake," Slippy said.
"And if you need me to tell you, then we need to have words," Fox chuckled. "Obi-Wan?"
"House specialty?" He glanced between Fox and Bill.
"Closest I've got would be the Kantina skillet," Bill said easily. "I know the food there a bit better than other places."
"I'll try that, then." He nodded.
"All righty, I'll get those cooked and out here soon as I can," Bill said easily. "Obi-Wan, what is it you'd like to drink?" He asked. "I know these deadbeats by heart already," he smirked.
"Tea, please." He hoped it was available.
"No problem," Bill nodded. "Fruity, mild, or just strong?"
"Can do," the Dog nodded, turning to head off, coming back a few minutes later with a pot of hot water and a few tea bags, bringing back coffee, milk, or juice for the various others at the table.
"The scary thing? We're not the only group Bill knows this well," Fox chuckled. "Went from being one of the flight commanders on Katina to running a restaurant after the war was over, and he's made a point of knowing what to get anybody he's ever flown with."
"And that's a hell of a lot of pilots," Falco chuckled.
"Good business sense," Obi-Wan added. "What happened with the eggs?"
"His supplier didn't bother to check what a batch of eggs he found on Sauria came from," Krystal shuddered. "If Fox and I hadn't been there to warn him, he would've found out what happened when you tried to cook an Earthwalker omelet. They hadn't been fertilized, but the thought that there were more out there that might have been...."
"Not a good thing," he gathered from the tone.
"Earthwalkers are sentient," Fox explained, drawing a shiver from Obi-Wan. "They don't look it, but they are. Ruling tribe on Sauria. Nobody's really sure how they didn't know what had happened, but Bill was pissed as all Hell."
"Good for him." He nodded sharply. "That's just wrong."
"Tell me about it," Krystal muttered. "At any rate, that got fixed up. There are plenty of non-sentient species on Sauria with perfectly edible eggs and meat, I should know. It's just a little hard to tell sometimes, if you can't talk to them yourself."
"Isn't there a field guide to cover that kind of thing?" Obi-Wan asked her.
"The planet was only discovered a few years ago," she pointed out. "There are field guides, but the information in them is spotty sometimes, particularly if you're not going by the official references. The fact that it's only happened once that we're aware of says how uncommon it is, but that once was creepy enough."
"I can imagine," he nodded seriously. "So," he glanced between Fox and Falco, "what does the next mission look like?"
"Assuming the rumors are true, probably heading out to take care of some raiders hassling a dig out on Titania," Fox said easily. "We haven't been officially hired for it yet, but it's a good chance. Hopefully we'll be able to get you up to speed first."
"I'm a very quick study, particularly as a pilot and languages. I haven't met the craft I couldn't get from point A to B, with or without training." Obi-Wan assured him without bragging.
"The big thing isn't getting from A to B," Fox chuckled. "It's being able to handle an Arwing. They're a little tricky for most people to handle, and take very skilled pilots to handle them well. After breakfast we'll take you through the simulator, show you what I mean."
"Should be interesting." He nodded in acceptance.
"It would be good to have somebody new on the team without having to lose somebody from the field teams," Peppy chuckled slightly. "Actually make the team bigger for once."
"Have you considered SunWind?" Obi-Wan suggested. "He seems likely to have the skills as well."
"Sounded like he wanted to avoid fighting for a living, if he could manage it," Falco explained. "We thought about it, but unless he has trouble getting a job doing something else, we're not planning on it. For now going to give him a chance to get out of the line of fire."
"Plus he pulled that bouncer job at the Event Horizon for now," Krystal added. "So it looks like he's got prospects that he's happier about. Already moving out," she chuckled.
"And a new packmate," Obi-Wan added with a nod. "He wasn't nearly as lonely when I saw him."
"Any idea who it is?" Fox asked him curiously. "He just said he was moving in with a new friend for a while."
"Well, I know it's not Tony," Slippy offered.
"Guy named Wolf." Obi-Wan supplied. "I don't know much more, but he's happy about it. He was practically glowing."
"Well, that makes it any one of about a thousand canines in the city," Peppy chuckled. "Hope it works out for him; I didn't meet him for long, but it sounds like he's the sort of guy who gets along best when he's not alone."
"I would agree." Obi-Wan nodded. "I believe it is genetic as well as upbringing. Few telepathic races do well alone, and he has been alone a long time."
"It's a good thing he found somebody then," Fox nodded as their meals started to arrive. "Not everybody handles being alone well."
"Not at all," Falco nodded between bites of rabbit. "Glad he's doing better. Guy sounded like he was a real TS mess when Krystal finally talked to him."
"Not to mention a physical one." Fox nodded.
"That's putting it mildly," she said softly. "He'd forgotten how to talk, and only barely remembered language enough to mind-talk."
"At least his fur's grown back in quickly. It makes a world of difference." Obi-Wan added with a smile and sip of tea.
"I'll bet it does," Slippy nodded. "And having better eyes in; he really seemed glad that those worked out."
"I think he wanted to hug you and let you feel how grateful he was," Obi-Wan nodded. "You made a huge difference to him."
"I don't blame him," Krystal murmured. "Obi-Wan; you said you've been on a few missions, back home?" She asked, changing the subject.
"Yes," he nodded. "I've been doing field work with my Master since I was twelve."
"You got started young, didn't you?" Peppy chuckled. "Any particular missions you feel like talking about?"
"Older than most Padawans, actually." Obi-Wan sort of chuckled. "What kind of things are interesting to you guys? We've done a lot of things."
"How did you meet your Master?" Falco asked him, deciding to start with what was probably an easy one.
"When I was about to turn thirteen, I was sent to Bandomeer; a world well out on the Galactic Rim, where as the government is centered in the Galactic Core. I was to join the Agri Crops instead of becoming a Jedi. A mission brought Qui-Gon to the same transport that was taking me there. It wasn't easy, but I convinced him to take me as his Padawan before he left Bandomeer." He did his best to summarize the events that had nearly broken him once.
"They have an age limit you're supposed to be a Padawan by?" Krystal guessed.
"Yes. Both acceptance as an Initiate and as a Padawan have age limits on them. Becoming a Jedi is a very difficult path, and many with the strength in the Force do not have the temperament or ability for it."
"And you squeaked in under the wire," Peppy nodded. "Well, at least you got through. You don't strike me as the farming type," the old Rabbit chuckled.
"Not particularly," he nodded. "I do have some skill at it, but it is not what I was meant to be."
"So are you going to run into any trouble when you get back home, if it takes too long?" Slippy asked him.
"I shouldn't," he shook his head. "If Qui-Gon dies before I get back, I may have to finish my training under another Master, but once you are a Padawan, you are not sent away." He carefully controlled the pain at the thought of loosing his Master.
"~He is more than just your Master, isn't he?~" Krystal asked him mentally.
"~Yes,~" he answered very quietly, a hint of the forbidden nature of the relationship in the admission. "~We plan to be bonded knights when I'm knighted and can make such a choice.~"
"~I hope you get the chance,~" she told him silently. "So," she asked, switching back to verbal communication, "what happened that brought you here?"
"I was being given a tour of Agodina's pride, a project for teleporting material through space. A power surge caused it to explode and I woke up here."
"Transporters seem prone to problems like that," Krystal chuckled, shaking her head. "Particularly the technological ones."
"I don't know," Fox chuckled. "The Warp Stone was a nice enough guy. But yeah, there is a track record of those things going wrong, if they're meant to work over any significant distance."
"It makes many groups all the more determined to build a stable one." Obi-Wan chuckled lightly and began to eat, having been distracted by the conversation. "It's a nice idea, but I prefer to stick to ships. Bill is a good cook." He added in appreciation.
"That he is," Fox agreed, the group settling into a comfortable quiet while they ate.
Obi-Wan took his seat in the simulator an hour or so later. They'd offered him the chance to get started early, and he couldn't see any reason not to take it.
"Okay Obi-Wan - this is the Arwing VR simulator," Slippy explained, his voice coming clearly over the intercom. "You should be getting a computer readout of the launch checks and procedures; run through them one at a time. You don't have to announce each step, the computer will tell us if you miss one."
"Understood," he easily slipped into pilot mode and began the rundown.
It wasn't much of anything he wasn't used to; the big difference was that the controls were in different places. Even using one of the larger Arwings, they were placed closer together than he was used to, and he occasionally had to pause to find a control that used a different name than he was used to. All the same, he was ready to take off fairly soon and confident that he could do much better with a little practice.
"All right," Slippy said. The viewscreens came to life; a black sky and featureless terrain stretching out ahead of him. "Take off, and come up to combat cruising speed."
"Roger." Obi-Wan confirmed and began with a smooth, fast takeoff, designed in his mind to emulate the reaction needed when a world was under assault. Before long, he was moving along rapidly, small 'mountains' appearing to create a virtual canyon.
"Okay, your Arwing is currently in assault mode," Slippy explained. "You can change direction, for steering or maneuvers, but you're moving fast enough that trying to turn about is usually risky. Try steering through the rings ahead of you," he said, a number of gleaming silver rings appearing in the sky, marking out a clear path for him.
He relaxed into the intimately familiar type of practice and zoomed threw the easy path. He wasn't nearly as good as he would be in a real craft with the Force at work, but he'd been in enough simulators to be comfortable in them too and able to judge what both he and his craft would be like for real.
"Okay, now find your boost and brake controls," Slippy told him. "Once you do, let me know, and I'll start the next part of the sim. You'll have a limited amount of time to make it through each ring, and some of them will require sharper turns that you'll need the brakes for."
"Understood." He focused on maintaining the craft's level while he found the air brakes and boosters. "Have them."
"Okay - start out with the boost, and I'll let you figure out the rest," Slippy said, a ring appearing in the distance with a faint number above it indicating how much time he had left.
Obi-Wan had to keep from slipping completely into the Force to maintain contact with the simulators, but this was easy. His reactions were far faster than anyone on this world, just by virtue of being Jedi. Being a natural pilot himself made this all the easier as he darted through the course at the Arwing's limits.
He heard a grumbling in the background; Falco he thought. He had a feeling that he was breaking somebody's record for the first run through.
"Okay, now things are gonna get interesting," Slippy warned him. The next rings appeared, directly above each other. "The control switch next to your brake and boost will toggle you out of assault long enough to go into a loop. You'll have to use that to hit each of the rings. You can also use a barrel roll with the Arwing to deflect blaster shots, but you'll have to be careful; the ship's controls are a little off for a fraction of a second afterwards while things readjust from the spin."
Something very easy in a real craft was about to become very interesting in a simulators.
"Roger." Obi-Wan agreed and flipped the craft up into a spin to block the bolts while he weaved through the circles.
Once he'd cleared the rings, he saw the turrets that were firing at him, a targeting reticle appearing on the screen.
"Okay, now it's time for the combat part of things," Slippy told him. "Think you can figure this out for yourself; take out as many of the turrets as possible. You can hold down the trigger to charge a homing blast, but that's recommended for distant or fast-moving targets."
"Understood." Obi-Wan let the rush of combat run its course as he took out the first two targets. By the time the fifth had been blown up, he was absolutely calm.
Blaster bolts streaked by him as a formation of enemy ships approached from behind, surprising him without his Force senses to warn him, or active radar to warn him in this mode.
He really hoped that was just an artifact from the trainer, rather than the Arwing itself.
He didn't even think as he flipped the ship over in turning it around to rush through the formation, it's own blasters taking target after target as he jinked and rolled -- normal maneuvers from a space-based fighter, but not so normal in the atmosphere.
For what it was worth, the Arwing seemed to handle them just fine, as though the atmosphere surrounding it and the pull of gravity wasn't a problem at all. A number of enemies approached at once, dropping into clear formations and moving into reverse as they fired on Obi-Wan's ship.
"Try taking these next formations out all at once," Slippy told him. "You can use your charged blast for the close clusters by targeting the middle ship, or your nova bombs to clear everything in the area. Just be careful; you've got a limited supply of nova bombs, and they do a lot of collateral damage."
"Roger." Obi-Wan acknowledged and kept to the charged blasts and a few single blasts to deal with his targets while he darted about the battle, comfortable in being significantly outnumbered. This close to a world, he wasn't about to use anything that did 'a lot of collateral damage' unless he had no choice.
"Okay, think you're comfortable with the assault mode now?" Slippy asked him, the canyon starting to open up.
"Yes," he nodded fractionally.
"Okay, shift into all-range mode," Slippy told him. "You'll be able to pull a sharp U-turn using the controls for the barrel roll, and maneuver in any direction on the battlefield. Practice those a bit, then I'll give you some bogeys to deal with."
He did as he was told and began a routine he'd developed for testing the controls and handling of several advanced space fighters he'd worked with. Again he could hear mutters and mumbles from outside, along with a mixture of shock, surprise and displeasure from various watchers.
"I'm ready." He told Slippy after he had relaxed again.
"Okay - here they come. Just try to take out as many as you can without dying or crashing in the next minute."
Literally dozens of bogeys registered on the radar that Obi-Wan finally found, a small display in the corner of the 'screen' that hadn't been there before. "Fox's record was a hundred and fifty," Slippy added, a hint of a smirk in his voice.
While Obi-Wan was sure that he could top that in a familiar craft, he pushed all thoughts of a contest out of his mind and simply focused on hitting everything targeted as hostile while not getting hit himself.
The fact that just about everything was hostile made it pretty easy. From what he'd seen so far, Obi-Wan could only imagine that the vast majority of bystanders around here had gotten damned good at getting under cover.
A minute later, he'd just broken a hundred and the simulator was shutting down.
"Not bad," Falco observed.
"'Not bad' is a bit of an understatement, buddy," Fox chuckled. "You blew away Slippy and Peppy's first run records, and most of Falco's. So, think you're ready for the real thing?"
"Definitely." The Jedi's relief at the prospect of being able to use his full senses while fighting apparent.
"Come on then," Fox said easily. "You'll be flying against Falco, but we're going to get your Arwing set up properly first."
"Sounds good," Obi-Wan nodded and followed the Fox out to be measured and for the fighter's setup.
"You are definitely going for the look." Wolf chuckled as he watched SunWind settle his square green shades in place and regard himself in the full-length mirror. "You've got the intimidation thing down pat."
"That is the basic idea." He chuckled and moved into the bathroom to apply black fur dye to his face in two cat-eye slashes that ran from his hairline to his jaw line and covered his eyes.
"That's new," Wolf observed. "The dye mean anything?"
"Just a reminder that I'm in civilization again." SunWind shrugged despite how deeply the markings affected him. It was something he couldn't name as he checked out his appearance in the big mirror again, but it touched him to his soul. "It used to mean something, but I wasn't old enough to be taught the details before things fell apart."
"Understood," Wolf nodded. "You want me to stick around for a bit after you get there? Just in case something goes off and you need a little help?"
"If you want to, I'm not about to object," he smiled at his new packmate.
He could tell that Wolf did ... but could also tell that Wolf knew full well that it probably wouldn't be that good an idea.
"Ah, you can handle yourself," Wolf chuckled. "You won't be needing me, and it'll keep us from being tempted to forget you're working."
"It's a hell of a temptation," SunWind acknowledged. "Maybe when I'm more settled in you can come by."
"Works for me," Wolf smiled. "Just wouldn't be good to get caught talkin' to a friend your first night. Think I can give you a ride though, unless you want to go in on your own."
"I'd appreciate a ride," SunWind came over to Wolf and kissed him softly. "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too," Wolf smiled, returning the kiss. "When you think you'll be back?"
"Shift ends when the club closes, so three AM." He explained. "If you aren't there, it'll be a ten minute run here."
"Just make sure you have your key-card," Wolf chuckled. "Want me to wait up for you?"
"No, I can find the bed." He rumbled suggestively before catching himself and schooling that reaction safely away until Wolf was ready. "I like seeing you sleep."
"Just make sure I wake up with you in there with me," Wolf chuckled. "Though if I'm not here when you get back, it probably means I got called out on a job and had to move fast to get there on time. Come on, let's get you to work."
"All right," he claimed a second, quick kiss, then focused on his job. It made an almost visible alteration in him, something that made even Wolf hesitate to challenge him as they headed out to the car.
Obi-Wan relaxed in the real Arwing he'd been assigned. It had been modified for his size and preferences over the past two days. It would be a joy to fly. Fast, maneuverable and deadly, very much like he was on the ground.
He ran through the pre-flight check and nodded in satisfaction.
"Obi-Wan to tower, ready for takeoff."
"Go ahead, Obi-Wan. Blue Bird's ready to follow," Peppy told him. "We've got a standard flight test set up; it's a lot like the simulator. And Falco! This isn't a race!" He warned the Falcon.
Obi-Wan could feel Falco's irritation at the reminder; maybe it wasn't officially, but the hot-headed avian was more than a little interested in showing that he was the better pilot.
It also was simply not true, especially not out here where Obi-Wan could use his senses and training to their full effect. He had to wonder just how the rest of the team managed to put up with Falco most of the time, if he was this irritable.
He drew a breath in and put all such thoughts out of his mind and focused on doing the best he could, regardless of any other factors. When his mind was clear, he pushed the Arwing down the runway at top speed. It may not be a race, but he was to show them his full abilities and competency at speed was one of them.
He was peripherally aware of Falco following him up, and the irritation the Falcon had at his start. Falco wasn't far behind; he wasn't a sensitive, but he was far more familiar with his craft and its few limitations.
As they started down the flight course, Obi-Wan noticed that there actually were functioning sensors on the ship in assault mode. Most objects they picked up were gone in a few seconds, but it was there. Good to know.
"The course is laid out on your HUD," Peppy told them. "Falco, just keep an eye on things and make sure there's no trouble. Obi-Wan, take the Arwing through its paces a bit; there are some maneuvering challenges for you on the course."
"Roger." Obi-Wan acknowledged and began the test pattern he had used in the simulator, only pushing it much further now that he could use his full abilities. It was a good fighter, he had to admit. Not the best he'd ever flown, but it was up near the top of the list. It'd easily stand up to an A-Wing for maneuverability, and it had stronger armor and shields on top of that.
Falco was staying a bit behind him, as he'd been ordered to, but as they made their way along the course, Obi-Wan could feel that he was thinking of something else.
His comm beeped on a private channel; a message from the other Arwing.
"Want to try a real test?" Falco asked him once he'd flipped over to it.
"Yes," he decided. If things got out of control, he'd simply back off whatever they were doing.
"Then follow me," Falco told him, peeling off towards a canyon well off the marked course, "and try to keep up."
He didn't respond to the taunt and simply followed the Falcon's Arwing across the canyon terrain.
As they flew into it, Obi-Wan realized why it was a 'real test,' as Falco had put it. The canyon was fairly narrow at flight heights, and crowded with rock formations. With the Arwing in all-range mode, it wouldn't be difficult. In its assault configuration, however, it became a matter of split-second reactions at any speed. It wasn't anything he couldn't handle, but the occasional crater in the canyon walls said that less skilled pilots had thought the same thing, and been wrong.
"Why did you two leave the course?" Peppy asked, something in his tone saying that he knew full well whose fault it was.
"C'mon Peppy," Falco answered. "You know that training course is nothing. I figure we'll give Obi-Wan a real test, since we might be needing him in the field soon." Despite speaking, it was clear that the Falcon had flown this course several times. He was taking it at break-neck speeds, reacting almost instinctively to the various twists and turns, pulling his Arwing into maneuvers that pushed it to the limit while he showed off.
Obi-Wan kept things a little more sane, but he flew to the best of his ability without being reckless in an unfamiliar craft on an unfamiliar course. A week of practice and he'd have taken it much faster.
Before long, the two of them were pulling out of it at about the same time, turning back towards the base.
"Not bad," Falco admitted to Obi-Wan. "I'd figured you'd have to cut out about half-way through."
"It's not that bad." Obi-Wan chuckled. "Though it'll be a while before I take it blindfolded."
"If you know what's good for you, you'll wait to do that until after Peppy's retired for good," Falco warned him. "I'm probably in for a lecture when we get back as it is. Rabbit's way too cautious."
"He is a Rabbit." Obi-Wan pointed out. "They seem more cautious than most."
"He's old too," Falco chuckled as they returned to base. "That just makes it worse."
Just as he'd suggested, Peppy was there with the rest of them, ready to greet the two pilots - and visibly frustrated.
"At least he's not likely to order you to cut the grass with nail clippers for this." Obi-Wan had to chuckle.
"I'm not sure I want to know," Falco chuckled as they touched down. "Why don't you get out first, maybe you can distract him," he suggested.
"Why do I suspect you can repeat this lecture almost verbatim?" Obi-Wan chuckled lightly before the cockpit opened.
Most of the group came forward to greet him, sounding generally pleased with his performance.
"I can't believe you actually followed Falco into Rykert's Run," Krystal chuckled. "Let alone out of it. I'm still not sure about flying through there myself."
Peppy hung back for a moment, just long enough for Falco to pop open his cockpit, before he was headed over to chew the Falcon out, the two of them walking out even as the Rabbit did just that.
"It will be a while before I'm willing to do it blindfolded in an Arwing, but it's not that difficult a run for a Jedi pilot." Obi-Wan said simply.
"Don't suppose that's something you can teach the rest of us?" Slippy asked him.
"Fox and possibly Krystal, but no one else on the team has the Force-sensitivity to even start." He explained evenly. "It is not an easy thing to learn and usually takes many years to master." He looked over at Fox. "You have the best odds of learning, and are the most likely to do well."
"Huh?" Fox asked, blinking. He hadn't been expecting something like that.
"I told you there was a reason you could use the staff," Krystal chuckled.
"It is why you are such an exceptional pilot naturally." Obi-Wan added. "You do not use it consciously, but I can teach you how to. Such a specific Force-talent is well known in the Republic, and I know enough to teach you how to use it to full effect."
"We'll have to see about it then," Fox nodded. "Never hurts to have an extra edge."
Obi-Wan nodded. "Don't worry, this is far more focused on the practical than my training is."
"That's good," Fox chuckled. "I'm not up for becoming some sort of priest or something, no offense."
"I'd be surprised if they'd even take you, dear," Krystal smirked.
"You are not that kind of sensitive." Obi-Wan nodded. "Is any one else hungry for dinner?"
"Let's go rescue Falco and then go grab some food," Fox chuckled. "We could all use a good meal probably."
SunWind nodded and let a Red Fox and Silver Vixen enter. It was rather dull duty, but it had some very nice features. He got respect, and even more, he got a sense of pride in defending something. Less than a week on the job and he was already sure that he'd eventually take up with Wolf on his missions. This was nice for now, but there wasn't enough action to keep him from getting restless.
It just wasn't in him any more to be this ... civilized.
What hit him the hardest was that the realization didn't really bother him. It was just what he was, now that he had a choice.
But then... he had a choice, and he could make it, either way. He didn't have to be a fighter, it was up to him, and that made a world of difference.
"Hey, long time no see!" Tony grinned as he walked up to the larger Mouse by the door. "Heard you were working here."
"Yeah, that scuffle we got into ended with a job offer." SunWind grinned. "Maybe we can come by when I'm not working sometime?"
"Just have to find some night we both have off," Tony chuckled. "Heard you moved off base pretty fast - who's the lucky guy?"
"Wolf." He answered simply, an eye open for anyone coming up.
"Well, seems to be working out for you," Tony shrugged slightly. "I'll see you around, okay?" He asked, stepping back a bit to head into the club.
"I intend to," he nodded and turned his attention to the Chameleon walking up and stopped to look SunWind over from head to toe.
"Are you SunWind?" He asked the larger Mouse, something in his voice suggesting that he was more interested in his answer than in the club.
"Yes," he nodded, more focused that usual as he judged this one's intent. There was something about him that made the Loup Maru's skin crawl. Something that made SunWind think he'd have been right at home working with the Plutarkians, given the chance.
"I believe you are staying with Wolf O'Donnell. Is it just a living arrangement, or are the two of you... close?"
SunWind dropped all pretence of civilized manners, his body language speaking clearly that the Chameleon was quickly falling under the designation of 'snack food'. To the Chameleon's credit, while he recognized that SunWind was a threat, he didn't seem particularly intimidated.
"What's it to you?" He actually growled, a sound that was distinctly canine despite his appearance.
"I just want to know if you're going to end up ruining him like his last lover did," the Chameleon said bluntly. "He's spent the last few years like a lost puppy, not nearly the warrior he used to be. If you are, I'd suggest finding new arrangements shortly. He might not like to think of his old friends often, but some of us still think of him."
SunWind actually had to pause. This creature was actually trying to help a friend in his own mind, but was sick enough to be a Plutarkian flunky. It wasn't a combination he really had any idea what to do with.
"If you don't like his new pack, you'll have to take it up with both of us." He decided on something between a warning and threat, not sure how else to respond to this. Wolf would need to explain who this person was in the morning.
"I just might," the Chameleon observed. "Though it didn't do much good last time. Just make sure that you don't do anything to hurt Wolf; if you do, we'll be meeting again, and you won't be enjoying the occasion very much."
"Take your own advice," SunWind warned him in turn. "I will not tolerate him being hurt."
"Then we're on the same page," the Chameleon said, turning to leave, his whip-like tail snapping behind him.
It was a reminder to SunWind, along with an uneasy look a Panther couple gave him, to pull the strongest of the killer instincts back into check and still himself. Intimidation was good. Scaring customers away was not.
Of course, he was pretty sure the Chameleon wasn't a customer.
Just then, the communicator at his belt beeped.
"Hey SunWind! We've got a rowdy in here; could ya oust him for us?"
"On my way." He motioned to the Panther backing him up out front to take over and headed inside to deal with another rowdy drunk. The staff had learned quickly that he was good at this part, and that he found it amusing to see people try to fight him.
As he got down to the bar, he quickly saw who it was he was supposed to take care of - an obviously drunk Bear, trying to get more to drink when it was painfully clear that he was over his limit. The bartender gave him a painfully grateful look as he came on down; the Bear was probably three times his size, almost as tall as SunWind's Marki form.
"Come on, buddy. It's time to go." He began the routine of removing someone, completely unfazed by one of the few local creatures bigger than he was in Maru.
"Aye already told thish guy, Ah'll deshide when ish... well, guesh they're makin' you guys big now, aren' they?" The drunk Bear said, turning towards SunWind with a blink.
"Yes, now come with me." He insisted, though he didn't put a hand on the Bear yet.
"Make me, Shorty," the Bear growled, standing up and looking down at SunWind from his full height.
SunWind glanced around to make sure there was room and flicked his tail forward to wrap around the Bear's ankle before yanking sideways.
With the Bear's drunkenness, it wasn't hard for him to send him crashing to the ground. What came next was something SunWind hadn't been expecting - a massive hand closed around his tail and yanked him back. It nearly sent the Loup Maru to the ground himself, but he managed to keep his footing.
"Bad idea." SunWind muttered and pulled hard, lifting the Bear up in the air by his ankle. He didn't manage to get him completely off the ground, like he did with most, but enough that it got even to the drunk's mind that he might be out-classed.
Unfortunately, if it did get there, it didn't seem to stay there for long. The Bear growled, releasing SunWind's tail and grabbed his ankle, yanking it out from under him and sending SunWind to the floor. Yanking his foot free from the startled Loup Maru's tail, he grabbed the scruff of his neck, lifting him up roughly and grabbing the base of his tail, preparing to hurl the Loup Maru to the other side of the bar.
That was just not going to happen.
SunWind growled and relaxed his body into a shift to his largest form; one that even the Bear had to look up at. He got one foot on the ground as the sudden increase in weight startled the Bear, then his other, and grabbed the Bear's scruff to lift him off the ground completely as he reached his full Lumari height of double his normal.
"You do not want to piss me off, fella." He barred his saber-fangs and a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth in the Bears' face.
"What the..." The Bear's eyes were wide as he stared in disbelief at the ... thing that had just picked up over six feet in height and a couple tons of tightly packed muscle.
The rest of the bar had gone dead quiet. It was always entertaining to watch a drunk get kicked out, but this was well beyond that now.
"Now. Are you going to cooperate?" SunWind growled deeply, his voice rough and less than smooth in the local language even with the translator that had somehow shifted with him, along with his clothes.
"Yessir," the Bear nodded slightly, frantically, and was put on his feet.
"Good." SunWind put a hand on his back and guided him to the door.
Once the Bear was out, he shifted back to his normal form, everybody clearly surprised by what they'd seen.
"Handy trick," the Panther who'd been backing him up said. "I ah ... guess he was trouble?"
"Yeah. He tried to throw me over the bar." SunWind nodded and shook himself out before taking his place at the door again.
"Don't think he'll try that again," the Panther chuckled, shaking his head a bit and heading back down into the bar to make sure everything was okay down there.
SunWind rolled his shoulders and shook himself out again as he closed the door to the apartment he shared with Wolf. Between the Bear and the run home, he was pretty wound up. Still, the smell of Wolf and sleep and home went right to the core of his brain and calmed him down significantly.
He couldn't help but smile when he slipped into the bedroom and saw Wolf sleeping. It was a comforting sight as he stripped his clothes off, put them away out of respect for Wolf's housekeeping and eased into bed.
"Mmm ... how'd it go tonight?" Wolf murmured, waking up a bit as SunWind snuggled up next to him.
"A Bear caused trouble, and this Chameleon came by and threatened me if I 'ruined' you like your last lover. Any idea who that is?" SunWind asked and wrapped his arms around Wolf.
"About my size, little smaller?" Wolf asked, turning over in SunWind's arms, tension shooting through his body.
"Yeah," he nodded, instantly as tense as his packmate.
"That was probably Leon," Wolf sighed. "My old second in command from the Star Wolf squad. I didn't even know he was on Corneria."
"Why would he threaten me?" SunWind asked softly, nuzzling his packmate for reassurance for both of them.
"Probably because he's a borderline psychopath who thinks that I was at my best when I was working with Andross. He was pretty convinced that Fara 'broke' me somehow, made me go soft or something."
"Yes," he nodded, holding Wolf close. "But why would he care? You left a long time ago."
"I'm honestly not sure," Wolf admitted. "It's not usually his style to care about anybody else. Guess he's just fond of me," he chuckled slightly, rubbing SunWind's back. "Watch out for him, okay? I don't think he'll try anything, but if he does ... he's damned good."
"So am I," SunWind reminded him seriously, gently fingering his jaw before kissing him even while he tried to ignore the hunger of his own body for the Wolf so close to him. "I've survived much worse than him."
"I know, but I also know just what he's capable of," Wolf murmured, returning the kiss. "Might not see him coming."
"I'll be careful." He promised gently.
"Mmm ... interested in a little help winding down before bed tonight?" Wolf asked him with a bit of a rumble.
"Yes," SunWind drew in a sharp breath and kissed him more solidly. "Very much."
"Mmm ... if you're willing to stop if things go too far, I'm willing to see how far we can go," Wolf told him.
"I'm willing," he nodded and ran his hands down Wolf's sides, pausing at his boxers.
"Go ahead," Wolf murmured, lifting his hips a bit as he worked his own hands down to the firm planes of SunWind's tawny-furred ass, kissing his neck.
He moaned deeply when SunWind's tail snaked around his hips and wrapped around his half-hard sheath to caress it even as his boxers were slid off. He kissed the Loup Maru's collarbone, adjusting to the difference in how the very male body felt compared to a female one. The tip of his tail slipped into Wolf's sheath, meeting the tip of his cock as it slid out, and Wolf reached down to stroke his sheath in return.
"Oh yeah." SunWind moaned and arched his body to give Wolf full access to him, more than willing to let him lead. He kept his hands to Wolf's chest while his tail worked the canine's balls and sheath.
"Mmm ... you bottom?" Wolf asked him between kisses, stroking SunWind's sheath and balls, coaxing him the rest of the way to full hardness.
"Yes," he nodded and claimed another kiss. "Not yet."
"We'll leave the lube then," Wolf murmured, shifting his hand up to take SunWind's cock in it, stroking him lightly. "What's good for tonight?" He asked, groaning as the Loup Maru's tail worked his full, heavy balls.
"This," he breathed heavily, his eyes closing in the pleasure as he began to thrust up into Wolf's hand.
"Works for me," Wolf rurred, closing his own eyes for a moment as SunWind's fingers found his swelling knot, squeezing and caressing it. Wolf started stroking the Loup Maru faster on sheer instinct, thrusting into his hand as his tail thumped the bed behind him.
"Ohhh, yes." SunWind shuddered and wound his tail around the base of Wolf's knot to provide a constant pressure to its base while his hand worked to stroke the tapered cock.
Wolf panted, reaching a hand behind SunWind's head to pull him close for a hungry kiss as the two males tried to work each other to orgasm. It was like SunWind knew every one of his triggers and how to pull them best. He let his hand come up to rest on the top of the Loup Maru's skull, reaching with his thumb to lightly brush one of his translucent red antennae.
The cry that erupted from SunWind at the touch was a surprise to them both, preceding his orgasm by only a moment.
Wolf came just a moment later, the Loup Maru's tail tightening around his knot and pushing him over, his thin seed spraying between them, mingling with SunWind's.
"Mmm, good." SunWind murmured as his tail relaxed and he kissed his lover lightly.
"Very good," Wolf murmured back. "These are sensitive, aren't they?" He asked, brushing furry fingers along SunWind's antennae again and causing him to shudder in pleasure.
"Yes," he breathed sharply. "In more ways than just that."
"I'll have to keep that in mind," Wolf chuckled, kissing him softly. "Mmm ... that was good."
"Yes, it was." SunWind smiled softly. "Thank you."
"Mmm ... no problem," Wolf chuckled. "Thank you. Just about forgotten what it was like to be with a guy."
"I can be very good." He smiled softly. "We both need a shower and clean sheets now, though."
"Fortunately, the shower's big enough for two," Wolf chuckled. "You go get started, I'll change the sheets and join you?"
"Sounds good," SunWind chuckled and claimed a last kiss before getting out of bed and heading for the shower.
Wolf smiled, relaxing for a moment before getting up to change the sheets. He had a feeling he was going to get to like this again real fast. SunWind was a lot different from Ryan; bigger, older and more sure of himself. But the things that mattered were the same.
He was a packmate ... and he cared.
As Wolf pulled the sheets off the bed, he wondered if SunWind was thinking about his own Bros just now. One of these days, he'd have to ask about them.
Putting the clean sheets down, he headed in to join his new lover in the shower; there'd enough time for that in the days to come.
Sliding Time 1: No Clash of Cultures
NC-17 for M/F/M and M/M sex
Het Level is Low Het Smut Level is Low Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium Femslash Level is None Herm Level is None
309 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written March 11, 2006 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Setting: Biker Mice from Mars, Star Fox, Star Wars Episode 1, World of Darkness (generic)
Primary Races: Avian, Feline, Fox, Human, Loup Maru, Mice, Wolf
Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Alternate Universe
Pairings: Obi-Wan Kenobi/Qui-Gon Jinn, SunWind/ Tony Musculi, SunWind/Wolf O'Donnell, Falco Lombardi/Katt Monroe, Fox McCloud/Krystal
Notes: Setting: Star Fox (Post-Adventures, Pre-Assault)
Main Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Throttle (BMFM), Fox McCloud, Krystal, Wolf O'Donnell (Star Fox).
Fandom notes: Biker Mice from Mars (post series +20 years and merged with World of Darkness). Throttle is SunWind.
Star Fox (Post-Adventures, Pre-Assault)
Many thanks to Annie Booker for going over the first draft of this monster for issues. She was a great help, and I'm ever so sorry to her that I changed about 45 pages (137) of it after I have it to her as the final draft. Though as it turned out, all of her corrections were in sections that survived the rewrite, so I'm double grateful for her help. Any issues that remain are my fault.
Blurb: Sometimes the Force, the energy of all things, has plans for people that don't seem to make sense until they are well over. Such is the fate of a group of strangers including Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, Martian freedom fighter SunWind, Puckworld resistance members Wildwing and Duke L'Orange, Detective Carmelita Fox and the notorious thief Sly Cooper. It is a motley group hurled together by fate and bound together by the common goal of getting home, sometimes any home.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from March 21, 2006