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How Ronar came to be

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Greetings!

What will follow this OP is a... well, to call it a short story would be a lie. The bloody thing's nearly 8k words long! But to make things easier to read, I'm going to submit it in distant parts.

This is quite simply a story to give some insight into how Ronar developed in the past, why he is motivated to do and act as he does and pretty much lay out his deepest sorrows for you all to enjoy OOC, with none of the IC guilt required!

This admittedly got far longer than I had expected, but I felt like it was important to cover his early years, as well as the more significant developments, to provide some context to his mindset and how he fit within Chua society prior to Arboria, and Nexus. (Hint: He didn't really)

I hope you enjoy it, if you have a moment (and if you somehow managed to read the whole thing you absolute madman/woman), please do leave feedback. Positive or negative. It's the only way I can improve my writing!

-Ronar
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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Part #1 - A trip down memory lane


There was a quiet series of clicks, as Ronar secured MEDI in place. “There we go buddy” the small Chua said, offering his robotic companion a smile as he reached over to the control panel of the charging station. The scan-bot made med-bot beeped several times, to which Ronar merely huffed. “I’ll be alright, I won’t work too late this time. I promise” Ronar said with a roll of his eyes. Though MEDI clearly wasn’t buying it, as the bot beeped and booped several more times even as the charge station began to hum. “I’ll just round off the current chapter before I head to bed, you know I hate leaving this half done!” Ronar said as he finished flicking a few switches on the large device MEDI was encased in. “Have a good night, MEDI, talk to you in the morning." MEDI beeped quietly, the spherical bot likely returning the farewell, as it grew still, and the lights dotted over the chassis grew dim. Ronar made his way over to the wooden desk elsewhere in his room, hopping into a cushioned seat, he began sifting through his piles of notes, diagrams and references. Small pieces of paper being gradually sorted into neat piles, eventually exposing a keyboard and a monitor.

As always, Ronar worked slowly. The Chua finding himself having to make repeated trips to the bookcase by his desk, which usually involved climbing a ladder, and for such a small frame, it did begin to ebb away at his energy, particularly as the hour got later. Not at all helped by the tangled mess of wires and circuits dangling out of his resonators, the devices having their electronic guts exposed as he made the occasional modification. He glanced at a digital clock on his desk, and scowled, silently cursing his slow pace, and not for the first time. In an hour, he had barely written more than a few lines. The words, numbers, figures and data were always muddied to him at first, and it would take several minutes before anything significant sunk in, and minutes more for him to put the relevant lines into his thesis. After correcting yet another spelling error, Ronar lets out a growl of annoyance, bending his head over his desk, hands gripped around the back of his head. He was tired. But he had to finish this soon, he wasn’t sure how much longer he could tolerate walking this razor edge. It was unfair, in his mind, but that’s the way things were, the way they always were. Would it ever change? Could, it ever change? His eyelids grew heavy, and his head sank against the open book he had open.

***

Ronar’s head jolted upright, glancing around. Looking around, he was in a classroom, his old classroom... He gave his eyes a swift rub, had his classmates noticed him nodding off? No, of course they didn’t, the other Chua were paying rapt attention to the Educator upfront. The gears in Ronar’s mind quickly adjusted. He was seven years old. In school. And the Master at the front of the room was giving an extremely rapid overview on the basic principles of the Engineering class for the coming year. Ronar turned open a page in his notebook, but there was nothing but many, many lines of childish handwriting, most scribbled out, and what was legible was spelled wrong. And even that took him a few seconds to read, or even minutes. Disregarding this, he turned his focus to the teacher. Not wanting to miss anything significant.

As with nearly every Chua, the teacher frequently dropped ‘unnecessary’ words from his speech, and though occasionally he scribbled up a diagram or wrote down key points on the holo-board, this was quickly proving too fast for Ronar to absorb. He simply sat there, bewildered as terminology flew over his head. He recognised the words, he heard them, but they were just refusing to connect, and every time he began to grasp what was being said, the teacher had long moved on. Giving his head a shake, Ronar started to take notes instead, opting to review them later. “-and this conclude lesson on Erin’s theory on Engineering Principles. Questions?” the teacher said without drawing a breath, a more elderly Chua, with a great deal of facial hair and heavy eyebrows. Ronar raised his hand, and immediately regretted it, as he felt a dozen or more pairs of beady eyes stare into him. He quickly flicked back several pages, where he had missed a point made. He looked up again, and spoke... or tried to. He could not explain it, but though by his age group, seemingly every Chua had learned to speak as swiftly as they do, Ronar just couldn’t. He had to think and select each individual word that came out of his mouth, and for Chua, every word mattered, no time for uhms or ahs. “Can... say the fourth principle again?” he said quietly. Once again, he felt a sting of humiliation, as a chorus of snickering emitted from the other Chua. The teacher merely rolled their eyes, “Read up in own time. Maybe pay attention next class!”

***

Ronar felt a jolt again. The scene abruptly shifting, and just as quickly, his mind had re-aligned itself again. He was nine, and up to his elbows in grease, scrap metal and manuals. He recognised the project, the very thing he was to present to potential masters to gain the rank of apprentice, a highly competitive approach, to be sure, but it’s not as though there was much alternative. The young Chua sighed, picking up his screwdriver and resuming his work on the engine, the mass of metal and oil was at least as big as the Chua building it, though Ronar felt exhausted, his arms ached, his eyelids heavy, his fingers sore. He looked around, the workshop was empty, save for himself. Long completed engines were lined up against the opposite wall, the lack of light from outside suggested it was well after dark.

“What still doing here?” came a familiar voice, Ronar quietly responded, “I’m not finished” without looking behind him. He knew it was his then mentor, Wurik, a more elderly Chua well into his fifties. Though old, he was exceptionally skilled, as to be expected. “Classmates leave hours ago!” Wurik said bluntly. “They... finished.. hours ago” Ronar said with equal bluntness, finally turning to face the much larger, grey Chua. “What take them an... hour, takes me a day” he continued, Ronar found his speech came marginally easier two years later, but still, far from ideal. With each series of words he spoke, he felt like the dropping of words was... unnatural. It caused him to overthink how he spoke, even, but it’s how every other Chua spoke, and so he did his best to imitate.

Ronar sighed, “I just... I work a bit later” he said, turning back around. Though as he did so, he thought for a fraction of a second, he saw a look of sympathy cross his mentor’s face. Ronar expected him to suggest he rested, that his work would surely suffer if- “Okay. Lock door when done” Wurik said without missing a beat, waddling across the metal floor to the door. Of course, Ronar cursed himself for even hoping for sympathy. There was none to be had. Mentors and Masters have no time to spare for the slow-minded like himself. Even his own parents hadn’t shown him any affection since his lack of competitive nature became more pronounced, and they only grew more distant when his mental handicap began to show itself in his early education. Ronar felt a sharp pang in his chest, an odd feeling, something he was unfamiliar with. Why did thinking of his parents make him feel this way? It was... normal, wasn’t it? Why waste time on him when they had four older, more typical, children to praise? It’s just the way things are. He heard the door to the workshop snap shut. Ronar stared at his left palm, a bandage wrapped around where he had cut himself on a fan earlier that day.

***
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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Part #2 - To world 45658b

Ronar was twelve. A year into his apprenticeship. To most Chua, it should have been a year of excitement, development and wonder. Often resulting in backstabbing or demise at the hands of other apprentices under the same master. But for Ronar, it was just the same thing as always. Being surrounded by ‘normal’ Chua that often mocked him. On the bright side, they saw his mental handicap as proof that he wasn’t worth any real trouble. So even after numerous, fatal ‘accidents’ that took the number of apprentices down from twenty to fifteen, he was very much left alone. Ronar supposed it’s the best he could hope for, it let him focus on chipping away at whatever task Master Drudo gave him. Ronar had found a decent affinity with electronics and robotics, and it was with this that Drudo did acknowledge him for, that and his preference to get things done, and done properly, rather than bicker and sabotage the work of his fellow apprentices. Drudo still pressed him, of course, and Ronar long begun to feel the effects of sleep deprivation. But whatever it took to keep a roof over his head, it’s not like his family would provide him one any more. There was that pang again.

One morning, Ronar arrived at the workshop to find the other apprentices talking between each other, excitement on their tones and the odd gleeful giggle. Ronar supposed they were plotting another accident, but he knew he was very much outside of their crosshairs, so he was no longer concerned. But his questions were soon answered as Drudo stepped inside, a broad grin on the engineer’s face. “Apprentices! Pack things! We been given great chance to do work for the Dominion!” he said, rapidly of course. As always, it took Ronar a few moments to process what was said. He was familiar with the Dominion, of course, but his interactions with the other races were limited. His ambitions never took him far outside his city of origin, which was almost entirely populated by Chua, and surrounded by a vast wasteland. Nothing but dirt and stone for hundreds of miles, with supplies mostly coming in by ship, or torn up from the ground below.

“What work?” Ronar asked. One of the larger apprentices rolled his eyes, but Drudo elaborated, “We go to distant world, yes! We assigned Reaper to pilot, harvest ripe planet! Get paid a lot, and all you-” he gestures to all of the apprentices, Ronar included, “Gather great field experience! Everybody win!” Ronar nearly dropped his spanner. They were leaving this planet behind? Just like that? For the first time in a long time, his mind picked up the pace, burning with questions. But before he could speak, the largest apprentice spoke again. “We taking retard with us?” they said. Ronar cringed, he wasn’t sure why, technically, that was not an incorrect description of his mental diagnosis... Drudo looked at Ronar, without missing a beat, he responds “Someone has to clean Reaper quarters, yes?” Ronar sighed, as most of the other Chua snickered. Still, it could be worse, visiting another planet by itself was an immense leap for the young Chua, he had known nothing but metal, stone, dust and dried up plantlife for his whole life.

***

Yet again, Ronar felt an abrupt jolt. His mind rapidly going on the mental equivalent of fast forward. By the time the dream had settled, everything had changed once more. He was older again, and staring up at an immense metal beast. At least, that is how he described it. The Reaper, like all the others, was extremely large, rivalling the size of a larger building. He knew it would take several minutes to get from the top to the bottom by the stairs. “Hope you like” Drudo said from the front of the group, “Is new home! Come, come, let us see inside!”

After a brief introduction to the Reaper’s many internal chambers and corridors, primarily the living quarters, pilot deck and the hold (Ronar was already predicting where most of the mess for him to clean would wind up), the group of Chua were joined by an additional collection of apprentices, led by a master. The two masters were to rotate between piloting the Reaver, whilst the apprentices served as auxiliary crew members for a variety of other functions. Ronar couldn’t help but notice he was the only one given the explicit role of clean up. At least, that was until later that afternoon.

“Eubrik! Ronar!” Drudo shouted. Ronar had to snap out of his daze, since leaving the ship, he had only been permitted brief glances at their surroundings. He had only just begun to notice the... sheer amount of green plantlife, before he was forced to divert his attention back to his master. In short time, as always, Drudo explained the pair were to survey the land ahead whilst the Reaper was prepared, primarily to verify if the surrounding landscape of fields and forests were indeed as mineral heavy as everywhere else was... supposedly. Ronar of course was rather oblivious to what else was occurring on this world of 45658b. He only knew that it was to be harvested, just like everywhere else the Chua went.

It’s just how things were, but his dream-self was unaware of what a drastic development he was to be going under soon.

***
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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Part #3 - Daydreaming

“Stupid thing!” Eubrik snarled, swatting his fist against the monitor. Ronar had long given up trying to lend any significant aid to his fellow apprentice, who had decided he was only good for carrying equipment. Ronar could easily spot the problem, but every attempt to point out that the sensor node was connected to the wrong hub fell on deaf ears, and a variety of unpleasant terminology used to describe his mental capacity. Instead, Ronar took the time to finally look around, and take in the wilderness.

He was unsure what to make of it. It seemed so alien, to see plants flourishing like this. His home had plants of course, but these were dead or drying. Ronar could hear distant sounds of animals too. His home had animals of course, but these were often small or venomous. He couldn’t identify... anything. He felt an odd tug in his chest, a compulsion, even. Ronar glanced at Eubrik, who seemed fixated on the equipment, as with most Chua, once focused on a task, it becomes near impossible for them to take anything else in, at least from Ronar’s perspective. With delicate steps, Ronar shimmied out of the forest clearing, leaving his fellow apprentice to suffer at the hands of technology.

Within minutes, Ronar had found himself simply gaping at the scenery. Bright, vibrant flowers the likes of which he had never seen, thick vines, towering trees that he was sure would cause a mighty rumble if toppled, and, though distant, he could hear a variety of creatures. Whether high in the sky and trees, or skulking in the bushes and shrubs.

Ronar continued to wander aimlessly, though, eventually, he comes to a stop. Just short of a sheer cliff, overlooking the canopies of trees below. He had to admit, it was quite the view. Settling on a large stone, Ronar withdraw his notepad from his shoulderbag, and began to draw. Drawing was one of the few things he felt confident in, as a means of expressing himself. Though he rarely shared these, though some Chua could admire them, the majority just asked why he didn’t take a photo instead. But to sit still and draw something by hand, it forced Ronar to appreciate every little detail in the scene or object, And he enjoyed every moment of it.

As he began to finish the finer details of the landscape sketch, a thought occurred to him. This place was... oddly alluring to him, he couldn’t quite pin it down. Perhaps it was just because it was so new to him? It seemed a bit of a shame to just harvest all of it. He looked up at the scenery again, and pictured it looking similar to his old home. Dead, dry, barren, maybe metal buildings and roads if he was lucky. There was that pang again.

***

Ronar returned to the surveying apprentice again, right on cue as Eubrik let out an exclamation of triumph. “Finally! Got readings! Fat load help you were” he said, clearly addressing Ronar, but without even turning to look at him. Ronar wondered briefly if he could have been gone another few minutes before Eubrik had noticed his rather long absence. But he could not dwell on that, soon he had his arms cradling a heavy bundle of metal and cables, hobbling after the much larger Chua as they returned to the Reaper. Ronar turned his head to look towards a nearby pile of leaves and branches, likely fallen from a tree above. He started to move on, but something caught his eye, a vibrant colour amidst the green. He glanced to Eubrik, before diverting his course to the left. His arms full, Ronar could only use a foot to kick aside some of the branches. Eventually, the fallen plants gave way, and exposed something unexpected. A shattered pot, made from bright violet clay. Even for his slow mind, Ronar could see plainly that it had not been dropped too long ago, but the patterns were nothing like what the Chua had made, or Cassians, or- “Hey! Retard! Done daydreaming?!” Eubrik shouted. Ronar hurried up, leaving the pot behind. He wasn’t sure why, but the shattered pottery gnawed at his conscious.

***
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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Part #4 - Life on a Reaper

The first few days on the Reaper were particularly rough for everyone, the constant rumbling of engines was something all the apprentices had to adapt to. The motions and lurching of the massive machine not unlike being on a sailing ship, not that Ronar would know what that was like. Inexperienced apprentices all over needed plenty of time to adjust to a sudden, demanding routine, but they caught on quickly. Even Ronar, who was actually thankful for his tasks being limited almost entirely to cleaning, it was a simple enough task, though it did quickly keep him busy almost all day every day. If it wasn’t grime, it was oil leaks, if it wasn’t spilled food, it was grime. And so on. Luckily, the busy nature of working aboard a Reaper gave the other Chua little time to pay Ronar any significant attention, and that suited him just fine. Though he began to wonder, though cleaning was arguably one of the less demanding jobs, it was also the least relevant. He hadn’t done much application of his electronics or robotics skill since the Reaper began to boot up.

On the lower decks, Ronar could plainly hear the churning of drills, saws, and even the odd zap of a laser outside, as the Reaper made short work of the wilderness outside. The longer he spent confined to the metal corridors, the more Ronar began to forget the sense of wonder and humility the wilds of 45658b imposed on him. He just kept his head down, and worked. For weeks soon turned into months, and he only caught glimpses of the world outside whenever he had to visit the upper decks, with tiny windows, used by the crew to navigate and examine the environment outside.

***

“Ronar! Come to pilot deck! Quickly!” came Drudo’s voice over the intercom. Odd, Ronar thought, he was never singled out up until now for anything. The chua scampered up the ladders and stairs, until he made his way to the pilot deck. It was by far the most spacious part of the Reaper. A large window was positioned at the front for the primary pilot to look through, around the deck, a variety of seated terminals were strewn about, each managing a different harvesting function of the Reaper. Most of these terminals were occupied by either familiar apprentices, the apprentices that had joined them several months ago, or by additional staff hired to oversee the harvesting by the Dominion. By this point, Ronar had indirectly learned how each of these worked, simply with observation. He was about to have this knowledge tested, as Drudo addressed him from his towering seat. “Eubrik ill. Idiot ate rotten rations. You take his place at harvesting laser!” the master pointed to an unused terminal.

Ronar responded quickly, finally, something to do besides mop up after the other Chua! With a nod, he jogged over to the unoccupied seat and hopped in. Thankful for having only just cleaned this seat, he knew Eubrik was a slob who ate while he worked. Presented to Ronar was a holo-screen showing the current aim of the laser far below, the purpose of this particular weapon was to carve a path through the trees and thickets ahead, weakening or felling the lot to easily be devoured by the sawblades and ‘mouth’ of the Reaper as it drew closer. The controls were simple enough, even for a slow-minded Chua like himself. Ronar began to calibrate the laser’s aim and heatsinks, nearly making a dangerous typo as the Reaper lurched heavily at one point.

After half a minute, Ronar used the touchpad to start readying his aim. Squinting at the holo-screen, which began to identify the ideal path for the beam to follow. But as this occurred, he noticed something odd. Amongst the tree branches, he swore he saw something move. But the display was too lacking in detail to make out what it was. Ronar glanced over his shoulder, Drudo was barking orders at another apprentice, something about jamming a drill. Taking this chance, Ronar opened a maintenance panel on the side of the holo-screen. His nimble fingers worked quickly, as he turned a dial to increase the resolution and zoom beyond what was typically necessary.

Abruptly, Ronar seized up, the moment he had shut the panel and looked back at the screen. Amongst the trees, a humanoid figure could be seen, perched on a tree branch. It looked similar to a human, but far leaner, shorter, large animal-like ears protruding from it’s head, and a long furred tail swaying beneath the branch. It continued to stare defiantly at the oncoming Reaper, even as the monstrous machine drew closer.

“Ronar, fire when ready!” Drudo barked abruptly, Ronar gave his head a light shake, and he continued to stare back at the image of the humanoid. He had long asked if this planet had sentient life, but the official reports handed to the Dominion, he was told, said this world had none. So what was it that he was looking at?

He felt Drudo’s gaze stare expectantly at the back of his head. Ronar ceased breathing, and pressed the trigger. Instantly, the screen was flooded with red light. One second, two seconds, three, four... It stopped. The thicket ahead was near obliterated, what trees did not immediately collapse, were barely standing. The humanoid was gone. “Excellent! Efficient shot! Eubrik always fires too early. Too eager! Either misses or overheats. Might have you stand in for him more often, Ronar! Drudo said.

Ronar felt a gnarled knot in his chest, he was unsure why the humanoid had unsettled him so. But, his master had offered him praise, genuine praise, and poised him above a fellow apprentice. Ronar should have felt elated, so why then was he instead filled with dread? He turned in his seat, and forced a smile on his face. “Now, ready laser again, we fallen behind schedule! Much to do!” Drudo said. Ronar nodded, and turned back in his seat. The pang returned to his chest, as he looked at the tarnished wilderness ahead.
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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Part #5 - Meeting a specimen

Ronar grunted, a tray of food abruptly shoved into his hands. “What-?” he started, but Eubrik was already stomping away, he never did quite get over his bruised ego from hearing that a ‘retard’ was a better shot than he was. “Take to hold. Prisoned specimen needs feeding!” he says shortly, scampering up the ladder to the pilot deck without a word. Ronar blinked, they had a specimen on board? The hold was intended mainly for such things, yes, but it must have been a recent catch. As he made his way downstairs, nearly dropping the tray as the Reaper lurched to one side, he pondered what sort of creature would be worth keeping caged up. They hadn’t bothered with any such thing since they arrived. A new order from the higher ups, perhaps?

As he made his way down to the hold doors, he was surprised to see two Chua soldiers standing guard... well, ‘guard’, they were mostly engaged in their own argument. Barely waving Ronar in or acknowledging him. He recognised the pair of course, the Dominion military uniforms were hard to miss, but they did more arguing than guarding. Not that there was anything to guard. Until now, he supposed.

The hold was mostly empty. Nothing but dusty crates, empty cages and piles of chains piled up in various corners. Oddly, the sound of the engines and machinery were silent here. Was the hold sound proofed? It must have been, likely in the event of a particularly loud specimen being contained. Even Chua need sleep! he began to ponder where the captive was, until he heard a weak sniffle. Abruptly, Ronar became aware of his own dream. “Please, no! Put the tray down and just leave!” he pleaded, but Ronar seemed to be following his past to the letter. As he turned to look for the source of the sound. “Hello?” he asked quietly. His eyes adjusting to the dim lighting.

He nearly dropped his tray again. Curled up in a corner, chained to a support pillar, was a humanoid. There was no mistaking it. Arms, hands, legs, toes, head. It greatly resembled the creature he had seen on the holo-screen weeks ago. He approached carefully, and as he did so, he could make out more details. As he suspected, this ‘specimen’ had animal-like ears, similar to a jabbit, long as they were. A thickly furred tail was coiled around itself, a deep green in colour like the rest of it’s hair. Though the rest of it’s body was hairless, with a typical flesh tone, not unlike a human.

As Ronar stepped closer, the humanoid abruptly looked up at him. Ronar made a quick estimation of it’s gender, given the figure and chest, female, most certainly. She stared at the Chua with large eyes, and started to shimmy away from him. Fearful, obviously. Ronar blinked, “O-Oh, I’m not going to hurt you!” he said, “I just came to bring you food”. He looked down at the tray, and immediately scoffed as he set it down a foot or so from the captive. “I... know is crap but... we eat too, so...” he fumbled with his words, as per usual whenever he had to speak an extended sentence.

The specimen just stared at him. Ronar sighs, peering around. The quiet of the hold was oddly comforting, away from the rumbling of engines and roaring of saws and drills. He turned to look at the creature again, glancing down he noted that her ankle was bound to the chain, ensuring she could not reach out any further than perhaps ten feet, Ronar estimated. Not that she could do much in a chamber made entirely of metal, the only windows were narrow, sealed panels, all shut. Even he couldn’t fit through one if he tried. Looking at the ankle cuff again, Ronar couldn’t help but notice that the skin was visibly sore and chafed. The pang returned to his chest.

“It... it must be awful, in here” he said, turning to sit on a crate. He was unsure why he stayed where he was, he had left the captive food... “It’s nothing... compared to outside” Ronar continued. He looked to the captive again, the vibrant colours of her hair and fur were quite unlike anything he was used to. But, it did stir memories, memories of the wilderness outside. The small space of woodlands and fields he managed to take in. The pang in his chest grew, even making him wince briefly.

“You had all... that, but now stuck here” Ronar added. He sighed, rubbing his face. A blend of emotions was starting to fill his mind. None of them made sense, he couldn’t isolate and go over one of his own thoughts, it was like his own mind was speaking rapidly like his teachers at school towards his younger self. As though to answer his frustrations, his minds eye brought back the landscape he drew so many months ago. But why? Why was it so important? And why wouldn’t this pang in his chest go away?! BANG! Ronar snapped his eyes open, he felt a sharp pain in his right hand, having crashed his fist against the crate he was seated on. He seethes, gritting his teeth, quickly inspecting his knuckles. No bleeding. No splinters. Just bruised. He doesn’t have to look at the captive to know she had recoiled away from him.

Ronar felt his ears and tail sag, as he held his head in his hands. “What’s wrong with me?” he muttered. “I... I see a few trees and...!” he gritted his teeth. Ronar had for many years struggled to overcome his mental limits, but for the first time, he felt as though his mind was at odds with him. Why would he just not let this go? Why was he even still down here?

“You are different” came a soft voice. Instantly, Ronar felt the pang in his chest lessen, he was so used to the sharp, jabbing tones of fellow Chua, that this voice sounded near angelic by comparison. Or, maybe it really was. He could not say. Peering from between his limp ears, Ronar peered to the captive. She seemed to be midway eating the meagre, stale bread he had brought her, as she watched the Chua wrestle with his own self.

It took a moment for Ronar to find his voice again, “Tell me something I don’t know” he finally replies bitterly. He abruptly hops down from the crate, and makes his way to leave the hold. The captive doesn’t say another word as he leaves.

***

It had only taken a day for Ronar to return. An odd compulsion made him suggest to the masters to have feeding the specimen in the hold be a part of his cleaning routine, there was not a single objection. Less hassle for the ‘normal’ Chua he supposed.

“What are you?” Ronar asked, as soon as he saw the specimen again. He realised it was odd there was no cage, but he reckoned that until now his fellow apprentices had simply tossed the food at her from afar. The specimen peered back at him with those large, violet eyes. “You are the first to ask” she said, as Ronar set the tray down. “I am an Aurin” she answered, nibbling at the stable bread as she did so. Ronar found himself perched on the same crate as yesterday, he didn’t even remember making an effort to sit down. “You’re sentient...? But... said there was no sentient people on 45658b!” he exclaimed, already, the same pang of pain rose in his chest again. He strived to ignore it, but it nagged him as the Aurin gave him an odd look. “Four five six five... is that what your people call our homeworld?” she asked. Ronar gave a meek nod. “It is called Arboria, we have lived here for thousands of years. Well, we did. Then we had visitors...” she trailed off.

“Us?” Ronar asked, the Aurin shook her head. “Before you, we met the humans. We had not encountered off-worlders before, and they were a friendly people. But they soon left. Not long after that, the Dominion found us.” Ronar didn’t need to hear the rest, though the Aurin continued, he was able to piece the rest of the tale together. The humanoid he saw weeks ago, it had been one of the remaining defenders of the Aurin homeworld, left behind during the rescue courtesy of the Exiles. The shattered pot was of Aurin make. The official claim of no sentient life being present, no doubt a falsified report, to get back at the Aurin for lending aid to the Exiles.

As the Aurin finished speaking, she peered at the Chua. Ronar simply stared at the metal floor, “I... but...” he stammered. “What is your name?” she asked, Ronar blinked, looking at the Aurin with a puzzled look. “R...Ronar. Brightgear. Was Rustgear but... had name changed.” he says quietly, his fingers fidgeting in his hands. “Family troubles?” the Aurin asked, to which Ronar just nodded weakly. “What’s your name?” Ronar finally asked, though he avoided eye contact. It... did not feel right to him, as the weight of the bigger picture began to sink in. “Shala” she replied, “Shala Leafspring. It’s... nice to meet you?” she added. Ronar allowed himself a weak laugh, “Thanks. You... have a pretty name” he commented. he then cringed inwardly. But the Aurin gave a warm chuckle.

Quickly sweeping over his mangled attempt at being friendly, Ronar says quickly “Can you tell me about Arboria?” The Aurin blinks, mid-way through her carefully rationed meal, replying “What do you want to know?” Ronar pondered the question for a moment, before looking directly at Shala, daring himself to make eye contact again. “Anything.”
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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Part #6 - Empathy

The days stretched into weeks, and Ronar’s visits to the hold went from minutes, to hours. Barely scampering back upstairs right before Drudo’s fuse blew. But luckily, he was never needed for anything significant, as the other apprentices had learned to avoid eating rotten rations again, and Ronar had gotten remarkably efficient at mopping up the exact same messes over and over. In Drudo’s eyes, so long as he was doing his work at some point per day, he could have napped for hours if Ronar wanted. Ronar made an effort to try and bring Shala edible food, occasionally being given things he was certain would kill a (feral) rodent. He would dump the rotten foods into the incinerators, and instead provide her food that was simply stale or past the ideal date. Anything fresh was counted, and he was keenly aware that he could not risk getting caught offering ‘good’ food to a captive in the hold.

With each visit, Ronar developed a bigger understanding of the world he was on. Shala demonstrated great knowledge of the plantlife, the people, the animals. She even grew gradually happier to see Ronar whenever he made his way down, and told him in great detail of the various festivals that the Aurin would celebrate. Evidently, speaking of her home like this gave the Aurin some reprieve from her prison, and for Ronar...

“-and as such, we hold a dear connection to the trees. Ronar?” Shala said, her voice dripping with concern. He wasn’t sure when, but Ronar had begun to hyperventilate. “I-I’m fine, I’m fine” he said quickly, “I just... there’s... a lot I’m thinking about right now.” “What burdens you?” Shala asked, “You are free, are you not? I am the one in chains.” Ronar shook his head, “No, I’m not free”, he wasn’t sure where those words came from. The Chua did not know when, but he noticed that his speech pattern had changed greatly when speaking with Shala. He didn’t stumble or stammer, what he wanted to say just... flowed, naturally. He may have added more words than what a Chua typically says to his speech, but it felt... natural to him, the ‘padding’ between key words lending him time to think and process what he was saying.

Each time Shala described Arboria, and the people that once lived there, he felt the same pang in his chest as he always did. He always ignored it, whether it was on his homeworld years ago or in the present, he had always ignored it. But this pain was growing, he knew it was purely mental, but the more he knew about the Aurin, and their plight, the more the pain swelled in his chest, tightening around his heart and mind like a vice. He could not explain this pain, nor why it was growing so prominent.

“I’m... I just need a minute” Ronar said quickly, still breathing heavily. “Ronar, you don’t look well. Are you resting properly?” Shala said, frowning slightly. Ronar began to pace around the hold, his hands rubbing his forehead. “I don’t know... I don’t know... something is just... just wrong!” he exclaims, thankful that the hold was sound proof. Shala lowers her gaze for a moment, “Perhaps the answers lie outside?” she suggested. Ronar abruptly halted in his tracks, looking to Shala. He then looked to one of the sealed windows. Without further prompt, he jogs over to open it. The chua scowls, the lever lock jammed tightly shut. “Open up!” he snarls, bracing both hands against the lever. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt every muscle in his tiny body exerting itself for this one, single, action. As though his future depended on it. With an abrupt CLANG, the window shot open. A gap no more than half a foot wide or tall. Ronar peers through it, still breathing rapidly.

“What do you see?” Shala asked. Ronar rubbed his eyes, adjusting to the sunlight. What did he see? Trees, the sky, open fields. What could he possibly be looking for? “I... I see Arboria” he manages to reply, quietly. “What do you think of it?” Shala asks Ronar once more. The Chua stares out of the window for a full minute. Two minutes. Three... He was so used to dirt, metal and stone. The immense forests and thickets were so alien to him, he could even see some form of birds fluttering away in the distance as the Reaper lumbered along, the sounds of harvesting heard far below. “It’s beautiful” Ronar finally replies.

But before either of the pair can say anything else, there’s a sudden BOOM. Ronar collapses on his backside, grunting painfully. Looking up at the window, the source of the sound and sudden jolt was obvious. He could only see the metal exterior of another Reaper, one that passed just a bit too close as it worked. Drudo was no doubt having angry words with the Chua piloting it over the radio. With a groan, Ronar got to his feet. After a minute or so had passed, the other Reaper moved on, albeit slowly. After this, Ronar made his way back to the view port. Suddenly, he yields a sharp intake of air, a stifled cry.

Where he had once seen a sea of green leaves, grass and crystal clear rivers. He now only see absolute devastation. The earth was sundered, trees mangled, fields charred, the river was gone entirely. All the animals, fish, plants, everything. Just... gone. Ronar felt himself shaking, staggering away from the window. He started to hyperventilate again, his mind racing. “Ronar?” Shala says, but the Chua just starts to pace again, his fingers gripping his head. “I... I don’t know! I don’t know! I know this is wrong. -This- is all wrong!” he exclaims, panic and dismay overturning his logic.

His entire upbringing was being up-heaved with every second that passed, everything he was told, everything he learned, it had never settled with him quite right. But this is just the way things are. So why was he smacking his head on the steel floor? Why was his voice breaking? Why was the pang in his chest tightening further still? “I-I don’t know!” BANG “I can’t think!” BANG! “What’s wrong with me?!” BANG! Ronar gasped, a searing pain crossing his forehead. He lifted his head away from the floor of the hold, spotting a smear of blood. He felt the warm crimson dye a portion of his fur as he looked up at Shala, he expected the Aurin to be shirking away from him, the Chua was clearly losing his mind! “Sh-Shala, help me!” Ronar pleaded, though he had no idea how the Aurin could help, he could feel himself slipping. “Help me! Please, I-I can’t- I can’t do this-!” Ronar stammers, quivering madly.

Amidst the bleeding, shaking and hyperventilating, Ronar screws his eyes shut, gripping and yanking at tufts of fur on his head. As the Chua wallows in his abrupt fit of madness and confusion, he suddenly feels a pair of warm, slender arms wrap around him. He opens his eyes, finding his head tucked under Shala’s chin. She had crawled over to embrace him. She hushed quietly in one of his large ears, “It’s going to be okay, Ronar. You will come out of this stronger.” Ronar felt the pang in his chest start to loosen as Shala gently squeezed him, the embrace was warm, perhaps even loving. But... why was this simple gesture so calming? Ronar racked his memories, before it struck him. He had never been shown any sort of affection, not like this, nothing like this. This was someone that genuinely cared for his well-being, and had opened their heart to him, and he to them.

Ronar began to shake again, “Sh-Shala, I-I don’t... I don’t understand what’s happening to me” he says, his voice breaking again. An unfamiliar sensation began to creep up his throat, his eyes stinging. “You can cry, Ronar” Shala spoke gently, even wrapping her tail around his back. “Cry as much as you need to. Just let it go.” Ronar continued to suppress the bubbling sensation in his throat, but he eventually yielded. The Chua choked a sob, his large eyes tearing, before he firmly buried his face against Shala’s shoulder.

“You feel empathy, Ronar. That’s what this is. You can feel the pain that others go through, and you want to help.” As Shala solves the riddle plaguing Ronar for years, he gradually calms down, but still occasionally yields a choking sob, his arms wrapped tightly around her middle. “I...I don’t know what to do, Shala. I-I can’t do anything! I-I even... I’ve even helped them-” he started, but Ronar stopped, as he felt a gentle hand rub the back of his head, and so a new round of succumbing to his emotions began.
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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Part #7 - Goodbye

Ronar was only aboard the Reaper for a few weeks more, but to him, it felt like eternal damnation. Now keenly aware of what the Reaper was destroying, the pang in his chest never left him. He knew he had to find a way out. And soon. To his immense relief, an exit presented itself as Drudo made an announcement to the crew. “New planet found! And not just to harvest! But to study, experiment, learn from! Great technical achievements from Eldan! But only room for three apprentices...” immediately, the squabbling began. Drudo grinned widely, and Ronar could swear he shot a look aimed at the smallest of the Chua.

“Never argue. Never fight. Good work consistently. No accidents-- well, besides cut on head. Slow, yes, but reliable. Prefer reliable when comes to unknown. Most apprentices like Eubrik too eager, make mistakes, die quicker! Dead apprentice is useless apprentice, would rather slow apprentice than useless.” Drudo said to Ronar, albeit in private. To prevent any ‘accidents’ occurring, he had anonymously informed each of the three apprentices in turn of their selection. Initially, Ronar was ecstatic. But then a weight sank in his stomach, to leave Arboria and the harvesting, that would mean leaving Shala behind.

***

“I’m... so sorry, Shala” Ronar said, but the Aurin smiled, caressing his head in the embrace. “Do not be sorry, Ronar” she replied “This way, at least one of us will be free.” But Ronar sighed, “I don’t want to leave you-” he started, but Shala put a finger to his lips. “But you must, I can see you are suffering as much as I am here. You should go, your apprenticeship is technically nearing it’s end soon, is it not?” That much was true, Ronar would be a good six or more years into his apprenticeship soon, and if he could present proof of his skills, he could break away from the Chua he called master for so long.

“I’ll see you again” Ronar said plainly. Shala simply chuckled, “Ronar, do not make promises you can’t keep”, but the Chua stares up at her defiantly. “I -will- see you again, I promise. I don’t know when, I don’t know how and I sure as hell hope it isn’t here. But I will” Ronar said, he already felt his eyes watering again, even as Shala smiled softly, “I’m sure the Weave will bring us back together” she said, though Ronar laughed weakly, “Somehow, I don’t think the Weave shows much favour in Chua”. Shala raised Ronar’s chin with a slender finger, “The Weave connects all living things, Ronar. You included.” Ronar blinked, when did their noses start to touch? Though Shala only continued to move closer, he could count the tears on her eyelashes.

***

Ronar woke with a start, panting heavily as his apartment spun around him, before everything righted itself. He glanced to a window, it was morning. Ronar groaned heavily, rubbing his face. He blinks, pulling his hand away from his eyes, feeling a great deal of moisture. He peers to the book on his desk, the ink running a great deal where his face had been. The Chua scowls, sweeping the tome off the worktop, before burying his head in his hands.

As the heavy book lands with a loud THUMP, something on the shelves above comes loose. A folded piece of parchment, long hidden out of sight, falls into Ronar’s view. He blinks, quickly picking it up to stow it away! But... he hesitates, sitting back down in his chair. “If you open this” he thinks to himself, “Then you’ll fall apart. Especially after that trip down memory lane.” His logical part had a point. “But if I always listen to logic, what makes me different from other Chua?” his other half reasoned.

Before his rational side could argue again, Ronar tugs the corners of the parchment open. Sprawling the ancient square of paper of his desk, he recognised the sketched landscape of Arboria, this space was no doubt long harvested, after so many years. The pang began to return, and his rational self began to plead “Just fold it back up, put it away. Don’t turn it over!”. Ronar turned the paper over. On the opposite side, was a detailed portrait sketch of Shala, with the recent dream to compare it to, he had to admit, the accuracy from memory was striking.

The pang in his chest began to bloom, a familiar sensation crawling up his throat. “I still intend to keep that promise” he says aloud, though hardly expecting to hear any reply, MEDI was even still docked in his charge station. His mind decided to reply for him though, as it dragged up a sentence he longed to hear. “You can cry, Ronar. Cry as much as you need to.”
Posted May 14, 17 · OP
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I'm being told that there's a few minor errors in the later parts, likely because from about part 4 it was about 2-4am but I didn't feel like stopping.

At some point I'll comb through and fix issues like hopping between past and present tense, but in the meantime if you spot any specific errors feel free to PM me here or on Discord and I'll correct it!
Posted May 15, 17 · OP
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