Finn always thought it amazing how new systems were constantly being discovered. When you're looking at a star map, it's easy to think of everything having been charted and mapped ages ago. When it really comes down to it though, space is, as one man once put it, very big.
A majority of systems get ignored as being insignificant at first glance, only for places of interest and utility to be discovered later by more adventurous spirits. A good example of this are the Minax and Mondane systems near J-27, but arguable the most well-known is the Zelazny System.
There wasn't really much to the system; three planets, two of which were little more than glorified hunks of rock drifting in space. The third world, named Neukara, was a lush planet practically covered with trees and plant life. What mystified the first surveyors, however, was the distinct lack of animal life. On a world with so much natural growth, it seemed impossible. It wasn't until they started the settlement that would one day bloom into New Elysia that they discovered the truth.
They emerged from the trees in pairs, some flying like birds, others tunneling through the earth like moles, and some walking on land. It was immediately obvious why no one had realized they were there; every species of the native Neukaraans from the flying glin and the six-legged trusk, to the humanoid scaal were in actuality plantlife.
The composition of each subset was different, though the similarities were obvious: bark-like skin coloring, leaf or moss growth that acted as hair or feathers, and even the amazing ability to regenerate lost limbs.
It was extremely fortunate for the early colonists that the Neukaraans were peaceful. They had observed the newcomers closely for a long time before making their presence known. They didn't mind the visitors from other worlds; it delighted them, in fact. They only raised objections to the clearing out of forests to make room for the colony. They tended the trees with great respect, and asked the colonists to do the same.
The original colony's founders decided against starting a war against the peaceful plant folk. A good move, it turned out; while their technological level was pre-industrial, the Neukaraans numbered in the millions and could attack from beneath the ground and through the air. Even the trees of the world could react to threats, swatting fighter ships out of the sky as more than one group of bandits discovered.
The colony continued to grow and prosper with the Neukaraan's help until it became the paradise known as New Elysia. Nowhere in the galaxy was there a place that better served as a perfect melding of steel, stone, glass, and living wood.
Trees carefully tended formed natural benches with their roots, some even providing fruit on their lower branches. While there were some metal walkways, particularly in the older parts of the colonies, construction had carefully been done around bushes and trees, giving the entire place a very organic and peaceful feel. Since Neukaraan days were forty-seven hours long, most of the lighting in the city came from solar-powered battery cells cleverly designed and placed so that they were neigh invisible to the untrained eye. There were still skyscrapers, but it was not uncommon to see ivies trailing down the entire lengths of the great buildings.
As Finn and his crew walked out of the docking bay and into the city proper, they were met by two scaal holding hands. If it weren't for their solid blue eyes and the leaves that accentuated the woman's pale green hair, they would've passed as dark-skinned humans.
"Welcome to New Elysia, friends." The woman told them while the man nodded, smiling. "To you who hail from the dark sea, we give our gratitude and thanks."
They each held out their free hand.
Finn placed his hands on top of theirs, saying respectfully, "May our meeting bring warmth and light to this world."
The scaal both smiled at him as a thin coil of ivy grew over his hands.
Darsan shuffled his feet. "Alarmed; Finn?"
"It’s fine." He told them as the ivy extended down his arms, squeezing him ever so slightly. After a few moments, the ivies retreated back into the hands of the scaal.
"Finn Cresste." The man said kindly. "It is good to see you again."
"And you as well, Jake." The woman added to the robotic dog, her voice continuing naturally from the man's statement. "There has been much growth since you last left our warmth."
The scaal approached Kyra next and extended their hands. With a glance at Finn, she placed her hands over theirs. The ivies grew over her briefly before returning.
"Welcome to New Elysia, daughter of Rannoch." The man said.
Once again, the woman seemed to continue speaking. "May your ancestors watch over you during your stay. Keelah Se'lai."
"T-thanks." She stammered, her eyes wide.
They continued down the line, joining hands briefly with everyone except Darsan, who they simply touched on either shoulder.
Once the introductions were out of the way, they stood in front of Finn once again.
"If there is any way we could be of assistance," the man said, only for the woman to finish, "we would be glad for the chance to help."
"I appreciate it." Finn told them, "Can you tell me if Godot is still running a repair shop in the Piscen Quarter?"
They glanced at each other for a moment before replying, "Indeed. Do you require directions?"
"Not necessary." He told them, not unkindly. "I remember the way."
The scaal bowed their heads respectfully. "Then we wish you and your companions a good day. Once again, welcome to our world."
As the scaal approached the next group of new arrivals, Kyra whispered, "That was … incredible."
"I know." Finn replied when she didn't finish. "The Neukaraans are an amazing people."
He motioned for his friends to follow as he started walking. Kyra quickly skipped to his side.
"I've never even heard of the Neukaraans before. Why do they talk like that?"
"You mean the whole finishing each other's sentences thing?" Finn asked her. Seeing her nod, he told her, "Every Neukaraan is joined with another from birth."
"You mean like a mate?" She asked curiously.
"Not necessarily, though that does happen. Gender isn't really the same for them as it is for us."
"Oh!" She exclaimed, her eyes lighting up. "Like the asari."
Finn shook his head. "Not really. The asari are mono-gendered. They're essentially female, yes, but there's no such thing as a male asari, at least not without some outside tampering. Neukaraans have definite genders, but it's mostly a visual thing; any pairing can produce a seed. I'm not sure how the pair-bonding thing works, but they live together their whole lives."
Seeing her confused look, he sighed and said, "I'm not doing a good job explaining this, am I?"
"It's a bit confusing." She admitted.
Mannon nodded her head in agreement. "So what happens if one side of the pairing doesn't like the other side?"
Finn paused for a moment, considering how he needed to word his answer. "I think you're getting the wrong idea here; they are joined from birth. You may see them as a pair, but after experiencing everything together, they are literally of one mind. When gender pairs are the same, it's more often than not like the relationship between close siblings or good friends. When the genders are different, it usually ends up like a more pronounced version of a loving couple."
"Which is why they can finish each other's sentences." Kyra nodded, a grin on her face. "I think I get it now. It's kinda sweet, really."
Turning to the others, he said, "Okay, everyone; New Elysia is pretty safe, so we shouldn't have to worry about any more surprises for the moment. Let's meet up …"
He glanced around for a landmark and spotted the massive fountain at the end of the street. Pointing, he finished, "Over there. Say, in two hours?"
"Delighted; sounds good, Finn. Maybe when we meet back up, you can buy us some lunch, eh?"
"I hear that." Eri said, bumping his three-fingered fist against the Elcor's massive foot.
Mannon told Finn, "You've been here before right? Is there somewhere I can get in touch with the Alliance?"
"I'd look for Harper's Dataport." He advised her. "It's more of a cyber-café, but you should be able to make a long distance communication there."
"Ah." She looked around uncertainly.
Chuckling Finn said, "Head past the fountain into the Genma Quarter. From there, just ask any Nuekaraan you come across; they should be able to point you the right way."
Nodding, she said, "R-right. Well … see you in two hours."
With that, the crew split up. Well, most of them. For some reason, it didn't surprise Finn in the slightest when he realized Kyra was still walking behind him.
"Need directions?" He asked, glancing back at her.
She shook her head vehemently. "I'm staying with you. You don't mind, right?"
"Of course not." Finn replied, that strange feeling of awkwardness he felt around her rising inside him. "But it's not like I'm doing anything exciting. I'm just heading to an old friend of mine to get the Ulasomorf's transponder frequency changed."
"And after that?"
"After that." He mused on the thought for a moment before saying, "I think I'll head down to the Sagrit Quarter. That's where I lived the last time I was here, and I'd like to see the place again."
"Heck, yeah!" Jake said, wagging his tail end. "Gotta check out the old haunts."
"Well, that doesn't sound boring." She told him.
Before he could object, she slipped her arm around his and hugged it close. "C'mon then; let's go!"
The streets of the city were filled with other visitors of every known species and then some. Unlike Omega's oppressive atmosphere, New Elysia left visitors feeling relaxed and chatty. The sounds of conversations filled the air, providing a goldmine of information to someone keeping an ear to the ground. Finn wanted to stick around and listen in for awhile, but they had business to attend to.
Kyra stared at everything with the kind of wide-eyed wonderment normally attributed with small children. She was constantly dragging him from storefront to storefront, her eyes alight as she looked at the local goods. It slowed their progress considerably and left Finn's free arm loaded down with bags, but Finn found he didn't really mind. They had plenty of time, it was clear she had never been on New Elysia, and he’d have been lying to himself if he said he didn’t enjoy her company.
After about an hour of wandering about and shopping, Jake called out, "I see Godot’s place!"
"What?" Kyra asked, her tone making it clear she had already forgotten their original destination.
Jake pointed one paw down the street, where a partially overgrown sign hung over a storefront littered with old parts. The sign had a picture of a little yellow and blue robot holding a comically oversized wrench.
"Servbot Forty-Two." Finn read aloud from the shop's sign. "Well, let's go see if Godot's in."
A tiny bell chimed as they entered the shop, but the front desk was currently vacant. As they waited, Finn glanced at a few old posters on the wall.
Most were advertisements for local entertainment venues; asari singers who fell out of the limelight, art exhibitions long since packed up and gone, the obligatory traveling production of Hamlet with an all elcor cast. The freshest of the posters seemed to be for a quarian group known as 'Siren's Call'. From the picture, it was hard to tell if they were musicians, dancers, or both.
"Siren's Call." Jake said aloud, reading one of the more recent posters. "Huh. Hey, Kyra; ever heard of them?"
"Huh? No, of course not!"
Finn glanced at Kyra, only to find her staring at the same poster as Jake with an almost hateful expression on her face.
Before he could ask her what was wrong, the back door of the shop slammed open, revealing a short skinny man in a tasteless flower shirt. He peered over the counter at them through his holo-visor, saying in a rather cranky manner, "All right, who are you and what do you want?"
"I'm Finn Cresste, and I want wealth, fame, and access to the depths of sleaze those things bring." Finn replied instantly.
The man leaned over until he was mere inches from Finn. After peering at Finn for a long time, a smile broke out over his face.
"Finn, my boy! It IS you! And Jake too!"
He hurried around the counter and gave Finn a surprisingly hearty handshake as he continued, "It's been what, five years since you took off to find your fortune?"
"Six, actually." Jake said as Godot patted him on the head.
"My, time flies, eh?" Godot let out a dry chuckle. He peered at Kyra, asking, "Ah, and who might this be?"
Glancing at Kyra, Finn said, "Godot, this is my … associate, Kyra."
Godot smiled at her and offered his hand, saying, "Always to pleasure to meet one of Finns friends. Well, maybe not a pleasure, but it's always a bang!"
Kyra flashed Finn a grin before asking, "Really? I'd love to hear some of your stories about our stalwart captain."
"Oh, Captain Finn now, is it?" Godot asked, raising a bushy white eyebrow at a magnetic coil on the counter that he probably thought was Finn.
Finn couldn't help but sigh. "Technically. I … inherited a ship. That's why I'm here, actually."
Finn let out another sigh and moved the coil so that Godot was looking at least a little more directly at him. "We need a transponder change."
"My, my." Godot said, giving Finn a fiendish wink. "Up to no good, are we? Well, normally I'd charge a premium, but seeing as it's you, let's just call this your last paycheck, hmm?"
"Thanks, Godot." Finn said, clasping the man's hand. "My ships in bay C-40."
As they left Servbot 42, Kyra commented, "He seemed nice."
"Yeah, he is." Finn told her. "Best boss I've ever had, next to Darsan. Don't tell Darsan I said that, though."
Kyra giggled. "I won't. He seems like the sensitive type."
They walked in silence for awhile. Jake walked a good distance ahead of them. The fact that he was giving Finn and Kyra space didn't escape Finn.
Finn listened to the rustle of the bags in silence for a long time. Eventually realizing how uncomfortable the silence had gotten, he decided he should say something.
"I miss this place." He immediately blushed; that was a little more personal than he intended. "Got to know the Neukaraan, learned how to fix things from Godot, had quite a few good friends. For the most part, I had a pretty good life."
"For the most part?" She asked, her usual cheeriness giving way to a softer, more serious tone.
He met her gaze for a moment before looking away. "For the most part."
After a few moments of silence, he felt her hand clasp his.
"C'mon." She said, her cheerful demeanor returning as she playfully tugged him forward. "We still got a lot to see, right?"
Seeing her smiling face made it impossible for him to dwell on mistakes from the past. Smiling back at her, he nodded and said, "Let's go."