Title: Drift Away
Nier Zakran - February 1, 2012 09:16 PM (GMT)
((Saturday, September 10th, 3571. Afternoon.))
He hated this part of the year. School was about to go back in - and that was all well and good, minus the part where he had a growing first grader on his hands. She was energetic as anything, too, all too content to bounce from one shop to the next and to drag her father (aka, 'the money') around with her. He wondered vaguely when she had gotten so assertive, and tried not to feel too proud about it because at that point in time, it was a power she was using against him.
Moreover, there was the fact that, though she was just a baby to most on Jupiter and sized accordingly, she was already a good foot taller than the kids her size from Earth. Hell, she was more than that in some cases. She had to shop in the same section a preteen might, and her wardrobe made her look too grown up. Too old, like she was already preparing to announce that she had found some boy and was going to leave him. He frowned at the thought, watching as she happily paraded from rack to rack, collecting items to try on. And of course, she would want his opinion on those.
This was why he wished more often than he should have that the girl still had a mother. There should have been another woman in her life, someone he could trust that she enjoyed spending time with. In a way, that was his failing. That he had never bothered to look for someone to settle down with after her mother had died had been a thing often discussed behind closed doors. He knew that every now and again, someone looked at him twice. That maybe he had decided to be gay, or maybe he was just that picky. Maybe they could make him love them. He hadn't bothered with dating, or meeting anyone else. It just seemed like a moot point.
Who could fill the shoes of a woman he had barely known and never loved anyway?
The commander would never wish to take his marriage back, mind you. No - he glanced at his daughter as she beamed through the checkout, rolling his eyes and running a hand against the top of her head so as to muss with the mop of brown there as they exited the area with fluorescent pink bags in hand. "I'm hungry, Daddy!" she exclaimed, typical Jovian behaviour as she tottered off in the direction of the food court. For the second time that trip, he rolled his eyes, winding after her with no small amount of panic. Damn it, he hated it when she ran off.
"Iskra, don't get too far! Iskra - ISKRA!" And then he lost sight of her, and it was panic abounds. His Iskra, his family, was lost in the mall somewhere.
Amalia Kallan - February 5, 2012 04:27 AM (GMT)
She wouldn't panic. She couldn't panic. She wanted to panic.
One last free full day before her classes began. Could she actually teach? Could she manage the courseloads? She hadn't precisely planned on going into a professorship, she'd never really done any public speaking, and here she would be talking and giving notes and quizzes and tests and running labs and being responsible for all those lives in the labs (just dissections, really, but people could be silly with scalpels). The paper in her hand crumpled from her sudden fist.
Amalia breathed deeply, opening her fist and smoothing out the small piece, a rough list, as it was, of last minute things she needed. She ahd an office, and needed to outfit it. So she was furniture shopping. Had found a chair she liked with wheels, be comfortable for a student but able to be moved to her desk. It was a rather handsome brown, and within her price range. She hoped to find a couch and maybe another chair for herself. That one store hadn't had anything else that caught her interest, despite how they wanted try to convince her otherwise.
The Mercurian slipped easily through the crowd of last-minute shoppers, the harried mothers and fathers and either excited or sullen children. Numerous of the children were as tall as she was, and Amalia found herself looking at them closer than some of the others. Jovian and Uranian, either full or partially, as far as she could gather, one Plutonian little boy. One girl she passed made her stop and turn around. There was something wrong. That much was clearly obvious.
Eyes were wide with panic, and there was a young
look to her, about her mouth and the line of her jaw. Jovian, probably, considering her coloring, and so young... lost. She had to go back and dash run after the other girl, catching at her arm - she was the same height as she was.
Amalia ignored that for the moment, speaking quickly in Jovian."Are you o-okay? You, um, look l-lost. I'm, um, I'm a teacher, I-I can help you find your family, s-somehow."
Yeah. The two of them, the same height, among a crowd of taller folk. Like that would work too well. If only there was something they could stand on. Amalia couldn't see anything, what with the press of bodies around them, the pair the rock in the steady stream of humanity.
Nier Zakran - February 8, 2012 10:21 PM (GMT)
He couldn't find her, he couldn't find her! Goddamn it, how hard could it be to find a girl who looked so young but was that size? His problem here was that everybody there looked to be the size of his Iskra. Everybody was, because it was tween central. Beyond the taller mothers and fathers hauling their perfectly fine, not lost children around, there were teenagers and preteens galore in clumps. Giggling over this boy or that one, saying 'dude' and punching each other in the shoulders.
God, he did not miss being that age.
The Jovian had little time to focus on any of them, mind you, barely restraining himself in the crowd as he blazed a trail in the direction of the food court. "ISKRA!" There was a scattering of other people as they moved, tried their very best to avoid the lumbering man as he made his way through the crowd. He could have roared like the Martian men, like Kei might have in this situation. Actually, Kei would've been helpful then - his sense of smell would have found his daughter in moments.
Instead, he was stuck trying to spot her. He was thankful for his vantage point high about the Terrestrials and occasional Venusians who flooded the area, but it was doing him little good. For as many blondes as there were, there were five times as many brunettes. Long hair, short hair - and mostly the age of his Iskra. The man raged onwards, calling for his daughter in the same, low bellow. He'd shake the place down if he had to, he wasn't above it. It might cost him his job, but damn it, he would find his girl.
It only took a moment to lose her, but it was taking forever to get her back. And it had him about ready to explode. "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers..." He nearly leapt out of his skin, bursting through the crowd at the sound of his girl's voice and coming up on her and a... well, if he wasn't mistaken, a Mercurian girl who was nearly the same size. His daughter seemed reluctant, hanging back from the woman before she spotted him coming up on the pair at a hundred miles an hour, sliding before the pair of them. "Daddy!"
"Iskra," he scolded, frowning, "What have we said about running off?" She silenced herself, the brunette pouting as she stood miserably between the woman to her left and the man who had raised her. He raised a hand in thanks, extended it towards the stranger then. "Thank you for distracting her long enough for me to catch up. Nier Zakran, Commander in charge of the Martian Rehabilitation Programme. This is my daughter, Iskra Zakran, who apparently knows not to talk to strangers, but not to avoid getting herself lost in a crowded mall."
Amalia Kallan - February 8, 2012 11:05 PM (GMT)
It was hard for her to see any place for them to go. It wasn't like she could really do much to comfort this girl - probably wouldn't be allowed to, considering - no matter how much she wanted to. Could pull the girl into a hug, but with the girl being nearly her own size, that would be odd, in many ways. Mostly because the girl probably wouldn't allow her to, and with them being so close together in size, the likelihood of one or the other (but likely Ama) getting hurt increased highly.
She sighed quietly and looked around, spotting no one looking worried or panicked - or really tall enough to be Jovian. This was a problem. Then the girl started talking about how she wasn't supposed to be talking to strangers. Oh wonderful. Now she was going to be dealing with a child that would attack her, or make such a ruckus that she wouldn't have the chance to explain what she was doing before getting thrown out of the mall. All she wanted to do was get furniture for her office and have done with it. That was all she wanted. That and only that.
Was it relief or the fading of panic when a very large body skidded his way to a stop on the girl's other side and she latched onto him with a clear cry of
"Daddy!. Oh good, she was safe, the father had come. Oh goodness, he was huge. She'd seen Jovians. But either he was rather tall for his planet, or she'd seen short Jovians.
His handshake practically engulfed half her forearm - and somehow, it felt right that it did, not an awkward handshake with her hand being swallowed, but a proper clasp of wrist-to-wrist - and she gave a small smile.
"Y-you're very w-welcome, it, um, it was the least I could - ah - I could do, C-commander. I am K-Kallan, um, Amalia Kallan, exuse me, um, biology professor at T-telodrya Uni-University." She blushed and dropped her gaze to the linolieum flooring. Stuttering, stammering, and using the Mercurian formal-greeting form. Oh, she didn't know which was the worst mistake.
"It was, er, it was nice to, ah, well, to meet you, Iskra."
Nier Zakran - February 9, 2012 07:23 PM (GMT)
He couldn't blame her for seeming nervous. It was a pretty typical response, from people from other planets. Minus Plutonians and Uranians, most of the other planets were like dwarves compared to Jovians. His hand was practically devouring hers, wrapped around it to a point where he could barely feel it in his mitt. He smiled sheepishly, pulling back with a quick raise of both eyebrows and a cough. She wasn't the first woman whose hand he had shook. She was the first that had made even the slightest tingle of electricity run up his arm.
Huh. Okay, that was strange. Perhaps she had scuffed her shoes along the floor for too long. He let it pass, finally letting go of her hand with some sheepish little noise or another. Creepy, hanging on too long. "Hey, are you hungry? Iskra and I, we were about to get something to eat, and I'd like to thank you properly for holding my wayward daughter still. I know the mall food court isn't really... that great of a place, so we can go elsewhere, if you'd prefer. Anywhere you'd like."
"But Daddy, I want burgers!" Iskra piped up, ever-helpful (or not) as she tugged at his now-free hand rather insistently. He shot her a look, green-on-green as their eyes met and he frowned, trying to warn her to be quiet for two seconds, there. "Or I guess other things work too..." she grumbled, scuffing her toe against the floor and averting her gaze.
Satisfied, Nier offered a small, tense grin in Amalia Kallan's direction once more, motioning behind them towards the food court. "If you aren't busy, that is, Miss Kallan? Anywhere you'd like."
Amalia Kallan - February 9, 2012 08:31 PM (GMT)
It was too bad that Nier Zakran didn't know that Amalia wasn't nervous because of him - she would have been this nervous no matter who he was or how tall he was. She was simply completely out of her comfort zone. He could have been a fellow Mercurian of her own lack-of-height, and she would have been nervous. Didn't know if that same tingle of electricity would have occurred, but that probably just had to do with the dryness of the air, as static electricity normally did. Nothing out of the ordinary - since she could easily be blowing things out of proportion what with her nerves - so she shouldn't be alarmed.
Her stomach growled audibly, clearly appreciating the idea of solid food. Her body still hadn't gotten over the fact that she could eat solid food, no matter if some of it was still too rich for her.
"Um, food would be, ah, quite nice, er, thank you. M-mall food would be, ah, fine." Amalia lifted her gaze from the ground to smile slightly at the pouting Iskra. "B-burgers would be w-wonderful. I've, um, never had one b-before, so t-they would be good to t-try."
Sad enough, that was true. Amalia was still lacking in having many foods - in fact she still hadn't been able to enjoay full cup of chai, even though she had gone back to that cafe many times (no, she didn't want to run into the axe-murderer Venusian... right?), since her life kept getting in the way.
Nier Zakran - February 9, 2012 09:33 PM (GMT)
She'd never had burgers before? He stared at her then as though she was from some place outside their solar system for a moment, trying to pinpoint exactly how that could happen to any young woman, particularly one such as the lady before him, before he he laughed. He guffawed, he hooted, and at one point in time, he slapped his own knee. "Never had a burger, huh? Well, you're in for something of a treat, then. Follow me, Miss Kallan, we'll fix you up yet." Iskra bounced giddily beside him, eagerly grabbing one of his hands, and one of the not-a-stranger-anymore's and pulling in the direction of food.
He knew what his daughter would want - which was for the best. Though she certainly wasn't shy about placing her own orders, sometimes she tended to exaggerate. Her Jovian accent made it difficult by times for the employees to understand her as well, him quirking an eyebrow towards her as she pouted, probably having figured out that she would only be getting one burger that day. "You can't have been on Earth very long," he commented, calmly passing other people now that the panic of losing his only child had faded. "Burgers are kind of a staple here."
"They're really good!" the girl attached to his hand supplied as they walked, nodding enthusiastically up at her. "An' they come in all sorts of flavours. Like... Daddy, what's the one I like best?"
Nier chuckled, running his free hand along her hair absent-mindedly. "You still like the children's five-spice patty the best." Which, honestly, could have been worse. It was better than her preferring Jovian burgers, soaked in their alcohol. He could only assume growing up mostly off the drink would help her - he'd seen too many a man and woman lost in their booze back home.
Amalia Kallan - February 10, 2012 12:21 AM (GMT)
The Mercurian could feel her skin warming, deepening until it was the bright crimson of her fullest blush as he laughed and laughed and laughed. While she understood that he wasn't laughing at her in terms of making fun of her, it hurt. He didn't mean for it to hurt, yes, but it did all the same. Why she suddenly had the mental image of her own arm holding a dagger pointed at his nose until the Venusian from the cafe wrapped her in a hug, she didn't know. But she did, and it made her feel better. Even if the Venusian was a stranger and could be an axe-murderer or something. It was better than her hurting Nier Zakran.
"Mercurians have meal-supplement capsules and rarely any actual meals." She explained, "So before coming to Earth the only solid food I had were whatever things my grandfather managed to get as gifts from Neptune." Amalia has never been happier for Tzlapolli's gifts as she had when she came to Earth and realized how much chewing was involved with eating food. She'd heard of some Mercurians that hadn't chewed their capsules and hadn't done their jaw-strengthening exercises. Their mouths had become malformed.
"I've been on Earth since late July, I just... there's so much food I've never had, and I've needed to go about trying it slow, because my body is so unused to solid foods." It wasn't something she particularly liked to admit, it seemed a weakness, but she talked about it all the same with these two.
"How many flavours are there for burgers? I was under the impression they were just meat with different toppings and spices." Yes, she was a Mercurian that didn't know everything. Quite a shocker, she thought to herself as she relished the warmth of Iskra's hand in hers, the size of it the same as her own.
Nier Zakran - February 18, 2012 10:59 PM (GMT)
"Daddy, you're being mean!" Iskra scolded, smacking her father in his well-toned gut and hearing him let out a quick grunt in response. She was probably right, of course. From the way that Amalia Kallan's face was alight, he could only garner that he had embarrassed her or made her somewhat uncomfortable somehow, grimacing a bit as he rubbed at the back of his head sheepishly.
He allowed her her explanation nonetheless, mildly fascinated that the Mercurians were exactly as cold and distant as they had all speculated them to be on the long rides to the New Moon from their expeditions to Mars. It was easy enough, to get along with them, if only because those doctors were cold and stayed out of the way. He made a point of trying to sit with the kids after they were handled by them, even though in some cases, he was sure it only made things worse. But he wanted them to get used to the idea of people being around them, willing to be around them without hurting. He was fine to sit and talk to them in Terrestrial, their impending new language, if only so they could grow accustomed to the idea of someone there with them, wanting to talk, and only to talk.
Nier shrugged, nodding once in his walking as Iskra fell in step easily, pleased with herself for having had the chance to scold her daddy. "Burgers are pretty big," he started, ever in father-mode as he allowed his little girl to swing his arm back and forth by the hand as they walked, her trying to do the same thing to Amalia in the process. "Are you going to be alright eating one after all those years of the pills?"
It seemed like a legitimate question, though the way green eyes glared up into his made him grimace again, shooting back a face that read what, what now, Iskra? at the glaring little girl. Thankfully, she took it upon herself to begin to explain meats. "They're all the same, usually, but sometimes, at some places, you c'n get diff'rent ones! And they're the best, because before they cook the meat, they put in, like... all these spices that change the flavours, or they use special saw-says!"
In light of how much they still had to teach her, being in line for the burgers already seemed like a bit of a rush. Nier pointed upwards, the tallest Jovian motioning to the menu they boasted on their sign. "The Chili Supreme is my favourite, but it might be a bit too... harsh, for your first time. I'd recommend the All-Terrestrial Classic or perhaps their It's Rosemary Thyme." He'd refrain from sharing his thoughts on their punny names for the time being.
Amalia Kallan - February 19, 2012 01:03 AM (GMT)
She appreciated he had the decency to look abashed when he realized she was ah, quite as embarrassed as she was. The Mercurian let the littler of the two Jovians swing her arm back and forth, remembering fondly when she had done the same to Tzapolli on their walks around the complex.
"I should, um, b-be fine, but t-thank you, ah, for y-your concern." Amalia winced as her stuttering came back, but forged on with her words irregardless. "I, ah, may just um, eat h-half and bring the rest h-home for dinner." It had become her common mode of eating, if she went out. Have half of whatever it was at the restaurant, and bring the remainder home for lunch or dinner or breakfast the next day. Amalia really appreciated leftovers, in a way her parents would just find plain odd. Good, healthy, tasty food she didn't have to do anything to but reheat. Nice and easy and practical. It was generally leftovers or a small salad of lettuce with cherry tomatoes, a handful of crushed nuts and dried fruit sprinkled over for her dinner. Salads she could manage, ripping the lettuce and using a bottled dressing.
She nodded gravely as Iskra explained, mulling over just what the last word the girl had said was, before it came to her what it must be, or an approximation of.
"Thank you, Iskra. Special sauces, you mean?" The Mercurian corrected gently, laying emphasis on the hard C sound. "That sounds yummy, but I think I'm going to take your Daddy's suggestion and go with the Classic." A brief look up had confirmed it was merely a beef patty with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and pickles with optional cheese. That would do nicely, if she got the condiments on the side so she could try each one. No cheese, just to be safe, but she knew she liked ketchup, it was the mayonnaise and mustard she was a little worried about. The other he had suggested did sound tasty, but she would rather have it straight before blending extra herbs into it.
They had moved to the front of the line by that point, and on Nier Zakran's gesture to her, she ordered, giving a small smile to the trying-to-hide-a-gape Terrestrial manning the counter. Whether it was at Nier Zakran's size (plausible, but there were other Jovians around) or at a Mercurian ordering food (more plausible, considering how few of them were on Earth) or if he might be assuming Iskra was her child with Nier (not at all plausible, actually quite humorous for more reasons than Amalia could fully figure out), he was flabbergasted. Really quite amusing.
"Could I, um, please have a C-Classic, with, er, everything on, ah, on the side?" She stammered her way through her order, and the Terrestrial teenager gave the smallest smile back to her in return.
"So plain with everything accompanying? We can do that." He typed something rapidly into the screen in front of him. "Anything else?"
She scanned the menu rapidly, already having some idea due to the special combinations available.
"Um, a small f-fry and um, hmm, um, water?"
"Of course. Since you're basically ordering a number eleven, what type of cookie do you want? We have chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin or sugar."
"Um, ah, um, c-chocolate chip, p-please."
"You're very welcome, are you together?" He gestured to Nier Zakran and Iskra standing behind her, so Amalia nodded, moving slightly to the side so they could order.
Nier Zakran - February 19, 2012 01:47 AM (GMT)
For his part, he did his best not to chortle too loudly as he watched his daughter frown, muttering the word sauces under her breath a few times. Her Terrestrial was coming along rather well for a girl who had only started studying at the age of four, with her entrance into kindergarten back on their home planet. He had no complaints after years of seeing kids who had no chance to learn anything but their names and how to survive in the wild.
He would be the first to remind his girl that she was blessed, that the pair of them had been in their opportunities. Iskra took little for granted, mind. She was still a little girl who occasionally wanted for things beyond her means, but on the whole, she was a fairly altruistic girl who loved and wanted for others more than herself. She was everything a father could ever want, including happy, in spite of their interplanetary move over the summer, and for that, Nier knew he had to be the luckiest man in the world.
He waited through Amalia's order with an impressed raise of his eyebrows, his daughter smiling up at the employee as he motioned her through for her turn as well, and then took his own. The wallet in his back pocket getting considerably lighter through their shopping (he hadn't forgotten that he was still wielding a lot of obviously pink bags in his other hand), him pulling it out and offering the appropriate amount of money with a decent tip for the teen behind the counter before wielding the tray with their things expertly in his hand, motioning to a free table in the food court. "Let's go right over there," he proposed, Iskra already bounding ahead and leaving him to carry all of her things, food included.
Okay, so she was mostly a good little girl about these sorts of things. He grinned to himself and sighed, following after the pair of them with a small nod in Amalia's direction, sending her through first. He carefully set the oversized tray on the table between all of them, taking a seat by his daughter as she hastily dug into her burger (five spices, as mentioned), and he took his.
Food-silence was always a comfortable silence, even if he was done his burger and sipping on a water far more quickly than either woman at the table, playfully tapping Iskra. "Slowpoke," he chided, hearing his daughter grunt against her burger.
"Fat pig, Daddy!" He smirked. Boy, she was going to be surprised about some of the denizens of Earth when she got older. "Do you like it, Amalia?" Thank heavens she remembered her social graces, though. He was perhaps just too used to it being just the two of them.
Little wonder she didn't have a mother, eek.
Amalia Kallan - February 19, 2012 05:40 AM (GMT)
Amalia smiled slightly at Iskra's muttering, glad that her father hadn't taken offense at her correcting his daughter's speech. She followed the girl to their table, letting an automatic protest rise and die in her throat, on paying for her own. He was doing this to thank her, and it was just one meal. Nothing to be said about it, beyond potentially spinning it to her parents like she had actually had a date. Get her mother off her back about signing up for egg donation.
It wasn't that she didn't want children. But... call her odd for a Mercurian, she wanted a child she knew was hers, not just a child given her name that she had specifically picked all the traits of. She wanted a child like those she saw around her, like Iskra was, that made mistakes, that just happened to look like her, not planned to look like her, that maybe liked what she liked but didn't have to, that was intelligent but not bred for that intelligence. She didn't get it. Okamere and Pateroto had her naturally, going against the norm, so why was Okamere pressuring her to give her half of a child up to be - well, experimented on? Amalia knew that was what they would do, try to take those few genes for intelligence and eye color and mix them with a sperm that was 'perfect' every other way. It would be her child in name only, and not even that, given to a parental unit that requested a child.
That wasn't what she wanted for a child. The Mercurian took her burger apart, cutting the patty into pieces so she could try it with different condiment combinations. Mustard was a no, she just didn't like the flavor or texture. Mayonnaise wasn't bad, but seemed like it would be too rich for right now. Ketchup was perfect, as she remembered it, so she piled the remainder of the beef patty with tomatoes and lettuce and slathered on ketchup before capping it with the other bun and picking it up in both hands, biting in for real. Yes, it was as good as she had imagined. Salty, slightly spicy, crunchy, sweet, hot and cold and so good.
She laughed around a mouthful at the interplay between father and daughter, chewing and swallowing to answer Iskra.
"Yes, very much. I, um, also c-can't wait to try the f-fries, they look tasty. What, er, what are you most looking f-forward to in school? You're g-going into the, um, f-first grade?" She hazarded a guess, taking another bite of her burger and chewing as the girl talked. The conversation flowed where it would between chattering child, stuttering Mercurian and half-silent Jovian, but it was a conversation, and for all her stuttering and stammering, Amalia found it a quite pleasant way to spend a portion of the afternoon.