"So what's the problem today?"
"One or two things."
One or two..."
"A great many things, if we're being completely honest. But it would behoove you to bottle your accusations up for another time, Minha. I don't have time to spare on pleasantries." With that, the alien Aisha gave the Kougra questioning him a glare that could peel paint off a Neohome. When the Kougra took a step back he nodded once, satisfied, and slid back under the car.
Minha's right ear rotated, picking up the grinding sound of metal against metal. She imagined Solviz (Solviz IV to most) was tightening a bolt of some sort and she sighed. If he was tinkering, it meant they were in for a long night; succumbing to the reality, she noticed the flood lights placed strategically around the middle-sized garage. Another blustery sigh escaped her mouth and she slumped in place.
The Kougra hated when her curious looking friend was in a mood like this; it was infinitely worse than her cousin's persistent desire to use her as a makeshift goalie when practicing Yooyuball. Though she'd come off with bruises from Thunder's no holds barred treatment, at least she wouldn't end up bored.
A lengthy silence passed through the garage, punctuated only by Solviz's tinkering.
To entertain herself, Minha drew pictures in oil residue with her claw. The garage's floor was littered with the Kougra's various scribblings – comics, depictions of the alien Aisha. Stories sometimes, if Solviz was particularly invested in the general upkeep of his space ship. A space ship which had never worked, at least not as far as the Kougra had seen; the one time he'd managed to fire it up, it had spat ochre-colored exhaust right in her face, which had taken veritable ages to get out of her mottled orange fur.
Outwardly it was the very example of an alien Aisha pod. The headlights were in the right places, the exhaust pipe was on the correct flank and it was the uniform light silver she'd become familiar with when looking up examples in the Neopedia. Inwardly it was a technological nightmare. The control panel was littered with buttons, many of which didn't connect to the motherboard. A lever which worked non-existent landing gear fit snugly within the middle panel and there was a crack working its way up from a large, looming green diode just above the steering wheel. The last time Solviz tried flicking the switch from 'off' to 'on', the ship had shuddered before letting out an inhuman screech the likes of which Minha dearly hoped she wouldn't hear again.
But the alien Aisha was just so determined to make it work. He'd spend dozens of hours each week fiddling, often missing school for what he called the 'pursuit of science'. His chemistry teacher sorely wished to argue that point, but Solviz was absent too much for her to even be able to start a face-to-face argument. Most complaining from the teaching staff was done over neomail or through a messenger – a job Minha had been delegated quite against her will. She'd bring him homework every evening along with a growing list of complaints; he'd grumble and take it. It was always finished by the next day. She always made sure to walk by the garage on her way out and --- sure enough, there'd be the sound of him working dutifully on his horrible concoction of a space ship.
"It'll work this week," Solviz said suddenly, startling Minha out of her reverie. His voice was muffled as he was still located beneath the ship's undercarriage but it carried within it a new, determined fervor.
"Are you sure?" It would have been impolite not to answer, and it hadn't seemed rhetorical. There was no question he was talking about the ship, it was all he ever referred to.
"Absolutely," he replied in a voice which wavered between 'serious' and 'excited'. "It's definitely going to work this time. Mother gave me pointers--"
"Forced out of her, I'm sure," Minha grumped, flicking her mahogany ear downwards in annoyance. Solviz's mom hated the fact that her errant son was so space-obsessed. None of her other kids had wanted to get off Neopia so badly. For alien Aishas, they were more than happy to leave their explorations to the planet.
"Shh. As I was saying before you so rudely opened your yap... Mother gave me pointers and even explained to me what the mystery buttons were."
The Kougra blinked, her tan ear flopping down the way of the first. "You're kidding."
"Mmhm. Even showed me where to solder the wires on the motherboard; everything's connected now." Solviz rolled the platform out from underneath the ship, face covered in smudges of oil and split into a wide grin. "It's absolutely fantastic, Wileminha; you've never seen anything like it. When it all lights up, everything---"
Minha ducked preemptively as the green alien Aisha made a sweeping gesture not only with the oily hand holding the wrench but his four wriggling ear stalks. As she predicted, the wrench went flying out of his careless grip and flipped haphazardly through the air and out of the garage. It hit the dirt with a metallic thud and skidded through the gravel of the driveway.
"--it's like this picture's finally appeared, Minha, the pieces of this puzzle I've been assembling for years have been discovered under a couch cushion and I'm able to see the big picture, finally. This great, beautiful glowing painting, but the backdrop's missing, you see." Laughing, Solviz sounded almost maniacal and it was a liveliness the Kougra wasn't accustomed to. "And that backdrop's – here. Come on, look, you need to see it."
Minha cringed as the alien Aisha grabbed her by the elbow and set about dragging her out of the garage. The sun had set about thirty minutes prior; they'd both been too wrapped up to notice it and Solviz had turned on two of the flood lights before starting his work on the ship. He trotted his friend out to the middle of the field on his parent's property.
His mother had been a city girl in her youth and it was a shock to all parties when she'd moved away from urban comforts; it had been at the behest of her husband, who thought a larger space than an apartment would be better for their growing family. It turned out to be a good move for everyone involved and undoubtedly Solviz enjoyed having the farm's large garage all to himself.
Minha wrenched her elbow back with more force than necessary, as her friend had already been in the process of dropping it. He pointed upwards with his left hand. It was easier to see the stars the further one went out of Neopia Central. The light pollution obstructed most of the constellations and seeing beyond Kreludor was a foregone pollution.
Out here, away from the lights and sounds and his sisters, Solviz wandered. He knew each star almost intimately, able to rattle off the names of systems and constellations with the ease of the greatest Altadorian astronomer. There was no greater joy than laying with his back in the cool grass with the expanse of the galaxy in front of his eyes. Television had nothing on this.
He flopped down into the grass and laughed. "It's out there, don't you see? Everything's out there. That's what's missing from the equation, Minha, this is all that's missing. All of my life and it's been right in front of me and I – I never had the patience to just look up at it. Look up at it and enjoy it. Until three years ago I wouldn't have given the night a second thought.
"It's why I have to finish it. I have to get out there. I have to finish the puzzle." It had been the most Solviz had said in weeks and he sighed with the effort, stretching his hands upwards as if to grasp the stars.
"And when you get it, what will you do?"
"What do you mean?" His eyes never moved off the visions in front of him. The supernovas, the merry colored lights which spoke of not-too-distant planets.
"When you get there. Are you going to leave us all behind?" Something in his passionate soliloquy had hurt the Kougra, deeply, and she was feeling mean because of it. "Are you going to leave your mother behind?"
"You're missing what I've told you."
"No, I got exactly what you said. I'm not stupid. You're going to go away and leave us all here waiting, those of us who are happy with what we have."
An awkward silence occurred reserved especially for petty fights between good friends.
"Well, you know," Solviz said slowly, "there's two seats in that space ship. And a captain could always use a co-pilot."