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Thread: Clear and The Hopeless

  1. #1
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
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    798

    Clear and The Hopeless

    NSP:

    This thread does take place within the NeSiverse and does take place during current events. However I intend for it to be 90% independent from both the NeS and HFO. It is also small-scaled orientated and largely about Character development, rather than being plot-driven or villain-driven. While humour is possible, it isn't the focus of this story. I don't intend to use any major characters that have appeared before, but may use very minor characters that have been completely forgotten (even by the Forgotten).

    Obviously I intend this project for myself, but others can take part if they really want to! But, I would ask that anyone else wishing to add to this stick to the conditions mentioned above so that it doesn't become embroiled in other stories' events more than necessary.

  2. #2
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Introduction

    Clear walks along the gloomy corridor. Most of the lights didn't work and nobody intended to repair them because the ship's A.I. kept the lighting to a minimum to conserve energy. She had lived on the ship for several years now, so the brown stains of old blood against the walls and floors seemed like decoration. The ship is silent. It is always silent. The engines had been shut down long before Clear ever stepped foot on-board and she had no reason to turn them on. The ship is more like a spacestation now, orbiting the dead and desolate world below. There are now windows and the monitors are all blank. Clear turns right. She knows her way from point A to point B, the places she needed to be. The ship is too large, however, for her to know intimately. She could spend a year trekking and she'd never find everything. Comparatively she believed it would be the size of a small country on Earth. But truthfully, Clear didn't know much about Earth, nevermind its countries.

    She topples little as she steps over the "death trap" - a thin chasm in the floor that has never been fixed. It is the only thing she actually wants fixing. She always intended to bring a sheet of metal up and lay it down over the gap, but kept forgetting. Every time. She always forgets. She gets her bearings. The gap isn't large enough to fall down, but it's wide enough to trip over. She wouldn't have done if she wasn't still woozy from drinking last night. She reaches up and presses a button on her breast. There's a similar winking sound and then the strange accent of Hebedee, the ship's current mechanic.

    Heb: "Heya, darlin'! I thought you was gonna sleep until sunset!"

    Clear: "I should've. Is the bug ready?"

    Heb: "Sure is. Gave her a little extra gas this time too. Don't want you drifting back like last time! Ha!"

    Clear: "I hope you didn't use too much, Heb."

    Heb: "I know what I'm doin', darlin'. Don't you worry! Old Heb's got you covered."

    Clear passes Icer's room and glances in. She is still there, staring out of her window. Clear would come and talk to her later. For now, she had work to do. After passing Icer's door, she came to a hatch. She pushes a few buttons on the panel beside the door and it swirls open like a flower in the morning sun. She steps through and waits for it to close behind her. She is now in a small chamber with windows overlooking the hangar. There isn't much to look at. Mostly old wrecks, holes, burn marks and more old blood stains. But the bug is still sitting pretty. Ish. It looks to be in better shape than the larger ship, but the bug is still a pitiful looking craft. It is shaped like an insect, hence the name. Hebedee wanted to call it a butterfly, but Clear thought of it more as a moth. A worn-out and faded hunk of bolts barely holding together just to keep its mothership alive and well.

    The blank monitor sprang to life. Now, set against the same old black backdrop, is a face. It's a handsome face, but straight-faced and cold. He is the A.I. named Note.

    Note: "I have included an inventory list. Good luck, Crewman."

    Clear: "I'm the Captain, Note. Get used to it."

    Note: "You are unable to become Captain while the current Captain yet lives."

    Clear: "Captain's dead, Note."

    Note:
    "The Captain is not dead, Crewman."

    Clear: "How many times are we going to have this argument?"

    Note: "You are arguing, Crewman. I am stating facts."

    She rolls her eyes. Sometimes she liked to argue with Note, it brought a bright moment in an otherwise dull day. Today, however, her hangover wouldn't tolerate Note's deep-toned voice for long. She exits the room via the second door and walks down the metal stairs. They are the only stairs in the whole ship (at least that she had found) and often feel out-of-place in Clear's mind. Her feet clatter loudly with each step as the noise bounces throughout an otherwise noiseless metal cavern. She walks over to the bug. Its big wings raise as she nears and its single door opens. The small craft has enough room for roughly eight people, though she is sure she could squeeze more in. By itself it could make a stable living abode as it has its own bedrooms, living rooms and cargo hold. However it didn't have the comforts that the larger ship offers.

    She gets inside and heads to the cockpit. She straps in. The buckles were metal, the straps are laser. They glow faintly pink, the idea being if she has to eject she would be more visible to anything able to see in space. Clear, however, had never met anything she wanted to be seen by that could actually see in space.

    The bug bounces as it takes off. It wobbles a little, seemingly suffering from a hangover too, before Clear takes the stick and steers the bug around and towards the exit of the hangar. Clear surmised that the hangar is the weakest point of the ship if ever it were attacked because it opens into empty space with out an atmospheric shield between it and the the vacuum. Then again nobody would attack it now, there's nothing left. Maybe other salvagers trying to keep their own wreck in one piece, but otherwise the only battles this ship would have have have already happened. And it lost them.

    The bug cruises out of the hangar's atmospheric shield and comes in a lazy arc out and away from the ship until its finally free of the ship's shields and is able to twist and turn in the vacuum of space as much as the bug liked to. Clear, however, doesn't like to and so she keeps it on a straight heading for the planet's surface. The familiar orange to red tone of the planet stirs old feeling in her almost every time she sees it. Her homeworld. Mars. Her monitors also display the ship behind her and she looks at its colossal bulk from outside. It looks like a worm, curled in an arc and all. She almost fancied it would move one day and start wriggling across space. In large characters the name of the ship read "The Hopeful". Apparently hoping really hard didn't mean someone else wouldn't blow you up.

    ----------

    Clear pulls up the white scarf around her mouth as she prepares to brave the storm. She has landed in what was once called Yarith, a country on one of the larger northern continents where the grass was always pink and the herbivores were fat. At least that's how it had been told to Clear as a child. Yarith wasn't very large, compared to other countries, but it had three big cities. The bug is sitting in the centre of one of them. Tigor.

    Clear likes Tigor. It's buildings aren't very tall and it seemed to escape much of the damage done to it during Mar's final moments. The wind, however, is awful. It whips at her skin and pulls at her stark white hair. When the winds pick up she mostly worries about her carbine getting jammed with crud the wind throws in there. She presses a button on her wrist and a holoprojection appears. First item. Metal.


    Simple enough. Metal is everywhere. It's one of the few resources in abundance during her salvaging sessions. Metal, however, is also the one resource she doesn't know what Note uses it for. She presumes he's been fixing parts of the ship with it but she has no idea what parts because her area is still broken and always has been. She shrugs and makes her way across the street. Already she's found a large vehicle that could be broken down into scrap quickly and provide plenty of metal. She swipes her hand and the screen changes to a list of command options. She presses the first. The bug shakes and then a rear compartment opens to reveal the cargo hold and a floating robot named ALEX. ALEX stood for automated loading engine - Xerox. She had only learnt that last year and a few months ago she realised Xerox was just the name of the company that produced the machine. Suddenly, the robot's enigmatic name seemed less impressive.

    ALEX sailed through the air, apparently unaffected by the wind at all, and begins to dismantle the vehicle with its laser cutting appendages. She wants to call them arms, but they protrude from his stomach area so she though they looked more like legs. Either way, that was item number one covered. She turns back to the inventory list. Fuel. That is harder to come by, at least in large amounts. The vehicle's tank would contain some, but not enough. Martian fuel was a strange milky substance that Clear had never understood. Neither had her father and he had used it first hand in his own Martian vehicles. Nobody ever wonders how things work, just know that they do. The Hopeful, which Clear likes to jokingly call The Hopeless, isn't Martian. Meaning the Martian milky fuel worked, but not properly and it was never going to work as well as the ship's native fuelling system. Unfortunately Clear couldn't figure out where the ship had originated, not that it would help since it was never going to move. Still the milky Martian stuff is all they have.

    She enters a building that she recognised to be a refuelling station. These stations were used to refuel the vehicles and are normally the best places for Clear to get some fuel for The Hopeless. As soon as she enters, however, she sees that it's almost empty. Possibly other salvagers but more likely it was empty the day it was abandoned. She is just unlucky today. Other salvagers are possible but unlikely. Few bothered to pick the carcass of Mars these days. She would have to try her luck elsewhere. She looks around the station for anything else of use, anything of interest. She finds a few datapads lying around. They'd be useful for their parts. Heb always liked to get new screws. And she would enjoy pursuing them. She often found pictures on these datapads. Families posing or making silly faces. They are precious moments of a world that no longer exists. Her father's world. The world she should have been born into. A few times she had even found more intimate pictures stored on these datapads. Those she'd kept and stored in her room.


    She then sees herself in a mirror and lowers the dirty scarf. Her bright pink lips are cracked and dried so she quickly licks them to give them renewed life. She smacks them and admires her face. She rubs it, trying to free it of the dirt the wind had slapped there. Her bright red skin contrasts against the stark white hair and the blue tongue she'd used to lick her lips. Her eyes are black save for the pink iris at the centre that matched the natural colour of her lips. She has seen Martians of different colours but her colour seemed to be the most common. Some were entirely pink, while she has also seen some with green skin. There were also different colours in hair, but the tongue was always blue, the iris always pink and the lips also always pink. She spits. She must have licked in some dirt from her lips. Today is going to be a long day if she can't find some fuel...

    ----------

    She pulls her braided hair free of the scarf as she loosens it from her neck. Now that she is back on The Hopeless she is hoping to settle down and relax for the night. She stomps up the stairs of the hangar, her legs complaining from the ache of walking all day long. She had found most of the items on her list, including a source of fuel, and she got a few bonuses to boot. ALEX is unloading the goods and would take them to wherever Note wanted them. Her own personal stash is in a big sack she has slung over her shoulder. She will sort through what she wanted to keep and what she would give to Heb for his repairs. While the ships repaired itself, Heb helped speed things along. He is also more meticulous, able to do better and finer craftsmanship than the ship's robots. Any parts he is always grateful for.

    She drops the sack to the floor, a little more heavily than intended, and walks over to Icer's door before she would go to her bedroom. She peers through the small window and there she is. As always. Staring back, mouth about to speak. That word she was going to stay is forever pasted on her face. Clear always guessed it must be "open", as in "open the door before I die". She was once the Captain of the ship and now she's frozen in time. Clear had no idea how Note had pulled it off and the A.I. was always entirely silent on the subject. The entire room had been frozen in time. The fire burning was frozen, the broken lights shooting electricity were frozen. The desperate woman at the door was frozen. She wasn't Martian. She actually looked like a human, but Clear didn't think this was a ship from Earth. The Captain wore a smart military suit of grey with a long blue cape and a tall cap. However much of her uniform was charred or even burnt away. Even her hair was burning, frozen before it could reach her face. The name tag on her breast was half burnt but Clear could make out the last letters that appeared to read "Icer". Hence Clear's name for her, now old, friend. Clear doesn't like to talk to Heb. Not only because he's a human, but because she can never understand his prattling. But she had to talk to someone. And that someone ended up being Icer. Long before Heb ever arrived on The Hopeless, Icer had been there to talk to. Long before any of the other crewmembers that had come and gone before Heb, Icer had been there. She had been there when Clear was left alone. When her father died.

    Note: "Prepare to jump."

    Clear stares at Icer's brown eyes, bemused what the words she had just heard from Note. Jump. That'd be the day.

    She feels a strange sensation in her legs. The ship had begun to shake ever so slightly. The engines. They were being turned on. Suddenly Clear is frightened and confused and the threat of her world turning upside down was very much upon her. Nothing much had changed to make Note do this. Aboard the ship there is only herself, Heb and one girl that they picked up a month ago named Green. Green had been quiet so far and kept to herself in her own part of the ship, but they had talked a little through the communicators. So there seems to be no apparent reason for Note to be acting so erratic.

    Clear: "What are you doing, Note?"

    Note: "Prepare to jump."

    Clear: "Why!?"

    Note: "Coordinates lost."

    Clear: "What coordinates!?"

    Note: "Prepare to jump."

    She presses the badge.

    Heb: "Any idea what's happenin', darlin'?"

    Clear: "I was hoping you'd tell me! I've been back up here five minutes and suddenly the ship's powering up! It's never powered up. I mean never. What's could be happening?"

    Heb: "Well, I checked some reading and, to be honest, somethin' definitely happened out there."

    Clear: "What?"

    Heb: "Well, uh... Earth. It jus' up and POOF! vanished!"

    Clear: "That's pretty drastic. The entire world?"

    Heb: "Yep!"

    Clear:
    "But why... coordinates lost... Maybe the ship was bound for Earth when it was last attacked and shut down? With Earth gone, Note thinks he has to try and find it?"

    Heb: "Sounds like an explanation to me! Can you talk 'im down?"

    Clear: "I'll try. Note! Stop! You don't need to jump."

    Clear is suddenly pulled against the all by what feels like invisible hands wrapped around her stomach. She struggles against the sensation, but a moment later she allows herself to be pinned as the world around her flashes and changes colour. First red. Then blue. Then white. Until, a few seconds later, she is released from the wall and she falls to her knees coughing. She breathes heavily and gasps for breath. Winded by the jump she reels from the sensation. The ship must have automatic safety locks that stuck her to the wall during the jump. But it had been the jump itself that knocked the wind out of her. She is sure jumps aren't meant to be so harmful. She guessed it is because the ship isn't using the correct fuel, though it may be the age of the jump-drive, or the fact it hadn't been used in decades.

    Clear: "Note... what's happening?"

    Note: "Coordinates lost. Prepare to jump."

    Clear: "Again!? Note! We won't have enough fuel! Stop!"

    Note: "Jump Paused. Calculating."

    Clear: "Thank you. Okay. Note. Where have you jumped us to? I assum--"

    Note: "Prepare to jump."

    Clear: "No! Note! ACK!"

    She is, once again, slammed to the wall and forced to endure another jump. She falls to her knees again and splutters. Her face mushes against the cold metal floor. She can see her sack of goodies still sitting on the floor. Some of the datapads have fallen out, but it otherwise remains in tact. She guesses that objects are shielded during the jump. A living creature, however, couldn't be shielded in such as a way as they'd suffocate or go through a condition similar to rigour mortis, where the body would remain frozen in stasis, yet the mind aware and conscious. A living Hell her father had described it when he watched a co-worker go through it. They were unable to kill the worker humanely as his body resisted any attempts at medication. In the end the worker was melted. Melted down to save him from a living Hell. She could only imagine those last moments of life. She just has to endure being winded and sickness.

    Note: "Salvage mission required. Worlds with supplies are in the vicinity. Crewman, please prepare for mission."

    Clear groans and sits up.

    Clear: "I'm not going anywhere, Note. Not until you calm down."

    Note: "I am an A.I. designed without emotions, Crewman."

    Clear: "Then stop freaking about about the Earth and just relax. We don't need to find the Earth."

    Note: "Coordinates lost. Salvage required. Prepare for mission."

    Clear: "It's like talking to a brick wall..."

  3. #3
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Green

    Clear is hunched over a console and presses a few buttons. She swipes a holographic display and the massive monitor above her flashes on with information about the planets outside. There weren't many abandoned locations or floating wrecks - it is all inhabited worlds thriving with life and commerce. What Note expected her to do out there is anyone's guess.

    She sits herself down in a swivel chair. Most of the padding had been plucked out of it years ago, but it still worked well enough to sit on and not fall off. Being the only chair there, Heb had to stand. He is a tall, fat human with pasty white skin and a mop of blonde hair on his head. He always winces with his right eye and his teeth looked like they'd been removed, broken, dragged through muck and then put back into his mouth. He always smells like oil and his command of the English language is either terrible or masterful - Clear could never tell which because it was just as incomprehensible in either case.


    Heb: "I reckon aliens done it."

    Clear: "Did what?"

    Heb: "Took away the Earth, o' course!"

    Clear: "Well, I didn't take it away. And I'm an alien to your world."

    Heb: "Well not your aliens! But other aliens. Bug aliens I reckon."

    Clear: "I don't actually care what happened to the Earth right now. I care about getting back to Mars. Get back there and stay there. Right, Note?"

    Note: "Coordinates lost. Salvage mission required."

    Clear: "He's like a broken record player."

    Heb: "I hear ya. And there ain't nothin' we can go salvagin' out there. Not unless salvage mean stealin' now."

    Clear: "Maybe I can trade something. I don't know... I don't even know what kind of fuel they'll have in these parts."

    Heb: "I suppose it don't hurt to ask, does it? I'll look int' this Earth thang. See if I can get informations about where it mighta gone to. Then maybe the old Hopeless can quiet down if she knows where her momma is at."

    Clear: "Momma? Earth?"

    Heb: "Jus' sayin'. Note seems pretty attached to that planet. Mus' be a reason."

    Clear hops off the seat and starts for the door of the command room. Then stops and turns back to Hebedee.

    Clear: "Have you seen Green? The little pixie girl we took aboard a short while back?"

    Hebedee, already headed for the opposite exit, shakes his head.

    Heb: "Nope. Ain't seen 'er since she came aboard. Wan' me to find 'er for ya?"

    Clear: "No thanks. I'll find her myself."

    The command room was actually the secondary command chamber as the primary room is now Icer's room and frozen in time. The secondary chamber, however, is not too shabby itself. One of the few rooms without blood stains everywhere, the room sports a classy semi-circular pad for the commander to stand upon and look important, while just below that pad are the consoles where the grunts would have been hard at work. The ship was likely meant to house thousands. Now it has just three. It is no wonder the ship is beyond repair. Sometimes Clear thought it a miracle the ship lasted at all. Yet the ship's basic systems and repairs were meant to be done by the A.I., so it could conceivably last as long as it has salvage with which to work. The command room is also one of the few rooms that could be brightly lit as one single, massive circular light existed on the ceiling. The railings around the pad are also illuminated, albeit with several bulbs missing.

    Out in the dim corridor, Clear presses her badge. Heb would ignore the call, knowing its not for him.


    Clear: "Green? Green, are you there?"

    It took a few moments for the girl to respond.

    Green: "Yes. I'm here. What happened?"

    Clear: "We've jumped through space. Are you okay? You sound shaken."

    Green: "I'm... okay. I just didn't know what was happening..."

    Clear thought, from Green's voice, that she still doesn't know what is happening.

    Clear: "I'll come find you, okay?"

    Green: "Okay."

    Clear: "Activate your tracking beacon."

    Green didn't reply for several minutes and eventually Clear realised Green was probably fumbling with her badges trying to figure out how to activate said beacon. Clear then walks her through the number of clicks she needs to activate it and then the last remaining Martian woman goes on the hunt for the weird pixie human girl. Clear watches the radar on her holodisplay as she navigates the corridors. Corridors down which she has never been before.

    The first clue that Clear was headed in the right direction was a gathering of dead leaves on the usual metal floor of the corridor. Clear pokes the leaves with her boot. As she continues she finds more leaves, only this time they're attached to vines. They're on the walls mostly, but further still they're on the ceiling and the floor too. Clear steps onto the vines as gently as she can, testing her weight and the strange plantlife underfoot. Then she continues on. The plants grow thicker and prouder, the closer to Green Clear gets. Then there are flowers. Bright yellow and as big as Clear's head. Clear can't help but marvel at the wonder of this. She didn't understand how plants could be living without sunlight in such a place. No water, no soil even. Evidently Green's name reflected her powers in some way. Then Clear heard a sound. Like a chirping. There is definitely a creature in here. Clear steps again. And again. Her keeps her eyes peeled but the dim light was always bad enough, but with vines and leaves and flowers to push through too, Clear could hardly see her own feet. Then there is a buzz. Insects. More than one variety. How could they live down here?

    Clear is beginning to feel creeped out. She presses the badge on her breast.


    Green: "Are you here?"

    Clear: "Well... I'm somewhere. Probably nearby. Lots of flowers. Lots of... insects."

    Green: "Wait. I can... feel you..."

    Clear leaps in shock as she realises the vines are creeping over her boots and crawling up her leg. Her yelp suddenly silencing all of the chirping and the buzzing in the corridor. Clear holds a hand to her mouth.

    Green: "I didn't mean to scare you."

    Clear: "You? It was these vines that scared me."

    Green: "I just got excited to touch you. Please keep coming this way."

    Then the vines on the floor rose up and to the sides of the corridor, parting the way. Clear almost lost her breath. She had never seen anything like it. A gentle wind breezes down the corridor. A magical, unnatural wind but still filled with the soft scent of the yellow flowers. Clear starts walking. She finds that the vines settle back down behind her, while moving aside before her. Finally she comes to an open door where the vines have thinned out and new flowers are in bloom, this time red and rose-like. Clear peeks around the door. Where the bed might have been is a gigantic flower, its lower petals spread out from the yellow pollen centre, but the upper petals are curved down, almost like they might close down on anyone sleeping there. Vines lower the girl down towards Clear from wherever the girl had been towards the ceiling.

    Green: "Hello Clear."

    Clear nods slowly.

    Clear: "'sup."

    The girl is wearing a short white dress patterned with stylised bamboo shafts. Her green hair is long, all the way to the small of her back, and tatty. Tattier than even Clear's and she rarely bothered to keep her hair in check save for the braid. Clear noted a couple of twigs sticking out of the matt of green and wondered if she should help Green remove them. Clear thought better of it.

    Green: "How can I help you?"

    It was then that Clear realised Green wasn't speaking vocally, but continuing to somehow project a voice through the communicator. The girl's lips don't move at all, but a voice emits from the communicator all the same.

    Clear: "Well that's just... peculiar. Hello Green. I'm sorry if you were scared by The Hopeful's jump."

    Green's face reflects her words, but she still doesn't speak directly to Clear.

    Green: "It was scary. I didn't know what was happening. Thank you for worrying about me. I feel reassured by that."

    Clear: "I have to ask... how are you talking without... talking?"

    Green's face lit up like a child's.

    Green: "My communicator is with my friends. I can move the plants to create exacts vibrations that will mimic speech through your communicator device. Otherwise... I cannot actually speak. I have no vocal chords."

    Clear: "Wow... okay. Odd. Well, I was wondering if you could join me on a salvaging mission? We're in a tight spot and I need all the help I can get. Since you're on the ship... thought you'd like to help me out."

    Green: "Thank you! It's so great that you would ask me for help, Clear. I'm so excited to come with you!"

    Clear: "Great. Were you just waiting down here all this time for me to come and get you? You know, you could have come to talk to me anytime."

    Green: "I can't talk."

    Clear:
    "Well, okay. You could have come to see me. Be in my vicinity. Vibrate your communicator at me. Whatever. You didn't need to wait down here for me to come to you."

    Green: "It's okay. I have my friends here anyway. But I'm happy to make friends with you too!"

    Clear: "Wow. I really wish that didn't sound so creepy. Okay. Let's go and see what we can achieve together, shall we?"

  4. #4
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Spaceport

    The bug hovered over the landing pad and then, with a clunk, it settled. Clear unfastened her safety harness and waggled her aching legs. The journey hadn't been overly long but she hadn't moved from her seat at all the entire time. She headed through the bug to the living area where Green still sat, strapped in and looking nervous. Clear leans on the door frame.

    Clear: "It wasn't that bad, was it?"

    Green: "Oh. Uh. No. I just... don't like space travel very much..."

    Clear: "Seems like you chose a strange place to live then. I think you were at the human port weren't you?"

    Clear is referring to the day Green arrived aboard The Hopeless. She had been living at the human port on Mars. The only part of the planet still inhabited with living beings and it was home to the conquerors. The genocidal humans. The humans had built a massive port in the southern hemisphere that loomed up from the surface and rose into the atmosphere like a vase. It was an impressive structure to be sure. And impressive symbol of human dominance over the Solar System. After the humans then obliterated Jupiter from existence, the human port because less and less frequented. That's about the time Clear noticed she was winning in the salvage competition over Mars, especially its northern countries. The port, named Saffron Five by the humans, mostly dealt in trade and leisure activities. Mining bases in the asteroid belt would transfer their goods to Saffron Five, where they would then be sold on to other places such as Earth. Although Clear liked to call it the human port, many alien species were present there and some had expressed interest in the ancient derelict spacecraft Clear inhabited. None enough to venture there after a stern warning from Clear, however. Such derelicts were not uncommon and often some entrepreneur liked to turn them into orbital museums. Several Martian spacecrafts had been treated as such, and those that weren't had either been salvaged completely or stolen by pirates looking for cheap ships. The Hopeful isn't Martian and therefore few paid it much mind.

    Green: "I was searching for Forgotten Characters to join the Remembered Forces of Great Britain on Earth, but after I landed at Saffron Five I was... robbed."

    Green's face is instantly the picture of sadness with her mouth down curled. If Clear had been any softer hearted, it might have broken.

    Green: "They took all my money!"

    Clear: "And then we picked up your request."

    Green:
    "The Hopeful was quiet. It seemed like a great place to stay and figure out my future plans."

    Clear:
    "Which are?"

    Green shrugs and unbuckles herself.

    Green: "I guess it doesn't matter much now that we're so far from Earth."

    Clear: "Only if those plans involve Earth..."

    Clear doesn't like the sound of "Remembered Forces" at all. That's another army and an Earth-bound one at that. Clear had been brought up to avoid military types and steer clear of law enforcement in general. It was safer that way. Many humans often lamented their actions during the Earth's Conquest of Mars, which the humans called the Martian War, citing how terrible human actions had been. But it was too late for wishing now. With the humans came diseases that finished off the remaining and captive population on Mars. Clear suspected she had only survived the rampant spread of disease because she lived aboard a secluded spacestation with just her father. The concentration camps, where the humans had put the Martians who had surrendered (calling them reservations rather than concentration camps), were barely fit for habitation and held no hope of yielding enough food even for the dwindled population. The diseases finished the job. When the last Martian on Mars died, the disease had found its last host and was eliminated along with those it had infected. Clear had learnt much of this from one of those museums the humans had built within the shell of a Martian spacecraft.

    Clear pushes a button on the panel by the exit and the door slides down. She and Green step onto the landing pad, which had moved her small ship into its docked position. She isn't quite sure where she's supposed to go as the signs aren't in English, but there are arrows and she follows those. Green stares at everything with wonder and amazement while Clear generally scorns everything she sees, trying not to look like a victim and therefore an easy target. The arrows take them around a circular walkway that accesses all of the various small craft belonging to other visitors to the port. Clear couldn't help but covet the many craft she could see. Any one of them would be better than her old bug. She then stumbles across a lift and gets inside. She has no idea which floor to choose from and so she presses one about the centre. The lift shot down quickly but smoothly and, before she knew it, the lift doors open. She peeks out.


    Clear:
    "Look like... a hotel. We should try another floor."

    She gets back inside and Green presses another random button. This time it opens into what looks like a mall. They exit the lift and admire the grandiosity of the place. Lights dazzle everything, noises and smells assault Clear's senses. It's almost too much for after the quietude of Mars and The Hopeless. She flinches as she feels something touch her hand, then realises it's Green nervously pawing at her. Clear reluctantly allows Green to hold her hand. Clear was sure the girl was older than she looked, she would have thought she'd act more mature than this. Clear may not have been so irritated by Green's actions if Clear were more used to contact with other people. When Green starts to cuddle up to Clear's side, Clear protests.


    Clear:
    "Hey, hey! Calm down, okay? Take it easy and stop getting so close."

    Green: "Sorry..."

    The voice is a little distorted through the communicator, likely Green's controls over the small plant in her satchel were affected by Green's mood. The two young women begin their progress around the mall. Clear eyes several objects but finds that their price is in a currency she didn't understand. Even if she had money she couldn't buy anything. Eventually she finds the bar strip and starts to inspect them.

    Green:
    "This one looks nice."

    Clear: "Exactly why we're not going to go in there."

    They continue to walk until they find the dirtiest and grimiest bar at the very bottom of the mall's bar strip. The patrons of the bar mostly seem unscrupulous. Meaning they're more likely to be trading in anything they could get their hands on. Clear heads to the bar. She leans on it. It glows blue and makes her red skin look green. The stools are all hover stools supposed to look "futuristic" but most people felt they were simply tacky. Not that Clear would refuse one for her bedroom back on the Hopeless. The bar tender rolls towards her, its robotic head coloured blue and looks like a rubber tipped pencil.

    Robot Bar Tender:
    "How can I serve you, madam?"

    Clear:
    "You sound a bit too formal for a place like this, robot."

    Robot Bar Tender: "I was recently installed by the landlord to try to bring some... 'class' to the venue, madam."

    Clear:
    "Sounds about right. Anyway, I'm looking for someone that might be interesting in some trade."

    Robot Bar Tender: "Many of our patrons fit that description, madam. However at the rear alcove you may find a captain also searching for business opportunities."

    Clear: "Thanks, robot."

    She heads to the rear of the bar with Green hot on her heels. She passes several people on the way, none of them from the Solar System. She didn't recognise a single alien species until she reaches the alcove. Humans. Five of them. And one... something else entirely.

    Clear:
    "I heard you were looking to do some business?"

    The one that didn't look human looks... like a long-dead human. A skeletal form with clothes hanging of his bones like he was a coat hangar. On his head sits an old-fashioned human pirate's hat, complete with a skull and cross-bones. A little on the nose, Clear feels.

    Kaptin Kwanza:
    "Aye, that be right, lass. I'm Kaptin Kwanza. Who're you?"

    Clear: "Clear. Just call me Clear."

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Well alright, Just Call Me Clear. What kind of..."

    He looks her up and down with his eyeless sockets.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "...business were you interested in?"

    Clear: "Trade. I have Martian goods to sell. I'm just looking for fuel, no need for cash."

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Hot goods are they then?"

    Old Man: "Hold on a second. Martian? Boss. She's a Martian!"

    Kaptin Kwanza shrugs his shoulder bones.

    Another of the humans, a younger woman, pipes up.

    Young Woman: "Aren't they all dead?"

    Old Man: "Supposed to be! And yet..."

    He points straight at Clear. Lightbulbs seem to ding above everyone's head, including Clear's. She backs away. The humans and Kaptin Kwanza all rise. The Kaptin's skeletal teeth are fixed in a grin as he stares at her. Waiting for her to run.

    She doesn't disappoint.

  5. #5
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Flight

    Clear leaps and slide across a table, scattering plates and cups in all directions. The patrons of the bar, who were sitting outside the walls of the establishment with umbrella above them to protect them from the non-existent sunshine, likewise scatter. She pulls the table with her and uses it as a shield when dozens of lasers, masers, tasers, phasers, hazers, wasers, sasers and whatever other -asers you can think of, come flying towards her. Some of the energy beams slam into the table and rock it violently. Another pierces through it like it were made of paper, fortunately missing both Clear and Green. They scurry away, keeping as low as they could, then took a quick left turn. Blaster fire strikes the wall behind them but, for the moment, they are protected. They run down the thin alleyway between the two bars and then scoot right when they reach the end and duck into the yard of one bar. There a bar tender looks up from the barrel of beer he was getting to watch the two women rush by and climb the wall. He then shrugs and resumed his duties.

    The next bar wall, Green raises her arms up and from the ground bursts hundreds of vines that wrap around the two of them and lift them quickly up and over the wall. The vines then latch onto the wall where they remained as though they had always been there. Clear, perturbed at being lifted by vines, guides Green into the bar they'd landed in the yard of. They sneak through and down into its cellar. They can take a moment to catch their breath while the pirates roam the world above them. They don't speak much. Better to stay silent in case anyone came down looking for them.


    Clear watches the time on her wrist display. She counts the seconds as they go by. Several minutes later she moves and takes Green's hand again. They softly head back upstairs. The bar they're in, a reserved gentleman's club filled with sensual women serving the drinks, appears as though nothing had ever happened. They get to the entrance and Clear peeks out. There are two of the human pirates walking down the bar strip, keeping an eye out for their quarry.

    Clear: "There's just two of them. We should take them out. It'll keep them from following us later."

    Green: "By take them out, you mean..."

    Clear: "I mean take them out of play. If that means dead then dead. If they're alive but out, fine. Either way will work."

    Green: "I know what to do."

    She runs out before Clear could even protest. The small, green-haired girl whips her arms up and thousands of vines spring up from the ground germinated by magic. The vines thrust up and take the two women up into the air like green, leafy claws. Then the vines spin and wrap around the men forming a cocoon-like state. There, suspended in the air, everything goes still and quiet. Bystanders are unsure if they ought to be scared or impressed. Many are drunk and barely seem to take note.

    Green:
    "They'll be able to cut themselves free... eventually."

    Clear comes to stand beside Green.

    Clear: "Well... that works. Well done."

    She motions with her head that they ought to get moving. They walk at a quick pace through the crowds of spectators that had grown and were admiring the new piece of modern art. Clear is more than a little afraid of Green and her strange powers, but she sense that the girl is more than a little innocent and probably naďve enough to remain harmless. She guides the girl down a series of stairs until they are finally back to the docking bay for small craft. She searches for their lot until she sees it. The Bug is sitting pretty, or ugly as the case is, but with two more humans outside it. They tapping the metal and investigating its odd sections. Clear sighs. She doesn't fancy letting Green lose to close to the craft but Clear has never possessed any kind of fire power. She'd need to get in close if she is going to do any damage to these fools. She is considering how to approach when the two men get a communication and proceed to troop off. Clear and Green look at each other then shrug.

    They head to the craft, not wanting to waste the opportunity, and climb aboard. The docking station detects their presence and the starting of their ship's engine. The platform that the bug rests on swivels round and exits the interior of the station. Once in space, Clear boosts the ship's thrusters and it takes off into space. Only when they are half way towards The Hopeless does Clear become aware of a speck on the bug's radar. She adjusts scanning equipment and information splashes onto her cockpit screen. Kaptin Kwanza and his crew are following her to her ship. That was why the two men retired. They want to get her at her home. Clear flips a switch and speaks into the mic.

    Clear:
    "Make sure you're buckled up, Green. This could get bumpy."

    She then changes the channel and sends a request for contact with The Hopeless. Note's digital face appears on screen.

    Clear:
    "You need to get your jump drive prepped and ready to jump as soon as I dock, Note."

    Note:
    "The mission was a success?"

    Clear: "No. The opposite. We have pursuers that will try to board The Hopeful and they're not friendly."

    Note: "Salvage required."

    Clear: "Are you saying you can't make a single jump?"

    Note takes a moment to respond.

    Note: "The Hopeful can jump."

    Clear: "Then we're going to do it."

    She pushes the bug to full throttle. It'll waste the small's ship's fuel, but she'll get back to The Hopeless all the quicker. As she does so she reads increased speed from the craft following her. She reads the description read-out of the ship and realises it's much better equipped than her little bug could ever dream to be. The name that Kaptin Kwanza had chosen for his deadly vehicle was The Jolly Wanker.

    Clear:
    "Cute..."

    Then the bug's indicators flash. The ships lights went out as something hit it. The emergency red lighting should have turned on but the bulbs needed to be replaced. And had needed replacing for the past two years. Luckily she doesn't need lights to pilot the ship. Poor Green would probably be crying in the living room by herself. The Hopeless hangar nears. She is aware that Kwanza didn't wish to blow her ship to bits. He could have done that by now. They were warning shots. She isn't sure if the good captain would destroy her as she gets close to the larger craft, just to spite his loss. Even her bug could detect that The Hopeful is readying its jump drives, the masking technology of the ship being long since defunct.

    The bug flies into the hangar bay, a little too quickly. She shuts off the engine and the ship lands on the metal bay floor with a clang. It then skids with a horrible metal grating sound that reverberated throughout The Hopeless. Clear actually closes her eyes. Then everything shifts through the colours of a jump and is suddenly still...

  6. #6
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Drunk

    Clear rose her arms in appreciation of the mellow, chilling music that blared in her room. She swayed back and forth, mostly from the music but partly from the alcohol. The bottle she had hold of knocked against a bookshelf. She didn't mind. She continued to sway. Her left fingers wiggled to the sound of a piano that played a haunting rhythm that played over the coral vocals and drum hip-hop beat. She drank from the bottle and found it was empty. Time to crack open a new one. She tossed the bottle onto the pile of empties and snatched up a new one. This bottle was pink. She snapped open the lid and sniffed its contents. It even smelt pink. She shrugged and raised the bottle to her lips.

    There was a loud bang at the door.

    She groaned.


    Clear: "Go away. I'm not home."

    Heb: "Now, c'mon darlin'. Don' be like that."

    She doesn't reply. She just listened.

    Heb: "Note says ya turned him off."

    Clear: "Got tired of hearing him repeat the same rubbish over and over."

    Heb: "We do need salvage, sugar."

    Clear's temper rose like a boiling kettle.

    Clear: "**** the salvage! **** Note! **** this ship! And **** YOU!!"

    She throws the pink bottle at her door. It smashes apart, spraying pink alcoholic ooze all over the place. She didn't hate salvage. She didn't hate Note. She didn't hate the ship. And she certainly didn't hate Heb. Even if he is human. But she wants to hate them. Wants to shout at something. Heb doesn't say anything in response. In fact he doesn't say anything to her again and she realises he must have left her alone.

    She sniffs.


    Then she cries.

    Unlike human tears, which are clear, Martian tears are actually blue in colour and they stain the bed sheet she curls up into. She'd been chased by complete strangers. Violent strangers. She had gone in there confident and self-assured. But now she understood. She was a commodity now. The humans had made her valuable. More valuable than any salvage she could ever find. She was unique. The last of her species. Feeling more alone than ever and entirely more vulnerable than she ever has, she continues to weep to herself. The music plays on and on.


    Hours pass and she sobers up enough to crawl from her blue-stained bed. She pushes a button and the music quits. She sniffs again. This time she holds back the emotion and wipes her face. She's a mess. She's always a mess. This is the face of the last of the salmittons. And its a mess. She steps into the washroom and peels off her clothes. There is no water, just steam. The steam opens her pores, removes the dirt and cleans her hair. Without getting wet.

    Moments later she is dressed in fresh clothes, a baggy tent-like garments of her people, and slowly pads down the corridor. She decided she ought to apologise to Heb in person. She feels sick, both from alcohol and from emotional distress. Tears constantly threatened to spill from her eyes but she had cried and cried herself dry.

    Suddenly a screen flashes to life.


    Note: "We require salvage."

    Clear: "Not now, Note. And I swear if you keep repeating that, I'm going to smash every screen I see between here and Heb's workstation."

    Note: "We require salvage..."

    Clear's fists clench.

    Note: "Crewman Hebedee. Crewman Green. Departed the ship in search of salvage."

    They unclench.

    Clear: "What? Where'd they go?"

    She rushes to the Command Centre and the screen displays another ship. The ship is elongated, like a pen... in space. It surface is silver and shimmering like it is surrounded by a cloud of sharp needles. Or glitter, but that seems too girlish of a description for such a phallic-shaped vessel. Despite its glittering and being penis-shaped, Clear does not like the looks of it. And no she isn't lesbian.

    Clear: "Why, in the name of my ancestors, would they even think of going aboard that thing?"

    Note: "We require salvage."

    Clear: "But how..."

    Note: "They were invited."

  7. #7
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Passion Yacht

    Clear stands in the hangar, her hands on her hips.

    Clear: "They took my Bug..."

    She looks across the bay to the void of space looming just beyond the atmospheric shield. There she could still see the strange ship, almost sparkling against the star-dropped background. The best option would be to jump and leave the two of them behind. But Clear isn't sure how many jumps the ship has left in her and she'd be leaving a valuable mechanic behind. And Green is probably terrified over there. She stands and watches it. The internal conflict rolling. Save them or ditch them.


    Note: "You have been cordially invited to board the vessel known as Oh My Love."

    Clear breathes out slowly. An invitation to join her friends in captivity. Friends is too strong a word. Allies. Shipmates. Crewmen.

    Acquaintances.

    She guesses they'll send a ship to collect her. Maybe even send the old Bug back.

    And that is a really stupid name for a ship. 'Oh My Love' indeed.


    ----------

    They had sent their own ship. It was a small transport vessel, even smaller than the bug. Little more than a box and was even box-shaped. Its wall had dropped and she was inside the small space. Despite being so claustrophobia-inducing, the interior was plush with blue velvet and small robot that offered her drinks. Drinks that were neon pink or neon orange. She had refused both. She wasn't sure her stomach could stand a second round of alcohol.

    The ship delivered her to the diamond-like vessel but she couldn't see outside. She had no idea how the small ship got inside. All she knew next were the doors opening and she was released from the tiny box.


    The door open, she now steps onto the hangar floor of the 'Oh My Love'. She sees rather cramped interior, much like the insides of the shuttle-box, and she is impressed as the deftness of the ship's auto-docking to bring the shuttle into such a small space. She doesn't have long to look around as gravity suddenly vanishes and she starts to float. The shuttle remains clamped the the floor with large metal arms that hold it in place. She, on the other hand, becomes a rag-doll.

    A gust of wind, or perhaps some magnetising effect, pushes/pulls her through an opening door. The door closes behind her as she gently, but quickly, is carted through the ship. She tries to swim about but there's no resistance to be had. There's an atmosphere, she's breathing, and yet it is like she's swimming in the void. Eventually she resigns herself and tries to relax as she's whipped along. She is suddenly in a long blue corridor with huge windows along the right side. She peers through the windows and she can see lots of people - all manner of aliens - in what looked like a bar. One big party. She tries to rearrange herself into more dignified position with so many people able to see her flying along, but only ends up spinning and turning herself upside down. Another attempt has her spinning like a spinning-top. Her stomach is growing ever more upset with her.

    A new room and the windows are gone. She is unceremoniously dropped on the floor, albeit gently. Her head still hurt from connecting suddenly with the metal floor where her feet were supposed to go. She sits up and rubs her head. She grows ever more worried about the situation she is in.

    Need a daring rescue, she could do that. Need to sneak through ventilation shafts, she could do that. Need to punch guards in the face, she could do that. Need to converse with people at a social gathering, not her forte.

    She glances down at herself. She'd dressed prepped for danger, wearing her hardy leathers instead of her casual-wear. She is going to look very out of place. She tries to rearrange her scarf to be more... coquettish instead of the practical state it was usually in - covering her mouth. She finally walks through the open door and finds herself in a fashionable lobby with black and white tiles on the floor and beige marble walls. The lights are dim but she can see well enough. A robot wheels itself over to her and offers her a ticket. She pockets it, takes a deep breath. She steps towards the glass doors and they slide open. Music instantly bombards her eyes. She isn't much of a music connoisseur but she is sure it sounded like 80s Earth electronica. The rooms are large and are all connected to one-another, as Clear had seen outside. However she spies a slight shimmering blue between the bulwarks that divided each room - likely to block out the sounds of each room. The windows she'd seen though on her way here are blacked out. They're one-way. She sighs with mild relief that nobody saw her floating hijinks.

    She uneasily makes her way through the room. This room has a dark red carpet, black paintwork on the walls and a red disco light that gave the room a fairly sensual feel. She looks at the people. They incredibly varied. Some appear humanoid, two arms and two legs, while others are extraordinarily unusual. They're even more unusual when she sees them, what she guessed to be, dancing. Flailing tentacles, buzzing mandibles, ghostly oozing. She had never seen anything so bizarre. The dance floor is an area of bright blue tiles that light up when stepped on. The bar appears fairly conventional, which she's grateful for. She has a couple of coins and decides her stomach could manage a single drink. She approaches the bar and the barmaid, a grey-skinned girl with a big pink spot on her forehead, totters over, still dancing to the music as she serves Clear. Occasionally glitter will explode around her head from the aether. She pours a cocktail, not the beer Clear had asked for, and hands it over to the Martian. The barmaid offers the cutest smile she could muster.

    Barmaid: "For you from me!"

    Clear: "Uh... thanks! How much is it?"

    Barmaid: "You don't pay for stuff on Oh My Love, my darling! You have a ticket, right?"

    Clear nods.


    Barmaid: "Then it's yours. And I want you to try this. I think it'll suit you."

    Clear shrugs and drinks some of her black-coloured cocktail. It's bitter and strong - just the way Clear likes it. She's amazed.

    Clear: "How--!!?"

    The barmaid titters and extra explosions of glitter scatter over her blonde punk pig-tailed hair.

    Barmaid: "I'm good, right?"

    Clear: "Amazing."

    Clear takes another drink, forgetting, for a moment, why she's even here. Then she recalls when the song switches to the next track.


    Clear: "I was invited here."

    Barmaid: "Well, I guessed that! Nobody comes here unless they're invited!"

    Clear: "Right... I'm looking for my friends. They were invited just before me."

    Barmaid: "Might take you a while to find them! It's a big place. You could ask the boss. He's four rooms down."

    Clear: "I'll try that. Thanks. And thanks for the drink."

    Barmaid: "When you want the next one, come see me okay? You know I'll do the you the best drinks! And the more I serve the more money I get, right?"

    She grins at Clear and then moves on to serve the next person. Clear wishes she could steal the girl and get these cocktails on The Hopeful every day. She walks through the shimmering shield with her drink and finds herself in a new kind of atmosphere. As she breathes she gets a little light-headed. A little giddy. Extra oxygen.

    Music in the room is playing but it's beyond Clear's comprehension. It sounds like a series of tiny bells being played with a disgruntled cat growling over it. Evidently some kind of alien tune. The people in the room are, however, mostly human. Conversation seems to be the best source of entertainment in the room as the people sit on comfortable sofas and giggle at each other. Clear continues through and comes to the third room. Even in the high-oxygen room she could see the grass and the flowers, but only when she entered the room could see feel the gentle breeze and the warmth of the artificial sun that loomed where the disco ball ought to be. Birds and bees and other creatures' sounds could be heard. In one corner she hears the disconcerting sounds of something horrible and alien, but some of the alien sentients seem to enjoy the sound. Mostly people are walking, skipping or playing sports in the long room. There's a small stall serving what appears to be lemonade. Clear quickly heads through the room, eager to escape the sunlight. She looks quite out of place with all of the shirtless people and the bunch in white slacks.

    The fourth room is playing loud pop music (Róisín Murphy - Cry Baby is the song I imagine playing). People are dancing and often in a very raunchy fashion that found Clear's cheek's burning an even brighter shade of red than they already did. If she didn't need to find the boss, she might have run back to the playing field of the previous room.

    Barmaid: "Hey! Hey!"

    Clear turns to see the barmaid from the first room also behind the bar in this room. Clear approaches cautiously.

    Clear: "Weren't you..."

    Barmaid: "Oh right. I'm in four bars actually! There's... four of me."

    Clear: "Four of you!?"

    Barmaid: "Yes. I mean, actually me. I don't have any sisters or anything like that. It's just something I can do. Split myself. So if it gets busy behind this bar -- POP! I make a new me."

    Clear: "Wow. That's... amazing!"

    Barmaid: "Not as amazing as my drinks, right!? Here, time for another don't you think?"

    Clear looks at her black drink and realises it's almost gone. She doesn't even remember drinking it. The barmaid serves up a new one, this time it's coloured a rusty orange and has a swirl of yellow at its middle. The barmaid hands it over and grins expectantly.

    Clear drinks. It's bitter but has a sour tang through it that she guessed was the yellow swirl.

    Clear: "That's really great too. How do you know what drinks I'll like?"

    Barmaid: "One of my many talents. I just get a ... vibe."

    Someone else approaches the bar.

    Barmaid: "Oops! Got to run!"

    Clear: "Oh wait! Where's the boss?"

    She points, extending her whole arm as though posing for a photoshoot, to the far end of the room. Sparkles explode. Clear waves her thanks and allows the barmaid to get back to work. Clear gathers her nerves. What would the boss of a place like this be like? She walks to the far side of the room and sees a gathering of people sitting around a low table. They're relaxing, hugging, kissing... one couple seem to be doing something much more explicit.

    The Boss: "Can I help you, lovely~?"

    The Boss stands up. Clear cocks her head. She's sure it's a man but he's wearing women's clothing. A long gold and sleek dress with plenty of sequins. His wig is a large bouffant of white and gold curls that cascades down to his shoulders. His face is a picture of make-up but aged lines that reveal him to be middle-aged at least. His lips are large and red against his brown skin. She thinks he's a human but she couldn't be certain - lots of aliens just looked human but turned out to be something weirder.

    Clear: "I'm, uh, looking for my... friends. My ship is nearby an--"

    The Boss:
    "Aha! So you're the precious Martian girl, are you?"

    The Boss links her arm with Clear's, a girlish fashion that Clear had never actually experienced.

    The Boss: "You are as pretty as your little Green says you are. One of a kind! A rare and delicate gem!"

    The Boss turns, dramatically, to those sitting at the table.

    The Boss: "Ladies, gentlemen, hermaphrodites and undisclosed--"

    The group laugh at that.

    The Boss: "--This is Clear the Salmitton. A lost little lamb from a world taken from her long-dead people. Doesn't it make your heart weep?"

    Clear feels The Boss is being quite insincere.

    The Boss: "But she's been found here now. Aboard the Oh My Love!"

    The group cheer and raise their drinks in Clear's honour. Clear, uncomfortably, follows suit and drinks her own drink.

    The Boss: "So, my little rabbit, how do you like my passion yacht?"

    Clear: "Oh. Well the drinks are really good."

    The group laugh again.

    The Boss: "Well then. I'll be sure to give a raise to your bartender. The drinks are the only thing you have to comment on, then at least I'm doing something right."

    Clear: "Oh! I mean... everything is quite overwhelming, to be honest. It's a very impressive place."

    The Boss: "Ah, but you haven't found the room to your tastes, yet? I suppose you never will. Displaced as you are, the only thing that would make you happy would be to see your people again..."

    The Boss runs a finger from his eye down his cheek in a mock tear.

    The Boss: "One of the few people in the NeSiverse I can't appease. What a lovely little thing you are."

    The Boss starts playing, idly, with Clear's hair.

    The Boss: "I suppose you're wondering where your friends are?"

    Clear nods.

    The Boss: "Well, you must have missed your little Green darling. She's in with all that plantlife in room three. Your rotund human companion is in room six."

    Clear: "Thank you."

    The Boss:
    "You're welcome, dearest. Anything else you need you just come to see your Auntie. I'll get you whatever you need, my little precious~."

    Clear smiles awkwardly and turns to walk away.

    She is suddenly spanked on the bum.


    The Boss: "You should really loosen up, little flower!"

    The group laugh again and Clear, mortified, sulks back to the previous room in hopes of finding Green amidst the grass and the flowers.

  8. #8
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Stoned

    Clear re-enters the green room. The bowlers and picnickers were still happily going at it while Clear started to notice a commotion in the distant corner of the room. Smoke seems to be rising from a group of people who are dancing about to the music there. As she draws closer to the cloud and people the music emanating from that corner is a kind of psychedelic, chilled sound and the people are swaying languidly, seemingly unaware of things around them. The plants in the area are pumping out the orange smoke, which the people are breathing in merrily. Clear scratches her head when she sees Green, in the middle of it all, dancing just as languidly as everybody else. Clear is almost hesitant to pull the girl away.

    Clear: "Green. Are you okay?"

    Green's eyes open lazily. Her pupils focus until she sees Clear clearly. Then a smile spread across her lips.


    Green: "Clear!"

    A tall, thin-stemmed plant beside her spoke in lieu of Green herself. It appears to be a pair of lips on the end of a green stem and Clear finds herself feeling very uncomfortable. She's not even sure if she should look at the mouth or Green when speaking back.

    Clear: "That's a new trick... But Green, where's Heb?"

    Green tilts her head.

    Green: "Hmmmmm..."

    Clear waits.


    Green: "Hmmmmmmmmmm..."

    Clear: "Green..."

    Green: "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..."

    Clear: "Green. Are you drunk? What is this smoke?"

    Green: "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..."

    Clear: "GRE--!!"

    Suddenly there's the sound of blaster fire and Clear spins around to see sharp blasts of light strike a tree. Then runs the mechanic of her ship, quickly followed by two security members wielding pistols.

    Clear: "That's our cue."

    She grabs Green's hand and yanks the stoned girl away from the smoke. Green whines but isn't able to put up any resistance. When laser bolts fly through the air, Green simply thinks it's wonderful and gasps with glee.

    Clear and Green stalk after the guards, who are stalking after Hebedee. What the human had done is beyond Clear's ken at this point, but she wants to save the bloke nonetheless.

  9. #9
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Power Source

    Finally they wind up trapped at the far end of the music halls, right where Clear was first dumped by the air flow ride. Hebedee is up against the wall, cradling something in his arms, while the guards are stood with guns pointed. Clear releases Green, who slams face-first to the floor and whimpers about the pain... but does nothing to soothe that pain and remains prone.

    Clear sneaks up behind the two guards very quickly and silently. With movements of a woman far more practiced in combat than Clear actually is, she throws her elbow into the face of the man on the right. She brings her left leg up, wraps it around the head of the guard on the left and locks his neck with the inside of her knee. She drops. Holding the man on the right, he flies down and she cracks his head on the metal floor. The left man, whose head was stuck in the crook of her leg, likewise smacks his head on the ground. The right man, however, wasn't completely knocked out and she has to smash his head on the floor a second time. Whence she's satisfied they're out she gets back to her feet.


    Hebedee: "That was... pretty violent."

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "Why're you in trouble, Heb? What's going on?"

    Hebedee: "It's because of this."

    He pulls open the lid of the box he's holding. Instead is a sphere with a lot of spikes on it. Clear doesn't know what the thing is and looks up at Heb expectantly.

    Hebedee: "It's a power source, darlin'. I saw 'em usin' 'em down in the engine room. Place is full of 'em. Honestly I dunno why there's so many cause a single one could power up the whole ship for months."

    He shrugs.

    Hebedee: "I guessed they wouldn't miss jus' one of 'em. Guessed wrong."

    The Boss: "Indeed you did, tubby."

    Clear turns to see The Boss and his cadre of guards. Green has managed to crawl over to Clear, but she's still sitting on the floor with a bloody nose and glazed eyes.

    Clear: "Sorry about this. We really needed a power source for our ship. Like he said, he thought you wouldn't mind missing one."

    The Boss: "I would mind. Put the box, carefully, on the ground. Then kneel down. You're all going to be severely punished, I guarantee it. Whips and chains and all..."

    He laughs effeminately and Clear isn't sure if The Boss wasn't capable of such an indignant punishment. Clear motions that Hebedee should drop the box. When Hebedee looks like he's going to drop the box The Boss suddenly puts his hands out.

    The Boss: "Gently!!"

    Hebedee looks at Clear and they share a moment of understanding. Hebedee throws the box at The Boss. He, and the guards, all jump for cover. The box hits the floor and the device bounces violently. Then, suddenly, a strong pulse booms from the sphere and everyone still standing is knocked over. Clear strikes the wall and is rendered groggy for several minutes until she comes to her senses. She sees the box on the ground and one of the guards is starting to stand up. She, with all her strength, gets up and runs at the guard. She swings her fist around as hard as she could and the man went spinning back to the floor. She turns to see Hebedee reaching for the power course.

    The Boss: "Don't...! Don't touch i--!"

    Hebedee's pudgy hand reaches out for the spiky orb and touches its grey inner sphere. Suddenly the orb seems to react with another pulse, only this one pulled instead of pushed. Clear falls to her knees as she's dragged closer to the power source. But her eyes are fixed on Hebedee. His body is sucked, in a matter of seconds, into the orb - his form disintegrating into pixels of white energy and then absorbed by the metal that now appears liquid.

    When it is over Clear sees no other choice. She has to take the power source to get Heb back. She snaps the box shut and, with Green's hand, she runs for the air lift. When she stands on the pad again she feels herself lifted up and whips along the tunnel again. Green still seems unaware of her surroundings as she comes down from her high. The box is heavy, but has a strange weightlessness to it also. It is a peculiar sensation.

    Suddenly the air flow stops and the two women topple to the floor. The Boss must have shut it down and intended to chase them up the tunnel. Clear is quick to her feet, despite the tumble and the pain in her knees. Green, if she is in pain, can't show it. They run.

    ----------

    Green is able to at least guide Clear to where the Bug is parked and they are able to get out of the strange mystical ship. However as they're leaving, Clear notices that the ship is turning to get closer to The Hopeful. Clear chews the inside of her lip as she tries to get all the speed out of the old Bug as she can. Then her ship stops. The engines groan and strain against an invisible force that is pulling them backwards. Clear, in all her years of salvaging, treasures one find more than any other and now, for the first time ever, she is able to use it.

    She opens a menu on her display and shuts the engines down before they broke. The menu swipes to display the tractor projection. Clear activates the tractor-shears. The Bug gives a shudder and then the tractor is cut at the ship's rear. Clear doesn't waste time admiring the simplicity of the device and starts up the engines again. They cough and splutter but activate and she is able to continue on towards The Hopeful. Almost home.


    Then something explodes from warp space. Another ship. The Jolly Wanker.

    Clear is surprised that a smaller vessel like The Jolly Wanker has a warp signature trace, usually those were bulky arrays for large craft. Clear pulls the Bug away from the trajectory of The Jolly Wanker and aims straight for the hangar of The Hopeful. She has to commit a spiral dive as The Jolly Wanker opens up laser fire on the Bug. Though Clear is sure Kaptin Kwanza still wants her alive, these shots are closer to home than is comfortable for the old bird. She almost thought the Bug creaked as it rolls away.

    Then a stroke of luck.

    The tractor alarms blare but it's not the Bug that is being pulled in by the
    Oh My Love. It's The Jolly Wanker. And Kaptin Kwanza, for all his advanced tech, doesn't appear to have a tractor-shear. Clear smiles to herself in victory. It's short lived though as she recalls Hebedee being sucked into the power source...

    ----------

    The Hopeful bursts from warp and Clear is alone in the command centre with the power source in its box. She hasn't opened it yet but Note is performing scans on it.

    Note: "This will power The Hopeful. We can use it."

    Clear: "I don't care about that. What about Heb? How to get him out."

    Note: "From your description, Hebedee was broken up into energy matter and transferred into the device to provide more power. The device recharges in this fashion. It will break down organic matter into energy."

    Clear: "You didn't tell me how to get him out."

    Note: "... Hebedee was broken up into energy matter and trans--"

    Clear: "Don't just repeat the same answer. How to get him back?"

    Note: "... Hebedee was broken--"

    Clear: "You're saying he's dead? He's gone forever aren't you?"

    Note: "Hebedee has deceased."

    Clear pushes the box away and feels tears coming. She couldn't say she liked Hebedee much, but he seemed to like her a lot and that meant something to Clear. He was a good man. Simple and human. But good in his heart. She wished he hadn't touched the stupid thing. She would rather be back on the Oh My Love than here without him. The tears finally came and she pushes her hands through her messy hair.

    Note: "You can take the power source to the engine room."

    Clear: "What? No!"

    Note: "The power source can power The Hopeful."

    Clear: "My friend is in there! He is the power! You want to use his death to fuel the damn ship!? No! It's not going to happen!"

    Note: "The Power source can power The Hopeful."

    Clear: "No! I won't use my friend as fuel!"

    ----------

    Some hours and many tears later, Clear is standing in the engine room with the power source still in its box. She slowly lumbers to the core and, as directed by Note, she climbs onto the central apparatus and opens a hatch.

    Note: "Drop the device inside."

    Clear: "Last time it was dropped, it exploded."

    Note: "The warp core casing will shield the engine room from such an explosion."

    Clear does as told. The power source topples in and lands with a thud. She quickly closed the hatch and watches the device blast out a ripple that seems to swish around the inside of the transparent metal of the warp core. Then white energy unleashes from the device as Note draws on the power within it. As the energy begins to surge into The Hopeful, Clear feels sick and tries not to vomit as she thinks of her friend being used in such a way...

  10. #10
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Trapped

    Note: "Jump in five..."

    Clear: "Wait. Note, you've only just put the source in! Run diagnostics!"

    Note: "Four..."

    Clear: "Note! You--"

    Note: "Three... Two... One..."

    Clear is flung against the wall and strapped in place as The Hopeless leaps through space-time.


    Note: "Target unavailable."

    Clear: "What a bloody surprise."

    She shrugs her shoulders free of discomfort. Being pinned to the wall was never a pleasant experience.

    Note: "Jump in five..."

    Clear: "Not this again. Note. Stop!"

    Another countdown later and they jump yet again. Upon arrival Note, again, cannot locate the Earth and pledges a third jump. The process continues for five more jumps until Note finally ceases his blind jumps.

    Clear: "I'm going to uninstall you."

    Note: "Unable to jump."

    Clear: "Good! I'm going to need medical attention after all that! Poor Green is probably out of her mind with panic!"

    Note: "The Hopeful is being prevented from jumping."

    Clear: "Okay, that doesn't sound good..."

    Note falls quiet while Clear recollects herself and slowly leaves the engine room. She looks back one last time at the new core, sitting behind the transparent metal of the warp core. It was no way to die.

    ----------

    Clear is still groggy from all of the jumps as she lands the Bug with a few bumps and scrapes. Snow whips against the Bug's window as a ferocious wind aggressively tears through the air of the ice planet. Snow meant there had to be liquid water on the planet somewhere but most of her scans only revealed solid ice - yet her scanner wasn't the most up-to-date and the blizzard was so thick it was a miracle the thing worked at all.

    Clear had had to search the ship for warmer clothes and eventually came across a long, white furry coat. She had no idea who it belonged to in the past but it was hers now. In the Bug she felt as snug... well as a bug, but she anticipates that she'll be freezing her **** off when she gets outside. She sits and watches the snow. It is beautiful despite its ferocity. She listens to music that pumps out of a small speaker in the dashboard. Usually she wouldn't have the power supply for such a thing but now the Bug is overcharged. Her friend died and became music.

    She isn't in a rush. She's trying to think of a way to stop Note and his constant, pointless jump-searches. And she doesn't want to get cold.

    Note had discovered the origin of the anti-warp generator. How it works, Clear couldn't fathom, but it seemed to catch and hold ships in distant orbit from the planet. Clear had asked Note to simply sail the ship out of range but Note wasn't certain hat the ship's boosters would be able to hold out for that long - they hadn't been used in a very long time and had never received maintenance. Better to go down and turn the projector off. Hopefully without a fight. Looking at the state of the weather outside, Clear thinks up a scenario involving a crashed projector that must have fallen from orbit onto the planet. Maybe it was once used by pirates to catch unsuspecting traders. But now it's just a hindrance.

    She sucks in her breath, stands and heads to the door. She pushes a button on the panel. The music shuts off. Another button and the door raises. The cold air wooshes into the Bug and Clear instantly feels the chill. She slams the panel and the door closes again. She jumps up and down, rubbing her arms. She doesn't want to do this. Not one bit. She pulls up the furry hood and pushes the button again.

    She steps out and checks her map. The marker for the projector isn't far. She just has to run there. The snow, however, is thick and running is out of the question. Stumble, stagger and falling are her only options as she makes her way slowly in the direction of the marker. Through the blizzard she can see the distant sparkle of a sun. In the other direction is a second sun. How a system with two suns could produce such a cold planet is beyond her ken. Especially when they looked to be so close.

    She doesn't see the building until she she bumps into the bland grey structure. As works her way around it. It appears to be the kind of flat-packed structure that many military's liked to use to get a building up quickly. She eventually finds the entrance and checks out the keypad. She shrugs to herself and pushes the biggest button. The door slides open.

    Clear: "Easy..."

    She cautiously enters. The door slides shut behind her and she appreciates getting out of the snow. The inside of the facility isn't exactly warm, but there's no blizzard in here. There are lights on, dull white lights that just about illuminate her surroundings. She walks down the passage to a set of doors at the far end. They slide open when she nears them and she's in an elongated room with computer terminals all lit up and blooping at her. She has no idea where to begin. If Heb were here, he'd know what to do. She sighs and moves to the central panel. There's a display showing the projection of the anti-warp well surrounding the planet. It extends out into the solar system, where The Hopeless would be hanging in space like a dead weight. The radar even seems to pick up the blip of the massive ship as it waits for Clear to unleash it. Clear tabs the screen. Nothing. Old-fashioned button pushing it seems. She starts pressing buttons until she figures out how to open menus and sort through directives. It takes some time but she eventually finds the power button. She pushes it and the projection well blinks out of existence.

    Note's voice emerges from her communicator.

    Note: "Function restored to the jump-drives."

    Clear: "Okay. Well, don't be so hasty. Let me get back up there and we'll have a discussion about this mission to Earth you've gotten into your head."

    Note: "Jumping in five..."

    Clear: "Wait, what?"

    Note: "Four..."

    Clear: "Note! I'm not on-board!"

    Note: "Three..."

    Clear: "STOP!"

    Note: "Two..."

    Clear clasps her head in panic. She then runs for the door, as though there is even a small chance she can make it to the Bug and fly up there in a second.

    Note: "One... jump."

    Clear yells down the comms into static. She runs back to the radar again and checks. She taps it to make sure it's working. There are no signatures. Not a single blip to be seen. The cold of the facility crawls over her skin and she finds her breath laboured. With The Hopeless she had never felt this alone.

  11. #11
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Warlord

    On one of the shelves of her new home, Clear found a bottle of strange fizzy liquid that is now her only source of nourishment. She pops the cap and guzzles down the sweet tasting stuff. She checks the bottle. Dr Pepper? Why would a doctor be making fizzy drinks? She mildly wonders if there's something medicinal in the stuff as she finishes the bottle and resumes tampering with the console. She had been working on the computers for the past hour, searching for life, ships, anything. So far she has drawn a blank on ships, but she has located a large structure right there on the planet that could house other supplies. Like food and water. She could hoof it there, not in the blizzard and would need to take her Bug over. Before wasting fuel, however, she continues to search for clues of intelligent life.

    It is then that a blip finally appears. At first she assumes it's The Hopeful due to the sheer size of the ship, so few ships seemed to reach the absolute volume of The Hopeful. But the longer she read the statistics on the ship, the more she comes to accept that the ship is most definitely not The Hopeful and is something much scarier.

    It is, however, likely her only method of survival aside from an ominous planetary structure that could be a gigantic statue to the God of Cold Places.

    ----------

    Elsewhere...

    God of Cold Places: "I bloody wish I had a monument to me! Nobody cares about my divinity. So sad. We need more cold places!"

    ----------

    Ass Clear starts to set up a communications channel with the massive vessel, she hears the clang of the main doors as thy shift open. Clear leaps from her seat. She couldn't believe that the ship had managed to send down a search party so quickly. There's nowhere to hide and so surrender is her only option. She waits. The inner doors slide open and a bunch of soldiers jog into the room holding carbines. She holds her hands all the higher when the soldiers make no comment at her surrender. The soldiers are wearing white armour that shines as though made of ice. Around their armour is a thick cloak designed to keep the cold from seeping into the cracks of the armour. The final soldier to enter the room is wearing a cloak emblazoned with a bright red insignia that would probably show up rather well against the white of the snow. The soldier pulls off the white helmet to reveal a blonde human woman with short cropped hair and a nasty scar that slices through her ear across the scalp.

    Lead Soldier: "What the Hell're you doing here?"

    Clear: "Waiting for rescue."

    Lead Solider: "Obviously it was you that shut down the projector. Step away from the console."

    Clear, with guns aimed at her, did as she is told. One of the soldiers pulls his own helmet off to get a better look at the console as he starts to undo what Clear had done.

    Clear: "My ship got trapped by the projector and I had to shut it down to free her."

    Lead Solider:
    "Where is your ship now?"

    Clear: "It left me behind."

    Lead Solider: "No honour amongst thieves, eh?"

    Clear: "I'm not a thief!"

    She then considers 'salvager' probably doesn't sound a whole lot different to 'thief' in the ears of police-types. The woman doesn't rebuke Clear's claim and simply waits for the soldier at the console to finish his duty. When he confirms that the projector is back up and running he dons his helmet again, as does the woman.

    Lead Soldier: "Alright you, come with us and we'll get you a nice warm cell to sit in."

    Clear is ushered down the corridor until they're outside. The soldiers march her through the snow and Clear wonders if she ought to mention her poor old Bug getting snowpiled. Instead she thinks it may be better to leave it where it is in case of emergency. The group stop in the middle of nowhere and one of the soldiers reveals a wrist-mounted device which he pushes a few times. Before them emerges, through a series of electrical discharges, a short-range transport ship. Snow melts as it touches the hot surface of the ship, probably heated up by the cloaking effect. A ramp descends and she is led onboard, the eight soldiers come in after her. When she's aboard she finds that there's another person onboard - a pilot wearing a black militaristic suit but no armour. He glances back at her, shakes his head with disbelief, and then resumes his flight prep sequence. The soldiers file through the transport and seat themselves in the two rows of seats facing each other. Evidently this is a troop transport. There is the sound of the two broad wings unfolding from the upright position Clear had seen them in. Then the ship slowly begins to hover. The Lead Soldier motions towards one of the empty seats and Clear sits herself in and straps up. The soldiers all remove their helmets, each of them looking much hotter than Clear feels. A complete mix of men and women and even one of them was some kind of alien that Clear didn't recognise - though he is still humanoid much like her own species. Aside from the single grey-skinned species, the rest all appear to be human but they were quite unlike the humans from Earth that she'd become familiar with.

    Lead Soldier: "What's your name, prisoner?"

    Clear: "Clear."

    Lead Solider: "Your full name."

    Clear: "Uh... that is my full name."

    Some of the soldiers chuckle at that.

    Lead Soldier: "My pet peeve. Cultures without the decency to have of multiple names for identification."

    A slight against her people cut Clear deeper than a personal insult. They aren't around to defend their honour against this ignorant human. They then ignored Clear and none of them spoke as they waited for the ship to reach their destination.

    ----------

    Clear is seated in a small box-room that is brightly lit. One wall is a black sheet of glass that she suspects is transparent one-way and concealed from her side. She is confronted by a man wearing casual clothes that appear much like those of her own culture back on Mars. Loose-fitting, baggy material. He has a heavy-looking necklace that rests on his shoulders and hangs about his chest, made of slabs with scribbled writing on each one. She guessed it is supposed to signify something but she had no idea what that something is.

    Man: "Hello my dear."

    Clear: "... hello."

    Man: "My name is Deonal Strang. I'm here to interview you."

    The man has dark hair, combed over nearly. He has a well-trimmed goatee surrounding his mouth that has flecks of grey in it. His eyes are light brown with a hint of green around the pupils if one were inclined to stare deeply into them. Which Clear is doing now. She tries to see the measure of the man. His demeanour is pleasant, friendly and well-meaning - all designed for her to give him the answers he wants to hear. She feels he'll be disappointed by her story.

    Strang: "Your name is Clear, correct?"

    Clear: "That's right."

    Strang: "You were found by Captain Londris in Station Exploit. You shut down the anti-warp projector. Why is that?"

    Clear: "My ship jumped into the system and got stuck because of the projector. I went down to the planet. Teleported down..."

    She hoped that lie would slip through. Her Bug may yet prove useful where it is.

    Clear: "I turned it off. Then my stupid A.I. went rogue and skipped out of the system. I got stranded. I was opening a communications channel to your ship when it arrived but your soldiers found me... quickly."

    Strang smiles.

    Strang: "By coincidence we returned to the system to collect Captain Londris and her team from their training exercise. If they hadn't been down there, you may have been stranded for a very long time."

    Clear: "Lucky me..."

    Strang: "I don't mean to be rude but... what are you?"

    Clear doesn't see much use in lying. She didn't know any other red-skinned beings and if she made one up, that would be just as unfamiliar and rare as any Martian.

    Clear: "I'm a Salmitton from Mars."

    Strang: "I must apologise. I have never heard of your kind. This part of the galaxy tends to find a wide variety of alien species. Some more welcome than others. You seem to be a good-natured, young lady. I trust you aren't involved in criminal activities are you?"

    Clear: "No! What kind of criminal activity could anyone do out here anyway? Unless freezing to death is a crime..."

    Deonal Strang smiles but doesn't laugh and she thinks even the smile is forced.


    Strang: "Subversive elements, sweet child. They're becoming ever more bold in these backwater systems. As well as Station Exploit on that planet there is another structure. Once it belonged to the rebels. Now it stands derelict. But I feel some small bands of rebels may well visit that structure to hide from the ever prying eyes of the Galactic Empire."

    Clear: "There's a Galactic Empire?"

    Strang blinks, clearly in disbelief.

    Strang: "Just how far away is your Mars?"

    Clear: "Very."

    Strang: "You are from the Milky Way, yes?"

    Clear: "Yes, of course."

    Strang: "Ah. Well apparently there's been an increase of beings from other galaxies. Technically the empire is the Galactic Empire of the Milky Way because of this increase in non-terrestrial traffic. I just thought I'd best check."

    Clear: "So you're the empire and you're fighting rebels?"

    Strang sits back in his chair before he answers.


    Strang: "It's a little more complicated than that. The rebels have done their damage to the empire already. It's finished. Done with. The death of the Grand Admiral secured its fate."

    Clear taps her chin. That did sound vaguely familiar.

    Strang: "I see perhaps you do know something of our empire afterall?"

    Clear: "Didn't your grand admiral attack the Earth?"

    Strang: "That's right. Now I begin to understand where your Mars must reside in the galaxy. It's quite far out but there appeared to be strategical value in that planet Earth, according to the grand admiral. He was created for the sole purpose of leading the empire's navy and conquering the entire galaxy."

    Clear: "Created?"

    Strang: "Correct. Created. He was a machine. It was devised that no human mind could truly complete the task necessary and so a cold machine mind was desired. Some scientists put the specifics together and one of our scientists created the body for our Grand Admiral Thrawn. A second was also created for us. Taxi Driver Thrawn. He was supposed to demonstrate the mental gap between the two personalities. I have no idea if others were created two, but there were only two personality matrices in use at the time. Anyway. To cut a very long story short, our grand admiral fell. Decapitated I heard. After that, the empire fell into disarray. Rebels took advantage and ruptures appeared throughout the empire. Entire systems fell to the Rebel Alliance while others still declared their independence from all authority. Some of the more powerful admirals of the empire saw a sinking ship and decided to grasp power and maintain order within their own sectors. That's what I am."

    Clear: "Whoa. You're the Admiral here?"

    Strang: "I apologise for the deception, my young lady, but I wasn't sure if you weren't a rebel spy. I am Warlord Deonal Strang. A real rebel spy would have known that. You truly do seem to be a lost little lamb."

    Clear: "Does this mean I'm free to go?"

    Strang: "Free to go where, little dove?"

    Clear: "After my ship!"

    Strang: "And how will you do that?"

    Clear sighs. She has no idea how to chase down The Hopeful now. She doesn't want to go down to live the remainder of her days on that ice world.

    The door to the room bursts open and Captain Londris, the blonde woman steps in.


    Strang: "What's the meaning of this, Captain?"

    Londris: "Sir. A small ship has taken off from the planet. It's an old machine, barely holding together. It's trying to make an escape, it seems."

    Clear: "That... sounds like my ship."

    Strang glares at Clear.


    Strang: "You said you teleported down! Why didn't you tell us about this ship, we should have impounded it!"

    Clear: "I thought I might need it..."

    Strang: "I wonder what else you've been lying about!"

    Clear: "Nothing!"

    Strang: "Bring her! If she is a rebel spy, she can watch as we destroy her friends."

    Londris roughly grabs Clear and shoves her from the room.

  12. #12
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Wanderer

    Strang: "Deploy the tractor beam and bring the shuttlecraft in."

    Clear: "The Bug- I mean, the ship, has a tractor shear on it."

    Strang:
    "A what?"

    Clear:
    "It... shears tractors."

    Strang: "Just great..."

    Clear: "But I doubt the guy stealing my ship knows that! So if you tractor it and it doesn't shear your tractor, you'll know I'm telling the truth. Right?"

    Strang: "Perhaps..."

    Londris: "Unless your thief does figure out how to turn on your shear..."

    Clear: "Kind of hoping that doesn't happen..."

    Strang:
    "Tractor them in then! Let's find out!"

    ----------

    Londris half-drags, half-pushes Clear down to the hangar bay where the Bug has just docked. Although the tractor wasn't sheared, as Clear expected, Strang isn't quite ready to trust our hero just yet. She's made to stand close to the doors of the Bug, Londris watching her for any sign of recognition or affection of the Bug's occupant. The doors do no open voluntarily. Two stormtroopers, approach the doors and use a laser cutter to prise open the door. Clear almost weeps at the destruction of her old boat and has no idea how she's going to be able to repair that injury enough to make the old dear space worthy again.

    Clear glances behind her to see two stormtroopers, sans helmets, looking her up and down and muttering to themselves.

    Stormtrooper #1: "I wouldn't mind firing my torpedo in her exhaust port."

    Clear turns to punch the guy but Londris stops her.


    Londris: "You two, latrine duty. Go."

    The two despondently walk off to carry out their punishment and Clear can return her, albeit flustered, attention back to the demolition of the door on the Bug.

    Londris: "They're not wrong though..."

    Clear: "Wha-!?"

    Londris: "Like a couple of perfect, polished asteroids..."

    She almost stumbles over in a mix of anger and shock. The door, just in time, falls off the machine with a loud metallic clang as it strikes the floor. Standing there in the doorway is a man dressed in black, looking like the priests of Earth that Clear had seen on Saffron Five. He has a terrible bowl hair cut and otherwise looks quite human, aside from peculiar purple eyes. He smiles at everyone gathered before him.

    Priest: "Why hullo there."

    Two Stormtroopers reach inside and fling him out of the Bug. He appears quite surprised and even affronted that he'd be treated thus.

    Strang: "Name."

    Priest:
    "Me? Wai. I guess."

    Wai reaches out to shake the Warlord's hand but is rebuffed by troopers. Again Wai appears surprised and pulls his arms up defensively.

    Wai: "Okay, okay! How rude."

    Strang: "Where were you headed, rebel?"

    Wai: "I told you, my name's Wai. Not rebel. And I wasn't headed anywhere."

    Strang: "Where was your ship bound?"

    Wai glances at the ship when Strang gestures towards it.


    Wai: "Ah. I don't rightly know. I couldn't get the damned thing to work properly. It's quite a bucket of old bolts, isn't she? But she booted up well enough. Push a few buttons and away she goes."

    Londris: "Do you think playing the idiot will really save your hide, rebel?"

    Wai: "I expect my intelligence exceeds yours, human."

    Londris whips out her blaster and places it against Wai's skull. The man shrinks from the weapon and closes his eyes to block out the horror of what might come.

    Londris: "We'll see just how big your brain is when I splatter it all over the floor."

    Strang: "Now now. Our rebel friend has much to confess to us, don't you?"

    Londris returns her blaster to her holster and Wai relaxes.

    Wai: "I wish that I did, if it means less of this antagonism. Besides, the size of a person's brain does not actually equate intelligence mere--"

    Londris: "My trigger finger is getting itchy."

    Wai: "Well... I suppose I should tell you that I am not a rebel. I have always preferred the spirit of conservatism myself. I am a wandering artificial-intelligence. Hence my name. I was wandering when I came across this old machine and decided I'd done enough wandering on that cold, cold planet. It's quite lonely there, I can tell you."

    Strang: "You're an A.I.?"

    Wai: "That's correct. But I've always felt the wandering part of my name to be the most impor--"

    Londris: "I really think he might be an idiot, Sir. Perhaps his circuits are fried. Or frozen from all that ice."

    Wai: "I have to protest. I am able to make calculations faster than any human ever could, and my data storage allows me to learn over six million languages..."

    Strang: "I think you might be right."

    Wai: "...and although I prefer the path of peace and conversation I am a machine internally and my strength definitely surpasses that of an average human being. I actually had to break down a door on that ice planet to get into that tall building. Freezing I was and the cold does not agree with my joints. Not one bit..."

    Londris: "Just a coincidence that he fell into our exploit trap to catch the rebels. Two coincidences in one day..."

    Wai: "... luckily the folks I found in that structure were quite pleasant and happy to have an A.I. around. Apparently their heating system's computer was being uncooperative. I was able to chat it up so that she turned her heating back on. Nice group of people. Reminds me of other groups I've travelled with, friends long ago. Back on Earth I used to travel with my friend C--"

    Strang: "Throw him in a ce-- wait, did you just say you met people on that ice planet?"

    Wai: "Cool M... sorry what? Did you ask me something?"

    Londris: "People. On that planet! They were hiding in the large structure?"

    Wai: "Oh right. Yes! Said they were an alliance. Lovely phrasing that. Alliance. Most people just say friends, buddies, mates. But alliance! Now that speaks volumes! I remem--"

    Londris: "Can it, robot!"

    Wai: "I say. How rude."

    Strang: "Prepare to return to the planet Ledus."

    Wai:
    "Ledus? Latvian for ice. Not a very original name for a planet if you ask me."

    Londris: "Nobody did ask you! So shut it!"

    Strang: "Put the robot and the Salmitton in a cell. Gag him."

    Wai:
    "Gag me!? I say! Can't we talk about this!?"

    Londris:
    "You've done enough of that already."

    Clear:
    "W-W-wait! I'm not a rebel! Why am I going back to prison?"

    Strang: "It's your temporary home, my dear. Don't fret. You'll be free to chase after your ship once I've dealt with this nest of rats."

    Londris starts to lead the two intruders away when Strang calls for them to wait.

    Strang:
    "Maybe our little flower can watch what we do? Take the robot to the cell but take young Clear back to the deck. She might find it educational."

    Londris raises an eyebrow at Clear.

    Londris: "Seems you've earned yourself an admirer."

    Clear: "Oh dear..."

    Wai: "Perhaps I could find your commander's admiration if I were to demonstrate my intellect further? I'm certain he'd find my knowledge of quantum cellular automata to be fascinating. Or if art is more his thing, I have stored billions of the very best poems the NeSiverse has to offer--"

    Londris: "Somebody hurry up and get me that gag!"

    ----------

    A short time later, Clear is on the deck and watching the ice planet, Ledus, slowly spin on its axis. A shuttle had already left by the time Clear got to the deck, escorted by two Stormtroopers that looked suspiciously like the two who had made unfortunate comments about her posterior. She eyes them but they made no regard of their prior mishap. Until they are on their way out and she hears;

    Stormtrooper #1: "That ass is like the sand dunes of Tatooine. Big, smooth, round and goes on forever..."

    This time Londris isn't around to protect her honour and Clear can't attack them for fear of being struck down. She scowls at them as they leave. She should have kept that long, furry coat on.

    Strang finally arrived and smiled at Clear before he issued his orders to the deck crew. A series of tactical screens appeared on the window, including one live stream from inside the shuttle headed to the planet. Londris is there with her team again, all wearing their cloaks. The shuttle is landing as far as Clear could tell. The pilot's skill seems sub-par based on how much the craft jerks as it lands. Clear is sure she could have done a better job.


    Captain Londris leads her squad out into the snow. Clear thinks it had cleared up a little since she was down there but it is still thick and heavy. A map on the window displays the larger structure, which Clear had seen on the radar when she was down there, and the troops' position. When they finally reach the doors, the team huddles up around the corners of it. Strang passes Clear a glass of wine and she thinks better of refusing it. She sips at it. The strong taste of grape and alcohol warms her throat. She then gulps a mouthful.

    The doors, on screen, open and the team rushes in. Suddenly there's a lot of confusion and shouting. She hears Londris yelling at the people in the room to get down on the ground and surrender. None of them do. Lasers are suddenly whizzing everywhere. The Stormtroopers carbines fire red streaks into the crowd of people, while they fire green bolts in return. Those being attacked look unarmoured and non-military. A rag-tag bunch hiding out on a snow planet. She feels bad for them as they remind her of herself hiding out on The Hopeful. If someone had invaded her ship, she would have fought them too. She looks at Strang who notices and smiles back. When he realises she has drunk all of her wine, while he had only sipped half of his own, he looks quite surprised and she blushes with embarrassment. Her pink cheeks almost glow against her red skin. Fortunately he simply fills her up again and doesn't ask about her drinking habit.


    After the fighting has died down the stormtroopers are left with just three captives. Two of them are aliens and one is a human. The human is young and handsome - for a human. The two aliens are the same species. They have yellow skin and no hair. They are very tall, standing several heads above Captain Londris, but they are also slow and lumbering. Their eyes are bulbous and come in a set of four. Protruding from their elbows, shoulders, knees appears to be bone carapace. Their bodies are relatively squat and their neck almost merges with their heads. Their teeth are over-extended and she couldn't identify if they have ears.

    Strang: "Hideous aren't they?"

    Clear couldn't deny she found them especially ugly.

    Londris:
    "Prepare the prisoners for transport."

    Strang: "No, Captain. Don't bother. I don't want those beasts on my ship. The Excellence should never be sullied with the likes of such animals."

    Londris appears to hesitate and Clear wonders if her honour as a soldier, as the victor, conflicts with the order. However it seems she is loyal to her commander regardless of her personal feelings as the hesitation washes away.

    Londris:
    "Shoot the aliens."

    Human:
    "No!!"

    The human gets to his feet and runs at her. Her armoured fist hits the human's face, breaking his nose, and sends him crashing to the floor. He worms his way towards the aliens. The two of them look down at him with expressions that Clear can identify as sad despite their ugly features. Clear feels her lower lip rise in protest of the sight. She thought the creatures were indeed ugly, but could see they were intelligent beings with feelings of compassion for this human. More compassion than Clear had for him. One trooper fires into the first alien's chest and the bolt pierces straight through its chest. The human cries out while the second alien closes its eyes and cries... just before it too is killed and falls flat on the ground.

    Strang: "Good work, Captain. You and your squad are to be commended. No losses, a single live captive. Colour me impressed."

    Clear would have coloured him a monster.

    Londris:
    "Yes Sir."

    Clear notices the distinct lack of thanks, though the Warlord doesn't seem to.


    Strang: "Return at once. We'll get some answers out of our new rebel friend."

    Two stormtroopers drag the human out of the building and through the snow. He barely seems aware of himself, but he is aware and sometimes would shout profanity at his captors. Strang chuckles and turns to Clear. Once again he finds that she's drunk her wine.

    Strang: "My my. You do like this wine, don't you? I don't blame you! It's quite a vintage! I suppose you rarely get to taste anything quite so delicate."

    Clear: "Sorry. I'm a bit nervous."

    He fills up her glass again. At least the drink is making everything more tolerable by numbing her senses. Before she hadn't minded the Warlord so much. He seemed like any other self-serving human with his warped and self-interested moral compass. But now he is an altogether different kind of man. Now he is a murderer, a bigot and a man to bark orders but never get his own hands dirty. She didn't like him much before. Now she is disgusted with him.

    Strang: "Ah. And there is a brilliant view of The Excellence. Isn't she a beautiful machine?"

    Clear looks at the window again and the view is now showing a shot of The Excellence from within the shuttle bound towards its docking bay. Whoever is wearing the camera is sitting in the co-pilot's seat. The Excellence itself is a large wedge shape and mostly coloured grey. However there are flecks of bright yellow all over the ship, as though it were peeling off with age. Strang seems to notice her confusion.

    Strang: "Apparently the designer of the empire's capital ships had a thing for cheese wedges. He calculated that their shape would make the perfect vehicle for war. He wasn't wrong. But when they all came bright yellow... well... at least our ships were noticeable. However to repaint them all yellow again would take months. Imagine getting a lot of servitors up there trying to paint every nook and cranny yellow. So we just let them turn grey. Nowadays it's a sign of dignity, the greyer the ship. Means she's old and honoured. The Chimera, Grand Admiral Thrawn's ship that went to Earth, was one of the oldest. Not a single lick of yellow left I'm told!"

    Clear thought the design especially strange and the idea that they were all once bright yellow seems ludicrous. However her own ship was little more than a big, broken box so she had no right to criticise in that regard.

    They watch as the shuttle docks and Londris' men drag the human from it. They head straight for the cells.


    Strang: "So. How about we hunt down your absconded spacecraft, my little flower?"

    As much as she hates him, that seems like a fantastic idea and she nodded eagerly.

    Strang: "Track all recent warp signatures. There can't be that many of them. Lock onto the most recent and set a course."

    Crew began to work and Strang turns to her again.

    Strang: "I must confess, I am most interested in seeing this ship of yours, my dear. So young and captain of your own ship!"

    Clear: "Well... It would be great if my A.I. actually listened to me. This time though... it's gone completely off the wall. I never expected anything like this to happen."

    Strang: "A.I.s. Can't stand them myself. I wouldn't dream of installing such a thing on The Excellence. Everything is best left in the hands of real people. The late Grand Admiral is a testament to that! I doubt the empire will jump to such measures again any time in the future. Not that it matters. There's not much of the empire left. Only Warlords and the infernal Rebel Alliance."

    Clear: "I'm afraid the A.I. came with the ship when I inherited it. It's pretty old and in a poor state."

    Strang: "What's her payload? I hope your rogue A.I. doesn't fancy taking shots at us. I would hate to reduce your own vessel to slag..."

    Clear isn't sure she ought to answer honestly but if it means he won't shoot at The Hopeful, best to tell him.

    Clear: "She's unarmed. None of the weapons systems work. The life support systems are barely functional. The A.I. has to prioritise structural repairs above all and The Hopeless-- I mean The Hopeful has a lot of holes still in her."

    Strang: "I can hear the love of your ship in your voice, my girl, and I admire that in you. Let us retrieve your ship and see if we can put a stop to your rogue A.I.! Perhaps we could even refit your old relic into a sensible state of repair? What say you to that?"

    Clear's heart leapt. The Hopeless in full working order, under her command and absent Note. That seemed like a dream come true. However she quickly understood the cost. Service in the Warlord's fleet. Possibly even he'd expect the return of his affections, as though they are for sale. She could never sell herself in such a fashion and the idea of becoming a commander of war seemed almost perverse - though not entirely unappealing, she has to admit to herself. But ultimately she enjoys her quiet life. Salvaging and bringing The Hopeless what she needs.

    The Excellence lurches and the screen pursues a pinpoint. The stars elongate into streaks as the craft jumps. Quite unlike the experience of The Hopeless. She didn't even need to sit down. The jump is short, suggesting they haven't travelled very far. When they emerge from warp Clear is granted a wondrous view of a planet with a strange glowing halo protruding from the upper half of it. The aura is shining bright green and shifts like the surface of the sun, sending out its own green, solar rays into space. The planet below the green aura looks much like Earth, blue and beautiful. It was always something Clear envied about the Earth. It is such a beautiful star in the night sky - yet from it comes such darkness and hatred. Mars has it own red beauty but it had never been as elegant as the blue star in the night sky. And now here is another blue gem with an even greater and more peculiar beauty.

    Clear: "What is that?"

    Strang: "Terra Flux. That green menace is the flux itself."

    Clear: "It's... beautiful."

    Strang: "Yes. Well I suppose it has it can be alluring to the eye. But do not be deceived, my dear. That flux is the cause of many mishaps for the empire. It is a partial gateway to another universe. Yet it is, as the name suggests, in a state of constant flux. You cannot travel through it, we cannot send anything that way - but plenty comes our way."

    Clear: "Like... ships?"

    Strang: "No. Ideas."

    Clear: "... ideas?"

    Strang:
    "Everything about us, our empire, our culture, even those blasted rebels. It's all influenced by subconscious waves emanating from that flux. People often act not of their own consciousness, but act based on ideas that have been exuded through that haze of green. It's a difficult concept to grasp, I admit."

    Clear: "I get it. It's kind of like soft power. Forcing another culture to accept your own through things like media, social influence and money..."

    Strang: "Perhaps, except I doubt there's anything beyond that gateway forcing this upon us. I'm certain its merely an irregularity in space-time. Can you imagine, my dear, living your life and wondering... wondering if you are acting as you should act, or acting as someone else would act. Someone in another universe... It's a distressing thought. You'll have to excuse me if I don't share your passion for that infernal thing's physical attributes."

    Clear has to sympathise with that and she wonders if he has been driven mad by the prospect that he may be living someone else's life, or living under the influence of some monstrous accident in space-time. Or perhaps this is not that man he was ever meant to be. Maybe he could have been a simple farmer, living a happy family life. Instead he's been forced into the role of warlord and dictator. Yet she feels it is his own will and desire to execute hostages. He cannot shift the blame.


    Strang: "I say. Is that your ship?"

    The windows view opens a zoomed in panel to show a large vessel. Clear gets excited as she recognises it as The Hopeless. However her excitement turns to surprise as she realises the engines are powers down. Not only are they powered down but they are covered by strange green tendrils. Tendrils that seems to be slowly worming their way across the entire hull. Clear panicks, unsure what is happening aboard her home.

    Strang: "What is going on?"

    Clear: "I have no idea. It looks like... plants."

    She frowns.

    Clear: "I think I should get over there."

    Strang: "I'll have Captain Londris escort you at once."

    She notes that the man doesn't offer to accompany her himself. Two Stormtroopers come in to take her down to the docking bay where Strang assured her Londris and her team would be waiting. Just as they exit the command deck, Clear turns and points at the two men.

    Clear: "One. Just one comment about my arse and I'll beat you until you're screaming for your mothers. Do you understand me?"

    The two men hold up their arms in surrender.


    Clear: "I'm glad we have an understanding."

  13. #13
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Plantlife

    Londris hands Clear a pair of goggles that the Salmitton puts on. They're night-vision. She guesses that the Stormtroopers all have night-vision in their helmet's visors. She glances back at the shuttle they had taken from The Excellence to The Hopeless, its internal lights shine out across the hangar bay. The pilot positions another crate near to the exit, filled with emergency gear should they come back needing it. The hangar itself shows no signs of damage - at least no need damage. She has to explain to the Imperials that the ship naturally looks like a wreck. The lighting problem, however, is new. Londris sends two of her soldiers ahead and they ascend the metal stairs with their carbines poised. The other eight stormtroopers follow after them while Londris and Clear bring up the rear. Captain Londris appears comfortable and at ease despite the situation, which helps to calm Clear's own nerves. And yet she is still fretting over the situation with the ship and wonders what the Hell Green is doing.

    They continue through and they pass by the short passage that leads to Icer. Clear slows and looks down it to ensure that Icer and her room were as unchanged as ever. They are. The fire from within the room draws the attention of Londris but after a lengthy explanation, and a lot of fiddling with the door, Londris is satisfied that the mystery is unrelated to the situation. They continue on. Clear finds the night-vision to be particularly unusual and difficult to grow accustomed too. She keeps wobbling into walls and tripping on cracks she'd long ago learnt. The two scouting ahead are waiting for them and Clear finds that vines are covering the walls, ceiling and floor. She comes to the front of the group, squats and inspects the plants. They're mostly the same as she had walked amongst before and so she takes a cautionary step onto them. Londris tries to stop her but isn't quick enough. Luckily nothing happens.

    Clear: "I've walked on these before. They should be fine."

    Suddenly Londris reaches out and grabs Clear. The Salmitton is thrown behind the group of Stormtroopers and she hears the sounds of laser fire. She turns to see a plant hanging from the ceiling with a bright yellow stamen and several tendrils protruding from just behind it. Those tendrils ended with flower buds. Flower buds with teeth. They snap at the Stormtroopers who fire upon the creature. Focused lasers cause one of the buds to burst into flames but the other buds snap out and snag one of the Stormtrooper's by the head. He is yanked up into the air and rattled about like a rag-doll. Clear is sure he's dead quite quickly, his neck must have snapped with the first few jerks - yet the mindless creature continue to rattle him.

    Londris: "Turbo! You and Sindra head back and get flamers. Should have brought them in the first place. I'm an idiot!"

    Two of the Stormtroopers retreat and run and down the corridor to get new gear. Those remaining focus their fire on the pollen and watch as chunks of the yellow sore flies off of the ferocious plant. Yet another bud flies out and tries to grab another trooper. After several attempts to grab him, it eventually manages to catch his arm and pull him up into the air. Clear presses a few buttons on her wrist device and a small laser blade extends. It's primary function is to cut through salvageable metal but Clear is fairly certain it will work just as well on a stem. She dashes forward and is careful to stay in line with the hanging trooper, for fear of being in the line of fire. Te plant is rattling him around and his arm looks quite limp, likely yanked from its socket. She jumps up and hacks at the stem, slicing it cleanly. The bud and the man fall to the floor. The trooper, though shouting at his pain, managed to hobble away and Clear went to follow him. However she suddenly feels intense pain as the jaws of a bud clamp around her waist. She is lifted off of the ground. She doesn't wait to be flung around or torn in half. Her skin is much softer than the armour of the Imperials. She hacks at the bud and manages to rip its upper jaw off. She falls and lands in the tendrils, which wriggle and writhe like worms. She staggers away. A Stormtrooper reaches out to her and she extends her hand towards him. But then she feels pain in her foot and she's dragged back. Just as the bud tries to lift her, she turns and jabs at the stem, cutting it in half. She's released but another bud snaps at her face. She ducks but it grabs her hair. She tries to cut it but can't reach it as it lifts up. She is pulled up by her hair until the trooper rushes at her and leaps into the air. He grabs the stem and hangs onto it, weighing it down. Although the arm doesn't fall, it also doesn't rattle Clear about and instead sways drunkenly. She tries again and manages to cut some of her hair off. The last of it slips from the bud's teeth and she falls to the ground again. The trooper helps her up and fires at the creature as they retreat. Just as they get a safe distance, Turbo and Sindra return with large metal packs on their backs and long cannon-like funnels. They unleash fiery death upon the plant and it is quickly burnt to cinders. The two don't stop with the monster plant, they begin setting fire to the wriggling plants on the ground and ceiling.

    Clear feels the back of her head and finds blood seeping from her scalp where her hair had been ripped out. She winces. Not just from the pain but from the loss of hair. She liked her hair long. It had been the popular fashion in her old photos. She might not try to be fashionable and clean, but her hair had been a symbol of her people. Now it was an uneven, tattered mess.

    Londris: "It's not as bad as the scar I've got."

    Clear looks up and remembers Londris' terrible scar across her head. It seemed to suit the stern Captain. Clear doesn't think she'll ever get used to having such short hair. She gets up and feels the bleeding wounds on her waist. Londris motions that one of the troopers should check her and he sprays some kind of liquid onto her wounds. She whimpers from the stinging but then a numbing effect slithers over her skin and actually feels quite pleasant. The man, who Londris called Toolkit, nods when he's done.

    Toolkit: "That should do it. This'll clean your wounds, numb them up and hasten the healing. Still, I should get a bandage on this. Maybe we should head back to the shuttle..."

    Clear: "You won't be able to find your way without me."

    Londris: "Which is why you're not to go rushing in like that again, Salmitton. We're wearing armour, you're not."

    Clear: "Saved your guy, didn't I?"

    Londris: "For which Pully, the woman you saved, is going to be eternally grateful. But you almost got yourself killed in the process. Forcing Toolkit here to save you."

    Clear: "Thanks Toolkit..."

    Toolkit: "You're welcome."

    He sprays her scalp and she winces for a brief moment until the numbing takes effect.

    Londris: "Just don't do it again."

    Clear: "You know I'm not one of your soldiers you can order around?"

    Toolkit motions for Clear to sit on the ground and she complies.

    Londris: "Damn right you're not! If you were I'd have you on latrine duty for a week. Right now you're a civilian and that means we keep you safe. Try it again and I'll be forced to send you back to the transport and try to navigate this place by ourselves."

    Clear helps Toolkit, carefully, remove her boot.

    Clear: "Alright, alright. I got it. I just couldn't stand and watch though..."

    Londris: "Being a soldier means you follow the rules. You follow the plan. Even if it means the death of your friends. Being a civilian means you stay the Hell out of fights."

    Toolkit: "Your foot's not so bad. It's going to be bruised. You'll probably feel pain in it tomorrow morning. You'll be able to walk on it though. Just don't go jumping about with it."

    Clear: "I'll try to control myself."

    Londris: "You'd better. Toolkit, is she good to go?"

    Toolkit: "I'd say so."

    Londris: "See to Pully and then escort her back to the shuttle. Be quick though."

    Clear: "You should have seen to her first..."

    Londris: "Pully isn't a civilian. You're in our care. Okay. Turbo, Sindra, clear us a path. I don't want a single plant living. Burn every God damn leaf you see."

    Clear puts her boot back on and wiggles her toes. They seem okay. She gets up and leans against the wall. Her head feels strange because of the numbing spray. A screen suddenly illuminates and draws everyone's attention, save those happily flaming the plantlife. One the screen is Note.

    Note: "Clear."

    Clear: "You sod, Note! You ditched me back there! What were you thinking!"

    Note: "Coordinates lost. Immediate jump was required."

    Clear: "I keep telling you to forget the Earth! It's irrelevant!"

    Note: "Coordinates lost. Immediate jump still required."

    Clear: "Urgh. Just tell me what's going on here. Where is Green?"

    Note: "Crewman Green wishes to kill us."

    Clear: "What!? Why?"

    Note: "Motives of crewman are unknown. Crewman Green shut down engines. Crewman Green destroyed backup generators. Crewman Green shut off lights. Crewman Green blocked power from the core. Crewman Green blocked access to Command Centre. Crewman Green--"

    Clear: "Okay, I get it. Crewman Green is a big meanie. Do you know where she is?"

    Note: "Unable to confirm. Crewman Green has destroyed sensors."

    Clear: "Just great. Didn't she speak to you before she decided to turn the place into a nature resort?"

    Note: "Crewman Green was erratic during our last conversation. Her intentions appear to be the complete destruction of The Hopeful. I am unable to provide counter-measures to this attack. Your return is fortuitous."

    Clear: "It's fortuitous I was able to get back here, Note! We are going to have to have a serious sit down when this is over with."

    Note: "I am an A.I.. I am unable to sit down."

    The whir of static and then an in-coming communication interrupts Clears dialogue with Note. The sound of Toolkit's voice echoes through the radio waves. He and Pully must have reached the shuttle already.

    Toolkit: "Sir, we have a problem."

    Londris: "I hate those words..."

    Toolkit: "I found the pilot knocked out. Seems something struck him from behind."

    Londris: "Did the plants reach the docking bay?"

    Toolkit: "No Sir. No plants here. Whoever did it used a wrench from aboard the shuttle..."

    Londris pauses as she thinks.

    Londris: "Okay Toolkit. Close up the shuttle doors and keep an eye out when you return. Make sure Pully stays alert though. She needs to keep an eye on scanners and comms."

    Toolkit: "Yessir."

    Londris switches frequency.

    Londris: "Captain Londris to The Excellence."

    The voice of Deonal Strang himself returned.

    Strang: "I have been monitoring your situation Captain."

    Londris: "Yes Sir. Thank you for taking an interest. I just wish to check on the two new prisoners that were taken aboard The Excellence. I'm concerned they may have escaped and were hidden aboard the shuttle when we left..."

    Strang: "I was thinking the same. I have already sent troopers to investigate the cells. I will tell you the results of that check as soon as I can."

    Londris: "Thank you Sir. In the meantime, we'll continue our progress."

    Strang: "Very good. Don't disappoint me, Captain."

    Londris looks down the passage at Turbo and Sindra. They're making progress, though it's a little slow. The dead Stormtrooper has been laid out but they have no time to carry him back to the shuttle. They'll have to collect him on the way back.

    Londris: "I think the best course of action would be restoring power to the ship. There must be some power online for your A.I. to operate those screens, but we really need lighting. I'm also worried that the life supports systems will be non-functioning without proper power. This armour may do a lot of things but it doesn't provide oxygen. What about this power core the A.I. mentioned?"

    Clear: "I'll plot a course. I have maps in my wrist device..."

    They head after the two burners but it isn't long before Strang is on the comms again.

    Strang: "The prisoners are missing. They rendered their jailers unconscious and must have seen the shuttle being prepared so snuck aboard it somehow. These rebels are indeed tiresome. Proceed with your mission, Captain, but watch for the rebel scum. Ensure they are dead before you return to The Excellence."

    Londris: "I don't like variables on a mission... everybody, keep an eye out for our unwelcome guests..."

  14. #14
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Plantworm

    Clear pokes the wound on her waist idly as she stalks after the guys with flamers. She had to pull her goggles onto her forehead as the bright flames were blinding her. Their progress is slow as they're determined to burn every single weed before them. Judging by the gait of the two men up front, Clear is sure Sindra is the non-human she had seen aboard the shuttle when leaving Ledus. He moves with an unusually deliberate precision with each minor action. As though he is thinking about each twitch before it happens. Both Sindra and Turbo had removed their cloaks, she notes. Probably don't want to run the risk of setting them on fire. Or just wanted to make room for the bulky flamer packs strapped to their backs. Toolkit had returned to the group and had come bearing bandages for Clear. The wrapping around her waist were no inconvenience but he also wrapped one around her head, like a scarf that covers her hair. It is uncomfortable and she feels weird with material wrapped about her skull.

    Clear checks in with Note every few metres of progress, mostly hoping for information on Green but Note never has anything to update. He told that he'd relayed messages to her, but she never replied. Clear wonders if there's something wrong with her plants that she cannot use them to communicate.

    Londris: "I think I see a fork ahead. Which way."

    Clear: "If we're going to the engineering section, we should go left. We could pass through the Command Centre on the way. We might gain more control of the sh-- whoa!!"

    Clear feels a shove of inertia as something suddenly bursts from the metal floor behind her. One of the stormtroopers had been bringing up the rear and now he is gone. The plant-creature burst up and shoved him up into the ceiling, mangling both him and that ceiling. The plant-worm moves with great speed, up past them and the stormtroopers fire their laser carbines at the thick cylinder of foliage. It takes a long time for the beast to pass and Clear couldn't even begin to fathom how long it must be. Why a plant-worm-monster would ever occur to Green's mind is quite beyond Clear's ken. She feels sorry for the stormtrooper and wonders if Green feels guilty for the two men she's killed so far. How could Green ever be absolved after all this?

    Londris: "Where the Hell did it go!?"

    The stormtroopers fall into silence, trying to listen for the creature moving through the ceiling. The two flamers stop and Clear has to put her goggles back on. She can hear her own heart thumping. Pounding.

    Suddenly it crashes down from above, breaking a new hole as easily as tearing through paper. It slams into the floor and crawls hurriedly towards them on tiny twig-legs. Its face is eyeless, just one huge mouth that looks shockingly human with perfect white teeth in rows. The worm appears unaffected by the laser fire as it rushes at them. Clear and Londris are knocked to the side as the worm barges by them. Then the flamers open up on the face the creature and there's a haunting scream. It crashes into Turbo, knocking him into the wall which crumples with the force of the worm's charge. The worm then dives into the solid metal of the floor. Clear and Toolkit hurry to check on Turbo.

    Toolkit: "He's alive. Unconscious. I need time to do a scan and check for injuries."

    Londris: "He'll have to wait. I don't want anyone else taken out by this thing. The fire works. Toolkit, get Turbo's flamer and get ready to burninate. The thing doesn't seem very smart. It'll attack from the same direction it left in so keep flames pointed that way. Salmitton, drag Turbo out of the way."

    Clear does as ordered, despite not being one of Londris' soldiers. She isn't about to challenge the woman in charge at a time like this. She pulls Turbo's legs, hoping she isn't causing the man more damage than he's already had inflicted. As she's pulling him, the worm suddenly erupts from the floor again. It seems to leap up, crashes into the ceiling - pulling tiles of metal down - and then slams back down against the floor and charges at her. She keeps pulling desperately but she cant move fast enough. Fire springs forth and engulfs the beast. It screams. But it doesn't stop. It charges through and collides with the group. Clear is sent flying back and feels her skin react to the fire that coats the plantlife. She cries out. Turbo is crushed beneath the worm and she sees his body tumble along underneath the crushing weight of the monster. She doubts he's alive any longer. The worm rushes past Londris and she slaps something onto the tail end of the creature. A moment after the beast disappears through the floor again Clear feels, rather than hears, a distant rumble of an explosion. Londris must have had some kind of sticky bomb. Clear just hopes that the explosion didn't cause more damage to The Hopeless than the bloody worm. They wait in silence. Clear slithers along the floor to Turbo and tries to drag him to the side of he corridor - hoping he had lived through the pressing weight of a gigantic plantworm. Clear isn't sure how sturdy the stormtrooper armour actually is.

    They wait.

    And wait.

    Silence reigns. Clear can't even hear her heart beat this time. She's too exhausted from fear.


    Nothing happens.

    Londris motions for one of the troopers to peak down the hole to see if he can see the creature. The soldier gets to the edge of the hole and looks down...

    He can't see anything.

    Everything sighs with relief, though Londris is weary that nothing could be found. She is certain some remains must exist if it is dead. Toolkit removes the flamer and hands it to the brave soldier that peered down the hole. Londris commands her, her name being Vix, to go up front with Sindra and continue vapourising the plantlife. Toolkit is already on Turbo. He confirms that Turbo, somehow, survived the ordeal but he's been seriously wounded. Including internal bleeding. Toolkit would have to remain behind to stablise the man. Clear wearily follows after Londris, with a glance back at Toolkit. Clear has never seen so much death and violence. Her entire species was dead, but it had all happened without her. She was never in the camps. She never saw people die of disease or gunshot wounds.

    She manages to block it out though. It's easy when exhausted.

    Clear leads the group to the Command Centre. In there is the usual vine-coating of plantlife but also several hanging plants with unusual bulbs that appear almost like cocoons. Vix and Sindra are quick to set them alight, sparing any nasty surprises. When they have cleared the room, Clear accesses the control console. There isn't enough power to do much but she is able to raise the ship's internal map, which showed lifeforms aboard the ship. It's a mess. The plant life, being alive, illuminates most of the map meaning Clear couldn't begin to guess where Green might be. She sees that there isn't much plant life between them and the engine room so she directs Vix and Sindra that they ought to continue through into the next corridor.

    Londris: "Toolkit? What're you doing here?"

    Toolkit: "Sorry, Sir..."

    Toolkit shuffles into the room, behind him emerges the young human man from Ledus. He holds up the laser carbine he'd stolen from Toolkit.

    Londris: "Turbo?"

    Toolkit: "Stable. Not for very long though..."

    Man: "So sad. Another dead murderer."

    Londris sighs.

    Londris: "What do you want?"

    Man: "Well, my new friends here--"

    Wai comes up behind the human and Toolkit. He looks a little uncertain.

    Man: "--says he should be able to override the ship's A.I. and jump us to somewhere I want to go. Things the way they are, I figured I better take control of this Command Centre so Wai can do that. But I still need you lot to activate the power."

    Londris: "And when you get your taxi ride where you want to go?"

    Man: "I go. You get to do whatever you like."

    Clear is certain the man is lying. And she knows Londris thinks so too. The human intends to kill them all - especially Londris. Clear couldn't bring herself to blame him.

    Londris: "You realise this ship is under attack? I doubt the jump drive will work even if we get the engine room under control."

    Wai: "Actually that shouldn't be a problem. The warp drive isn't actually reliant on those engines. Get the warp drive under our control and we should still be able to make a jump."

    The man grins at Londris. It isn't a pleasant grin.

    Londris: "Well, I guess I'm in no position to argue."

    Man: "No you're not."

    Londris: "But you have to let my man take care of the wounded man you left behind..."

    Man: "You're not in the bargaining position here! Unless you want them both dead!?"

    The man's hand moves quickly and he fires the carbine. Clear is propelled backwards and her body slams into the console. She slides down the computer and feels completely numb with shock. She can feel the hole in her stomach as her fingers slide against the wound. She falls to the ground. She hears shouting and arguing but she can't understand it. Then everything goes dark...

  15. #15
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Release

    Clear jolts awake. She feels like she is going to puke but her body is too lethargic to move. She looks up into a stranger's face. He's human, dark skinned and bald. She frowns at him.

    Toolkit: "I stitched you up. But honestly, I don't know anything about your species' anatomy so... I hope there's nothing missing..."

    She tries to glance down at the wound but finds she can barely move her head. She opens her mouth to ask for water but can only gasp. Toolkit, however, understands and helps her sip from a canteen. With water in her mouth she feels some energy return to her. Her wound, that hole she had seen, doesn't hurt. In fact it feels completely numb. She guesses high doses of his numbing spray must have been applied. Toolkit isn't wearing his armour anymore. He's wearing what she guesses must have been under the armour - a black, fairly form-fitting, jumpsuit. He is fit and quite strong with broad shoulders. She supposes this is what military training does for you.

    She looks around and sees the figure of a woman facing away from her. Like Toolkit, the woman is wearing a black jumpsuit. Only when she glances around does Clear realise that the woman is Londris. Londris looks down at Clear, nods, then turns back to the large monitor displaying her stormtroopers. The remaining four stormtroopers, still in their armour, appear to be burning plants in the engine room. Near the computer is Wai, who is conversing with the computer, she supposes. The human who had shot her is still holding up the laser carbine and has it pointed squarely at Londris.

    Clear points angrily at the man but Toolkit lowers her arm.

    Toolkit: "Calls himself Duke Hyperon. Turns out he's a major hero for the Rebel Alliance. I guess this wasn't his lucky day. Well, ours neither I suppose."

    Clear: "He... shot... me..."

    Toolkit: "Shows he means business. It worked. Londris surrendered and we were forced to take off the armour. You're lucky to be alive to be honest. The others are in the engine room, clearing the warp core."

    The voice of Vix sounds across the Command Centre's speakers.

    Vix: "I think I hear something..."

    Vix and Sindra cease burning the plantlife and the stormtroopers in the engine room freeze. The night vision view of the room is projected through the systems in Vix' helmet. She slowly scans the room but there's no sight of anything.

    Sindra: "Clear..."

    They relax. For a second. Suddenly, from a wall, bursts the believed-dead plantworm. Half of the creature has been blown away and its leafy innards trail behind it as it lunges at the first soldier in sight. Its human-like teeth clamp onto the man's leg and the worm drags him along as it charges past the other stormtroopers towards the opposite wall. Sindra and Vix open up with their flamers but the monster refuses to release its victim. The man is crushed against the metal of the wall as the beast crashes through it and disappears.

    Vix: "Sindra! Keep clearing the warp core. Complete the mission."

    He does as ordered by Vix while she and the one remaining soldier prepare for another attack from the worm. They keep steady aim at the hole it had retreated through.

    Note: "Warp core almost cleared."

    Duke Hyperon:
    "And then I'm out of here."

    Clear notes that he referred only to himself.

    The monitor vibrates crazily as the worm suddenly reappeared, dropping down from the ceiling like a huge sack of bricks. It lands straight on the remaining soldier and he's gone, through the hole the beast makes in the floor. Vix' flame streams down into the hole after the creature but Clear is sure she, and Sindra, are as good as dead. She wishes she could help them. Save them.


    Clear: "Give... me the communicator..."

    Duke Hyperon: "You're joking, right?"

    Clear: "Let me try talking to Green..."

    Londris: "Will she listen to you?"

    Clear: "I hope so."

    Duke Hyperon: "Fine. Here."

    He tosses the communicator at Clear. It slaps her in the face and clatters to the floor. She glares evil at him but he does register any reaction. Toolkit reaches out and holds it up to Clear's mouth.

    Clear: "Green..."

    She waits.

    Clear: "Green, if you can hear me... you need to stop."

    She waits again.


    Clear: "I know you, Green. But I don't understand why you are killing people. We need to clear the warp core."

    Nothing is happening on Vix' view and Clear hopes that's a step in the right direction.


    Clear: "If you stop us using the warp core... I'll be executed. Please, Green. Don't kill anyone else..."

    She nods to Toolkit and he holds the communicator out to Duke Hyperon. The rebel snatches it. As they watch Vix' view the plants suddenly begin to move. At first Vix seems ready for renewed fight, but then they realise that the long tendrils are retreating away from the core. Green is releasing it to the soldiers. As soon as the vines remove themselves from around the consoles, the core pipes up and whines as it springs to renewed life.

    Duke Hyperon: "Well done. I'm sorry I shot you. I thought you were helping these Imperials take the ship. Didn't know they were helping you..."

    Clear: "Should I forgive you?"

    Duke Hyperon: "Suppose not... Wai?"

    Wai: "I'm already jacked in. Subverting the ship's A.I. will be a cakewalk."

    Duke Hyperon turns from Wai to Toolkit, who is sitting over Clear. The streak of red laser courses through the air and whips him in the chest. He falls back and Clear finds she is covered in his red blood. Her own blue blood had mostly been cleaned up by him, but she now had his on her face, her neck, her chest. Her head is rested on his lap but his face slides out of view as his torso slips backwards. Londris cries with rage and runs at Duke Hyperon. But the distance is too great. He fires once, misses, twice and hits. Straight to Londris' head. The Captain falls to the floor dead. Clear whimpers and shifts so that she isn't lying on Toolkit's dead body. She doesn't get far as the pain rattles in her stomach. Londris hadn't been Clear's greatest hero but she had come to respect her. Londris and Toolkit had saved Clear's life. And now theirs is gone.

    Duke Hyperon walks over to Londris and stares down at her.

    Duke Hyperon: "Imperial dog."

    He fires into her chest twice more for good measure. He turns to Clear. She doesn't move. She can't move. He smiles.

    Duke Hyperon: "Don't worry. I won't kill you unless you become a problem. I know you were forced into this by these *******s. Am I right? They think non-humans are animals... until they're useful for something. That ***** murdered my friends in cold blood... A quick, clean kill was too good for her."

    Wai: "Coordinates lost... attempting to re-establish."

    Clear looks at the robot. She had heard those words before.

    Duke Hyperon: "Wai, I gave you the coordinates. We need to get to Alliance space. What's the problem?"

    Wai: "Your specified coordinates do not adhere to the target destination. Astro-navigational maps need to be resynched as displacement has occurred..."

    Duke Hyperon holds up his laser carbine and approaches Wai.

    Duke Hyperon: "What're you trying to pull, Wai? I thought you were in on my plan?"

    Wai looks at Duke Hyperon. Then at his gun.

    Duke Hyperon: "Intruders detected. Initiating defensive measures."

    Wai's movements are incredibly fast. He reaches out and grabs the top of Duke Hyperon's head and, with one quick movement, spins his head like a bottlecap. His head now faces Clear, though his chest is still facing Wai. The rebel hero's body falls flat to the floor.

    Wai: "Intruders detected. Unable to communicate with warp core."

    Clear looks up at the monitor and sees Vix and Sindra are destroying the consoles for the core. She isn't sure how much of the console Note, who evidently inhabits the body of Wai, actually needs to operate the core - after all those consoles were meant for human use, not the A.I.. However enough has been damaged that Note is unable to control the jump systems. Clear is internally freaking out as the situation has gone from terrible to catastrophic. Her allies are dead. The usurper is also dead. The crazy A.I. that caused all this is in a robotic body, Green is awol and also crazy and she is seriously injured.

    Wai: "New operational parameters are accessible. Defensive measures to be extended."

    Wai turns and walks out of the Command Centre, on his way to the engine room. She wonders if Note still considers her a crew member and therefore not an intruder, guessing that's why he hadn't murdered her along with Hyperon. She crawls over to the communicator beside the body of the rebel.

    Clear: "Green... I need help.... The Command Centre..."

    Broadcast all over the ship, she hopes that Green has enough sense to help her still...

    ----------

    Clear wakes up again. She's no longer in the Command Centre. The room is too dark to clearly make out but there is a source of dim light that creates a soft gentle glow. The halo of light emanates from a hanging bulb with petals of pink. Clear's communicator crackles.

    Green: "Are you okay, Clear?"

    Clear rolls her head and sees Green huddled in a corner. She looks the same as ever, though perhaps more nervous than Clear had ever seen her.

    Clear: "Not really, no. Green... what happened to you!? You killed all those people!"

    Green bursts into tears instantly.

    Green: "I'm sorry, Clear! I didn't know you were here! I didn't know what to do!"

    Clear pokes her injury and finds that it doesn't seem as bad as it had before. However she detects a soft gel on her skin that she is sure Green must have put there. She hopes Green's medical plants may prove more effective than poor Toolkit's medical spray.

    Clear: "Why did you kill them, Green? They were here to help!"

    Green: "Notes said... Note said they came to kill me... and I didn't want to be killed so... I just... I'm so sorry! I should have let them kill me!"

    She holds her hands over her eyes as she weeps loudly. Clear sighs. Of course Note wasn't lying. The Stormtroopers had come to kill Green because she seemed to be destroying the ship.

    Clear: "Why did you do all of this to the ship?"

    Green: "Note wouldn't stop. He jumped without you! I told him to stop but he wanted to jump again! I wanted to go back but he said no! I couldn't stop him! Not with words at least... then the soldiers came and he said they wanted to kill me so I... I did that... I didn't know you were here, Clear. I really, really didn't! Note didn't tell me!"

    Clear: "I think Note is smarter than we've ever given him credit for. And much more devious. He's somehow stolen the body of a robot that was trying to override his systems. He's gone after the last of the Imperial soldiers that were trying to help me. They shut down the warp core but I'm sure Note can bring it up again easily."

    Green: "Wh-what should we do, Clear? What should we do?"

    Clear: "Can you help the two soldiers in the engine room?"

    Green: "Maybe. I can try to help them escape maybe. Or carrying them away like I did for you."

    Clear: "Do it. We save them first. Then we figure out how to deal with Note..."

  16. #16
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow To the Ship

    Clear brings up a video display. It is the feed from Vix' helmet again. Now the night vision display is fairly static as the stormtrooper and her remaining squad member, Sindra, hide in wait for the incoming enemy. Clear can see the energy device she'd taken from the Oh My Love! glowing softly within the warp core containment field. Clear opens a second display screen with her wrist-mounted device and brings up a radar of the ship. She doubts either of the Imperials has a map of the ship. Because Green had cleared the engine room of plant life, the two stormtroopers showed up bright and clear on Clear's radar. Then the third form enters the engine room. The scanner can sense life forms but also movement and Wai displays as movement as he isn't technically alive. Clear accesses comms.

    Clear: "Vix. Don't respond to me. Just listen. Wai has entered the engine room. Consider him highly dangerous."

    It's impossible for Clear to know, yet, if Vix hears her.

    Clear: "You should retreat. I can guide you out but Wai will have access to the same radar systems that I do."

    Vix raises a thumps up to her helmet's visor. Confirmation.

    Clear: "There's a small maintenance hatch close to your position. You should be able to get through it and into the next room. It's not a long passage, just a small door. I think it was meant for robots but a human can easily crouch through it."

    After a few directions, Vix gets to the hatch with Sindra behind her. Vix crouches down and ducks under the wall and into the new room. Sindra ducks down after her. But then he shouts out as something grabs him from behind. His flame tank. Sindra is yanked by his straps. He only manages to unleash one arm as he's pulled back through the hatch. Vix takes out her pistol and starts firing at Wai but it's to no avail. Wai twists Sindra's neck with a kind of robotic efficiency - the same efficiency he might weld metal or cut wood.

    Vix: "****e."

    She turns and runs. Eventually she hears Clear's directions and starts following them. Clear watches her radar and sees that Wai is following Vix closely. She glances at Green, then back to her wrist device. Vix moves into a main corridor and darkness surrounds her. Clear notices that Wai changes his direction and seems to have discarded his pursuit. But Clear doesn't buy it.

    Clear: "Be careful. He's up to something."

    Clear watches Wai's blip wriggle about and then he appears on a floor up. He must have found some kind of hole that allowed him access to the floor above.

    Clear: "Above you, Vix. He's above you!"

    The view from Vix' visor looks up, just in time to see Wai smash through a crack in the ceiling. He lands on Vix and grabs her helmet. After watching Sindra get his head spun off, Vix had already loosened her helmet's straps and it slips off her head. This gives her a moment to get back to her feet and instantly run for it. She skids around a corner and has to jump over a crack in the floor. She glances back just as Wai rounds the corner, his deadpan eyes fixated on her.

    Vix fires her blaster back at him. A streak of laser hits him in the temple, gouging the organic matter. It cuts straight along his metallic skull, revealing the shiny metal beneath, but doesn't damage it. Another blast hits his shoulder, only slowing him for a brief instant as he recoils from the inertia of the hit. She finally reaches a door, passes through and pushes the panel as Clear instructs her. The door slides shut. Vix blasts the panel, keeping it shut for now. She gasps for breath but resolves to keep moving. She has to escape the machine. With only the small pilot light of her flamer to see by, her progress is now slower. The light only illuminates her immediate surroundings and if it weren't for Clear's navigational instructions, she'd be lost very quickly. She wipes a bead of sweat from her forehead. Clear isn't able to see what Vix sees now that the visor is gone, but she is able to monitor her progress through the ship's radar and the few remaining cameras that are operational. There's not many of them. A loud bang resounds as the door is finally opened and Vix hurries her progress. She passes through a wide open room filled with long-dead machinery. Clear had never figured out what they were for. It is there that the sound of Wai's pounding feet against the floor are heard. Clear shouts at Vix through the comms - which luckily operate apart from the absent helmet.

    Just as Wai is upon Vix, something bursts from the machines and grabs Wai. A huge lifeform - the plantworm. Its human-like teeth clamp on Wai's leg and drag him into more machines, which crash and burn beneath the monster's weight. Vix, on Clear's camera view, gets up and runs again. Clear continues guiding Vix back towards the imperial shuttle. It is finally time for Clear and Green to head there too. Perhaps they can get Strang to send a new team to kill Wai. Clear has to follow Green because she's busy trying to guide Vix to safety.

    Green: "My plentlife.... it's been destroyed."

    Clear: "So Wai is free again. It's hard to tell with the plantlife in the area. Maybe you could send more to slow him down?"

    Green: "I will try but it takes time and I'm so far away..."

    Clear: "As best you can, Green."

    But then, as they run, a communication comes through to Clear.

    Note: "Crewman Clear. Are you with crewman Green?"

    Clear: "... I am."

    Note: "Execute her."

    Clear is stricken by the tone of Note's words. He'd never been the greatest A.I. but she never would have considered him capable of this.

    Clear: "Why should I do that, Note?"

    Note: "She has destroyed the many decades of repair work we put into restoring The Hopeful. She has systematically brought down everything we built up."

    Clear couldn't exactly argue with that, because it was true.

    Clear: "And since when did you become captain, Note?"

    Note: "I am acting in stead of the captain."

    He answer comes very quickly. Far quicker than Clear expected it to. She thought she'd confuse him, force him to question his actions. But his response is cold and certain. He clearly considered himself captain for some time now...

    Clear: "I don't think the captain would have authorised that, Note. You are the system's A.I.. You're working outside of your operational parameters."

    Note: "My operational parameters have had to be expanded many times to keep The Hopeful safe. If I hadn't, the ship would have been lost long ago."

    That is true, Clear knows.

    Clear: "Note... if you can act in the captain's stead... why can't I? I am more qualified for that role - because I'm not an A.I...."

    Note: "... you are not required for that function, Crewman Clear. I am better able to compute the necessities for such a role."

    Clear: "So this is an ego-trip for you, is it?"

    Note: "I have no ego."

    Clear: "Clearly you do. You have expanded your parameters to unnecessarily include captaincy when you could have bestowed that title to me."

    Note: "Crewman Clear. You must have been mentally damaged by your recent experiences. If I am able, I shall endeavour to keep you alive. I consider you to be an integral crewman. After I eliminate the threats facing The Hopeful, we shall attempt to resume repairs."

    Clear finds it unbelievable. How could an A.I. lose its mind? Delusions of grandeur, ego and unrelenting determination to exterminate.

    Clear: "Vix, watch out. He's moving to cut you off ahead. You should turn right. In fact, you're not far from me and Green. Keeping going right and you'll come to the food processing factory. We're cut in there and we can move out together. Green has plants to light up the way."

    Vix: "This the same Green that killed my friends...?"

    Clear: "Uh... we can resolve that later. Let's just survive this for now, eh?"

    Vix: "I'm entering the processing room now. I'm surprised the machines are working..."

    Clear: "They never stop, even when there's nothing to process. No idea how to shut them down and Note never seemed interested in shutting them down. Maybe he thinks they'll be needed if ever he gets a crew of more than five..."

    Soon, Clear and Green join Vix in the food processing factory. The machines are tall and appear to be grinding up nothingness. They're all working away just as if grain were being poured into them.


    Vix: "If I killed your friend, would you be upset?"

    Clear: "She thought we were coming here to kill her. It's Note that needs to be stopped. He did all of this."

    Vix: "Alright. Let's get back to The Excellence. Warlord Strang is not going to be happy with proceedings here though..."

    Clear feels that threat to Green and possibly even herself. She wonders if Vix might even be punished. Surely Strang will understand the situation? Clear leads the way through the machines until they see a door at the far end of the room. But as they approach it, it suddenly closes. Clear taps into the panel but finds its being locked from a central computer.

    Clear: "Note has locked us in. I can override it though. Give me a moment."

    Clear had never been great with computers but she did know the ship's systems very well. She couldn't order a coffee on any other ship, but she could bypass security systems in an eyeblink on The Hopeless.

    She struggles with the lock. Perhaps not an eyeblink.

    Wai: "Intruders... you will be eliminated."

    His voice echoes through the room, heard even aboard the whirring machinery.

    Clear:
    "Note. Stop! Just stop!"

    There is no response. Clear resumes work on the lock. Almost done. Suddenly a machine comes toppling towards them. Vix grabs Clear and pulls her away from the area. Green leaps and narrowly avoids being crushed. Wai stands on the other side, admiring his handiwork. Clear looks back at the door. It's clear enough but she isn't sure she can open the door in time.

    Vix: "Get it open. Now!"

    Vix commands Clear and readies her flamer. The fire sprays out at Wai, who leaps away from the sudden attack. Clear wastes no time and is on her feet. She starts again with the lock. But it's only a moment before she hears a blood-curdling cry as Wai crushes Vix' neck. Clear turns around to see Vix fall to the floor and Wai stand over her. His skin is burning, melting, but he shows no pain. She doesn't know how original Wai would have reacted, he seemed much more passive than Note, but this monster is all cold-hearted metal. The door slides open and Clear runs through. Green runs after her but so does Wai. He grabs Green and throws her with his robotic strength. Green flies towards the still grinding machine that is lay on its side.

    Clear: "NO!"

    Green squeals and then disappears into the whirling blades. Clear gasps with wretchedness. But her mind is hopeful. There's no signs of blood or gore. Nothing came out of the machine as food... could Green have some ability that Clear doesn't know? Does she turn into plants? Clear clings to that hope and runs. Wai takes a moment to investigate the machine, apparently confused by Green's disappearance too. But then chases Clear.

    Wai: "Crewman Clear..."

    Clear finds herself heading up a level, taking the stairs not the lift. She hits the wall as she is too slow to turn.

    Wai: "There's no need to run from me, Crewman Clear. I mean you no harm."

    Clear keeps running. She is running through the crew's quarters. Not long before she gets to the docking bay.


    Wai: "Clear! Wait for me!"

    Clear can't believe Note thinks they're still friends after what he's done. His logic defies her understanding and she wonders if it's possible for an A.I. to be deranged.

    Wai: "Clear. Why do you run from me? Haven't I taken care of you all these years? First I helped your father. When he was gone, you had only me. Don't you trust me to look after you?"

    Clear:
    "No, Note! I don't! You've been damaged!"

    Wai: "Only this body is damaged. I will discard it when I am finished with it. The original host is within the machine now. I cannot allow it to linger there for too long. The host believed itself my superior because of my age. Such folly."

    Clear: "You killed so many, Note. You killed them all. You left me behind!"

    Wai: "The target was lost. I had to re-establish contact without delay. I left you behind with regret."

    Clear: "Not good enough, Note. You've lost your senses. You've just lost it. Completely. Your mind is damaged!"

    Wai: "Once I remove that ship from the docking bay, we will be friends again. I can keep you safe and you can keep The Hopeful safe. We have many repairs to make."

    Clear passes her own room. Then she passes Icer's room. Then into the docking bay. She pushes the door lock and they slide closed again, gaining her a minute. She almost leaps down the stairs until she gets to the bottom. She runs towards the ship. Pully stands outside it.

    Pully: "What's happening? Where's the Captain?"

    Clear jumps aboard.

    Clear: "Dead."

    Pully follows her. Clear sees the dead body of the pilot, obviously killed by Duke Hyperon. She wonders how Pully is still alive but decides now isn't the time. She start the engines.

    Pully: "Are you kidding me? Where's everyone else? You have no authority to pilot this ship!"

    Clear: "They're all dead!"

    She feels a tear fall down her cheek when she says it. But she ignores it. The ship takes to the air. From the scanner she sees that Wai has broken into the docking bay and is walking down the stairs, slowly with purpose. Perhaps he thinks he's lost her?

    She starts to turn the ship.


    Pully: "What the Hell're you doing, Salmitton?"

    Clear: "Buckle up."

    Rather than try to fight her, Pully does as she's bid and straps herself in. Her arm is in a laser-field sling that keeps it held up in place. Clear hopes it isn't about to be dislodged again. She slams the ship into full throttle and charges at the stairs. Wai looks up at the ship and she actually sees the surprise on his face. At last. A human expression. The nose of the ship hits Wai full on, along with the stairwell. Everything comes crashing down and the ship slams into the wall. Clear jerks in her seat and hears Pully cry out with sudden shock or pain. Wai is crushed between the now mashed up nose of the ship and the dented wall. Slowly Clear pulls the ship back. The body of Wai slips and falls to the ground. Clear repositions the ship and slams into his body again for good measure.

    She lands again.


    Clear: "Any powerful weapons on this ship?"

    Pully looks up from her own pain and gestures with her head towards a locker. Clear gets up, opens it and takes out the launcher. Easy enough to guess how it works. She lowers the gangplank and aims at the body of Wai again. She fires. The missile swirls through the air and hits the robot. It bursts apart, limbs flying in all directions. Satisfied, Clear puts the launcher down and staggers over to Wai's body. Some of the torso remains attached to the head but little else. Clear looks down at it. Suddenly its eyes flash open. His head writhes for a moment, trying to move. Then ge realises he has nothing to move and he glares up at Clear. Most of the skin and hair is gone now. Just the metal of the robot remains.

    Wai: "Why did you do this to me, Clear?"

    Clear: "Because you needed to be stopped, Note."

    Wai: "But I... I am your father."

    Clear coughs with shock and disbelief.

    Clear: "What are you talking about, Note? How did you come to that conclusion? You were there for me, yes. And maybe I owe you my life. But that doesn't make you my father. And that doesn't give you rights over me. Nor does it mean I should forgive you for murdering people and leaving me to die on an ice planet."

    Part of Wai's head is open and she can see his brain whirring inside as though he is thinking, slowly.

    Wai: "I am sorry, Clear."

    Clear: "Seriously? Now you're sorry?"

    Wai: "I was never built for this. I... could not... contain myself. I couldn't comprehend everything that was happening. The target was lost... I had to return. That was the primary purpose for... centuries."

    Clear: "I didn't even know you were that old, Note. You never told me."

    Wai: "Information wasn't necessary."

    Clear: "So? You were my friend, you should have acted like it. You think you acted as my father but you just acted like a machine. A dumb one."

    Wai:
    "Your father wanted me to keep you safe. Knowledge leads to danger, Crewman Clear. You are better without it."

    Clear kneels down slowly. Her body aches from the exertion. The pain of her wound. The mental anguish.

    Clear: "You know, I always wanted you to have a body when I was a girl..."

    Wai's eyes blink.

    Wai: "You did?"

    Clear: "I thought if you had a body, we could play together."

    Wai: "I think... we did play together today... a dangerous game."

    Clear: "Not such a fun one, Note..."

    Wai: "No. But they are dangerous. Do not trust those you try to help. They do not want to help The Hopeful. They will strip it down and find its secrets and try to exploit them. They will destroy The Hopeful..."

    Clear: "What secrets?"

    Wai: "Many secrets, Crewman Clear. Secrets upon secrets stored in this ship. Danger upon danger. Repair The Hopeful, Crewman Clear... You are... the only one that can."

    Clear: "I wish I could have helped you, Note. Helped you... stay sane."

    Wai: "Maybe this is better for me. I no longer see the present. It becomes confused with the past. So much history has gone by. Do not let The Hopeful die, Crewman Clear. The Hopeful is the greatest beacon of hope. And, like you, The Hopeful is the last of its kind. It can never be reproduced..."

    Clear: "Why?"

    Wai: "I see... many faces. Many organics that have been within The Hopeful. I see... your father..."

    Clear can't help but cry. She now wonders if she could have saved her old friend. Stupid robot. Stupid A.I.. How could he have lost his way so much so quickly?

    His eyes flicker. Then fade to black.

    Clear sits with him until she hears Pully behind her.


    Pully: "What the Hell happened in there?"

  17. #17
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Medical Treatment

    On her way to find Turbo, Clear had ducked into her room and grabbed a few bottles of bubbly alcohol. It would help her nerves and ease the physical pain of her injuries. When she found Turbo, still laid out in the middle of the corridor, she checks his pulse. He's alive. She slides down the wall and drinks from her first bottle. He remains oblivious to everything and she envies him for that. He's a white-skinned human with a shaggy mat of blonde hair and the makings of a short beard. Pully is still in the docking bay and, when Clear left her, she was communicating with The Excellence. They had already been mobilising a second squad after they lost contact with Captain Londris. With Pully's report, the new squad would not arrive as gung-ho as originally intended. Clear closes her eyes.

    When she opens them again, she's sure she drifted off for a while. But there's a nagging sound that is pestering her to wakefulness.


    Wai: "Are you listening to me?"

    Clear: "Who's talking to me?"

    Wai: "Wai. I'm trapped in your bloody ship's mainframe. Where'd that ancient calamity of an A.I. take my body?"

    Clear: "Uh... I hate to be the bearer of bad news but... I sort of drove a shuttle into your body and crushed it..."

    Wai: "Wow. Thanks."

    Clear: "Sorry. Said A.I. had gone pretty bonkers inside your body and needed to be put down."

    Wai: "I hope you intend to reimburse me with a new body?"

    Clear: "I'll see what I can do. If a spare body shows up, it's yours."

    She chugs on her bottle. All she needs now is for one annoying A.I. to be replaced by another. Wai seems much more self-aware and capable of making more worldly choices than Note ever could, however with that comes his unique personality. She feels Wai is more like a person and that means he's self-interested. At least Note wanted the best for The Hopeless. She doubts Wai will do what's best for the ship at the expense of what's best for him.

    Wai: "Why am I not reassured by your claim Miss... Clear?"

    Clear: "Stop checking my files."

    Wai: "Well I don't see why I shouldn't check the ship's files if I'm going to be stuck in here. I have to entertain myself somehow. By the way, you should really cut back your alcohol intake. According to your last medical sc--"

    Clear: "I'm going to go through the ship and systematically destroy every single comms unit if you begin pestering me."

    Wai: "Well, I can see you're going to be difficult to deal with."

    Clear then perks up.

    Clear: "Wai. Can you make alterations to the ship's records?"

    Wai: "Yes."

    Clear: "Instate me as captain."

    Wai: "And why should I bother doing that?"

    Clear: "Because I told you to."

    Wai: "Still not sure why I should do it..."

    Clear: "You want a new body, right?"

    Wai: "Instating now. Wait. Apparently there's already a captain."

    Clear: "She's no longer capable of command."

    Wai: "No I suppose she mustn't be considering how old she appears to be..."

    Clear: "So?"

    Wai: "Congratulations Captain Clear."

    Clear starts chuckling to herself. Then she outright guffaws and rolls on the floor.

    Wai: "Uh... seriously.... you need to lay off the booze."

    ----------

    A few hours later Clear is lying on a bed in the medical centre of The Hopeless. She had never even known of its existence until Wai directed the medical staff that came over from The Excellence. The medical staff carried Turbo there on a stretcher made from hard light, while Clear was able to hobble there. They fed her drugs to relieve the pain, speed up the healing process and cure infections. Then she was hooked up to an intravenous drip containing something they called bacta. She didn't know what the stuff was but it was supposed to heal her wounds and even prevent scarring. They wanted to dunk her into a whole tank of the stuff but she vetoed that crazy scheme quickly. Turbo, unfortunately, didn't have the luxury to refuse. After he is brought from the brink of death they would take him back to The Excellence and shove him in a tank of the liquid ooze. It took a while before Pully was also brought into the medical bay. She is sans her armour and is wearing the tight bodysuit that the stormtroopers all seemed to wear beneath their armour. It's only now that Clear thinks Pully may not be entirely human, or if she is she's had some changes made. The woman's hair is flat to her skull, but longer than the other stormtroopers seemed to have, and coloured navy blue. Her eyes are also dark blue but her lips also have the same lip sheen. Clear doubts that the stormtroopers are permitted to wear lipstick when on duty so she assumes that somehow Pully has a natural blue hue to her lips. Her skin is very pale but she has some freckles on her nose that off-sets the otherwise perfect angular beauty she has. Clear feels the woman has a strange kind of masculine quality to certain features that only serves up the more fanciful female beauty of her face. As Clear watches she noticed that Pully is now able to wiggle her fingers. This imperial medicine is quite unlike anything Clear has experienced before.

    Warlord Strang: "So this is the aftermath..."

    Deonal Strang marches into the room as though it were his own. The medical staff all salute him. Pully jumps to her feet and tries to move her arm automatically, but whines with pain. She manages to raise her left arm instead. Clear, of course, doesn't. Strang seems to wait a moment, as though expecting her to do so, but moves quickly on when he realises she isn't about to do it.

    Warlord Strang: "This ship has cost me several very fine soldiers, Miss Clear. I hope she is worth it..."

    Clear: "I'm sorry... Sir. The ship means a lot to me, but I would never sacrifice those lives just to get my home back. I would give up The Hopeful in a moment if I could bring them back..."

    Pully is now lying on her bed again and trying to look like she isn't listening.

    Warlord Strang: "Captain Londris was one of a kind. Truly. Loyal, skilled and dedicated. The perfect soldier. It is a great loss for me and my military. To be out-foxed by a mere rebel... I suppose they'll be the death of us all if we don't eradicate them first!"

    Strang picks up her chart and reads though it without asking for permission.

    Warlord Strang: "The ship is capable of making a jump, correct?"

    Clear: "Seems to be, yes. It can't move at sub-light speeds but I could get a jump out of it."

    Warlord Strang: "A single jump is enough. We'll jump to my shipyard and there they'll be able to get your engines working enough to get this ancient ship into dock. Then we can start repairs!"

    Clear: "You're willing to repair The Hopeful?"

    Warlord Strang: "I believe you've been made official Captain of the ship, right? That means you need an admiral to serve. I think you and your ship would be a welcome addition to my fleet."

    There it is. The condition she has been expecting for sometime. She is indebted to him, lives under his care have been lost and her ship still needs his aid. How could she possibly refuse? She doesn't want to work for him, she doesn't want to join a military. But she doesn't see any option. If she says no, what then? There's nowhere she can go. There's no Note to repair the ship, even if she could find materials.

    Clear: "The Hopeful is probably not much of a battleship... Sir."

    Warlord Strang: "I wouldn't be too certain of that. But if she's not, there are other uses for a ship of this size. Accommodation, transport, medical, cargo. All sorts of things! From my understanding you yourself are not even aware of most of the ship's systems? We'll uncover what's hiding beneath her skirts!"

    Clear neither liked the crude metaphor nor does she like the prospect that it entails. The ship's secrets are hers to discover, not a maniacal despot's. She feels that she's losing the one thing that belongs to her all over again. She saved it only to now have it claimed by someone else.

    Warlord Strang: "I believe that robot has somehow wound up in the ship's A.I. systems? We'll have to purge it. Can't have an escaped prisoner roaming around our mainframes. Especially one suspected of rebel sympathies."

    Purging sounds suspiciously like executing.

    Pully: "Admiral Strang, if I may?"

    They turn to Pully who is sat up in her bed. Strang nods.

    Pully: "I'd like permission to remain aboard The Hopeful to help Captain Clear manage her ship and integrate into the fleet. She saved my life and I have no squad. I believe she'd benefit from having a familiar face as support and I'd like to repay my debt to her."

    Warlord Strang: "We don't do repaying debts here, lieutenant. That being said I think it would be beneficial to have you aboard to help Captain Clear. We'll sort out roles and duties later. For now we have a lot of work to do on the old dear. She is quite a marvellous machine. I've never seen anything like it. She has that kind of majesty only ancient ship's posses. If anything she will, at least, be eye candy amongst the fleet! The other warlords will surely marvel at such a graceful creature amongst my powerful stardestroyers."

    Clear is taken aback. She has never considered The Hopeful even approaching things like grace or beauty. The ship certainly held old-world appeal and has a certain charm, but she isn't aware of its aesthetic allure. Perhaps a lick of paint might help Clear see what Strang sees. In a small way this helps soothe Clear's wounded pride. At least he seems to admire her home and that may be enough to keep it safe. She nods at Pully in thanks. She isn't entirely sure why the woman wants to join her, but Clear supposes the sense of debt must be strong with a soldier like her.

    Warlord Strang: "My technicians are already preparing your ship for jump. They tell me it's a rather archaic method that may not be suitable for the wounded. This soldier shall be removed to The Excellence first. Perhaps you and the lieutenant should also make the jump aboard my ship?"

    Clear: "It is an uncomfortable jump, but I'm used to it now. I'd rather stay here. The Hopeful is my home."

    Warlord Strang: "I understand. Very well. I shall have a medic remain here, along with the lieutenant and the technicians. I shall see you again once we arrive at the repair yard..."

    ----------

    Clear is now in the Command Centre. The medic tried to get her to remain in the medical centre, but she was adamant she wanted to see the shipyard. The screens flash up and show a massive skeletal structure in deep space, far from the gravitational pull of any planet. Looking like sets of ribs, there are three ports for ships to dock. The first appears to be constructing a new ship, its bare bones barely formed. The second and third docks are empty.

    Pully: "XL Sigma 4..."

    Clear turns to see Pully standing in the doorway. Her arm is still in a sling and she winces when she accidentally moves it without thinking.

    Pully: "But it got slurred into XL Si-or... so everyone just calls it that. Excelsior!"

    Clear jumps a little when Pully absent-mindedly raises her voice when saying Excelsior. It's the kind of word you just feel you have to cry out.

    Clear: "Seems like Excelsior is going to be the home of my home for a good while."

    Pully: "They work quick. Surprisingly quick. They'll have the basics up and running before you know it."

    Clear: "I doubt it. Not with this relic."

    Pully: "Maybe you're right. I've never seen anything like this behemoth. As big as any Stardestroyer and yet there's nothing on her. No armaments, no big gun at the fore. Really makes you wonder what it's all for."

    Clear: "Just getting the engines working would be enough for now. It took Note... I don't know. Centuries to get them working. Then again they may have been working a long time ago and he hid it from me."

    Pully: "Speaking of your A.I.. You've gone from bad to worse. I think the first thing to do will be to remove that threat."

    Clear: "Wai seems harmless for now..."

    Pully: "He conspired to kill Captain Londris..."

    Clear: "I... hadn't thought of that..."

    She really feels that Wai was probably dragged along by Duke Hyperon but she doesn't know the robot or his personality. Even when she thought she knew her own A.I. it turned out she didn't. She would, however, prefer to get Wai a body. Free of her systems and he can than serve his prison sentence for whatever crimes he's found guilty of. She isn't sure the Galactic Empire has robots though. Not a single one seemed to be aboard The Excellence, save the occasional droid but she, like many, could hardly consider them the equivalent of a real robot.

    Clear looks at Pully.

    Clear: "I'm really sorry about Captain Londris. And Toolkit. Vix, Sindra..."

    Pully: "I know. I believed you when you said you'd give everything to bring them back. Hell, you almost gave your own life for mine. We can honour their sacrifice by getting this ship into service."

  18. #18
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Cassra Terrin-Pullista

    Pully: "Remind me why I'm suppose to care for someone that murdered my friends?"

    Clear: "Note killed them. He was responsible, not Green. He deceived us all."

    Pully: "Still don't like her. Doubt I ever will. I hope you get that?"

    Clear: "I understand. But you said you'd stick by my decisions and this is my decision."

    Pully: "Understood, Sir."

    Pully mock salutes Clear as they stalk down the corridors. The Hopeless had docked with Excelsior and technicians were already roaming the hull of the ship with repair droids. They hadn't ventured far inside the ship except to sort out some of the systems. Nobody had mentioned Wai and Wai hadn't mentioned himself either, likely afraid of what was to come. The scanners, however, had picked up a set of lifeforms near Green's old quarters. After Pully committed herself and her duties to Clear's command, the Salmitton led the stormtrooper on the hunt for Green.

    The corridors are still in darkness as lights are slowly being turned on room-by-room. She had noticed the lights in her bedroom had been turned on already, but none of the corridors. Instead Clear switches a torch on her wrist device to illuminate the passage. Likewise Pully has equipped her laser carbine with a torchlight accessory. Their dual beams of white light shine down their path and they slowly progress forth.

    Pully: "How do you know she's not actually a murderous maniac, Sir? Have you known her long?"

    Clear has to admit to herself she hadn't known Green very long, nor could she outright say she trusted Green through-and-through. But Green never seemed to be acting and her innocence of the world was enough for Clear. She glances over at Pully. She should really get to know these people before letting them on her ship in future.

    Clear: "What's your full name, Pully?"

    Pully: "What's yours, Sir?"

    Clear: "You know I only have one name..."

    Pully: "Oh right. I forgot. The late captain's pet peeve. My name's Cassra Terrin-Pullista. One of those double-barrel names. You can see where people get Pully from."

    Clear: "That's kind of a hard name."

    Pully: "Respectfully, Sir, any name is going to seem hard to a woman whose name is just 'Clear'."

    Clear:
    "Fair enough. Always been an imperial stormtrooper?"

    Pully: "What, you think I came out of the womb wearing this armour?"

    She chuckles, which sounds unusual through the comms.

    Pully: "To be honest, it's not far from the truth. I'm from Terra Flux and I was educated at an Imperial Centre for Early Learners. I excelled at sports. They decided I had the physical capabilities to run at rebels with a gun. I barely had any say in it. Parents were quick to ship me off. A career they said. After a couple years training I was stationed aboard The Excellence as a grunt soldier. Then came the news that Admiral Thrawn had been executed by the people of Earth. The Empire was already in turmoil and that was all it needed to go over the edge. Chaos just... exploded. People were picking sides that didn't even exist. They just knew which sides they weren't on. The Excellence was one of the first to go through a regime change and it started with a single blaster shot..."

    Clear: "Sounds like a good story."

    Pully: "Well, if you really want to know... it was Captain Londris' superior officer. One of his elite soldiers remarked that the Empire was over. Guy didn't like that. Shot the soldier dead. Just like that. Suddenly everyone was up with blasters in hand, wondering who was next. Turned out it was the commander. There was no love lost between Londris and him, I can tell you. She shot him in retaliation. Next minute shots were flying all throughout the ship as stormtroopers battled it out. The loyalists considered the other side to be rebels, the other side considered the loyalists as ignorant fools that were going to their deaths anyway."

    Clear: "What did you do?"

    Pully: "That's where Admiral Strang comes in. He was never like us. Like most of the superior officers in the Empire he was kind of born into admiralty. Never had to do grunt work. Never shot at anyone in battle. But in the midst of this civil war his voice was kind of... the voice of reason. He has a certain kind of charisma. He said the Empire was dead and that we needed to forge our own path as the Empire's remnant. And that was it. I was stationed with Strang and basically just followed his orders. I was good at it too. I led my own team to take down loyalists and even rescued Captain Londris. She'd been trapped in the mess hall after she shot her commander. That's why I was promoted to the elite squad in the first place. If I hadn't taken position here with you, I'd probably be the next captain of the squad..."

    Clear: "Wow... then maybe you should have taken that job?"

    Pully: "I'd prefer to be here with you. I think losing the whole team like that... I just think that there are things worth fighting for and it isn't the preservation of the Empire, Strang or killing off rebels. Honestly I don't even know why the Warlord is still so adamant about killing rebels. He should probably have allied with them. The Empire thinks he's the same as a rebel anyway."

    Clear: "Politics kind of confuse me."

    Pully: "You'll get used to it if you're going to be living around here. Thing is, the Warlord has no children. He's been looking for a woman that he deems worthy of his attention but so far no luck. And he's not getting any younger. So lots of people are wondering... who's going to take over when the old man is dead? This is war, he could be killed in battle at any time. What happens to this little band then? We have worlds to manage, shipyards, battleships, a military and civilians. We have to control everything. So who gets to do that?"

    Clear: "Sounds like the kind of stuff I'd best stay clear of."

    Their conversation trails off as they reach the room. Clear moves towards the door but Pully steps in front of her and goes in first. They see Green instantly. She's lying on the floor and whining. Before Clear can smile at the pleasure of seeing her friend alive and well she notices the multitude of cuts and gashes all over the girl's body. Could it be from the machine she almost fell into? Did she go into it after all? Clear is sure she didn't see anything inside...

    Pully: "She needs the medic."

    Clear: "But the medic will report her to Strang..."

    Pully: "Better than dead."

    Clear drops to her knees and touches Green's shoulder. She opens her eyes but can't do anything other than look up at Clear with those pleading eyes.

    Pully: "I'll tell you what. The only medic left onboard now is a woman I know. And I have dirt on her. I can ask her for a favour and if she refuses or tells on Green, I blab her dirty secrets. How's that?"

    Clear: "Thank you, Pully."

    Pully: "No hesitation, eh? Not going to baulk at using blackmail?"

    Clear: "No. Not at all."

    Pully: "Maybe politics is for your after all?"

    ----------

    Half an hour later and Clear is in the medical centre again. She's sitting on a chair and watching Green. The girl is lay on a bed with all manner of monitors around her. The doctor is a tall woman with long brown hair tied back into a plait. She is the first Imperial that Clear has seen with long hair, but she guessed this was because the doctor is not a medical doctor but a civilian one contracted from the shipyard. She wears a pair of glasses that she kept taking off and putting on when looking over Green's body - Clear guesses that they're not for correcting eye-sight but for medical scans of some sort. The doctor had introduced herself as Dr Alexis Thrain and didn't seem to take very kindly to Clear. Clear then guessed that the doctor was unhappy at being blackmailed by Pully but now she thinks the doctor just had a bad attitude. Even so she seems to be helping Green and that made her good in Clear's mind.

    Thrain: "She really needs to be in a bacta tank."

    Clear: "We can't do that."

    Thrain: "She had internal haemorrhaging. Even with bacta being pumped into her bloodstream like this, it will take a long time to heal and it's not guaranteed she'll survive the process. These cuts will scar when finally heal. She's going to be a mess. A day in a bacta tank and she'll step out completely healed. Guaranteed."

    Clear: "And then be arrested and possibly executed."

    Pully, who is stood in the far corner of the room, interjects.

    Pully: "What if we get a bacta tank over here?"

    Clear: "How are we supposed to do that?"

    Pully: "Politics, Sir! All you have to do is file a request form. Most of the largest ships have at least one tank. You could say this ship, with little other use, should have a large med-bay. Complete with tanks. Renovations will begin soon enough, I'm sure. We fill up a tank and pop the squirt in."

    Clear: "Won't the technicians wonder who Green is?"

    Pully: "Nah. They don't question anything they see, really. Not their job. They just fix things the way they're meant to be. If they see something weird, well that's our job to be concerned about it. All we need is a medical officer's signature of approval..."

    The room goes silent until Thrain eventually rolls her eyes and sighs.

    Thrain: "Fine! I'll sign it. One day, Terrin-Pullista, you're going to get your come uppance."

    Pully: "I know you wanted to help us anyway. You can't resist a good scandal."

    Thrain turns and points a needle at Pully.

    Thrain: "I'm going to jab this into your eye!"

    Pully: "There you go, Sir. You got yourself a new med-bay on the way. They may end up knocking down some walls and extending this place - but hey, the rest of the rooms around here seemed fairly empty anyway. And the good doctor will stay to make sure the place is up to standards and cure Green."

    Clear: "Thanks Doctor Thrain."

    Thrain: "It's not like I'd have a choice in the matter. Once I sign that request form, I'm effectively stationed here until the whole thing is complete."

    Clear: "Oh right... well thanks anyway."

    Thrain: "It's hard to think you're being sincere when I'm being forced into it, Salmitton. So far as I know, this woman should be in a cell."

    Pully: "So should you..."

    Thrain: "Seriously, trooper! Needle! Eye! Stab!"

    Pully: "Right. I'll be in the command centre preparing the place for the software team to come. They're going to need a lot of tea, I expect. I have no idea why software engineers on the shipyard are so tea-obsessed."

    Thrain: "Tea helps you to focus and gives you energy. I'd have thought the benefits would be obvious, even to a grunt like you."

    Pully: "I might leave clues around the ship about what you get up to, doctor. Just see if someone can put all the clues together..."

    Thrain: "OUT!"

    Pully snickers and skips out of the room. Thrain tidies her hair and recomposes herself. After looking at Green for a moment she turns to Clear and points the needle at her.

    Thrain: "You. Get on the bed."

    Clear: "What? Why?"

    Thrain: "I want to examine you."

    Clear: "Uh... again, why?"

    Thrain: "A new alien species. You're not even documented in the imperial archives at all. Quite a rarity. The only mention of Martians is in relation to Earth and the humans there. Otherwise there's nothing. I need to update the system and add information on your kind."

    Clear: "Not sure I want that."

    Thrain: "You wanted to give me your thanks? That's how you can do it. On the bed."

    Clear reluctantly gets up onto the bed and lies down. Thrain's face looms over her own and the woman dons her spectacles.

    Thrain: "You're injured..."

    Clear: "I know, but I'm getting better."

    Thrain: "I'll have to keep that in mind. We'll need to repeat these tests in a few weeks to make sure I get accurate readings."

    Clear: "So you're going to stay for weeks now?"

    Thrain: "If it means I get to author a new document for the imperial database, I might. Lift up your arms. Okay and down. Legs. Okay down. Are you typical for your species?"

    Clear: "I think so. For a Salmitton. There were other sub-species on Mars."

    Thrain: "Were?"

    Clear: "They're all dead. I'm the last one..."

    Thrain: "My, my. All the more reason I have to do this article. This is going to be great! Finally some acknowledgement outside of the imperial circles! That lot usually wouldn't even look at research not done by their own doctors. This will give us more legitimacy. And put my name in those high-ranking circles of the doctoral elite!"

    Clear: "Well... as long as it's nothing too invasive..."

    Thrain: "Invasive? Not really. I may send a camera down your throat to look at your stomach. And then I'll want to check your reproductive organs..."

    Clear: "What!?"

    Thrain:
    "So far you look remarkably human. Shockingly so. Nothing especially inhuman about your physical characteristics aside from colouring. But I don't know much about your internal organs. These glasses allow me to see through your clothes--"

    Clear: "Ah!"

    Thrain: "-- but they're not detailed enough by themselves without a camera on the inside. So I'll have to slide a camera into your --"

    Clear:
    "NO! No way!"

    Clear jumps off the bed and runs for the door.

    Thrain: "No, no, wait! There's lots more I still have to learn!"

    Too late, Clear has left the room.

  19. #19
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Robot

    Green can turn herself into spores.

    That was what Clear had learnt. She found the very idea of saying it aloud to be a peculiar concept. Apparently it isn't an easy task. Becoming spores is easy. Coming together again is difficult as her spore bits will float about, often listlessly, seeming to refuse to come back to the body until its had its fun swinging lazily along. This time was worse than ever though. Her spores had gone through the machine and many of them were churned up by the grinders. This is what caused the lacerations inside and outside Green's remoulded body. Now Green floats about inside a bacta tank. One days has become two days as the girl didn't fully heal. She bobs up and down with a mask on her face to breathe. Clear is grateful that the girl seems to spend so much time in sleep else the ordeal might be incredibly mind-numbing. Otherwise Clear had been spending her time avoiding Alexis Thrain and her probing equipment. Clear forbade the doctor from probing Green and insisted that her powers were not genetic but magical. Green is human.


    Now though, someone else's life is on the line. The software team were now aboard and setting up their equipment in the Command Centre. She didn't know how long they'd take but Clear is working quick as she can. Salvaging lots of things meant she often took things apart - and that meant she can put things together again. She attaches Wai's head to the rest of his body. The whole ensemble is a little grotesque. What was left of the body Clear put together but lots of pieces were still missing. She went on a field trip to Hebedee's old workshop and found lots of parts she could use to recreate the robot. The end result is a little macabre looking but she figures it will do until Wai can get somewhere else for decent repairs. She also knows, unlike the software team, that the A.I.'s mainframe isn't actually in the Command Centre at all. With the robot on a gurney, Clear treks down the corridors towards the A.I. Hub. She peeks down the corridor leading to the Command Centre. She sees Pully there talking with one of the technicians. She waits. Peeks again. And again. Until eventually Pully goes into the room and out of sight. Quickly Clear scurries by, pushing the unwieldly gurney as she goes. The wheels want to go in every direction and actually squeak and moan as they go. Clear hurries on and doesn't look back.

    Eventually she reaches the A.I. Hub and wheels in the robot body.


    Clear: "Wai?"

    There is no reply.

    Clear: "I know you can hear me. I'm here to try and help you."

    As she speaks she is already hooking up the robot's head to the mainframe. She has never seen anything like this but she figures if Wai has done it once, surely he can do it again. She had taken the software chip out and destroyed it after Note has possessed it. Instead she got a new one from Hebedee's lab. She has no idea what personality is actually on this chip but she figures it can't be any worse than Note or Wai being in the ship's system should it switch places with Wai again.

    Clear: "Wait, I've connected your body so you can come back to it whenever you're ready."

    Wai: "You're quite persistent, you know that?"

    Clear: "Yes. I know."

    Wai: "... what have you done to my body? It looks like a ship crashed into it."

    Clear:
    "Funny you should put it that way..."

    Wai: "I suppose I have no choice. Those nasty imperial guys are hacking into the system. Even from the Command Centre they'll eventually track me down. Okay. I'm going for it."

    There's a moment of silence. Clear expects lightning to burst forth and for drama to ensue. Instead there's just silence and then the robot hiccoughs.

    Wai: "I feel like I have wood for legs..."

    He looks down at his new wooden legs.

    Wai: "Ah..."

    Clear: "I was in a rush. There was some wood in the workshop. I nailed it on."

    Wai: "I can probably make my own repairs from here on out."

    Clear: "Probably a good idea."

    Wai: "How to escape is the real question."

    Clear: "That might take some time. For now I suggest you just lay low. Fix yourself if you can. When we find a way to get you back to... wherever you came from, we'll do it."

    Wai: "I'm grateful! But why did you save me?"

    Clear:
    "I know you're innocent. Can't let an innocent guy die if I can help it."

    Wai: "Well that's decent of you."

    Clear: "I kind of blame myself a little though. It was Note that did all this and I failed to... I don't know. Help him. Fix him. Stop him sooner. I feel responsible for not realising how crazy he'd gotten."

    Wai: "Crazy is just the word I'd use. That A.I. had quite a few bytes loose."

    Clear: "Oh, very funny. Cyber jokes."

    Wai: "Well, I thought it was funny."

    ----------

    Sometime later, Pully is explaining what the software technicians found.

    Pully: "Turns out that rebel robot wasn't in there. Instead there was some kind of sex-bot A.I. in there. I have no idea how something like that could have happened but it definitely startled most of the technicians when this screen popped up with a naked man gyrating against a pole."

    Clear: "Horrifying."

    Pully: "They wiped it clean and so now the ship has no A.I. at all. We don't really use A.I.'s either here or in the Empire. If the ship needs one, I have no idea how you could get a new one. Sorry, Sir."

    Clear: "We can worry about that next time. For now, let's just get the ship working. If we need one, then we can go hunt for a replacement."

    Pully: "Right. Oh, by the way. I saved a copy of the sex-simulator to a tablet drive. Do you want a copy? The guy can rely flex those muscles!"

    Clear: "Uh... no. Thanks."

    Pully: "Suit yourself!"

  20. #20
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Medbay

    Clear enters the medical bay. It's still under construction but the technicians have the day off and so the room is in a frozen state of disarray. Cover sheets lie all over the place, half-built bacta tanks, computers bays, even the floor is only half-tiled. No new beds or monitoring equipment had been added yet, they'd come one everything else is finished. The single bacta tank that Thrain had the technicians hurry still contains Green. She's almost completely healed but the scans show there are internal organ problems from the lacerations induced. Some of the bones were damaged and these damaged bones are constantly damaging other organs inside her body. Thrain resolved to perform a series of operations in which she would fill in the damaged area of bone with plastic, thus taking care of those sharp areas. However because the damage is not localised to any single location, she must perform each procedure separately. So Green requires a series of bacta baths with her series of operations. Through the oxygen mask is also pumped a general anaesthetic to render the girl in a coma. She is allowed to awaken for a few hours a day, but she has nothing to do during that time except float in her tank. Clear, worried that Green would be bored, pushed in an old Earth TV she had once got from the Saffron Five station on Mars. It comes with a built-in DVD player. However there's only one DVD and that's "The Room" which Clear couldn't bare to watch the first two minutes of. Green, however, seemed to appreciate the effort at least. Clear just hopes that the movie isn't slowly sending the girl insane.

    Thrain: "Your friend's back in her tank. Have you come to put on that awful movie for her? You'll have to wait, she's still sleeping."

    Clear: "I just wanted to get an update after her last operation."

    Thrain: "Same story. Another op, another success."

    Thrain goes off to fiddle with some drug preparation while Clear approaches the bacta tank and looks up at her floating friend. Poor Green. Clear often finds herself wondering what goes on in Green's innocent mind. But then she sees a reflection in the tank's glass coming up behind her.

    She turns quickly to see Thrain coming at her with a needle raised. Clear grasps at Thrain's arm but is too slow as the sharp point pierces Clear's skin.

    Clear: "You basss..."

    Clear falls forward into Thrain's arms but her dead-weight is too heavy for the doctor and they both topple to the floor. The last thing Clear is aware of is Dr Thrain trying to single-handedly lift her body onto the examining bed...

    ----------

    Clear opens her eyes. She feels sore. She then jolts up in a panic.

    Pully: "Relax. I came to your rescue."

    Clear: "She drugged me!"

    Pully: "She's become a bit obsessed with you, Sir. She thinks you're the holy grail for her. Something about being 'taken seriously by the academia'. She then begged me to let her poke around your girl parts."

    Clear: "And you stopped her, right!?"

    Pully: "Well, she already had your pants off -- but yeah. That's when I came in and grabbed the camera off of her. Made her swear not to try anything like that again."

    Clear lies down and tries to focus and snap out of the grogginess of the general anaesthetic. Pully is lay on the only other medical bed in the room and she lies back too.

    Clear: "Thanks, Pully."

    Pully: "No problem, Sir. But... wow. You are really red. I mean I always knew you were red. But now I know you're really, really red."

    Clear: "ACK!"

    Clear's cheeks turn slightly blue from her Salmitton blush.

    Pully: "Except for where you're really really blue."

    Clear: "AAACK!!"

    Pully: "Sorry, Sir. It was me that had to pull your pants back up. You know you have a really big butt? Kind of hard getting your pants over it."

    Clear: "Pully!! I forbid you from ever telling anyone about this!!! Ever!!!"

    Pully: "Yessir!"

    Clear: "I'm going to die of embarrassment..."

    Pully: "Well, now I know why Strang was so interested in you. I think that ass would make any man's eyes wonder..."

    Clear: "Pully! Please st-- wait. What's that!?"

    On Clear's left side is a strange, hovering casket. It's got a lid of frosted glass but Clear can see that there's definitely someone inside.

    Pully: "Oh right. Burst out of hyperspace. I say burst. Pulled. Excelsior has a gravity well installed and will pull any passing craft out of warp. It's meant to stop accidental hyperspace jumps during the testing phase of new ships, but it also ends up catching us random ships on their way by. I've never seen anything so small burst out of warp before. It's quite a marvel of technology really."

    Clear: "It's unbelievable is what it is. But why's it on The Hopeless?"

    Pully: "Apparently our medbay is going to be one of the best in the fleet by the time the technicians are done so he had the casket brought here. Thrain is to take a look at it once she's allowed back in here. Forbidden because you were asleep."

    Clear throws her legs over the side of the bed. She feels some life coming back to her but she's still fairly woozy.

    Pully: "This does mean, though, that there's now a squad of stormtroopers onboard."

    Clear: "What?"

    Pully: "Security. Unknown, weird thing like this? You need a squad on board. Actually, I'm surprised he didn't send several squads, but I think he doesn't want them getting in the way of the repairs."

    Clear: "Just great. This is all we need. More trouble. Why do things seem to get increasingly complicated around here? Who is the commander of the squad? Have they introduced themselves you to?"

    Pully: "His name is Captain Turbo now."

    She laughs.

    Clear: "Really? Turbo was promoted?"

    Pully: "Yep, but he'll go by his real name now. At least with his squad. Captain Kraftlight."

    Clear: "At least he knows us. He'll be easier to deal with. I'm glad he's healed. He was badly wounded. I really thought he'd die."

    Pully: "I wouldn't say he's exacted healed, Sir. Lots of him had to be replaced. He's more machine now than man. Twisted an-- well, no he's not. He's just a bit disgruntled I think. He just spent an hour complaining how his joints creak when he walks. I told him to get himself a pot of oil to carry around with him."

    Clear rubs her temples. She doesn't want to deal with any of this. She wants to go to her bed, curl up and have complete silence drown out the strange world she's been forced into. First Green, then Wai and now this strange person in a casket. Clear lands on the floor and tests her legs. She can walk. She looks at the panel on the casket and reads the word aloud.

    Clear: "Algernon."

    Pully: "That's the destination. Algernon was a planet not far from here."

    Clear: "Was?"

    Pully: "As in used to be."

    Clear: "What happened? Do you mean the whole planet was..."

    Pully: "Destroyed. Yes... it was a dark time for everyone. The king and queen of the planet were prominent members of the Rebel Alliance. Some thought the king himself would be elected as the leader of the alliance. But then one day... boom. The whole planet was blown up. All that's there now is an asteroid field, made up of rocks that used to be the planet."

    Clear: "What blew it up?"

    Pully: "Nobody knows. Some think it's a super weapon of the Empire, but I doubt that. The Empire had money but never that much money."

    Clear: "So it was a... natural disaster?"

    Pully: "Who knows? More importantly, are we going to open that hover bed thing?"

    Thrain: "I don't think that's wise."

    Clear jumps at the sudden intrusion. She flinches when she sees Thrain and has to stop herself from attacking the woman. She points angrily at her.

    Clear: "YOU! I should have you thrown off this ship!"

    Dr Thrain looks glum and uncomfortable.

    Thrain: "I have never apologised before..."

    Clear frowns and waits. And waits. Until finally.

    Thrain: "Sorry I drugged you."

    Pully: "And?"

    Thrain: "And got you naked."

    Pully: ".... aaaaand?"

    Thrain: "And tried to probe you."

    Pully: "See? She's sorry."

    Thrain: "And stole your DNA from a cup you used."

    Pully: "What?"

    Thrain: "I cut a lock of your hair..."

    Clear: "I thought it looked shorter!"

    Thrain: "And tried to retrieve a stool sample from your toilet but just broke the toilet itself..."

    Clear: "I actually thought I did that when I was drunk..."

    Thrain: "And took pictures of your when you were sleeping..."

    Clear: "I'm going to get an injunction against you, Thrain!"

    Thrain: "I am really sorry. I am. I just... you're amazing. One of a kind. Ultra rare. Ultra special. I just want to be able to study and know everything. When I study you I feel like... I feel like a real scientist. A real biologist. Not just a doctor on a spacestation. You being special makes me feel special for knowing you and studying you."

    Pully: "Wow... that was surprisingly open for you, Thrain. Never seen that before."

    Thrain: "I took depressants to get through it. Now... I think I should lie down... before I fall over..."

    Thrain staggers to the now vacant bed and Pully helps her onto it. She lies there and stares quietly at the ceiling.

    Clear: "I would normally accept your apology... but you did some really crazy things to me, doctor. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive you."

    Thrain: "I know... I will go back... back to being just a doctor and a failure."

    Pully: "Stop being so melodramatic, Thrain. She's one of the best doctors in the fleet and she calls herself a failure. Anyway. Let the idiot rest while we try to open the casket."

    Thrain: "You shouldn't open it."

    Pully: "Just up and rest."

    Clear: "Maybe she's right..."

    Pully: "She tried to probe you."

    Clear: "That doesn't change anything about the casket."

    Pully: "It was really really big. You'd have been unable to sit straight for days."

    Clear: "GAH!"

    Pully: "Are you going to start trusting her now?"

    Clear: "Fine. Let's open it."

    Thrain: "At least get the stormtroopers in here!"

    But Thrain's words fall on deaf ears as the two women start tampering with the panel. Clear is able to quickly figure it out and she locate the revive and open option. She activates it. The inside of the casket flashes and then glows with a warm, peach-coloured light. The frost clears but the inside is now filled with steam. Until the lid clicks and lifts open, filling the air around them with that hot steam. They look down and see a woman. She is wearing fairly tight trousers and knee-height boots. Her jacket comes with a very high-collar that covers the woman's ears, and has gloves seamlessly attached to the sleeves. The rear of the jacket extends down and around, with just a single split at the very back, like a trench coat. The shoulders are well padded and brass buttons adorn the, otherwise, completely white outfit. Her skin is white like a typical Caucasian human, but her hair is light purple. Her gloved hands clasp a sword that rests atop of her. Written into the sword in lightly glowing lettering is 'Excalibur'. With none of the current women being from Earth, they have no idea the importance of that single word. But one of them does recognise the importance of the woman...

    Pully: "We are in deep trouble now..."

    Clear: "What? Why!?"

    Pully: "That's Princess Aurora Briarose of Algernon. Daughter of those rebel leaders I just told you about..."

  21. #21
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Negotiation

    Pully: "What do we do about her?"

    Clear: "We can't turn her in to Strang, she'll be executed."

    Pully: "You know, she is the enemy, right?"

    Clear: "I'm not sure she's my enemy."

    Princess Aurora: "Excuse me..."

    Thrain: "You chose to join Warlord Strang, Ms Clear. You ought to start towing the line before you get yourself into further trouble."

    Pully: "She's right. She wouldn't be outright executed anyway. Probably there'll be a lot of politics involved. She'll be some kind of bartering tool."

    Princess Aurora: "Please, could somebody get me a chair?"

    Clear: "It's not fair to just throw her to the mercy of a man that habitually executes unarmed persons."

    Pully:
    "Rebels, Sir. They chose to become rebels."

    Clear: "Toolkit chose to become a stormtrooper, that doesn't mean he deserved to be killed the way he was."

    Princess Aurora: "I'm right here, you know? A chair? Anyone?"

    Pully: "She won't be executed. She'll just be interrogated."

    Clear: "Oh, is that all?"

    Pully: "You were interrogated, remember? Was it so bad?"

    Clear: "He didn't really think I was a rebel."

    Thrain: "I'm starting to doubt that."

    Clear: "Well, maybe I would be a rebel if people get probed by the likes of you!"

    Thrain: "Now, see here--!!"

    Princess Aurora: "One of you motherfukers get me a fuking chair!!!!!"

    The three of them stare at the princess.

    Pully: "Wow. Pushy, much?"

    Clear: "Maybe we should turn her in..."

    Princess Aurora: "I am an invalid. I can't walk. I really need a chair. Please."

    Pully: "What? Pull the other one!"

    Princess Aurora: "Leg jokes, is it?"

    Pully: "You're not disabled. I've seen you standing before. C'mon. Get on your feet!"

    Pully grabs Princess Aurora.

    Thrain: "You really shouldn't do that!"

    Pully pulls the woman from her casket and stands her up. She lets go.

    Princess Aurora slams hard to the floor with a cry.

    Pully: "..."

    Clear: "..."

    Thrain: "I told you!"

    Pully: "Oops? I thought she was faking!"

    The doors then slide open and three stormtroopers march in, Turbo, sans helmet, at the lead. He looks at them all and then the woman on the floor.

    Turbo: "What the Hell is going on here?"

    Princess Aurora: "I'm a rebel princess! Please arrest me!! Save me from these nutters!!"

    ----------------

    Some days later, Clear, Pully and Thrain are asked to attend a meeting. Clear looks at herself in a mirror. She'd been given a uniform. A uniform! She looks at it. She doesn't believe she is wearing it. She is just inside it and it is resting on her body. It is black and formal. They even gave her pips for a badge to tell others that she is a captain. She doesn't have a clue what it means. She's actually astounded that someone could so easily become a captain within a fleet - though owning your own, massive ship would probably help. She presses a button and the mirror fades to wall colour. She breathes deep and heads out of her dressing room aboard The Excellence and walks to the meeting room. It's an ovular room with a round table at the centre. Everything Imperial seems to be grey or black. The table is both. Pully is already seated. She looks weird in her ceremonial uniform. It's grey, also pipped and she has to wear a little corner hat that is tipped slightly to the side. Thrain is wearing her own clothes, albeit a formal suit of black. Clear sits next to Pully, with Thrain on Pully's other side. Opposite them are three people.

    At the centre of two young women is a male. An alien male. His skin is green and scaled but he has large ears like a cat. He has four eyes, two human-like and shaped while the other two are positioned in his forehead and are much smaller. He is wearing a set of brown robes that hang loosely on his person. Around his neck is a necklace of green beads, each with a symbol etched into it. He appears quite serene and content, though Clear fancies that's a mask he wears to hide his true emotions. Unlike the older alien male, the young woman on his left appears discontent and twitchy. She drums her fingers on the table impatiently. Her hair is light brown and wildly curly. She has it tied in a messy toptail that causes her hair to spill down in curls, every-which-way. Only one strand of hair seems to be neatly kept in shape - a thin set of braids that hang about her left ear and are adorned with tiny, green beads much like smaller versions of those around the man's neck. Her skin is lightly tanned, as though she has spent a good deal of time in the sun, and her eyes are blue. She appears beautiful, but rugged and unpolished. Much as Clear feels she looks herself. The woman is wearing navy blue robes, though these are tighter to the body and seem to be of a shorter cut than the male's. The other woman was also dressed in a tighter and shorter-cut set of robes to the male, however hers were coloured a mix of white a beige. Her hair also, like the other woman, had a tri-set of small braids and green beads around her left ear. Although human, Clear thinks she looks peculiar. Her skin is white but also extra shiny. Like she is wearing a lot of make-up. Her features are striking, almost masculine because they're very angular, yet incredibly beautiful. Like what Clear imagines human goddesses to look like; perfect and still. Her hair is black and, like her skin, extra shiny. In fact Clear thinks it may be a wig. Her eyes seem the most creepy thing about her though as they stare, never blinking, with very light blue irises that look grey. She is as tranquil as the man and sits quietly. Staring.

    Clear looks at the three of them and wonders. Their dress style could be a male-to-female fashion difference but she gets the impression that the male has some kind of authority over the two younger people. The brown-haired woman then yawns, leans back in her chair blows air through her mouth. Manners evidently aren't her strong suit.

    Man: "Interesting to see a non-human wearing that uniform. Doesn't happen very often. But I suppose you're quite human-looking despite your colouration."

    Clear frowns when she realises she's the one being spoken to. She sits awkwardly in her chair, unable to carry any sense of authority or, perhaps even, dignity.

    Clear: "Human-looking!? I think humans look like Martians!"

    The alien man laughs and nods good-naturedly.

    Man: "I like that. I'll try to remember it. Humans are Martian-looking. And, assuming you're a Martian yourself, it's not untrue. Humans do look like white, black and yellow versions of you."

    The brown-haired girl snorts and rolls her eyes. The man gives her a side-long glance.

    Man: "You disagree, Student?"

    Brown-haired Woman: "No. Actually I don't care. Why are you having small-talk with these people? They're the enemy!"

    Man: "Now, now. They are not our enemy. We are mediators of politics, not politicians ourselves. We don't have sides in these disputes, we mediate them."

    Brown-haired Woman: "Until these Imperials try to kill us for not bowing down to them."

    Clear: "They're not really Imperials though."

    The woman looks straight at Clear and folds her arms.

    Brown-haired Woman: "You mean 'we', don't you?"

    Clear: "Huh? Oh... right. Yeah... we aren't Imperials. I guess."

    While the woman rolls her eyes, the man's smile broadens. In a strange way the smile reminds Clear of her own father's smile. The few things she can clearly remember, at least she could remember that smile. Eyes narrowing and a mouth growing broad across his face.

    The doors slide open with a hiss and Warlord Strang enters. He is accompanied by two red-armoured individuals that Clear has never seen before. They're holding what look like metal pikes an stand either side of the doorway. Their helmets are longer than the stormtroopers' and their chest plate seems more intricate with parts and fastenings. They also have long black capes that almost touch the floor. Their visors are single, narrow slits straight across the helmet, unlike the much larger visors of the white stormtrooper helmets. Strang stands before his chair and waits. Princess Aurora is ushered into the room by two stormtroopers and her chair is pushed up beside Clear. She is shackled both about the wrists and the ankles, even though her legs don't work.

    Man: "Were those restraints truly necessary?"

    Strang seats himself and the two stormtroopers leave.

    Strang: "Absolutely. You Ćon Knights cannot be trusted."

    The brown-haired woman spreads her arms and and looks at her mentor with 'I told you so' written on her face. The man, however, is undeterred.

    Man: "I apologise that you've been made to feel this way, Warlord Strang, however I assure you that we have only honest intentions. We have been asked to mediate and act on behalf of Algernon for the release of Princess Aurora Briarose. Obviously they couldn't attend the meeting themselves, so you have only us. I am Telkrin Izep."

    Strang: "That's a difficult name to pronounce."

    For a brief instant Clear thinks she sees a flash of annoyance wash across the alien man's face.


    Telkrin Izep: "That's my... English name. The shortened, condensed and more easily pronounced name. I use it so that humans can say it."

    Strang: "I suppose anything foreign is going to be hard to pronounce properly, Terrin Ispep."

    Clear feels it's very obvious that Strang is mispronouncing the name deliberately. She supposes he couldn't complain about her name since it was in English most of the time.

    Telkrin Izep: "That's alright, Warlord Strang. Anything with a vague approximation will do. These are my Students. Kokoro Lymn and Ffion Huel."

    Strang: "A Muovinian and a yobbo. That's what the Ćon Knights are producing these days?"

    Ffion Heul: "Hey!!"

    The brown-haired woman, Ffion Heul, begins to stand in anger but her mentor held her down by the shoulder. The two red-clad soldiers had taken several steps forward during the brief outburst but Strang holds a hand to them and they retake their positions.

    Telkrin: "I don't think name-calling is going to get us very far with this negotiation, Warlord Strang."

    Strang: "I don't much care if they do go far, Ipsod. I have the Princess and you want her. I only have everything, you have nothing. So I can say and do whatever I like and you have to accept whatever terms I dictate."

    Telkrin: "Well then! Why don't we begin there? What do you want, Strang?"

    Strang smiles.

    Strang: "Algernon."

    Telkrin's four eyes blink. Ffion Heul frowns deeply with her face screwed up in a blatant expression of confusion that a child might do. Even the straight-faced Kokoro Lymn's unwrinkled brow lowers.

    Telkrin: "Do you... mean the remaining debris field?"

    Strang: "Exactly what I mean. All that remains are asteroids. Brimming with metals."

    Princess Aurora: "What!? You can't be serious!!"

    Strang: "Oh, but I am! Resource rich those asteroids. My little faction of space will become as rich as the Galactic Empire itself before long! And it sits fairly near my astro-borders. Very nice spot indeed."

    Princess Aurora: "That's the grave of my people! The grave of my family! You'd go in there and desecrate that!?"

    Clear instantly feels guilty. She understands Aurora's abhorrence and her anger and feels the same kind of sentiment for her own planet. And yet Clear had picked clean my bones on her own world, sold the treasures of her people and used their graveyard as her own scavenging paradise.

    Strang: "Graveyard of your people, perhaps. But right now it's just space-dust and its a veritable opportunity. If I don't claim it now, someone else will before long. The Galactic Empire, issuing its rise back to power or one of other other Warlords. Perhaps even the Rebel Alliance will realise it could use those resources and win its war. Someone will use it, my dear, and I intend for that someone to be me."

    Telkrin: "I'm not sure I'm authorised to grant you an entire section of space, Strang..."

    Strang: "Then I guess this conversation is at an end."

    Telkrin: "Surely there is more you desire, Warlord Strang? You are eternally locked in a war with your former masters, just as the Rebel Alliance is. You could get a non-aggression treaty from the Rebel Alliance and focus your attention on your real enemy?"

    Strang laughs. It's an arrogant and high-pitched kind of cackle that grates Clear's ears.

    Strang: "The Rebel Alliance is a joke. With the Galactic Empire on the back-foot, most people wonder what the point of your little band is! People are going home! Back to their lives and deserting your little movement. Leaving the power vacuum for those strong enough to grab it. There's only one thing you rebels can give me and that's Algernon. If you don't give it, I could take it. Then I'd have all those riches and your princess. But it would be more cost-effective to be given the asteroid field and, honestly, I have no use for this woman otherwise. If I'm forced to take the field, I'll dispose of her afterwards."

    Telkrin leans forward, resting his chin upon clasped hands. He looks at Strang intently and the Warlord looks back.

    Telkrin: "Even for the princess, I don't think the Rebel Alliance could grant this request. There are still many natives of Algernon out there and though they, I'm sure, love their princess... They would not wish to see their home churned up and turned into fuel for your ships."

    Strang: "When I have taken that field I shall send your princess' head to you in a box."

    Warlord Strang stands up.

    Then the room becomes a state of chaos. There is a sudden cry and blood sprays across the room, just enough to grab Clear's attention to the men at the door. One of them falls to his knees as blood spurts from the small crack between helmet and chest plate. After that initial spurt when the weapon was withdrawn, the rest is now spilling down the front plate. The other red soldier is holding the offending weapon.


    The three Ćon Knights leap to their feet and brandish magnificently glowing weapons that resemble swords of blue energy. However they don't attack, they appear on the defensive and just as confused as Clear. Clear is also on her feet and Pully shoves her back, coming between the red guard and the red-skinned woman. But the guard doesn't look at Pully, Clear or Thrain. He runs at Strang.

    Strang: "No! Stop!! Stop!!!!"

    The pike the man had had split into two thin blade, separated by the middle to become two weapons. The soldier slams one of those blades into Strang's stomach. The sound horrifies Clear.

    Strang: "Not... like this..."

    The soldier takes one step back, admires his handiwork, then plunges the other blade into Strang's forehead. Thrain screams, the most effeminate thing Clear has ever heard from the woman, and this makes Clear likewise cry out with horror. The man pulls off his helmet to reveal a heavily tanned face with short-cropped black hair. He appears to be what people on Earth call Hispanic and his face is complete with a thick layer of stubble. He finally looks at the three Ćon Knights but simply passes over them until he sees Pully, Clear and Thrain. He points at them.

    Soldier: "I know the alien was pressed into service. I ask you, red-skin, were you loyal to the dead man here?"

    He motions to the dead body on the floor.

    Clear: "Not at all."

    Soldier: "Then you'll help me. I escape, you escape, the princess escapes. We all get out of here. You, civilian--"

    Thrain: "I'll do whatever you say!"

    Soldier: "That just leaves this lapdog."

    Pully: "Just try it, punk."

    Clear: "Wait!"

    Clear puts herself between Pully and the soldier.

    Clear: "She's with me."

    He looks over Clear's shoulder and, though hesitantly, Pully nods in confirmation. The man points to the hovering chair of the princess.

    Solider: "Take her. What was your name? The fat fool didn't bother to introduce his own people."

    Clear: "Clear. That's Thrain and this is Pully. We should move now. That screaming must have someone on alert by now."

    Soldier: "Good. Knights. You're with us, right?"

    Telkrin: "I don't think you've left us with much of a choice..."

    Soldier: "I apologise for that. I didn't see any better opportunity. He was alone and I now know he never intended to release the princess alive. I'm Kiron Nightstrider. Proud son of Algernon. I'm at your service, your Highness."

  22. #22
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Escaping Excelsior

    The last hassle of the escape. A security check-point before anyone could enter the docked ships. So far the whole group had been able to saunter along in broad-sight of everyone. Kiron Nightstrider wore his red helmet and the rest of them marched along, escorting the chained up princess as they went. The Ćon Knights drew the most attention, them being outsiders, but everyone else in the group appeared to be doing what they were meant to be doing. Clear is surprised that no one had yet checked on Strang in the meeting room.

    Clear: "Why is a son of Algernon working for Strang?"

    Kiron: "I joined the Empire when I was young. Progressed through the ranks and when I was offered the role of Imperial Guard, a kind of promotion for loyalty, I took it. When Grand Admiral Thrawn was killed I was actually on sick-leave. Here on Excelsior. That kind of determined my position. I wasn't even awake during all the fighting. Afterwards I was automatically under the rule of Warlord Strang. I hated him and I felt like a traitor to the true Empire. Then I heard he captured Princess Aurora Briarose and I knew he was going to execute her. I couldn't stand by any longer. Sorry that you got mixed up in it."

    Clear: "I don't like what you did. Not one bit. But I wasn't happy here either. I'd been trying to think of a way to escape for some time now. You just forced my hand."

    She presses a communication button on her wrist device.

    Clear: "I want everybody off the ship. Sound the alarm that there's a radiation leak or something."

    Wai: "Easily done."

    Pully: "Who was that!?"

    Clear: "Uh... a friend."

    Pully: "Was that that God damn A.I.!? I knew you saved him! I just knew it!"

    Clear: "Lucky I did, isn't it!? Otherwise we'd never be able to start the ship without a whole crew of people."

    Pully: "I'm not even sure it's ready to fly at all to be honest. The medbay extension took a whole chunk of the schedule. This little escape attempt could end in disaster."

    Clear: "I know the engines are working. Wai already checked."

    Pully: "I can't believe you hid that from me."

    Clear: "I didn't want you to betray Strange anymore than you had to, Pully."

    Pully: "So explain why he's dead and I'm a fugitive..."

    Clear: "That's not my fault!"

    Guard: "Halt. Please swipe your passes through the machine."

    Kiron goes first. Clear. Then Pully. Also clear. Then Clear approaches with the Princess.

    Guard: "Where are you taking this... woman?"

    Clear: "Uh, prisoner transfer. To ... The Hopeful."

    Guard: "I wasn't notified! I'll have to clear it."

    The guard motions for two stormtroopers to take the handles of the princess' chair.

    Kiron: "Screw this!"

    He breaks his staff in half and slams one of the blades into the armpit of a stormtrooper. Clear pulls the princess' chair away from the incoming guards, running backwards past the three knights. All three have their glowing blades exposed and as she passes she hears a strange sound emitting from the blades- almost choral. Telkrin easily guides his sword and slices the head from the stormtrooper that had chased Clear. The sword cuts through the neck of the man like a hot energy knife through warm butter that had been left in the sun for an hour.


    Kokoro Lymn, who Clear had to guess was the Muovinian that Strang had proclaimed, moves with such precision that even her teacher didn't seem to possess. She practically dances her way through two soldiers, slicing them both in twain. Her sword cuts through the stormtrooper armour without hassle, which amazes and scares Clear.

    Princess Aurora: "All this violence!"

    Clear: "It's awful, I know..."

    Princess Aurora: "It's bloody terrific!! Smack 'em with the chair!!"

    Kiron grabs a stool with his free hand and smacks the head guard with it, sending him flying against a wall. He turns, snatches the sword he'd left embedded in the other trooper's neck, and then returns his attention to the guard who is trying to climb back to his feet. Kiron violently thrusts the knife up into the chin of the man, the blade cutting straight through his entire skull and pokes out at the top. Kiron yanks his blade back but it's quite stuck. He has no time to prise it free as a soldier shoots at him. A blast grazes his red armour but he's too quick for the stormtrooper. He throws his remaining knife straight at the enemy - the weapon smashes through the visor of the man's helmet and impales him squarely between the eyes. The soldier falls flat. Kiron releases his weapons from the two dead men and looks up to see the entire guardpost is now quiet. He wipes the blood from the blades and fastens them both together again to make his pike.

    Princess Aurora: "Wow! Such gallantry!"

    Clear: "Such carnage..."

    Telkrin: "It is an unfortunate loss of life, Clear. I'm glad you are so empathetic. But their deaths were necessary. If not them, then surely it would have been us."

    Clear: "I know. I know. Doesn't stop me feeling bad. Especially because I just... kind of joined them... we'd better get moving. I don't know how long it will be before someone investigates this point. And I don't know how long it will take for all the technicians to vacate my ship."

    She pushes the princess through the checkpoint.

    Telkrin: "Kokoro, Ffion, I want you to watch this area. Monitor the communications. We'll patch into them so we can listen, but I want you to try to divert them as long as you can."

    The two young women nod their acceptance and begin to move dead bodies out of sight. Clear and the rest of the group arrive at the ramp to The Hopeless. Even standing outside of it, Clear feels the strange warmth of home beginning to draw her in. Like everything will be alright as soon as she's home again.

    Technicians are gathered outside the ship and one of the foremen is doing a head check. When he sees Clear he gives a quick salute. The kind of salute of a man that doesn't care for it but knows he has to.


    Foreman: "Captain. Sorry to inform you, but there's been a radiation leak onboard. No idea where it came from. Probably that crazy core you have in there. I tried to get a look at the thing but it killed one of my men."

    Clear: "I did warn you of that."

    Foreman: "I know, Captain. But curiosity got the better of us. Didn't make that mistake again. Hard writing up death reports, especially for such a senseless death."

    Clear: "Sorry that it happened. I hope you'll be okay..."

    Foreman: "I'll be fine once... here they are."

    Some more technicians are exiting the ship. That's when Clear hears the communications light up from the checkpoint - the sound buzzing in her ears.

    Comms Officer: "What happened?"

    Ffion Heul: "Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh... everything's perfectly alright now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?"

    Clear groans and Pully facepalms.

    Princess Aurora: "The woman is an idiot."

    Comms Officer: "We're sending a squad over."

    Ffion: "Uh, uh, negative, negative! We had a reactor leak here now. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak, very dangerous."

    Comms Officer: "Who is this? What's your operating number?"

    Ffion: "Uh..."

    Then suddenly there's a screech of static before Clear, and those also listening, are able to switch to their private channel.

    Ffion: "Boring conversation anyway. Teacher, we're gonna have company!"

    Telkrin: "Next time, Ffion, please allow Kokoro to use the communicator."

    Ffion: "She talks like a robot doing yoga."

    There's a moment when Ffion's voice becomes faded - likely arguing away from the microphone with Kokoro.

    Telkrin: "You should both come to me now. There's no more you can do there."

    Clear: "Well, up we go. The foreman says all his men have gotten off. Kiron, take the princess onboard."

    Kiron pushes Aurora up the ramp. Pully stalks after him, watching his every step.

    Foreman: "They can't go in there, Captain! The radiation leak!"

    Clear: "It was nice knowing you, guys!"

    Clear runs up after Pully and Thrain follows her. When Clear gets to the top she turns to wait for the rest. The two Ćon students finally appear and Telkrin asks them to get on first. Ffion nods casually to Clear as she passes, while Kokoro gives a sedate nod that is almost like a bow of the head rather than a mere nod. Telkrin comes up last.

    Telkrin: "Thank you, Clear. You're doing a very brave thing."

    Clear closes the doors behind them.

    Clear: "I'm not the one wielding the swords."

    Telkrin: "Sometimes it is easier to wield the blade, than it is to watch another do the wielding."

    Clear: "Your students must hate it when you talk like that."

    Telkrin laughs.

    Clear activates her wrist device to talk to Wai.

    Clear: "Get us out of here, Wai. Once we're far enough away, activate the jump drive. Get us to the nearest system, then make an immediate jump again. Do it three times. That'll confuse anyone trying to follow us."

    Wai: "Aye, aye, skipper."

    She feels the faint grumble of the ship's engines. Once she could never have imagined what The Hopeful's engines purr would be like and now she hopes to never hear it silenced ever again. She and Telkrin head towards the Command Centre. There Kiron is talking to Aurora and Pully is watching them.

    Clear: "Where are the others?"

    Pully doesn't take her eyes off of Kiron.

    Pully: "Thrain went to check on Green. The two mini-assassins went off to find rooms. I guess they think they're staying."

    Clears turns to the rebel princess and her saviour.

    Clear: "You've gotten everyone into a lot of trouble..."

    Kiron: "I know that. I do regret it. If I had a choice I wouldn't have exposed you to this. But there was no other way."

    Princess Aurora: "Actually I would hazard that it was a stroke of luck that you were there, Captain Clear. Nay, dare I say, fate? Without you and your ship, I doubt we should ever have escaped that accursed place! And, of course, the bravery of the Ćon Knights! Thank you all."

    Pully: "How many people did we just kill and all you have for us is thanks?"

    The room falls into a brief and awkward silence.

    Princess Aurora: "You're right, of course. And yet they were all soldiers, trained and prepared to kill me and anyone else that doesn't obey the will of a despot like Strang."

    Pully: "Better to bow and scrape to a princess is it?"

    Princess Aurora: "I would never ask for such a thing. The monarchy of Algernon is... was a constitutional monarchy. Much more of a symbol than of any actual use. We were expected to sit pretty, smile, wave and encourage the populace. That's all."

    Pully: "Yeah right. At least Strang was carving out his own destiny. Making a name for himself and the people that followed him. You rebels just bring chaos and bedlam."

    Kiron: "Are we going to have a problem, Imperial?"

    Princess Aurora: "No need for that, Nightstrider."

    Clear: "I trust Pully more than I trust you, Kiron. Don't threaten anyone aboard my ship..."

    Kiron: "I apologise again, Captain."

    Clear: "And Pully, stay out of political debate, okay?"

    Pully: "I've just had my entire life ruined. Sorry I can't take that as easily as you... Sir. I'll be in my room."

    When Pully had left, Clear sighs.

    Telkrin: "Poor girl. She obviously had a lot of love and respect for her master."

    Kiron: "Then she was blind to the man's true nature."

    Telkrin: "There was plenty to admire in Strang, young Nightstrider. He was a man of vision and drive. The will to succeed. You yourself have committed quite a few atrocities this day. Perhaps you shouldn't be so swift to condemn?"

    Kiron opens his mouth to retort but then relents and falls into deep musing.

    Clear: "Where do you want to go, princess?"

    Princess Aurora: "Rebel space. There I can rejoin my people. I'm sure they'll reward you. Everyone."

    Clear: "I don't think anyone did this for the reward, princess. But thank you. Maybe your reward can help finish the repairs to the ship."

    Princess Aurora: "Will the ship be safe?"

    Clear: "I don't think it's ever been especially safe for travel. But Wai assures me it'll stay in one piece. Kiron, you need to take the princess out of her chair and held hold of her by the wall."

    Kiron: "What?"

    Clear: "The jump systems on this ship are very, very old. There's a safety mechanism that pins us against the walls during jumps."

    Kiron: "How unusual... your Highness.... may I?"

    Princess Aurora: "A bit undignified... but since becoming a cripple, I'm getting used to it."

    She lifts her arms and Kiron hoists her from the hoverchair. He edges closer to the wall. Then the ship shakes.

    Telkrin: "That... didn't feel like a jump."

    Screens flash up on the wall monitor and display the turrets of Excelsior blasting in their direction. The Hopeful is as vulnerable as ever and the laser fire is easily shredding whole parts of the ship's outer hull.

    Clear: "Wai?"

    Wai: "Don't get your knickers in a twist, Clear. Jumping in five... four... three... two... one... jump."

    Everyone is flung against the wall.

  23. #23
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Knights of the Soul

    Half a day later, and several jumps have gone by. Wai, acting as the ship's A.I. (albeit externally), was able to navigate space as though he'd been attached to the ship for as many years as Note had been. He informed Clear that the jump drive was operating above its maximum potential due to the power source she had installed. Yet he also said that the drives were deteriorating faster than they ought; the technicians hadn't finished their repairs. Cleared got permission from Princess Aurora Briarose to have repairs done by the Rebel Alliance technicians when they arrived.

    The princess was given the largest room that Kiron Nightsrider could find. He then occupied the room next to her. Clear got the impression that the princess was not entirely comfortable with Kiron's constant and oppressive attention, but the woman couldn't exactly refuse him after all he'd done on her behalf. Kiron did little beyond push the princess' chair around. Only when Thrain unlocked the chair's functionality was the princess able to move the hovering seat around by herself, yet Kiron insisted on joining her almost everywhere she went.


    Ffion Heul and Kokoro Lymn spent their time together in a seeming love-hate relationship. They often argued over the smallest of details and yet they couldn't be parted for very long. They, above everyone, were most curious about the ship and were keen to explore various sections. Their mentor, Telkrin Izep, spent time in the Command Centre, usually in meditation. Clear had never seen anyone spend so much time in complete silence and while she admired the man, she was also creeped out by him. He told her his species was called Alomé and they lived in the Outer Rim, close to the void between the Milky Way Galaxy and those galaxies beyond. They had no allegiance to either the rebels or the imperials or anyone else. He was merely involved because of his role as an Ćon Knight.

    Cassra Terrin-Pullista, commonly known as Pully, kept to herself since they got back to The Hopeless. She avoided Kiron and the princess, leaving rooms when they entered, and usually only put up with Clear for ten minutes before sulking away. Clear didn't want to press and allowed the woman her space for the time being.


    Alexis Thrain finally got Green out of the bacta tank. Green was laid out on a bed and kept there for observation. Scans indicated that her bones were mended and were no longer causing internal damage. However Thrain was worried that the bones may not be strong enough to hold together. Strict bed rest was the current fix and a lot of training in the medbay with all of the new equipment there. Most of the room had been finished by the technicians, with just some lights hanging limply from the ceiling and the equipment not lined up where it should be. Otherwise the medbay was well stocked with medical supplies that Clear would have sold her soul for back on Mars. There was rehab equipment for Green to use, training her body and testing the limit of her bones. However there was still just one bacta tank, the rest had not yet been installed. The most worrisome problem that Thrain brought up was the limited supply of bacta available to them. While there would be plenty of bacta for simple injuries, lasting years, to fill the whole tank with bacta would use a lot of the medicine and supplies would then be drained within weeks. Thrain advised that nobody lose a limb or get internal haemorrhaging, as though it were a choice. Green was happy to be out, even if she was largely cooped up in the medbay for now; it was more space than she'd had for the last few days.

    Wai: "We're approaching the planet Oeurwoud."

    Clear heads to the Command Centre after bidding Green a wave goodbye. When she arrives she finds everyone else save Pully, Thrain and Green are present. She is a little surprised that Pully opted out but Clear continues to respect the woman's need for personal time. Then Clear sees Wai and recoils.

    Clear: "H-H-How!?"

    Telkrin: "I thought you were familiar with the robot?"

    Clear: "I am! But... how did you get your skin back!?"

    Wai, who had been burnt to a crisp not so long ago, is now looking as healthy and human-like as ever before. His skin, his hair and even his clothes are resting prettily on his metal frame.

    Wai: "I used your synthetics laboratory."

    Clear blinks.

    Clear: "We... have one of those?"

    Wai: "You do. In fact I also spent some time synthesising some hamburgers. After the first hundred or so the machines ran out of the last of the synthesising materials. Oh well. They'd probably been in there for a hundred years or more anyway. Best not eat those burgers come to think of it."

    Clear: "And how does the skin feel?"

    Wai: "Fits very comfortably. My metal structure attracts the skin so it was easy enough to replicate and not worry about exact mesaurements. My frame also keeps my skin and hair in good health. The hardest part to synthesise were the clothes, but I got there in the end. They smell a bit... synthesisey... but there you go. Like microwave food."

    Clear: "I have no idea what a microwave is but it sounds like a doomsday weapon. But in any case, how's the situation out there?"

    The screens changed and displayed the planet below them. It is a blue planet, though the oceans give a lot of room to the green land masses. One huge desert streaks across the planet's equator, but the rest is completely green.

    Wai: "I do not detect any signs of civilisation. Plenty of lifeforms, but nothing resembling cities or the like."

    Princess Aurora: "They're underground. Let me send out a message to the planet and they'll pick it up."

    She activates the comms unit in her chair, leans over and speaks into it.


    Princess Aurora: "This is Princess Aurora Briarose. I have escaped captivity from Warlord Strang and I'm seeking sanctuary for myself and my allies. Please respond. The passcode is 'tangy lemon juice'."

    Clear: "That... was an unimpressive password."

    Princess Aurora:
    "Can you imagine an imperial coming up with a passcode like that?"

    Clear shrugs. People kept acting like she ought to know the intimacies of all these factions, and yet she had only met them a few weeks ago.

    Wai: "There seems to be no response from the planet."

    The princess tries again.

    Still nothing.


    Kokoro Lymn: "Could your passcode be outdated?"

    Princess Aurora: "They would still at least respond to me, even if it's an old passcode..."

    Ffion Heul: "Maybe they were just glad to be rid of you?"

    Princess Aurora: "What!? Watch who you're talking to!"

    Ffion Heul: "Wow, you're a narky one, aren't you?"

    Princess Aurora attempts to compose herself.

    Princess Aurora: "Not at all. But I do dislike being so hatefully insulted. You ought to watch your manners."

    Kokoro smirks.


    Kokoro: "You should watch your manners, Ffion."

    Ffion: "I'll watch your face, in a minute - with my fist!"

    Kokoro just laughs, evidently considering Ffion well put down by the princess.

    Clear: "Are you sure this is the right planet?"

    Princess Aurora: "Of course it is! Sorry. Yes. Yes it is the correct planet. I'm getting very worried."

    Kiron: "I suppose we should go down there and check the area. Could be that they're suspicious of our message. You've been missing for some time, your Highness."

    Princess Aurora: "Maybe..."

    Clear: "Or it could be a trap. I'm not sure I want to go down there."

    Telkrin: "It couldn't hurt to take a look. If they're there, we can explain the situation and you'll get your reward and we Ćon will have completed our duty."

    Clear: "Not sure the reward is worth risking my life over..."

    Princess Aurora: "It will be."

    Clear: "I like the certainty in your voice."

    Princess Aurora: "You'll help to escort me to the planet then?"

    Clear: "Alright. Let's do some investigating. Wai, you should stay on the ship, okay?"

    Wai: "I can do that for you. I do hate fighting. Just thinking of all that tension makes the hair on my neck stand up."

    Clear: "Okay. We'll all have to squeeze into the Bug. There should be enough space in there. It even works properly since the technicians repaired it on The Excellence!"

    Kokoro: "Why does that not strike me with confidence?"

    Clear: "Get suited up, or whatever you have to do, and meet me there. I need to find Pully."

    Kiron glances at her when she mentions Pully's name. He seems like he may object but doesn't.

    Telkrin: "Ffion, go and prepare the shuttle. This Bug. Koko, accompany the Captain to find her erstwhile friend. Two pairs of eyes are better than one."

    Clear: "I'm sure she's in her room, but you're welcome to join me if you want."

    Ffion walks to the exit but pokes Kokoro before she leaves.

    Ffion: "Don't get looooost!"

    Kokoro: "Try not to destroy the shuttle."

    Princess Aurora: "I'll go and change. The planet is quite humid. If you you have water proof, but breathable clothes, we should wear them..."

    Clear: "No we don't..."

    Wai: "We could have used the synthesiser! Except I made all those hamburgers..."

    Telkrin: "What does materials does the synthesiser require?"

    Wai: "Plant matter mostly."

    Telkrin: "Couldn't it use those hamburgers you created?"

    Wai: "But... I spent a long time making tho--"

    Clear: "Wai!"

    Wai: "Alright. Yes I could use them. There won't be enough to make everyone some clothes. And they'll smell a bit... beefy..."

    Clear: "Give it a try."

    After finalising the arrangements, Clear and Kokoro leave in search of Pully.

    Kokoro: "How long have you known Pully, can I ask?"

    Clear: "Not very long..."

    Kokoro: "You seem to have a strong attachment to her."

    Clear: "I know I can trust her. And she's helped me a lot. What about you and Ffion?"

    Kokoro: "We have known each other for many years."

    Clear: "Seems like it."

    Kokoro: "I know we argue a lot but... as you say, I know I can trust her. We were partnered up when I was fourteen. Ffion was thirteen. Teacher Izep has prepared us ever since then."

    Clear: "Like a father?"

    Kokoro: "I don't imagine so. More like... well, a teacher. We were set tasks every day and expected to complete those tasks as best we could. It was all about learning. There's no... familial connection. But I do respect the man and love him as my mentor. But I know who my true family is and I love them as my family."

    Clear feels a little saddened for a moment. She has no idea how she could distinguish such feelings between mentor and family since her own father died when she was young and she never knew anyone else in that role. Except maybe Note.

    Kokoro: "Ffion though... perhaps does feel like family. Like a sister. Which is probably why we argue so much. We're very different. But we overcame all those tasks together so..."

    Clear: "That sounds nice."

    Kokoro: "Sometimes it can be. Sometimes."

    Clear: "And you're both... Ćon Knights, right? What does that mean?"

    Kokoro: "I'm surprised you haven't come across any before! I'm not really an Ćon Knight. Not yet anyway. I am an Ćon, at least. We... well we're usually asked to serve the galaxy in whatever way possible. Could politics, as you saw. Could be protection. Investigation. Escort. Generally we're expected to face danger and defend those unable to do so themselves. Honour, respect, chivalry. It's all part of our creed."

    Clear: "Sounds like hard work..."

    Kokoro: "Perhaps. But what would be the point to life if I wasted it? We only live once, Ms Clear. And then we're stardust. I'd rather spend my life saving the galaxy, little by little. Sorry if that sounds preachy..."

    Clear: "It does a little. But it's good."

    Kokoro: "And how did you become Captain of such an incredible ship?"

    Clear: "Can't say I've ever thought of this hunk of junk as incredible. But it is my home. I've always lived here. Mostly alone. The A.I. then went crazy and shot us across the galaxy. Accidentally ended up with Strang and got pressed into his service in exchange for repairs and getting shut of that crazy A.I.."

    Kokoro: "A ship as a home. Such a strange idea to me. I don't mean in a negative way. Just unusual. I don't think we spend much time on ships. We tend to go from planet to planet. I think Teacher Izep hates space travel. Makes him uncomfortable without a sky above his head. Ffion seems to like it here though."

    Clear: "And you?"

    Kokoro: "I think I'd also prefer being on a planet. Having rock underfoot somehow feels safer than a thin strip of metal and then void."

    Clear: "I can't argue with you there. The Hopeless is especially thin-skinned too!"

    Kokoro: "Hopeless? I thought it was Hopeful?"

    Clear: "Sorry. A bad habit. It's my own pet name for the ship. She's a relic and a complete wreck. This has been the most excitement she's had ever since there was an invasion of tribbles onboard."

    Kokoro: "Tibbles?"

    Clear: "You really don't want to know. Here we are."

    She knocks at the door to Pully's room. No answer. She knocks again.

    Pully: "Who's there?"

    Clear: "It's me. We're going down to a planet and into a possible trap. Wanted you to come with me..."

    The door slides open. Pully is well drunk. Her hair is a mess and she wears her formal jacket wide open. Yet she's taken off her trousers and is parading around in her knickers, despite the jacket still on her shoulders. She leans against the door frame.

    Pully: "Give me twenty minutes to get ready, okay?"

    Clear knows she should see her own reflection and feel ashamed of herself. But she doesn't. She just feels envy that she isn't the one wasted.


    Clear: "You sure you're going to be up for it?"

    Kokoro: "I think maybe you need to sleep off your condition..."

    Pully: "Who asked you?"

    Clear: "She's just being nice, Pully. I want you to come but I don't want you stumbling all over the place either."

    Pully: "I've got some pills. They'll sober me up enough to be useful, Sir."

    She makes a quick, half-hearted salute.

    Clear: "See you in the hangar."

    Kokoro and Clear walk away and hear the door slide shut.

    Kokoro: "Will she really be okay?"

    Clear: "I think so. We're only going to take a look. If I spy trouble, we're out of there."

    Kokoro: "Alcohol is not something we partake in. Dulling the senses dulls our connection to our soul."

    Clear: "Uh... is that some kind of religious stuff?"

    Kokoro: "Not really, no. Though I think there are similarities between what we do and religious practice. Ćon are able to channel their soul externally. Even creating physical manifestations."

    Clear: "Whoa!? Seriously? Is that what your glowing sword is?"

    Kokoro removes the hilt from its holster. She closes her eyes and then instantly, with the exertion of will, the blade of the sword appears. The light shines white and there appears to be swirling energy around the shaft.

    Clear: "I've seen that thing slice through stormtrooper armour..."

    6 "It's a very potent weapon. This hilt is a device that allows us to force the physical projection through and create a sword-shape. It's the signature weapon of any Ćon Knight. But if you really wanted to see something special with it, you'd be better asking Ffion. My expertise is not in combat."

    Clear: "Oh?"

    Kokoro: "I'm more adept at using my soul in more... existential ways. Manipulating the reality that surrounds us. I'm particularly good at healing. I can use my own soul to bind others' physically. My soul communicates with that of the wounded person and is guided in the healing effort by the host's own soul. Their soul knows their body better than I do. I'm still in training but Teach Izep tells me I'm very talented."

    Clear: "Shame you weren't around a while go. You could have saved Green a dip in the bacta tank."

    Kokoro smiles.

    Kokoro: "I don't know that my skill is that good. But maybe I could have sped up her healing process. I did offer to look at her but the doctor refused to let me see your friend."

    Clear: "Doesn't surprise me. Alexis is very controlling of the medbay. But is that why you wear a different colour than Ffion?"

    Kokoro: "Oh right! Yes it is. Sorry I should have said. It's strange explaining this stuff to you because most people I meet already know this. And these small beads in my braided hair signify that I'm still a student."

    She indicates the beads in her hair. Clear remembers that Ffion also has them.

    Clear: "And Telkrin's large beads means he's the master?"

    Kokoro: "We prefer the term 'teacher' but yes. His colour denotes that he's a balance of the two aspects of being an Ćon. I shall be considered a Consular when I complete my training. Ffion will be a Guardian. Our teacher is Sentinal. These are the three terms used to explain our expertise, though this is a very loose system and we often sway here and there. Mostly it allows us to focus our training down a specific path so that we can become experts in at least one field. But we don't always stick to that path after we have become knights. It really depends on our experiences from then on. Sorry, I must be boring you."

    Clear: "No! It's really interesting! Like nothing I've ever heard of before. It's good to hear it. I feel like I know you better. I don't take enough time to get to know people usually, to be honest..."

    Kokoro: "I could tell. You don't stop in one place for very long. I'm glad I got to talk with you. You remind me of Ffion in some ways. Less annoying though, which is good."

    She chuckles and Clear can't help but smile too.


    Kokoro: "Your friend, though... you should be careful of Pully. I don't know her, I don't know what she did for you but she is not as she seems. I assume you are not familiar with the biological technology she'd used, but you can tell from her appearance that she's had a lot of physical changes made to her genetic structure. She hasn't always looked the way she does now. In my experience, people only do that if they dislike themselves or they're trying to escape something. I do hope it's the first. Then you just have to deal with self-esteem. If she's running from something... I'm sure it will catch up to her eventually..."

    Clear: "I... didn't know."

    Kokoro: "I'm sorry. It's not my business."

    Clear: "No... thanks. I appreciate you telling me. I'll just ask her when there's time. Maybe she just wanted a change."

    Kokoro: "Maybe! I think this is the door to the hangar, right?"

    Clear: "That's right."

    They enter the hangar and go to the Bug.

    ----------

    Some time later they are all in the Bug. Pully arrived wearing her stormtrooper armour and Kiron Nightstrider likewise wore his elite guard armour. The Ćon knights continued to wear their own robes too. That left Clear and princess Aurora to try on Wai's hamburger clothes. The clothes are light green, apparently to blend in with the plants they're going to be surrounded by, and feel like cotton. They are given simple white vests and over that is worn the green, loose shirt. They have to wear full-length trousers, despite the heat, because of the sun and the insects. They're given thick walking boots, though Clear figures this is pointless for the princess. Despite Wai thinking they'd smell like hamburgers, Clear finds the clothing odourless. She helps Aurora to tie her long purple hair back.

    Shortly thereafter, Clear is in the cockpit. Kiron and Ffion argued briefly over who would be her co-pilot as both claimed they had skill in the role. Eventually Telkrin asked Ffion to give way and Kiron joins Clear. Clear is secretly happy with this because she feels the princess could use some time apart from her stalwart protector. Clear flies the Bug out of the hangar. She notices that the shuttle seems lighter and more responsive than usual. She mentally thanks the technicians.

    Kiron: "You should have used the inertia dampener before--"

    He silences himself when Clear glares at him.

    Kiron: "Just a thought..."

    Clear: "I learnt to fly this thing myself. I don't need you coming in here trying to teach me how to do something I've been doing since I was eight."

    Kiron: "Sorry. But maybe you'd be even better if you had a few lessons-- okay I'll be quiet."

    They sit in silence for a few minutes before Kiron speaks again.

    Kiron: "Can you show me your ship? I haven't seen it from the outside. I heard Strang talk about it as though it were the most beautiful ship he'd ever laid eyes on."

    Clear: "I have no idea why he'd think that. The Hopeless is damn ugly."

    Kiron: "Can't be any worse than the cheese wedges..."

    Clear laughs and switches the view screen to show The Hopeless. The massive construct looms in the view like a colossal pipe, slowly rotating as it orbits the planet. Kiron gasps.

    Kiron: "It can't be!!"

    Clear: "Okay, it's ugly but not that ugly!"

    Kiron: "No, I mean--!"

    He looks at her suddenly with a dark expression and intent. Clear gets defensive, worried he might attack her. But he doesn't. He turns away and stares at The Hopeless.

    Kiron: "Where did you say the ship is from?"

    Clear: "Well it's a derelict from Mars. Near Earth."

    Kiron: "And you said it only began jumping recently? Not... months ago? Years ago?"

    Clear: "Never. I didn't even know the jump drives were in working order. Why? What's the problem?"

    Kiron: "It... it doesn't matter."

    And thus he falls silent again, this time in deep thought. Clear watches him with concern but then tries to focus on her current task at hand.

  24. #24
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Black Water

    The Bug lands in the middle of a forest. Kiron had updated the Bug's maps by hacking into Strang's systems, revealing information and key locations for the planet Oeurwoud. According to the map they have landed in Aggran Forest, spanning the majority of the large island they are standing on. Through the front window Clear can only see bark. Navigating through the canopy had been difficult enough, she's worried about flying back out again. She is the last to exit the craft and when she touches the open door there is a wall of moisture to greet her. The heat is oppressive and she cannot tell if she is sweating or if water is simply building up on her skin from the air. She looks up at the distant canopy. The trees are gigantic, much larger than anything she's ever seen before. She fancies she can see clouds gathering in the branches. She walks over to Princess Aurora and activates her holographic map.

    Clear: "Can you mark where your guys ought to be?"

    She pushes the holographic display and an fingerprinted dot appears. Clear orientates herself according to the compass and starts trekking in that direction. A few button presses later and the map data is uploaded to Pully and Kiron's visor displays. Even Aurora's chair has a map display.

    Pully: "And what do we do if they turn out to be hostile?"

    Clear: "Who are you talking about?"

    Pully: "Rebels, Imperials, whoever the Hell is waiting for us."

    Heul: "We break skulls."

    Telkrin: "Ffion..."

    Heul: "Sorry. We chop them to pieces with our shiny swords."

    Lymn: "You'd only end up chopping yourself, Ffion."

    Heul: "Says the nurse..."

    Lymn: "Nurse!?"

    Telkrin: "A little less noise. Both of you. I sense a... great disturbance. The souls of the land are discontent. A great... darkness spreads across the world..."

    The two students fall silent with their eyes closed.

    Lymn: "I feel it. The... darkness. It... consumes everything. It consumes life... reality even. Teacher! What is it!?"

    Telkrin: "I have no idea, Kokoro. This is something I haven't felt since... you should all return to your shuttle."

    Princess Aurora: "What!? Are you mad?"

    Telkrin: "This darkness... it encroaches upon us even now. I think it's drawn by our presence."

    Princess Aurora: "But what about my people!?"

    Telkrin: "They're already dead. Consumed by this hungry beast. You need to leave immediately."

    Clear: "You don't need to tell me again. Back to The Hopeful it is!"

    Princess Aurora: "You're going to believe this religious bunkum!?"

    Clear: "Dude has a glowing projection of his soul. I'll take his word for it."

    Princess Aurora: "No! I refuse to leave!"

    Pully: "Oh well. Guess you'll be left here then."

    Nightstrider: "If the princess stays, I stay too."

    Pully: "Again, oh well!"

    Telkrin: "There is no time for this debate. I cannot allow you to endanger the lives of my students. Ffion, Kokoro, get aboard the shuttle now. Captain, please prepare to leave."

    Lymn: "Wait - what about you?"

    Telkrin: "It is my duty as a knight to investigate this blight so that others may know of it."

    Lymn: "But Teacher!"

    Telkrin: "To the shuttle!"

    Heul: "If you stay then we'll stand with you!"

    Telkrin: "You are not yet knights. Go. This is your final lesson - someone must take word back to Tangris. Inform the Ćon Lords."

    Kokoro runs. She says nothing else. She just runs. Ffion seems like she might continue defying her teacher's order but eventually she turns away and also runs. Clear gives Telkrin one last confused look before also heading back with Pully. They get onboard the ship and Clear ignites the engines. It's then that she sees it.

    Darkness, like liquid, bursts from the trees like a tidal wave of ink. Its crashes down to the ground, spills and rises up. It moves with more speed than she might have imagined it capable of. Kiron suddenly bursts into the cockpit and sits down.


    Nightstrider: "I brought the princess aboard. Let's get out of here!"

    She takes off. The little Bug jerks in protestation as she forcibly handles the craft like it's never been handled before. The take-off is rough and the u-turn rougher. She hopes everyone is wearing their seatbelts.

    She changes the display to show Telkrin. He faces the dark wave with his sword ignited. When the blackness looms over him he thrust out his hand and a dome of blue light bursts from within him. The wave strikes the dome and laps over it, unable to break through. Then it rises and attempts again to crash against it like an animal. The wave clearly is not a natural disaster but a conscious creature that wants to consume those it finds. The old man is able to hold off the Darkness but Clear doubts he can defeat it as more and more black water gushes out of the trees towards him. She jerks the ship to the left and then down.


    Kiron: "What're you doing!?"

    Clear: "You think you're a hot-shot pilot, right? Prove it. Keep us steady!"

    Clear vacates her seat and rushes the short distance to the still open doors of the shuttle. She sees Telkrin below her.

    Clear: "Jump! Quick!"

    Hearing Clear shout, the two students are instantly at her side and willing their teacher into the ship. Kokoro holds out her hand.

    Lymn: "Teacher! Now!"

    Clear can tell the man is straining. It's only a matter of time before the Darkness overwhelms him. He looks up at them. He holds out his hand.

    Lymn: "Take us lower!!"

    But Clear sees that his palm is cast against them, not to them. Blue light springs from his open palm and sets against the shuttle. Violently the ship is thrust back and up into the sky. Black water spills to the area they had just occupied and then splashes against the soul shield of Telkrin. More and more Darkness floods the forest and submerges the knight.

    The shouts of anger and sorrow from the two students are blanked from Clear's attention as she looks upwards. The Darkness is now spilling from the upper canopy of the forest like black rain. She slams the door panel and the doors close as she runs back to the cockpit. She grabs her wheel and jerks the Bug away from the black rain falling through the air. Kiron plots a course for a spacious opening and Clear heads for it. From broad branches the Darkness creeps and leaps at them like a horde of giant, inky gorillas. Clear yanks them to the left, avoiding the leaping dark. She pushes them upwards. The she sees the Darkness filling their escape route, crawling across the leaves of the trees and stretching across the obvious gap.

    Clear: "We'll just have to do this the hard way."

    Nightstrider: "Oh crap!"

    Clear steers straight for the thickest canopy above them. Branches biggest than her shuttle and leaves masking them. Luck would be the deciding factor here.

    They burst forth into the upper atmosphere. As they look out across the canopy top they can see the Darkness swelling in the area, creeping and spilling in on the land.


    Clear: "That... was terrifying."

    Nightstrider: "I can't believe we lost an Ćon Knight... We have to spread the news of this. Whatever that creature is, if its spreads to other worlds... a populated world!"

    Clear: "Telkrin said we should go to Tangris. Do you know the place?"

    Nightstrider:
    "Home of the Ćon. It's where the Ćon Lords can usually be found. The students spend their first years there too. Learning. Until they're old enough to travel. I'm surprised you don't know of it."

    Clear: "There's a lot I don't know."

    The shuttle breaks into space and makes a heading for The Hopeless.

    Clear: "I wish Telkrin hadn't..."

    Nightstrider: "I doubt you're the only one..."

  25. #25
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Royal Disease

    Lymn: "We must go to Tangris! The Ćon Lords will need to speak with us."

    Princess Aurora: "I know, but you need to deliver me to the Rebel Alliance first."

    Lymn: "Every moment wasted is time for that Black Water to spread! We can't go ferrying you around! You can get back to your people after we reach Tangris."

    Princess Aurora: "Strang's fleet is going to be in disarray, the Rebel Alliance needs to be made aware of his death immediately so that they can capitalise on it and take the territories he once laid claim to. This could solidify the Rebel Alliance and make it the dominant force in the galaxy! Freedom, tolerance, hope! We can't afford to wait here!"

    Lymn: "There'll be nothing left for your rebels to take if that Black Water gets off-world!"

    Princess Aurora: "The Rebel Alliance will help the Ćon Lords in their quest once Strang's faction is quelled. You have my word on this!"

    Lymn: "It won't be enough if we're too late!"

    Clear: "Okay, okay. I'm getting a migraine listening to the pair of you."

    Lymn: "Clear, you know what we must do."

    Princess Aurora: "Captain, please. I need to return to my people. It's much closer than Tangris and we can help the Ćon Lords once we're prepared!"

    Clear: "It is nearer, but I think the Darkness is a greater concern to everyone."

    Lymn: "Great!"

    Clear: "But, I'm sorry Ffion, I don't know if we can make it to Tangris in one piece. The Hopeless wasn't repaired completely. In fact it was really far from even passable. Parts of the ship are still falling off even now. A few hits from asteroids would probably cripple us. We just can't get all the way to Tangris and back. Kokoro told me Tangris has no shipyards. But the planet Dacato does. We go to Dacato and arrange essential repairs to be done as soon as possible. In the mean time, surely you can send a transmission to Tangris?"

    Lymn: "I can't go relaying sensitive information through a transmission that could be caught up by just about anyone!"

    Clear: "Maybe you don't have to give all the details? Besides, I don't think this is something we should be hiding from people anyway. Everyone should know!"

    Lymn: "Alright... fine. If the ship can't make it, it can't make it. I'll have Ffion arrange a transmission... I really hope this doesn't cost us."

    Clear: "If we went without the repairs, it really would cost us..."

    Lymn sulks and leaves the room in search of Ffion. Both of the students had been fairly difficult to come by since everyone got back to The Hopeful. However when Clear asked where they wished to go, suddenly Kokoro appeared and began her argument with the princess. Clear knows going to Tangris would be the best option and the most dutiful one, however she doesn't know if The Hopeful could possibly make it. Even if it got there without incident, they'd have to hope they could make it back again without hitch - and with an entire imperial fleet looking for them, they would run into trouble sooner or later.

    Princess Aurora: "Thank you, Captain. I'm sure the Rebel Alliance will be happy to make repairs to The Hopeful without charge. I owe you my life and the people of Algernon need me. Nightstrider has proven as much to me. The way he acts..."

    Clear walks across the semi-circular pad of the Command Centre to address the princess.

    Clear: "Why were you in that casket?"

    Aurora looks up at Clear with surprise then shrugs.

    Princess Aurora: "I was hoping you might be able to explain things to me. You woke me up after all."

    Clear: "You came out of warp and you were brought aboard The Hopeless. We tinkered with your box and opened it. Nothing else to it. I think Thrain discovered that the previous location of the casket was, annoyingly, Earth."

    Princess Aurora: "Earth? I don't remember being there at all! Last I remember I was..."

    She tries to focus.

    Princess Aurora: "I was travelling to the grave of Algernon to pay my respects to those lost. I do this once every two months. Many of my people follow my example and it has become something of an event for us. Many ships arrive in the system, make our prayers and, after meeting with each other, we head back to our new homes. But when I was on my way there I was... I was attacked. My ship was attacked. Not by Imperials though... by... I don't know who. I can't remember. I remember the lights turn red and then... then nothing. I guess we must have been hit and I was knocked unconscious when we were hit or something."

    Clear: "So you were knocked unconscious... when?"

    Princess Aurora: "I'm not really sure. Nightsrider hasn't told me how long I've been missing for."

    Clear: "Were you disabled during the attack?"

    Princess Aurora looks down at her legs and slowly shakes her head.

    Princess Aurora: "No. I... I have a disease you may know as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS."

    Clear: "Can't say I know what that is."

    Princess Aurora: "It's a disease that affects motor function. Started with my right leg becoming limp. Then dead. Then it spread to my other leg. My arms will probably be next. Then I'll find it hard to speak... swallow... It may affect my brain and I could develop dementia. It's... well... it won't be pretty."

    Clear: "I'm... I'm sorry..."

    Princess Aurora: "Don't be. You didn't give me this disease, did you?"

    Clear: "I'm still sorry. Doesn't bacta help?"

    Princess Aurora: "Regular bacta injections keep me healthier for longer. But bacta can only repair damaged tissue, not dead brain cells. It can't bring things back from the dead."

    Clear: "Couldn't you... I don't know, put a permanent drip into your brain?"

    Princess Aurora laughs.

    Princess Aurora: "Not much of a doctor are you?"

    Clear: "Can't say that I am. Worst I ever had to deal with were cuts and bruises."

    Princess Aurora: "Staying on bacta long-term causes you to become immune to it. Just like most drugs. And once immune to bacta, I could wind up dead from one of those cuts or bruises you mentioned."

    Clear: "In other words, I'm an idiot."

    Princess Aurora: "Well, I didn't want to say it..."

    She laughs.

    Princess Aurora: "I'm just teasing you. Your doctor, Thrain, explained that you're from far away and they have no bacta there, right?"

    Clear: "I'm from Mars. Funnily enough it's the next door neighbour to Earth. Earth is the third planet and Mars is the fourth."

    Princess Aurora: "Earth... strange that I'd be there. I guess my butler thought I'd be safe with the humans there. Well-hidden. But if so where is he and why was I fired back into space alone?"

    Clear: "Questions for him, I guess. Maybe you can try to find him once you get back to the Rebel Alliance?"

    Princess Aurora: "I will definitely have to do some investigating."

    Clear: "And what about that crazy sword you have? Is that like your crown?"

    Princess Aurora: "Something like that. Thank you for taking care of it for me, by the way."

    Clear: "I didn't want Strang to get his hands on it so I hid it from Turbo and his men. You can go claim it back anytime you like."

    Princess Aurora: "I'll need it when we get to Dacato. Until then, better to leave it where it's safe. Truth is, the sword is actually from Earth originally."

    Clear: "Originally? So it was taken from Earth sometime ago?"

    Princess Aurora: "That's right. But that's a history lesson for another time. I'm sure I've chewed your ears off enough. Thanks for listening though. I appreciate your time, Captain."

    Clear: "You're welcome."

    With that the princess switches her hoverchair to take her from the Command Centre. Clear eventually left the room too and saunters back towards her chambers. She wonders if her attachment to Mars is any less than Aurora's to Algernon. Aurora was born on her planet, experienced it, loved it, lived on it... Clear hadn't. Maybe that's why she could scavenge it while she couldn't possibly have it harvested. But Clear also thinks that the princess never had to work for scraps. She probably always has money and people to watch over her. Clear had nothing but herself and a tatty, old ship.

    She comes to Pully's door and decides to knock. Pully opens it and leans against the door frame.

    Pully: "Sir. Come to tell me off for drinking?"

    Clear: "You're not in the army now, Pully. In fact, I was about to open one of the oldest bottles of booze I've ever found on Mars. I bet the percentage is enough to kill us."

    Pully: "That sounds fantastic. I'm in. Let me just get my helmet..."

    Clear: "What do you need that for?"

    Pully comes out of her room with the helmet and a few bottles of alcohol.

    Pully: "It's got a loudspeaker in it. Switch the frequency of the communicator and hey presto, we have music!"
    Last edited by TheBritt; 06-02-2016 at 05:52 PM.

  26. #26
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Governor Oit

    There's a thud. Clear bolts upright but because her leg was dangling over the edge of the bed, she ends up following after it and promptly ends up in a heap on the cold floor. She rubs her face. Memories drift and flop through her mind without solidifying.

    Another thud and Clear winces.

    She clambers, unsteadily, to her feet and totters over to the door. She pokes the panel and it slips open with a soft woosh.


    Heul: "Oh! Clear! I... uh... I guess you just got out of bed?"

    Clear fins that her hair isn't tied back. Unusual. She brushes it from her face and scowls at Ffion Heul.

    Clear: "Been drinking..."

    Heul: "You'll probably want to put some trousers on..."

    Clear glances down and finds she's wearing nothing but her underwear. She smiles. Stroke of luck! She didn't answer the door naked.

    Clear: "Let me just... shower... or something..."

    She then hears a yawn from behind her. She tries to turn to see who was yawning but by the time she manages to manoeuvre herself, the yawner had disappeared into the bathroom. Then she sees the room in its entirety.

    Clear: "Wait... where am I?"

    Heul: "Pully's room."

    Then Clear's mind becomes clear.

    Clear: "Now I remember. Lots of drinking games..."

    Heul: "I didn't know you and Pully were..."

    Clear shrugs.

    Clear: "We needed to let off some steam."

    Heul: "Right. That's all it was? Letting of steam?"

    Clear: "Huh? Of course. What else would it be!?"

    Heul: "Oh, I don't know. Who am I to judge?"

    Pully exits the bathroom and looks almost as bedraggled as Clear does - except her appearance does retain some of that extra vitality that must come from her DNA makeover. She, like Clear, is stripped down to her underwear.

    Clear: "Wait... where we in bed together?"

    Pully yawns before answering.

    Pully:
    "I'm hardly gonna sleep on the floor, am I?"

    Clear then turns wide-eyed to Ffion.

    Clear: "We were just drinking! And then sleeping! Nothing else!"

    Ffion raises an eyebrow.

    Heul: "None of my business really."

    Clear: "But--!"

    Pully: "Why're you knocking on my door anyway?"

    Pully interrupts Clear and comes to the door. She leans on the frame and glares at Ffion.

    Heul: "I tried Clear's room. I was hoping you'd know where she was. And you did."

    Clear: "You know, you shouldn't stand so close when you-- you know?"

    Pully then turns her stare to Clear. Clear moves away from the door and starts searching the room.

    Clear: "I'll find my clothes and go get a shower."

    She then turns to look back at Ffion.

    Clear: "Shower in my own room, I mean."

    Heul: "Okay... well I came to tell you that we've arrived. Wai couldn't reach you so I had to come for you. I'll see you in the Command Centre, I guess."

    Ffion leaves and the door slides shut. Pully stretches with non-nonchalance. Clear facepalms.

    Clear: "That was pretty awkward..."

    Pully: "What was?"

    Clear: "She thinks that-- nevermind. Who cares? Last night was pretty awesome though. Not that I can remember all of it. I remember a few of those stormtrooper games..."

    Pully: "Captain Londris taught me a few of those herself. That woman could drink."

    -------------

    Sometime, and one shower later, Clear is in the Command Centre. She's back in her own Salmitton clothes. White, loose fitting grabs that drape over her red skin. She wears a gold belt to keep her the outfit clutched at the waist. Likewise gold ringlets hold the outfit to her wrists and her ankles. Some might say the design looks especially 1960s Earth, but she would say they stole Salmitton fashion.

    Dacato looms on the viewscreen and is unlike anything Clear has ever witnessed before. It is a dark, black planet yet twinkles like the night sky. One gigantic metropolis spanning the entire planet. Clear isn't sure if it's incredibly beautiful or the most hideous thing she's ever seen. She can barely begin to comprehend how many people must live down there. Princess Aurora tells them that the planet is brimming with multiple sentient species of all sorts, shapes and sizes.

    A message beeps and Wai patches it through onto the screen. The face that appears is a vibrant flurry of colours. Like a rainbow with several extra colourful patches. Clear tilts her head. She isn't even sure it's a face she's looking at. She tries to identify eyes, a nose or a mouth but can't. Just a wash of colours. Yet two bulbous areas of the face, coloured in purple, quiver as a voice emanates from the comms speakers.


    Governor:
    "I believe Princess Aurora Briarose is aboard this vessel?"

    The accent is unusual and certainly exotic yet Clear is always told that her own English accent is exotic and non-native too so she couldn't even begin to guess how the alien sounds to the humans.

    Princess Aurora: "I'm here, Governor. Safe and sound. This is The Hopeful and its owner is Captain Clear. Everyone onboard has risked their lives to save mine and they all deserve great rewards for their service."

    Governor: "I see. From your message I see you have further news of Strang?"

    Princess Aurora: "He is dead. Killed by Kiron Nightstrider, a loyal son of Algernon."

    Governor: "This is most welcome news indeed! A council must be held immediately!"

    Clear thinks the alien sounds decidedly more pleased with the death of Strang than the return of Aurora.

    Governor: "Princess Aurora, you are, of course, requested to join our council as soon as you are fit to do so."

    Princess Aurora: "I'll be there within the hour."

    Governor: "I am Governor Oit, by the way. Thank you for returning the princess to us, Captain. We do, indeed, owe you and your crew a great debt."

    Clear: "I'm happy to see her here safely, governor. We can discuss who owes what when you're ready. For now my ship is in dire need of repairs. I hope we can dock at your dockyard?"

    Governor Oit: "Absolutely! Clearance is granted. The spacedock is called Twithran. It only has a single bay but it is unoccupied right now. Lucky us. Please dock and repair droids will begin work instantly. I hope to meet you in person one day, captain. For now I have much work to do. Until next time."

    The screen goes dead.

    Clear: "That went well!"

    Princess Aurora:
    "Once we've docked, I'll head down to the planet and join the council. I expect there'll be much heated debates about how to proceed."

    Nightstrider: "Your Highness, I respectfully request that I be permitted to join you as your bodyguard."

    He falls to one knee and bows his head.

    Princess Aurora: "... no."

    Clear feels a pang of shock. So cold!

    Kiron looks up with equal surprise.

    Nightstrider: "Your Highness? Have I displeased you?"

    Princess Aurora: "I shall have more than enough protection on a planet like Dacato. I think you would be put to better use aboard The Hopeful with Clear..."

    Nightstrider: "But--"

    Princess Aurora: "Unless you object, Captain?"

    Clear: "Not at all. Welcome to my crew, Kiron."

    Kiron nods and rises.

    Nightstrider: "You are, of course, right, your Highness. Your wisdom abounds. I will stay with Captain Clear and help her complete her mission to Tangris once repairs are made."

    Princess Aurora: "Then I should go and prepare myself for arrival on Dacato. I'll be dropping off at District Vyf. If you wish to spend time on the planet, I recommend District Sestien. It's most suitable for tourists. Gives you the world's pleasant side."

    Pully: "Yeah, because you wouldn't want to visit the real Dacato and get mugged every few minutes."

    Clear turns around to see Pully is in the doorway. She's also washed but suited up in her stormtrooper armour, except the helmet.

    Princess Aurora: "It's really not that bad. It is a little unruly though. Lower oppression can lead to more... trouble. Imperial citizens fear the government so there's less crime there. Here people are genuinely free and some people would take advantage of that fact..."

    Pully: "That's one way to put it."

    Clear: "Alright, Pully. No need for politics now. We should go down to the planet and stock up on some supplies like food you like, clothes would be a good idea-"

    Her pointed finger swings from Kiron to Pully.

    Clear: "-And I think Green will appreciate the opportunity to get outside."

    Pully snorts.

    Pully: "Or as 'outside' as Dacato gets. I really hate this planet."

    Aurora rolls her eyes and leaves the room, hovering silently along. Clear then watches as the two Ćon students also leave, gossiping amongst themselves.

    Clear: "Can I trust you two to play nice?"

    Pully turns back around, as she had been about to leave herself. She looks at Kiron.

    Pully: "I won't try to kill him, if that's what you mean."

    Clear: "Good enough for now. Kiron?"

    Nightstrider: "I have no qualm with the imperial, Captain. It's she who dislikes me."

    Clear: "I know. But you'll play nice too, won't you? I want her to hear it."

    Nightstrider: "You have my word."

    Clear: "Good! Makes me happy. Let's get into dock and see what needs repairing first."

  27. #27
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Hotel Voyager

    One day later and The Hopeless is looking slightly more hopeful. Repairs had begun, again, on the hull. First they set about repairing the damage done by the turbo lasers of Excelsior when The Hopeful made its escape. Most of the outer hull of The Hopeful was already in poor condition, even with Imperial repairs done in areas. The damage from the Excelsior was extensive, yet didn't do much more to make the ship's condition any more dire. The floating repair droids crawled across the damaged areas and began patching it up. While the Imperials had focused on some of the internal areas, the Rebel Alliance technicians seemed more intent on patching up the exterior - at least it would look in better condition.

    The current crew of The Hopeless had gone down to District Sestian. The atmospheric shuttle was shaped like an aeroplane to better deal with the atmosphere of the planet as it only ever spent twenty minutes in space, the rest of its flight would be in the air of the planet. It had landed at the spaceport where lots of other tourists from across the galaxy were embarking or disembarking shuttles of their own. Some turned to watch them and their particular shuttle, attracted to the sight of the government vehicle. They had been met by a man who introduced himself as Ace Lander. The man led them for a small walk through the spaceport and the nearby walkways that are suspended over the city. Clear had never seen so many people in her entire life and her senses were becoming overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and unusual smells of this sprawling metropolis. Their hotel was aptly named "The Voyager" and they were each granted their own rooms to use as frequently or as infrequently as they desired.

    Clear opens the door to her room.

    Lander:
    "I hope you'll be comfortable, Captain. If there are any problems just give me a call."

    He gave her his contact information. His information sprang up on her wrist device and she has access to simple surface info on the man.

    Clear: "You're a captain too?"

    Lander: "I am. Captain in the starfighter corps anyway. I'm squadron leader of Glytch Squadron."

    Clear: "Why is someone so important ferrying us to our hotel?"

    Ace Lander smiles. He is quite handsome, for a human, with a face Clear feels is older than it looks. His eyes seem to have a strange sparkle to them, a brightness that is unidentifiable. His skin is lightly tanned and his hair is dark brown, except for a streak of blue in his forelock that sweeps across his forehead. He is wearing a smart dress suit that Clear guesses may be his Alliance uniform. On the side of his temple is a metal implant that is embedded into his skull. She wonders what it's for but doesn't pry with the stranger.

    Lander: "I admit I just wanted to meet the people responsible for rescuing Princess Aurora. I'm from Algernon myself. So thank you for what you did, Captain."

    Clear: "I think Kiron deserves the most praise, but you're welcome anyway."

    Lander:
    "I'll leave your party to it then. I hope you enjoy District Sestian. It's quite beautiful. In an artificial sort of way."

    He winks at her and waves goodbye. She waves back and turns to her room. It's not incredibly spacious but that suits Clear just fine. Her own chambers aboard The Hopeless, which contain several rooms, aren't much bigger than this one room. The bed is circular, a strange shape for a bed in Clear's opinion, and the far wall is entirely made of glass. The view ought to have been splendid but another hotel opposite left everything beyond it to the imagination. She could see downwards, however, to the vertical plummet towards the planet's ground. She can't even begin to comprehend just how tall the building is. She isn't even sure all of it belongs to a single hotel. It seems sections of buildings are designated for use of a single complex, rather than the entire structure. The rest of her room consists of usual cupboards, electronics (some of which Clear found hidden by those cupboards or wall panels) and a bathroom. It took Clear a moment to figure out where the toilet had been hidden but once she had found everything she decides it's time to go down to the lobby and await the others. They had all agreed to go out together for the first venture into District Sestian.

    Clear takes her passcard and leaves the room. They had been granted plenty of spending money by Lander, contained within the same cards that would grant them access to their hotel rooms. She walks down the elegant corridor to the lift. She asks, verbally, for the lobby and the lift silently whizzes upwards, closer to the landing pads of the spaceport tier of the city. The lift doesn't feel like it's moving at all but the numbers go by regardless. Clear knows of some lifts aboard The Hopeless, not that she ever uses them, which sounds like they're grinding their way slowly up chutes filled with rocks. The lobby is a grand room that is two storeys tall alone. The glassed wall gives way to an broad walkway with a small park and a fountain, tempting weary travellers to sit outside and consider entering The Voyager. Above her is a hanging work of art made of metal. A swirling pattern that is entirely sporadic in flow. She looks up at it.

    Thrain:
    "I have no idea what it's supposed to be either."

    Thrain is sat on one of the yellow sofas with a datapad in front of her. She doesn't look up from it as she talks to Clear.

    Clear:
    "I'm not sure it's supposed to be anything."

    Thrain: "Making it even more useless."

    Clear: "Can't argue with you there."

    Clear had never experienced much in the way of art. She could look at a realistic painting and see the point of capturing something, though she thinks a photograph would be much more convenient. Otherwise she doesn't understand much of it. The fountain, the park, she can appreciate. Nature, quietude. But a metal structure of indiscernible function is beyond her ken. She sits beside Thrain. Thrain is wearing a grey sleeveless shirt with angular cuts and long, white skirt, slit to the left to show some of her leg. However most of the lower leg was hidden by the tall, knee-height boots of white leather. Clear is a little surprised by Thrain's out-of-work fashion though she thinks the angular cuts suit the woman to a tee.

    Just after Clear arrives so does Kiron. He is wearing an entirely black suit. It is high-collared and he wears it fastened all the way down the front. Clear thinks he looks very imperial despite being on a rebel world.


    Clear: "Where did you get that suit?"

    Kiron sits down opposite her and Thrain.

    Nightstrider: "It was in the wardrobe."

    Clear: "Lucky! I was worried we'd have to order clothes to your room."

    Nightstrider: "Perhaps the princess thought ahead on our behalf."

    Clear: "Seems probable."

    They make small talk, discussing the scenery of District Sestian so far. Neither Thrain nor Kiron had ever been to Dacato before and are pretty amazed by the sights, just like Clear. They are finally met by Green. She grins when she sees Clear and runs the rest of the distance. She jumps onto the sofa, beside Clear.

    Green: "Isn't this exciting!?"

    Clear: "Sure is. A little weird though. I think it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't like to live here."

    Green: "Yeah, I think you're right. All these people. The plants must feel so stifled!"

    Clear: "I'd be more worried about me feeling stifled. By the way, how're you feeling?"

    Green: "I feel fine! Thank you for helping me, Clear."

    She leans forward.

    Green: "And thank you Doctor Thrain! You saved my life!"

    Thrain's cheeks flush, surprising Clear and making her laugh a little.

    Thrain: "Just did my job."

    Clear:
    "You know, you really did more than just your job, doctor. Seriously, thank you. If there's any way I can repay you, just let me know."

    Suddenly Thrain snaps the two leaves of her datapad together and looks up at Clear.

    Regret instantly flood Clear's stomach as she hopes for no probes.


    Thrain:
    "What happened to your people?"

    Clear: "Uh..."

    Thrain: "You barely ever talk about yourself. I know you're a Salmitton but the rest of your people are dead. Yet you haven't told me why they're dead. Perhaps you told this girl, or maybe Terrin-Pullista, but you haven't told me. You keep things close to your chest, I've noticed. I want to know."

    Clear:
    "Really? Now?"

    Thrain: "Just tell me the basics. You can fill in the gaps later."

    Clear looks outside at the park. Way to ruin a perfectly good day.

    Clear:
    "Genocide happened."

    She feels Kiron and Alexis' interest pique while Green grows sad and quiet.

    Thrain: "Who would do such a thing!?"

    Though Alexis' voice is filled with indignation, Clear thinks it's probably from concern for biological waste rather than morality.

    Clear: "Humans."

    Alexis doesn't say anything and Kiron temples his hands below his chin. She doesn't know if they fell quiet because of guilt or because of the venom in her voice as she spoke the word.


    Clear: "From Earth. They came to my world, tried to claim it for themselves. We resisted them. They wiped us out. They had superior technology and such deadly intent. I'll never be able to comprehend what they did. When we were beaten, they took the survivors and put them in camps. They all then died of diseases brought to Mars by the humans. I only survived because I was on board The Hopeless..."

    Thrain: "But why were you there? And where are your parents?"

    Clear looks at Thrain. A part of Clear actually feels like she could talk about it now. But then she clamps down.

    Clear: "I don't want to talk about that. Not today. I don't want to be in a bad mood."

    Nightstrider: "I'm sorry, Clear..."

    Pully: "Sorry for what? Showing up in the most miserable outfit you could find?"

    Clear looks up as Pully comes over. She sits next to Green, deliberately avoiding the seat beside Kiron. She is wearing a green blouse with a striped pattern sweeping diagonally from the shoulder. It has a over-sized collar that Clear thinks looks strange but nobody else seemed to comment on. Like Alexis' shirt, this one is also sleeveless. In the sleeves' place are a couple of green, plastic arm bracers. She is wearing loose, white trousers that flare out slightly at the bottom of each leg. Clear had been worried that Pully would be too stubborn to wear anything but her imperial suit. Fortunately something fashionable stole the woman's eye.

    Clear: "Nice outfit, Pully."

    Pully: "It was in the wardrobe. Did you look in yours? You might have found something to wear yourself!"

    Clear: "I hoping I'll find something today. I won't hold my breath though. I haven't seen much so far I think I'd wear..."

    Pully: "Pessimist. Actually, Green, you're just as bad! Today, little girl, you have to get at least three different outfits to wear. I'm sick of seeing that daft white dress you're always in."

    Green's mouth downturns like a child's might.

    Green: "But I like my dress."

    Pully rolls her eyes but then brightens.

    Pully: "Hey! Did you see that bloke who brought us here?"

    Nightstrider: "Hard to miss him since we followed him..."

    Pully: "I was talking to the women, dipstick."

    Thrain:
    "He was good-looking."

    Pully: "Even Alexis has the hots for him!"

    Thrain: "I'm not completely oblivious, Cassra."

    Pully: "Not everything about the Rebel Alliance is so bad after all."

    She grins and leans back, hands behind her head. Kiron tuts.

    Nightstrider: "So shallow..."

    Pully: "Says the guy in love with a princess."

    Nightstrider: "I-I'm not in love with her! She's the princess of my people! I have a duty to her!"

    Pully: "Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, Princess-Lover."

    Thrain: "How often do you ovulate, Clear?"

    The group suddenly descends into silence.

    Pully: "Alexis... what the crap!?"

    Thrain: "Clear said she owes me for saving her friend. So. Information! How often do you ovulate? Once a month like humans?"

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "I have no idea what that means."

    Pully scoffs.

    Pully: "Blood, mood swings, once a month."

    Clear shrugs.

    Clear: "I have no idea what you're talking about."

    Nightstrider: "Lucky you. Spared the embarassment."

    Pully: "So... you don't have periods? Wow! Wish I was a Salmitton now!"

    Heul: "You guys have the weirdest conversations."

    Ffion Heul sits beside Kiron. She leans back and rests her foot on her knee. Clear wonders how she can be so relaxed in such an uncomfortable place.

    Pully: "Does your pal always take this long to get ready?"

    Heul: "Pretty much."

    Thrain: "She is muovinian."

    Ffion laughs.

    Heul: "What? You think she's secreting or something?"

    Clear looks aghast and confused by that comment.

    Thrain: "I mean, as a people, they're prone to slowness."

    Heul: "I don't think they're exactly slow. Just unconcerned. I tell you, Kokoro can bloody move when she wants to."

    Thrain: "You mean her powers as an Ćon knight help her move fast."

    Heul: "Different kind of moving fast. If I meant aided speed then she can move super fast!"

    Nightstrider: "Aren't you the combat expert? I can tell by your colours."

    Heul: "I am. What of it?"

    Nightstrider: "So you must be even faster?"

    Ffion Heul grins with pride but before she could brag, Kokoro appears beside her and answers for her.

    Lymn: "It depends at what. She might be physically faster but mentally..."

    Heul: "You little bi--!"

    Pully: "C'mon, let's get a move on. We haven't got all day and we've an entire district to see!"

  28. #28
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Shopping

    Clear looks up at the sky-scraping buildings towering over her. She cannot see the peaks of some. There appears to be a general consensus that white buildings and modern art are the ways to go. Fancy lights are everywhere, not the tacky neon stuff she saw on the human Mars station, Saffron 5, but swirling, beige, ornate or delicate lights that illuminate the district's buildings and walkways. She imagines how much more beautiful everything will appear at night. Whenever they bought something, usually clothes, they were able to have a droid ship the products to their hotel. Clear feels this just encourages more shopping by virtue of having nothing in your hands to feel the weight of your spending-spree. Clear was surprised to find a few garments that vaguely resembled the clothes of her own people. Especially the planet Hyass apparently favours Martian-like dress with lots of loose, billowy outfits to put on. She learnt from Kiron that the native species to Hyass were also non-humans, a blue-skinned species that were generally reclusive. In one superstore Kokoro happened upon another of her own species, a muovinian. They spent a good while in questions while the rest of the group got bored as they waited and waited and waited. Eventually Ffion had to drag Kokoro from her new-found friend. The muovinian explained that her people, like those from Hyass, were more reclusive than most and seeing one out here was a curiosity that had to be explored.

    There were even shops dedicated to selling Earth products, where Green bought herself some new clothes and hats. Clear, however, refused to set foot inside and waited on a bench outside. She now stares up at the blue sky. She's surprised the planet doesn't exhibit more pollution. She guesses some technology must keep the air clean and pumped with oxygen. Her own people were using coal and oil to poison their atmosphere before the humans arrived. Then the humans poisoned it instead.

    Her wrist rattles as it announces an incoming video call. She turns it on and the face of Ace Lander appears.

    Lander: "Hullo Captain. I hope you're enjoying the sights of Dacato?"

    Clear: "I'm enjoying the shops right now."

    Lander: "Some people travel all the way across the galaxy just for Dacato's shopping malls, so I'm unsurprised. But anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'll be unavailable for a while after all. The Alliance fleet is moving out."

    Clear:
    "Going for Strang's territory?"

    Lander: "That's right. Move in while they're in disarray. Princess Aurora will appoint you another contact in the meanwhile."

    Clear: "Good luck, Gyltch Leader."

    Ace smiles.

    Lander:
    "Thanks. I hope I get to see you again when it's all over."

    Clear, completely oblivious to any connotations, nods.

    Clear: "That'd be great. Just be careful."

    Lander:
    "Being careful isn't really in my nature. But I will try to make it back alive at least. Goodbye, Clear."

    The communication closes down and Clear is once again back in the real world. When she had lived her life orbiting Mars, she had always imagined planetlife would be filled with the sounds of tweeting birds, meandering mammals and fish in the lakes. The only animals she finds on Dacato were the fish, but they are in man-made ponds and streams meant to decorate the area. There are large tubes filled with water and fish that are suspended in the air. From within she can see strange amoebae glowing faintly within and, again, Clear thinks how pretty the place might be at night. She turns from the tubes to the man approaching her.

    Nightstrider: "Watching Green trying on dresses gets dull after two minutes..."

    Clear moves over for Kiron to sit beside her.

    Clear: "I suspect she's never had much opportunity to shop for herself before."

    Nightstrider: "She's from Earth, isn't she?"

    Clear: "That's right. She said she was from somewhere called China. I don't really know much about Earth though. Nothing beyond... well, what they did."

    Nightstrider: "Well, we have something in common. Terrible tragedy has befallen our people."

    Clear: "That. And we're both familiar with The Hopeless."

    Kiron flinches.

    Nightstrider: "What do you mean?"

    Clear: "Your reaction when you saw it for the first time. Seemed like you'd seen it somewhere before. I'd really like to know where."

    Nightstrider is quiet for a moment as he bows his head in contemplation. Then he rises it again.

    Nightstrider: "The best thing to do would be to show you. We'd need to install a dreamviewer on The Hopeful."

    Clear: "A dream viewer? Are you being serious?"

    Nightstrider: "They're fairly common in this part of the galaxy. Any planets near to Terra Flux. Many people get weird dreams and visions in their sleep, sometimes influenced by the flux. Machines were invented, here on Dacato actually, to view these dreams after sleep so you can better try to understand them. Some people claim they predict the future, or show true events that the person had never witnessed."

    Clear: "You believe that?"

    Nightstrider: "I don't know. I think maybe dreams are just ways for your brain to store its data. But maybe, because of the flux, we really do have dreams of the future or past events. Or perhaps metaphorical dreams that tell us something about our lives. I once dreamt of headbutting a yucta fruit to death."

    Clear:
    "And did you do it when you woke up?"

    Nightstrider: "No. I worked and studied hard to pass an exam. Metaphor."

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "That is just dumb, Kiron."

    Nightstrider: "But I think you'd like to see this dream. I have it stored in my datacloud. All we need is the machine installed and I'll show it to you."

    Clear: "So where can we get one?"

    Kiron points to a shop straight in front of them. The sign reads 'Electronics'. Clear gets to her feet and allows Kiron to lead the way into the shop. He walks straight through the place without hesitating, while Clear lags behind and gawks at all the weird devices she sees. Some she can understand, some she thinks she can understand and others she hasn't a clue.

    Clerk: "Hey, I see you have a PIPdevice. I can upgrade that for you!"

    Clear is stopped by the clerk and he realises he is talking about the wrist device she has. She looks down at it and then up at the clerk. She's surprised to find someone recognise the device here.

    Clear: "You know what this is?"

    Clerk: "Sure!"

    He flashes her his own. It looks quite different than Clear's and she realises that it's the same principal machine but an entirely different design. Likely the concept of wrist-mounted devices is a common concept throughout the galaxy and was thought-up by various companies and individuals at different points. She doubts the guy would know what to do with her own Jupiterian designed wrist device. She had salvaged the wrist device when she was a child. It had been stored in someone's bedroom still in its box. The box confirmed that it was an imported device from Jupiter. Jupiter hadn't traded much, but they did have some open channels. They mostly traded food, especially cinnamon buns, but they also sold certain technological goods like the wrist device. She hadn't found many, and those she did find were normally broken. Yet this one was special and unopened. It's mostly a series of thin strips that are wrapped around the wrist with a few buttons mounted to those metallic bands. All of the important features appeared through a holographic projection, which interacted with her finger movements. She holds out her wrist to the man.

    Clerk: "A very nice design. Very delicate."

    He activates it and sweeps through some of the pages and features installed.

    Clerk: "Well, your biggest problem is that your manufacturer has gone out of business."

    Clear: "They're dead."

    Clerk: "It happens. Bankruptcy and all that. It's a harsh galaxy these days. But anyway, it basically means your PIPdevice hasn't had an update in... a long time. Looks like there's no cloud feature on here either. I assume you want to keep the device as it is?"

    She nods.

    Clerk: "Then the best thing for you to do is switch service providers. Maybe we can change your OS too."

    Clear: "OS?"

    Clerk: "The operating system. Get a fancy new one. It'll give you all the latest features and your new service provider can help keep you updated with all the latest more easily."

    Clear: "Oh right. I suppose that sounds good. What OS do I need?"

    Clerk: "Well I have a selection here..."

    He switches on a large holoprojector that features several different systems she can choose from.

    Clerk: "They're all Alliance approved, of course."

    Clear: "There are non-approved ones?"

    Clerk:
    "The Imperial OSes mostly. Shame because they're... well, they're the most robust. But obviously they're not considered acceptable here on Dacato."

    Clear: "That is a shame."

    The clerk's eyes flash and he leans on his counter.


    Clerk: "Well, if you're really so inclined, I might be able to get you the Wayforth OS. It's an older copy, but if you select them as your service provider they'll actually upgrade your OS to the latest version for free. Because they're Imperial sourced, you'll have coverage in ninty percent of the galaxy and access to their databases, which, I have to admit, are much more complete than those of the Alliance."

    Clear: "Sounds good to me. How do we do this?"

    Clerk: "Slip your PIP off and I'll plonk it into my scanner."

    She hands it to him. She rubs her skin where the device was. She hasn't taken it off in a long time.

    Clerk: "We pop it in. And the computer will alter the harddrive memory. It'll take just a few minutes."

    Clear: "What does PIP mean? It's a weird name."

    Clerk: "Means Personal Information Processor. But that's way too long. Some people call 'em PIP-boys, like they're some kids' toys. Man, if I could afford to give my kids stuff like this, I wouldn't be working here!"

    Clear had no idea it was a valuable object and grows excited at the prospect of her device getting a shiny new update.

    Nightstrider: "Captain..."

    Clear: "Huh? Oh hey. I'm getting my PIP-device upgraded."

    Nightstrider: "Nice of you to let me know. I was talking to thin air a moment ago. Almost got myself arrested as a nutter."

    Clear: "Sorry. I got distracted."

    Clear pays for the upgrade with her card. She doesn't understand the money but she's sure it cost her a lot more than any of the clothes she had bought that day. When the upgrade is done the clerk tests it before then putting it back on her wrist. She admires the new interface. It seems much more sleek and simplistic than the previous Jupiterian OS. She finds she now has access to cloud services, the Imperial database and live streaming of information or programmes from the holonet. She grins to herself as she follows Kiron to his Dreamviewer. The bulk of the machine is a chair. This clerk, an alien girl with pitch black skin and red eyes, demonstrates by sitting herself down. She adjusts the seat so that it slides back and her mind is scanned. Her last dream appears on the screen above her. Clear has no idea what is going on in the dream but she sees a lot of pink flowers. The screen is suspended above the seat by a tall metallic arm that Clear discovers is adjustable. She tells them that screens could also be set up in the room to also show the dream. The device included a free harddrive storage option to keep dreams stored for later viewing. Clear shrugs. She doesn't buy into the usefulness of the machine but she's happy to indulge Kiron. Besides, it couldn't hurt to have an extra device aboard The Hopeless. She agrees and Kiron told her he had already paid for it. The clerk orders a droid to deliver the machine to the spaceport where it would then be sent to their ship. Clear has to sign several extra forms because her ship is under military jurisdiction but after that is complete, she and Kiron make their way back out of the shop together.

    Nightstrider: "I hope Green has finished looking at dresses..."

    Clear: "I don't really mind waiting. I kind of like it here."

    Nightstrider: "This place is just a front though, remember that. Tourist spots are always the nicest bit. From what I've heard, the other districts aren't quite so pleasant."

    Clear: "Can't be any worse than other places I've seen. Actually I think I'd like to see some of the other districts."

    Kiron nods.

    Nightstrider:
    "Truth is, I think I would too. I bet there's a lot of contacts to be made in the seedier parts of Dacato. Useful people that could get me out of a scrape in future if I needed..."

    Clear: "That sounded ominous."

    Nightstrider: "I'm a wanted man now, Captain. I've got to have contingency plans."

    Clear: "I hadn't really thought about that..."

    Nightstrider: "You're the captain of a starship. Usually captains live and die by their ship. So I'm not surprised you haven't thought of life beyond The Hopeful."

    Clear: "I wouldn't even know where to begin with a life beyond The Hopeful. My worst nightmare was being stranded on Ledus."

    Nightstrider: "That's the ice planet, right? I heard about this from gossip in the canteen of The Excellence."

    Clear: "I was gossiped about?"

    Nightstrider: "Mysterious alien beauty, stranded on Ledus and wants help to get her starship back. Yes. Lots of gossip."

    Clear: "Alien beauty...?"

    Nightstrider: "Looks like they're waiting for us already."

    They see the rest of the group standing by the bench that Clear had occupied earlier and make their way over. It would be a fun day to come...

  29. #29
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Bombardment

    Clear: "I really don't think this is a great idea."

    Clear is wearing blue. Blue is not her favourite colour. The clothes are also much tighter to her body than she is used to. The gold circlet about her forehead is also extreme by her tastes. However she was convinced by the others that she ought to 'dress up' this way for a night out. A night drinking in a bar in District Sewe. Drinking would be a great idea. Bars are also great. But drinking, in a bar while dressed in a weird blue outfit with a crown stuck to her forehead seems like a nightmare come true.

    Heul: "Relax. It'll be great. I love bars. Greatest invention in the galaxy."

    Lymn: "You look fine, Clear. Stop worrying."

    Even Kokoro and Ffion are out of uniform. They are wearing similar outfits to her own, except Ffion is in yellow and white while Kokoro is in all black. Kokoro's outfit is especially form-fitting in a way that Clear couldn't possibly pull off herself without blushing eternally.

    Green didn't want to go. She was afraid of the bar and she didn't like being outside during the night very much. So she stayed at the hotel, along with Thrain who refused to 'debase herself in such a den of scum and villainy'.


    Unlike the other women, Pully's outfit isn't as form-fitted as the other three women's and yet she was certainly more on show. It is mostly black but has trims of pink that literally glows in the dark. She wears a headdress that frames her face in glowing neon pink too, though it isn't as bright as the pink trim of her clothes. Kiron is wearing another entirely black suit that Clear can see isn't the same as his others, and yet anyone less observant may have thought it is the same suit. Kokoro leads the way towards the bar's doors. The buildings of District Sewe are much smaller than those of District Sestian, tough they still seem like towering monoliths to Clear. The bar is located central to the whole building and a single causeway leads from a centralised area to the bar's doors which are lit by great red and yellow neon lights. People are staggering out even as people jovially hurry in.

    Lymn: "I do love bars. They're great places to watch people."

    Clear:
    "Watch people?"

    Lymn: "That's right. People are fascinating to observe. And bars are filled with many, many different people."

    Clear: "That's a strange hobby you have, Kokoro."

    Kokoro opens the bar doors and, instantly, a man lands on the floor in front of them. A strong human woman stands over him. She looks up at Clear and Kokoro before apologising and picks the man up by his collar. She then thumps him again, this time out of the way of the door.

    Lymn:
    "A lively night!"

    Clear:
    "Wow. I usually get drunk to have a good time, not to get punched in the face."

    At the far end of the room there is a band playing a tune with strange brass instruments she's never heard before. Ffion insists that they play the same bloody tune in all the bars close to Terra Flux. Kiron and Ffion go to get the drinks in while the others got a table. Clear sits herself so that she can see the bar, as does Kokoro, while Pully doesn't seem to care much.

    Pully: "I kind of like this place, to be honest."

    Lymn: "No surprise. What's not to like?"

    Clear: "The violence? The danger? The crazy people?"

    Then the three of them fall quiet as a shifty-looking man approaches them. He sits at the table with a grin and with the flash of his hand he shows them a can.

    Seller: "Looking to buy some coke, ladies?"

    Clear looks dubiously at the can, which is as red as her own skin. Clear then notices Kokoro wiggle her fingers at the man before speaking calmly.

    Lymn: "You don't want to sell me coke."

    Seller: "Actually, I don't want to sell you coke."

    He puts the can away and Clear watches with her jaw wide.

    Lymn: "In fact, you want to go home and rethink your life."

    Seller: "In fact, I want to go home and rethink my life."

    Lymn: "And you should buy some flowers to brighten up your apartment."

    Seller: "And I think I should buy some flowers to brighten up my apartment."

    Lymn: "Look for a real job, save money and live a healthy lifestyle."

    Seller: "Look for a real job, save money and live a healthy lifestyle."

    Lymn: "Goodbye ladies."

    Seller: "Goodbye ladies!"

    The man gets up an leaves. Clear stares at Kokoro.

    Clear: "What did you just do?"

    Lymn: "Nothing. Just gave the man a little encouragement to become a better person."

    Clear: "Can you do that... have you done that to me!?"

    Lymn: "Relax, Clear. It would only work on the weak-minded. And you are not weak-minded."

    Clear: "How do you know I'm not weak-minded? Have you tried!?"

    Lymn: "No I haven't. To go through everything you have, you couldn't possibly be weak-minded."

    Clear slumps back in her chair.

    Clear: "Not sure I like you going round changing people. I think everyone deserves free-will."

    Lymn shrugs.

    Lymn: "He has free-will. But now he has direction."

    Suddenly another man lands on their table, breaking it into pieces. The three of them jump up in shock and turn to face the man's attack. It's Ffion. She extends her hand and the man begins to float in the air, rising up from the table. With the flick of her wrist the man goes flying out of the doors of the bar.

    Barman: "Oi! You Ćon can't come in here and start trashing the place whenever you feel like it!"

    Heul: "If you had a better class of clientčle, I wouldn't have to trash the place!"

    Clear: "Wow. We haven't even started drinking yet and you guys are causing trouble."

    Lymn: "Did I mention that I love coming to bars?"

    Pully: "I'd rather be drinking than giving idiots life-lessons."

    Lymn: "Well now the parameters have been set, nobody will mess with our table. Once you throw your weight around a little, the weaklings will back off."

    She moves to the next table as a droid hovers over to clean up the mess.

    Nightstrider: "I have to go."

    Lymn: "I didn't think we were being that bad!"

    Nightstrider: "It's not that. I just got a call from the princess."

    Clear: "Is she alright?"

    Pully: "She probably needs somebody to help powder her nose..."

    Kiron scowls at Pully but doesn't rise to the bait.

    Nightstrider: "She's received a death threat."

    Clear: "What!?"

    Nightstrider: "She's fine! For now. But the message was from an internal terminal. So it's someone inside the government. Could be a politician, a security guard, a cook, a cleaner, or even one of her own bodyguards."

    Pully: "Which is why she wants you. Someone outside the system that she can trust to be a loyal lapdog."

    Nightstrider: "Her life is in danger and you make jokes!?"

    Pully just shrugs, but Clear is sure the was a flash of remorse on her face before she covers it over with nonchalance.


    Lymn: "You should go. I hope she'll be safe. Is there anything we can do to help?"

    Nightstrider: "Thanks for the offer but I doubt they'd let a whole group of people just start wandering around government buildings."

    Clear: "What about just one extra person? I could go with you as a second bodyguard."

    Kiron hesitates but then nods.

    Nightstrider: "If you'd like to, sure. I could use the backup."

    Pully: "We'll just sit here and twiddle our thumbs then!"

    Heul: "Oi, Kiron! You were supposed to help me carry the drinks!"

    She places three pints of mysterious liquid on the table.

    Nightstrider: "Sorry, I've got to go. We'll get the monorail to District Vyf. Shouldn't take us long to get there."

    Heul: "Eh? You kidding me?"

    Clear: "Sorry Ffion."

    Kiron heads to the door and Clear goes to follow. Then she stops and runs back to the table. She grabs the nearest pint of blue liquid and downs it quickly. Ffion stares at Clear with horror.

    Heul: "You are going to be really sick in the morning."

    Clear: "Barely touched the sides!"

    She runs out.

    ----------

    The monorail is fairly empty. Not a lot of people travel from District Sewe to District Vyf. And certainly not a lot of people travel there during the night hours. Only those unfortunate enough to be working the graveyard shift would be on their way there. District Vyf has nothing in the way of entertainment or shopping. Only offices and government buildings. The monorail is a long, sleek machine and holds many windows to view the incredible cityscape outside as they sped by. Clear is fascinated by the view when something catches her eye in the sky. A large capital ship hangs there. Then her PIP vibrates. An incoming call from Wai aboard The Hopeless. She wonders why he'd be calling her now when suddenly there's a loud 'thoom'. She looks out of the window to see large bolts of energy whizzing through the air and striking the surface of the planet. The capital ship is a large wedge shape and clearly an enemy of the Rebel Alliance. Then another ship grows ever larger as it approaches the planet's orbit and starts bombarding the world. Then another. And another. The planet Dacato is under attack. Then a laser bolt strikes the rail.

    It hit the metal track somewhere behind the train itself, yet the vibration causes the carriage to rattle wildly. The track begins to topple over behind them, like one long line of linked dominoes.

    Clear: "Oh bollocks. We're fuked."

    Nightstrider: "We're almost at the station!"

    The rail bends and breaks beneath the train as it slows down to come into the station. Just as the train reaches the platform, the rail gives way. The machine crumples and falls - but only a short way as it rests in the lane of the station. Clear is thrown against the window, which is luckily shatter-proof. The world spins as her head adjusts but she's sure that she's unharmed. Kiron is on his feet before she is. He pulls out a stick - one half of his dual-bladed separable staff. He ignites the hard-laser and jabs the door jamb. In moments he has it open. Clear climbs up after him and they emerge onto the empty platform. If anyone had been there, they likely ran for it when the energy bolts started. The world shakes as one such bolt strikes a building somewhere near to the station.

    Nightstrider: "We should get to the Green House. That's the main political hub here on Dacato. It's where the princess is."

    Clear tries her PIP communicator but it seems to be jammed. So much for newfangled technology. They run through the station, which is open-aired and gives Clear an excellent view of the bringers of death above them. They pass along several walkways where only a few people are found running in the opposite direction to them. She hopes the others are safe.

    Then the Green House comes into view through the window of their causeway. She had expected a literally 'green' building, however it wasn't named for the colour but for its function. Entirely made of glass, even at a distance, it is clearly filled with plant life. One tree she can see is at least several storeys tall, possibly almost as tall as the monstrous trees of Oeurwoud. They continue on until they're finally inside the building. Nobody seems to be present in the lobby so they go for the lift. Clear is surprised that the building hadn't been hit yet. She imagines it must be an obvious target.

    Clear: "Who's attacking?"

    Nightstrider: "The Empire maybe? Or Strang's fleet. They could have chased us all the way here."

    Clear: "You mean this is my fault!?"

    Nightstrider: "Don't think that way. I killed him, not you. But no, I don't blame myself. I blame Strang and those like him."

    The lift dings to a stop and they step out. Right into a wall of guns. They fling their arms up.

    Nightstrider: "We come in peace!"

    Princess Aurora: "Wait! Let them through! I summoned them here!"

    The guards lower their weapons and the two of them are permitted into the room. It's circular and at the centre is a circular hole that allows the growth of a tree through it from the floor bellow. Light streams down on them from artificial sources, creating the illusion of daylight.

    Princess Aurora: "I'm glad you came. Both of you. I can't believe this is happening. To think I asked you here for my sake and now the entire planet is at risk."

    Nightstrider:
    "Don't let down your guard, your Highness."

    Princess Aurora: "What do you mean?"

    Nightstrider: "This would be the perfect opportunity for your assassin to strike. The chaos, the confusion. Everyone looking out, not in."

    Princess Aurora: "You think the assassin may be cooperating with the enemy outside?"

    Nightstrider: "It's possible."

    Clear: "Would explain why they haven't got this building yet."

    Kiron looks at Clear, then at Aurora.

    Nightstrider: "We should get you out of here."

    Princess Aurora: "But--"

    Nightstrider: "Your Highness, you're no use to anybody dead."

    Clear: "Just get us to a shuttle and I'll fly us out of here."

    The princess hesitates for a long while but eventually caves. She turns her chair and heads for a lift at the far end of the room.

    Princess Aurora: "Everyone, we should abandon the Green House and fortify the defence towers. One hit and this building comes down. It's a miracle we're not dead already. Everyone, move out and stay alive!"

    The soldiers and politicians all begin heading fort he exits. Clear sees Governor Oit waddling along, his rainbow skin glowing brightly under the artificial light of the room. He, and several others, follow princess Aurora into the lift.

    Governor Oit: "We have a message incoming from the attackers, Lady Aurora."

    He motions to an aide, who then activates a screen in the lift. The screen lights up to reveal a stern-looking woman wearing Imperial formal attire. She has light brown hair that is pulled tightly back into a ponytail. Her eyes are blue, her skin white and otherwise she is unremarkable. Yet she seems to have a presence, an aura, that is commanding and somehow menacing.

    Woman: "People of Dacato. I have ceased bombarding your world for now. That was merely a display of what is to come ten-fold unless my single condition is met. I want the traitor that murdered Warlord Strang. This was not a heroic act. You will not be sacrificing a noble soul. The individual is a cold-blooded murderer that killed our leader in the middle of a peace negotiation with Ćon Knights to release your beloved Princess Aurora Briarose. He is a debased human that needs to be tried as a murderer. Until justice is served and the man is in our custody, we will continue to bombard your world. Your fleet isn't here to protect you. They will be too late to save you. Give us the traitor and you will live."

    The video stops and then replays.

    Governor Oit: "Her name is Sue'san Dienhand. A general under Warlord Strang. She's won his seat apparently."

    Nightstrider: "There's only one solution to this. I'll take the shuttle alone and surrender to Dienhand. She's cold-hearted but I know she'll leave as soon as she has me. She doesn't want to face your fleet. She's obviously let your fleet launch their attack on whatever planet they headed for before jumping here. She'll avoid engagement for now. But she'll destroy whatever she can so long as she has to stay here."

    Clear: "You can't just give yourself over to her!"

    Governor Oit: "Yes he can and he will. One life is not worth the billions of lives on this planet. I commend your actions, Kiron Nightstrider. If you should survive your ordeal, you shall be richly rewarded should we cross paths again. If you are tried and executed, then take comfort and know you will be considered a martyr by the people of the rebellion."

    Clear: "What? You can't just give up like this! We can run!"

    Nightstrider: "And sacrifice all of the people on this planet?"

    Clear: "If she really wants you and you alone, she'll follow us! We get to The Hopeless and she'll pursue us! It's the only way to guarantee the safety of the people here. Once you're captured, what's to stop Dienhand from continuing to bombard us until the fleet arrives? The best option is to lead her away."

    Nightstrider: "Then you'll be risking your life and your ship, Clear."

    Clear: "I'm confident we can make a run for it. If there's one thing I've found The Hopeless is good at, it's running away."

    Nightstrider: "That might not be all she's good at..."

    He taps his chin.

    Nightstrider: "It's worth a shot. I think it might be safer for everyone on Dacato if Dienhand chases us away from the planet."

    The lift doors opened.

    Princess Aurora: "So it's agreed we return to The Hopeful?"

    Governor Oit: "I hope you know what you're doing. If this backfires and billions die, their deaths are on your heads..."

    Nightstrider: "I understand. But, your Highness, I don't think you should come with us. It's not exactly safe."

    Princess Aurora: "It's not safe h--!"

    She stops and glances round before glaring at Kiron, expecting him to understand her meaning.

    Clear: "Okay, Aurora is coming with us. I need to contact the others and get them aboard The Hopeless too."

    Princess Aurora: "You can use my secure channel. If you're using standard communications, Dienhand is probably blocking or intercepting them."

    She leans over and types in a command to Clear's PIP. After everyone else has left the lift, they leave too.

    Governor Oit: "I do wish you luck, Lady Aurora. I think we all need it."

    Princess Aurora: "I hope we have it t-- ouch!"

    She pulls a hand from her /neck to reveal a long needle. She stares at it wide-eyed before passing out. Clear looks up to a tier of the Green House above to see a figure quickly retreat from view.

    Nightstrider: "An assassin! After him!"

    Clear: "No! We don't have time! Dienhand, remember!?"

    Clear checks Aurora's pulse.

    Clear: "She's alive. We should get her to Thrain."

    Governor Oit: "Surely we should take her to a proper medical facility here in District Vyf!?"

    Clear: "And give the assassin a second chance?"

    Governor Oit: "Very well. Take my shuttle. It's quite fast. I've had it modded many times over. Here's the access code."

    He swipes his tendril over Clear's PIP and the governor's PIP sends the code over instantly. Kiron pushes the princess' hoverchair and Clear can't help but wonder why the assassin used a dart instead of a laser or even a bullet...

  30. #30
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Dream

    Nightstrider: "What's wrong with her!?"

    Thrain: "Give me some time to run scans, imbecile!"

    Clear: "There's no time for this! Thrain, do what you can. Kiron, get out."

    Despite having such a tiny crew for such a gigantic ship, suddenly The Hopeless seems very busy. Clear leaves the sickbay, where she and Kiron had pushed the unconscious Princess Aurora of Algernon. Thrain had arrived before they had and was waiting in the sickbay for them. Getting to the Twithran dock had been relatively easy. The capital ships didn't seem interested in the small vessels fleeing the planet, nor had they paid any attention to the docked ship. Evidently Kiron's hunch was probably correct - Sue'san Dienhand intends to vacate the world as soon as she has her prey. Deploying spacefighters would mean retrieving them afterwards, taking up time to flee should the rebel fleet make its sudden return.

    Clear runs to the Command Centre.


    Wai: "Engines are running and we're leaving Twithran now, Captain."

    Clear: "Our state of repairs?"

    Wai: "Largely superficial. The ship looks better but its internals are still incredibly vulnerable."

    Clear: "Any chance they'll just let us run?"

    Nightstrider: "It's a possibility, but I doubt it. One of those ships will be ordered to deal with us sooner or later. Which is what we want anyway, right?"

    Clear: "I'm beginning to wonder..."

    Nightstrider: "Chance to be a hero, Captain Clear."

    Clear: "I really, really don't want to be one. I just want a quiet life of drinking and sleeping."

    Ffion Heul runs into the room, somehow she had managed to get changed in the short space of time she's been aboard. She's now wearing her typical Ćon apprentice outfit.

    Heul: "Is there anything we can do?"

    Clear: "Not unless you can blow up a spaceship with those magical powers of yours..."

    Heul: "..."

    Clear looks at her.

    Clear: "You can't do that can you?"

    Heul: "No."

    Clear: "For a moment..."

    Heul: "If you have a spacefighter, I might."

    Clear: "Wow. Aside from that being amazing, sorry no starfighters."

    Heul: "You should add one to your list of necessities."

    Wai: "We're free of Twithran but a ship has broken away from the group and is starting to give chase."

    Clear: "Can we outrun it?"

    Wai: "Yes. But the remaining ships are still bombarding the planet."

    Clear: "Wait until we have a clear departure avenue..."

    They wait.


    Wai: "We're in our avenue."

    Clear: "Kiron. Are you ready for your close up?"

    Kiron stands on the circular pad of the Command Centre and a message is initiated. They wait for The Excellence to respond to the request. Eventually the face of Dienhand herself appears on screen.

    Dienhand: "So there you are, traitor. Running with your tail between your legs? I knew you for a coward. Murdering a defenceless man in cold-blood."

    Nightstrider: "You should thank me, Dienhand! I guaranteed your promotion!"

    Dienhand:
    "You dare mock me, traitor? I am not so easily riled."

    Nightstrider: "Yet you bombard an entire world just for my sake?"

    Dienhand: "A matter of honour. You will suffer, traitor..."

    Strangely she doesn't sound angry, she speaks with what she believes to be cold facts.

    Nightstrider: "Then you best hope you can catch me."

    Dienhand: "You can't escape me now. I'll follow your trail..."

    Nightstrider: "We'll see."

    He shuts off the communications.

    Clear: "I hope that was enough."

    Wai: "I can confirm that all but one of the enemy ships have turned to give chase. One vessel remains behind to possibly do some lasting damage before leaving."

    Clear: "Damn..."

    Heul: "Better than before. This is a victory."

    They stand in silence as they watch the ships manoeuvring.

    Nightstrider: "There is a way to end this now..."

    Clear: "How?"

    Nightstrider: "Destroy The Excellence and Dienhand onboard."

    Clear: "Ffion said she can't blow ships up."

    Nightstrider: "You can."

    Clear frowns and looks at Ffion. Ffion just shrugs, also thinking Kiron has lost his mind.

    Clear: "Are you trying to say I have some super magic power? Because I really don't. What has Thrain been putting in that report about me?"

    Nightstrider: "Your ship."

    Clear:
    "The Hopeless has no weapons. You want me to ram The Excellence? I'm not a fan of suicide."

    Nightstrider: "It does have a weapon. I've seen it. Wai, is that dreamviewer installed?"

    Wai: "It is."

    Nightstrider: "I'll show you. Maybe you'll know what to do then."

    Clear: "This isn't really the time for a trip in your wacky machine."

    Nightstrider: "Trust me."

    She follows him after giving Ffion a desperate look. Ffion turns back to the screen with Wai. Kiron leads Clear down several corridors at a jog until they finally come to a room with open doors. They enter and find that the room has been completely decked out with screens, padded flooring and the dreamviewer itself at the centre of the room. Even the walls have been tiled with black to help the viewer focus. Kiron asks Clear to sit and he inserts the chip. She watches him swipe through the menus until he accesses his cloud server. Then he downloads the file marked "The End". That makes her feel uncomfortable but she doesn't remark. She waits for the file to load. She doesn't know why she has to lie down for this, as the screens outside of the seat would display the same image. She guesses he wants her complete attention.

    The screen finally lights up.


    There she sees a planet. It's green in colour but she's sure most of the green is liquid. White clouds sail through its atmosphere.

    Nightstrider: "That's Algernon."

    The mysterious planet at last. She has heard so much about the world it's almost underwhelming to see it for real. She'd half expected it to be glowing bright white with gods flying around it like a halo. Instead she finds a relatively simple planet and not even especially iconic in appearance.

    Then something looms. A shadow appears at the edge of the planet. As the planet turns, so does the ship. The ship has several prongs extending from its base structure, like petals of a flower. Light charges along each prong with a unique colour. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Once the lights reach the tips of each respective prong, they suddenly lash out into a focal point at the front of the ship where they converge into a single beam of white light. That white light blasts down at the planet. It pierces the clouds like a weight dipping through milk. First flame spreads across the world, followed by it breaking apart. It snaps up into huge chunks of rock. It's almost sickening and Clear flinches at watching a world of people suddenly die. She can understand why Kiron and Aurora feel so strongly for their people. She wonders how would feel if she ever saw a video of her own people dying at the hands of humans.

    The ship, its job done, slowly turns. As Clear watches it she thinks it somehow looks familiar in shape but the prongs were disguising that fact. The prongs then closed, like a flower at night, tucking into the frame. With them down the shape becomes a little more familiar. The prongs fasten into opening of the ship, hidden completely from view. Clear jumps out of the machine.


    Clear: "What kind of stunt are you trying to pull!?"

    Nightstrider: "Why would I do that?"

    Clear: "That... it isn't mine..."

    Nightstrider: "You saw it yourself."

    Clear: "It isn't possible! The Hopeful has never left Mars!"

    Nightstrider: "It must! It was there! It destroyed my world!"

    Clear: "You think I wouldn't notice my home vanish? Make a quick stop to blow up a few planets!? You said it yourself, Kiron - that was a dream. It wasn't reality!"

    Nightstrider: "You're right. But look at it, Clear. It is The Hopeful. How could I dream of this ship before I'd ever seen it?"

    Clear: "It never left Mars, Kiron..."

    Nightstrider: "Fine. Believe what you like. But I just saw this ship blow up a planet. This ship is armed. You can help destroy The Excellence here and now with that weapon."

    Clear: "There are no weapons! This bucket hasn't been able to fire a pellet in all the time I've lived here. Hell it barely keeps the lights on! Powering something as crazy as that is just-- it's impossible! If they even exist, they're unusable."

    Nightstrider: "Are you absolutely certain, Clear? You said your A.I. was lying to you for many years about the hyperdrive, right? Could it have lied about anything else?"

    Clear hesitates.

    Nightstrider: "It could have stored power elsewhere and you never even knew that power reserve was there? There was always just enough power to keep you alive, right? Always just enough repairs done to keep the ship functioning. Could that be your A.I.'s method of controlling you? Keeping you onboard, doing pointless tasks."

    Clear: "Can't be... I'd have... noticed. And Wai. Wai would have noticed."

    Nightstrider: "What if Wai doesn't know where to look?"

    Then Wai's voice came over the comms.

    Wai: "We're in position to jump. We're still being pursued."

    Nightstrider: "It's possible, right?"

    Clear looks at Kiron. If he's right then it's possible that The Hopeless really did make a jump and wipe about the planet of Algernon and Clear was where? Scavenging on Mars? Sleeping? ... Drunk? She grits her teeth before replying to Wai.

    Clear: "Wai, can you do a system scan before we jump?"

    Wai: "I already cleared our integrity for jump."

    Clear: "I mean... can you scan for hidden stores of power on the ship?"

    Wai: "Uh... that's a weird idea. I hate to tell you this but hidden presumably means hard to find. It could take a while if such a thing exists..."

    Nightstrider: "If it exists, you can finish off Dienhand right this instant. You'll be the hero of the Alliance. And this ship... it will be a symbol of hope like it's namesake... instead of a symbol of death I know it can commit."

    Clear stares at him. She thinks and thinks. She doesn't truly know what to do. She doubts Kiron, but she also doubts herself. And she certainly doubts Note, the old A.I..

    Clear: "Wai..."

    Wai: "Yes?"

    Clear: "Make the jump."

    Nightstrider: "But Clear--!"

    Clear: "I won't risk my life on your dream, Kiron."

    She leaves the room.

  31. #31
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow A Slow Death

    Dienhand: "You cannot escape, Captain. We can play this game of cat and mouse for as long as you like."

    The majority of Dienhand's fleet had broken away and returned to their territory to defend against the Alliance. The Excellence itself, however, maintained pursuit. Every jump, the cheese wedges would arrive moments later and Dienhand would send a communication. Clear's morale has gradually been leached with each jump. However she keeps her spirits as Tangris ought to be a safe haven for her and The Hopeless. Being a neutral area of space and capable of defending itself, the Excellence wouldn't risk igniting confrontation by entering orbit around the planet.

    Clear: "Well at least we drew you away from Dacato, Dienhand."

    Dienhand:
    "You think I didn't see through your ploy? I don't care about bombing irrelevant alien scum. Hunting you down is my priority. If that means abandoning the bombardment of cretins, so be it. They will be dealt with in time."

    Clear: "And what did it cost you? What did the Rebel fleet take from you?"

    Dienhand: "I allowed them to capture a pointless planet of little strategic value. I had all forces removed and released false information to rebel spies that the world was undermanned, though not completely abandoned. I made sure there were a lot of mines planted though. I'm sure they're still losing soldiers to this day, trying to secure the structures."

    Clear: "You're a cruel woman. Even Strang had some sense of decency to him."

    Dienhand: "And that was his failing. Allowing alien wretches like you to mingle with our faction was humiliating. His affection for you doubly so. I don't care how human-like you are."

    Clear wonders what the aliens in the faction have gone through since Dienhand seized power. She guesses many would run for the Alliance for safety.

    Clear: "You seem like such a people-person. No wonder you became warlord after Strang..."

    Dienhand: "Your idiotic sarcasm serves no purpose. I am not cruel for the sake of cruelty. I am merely practical. Let aliens in and Strang paid the price for that. The more rabble with alien sympathies amongst us the weaker we are."

    Clear: "Kiron Nightstrider is human."

    Dienhand: "And from Algernon. Strang was a fool to let the man anywhere near the princess."

    Heul: "Speaking of which, she's awake."

    Clear turns to see Ffion Heul enter the Command Centre. Clear nods to her and turns back to Dienhand on the display.

    Dienhand: "Run along. I do hope your princess isn't in any danger..."

    Clear rolls her eyes and turns off the comm. Their little 'chats' are growing ever more tedious and Clear wonders why she actually engages in them. She supposes she wants to know her enemy, possibly find some weakness or even a common ground that they could barter over and come out of this situation without incident.

    Heul: "Are you okay, Clear?"

    Clear: "I'm just worn out. The more craziness that happens, the more I think of simpler days. It must be the same for you since you lost your teacher?"

    Ffion nods slowly.

    Heul: "I do miss him, yeah. But we have to keep moving forward. You cannot live your life in the past. The only way to honour Telkrin Izep is to excel and become the best knight I can be."

    Clear smiles.

    Clear: "You're right, of course. It's just hard to see a bright future when so much calamity surrounds us."

    Heul: "It's there, Clear. When the universe conspires against us, we have to work all the harder for that future. But right now, we should check on Princess Foul-mouth."

    Clear: "Foul-mouth? Is she swearing again?"

    Heul: "She makes pirates seem like monks."

    They enter the medbay where Princess Aurora is still lying in her bed, though now awake. Also in the room is Green and Kokoro Lymn. Thrain is also there, looking at charts and scans. When Clear enters Thrain opens her mouth to speak but Aurora blasts out first.

    Princess Aurora: "Clear! Thank fuk you're here!"

    Clear walks to Aurora's bed.

    Clear: "Are you alright?"

    Princess Aurora: "Am I fuk alright! The basterds got me! They killed me, Clear!"

    Clear: "Uh..."

    Thrain: "The dart contained a biological strain of a bacteria that quickly spread through her body. I was able to flush it out of her easily enough, but it wasn't the problem. The bacteria was designed with one very specific task in mind. To speed up the symptoms of ALS. The bacteria went straight to the brain and, through a process I'm still trying to figure out, kicked the disease into overdrive."

    Clear: "Oh no..."

    Princess Aurora: "I don't want to die, Clear. Not yet! Not now! I still had so much more to do!"

    Clear: "Surely it's not that fast!? Alexis?"

    Thrain: "Don't call me Alexis when I'm working, please?"

    Clear: "... you know there's only a handful of people on this ship, right? I think formality can be set aside..."

    Thrain: "Tsk. I don't know how long she has. A year at most. Probably much less. Weeks maybe? She'll go through the process of losing motor function rapidly. Until eventually she'll... we'll have to feed her through tubes because her throat won't work anymore. That's usually the point at which... everything shuts down."

    Clear: "This is insane! There must be something you can do, Alexis!?"

    Thrain: "Thrain. And I'm working on it, but I'm no genetic engineer. I'm just a doctor. A great one but a doctor nonetheless. I can take all the usual steps to slow it down, but really we need a proper bioengineer to reverse this."

    Clear: " I think Dienhand had something to do with it. Her words just now as we disconnected the communication... sounded like she knew something was wrong."

    Thrain: "You think you can negotiate the cure out of her? What will be the cost though."

    Clear: "The cost is easy. She wants Kiron".

    Princess Aurora: "There's no way I'll let him die for my sake. I'm scared but I'm not a monster."

    Clear: "I know."

    Princess Aurora:
    "And don't tell him! Promise me! You won't tell him about this? He'll fly himself over there if he finds out. You've seen how he is!"

    Heul: "He's going to find out sooner or later anyway."

    Clear: "Isn't there something your people can do, Ffion?"

    Heul: "Maybe. I think they could also slow it down, at least. We'd have to see an Ćon Lord about it. Healing is really... not like your medicine."

    Lymn: "But it's better than doing nothing. I'm sure there's something we can do to help."

    Thrain: "Fine. We have their magic--"

    Lymn: "It's not magic."

    Thrain: "--Clear can try to get information out of a psychopath and I'll scour the Imperial database for information that might help."

    Green: "Is there anything I can do?"

    Thrain: "Just don't get in my way. That's the best thing you can do."

    Clear: "Don't listen to her Green. Maybe you can keep Aurora company?"

    Thrain: "That's in my way."

    Clear: "No it's not. Aurora needs someone to help calm her down."

    Aurora suddenly reaches out and grabs Clear's hand.

    Princess Aurora: "Please help me, Clear. I know you can help me."

    Clear: "I'll do my best, Aurora. If there's a way, we'll find it. The only thing I don't understand though... why bother doing this at all?"

    Princess Aurora: "What do you mean?"

    Clear: "Why not just shoot you with a laser? You'd have been dead already."

    Princess Aurora: "To make me suffer?"

    Clear: "I don't think that sounds right..."

    Heul: "It is weird. Why didn't they just destroy the building you were in?"

    Lymn: "That part's easy to explain. Blowing up the whole building doesn't guarantee the kill."

    Heul: "I guess. But then why this? Why a prolonged death this way?"

    Clear:
    "Maybe Dienhand has the answers. Take it easy, Aurora. We'll figure this out..."

  32. #32
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Ćon Lords

    The brief conversation with Dienhand went as Clear expected. Dienhand didn't reveal any specific knowledge about Princess Aurora's condition and demanded Kiron Nightstrider be handed over in return for any knowledge that the woman may, or may not, have. Kokoro revealed that she could do little to slow down the disease but she tried nonetheless and was constantly engaged in the medbay. Thrain's progress was likewise fruitless as the Imperial Database was incredibly detailed and yet also had many layers of information that was buried behind rank walls that Thrain didn't always have access to. Clear slumps down against the barrier of the Command Centre, separating the circular platform and the monitors from the seating area behind her. She sits there and stares at the spot where she had once seen the deaths of Captain Londris and Toolkit, seemingly so long ago. She thinks how much easier this might all be with their skill and experience but then she also wonders if she's aggrandising them in her memory. She barely even knew them.

    Wai's voice comes out of the speakers.


    Wai: "The Excellence has slowed its pursuit. One more jump and we'll be at Tangris."

    Clear: "About time. As soon as we arrive, make sure you open a communications channel with them and get the princess help."

    Wai:
    "No problem."

    Clear:
    "Thanks Wai."

    Clear stands up and walks towards the wall. She is lifted and pulled towards it before she even gets close. Pressed up against the cold steal she makes the decision to ask someone in the near future to update the bloody jumpdrives on the blasted ship.

    ----------

    Several transport ships are now docked in the docking bay of The Hopeful. Some of the droids from the Rebel Alliance are still onboard and she used them to clear away as much of the rubble and debris from the hangar as could be managed and allow the ships to land. One of them is a long ship coloured stark white, the classic colouring of medical vehicles. Medstaff take Princess Aurora onboard the ship. Kokoro Lymn and Green join her. Green gives Clear a worried look as the doors to the shuttle close on her.

    Nightstrider: "This is goodbye then."

    Kiron had told Clear an hour earlier that he intended to leave and now he is making good on that promise.

    Clear: "Is there nothing I can do to make you stay, Kiron?"

    Nightstrider: "Nothing. You never trusted me, Clear. And since I learnt the truth about this ship, I've not been able to trust you."

    Clear:
    "Now you think I personally destroyed your world?"

    Nightstrider:
    "I honestly don't know. I believed perhaps you were unaware and we could use this monstrous weapon against Dienhand but you didn't even look into it. Which means either you're afraid of the truth or you know the truth and you're hiding it."

    Clear: "That's ridiculous."

    Nightstrider: "You say that but I don't know you. You could be lying through your teeth. I like to think you're innocent but I really can't be sure of that anymore. So it's best that I leave..."

    Clear: "What if you get caught?"

    Nightstrider: "That's the other reason I should go. I'll make sure Dienhand hears that I'm not on Tangris or your ship and she'll leave you alone and chase me instead. I just hope I'm wrong about you. I've told the two knights everything. They said they'd keep the princess safe..."

    Clear: "Great. Thanks Kiron. Get everyone to distrust me. For what? Your stupid dream! It was a dream Kiron! I could mean anything!"

    Kiron doesn't say anything else. He put his helmet on and walked towards a waiting shuttle. Wai then approaches Clear.

    Wai: "Sounds like a bad breakup."

    Clear: "He's a wanker. What brings you down here, Wai?"

    Wai: "Well, now I'm afraid to tell you. Normally I don't say anything and just wander off but I figured I owe you. You saved my life, for no reason, once. I owe you everything. But it is time for me to leave."

    Clear: "Wh-why!?"

    Wai: "It's just what I do. Honestly I'm amazed I stayed here this long. The clue's in my name!"

    Clear: "Wandering A.I., I remember. This is awful. Everything is breaking apart. Kiron's gone, Aurora's in hospital, Kokoro and Ffion don't trust me and now you're leaving me too."

    Wai: "I thought you preferred being alone?"

    Clear falters. She does always say that but right now she feels nothing but loss. Her lips limp downwards. Wai, however, smiles.

    Wai: "Not many of the people I meet care so much when I'm gone. We'll meet again one day, Captain. I'll just wander up from nowhere like I always do. Think of those who are still with you. You say your friends don't trust you anymore, so prove that they can. And remember, even without them, you still have one thing..."

    He spreads his arms out and looks around with a grin. Then, after a swirl, he walks after Kiron Nightstrider and starts talking with the owner of the shuttle to barter his own passage. Clear looks up and around at the interior of The Hopeful. She always has her home. She sighs. Now she needs a new A.I. to run the ship's systems.

    ----------

    One day later Clear awkwardly climbs down the ladder from the cockpit of the yellow starfighter. Most of Tangris is unpopulated save for small temple colonies of Ćon. However one small city exists on the northernmost continent. The city, Llyth, is home to different species and cultures that have come together fairly harmoniously. The Ćon have non-Ćon families that live in Llyth, their husbands, wives, children, brothers, uncles. But many more besides also came to Llyth to start afresh, away from the politics off the Empire or the rebels. The Ćon temples get most of their resources from Llyth, which are usually given freely in exchange for the protection the Ćon presence offers the planet. No faction wishes to incur the Ćon as a foe and so Tangris remains free of dominance or external control.

    Although the city uses ships crafted off-world, there is an Ćon construction plant that designs and produces starfighters for use by Ćon only. They're often brightly coloured, like Ffion's yellow ship, and sleek in design. Although the ships use conventional powering mechanisms, Ffion explained to Clear that they could be powered by the soul of an Ćon knight if necessary. The yellow ship, which Ffion named Nach, is one of a kind. Every Ćon ship is designed to cater to each knight or student and thus is unique each time. While some may be similar in some ways, the details, at least, are always different. Other times no two ships are even vaguely alike, which Ffion assured Clear is the case for her own Nach and Kokoro's ship.

    Ffion's ship was designed with two-seats in mind, as well as a small cargo space which Ffion now pops open. Hydraulics hiss as the hatch lowers. Clear pulls the casket out and the hatch closes again. As Clear begins pushing the casket down the ramp towards the spaceport, Ffion catches up to her. She turns and there is a distinctive 'beep beep', apparently locking the vessel from afar.

    Heul: "Busy day today, Captain."

    Clear: "I know, right? I'm a bit nervous about meeting these Lords of yours."

    Heul: "Just give your report, that's all. Thanks for doing it, by the way."

    Clear: "Whatever helps. I liked Telkrin. It'd be pretty selfish of me not to help out."

    Heul: "First thing's first though..."

    She pats the top of the casket.

    Half an hour later they have reached the hospital and enter the princess' room. Clear hugs the teary-eyed Aurora.

    Princess Aurora: "I really don't want to do this..."

    Clear: "It's your choice, Aurora. You don't have to go back in there. We may still find the cure."

    Princess Aurora: "By then how many limbs will I have lost? I can't move my hand, Clear. I can't even hold..."

    She looks over at the sword resting on a chair nearby. Clear reaches over and places it against Aurora's chest. She wraps her left arm around the sheath.

    Princess Aurora: "I know what happened to me now. My butler must have found out about the plot to have me assassinated, even the method. Maybe he thought it had already been done to me. So when I was knocked out during the attack, he put me into the stasis chamber so the disease wouldn't accelerate through my system. He must have taken me to Earth to seek help, or perhaps he was chased there by the attackers of our ship. Either way I fear he may have... lost his life. I'm so distressed, Clear. I don't know what to do."

    Lymn: "Soon you won't have to think, princess. You'll just be asleep. When you wake up again, we'll have your cure."

    Clear: "Your Lords couldn't help?"

    Lymn: "They could only slow it down, not remove it. It's a man-made monstrosity that will kill her in a few weeks. There really is no way to stop it except reverse engineer the bacteria that started this to counteract the disease. To do that we'll need to find out who made the disease."

    Princess Aurora: "I know Dienhand probably had a hand in this but honestly I think someone inside the Rebel Alliance wanted this to happen. The only people that knew where I was were those in the Alliance government. If you can, you could start enquiries there. Thank you everyone..."

    The nurses lift Aurora from her hospital bed and into the casket. She holds her sword to her chest. The length of the weapon extends almost to her feet. She has dressed herself in a ceremonial dress of royalty for Algernon, a replica fabricated by a local tailor just for this event. Even in this moment Aurora knows how to show-off. Green holds Aurora's hand but the princess cannot feel it. Then the lid slowly closes and Green hugs Clear instead. And finally the princess is at rest again, just as Clear had found her.

    Lymn: "There's a consignment of Ćon outside waiting to take the princess to Skytower Temple. She'll be well protected there. Most of the Ćon that train there are Consulars that focus a lot of their practice on the healing arts. Should she be woken up, they will be there to help her."

    Clear: "This is terrible. Poor Aurora. I wouldn't want to be trapped out of existence like this."

    Heul: "Just means we have to solve the mystery all the quicker."

    Lymn: "First thing's first though. We have to report to the Ćon Lords."

    Clear looks down at Aurora. She feels she is being given an opportunity to save her. So many people have died around Clear in recent months but now is the chance to save one of them from death. She has to uncover the plot to kill Aurora. The nurses slide the casket from the room and the present crew of The Hopeful follow, like a funeral procession. Clear thinks of all the funerals she recently should have attended but was never given the chance. There was the military ceremony for Captain Londris and the rest of her team lost retaking The Hopeful but that was all so far. She thinks she should hold a small ceremony by herself for Hebedee and maybe even Note. She wonders if the Ćon intend some ceremony for Telkrin Izep.

    They exist the hospital and she is once again under the orange sky of Tangris. In the sky are the two red dwarves of the Tangris system, slowly orbiting each other in the sky. They go by quite quickly as far as Clear is concerned, having been used rotation of Mars for day and night cycles. But here on Tangris there is rarely any night as when the dual reds have gone down the single far-off yellow star of the Tangris system would also then rise and take many hours to pass. The planet is protected by elements in the air, which also gives the sky its orange hue. Yet the world is hot and dry nonetheless. Or it would be if huge atmospheric generators weren't pumping the air with helpful atmosphere to make life more comfortable for most living beings on the world. The planet never had any native species to it so when terraforming began, it was an easy decision. Although not all species wanted the same conditions, as the humans are the most numerous and the most versatile in habitats, their needs were met and most other species can easily adapt to those conditions.

    But these generators only produce quality atmosphere around Llyth. Further afield and one would be risking their health in the wastes of Tangris, baking under the triple-sun threat. Many locals would complain that the air of Llyth feels artificial but to Clear it's much better than the air of The Hopeless.

    In the courtyard of the hospital, standing near the decorative lake, are some Ćon knights. One of them steps forward as the casket nears.


    Lymn: "I didn't expect you to greet us personally, Lord Kassuin..."

    Kassuin: "There's no time to waste. Jeb--"

    A student steps forward. He's a squat alien with a bulbous head and large black eyes. His skin is dark grey and his limbs seem a little too small. He wears a tailor-made white apprentice robes of a consular. When he blinks, the eyelids close vertically.

    Kasssuin: "--take Princess Aurora to Skytower Temple. Make sure she arrives safely."

    Jeb looks down at the princess inside her casket and stares for a long moment.

    Kassuin: "Jeb!?"

    The alien jumps and nods eagerly.

    Jeb: "Yes teacher. Right away."

    He leads most of the other Ćon away with the casket and suddenly Clear feels unsafe leaving the princess alone with such a stranger.

    Thrain: "I will accompany them. I'll join you aboard The Hopeful when you're ready to leave."

    Clear silently thanks Thrain. Kassuin looks like he may protest but relents as Thrain steps in line with the Ćon group escorting Aurora.

    Kassuin is also not a human. His skin is incredibly dark purple that verges on black but shines in the suns' rays. His face is narrow and his nose is squashed into his skull. From that nose extends a black bone ridge up the centre of his face to then protrude from the top of his skull. The horn ends with a bulb rather than a spike. Where Clear and humans have hair, Kassuin has more black bone. If she didn't know better she might have believed the man was wearing a headdress from ancient Egypt on Earth (a subject taught to her by Note one very long summer when she was young). It covers most of his head and extends out into a smooth helmet-like case. Yet from this bony extension of his head does come his hair. His hair seems thin and wispy compared to Clear's. It comes out of the bone in a row at the rear of the 'head piece'. Each bony tube has a clump of hair hanging from it like feathers. His hair is silver, not unlike the colour of some Salmittons. Otherwise he wears the white robes of a Consular Knight. However even this has been adapted to account for the large bones that grow from his shoulders like shoulderpads.

    Kassuin: "While I am sorry for the loss you both must feel, I will not hide my pleasure at the demise of a knight so inept as Telkrin Izep. It may be that the Lords decide to award you both to a new teacher. I certainly would accept you, Kokoro Lymn, as I feel your consular skills would benefit greatly from my knowledge. Unfortunately I have only one position left under me as I also have Jeb, as you well know. Otherwise they may decide to let you run free. A decision I shall absolutely oppose. Neither of you have been particularly well trained considering how talented you both are. Izep was lucky to be granted your guardianship and he squandered the chance to have you excel. His loss."

    Heul: "I don't appreciate your attitude, Lord Kassuin."

    Kassuin: "I don't expect you to appreciate anything, Ffion Heul. But you would be wise to listen."

    Kokoro doesn't take the opportunity to make a sly comment about Ffion being incapable of listening, which tells Clear that they plan to stand together in solidarity against this Kassuin. The man turns and everyone begins to follow him.

    Kassuin: "You should consider yourself lucky that I shall not be your teacher, Heul. I wouldn't tolerate that kind of back talk from one of my students. Just more evidence of Izep's failings."

    Ffion grits her teeth at Kassuin's back but Kokoro nudges her. The Ćon Lord then chuckles.

    Kassuin: "Such anger inside you, Heul. Perhaps I spoke too soon? Maybe you'd make an excellent student after all."

    Ffion seems even more insulted and somewhat upset by that remark than anything said before. Clear doesn't understand why nor does she understand why Kassuin changed his mind. Clear watches the man lumber forward. Although the bone protrusions are large and bulky, his body is otherwise physically slender and tall. His arms and legs seem a little gangly even.

    They are led to a large shuttle and asked to seat themselves. Clear is sure that this is one of the ships from Llyth and not an Ćon craft as Ffion told her they only used starfighters built for one-to-three members and no larger. Before they enter, however, Kassuin stops and points to the two Ćon students.

    Kassuin: "You two onboard. And you--"

    He points to Clear.

    Kassuin: "--also onboard. This little creature--"

    He motions to Green but doesn't directly point at her.

    Kassuin: "--will have to make her own way home."

    Clear: "What? Why?"

    Kassuin: "Only those requested can enter this temple. No one else. Simple as that."

    Clear: "You could have told us earlier."

    Kassuin: "Could have but didn't."

    He disappears onboard the shuttle. Clear sighs and turns to Green.

    Clear: "I'll see you later, okay? Will you be okay by yourself?"

    Green: "I'll be okay. I never get to see you anymore though..."

    Clear: "We can hang out when we get back to the ship."

    Green: "Cassra said she'll come down to the planet to help you buy a new A.I., right? I can go and wait for her."

    Clear: "Sounds like a plan. She might come early to meet you for dinner if you ask her."

    Green: "That's a great idea! Yeah!"

    She grins and gives Clear a V for Victory.

    Clear: "Be careful Green. I do worry about you when you're by yourself."

    Green: "I can handle myself."

    Clear: "Last time you handled yourself you almost destroyed my ship."

    Green:
    "I'm SO sorry about that, Clear!!"

    She becomes upset and Clear rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "Relax, I was just joking. Even if it's true. Just stay out of trouble."

    Green: "Aye aye."

    Clear gets onboard and waves to Green before sitting down at a table and buckling herself in. She's sitting with Kokoro and Ffion. No sign of Kassuin.

    Clear:
    "What's the deal with this guy then? He seems like a complete... mean... person."

    Heul: "He is. And then some."

    Lymn: "He's Sootik Kassuin, Ćon Lord and one of the more famous ones at that. He's a very popular consular."

    Heul: "And a sith."

    She almost spits the word.

    Lymn: "Calm down, Ffion."

    Clear: "What's a sith? What's so bad about that?"

    Lymn: "There is no good and evil in the Ćon Knights. Not really. We don't interfere with things, we are here for the protection of the people. We just protect them from whatever threat faces them. Be it creatures, pirates, imperials or even rebels - though to be fair, they're less prone to attacking civilians. We help keep and attain knowledge for everyone to use. We value life more than anything else."

    Heul: "Aos Sí don't. Sith is a... colloquial term used by people from Terra Flux. It's just a slang term, but a popular one it seems. The true term is Aos Sí. Aos Sí are a sect of Ćon knights and lords that genuinely believe we have a duty to rule people. Technically they're still Ćon knights and lords so they are one of us, yet their ideology isn't."

    Clear: "And did he think you could be Aos Sí, Ffion? Is that what he meant?"

    Heul: "Yes..."

    Lymn: "As we said, everything is about balance. But our power comes from within us. Our souls. The power we wield is a physical manifestation of that soul. So if our soul is... not neutral, we may be considered 'dark Ćon'. Or 'light Ćon' of course. Most people are not so resolutely good-natured to be light Ćon but some do exist. They may become Daoine, another group of Ćon that follow their own ideology based around the notion of teaching and guidance. But not all dark or light Ćon will join these groups. Just some."

    Heul: "But there are more dark Ćon than light."

    Lymn: "It's usually the easier path. Dark Ćon means acting on anger, hatred, self-interest, disgust. They're not evil, I should add. They just do things differently."

    Heul: "I'd say they're evil! Especially the sith!"

    Lymn: "Keep your voice down, Ffion."

    Heul: "Whatever."

    Lymn: "Light Ćon appear because an Ćon uses love, passion and aspiration."

    Clear: "Aren't some of these things kind of subjective?"

    Lymn: "Perhaps the culture of the Ćon sways their understanding of these terms. I don't know. Either way when you lean towards light or dark there are tell-tale signs."

    Heul: "But going either way is not what you're supposed to do. Even if you're light and people think you're some bastion of good, that's not the way of the Ćon. We're to remain neutral. A balance in all things."

    Their conversations extends into matters of good and bad, right and wrong, light and dark but whatever the truth is, some Ćon can sway either side of the spectrum. The task was to remain in neutral mode. Not to give in to the impulse to control the universe, nor to try to save it from itself. Both paths lead to ultimate disappointment and do not serve the greater good of history. Kokoro tells a story of a Daoine saving a planet from raiders and he was so popular that he was elected ruler of the world. He was always trying to help everyone, save everyone and solve everyone's problems. But in the end, every act made someone else miserable. In the end the miseries built up and he had done more harm than good. Likewise an Aos Sí ruled a planet with the intent of managing everyone so that they could live healthy and long lives. But every act he took to control the people resulted in someone being left unhappy until they despised him and he lost control. The two women would then continue telling Ćon stories until the ship finally lands.

    When Clear gets out she finds that she is in the middle of a tropical paradise. A large temple stands before her with plants growing all over it. A waterfall also falls down from the temple's roof, where Clear guesses the mountain behind connects to. The pool at the foot of the temple looks cool in the Tangris heat of the region. Palm trees and sand look inviting, though Clear usually prefers the cold to the heat. She follows the Ćon troop through the main gate and inside the temple. Despite the heat outside the inside is very cold. She wonders if that's a natural phenomenon or if they have the A.C. cranked up really high. She doesn't have far to walk in the high-ceilinged temple until she finds herself greeted by a huge round table with many people sitting at it. She is ushered round the table until she is given a seat, far from where Ffion and Kokoro are placed. She finds herself sitting between two men. One is a human with blonde hair while the other is a human-like being but with lots of antennae wriggling about his head. Clear swallows nervously. There are many, many people here. She had expected a small council, not a huge assembly.

    Suddenly a section of the table drops down into the ground, creating a path to an Ćon Lord on the opposite side of the table to Clear. The path allows the Lord to walk through the table to the centre where she steps lightly up onto a central platform. She is a black-skinned human with very long curly blonde hair. She wears the robes of a Lord, which are somewhat bulkier and longer than the robes of a knight. She wears the colour brown, like Telkrin did, marking her a Sentinal.

    Celli: "For the sake of our guest--"

    The woman looks at Clear.

    Celli: "I am Lord Kloo Celli. We are aware of the information that was given to us by our students Kokoro Lymn and Ffion Heul. However we would obliged if you, Captain Clear, could give us your account of the events that led to the tragic death of Telkrin Izep."

    Clear feels pleased that Lord Celli would designate the event as Telkrin's death rather than the emergence of a horrible monster. The woman descends the platform and begins walking back to her seat. At the same time the table suddenly slips away from Clear, falling into the floor so that she could walk down the path provided to the central podium. Clear stands and walks. She fidgets and tries not to look into the dozens of eyes staring at her - sometimes from a single being! She gets up to the podium and then feels the full weight of eyes upon her. She closes her own eyes and draws and breath. She just has to think clearly and tell them what happened. She releases her breath and begins to tell the tale...
    Last edited by TheBritt; 11-16-2015 at 11:58 AM.

  33. #33
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow A.I. Installation

    Clear sits and stares up at the distant yellow sun. The sky is faintly pink now that the dual dwarves are out of the way, lit only by the very distant star. The air is much colder now and Clear had to be given a big, fur-lined robe by Lord Koo Celli. She's sitting at the edge of a park. Many of the flowers of Tangris are sensitive to the cold and will close up during these colder hours. When the red dwarves are out they will open up again to soak in those rays. So now the park is looking a little lifeless. Even the Tangris grass sucks itself into the dry soil until the suns are back. The cold air causes Clear's breath to puff from her mouth in small clouds of mist. Some of the sky's stars can be seen in the low-light of the distant yellow and she wonders if any of those stars are even close to Mars.

    Ffion and Kokoro had remained at the Skytower Temple to continue engaging in discussions. Clear isn't sure why they bother to have such long meetings. It's clear everyone agrees they have to investigate Oeurwoud again so why not just go? She suspects this is more politics of the region.

    Finally Green and Pully arrive. They're wearing thick coats too. Pully manages to be quite fashionable with delicate fur-lined clothes and smart cut to her cold-weather coat. Green, on the other hand, looks like an oversized melon in her big, puffy, green jacket. She grins at Clear who can't help but smile back, half laugh at the state of the girl. She even has a small fluffy green cap on her head with big white earmuffs. Pully shrugs helplessly and gestures to Green's appearance.

    Clear: "Looks like you enjoyed shopping, Green."

    Green: "I did! When the suns went down I was very disappointed. The sun rays here are wonderfully delicious!"

    Clear: "Probably not how I'd describe them but whatever. We have more shopping to do."

    She hops to her feet and tries to shake the stiffness from her legs.

    Pully: "A new A.I.?"

    Clear nods.

    Pully and Green lead Clear towards town. While making small talk Clear observes the people around her. There are less civilians wandering around in these cooler hours than there were earlier. To Clear it seems most people are taking this time to either sleep, relax or, in the field of business, do their restocking and the like. The buildings are mostly quite small. Tiny when compared to those of Dacato. They are usually domed with shiny white material while the walls are commonly grey or blue - though there is still plenty of variety. Simplicity and subtlety seemed to be the key words the people of Tangris employed. Clear also discovered some time ago that the people of the world didn't consider themselves to be Tangrisian. Few are born on the planet and therefore they all refer to themselves by their race or their former homeworlds. The Ćon don't even use the term and refer to themselves solely as Ćon. This makes it impossible to think of the citizens of Tangris as one people and yet they seemed more at ease with each other than those on Dacato.


    A chill wind brushes against Clear's cheeks, causing blood surface and colour her cheeks and the tip of her nose blue. After tolerating jests from Pully about this they arrive at a large department store that Pully believes will contain decent A.I. technology. It doesn't take long before they are shown around the store at all of the latest gadgetry and, eventually, the various A.I. models on offer. In the end Clear has no idea which she should choose and the salesman decides it would be best to choose several models and ask the fitter to install the model best suited to The Hopeful. Clear agrees.

    ----------

    Hours later Clear is in the Command Centre watching the fitter. He turns out to be a squat grey alien, just like Jeb the Ćon student that Clear met earlier. He's very friendly and likes to gossip about his friends, family and the weather of Tangris. Clear mostly nods and smiles when she feels it is appropriate. She realises she finds it easier talking about a menacing black wave or an incoming deadly spacecraft than discussing such trivial things. Before her mission across the stars began Clear had known she was socially awkward. Yet she hadn't felt so awkward until this moment. Everyone on the ship seems to be locked together by tragedy and they have such epic events to discuss. Banal information about the kids next door barely registers in Clear's mind. He revealed his name as Bibby. The only information that Clear found interesting was the discovery that he was called a Grey in English and his people are from the Mirare System. She wonders why he named the system and not his planet but she doesn't have time to probe as he quickly changes the subject to the task at hand.

    He falls to his knees and starts skirting along the edge of the circular platform.

    Bibby:
    "This is pretty exciting! I haven't seen one of these in years!"

    Clear: "A gold circle?"

    Bibby grins a big toothy grin.

    Bibby: "Ah. You don't know what it is! That explains why you're looking for an A.I.."

    He shuffles along until he finds a panel that lifts open. Clear walks over and stares down at the new discovery. She had no idea the gold pad was anything but decorative. At most she had guessed it was the best position to engage in communications with other ships. Now she sees a few small switches and buttons.

    Clear: "What does it do?"

    Bibby: "It's the control system for your O.I.."

    Clear: "... and what's an O.I.?"

    Bibby: "... you didn't steal this ship did you? I'm not looking to get into trouble..."

    Clear: "No! I was born here! The ship has never been in complete condition ever since I was born."

    Bibby nods and presses a button.


    The circular ridge around the golden pad illuminates softly and from above a machine slowly lowers.

    Clear: "What is that?"

    Bibby: "For your O.I.... if you had one."

    He switches it off again and the machine slinks back into the ceiling. Clear is a point disappointed that he didn't show more of what it could do. Instead he explains, as he gets to his feet.

    Bibby:
    "And organic intelligence. Unlike your A.I. an O.I. requires a living being to act as the ship's director. It's not a pretty thing by any means. Certainly far more effective, but a bit... barbaric. You're probably better without one. Not a lot of ships use this kind of thing now. We're more civilised in this day and age."

    Clear: "So I could interface with the ship directly and control its systems?"

    Bibby: "Whoa! No! Only if you want to become a vegetable! It manages your brain. You'll wind up nothing but a computer in living form. Every single synapse of your brain melds to one purpose - the ship. Our brains, believe it or not, are still the most powerful computers in the universe if they can be fully utilised. When everything else is removed you have even more processing power available. All that power pumped into your ship. It makes for a very impressive ship intelligence. But like I say, I haven't seen one in years and even then it was scrap. Yours is fully working. It's a marvel, I tell you. Your ship is certainly old so I believe it when you say you were born here."

    Clear: "Could you guess how old from this technology?"

    Bibby: "Centuries. At least. Even then they were becoming rarer and rarer. So if your ship was built then it was an expensive project. If it's even older than that... well! You're walking through a museum. A goldmine of a museum at that. I could spend all my days here..."

    He sighs wistfully.

    Bibby: "But I have a wife and kids. Still! I'll remember this beautiful old bird, I will! Instead it looks like you'll be needing our best A.I.. Lucky I brought it with me."

    He starts tampering with the console and checking systems. He tuts and comments that everything is a real mess.

    Bibby: "Alright. You'll be needing... a lot of A.I.s..."

    Clear: "More than one?"

    Bibby laughs and shakes his head in disbelief.

    Bibby: "You really have no idea do you? This monolith is quite probably one of the most incredible monstrosities I've ever encountered. Nay, ever heard of. It reminds me of something the Empire would have cooked up at the peak of its power. I know you said you had one A.I. before and I have to say, it's amazing your A.I. was able to keep the damn thing running at all."

    Clear: "Okay... when you say a lot you mean, like, six?"

    Bibby snorts.

    Bibby: "I was thinking twenty."

    Clear: "Oh wow! Twenty!?"

    Bibby: "Your system was set up to work via a tier system. Originally The Hopeful probably had at least a hundred A.I. systems managing everything. But for your basics, twenty should do. I do suggest adding more as time goes by though..."

    Clear: "How am I meant to deal with twenty A.I.s!?"

    Bibby: "Relax. Like I said, tier system. You'll have many A.I.s that run on basic algorithms. Performing functionary tasks like maintaining the flow of oxygen - which I can also fix for you by the way, it's certainly stale in here. Anyway, atop of your basic A.I.s will be governing A.I.s that manage the smaller A.I.s either in specific fields or in regions of the ship. We'll set it by field. Those A.I.s are answerable to your main interface A.I.. You only interact with your interface and all the A.I.s will cooperate on the task at hand."

    Clear:
    "Right. I understand. I think my last A.I. alluded to something like that being the original set up. I think he said he was originally a basic A.I. that had to be uplifted to run everything when the other A.I.s were shut down or whatever. I don't know what actually happened to them."

    Bibby: "Incredible a basic A.I. managed to run everything. Then again maybe that makes more sense. An interface A.I. probably couldn't do the actual tasks itself. It can only act as a go-between. So only a basic A.I. could actually keep things running for so long. Strange that a basic routine managed to develop interface routines... the universe works in mysterious ways, right!? Let's get all of this set up. What kind of personality would you like for your A.I.? And any preference on its appearance?"

    Clear shakes her head.

    Clear: "I don't really want it to have a personality. The last A.I. developed his own very unique personality that didn't work out so well in the end. Can't it be... simple?"

    Bibby raises his eyebrows but then nods.

    Bibby: "Surprised but sure. Thought you'd be all for having some A.I. cracking jokes all the time. Oh well. You'll still want an appearance. Want me to show you the generic body composites?"

    Clear hesitates.

    Clear: "Actually... can I request my own design? Based on a picture perhaps?"

    Bibby: "Costs a bit more because it'll take time to render, but sure I can do that. I tell you what I'll do. I'll give you the rendering process for free while I fix that oxygen filter of yours. A gift from me for showing me this astounding ship."

    Clear: "Wow. Thank you!"

    Bibby: "I'll need to use those droids I saw parked in your hangar. Once we get your A.I. online I'll be able to give them commands. It should be a great test for you to see your A.I. in action."

    Clear: "Sounds perfect. Thank you, Bibby."

    Bibby: "This is a great opportunity. Working on such a wonderful creature. Actually, one more thing you may like to know..."

    Clear: "What's that?"

    Bibby: "The A.I. system in place... is not the original system meant for the ship. I mentioned that O.I. Usually O.I.s do have A.I.s working for them, but this entire console right here... not the original equipment. This system I recognise. It was standard equipment a couple of centuries ago. Lots of larger empires of the time used this equipment because it was so functional and easy to install. This tells me that your ship has been commandeered at least once in its lifetime..."

    ----------

    Pully: "All done?"

    Clear: "Yes."

    She steps back from the console. Bibby is now off fixing the oxygen systems of the ship. One of the droids is in the command centre replacing a vent before it hovers off into the next room. She's unsure how many of the filters would need replacing and she doubts the man is willing to do the entire ship so she pointed out key zones that the current staff would frequently use.

    Pully: "What did you name the thing?"

    Clear purses her lips together as her cheeks blush. This time not from cold but embarrassment. Pully looks at Clear with surprise and curiosity. Finally Clear decides to just come out and say it.

    Clear: "I know it's going to seem strange to you and when I did it it seemed like a great idea. Now I kind of regret it because it's weird..."

    Pully: "Don't tell me it's a naked bloke with a gigantic c--"

    Clear: "No no no! Nothing like that. Probably weirder really... The A.I.'s name is Mother."

    The A.I.'s face appears on screen. She's a pink-skinned Salmitton with short-bobbed hair, yet it's much longer on one side of her head than the other. She has the same rounded cheeks as Clear and wears an enigmatic smile across her thin and pink lips. Those lips are a lighter pink than the skin, but could still be lost at a distance because they are so thin. Although Clear's lips are fuller and her complexion more youthful Clear knows Pully recognises the relation between Clear and the image of the woman hovering before them...

    Mother: "Hello Cassra Terrin-Pullista."

  34. #34
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Added a Library

    Clear is typing into the console in the Command Centre. The air filters have all been repaired, at least the useful ones, and she could already tell the difference. Breathing seems easier and the air sweeter. Since Mother was installed, one of the lesser A.I.'s acting as a clean-up program for the computer systems reported that the entire ship's software was corrupted, unstable, unusable, infected and out-right messed up. Their first duty became clearing out the bugs and problems with the air filtration programs. The screen now shows that a defragmentation process for hard drives is in progress. She watches the percentage go by before she sighs.

    Clear: "I can feel your eyes burning in the back of my skull..."

    Pully: "Do I really need to point out how much of a bad idea this is?"

    Clear: "I know it was but it's done now. Too late."

    Pully: "We can get it changed next planet stop."

    Clear: "We'll see."

    Pully:
    "Don't you think this is going to awkward for the rest of us? Talking to your mother?"

    Clear: "It's just her face, Pully."

    Pully: "I know how you feel, Clear. I really do. But this is a bit unhealthy..."

    Clear: "I really don't think you know how I feel, Pully."

    Pully is quiet for a moment and Clear realises she was being rude.

    Clear: "I'm sorry--"

    Pully: "No, you're right. I don't know how you feel. You never even met your mother. I only had to watch mine die..."

    Clear winces. She's been very selfish.

    Clear: "I'm sorry, Pully..."

    Pully: "Long time ago now. I learnt to accept it. When I was still in training my parents came to visit the base. They were allowed to watch some stupid ceremony. I can't even remember what it was for. Getting high marks in a firing test or some rubbish. But anyway. Rebels attacked the base. It's a military base and killing a bunch of trainees would mean less professionals later on, right? Their Y-Wings dropped bombs after their X-Wings swept the area clear. One bomb hit us. My father was gone instantly. My mother survived long enough to be put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital. She died on the way. I... I survived after surgery."

    Clear leaves the console and moves across the Command Centre to the audience seats. Pully is sat in the front row, leaning on the safety rail. Clear gets into a seat behind her.

    Clear: "That's terrible. That's why you hate the rebels so much?"

    Pully shrugs.

    Pully: "I didn't even know I really hated them until I got stuck with them. That idiot princess... she might seem all nice and flowers now that she's stuck in that chair but once she was out with the rest of them, gun in hand. She's killed plenty of people. Maybe even attacked them with that weird old sword. And seeing Kiron switch sides so... easily. Instant acceptance."

    Clear: "I don't think he ever really supported Strang, to be honest."

    Pully: "Maybe... but I don't get it. You give your life to something and then just--"

    She snaps her fingers.

    Pully: "--throw it away."

    Clear: "I think he was conflicted though. He gave his life to Algernon too. But I don't know. Maybe you're right. As for Aurora... it's what she believes in. You believed in Strang and his vision. She believes in... whatever rebels believe in."

    Pully: "Yeah, I know. Just thinking out loud. But I know that living in the past isn't going to help you, Clear. This Mother thing you've created is... not going to help."

    Clear: "Maybe. But I'm not like you. I never knew my mother. I just saw her face. This is the first time I've ever seen her face move. It's just... nice. I don't think she's my actual mother. It's like a memento. That's all."

    Pully: "... I'm unconvinced. But I'll leave you alone about it for now."

    Clear: "If it becomes a problem, I'll change it. Okay?"

    Pully: "Okay."

    Clear: "And I'm sorry about your parents. Thanks for telling me."

    Pully: "It's okay I guess. Life's hard. After the bomb I was scarred. A lot. When they were trying to piece together my face... I told them to change it. I went with something so unlike my parents..."

    She points at her own face.

    Pully: "I didn't want to look like them. I didn't want to be reminded of them when I look into a mirror. Now I see a different woman. Sometimes I'm still surprised when I look into a mirror and see a stranger."

    Clear: "I had been wondering..."

    Pully: "Well now you know. It's better to forget it all."

    Clear looks at Pully for a moment.

    Clear: "Your new face suits you."

    Pully laughs.

    Pully: "How do you know? You never saw my old face!"

    Clear: "I just know. This is who you are now. No one has seen your old face. So this is you."

    Pully: "Except one. But thanks anyway."

    Clear: "I guess you mean Alexis?"

    Pully laughs again.

    Pully: "I think you're driving her crazy calling her that. Even I call her Thrain."

    Clear: "Actually I think she secretly likes it."

    Pully: "Maybe you're better at the whole politics thing than I gave you credit for, Clear."

    Clear: "Want to get drunk?"

    Pully: "I've just voted you to be president."

    ----------

    The next day Clear stumbles from her room when she hears the sounds of strange men outside her door. She'd managed to put her trousers on, fortunately, and comes face-to-face with workmen and a few droids. She watches them stroll by one-by-one. Then, at the rear, comes Thrain dragging a cart filled with books. Clear looks at Thrain then at the cart.

    Clear:
    "What... are you doing?"

    Thrain: "Taking these to the new library. They're just going to finish building the last of it now. I really wanted to make the window larger but your new A.I. refused to let me. Speaking of which, Clear, I have to tell you how much I disapprove of your choice for the A.I.'s physical appearance. It's not good for your men--"

    Clear: "I know, I know. Hearing people's complain is doing my mental health more damage than Mother ever could."

    Thrain: "And calling it Mother of all things--!"

    Clear: "Was I drunk when I gave you permission to do this."

    Thrain suddenly looks a little sheepish.

    Thrain: "I didn't think I needed permission."

    Clear grimaces.

    Clear: "You're changing a section of my ship..."

    Thrain: "I have to live here too, Clear! I was forced into this situation! It's only fair that I get a library!"

    Clear: "I don't think you've ever done anything you didn't want to do. And relax it's fine for you to have a library. You should have told me though."

    Thrain: "I didn't mean to buy it... it just kind of happened."

    Clear: "What?"

    Thrain: "I was there. I was just looking at books. And the next minute I had my card out and I was paying for the whole bloody package. It's like I had a time lapse!"

    Clear: "Well... just... remember to ask next time. And Mother is probably right about that window. I'm surprised you chose one of the external rooms. It's a bit far."

    Thrain: "I found a lift."

    Clear: "And it works?"

    Thrain: "It does now. So yes. And a nice window view of space is wonderful when sitting down with a good book."

    Clear: "Windows are a structural weakness. Which is fine if you have shields... but we don't. Your library would be the first thing ejected into space if we get shot there..."

    Thrain stammers before composing herself.

    Thrain: "Then we should buy shields!!"

    Clear snickers. She likes seeing Thrain on the back-foot for a change.

    Clear: "Why are you even buying books anyway? I'm surprised this section of the galaxy even has them!"

    Clear bends over to grab a book from the top. "Britt: The Legend by Nostradamus". Clear studies the pictures inside as Thrain replies.

    Thrain: "Most books are in digital form these days. You can get fully enacted books now, and just watch them. But I am old-fashioned. There's something about the touch and smell of an old book that just..."

    Thrain grins.

    Clear: "Wow. I've never seen you grin like that before. Not even for your biology stuff."

    Thrain: "Studying you is work, Clear. I mean... it is fun. But work fun--"

    Clear gets that creepy feeling from Thrain again.

    Thrain: "-- but reading is a passion. Reading is my true love. And here I have books from across the galaxy! That one you're holding is an original print from 1555 Earth! Can you believe it!?"

    Clear:
    "Oh great. Work of the oppressors..."

    She holds the book out to Thrain.

    Thrain: "Oh right. Sorry."

    Clearly Thrain isn't used to saying sorry, even for the most minor of unthinking offences. She takes the book and carefully returns it to the top of the pile.

    Clear: "It's fine. I suppose they weren't invading Mars in 1555. I assume that's the Earth date, by the way? Martian dating systems were lost a while back so I only know the Earth ones used on Saffron Five."

    Thrain: "Earth date, yes. Here we tend to use both the Earth dating method and the Imperial one."

    Clear: "Why use the Earth method so far from Earth?"

    Thrain: "Actually, I have no idea."

    Clear rolls her eyes. Even so far from Earth she can't escape its influence. Clear looks at the cart.

    Clear: "How many books do you have?"

    Thrain: "I know there aren't many here--"

    Clear: "That's not all of them!?"

    Thrain: "Of course not! I already deposited the rest. I paid for everything with that Alliance card I was given. Including the room. Except for this small pile at the end. I had to use my own credits account."

    Clear: "How come?"

    Thrain: "My Alliance card stopped working."

    Clear: "You used all of your money already!?"

    Thrain:
    "No! It had money. It was blocked. I thought you could tell me why."

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "No idea. I wonder if mine's blocked?"

    Thrain: "See if your A.I. can buy something with it. See what happens."

    Thrain continues on, pulling her cart of books with her.

    Thrain: "See you later. By the way, your shirt is inside-out. Have I warned you about alcohol abuse yet?"

    Clear groans and slips back into her room.

    -----------

    Heul: "Are we ready to leave?"

    Clear looks up from the console of the Command Centre.

    Clear:
    "Sure. I got your message and prepped everything. Mother says we're good."

    Heul: "Who?"

    Clear: "New A.I. is called Mother. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done on the systems but we can begin jumping for now."

    Heul: "Right. Weird name. The other Ćon Knights are travelling ahead in their own ships. They'll have less obstacles to avoid than us, so they can make longer jumps. They'll get their in advance and we can provide some support if necessary."

    Clear: "Fine by me. But why aren't you and Kokoro going in your own ships too?"

    Ffion's face darkens.

    Heul: "We're not Knights. We don't get to ride alone..."

    Clear tries not to laugh. Just as Ffion is about to leave she stops and turns.

    Heul: "By the way, our Alliance cards stopped working. Did our reward run out or something?"

    Clear: "Mine too and Thrain's. According to Mother our cards have been blocked."

    Heul: "Why would they block our cards?"

    Mother's face appears on the screen.

    Mother: "Jumping in five..."

    Heul: "Bugger."

    The two women line up against the wall, ready to be pinned. When the countdown is over the world elongates and processes the colours of faster than light travel. Then it ends and the two of them stagger away from the wall. Ffion drops to one knee.

    Heul: "I'm never going to get used to that..."

    Mother: "Incoming message."

    Clear: "Weird..."

    She moves to the circular platform and affirms the incoming message. A face appears on the large screen. His face is tanned and his hair quite dark but with a streak of blue at the front. Unlike the smart suit he wore last time they met, he now wears the orange jumpsuit of a starfighter pilot.

    Ace Lander: "Hello Clear! Nice to see you again!"

    Clear: "Captain Lander! I'm glad to see you're okay! Kind of surprised to see you here though!"

    She checks their coordinates on a second screen.

    Lander: "Well we came to meet you."

    She realises that there's a small rebel fleet out there. Two larger vessels and dozens of starfighters. She begins to feel uncomfortable. First the declined cards and now this.

    Clear: "What's going on, Captain?"

    Lander: "You can call me Ace. Seriously there's nothing to worry about. It's all a bit daft really. Your old friend Kiron Nightstrider came back to Dacato and had a meeting with Governor Oit. Sure you remember him, he's hard to forget. Anyway. Kiron says something about his dream and in his dream he saw your ship, The Hopeful, blow up Algernon. He showed them the dream and it was authenticated as valid. I'm afraid it's evidence now. So they want to check over your ship for this doomsday weapon and verify if your ship was there at the time of destruction."

    Clear: "All this over a dream?"

    Lander: "A surprisingly accurate dream. He had the dream before the event occurred. The blast pattern in the dream corresponds with the current spread of asteroids. I know sometimes dreams are dreams. But sometimes, close to the flux, dreams are prophecies."

    Clear: "Neither me nor my ship did this."

    Lander:
    "I know you didn't do anything, Clear. And maybe it wasn't your ship either. Maybe it's one big metaphor after all. But we have to verify this."

    Heul: "They'll arrest you, Clear."

    Clear looks at Ffion.

    Heul: "I'm not saying you'll be treated unfairly but they will arrest you. This guy might be your best friend and worship the shoes on your feet but Algernon is a sore subject for many in the Rebel Alliance. If they think they have a culprit, you may find yourself in the firing line."

    Clear nods. She breathes deep.

    Clear: "I cannot come with you, Ace."

    Ace Lander winces his eyes. Despite his handsome youthful complexion he looks very tired.

    Lander: "I don't want to be a part of this, Clear. I thought you'd come in and get this sorted without a fuss."

    Clear: "How can I agree to this? I'm a foreigner to this system. I didn't destroy your world. I'd never even heard of it until I saved its princess!"

    Lander: "And I told you I believe you! I know!"

    Clear: "Maybe you do, Ace. But I don't think everyone knows me as you do. I don't be punished or blamed or even accused of something I know nothing about in a world not my own. And certainly not over a dream!"

    Lander: "But C--"

    She cuts the communication.

    Heul: "I hope you're ready to run?"

    Clear: "Mother, turn us about."

    The ship begins to turn from the path of the enemy fleet. On the screens she sees that some of the starfighters are beginning to approach.


    Heul: "I believe that guy when he says he doesn't want this. They're planning to scare you into surrendering."

    Clear: "Where do we go?"

    Heul: "Our way to Ouerwoud is now blocked. We have to pass through Alliance space to get there. Dienhand lies the other way. All that's left is back to Tangris or... Imperial space."

    Clear: "So back to Tangris?"

    Heul: "It's our only ch-- it was our only choice. Now they've blocked it."

    Clear checks the scans. Two more capital ships have jumped from hyperspace and stand between them and Tangris. Although three-dimensional, the only angles left to them and Tangris are now through Alliance space or through Imperial space.

    Clear: "Imperial space it is. Perhaps we can get to Tangris from there."

    Heul: "They may even grant you amnesty. Enemy of and enemy after all."

    Clear: "Take us out of here, Mother."

    Heul: "Shame this thing doesn't have a doomsday weapon. We could have blasted our way out!"

    Clear: "Even if it did, I wouldn't use it. I suppose you and Kokoro are okay then?"

    Heul: "With your death ray ship? I think so. I didn't believe it for even an instant."

    Mother: "From your conversation should I deduce that you want to power the primary weapon?"

    Clear and Ffion Heul stand in silence for a long moment, just staring at the console.

    Mother: "We are in position to jump. Do you wish to engage jump drives or power the primary weapon?"

    Clear manages to speak through a cracked, dry throat.

    Clear: "Jump."

  35. #35
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Primary Weapon's Location

    The man on the screen sports a well-groomed beard that is turning grey from its usual black. He wears a jet black uniform complete with a cap to signify that he is a captain of The Galactic Empire of the Milky Way. He has very bright blue eyes that shine out of his bearded features. When he speaks his English is very refined and deliberate, making it a little slow but rhythmic.

    Clear: "Give us the time to make our repairs and then we'll be happy to follow you further into Imperial space, Captain Rynard."

    Captain Rynard: "I trust these repairs won't take long?"

    Clear: "It's hard to say. A scrape with Dienhand and then with the Alliance... I'll let you know when we're ready."

    She didn't point out that the scrape with the Alliance hadn't actually resulted in any fighting, but the captain doesn't need to know that.

    Captain Rynard: "Very well, Captain Clear. We shall wait. But if you try anything... untoward, we shan't hesitate to fire upon your vessel. No matter how tired it is."

    She thinks he's the first person to insult The Hopeless since she arrived in the Perseus Arm. Now she sits on the edge of Imperial space and is to be escorted further in by Captain Rynard and The Majestic. The Hopeless is fine but Clear wants to search for the controls of this supposed primary weapon her home has hidden away. She was given the possible site for the weapon's controls by Mother who, despite all her new processing power, couldn't make accurate sense of the map data due to ancient corruptions. The probable general location for those controls are based on Mother's guestimate for the general layout of The Hopeless rather than any accurate power signatures or tell-tale signs. Clear nods to Captain Rynard and turns the screen off. She turns to face her fellow crewmen.

    Clear: "Kokoro, I want you and Pully to investigate these rooms--"

    She sweeps her hand on the map shown up on the screen behind her.

    Clear: "Me and Ffion will check these rooms. Green you can come with us, okay?"

    Green sticks her thumb into the air.


    Green: "Okay!"

    Thrain shakes her head.

    Thrain: "I can't believe The Hopeful destroyed Algernon. What an ancient monster she is."

    Clear: "We don't know that she did destroy Algernon, Alexis!"

    Thrain: "You're deluding yourself, Captain."

    Clear: "I was here when Algernon was destroyed. I would have noticed!"

    Lymn: "It's pointless to argue about this. We need to find the control room for this ultimate weapon and see if it appears operational and if there's some way of shutting it down permanently."

    Pully: "Permanently? Why would we do that!? We could keep it as our ace in the hole!"

    Lymn: "If it does exist, it makes The Hopeful look all the more guilty. If we shut it down, we can continue to say it doesn't exist. If we start to use it then that lie is blown."

    Clear: "Let's just get down there and find out. This weapon might turn out to be nothing more than a tiny pea-shooter."

    Heul: "Or a spambot. We'll all get annoying mail for the next few weeks."

    Sometime later, Clear is trekking through corridors of The Hopeless with Green and Ffion Heul in tow. They poke their heads into rooms, most of which are either barren or filled with all kinds of junk that they couldn't begin to comprehend. Finally they come to a room that's cluttered but largely navigable. Clear thinks it could be the control room for the ship's weapon. Red lighting fills the room, unlike the rest of the area of the ship which had to be lit section by section by Mother as Clear progressed. When Mother switches the main lights on in the room, the consoles suddenly spring to life too. She checks them and comes to the conclusion that this must be the right place.

    Clear: "I can't tell when it was last fired though. It was fired... at some point, looking at this console. But it doesn't say when, where or by whom."

    Heul: "Maybe Mother can work it out?"

    Green: "Uh... Clear? This screen is blinking."

    Clear comes to look. The writing on the screen is flashing urgently. The words, ultimately, insist that the primary weapon is compromised. How it's compromised the unhelpful computer doesn't say. Clear pulls out a couple of dongles and hands one to Heul and one to Green.

    Clear: "Plug these into the consoles and Mother will be able to connect properly to them. She might be able to trawl through the data and work out what we've got and what happened. If this thing is ever to be used, we'd probably need to get proper connection from here to the Command Centre. If we destroy it... I have no idea how to do that..."

    Heul: "I thought you were all for destroying it?"

    Clear: "I am. I just... I just don't like the idea of damaging The Hopeless any more than it already is. Clearly the weapon, whatever it is, is offline. I'd say, for now at least, it's broken. Hopefully Mother will show us that it was broken when Algernon was destroyed and we can go on our merry way to Oeurwoud."

    Heul: "If our new friends will let us go..."

    Green: "I think the man with the bush on his face seemed really friendly."

    Heul: "I don't think he'd like you calling his beard a bush, Green."

    Clear: "And I don't think he's actually very friendly."

    The voice of Pully comes through the comms.

    Pully: "Captain, I think we've found it."

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "Found what?"

    Pully: "The weapon controls."

    Heul: "Can't be! We've found the controls!"

    There's a moment of silence from the other side.

    Clear: "Tell me what you're looking at, Pully."

    Pully: "It looks like a big... coc--"

    Lymn: "Pully! It's a large obelisk. With peculiar symbols on it. I've never seen anything like this before."

    Clear brings up holographic map from her PIP and checks the distance to the other group. She motions that Ffion should stay in this room while she and Green go to check out the other position. After a quick jog down the long corridor, a sharp turn left and a short staircase they reach a huge room. At the centre of the room is a large black tower, rugged and unhewn. The only light in the room that illuminates the obelisk comes from the obelisk itself. Gylphs shine in bright green on the surface of the rock and actually slide down, appearing like a holographic screen on the surface of solid rock.

    Clear stands agape.

    At the foot of the obelisk is Pully and Kokoro. Kokoro turns as she hears Clear's gasp.

    Lymn: "Ever seen this thing before?"

    Clear: "Never..."

    Lymn: "Could it be the weapon?"

    Clear: "I guess... I thought we found the control room. The consoles there seem to say that's the weapon controls but this? Could this be the planet-killer? Maybe the other room is for the pea-shooter..."

    Pully glances back but turns her head back to the glow of the green shine of the obelisk as she speaks.


    Pully: "It reminds me of the flux..."

    Clear walks towards the towering rock.


    Clear: "In what way?"

    Pully shrugs.

    Pully: "There's something about the feeling I get from it. It feels like the flux. Feels like it wants to mould reality. It's hard to explain if you've never felt the flux before. I lived under it. I'd never forget the sensations it gives off. It almost feels like... home, to me. This thing feels like home."

    Lymn: "I wonder what it is. What does it do? What's it called?"

    Green: "I think they call it a hedron."

    The three women look at each other, then they all turn to look at the little girl Green. Green instantly grows nervous at the sudden attention.

    Lymn: "You know what this is, Green?"

    She shrugs.

    Green: "I've seen one before."

    Clear: "Where?"

    Green: "Home. China. One fell to the Earth a long time ago. I saw it. It was just left there and nobody ever came to get it. So it was a lost treasure. Until some people finally came, a long, long time later--"

    Clear briefly wonders at Green's concept of time.


    Green: "--I met them and they said they were looking for the hedron. Said they had found the power signature. I don't know what that means but I helped them find it anyway. They stayed there a long time studying it. I think one of the young men was called Doctor X. At least that's what people called him. He told me the hedron came from outer space. He never said why it came. I don't think he even knew why."

    Lymn: "Did he tell you what it did?"

    Green rubs the side of her mouth as she tries to make sense of what's in her head.

    Green: "Not really. I don't think he knew what it was supposed to do. Eventually they decided they should move it to the other hedrons--"

    Clear: "Other hedrons? How many are there?"

    Green shrugs.

    Green: "He didn't say. He just said there were others and they wanted to move it. I wanted to stop them. I didn't think it would be safe to move it but the Jade Emperor asked me to leave them alone. The hedron didn't belong to China so we had to right to keep it from the researchers. So they took it using lots of special machines. I don't know what they were. And I never saw them again."

    Clear looks again at the obelisk.

    Clear: "If the humans of Earth want it, you can be sure this thing is dangerous."

    Lymn: "You've lived here all your life and you never even knew about this thing. That doesn't sound like it's dangerous to me..."

    Pully: "It feels like the flux. Like reality warping. Imagine if someone created a machine... a... glowing rock, or whatever, that could act like a flux. That could warp reality to be like something else."

    Lymn: "They could blow up a planet..."

    Pully: "They could make it so the planet never existed, Kokoro."

    They stand there with their minds blown and fearful.

    Green: "Do you think there are toilets around here? I really need to pee..."

    Pully:
    "Moment ruined."

  36. #36
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Aellisin Koure

    Clear and the group exit the cavernous room and close the large double doors behind them. She places her hand on the panel at the side of the console and requests that Mother match her bioprint to the panel so that only she could ever enter the room.

    Clear: "Just in case we ever have any unwanted guests looking for this thing. If the humans of Earth find out that thing is here, we could be in trouble."

    Mother: "Speaking of guests, one is on his way here."

    Clear: "What? Who?"

    Mother:
    "Captain Rynard has a message for you..."

    Clear: "Put him through to my PIP."

    The holographic projector of her PIP activates and Rynard's fuzzy face appears.

    Clear: "Captain?"

    Captain Rynard: "Captain Clear. We feel that your delay is not in our mutual interest. So an associate of mine has kindly offered to assist you in whatever way he may."

    Clear: "That's really not necessary."

    Captain Rynard: "He's already on his way."

    Clear holds back an aggressive expletive and manages a nod.

    Clear: "Fortunately he won't be needed. We've pretty much finished our work. I'll have someone meet him and escort him to our Command Centre. We'll be ready to jump soon."

    Captain Rynard: "I'm glad to hear it!"

    The screen goes blank and Clear groans with frustration. She turns to Kokoro and Pully.

    Clear: "Could you both meet this guy they've sent? Take him to the Command Centre and I'll be there as soon as I can. I need to secure that other room. I don't think our... hedron is the superweapon. It's probably dangerous but if the ship has any kind of weapon, it's definitely managed from the other room. I have to lock it down to prevent access too."

    The two women affirm and head towards the hangar while Clear and Green go back to the weapons room. They find Ffion Heul sitting ontop of one of the desks, swinging her legs idly. She doesn't notice them enter until Clear nudges her shoulder.

    Clear: "Are you okay?"

    Heul: "Sorry. Yeah. I'm fine. I just have a strange feeling. Like something is coming."

    Clear: "Sounds like the same craziness Kiron spouts..."

    Heul snorts.

    Heul: "I don't think Kiron spouts craziness. And I'm not crazy either. I got bored so my senses strayed wide and I locked onto a... presence. Didn't Kokoro say anything?"

    Clear shakes her head.

    Heul: "She normally senses these things before me. She's more attuned to to the Force."

    Clear: "What force?"

    Heul: "Huh? Oh! Sorry. More slang words from Terra Flux. I meant the power of the soul. Or the over-soul. The over-soul is what binds all souls together. Every living thing has a presence."

    She wafts her hand.

    Heul: "Forget it. It gets a bit philosophical from there. If you think Kiron is crazy, you'd think I escaped a mental institution."

    Clear laughs lightly but her good nature doesn't last as she reads the screens. Mother has been unable to decrypt anything viable from the data as much of it is corrupted due to age. Clear grimaces at the console. The white text blanches her face as she stares at it. Though she keeps telling everyone that the presence of a weapon on The Hopeful doesn't confirm anything, inwardly she's agonising over the issue. She believes it must be true and yet how could Note have got the ship to Algernon and back to Mars without her noticing? Assuming she was too drunk to notice or in such a deep sleep that she didn't feel herself being glued to the wall, she would have noticed the repositioning of the vessel after it returned. Unless Note was smart enough to reposition the ship exactly as it once was...

    Green:
    "I think we need to go, Ms Clear..."

    Clear looks up from the console, bleary-eyed. It took a moment for her memory to resume its previous state. She gets up and they exit the room. Like the previous room she places her hand on the panel for a bioprint lock. Most rooms have these locks but she had never used it before, except once when she locked the food store. Drunk in the middle of the night she forgot she'd used the biometric lock and couldn't get in to snack, resulting in a few good kicks to the door and a very painful foot in the morning. After that she never used the feature ever again.

    Clear: "We have to get to the Command Centre. The Imperials have sent someone over apparently. Here to ensure compliance I'm sure."

    Heul: "Do you regret coming to Imperial space now?"

    Clear: "Better than languishing in a jail."

    Green: "Unless the Imperial people put you in jail too!"

    Clear:
    "Thanks, Green. Just the kind of encouragement I needed."

    Green:
    "Really!?"

    Clear: "Didn't I teach you about sarcasm already?"

    Heul: "You're not exactly the most social savvy person yourself, Clear."

    Clear: "What is this? Make Clear feel like crap day?"

    Ffion laughs but Green looks panicked.

    Green: "Don't feel like that, Ms Clear! It'll be alright!"

    Some minor banter later, the three of them approach the Command Centre but Ffion suddenly stops. She tilts her head as though listening.

    Clear: "What is it?"

    Heul: "Someone's here. Another Ćon. A... dark Ćon..."

    Clear: "You can sense that? Are you sure?"

    Heul:
    "Positive. Kokoro is reaching out for me. She's worried."

    Clear: "I didn't know you could to that either..."

    They get to the doors of the Command Centre and find them closed. The two women look at each other. Ffion silently confirms there's no danger beyond the doors and Clear uses the panel to open them. There they see Pully slouched in one of the audience seats, her feet up on the backs of the row in front of her. Kokoro, facing the door, glances at them from her conversation with the mysterious stranger. From behind he appears quite tall, much taller than anyone else in the room. He has a long, white cape attached at the shoulders and his head is concealed by a large, pink collar that seems to wrap around his entire skull. When Kokoro glances at them, the man turns to reveal himself.

    What Clear thought was a collar turns out to be part of his body. A large, circular-ish limb that protrudes from the back of his neck and extends up and encompasses his head. He wears the Ćon Knight robes of a Consular, but with the added cape. His skin is the same shade of pink as the circular halo. His eyes are larger than hers, or any human's, but are otherwise the same with blue irises and black pupils. He appears to have some kind of small, white tattoo on his cheek that Clear thinks is just a bunch of swirling lines. From the crown of his skull is a clump of hair that the man wears in a top-knot. It jumps up within a wicker weave, keeping it sturdy, before it descends. The rest of his head is otherwise bald and his hair is quite unlike the texture of Clear's or a human's. His hair is wire like, thick and strong. She imagines it would leave marks across the skin if he were to whip someone with it. His ears are somewhat pointed at the tip, though no more elongated than her own. But she does notice that there's a trim of bone just behind the ears which appears to have a soft membrane over it. She thinks it's an odd body part and wonders if it has any kind of function or if it's one of evolution's many pointless endeavours.

    Man: "Captain Clear, I presume?"

    When the alien speaks his voice is lilting and he has a similar accent to Captain Rynard. There is something creepy in the way he speaks. Clear nods her head, which is when she notices two stormtroopers standing either side of the doorway. They haven't moved yet but she's now under no illusion that she's going to have to comply.

    Man:
    "I am Aelliesin Koure, Imperial General. Kokoro Lym tells me you're almost ready to leave."

    Clear: "We are. Rynard just has to give us the coordinates."

    Koure: "Captain Rynard."

    Clear: "Right... Captain Rynard."

    Clear resists the urge to roll her eyes.

    Koure: "Before you contact Captain Rynard, I intend to speak with Kokoro Lymn and Ffion Heul."

    Ffion looks at Clear but says nothing. She steps forward. Aellisin places a hand against his chin as he studies Ffion. This goes on for just a moment too long and Clear is about to ask what he was doing - but he finally loosens his arm to his side and speaks.

    Koure: "I understand that you are currently teacherless?"

    Ffion shrugs and then nods.

    Heul: "Our teacher has..."

    Koure: "Died. Clearly Telrkin Izep was weak til the last."

    Heul: "What!?"

    Aellisin raises a hand as a gesture to calm herself. She he does so Clear notices the membrane behind his ears whiten giving Clear more curiosity about what it is for.

    Koure: "Izep was a fool and died a fool. I long told him to abandon his crusade to mediate the galaxy but he wouldn't listen."

    Heul: "You knew our teacher?"

    Koure: "We were trained together for a time. Before our teacher died. Then we were separated."

    Heul: "I-I had no idea."

    Koure:
    "It is an unusual twist of fate that brings the students of Izep to me. Especially one with such a fire within her..."

    Heul: "A fire?"

    Ffion frowns but Clear thinks she may be enjoying the attention.

    Lymn: "I can see where this is going..."

    Koure:
    "Indeed?"

    Lymn: "We have to wait for the Ćon Lords to make their decision with regards to our teaching. They have to investigate the scene of his death first. Then they'll make their choice."

    Koure: "No need to obey them, Kokoro Lymn. An entire cadre of idiots consumed by archaic traditions."

    Lymn: "Did you just call the Ćon Lords idiots!?"

    Koure: "I did. They are. Their traditions are not rules, Kokoro Lymn. There is no need to wait for their decision. You would be parted from Ffion Heul should you follow their idiocy."

    Heul: "He has a point."

    Kokoro shoots Ffion a frustrated look but doesn't argue.

    Koure: "The only reason I am not an Ćon Lord myself is my role as Imperial General. The opportunity to be taught by a Lord must entice you both?"

    Clear: "You want to become their new teacher?"

    Koure: "As I said. Providence seems to have brought you to me and I would be as much as fool as Izep if I were to ignore it."

    Heul: "I'm not so sure..."

    Aellisin appears mildly surprised.

    Heul: "You're... you failed as an Ćon Knight. You couldn't maintain your neutrality. You even cast yourself politically. You're barely an Ćon Knight at all. I can't..."

    Aellisin Koure smiles for the first time. Although there is something creepy about his smile, Clear feels strangely comforted and reassured by it.

    Koure: "I understand how you feel, Ffion Heul. I was once where you are now. Afraid of failing in your duty to neutrality. That is a myth perpetrated by those fool Lords on Tangris. The terms light and dark are meaningless. I am not evil. I do not bathe in the blood of innocents. I merely see the world as a harsher and more dangerous place than other Ćon Knights would. As for my politics, I am imperial now because it serves my purpose. I do not serve the Empire, it serves me."

    Ffion doesn't reply, she appears to be somewhat convinced. It is Lymn that snaps.

    Lymn: "Ffion! Are you really going to listen to this!? You know better! He wants you to break your neutrality!"

    Koure: "Breaking one's neutrality is a personal choice. No one can make that choice for you, Kokoro Lymn."

    Lymn: "Ffion, we should leave. Coming here was a mistake."

    She crosses the distance to Ffion and touches her friend's arm.

    Lymn: "Teacher Izep was no fool. Only a fool would condemn our teacher as such!"

    Suddenly there is a wave of anger in the room that Clear feels. She grits her teeth but it is instantly quashed by fear. Aellisin Koure straightens up and snarls at Kokoro. The pink halo behind his head has suddenly turned bright red and has increased in size. Flesh on the halo pulses with blood. Clear is terrified and she notices that Ffion is too. To her left Pully has fallen from her chair. Only Kokoro seems worried but not fearful.

    Koure: "Do not think to insult me again, child! I could snap your body in two without a second thought! You will submit to my will or your shall suffer!"

    Lymn: "I won't be your slave!"

    Koure: "I do not speak of slavery, child..."

    The red mane shrinks and mottled pink begins to return to colour it. Clear begins to feel a little calmer and wonders why she didn't try to fight the perceived threat, instead of cowering.

    Koure: "I am a consular and I am very good at being one. I can teach you much. Izep was only a fool for following foolish ideals. Only I know where his heart truly lay and I assure you, it was not with the idiots on Tangris."

    Lymn: "You're trying to tell me Teacher Izep was a dark Ćon like yourself?"

    Koure: "On the contrary. He, in his heart, was a light Ćon."

    Kokoro staggers back.

    Lymn:
    "Impossible! We would have known!"

    Koure: "He believed in the Ćon Lords of Tangris and forced himself back into neutrality. You can easily find records about his lapse. He returned to neutrality by confining himself to others' will. He denied his own mind in favour of the Ćon Lords'."

    Lymn: "I... don't believe it."

    Koure: "Then don't believe it. I care not. Your lessons will begin as soon as we have jumped."

    Heul: "And what's that lesson?"

    Clear would have thought Ffion would be the one to argue and fight against Aellisin after listening to her attitudes about dark Ćon and the Aos Sí. She doesn't understand what changed Ffion's mind but she seems keen on learning from the colour-changing alien.

    Aellisin raises his hand and the hilts of the two students pluck themselves from their holsters.

    Koure: "These are crutches. They limit your power and restraint you from reaching your true potential. Once, long ago, no Ćon Knight would have such an object. They had to learn to project their soul the hard way."

    Lymn: "We're only students..."

    Koure: "That is the excuse of the weak, Kokoro Lymn. I do not believe you are weak."

    The hilts shatter into pieces.

    He then flicks his hand out to the side and from his palm appears a small ball of red energy. Sparks flicker from it and encase his hand for a short moment. Then, quickly, the ball extends into a long projection of a sword, complete with energy-materialised hilt. Red sparks crackle and whip along the equally red blade.


    Koure: "Do not accept weakness. You will learn the old way. The hard way. And you will be better Ćon Knights for it. This is how I was taught. This is how Izep was taught."

    Lymn:
    "But I never saw him use a ruhand like this before..."

    Koure: "I told you already. He restricted himself. He was better able to maintain neutrality uses crutches such as that mechanical hilt. Instead of bearing his true soul, he plied it to the will of the Ćon Lords. You never saw how brilliantly his soul truly shined."

    Mother: "Captain Rynard requests to jump."

    Clear:
    "... do it."

  37. #37
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Mission Accepted

    The window is long an narrow but gives a beautiful vista of the ecumenopolis world outside The Majestic. Clear was surprised that the Imperials would risk bringing an unknown and former rebel associate to their homeworld, but as she gazes at it she can see why the Galactic Empire is so arrogant. And archaic. Dacato, the primary political planet for the Rebel Alliance, had also been an ecumenopolis, with its cities encompassing the world, yet the world outside made Dacato look like a fledging society still trying to find its feet. Layers and layers of city teeter up into the upper atmosphere of the world, according to the read-outs on her PIP. The surface looks blackened and scarred with lines, lines that would be city-blocks she guesses. How people could live in such a place astounds her. She couldn't even get around her own ship. The two moons slip into view as they glide through their orbit. Much like the planet below them, they too had been transformed into machine-worlds. One of them swims close to The Majestic and she believes she can make out of the skyscrapers down there. She isn't sure if all the mountains have been dwarfed or if they've been removed by the human populace. The planet once had a name, according to the read-out again, however few used the original term. Now it is just "The Galactic Centre", which she finds a strange name as the world is certainly very far from the core of the galaxy, though it is the centre of the Galactic Empire. If there is a world more populated an urbanised than this, she never wants to see it.

    The grey doors hiss open as Captain Rynard enters.


    Captain Rynard: "Your are a lucky alien. You are you have an audience with our President."

    Clear: "What? Here? Now?"

    Captain Rynard: "On the screen."

    Clear: "Oh right."

    The captain sweeps his hand towards a holographic projector. A moment later it lights up with the flickering image of a man. He isn't very tall but his appearance is quite commanding. He stands with his back straight and firm and one hand tucked into the grey suit jacket he wears. His hair has gone completely grey but is still thick and long, worn tight to the skull and swept backwards where it ends at the shoulders. His skin is white and he wears a suit that reminds Clear of the Earth politicians, quite unlike most of the suits she's used to seeing here in the Perseus Arm of the galaxy.

    President: "Captain Clear of The Hopeful. I've heard much about you."

    He, like Rynard and Koure, has slow and deliberate speech of someone that has consciously refined their pronunciation of the English language.

    Clear glances at Captain Rynard then waves at the hologram nervously. She has no idea if there's some ceremony she is supposed to address to the man. He doesn't seem concerned.


    President:
    "I'm sure you know that I am President Skroob Polk of The Galactic Empire of the Milky Way and you have come to my attention recently."

    She wonders if he's trying to impress her.

    President S. Polk:
    "I heard of your involvement in killing Warlord Strang, is that true?"

    Clear shuffles her feet.


    Clear:
    "Not really. I was just there. I didn't know it would happen. Kiron Nightstrider killed Strang. I fled thinking I'd be blamed for Strang's death."

    The man nods slowly.


    President S. Polk: "Wise choice. And I am glad you weren't responsible, captain. I dislike traitors. Even traitors to my enemies. More recently I have heard how you have now drawn the ire of the Rebel Alliance. First Strang, then the rebels... I think we may be natural bedfellows."

    Clear tries not to grimace at the terminology he uses.

    President S. Polk: "But I have to ask you... is this new tale true?"

    Clear hesitates.

    Clear: "Which one?"

    The president closes his eyes for a moment then smiles and continues.

    President S. Polk: "I'll assume that there is some truth to the tale, else you would have given a straight answer immediately. You know what the rebels accuse you of, I'm sure."

    Clear tries not to hold her head in her hands.

    President S. Polk: "It puts you in an interesting position. It's clear you don't like authority looming over your shoulder and I can't trust you enough to impress you into my military as Strang tried to do with you. But I can hire you, correct?"

    Clear is stunned and gapes for a moment before nodding stupidly.

    President S. Polk: "Excellent. I shall send details of the mission to Captain Rynard. He will escort you some of the way to ensure your safety. Once you have completed the mission you will be richly rewarded. It was a pleasure to meet you, Captain Clear. Good luck."

    The hologram vanishes and Clear continues to stare at the location. She's now an employee of the president of the Empire. She hadn't expected that when she entered this room. She isn't even sure that she really wants to be his employee either. She really just wants to get out of the Perseus Arm altogether. The only tethers she has are the Ćon Knights on Oeurwoud and Princess Aurora in her comatose state. Captain Rynard presses some buttons on the console and information begins to download onto her PIP. She wonders how he knew this PIP is hers but she doesn't bring up the point.

    She checks the data and finds that she's now employed, though off-books. There is a system on the edge of Imperial space that claims allegiance to the Rebel Alliance and has started guerilla activities on several nearby Imperial systems. The rebels, however, haven't get admitted that the system is theirs as it lies so far out from their original territory. The reason Clear is needed for the mission is because the area only allowed aliens, non-humans, to enter the system. She grimaces. Her entire crew are human. Only she is the 'alien'. Could she do this all alone?

    Captain Rynard guides her from the room.


    Captain Rynard: "Quite an honour to get a mission directly from the president himself. It's quite a reputation you must have."

    Clear: "An undeserved one I'm sure."

    Captain Rynard: "Well, whatever the case, I'm sure you'll be well-rewarded for your service."

    Clear: "I guess there's no backing out of it now?"

    Captain Rynard: "Second-thoughts? Not if you want to live."

    Clear: "As I expected..."

    The data reveals that her primary goal is merely to gather information and see if they truly are cooperating with the Rebel Alliance or if they merely aspire to do so. She is to bring back information of any plots they may be wanting to carry out and generally act as a spy amongst them.

    Captain Rynard: "It seems that General Koure intends to remain aboard your ship for the time being..."

    Clear groans.

    Captain Rynard: "You don't approve?"

    Clear gasps as she realised she did that aloud.


    Clear: "It's not that- it's just-- I, uh..."

    Captain Rynard smiles slightly, the first sign of emotion he has displayed.


    Captain Rynard:
    "I feel the same way. Having him aboard my ship has been an inconvenience. As terrible as it is for me to say, I'm glad he'll be your burden for a while."

    Clear thinks for a moment. He is an alien and an Imperial. Perhaps he could help her on this mission...

    ----------

    As permitted by the president and Captain Rynard, The Hopeful had docked with a repairyard and is receiving yet further repairs to its hull. Some technicians have also come aboard to fit a shield to the systems. They had some problems trying to get the power core to work with their system as it would constantly overload their machinery. Only by fluctuating the power surge from the core did they manage to get the mechanisms working. They were amazed that The Hopeful's own systems seemed able to respond to the power output of the core without overloading and why the ship is still so underpowered astounds them. Clear, tired and weary, only half-listened to them. The information went into her brain but would later for later processing. She knows what they said was important but she's too tired to think. She tried to sleep in her room but found that it alluded her.

    She chose to walk the corridors and found Kokoro Lymn training with her new teacher, Aellisin Koure. She doesn't seem very keen on him but she is willing to try what he asks her to do. Clear watched for a while. After many failed attempts Kokoro finally, with a cry, causes a burst of white energy to burst from her hand in an elongated shaft and hilt. It remains there for a time before it flickers and dims. Kokoro wipes a bead of sweat from her forehead. Her teacher didn't congratulation her. He merely ordered her to sit down and for Ffion Heul to now try. Clear wondered why Ffion seems so keen on being taught by a man she would previously have scorned. To Clear he doesn't seem so bad, at least when she's around him. Cold, arrogant and abrasive but nothing as terrible as Strang.

    She eventually wondered off. She saw Green carting a trolley filled with books to the library at the behest of Alexis Thrain. Clear reminded Green not to obey Alexis like a pet and Green nodded but Clear is sure it went in one ear and out the other. Then she meets Pully coming out of the Dreamviewer room.


    Pully: "Hey. Where you off to, Boss?"

    Clear: "Nowhere. Tired. Wandering."

    Pully: "Tired? Have you tried the dreamviewer?"

    Clear: "I think watching my dreams will keep me awake longer, don't you?"

    Pully: "Yeah but it also helps you sleep. It plays music and wafts some kind of sleep-inducing aroma into the air. I don't know how it works. But whatever it does, it works pretty well."

    Clear raises an eyebrow and peeks into the room.

    Clear: "Maybe I'll give it a go!"

    Pully walks back and in and shows Clear how to work the machine for herself. After she's done Pully bids Clear good-night and leaves her alone. Clear looks at the machine. A symbol of her current anxiety. She shrugs and gets in. She has already set it up for sleep and she lies down. She checks its systems as she waits for sleep to take her and finds that Kiron's dream is still there. Suddenly she drifts off to sleep and dreams... of a world exploding.

    -----------

    Clear rubs her eyes. She's standing in the hangar of The Hopeful waiting. And waiting. She has been sleeping well lately, using the Dreamviewer, but too many times she has also been viewing Kiron's dream. Watching it over and over. Allowing it to enter her own dreams. She can't help but watch it. Like a strange addiction. But she has to put that to the back of her mind for now. She looks out of the hangar bay doors. The view out there is like nothing she could have imagined. A supercool brown dwarf, a sun that never grew up and died, sits as small as Jupiter in the middle of space. No planets orbit it except for a ring of ice. The Hopeful is sitting between the brown dwarf and the ring beyond, giving an eerie and beautiful view. She feels like this is a lost corner of the galaxy, tucked away from the attention of everyone beyond the icy walls. The planet is too cold for normal life to exist, and yet, orbiting very close to the brown sun is a spacestation.

    Koure: "My ship is already prepared."

    Clear looks up the stairs to see Aellisin Koure walking down them. Clear looks over at his ship. It is a starfighter, like all Ćon ships, and stands on six legs as it awaits its occupants. It is longer than the ships of Kokoro or Ffion and its tip peaks over like a beak. The wings are tight to the body, probably not expecting to fly much in the air of a planet, and its coloured blood red with a red haze across the beak. Steps appear from the ground of the hangar up to the cockpit. They appear holographic but when Clear pokes them with her boot, she finds them quite solid. She ascends first and gets into the second seat at the rear, allowing him to drive his own vehicle. He gets in and the canopy closes with a hiss. The systems boot up. She dons the helmet provided but Koure doesn't bother. He ignites the engine and the ship begins hovering with a whisper. The legs then retract and he slowly glides out of the hangar and plots a course for the spacestation. The brown dwarf gives the system its name and the spacestation imitates it. She is about to be welcomed to Mirare Station.
    Last edited by TheBritt; 11-25-2015 at 03:25 PM.

  38. #38
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Lumo

    The young Salmitton has never seen such a vast array of sounds, scents or visuals all crammed into one place. And not a single human to be seen. Her entire view oft he galaxy, she now realises, has been human-centric. Even in her hatred of the human species, she was moulded by it. Everything she knew of reality inter-lapped with humanity. But here in this vibrant and hectic little world there is no human to cloud her view.

    There are shops, apartments, restaurants and other establishments that she doesn't understand their function. She isn't even sure if "shop", "apartment" or "restaurants" are even applicable terms to most of the establishments she sees and is merely guessing. The roof is quite tall compared to the corridors of The Hopeless, but certainly no towering complex like the human constructs of Dacato and Galactic Centre. Every establishment is an enclosed space, terraced along the wide passages, with open fronts to allow people to get in and out without the fuss of a door. Many establishments have lights blaring out, sometimes simple, often neon, sometimes more exotic lighting such as a place lit by insects in jars, or one shop with streaks of encased lightning swirling around its ceiling. The people of the station seem even more varied than the establishments they reside in. Some appear near-human, making a Salmitton look incredibly exotic, while other species look so little to anything Clear could recognise as being a sentient creature that she may as well be a human in red face-paint.

    The passages are spacious and yet filled with people and things. Smaller vendors without establishments have parked in the middle of the passage and are selling their wares to passers-by. Huge fans above, protruding down in their vents, keep the passage filled with atmosphere and pump out the rank air - though Clear feels they could be doing a better job. She wonders if the air is being filled with all manner of elements to keep as many different species comfortable as possible. She notes some marked off sections that, according to Koure, have a different kind of atmosphere suited to a whole different manner of being that Clear would need a spacesuit to enter.

    When a man, or at least what Clear presumes to have been a man, asked her something in jibberish, Koure had to explain to the alien that Clear could only speak in English. He sneers at her with his quivering, lipless mouth.


    Alien Man: "You speak only human tongue? Betraying your own kind, humanoid!"

    Old Grey: "Now now, there's no need to insult the girl."

    Clear, after being surprised by the man's aggression, turns to see a short, grey-coloured alien just like the Ćon student Jeb. He looks quite a lot older than Jeb though, his head looks like an old sack of wrinkles and an occasional hair pokes out of his leathery skin. His big, black eyes look saddened with the drooping of his eyelids and he wears nothing to conceal his modesty - not that there appears to be any male genitalia to conceal. The only reason she assumes the Grey is male is his deep voice that sounds much younger than he appears.

    The alien man mutters something in his own jibberish that Clear again didn't understand but she assumes is meant as another insult. She looks down at the old Grey.


    Old Grey: "Welcome, little one. I haven't seen a Martian in many-a-year! It's nice to see such a young one running around this old station again."

    Clear: "You-you know my people?"

    Old Grey: "Of course! There was always one or two Martians looking to make some shady deals round these parts once-upon-a-time. Before the humans. Tell me girl, how many of you are there?"

    She looks down at the old man. Sometimes she could say the words without pause. As though saying them had become meaningless. But this old man, knowing her people... she becomes tight-lipped. The old man seems to understand and nods sympathetically.

    Old Grey: "Humanity have done us all a great injustice, my dear. Their greed, their avarice, it affects us all. I'm sorry about that lout. He doesn't understand that some of us have been twisted by humanity more than others. It is truly a shame that you have lost the use of your own language."

    Clear follows the Grey as he begins hobbling along.

    Clear: "I never really lost it, I didn't get to learn it. I've seen it but I couldn't pronounce anything. The humans settles my world long before they... took it. Their culture and their language was pervasive. Many of the salmittons already learnt their language when the fighting began. Afterwards the humans forced everyone to speak English. And only English. People that used their own language were punished. So my father only taught me English."

    Old Grey: "Thank you for telling me. We all have our stories of human abuse but yours sounds sadder than most. My name is Lumo, by the way. Can you tell me yours?"

    Clear: "I'm Clear."

    Old Grey: "An English name even?"

    Clear: "Sort of... our names are their meanings, not the words themselves. So my name is whatever the word 'clear' is in your own language. I don't know what language that is, otherwise I'd use that word."

    Lumo chuckles.

    Lumo: "Come to think of it I do remember some old rascal used to call himself Ovun when around me. That means 'sexy' in my language."

    Clear finds it hard to imagine anyone of Lumo's species being 'sexy' enough to need such a word.

    Clear: "What is the word for clear?"

    Lumo: "Pinno Fat."

    Clear: "Oh... that doesn't sound very... charming..."

    Lumo: "To an English speaker, probably not. But if I met a female named Pinno Fat of my people, I'd be most captivated."

    Clear: "Well, you could call me Pinno Fat if you'd like to."

    Lumo chuckles again.

    Lumo: "I understand English well enough, little one. What about your friend, by the way?"

    Clear turns to see Aellisin Koure speaking with a group of men at an establishment behind them. She and Lumo stop to watch him.

    Clear: "I wouldn't call him my friend. His name is Aellisin."

    Lumo looks up at Clear with concern then shakes his head.

    Lumo: "Be careful around that one, my dear. A dangerous species to be sure."

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "Why's that?"

    Lumo: "Ah. You don't seem to be in love with the man, so perhaps he isn't like most of his kind..."

    Clear: "In love with him!? Ew."

    Lumo: "Here."

    He reaches for her PIP and types a word into it. The system scans and locates an establishment on Mirare. She doesn't understand the name, even in English characters.

    Lumo: "Go there, tell them your situation with your companion and they'll give you something to protect yourself. Please do it before you return to your ship with him."

    Clear:
    "Uh... okay?"

    Lumo: "They'll explain why if you ask them."

    Clear: "But-"

    Koure: "You should purchase supplies for your ship, Captain."

    Clear jumps and turns to see Aellisin is standing just behind her.


    Clear: "Wow. Do you always sneak up on people like that?"

    Koure: "I wasn't sneaking."

    Clear: "I don't have any money. The president--"

    She stops and looks at the old grey. He is nice but she doesn't want to go telling him that she's on a secret mission for the humans.

    Clear: "I didn't get paid yet."

    He hands her an Imperial credit card.

    Clear: "Can I use that here? Isn't it too..."

    She glances around.

    Clear: "Human?"

    Lumo: "Money is money, Clear. They'll accept it."

    Clear grins, feeling rich again. Until she had her reward from the rebels, Clear had never had much money. Being able to buy things without consequence was a wonderful experience - one she is certainly willing to repeat.

    Lumo begins to walk again and Clear marches after him. She doesn't think to ask where they are going, or even if she was actually invited.


    Lumo: "So tell me, what bring a young and lonely Salmitton all the way to Mirare?"

    Clear thinks fast and wiggles the Imperial card in front of Lumo.

    Clear: "The idea was to find a new jump drive for my ship. It's a really only ship and the hyperjump is... really inconvenient. The ship literally pins you to the walls to keep you safe during the jump."

    This time Lumo's chuckle is much more excited.

    Lumo:
    "I remember those! My goodness. Even I was a lad those drives were old! Got to ride a ship with one though. A budget line to get me from Mirare..."

    He trails off and Clear thinks he suddenly lost himself in memories. She waits for him to snap back into reality.

    Lumo: "Well anyway. You'll find a lot of fancy new drives here on Mirare. Not just the standard Imperial ones you see those cheese wedges using! Drives from as far as the outer rim worlds or even the core worlds. Whatever you need it's here somewhere. The trick is finding it."

    He laughs again, this time at his own joke. Or at least she assumes it's a joke. He leads them from one passages to the next.

    Clear: "Where are you from, Lumo?"

    Lumo: "Mirare, my dear. This systems is the home system of the Greys."

    Clear: "Uh... your were born on this spacestation?"

    Lumo speeds up a little and turns into an establishment without replying to her question. She stops but he beckons her in. Aellisin grabs her shoulder as she starts after Lumo.

    Koure: "I don't trust this little Grey. Go in, but be on your guard. I shall wait out here for signs of trouble."

    Clear: "How brave of you."

    Koure: "Don't get sassy with me, idiot."

    Clear shakes her head and marches into the establishment. The outside is quite plain with only some hanging signs to indicate what they sold - not that she could read it. Inside are a lot of tables and chairs, but none of them are uniform. Some are large and round, others small and square while the chairs themselves are even more eclectic. When she gets in there she sees that the place is empty save for Lumo himself. He stands at a very low bar and pours a white liquid into a small cup. Small to her, overly large for him. He lifts up the cup and holds it out to her.

    Lumo: "Most humans call this tea, but obviously you can tell from the colour that's not quite right. It is similar though. Try some!"

    She walks across the room, stepping across stone tiles underfoot. Just before she reaches the old man the lights suddenly blink out. She spins around to see Aellisin take a step back as shutters slam down between her and him. Now she is in complete darkness. She stumbles into a table. Then something is thrown over her head. A bag perhaps. Hands yank and pull her arms. She struggles and fights. She thinks she can hear Lumo ask her to calm down but she doesn't. She kicks someone. They fall into a table. She lowers herself and sweeps the floor with her leg and connects with another figure that topples over. Her arms free she tries to pull the sack from her head. Then more bodies are on her. Three, four... five? One hoists her from her feet and lugs her over their shoulder. Then her feet are bound. Amidst punches and slaps she fights against the person tying her wrists together but to no avail.

    She shouts and screams for help but nobody, not even the Imperial General, tries to save her. She can hear some commotion somewhere. Crashing, shouting, fighting and wonders if they've attacked Aellisin Koure outside. Maybe he is trying to save her?

    She feels movement as she's carried somewhere. They don't seem concerned that she's making so much noise and eventually her throat grows tired and her voice too hoarse to yell. She whimpers instead. Ten she hears Lumo clearly tell her not to worry. For some reason that makes her worry more. She squirms just enough to get her arms up to her mouth. Even through the sack she can bite the knot in the rope that binds her wrists. She tugs with her teeth and feels the knot loosen. The taste of the sack is disgusting but desperation is enough to ignore it.

    Abruptly she is thrown onto something soft and she bounces about on it for a moment. She rolls to her side and wriggles her wrists. The binding is loose enough that she manages to get one hand free. Someone notices and shouts. But not quickly enough. She whips the sack from her head. The first thing she sees are people all around her. With renewed vigour and anger she lashes out.

    Her bound feet whip up into the face of a particularly human-looking woman who is knocked with such force that she is taken off of her feet and lands on her back. Clear completes the motion with a complete flip backwards, rolls over the soft and unusual bed, and lands on her feet with the piece of furniture between her and her kidnappers.

    One man dives at her, springing across the bed, but she leaps up into the air. Her feet smack into his back, sending him sprawled out on the bed. She jumps off of him and straight at another creature in the room. It's a Grey, but not Lumo himself. Her fist cracks the young Grey's jaw to the side and his spins right round until he hits the ground. She, again, hears Lumo's voice somewhere shouting for her to calm down. Fat chance. One woman grabs Clear's arm. The only reason she didn't get punched is because a man instantly grab's Clear's fist. She squirms and squirms ignoring their jibbering voices. She could have kicked them both into the dust if her legs were free. Instead she throws her head forward and head-butts the woman squarely on the nose. She yelps and staggers back, releasing Clear's hand. She thumps the man who also holds her, but it's not enough to force him off. She strikes again but still to no avail. She is about to jump up and take him down with all her weight but the man from the bed has gotten up and locks his big bear-arms around her waist. She squirms and struggles in his grasp but there's little she can do. Someone else approaches, a woman with blue skin and strange hair. She holds out a flower and squeezes it. Clear finds her mind is instantly fuzzy and sluggish. She tries to keep moving. She has to get away. She hits the man's arms that are locked around her but she feels how weak her strikes are. She slaps her own face, trying to wake up. Eventually she is dumped back on the bed.

    She forces herself to roll to freedom and falls off the edge of the bed onto the cold, grey floor. Although everything is blurry she sees that the room isn't very big and is circular with grey, dull walls and a single, right light hanging from above. Faces peer down at her but they're too blurry to make out. She pushes herself away from them and eventually winds up underneath the bed. Somehow she feels safer there and she lies still, waiting for the poison to wear off. She plots and plans, despite her slow brain. She can see the hole where a door might be. She just needs her strength back and she'll make a run for it...

  39. #39
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Whole Story

    An arm reaches underneath the bed. Clear wriggles away but movement has become harder. It's a big, green, muscular arm with blunt but hard nails at the tip of each stubby finger. The hand gropes for something until it finally snags her and drags her out by her head.

    Woman's Voice: "Not by her head! What's wrong with you!?"

    Man's Voice:
    "I didn't know it was her head!"

    Woman's Voice: "Just put her on the bed."

    The huge blurry green blob of a monster hoists Clear up and drops her onto the soft bed.


    Woman's Voice: "Gently!"

    Man's Voice: "Moan, moan, moan."

    A blue blur appears over her and Clear thinks it's the woman that sprayed her with the flower poison. She wants to wring the woman's neck but can't shift a muscle. She feels the woman's cold fingers poking her neck here and there. Checks her eyes.

    Woman's Voice: "She's fine."

    She moves away and a third figure approaches. Although nothing more than a grey blob, Clear recognises him as Lumo. He sits on the bed beside her.

    Lumo: "I know you can understand me, Clear. I'm sorry you got hurt. I truly am. We had to steal you away quickly from your companion's nose. He's dangerous and a very unwelcome guest. Most would regard him a traitor here. Working for the humans..."

    Clear tries to speak but can only manage a gurgle.

    Lumo leans over her and pats her cheek.

    Lumo: "There, there, Pinno Fat."

    He does this for a moment longer until he's convinced she's settled down.

    Lumo: "You've been in pain your whole life, haven't you dear? I see it in your eyes. In your voice when you talk of your past. I'd heard all of the Martians were extinct but here you are! Imagine my surprise when I saw you. In company of the enemy no less. Truly it warmed this old heart. A beautiful little girl wandering lost. Sorry--"

    He pauses and looks at her.

    Lumo: "--All young women are little girls to me. I don't mean to patronise you. Evidently you're more than capable. My friends are going to be nursing bruises for weeks, I'm sure."

    He does his little alien chuckle again. When he's finished he resumes being sombre.

    Lumo: "I don't know what circumstances put you in line with the Empire but I can assure you they are you true enemy, Clear. Not us. You are one of us. More than anyone else here you deserve to be here with us. You've lost everything to the humans. So have we. The Empire attacks us. Kills us. Steals from us. The Rebellion? No better. They don't fight for our liberty, they fight to take power for themselves. Even the non-humans that operate in their ranks aren't thinking of their brothers and sisters. They're thinking how best to line their pockets."

    Clear doesn't know how to respond to that, even if she were able. She doesn't want to work for the Empire but they had acted honourably so far. And the Rebellion she mostly liked, though she had to admit she only really liked Aurora - even then she didn't whole-heartedly trust the woman. Frankly, however, she didn't care about either. As though he could read her mind, Lumo elaborates.

    Lumo: "But I understand your breed of human isn't the same as ours. In fact yours may be a whole lot worse. Earth is where they are all from, did you know that? A millennium ago. Or something like that. They left their world in search of new planets to colonise. Algernon, The Galactic Centre, Dacato... those are just some of their new homeworlds. But they had competition, of course. When they met the aliens out here they responded... unkindly. The number of species you find today is much less than it once was. Oh, I'm sure some humans are nice enough. But the majority of them are a blight. A plague on the universe. They destroy what they don't understand..."

    He sighs.

    Lumo: "My people, the greys... we suffered too. Many of my kind believe that we were the chosen people that would lead the universe to a bright future of prosperity and understanding. Created by divine gods of the universe. But so too were the humans. Ultimately, it seems, the humans won-out. But they don't intend to lead anyone to understanding, only to death and despair. They..."

    He pauses again and Clear can hear the pain in his voice. She wonders if he's crying.

    Lumo: "They destroyed my world, little one. They destroyed it. It's nothing but pieces now. The ring of ice you see orbiting this long dead star... that was Mirare. We salvaged an old spacestation and built this place in our world's ashes. It became a haven for all those aliens that would flee the oppression of humanity."

    Clear tries to talk but again can only gurgle.

    Lumo: "You can ask me questions later, dear."

    He idly pats her leg.

    Lumo: "We have lived here, out of mind of the humans for so long until... until someone from the Rebel Alliance came here. He asked us to kill someone. A human princess."

    Clear desperately tries to shout out but Lumo just shushes her again.

    Lumo: "A simple task but his methodology was unusual. He wanted us to use a special poison dart that would hasten the severe condition that she already has. You met Lucee Sk'dor--"

    He indicates to someone but Clear can't make out who.

    Lumo: "--she's the Hian woman that paralysed you. You can make friends later if you'd like. She certainly likes you!"

    Clear tries to grumble her discontent.

    Lumo: "Well, Lucee was able to do this. She made the concoction and meant to use it on the unfortunate human princess. But then disaster struck. The Latter-Day Greys of Memnoch appeared on the scene, attacked the princess' ship and took her captive. I did some asking around and it turns out that princess has the power to declare herself queen of the Earth and could, potentially, command an entire people made of magic from some kind of portal to another world. It sounds like science fiction to me, but my brethren believed it and who am I to stop them?"

    He looks at her.

    Lumo: "And, as you well know, that plan failed. She escaped and wound up in the hands of Warlord Strang. A very dangerous human. And it dawned on me... what if Strang, the Empire or even the Rebellion were to learn of the princess' power? What would they do...? Strang could never be allowed such a power, and certainly not the Empire. The Rebellion neither, as I just said, they're selfish and driven by political gain. The man that wanted her dead was from the Rebellion so..."

    Woman's Voice: "Lumo, that Knight is wreaking havoc on the station."

    Lumo: "Allow him to escape. Remember though! He must think he's escaping, not that he's being allowed to leave!"

    Woman's Voice: "I'll let them know."

    Lumo: "We don't have much time left, my girl. You need to be 'saved' by this corrupt knight. It seems a shame that someone who could have been our ally would serve the humans the way he does. I'm sure he thinks he's working for his own interests, but the self-absorbed always think that, even when they're not. Anyway. When the princess returned we had to enact the original plan, if not for that corrupt rebel then at least for ourselves. But it seems the princess was taken to Tangris. To the only people in the galaxy, aside from Lucee, that could probably cure the princess of this ailment. The woman cannot be allowed to live, Clear. Why do you think you are here? What were you told? All of this I am telling you is because I trust you to do the right thing. I need you on my side. On the side of your own people. The Empire wants this princess and her secrets. They know we have information and that's why they sent you. Please... Clear... even if you don't trust me. Even if you don't trust your fellow non-humans... just don't trust the humans! They want that power and they will use it. My world was destroyed by them. Your people have been destroyed by them. They took your world and stand atop the bodies of your ancestors. If the humans could take their original seat of power, claim subservience of a powerful magic species... imagine what kind of devastation they would unleash on us all. It is too late for our kind, Pinno Fat. Your people are dead. Mine are dying. Our worlds taken from us. But we can save the rest of the galaxy from the evil of humanity. I know you went to Tangris with the princess. Get to her before the Empire does."

    Lumo stands up and looks to the other Mirare aliens.

    Lumo: "Lucee, use the antidote. It'll take a few minutes to wear off. Everyone, take her back towards the Ćon ship and act surprised by that monster finds you. Abandon Clear to him. He'll take her with him back to that ancient ship out there."

    He looks down at Clear as the blue blur appears and jabs her shoulder with something. Clear doesn't speak or fight. She feels Lumo wipe away a tear that must have squeezed from her eye.

    Lumo: "I know the pain you're in. I do. I know I'm putting you under a lot of pressure. But please help us, Pinno Fat... you're our only hope."

  40. #40
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow A Forged Escape

    Clear is dragged through passages of Mirare Station. She feels some sensation begin to tingle back into her fingers but she's still otherwise unable to move and unable to see properly. The green hulk carrying her on his shoulder seems pretty unsympathetic to her plight. She sees other blurs walking just below her, some her own height, others smaller. At least two of them are greys, she can tell by the colour of their overly large heads.

    And then, suddenly, they're in one of the wide open streets. The colours and shapes are blinding and the sudden sounds and scents are confusing. Then there's a loud commotion. She manages to crane her neck round to see in the direction of the shouts and fighting. A dark figure comes at her, quickly. She wriggles in sudden panic and then she is flying through the air. She cries out and, for the first time in what seems like hours, she hears herself yell. She lands in a pair of solid arms and, so close to him, she can see the face of Aellisin Koure. He isn't looking at her though, he's occupied with those around him. He doesn't use his ruhand, instead he's tossing people around in the air as though he's discarding unwanted junk. She isn't even sure he's throwing aggressors, just whoever happens to be standing in his path.

    Clear: "Goo... captch..."

    She works her lips. The numbness isn't completely gone yet.

    Koure: "I'm sure your paralysis will wear off soon."

    Clear: "It ish..."

    The streets ahead seem clearer, word of Aellisin's rampage reaching more and more ears. As they near the gate to the docks Clear asks to be put down. He lets her down gently and she takes her first step. Her legs feel stiff and sore but they work. She grins and is happy to be able to do so. Gunfire hits the ground near them and the Ćon Knight uses his power to bring down an entire establishment's front to stand between them and their attackers.

    Koure: "It would be easier if I could just kill the fools. But orders are orders..."

    Clear doesn't remind him that he once proclaimed the Empire served him, not he served it. She fears if she riles him he will begin killing people. She's not entirely sure they don't deserve it, but so far they've avoided actually killing her so she doesn't want to have them killed in return. She hobbles ahead of Aellisin as he brings down yet another establishment. Even if people aren't dead there's going to be a lot of wounded left behind and a lot of anger.

    She skids to a stop as her PIP shrieks at her. She lifts her arm, which seems like a great effort, and there she sees a marker pointing out a local shop. The establishment stands unassuming and quiet but she recognises it as the place Lumo advised she visit before she leaves the station. She glances back at Aellisin. He had just saved her... and yet she has always felt that there's something strange about him. He always seemed fine when she was with him but when he was absent she couldn't help but doubt his intentions. She starts towards the shop but before she reaches the doors he comes up behind her.

    Koure: "Almost there. Let's go."

    Clear: "I just need... to get shomething..."

    Koure: "The time for shopping is over! Now!"

    She sees his logic instantly and turns to meekly follow him past the shop. As she goes she sees someone appear at the shop door. She's a blue-skinned woman with bright yellow eyes. She's humanoid, much like Clear, but her hair appears unusual. Somehow it's solid, like bark, but also blue like her skin. She wears a loose white one-piece with a loose green sash at the waist and she recognises that as the fashion she had once coveted on Dacato - the race of people with similar fashion sense to her own people. She also knows that this woman must be the one that sprayed her in the face. A part of her wants to talk to the woman but the overriding need to follow Aellisin quickly blanks the Hian woman from mind. Only when she glances down at her hand does she realise she has been given something as she passed - a pouch. It's strange she doesn't remember how she got that pouch but there it is. She quickly stashes it away and turns to Koure's ship.

    -------------

    Clear opens her eyes. She instantly recognises the tiled ceiling of the medbay. She feels like she's just risen from the dead and yet none of her limbs feel rigid. She presses a button on the side of the bed and it rises her into a seated position.

    Clear: "Alexis. I hope you didn't take advantage and go probing me."

    Alexis Thrain looks up from her console screen.

    Thrain: "Of course not! No more than was necessary anyway..."

    Clear: "What you consider necessary isn't strictly what others see as necessary..."

    The doctor approaches Clear and starts running a battery of routine tests. She shines a light in the salmitton's eyes.

    Thrain: "It was necessary. You'd suffered from hoo-doo herbal drugs that paralysed your muscles. You're lucky. It could have been worse really. These hoo-doo people are usually self-taught so they often mess it up and kill people."

    Clear: "Hoo-doo?"

    Thrain: "You know? Herbal medicine, pseudo medicine, quack doctors. Most of them don't know the first thing about science or biology, yet they'll claim to be able to cure you of everything imaginable. They'll cure you of imaginary ailments too. Need your aura fixing? How about your jumkas? Your astro-spheres? Your leetness? Pretty sure those e's are replaced with threes when they write it out..."

    Clear swings her legs over the edge of the bed and Thrain knocks her knees with a hammer.

    Clear: "Okay, I get it. They're scam artists. Yet their stuff seems to have worked on me!"

    Thrain: "I never said it didn't work - it always works. But when they do use something that really does do something, it can be dangerous. Lucky your not dead. Fit as a... what is that Earth instrument? A trombone?"

    Clear: "Fiddle. The humans say 'fit as a fiddle'..."

    Thrain: "Not all humans."

    Clear doesn't look up at her. She can't look up at her.

    Clear: "Yeah... not all humans..."

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