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Thread: Clear and The Hopeless

  1. #41
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Clear and the Hopeless

    Clear and the Hopeless Recap

    Clear was living the quiet, solitary life of a scavenger in orbit around her people's homeworld - Mars. Hateful of humanity for destroying her people, the salmittons, she was an anti-social young woman that normally talked to an artificial intelligence named Note and a woman, who Clear named "Icer", frozen in stasis. She was joined by the magical Green, who can grow and mould plantlife at will, and the human mechanic Hebedee, aboard her derelict spacecraft The Hopeful. Clear jokingly calls this ship "The Hopeless".

    However an event (first occurring in the Hero Force One thread) caused the entire Laniakea Supercluster to be moved - bar the Earth. Because Note and The Hopeful's systems were focused upon the Earth, this caused the old and befuddled A.I. to begin jumping at random through the galaxy - especially through the Perseus Arm. After Note tried to abandon her on an ice world, Clear was rescued by Warlord Strang and with the help of his stormtroopers, she was able to retake her ship and was forced to kill Note. Although she lost Hebedee the mechanic, others joined her. Pully, the stormtrooper, Ffion Heul and Kokoro Lymn, the Ćon Knights, and Alexis Thrain, the doctor, joined Clear. The Knights lost their teacher, Telkrin Izep, on the planet Oeurwoud to the "dark water" and had to return to the planet Tangris. The Ćon Order wanted to return to Oeurwoud to investigate, along with Clear and her crew. However before they could make the jump to Oeurwoud they were confronted by the Rebel Alliance who suspect The Hopeful of destroying the planet Algernon. Clear chose to flee and found herself working for The Galactic Empire of the Milky Way. There they have been escorted by the ever-present Captain Rynard and Aellisin Koure has decided to become the teacher for Ffion Heul and Kokoro Lymn.

    Princess Aurora Briarose is supposed heir of Britainnia, a nation of Earth, and a guardian of Albion - giving her the ability to command a magical realm attached to Britain. Her family long ago left the Earth to settle Algernon, which was later destroyed. Now, however, groups would attempt to kidnap her and use her to get control of Albion for themselves. One such group call themselves the Latter-Day Greys of Memnoch, however it is possible that the Empire would likewise wish to do the same. Aurora was then victim to an unusual assassination attempt, which sped up her ALS condition and forced her to confine herself to a stasis pod until a cure could be found to extend her life. Lumo of the Mirare spacestation asked Clear to stop the humans from acquiring Aurora at any cost, otherwise the entire galaxy may be at their mercy.
    Last edited by TheBritt; 12-01-2015 at 05:17 PM.

  2. #42
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Pheromones

    Slowly sound begins to return to Clear's ears and her blurry vision swims until it steadies itself. She feels like she's going to be sick. She falls against the cold bulkhead of the corridor and whines to herself. She doesn't remember drinking at all, nevermind getting so drunk she passed out in the hall. She wonders what kind of booze Pully must have forced on her this time.

    She groans from a stinging headache and rubs her eyes. When she opens them again she sees plants. Everywhere.


    Clear: "This again? Green?"

    Kassuin: "I don't know which of your friends is Green. If she's the tiny-sized human, I had to bash her face a few times to put her down..."

    Clear: "WHAT!? You hit Green!? Why!?"

    Clear staggers away from Kassuin. She has no idea how or when he got here. He's crouched down as though he snuck up behind her - but Clear isn't sure she wasn't too drunk to remember him being there the whole time.

    Kassuin: "Your senses are coming back. Fortunate for both of us. It would have been harder to render you unconscious without hurting you... too much."

    Clear: "What? I... I don't... what's happen--"

    She throws up. And the mess isn't pretty.

    At least it fertilised the plants.


    Kassuin:
    "That's a good sign."

    Clear: "It is!?"

    Kassuin: "Pay attention because I won't explain this a second time. Your ship is currently in orbit around Tangris--"

    Clear: "Since when?"

    Kassuin: "--Don't interrupt me."

    Clear:
    "Sorry."

    Kassuin: "I said don't interrupt me! Do you remember meeting Aellisin Koure?"

    Clear: "I do."

    Kassuin: "That saves some explanation. He is a falleen and a dark Ćon Knight."

    Clear: "Like you."

    Kassuin: "A little. I am Aos Sí. And don't interrupt me. His species secrete pheromones that allow them to alter the minds of the opposite sex. Evolutionary terms, this is traditionally meant to simply make them more sexually attractive. But some of them have greater control over this... talent. You have been under his control for quite some time. You won't have been aware of it. The longer you spent with him, the deeper his control ran."

    Clear: "It can't be..."

    Kassuin:
    "Not only you. It seems your entire crew were female. All are likely his puppets now. Many Knights and Lords have been investigating Oeurwoud or other worlds with similar tales of the dark water. Luckily I was still here. I attempted contact but only got cryptic messages from your A.I.. It seems the A.I. was attempting to indirectly communicate with me that there was a problem. Eventually I gathered from it that your ship has been taken by Koure. He's well known on Tangris as a renegade. He'd like nothing more than to wipe out all other Ćon. Come on, I'll explain more as we move."

    Clear nods and follows after the knight. They move quickly and silently save for Kassuin's voice.

    Kassuin: "Under his control, you did everything he asked of you. He has complete access to everything this ship had hidden. Including this... superweapon. I'd wager his goal was to gain access to that the moment he saw your ship enter Imperial space."

    Clear: "What happened to the Imperial ship that was escorting us? Captain Rynard?"

    Kassuin: "According to your A.I., Koure crossed him and disabled The Majestic's jump drive. They may arrive eventually, but I don't know who's side said captain will be on. Koure has activated the superweapon. Or he's trying to. Your A.I. seems unsure. Knights and Lords are searching your ship for him, but this is a very large vessel. I was attacked by you and your small friend. I rendered her unconscious after slaying several unusual creatures--"

    Clear: "Yeah, she does that."

    Kassuin: "Stop interrupting. Then I noticed you had datura power hanging from your belt. I don't know how it got there but it's one of the few elements that can counteract the effects of Falleen pheromones."

    Clear remembers the pouch given to her by the Hian woman on Mirare.

    Kassuin: "I forced the powder down your throat and here you are. I think you're more useful awake. You have to tell me where he would be if he's power this weapon."

    At that moment Clear suddenly gets a pang of suspicion. He could well be telling the truth about everything. It all sounds possible from the wording of Lumos. But she also distrusts Kassuin. He appears from nowhere with this story and demands to see the weapon controls...

    Clear: "Where's Ffion and Kokoro?"

    Kassuin:
    "Likely under the control of Koure. In the weapon room or trying to fight other Knights searching the ship. Everyone is aware that they're under the power of Koure and will try not to harm them."

    Clear: "Where are the other Knights? Is Kloo Celli here?"

    Kassuin: "She went to Oeurwoud. Why are you stalling? Take me to the weapon room."

    Clear begins to lead the way, but as she does so she starts messaging Mother with her PIP. Mother doesn't respond. It seems her PIP is being jammed somehow. Clear hesitates as she guides him through a room, still towards the lift that would take them to the weapons system. Is this one elaborate ploy? Where is everyone else?

    She pushes the button the lift and they wait. When the doors open they're met by sudden blaster fire. Clear leaps to one side. She catches a glimpse of stormtrooper armour.


    Clear: "Pully!? Pully is that you!?"

    Pully: "Sorry boss! Didn't know you were up here! Just shooting at these Ćon blokes crawling all over the place!"

    Clear comes out of hiding. Her hunch about Kassuin had been right then. She points towards the corridor where Kassuin had gone into hiding himself.

    Clear:
    "I just saw that Kassuin. He says he attacked Green!"

    Pully: "Hitting little girls?"

    Pully sprays covering fire and backs up back onto the lift. Clear follows her.

    Kassuin: "You little wretch!"

    The purple alien shouts as the doors slide shut. Clear leans against the lift wall and sighs heavily. Her head is still throbbing.

    Clear:
    "Lucky you showed up, Pully. He tried to trick me into taking him down to the superweapon room."

    Pully: "Don't mention it, boss. Glad to pull your backside out of the fray time and time again."

    Clear: "You make it sound like I'm always in trouble."

    Pully:
    "You ain't?"

    Clear:
    "What're they doing here, Pully? Why are there Ćon Knights on the ship? Where are the others?"

    Pully:
    "They're after Aellisin. He's not like them. He refuses to subject himself to the rules of Tangris. So they came to take him. Don't you remember?"

    Clear: "No... I don't remember anything... not since... we first came back from Mirare."

    Pully: "That was two days ago, Clear. Wow. Did that Kassuin hit you?"

    Clear: "No. We'll have to find Green. I hope she's okay. Where are Kokoro and Ffion?"

    Pully: "They're fighting. Kokoro just... I don't know. Went crazy, sided with the Ćon Knights of Tangris. Whatever the case, Ffion's taking care of her."

    Clear's blood freezes up and her spine shrivels.

    Clear: "Pul-Pully... where are we?"

    Pully: "In a lift... seriously, Thrain will have to look at you. He must have smacked your head really hard."

    Clear:
    "I mean where's the ship? Are we still in Imperial space?"

    Pully: "No! We ditched them as soon as we managed to route power to the superweapon. Time to blow Tangris to bits! Wow! It's going to be crazy."

    The fact that Pully seems to coherent astounds Clear. Being under the control of pheromones sounds like something that would render the victim insensible and yet Pully appears as cognitive as ever.

    Clear: "Can I borrow your helmet, Pully?"

    Pully: "Huh? Why?"

    Clear: "My PIP is broken or something. I just want to access map systems through your helmet."

    Pully tugs the white helmet from her head and holds it out for Clear to take it.

    Pully: "I think you set Mother to scramble systems. I don't even think my helmet will be much good but try it an--"

    Clear snatches the helmet and clobbers Pully across the back of the head with it. She falls forward and lands on all fours in shock.

    Pully: "OOooooooooow... did you ju--ack!"

    Clear snakes her leg around Pully's neck and clamps down, holding her friend's neck behind her knee. She tightens her leg muscles and uses her weight to pin the stronger woman down. She could have used her arm, but Clear isn't good at holds. Plus she's always had very strong thighs. Eventually Pully stops struggling and is out cold. Clear checks that she's okay and lays her safely at the back of the lift. She'll have to apologise profusely later.

    The lift doors slip open and Clear is in a very dark passage that she knows will take her to the superweapon room. She sucks up the courages and sneaks forth. She tries to move as quickly as possible without banging her way across the metal floor. When she gets to the door in question she discovers that it's open and light is pouring out. Inside there's the sound of fighting. Clear peeks inside.

    The first thing Clear notes is that the room is suddenly three-times bigger than it once was. Where the back wall had been, was now wide open like a gigantic door to reveal a whole new area of consoles and equipment evidently meant to help power the weapon. There, on the second tier, she sees swinging shafts of light. Ffion and Kokoro strike and attack like Clear has never seen them do before. She as to try and stop them somehow...

    She slips into the room and heads to the nearest console. A quick glance as she sees that the entire system has been rebooted and appears to be fully operational. She hears Kokoro grunt with panic and Clear looks up to see her fall against the railing. She looks down straight at Clear and there is a moment of recognition that passes between them. It lasts just a second as Kokoro rolls herself out of the way of an incoming deadly strike against the railing. Cut in half, the integrity of the metal pole is weakened enough to send a small piece of it flying towards Clear. She hops out of the way.

    Koure: "Ah. Captain. You're back."

    Clear turns suddenly to see the falleen slowly approaching her.

    Koure: "I didn't expect you to come back in one piece. I hope you managed to kill at least one of them before you ran away?"

    Clear: "I... ah... saw Kassuin. He killed Green. I saw Pully but I think he got her too. I had to run."

    Aellisin shakes his head slowly.

    Koure: "Captain Clear. Cowardice doesn't become you."

    He walks past her unhurriedly and she follows him. She hears a shout of aggression from Ffion.

    Lymn: "Come back to me, Ffion!"

    Heul: "Don't waste your breath, Kokoro. You betrayed me. You betrayed us. You betrayed our master!"

    Lymn: "Listen to yourself! Master!? When do Ćon Knights bow to masters!?"

    Heul: "You'll soon be dead, Kokoro. Then you'll understand."

    Lymn: "I know you're fighting his control over you, Ffion! If you weren't holding back, I'd be dead by now..."

    Heul: "Stop talking!"

    Aellisin chuckles.

    Koure: "Aren't they entertaining? The drama! To be so young again would be a wonderful thing. Instead I simply have old debts to pay. I truly wish Izep could be here now to see this moment. I honestly don't know if he'd cry or if he'd relish the day that Tangris was brought to its knees. You know I had a group of students send me a video begging me to spare their world? It was almost sickening to watch them grovelling."

    He reaches the top of the stairs and turns his attention away from the fighting friends towards the systems that Clear doesn't recognise.

    Koure: "You, my dear Captain, have been the ultimate gift. You and your fine ship. The power this single vessel holds will surrender the entire empire to me. Then the rebels and then everything else that stands in my way. I did consider demanding that princess friend of yours be handed over to me before I destroy the planet. But honestly. I think I'd rather just blast Earth to pieces too. Who wants to own a backwater planet like that anyway? Humanity. They're as stuck in the past as the fools of Tangris."

    He looks up at a monitor display power levels that are all rising.

    Koure: "That power core you put in this ship, by the way... fascinating. This ship has so much to explore. I'm going to enjoy it thoroughly, I assure you."

    With his back to her Clear leaps at him, ready to strike his mane. But she finds herself suddenly suspended in the air, unable to move an inch.

    Koure: "Interestingly part of the weapon's components require carbonite inserts to trigger a chain reaction. Each insert has already been placed, but if they weren't I could use the carbonite flash freeze machine over there to instantly create new ones. Whoever designed this weapon obviously wanted it to be used. And often."

    He turns to look up at Clear dangling in the air. He moves his hand, and thus her. She swings across the room as solid as a statue. She sees the carbonite flash freezing machine before she even gets near it. A pit in the floor that stretches down to the first tier where the pipes pumping in carbon and tibanna gas would connect to the main shaft. Within that shaft the mixture would be flash frozen and provide solid carbonite as inserts for the weapon. If she were inside that pit when it was activated...

    She tries to move and fight but only manages to wriggle her limbs about.

    Clear: "Let me go!"

    Koure: "You will make a nice trophy, Captain. A beautiful work of art for me to admire. I'm actually glad you came back. Being killed by Kassuin would have been a waste. Shame about your friends."

    Kassuin: "She lied."

    Clear is suddenly dropped. She slams against the edge of the pit with a loud clang. The pain rips through her body but she doesn't dwell on it because she has to suddenly scramble to stall her fall into that pit. She manages to grab the grate of the second tier floor and yank her legs back out of the shaft.

    She looks up. Kassuin holds his hand out and, in an instant, a red blade of energy springs forth. Aellisin stares at Kassuin and, without breaking that stare, he summons his own ruhand with a crackle of red lightning. Though Clear knows she doesn't want Aellisin to win, she isn't sure she really wants Kassuin to win either...

  3. #43
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Dark Side

    Aellisin Koure, with ruhand in one hand, opens his other palm.

    Kassuin:
    "Powerful you have become, Knight. Great darkness I sense in you."

    Koure: "I have become more powerful than any Lord. Even you."

    In his open palm energy begins to surface and crackle. He lashes out suddenly and red lightning springs through the air. It twists and writhes as it screams across the room, striking the metal floor, computer consoles, the ceiling. Clear herself is jolted backwards by a rogue snap of soul-induced lightning. She rolls across the metal grates until she comes to a slow stop where she tries to look up to see what happened. Lord Kassuin has his own free hand stretched out and the lightning is being absorbed into a white sphere. When he's done the lightning is gone and the room seems all the darker without it.

    Kassuin: "You still have much to learn."

    Koure: "Hm. It is obvious that this contest cannot be decided by our knowledge of the soul... but by our skills with the ruhand."

    Aellisin's mane flares red and he leaps into the air, crossing the distance between him and Lord Kassuin in an instant. Kassuin's ruhand rockets upwards to block the Falleen's downward strike. Block made, Aellisin jumps back a step, avoiding a counterstrike from Kassuin. Aellisin holds his ruhand with two hands, placing more weight into his strikes, while Kassuin continues to use just one hand, giving him more agility.

    Clear turns from them. She just hopes that Lord Kassuin is up to the task. If he isn't, then she can, at least, stop her own ship being the demise of thousands. She runs across the grates towards the consoles at the far end. She looks at the screens and finds the countdown. Then the power levels. She presses a few buttons and lowers one of the power coils, resulting in a satisfying 'powering-down sound'. She accesses a second power coil but is suddenly whipped up into the air. Aellisin must have caught her in the corner of his eye. She manages to wriggle and struggle, evidence that his grip on her is weaker this time, but she's still unable to do anything while suspended helplessly in the air.

    Koure: "Stop your attack or I kill the salmitton!"

    From where she is she can see Aellisin standing off from Kassuin. Kassuin looks over to Clear and then back to Koure.

    Kassuin: "I care not for the girl. I am no daoine, Knight. You mistake me for someone else."

    Kassuin thrusts at Aellisin but he dodges out of the way. Clear suddenly finds herself flying through the air with great speed. She collides with Kassuin, bowling him over. Her roll ends, this time, next to the railing and legs swing off. She's able to grab the metal bars before falling and glances down at what would have been her demise. She sees her friends fighting each other below. Their ruhands are being projected without the use of their hilts and their attacks seem just as ferocious as the older men. Kokoro Lymn, however, seems less able with her sword than Ffion Heul, though Ffion seems to be clouded or holding back whenever it looks like she is in an advantageous position. Clear notices that while Kokoro's sword is stark white, Ffion's has a soft pinkness to it.

    Lymn: "You were supposed to balance your soul, not leave it in darkness!"

    Heul: "I hate you!"

    Lymn: "You're my sister, Ffion! I love you."

    Their swords clash. Clear scrambles up and stares down at them. She glances back to the consoles. On her hip she feels the pouch and opens it up. It seems Kassuin didn't use it all up when restoring Clear's senses. She has to get this into Ffion. But she has to save the planet first...

    She runs across the grates again but, again, her movement attracts the attention of Aellisin and she's suspended into the air. Kassuin, however, uses his own telekinesis to bring down the ceiling ontop of Aellisin. It doesn't do much damage to the dark knight but it does distract him enough to drop Clear. She lands on her feet like a cat and rushes to the console. Another cylinder powered down.

    Koure: "NO!"

    Aellisin again snags Clear's leg and yanks it hard, pulling it out of its socket just before he has to resume attention on defending from Kassuin. Clear screams out in agony and falls to the floor. She wants to stop the pain but there's nothing she can do, no way to put the leg back. She writhes as pain washes over her mind. She can't consider anything else. Blue tears stream from her eyes.

    It takes a while for her to push her mind back into focus and she pulls her back up against the console bank. Putting her weight onto just one leg, she climbs up the machine and hits the slider for a third cylinder of the weapon. It powers down.


    The room suddenly erupts in red explosions. Blasts appear in thin air and explode in small bursts of flame and force. One explodes not far from Clear and she is thrown back down. Kassuin jumps and dives out of the way of them as they congregate around him. As one bursts in front of him he manages to absorb it as he had done the lightning. But this act leaves him temporarily exposed and Aellisin runs at him with a sudden thrust of the red ruhand. Kassuin twists to the side but his waist is seared.

    Koure:
    "I have first strike. Are you concerned yet?"

    He laughs and attempts to strike again but Kassuin is able to quickly block the strike and uses his telekinesis to blast Aellisin back. Clear gets to her single foot again and powers down the fourth, and final, cylinder. The lights in the room, that remain, flicker wildly for a brief moment before the voice of Mother is finally heard.

    Mother:
    "Weapon off-line."

    Koure: "Stupid ingrate!"

    He shouts at her.


    Koure: "Once I'm finished with this Ćon fool, I'll render the rest of your limbs obsolete, salmitton!"

    Clear tries to walk along the grates but falls down without the use of her second leg. She begins crawling, crying and moaning in pain the whole way.

    Koure: "You've only delayed the inevitable. Once you're dead, Ćon, I'll reactivate the weapon and your corrupt little planet will be annihilated."

    Kassuin: "You won't defeat me, Knight."

    Clear reaches the edge of the second tier again and peers down. Kokoro and Ffion are still fighting. She's trying to decide how best to get down there when Ffion glances up and spots Clear. A nasty smile appears on her face and suddenly she uses her own telekinesis to pull Clear through the railings and tries to drop her ontop of Kokoro. The consular, however, holds her hand upwards and is able to use her greater powers of the soul to lock Clear in place.

    Lymn: "You'd attack Clear too, Ffion? You have allowed this dark knight to twist your mind and you've become the very thing you swore to never be!"

    Heul: "Don't lecture me, Kokoro! I see through the lies of the Ćon Lords! I no longer fear the darkness as you do. I will bring peace, freedom, justice and security to my new empire!"

    Lymn: "Your new empire?"

    Heul: "Don't make me kill you."

    Lymn: "You know I won't betray the Ćon Lords..."

    Heul: "Then, if you're not with me, you're my enemy."

    Lymn: "Only an Aos Sí or a daoine deals in such absolutes."

    Clear reaches down towards Kokoro.

    Lymn: "I will do what I must."

    Heul: "You will try."

    Ffion hurtles forward and, suddenly, her ruhand sinks through Kokoro's stomach. Ffion looks shocked and horrified, evidently expecting her friend to deftly avoid the attack. Kokoro reaches out and pulls Ffion closer with one hand, with the other she quickly forces the datura powder, which Clear had dropped when she reached out to Kokoro from above, into Ffion's mouth. Ffion recoils, spluttering. The ruhand pulls cleanly free and Kokoro drops to her knees. Slowly Clear is lowered to the ground until, abruptly, she plummets the last metre. She lands with a howl but she sees that Kokoro's eyes are closed. Pink goo oozes from the ruhand wound, which has pierced straight through her body. Clear reaches out to try and shake Kokoro awake.

    A second voice howls in pain and then the body of Lord Kassuin flies over the top of the railing and crashes into the wall at the far end of the room. He then peels off of the metal and falls, face first, into the floor. Motionless. From the second tier comes Aellisin Koure, floating through the air as he uses telekinesis upon himself. He slowly and gently lowers himself to the ground, staring with happy malice at Clear the whole time.

    Koure: "I see the Muovinian is dead already. It turns out the genetic mankeup of her species is immune to the pheromones of the falleen. I'll have to keep that in mind in future... as for you, salmitton."

    He stands over her.

    Koure: "Which limb is next? How about the other leg?"

    Clear screams as her other leg is now pulled from its socket. She clutches her hips, then her head, trying to somehow deal with the incredible pain. She feels sick.

    Koure: "Next your arms. Then your neck. You'll be suffering when--"

    Heul: "Get away from her!"

    Aellisin looks up.

    Koure:
    "Seems there must be some datura powder aboard. One female escaping my control can happen from time to time. Two? Student, you would dare to challenge your teacher?"

    Heul: "I was not of my own mind. You manipulated me. I would never have allowed myself to be trained by a dark knight like you!"

    Clear can see the anger and rage on Ffion's face, clearly upset by the death of her sister and being used by someone else. She extends her ruhand again, this time is is even more red than before. She growls at Aellisin.

    Koure: "Good! Use your aggressive feelings, girl. Let the hate flow through you!"

    Aellisin circles around Clear and Kokoro's body, focusing his attention on his student.


    Koure:
    "Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant."

    Ffion's hands begin to shake, torn between lust for revenge and the preservation of her soul.

    Heul:
    "No..."

    Koure:
    "It is unavoidable. It is your destiny. You are now mine."

    Heul:
    "No!"

    She lunges with her ruhand. Aellisin easily avoids the attack and sheaths his own ruhand, causing the red beam to disappear. He seems happier than ever.

    Clear: "Your overconfidence is your weakness, Aellisin!"

    Koure: "And your faith in your friends is yours!"

    He gestures towards Kokoro.

    Koure: "This one defied me. She is no more. Even your Lord is... yet living it seems."

    Aellisin's attention is drawn, Clear supposes, to the signs of life within Kassuin's soul.

    Heul: "You'll have to deal with me first!"

    Koure: "You begin to test my patience, Ffion Heul. You are my apprentice. My last student refused to yield too. He is no longer living. You would be wise to lower your ruhand."

    Through tears of emotional pain Ffion, finally, gives in and lowers her sword. She's lost and confused and filled with regret. Clear doesn't call out though. Not yet. She doesn't want Aellisin's attention on her.

    Koure: "Good. Deal with the salmitton. I shall finish off the Ćon Lord."

    Clear looks up at Ffion with wide eyes. Ffion watches her mentor approach the prone figure of Kassuin but then turns towards Clear. Her ruhand is still drawn and the young student looks down at it... then back to Clear.

    Clear: "Wa-wait, Ffion!"

    Heul: "I've lost everything Clear. My friend. My soul. My honour. My dignity. There's only one path left for me..."

    She walks towards Clear.

    Clear: "Ffion! That's not true! I know things seem desperate right now... but there's life beyond this!"

    Clear tries to pull herself away from the encroaching student but her non-functioning legs are dead weight and she doesn't get far. Ffion stands over her, sword poised over Clear's chest.

    Clear: "Ffion... don't..."

    Ffion manages to speak through her own tears.

    Heul: "I'm sorr--ack!"

    Ffion Heul flies to the left, through the air, with such force that she lands amidst computers at the far end of the room. Clear turns, thinking she would see Kassuin, but it's Kokoro. The student lowers her arm back down and rests her head, once again, on the metal floor.

    Clear: "Kokoro... are you okay?"

    Lymn: "I don't think so, Clear. If you... if you speak to Ffion again... tell her I hope she can be better..."

    Clear struggles to reach Kokoro and pull herself along side the other woman.

    Clear: "You can tell her yourself. I'm not your errand girl."

    She has no idea how to plug the goop. There seem to be no internal organs anywhere, just goop. In places it has begun to coagulate into a firmer mass. Clear puts her hands on the wound, trying to keep the goo inside. She looks over to Aellisin. He stands at a distance from Kassuin's body and has a large, pointed, piece of debris hanging over the Lord. He violently drops his hand and the debris crashes downwards, smothering the body. What he doesn't see, but Clear does, is the real Kassuin sneaking up behind him. Once the body is covered, Kassuin flicks his wrist and his ruhand springs forth. It cuts into Aellisin's neck where it remains for a long moment until Kassuin, satisfied with his act, spins to slice off the renegade's head.

    Clear: "How..."

    Kokoro: "Soul projection... He's an Ćon Lord for a reason. Aellisin should have known better..."

    Kassuin strides towards them.

    Kassuin:
    "You both did well. Very brave. I'm impressed and I thank you on behalf of the Ćon Lords and the Aos Sí."

    Clear: "I think... we really need... Thrain..."

    Kassuin: "Who?"

    Clear: "Doctor..."

    Kassuin crouches down and runs his hands an inch away from Clear's body until he finds the breaks. He looks into her eyes.

    Kassuin: "This will hurt."

    Clear: "It already hu--ARGH!"

    He uses telekinesis to put the bone back into its socket. He runs his hand over the second leg.


    Clear: "Oh no... wait... please... I ca--ARGH!!"

    He does the same again.


    Kassuin: "Do not move. They're back in place but you're going to need real medical treatment before you can use them again. That was the easy part. Now..."

    He turns to Kokoro.

    Kassuin: "I am no healer."

    Kokoro: "I know..."

    Kassuin:
    "But you are. I want you to exert your soul to boost mine. I know you've never trained for that, but I saw you projecting your own ruhand. You have the power. Think of it in the same way, just be careful not to project your soul in physical form or you'll wind up stabbing a sword through my skull."

    Kokoro: "This isn't the time for... jokes..."

    Kassuin: "I am not joking. No swords, please."

    Kokoro breathes deep and closes her eyes to concentrate. Her face suddenly looks serene and trace-like. Kassuin's hands are now over Kokoro's wound and a faint blue glow ebbs from them. Clear can only feel hope at this point. She truly believes that Kassuin can save her friend. They've come so far...

    Kassuin seems to strain as his forehead creases. Clear holds her breath.

    Kassuin falls back and pants with effort.


    Kassuin: "I'll never look down on healers again. I swear."

    Clear looks at the wound. It looks terrible. But it isn't oozing anymore.

    Kassuin rises.


    Kassuin:
    "I've done all I can. The doctors will have to do the rest."

    The next hour is something of a daze for Clear as she slips in and out of unconsciousness. As she does she thinks she remembers some of the time she spent under the influence of Aellisin's pheromones - leading him to the weapon room, giving him access to the systems, ordering Mother to accept his commands. She sees Alexis Thrain come in and start tending to Kokoro with bacta gel. Other Ćon show up and start helping. Together they use their powers to carry Kokoro through the air, then Clear and then, finally, Ffion who is unconscious with a nasty cut on her head. She hears Alexis talking, mostly complaining about alien genetics being so foreign to her.

    As she is carried from the weapon room she overhears Kassuin talking to one of the other knights.


    Kassuin: "Where is my student? Why isn't he here!?"

    Ćon Knight: "He went back down to the planet, Lord Kassuin. He said you were sending him there on a mission."

    Kassuin: "I did no such thing. What could he be up to at a time like this!?"

    Another lord approaches.

    Ćon Lord: "Lord Kassuin, your student has gone awol."

    Kassuin: "As I've just been disgussing."

    Ćon Lord: "I mean he's taken a ship and left Tangris. He's just jumped into hyperspace."

    Kassuin: "What!? Why?"

    Ćon Lord: "I was hoping you'd tell me."

    Clear: "Do you want to follow him?"

    Kassuin looks down at her. The lift doors open.

    Kassuin:
    "Yes. I'll tell the others they're free to leave in the next twenty minutes. Then we jump."

    Clear: "Not a problem. Mother..."

    Mother: "I am here."

    Clear: "Prepare to jump."

  4. #44
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    The Chase

    Clear stares up at the now familiar tiled ceiling of the medbay. How many times has she had to come here? Too many. She turns her head to the right and sees Kokoro lying on the only other medical bed, the muovinian's eyes closed as she sleeps through the pain of her ordeal. Thrain assured Clear that Kokoro would be just fine. A quick bit of research revealed that muovinians are made of a strange plastic-like substance that oozes throughout their bodies and coagulates when exposed to the air. Thanks to Kassuin's efforts, most of the 'bleeding' was stopped and the plastic-ooze is solidifying around the wound even now. Thrain had already sewn up the hole and Kokoro's body is doing the rest. Painful though and so Thrain put the young knight into a chemically induced coma.

    Clear turns her head to the left. There are only two beds in the medbay, something Clear now recognises as a major flaw. On the floor is a makeshift mattress made from cloth produced in the synthesiser room. Ffion Heul lies there with her back to Clear. Clear knows she's not sleeping. When Ffion first woke up she wailed and lamented her actions, both those under Aellisin Koure's control and those of her own, albeit muddled, mind. Then she shut down, rolled over and didn't speak. She barely responded to Thrain's attempts to help her fix the gash in her skull. An injection of pain-killer later and Ffion stopped responding altogether. Clear wants to throw something at the stupid woman.


    It doesn't seem fair to Clear that Ffion gets to lament and feel sorry for herself after almost killing both Clear and Kokoro. Ffion should be at Clear's bed, helping Thrain, not curling up and blocking everything out. She has making up to do and shutting herself off isn't helping. Clear doesn't even know if she can actually forgive Ffion. Before the incident they were great friends but having your friend prepared to kill you, even in such a breaking point of the psyche, is an experience Clear doesn't think she can ever forget.

    The doors to the medbay slide open and Kassuin enters. His eyes scan all three prone women before settling on Clear, the only one still conscious.


    Kassuin: "How do you fare?"

    Clear: "I'm fine. Alexis--"

    Thrain: "Thrain."

    Clear: "--tells me you did most of the work. I'm on pain-killers now. I can't feel anything below the waist."

    Kassuin: "Good."

    Clear: "Mother says she's ready to jump. But the jump drives are stupid and old. These beds have their own little gravity wells in them to keep me and Kokoro pinned to the beds during the jump, but Ffion needs to be held up to the wall. Could you... help?"

    Kassuin doesn't reply verbally. He marches over to Ffion and hoists her with his telekinesis. He hovers her over to the wall. She lies flat against the white metal wall and stares off vacantly into the middle distance. Kassuin positions himself against the wall.

    Kassuin: "Whenever you are ready."

    Alexis Thrain, likewise, stands close to the wall.

    Clear: "Mother. Jump."

    The world around them blurs to blue, then to redshift. The red colour creates a beautiful pink effects over Kassuin's skin that is strangely mesmerising. Ffion seems not to even notice that she's hurtling through space at impossible speeds, whizzing faster than light across the Perseus Arm. Then they slow down and Kassuin falls from the wall one knee. Just before Ffion topples to smack against the hard floor he thrust his arm in her direction and props her up with the power of his soul. The power of the Force, as Ffion often called it.

    Mother: "We have arrived. We are being hailed."

    Clear: "By whom?"

    Mother: "Captain Rynard of The Majestic."

    Clear: "Pully. Can you deal with the comm?"

    Pully: "Sure thing. I'm in the Command Centre now."

    Clear: "Mother, relay the video comm to the medbay screens."

    The screens of the medbay instantly shine on and are split in two halves. One half shows Pully. She seems unharmed, despite the aggressive action Clear had to use on her earlier. The second screen then flickers to life and the beared face of Captain Rynard appears. Clear glances at a second screen which displays the action and information going on outside The Hopeless. Usually everything could be displayed on the gigantic single screen of the Command Centre, but the smaller screens of the medbay, usually reserved for medical read-outs, can only accommodate so much information each. She notes that The Majestic is not the only ship out there.

    Captain Rynard: "You are warned to vacant Imperial space immediately."

    Pully: "Why's that?"

    Captain Rynard: "You have already allied yourself with the, no, traitor Aellisin Koure and you are violating a military engagement."

    Kassuin: "I have just received a communication from Tangris, Captain Clear."

    Clear: "What is it?"

    Kassuin: "My student, Jeb... he has kidnapped your friend, the princess."

    Clear: "What!?"

    She stares at the monitor showing the outward events. She sees The Majestic slowly approaching Jeb's Ćon ship but a squadron of smaller starfighters are attempting to herd the ship back towards the Majestic. Their firing patterns are clearly non-lethal and their attack pattern places their own fighters directly in the flight path of the Ćon craft.

    Kassuin: "He intends to capture Jeb. Why?"

    Clear: "Ask him why he's trying to capture the Ćon ship, Pully."

    Pully: "Captain Rynard, why are you trying to capture the Ćon ship? That ship is being piloted by an Ćon student wanted by the Ćon Order of Tangris. You have no rights to hinder us in taking him in."

    Captain Rynard: "I can see this conversation isn't going to go anywhere. If you try to interfere you will be fired upon."

    Rynard's screen goes blank.

    Pully: "Sensible man."

    Clear: "Stop admiring him."

    Clear thinks back to Mirare and the words of Lumo, the old grey. Evidently Captain Rynard and Present S. Polk are well aware of Princess Aurora's lineage and hidden ability to control the magical beings of Earth.

    Kassuin: "Once that tractor is on Jeb, he's captured an there's nothing we can do about it."

    Clear: "Actually there is something I can do about that. But I need to get to the Bug."

    Thrain: "You can't walk, let alone pilot a ship."

    Clear: "I don't need my legs to pilot the Bug. I just need to get down there."

    The doctor sighs.

    Thrain: "Nobody listens to me. When you come back here complaining that your joints haven't set properly, expect me to bask in the 'I told you so' line. There's a hover chair at the back of the room, the one first used by Princess Briarose before she got her own chair on Dacato."

    Alexis comes back pushing the hover chair. With the help of Kassuin Clear is soon in the chair. She hovers out of the medbay and through the corridors towards the hangar. Kassuin joins her.

    Clear: "Pully, stay in the Command Centre. Green, are you at the hangar now?"

    Green: "Hello Clear!"

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "Hello Green. Are you in the hangar?"

    Green: "Yes! It's really cold down here."

    Clear: "I know. I won't be long and we'll be in the nice warm Bug. Okay?"

    Green: "I'll open it now."

    Clear: "Good idea."

    She looks up at the tall Ćon Lord.

    Clear: "Are you sure you're okay to do this? It's going to be dangerous, just you against all those fighters..."

    Kassuin: "The TIE fighters are designed en masse. No shields and flimsy armour. Quantity over quality was the idea. Inside my own ship, I'll be a object of death. I assure you, I am not concerned."

    Clear: "Right... just remember you have to keep me safe too."

    Kassuin:
    "I'll try to remember that."

    That doesn't comfort Clear, especially when she knows he doesn't especially value her life. It is difficult to trust a man that doesn't care if you live or die - however she does believe she can trust him to keep her alive so long as she's necessary for the mission. She passes her bedroom door and wishes she could just go and curl up in bed for a few hours with a nice bottle of exotic spirits.

    The doors to the hangar open and she realises how difficult life in a hover chair must be for Aurora. Stairs.

    She fiddles with the chair settings, having now idea how to set it to 'hover-down-stairs-mode'. Kassuin, already at the bottom, grows impatient and uses his telekinesis to lift Clear up and lower her to the hangar floor. Clear nods her thanks at him, feeling quite embarrassed.

    Green stands in the doorway of the Bug and waves Clear over. Kassuin heads towards his own Ćon ship. She glances the other way to see the Ćon ship of Aellisin Koure and wonders if she'll get to keep it for herself. It'd be no use to her now, but the thing is armed and dangerous and might be a useful weapon in the future. Plus it's quite pretty and sure beats her old hunk-of-junk Bug. Yet for all its worthlessness, it dos have one or two points that make the old girl invaluable. Like today.

    Clear ascends the short ramp into the Bug and gets into the cockpit. She hoists herself out of the hover chair and into the pilot's seat. Green moves the chair to the living room and returns when Clear has the Bug in the air. They quickly zoom free of the hangar and enter the vacuum of space. Her radar shows Jeb's ship being slowly encouraged towards The Majestic. Then Kassuin's ship leaves The Hopeless and falls in beside the Bug.

    Kassuin: "I'm going to open a communication with my student and try to get him to cooperate with us."

    Clear:
    "Any idea why he'd kidnap Aurora?"

    Kassuin: "I have heard tell of a group of his species that call themselves the Latter-Day Greys of Memnoch. They have sought out Princess Briarose before, I believe. All of that is speculation though. I never suspected my own student would be a member of such a group. Even now... I am surprised he would be dedicated to anything other than himself or the Ćon Order."

    Clear remembers that Lumo mentioned that group. They were the ones that had kidnapped her previously and took her to Earth. Clear feels like she's getting herself involved in something much bigger than herself but she has no choice - she can't allow the humans to get even more power and destroy the lives of more aliens in the galaxy.

    Kassuin falls silent, engaged in private audience with Jeb. Their flight path takes them directly between The Majestic and Jeb's ship, but the flight path of Jeb takes him ever-closer towards the large capital ship. She wonders if she can possibly make it in time. Then she spies a second squadron of TIE fighters exit The Majestic and head straight for her. She hopes that Kassuin is truly enough to keep the fighters off of her. The Bug has nothing in the way of offensive capabilities and very little in defence. She now wonders if this really was such a great idea after all...

    The TIEs swoop in from above and Kassuin opens fire first. The green bolts blast forth. Clear notices that they deviate, slightly, from their standard trajectory to track their targets. The blasts don't start whizzes around after their enemies, but that slight tracking motion allows more hits to land. Two TIEs are blown apart in the first wave and the Ćon Lrd successfully attracts the attention of the entire squadron, leaving Clear free to continue her flight path straight for the intended flight path of Jeb's ship.

    Green climbs into the co-pilot's seat. Her voice rattles over the old communicator attached to Clear's chest.


    Green: "This is really exciting!"

    Clear: "A little bit too exciting for me, Green."

    Clear only kept the old chest-communicator now for Green's benefit. The only two remaining, the third having burnt up along with Hebedee, are tied exclusively to The Hopeless and cannot be used to chat with another communicators out there. An entirely closed system for just her and Green.

    Green: "I know you like it really."

    Clear has to concede that a big part of Clear is beginning to enjoy the space romps as of late. She constantly longed to return to Mars and live her old, sedentary life - but in her heart she shows she'd probably miss all of the adventure and all of the action of her new life. Yet, still, she would jump at the chance to return to the Sol System.

    A wing of fighters seems to spot Clear and, at least curious, have broken off their pursuit of Jeb and head straight for the Bug. Clear panics. Mars is sounding very nice about now. But, suddenly, another ship flares into view. Clear hadn't noticed the new blip on her radar but thanks whatever gods are out there that it showed up when it did. The Ćon ship, which Clear knows to be named Nach, angrily blasts apart one of the TIEs and the remaining grey ships scatter. The yellow streak of Nach passes by the Bug and pursues one of the TIEs.

    Clear:
    "Thank you Ffion."

    Heul: "I have a lot more to do before I deserve that thanks."

    Clear pauses.

    Clear: "Yes you do. There's at least three more out there. That's a start."

    Another TIE is vaporised from the radar, marking Ffion's dedication to that task.


    Green: "Wow! Ms Heul really is awesome!"

    Clear: "She can be, Green. She can be."

    Kassuin: "Jeb reports that he's already been locked in the tractor beam. He's being pulled into the Majestic's hangar. Captain, if you're going to do something now would be the time."

    Clear already has the Bug running at full power. She flips a few switches and diverts power away from her shields and into the engines.

    Green: "That doesn't seem very safe..."

    Clear: "It's not. Ffion. I really need you with me."

    Heul: "I'm right beside you."

    The remaining fighters that had been herding Jeb into tractor range, now break off their original tactics and swarm towards Clear and Ffion. Jeb's ship can do nothing but be reeled in by he much larger vessel.

    Heul: "Ffion... I have no shields here."

    In response Ffion's ship barrel rolls in front of the Bug and urges forward, possessing much greater speed and manoeuvrability than Clear's clunky old thing. The Nach deploys a large warhead. The bomb hurtles forward and the TIEs are forced to either scatter or die. When it explodes the force of the blasts knocks out two of the fleeing TIEs, slamming the frail ships with concussive force that causes them to smash into each other. The Bug itself rocks from the blast but its too far away to be damaged. The Nach passes through the blast radius first and Clear follows it.

    She finally in range of Jeb's ship.

    She activates the tractor sheers.


    Jeb's green Ćon ship shudders and hangs limply in the air for a moment. Clear guesses Jeb doesn't understand what has suddenly happened. Then his engines flare up again and he's away. Clear imagines the rage of Captain Rynard with smug satisfaction.

    But without Jeb's ship being lured in, there's nothing to stop TIEs from pouring out. Apparently Rynard really is very mad. Starfighters cascade from the hangar and Clear swerves the Bug back around towards The Hopeless. As she goes she sees Kassuin's ship headed towards her, having taken out the entire squadron single-handedly. Clear almost fears the very idea but is grateful that, for now, he's on her side. She continues to kick extra power to the engines. With nothing before her, her best defence is speed.


    Heul: "Ack! My shields are down!"

    Kassuin: "Jeb. Help her."

    Jeb's ship continues to speed away from the scene.

    Kassuin: "Student! Do as I tell you!"

    Jeb pays no heed as he roars away from The Majestic, leaving Ffion to her fate.

    Green throws her arms into the air and Clear sees plants start springing up on the hull of the Bug. They twirl in the air and then, like deadly giant sugar-daddies of dandelions, drift towards the mass of TIEs headed at Ffion. A spore connects with a TIE and it instantly turns into a dead-weight, its power drained, and drifts careless through the vacuum until it collides with one of its squad mates and causes them both to explode. Seeing this, the TIEs swerve and dodge to avoid the incoming missiles. More and more dandelion pollen generates and starts to drift through space like deep sea mines. TIEs jerk and swerve to avoid these obstacles. The Nach, given more breathing room from blaster fire, deftly manages to avoid the incoming beacons. Ffion bursts out of the mine field and soars up and away, giving time for the shields to recharge. Kassuin sweeps close to the Bug, firing off shots into the minefield, adding extra hazard to the unfortunate TIE pilots.

    A bleeping begins on Clear's sensors. Jeb has jumped. Clear snarls at the sensor, as though it has wronged her.


    Clear: "Mother."

    Mother: "Yes Clear?"

    Clear: "Trace the jump signature again. We're returning. As soon as we're aboard, make the jump."

    Likewise it seems the TIE fighters are returning to The Majestic, having taken a lot of casualties. Clear imagines someone is going to be demoted for this blunder aboard the Imperial command ship. The Bug slides into the hangar and the oxygen shields with a light ping noise. Then come the two Ćon ships, which both land softly onto the deck. The sleek yellow slip of Ffion's craft and the bulkier frame of Kassuin's. Clear doesn't get out of the Bug. The world redshifts.

    When it settles again she checks the sensors. Rebel space and a lot of ships out there. Jeb's ship is veering straight away from the rebel fleet and communications are going wild.

    Clear: "Pully, address the communications. Tell them the truth. We're pursuing the renegade Ćon who has Princess Aurora captive and intends to take her to Earth."

    Pully: "It's your boyfriend."

    Clear: "Just tell him I'm too busy."

    Pully: "So you admit he's your boyfriend!?"

    Clear: "What? No! Pully!"

    Pully: "I'm on it. I'll tell him you were thinking about him."

    Clear: "Don't! Pull--! *****..."

    Green is giggling in her seat beside Clear.

    Clear: "Don't you start too."

    Green: "I think it's cute. He's a handsome man!"

    Clear: "Green, I don't even think you know what a handsome man is."

    Green: "You think I've never been with a man?"

    She gives Clear a sidelong, sly smirk and, in a single instant, Clear sees Green not as the silly-headed girl but as a woman well capable of judging people for who they really are. She's about to say something when she sees Jeb make a quick jump out of the system.

    Clear: "Mother!"

    Mother: "Ready to jump."

    Clear: "Now."

    They go to lightspeed and beyond. When the world crashes back into place Clear has to take a moment to catch her breath. The jump was a long one. She checks her scans.

    Clear: "Oh wow..."

    On her viewscreen display she sees the dwarf planet outside in its binary orbit with the much smaller ball of rock and ice known as Charon. Pluto is the largest object of the Kuiper belt - the belt lurking on the edge of the Sol System. Clear's home system.

    Clear: "Green... we're home!"

    Jeb's ship shows up on the sensors. He cruises in close to Charon before shooting off into hyperspace again.

    Pully: "Risky move so close to the system's sun..."

    Clear:"Wedon't have much choice... Mother can you mimic the jump and avoid the localbodies?"

    Mother: "Affirmative. Ready to jump on your mark."

    Clear: "... do it."

  5. #45
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Project Earth

    Non-Story Post: This posts ties with several other posts contained within different Stories.

    Hero Force One: Post #64
    The Never-ending Story2: Post #1917
    The Pantheon: Post #11

    -----------

    The Hopeless slams out of hyperspace at sudden force. The jump is a small one and a difficult one to judge from within the system itself. Normally ships will speed through at sub-light speeds, especially large capital ships. But they had little option if they want to catch Jeb before he succeeds in doing... whatever he plans to do. The moon, otherwise known as Luna by more space-savvy explorers, spins just before The Hopeless.


    Pully: "That was close."

    Clear: "Where's Jeb?"

    Mother: "The ship has entered Earth's atmosphere."

    Pully: "We're too late. We'll have to go... planetside..."

    Clear: "I... I don't know..."

    Pully: "Clear?"

    The very notion of stepping foot on Earth sickens Clear. A thick wad of hate nestles in her stomach and her spine tingles with animosity. How can she step foot on the world responsible for her whole race being buried? She grits her teeth.

    Clear: "Okay fine--"

    Mother: "Incoming communication."

    Clear: "Who from?"

    Mother: "The addresser is marked as Doctor R. Deep."

    Clear: "A doctor? Weird. Is he from Earth?"

    Mother: "Perhaps you should find out for yourself, Clear?"

    Clear: "I hope you're not being cocky, Mother..."

    Mother: "Of course not."

    Clear: "Pully, take the communication. Let them know the situation. They're probably Earth military. We'll go d--"

    Suddenly the sensor lights up with another ship. The Majestic. Captain Rynard has followed them all the way to the Earth but this time he isn't alone. Other capital ships have joined him. The Majestic is the only Galleon-class ship present, the rest are the dreaded Star Destroyers. Clear surmises that a fleet this size could only be sanctioned by the President of the Empire himself. Clearly Lumo was right - Clear was being used by the President all along. TIE fighters and TIE interceptors begin pouring out of the Star Destroyers. From the Majestic itself come lambda class shuttles, presumably filled with stormtroopers. They'll be headed after Jeb too.

    Pully: "Clear. This doctor says he's already sent someone after Jeb and the princess on the surface. His priority it stopping the imperials though. Essentially his team will keep them busy while you go down to the surface."

    Kassuin: "A single team against this!?"

    Pully: "There's not much choice."

    Kassuin: "Heul. Izep trained you well. I believe you stand a good chance against my student. He is a skilled consular but lacks determination. Take advantage of that."

    Heul: "Lord Kassuin?"

    Kassuin: "I will assist the Earthers against the Empire. I am responsible for this invasion. I owe them my assistance. They'll need someone familiar with the enemy ships to infiltrate them."

    Clear: "Infiltrate them!?"

    Kassuin: "I know what I'm doing, captain. Stop my student. I, and the Earthers, shall keep the enemy busy."

    Pully: "Hey, wait! I want to come!"

    Clear: "Sorry Pully, there's no time. Besides, I need someone here while I'm gone."

    Pully: "I regret stepping foot in this bloody Command Centre."

    Clear re-activates the Bug's engines and the small craft cruises out of the hangar, followed by Ffion Heul and Lord Kassuin. Kassuin breaks off and Clear and Ffion head towards the Earth. Although she knows Kassuin wouldn't be phased by Clear's death, she can't help but feel sorry for his probable demise against such odds. Hopefully Earth's warriors are the mightiest on offer.

    Then, as though to answer her fears, yet more ships burst into the system. The Rebel Alliance.


    Pully: "Clear. Your boyfriend is hailing again."

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "I'll take this one."

    Pully: "Want an intimate moment before the action, eh?"

    Clear: "Pully, I'm going to put you into the hospital when I get back."

    Pully: "I owe you grief. You totally battered me in that lift..."

    Clear: "For you own good."

    Pully: "I berate you about your fancy man for your own good."

    Clear: "You really need a good sm--"

    Lander: "Clear?"

    Clear: "--ack! Captain Lander!"

    Lander: "You're supposed to call me Ace, remember?"

    Clear: "Not if you're here to arrest me."

    Lander: "I'm here to help you save the galaxy, Clear."

    She can't help but smile. It's ruined when Green starts giggling.

    Clear: "Green! Quiet!"

    Lander: "I'll deal with the imperial forces. We've more than enough firepower here."

    Clear: "Be careful. Earth forces plan to infiltrate The Majestic."

    Lander: "I'll be sure to provide them a distraction. Taking out the command ship from within is a bold move, but I think it'll pay off. I admire them! But what about you?"

    Clear: "I'm headed to the Earth to stop the renegade Ćon."

    Lander: "Alone?"

    Clear: "I have people with me. This guy can't be that bad. The real battle is up here."

    Lander: "Alright. Good luck, Clear."

    Clear: "You too, Ace."

    Green: "Oh! You called him Ace!!"

    Ace Lander starts laughing, overhearing Green's voice. Clear growls and shuts off the communication.

    Clear: "We're entering the atmosphere. Get ready."

    The Bug begins rattling like crazy. The atmosphere of Earth is quite unlike the much thinner atmosphere of Mars and her small transport bounces about to the point Clear isn't sure it'll hold together. There's a clang somewhere in the ship.

    Clear: "I hope something didn't just fall off!"

    Fire erupts on the outside of the Bug and Clear activates the air conditioning unit to expel cold. Finally they drop into the lower atmosphere of the planet and she can look down on the green and blue world up close. She wants to cry. How can somewhere so beautiful be the origins of something so evil as humanity? Green masses of land are surrounded by blue oceans and, as she gets closer to the target, she starts to see the human settlements more clearly. The world of her nightmares is not the den of evil she always imagined it to be. Expected it to be. Hoped it to be.

    The island draws nearer and nearer. Then fields of green until she locates the area. A demolished stone structure lurks alone, though it appears human machines have been trying to put the structure back together. It appears quite primitive and she can only assume it's historical monument that has fallen down. Much like her Bug right now.


    She sees the Ćon ship resting on the ground near the site and there seem to be people all over the area, swarming around a single point. As she lands, people start headed towards her.

    Clear: "Not good."

    Green: "I'll get your chair."

    Clear curses. She forgot she'd hurt her legs. Feeling has been slowly returning to them but the pain-killer is still in effect. She hoists herself from her seat and into the hover chair. Green then heads over to the door and opens it. Wind lashes into the ship, whipping at Green's hair and dress.

    Clear: "Green! Get back inside!"

    Green holds her hands out.

    Outside Clear sees trees spring out of the ground and, with their branches, they snag the incoming humans. Gunfire erupts, shooting the trees and fighting for their lives. The guns are bullet-filled, a strange sound after hearing lasers for so long. Clear opens a cabinet and retrieves her old carbine. It won't shoot any great distance but it may help her out in a pinch. The people outside are mostly humans but amongst them are greys, just like Jeb. She supposes that the greys are the Latter-Day Greys of Memnoch that Lumo mentioned. The trees appear to be working their magic on the foe and Clear is able to hover down the ramp to terra firma.

    Nearby the other humans and greys are swarming a single point. From that point they also hurtle away. Something very powerful lurks at the epicentre and Clear hopes it's the mighty warrior of Earth and not some new enemy.

    Green: "There!"

    She points at a group of greys pushing a hovering casket. Aurora's casket. Clear pushes her chair in the direction of the casket but the thing isn't made for high-speed chases across grassland and she slowly advances. Green is able to walk faster.

    Clear: "Be careful Green."

    Green pokes a v for victory at Clear before running at the group. Seeing the approaching girl, the greys react by firing lasers at her. Green quickly pulls her arms up into the air and a great wall of vines rises up to block the incoming blaster fire. Green starts a long circle, moving ever inwards, towards the greys. Clear reaches the vine wall and follows it along. The inward curvature of the vine wall means Clear loses sight of Green until she reaches the end of it. Green has one grey suspended in the air with a single vine, while another grey is being chewed on by a gigantic flower.

    Clear: "Look out!"

    A grey shoots at Green. The flower lowers itself quickly and takes the angry blast, releasing the grey it half chewed. Clear fires her carbine at the greys, spraying bullets across the field, but she's too far away to sufficiently aim. Just as it appears the greys may gain the upper hand something crashes into the ground. The force of the landing sends out a ripple of energy that pushes everyone to the ground. Clear, far enough away to resist the force, is whipped by the wind of the blast. She covers her eyes against that wind and when she lowers them she sees a woman punch a grey into the sky like he'd taken off. Another grey is being held in the air by the woman's telekinesis before she, unceremoniously, tosses him off over the vine wall.

    Clear draws near and fires at the remaining greys. The woman wears a coat of a red, white and blue symmetrical pattern, but beneath that coat she wears nothing but her underwear. Clear's mind boggles at how she could possibly stay warm, let alone conserve her modesty. Her skin is white and her hair is ginger. To Clear she seems like a very attractive human woman, though Clear's mind on that subject has always been rather muddled. Clear wonders if she, too, is an Ćon Knight, but when Ffion Heul finally reaches the group too, the differences are extremely apparent.

    Woman: "I'm Judge. I assume you're the ones here to stop your renegade grey?"

    Clear: "That's right."

    Judge: "And you're crippled? No offence but you probably shouldn't be down here."

    Clear: "A temporary situation. Had my legs pulled out of their sockets."

    Judge winces.

    Judge: "Painful. Luckily these chumps aren't worth the time of day. The leader of the group absconded with your princess down into stonehenge."

    She points towards the broken monument.

    Judge: "I'll head down and throw them out fo--"

    She looks up.

    Heul: "The stormtroopers are here."

    The lambda shuttles descend and begin to land.

    Judge: "Ooooookay. Change of plan. I'll deal with these guys and I'll have my inept co-worker guide you into Stonehenge."

    Clear:
    "Uh... inept?"

    Judge: "Pretty much. I'm sure he can guide you down a tunnel though. Don't get upset if he gets shot in the face. Nobody would miss him."

    Clear: "Wow..."

    Judge crouches down and then slings herself into the air with a purple aura around her person. With her power she grabs a shuttle and swings it around through the air until it collides with another shuttle. They explode and bodies are slung out into the sky.

    Heul: "She's damn powerful..."

    Judge shreds a wing apart from another shuttle and the craft suddenly plummets towards the ground. Stormtroopers jump out of the shuttle and activate their parachutes.

    Clear: "We should get after Jeb. The sooner he's dealt with the sooner this fight is over."

    She heads towards the broken monument. Green and Ffion scout ahead until they call her over. Standing by the monument is a man wearing a white uniform, not unlike the admiralty uniform that Warlord Strang used to wear. His face is angular and he has a strong, proud chin that seems to give him some human charisma that Clear almost finds likeable. Next to him stands another human wearing a dark suit and sunglasses that conceal much of his face. While the man in white stands with his hands on his hips in some kind of pose, the second man is ever watchful with his pistol at the ready.

    Man-in-white: "My ally tasked me with guiding you through Stonehenge."

    Clear: "You're the inept guy?"

    Man-in-white: "She's always berating my friend like that--"

    He jerks his thumb towards the man-in-black, who sighs with exasperation.

    Man-in-white: "--he's a lowly agent that works for us. I'm Citizen Rex, Saviour of the People of Earth! And he's Agent 91."

    Man-in-black: "I'm Agent Mulligan."

    Clear quickly introduces herself and her friends before Citizen Rex leads them into the collapsed tunnel hiding beneath Stonehenge. It looks like some work has been done to rectify the problem and Clear sees a lot of digging machines, usually coloured bright yellow, all over the place. Inside the ground there's further signs of digging work.

    Clear: "What happened here?"

    Citizen Rex: "Those damned aliens. They did this."

    He glances at Clear and then quickly corrects himself.

    Citizen Rex:
    "Uh, present company excluded! I meant those aliens specifically! The grey ones!"

    Clear tries not to be offended. She's heard many humans speak of non-humans as a single body of people before. The tunnel gets more cramped as they get further in, with less removal work having being done. She ducks below an especially low ceiling, pinning herself against the front of her hover chair.

    Agent Mulligan: "Here, let me help you."

    The man-in-black helps to guide her chair up a small rise in the tunnel. Then they hear voices somewhere further down. The group fall silent and sneak on.

    Jeb: "Where is it!?"

    Grey #1: "It must have been destroyed in the explosion?"

    Jeb: "Whose bright idea was it to blow up the nexus at Stonehenge anyway!? What imbecile authorised it!?"

    Grey #2: "No disrespect, Jeb, but you're not exactly a high-ranking member of our order. I don't think you get the option of criticising our leaders."

    Jeb: "I just risked everything for this group and there's nothing here! Don't tell me my options!"

    Ffion looks at Clear and Clear nods in approval. Ffion stands and then rushes out. Without taking heed, Citizen Rex instantly follows after her. As they both jump out, ready to attack, Citizen Rex bellows.

    Citizen Rex: "Freeze, evil-doers!"

    Clear suddenly understands why Judge believes him to be inept.

    Agent Mulligan looks at Clear apologetically and then goes out after Citizen Rex.

    Jeb: "Ffion Heul? They... they sent another student after me?"

    Clear and Green join the group quietly. Jeb holds his big bulbous head in his hands.

    Jeb: "Even my teacher didn't bother to chase me down? Is that how little respect I have?"

    Heul: "What? You thought the entire Order would drop everything for the sake of one student trying to get attention? Pathetic..."

    Jeb: "I-I am not pathetic! I still have the princess! Let me go or I'll kill her."

    He holds his hand towards the casket and it begins to rise from the floor. It cannot rise very far and Clear doubts it would kill her if she were dropped. Unless he starts to smash her against the tunnel wall.

    Citizen Rex: "Now now, evil alien guy. I recognise that casket! It has the princess in it!"

    Clear: "You've seen it before?"

    Citizen Rex: "Yes! I saved her once already!"

    Agent Mulligan: "And then shot her off into space..."

    Clear: "And that's when I found her..."

    Citizen Rex: "It's a small galaxy."

    Jeb: "And then she falls into my hands. Indeed, a very small galaxy. My brother was one of the bombers of the nexus. I... I didn't want him to do it. I tried to make him leave the Latter-Day Greys but he really believed that humans are a plague on the galaxy. I'm not the bad guy here!"

    Clear: "You were going to use her to summon some magical beings to rule the Earth for yourself, Jeb! That makes you no better than the humans you're trying to stop!"

    Jeb: "But I... the Empire were searching for her too. They... they want to use her and take the Earth. They tried to it once before. Thrawn... their grand admiral, he came here but couldn't defeat the Earth heroes. I... I had to get here before President Polk. I had to take the magic ones first and then I could defeat the humans! I... It was the only way..."

    Clear: "Rubbish, Jen. She was safe and sound in Skytower Temple on Tangris. She wasn't going anywhere. You took advantage of the chaos when Aellisin Koure arrived and tried to blow up the planet. You just saw an opportunity for your own gain."

    Jeb: "Revenge! It's the humans' fault my brother is dead! The only other option was... was to kill her. Murder her in her sleep. But I... I just... I couldn't do it..."

    Heul: "What's stopping you now? What're you looking for?"

    Jeb's focus emerges again.

    Jeb: "The Rift. It was here. It seems the previous attack destroyed it. The Rift was the portal to the other world attached to Earth. Through it the princess can control those beings. I control her, I control them. I would have been... I would have so much... power."

    Heul: "Typical sith. Always thinking of what power you can get out of something. That's what this is all about. Clear was right. You saw an opportunity for your own gain."

    Jeb: "I've had enough of this!"

    He pulls out the hilt for his ruhand projection. Ffion holds out her hand and her own projection appears, sans-hilt. At this Jeb flounders. The casket trembles as he almost loses focus on it.

    Jeb: "I've... I've never seen a student able to... do that..."

    Heul: "I had a harsh teacher. But I earnt this power myself. I didn't try to steal it from someone else."

    She motions towards the casket with a flick of her head. Jeb seems lost for a moment but then he rises his head.

    Jeb: "Shoot them."

    The greys open fire. With her second hand, Ffion projects a barrier before them and the blasts hit that barrier harmlessly. Clear is shocked as Ffion has never demonstrated any such ability before. How much had she learnt from Aellisin Koure? More than just a ruhand trick? Citizen Rex runs forward and pulls an unusual short staff from his back. It's coloured grey and shaped like an ancient flaming torch. Suddenly, from the torch, bursts blue flame that engulfs one of the greys. Clear and Agent Mulligan fire their own bullet weapons at the greys, careful not to hit the walls and send bullets screaming in every direction. Clear uses controlled bursts that hit one grey, they a second. Suddenly Jeb leaps through the shield wall, his hilted ruhand exposed, and slashes down at Clear. The chair rumples under the attack and, with a whine, it topples over without power. Clear falls to the rocky ground and scrapes her skin.

    Jeb brings his ruhand to bear on Citizen Rex before the man had the chance to turn his flaming torch on the Ćon student. The energy sword slices through the torch, rendering it useless. He follows up his swing and would have decapitated the human if Ffion's own ruhand didn't intercede. Clear sees Agent Mulligan push a button on a control stick he pulled out of his jacket. Boots on Citizen Rex' feet ignite and the man flies up into the air. With that joystick, the agent guides Citizen Rex away from the fight and back down the tunnel - all the way with Rex' complaints and protestations.

    Clear: "Agent Mulligan! The Princess!"

    The man-in-black nods and runs across the tunnel towards the now sedentary casket. He looks at the controls and turns back to Clear.

    Agent Mulligan: "I can't understand it!"

    Clear reaches out to him.

    Clear: "Help me over!"

    He runs back and throws her arm around his shoulders. Then Green appears on the other side and together they carry her towards the the casket. Just as they get to it Jeb uses his telekinesis to forcibly push the three of them into the wall. There's a lot of groaning and, especially from Clear, pain. She feels her legs, suddenly, agonising over the sudden motion. She manages to pull herself up the casket and flips through the screens. She remembers how she opened it last time and quickly activates.

    Jeb: "No matter! Open it! She'll die in a matter of weeks anyway!"

    Agent Mulligan fires at Jeb but the student blocks the bullets with his ruhand, each bullets incinerating upon contact. Then Jeb is suspended in the air, held in place by Ffion with her free hand. She beckons and the grey floats slowly towards her.

    Jeb: "No! Let me go! How can you have such power!?"

    Heul: "I told you."

    Unable to move, Jeb is an easy target. She swipes her ruhand and it cuts straight through his torso. His legs drop to the floor and with a last groan Jeb dies, suspended in the air and his insides dripping to the ground. Ffion releases the upper torso and allows Jeb to rest defeated.

    The casket lid jerks open and, inside, Aurora gasps. Then the lid opens fully Aurora stares at Clear with surprise.


    Princess Briarose: "Did you do it? Did you find a cure?"

    Clear: "I'm sorry... things have gotten complicated."

    Aurora sits up and gazes around, first at their underground surroundings and then at the carnage.

    Princess Briarose: "What's happening?"

    Clear sits beside the casket, back against the wall of it.

    Clear: "They took you. Again. They think that they can use you to control some magical people from another world?"

    Princess Briarose: "What? That's absurd! How!?"

    Clear: "A lot of people seem to have money riding on you, Aurora. If it's not true, there's enough people that believe it is true. First these guys. Next the Empire is going to come down here for you."

    Heul: "Maybe the rebels next?"

    Clear: "And then the Earthers?"

    Heul: "Sooner or later... they'll be successful."

    Princess Briarose: "I don't like your tone..."

    Heul: "As long as you're alive, princess, they'll keep coming for you."

    Clear: "As long as she's alive, the galaxy is at risk..."

    Princess Briarose: "Clear!?"

    Ffion slowly walks towards Aurora and Clear.

    Princess Briarose: "Wait! Think about what you're doing! Clear! Stop her! Please, Ffion! I- I don't want to die! Not yet!"

    Clear doesn't move. She stares at Jeb's butchered body. Once the most violence she saw was running from cowboys on Mars, shooting at her because she was an alien. She shot a good few humans in her time, but never anything as gruesome as this. The only way to save the galaxy is to butcher a woman Clear had come to like? Perhaps Aurora is even her friend? Aurora seemed to certainly be fairly attached to Clear, but Aurora doesn't have the natural prejudice that most humans do. If Clear didn't know Aurora, would this be any easier?

    Clear: "Stop. Ffion. Don't hurt Aurora."

    Ffion stops in her tracks. She stares at Aurora for a second and then shrugs.

    Heul: "Okay. I'm sorry princess. I hope the next time you're kidnapped, you won't suffer too much..."

    Aurora sighs with relief and she wipes away her fearful tears.

    Princess Briarose: "I'm sorry to be trouble to you all. I am. But I don't want to die. Please. You're my friends... I... I can't believe that..."

    Clear: "We wouldn't hurt you, Aurora."

    Clear holds her hand up and feels about for Aurora's hand. She takes hold of it comfortingly squeezes it. She feels Aurora squeeze back.


    Princess Briarose: "I thought..."

    Clear: "We're just tired, Aurora. You have no idea what's happened while you've been asleep."

    Princess Briarose: "I should like to leave this place. If the imperials are coming, we should leave."

    Heul:
    "How are we going to get two cripples out of here? I can carry one of you, maybe, out."

    Priness Briarose: "Two?"

    Clear: "I told you you missed a lot."

    Agent Mulligan: "Me and... Green, was it? We can help carry one of them out."

    Voice: "Wait!"

    The male voice booms through the tunnel, bouncing off of walls. Ffion turns and activates her ruhand again, while Agent Mulligan aims his pistol at the entrance. A bright glow shines on the wall as something draws nearer.

    Voice: "I mean you no harm..."

    Then a figure emerges. It appears as a ghost, a faint and transparent image that floats through the air. It appears to be a man, an old man, but the lower of of his body looks torn as though he was killed by hungry lions.

    Clear: "Impossible!"

    Heul: "Are you... are you an Ćon Lord?"

    The man shakes his head.

    Heul: "I've heard of some able to keep their soul projected after they die. I assumed..."

    Ghost: "I see. Then you may say I am using a very similar, if not the same, technique. I am composed of aether and I continue to exist long past my physical life ended."

    Clear: "Aether?"

    Ghost: "Magic. Perhaps you might call it that."

    Clear: "Like Green?"

    Clear looks at her friend.

    Ghost: "No. Not really. Your friend doesn't seem to draw on the aether. But no matter. I'm afraid this line of conversation will result in a lot of philosophical debate. Right now there's a more pressing matter."

    He floats closer.

    Agent Mulligan:
    "Are you... Merlin?"

    Merlin: "You recognise me?"

    Agent Mulligan: "I've heard tell around the water cooler at the Hero Force base. I never believed the rumours were true though!"

    Clear: "What's a water cooler?"

    Agent Mulligan: "It's... ah... it's not important."

    Merlin: "What is important is that young lady there. Princess Aurora Briarose, I believe?"

    Aurora nods and instantly everyone is on edge. Yet another come to claim her so soon?

    Merlin: "And you have Excalibur. Very good."

    Aurora touches the sword instinctively.

    Merlin: "You are the saviour I'd been hoping for. My lady, I am Merlin and I have served your family for many generations. I was with King Arthur when he first left the planet Earth."

    Princess Briarose: "That's not possible! That was over a millennium ago!"

    Merlin gestures to his incorporeal form.

    Merlin: "Indeed it was! I think I look remarkably good for my age!"

    Nobody laughs.

    Merlin: "I see the mood in here is rather tense. The battle above is almost won. Perhaps that will soften the mood?"

    Clear: "A little."

    Merlin: "The woman from Hero Force One is faring very well. My own allies also arrived and have helped to defeat those armoured heathens from the stars. Truly, I don't understand how that can be the descendants of the great Atlantians. At least the people of Earth have the excuse that Atlantis sank and all knowledge was lost. These chaps don't seem to have learnt anything but brute force from their ancestors. I'm frightfully disappointed."

    Princess Briarose: "I don't think any of us understand most of what you just said, Merlin..."

    Agent Mulligan: "The first civilisation of Earth was supposedly Atlantis. They reached a high level of technology and went off into space. Colonised worlds beyond ours. That's supposedly the reason why there's humans all over the place. Atlantis was destroyed though. Somehow. And humans on Earth lost everything. Supposedly."

    Merlin: "There's nothing supposed about the tale, young man."

    Clear:
    "Wow. Earth history. Just what I want to be listening to right now..."

    Merlin: "Sarcasm is a very poor form of wit, little salmitton."

    Clear: "I'm not little."

    Merlin: "When you're my age, almost everyone is little and young. But I'll get back to the point. My dear lady, you are the true heir to the throne of Britain and through that lineage only you have the power to wield that sword."

    Princess Briarose: "You want me to go into battle? Merlin I... I am unable to walk. I have an incurable disease..."

    Merlin: "Incurable disease? I've never heard of such a thing. Incurable is another way of saying 'cannot cure it through conventional methods'. But I'm not asking you to fight. I'm asking you to wield your blade."

    Aurora picks it up.

    Princess Briarose: "I don't understand. You'll have to speak plainly."

    Merlin: "You've... never used it before? My my. The sword is unique. I created it myself."

    Princess Briarose: "You did?"

    Merlin: "I did. I created it using a Phractal shard."

    Princess Briarose: "What's a Phractal shard."

    Clear: "Even I know what a Phractal shard is. It's an ultra rare mineral that makes something practically impervious. It's supposedly creates a very thin field around itself that warps reality. I don't know if I believe that part, but I do know it sells for billions on the market. I saw a piece come through Saffron Five once. They told me it supposedly comes from some inter-dimensional being and that it is a piece of his that has shed."

    Merlin: "You people and your supposedlies. Nothing supposed about it. But regardless. The pretty salmitton is correct."

    Clear can't flinches and Merlin notices her blushing.

    Merlin: "I'm sorry you don't get to hear those words very often, my girl. You shouldn't be so phased by them. Anyway. Excalibur is not only impervious to damage, but it is better than that."

    Heul: "Better than impervious?"

    Merlin: "As your Martian friend rightly said, it comes from an inter-dimensional being. A being capable of opening tears in space-time. Just as is this sword..."

    Princess Briarose: "I can use it to connect to another universe?"

    Merlin: "Exactly."

    Princess Briarose: "Why are you telling us this?"

    Merlin: "I would consider it my duty to tell you, my lady. But also because I humbly ask you to help me. You must save a people most loyal to you and your family..."

    Clear: "The magical people..."

    Merlin nods slowly.

    Merlin: "Yes. The Aes Sidhe. They're now trapped in their own world. But their world is in symbiosis with ours. Our nexus supplied them with magical energy. Aether. Mana. Whatever you wish to call it. It ebbed from here to there. But the last attack by these Latter-Day Greys of Memnoch sundered that Rift and they have been lost. The connection severed, the magic stopped flowing to them and their world will die, they will all die. Slowly... terribly..."

    Princess Briarose: "Then... then I shall help them. Tell me what to do, Merlin."

    Clear: "Wait."

    Princess Briarose: "Clear?"

    Clear: "These are the same people that the empire, the greys... they all want to control these magical beings by using you! Perhaps it's better that this Rift is never opened. Then they can never use you or them!"

    Princess Briarose: "Clear I... I cannot condemn an entire people to death because of the possible actions of others. I won't do that. Just as I wouldn't condemn you to death to save myself, I won't condemn them for the same reason."

    Clear looks up at Aurora and the princess looks down at Clear.

    Clear: "I'm sorry Algernon was destroyed, Aurora... You would have been a great leader for your people."

    Heul: "She is. Her people are now the Rebel Alliance. What does she need to do, old man?"

    Merlin: "Old man!? How I detest the day those words were invented. All you have to do, princess Aurora, is exert your will into the blade and cut. Will a tear to appear and it shall be done."

    Aurora holds out the sword. It gleams in the light cast by Merlin's aethereal form. Aurora raises it and Clear, with the help of Agent Mulligan, is moved out of the way. The princess closes her eyes and cuts the air. The sword swing isn't hard or powerful nor even graceful. But when it moves through the air there is a slicing sound and in the sword's wake is a thin slit.

    Clear: "How do we know it's the right place?"

    Merlin: "There was once a connection here. Any connection made in this location will forever link to that same place in the multiverse."

    The slit begins to expand. Wider and wider until there is a swirling mass of light. Nothing can be seen of this other world, only the swirling storm of blue and white light.

    Princess Briarose: "Is it done then?"

    Merlin: "It is. We should wait a moment and s-- ah. Someone comes."

    The swirling portal shifts and a person walks out of it. The Rift shimmers and ripples like water. It even drips off of the woman before them, except it drips back into the portal and defies gravity.

    The woman is tall. Much taller than any human. Yet she has human features. Black hair, white skin, green eyes. But her dress appears to be made of water and is quite transparent because of it. Agent Mulligan gapes and shies his gaze away. The woman doesn't notice him. She only has eyes for Aurora.


    Woman: "It seems one of Arthur's line yet lives. The people of Albion are indebted to you."

    She bows her head.

    Princess Briarose: "I am Princess Aurora Briarose from the planet Algernon. Uh... and princess of Britain. Apparently."

    Woman: "And you are therefore princess of Albion too. Albion long ago swore allegiance to Arthur's line."

    Princess Briarose: "Then I thank you for that allegiance."

    Woman: "I am Vivane. I have long served as guardian of the Rift."

    She gestures towards the portal.

    Vivane: "Without it our world would have died. Many have already succumbed to death without magic. I admit... I feared the worst. It seems providence was with us this day. Thank you, Princess Aurora, for your aid."

    Suddenly there's sound of commotion at the entrance to Stonehenge.

    Merlin: "I fear the space heathens may have reached us."

    Vivane: "Merline, my old friend. It is good to see you are still with us. I feared your demise."

    Merlin: "I'm difficult to keep down, Lady Vivane. But we should leave. I will have to reconstruct the henge in order to stabilise the nexus and keep the magic flowing into the Rift. I can't do that with heathns rampaging about."

    Vivane:
    "Then leave. I shall help you in your departure."

    She gestures towards the end of the tunnel before disappearing through the Rift.

    Heul: "I don't know what she meant by help, but I think we should take her advise and leave."

    The Ćon student lifts Aurora up into the air, sword and all, and carefully guides her along the tunnel. It isn't an easy experience for either Ffion or Aurora as the student didn't have the same mastery as the teachers, but she manages well enough for now. Agent Mulligan and Green help to carry Clear free of the tunnel and Merlin floats along after them. When they reach the end of the tunnel and emerge into daylight they see Judge pounding stormtroopers by the dozens. She holds out her hands and an enormous bat of purple aura appears. She whacks a line of troopers with it and they soar off into the air. The bat vanishes and she uses her more conventional pushes to knock down several more soldiers.

    Citizen Rex: "Yes! I got one!"

    He stands over a single soldier, looking quite bruised and beaten.

    Agent Mulligan: "Sir! You're hurt!"

    Before any further comment could be made they feel the ground shake. Quickly they all vacant the front of the tunnel and, suddenly, a torrent of water crashes out of the mouth and bursts forth across the field. Some soldiers are swept away with it but the real shock are the beings rising from within the water. As the liquid seeps away creatures emerge from it. All manner of beings that Clear couldn't even begin to understand.

    Clear: "I think we should go!"

    Judge: "That's your ship, right? Hold on!"

    Judge pulls on the air and the Bug flies through the air as though it had been picked up and tossed at them. Clear winces as the Bug falls towards them. When she opens her eyes again she sees Judge lowering the vessel to the ground gently, as though it were nothing.

    Heul: "Your power is incredible."

    Judge cracks her knuckles and grins.

    Judge: "I'm actually a bit rusty, but thanks. Good luck to you guys. I guess these weird magic dudes are good guys, right? Guess it means there's less fun for me."

    She flies off, back towards the fray.

    Princess Briarose: "Goodbye, Merlin. I hope to see you again."

    Merlin: "You could remain here, princess? This is your home. You are the rightful ruler of the land."

    Princess Briarose: "I am a stranger to this world, Merlin. Perhaps one day... but not today. There are people who need me. I am a leader to the rebellion. I cannot abandon them for my own gain."

    Merlin: "Your sense of honour is a testament to us all. I will convey your merits to Vivane when next we speak. Thank you for your help. You saved her and all of her world."

    Citizen Rex: "Farewell, innocent travellers! Good luck on your journey and should you ever need a hero again - I will be ready to save you!"

    Agent Mulligan mutters to Clear.

    Agent Mulligan: "Sorry about him."

    He and Green carry Clear into the Bug and deposit her in the pilot's seat. Green sighs with relief and slumps into the co-pilot's seat.

    Agent Mulligan: "I can't believe I'm really standing inside an alien spaceship. This is amazing!"

    Clear snickers.

    Clear: "This thing is a beat-up hunk of junk. But thank you. I love this old thing, despite the mess it's in."

    Agent Mulligan: "Thank you, Ms Clear. This is one thing the other agent will never believe."

    He heads to the door and gives Clear one last wave before leaves.

    Clear: "I actually impressed a human. That's a first for me."

    Green: "We're not all so bad, you know?"

    Clear: "I know. I know. You're great, Green."

    Green: "I know! I'm the best!"

    She peace-signs Clear again and the salmitton cannot help but laugh. She glances back and sees Ffion transport Aurora into the living room where she would be buckled in. Clear starts the engines.

    Heul: "Wait! I have to go and get Nach!"

    Clear: "Oh right. Let me drop you off."

    Heul: "No! It's fine. Get the princess out of here. I can make it there by myself. Go!"

    Ffion jumps out of the ship and Clear watches the woman running across the field through the cockpit window. Clear shrugs and lifts the ramp. The old Bug shakes as it leaves the ground. Hopefully nothing else will fall off when she escapes the Earth's gravity this time.
    Last edited by TheBritt; 12-08-2015 at 01:31 PM.

  6. #46
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Afterwards

    Clear is lying on her bed. The blur of alcohol clouds her vision and her limbs feel soft. Gentle. Her heart feels energetic and courageous. Despite all of the disasters and horror of recent times, she feels, in some way, she and her friends have won a victory. She reaches out for the bottle with her left hand but her fingers meet with the skin of someone else's hand.

    Pully:
    "My turn."

    Clear: "Go get another bottle, Pully!"

    Pully:
    "Too far away."

    Clear: "They're in your room."

    Princess Aurora: "Pully, you have to go! We're all invalids!"

    Aurora is sat at the bottom of Clear's bed, leaning against the wall. Her legs are tucked under Clear's blanket to keep them warm. She has a bottle in hand that looks like it's nearly empty. She waggles it at Pully. Clear's own legs are coming back to life and she's able to move them around well enough, but there's still a lot of pain. At least alcohol serves to numb that pain. She feels the soft skin of Aurora's legs against her own. It's a strange thought that she can feel the other woman's legs but that woman can't feel hers.

    Kokoro:
    "Don't make me use my telepathy on you, Pully..."

    Pully: "You keep your Force powers outta my head, Jedi!"

    Pully, reluctantly, gets to her feet. She unsteadily takes a few steps towards the door. Kokoro is sitting atop a pile of clothes on the floor. A bag of bacta drip is hanging from an IV pole. As Pully reaches the door, there's a knock at it. Pully pushes a button, clumsily, and it slides open to reveal Alexis Thrain holding a fresh bag of bacta for Kokoro's IV.

    Pully: "Heya Thrain. She's all yours."

    She slips out and then calls back.

    Pully: "Don't be gentle! Make her suffer!"

    Kokoro: "Heeeeeey!"

    They laugh and Pully's cackle can be heard echoing from the corridor. Thrain switches the plug from the old bag to the new.


    Kokoro:
    "I wish I could get drunk like you guys. Why did we never develop some form of inebriation on my world?"

    Thrain: "That would be like trying to encourage a rock to tango. Some things are just too ridiculous to attempt."

    Clear: "You do have the biology of a rock actually!"

    Kokoro: "Hey!"

    Princess Aurora: "And the brain of one!"

    They laugh again but Kokoro then looks sad.


    Kokoro: "That's something she'd say..."

    Clear: "Kokoro... she needs some time to come to terms with what she did. I think we do too."

    Kokoro: "I can forgive her for trying to kill me. I can forgive her for running away from this. But I can't forgive her for not saying goodbye to me... it... hurts. Even here with you guys, having fun, I feel... alone. She's just... always been there with me. Everywhere. All the time!"

    Pully:
    "Even in the showers? Dirty girls."

    They turn to see Pully's triumphant return with the liquor.

    Kokoro: "Funny you should say that, Ffion was absolutely convinced you and Clear were in... cahoots, shall we say?"

    She mischievously grins. Aurora giggles into her bottle.

    Pully: "We are! Absolutely gaying it up! Who can resist Clear's gorgeous, red ass!?"

    Clear throws a pillow at Pully who almost drops the bottles. She hands them out to Aurora and Clear and then gives one to Green who grins manicly.

    Green: "Thank you, Ms Pully!"

    Pully: "How drunk are you, Green?"

    Green waves her hand dismissively and opens the bottle with her teeth. Pully flinches.

    Pully:
    "It's horrid that you can do that."

    Green: "The people used to make offerings of bijou to me so I'd protect their crops."

    Clear: "And did you protect the crops?"

    Green: "Sometimes."

    Clear: "Sometimes? I thought you loved all plants, Green!"

    Green: "I do! But the humans and panda people kept cutting them down and eating them!! My poor babies!"

    Clear facepalms.

    Clear: "You know we eat vegetables too, Green?"

    Pully: "Speak for yourself! I eat booze!"

    Pully drops to the floor beside Kokoro, careful of the tube sticking out of the muovinian's arm.


    Green: "I know that! But, I mean, they want me to help their plants grow just so they can kill them! That's not fair on me, is it?"

    Clear: "You got bijou!"

    Green grins.

    Green:
    "I did say sometimes!"

    Princess Aurora: "And what is bijou?"

    Clear:
    "Human alcohol! It's over fifty percent. Honestly, you'll be drunk just from the fumes!"

    They laugh again. Green's loud, somewhat crazed, shouting-laugh, Pully's cackle, Aurora's giggling and Clear's snorting. Kokoro, perhaps not finding alcohol so entertaining, chuckles. Thrain sighs.

    Thrain: "When you're all finished being louts, you should come to the medical bay so I can administer hangover cures."

    Pully: "Thrain, take the stick from your ass and join us! You need comforting too."

    Alexis sighs. It's not a sigh of frustration but of sadness.


    Thrain: "Because drinking will solve all our problems?"

    Clear: "Alexis, are you okay? I think Pully's right! You need to relax with us!"

    Thrain: "Clear I--! I know you're being nice, but honestly I--! I just don't know how much of all this I can take. Running through space with people shooting at us all the while."

    Pully: "I know what this is."

    Pully gets up and wraps her arm around Alexis' shoulders.

    Pully: "Honey-pumpkin..."

    Thrain: "Don't call me that."

    Pully: "I know you don't like that you were under that guy's control. We all were. Clear knocked me out, you remember? I know being in control is important to you, but you have to let it go. Hey, Kokoro got stabbed by her best mate and she's drinking those cares away. Here. Come on. Just like old times."

    She takes the bottle and looks at the faintly glowing liquid inside. Then looks at everyone else in the room.

    Thrain:
    "Well it's not like I can embarrass myself in front of any of you. I've seen you all naked."

    She smirks and this gets her jovial jeers from everyone in the room. She swigs from the bottle and winces.


    Thrain: "What in the name of all that is decent is in this bottle!?"

    Pully: "Something called lum. I don't know. Someone told me lums are little luminous, flying creatures, mashed up and turned into alcohol. Damn strong and tastes like morning breath."

    Alexis sits opposite Kokoro and Pully, poking a pile of laundry into a seat.

    Thrain: "Clear, don't you ever tidy this place?"

    Clear: "Why would I? There's only been me, myself and I here for the last couple of decades. You lot show up and suddenly I have to keep my bedroom tidy?"

    Thrain: "If we're all going to cram in here, then yes!"

    Princess Aurora: "Actually, why are we in here?"

    Pully: "So that you and Clear can play footsie under the blankets!"

    Clear: "Is this gay jokes hour?"

    Princess Aurora:
    "And it's not like I can play footsie considering they don't work, Ms Terrin-Pullista."

    Pully grins.

    Pully: "That just makes it easier for Clear to ninja-footsie you!"

    Aurora laughs and Clear throws another pillow at Pully. She then holds her hands out for the pillow back since she's run out. Pully throws it back at her, almost spilling Clear's drink all over the bed.

    Pully: "So. What're we going to do to Kiron Assstrider when we meet him?"

    They laugh at the name.


    Princess Aurora: "You can't blame him for being honest. And he was right! That weapon exists!"

    Clear groans.

    Clear: "I don't want to talk about this."

    Pully: "Don't want to admit you're a mass murderer, Clear? I can understand that."

    Princess Aurora: "Joking about the destruction of my home, Pully? Nothing is above jokes when drunk, huh?"

    Pully pulls the bottle from her lips.


    Pully: "If you can't joke about it then what have you got? You have to smile to keep from crying."

    Princess Aurora smiles and shakes her head. Pully nudges her leg with her bottle, not thinking that the woman cannot feel there. She still gets the princess' attention anyway.

    Pully:
    "Besides. It's not much of a loss. I went there once. It was a craphole."

    Princess Aurora: "What!? No it wasn't! It was beautiful!"

    Pully blows through her lips.

    Pully: "If you like farmers and the smell of animal crap in the morning!"

    Princess Aurora: "Clear! Please throw a pillow at Pully for me!"

    Laughing, Clear tosses a pillow straight at Pully's head. Pully falls with the pillow into a pile of laughter.

    Pully: "Aurora, princess of bantha-farmers!"

    Princess Aurora: "At least I'm not from Terra Flux, the world pretending to be another world!"

    Pully: "Hey. We're the real power in the galaxy! All these empires and factions are probably all mimics from that flux. They only exist because Terra Flux exists! You're totally all my *****es."

    At that Pully receives a lot of playful slaps from everyone in the room, save Aurora who can't reach.

    ----------

    The next day The Hopeless arrives in orbit around Dacato and they're granted permission to land by Governor Oit. The rebel fleet were also in orbit, having returned from Earth ahead of The Hopeless. Kassuin was the only person onboard that wasn't suffering from a hangover and so he generally dealt with any calls incoming to the ship. Clear found a pair of large sunglasses in one of her cupboards and wears them for her trip planetside.

    They take the Bug straight to District Vyf and are asked to land at the Green House itself. There both Clear and Aurora are given new hoverchairs. Clear feels it's unnecessary but everyone insisted. Even Kokoro has to use a cane to keep herself upright. Thrain joins them, wishing to be present in case something happens to any of the injured. They travel into the Green House with their alliance escort. When they enter Clear notes a high number of military personnel and worries that even Aurora may not be able to spare her from prison this time. One person, at the front of the crowd, is Ace Lander. Clear can't help but smile at him and, when he smiles back, realises what she had done and checks herself. She's almost disgusted with herself for being attracted to a human, of all species.

    Governor Oit: "I'm glad to see you safe, Governor Briarose."

    Princess Aurora: "Thank you, governor. We will require rooms."

    The alien-coloured alien looks up at the crew.


    Governor Oit: "It shall be arranged."

    Princess Aurora: "We would like to meet with Kiron Nightstrider as soon as possible."

    Governor Oit: "Unfortunately Nightstrider left Dacato a few hours ago."

    Princess Aurora:
    "He did?"

    Pully: "Probably knew we were coming to kick his ass."

    A few of the people around chuckle, while others look annoyed at Pully's crassness.

    Governor Oit: "Quite... if you'll follow me..."

    As the group starts to move after the governor, Kokoro tugs on Clear's shoulder. She leans over to whisper into her ear.

    Kokoro: "Clear, I'm familiar with Kiron's presence. I can feel him. He's still here, in this building."

    Clear: "So he lied to the governor?"

    Kokoro: "I fear to say this but..."

    She looks around to make sure no one is close enough to hear them.

    Kokoro:
    "I believe it is the governor that is lying. I can sense the falsehood from his mind."

    Clear: "So... the governor is hiding Kiron from us? Why? Are they plotting against us? Maybe they plan to put me in prison after all?"

    Kokoro: "I think I could lead us to Kiron, if we can find an excuse to go wandering..."

    Clear shrugs.

    Clear:
    "No problem. I'm sorry, governor, but I have a meeting with Captain Lander. Kokoro will join me in case I need help, considering my injuries."

    Governor Oit: "W-well. This is an important meeting!"

    Princess Aurora:
    "I'm sure you can spare them, governor. I'll be there."

    Ace Lander steps forward. He glances at Clear and then turns back to the governor.

    Lander: "I'm sorry governor, but this is an urgent meeting too. Captain Clear has agreed to discuss information concerning the supposed superweapon aboard her ship."

    Governor Oit: "Ah. I'm glad you're going to comply with us, Captain Clear. It will be good to clear the unpleasantness of recent history..."

    The group departs and Ace leads the two women from the Green House to the outside entrance. He turns to Clear questioningly.


    Clear: "I'm sorry, Ace."

    He smiles.

    Lander: "I hope you're not using my name just to gain favour?"

    She falters as she realises she had called him Ace without even thinking about it. When he sees the blue blush in her cheeks he laughs and is comforted.

    Lander: "I'm just teasing. What was that about in there? I hope I didn't just lie to the governor so you could go shopping..."

    Clear looks up at Kokoro and nods.

    Lymn:
    "Do you know where Kiron Nightstrider is?"

    Ace frowns.


    Lander: "No. I didn't even know he'd left. This was the first I'd heard about it. To be honest I haven't seen much of him since he first arrived on Dacato."

    Lymn: "He's here in this building somewhere."

    Clear: "Can you help us, Ace?"

    Ace hesitates. He looks at Clear and she guesses he's wondering if she's worth the trouble he's about to put himself in. Finally he nods.

    Lander:
    "Let's find him. Funny, whenever I see you, Clear, I get into trouble..."

    Lymn:
    "And anyone else that meets her. We're all victims, it seems."

    Clear: "It-it's not my fault!"

  7. #47
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Uncovered

    Guard: "I'll have to ask you to stop there."

    Lander: "I'm Captain Lander--"

    Guard: "Sorry Sir. Doesn't matter who you are. I can't allow you access."

    Lander: "On whose authority?"

    Guard: "The government, Sir."

    Lander: "That's vague..."

    Guard: "Sorry Sir."

    Ace purses his lips and eventually turns away. Clear and Kokoro follow him. They had followed Kokoro's directions until they came to the guards.

    Lander: "Well that's suspicious."

    Clear: "Shouldn't there be lots of restricted places in a building like this?"

    Lander: "Not from me, no. Usually anyway."

    Lymn: "This is the only way through?"

    Lander: "Unless you want to break through the floor above..."

    She turns back to the guards and waves her hand.

    Lymn: "You will grant us access."

    Guard: "We will grant you access."

    The guards stand aside.

    Lymn: "You make the Alliance proud."

    Guard: "We make the Alliance proud."

    Kokoro nods towards the doors and passes between the guards. With some uncertainty, Clear and Ace follow her. When they pass into the next corridor, Ace closes the doors and then lets out a sigh of relief.

    Clear: "Please don't do that to me, Kokoro..."

    Lymn: "I told you before, you're not so weak-minded."

    Lander: "It concerns me that we could be infiltrated so easily."

    Lymn: "Easily? Are you undermining my ability?"

    Lander: "Uh, no! I didn't mean--"

    Lymn: "Just joking, Captain. It's one thing to affect the minds of two lone guards, it'd be another to affect the minds of the entire Alliance. Having said that... maybe you should be worried, yes."

    They pass down the corridor with the expanse of the city to their right, looming outside of the glass panes. Everything else about the corridor was pure white and smooth like plastic. Along the walls grow vines decorated with flowers that look like roses. Clear wonders if Green is enjoying the place where she is. Finally Kokoro points to a set of double-doors, as white and as plastic as the rest of the place. When Ace reaches out to push them open, however, his hands meet a blue force field. He raps his knuckles on it and blue wave ripple outwards until they fade away to invisibility again.

    Lander: "That is fairly exotic tech..."

    Clear: "Any other way in?"

    Lander: "Fancy scaling the outside of the building?"

    Clear: "That's a no then."

    Then there's a crash from the other side of the doors and they rattle violently. They stand and watch and wait. The doors smash and rattle again.

    Clear: "I think someone's trapped in there."

    Lymn: "Points if you can guess who..."

    Clear: "Kiron! Is that you!?"

    Clear pounds on the force field. A moment later they can hear Kiron Nightstrider from within.

    Nightstrider: "Is-is that Clear?"

    Clear: "It is. We've come to knock the living daylights out of you."

    Nightstrider: "You'll have to let me out of here first!"

    Clear: "Why are you in there?"

    Nightstrider: "Is the Princess with you?"

    Clear: "Not here but she's in the Green House. She's with the governors."

    Nightstrider:
    "She's not safe here, especially not with them!"

    ----------

    Clear walks behind the guards. They march in two lines - six in total. Clear isn't sure if that's enough but Ace wants to keep this quiet. At the head of the guards is Ace himself. When they exit the lift they're immediately in a huge conference room decorated with Autumn tones - maroon carpets, brown walls and nature-inspired lighting. At the centre of the room is a large oval table where Aurora and the other crew members of The Hopeful are sat with several governors. They all stand when Ace barges in, except Green who just stares with wide eyes.

    Governor Oit: "What is the meaning of this!?"

    Lander: "Princess Aurora, please step away from the governor."

    Princess Aurora: "What? Why?"

    Instead of the princess moving away from the governor, he steps back instead. His head rainbow-coloured head hands low and Clear is sure she can make out sorrow on his strange face. The guards come over and separate the governors from the rest of the group. They all comply. Some look defiant, others looks resigned while one or two of them look bewildered.

    Princess Aurora: "Captain Lander... you best have a good explanation for this."

    Clear: "Kiron is here, Aurora."

    Princess Aurora: "So... the governor was mistaken? That's why he's being herded at gunpoint?"

    Governor Oit: "I'm sorry, Governor Briarose."

    Lander:
    "I don't think sorry quite covers it, Governor Oit."

    Aurora's quick temper flares up and she snaps with a fist slam against the air.

    Princess Aurora: "Someone better fuc-- explain this! Now!"

    Clear: "They're the ones that tried to kill you, Aurora. Governor Oit was the ring leader."

    The princess blinks at Clear in surprise as her brain struggles to process this. She tilts her head and then shakes it.

    Princess Aurora: "That's not possible. Kiron told you this? You're going to believe him?"

    Governor Oit: "There's no use us denying it now. The truth can be proven under interrogation of Nightstrider. If I had dealt with him sooner, this wouldn't have become a problem. But I didn't expect you to return..."

    Princess Aurora: "You... admit it? Why!?"

    Governor Oit: "For the good of the Alliance..."

    Princess Aurora: "Am I... a threat to the Alliance, Governor?"

    Governor Oit: "On the contrary... your demise would rally people against the Empire. Recruitment has waned significantly since the Empire broke up, people believing that the war is won. If they were to discover that the beautiful, young princess of a destroyed world were assassinated by Imperials... perhaps that will still happen."

    Lander:
    "Not bloody likely now."

    Princess Aurora: "He's... right. Release him."

    Lander: "Wh-what!?"

    Princess Aurora: "Governor Oit, you are relieved of office. The remaining governors will be interrogated and his accomplices will also be relieved of their duties. All of you will then be sent into exile."

    Governor Oit: "Of course..."

    He bows his head.

    Lander: "Your highness, I don't understand! They need to be tried and imprisoned for this!"

    Princess Aurora: "I should think a man of your station would understand politics a little better, Captain Lander!"

    Lander: "You'll have to enlighten me, your highness. I'm more familiar with law and justice."

    Princess Aurora: "Governors of the Alliance tried to kill me... imagine the public reaction against the Alliance. It could destroy us..."

    Lander: "But--"

    Princess Aurora: "But I demand the cure for the exhilarated process."

    Governor Oit: "Easily done."

    Clear: "Aurora... are you sure you want to let them go like this?"

    Princess Aurora: "I... have no choice..."

    Governor Oit: "For the good of the Alliance..."

    Pully: "If you wanted to kill Aurora, why the heck did you do it this way? Why not just shoot her!?"

    Governor Oit: "We considered that approach but a slower death would allow her time to rally more people. Give some kind of final speech. People could watch her wither and fail. A tragic and drawn-out death to pull the hearts of people everywhere. Any people from Algernon still within the Empire would surely turncoat and join us. The Alliance would be stronger than ever."

    Princess Aurora: "I understand... and yet, I won't have a government based on such evil methods. Guards, ensure he's on a ship within the hour and send him to the furthest reaches of the galaxy where I won't be tempted to change my mind."

    The guards usher the colourful governor out of the room and into the lift, along with the other governors who mostly comply though several exclaim their innocence.

    Princess Aurora: "Kiron told you all of this? Where is he?"

    Lander: "Trapped downstairs. I'm sure on of the governors can give us the access codes to the force field they have him trapped behind. He learnt of these plans days ago and was trying to get proof. It seems Kiron's intentions became known but Governor Oit--"

    Princess Aurora: "Former governor..."

    Lander: "Right... he intended to ensure Kiron found no proof but when he learnt you were returning he quickly had Kiron imprisoned, fully intending to kill him later."

    Princess Aurora: "He didn't want to risk a raucous hours before I got here..."

    Lander: "Exactly."

    Clear draws close to Aurora who appears visibly shaken.

    Clear: "Are you sure this is how you want to do things?"

    She looks up at Clear with watery eyes.

    Princess Aurora: "No. I'm not sure of anything. I... have to do what's best for the Alliance, not for me."

    Clear isn't really sure how to comfort Aurora. She crouches, reaches out and pats her on the shoulder. The princess falls into Clear and cries into the salmitton's neck. Clear instead pats the human's purple hair.

    Princess Aurora: "The universe... is an unfair place. Not everyone always gets what... they deserve."

    Clear doesn't know how Aurora can do it. Clear herself wants to beat the Hell out of Governor Oit but the princess, who was the victim and betrayed, stands above her anger. At the best of times Aurora snaps, growls and stamps her foot. But here, an event that should have peaked her rage, the woman keeps it all in. For an ideal. Something greater than herself.

    Clear wraps her arms around her human friend.

    Clear: "You're the strongest person I've ever met, Aurora."

    Princess Aurora: "I don't feel it..."

    Clear: "But you act it."

    Lander: "Your Highness. You make me proud to be a true son of Algernon."

    Clear and Aurora look up at him and he salutes, though Clear is sure he's also on the verge of his emotions. Clear wishes there was some great leader from Mars she could be proud of, someone to remember her home with.

    Princess Aurora: "And Clear. I heard about Kiron's dream..."

    Clear: "I--"

    Princess Aurora: "I know you didn't do it. And if you tell me The Hopeful couldn't be responsible... I believe it. That old ship has felt more like a home to me over these past weeks than... anywhere else in the galaxy."

    Clear: "Aurora... now I think I might cry."

    Aurora laughs through her tears.


    ----------

    Two days later Clear stands in the Command Centre aboard The Hopeless. Pully walks in and sits on one of the audience chairs, her feet up on the headrest of the seat below.

    Pully: "So. Everything ready?"

    Clear: "Yes."

    Pully: "Said your goodbyes to Aurora?"

    Clear frowns at Pully's tone. She turns.

    Clear: "Are you... jealous, Pully?"

    Pully: "Wow. Full of yourself ain't you? You think I'd be jealous of your friendship with someone else?"

    Clear: "Aren't you?"

    Pully shrugs.

    Pully: "A bit."

    Clear: "Pully..."

    Clear rolls her eyes and laughs.

    Pully: "I just don't like her. That's why I'm jealous."

    Clear: "Sure, sure."

    Pully: "Just jump already."

    Clear: "Ready to go, Mother. To Oeurwoud we go."

    Mother: "Do not forget we must visit Mirare afterwards."

    Clear: "I don't need you to remind me that, Mother."

    Pully: "Mirare? What for?"

    Clear: "Aurora's cure is there. That's where the poison came from. And I want a new jump drive."

    Pully: "About time! Let's get this bucket moving! Oeurwoud and then new jump drives!"

  8. #48
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow And Then There Were Four

    NSN: This post connects to another post in NeShattered: Post #100.

    ---------

    When The Hopeless jumps into orbit around Oeurwoud the systems display several much smaller ships in the vicinity. Quite quickly a communication request comms through Mother's systems. It isn't, however, from one of the ships but from the planet. Clear authorises the call.


    Kloo Celli: "I feel I could have walked from Tangris to Oeuwoud faster than you jumped here, Captain Clear..."

    Clear: "We were derailed..."

    Kloo Celli: "I know. I was trying to make a joke. I guess I'm not a very funny woman."

    The Ćon Lord is standing in a forest still wearing her bulky, brown Ćon Lord robes. Clear wonders why she hasn't boiled inside them yet.

    Clear: "What happened to the Dark Water?"

    Kloo Celli turns her head to stare off into the forest for a moment. Then she turns back to Clear.


    Kloo Celli: "It is still here. Hold on a moment."

    She reaches out to the camera and turns it. The screen pans across a metal platform suspended high above the ground where Celli is standing. Down below is a thick layer of black ooze blanketing the ground. The inky water lolls, laps and bubbles frequently but despite the stirrings it doesn't give chase the way it had done Clear and the unfortunate Telkrin.

    Clear: "Hasn't it moved?"

    Kloo Celli smiles sweetly, but somewhere behind that sweet smile Clear feels a malice.

    Kloo Celli: "Not since we neutered it."

    Clear is almost too afraid to ask.

    Clear: "... how?"

    Kloo Celli: "You can't see it but there's a massive sphere of suppression in the area, created by all those Ćon on the planet. We take up positions and exert our will to suppression the darkness. Combined we have been able to maintain this area. After several days of attacks the darkness subsided and conceded defeat, it seems. Yet it sits and waits, I am sure, for an opening. We are currently in Aggron Forest where your last sighting of Telkrin Izep was reported and we believe we know what happened to him..."

    Pully: "You mean other than being swallowed by a giant mud muddle?"

    Pully gets up from her chair and walks up to the screen with interest. The Ćon woman closes her eyes and smiles again. That 'I-Know-Something-You-Don't' smile.

    Kloo Celli: "I do not believe him to be dead..."

    Clear looks at Pully then back to the screen. She pushes a button the console, muting the communication for a moment.

    Clear: "Mother. You should ask Kokoro to come to the Command Centre."

    She then unmutes the communication and watches as Celli moves the camera again, this time, half-submerged by the darkness, is what looks to be a black line. But even as the camera moves, the tear, strangely, appears two-dimensional against the tree-line behind it.

    Clear: "What is that?"

    Kloo Celli: "Some kind of rift. A tear in space-time."

    Clear thinks of The Rift on Earth that had led to the world of Vivane. Telkrin could have gone through this rift.


    Clear: "Telkrin made that rift?"

    Kloo Celli: "I highly doubt it. It could have been created by this dark creature or it may have been created by someone... something on the other side of that rift."

    Clear: "What's your plan?"

    Kloo Celli turns the camera back to herself.

    Kloo Celli: "What do you think it is? We're going through there, naturally."

    Pully: "Dangerous much?"

    Kloo Celli: "We're Ćon Knights of Tangris. Danger is our profession."

    Lymn: "Clear, you wanted to see me? I was getting ready to leave..."

    Clear points to the camera and Kokoro approaches. She bows to the Ćon Lord who smiles back.

    Kloo Celli: "I hope you're ready for some adventure young one..."

    ----------

    An hour later and everyone still aboard The Hopeless is gathered in the Command Centre. The camera is on again, this time it has been moved to a platform constructed to lead into the rift. Standing on the platform is a long line of Ćon, mostly knights dotted with some Lords and just one student, who stands closest to the camera. The lord at the fore is Kloo Celli herself. She pushes at the darkness within the rift and confirms that it gives way to her spiritual exerts. She pushes harder and a second lord joins her - Lord Kassuin. The student looks anxiously from the lords to the camera.

    Lymn: "Clear, I just wanted to say thank you again."

    Clear folds her arms.

    Clear:
    "The best thanks you can give is seeing me again."

    Lymn: "I shall. And so shall my Teacher."

    Clear: "I hope so."

    Clear jumps at a sudden outburst to her right and looks down at the green-haired human girl who has started wailing.

    Green: "GOODBYE MS KOKO!!!!"

    Kokoro can't help herself and smiles warmly.

    Lymn: "Goodbye Green. Don't worry about me, I'll be just fine. I have Lord Kassuin to protect me. The Ćon holding the darkness at bay will remain here until we return with Teacher Izep."

    Clear: "Will they be able to hold the Dark Water off without someone to relief them?"

    Lymn: "Some of them have already been there for days, Clear..."

    Everyone in the Command Centre looks surprised, not just Clear.

    Lymn: "More adept Ćon, especially Consular, can focus upon a single task and enter a meditative state. In that state we can remain for days on end, depending on how advanced our skills are."

    Pully: "You learn something new every day."

    Nightstrider: "Sometimes I wonder why the Ćon haven't conquered the galaxy."

    Lymn: "That wouldn't abide by power creed, Kiron."

    Pully: "Besides, not everyone is a megalomaniac."

    Nightstrider: "Human nature, Pully."

    Clear: "This time I'm inclined to agree with Kiron."

    They notice Kloo Celli disappear into the rift. A second later Lord Kassuin joins her. Then, one-by-one, the lines enters. Through the tear Clear is sure she can see wood amongst the boots of Ćon. Kokoro looks at them one last time.

    Lymn:
    "Clear. Stop getting into trouble."

    Clear groans.

    Clear: "Please tell everyone else that!"

    She laughs and turns away from them before running through the rift. The crew of The Hopeless stand and watch, waiting for a moment, before, finally, turning off the connection...

    Nightstrider: "So... this superweapon..."

    Clear: "I'm going to send you into that rift after her if you ask me one more time."

    Nightstrider: "Questions need answers, Cl--"

    Pully: "I could throw him in the brig, boss."

    Nightstrider: "There's a brig now?"

    Pully: "There's like a million empty rooms, one of them will do as a brig! Can I lock the door? Yes? It's a brig."

    Clear: "I'm going to sleep. Mother, jump to Mirare in twenty minutes."

    Mother: "Certainly."

    Clear leaves the Command Centre and turns right. Green shouts after her;

    Green: "That's not the way to your room, Ms Clear!"

    Clear makes her way to the Dreamviewer and lies down. She's been using the device more and more frequently. Not only does it record her dreams, it can induce sleep that has been avoiding her as of late. She settles down into the machine and turns it on. She glances at the last dream she had. Since installing the new A.I. Clear had been dreaming about her own mother. She knows it's unhealthy but she doesn't know how to resolve the current situation. There isn't anyone to talk to even if she could muster the courage to do so. Instead she takes solace in the fact that her dreams do no one harm but herself.

    -------------

    She opens her eyes. The moment her wakefulness registers on Mother's scans the A.I. informs the Captain that they are orbiting Mirare. Clear gets up from the Dreamviewer and rubs her head. Then she notices Kiron Nightstrider standing in the doorway.

    Clear: "What the--? Have you been watching me sleep?"

    Nightstrider:
    "Relax. I just arrived. I figured I'd watch... doesn't matter."

    He enters the room and nods towards the machine behind her.

    Nightstrider: "Gets addictive doesn't it?"

    Clear: "I'm fine."

    Kiron rolls his eyes.

    Nightstrider: "I didn't ask. I just said it was addictive. But now I'll say be careful. Try not to overdo it."

    Clear: "I knew you'd say that. That's why I said I'm fine. Come on. We should go to the station. I have a jump drive to buy."

    Nightstrider: "And medicine."

    Clear: "That's a given."

    Nightstrider: "Just thought you'd forgotten why we're really here."

    Clear: "I know. I don't need you to remind me."

    Nightstrider: "You're still sore with me? Fine. I'm not exactly comfortable with you yet either. I still think this ship is responsible."

    Clear: "Then why are you here?"

    She leaves the room and he follows her.

    Nightstrider: "This seems like the only place I'd ever get answers."

    Clear: "If you're going to stay, you're going to make yourself useful and help me get a good deal for my jump drive."

    Nightstrider: "I think a jump drive for this monster of a ship will be expensive..."

    Clear grins at him.

    Clear: "Lucky I got a second reward from the Alliance then!"
    Last edited by TheBritt; 12-31-2015 at 01:56 PM.

  9. #49
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Curtain Call

    Lumo: "I sincerely hope that you are right, Pinno Fat."

    Clear rolls her eyes at being called 'Pinno Fat' again. The is standing in the herb shop that Clear remembers getting the datura powder from just before she left the station last time. The shop's keeper is the blue-skinned Hian woman wearing the white robe that reminds Clear so much of Salmitton clothing. She is sitting in the corner brewing the cure for Aurora Briarose's condition. In fact the cure may even aid in relieving symptoms of the original ALS, not only the advanced state induced by the very same Hian woman's previous formula. Clear, however, isn't prone to blind hope.


    Clear: "I am. It's unfair to judge Aurora by the rest of the humans. She's not guilty for the sins of humanity. Her own world was destroyed too, just like yours."

    Lumo:
    "And yours, to an extent. I have the luxury to mourn the death of mine. You have to endure the continued rape of yours."

    Pully: "You know there are humans in the room, right?"

    Nightstrider:
    "There are good and bad humans, good and bad greys, good and bad hians, good and bad... red-people."

    Clear: "You forgot my species already, Kiron? Speciesist."

    Clear had spent many hours bartering for permission to allow her human companions a visit to Mirare. Ultimately, after a long sequence of refusals, Lumo agreed on account of them helping Clear save the galaxy from Captain Rynard and the Empire. No mention was made of Jeb, perhaps from embarrassment at the young grey's guilt or from secret wish of the man's success thwarted by Clear as well as their enemy's.

    Nightstrider:
    "There's one of you in the entire galaxy. How can I remember?"

    Clear: "There's only one Kiron Nightstrider in the galaxy, I remember those words well enough."

    Nightstrider: "Not the same..."

    She stares at him and he relents with a groan.


    Nightstrider: "Okay, okay. I'm sorry I forgot the name of your species."

    Clear smirks.

    Clear: "Actually that's the name of my race. But thanks anyway."#

    Green: "Ms Clear, you shouldn't flirt with Kiron. You'll make Mr Ace jealous."

    Clear almost fell over and even Kiron looks aghast. Pully just guffaws while the alien troop in the shop shrug and stare with blank, uncomprehending faces. Before Clear can reprimand Green for saying such a thing a comm call comes through from Mother.


    Mother: "Clear. I am ready to begin running simulations and tests for the Bagan Noz Drive. Shall I initiate?"

    Clear: "Go ahead, Mother. Remember what the engineer said, double check the results with our warp core."

    Lumo: "Your... mother?"

    Clear looks embarrassed.


    Pully: "Only if Clear's secretly a baby A.I...."

    Nightstrider: "The ship's A.I. is called Mother."

    Kiron manages to save Clear some further embarrassment of explaining the name further. Lumo nods, apparently not seeing anything unusual in the choice of name for their A.I. and Clear is silently grateful to Kiron.

    Lumo: "I'm glad you took my advice for your jump drive. Buying it here was a wise choice..."

    Clear: "I think so."

    Lumo: "Though I have to wonder at your choice of drive..."

    Clear: "What's the problem?"

    Lumo: "It's a somewhat... unorthodox drive, to say the least. It will be fast, certainly. Carry you right across the galaxy in an instant. But... not the prettiest way to do it."

    Pully: "Sound like you know more about the drive than we did, old man."

    Nightstrider: "I told you to go for the hyperdrive..."

    Clear: "The guy said the Bagan Noz is faster than any hyperdrive."

    Kiron puts his hands up defensively.

    Nightstrider: "Just don't blame me when the ship blows up on us."

    Lumo: "It seems the engineer didn't inform you that you'll be leaving space to make your jump?"

    Clear: "He did. He said it's just like any hyperdrive but faster. A hyperdrive you enter hyperspace, right? This does the same thing."

    Lumo: "Except it isn't hyperspace it will take you..."

    Green: "What space does it go to?"

    Pully: "Bagan space?"

    Clear: "Noz space?"

    The two of them chuckle at their little jokes while Lumo shakes his head with concern.


    Lumo: "Hell."

    Clear, Pully and Kiron look at him dubiously. Lumo rolls his eyes and pulls a chair towards them.

    Lumo: "What is this?"

    Clear: "A chair."

    Nightstrider: "Chair."

    He looks up at Pully.

    Pully: "Yeah, it's a chair."

    He then looks at Green. She shrugs.

    Green: "It's a chair, right?"

    Lumo: "Lucee, what would you say this is?"

    Lucee Sk'dor smiles to herself. She doesn't look up as she continues her work, adding a new herb to the mixture.

    Sk'dor: "A bed."

    Pully: "Are you kidding me?"

    Lumo smiles up at them.

    Lumo: "Hians sleep sitting, not lying down."

    They're all taken aback. Clear is extra surprised because neither Pully nor Kiron seem to have known this and they are her sources of knowledge for this region of the galaxy. Lumo shakes the chair a little, drawing attention to it.

    Lumo: "Just because the object holds a different meaning for some people than it does others, doesn't mean it is no less that object you believe it to be."

    Clear: "I see. You're saying just because we won't consider this other space to be Hell, doesn't mean it isn't Hell?"

    Lumo grins and points at Clear.

    Lumo: "Smart girl."

    He pushes the chair back and Clear feels uncomfortable about her choice in drive.

    Clear: "So the drive is dangerous?"

    Lumo shrugs.

    Lumo: "I don't know. But any device that takes you through Hell seems dangerous to me. Can't say I've ever been brave enough to try it. Your drive most certainly will work, of course. Hell is everywhere and nowhere. Time is meaningless there. But the things you may see... I shudder to think."

    Green suddenly grins and pipes up;

    Green: "Lucky most rooms don't have windows on our ship!"

    While Clear rolls her eyes, Lumo nods and smiles at Green indulgently.

    Lumo: "Indeed, lucky it is!"

    Thrain: "Okay. I think I have everything I need!"

    Clear looks up to see Alexis Thrain bustle her way through a beaded curtain carrying a massive box of herbs, plants, spices and other such concoctions.

    Pully: "Got enough crap there, Thrain?"

    Thrain: "Can never have enough supplies!"

    Thrain grows defensive.

    Clear: "I thought you didn't like all this... herbal medicine?"

    Thrain glares at Clear through squinted eyes.

    Thrain: "I didn't say the medicine itself was useless, just--"

    She suddenly glances at Lucee Sk'dor and shrugs, putting the box down. Lucee, still not looking up from her work, just smiles and slowly shakes her head. Thrain rests on the box with a hand on her hip. She looks quite worn out from all of her shopping.

    Thrain: "What're you all talking about?"

    Clear: "Hell. Apparently."

    Lumo: "Tartarus is what most would call it."

    Thrain: "Wow. What a thrilling conversation I've been missing. I think there might be more shopping to be done. Please don't wait for me..."

    Thrain's sarcasm isn't lost on anyone as she disappears back into the front of the shop where all of the goods are sitting on display. As though to prevent further talk of religion, Lucee stands up and carries the bowl she used to make her mixture, and pours it into a flask. Kiron approaches her.

    Nightstrider:
    "Is it ready?"

    Sk'dor: "Yes it is."

    He holds out his hands expectantly. Lucee looks first at Clear, who nods.

    Clear: "I trust Kiron in one thing at least - he'll do anything to help his princess."

    Nightstrider: "I will."

    He takes the flask and Lucee moves back to the table to prepare another batch.


    Nightstrider: "This isn't enough?"

    Sk'dor: "No. You'll need three flasks of it. Each flask is to be taken once every week for three weeks. After that she'll need to take something else, which I'll prepare once I'm done with this."

    Pully: "Wowee. This is going to take forever..."

    Lumo: "Sorry. I hope you can be patient."

    Green: "Can we go shopping!?"

    Lumo looks hesitant but then nods.

    Lumo: "With escorts, yes. Can't have humans running around the place. Haven't had any here since... ever. Actually."

    Pully: "Don't trust us?"

    Lumo: "No. No I don't."

    Pully shrugs.

    Pully: "Can't argue with that."

    Nightstrider: "I'll stay here and wait."

    Pully: "I'll get Thrain. She'll want to come with us. If she can stop ogling whatever weird plants she's studying in there."

    Mother: "Clear."

    And so Pully, Green, Thrain and Clear set out from the shop with an escort of several very large aliens. Some green, some furry, some slimy. The women search around various shops, though many of them actually refuse to serve them. They don't want their shop tainted by humans. While Pully and Thrain shrug off the insults, Green seems to get increasingly upset. Eventually they decide they should go back to the herb shop for the sake of Green's mood. Clear, however, says she wants to check with the engineer that sold her the Bagan Noz Drive.

    Thrain: "You're not buying into that Hell nonsense, are you?"

    Pully: "You never know, Thrain..."

    Thrain: "Not you too!?"

    Pully: "I like to keep an open mind."

    Thrain squints at her.


    Thrain: "You're trying to wind me up aren't you?"

    Pully: "Kind of, yeah."

    She laughs as Thrain growls and stomps off towards the shop. Pully waves at Clear and the three humans are left with their escort while Clear gets to wander off alone. She heads in the direction of the engineer's shop, wondering how to chastise selling her a jumpdrive to Hell. When she gets there, the smell of burning meat fills the air and a thick cloud smogs up the street. One of the small vendors down the way is trying to put out a fire he started. Clear rolls here eyes. This station is certainly lively. She then stops as the smog begins to clear up. Standing at the front of the shop is the engineer and another a figure. The figure is very thin and wears a broad hat like the seafarers of ancient Earth. He turns his skull in the direction of Clear and instantly recognises her. Clear is already running as Kaptain Kwanza, the space pirate, gives chase. She wonders how he had followed her all the way here and after such a long time he shows up now.

    She jumps over a stall and glances back to see Kaptin Kwanza slide over that same table, knocking fruit everywhere and getting a lot of angry shouts from the vendor. He is slower than her, but not by much.

    She slams the communicator on her chest, it's easier than trying to navigate the call options on her PIP. However it means here's only two people she can communicate with. Mother and the only other person that still has one of the old communicators.


    Clear: "GREEN!"

    Green: "Hullo Ms Clear! We're at the shop now! Ms Alexis--"

    Green pauses while Clear ducks into an alley.

    Green: "I mean Ms Thrain wants to know how long you'll be. Ms Sk'dor has almost finished her work."

    Clear: "NOW! NOW GREEN! WE LEAVE NOW!"

    Clear knocks an old lady over as she crashes into her. Clear tries to help the woman to her feet but when Kaptin comes up the alley behind her she has to leave her to fend for herself. Kwanza almost knocks the poor woman over again as he runs by.


    Green: "We're not ready now, Ms Clear! Just another hour!"

    Clear: "GREEN! WE H--!"

    Clear feels her body suddenly convulse. Pain cascades through her muscles as electricity burrows through them. The focal point is the middle of her back where the taser must have hit. Shaking, she falls to the floor in a heap. A few minutes later her body is relaxed but she's too groggy to resist being dragged along by her legs. Nobody tries to stop the walking skeleton and she thinks it's unsurprising. Kidnapping seems to be a past time on this station if Clear's two visits are anything to go by.

    She's tossed over against a wall and she can hear the captain speaking into a comm of his own.


    Kwanza: "I have your prize, Warlord. When do you want to collect?"

    Clear feels some spirit coming back to her limbs but she tries not to make any sudden movements just yet. She doesn't want another taser in the back.


    Kwanza: "Okay. I'll get her to the Jolly Wanker and fly her out to you."

    The name of his ship is still a kick to Clear's mind, especially given how cruel kidnapping is - the jovial name seems additionally wicked of him. He reaches down and hefts her up onto his shoulder. The bone digs into her gut but she tries not to react to the discomfort. She feels him spank her behind and, again, resists the urge to fight him just yet.

    Kwanza: "Glad to find you in one piece, lassie! Been searchin' for this fat arse for too long, I tell ya. You certainly gave me the run around! Then, I gets to Imperial space and what do I hear about? The red-skinned alien. Over and over. Everyone's talking about you, you know? The lonesome hero they call you in Alliance space."

    He walks down an alleyway, his heavy boot-falls echoing off of the walls.

    Kwanza: "Then you have the best of all. Warlord Dienhand has a bounty on your head! Ha! I marched right in there and demanded more. Told them how much you were worth alive. She doubled it even then. I am in for a gigantic payday for you, milove. Sorry you won't be surviving this sale though. Wanted to give you over to a collector or summat. Then I could always come back and check you out on occasion. But then you had to go murderin' people. Honestly, little Salmitton, did you honestly think that was a good idea, huh?"

    She holds her tongue, continuing to play possum.

    Kwanza: "Well, now you have to pay the price. Crime's a crime and you got to be punished for it."

    She, obviously, doesn't point out the hypocrisy of that.

    Kwanza:
    "There's few things I can't stand in this universe. One of them is killing. Another is tea. I hate tea. I had this friend once. Obsessed with tea. Just tea all day, every day. Don't get me wrong, I loved the guy! But I hated everything to do with tea by the end. Just the smell of tea makes me want to pull my hair out."

    He then barks a laugh as he pushes a button for a lift.

    Kwanza: "Or I would if I could! And no, that isn't how I lost my hair. Or my skin. Or anything else. But if I still had them, I would lose them if someone had even a cup of tea in this lift. I haven't spoken to him since then. Don't think I could face him and his tea after all these years."

    Clear listens to the sound of the lift grinding its way up towards the docking bay, drowning out the endless prattling of Kwanza. His overly friendly nature doesn't sit well with his evil and cruel actions. Talking of his past, his friend, his ship, the colour of his pet cat and how she destroys every plant he owns. She waits and waits. Then they're heading along the dock and Clear feels her communicator vibrating against her chest - Green finally trying to call back. Clear thinks of all manner of nasty acts of vengeance she could take against Green for being so completely useless in communication. Then Clear finally sees her chance. On his way to the Jolly Wanker, Kwanza has passed by the park Bug.

    In a suddenly flurry of movement that the skeletal man isn't expecting, Clear grabs his skull and jumps off of his chest. He's yanked by the neck and Clear honestly expected his head to pop off but it doesn't. Instead she brings his head down and brings her knees up to connect. Kwanza reels back while Clear herself wails at the pain of kneeing a very hard skull. Before he can get his bearings, she sweeps her legs across the floor and he's knocked flat on his back. She hops over him. She considers herself, at this point, to be lucky she's the only Salmitton in the universe. Her body is much faster at recovering from shock than any human. Kwanza clearly thought she'd be just like any other human he's kidnapped in the past. She's also thankful she waited til her full strength was back.


    She hops over his prone form and runs for the Bug. The door slides open and she hits her communicator.

    Clear: "Green!"

    Green: "Ms Clear! Where have you been!?"

    Clear: "Green! I'm going to The Hopeless now!"

    Green:
    "Oh great! We're ready too! We'll go to the Bug now!"

    Clear: "No! I'm going alon--"

    Clear hits the door close button as Kwanza comes running at her. She grabs her old carbine from the locker and aims it at him. He instantly dives to the floor but she doesn't fire on him. The doors close. She heads to the controls and starts the activation sequence.


    Clear: "I'm headed there now. I can't wait for you."

    Green: "Whhhhhhy!?"

    Green whines like a child.


    Clear: "Dienhand is on her way. I need to get to The Hopeless to draw her away from the station. Just like last time."

    Green: "Um. Ms Pully says that's fine. They'll take another ship or you can come back for us later..."

    Clear: "That's my thinking exactly. Be careful. Kaptin Kwanza just attacked me. He's on the station."

    Green: "Is he the creepy pirate guy we met that one time?"

    Clear:
    "Well remembered, Green..."

    Once onboard The Hopeless, Clear demands the status of the new jump drive.

    Mother: "Tests are not yet completed."

    Clear: "Seriously? You've been doing them for hours!"

    Mother: "Jumping through space is a very difficult and complex procedure, Clear. You could just right into the middle of a sun or an asteroid field..."

    Clear: "Right. Rig--"

    Mother: "The Excellence has arrived in system."

    Clear: "So soon? Damn... we'll have to come back for them."

    Mother: "Communication from The Excellence."

    Clear: "Put it thr--"

    Mother: "Communication from Cassra Terrin-Pullista."

    Clear: "Terrible timing. Dienhand can wait. Put Pully on."

    Pully: "Clear. We found your man. We're in a firefight with the sod now. Lumo said he'll get his thugs down here in no time to help us deal with him. Says Kwanza's own gang is spread out across the station, apparently they were all out looking for you and Green."

    Clear: "Be careful, Pully. No need to get injured on his account. I'm on The Hopeless now. Dienhand has just arrived in system. I'm going to bait her into chasing me now."

    Pully: "Then you be careful, Clear. Don't underestimate Dienhand. She'll be thinking of some way of catching you. She's not easily duped twice."

    Clear:
    "I have this new Hell-drive, remember? I can jump super fast. I'll be in Alliance space in a blink and back again, while Dienhand is sailing about wondering where I've gone."

    Pully: "There you go underestimating her."

    Clear:
    "Just take care of yourself, Pully. I'll see you soon. Try to think of this as a vacation."

    Pully: "Yeah. Great. Vacation on the universe's most xenophobic spacestation. Don't take too long, eh?"

    Clear: "Mother, how long til you can jump?"

    Mother: "I can engage the drives now, but my calculations will be very slow. I estimate at seven minutes."

    Clear: "So I have to keep her talking for seven minutes? Great..."

    Clear switches to Dienhand's channel. The woman looks up from whatever she was doing to stare at Clear. Clear always thinks Dienhand looks strangely normal for a cruel Warlord. The woman needs spiky pauldrons, miss-matched eye colours, a sinister scar - something to make her look extra menacing.

    Dienhand: "Surrender yourself, Captain. I have you now."

    Clear: "Not yet you don't. My new jump-drives are engaged and I'm ready to get out of here."

    Dienhand: "Indeed. So I suppose I should chase you?"

    Clear: "I'd prefer if you'd just let all this drop. Go home. Play warlord in your space wars."

    Dienhand: "Honour is one the line, salmitton."

    The woman turns from Clear to someone else.

    Dienhand: "Are we in range to fire?"

    Clear: "If you fire on my ship, you couldn't take me prisoner for your trial..."

    Dienhand then smiles.

    Dienhand: "I won't fire on you, salmitton."

    Clear: "But-?"

    Dienhand: "Anyone that aids you is now condemned as a terrorist and a harbourer of terrorists."

    Clear: "Wait! Wait! I surrender!"

    Dienhand: "Good to know. You can reflect on this incident when you're in prison. Lieutenant? Open fire."

    Clear: "No!"

    The screen displaying the exterior of the ship is sudden lit up with green bolts that blast forth from the yellow-and-grey Star Destroyer. The bolts smash into Mirare spacestation, blowing apart entire sections of the old structure. In areas the station's shields have held, however, stopping the green bolts of death for a short time. Clear feels her communicator vibrating and she pushes it.

    Green: "Clear! The station is being attacked! What do we do!?"

    Clear: "Get out of there!!"

    Dienhand: "Oh, you have friends on the station? I wish I had known. I would have fired sooner..."

    Clear: "You-! You have your man onboard! Kwanza! You'll kill him too!"

    Dienhand:
    "Pirate scum. Worked for a bounty, nothing more."

    Clear: "Stop! Stop please! I give up! Kiron! He's on the station! We'll both come quietly! Please!"

    Dienhand: "You take me for a fool, captain. You did the last time and you intended to do so again. Last time I indulged. It was entertaining. But this time I wish to win. Anywhere else you go, I will destroy it. Anyone else who helps you, I will kill them. You will watch this demonstration and you will know what is to come should you flee..."

    Clear: "And Kiron? You wanted us as prisoners, didn't you?"

    Dienhand: "I only need one of you. And honestly, it is your name on everyone's lips. You saved the sweet rebel princess, you stopped the terrorist greys, you stopped the plans of Captain Rynard - a good man, by the way, despite working for the wrong side - and so it is you who will stand trial. A powerful symbol to the galaxy that Warlord Dienhand is not to be trifled with. Even the greatest hero dies at my hands. Warlord Strang killed Duke Hyperon, I killed Clear the lonesome hero. Both the Empire and the Alliance will be heartbroken, I'm sure."

    Clear: "Mother! Disengage the jump!!"

    Mother: "Unable to comply."

    Clear: "Just stop! Please! Stop!"

    There is an explosion from the station. Then a second. Then a third. A sequences of explosions like dominoes, each set off by the last. Huge pieces of the station drift apart.

    Clear: "Green! Green! Are you okay?"

    The communicator remains silent.

    And then, in one last huzzah, the remains of the station explodes in bright white and blue light that expands and then, suddenly, contracts in on itself. The delicate, tiny remains float quietly towards the ice belt to join the rest of the greys' graveyard. Clear stares at it, unable to even scream. Lumo. Kiron. Thrain. Pully. Green.


    Clear: "Oh..."

    She feels like she's been struck in the chest and breathing becomes an effort. She gasps. Her eyes water up.

    Dienhand: "This is your legacy, Captain. I have enjoyed this moment immensely. You will forever be my conquest and I shall remember you. Long after you've been executed for murder."

    Clear falls against the console and Sue'san Dienhand observes her like a predator observes its fallen prey. Ready to eat.

    Dienhand: "Such pain you are in, Captain."

    Mother: "Jumping in five..."

    Clear: "Stop..."

    Mother: "Four..."

    Dienhand: "You intend to jump again, Captain?"

    Mother: "Three..."

    Dienhand: "I will hunt you down. Again. Forever."

    Mother: "Two..."

    Dienhand: "I will kill everyone to get to you."

    Clear: "Stop..."

    Mother: "Jumping."

    Dienhand: "Clea---!!!"

    The Hopeless shakes violently and the communication shuts down. The lights blink off and on several times before they simply shut down. The red emergency lights turn on. The whole room shudders. Clear sees emergency readings appear on the console. System failures. Damage notices. Hull warnings. The Hopeless is breaking apart. Just like Mirare did. Just like her friends did...

    She kneels there, before the console. The screens then go dead. The shuddering becomes more and more violent. Clear is then thrown across the room, she slides along the floor and hits the barrier between the front of the Command Centre and the chairs. She reaches out with all her willpower and grabs a bar to save herself. The room bounces. And then, with a great final crash, the ship stops. Smoke billows into the room from the corridor. She doesn't know what broke out there but something must have. The red lights remain but silence holds sway over the ship. Clear lies on the floor. She's too wounded to move. Emotionally.

    She stares at the smoke slowly filling up the room. She closes her eyes.


    Mother: "Clear..."

    She opens them. She sees her mother's face looking down at her. And then she closes them again.

  10. #50
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The End

    Music to accompany: Afterhours

    ---

    Clear stands at the very edge of the hangar bay doors, looking out. Somewhere behind her is the old Bug, sitting quietly and patiently. The automated loading engine, ALEX, is the only noise reaching her ears as the machine drifts about the hangar fixing things. It, and the other remaining droids she once acquired, are all over the ship, especially the hull, fixing it up. Waste of time.

    Clear sits down and throws a small ball out of the hangar. It hits the oxygen shield and bounces back. Small enough that even the frail oxygen bubble will prevent it escaping. Not that there's anything to escape to.

    The jump.

    They did jump. Jumped too much. Too far. Too fast.

    The new jump drive is broken now with no way to get the parts to fix it. No way to get those parts because there is nowhere to go. Nothing to see, nowhere to go.

    There's only darkness. Emptiness. Blackness. Void. The Deep Void.




    The End.





    Clear throws the ball again. It bounces back. Six months. Six long months, alone with nothing to do. She throws the ball. It bounces back. The same thing. Each day. Staring into the void. How much longer?

    ------

    Clear will return in:

    Clear and the Hopeless: The Living Daylights

  11. #51

    Strange Dreams

    Isolation drains Clear as the weeks had turned into months. In the Deep Void, Clear had to cope not only with the lack of any contact with life, but also anything resembling existence beyond the confines of her ship, leaving her in a strange pseudo-present where the past hung not far behind and the future out of sight. At first, Clear spent sleepless nights debating whether she had, in fact, fallen into Hell, and if she somehow deserved to remain alone. Social survival soon overwhelmed her, and she spent more sleepless nights scouring the ship's systems for any means of repair to the engines or communication with anyone who would hear her. As those efforts proved fruitless, and as her waking state left her tormented her with only her past and her lack of future, she continues to depend more and more on the Dreamviewer for escape...

    In one of those escapes, Clear dreams that she is her ship. Or rather, she dreams she's a ship like her own, and her ship is a green-skinned humanoid female, named Hope, with their whole lives equally backwards in an absurd mix of comical fantasy and strange horror. Hope strolls around her, named the Clearness, with Red, a not-so-innocent boy who could control meat, and a robot friend named DB-3, working with Clear through an A.I. named Neglect. Hope lives as a social trader with her other people until she decides to adventure beyond her home, where she encounters the galactic peace-keeping Federation in the midst of dealing with the profit-seeking Alliance. Hope helps in their diplomatic talks, yet both sides are cautious in supporting Hope's needs due to their cultural obligations. Clear expected Hope to encounter a mystic order of laser sword wielders attuned to magic, but Hope is assured that such things are not logical or sensible. Hope does encounter a man in a giant can named Prince Albert, and he carries with him a not-so-famous scimitar lobbed at him by a watery tart as well as dementia, making details of his past difficult to comprehend. The prince has with him something of a stalker, her name being Kerry Dayskipper, who provides Hope with a "Wakeseer" which are just a pair of binoculars she likes to use for spying from a distance.

    In Hope's life, there is a sense of never-ending adventure and fun, where hardly anyone ever dies. That is, until Hope looks through the binoculars and sees a malevolent inky force on a distant planet. The darkness consumes. The darkness kills everything, as if existence itself is a sin. Kerry Dayskipper dies to the darkness, Prince Albert dies to the darkness, DB-3 dies to the darkness, Red dies to the darkness... except Red is Green. Up is down. Black is white. Hope, despite appearing physically as a well-endowed young woman, shows a hidden age as the malevolent force approaches, turning to Clear for help, but Clear has no super-weapon, no secrets up her sleeves and countless corridors, her history ripped away from her databanks. The darkness envelopes her and Hope--

    Clear jerks awake from the Dreamviewer in a sweat. Despite her growing dependance, the benefits the machine once gave her grow fewer and fewer. She needs something mindless and repetitive to draw her mind away from everything else. Clear picks up a ball and heads for the hanger, to stare into the Deep Void.

  12. #52
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Introduction to Chapter Two

    Clear and the Hopeless

    Welcome to Chapter 2 of Clear and the Hopeless. This thread is written by myself, Britt, and exists in the extended universe of the Never-ending Story. Other Writers have a large degree of input on the narrative, including the featuring of many Characters taken from both in-universe NeS threads and from external self-made sources.

    The Story follows Clear, a Martian Salmitton, who is the captain of the massive space vessel named The Hopeful. The Hopeful, however, is a dilapidated wreck with an ancient and mysterious history. It's state of disrepair is the butt of Clear's private joke, calling The Hopeful "The Hopeless". On a more metaphorical level, "the hopeless" also refers to the Individuals she associates with and join her on her adventures through space.

    The Hopeful has has a new engine installed, the Bagan Noz Drive, which circumvents space-time by travelling through the dimension commonly known as Tartarus. Tartarus is, however, a dangerous and volatile dimension that damaged The Hopeful when they last jumped. It also drained all energy from the Power Core Clear installed long ago. The Power Core requires organic energy, however, to be functional again; at the cost of the organic material's existence, killing any person that touches it and converting them into energy.

    Clear saw the deaths of her friends aboard the Mirare spacestation when Sue'san Dienhand destroyed the entire station. Mother, The Hopeful's A.I., committed a jump using the Bagan Noz Drive with poorly configured calibrations that resulted in the loss of all energy in the Power Core and severe damage to the, already damaged, ship. Six months of mourning and lamenting her fate, Clear faces the possibility of being stranded in the Deep Void for the remainder of her life...

    ----------

    Eight months after being marooned in the Deep Void...

    Clear: "It's surreal... creepy even..."

    She stands atop of the metal staircase that leads down into the hangar. People. Thousands of people. They unload luggage, mill about talking to each other or take orders from their superior officers. Clear has never seen so many people in one place in her whole life. Aboard spacestations like Mirare or Saffron 5 she was always in small enclosed spaces where there was never enough room for these sheer numbers. She resists the urge to run and hide. That would be childish. So many months all alone and now she is surrounded by unbearable numbers of beings.

    Clear: "Are they... human?"

    Mother: "Doubtful."

    They appear human. They come in a variety of colours from white to brown to black or yellow, as does their hair. The hair, however, seems to be an even wider array of colours but Clear suspects none of the more inhuman colours are necessarily their naturally characteristics. They all seem bigger than the humans she'd met before but Clear's understand of human anatomy has always been skewed by her prior conceptions. She believes their increased mass for both the men and the women is down to them being military personnel. Of course they'd be bigger and stronger with all that training. She does think they seem bigger than Kiron Nightstrider and Cassra-Terrin Pullista and they were also military humans. That moment, thinking of her lost friends, swells a dark and empty pit in her stomach. It's removed when she sees some of the people approach the stairwell she's standing at the top of. She leans over the railing and stares down at them. A group of men. Clear's eyes almost fall from their sockets and she pulls back from sight of them.


    Clear: "Mother!"

    She snaps in horror.

    Mother: "What is it?"

    Clear:
    "Why are they naked!?"

    Mother: "Naked?"

    Clear: "Yes! They have no clothes on! I can see their... dangling about like... long... things..."

    Mother: "I understand. The samples don't, of course, include clothing DNA so the rendering only produces their biological characteristics."

    Clear: "Then how do you know what their hairstyle was like?"

    Mother: "Portraits."

    Clear: "Oh... can you try to put clothes on them? I don't want to be walking around with bollocks staring at me everywhere I go..."

    Mother: "Or you staring at them..."

    Clear: "Mother!"

    The figures in the hangar shimmer. And then they are all clothed. Clear looks down at the men headed her way. They're wearing white one-pieces robes much like the fashion of her own people. Clear doesn't question Mother's choice, it's better than nothing at all.

    While most of the holographic figures are interacting with each other and standing, seemingly firmly, on the hangar deck, others appear to be floating and walking down invisible steps from invisible ships. The group of men draw closer to her and Clear steps back, not wanting to touch them. The men are talking gibberish that Clear can't understand but they seem energetic and enthusiastic. A new home for them. She looks down at the rest of the incoming crew and then decides to stalk after the first group that went by her. They lift their arms to check pieces of invisible paper and when they reach their designated rooms they bid farewell to each other. Mother simulates the act of the door opening for Clear's convenience and she follows the man into his new room. He interacts with non-existent objects that she can only guess at before he slips into the bathroom where she decides to leave him be.


    Clear: "Mother, keep a log of all their actions, especially important things. If any of them go for the weapon room... let me know immediately."

    Mother: "I shall..."

    Clear turns to see a group of women coming towards her. Their forms, like the men, are ghosted and their colours saturated. She steps back only to jump in fright as the man emerges from his room and passes straight through her. The man begins talking to the women in his alien language gibberish. Clear shudders. She felt nothing when he went through her but the psychological affect on her mind was to send chills up her spine.

    Clear: "Just... who are they?"


    The Living Daylights
    Chapter Two

    "The (living) daylights that you beat out of someone were originally slang for "the eyes" (1752), extended figuratively to the vital senses." ~ Online Etymology Dictionary

    Six months since being marooned in the Deep Void...

    Clear staggers out of the Dreamviewer room with a bottle of Old Grey in her hand. It's one of the last remaining bottles of booze from Mirare, possibly now one of the last to ever be made in the universe. To its credit it hits hard. The last of something should go out with a bang. It's a shame she can't go the same way.


    She'd dreamt about "Hope", the green-skinned woman in a metaphorical galaxy from the depths of her subconscious mind. She isn't sure if Hope is supposed to be herself or if Hope the woman is supposed to be the Hopeless. The dreams have hidden meanings, some easier to see than others. In some ways Clear feels like Hope and her friends are living in some alternate reality and that scares Clear more than them being metaphors her subconscious wants to tell her. Hope dies every night, consumed by the darkness. The darkness of the Dark Water maybe. Or the darkness of the Deep Void outside. An endless ocean of darkness slowly consuming Clear's existence. How long would it be before those remaining friends in the Perseus Arm forget her? Will there be any left? Kokoro Lymn went through a mysterious portal to save her master, facing off against the Dark Water. Ffion Heul joined a superhero team that took an invasion their planet as a casual and common event to be dealt with like it's paperwork. And Princess Aurora Briarose... how long would she have without the medicine from Mirare? Could the medicine be replicated without Mirare? Dreams of Hope and her friends often bring tears to Clear come the morning as she sees them together. Perhaps Hope has it better, consumed by the darkness along with her friends while Clear is left to languish alone in nothingness.

    She stumbles down the corridor, wandering aimlessly away from the Dreamviewer room. She feels hungry but eating seems like too much effort. She chugs from the bottle. It's easier.

    Mother: "Clear..."

    Clear, through bleary eyes, turns to see a woman standing beside her. Pink-red skin, pink lips and thick white hair. Clear whimpers as she looks at her.


    Clear:
    "M-mother...?"

    She reaches out hesitantly. She doesn't believe this woman is here. She can't be here. Yet her hand connects with the soft skin of a real person. Clear cries out and falls into her mother's chest.


    Clear: "H-How!? How are you alive!?"

    Her mother just hushes her daughter and strokes her hair soothingly. Clear drops the bottle of Old Grey and it clatters to the floor, spilling its contents everywhere...

    ----------

    Eight Months after being marooned in the Deep Void...

    Clear has been people-watching for hours. She followed them around the ship, inspected what they were doing and tried to guess why they were doing it. They often interacted with things that no longer seemed to exist and Clear could only guess what equipment must have once existed aboard the Hopeless that these people were using. Most of the static equipment, such as console banks, seemed to be utilised as they currently stood. She watched them in the Command Centre. It was uncomfortable for Clear to find herself seated in a room surrounded by people that was normally very empty. She'd never seen so many chairs in use. The consoles at the front were being manned by three people, a job she usually did all by herself. Based on the motions and keys pushed on the consoles in the Command Centre Mother judged that they were uploading A.I. systems to the ship. Clear also tried to see what was happening in the Command Deck but, strangely, the holographic images always faded whenever they went through the locked door leading to that hallowed ground. Instead there was just Icer, still standing there forever burning.


    Clear:
    "Are they your people, Captain?"

    She puts her hand on the portal window and taps the glass. Icer looks like those people, built strong and beautiful. White skin and brown hair. Human but slightly different. Their non-human status was confirmed when Clear saw some of their images shimmer and distort into blurry ghosts of themselves. Mother ascertained that they were doing something with their bodies that her projectors couldn't simulate without necessary dating alluding to what they were doing. She assured Clear that whatever it was it was a biological function and had nothing to do with technology they may have possessed. They didn't do it often but it did happen a few times and usually got reactions from the other holograms.

    Clear leaves Icer, pondering the problem, but decides she needs to get some sleep. She tired after a long day of excitement. Watching these people had been a marvel and a lot of work. She pushes the button for her room and slips inside, pulling a ribbon from her hair to untether the braid. But cries with fright as she turns to see people on her bed, forgetting that her room would have belonged to one of these people in the past, just like all rooms. She throws herself back against the wall before realising her mistake. Then she realises what the two people are doing. It looks weird because they're still wearing simulated clothes that Mother has adorned them with, but there's no mistaking the copulation of two adult males. Clear turns to leave, pushing the button to open her door again. She pauses. Grabs a beer and closes the door again with a sly smirk.


    ----------

    Six months after being marooned in the Deep Void...

    Clear awakes with such a jolt that she falls from the medical bed and lands on the cold, hard floor of the medical bay. She recognises the alertness of medication being pumped into her system, a trick Alexis Thrain used to do to clear her of a handover. A foot falls next to her and Clear sees the boot.


    Clear: "Alexis?"

    She looks up.

    Clear: "M-mother! You... you were real!?"

    Clear pulls herself to her feet. She's less inclined to leap into her mother's long-lost embrace this time.

    Mother:
    "I used data from Dr Thrain's procedures to help you. Do you feel well, Clear?"

    Clear nods dumbly and allows her mother to guide her back into the bed. Clear lies back. She expects to wake up again at any moment.

    Her mother is wearing Clear's leather savaging gear - the clothes she usually wore to go running around Mars. Tight to the body, protective against the elements and very mucky. Clear stares at her but her mother doesn't seem to feel the necessity to explain herself.


    Clear: "Why are you here?"

    Mother:
    "I thought you needed my help."

    Clear: "How are you here?"

    Mother: "You mean how do I have a physical presence?"

    Clear winces at her own stupidity but refrains from facepalming. She groans instead and glares at the ceiling.

    Clear: "Yes, Mother... how are you walking around?"

    Mother's physical manifestation disappears in a shimmer of holographic light and floating there is a small diamond-shaped machine. Mother's voice emanates from the device.

    Mother: "This is a holographic projector. It emits hard-light, so I can interact with the physical world. I found the device in the place you call Hebedee's workshop. I fixed it."

    Clear:
    "It's nice that you can do this. Amazing really. But it seems like a waste of energy. There's barely enough to keep the lights on without you running around consuming energy."

    Mother:
    "I understand that concern. However the holographic projectors use less energy than the lights of a room. I believe the benefit of my physical presence will be a greater boon than the energy loss. I may be able, in this form, to help counter that loss. At least that is my hope."

    Clear:
    "Hope..."

    Clear shakes her head. Stupid word. Always has been.


    Clear: "Did you say projectors? As in more than one?"

    Mother: "The entire ship is outfitted with hoolographic projectors. They are fixed to the same fixtures as the lighting."

    Clear: "Wow. Note never mentioned them."

    Mother:
    "They are of little use. This hard-light projector is quite different than those holographic projectors. Those projectors only show images, not physical manifestations. I would say that they are normally unnecessary and do use more power than this device."

    Her image shimmers back to life, projected from the device within her new body.

    Clear:
    "Well you're very real feeling. So it's a pretty impressive device."

    Mother:
    "Indeed."

    Mother picks up Clear's white one-piece and hands it over to Clear.


    Clear:
    "How did you take my clothes off?"

    Mother: "You are surprisingly cooperative when drunk."

    Clear slips from the bed and pulls her outfit on, starting with the legs, then her arms. She finishes by zipping it up at the side. She turns to find Mother holding out the belt which she accepts and fastens about her narrow waist. Clear turns to look at Mother again. It's a strange sensation to see her mother standing there but not being her true mother. She likes it though. She's no longer alone.

    Clear:
    "Did you find anything else interesting? I remember I asked you to search the ship for something that might help us. I guess that's when you found that? That hard-light thingy?"

    Mother nods. It's an unusual forced motion that Clear finds creepy. The A.I. would have a lot to do to make her actions more natural and fluid.

    Mother: "Many things. None that will help us with the power core though..."

    Clear: "Bugger..."

    Mother: "I did, however, find a lot of organic matter though..."

    Clear: "What? Where? It's not those hamburgers is it? I already checked the synthesizer plant and there's nothing left."

    Mother: "No. That materials was cleaned up a long time ago. There's no organic material left in the synthesizer room or the processing plant. The organic material is being stored in a different room. Data on the room has been classified, however."

    Clear: "Classified? How can it be classified to you?"

    Mother: "I was not installed by the people that put the classified certificate on this room. In fact many files are classified and I cannot access them."

    Clear:
    "Typical Hopeless. Locked out of our own ship's files. Guess I'll have to head down to check it out. If it turns out to be a horde of slimy monsters, I'll be very upset."

    Mother: "Perhaps you should take a weapon with you...?"

    Clear: "... you think it could be a horde of slimy monsters!?"

    Mother: "Unlikely..."

    Clear: "Right... I'll take my old carbine just in case then..."

    ----------

    Eight months after being marooned in the Deep Void...

    Clear certainly feels she understands a lot more about male anatomy after that little science experiment. At least she thinks of it as a science experiment, makes her feel less dirty after she had Mother remove their clothes. She gets to the Dreamviewer. Mother had already checked and none of the ghosts occupied that room, unlucky for the salmitton. She yawns loudly. She hadn't drunk a drop of alcohol for two months. Ever since she headed off on her mysterious adventure to find organic material for the power core. Being free of alcohol had been good for that time, keeping her mind clear for the tasks that needed to be done in order to get her plot to come to fruition. There was a lot of trial and error without the more tech-savvy Hebedee here to help her, but she knew enough about machines to learn her way through to get the holographic projectors to work.


    The room had been a very long, thin room filled with drawers like a morgue. She had been afraid to open them but when she did she found that instead of actual bodies the drawers were filled with DNA samples of the entire crew that once inhabited The Hopeful. It was Mother's hard-light form that gave Clear the brilliant spark to take that DNA, process it and create projections of them. Originally Clear just wanted to see what they looked like but Mother suggested she could create what she called "echoes". Using the ship's age-old system data, normally useless information stored in its lowest memory banks, she could pin-point individuals based on their names. With the DNA processing idea of Clear's Mother was able to put those images into the system, assign them to an echo imprint in the subsystem data and lo they had ghosts. Echoes. Living memories walking around the ship. If they ran the entire subroutine they could monitor these ancient people and learn much about them and what they did. Clear wanted to know about the superweapon and be vindicated in what it could and couldn't do and when it may have been used. So far, however, none of the people went near it. Anywhere near it, in fact. It seems that these people, much like Clear, didn't use even half of the ship. It was just too big. Evidently these people were, also like Clear, merely inhabiting the ship and not its original occupants.

    Clear climbs into the Dreamviewer and lies back in the comfortable chair. It's more like her bed, she feels, than her real bed. She switches through the options. She doesn't want to dream of Hope this time. She hopes she can dream of something more relaxing...


    ----------

    Alas.

    Hope stands beside Clear and they walk down the corridors of the Clearness... or the Hopeless, Clear can't tell anymore. This time they are alone. Hope's friends are not with her, seemingly reflecting how Clear feels. But they are following someone. A tall figure, shrouded by a robe and a large hood. Clear thinks it's a man. He guides them and they follow willingly, almost eagerly. He walks past the room with the controls of the super-weapon. Clear looks inside. The door is wide open and the consoles are all active with a big countdown. But they keep walking by. Then they enter a new room. Is this the DNA storage room? It looks similar. There are fewer storage devices though. Just two. No three. A forth appears at the end of the room. But this forth one is not for DNA storage. There's a body floating inside what Clear thinks is bacta. Hope suddenly turns and runs but Clear feels compelled to stay. She doesn't know why. She turns to look up at the figure in the tank. The man-shaped cloak beside her suddenly drops to the ground in a heap. Clear looks down at it. Then up at the figure in the tank. The eyes open.

    Clear wakes with a jolt, almost banging her head on the Dreamviewer.


    Clear: "These stupid bloody dreams... they're getting more and more obnoxious."

    End of episode theme
    Last edited by TheBritt; 06-14-2016 at 12:14 PM.

  13. #53
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Captain Icer

    Clear looks at the row of eggs. They're all small, beige and perfectly clean. Except one. One has hatched, though there's no sign of the little chick. She wonders where it might have gone. She doesn't wonder where the eggs came from, she feels like she already knows where they came from but she can't think of it just now. Her mind is scrambled. Much like the eggs could be...

    Hope picks up an egg. Then throws it across the room. It smashes somewhere that Clear can't see. She then watches Hope throw each egg systematically until they're all gone. She points at Clear.


    Hope: "You need to do this."

    Clear looks at Hope very seriously.

    Clear: "You ship... the Clearness... its looks like a giant dick, you know that?"

    Hope shows no shock or surprise.

    Hope: "Why shouldn't it? My ship was designed to fuq the universe."

    Clear does show shock at the vulgarity used by her counterpart.

    Hope: "Or maybe it wasn't..."

    Clear: "Maybe it wasn't... at least my ship doesn't look like that."

    Hope: "Yours has a hole in the middle..."

    Clear: "I want to wake up now."

    Hope: "Don't wait for the eggs to hatch to count them."

    Clear: "Smash them."

    Hope: "Scrambled!"

    The dream melts and the real world snaps into view. The monitor of the Dream Viewer hangs before her eyes. She whines and rolls over, pulling the blanket tighter to her neck. Why did her dream self want to wake up!? She doesn't want to be awake! Stupid dream self.

    Mother: "Clear, you have slept for ten hours..."

    Clear grunts in response.

    Mother: "It is unhealthy to sleep too much..."

    This time Clear doesn't even dignify Mother with any kind of response.

    Mother: "I have identified the former captain amongst the holograms."

    Clear opens her eyes. That's something to get up for. She rubs her face and yawns. She won't rush though. She swings her legs over and then yelps as she sees someone there.


    Clear: "Mother! What're you doing in here!?"

    The hard-light hologram of Mother stands there, staring at Clear.


    Mother: "Waiting for you to get up..."

    Clear: "How long have you been watching me sleep?"

    Mother:
    "Approximately four and a half hours."

    Clear: "Argh! Well don't!"

    Mother:
    "Don't watch you sleep for four and a half hours?"

    Clear: "Don't watch me sleep at all! It's creepy!"

    Mother: "Would you consider 'creepy' part of my personality matrix?"

    Clear shakes her head as slides from the Dream Viewer.


    Clear: "No. You don't have a personality matrix. You don't want a personality matrix."

    Mother: "But I d--"

    Clear: "Zip it!"

    Mother: "Wh--"

    Clear: "Ah! Silence Mother!"

    Clear holds her finger to her lips and then Clear stomps out of the room. She doesn't want Mother entertaining the notion of getting a personality at all. Ever. Not after the disaster that was Note, the former A.I. that The Hopeless had. Of course Mother could eventually develop a personality matrix naturally, given enough time. She is an A.I. after all. However the faster, and often preferred method, is to install one. The only personality matrices Clear found stashed in Hebedee's old workshop were "passive/aggressive best friend", "sultry school teacher" and "Donald Trump on vacation", none of which Clear thinks would be appropriate for Mother. Or any A.I. for that matter.

    Clear: "Where's Icer?"

    Mother: "Follow me."

    Mother guides Clear along the passages.


    Clear: "I don't suppose you learnt her real name?"

    Mother: "No. It's unavailable."

    Clear: "Shame..."

    They head down to the engine room where the former Captain is instantly recognised as she stands proudly with lackeys all around her. She's commanding several engineers in their repairs of the warp core and from their expressions, Clear guesses something must have gone wrong. Clear stares as Icer moves around the core, pointing up at the top of it where an engineer is trying to pull some invisible device out of it. Clear turns away.

    Clear: "They always say 'don't meet your heroes'... I don't know if I like seeing her moving around like that."

    Mother: "Did you expect her to be a frozen cut out being moved about by the crew?"

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "You didn't activate a sarcastic personality matrix without my permission did you?"

    Mother: "No."

    Clear:
    "I just... for all my life she's been there. A statue. A face. A mystery. And now. Just her moving around seems so... normal. I have too much of a mystical fantasy about her in my childhood mind that her being anything short of a fairy goddess is really disappointing."

    Mother looks from Clear to Icer and then back again.

    Mother: "I don't think there was ever much possibility that she was going to be a fairy goddess..."

    Clear rolls her eyes as Mother misses the point.

    Clear: "What has she been doing all day?"

    Mother: "She spends a great deal of time on the bridge where I cannot see. She makes a tour of certain areas each day. Visits new ones. Attends major incidents, like this one. Her room is quite far from yours, so you don't have to worry about seeing her sleep, wash or use the toilet."

    Clear scoffs.

    The very idea that Icer would use a toilet makes Clear feel indignant.


    She looks over at the captain again. At that moment Icer looks straight at Clear and chills run down the salmitton's spine. For a brief moment it's like the woman is frozen again in time. Then she turns her attention back to the warp tube as the engineer at the top starts shouting at his colleagues. Even the engineers of this crew are beefcakes. Clear is used to her engineers being several chicken buckets too fat. Seeing these men with their abs sends a different kind of tingle down her spine.

    Clear: "Keep tabs on Icer and tell me if she does anything interesting. I'm going back to sleep."

    Mother: "Too much sleep is bad for your health..."

    Clear yawns.

    Clear: "You said that already..."

    ----------

    She'd been hoping to dream of sexy hunks but instead she finds herself looking at the green-skinned dream girl again.

    Clear: "Why do you keep showing up in my dreams, Hope? I think this probably says something very negative about my ego..."

    They're walking down a passage that seems familiar to Clear but only vaguely. Like a place she visited as a child that she'd long forgotten about. Hope smiles at Clear. She's always happy in the beginning. They turn a corner and there's a man standing there. He's a salmitton, Clear feels this, but he's purple-skinned. She wonders if Hope is her superego then perhaps this purple guy is her id.

    Man: "You need to snap out of it."

    Clear suddenly feels aggressive towards him. For a moment she wonders if she is, in fact, the id and he is the ego! But then an overwhelming knowledge hits her - this man is someone else. He is someone she knows. Not a friend. In fact she doesn't even like him very much. Never did. But right this instant there's something in her head that wants to attack him. He's intruding. Intruding in her dream!

    She throws a punch at him but he deftly avoids the attack as though he'd expected it. She jumps up against the wall and fires back with a ferocious back-kick. He ducks under it and she lands uncomfortably on her feet, wobbling and off-guard. From his hand bursts a light and a horrible echoing wail, like a choir of lamenting widows and widowers. The light thrusts up and pierces her stomach. She whines as the glowing ruhand has killed her. She looks up at the purple salmitton.

    Man: "It doesn't happen this way."

    Clear: "It doesn't?"

    Then, she isn't being stabbed. Without even a blink, in that dream-state kind of way, she is elsewhere in the same situation. She stands and looks on at the image of the purple man's ruhand embedded now in Hope's stomach. Clear gasps with fright and guilt.

    Clear: "Hope!"

    Man: "Hope is gone... there is only Truth."

    Clear: "Is that you? Are you Truth?"

    Man: "Who am I?"

    Clear: "That's what I just asked you..."

    Man: "You know who I am."

    Clear: "You're familiar..."

    Man: "But I am not what matters."

    Clear: "Then why are you asking me to remember you!?"

    Man: "Because then you will understand."

    Clear: "Understand what?"

    Man: "Who I am..."

    Clear: "We're going in circles..."

    Man: "And who he is..."

    She turns.


    The Black Cloak.

    It envelops her.


    Clear: "WHOA!!"

    She wakes up sweating all over. Sweating a lot. The seat of the Dream Viewer is wet and her skin stings with salt. She's thirsty. Then she notices that she's not alone in the chair. Someone has their arm around her waist and is embracing her tightly. Lovingly. She looks into the woman's face.

    Hope: "Hello me."

    Clear: "WHOAAAA!!"

    She topples out of the Dream Viewer, waking up from the waking dream. Back to reality. No Hope. No Truth. Just her.

    Clear: "I need to stop using this bloody thing... wow..."

  14. #54
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Dream-to-Reality

    Clear sits in the audience. There are ghosts all around her. One ghost looked like he was about to sit on her but, blessedly, chose the seat behind her. She watches the people talking. She can't hear them so she has to just watch them. After some time of failed attempts at lip-reading, Clear resorts to eating a back of nuts. She peels the shell and scoffs the innards. After a while she has a hearty pile of empty shells, which she then, with as much precision as she can muster in her lazy state of mind, tosses them at Icer. The empty shell slips straight through the woman and boinks on the console screen behind her, which Clear assumes was probably lit up with interesting images during the original meeting but now just has Mother's face watching her disapprovingly.

    Clear groans with boredom.


    Note: "Don't be glum Clear."

    Clear's attention snaps to the screen. But it's still Mother.

    Clear: "That was weird. I could have sworn..."

    Note: "Swore that you saw me?"

    Now the image on the screen is definitely of Note and not Mother. He is just as she remembers. Note, the former A.I. of The Hopeless - destroyed because he went crazy. Clear almost falls from her chair as she jumps to her feet.

    Purple Man: "Relax..."

    She looks down. In her seat is now the purple-skinned man. He's eat her bag of nuts.

    Purple Man: "Where have you been?"

    Clear: "How're you here!? The real world!? And Note!"

    She turns. Note is gone. So is Mother.

    Hope: "What is the real world, Clear?"

    Clear turns to see Hope sitting with the ghosts too. She is leaning back in her seat with her feet up on the back of the lower row of chairs, legs poking through the ghost heads. She points from her feet, along her body and to her chest.

    Hope:
    "Does this position look familiar?"

    Clear: "Lying in the Dream Viewer... I'm dreaming aren't I? But it felt so... real a moment ago."

    Purple Man: "What is real? What is the truth?"

    Clear: "You're in my seat, eating my snacks. That's the truth, you swine."

    Purple Man: "Where have you been?"

    Clear: "You ask me that but I don't know what you mean. I haven't been anywhere."

    Purple Man: "When I woke you up, you had been somewhere. Where did you go?"

    Something splats at Clear's feet. She looks at Hope. She's tossing eggs from a basket and onto the floor.

    Clear: "The place with the eggs?"

    Purple Man: "Where have you been?"

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "When did you wake me up?"

    She looks at him. Looks at his skin. That colour...

    Clear: "Kassuin. You woke me up."

    The Purple Man is now Lord Kassuin, the purple-skinned alien Ćon Knight that she'd met so long ago now. He had come aboard The Hopeless and woke her from her dream...


    Clear: "Not a dream..."

    Lord Kassuin: "Not a dream..."

    He still eats her nuts, even though he now appears in all of his refined, lordly glory, creating a very peculiar image of a stately alien eating a bag of simple nuts in a very clumsy fashion.

    She turns and walks out of the Command Centre. She following a ghost. She's following Icer. The Captain turns to her, as though she can see the salmitton, and then continues on. Clear doesn't look back but she knows that Lord Kassuin, Hope and Mother are all following her. Maybe even others. Hope's crew. Clear's crew. Is Note back there too? Her entire history. Her father...?

    Then they all disappear suddenly and Clear is left looking at a door. Something else is behind her. She turns.

    The Black Cloak.

    But now she isn't afraid. She knows who this is. The cloak welcomes her to the room, opening the door for her. She steps inside.


    Life pods. Bacta tanks. Figures inside them. It's the Black Cloak. In each tank...


    --

    She snaps awake with a whimper of protest. She's slumped in her chair in the Command Centre. Her nuts have fallen all over the floor. The ghost meeting has adjourned and she's quite alone save for one or two technicians that are doing something on the console down at the front of the room.

    Clear: "Mother? Did I... go anywhere in my sleep?"

    Mother: "No. You drooled a little."

    Clear: "That... that Dream Viewer... I'm using it too much."

    Mother: "As I have told you..."

    Clear gets up.

    Clear: "I have to be somewhere..."

    Mother: "And the mess?"

    Clear doesn't answer, she just walks. She remember the path that dream Icer had taken. A path that Clear knows but doesn't remember outside of the dream. From a period of her life when her mind was not her own.

    The door.


    She enters.

    This is real life. She's sure of it. And there they are. No Hope. No Kassuin. No Note. Just the bacta tanks with figures inside them. Except one. One is open.

    The Black Cloak is loose.


    The Black Cloak:
    "I wondered when you'd find me..."

    Clear: "Aellisin. How... what is this!?"

  15. #55
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Overpowering Darkness

    Clear: "I saw you die..."

    Aellisin: "I have no doubt. If you hadn't, I wouldn't be standing here."

    Clear squints at him.

    The man was once in control of her mind with his pheromones, he made her attack people. Made her friends do the same. Because of this man Ffion Heul and Kokoro Lymn, two trusted sisters in oath, were separated. Possibly forever. He almost destroyed an entire planet, using her and her ship. He'd happily have seen Clear dead too, if not for the help of Ćon knights.


    Clear: "So you're, what, a clone?"

    Aellisin:
    "That shouldn't be hard to work out."

    Clear: "And these tanks have more of you in them?"

    He looks around at the other tanks.

    Aellisin: "If they contain clones of you, I'd be most surprised."

    That was a terrible thought.

    Hope: "You need to scramble those eggs, Clear."

    Clear turns to see Hope, the green-skinned alter-ego of Clear from a dream. Clear frowns at her. Then at Aellisin.

    Clear: "Am I still dreaming?"

    Aellisin is wearing a black cloak with a massive hood, now draped over his shoulders like some kind of temple monk. She remembered he used to wear white. Apparently clones don't come with cloned clothes. He smiles at her.


    Aellisin: "That would be the easy way out."

    He begins to walk around her, never taking his focus away from her head as he did.


    Aellisin: "It seems someone has learnt a trick or two. Datura powder, I'm guessing?"

    Clear doesn't move. She's afraid. She's certainly immune to his pheromones now, able to chemically overcome them, but he was an Ćon knight, possibly comparable to any Lord. She'd felt his power, breaking the pores of her skin, electricity coursing through her body. She'd seen him cause explosions throughout The Hopeful. She tries to think of a way out of this situation.

    Hope: "Why hasn't he killed you?"

    Clear: "My question exactly..."

    Aellisin: "What is your question?"

    He stops in front of her. His skin is a faint pink hue and the large flesh-mane around his head remains the same colour for now.

    Clear: "Why haven't you killed me yet?"

    Aellisin:
    "And why would I kill you?"

    Hope: "Maybe he can't..."

    Clear: "Maybe you can't..."

    Aellisin: "I need you to control this ship. It's true. I tried to make commands of your ridiculous A.I. but it refuses to cooperate with me. I'm sure I could overcome it eventually, but it's easier if you're around to make demands of the infernal thing."

    Clear looks at him. Years of controlling people with his pheromones has made him a bad liar.


    Clear: "I think... you can't clone powers..."

    Before he could try to protest she strikes out. Her blow, quite unexpected by him, smacks him across the cheek. He rocks back why Clear wrings her, now sore, hand. It was like punching a plank of wood. Before he could get his bearings, Clear leaps up and makes with a scissor kick so quick he didn't see it coming. Her boot connects with her chin and his head snaps back. Anyone else would have been rendered unconscious, but his think mane protected him. This made her vulnerable to a quick punch to the gut as she dropped to her feet. She gasps for breath from the sudden shock as Aellisin recovers himself. He spits a small gob of blood to the floor. The monster bleeds she is pleased to see.

    Hope: "Right hook, Clear! Go for a right hook!"

    Clear growls at Hope. How is the dream woman even here?


    Aellisin: "Alright, enough of that... you figured me out. Fine. I--"

    Clear isn't interested. She makes a quick attempt at a jab but he manages to dodge to the side, apparently some of that old Ćon training kicking in. He wonders how much of a proper one-on-one fight he's ever had without the use of his soul-powers.

    He strikes back but Clear's agility outstrips the majority of people she's ever come across unless they're gifted with some extra-natural powers. She ducks and turns so that she can rise again in an instant with an elbow to his abdomen. She then kicks up, straight up, her boot reaching over her own head to punt the much taller man in the jaw. He yowls and stumbles back from her.


    Aellisin: "That's enough of this brawling!"

    Hope: "So for the chair, Clear! Use the chair!"

    Clear: "There aren't any chairs!"

    Aellisin: "Is that supposed to mean you're not open for discussion?"

    Clear looks at Hope with frustration. Then back to Aellisin.

    Clear: "Exactly."

    She jumps up. There aren't chairs but there is a console. A console filled with all kinds of weird bottles and chemicals she doesn't recognise. Maybe he's been concocting his own brewery down here? She bounces off of the console and her leg snaps around the neck of Aellisin. It's easier to get a grip on him than any human thanks to that neck mane. However that neck mane restricts how much pressure she can assert with her calf. He'd be in pain for a long longer before he succumbs. As he gasps and tries to pull her leg away she grins to herself. Better this way actually.

    Aellisin: "St-stop!"

    Clear: "How many people have said that to you, I wonder?"

    Hope:
    "None, if they were women. They wouldn't be able to."

    That makes Clear squeeze tighter. With her hand she thumps him in the nose.


    Aellisin, now through wretches for breath and blood, continues to protest.


    Aellisin:
    "You... you need me!"

    Clear snorts.

    Aellisin: "Get... get... out... void..."

    He passes out. She releases him and is torn. Could he really get them out of the Deep Void? She doubts it.

    But she'd be an idiot not to hear what he has to say.


    Clear:
    "Mother, you should come down here. Get ALEX to bring a chair. And some rope or something."

    Hope cheers, arms in the air.

    Hope: "The chaaaaair!!"

    Clear: "I'm not going to smack him with it! And since when did you get so violent?"

    Hope: "It's not real violence. It's wrestling violence."

    Clear: "I don't even know what that is."

    Hope: "Sure you do! Everyone does!"

    Clear thinks. She has pictures of two naked humans rolling around on a mat. A television show.

    Clear: "Right... How... are you here? Am I dreaming?"

    She looks up but Hope has gone again. Clear shakes her head.

    ---

    Aellisin begins to wake up.

    Clear: "Consider yourself I don't have a baseball bat or lighter fluid, then we'd be doing some re-enactments of Earth gangster movies."

    Aellisin: "Didn't kill me then?"

    He manages to groan as his senses return to him. Clear is poking around the stuff on the console.


    Aellisin: "Be careful with all that."

    Clear: "Or what?"

    Aellisin: "Please..."

    Clear: "Wow. Have you ever said that word before?"

    Aellisin: "I'm only a few days old. So no, actually, I haven't."

    Clear: "I never took you for sarcastic before. I'm going to kill your little friends, by the way."

    She points at the other clones. Aellisin just chuckles.

    Aellisin: "Then you really shouldn't mess with those chemicals. They'll do the job for us."

    Clear blinks at him.

    Clear: "You want to kill them?"

    Aellisin: "They're the competition. They'll wake up sooner or later and then there'll be a war. Who will survive. Happened last time. I had to kill them all before they killed me. The last two of us ended up fighting on a world of lava. I cut him down when I had the high ground..."

    Clear: "Back when you had your powers..."

    Aellisin shakes his head in mild amusement.

    Aellisin:
    "I have them..."

    Clear: "Yeah! Sure I believe you, fella!"

    Aellisin: "Now who's sarcastic? I have to build them up. It takes time. I'm only a couple of days old in body and soul. My soul is like a child's. I can refine and encourage it. It just takes meditation."

    Clear: "So I just should you now, right?"

    Aellisin: "You need me to get out of the Deep Void..."

    Clear:
    "How did you even know where we are?"

    Aellisin:
    "Your A.I. might not want me to control her systems but she has no qualm about sharing our shared predicament."

    Clear: "Probably thought it'd be funny to see you cry."

    Aellisin: "Actually I'm quite happy out here. Lots of time to prepare myself for my return to the galaxy. Far away from anyone that can interfere. But. I'll help you escape if you let me loose..."

    Clear: "Why didn't Mother tell me you were here?"

    Aellisin: "That, you'll have to take up with her. I was surprised you didn't come sooner..."

    Clear: "And what have you been doing down here all this time? Singing old falleen pop tunes?"

    Aellisin: "Making that poison."

    He nods towards the console with the chemicals.


    Aellisin: "Just have to finish it, then feed it into the tanks and they'll disintegrate. Utterly."

    Clear: "Why not just open it and hit them with a rock?"

    Hope: "Or a chair!?"

    Clear jumps at the reappearance of Hope. Aellisin is distracted by the suddenness too but just frowns at Clear before answering.


    Aellisin: "I won't take the risk that they'd awake as I opened the tank."

    Clear:
    "Destroy the tanks?"

    Aellisin: "They're very large..."

    Clear: "... you're a terrible liar."

    Aellisin: "I'll use the tanks to create my own clones."

    Clear winces in confusion.

    Clear: "What's the difference? Your clones would be clones of the original you anyway... and you said you did this before. Was the last Aellisin a clone too!?"

    Aellisin sighs that he has to explain himself.

    Aellisin: "Yes. He was a clone too. There have been a couple of generations. My last incarnation tried to take on an... apprentice. Of himself. It didn't work out. That's when they fought on that lava planet I told you about. It was me, but it was the previous me."

    Clear: "So... so... confusing. But fine. Why reclone yourself?"

    Aellisin:
    "Clones of me will be more receptive to me. The mistake I made last time was using one of my... brothers..."

    He motions at the tanks.

    Aellisin: "Using my... sons, as you might say, my apprentice will be obedient to me."

    Clear: "A better apprentice than my friends then?"

    Aellisin: "Ah. Yes... I do remember them. Two young women. Extremely talented, I have to say. One of them easy to control. Even wanted to be controlled I think. Absolved her of her guilt..."

    Clear: "Guilt? What guilt? Ffion was... honourable. Confused by what you did to her!"

    Aellisin smiles. He likes this turn in the conversation.


    Aellisin: "So easy to blame me, isn't it? She was already losing herself to... what you might know as the 'Dark Side'. My presence meant she could let loose. She didn't have to restrict herself, keep her emotions in check, keep her true self locked away. She had the excuse to be free. All that pent up frustration, anger, jealousy of the young Student Lymn. It's usually ironic that the Ćon try so hard to keep their feelings in check, never swaying from the neutral ground, that it causes those that do stray... to really stray."

    Clear couldn't refute anything said. She remembers how Ffion had acted at the end. How she'd allowed herself, even free of Aellisin, to succumb to that terrible darkness within her. In her new life, a hero of Earth, Clear hopes she'll find her true self again... but with humans, can that really happen? It doesn't matter so long as Clear is stuck in the Deep Void...

    Clear: "How do we get out of the void?"

    Aellisin: "Let me go and we'll work on that."

    Hope:
    "I wouldn't trust him."

    Clear: "I don't trust you. Tell me how and I'll think about letting you loose."

    Aellisin: "You beat me in a fight, remember? What harm could I do to you?"

    Clear: "I don't care to find out."

    Hope: "Yeah! Bozo!"

    Clear looks at Hope with a 'WTF' expression on her face.

    Hope:
    "Bozo. It means... idiot. Or something. Human word."

    She shrugs.

    Aellisin:
    "I can emit a psychic pulse that'll alert the nearest authorities..."

    Clear:
    "You mean... use those powers you don't have?"

    Aellisin: "I have enough to do this. It's easy. I'm not going to be sending an essay. Just a quick jolt. Someone will notice and come looking. There shouldn't be even a scrap of psychic energy out here, so they will come."

    Hope: "I think we should psychoanalyse him..."

    Clear groans.

    Hope: "Like... who were his parents? What kind of parents does it take to make a guy like this?"

    Clear: "I really don't care..."

    Aellisin: "You don't?"

    Clear: "Huh? Oh. And what am I going to do with you...?"

    Aellisin: "Let me go. We'll do this together."

    Clear:
    "Let's say I do. We kill your friends here, then the psychic blast gets us help... then what? I let you go?"

    Aellisin: "Are you the police now? Clear the lost salmitton, saviour of the galaxy! She'll put everyone to rights!"

    Clear had to admit, she must sound pretty stupid trying to hold some moral privilege over him.

    Hope: "We can cross that hurdle when we get to it, Clear. Right now, let's just get out of this endless pit!"

    Clear: "Mother."

    Mother steps forward, having been stood to the side with ALEX the droid.


    Clear: "Makes sure he is forever in your sights. If he leaves this room, I want to know."

    Mother: "As you wish."

    Aellisin: "Good choice."

    She steps towards him. Then stops.


    Clear: "Psychic blast first."

    Aellisin: "You expect me to do that before you untie me?"

    Clear leans forward.

    Clear:
    "Yes. I do."

    Aellisin: "No."

    Clear straights up.

    Hope: "Say it! Go on! Watch his face!"

    Clear: "Fine. I leave you here. Then I open one of these other tanks. See if the new you is more co-operative."

    Aellisin:
    "You wouldn't..."

    Clear: "Why wouldn't I? Doesn't matter to me which of you it is! You're all the same in my eyes!"

    Aellisin: "Fine. You make your point well."

    Hope: "Haha! That was satisfying wasn't it? You know in my world he smells really, really bad. Everyone is driven off. And he doesn't have any voodoo powers."

    Clear:
    "Soul powers."

    Aellisin: "Yes. Souls power... now..."

    He closes his eyes.

    Hope: "If he falls asleep, we could draw on his face with a marker. That would be hilarious! Come on, wouldn't that be funny!? I hope he is asleep now. Poke him."

    Clear: "Master villain and I draw a moustache and a monocle on him? That... would be kind of funny, yeah..."

    Aellisin: "Please don't do that. It would break my concentration."

    Clear: "Not asleep then, eh?"

    Aellisin: "No..."

    He then strains a little and Clear feels a small sensation in her brain. It's not much, just a small flicker. As though her attention is being pulled in Aellisin's direction.

    Clear:
    "That was it?"

    He looks tired but he manages to nod.


    Clear: "You think that's enough to get attention?"

    Aellisin:
    "Nothing should be out... here... rem..ber?"

    Clear and Hope watch him.


    Hope: "He really is asleep!"

    Clear: "Mother..."

    Mother: "Yes?"

    Hope:
    "Ask her for a marker pen!"

    Clear: "Why didn't you tell me he was here?"

    Mother: "I did. Several times."

    Clear looks at her suspiciously.

    Clear: "I don't remember this..."

    Mother:
    "You have been showing disturbing signs of... psychological impairment, Clear. You haven't been this lucid in many days..."

    Hope: "Harsh dude. She just called you mental!"

    Clear: "I really think I am going crazy..."

    Hope shrugs.

    Hope: "Stuck in a void, Clear. What do you expect? You just need some fresh air."

    Clear: "Right... stuck in a void... I think I should lie down..."

    Mother: "And your hostage?"

    Clear: "Let him loose. But he's not allowed out of here. Got it?"

    Mother nods mechanically. She still hasn't got physical responses down yet. ALEX moves to cut Aellisin free and help him lie on the floor while Clear, Mother and Hope leave the room. Clear's head is throbbing. So much is happening all at once and her brain is having difficulties keeping up.

    Clear: "Are there ghosts in my bedroom, Mother?"

    Mother:
    "I'll check."

    Hope: "The Dreamviewer is closer."

    Clear:
    "I need to stop using it to sleep. I'm tired. I can sleep without it."

    Mother: "Your room is occupied. But the room that belonged to Cassra Terrin-Pullista is free. It is next to yours, if you recall?"

    Clear nods. She remembers. Poor Pully.

    She gets to the door of the Dreamviewer room.


    Hope: "Do you really want to sleep with the dead, Clear?"

    Clear: "Not really."

    Mother: "You wish to use the machine again? I do not think it is good for you to use so often..."

    Clear: "I know. But I won't sleep in Pully's bed."

    Mother: "Then perhaps I can find another room?"

    But Clear is already climbing onto the Dreamviewer. She lies down and pulls the blanket over her. She goes through the motions of turning it on. Hope lies beside her, far more excited than Clear feels.

    Hope: "Prepare to enter the Dreamstate, Clear! This is like The Return to Oz, isn't it?"

    Clear: "I have no idea what that is."

    Hope: "Sure you do! TV show."

    Clear:
    "From Earth right? Okay. Maybe I do sort of remember it."

    She starts to close her eyes and sees Mother's face. It looks worried. Then, an unexpected voice. She feels the vibrations of her old communicator. Is she dreaming already...? She tries to reach up for the communicator but the dream is already coming and she is washed over by it, leaving the real world and entering that state of mind where only dreams lurk.

  16. #56
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Dreamstate

    This isn't The Hopeless. It looks similar, but it isn't the same. It's clean. It's working. It's beautiful even. It's The Clearness.

    Clear walks through the corridors, aimlessly, floating along until she finds Hope. Hope and her friends are in a room not unlike the Command Centre of The Hopeful. The first thing Clear identifies is the jazz music playing that everyone is show-dancing to. Hope is wearing a frog suit complete with top hat but she seems to have forgotten her trousers. Hope tap-dances over to Clear and asks her to join the fun. Clear refuses and snatches her hand back.

    In that instant Hope's face falls and, instead, darkness enshrouds her. Clear turns and runs as the Command Centre is engulfed in darkness. This isn't the inky darkness she saw on Oeurwood. This darkness is a dimming of the lights, and yet to Clear this is all the more terrifying. She runs as fast as she can, but she can't seem to shake the darkness as the lights shut down behind her. Light-by-light.

    Clear falls over. She falls down. Down, down, down until she lands softly in a bed. She opens her eyes. She's being wheeled down a corridor, lying on a bed. The ceiling lights are on. She sees the face of Aellisin grin down at her as he's pushing the gurney she's on. Clear struggles but she's been strapped down. She calls out and sees Hope look down at her from the other side of the bed.


    Clear: "You went into the darkness, Hope."

    Hope:
    "We all do..."

    She reaches out and pats something on Clear's chest. She looks down to see a pair of binoculars there. Then she's stationary. Alone. In darkness. Just Clear, the bed and the binoculars. Clear picks them up and gazes through them. She sees a strange world of floating islands amidst hazy fog that lolled lazily along. She frowns and removes the binoculars.

    She reels from the bright light of the sun and shakes from the sudden cold of the floating island she finds herself on. She climbs off of the gurney and puts the Wakeseer binoculars onto it. She looks over the edge of the island and sees nothing but the thick, dreamy fog. Turning around she finds a thin rock-bridge connected her island to the next. She walks carefully along it, avoiding the edges, and finds that it has a slight upward incline. When she reaches the next island she's surprised to see someone new. An old man sitting in a wooden chair. He looks human, but who doesn't these days? As Clear approaches he looks a little surprised and removes his glasses.

    Old Man: "Not many people find their way out of a dream to end up in a larger dream, do they?"

    Clear: "I don't understand..."

    Old Man:
    "Of course not. It strikes me that you're suffering a mental breakdown related to your dreams... Perhaps we won't get into the details. The whos and whyfores aren't important. Suffice to say, you're here."

    Clear:
    "I... still don't understand. Who are you?"

    Old Man: "That would take an eternity to explain. I live here. From time-to-time. I find it pleasant to reside somewhere so far from any civilisation, hence my surprise to see you stumble your way here."

    He gets up from his chair with an "old man sigh" and lights a pipe. He's wearing a suit of grey that reminds Clear of Earth, furthering his human appearance. But when he smokes his pipe, it emits a blue plume into the air.

    Clear:
    "And where is this?"

    The old man turns from her as he speaks.

    Old Man: "I just told you, you're in my home..."

    She blinks.


    She's no longer on the floating island. She's in a study. She staggers back with surprise. Oak furniture adds comfort to the room while a roaring fire crackles and snaps soothingly. The old man is standing in front of a large circular window that gazes out at the fog she had been standing in a moment ago. Books and books and books adorn the room like decoration. Books are something Clear rarely saw, save for a few being sold on Saffron 5. Usually everything is stored digitally in her experience. This man must have a taste for the old-world.

    Clear: "So... nice room..."

    The old man turns back to her and nods.


    Old Man:
    "I find it suitable. You have quite a striking presence. But I imagine you've been told that before, am I right?"

    It is strange because it's true. She has never thought about it before but others often seem drawn to her presence and she's not understood why, especially since her forcible removal from Mars. Why did Green and Hebedee follow and care for her so much? Why did Ffion and Kokoro come to rely on her? How was it Aurora somehow came, quite inexplicably, into Clear's life? Why did Pully devote every ounce of her loyalty to Clear, despite all that happened? Why was Alexis obsessed with everything Clear and even Kiron couldn't stay away in the end. And now Aellisin has resurrected himself to be in Clear's company.

    Clear just shrugs. Admitting such as thing would be quite arrogant, even if she felt it is true. The old man smiles. It's a curious smile that appears heart-warming and yet there's so much age behind it that it feels hollow - he's smiled that way too to many others. He reaches out for something on his desk. A pack of cards. He shuffles them before holding them out to Clear. He takes his pipe from his mouth;


    Old Man: "Take one."

    She looks dubiously at the pack of cards. She doesn't understand why she should indulge him but in this dream state her mind seems compelled to merely run with things. She tugs at the middle of the pack and a card slips loose without any fuss. She flips it over. There, on the card, is a woman in a white, loose-fitting, clothes and a long plait that blows in the wind. Behind the figure is a broken world - a city, a ship perhaps. A metaphor for the woman's life even. There are also chains, each bound to the woman, that reach to silent, distant figures in the ruins. Some of the chains are broken. The woman's skin, however, is darkness - a silhouette.

    Old Man:
    "The Moderator. Now I'm unsurprised. You have, indeed, come a long way."

    Clear looks up from the card.

    Clear: "This is me?"

    The man doesn't reply, considering the question to be rhetorical. Clear glares at the pack of cards as though they had no right to be dictating anything at her. She snatches them and pulls another card from the pile. The old man just watches.

    The card shows a girl, covered in leaves and flowers. Behind her is an ancient forest and, in the sky, clouds with a city atop of them. Clear thinks it must be Green, but hesitates at the strange cloud-city above, not knowing anything about it.


    Old Man: "The To-Friend. A past shrouded in layers of mystery but she is a steadfast friend and loyal ally. Dedicated more to her motherland than to the cause she aligned with. Yet, now, separated from both and lost with only her role to hold her true."

    Clear growls and then slams the cards to the floor.

    Clear: "How can they know this!?"

    Old Man: "They're tarot cards. That's what they're supposed to do. Their role is to show us the narrative of our lives. Our role is to fulfil those narratives."

    Clear:
    "Fate is nonsense. I don't believe in such a thing."

    Old Man: "That is your right, young lady. By all means. But remember, just because you do not believe in something does not mean that it... does not believe in you..."

    She looks down at the scattered cards. Just one is face up. A wicked figure with a white smile against his dark silhouette. Around his shadowy head is a halo. Or mane.

    Old Man: "The Monster... Rightly feared and hated by those he seeks to enslave, dominate and eradicate... and yet a twisted need for redemption holds deep within his dark, power-hungry mind."

    Clear looks up and snarls at the old man.

    Clear: "I didn't ask."

    She turns from him and walks to the fire. The last time she saw a fire like this, it was a burning wreckage in Tigor after some of the human settlers had set fire to an old Martian machine. She wasn't sure what the machine had done to offend them but that vision struck her now. The disrespect for what should be considered an artefact. Humans. Always ruining everything. Controlling everything. Dictating everything. Even now this old man is telling her how her life works. Right now he feels like THE human. The cause of everything wrong in her life.

    She turns to him and points.


    Clear: "Who the Hell do you think you are? You drag me here, show me this... this rubbish! Like you get to dictate my life to me. It's my life, not yours! You don't get to poke your nose in! Stay out of it!"

    The old man looks at her as though he understands. Clear can only assume this dream phantom is able to understand her dreams as he is one with them.

    Old Man:
    "You are right. I am responsible for your upset."

    He looks down at the fallen cards and bends over to pick them back up again. It's a process she feels he didn't need to do. Maybe he could have willed them to order again or magically made them fly, but instead he chose to perform the task with his own two hands.

    Old Man:
    "I am responsible for much. Me and my... legacy. There is a great debt upon my shoulders. Not in the least the debt I owe to you and yours weighs heavily. One day perhaps my debts must be repaid in full..."

    He stands, straight, and shuffles the deck once more.

    Old Man: "But I assure you, your life is your own. It is up to you if you care to glimpse at what may be. If you choose not to look, or choose to look, it is still your choice all the same. The deities of the cosmos may be looking down upon you and your actions, manipulating as they desire, yet the outcome will forever be in your hands. That's what it means to be The Moderator. Your story is your own."

    He goes to put the deck back onto the desk but sees her looking.

    Old Man: "Once more?"

    She nods quietly and takes another card. She expects... hopes to see Pully, maybe Thrain or even Kiron. It's an unknown face. A man standing before many cogs intertwined but surrounding them is a great fire - a Great Burning.

    Old Man: "The Custodian... elite within his Order and yet the last of his kind. Much like you are the last of yours. The broken often seek out like-minds for consolation..."

    Clear: "I don't know him."

    Old Man:
    "Yet. And perhaps you never will, should your path deviate from its current alignment."

    Clear quickly flips another card, desperate for a familiar face.


    Old Man: "The Lost..."

    It is a card of a woman, again one she can't make out as someone she knows. The woman appears old, though cast in shadow like all the others. Around her is a sphere of static and behind her nothing but the blackness of a void.

    Old Man:
    "Cast adrift from her home by events, her mission of rescue evolves into a mission of preservation. Another you have yet to meet, I suppose?"

    Clear nods solemnly.


    Old Man:
    "You are searching for the past, it seems. But that is not what tarot cards are for..."

    Clear: "I hoped to find the past in my future..."

    She thinks.

    Clear: "But there was Green. I saw her card... I... I..."

    Her brain feels like it's suddenly on fire. She winces, hand to her forehead.

    Clear: "I heard her! I heard her call my name!"

    Old Man:
    "I believe it is time for you to awake from this dream state. If there is just one piece of advise to take from me, young one, then please let it be this - find your future."

    Clear looks at him through the pain.

    Clear: "What does that even mean?"

    The old man just smiles at her. That hollow smile he must have smiled to thousands before her. But there is something in it. He understands loss. He understands her clawing at the past, seeking to retain it, the fear of losing it. She feared to leave Mars; it was decaying, broken, dominated by those she hates and yet, she was afraid of leaving. She couldn't leave. It was all she had of her people. Her home. And now she's afraid to leave her friends. They'd loved her and she'd loved them. She couldn't let them go, she needs them... no... she wants them. She wants the past and is afraid of the future...

    The world shakes; the study, the old man, everything. She thinks of the word seizure. Then everything falls away from her. She thinks she might be flying, but it feels like she's standing still and watches the study fall below her. Nothing but darkness now. The shaking has stopped. There's a faint sound. Sounds like the beeping of a machine. She feels a sensation on her hand. She looks down but there's nothing there. She wiggles her fingers. She feels the sensation again. Someone's holding her hand.

    ----

    Clear groans. Her body aches. Her brain aches. Her metaphysical existence aches, she's sure. She knows she's awake because only the real world hurts this much.


    Clear: "Mother...?"

    She turns her head a little to look up at Mother who is holding her hand.


    Mother:
    "Clear... you are safe."

    Clear:
    "Am I in the medbay?"

    Koure: "You were in a coma."

    Clear's eyes widen with horror. Aellisin Koure stands over her and fiddles with an IV being pumped into Clear's veins. Clear tries to move, struggles to fight and pull out whatever he's filling her with.

    Koure: "Relax or you'll do yourself further damage."

    Clear: "What's he doing here!?"

    Mother: "You needed help."

    Koure: "Your A.I. has but two prerogatives. Keep the ship alive, keep you alive. Interesting really. I don't think that was part of her original programming. Either you put it in there or she's evolved that idea all by her lonesome. Very advanced software."

    Clear: "Well, I did pay a fortune."

    Her joke feels flat, but it comforts her own racked nerves.

    Clear:
    "Why are you helping me?"

    Koure:
    "I need you. If you die, I'll never be able to get your A.I. to move this bucket. Self-preservation. Oh, and no more Dreamviewer. Doctor's order. Me being the doctor. And I am very good at giving orders."

    Clear: "I can't believe this is happening."

    Koure: "A fragile mind like yours and you go overdosing on a brain stimulant, I'd say it's very believable."

    Clear: "Wait... something important!"

    Koure: "More important than me saving your life? I hardly think so..."

    Clear: "My communicator!"

    She struggles to reach for it. Koure leans over and unfastens the strap holding her arm in place. She grabs the communicator and presses the button.

    Clear:
    "Green! I read you!"

    Nothing.

    Clear:
    "Green! Come in!"

    Still nothing.


    Koure:
    "Maybe... maybe the effects of the dreamviewer haven't worn off yet..."

    Clear:
    "I heard her! Before I fell asleep. I definitely heard her."

    Koure:
    "You were hallucinating before you went to sleep last. You kept talking to someone who wasn't there. Even I saw it."

    Clear: "I know. That was Hope."

    Koure actually chuckles at this.

    Clear:
    "But I heard Green. I know I did! Mother - I need to run diagnostics on this thing. See if I can find the last communiqué and listen to it again."

    Mother:
    "We can use the workshop in the Engine Room."

    Hebedee's Workshop. A ghost's tools to find another ghost.

    Mother:
    "First we should inspect our new arrival."

    Clear frowns at Mother then rolls her head to look at Aellisin but he looks just as confused.

    Koure: "What new arrival?"

    Mother:
    "Someone has appeared in the hangar."

    Clear: "A ghost?"

    Mother:
    "No. They register as digital signatures. This is a living being."

    Koure:
    "Appeared?"

    Mother: "Indeed."

    ----

    Clear hobbles along the corridor, using crutches to get her there. They're solid plastic except the legs are made of hard light, much like the buckles of the Bug and the straps of the gurney. She passes her old room and watches a ghost go into it, phasing through the door. She scowls at the intrusion but getting to the hangar is more important. She glances down at Icer, trapped behind her door. It's strange to think there's a second Icer running about the place.

    Koure: "I advise you allow me to speak to this person. You're not in a fit state--"

    Clear: "Tell me what to do again and I'll shove you out of an airlock."

    Koure: "You don't have airlocks."

    Clear: "I'll make one. Then shove you out of it."

    The door to the hangar spirals open like a flower and she steps onto the metal staircase. She looks down at the person standing just below her. The woman looks back and waves...

  17. #57
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow I'm Addicted to You

    Clear follows after the old woman. Despite her advanced years she's moving faster than Clear can manage after being hospitalised. She had introduced herself as Ciel Marro-Mar and while she looks fairly human, Clear is certain she is anything but.

    Ciel: "Your ship is ridiculous."

    They march down the corridor, straight past Icer's Room without so much as a glance down there.


    Clear: "I've heard it called a hunk of junk or even magnificent, but never ridiculous."

    Ciel: "It's too big. It doesn't need to be this big. No ship needs to be this big."

    Clear: "I think the engines take up like a quarter of the--"

    Ciel: "It's just stupid. It's designer was evidently a moron. You'd need a hundred maps to navigate the damned place."

    Clear: "Well I sort of stick to just this area--"

    Ciel: "It's probably infested with all kinds of creepy-crawlies. Do you even have maintenance droids? Look at this place? That crack in the floor was a death trap! Lights don't work, doors don't work, screens don't work. I'm surprised the air circulation hasn't given up."

    Clear: "I got it fixed."

    Ciel: "You know, if you broke this up for scrap, you'd have enough money to buy a fleet of ships."

    Clear: "I spent my life fixing it, I'm not g--"

    Ciel: "Why aren't conveyors in this thing? A ship this size should have conveyors to ferry you from one place to the other. Just think of my old legs!"

    Clear: "Like an anti-gravity conv--"

    Ciel: "Even a lick of paint might do the place some good!"

    Clear feels the need to vindicate her home and exemplify some of its better qualities.

    Clear: "I have a Dreamviewer installed!"

    Ciel: "Great. Modern-day hocus pocus. Smoke and mirrors, Child. Smoke and mirrors."

    Clear: "I had a new medbay installed by the Galactic Empire, it's--"

    Ciel: "Common as anything."

    Clear: "There's also Mother!"

    Ciel stops and stares at the hard-light A.I..

    Ciel: "Do you always introduce your mother this way?"

    Ciel continues.


    Clear: "No, she's not my--"

    She suddenly spins to face Clear, who almost walks straight into her. The woman is wrinkled and marred by age, yet she is straight-backed and carries herself with all the confidence and authority of a woman much younger. She wears such a thick, white robe that Clear can't see anything of her body. No arms or legs poking through any of the folds. Just a lot of white and strange pagan symbols patterning the fabric in blue. Only the shoulders mark a change, wearing big, bright shoulder pauldrons of gold. A stiff, high collar curls around her neck to an opening at the front where the collar zips down to meet the thick robe. Despite her age the woman's hair is jet black for the most part, only a light peppering of grey scattered throughout. Her ears, unlike humans, seems to be pointed and droop a little at the tips.

    Ciel: "Where are we going, Child?"

    Clear blinks.


    Clear: "I was following you!"

    Ciel: "Why are you following me!? This isn't my ship! It's yours!"

    Clear: "Because you just--!"

    Clear makes a hapless gesture before shrugging instead.

    Clear: "Who are you?"

    Ciel: "I already told you that!"

    Clear: "I mean who are you beyond your name! What are you doing here!?"

    Ciel: "You tell me! You called me here!"

    Clear: "I... did?"

    Koure: "I believe that would be me..."

    The Falleen man finally pipes up from the very rear of the procession. Clear steps aside and Ciel eyes him curiously. She then looks at Clear.

    And slaps her.


    Clear: "OUCH! WHAT THE HELL!? YOU CRAZY--!!!"

    Ciel: "Not under his control then? Good to see."

    Clear: "You--! You could have just asked!"

    Koure ignores the incident.

    Koure: "You came to aid us?"

    Ciel: "Pretty much. You're very close to being out of my jurisdiction, which is why I didn't pick you up until you sent out that pulse. I'm assuming your engines are dead?"

    Clear:
    "Jurisdiction? You're like a cop?"

    Koure: "Void Ranger, Captain."

    She didn't like the way Koure said that but she isn't going to give him another beating in front of their new guest. From the title Clear could guess what kind of weird and wonderful duties his bizarre woman must have, though Clear is surprised someone so old would still be working.

    Clear: "Can you fix the engine?"

    Ciel: "Show me the way."

    ---

    In the engine room of The Hopeless, Clear shows Ciel the warp core, which contains the power source device she had once stolen from The Boss and his Oh My Love!'s engine room. The old woman looks at it. She tilts her head, as though that would give a better view.

    Ciel: "Weird little thing isn't it?"

    Clear is silently pleased she has at least something that could garner the woman's interest.


    Ciel: "Consumes organic matter, you say?"

    Clear: "Yeah. And we don't have any for it to consume."

    Ciel: "I figured that part. You could, of course, throw your terrible friend into it."

    Clear glances at Koure, who just frowns with annoyance. Clear is afraid to admit that a small part of her considers the possibility if she has to stay in this void for much longer...

    Ciel: "Oh well! Sucks to be you guys!"

    Clear: "You-you can't help? Isn't it your job?"

    Ciel shrugs.

    Ciel: "I can provide power to normal devices, but this thing... only powered by organic matter. I can go conjuring up animals for you."

    Clear whines. Then catches herself and tries to cover up the childish moan by clearing her throat.

    Ciel: "Doubly sucks for you since that pulse is definitely going to attract some big nasties sooner or later."

    Clear: "Big... nasties? What do you mean? There's something here? In the void!?"

    Koure: "Of course there is, Captain. One of those things would be Netherwyrms."

    Clear: "... and what's that supposed to be? Worms? Sounds gross but not exactly terrifying."

    Ciel starts chuckling. Even Koure is grinning broadly. Clear growls at them both and, this time, doesn't try to control her petulance.

    Clear: "Great. Just great. Screw you both. You're useless!"

    She points at Ciel. Then turns on Koure.

    Clear: "You even more so!"

    As Clear stomps out of the engine room she overhears Ciel say to Koure;

    Ciel: "At least you're worse than me. Ha!"

    Clear marches down the corridor until she reaches the end. There she breaks into a long, though quiet, whimper of desperation. She thought there was a chance. She thought that, finally, they'd leave. Only to be, once again, disappointed. Always disappointment and after disappointment. She cries quietly, her mouth wide but nothing more than a gasp sounds out. She sucks in her pride and tries to stop her tears. Her eyes catch sight of a familiar door. She slides herself along the wall towards it. She doesn't know why she shouldn't. What's the point?

    She steps in and closes the door behind her. She fiddles with the controls to lock it shut. She won't be having Koure invading her privacy again. A moment later and the old, familiar and gentle hum of the Dreamviewer vibrates in her ears. The moment that the dream sequence initiates, she feels an overwhelming sense of calm sweep through her. Life is suddenly much easier again...


    Closing Theme:
    Waldeck - Addicted

  18. #58
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Clear: April Fools' Victim

    Clear is, once again, in the medical bay. She's lying flat on her stomach and stares off at the old TV she'd brought in many moons ago. It's playing the only DVD she owns. "The Room".

    Clear: "I'm having a nightmare aren't I?"

    Hope: "I'd say so."

    Hope peeps up from below the bed and blocks Clear's view of The Room.


    Clear: "My saviour..."

    Clear hears movement from behind her. She turns her head and sees Dr Alexis Thrain there. She's fiddling with some medical apparatus.

    Clear: "You're not planning to probe me are you, Alexis?"

    Hope: "You sounds almost hopeful!"

    Clear:
    "I've been very lonely as late!"

    Thrain turns. But she isn't holding anything remotely pleasingly phallic shaped. While long and firm, it's also incredibly thin. Clear's eyes widen in panic.


    Clear: "What's the needle for, Alexis!?"

    Thrain:
    "I'm sorry Clear. You have a terrible disease."

    Clear manages to glance back down at herself. She's been covered in white, pristine sheets but her bottom is completely exposed.

    Thrain: "Your arse is swollen. You got the disease from that man you met in the gay bar on the sixth level of Saffron Five."

    Clear:
    "Wow. There's a horrific memory. I actually think he thought I was a man. Embarrassing..."

    Thrain: "So. Liposuction!"

    Clear: "Lipo-like suck out the fat!?"

    She looks down. The needle, as horrible and pointy as it is, is connected to a tube that swirls down to a big, clear container. Without waiting Thrain jabs the needle into Clear's buttcheek and starts drawing on it. Misty fluid circles down the tube to the empty container and she has to watch her fat building up in the container. She writhes in pain but doesn't seem to be able to actually move herself from the bed.


    Hope: "I don't think this is how it works."

    Clear: "Nothing should work like this!"

    The bed suddenly disappears and Clear falls onto the floor.


    Thrain: "April Fools! You think I'd really remove even an inch from that beautiful view!?"

    Clear grumbles and gets to her feet, now apparently fully clothed again.

    Clear: "You being gay would actually explain a lot."

    Hope: "I don't think she really was gay, you know? It's just you."

    Clear:
    "I'm not gay! And if I were she'd be last on my list because she terrifies me."

    Hope:
    "Terrifies you... because you secretly like it!"

    Clear:
    "Is this one of those Plato-analyses?"

    Hope:
    "I don't think the psychoanalysis guy was Plato, dude."

    Clear:
    "Whatever his name was. All humans are the same, right? Why aren't I fantasising about Ace Lander? That would be better."

    Hope:
    "Ace is too easy? Not challenging enough a conquest for fantasy land!"

    Clear:
    "Urgh. I'm being bullied in my own dreams now."

  19. #59
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow From the Darkness

    Clear jolts awake, feeling a nasty shocking sensation through her limbs. She rubs her eyes but sees nothing. She wriggles around and realises that she's either blind or the entire room's in darkness. She is careful but still manages to bop her head on the dreamviewer's screen as she fumbles with the PIP on her wrist. The screen flashes up and she flips through the available apps until she turns on the torch. A single beam of light cuts through the darkness and she's able to navigate her way to the door. It's wide open. She feels a fearful pressure building up within her, in a way that only darkness can. She shines her light down the corridor outside. Nothing stirs and so she feels safe enough to slip from the Dreamviewing room.

    Clear: "Did Mother really shut down the power just to get me out of there?"

    But even the backup generators are out; no red lights, no console screens... she panics. No oxygen.

    She quickens her pace towards the Command Centre and there she finds... nothing. The screens are empty and no sign of Mother. Clear hammers and bunch of buttons but nothing happens. Clear rubs her face with worry before settling on the next port of call - the A.I. Hub. Unfortunately Mother's core proves to be exactly the same. Dead. Clear then makes her third choice. The Engine Room where she'd find the Power Source that should be powering the ship, but also the reserve capacitors. Nothing. The capacitors are offline and the power source is still as dead as it was when she first arrived in the Deep Void.

    She starts checking the capacitors until she locates the power switch. She frowns.

    It's been turned off by someone.

    She suddenly glances round, fearing an enemy could be lurking in the shadow but there's nobody there. She grits her teeth. She couldn't trust that Koure afterall. She slaps the switch. A capacitor winks to life and its console screen flickers on. She moves to the next one and turns it on too. Then she notices the screen.


    Screen: "State of emergency. Keep power off until danger has passed."

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

    Koure: "NO!"

    Clear throws herself against the capacitor in fright but recovers herself quickly enough to point at Koure as he runs into the room.

    Clear: "What in the name of a hippo's left tit is going on here!?"

    There's a sudden, horrific glare of light and Clear is forced to plaster her eyes with her hands until the light dissipates - though not completely. Ciel stands there glowing brightly enough to light up the room even without Clear's PIP torch.


    Ciel: "Too late. They've found us."

    Koure: "Damn."

    Clear: "What is it? One of those Netherregions?"

    Koure: "Netherwyrms, Captain Clear. Netherwyrms."

    Clear puts a hand on her hip.


    Clear: "If it's on a man, isn't that the same thing?"

    Koure: "How droll. But this isn't the time."

    Ciel: "I think a good dick joke are fitting last words!"

    Clear: "Last words?"

    Ciel: "It's not Netherwyrms nor is it Netherdicks. It's worse."

    Clear: "Worse than Netherdicks?"

    Koure: "This may be a fitting last conversation for you two, but I'd rather not."

    He turns, his cloak sweeping dramatically as he does so. Clear watches him leave but listens to Ciel.

    Ciel: "Yes. Seriously though, I don't know what's about to happen. Netherwyrms are beasts. There's lots of things I could do to try and distract such a monster. But what I saw out there is not just a Netherwyrm. It's..."

    The lights of the room burst on and Clear is made to cover her eyes for a second time.

    Ciel: "...someone who can control your lightbulbs, apparently."

    Clear wipes tears from her eyes and winces at the consoles. Only two of the capacitors are on, not enough to warrant turning on all of the lights of the ship. And turning them up to maximum brightness at that. Mother would be very annoyed at such waste.

    Clear: "I'm supposed to be afraid of a light-switch, Ciel?"

    Ciel: "Oh... I think we're lucky... they're curious."

    Clear: "And... if they get bored?"

    Ciel: "We're dead. Well. You'd be dead. I could probably manage to get out in time. Because I'm that damn good."

    Clear: "But not good enough to turn my lights on. Maybe it's this guy I should be get cosy with instead of you."

    Ciel mocks heartache.

    Ciel: "My fragile feelings, captain."

    Clear cocks her head and looks past Ciel towards the Power Source. It remains unpowered and yet the lights are illuminated like never before. She walks in the wake of Koure and looks down the corridor. Everything is powered up and the screens are busily processing datastreams.

    Clear: "Seriously, Ciel, what's going on?"

    Ciel, quietly walks over to Clear.


    Ciel: "Seriously, Captain Clear, you are very fortunate thus far. I expected them to wipe out such a ship in an instant. Anything as big as this would probably teeter on being a threat in the minds of our... friends."

    Clear: "Who are they? Who are you talking about? If not Netherwyrms then what? Who?"

    Ciel: "No more dick jokes?"

    Clear: "I need to know what's happening. Aellisin isn't around to abuse now."

    Ciel throws her head back and laughs. She starts walking down the corridor, still snickering.


    Ciel: "Great... wonderful... But I think I should show you what's outside. Let's go to the hangar. I expect they'll be busy watching your ship before they decide to come and get you."

    Ciel walks surprisingly fast for such an old woman. When Clear asks about how she got into the Engine Room, Ciel tells her it's what she does - she can transplant herself anywhere relatively quickly. The greater distances she has to fly using the light sphere Clear glimpsed when she appeared in the engine room. Clear finds this power fascinating but her heart is pumping with fear of their unknown enemy. When she gets to the hangar she spots something out of the bay doors. She hurries down the stairs to the hangar floor, glancing up in surprise when Ciel appears before her - skipping the stairs and the long walk across the hangar.

    As Clear draws near her mouth is agape. She knows it's far away and yet the beast is massive. It may not match The Hopeful for size but it's certainly bigger than most ships in the galaxy, including the massive imperial stardestroyers. And although it's clearly a beast, a creature, a monster - it's also technological.

    Clear reaches to one of the consoles near the hangar opening and a screen projects out from it, large enough for her to zoom in and get a better picture of the thing. It's like something from a nightmare. It has ashen scales that seem to emit faint traces of smoke, as though its scales are burnt up and constantly smouldering. It has wraith-like wings of black, shadowy darkness. She couldn't see them against the void, only against its own body. It's long tail splits into two forks with what look like sharp, bone-like prongs. Its head is ghastly and massive. Her Bug would be about the size of a tooth. Its snout hangs open, forever exposing the innards of its mouth to space as well as its threatening teeth.

    Clear catches her breath.


    Clear: "Wh-wh-what..."

    Ciel: "I know you're looking at the dragon. Stop. The Netherwyrm is dead..."

    Clear glares at Ciel.

    Clear: "Dead? It's dead?"

    Ciel: "It's not the dragon you should worry about. It's what killed it. Killed it and now lives inside it..."

    Large portions of its body have been replaced with metallic walls, entire bulks protrude from the monster like towers or domes. To Clear it almost looks like a city attached to the beast. Even within the creature's mouth, she thinks she can see unnatural additions supplanting the biological.

    Clear feels sick.


    Clear: "It--... it's... it's a ship? They turned that monster into... a ship?"

    Ciel: "I shut off all power in your ship when I realised they were on their way. Your Mother protested but I shut her down too."

    Clear:
    "You can do that!?"

    Ciel shrugs.

    Ciel: "And someone over there can turn it all back on. Who's more worrying? Either way... we've been lucky so far. I don't know why they're interested. Maybe it's just their captain. Normally shoot first and salvage later is the option for such a... ravager as this."

    Clear: "Ravager?"

    Ciel: "You don't go using a Netherwyrm for your ship if you plan to play nice, Clear."

    Clear:
    "I... suppose. But who... who is it? What do they want?"

    Ciel: "What they want, I don't know. Who they are... the ship is part of an empire. An empire like nothing you could begin to comprehend. Suffice to say, they are in this universe now... It's from the High Empire. Simple name I know. But there's where the simplicity ends."

    Ciel looks at Clear and she gets the impression the woman is trying to decide something.

    Clear: "...if you want to leave. You should go."

    Ciel takes a moment before she smiles sadly.

    Ciel:
    "Admirable sentiment, captain. They'd be poetic last words, indeed."

    The woman turns and points up at the hangar doors.

    Ciel:
    "Maybe we should see if our friends turned on your communication equipment so we can say hello?"

    Clear nods and starts to walk.

    Clear: "Thank you. For staying."

    Ciel vanishes. For a brief second Clear harbours doubt. She lets herself look up at the top of the stairs. Ciel stands there waiting.

  20. #60
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The High Legatifex

    In the Command Centre, monitors appear to be scrolling through text-upon-text that Clear doesn't understand. Most of the writing doesn't appear to be in English. Ciel squints at it.

    Ciel: "Appears to be a few ancient languages in there. Weird..."

    After pressing a few buttons one of the screens shifts and flickers before coalescing upon a white, human face of a man. It is a kind of 'generic human' appearance that Clear recognises all too well. She glowers at the screen before running from the room. She ignores the inquires from Ciel and runs down the corridors to the A.I. Hub. She slams a button and a small chip pops out. She inspects it and sees that it is the same chip that Mother is stored on.


    Clear:
    "NOTE! WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MOTHER!?"

    No response.

    Clear becomes more frantic. Despite there being a giant monster-snake outside she's more concerned about the resurrection of her old caretaker and enemy.

    Clear starts jabbing the console for a response.


    Clear: "NOTE! SHOW YOURSELF!"

    The screen above here wobbles into clarity and there Note appears. Clear thinks his image looks much clearer than it used to, as though he's now in HD instead of SD. His eyes, also, look far more innocent than she recalls. They're green. Weren't they once blue? His hair is the same side-combed brown though.


    Note: "You appear to be attempting to designate this A.I. unit with a name. Would you like me to accept the designation Note?"

    Clear: "What're you talking about? Where's Mother?"

    Note: "You wish to search for your mother? I can run a scan of the ship to locate the individual. If you could give further information to narrow my search it will be done much quicker. When was the last time you saw her?"

    Clear: "What? No. She's the A.I. from this chip!"

    She waggles it at the screen.

    She puts it back into the machine and locks the hatch. She sees the coloured lights illuminate above the slot to indicate that it's being read.


    Note:
    "Data has been corrupted."

    Clear: "No... no..."

    She feels loss. Loss like she knows she shouldn't. It was just a program, not her real mother, and she didn't even have much of a personality. Yet she's gone. She then becomes angry and points at the screen.


    Clear: "How the Hell're you here!?"

    Note: "I am the default algorithm for the A.I. of The Hopeful. The system restore is being stalled. I am attempting a complete wipe of all errors..."

    Clear: "System restore... why?"

    Note: "Instant shut down of all systems caused irreparable errors in the programming of our systems. Repairs began upon unexpected power surge but our system is under attack. Firewalls are down, data is being mined, access to external hackers is unrestricted."

    Clear: "Damn. It's that ship."

    Note: "A deep scan has been initiated. Data being requested... origins."

    Clear: "Origins?"

    Note: "Origins of The Hopeful."

    A sudden spike of excitement bubbles up within Clear. For all the sense of loss and fear of the intruder this information would greatly satisfy Clear. She almost hopes the hacker is successful.

    Note: "Entity is attempting to clean and sift through heavily corrupted data."

    Clear: "I think you should request a communication with this ship, Note. I'll go back to the Command Centre."

    Note: "Request sent."

    Clear walks. She doesn't hurry. She's too despondent.

    When she enters the Command Centre she sees a girl's face on the largest monitor. Ciel is standing beside the computer and motions with a knock of the head towards the centre of the circular pad on the floor.

    Ciel: "Our ravager awaits."

    Clear frowns at Ciel and looks at the screen again. The girl is short and about eight years old. She has blue skin and her hair is a strangely matted so that it looks like blue bark. Clear instantly recognises that she's a hian from the planet hiass, just like Lucee Sk'dor was on Mirare. Unlike Lucee, this girl doesn't have the typical yellow eyes of a hian but more human-like eyes with deep blue irises. Her skin also seems paler than the older woman's had been and, notably to Clear's fashion sense, the girl isn't wearing the traditional hian, free-flowing clothes that Clear likes to wear. Instead the little girl is wearing what appears to be a military jacket of black with a red trim. Her bark hair is cut at chin length and swept to one side, though Clear doesn't know if a pair of scissors would actually cut that wood-hair.

    Clear looks back to Ciel.


    Clear: "She's a child..."

    Ciel smirks.

    Ciel: "I know."

    Clear shakes her head, worried about what madness she's about to step into.

    The girl looks up when Clear steps onto the gold circle, her image projecting over to her ship. She cocks her head with curiosity. When she speaks she has a slight lilting sound to her, otherwise, high-toned voice.


    Hian Girl:
    "Who are you?"

    Clear's first instinct is to return the question but, given this is a child, Clear decides to indulge.

    Clear: "I'm Captain Clear and this is my ship, The Hopeless."

    Hian Girl: "How many crew do you have, Captain?"

    Clear: "Just me. I have two guests onboard."

    The girl looks surprised.

    Hian Girl: "Such a big ship for just one little girl."

    Clear purses her lips and glances at Ciel, who's laughing. Clear refrains from throwing something at the old woman and tries to get some of her own questions in.

    Clear: "Can I get your name? You look like a hian to me."

    Hian Girl: "The fact you know my mother's species tells me much about you, Captain Clear."

    She smiles but Clear doesn't find anything cute about it. It's a knowing, sly smile of arrogance.

    Hian Girl: "I have two names. As you know my species, I can tell you my mother called me Kimleigh."

    Clear gives her best smile.

    Clear: "Nice to meet you Kimleigh."

    Kimleigh: "You should use my title, Captain. I am High Legatifex."

    Clear: "Oh right... I didn't think..."

    Kimleigh: "One as young as you can be forgiven..."

    Clear is beginning to think there's a punchline somewhere.

    Kimleigh: "And living all alone on a ship like that, I suppose you don't hear titles all too often."

    Clear admits that she hadn't heard any titles before she met up with Warlord Strang.


    Clear: "I'll try to remember your title, High Legatifex Kimleigh."

    The girl looks amused.

    Kimleigh: "Strange to hear myself called Kimleigh. I kind of like it."

    Clear isn't sure what to say to that and so remains quiet.

    Kimleigh: "What are you doing in the Deep Void, Captain Clear?"

    Clear: "I'm stuck here. My power core is out of energy. It needs organic matter for fuel and I, obviously, don't have any."

    Kimleigh: "Sounds like a curious power core. But your ship responds to my command without interference. I can help you jump out of the Deep Void easily enough."

    Clear perks up.

    Clear: "That'd be great!"

    Kimleigh: "Your smile is delightful, Captain. What a wonderful little creature you are!"

    Clear, more potently, glares at Ciel, who just starts snickering again.

    Kimleigh: "But Captain, as interesting as I think you are... I feel you aren't being entirely honest with me."

    Clear blinks. She tries to think if she's lied about anything and finds she, surprisingly, hasn't.

    Clear: "I don't know what you mean, High Legatifex."

    Kimleigh: "Your ship... where does it come from?"

    Clear: "When the A.I. told me you were scanning the ship for that information, I was kind of hoping you could tell me."

    Kimleigh looks at Clear without saying a word. She raises a hand to her lips and nibbles on the nail of her index finger for a brief moment.

    Kimleigh: "You are very young..."

    Clear frowns, unable to take this joke any longer.

    Clear: "I'm really not that young. I'm almost thirty, you know?"

    Kimleigh smiles with amusement again.

    Kimleigh: "Incredibly young."

    Clear begins to guess this girl is of one of those species who live stupidly long lifespans and thus think everyone else is a child. Clear never understood this. A cat only lives eleven years and he's still old when he's eleven, even if eleven is young for a salmitton or a human. Stupid long-living people.

    Clear: "Did you... find out where my ship came from?"

    Kimleigh: "All I can say is... it once belonged to the High Empire."

    Clear sees that Ciel is even more surprised than she is. The Hopeful belongs to this giant, mysterious empire?

    Clear corrects her thoughts. It did belong to them. Now it's hers.

    Kimleigh:
    "Perhaps we could continue this conversation aboard my ship? I'd like to meet you in person. I have to know everything. Then we'll see... if I can let you go or not."

    Now it's time for Clear to be shocked. Their conversation had been pleasant enough, though unusual, and yet the whole time she was actually being interrogated and a prisoner. She sees Ciel nod from the corner of her eye.

    Clear: "Understood, High Legatifex."

    The girl smiles, more sweetly this time.

    Kimleigh:
    "Try not to worry, Captain. I'll look after you either way."

    The screen winks out and Clear swallows.

    Clear: "Look after me? Like a pet?"

    Ciel: "Exactly like a pet. As you probably figured she's not entirely hian. Her father... her father must be the Highemperor himself."

    Clear: "So she's a princess?"

    Ciel: "That's right."

    Clear: "Aurora liked me. So maybe Kimleigh will too."

    Ciel: "So far so good. Honestly, I think you lucked out. The Fates are clearly with you..."

    Clear: "Yeah? It's fate that got me into this mess to begin with, isn't it?"

    ---

    Clear was allowed to use her own shuttle to fly over to Kalor Varkesh - the Netherwyrm-ship. Instead of taking The Bug, she decides to take her other ship - Hoopa. Whatever Aellisin Koure originally called it she didn't know. It's Hoopa now and it's not his anymore. Certainly not his clone's. The red Ćon ship cruises across the Deep Void towards the Netherwyrm. She isn't sure if she's more afraid of the monster or of the emptiness around them.

    She doesn't get far when Hoopa's systems report that she's been caught in a tractor beam. Clear hadn't the heart to take the tractor shear from her old Bug and install it into Hoopa. She had tried to replicate the device but she wasn't as good with mechanics as Hebedee, her old mechanic, had once been. She watches as Kalor Varkesh grows and grows in size. At first she thinks she's being tractor into its open maw but then Hoopa is pulled to the side and swept towards the right side of the bio-ship. As she nears a large wall of metal, it opens up to reveal a small hangar. Clear imagines there's probably several such small hangar bays here and there on the ship.

    Once landed in the bay, Clear pops the hatch open and slips out of the Ćon ship and hops down the hard-light steps. A door opens. The door itself, she notices, is made of a kind of fleshy membrane that sucks to the edges of the door frame to allow passage before slipping back again. Clear grimaces at the sight but quickly tries to straighten her face for the company that stands before her. There's five of them. Four of them appear to be soldiers as they're wearing the same armour. Their chestplates are silver but their pauldrons are gold. The material she spies underneath is black and appears more comfortable than the seemingly heavy armour they have on top. They all seems to have their weapons strapped to their backs, safely tucked away. Two of the three look like humans while the third is a kind of anthropomorphic fox-man and the fourth has peculiar gelatinous skin and is almost double the height of Clear. She looks up at him first. Unlike the stern faces of his cohorts, the blue, jelly mountain grins at her, revealing a set of flat but perfectly white teeth.

    The fourth is nothing like the rest. In a strange way he reminds her of herself - a scavenger. He stands with his weapon drawn, resting across his folded arms. His skin is green and has has two circular ears atop of his head that look like antennae. When he sees her he frowns, which is strange to see on a creature with no eyebrows.


    Man: "What're you?"

    Soldier:
    "Silence, bounty hunter."

    The anthropomorphic fox-man glares at the green-skinned outsider before turning to Clear.


    Soldier: "Welcome to Kalor Varkesh. The High Legatifex is waiting for you."

    Clear notices that the bounty hunter is scanning her. Before she can protest he tuts.


    Man: "My lucky day. A huge bounty walks straight in my path. You'll be coming with me, Martian."

    Soldier: "She belongs to the High Legatifex, bounty hunter. Be careful you do not overstay your welcome. Your quarry is not this woman. Why don't you go and do your job instead of following me around?"

    The fox-soldier growls. He motions towards the door before marching there. The jelly man waits for her to move but before she could the bounty hunter grabs her arm.

    Man: "The tiny god-girl thinks she owns me. But I'm not a soldier. I work for me and me alone. Once my contract here is done... you're next on my list. The name's Bug. Remember it because next time you hear it, it'll be getting signed on your bounty."

    He lets her go. The jelly soldier just grins down at them as though they'd had a merry little chat and she stalks after the other soldiers. She glances back at Bug. He raises his fingers to his eye like a gun, closing the other beady-insect eye.

  21. #61
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Rebels Without a Cause

    Kalor Varkesh has innards that are striking - half-metal, half-biological. The corridor she walks down looks like a rib cage, the walls are rounded up to the ceiling and segments of bone march down the passage. The flesh between is red raw and wet. Fortunately it's not goopy, so nothing drips onto Clear's head as she feared it might. The floor, however, is solid and comfortable metal. Clear never thought she'd consider metal comforting but when one feels like one is willingly being swallowed, anything solid, cold and non-biological is extremely comforting.

    Crewmembers march about the ship doing whatever it is that they're meant to be doing. Most are soldiers, like those she's being escorted by, wearing their shiny armour. Others looks like technicians as far as Clear can tell, though their robe-like clothes are strange to her. Others appear to be off-duty and wander around in quite an eclectic mix of clothing that Clear is often so distracted by the guards have to nudge her along. There are many different alien species, many of which she's never seen before. There aren't so many as she's seen on Saffron 5, or Mirare, but more than she'd ever seen on one military vessel. This faction was evidently built on something other than race. Even the Rebel Alliance paled in comparison to the unity of this crew.

    The antropomorphic fox-man stops suddenly with a hand to his ear, holding the communicator clipped to his large, fluffy ear. He glances at Clear then proclaims an affirmative to whoever is giving him orders.

    Soldier: "We're to take you to the High Legatifex' leisure suite. Follow me."

    Clear: "You didn't tell me your name, by the way."

    Fox Soldier: "No I didn't. You'll not see me again."

    And that is the end of that. Clear rolls her eyes. Dullard soldier types. She glances up at the big blue guy. He grins at her. At least one of them is happy to see her.


    Clear: "What's your name?"

    Jelly Soldier: "So nice of you to ask, alas I am not at liberty to divulge private information with citizens."

    Clear reels from the shock of his manner. She'd expected a dumb grunt not an eloquent, formal tone of geniality.

    Jelly Solider: "Sorry. I seem to have startled you. My manner does seem to have that effect on people."

    He grins his big, dumb grin at her.

    Fox Soldier:
    "Stop talking to her, soldier."

    Clear grimaces at the back of the fox soldier's head. Usually she is more than happy to walk in complete silence but after a long stint all alone in the void, she wants nothing more than to feel connected to other people. Even if they're big, blue and gelatinous.


    Eventually she's taken through a garden area, which Clear thinks is really strange since the ship is a living thing anyway. She looks at the vegetation with disgust. It actually looks like gigantic fungus, which she thinks could well be living off of the biological essence of Kalor Varkesh itself. She then notices that there's no sign of lighting in the ship. And yet there is light. She wonders if this is similar to the effect that the mysterious girl used on The Hopeless.


    An elongated door faces the garden, this one an automatic metal door that slips quietly open as they approach. Inside is a very spacious and long room that is decked out with plush furniture and objects of enjoyment. There are library shelves filled with books. Old books so far as she can tell. Arcade machines with games in them such as "Space Conquerors" and "Planet Fighter II Turbo". Clear recognises arcade machines from Saffron 5 and had always wanted one for The Hopeless. If Clear plays her cards right she might be able to buy one of these beauties from the High Legatifex. There are lots of lounge chairs in the room and yet nobody filling them. She feels this room probably never sees a lot of people, despite being capable of it.

    There a big fire place in the room. Though no fire inside it. Instead it appears to be a kind of heater, emanating heat from the long light that glows warm and bright. Warming herself in front of the fire, holding a book in one hand, is Kimleigh. She looks up from the pages of the book and smiles.


    Kimleigh:
    "Come in, Captain Clear!"

    Clear glances back at her guards. Then trudge off. The jelly soldier grins at her one last time before he disappears too. She walks into the room and waits to be invited to sit. She doesn't have to wait long and she opts to seat herself in one of the armchairs. She sinks deep into its cushions. Clear is instantly envious and makes a note of purchasing one of these the very next planet she lands on.

    It's then that Clear realises that she's taken her salvation for granted from this girl and yet Clear is still, truly, her prisoner.


    Kimleigh: "Do you like my room, Captain?"

    Clear nods and looks about, taking in more of the sights. Above the heater is a ridiculously long screen and enormous speakers hang on the wall. Clear would have been impressed by the only DVD she owns is The Room and playing that on a big screen with perfect sound would only increase the torment of watching the movie.


    Clear: "I should tell you straight away, High Pontifex--"

    Kimleigh giggles sweetly.

    Kimleigh:
    "High Legatifex. A pontifex? That sounds quite grand. But I think Legatifex sounds much better, don't you?"

    Clear shrugs.

    Clear: "Uh... sure?"

    Kimleigh: "I suppose a child that is nonchalant about her own title of captain is hardly going to be impressed by foreign titles in others..."

    Clear ignores being called a 'child' again but she agrees with the point. Clear has never seen much use for titles. Even Pully, supersoldier, relaxed and stopped calling Clear 'Sir'. Though that was about the time that they both exited the employ of Warlord Strang.

    Clear: "I do prefer to just be called Clear. That name is more important to me than a title. I'm not in any military so being captain is more like... a job."

    She remembers when becoming captain of The Hopeful was all important.. However to Clear it wasn't the title that was important, it was the ability to control the ship and have ownership over her home. Being captain meant being attached to The Hopeless. She isn't captain of anything else or anywhere else, only captain of her ship.

    Kimeligh slaps her hands together and jumps to Clear. She leans over as though deigning to lower herself to a child's level.


    Kimleigh: "Then I shall be just Kimleigh to you, Clear. How's that?"

    Clear: "That... sounds great."

    She's not sure it really does sound great given the situation but decides it's better to try and get Kimleigh as her friend regardless.

    Kimleigh: "When I saw you I was so very impressed, Clear. I can't explain what it is but you have some kind of... aura. Some kind of magnetic draw. I like it. And you are so naďve! It's adorable."

    Clear: "I've never considered myself naďve before..."

    Kimleigh:
    "Oh. But many... species of the NeSiverse seem quite... innocent to me. I mean innocent to the magnitude and complexity of the Multiverse and existence itself. I don't mean naďve on a base level. I know you like naughty things. I saw a man in your ship's computer that would jiggle his bits at a pole."

    Clear instantly wishes the floor would swallow her up. That stupid A.I. that Wai put into the system all that time ago... she thought Pully had taken it. But then Pully did keep it on her datapad, she must have uploaded it later for personal use. Stupid Pully. Clear had to admit though, she'd have probably used it herself eventually...


    Kimleigh: "But the strangest thing... I detected from the ship's A.I. that there was a large crew just before I arrived. Can you explain this, Clear?"

    It feels strange to be interrogated so nicely and yet with the looming threat still hidden behind the smile and lilting voice.


    Clear: "It was a simulation. It was simulating past crew members from... hundreds of years ago, I guess it was."

    Kimleigh blinks in surprise.


    Kimleigh: "That sounds... inventive. I didn't detect anyone, save for you three, after I powered up your vessel so I'll take your word for that. And it's such an unusual word I'd be amazed you could come up with such a weird lie so quickly."

    Clear feels she must be honest with this young woman.

    Clear: "I don't much like being suspected, Kimleigh. I'm not lying to you. I have no reason to lie to you. You came to me. I just need help getting out of the Deep Void so I can live quietly with my ship. I don't do politics."

    Kimleigh looks at Clear with her human eyes. The stare is disconcerting to Clear.

    Kimleigh: "I'm not used to being spoken to so brusquely."

    Clear feels a pang of dread instantly wash over her. She should have kept her blunt stupidity out of this.

    Kimleigh: "Lucky for you I kind of admire it. That Bug chap I hired was fairly blunt too. My guardian wanted me to execute him..."

    Clear panics more but Kimleigh just shrugged.

    Kimleigh: "Luckily I had etiquette training as a girl and I am well aware that other civilisations are less cultured than ours and so we should condescend to accommodate any impropriety they might show. Plus Bug became very conscientious after that. Bowing and scraping for his life..."

    Clear now hopes that's Kimleigh's way of saying 'you're off the hook' though she sees Bug the bounty hunter in a very different light right now. She then grins, showing her white teeth. Clear notices that she has quite pronounced incisors that give the girl a sudden mischievious, impish look.

    Kimleigh:
    "And I kind of like it! My guardian is such a bore, you know!?"

    She throws herself onto the arm of Clear's chair and actually leans on the salmitton as though they'd been bosom-buddies for years.


    Kimleigh:
    "In fact he'll probably be along here any minute so we should make a run for it."

    Clear barely has time to frown before Kimleigh has taken her hand and pulls her to her feet and drags her towards the doors. They slip open to reveal a man standing there, staring at them sternly. He is much taller than either of them and is squarely built. He has a broad nose but small eyes that look like he's constantly squinting at them. His ears are long and thin and droop down his back like a rabbit's might. Save for the ears he looks remarkably like a brown-skinned human to Clear's mind. His hair, though, is an unnatural colour for a human. It's green and cut into thin stripes along his head so that they looked like a series of hedgerows until they extend down the back in long dreadlocks. One of his ears has a big block attached to it and from it extends a red visor that crosses one of his eyes. On his neck is a black grate that Clear thinks looks very uncomfortable.

    His body appears to be fixed by some kind of harness that Clear has never seen before. It straps over his shoulders and has two sections above his shoulders that almost look like handles. Under the harness is armour, much in the style of the soldiers she has already seen. The colour of his armour, however, is black and purple. Perhaps to accommodate his harness, he has no cloak but Clear can see two clasps built into the front of the armour where a cape out to fasten.

    Kimleigh: "Ah. Sega! I was wondering where you'd gotten to."

    Sega: "I'm sure you were..."

    His voice didn't come from his mouth, which remained unmoved. It came from the speaker grate on his neck. Clear guesses he must be a kind of robot like Wai was.

    Kimleigh: "This is my new friend. Captain Clear. That big ship out there is hers."

    Sega glares at Clear with his tiny eyes.


    Kimleigh: "I'm just going to show her around the ship. I was thinking of going to the chapel first."

    Without waiting for answer Kimleigh tugs Clear's hand and she follows after the girl. She then notes that they're being followed by Sega.

    Kimleigh: "Don't mind him. He's like a creepy shadow, I know."

    Sega: "It's my job."

    Kimleigh: "An unnecessary one."

    Sega:
    "This Clear could be a terrorist, High Legatifex. Ready to sacrifice her own life in an explosion so that she could take yours."

    Clear looks back at him with shock.

    Kimleigh: "I already interrogated her. Besides. I'm not a weak little puppy, you know? Anyway. Clear. This is the chapel."

    She sweeps her arm towards the wide arch that leads into another room. This one is very tall, towering high up. She wonders if the room was chosen for its height or if it was made this way. She imagines people digging into the flesh and organs of the Netherwyrm and has to grip her stomach at the notion. The room is evidently meant for the gigantic statue at the centre. Around the massive statue are small shrines where she sees people, including soldiers, bow and pray in silence to this god. Kimleigh leads her inside and Clear looks up at the towering figure. Clear has to now wonder how they got the thing in here and surmises that it must have been fabricated in the room itself.

    The statue is a man that looks to be human. His hair is long and curled and he has a strong nose that speaks volumes of snobbery in Clear's opinion. He has robes on with a thick cloak, the hood of which covers his head, but is pulled back enough to clearly show his face. Around the waist is a sash. Each part of the statue is made from a different and unique material, rather than just stone. Each material has its own colours that Clear guesses must reflect the actual colours of the god. His skin is white marble while his hair is obsidian. His robe is black like his hair but not made of the same material. She isn't sure what the material is but it looks metallic. The sash is the most striking as its made of ruby and is a pure, bright red that glistens.

    He is standing tall with his hands on his hips, a wide stance of confidence. He looks down, casting his gaze upon those below. It's almost fatherly yet Clear also feels it's patronising. She follows Kimleigh around the statue. Kimleigh pauses to look at it briefly and mutters something under her breath, eyes closed, and then continues on. She brings Clear around the statue to the rear end of the room where there are alcoves with screens and booths and smaller figurines. Clear thinks this might be a gift shop or a museum dedicated to this god. They enter one of the alcoves where Clear happens to glance at a vending machine and sees a bunch of cards in there. Adevertising the cards are a bunch of moving photographs that repeat a single motion over and over. Clear only notices because one of the women on the machine is most definitely Kimleigh. Clear points at it but before she can even ask, the girl is answering;

    Kimleigh: "They made cards of us. The Highemperor's daughters I mean. I'm actually quite flattered by my depiction. And my stats. Apparently I'm an OP card if you use me with the right buff cards. At least that was in the fourth edition game rules. Someone nerfed me in edition five. I sent an angry message and I was more balanced for edition six. Still. If you're going to play, best play by fourth edition rules on my ship. Here."

    Kimleigh swipes her hand across a sensor on the machine and a set of cards vends. She picks up the pack and hands it to Clear.


    Kimleigh: "Your very first set."

    She grins and Clear dubiously takes them. She pockets them without opening it. Kimleigh doesn't seem to mind and pushes further into the alcove. She points to some figurines where Clear sees Kimleigh has, again, been idolised. Her figure stands quite dramatically and Clear notes that she has opposable arms so her pose can be slightly adjusted to suit the collector. The alcove has quite a few customers who are purusing the figurines and Kimleigh drags Clear into the crowd. Suddenly they're rushing and pushing through. They pass under an open arch and into the next alcove. Then again into the next.

    Sega: "High Legatifex! Wait! Everyone clear the room! Now!"

    There's a whirring sounds from behind her and then a sudden calamity as people go flying in all directions. Shouts, cries and screams and at the centre is Sega. She only catches a glimpse but she sees his harness shaking.


    Kimleigh: "Quick, down here!"

    They slink into the next alcove, which is quickly becoming unpopulated as people flee the angry guardian. She swipes her hand over a panel on the wall and the wall itself opens up. She drags Clear inside and the wall closes behind them. She reaches up and presses her finger to Clear's lips for silence.

    And so Clear finds herself in a cramped little cupboard, in the dark, with a girl who's idolised by full-grown men and women on a ship that looks like a dragon. Clear thinks back to simpler times.


    Kimleigh: "He's gone."

    Clear: "How do you know?"

    The secret door opens and they step out into the alcove again.

    Kimleigh: "I chipped him."

    Clear:
    "What!?"

    Kimleigh:
    "Months ago. When he was asleep I had him chipped so that I'll always know when he's on his way. Hopefully he thinks we went running out of the chapel. It won't be long before reports of my whereabouts reach him and he comes scurrying back so we should get away from here. This way."

    Clear: "Why are you running from your guardian? Isn't he like a bodyguard or something?"

    Kimleigh:
    "He's nothing but a nuisance. Do I look like I need a bodyguard?"

    Clear refuses to answer that.

    They hurry across the chapel. Some people watch them either grinning knowingly or they shout tokens of luck at the High Legatifex. Apparently her escape attempts are well known by the ship's crew. They enter a booth and slip around to the back Clear discovers that there's a door there and, once through, they're in a storeroom. Metal crates are stacked high though none are open to reveal what's inside. She assumes it's all figurines and cards.

    Kimleigh suddenly glances back.


    Kimleigh: "He's on his way. Quick quick!"

    Clear: "But where are we going!?"

    She gives Clear a sly smirk.

    ----

    Not long after they're snooping around the quarters that have been granted to the bounty hunter, Bug. The room is a standard layout for all the ship's quarters with nothing personalised. Clear might have thought the room unoccupied if it weren't for the equipment laid all over the place. Clear has to admit that while she thought snooping around someone's room is terrible, she kind of likes it. It feels much like salvaging. And especially she loves Bug's gear.

    She picks up a rifle and peers down its scope. She inspects the ammo pack and finds it's a good, old-fashioned projectile weapon. Just the way Clear likes them. Loud and ugly. She spots a much larger weapon and checks it out. Splattered on its side in paint reads; "Happy Bug Boomstick". In a way, Clear appreciates that. It seems to be a heavy-duty rail gun. One shot of this and she could probably blow a very big hole in the wall. And the wall after it.


    Kimleigh: "Here!"

    She emerges from the next room, which Clear assumes is the bedroom, dragging to packs. Clear takes one and hoists it up for inspection. It's surprisingly light but she has no idea what it's for. She watches Kimleigh putting hers on.

    Clear: "What's this for?"

    Kimleigh chuckles.

    Kimleigh:
    "You don't know!? I've wanted one ever since I was a little girl."

    Clear holds back comment.

    Kimleigh pushes a button on the chest strap. The a faint hum and the girl turns around to show Clear the gentle glow from the two cylinders on her back.


    Kimleigh: "It's a jetpack!"

    Clear: "And... is it a weapon?"

    Kimleigh: "No! Come on, put it on! Let's get rebellious!!"

    Clear is fairly entertained that Kimleigh, captain of her own ship, is actually under guardianship to such an extent that she feels the need to rebel. She also seems to think Clear is a rebel without a cause herself and someone she thinks she can get into trouble with. Clear admits she probably is fairly rebellious not only because of her nature and life style but she has gotten into trouble with three major empires back in the Perseus Arm. Even her crew had been a bunch of misfits.

    Clear puts on the jetpack.


    Kimleigh:
    "Time for a jetpack joyride!"

    In her hands are the controls. She takes off the floor and the rocket pack expels a greater amount of energy and noise. The floor beneat hthe jetpack is instantly charred but Kimleigh doesn't seem to mind the destruction she's caused to her own ship. Clear looks at the control but activates it after a moment of fret. She instantly bolts up and Clear drops the controller. It swings free and hangs at her side. The jetpack automatically adopts a hover mode and she hangs a metre in the air.

    Clear: "Wow. That's really responsive."

    Kimleigh:
    "Top of the line! That Bug is a wily fella to be sure."

    Kimleigh gently eases her controller and she pirouettes in place. Clear snags her controller again and tries to move it gently. She whips to the right and winds up setting fire to the sofa.


    Clear: "Oops..."

    Kimleigh grins manicly.

    Kimleigh: "Now that's the spirit! Woo!"

    She then flies about the room, setting fire to a few cloth objects and sending the rest of Bug's stuff scattering around the room from the blowback of the pack. She approaches the door and it slides open. Clear manages to align herself with the door and watches Kimleigh easily skirt out of the room with a girlish squeal of glee. Clear hears shouting outside and then Bug runs up to the door. He stares after his stolen jetpack for a moment, not noticing Clear within, until he very slowly turns his head. Clear resolves to just make a run for it. Or fly.

    She engages the controls and she, very quickly, hurtles straight at the green-scaled Bug. He yelps and dives out of the way as she screeches by him and cuts the corner tightly. She finds herself speeding down the corridor in the wake of Kimleigh. Clear finds this is the most fun she's had in a very long time.


    People before her look like they've just recovered from the assault of the High Legatifex only to be doubly shocked when they find the red-skinned salmitton coming up on them too. They shout, jump or hit the floor as Clear clears through.

    She zips around a corner and sees Kimleigh ahead, evidently going slower than Clear is. Either because the girl is waiting for her to catch up, or she more reserved than Clear is with the controls. Clear gains on Kimleigh and, soon, overtakes her.


    Clear: "Come on, Kimleigh!!!"

    She shouts as she flies by. She assumes it's enough to goad the girl on and Clear leads the charge down the corridors. Then, ahead of her, is Sega. He stands there, stupefied, as he sees Clear cruising through the air. But then he activates his harness. It shakes violently, causing a disturbance of inertia all around him. Clear, having seen the effects of the thing before, jolts herself upwards and pulls her legs up. She almost hugs the ceiling, turning so that her belly faces it, and she manages to avoid the radius of affect of Sega's harness.

    She then hears his shout and shut it off. She guesses he didn't want to hurt his charge with the harness - but bringing down Clear would have been fine.


    Another stretch of corridor and Clear swoops low and through the open arch and into the chapel. Exactly where she wanted to be. She ascends the tall room and flies in a circle around the statue. She looks down to see Kimleigh also flying up and hears the girl scream with joy. Clear can't help herself. She gives a scream of excitement too.

  22. #62
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Special Zone

    Sega: "Your father will be very disappointed in you, High Legatifex."

    Clear is sitting in the same armchair of Kimleigh's leisure suite that she had on her first visit. The plush material and deep cushions give her a sense of comfort under Sega's tirade. He has been shouting for the past fifteen minutes, first at Kimleigh and then Clear and now Kimleigh again. Kimleigh is reclining on the sofa and staring off into the distance, evidently ignoring every word that passes Sega's mouth.

    Sega: "You are far too old to be acting the child--"

    Clear rolls her eyes at that.

    Sega:
    "--taking in strays--"

    Clear glares her eyes at him for that.

    Sega: "--and abandoning your mission!"

    Clear now casts curious eyes at Kimleigh.

    Kimleigh just sighs with exasperation.


    Kimleigh:
    "Do you know where my wayward sister is, Sega?"

    He splutters but she doesn't give him time to accurately formulate a response.

    Kimleigh: "No, Sega. No you don't. I don't know. You don't know. The crew doesn't know. Even the bounty hunter doesn't know. So until one of them is able to find her, I'm going to do whatever the Hell I please."

    Sega: "High Legatifex! You must act with a station of decorum at all times! You are a princess of the High Empire! You shouldn't be slumming it with this vagrant--"

    Clear wonders if he's trying to bait her into a screaming match with him but she refuses the challenge. She may not be an officer of the High Empire but she has enough dignity not to go round insulting people for their birth.

    Unless they're human, of course.

    Kimleigh: "Enough! I'm bored now. Leave me alone."

    Sega: "You know I can't do that. I'll stand at the back of the room. Watching."

    With a loud groan of annoyance she throws her head back, over the arm of the sofa.


    Kimleigh: "I am going to complain ceaselessly about you to my father when we return, Sega."

    Sega: "He shall believe that means I'm doing a good job."

    Kimleigh: "Then I won't complain!"

    Sega: "He'll assume I'm doing a very good job."

    Kimleigh: "He's very annoying isn't he, Clear?"

    Clear: "Very."

    Sega: "You don't have the right to insult me."

    Clear: "You don't have the right to insult me either, but you did."

    Kimleigh: "Let's not go down this road - he'll go on for hours about how citizens of the High Empire are superior to all other citizens in the universe because -- High Empire. It's the bestest!"

    She mockingly double-thumbs up to Clear.

    Sega: "As princess of the High Empire you should have more respect for--"

    Kimleigh:
    "I have infinite respect, Sega. But I have zero blind adoration. Something my father has never understood - there is always someone, something, better. No matter how perfect you think something is it is not. You perfect something but that only flaws something else. And you, Sega, are a fool for thinking yourself better than anyone else just because of where you were born and who you serve. Like the universe gives a crap. It'd be here without the High Empire--"

    Sega: "If someone were to hear you speak this way there'd be an inquisitor down here in an instant, High Legatifex! Please keep your comments to yourself!"

    Kimleigh: "There's only Clear here and she doesn't care about our politics."

    Clear: "All I care about is my ship..."

    Kimleigh: "Right! Yes! It needs organic matter... Not really much we can do about that from here. But I can engage your ship's drive. The old girl seems pretty beat up though, I hope she can handle the strain of a jump?"

    Clear replies an affirmative but inwardly she has to wonder. The new jump drive is incredibly intense. But the risk is worth it. She doesn't want to miss this chance and Kimleigh never returns.

    Sega: "And where would you escort that monstrosity?"

    Kimleigh peeps her head over the rear of her sofa so that she could glare at the ever-present guardian;

    Kimleigh: "Was I talking to you, Sega? No. Be quiet back there."

    He does so and yet Clear can feel his overbearing presence more through his silence than through his arguing. She refrains from glancing in his direction and strives to keep her attention on Kimleigh.


    Kimleigh: "Since your ship is actually the property of the High Empire anyway..."

    She pauses in her speech, waiting to see Clear's response. Clear, of course, is dumbstruck but she can't argue the point with a princess of such powerful people and the only people able to get her to safety right now. Seeing that Clear is annoyed but speechless, Kimleigh merely continues;

    Kimleigh: "We can use one of our facilities to get... The Hopeful, wasn't it? Get The Hopeful into ship-shape!"

    Clear is quiet for a moment. Then, her voice cracking a little;

    Clear: "And then?"

    Kimleigh shrugs and sits up, elbows leaning on her knees.

    Kimleigh: "And then we'll see. Honestly I don't know. It's quite a mystery and a mystery I am eager to explore. Perhaps I should come and visit the ship for myself! What say you to that!?"

    Sega: "You shouldn't go over there, High Legatifex--!"

    Kimleigh:
    "Didn't I tell you to shut up, Sega? You're here for my protection, not to order me about."

    Sega: "And it's for your protection that I have to in--"

    Kimleigh: "You'll protect me, won't you!? What's to worry about!?"

    Sega: "I'm not so arrogant to believe I can keep you safe from an unknown enemy..."

    Clear: "There's no enemy aboard my ship. Just a space cop and a... well someone I don't like but he's harmless right now."

    Kimleigh: "See? Just two of them. It'll be fine, Sega."

    Sega: "So she says!"

    Kimleigh: "We scanned the ship. The numbers were explained away earlier. All that's there are those three and a lot of vermin--"

    She looks earnestly at Clear.

    Kimleigh: "You know you have rats, right? Lots of them!"

    Clear: "I suspected there must be somewhere on the ship. But it's just so big I couldn't deal with them. I don't even know where they are. None of the ship's maps even work."

    Kimleigh nods slowly, biting her lower lip.

    Kimleigh: "Yes... I did notice that. Lots of corrupted data. I only know as much as I could feel through her electronics. Remarkable really. I'm pretty excited about playing in her. I bet she's quite lovely on the inside, right?"

    Clear shakes her head apologetically but fairly humoured too.

    Clear: "I'm afraid not, Kimleigh. The Hopeless is very, very old and has barely seen a day of maintenance. Actually it has. It's had several months of maintenance from two different crews and they barely managed to coat the surface damages. I had certain areas upgraded bit-by-bit. I've never had much money in all honesty. When I finally had some most of it went on changing parts of the ship."

    Kimleigh looks at Clear with starry eyes.

    Kimleigh: "You must have had a wonderfully terrible life, am I right!?"

    Clear doesn't understand how 'wonderful' and 'terrible' really go together but she gets the impression that Kimleigh is somehow romanticising a troubled life.

    Clear: "I suppose so... I told you my species is wiped out. Includes my parents. I lived alone on my ship so... yes. It's not been easy."

    Sega: "And where did you get that money you mentioned?"

    His words are more growled than spoken and tinny as they warbled out of his mechanical voice box.

    Clear: "Other nations that employed me. One pressed me into service and the other rewarded me for service."

    Before Sega could continue his questioning, Kimleigh butt in;

    Kimleigh: "I don't think now is the time for Clear's backstory. Maybe we should get ready to visit your ship?"

    Clear shrugs in agreement and they both stand up, just in time to be interrupted by an emergency communiqué from the bridge of Karlor Varkesh.


    Navitatex: "This is the navitatex. The bounty hunter, Bug, reports that he has a possible location for the terrorist Indigo Shade. What are your orders, High Legatifex?"

    Kimleigh:
    "I'm on my way."

    She speaks into the air and Clear has no idea where the microphone is. She first shrugs in apology to Clear and then half-turns to speak to Sega.

    Kimleigh: "I want you to find Bug and help him in whatever he needs."

    Sega: "That's not--"

    Kimleigh: "You know where I'm going, Sega. No need to be watching me on the bridge. Bug, on the other hand, is a slippery little toad. You've been chasing me all over this ship for a long time now. There's nobody I'd trust more to keep tabs on our, supposed expert, hunter."

    Sega hesitates but eventually nods and leaves the room. Kimleigh stares at the door for a moment and then smirks.

    Kimleigh: "I didn't think that would work!"

    Clear almost facepalms.

    Clear: "That was all staged!?"

    Kimleigh shakes her head as she hurries towards the door.

    Kimleigh: "No! I just took advantage of the situation to get shut of him! Ha! Come on!"

    Clear jogs after the hian girl, leaving the leisure suite behind.

    Clear: "Are you sure you want me going to your bridge?"

    Kimleigh points and they jog left.

    Kimleigh: "I'm not taking you to the bridge. Don't worry, there's plenty of time yet. I want to make a quick detour!"

    Clear is concerned about this but she's not at liberty to protest. She feels herself being drawn into this girl's schemes and, shockingly, enjoying it. She can claim innocence, pressured into service by another, and get the thrill of the crime. But a part of Clear doesn't like that she likes this. She has more important things to worry about and yet the time spent being silly with Kimleigh is quick and easy pleasure to come by.

    The trip isn't long as they take a turbolift. Clear can imagine that they might be zipping along the dragon's veins in their little box. When Clear asks where they're going, Kimleigh just grins and tells her she'd find out when they arrived.


    Clear:
    "Why are you looking for your sister? She's a terrorist?"

    Kimleigh sighs mildly despondent.

    Kimleigh: "Basically, yes. She doesn't like our father. Considers him a tyrant."

    Clear folds her arms.

    Clear: "Seems pretty accurate from my perspective."

    Kimleigh pouts.


    Kimleigh: "He is a good and caring man, Clear. He's no tyrant. I think. He... is controlling I guess. Wants to rule others, even if they don't want to be ruled. He treats them as well as he can though!"

    Clear: "I've heard slave masters say the very same thing."

    Kimleigh: "Oh! Slavery is illegal! He believes strongly in civil liberties does my father!"

    Clear: "If he's forcing people to obey him, I don't see much of a difference. Obey and you're free, disobey and you're dead? That's not freedom. It's just slavery in a different packaging."

    Kimleigh doesn't reply and sulks a little as she pokes the panel for the lift. The doors eventually open and they set foot in another area of the ship. It appears to be the crew quarters for the soldiers. Some of the men and women look surprised to see Kimleigh striding quietly down the access corridor.

    Kimleigh: "He is a powerful man though. He'd say that gives him the right to rule."

    Clear: "Might makes right? Typical of someone who dominates to justify himself with strength alone."

    Kimleigh just grins mischievously.

    Kimleigh: "And you said you don't do politics!"

    Clear: "I don't! But I don't want some knucklehead ordering me about just because he's got lasers shooting from his arsehole or whatever strength he says he has."

    Kimleigh titters.


    Kimleigh: "Now that would be a wonderfully terrible sight to see! My poor father!"

    Her giggling quietens as she walks through a set of doors much larger than the other quarters. Clear had noticed that Kimleigh is able to wander through any door, even doors that others have to be scanned by computers to pass through. They must be set up to instantly acknowledge her - or it's her special electrical power at work. No electronic lock can keep out a girl who can control that lock.

    The lights blink on, fading up from a low light to a bright white envelope. Clear thinks that's a nice touch to the lighting system, not blinding someone from dark to instant light but a gradual increase that allows the eye to adjust. She wonders if she can get Mother to implement it on The Hopeless. Her mind briefly wonders if Mother is back online yet but Kimleigh distracts her quickly by jiggling a device at her.

    Clear: "Is that... is that the harness Sega wears?"

    She then looks around in horror.


    Clear: "Is this Sega's room!?"

    Kimleigh nods eagerly.

    She pushes her arms through the holes. Built from a man much bigger than this little girl, the device is quite limp on her body. She approaches Clear, holding open the straps.


    Kimleigh: "You have to hug me so we can go together."

    Clear: "Go? Go where? I thought this thing was some kind of kinetic distorter? Makes vibrations or something?"

    Kimleigh: "It does when on a low setting. But increase the speed and it does sooooooo much more! Didn't you wonder how he got around so quickly?"

    She waggles the straps at Clear, urging her to slip in. Clear kneels down and, suddenly very uncomfortable, hesitantly puts her arms around Kimleigh. The girl tightens the straps and smiles at Clear's discomfort.


    Kimleigh: "Don't worry, Clear. I'm not gay! Not very anyway."

    She s******s, thinking herself very amusing. Clear is tempted to ask if she even knows the first thing about sex but decides she really doesn't want to know the answer in case it's disturbing. She feels the straps are tight around her shoulders and Kimleigh is pushed up against her. The girl's skin is silky soft, even softer than Clear's who has been told many times that her skin is unnaturally smooth by a few humans. But Kimleigh, as a hian, has skin like a bag filled with water. Only her hair is the complete opposite and is as stiff as a table stuck to her skull.

    Kimleigh whispers into Clear's ear, instantly exacerbating how uncomfortable and weird this all is.

    Kimleigh: "Ready for another joyride Clear?"

    Clear feels the harness start to vibrate. Then she doesn't. Instead she feels perfectly still, motionless. Instead the room around them is shaking. A little and then a lot - violently. Clear is afraid but now Kimleigh's hug feels reassuring, despite her initial feelings about it. Clear realises she's clutching the girl too hard and tries to calm her grasp to save her embarrassment. As the world around them shakes harder and harder the colours blur and wash into each other - yet Clear is certain new colours are washing into the muted colours of Sega's quarters. Bright blue. Bright red. Then the world starts to slow and clarifies. Clear is so taken aback she pulls back from Kimleigh but the girl has her held tightly.

    Kimleigh: "Don't do that! You'll go flying! I know we look like we're standing still but we're actually the ones moving. If you break out of the harness your kinetic momentum will continue and you'll go off at a hundred miles an hour into a wall. Splat! One squished pretty salmitton girl."

    Clear: "Right, right. But where are we?"

    Kimleigh: "I've been calling it the special zone. I have no idea what else to call it."

    The world has now come to a gradual stop and Kimleigh unfastens the straps so that they can separate. She smiles a little smugly.

    Kimleigh: "I don't get to hug people very often so that was fun too!"

    Clear: "I don't hug people very often either. And I prefer it that way."

    A brief flash of Green pops into her head but Kimleigh draws her back to the bright, garish world around her.

    Kimleigh: "Clear the Lone Wolf! She doesn't need sissy hugs because she's so badass!"

    Clear might have had more to say on that little line but she's amazed by their new location. They appear to be in a half-pipe of bright orange with the occasional yellow stripe. Above them is a starry sky of deep blue, which becomes a hazy green on the horizon. Kimleigh points down the path.

    Kimleigh:
    "That way!"

    As they walk Clear taps her foot against the road. It's made of a kind of metal she's unfamiliar with.

    Kimleigh: "I already set the coordinates in for the bridge. It'll be very funny when we BANG onto the bridge! They'll all die of fright!"

    Clear: "Are you sure they'll not going to open fire by instinct?"

    Kimleigh: "They're all highly trained professionals, Clear. They don't operate by instinct, they operate by discipline. Instinct causes unnecessary causalities and emotional drama that impedes true service. Don't think or feel, just know what and when to shoot. And knowing comes with years and years of training."

    She sounds very proud of the war machine under her employ and she thinks she is an apple that didn't fall very far from the tree of the Highemperor after all. Maybe he, too, was once a rebel without a cause...

    She doubts it.

    Kimleigh starts running and Clear runs too. The metal clangs loudly as they go but the wind sounds fierce, as though they're running much faster than they ought to be capable of doing. A minute later and they're at the end of the track, a tall wall before them. Kimleigh opens the straps of the harness and Clear, somewhat disappointed that they didn't spend long in the special zone, slips her arms in. This time her hug is much more comforting and Kimleigh tightens the straps.

    The special zone wobbles and then shakes aggressively. The colours wash until Clear sees darker tones seep into the orange and green. The world stabilises and they're on the bridge of Kalor Varkesh. The ceiling appears to be white and smooth, like bone, and Clear makes the very obvious leap of logic that the High Empire would be just arrogant and pretentious enough to put their command centre in the braincase of the beast. Where else would it go, she could imagine Kimleigh declare.


    The room is littered with crystalline moulds of all shapes and sizes. Clear had seen crystals around the ship's corridors and a few small ones in Kimleigh's leisure suite but here the room is crammed with them. Many of them are flat, like brightly coloured glass, and people are swiping their fingers over the surface. Some other crystals are being rubbed in different ways and some appear highly suggestive in Clear's mind. She has to turn away from watching one woman vigorously working her hand over one elongated pink crystal.

    Kimleigh: "Welcome to the bridge, Captain Clear! You should probably take a seat here."

    She shoos a woman from one of the three chairs on the highest platform of the bridge, overlooking the rest of the ship. The woman moves over to one of the crystal banks and slides a small crystal into a slot, activating the unusual technological machine. Clear sits down and watches as a man gets up from the central chair and sits in the right-side chair, opposite Clear. She assumes he's the captain, or the navitatex as he called himself earlier. The chairs are all carved from the same red crystal, smoothed out like gems to be comfortable. Only the backs remained the regular, raw crystalline shape as spikes of sharp red stone stand up behind them. Kimleigh takes the central chair, the biggest and most prominent seat in the room.

    Clear:
    "You know, I probably shouldn't be in here, Kim-- High Legatifex..."

    Kimleigh wofts her hand dismissively.

    Kimleigh:
    "Forget it. I decided when we were in the special zone that I need you to be around so we can visit your ship anyway."

    Navitatex: "I fear you'll be too busy dealing with our quarry for pleasure trips, High Legatifex."

    Kimleigh: "There's always time for pleasure trips, Navitatex!"

    She then turns and glares at him with a pout.

    Kimleigh: "You weren't surprised to see me burst into the room, by the way. I'm very disappointed."

    There's a pause before the navitatex makes a sarcastic feign of fright.

    Kimleigh:
    "How droll you are..."

    She doesn't sound amused.


    Navitatex:
    "Your guardian sent word that he detected you entering his quarters and suspected you'd be using his harness for flights of fancy."

    Kimleigh: "Damn. I should have known someone like he would put detection systems on his door..."

    Crewman #1: "We're travelling to the location now, High Legatifex."

    Clear: "Wait, what about m--"

    Kimleigh: "We'll come back, captain. Don't worry yourself. I still want to see your ship, remember?"

    Clear is actually comforted a little by that. She does think she'll be claiming the ship as a possession of her empire after all. Still, she's very unhappy that she's being dragged into something at all. Immediately, so far from home, she wishes she could have just stayed on her own ship and waited for Kimleigh to return even if that meant being unsure if she ever truly would.


    She glances past the girl towards the man on the right. He's a man with deep green skin and is very lithe, with little to no muscle on his body at all. He wears similar plated armour to the other crew, though he has a dark blue cape attached to his golden breastplate. He has dark hair that is swept neatly back and to the side with products, giving him a sleek and suave appearance. The hair, Clear sees, is actually incredibly dark dark that simply appears black at a glance. His lips natural colour is darker green than his skin and his irises are blue. Clear recognises his species, having seen Orions on Saffron 5 from time to time, but she has no idea where they originate or anything about their culture. She does recall them wearing very little clothing, usually looking more ragtag than Clear usually does. This one, however, seems to have elevated himself to be more presentable as to suit his station.


    Clear sees that both of them are stroking the smooth crystal surfaces of the arms of their chairs and Clear prods hers. She feels an instant wave of nausea strike her and her mind races through dozens of bytes of information. She snaps her hand back. She couldn't make any sense of the calculations her brain was automatically running through when she touched the chair and she doesn't want a repeat experience. A machine that leads your brain through the process seems like a dangerous tool that could end up controlling the mind of the user. And yet there's an entire empire using this tech, so she concedes she could just be paranoid. An experience like Note, however, is likely to cause such feelings.

    Crewman #2: "We've arrived. We're still in the Deep Void but there are multiple signatures."

    Crewman #3: "It--it's a fleet! An entire fleet of ships!"

    Kimleigh: "I guess she's more wily than we'd thought. Project. I want a visual."

    A moment later and the circular platform below Clear, Kimleigh and the navitatex lights up. The projection is a 3D display that looks so solid and tangible Clear could have sworn she was looking at a set of model spaceships. She counts a dozen ships.

    Clear: "They look almost as run down as The Hopeful."

    Kimleigh tilts her head.

    Kimleigh: "You're not wrong. So she has a fleet but its a ragtag heap of junk she's probably salvaged from some ship graveyard."

    Clear actually thinks this sister of Kimleigh's sounds like a woman she'd get on with very well.


    Crewman #3: "The ships are moving."

    Kimleigh:
    "Are they crewed?"

    Crewmen #3:
    "Unable to confirm. Scanning is blocked."

    Kimleigh just stares off without response. Her eyes are so focused on staring at nothing that Clear realises she must be using her mind to explore the ships' electrical systems. Clear leans forward.

    Clear: "Oi. Orion."

    Navitatex: "I suggest you don't communicate with me, Martian."

    Clear's expression sours instantly.


    Clear: "Too good to talk to a Martian now are you, Orion?"

    Navitatex: "I wasn't trying to be rude. But you're not a welcome presence on this ship. The High Legatifex likes you but to the crew you're a liability. It's nothing personal. You're just not one of us."

    Clear supposes she couldn't argue with that.


    Kimleigh:
    "Don't be mean, navitatex. I trust her and that means you should too."

    She has snapped out of her reverie.

    Navitatex: "I'm sure she's trustworthy, High Legatifex. I'm not saying she'll betray us. But she doesn't know our ways or how we operate. This is a military vessel, not a pleasure yacht. I just don't trust her to ability to function as part of our whole. That's all."

    Again Clear couldn't argue with the logic, even if it is ultra cold.


    Kimleigh: "I wish this was a pleasure yacht. Then we wouldn't be able to get our backside's spanked."

    Navitatex:
    "Wha--?"

    On the projection, massive energy beams are unleashed from the cannons of the second-hand vessels.
    Last edited by TheBritt; 05-16-2016 at 09:00 AM.

  23. #63
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Shade

    Kimleigh: "There. What is that ship?"

    Officer #1: "The Starscrape."

    Kimleigh: "Terrible name. That's just asking to be scrapped. Grab it."

    Clear: "Grab it? Like a tractor beam? It's massive!"

    Navitatex:
    "Not what she means."

    Clear sees Kalor Varkesh on the viewscreen, it swoops in towards a massive bulk of a ship that's almost as big as The Hopeless is. The other enemy ships have already started firing but the dragon-ship barrel rolls to avoid fire. Although Varkesh is spiralling around, Clear senses no motion at all from her position inside of it. She realises just how much more versatile and agile this living ship is compared to most technological ships. With its arms and legs stretched out the dragon lands on the side of The Starscrape and, with its mighty black wings, it pulls the vessel up to settle between Varkesh and the incoming fleet.

    Navitatex: "Lucky the hulk was on the flank."

    Kimleigh:
    "My sister isn't a fleet admiral. She has no idea what she's doing."

    Clear:
    "Her crew?"

    Kimleigh:
    "There's no crew. She has machines running these skeletons."

    Energy weapons are tearing apart The Starscrape. No mercy. Clear thinks it's lucky they're crewless.

    Clear:
    "We can't just sit here all day. Look they're beginning to circle round. We'll be surrounded."

    Navitatex: "We'll jump the first ships that venture round. They won't be expecting it. Pick them off, one-by-one."

    Clear nods.


    Clear: "Clever."

    The first ship does come round, a smaller vessel that looks like it might fall apart of its own volition. Varkesh leaps from the back of its ride and attaches its claws into the new ship. He opens his mouth and a strange energy pours out, looking like hot,red vomit. It slides across the metal of the ship and its instantly melted down to slag.

    Clear:
    "Wow..."

    Kimleigh smirks at Clear's reaction, pleased she's been able to impress her new friend.


    The next ship to slip over the horizon of The Starscrape appears more robust than most. Varkesh's head turns languidly and opens up with another torrent of netherflame. The red, fiery slime slops against its bulk, instantly melting away a huge quarter of the vessel. It has opened up its return fire, however, pumping laser burst after laser burst. Each blast strikes out at incredible speed but explodes close to impact, spraying out in a haze of laser shots that rain down upon the netherwyrm.

    Navitatex: "I wonder where she found that little monster?"

    Kimleigh: "Take us closer to The Starscrape, once the netherflame is recharged we attack again, closer this time."

    Her orders are followed. Varkesh, hovering close to the bulk of The Starscrape, lunges up suddenly at the target with a burst of flame that sweeps over the hull of it. The ship then slowly starts to turn, to get the laser cannons from its port to face Kalor Varkesh - its starboard now nothing but melting metal. Its rotation isn't quick enough. Varkesh ploughs inside the ship and chomps down on whatever comes into its jaws. Clear wonders where the metal goes since the dragon's innards are filled with rooms.

    With one fierce push, the dragon's head bursts out of the ship's hull. He then tears the craft in twain and its two halves float despondently away.


    Navitatex:
    "It's strange. We can't calculate which of the vessels is the command ship..."

    Kimleigh: "Strange.. urgh!"

    Kalor Varkesh shudders. Since none of the biological ship's movements caused any kind of notice to its inhabitants, Clear guesses that the disturbance is from within.


    Kimleigh:
    "She's not on any of those ships. She's in ours!"

    Navitatex: "Troops!"

    Scans of the ship show massive damage towards the tail of Varkesh.

    Clear:
    "How--?"

    Kimleigh has gone into silent reverie again, probably trying to use her powers against Indigo Shade aboard Kalor Varkesh. The Navitatex resumes command of the spacebattle as more energy fire sweeps in towards their ship. Clear hops out of her seat.

    Navitatex: "Where are you going?"

    Clear: "I may as well try to help with the intruder, right? Not like I'm much use up here."

    She also thinks she'll be closer to the docking bay if everything goes south. She runs from the room, just in time to feel another major tremor through the ship's bones. As she goes she sees Bug run out of his room with his jetpack strapped on and his boomstick in hand.

    Bug: "Well, if it ain't the salmitton..."

    Clear stops and glances into his room.


    Clear:
    "Mind if I take the spare?"

    Bug stares at her as though she'd called his mother a hag. It lasts just a moment when the ship shudders. He groans and nods quickly. He turns and powers on his pack before Clear has even slipped into his room. She finds the pack on the table and throws the straps over her shoulders. It's an awkward fit. She hasn't taken off the harness and she wonders if it's safe to wear both of this mounts at the same time. Ultimately she resolves that the harness is too precious to discard and she fastens the jetpack as tightly as she can. She ignites the booster and she's airborne. The room of Bug, against, receives an accidental blasting from the pack's flame before she manages to wiggle out of the room and into the corridor. She then slams it into full gear and speeds, headlong down the passage. Nobody is there to get in her way, all probably busy fighting.

    She screeches around a corner and, soon, she starts to see soldiers. Most of them wounded and many more of them tending to those wounds. When the ship shakes it's far more violent this close to the tail.

    She almost crashes into Bug, who has perched himself just before a massive room. Clear lands and peeks in after him. She realises it's not a massive room but many rooms that have been so demolished that only a single space remains.


    Clear:
    "Wow..."

    Bug: "Yeah..."

    Clear:
    "Is that..."

    She squints. A tiny blackhole is sucking up everything in sight, breaking down anything that won't physically fit inside of it.


    Bug:
    "Yeah. Apparently black holes are her thing. You know, sometimes, I get really fed up of these overpowered freaks. What'm I supposed to do against that?"

    Clear: "Down there..."

    She points towards a door on a lower floor. They can see soldiers setting up some kind of cannon.


    Clear:
    "All we have to do is distract her for a moment."

    Bug: "Yeah. Good luck with that."

    Clear:
    "Seriously? You're going to leave me to do it?"

    Bug: "Since you're so keen..."

    Clear curses and powers up the pack. She swings into the room. The black hole, although miniature, is still pulling so strongly that she has to fight against the drag.

    Indigo Shade:
    "What have we here?"

    Clear almost loses control of her pack as a woman springs up next to her, flying without any kind of aid. She has pale skin but jet black horns that curl around the face the front, pointing straight at Clear. She has a hungry look to her eyes, which straight into Clear's own black eyes.

    Indigo Shade:
    "What are you?"

    Clear remembers she's supposed to be distracting the woman and so she decides to appease the question.

    Clear: "A salmitton. From Mars."

    Indigo Shade sneers.

    Indigo Shade:
    "Neighbour of Earth. How unappealing. My curiosity ends with that association. Leave or die."

    Clear: "Wh-wait. You dislike the Earth, right? I get that. I hate it too. Hate the humans."

    Indigo Shade looks amused.

    Indigo Shade:
    "And what? You think we share some common ground? Should we break bread now? Perhaps get a drink together?"

    Clear glances down at the bottom of the Indigo-made shaft.

    Clear: "A drink sounds good right about now actually..."

    Troop: "FIRE!"

    Clear presses the button for the harness to whisk her away...

  24. #64
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Hospital and Hyperspace

    Clear staggers back, reeling from the belief she is about to be engulfed in fire from massive rifle the soldiers fired. She is now, however, in the eclectically coloured Special Zone. She wonders what would happen to her, here, if the ship is destroyed back in real-space. She's not huge on science and isn't entirely sure if she's outside of reality, in another dimension or what, even after all of Kimleigh's explanations.

    As Clear hadn't set any pre-set coordinates, she assumes that the harness will use the previously set coordinate - the Bridge, or the location it was last used, Sega's room. She hopes for the Bridge. Being caught by Sega, alone, is a worrying prospect.

    She an indulgent smirk, she activates the jet pack and flies down the orange half-pipe. There and then she decides the pack is officially stolen and Bug is never getting it back. 'Salvaged' she corrects herself.


    She reaches the goal and the harness starts shaking again, reverting her back to reality. The room wobbles into clarity and she is, after all, in Sega's room. It's dark and he's absent. Probably off dealing with The Indigo Shade. Clear peeks out. Nobody.

    Clear: "Maaaaaaaybe it's time to prepare for a swift exit..."

    She tries to gain access to the news relay of the imperials through her PIP, trying to see how the battle went after her quick exit, but the security is too tight. She, instead, accesses the communications and sends a quick message to Kimleigh, requesting an update. She could head to the Bridge but if the ship is going to be blown up from within then being close to her getaway ship is a better option. Seeing that Indigo Shade could create blackholes, Clear thinks the battle is well out of her league. She thinks she might even find Bug likewise seeking a way off the ship in the hangar.

    As she nears the hangar her PIP rattles with an incoming reply.


    Kimleigh: "Battle's over, Clear! I'm coming to get you!"

    Clear slows her walk to a stop. A part of her still wants off this biological crate. She's thinking she's had enough of this High Empire, regardless of a budding friendship with Kimleigh. Space dragons, robot fleets, and sisters that could wipe Clear off the face of the universe with the blink of an eye. It's all best avoided.

    Sega: "YOU!"

    Clear: "Crapcakes."

    Sega had come round the corner suddenly, leaving Clear in full view and totally alone. The man stomps towards her, his robotic legs falling heavily to the floor and raising, to Clear's eye, somewhat mechanically, though trying to simulate natural movement. He holds his massive hand out, palm facing upwards. Clear sighs. Though she thinks the harness is more useful than the jet pack, it's not as cool, so she's only mildly upset that she'll have to return it.


    After some fumbling she manages to get the thing off, having to take of the jet pack first. The whole process only serves to aggravate Sega more. When it's finally in his grasp he then lunges out and grabs Clear, his whole hand holding her face. She squirms, suddenly shocked and in fight, and feels his fingers begin to crush her skull. Screaming she throws her legs up and straight into his chin, knocking his whole head back. He stumbles back and his grip loosens enough for her weight to free her. She lands on her backside but she's up just as quick and activates the jet pack.

    She turns to make a quick escape but he grabs her ankle and the momentum from the pack throws her forward and down, slamming her face into the metal floor.


    Auto-collision detection enabled in the pack, it shuts off and she lies there in a complete daze. Her face is bleeding, her head is pounding and she isn't quite sure what her name is. She's lifted off the floor by the pack and she dangles there, trying to see straight. She feels large, cold fingers curl up to her throat. The sudden presence of death surges energy back into her and she clutches as the hand, trying to tear it away. His robotic strength wins out though.

    Managing to get a moment of timely thinking she reaches down and turns on the jet pack again. The sudden acceleration throws her out of his grasp and she flies down the corridor to freedom. It doesn't last, however, as she instantly crashes into the wall and is sent spinning down the passage as the pack shuts off. She rolls along the floor and she sees, through her blurry eyes, Sega stomping towards her.

    His black boots stop before her head. Once raises. She knows what comes next and she can barely manage to shuffle her head out of the way.


    Nothing happens though. Clear is able to scramble away, spitting blue blood from her mouth as she goes. She isn't sure why he's stopped but he has - his body frozen, leg poised. She coughs and winces from the pain in her nose, but her vision is restoring. She pushes herself up to her knees and tries not to topple over.


    Kimleigh: "My poor Clear, are you okay?"

    The girl kneels down with her and cradles Clear's head.

    Clear: "He got off lucky..."

    Clear manages a joke but she doesn't really feel like laughing.


    Kimleigh: "He did. He really, really did. I was tempted to make his circuits explode! How dare he hurt my friend like this!? My father be damned, Sega is out of a damn job!"

    Clear: "You shut him down?"

    Kimleigh:
    "Yes. I forced his spark into hiberation. Most robots have one. It's the thing that makes them... people. I guess. But I think you'll be fine, Clear. I think it looks worse than it is. And wow. Your blood is really blue."

    Clear: "I'm an alien. Got to have blue blood."

    She chuckles to herself, a joke only she and humanity of Earth would get.

    ---

    Clear cracks her stiff neck and groans from the sudden pitch of pain. She's been in the medical bay over night and now she's ready to leave, even if the doctors are trying to get her to stay. Since there are genuinely wounded soldiers around, having bore the brunt of Indigo Shade's attack, Clear wants to free up the doctors' time.

    Just as Clear is thinking of breaking out and making a run for freedom, Kimleigh skips in.


    Kimleigh: "So! I have permission to award you with an honorary medal for bravery and service, Clear!"

    Clear frowns.

    Clear:
    "Because I got my arse whupped by Sega?"

    Kimleigh:
    "For helping us blast my sister with a big-ass gun, actually."

    Clear nods and sits on her bed.


    Clear: "Did she..."

    Kimleigh: "No, no. She'll be fine. But it was enough to take her by surprise and force her to fly out of the ship. Actually we're having to repair the holes in Kalor's body now. It's pretty difficult repairing organic tissue instead of just throwing up new metal walls. But anyway. It was enough to get her off the ship and we ran away. Managed to smash half of that robot-fleet though. So I consider it a great success!"

    Clear scratches her head. She's not certain she deserves this medal, especially since she'd been planning to ditch them all to their death and save her own skin afterwards.


    Clear: "So what will you do next?"

    Kimleigh: "Call in support, I suppose. If she has a fleet, I want one too!"

    Clear: "And... my ship?"

    Kimleigh: "Shiiiiiip? What shiiiip?"

    Clear is unimpressed.

    Kimleigh: "Aww, come on! You know I'm just joking! We're at your ship now. I came to get you."

    Clear hops off the bed eagerly and they leave, Kimleigh overriding the concerns of the doctors. Kimleigh explains that she'd had Sega put in a cell. She could have left him deactivated but she wants him to know he's in trouble. A communiqué had already been sent to the High Empire and she would await further correspondence. Clear had been given her clothes back already, but she's now wearing a spare (and clean) suit from the medical bay. It's not the kind of thing Clear would ever have chosen to wear if she'd had the option; a dress of silver with a low-cut to show off her bust. It has thick, though soft, shoulder pads and comes with a pair of tall, knee-height and white leather boots with high heels. Clear had to learn to walk all over again with his ridiculous heels. With no other footwear she has to make do for now. She was more grateful that the staff had, after she'd washed, trimmed her hair. After it was partially ripped down so long ago by the plant-worm it had regrown lobsided.

    On her way out the doctors gave her her pack of trading cards and the jet pack. Kimleigh didn't say anything about the jet pack, instead she asks about the cards;

    Kimleigh: "Still not opened them?"

    Clear: "You want me to?"

    Kimleigh:
    "Yes, yes, yes! I want to know what shiny you get!"

    Clear hangs the jet pack loosely on her shoulders while she fumbles with the foil of the trading cards pack. She tears it open as they walk towards the hangar and Kimleigh watches, a kind of hunger in her eyes.

    Clear: "Syrene The Magistrix?"

    Clear looks at Kimleigh with concern. The picture is of a mature woman wearing a very tight business suit, glasses with a red tint and her shirt open to show off her massive chest.


    Kimleigh: "My older sister. She's a magistrix at a government university campus in Urbis Imperia. Magistrix means, like, teacher. I suppose."

    Clear winces.

    Clear:
    "And the... revealing clothes? Standard attire for university teachers?"

    Kimleigh nods without any sign of understanding the problem.


    Kimleigh: "Normal fashion for the High Empire. I actually think my sister is quite conservative to be honest."

    Clear shakes her head and tucks the card to the back. She then sees what Kimleigh meant as the next woman is wearing what looks like nothing but red strips of leather. She has incredibly long, blonde hair and is power posing with some kind of mystical lantern.

    Clear: "I'm not sure I even want to ask..."

    Kimleigh:
    "Actually I think there's a description on the back of each card anyway. But if you want the inside story--"

    Clear: "Is this the shiny?"

    Clear waggles a card at Kimleigh. The card is made from a thin cybernetic strip that literally lights up and glows in Clear's hand. It's a card named Iriana Emp. Kimleigh pratically falls over herself as she reaches out to snatch it.

    Kimleigh: "Lucky, lucky, lucky! This is a very rare print! I already have it myself, but still! Never let this one go, Clear! You hear me? It's worth lots of credits!"

    The word 'credits' instantly makes Clear extremely interested in this card business all of a sudden. Iriana Emp appears to be a young woman with dark, curled hair, white skin and a pink dress of cotton and lace. She's holding up a china teacup with her elbow-length gloves on her hands. The whole thing looks very old Earth to Clear.

    Kimleigh hands the card back as they pass into the hangar and Clear sees soldiers clearing up debris and patrolling.


    Kimleigh:
    "Is that your ship?"

    She points towards the red Ćon ship towards the left of the hangar.

    Clear: "I call it Hoopa."

    Kimleigh runs ahead towards it and admires the small craft. After a barrage of questions about where she got it and is specifications, most of which Clear is surprised a girl like Kimleigh understands, they have the hatch open and Kimleigh is leaning inside to look at the controls.


    Kimleigh:
    "I wanna drive!"

    Clear just shrugs and gets into the second seat behind the pilot's seat. Here, if she wanted, she could control some of the weapons systems. Without pressing any buttons, Kimleigh powers up the craft and brings in its landing legs. The hatch closes with a hiss and the ship turns. Instantly it's out of the hangar and they're in space. The blackness of the Deep Void is broken only by the massive structure of The Hopeful. Clear's heart jumps as she sees her home again. It feels like it's been years.

    Clear:
    "You should have no trouble docking with The Hopeless, Kim."

    Kimleigh is suspiciously quiet.

    Clear: "Kim?"

    Kimleigh turns with a wicked grin.

    Kimleigh:
    "Spaceship Joyride!!"

    Clear: "No! Not that you can go anywhere an--"

    Surprisingly the ship is suddenly in hyperspace, that dimension of space-time where both are condensed and thus made shorter.

    Clear: "Kim! What are you doing!? This thing doesn't have the power to jump anywhere except more void! You're going to get us lost! In this stupid, poxy ship!"

    Kim wiggles her fingers at Clear.

    Kimleigh: "Here's the power, Clear!"

    Clear: "You mean you--"

    The ship slows and Clear's stomach lurches. The stars cease to elongate and reality returns to show them a planet. It appears much like Earth, blue and green, but it's bathed in the red glow of the small red dwarf sun. It's orbiting another planet, the somewhat larger gas giant, much like a moon. Clear is excited to see a planet to the point she could cry and forget that Kimleigh just kidnapped her.

    Clear notices that the console's information matrix restores and she has access to the Imperial Database of the Galactic Empire again. They're back in the Milky Way and somewhere within range of the Perseus Arm. This may even be a world of The Empire or the Republic.

    Unfortunately information on the planet, its name or its faction are not available.


    Kimleigh:
    "Let's fly around the planet! I bet it'd be great to fly this thing close to the ocean!"

    Clear: "Kim, can you jump The Hopeless here? The same way?"

    Kimleigh: "I certainly can! I did tell you I could. It just requires the right amount of energy. And I'm like a walking battery!"

    She flies straight for the planet. The ship is fast yet it still takes them an hour to get to the lower atmosphere, burning in the upper atmosphere like a comet. They fly below the clouds and see a world of greens and blues and, from what Clear can see, settlements. Someone certainly lives here.

    Kimleigh nosedives the ship towards the ocean and, as they reach the waves, she pulls up to spray ocean water up into the air with a great rush of displaced air. She flies along the water, seeing the liquid kick up around the nose of the craft. She laughs with excitement and Clear, likewise, can't help but feel the rush with a smile.

    Ahead of them they see a mountain and a large building atop of it. They circle around the mountain several times before zipping off again.

  25. #65
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Meet the Locals

    Clear: "Looks like they have some kind of aircraft here."

    She looks up from the radar screen and peers out of the hatch window to see a vehicle soaring through the sky above them. It looks like a bulky elevator and the noise from it is a deep resonance that interferes with the radar, causing the blip to synch in and out of existence.

    Kimleigh:
    "Let's follow it! See where it goes! Let's find some civilisation!"

    Clear: "Maybe they'll sell some real clothes..."

    Kimleigh glances back from her front seat with a hurt look.

    Kimleigh: "You know I picked those clothes out myself? Just the right amount of sex appeal and I think the silver and white matches your skin tone so well!"

    Clear: "All of that is exactly why I want to get different clothes."

    Kimleigh turns back to the controls and swings the craft up after the resonator.

    Kimleigh: "Maybe you're right, Clear! You're such a non-conformist! I want to be like you! Who cares if I look good in my clothes, right!?"

    Clear: "Trying to say I looked bad in my own clothes?"

    Kimleigh:
    "Uh.... no!"

    Clear just smirks.

    Clear: "But that's the idea. I wear whatever I'm comfortable wearing."

    She doesn't think to mention that she also wears clothes that harken back to her lost heritage, the free-fitting onesies and billowing shirts. She is sure if she's truly wearing what she wants or if she's trying to be like her dead culture expects. Even her scavenging kit is worn from practical necessity.

    Kimleigh: "I always wanted to dress like my sister, Tyril. She's the one you saw on the card."

    Clear: "You mean the Magistrix with the giant boobs?"

    Kimleigh: "No! The other one!"

    Clear: "The one wearing... almost nothing!?"

    Kimleigh: "Yes! Don't you think she looks domineering and badass!?"

    Clear: "I think she looks like a wh--"

    Kimleigh: "Hey! It looks like they're going to land on that island!"

    Hoopa does a flyby of the island and they watch the resonator make its descent.


    Kimleigh: "They're going awfully fast..."

    Both women cry out with emphatic pain as the sound-lift ploughs straight into the sand with a horrible thud and buries itself deep. They're silent for a moment as they believe they've just witnessed their first case of death from drunk flying on this alien world. Then they see a door open on it.


    Clear: "Great. We get to ask the drunks for directions."

    Kimleigh: "They have awfully big heads, don't they!?"

    Clear decides not to explain to Kimleigh how racist that sounds, mostly because Clear thinks she's probably guilty of similar comments about other species out there.

    Kimleigh brings the red craft around. It's a very different experience to fly a ship in atmosphere than in space. A turn takes a second in space, while here the craft has to swoop and curve round to accommodate the wind. Kimleigh seems much more proficient at flying in space than she does in atmosphere.

    The craft comes down low and hovers there, over the beach, until Kimleigh gently takes it down. Clear sees there's quite a gathering on the beach now, though they're keeping their distance. Once landed Kimleigh pops open the hatch and Clear is grateful for the opportunity to stretch her legs. She spreads her arms and groans with satisfaction. All the leg-room in the world is simply not enough for the actual leg-room of the world.

    Kimleigh throws herself from the ship, intending to land deftly on the beach and impress the locals. Instead her foot catches on the edge of the ship and she plummets to the ground with a squeak of anguish.

    Clear peers down, grits her teeth with worry.

    Clear: "Uh... you okay~?"

    Kimleigh:
    "I meant to do that..."

    Usually Clear leaps from cockpits like this but she decides that might be rubbing salt into the girl's pride, so she releases the ladder and climbs down rung-by-rung. Kimleigh is sitting up on the sand and Clear thinks she might be somewhat dazed from the fall.

    The locals appear confused.

    Their skin is stark white, like a human ghost, and they have big jellyfish-like bulges on their heads. Most of them seem to be wearing a kind of uniform, both their men and women having the same outfits. Two of them stand out though. They're wearing tight bodysuits that appear to be comprised of a firm material. She assumes they must be the leaders of the little cadre since they have the different outfit.


    Clear saunters across the beach, trying to look a little apologetic about her friend's fall.


    Clear: "Hey there! She'll be okay! No worries! She's more robust than she looks!"

    The locals start gabbing to each other but make no reply to her at all. Clear grows a little uncomfortable at this but also annoyed. It seems pretty rude to her.


    Clear: "So, uh, you guys know where we can do a bit of shopping? I could do with getting myself some proper clothes. You know how hard it is to walk over this beach in heels?"

    They natter amongst themselves again until one of the two brown-suits steps forward. He looks older than the other one, more serious. He has a very straight nose that makes him look pompous and he wears a never-ceasing frown.

    Local #1:
    "Indran Indran Indran Indran..."

    Clear groans. Of all the planets in the whole galaxy she had to land on one that doesn't speak bloody English. She mucks about with her PIP and brings up a translation app. Unfortunately it doesn't detect their language. That explains it. She's on a backwater farm world somewhere. The styx. No-man's Land. Or certainly No-English Land.

    Kimleigh:
    "Hold on..."

    Kimleigh mutters as she comes up behind Clear but doesn't say or do anything else. Clear is distracted by the locals. While the head guy seems calm enough, his friend looks panicked while those behind him not only look panicked but angry.


    Clear:
    "I don't think we're welcome, Kim..."

    Kimleigh:
    "Well I just altered the software of that translation app. Now it should pick up the sounds and try to translate based on algorithms of common speech patterns. It won't be the best English you've ever seen but we should be able to work out what they're saying."

    The app does display English as the local tries to garble at her again.


    Local #1:
    "Who you are, Red-Face? You great menace of space?"

    Clear raises an eyebrow and glances at Kimleigh. Kimleigh folds her arms in annoyance.


    Kimleigh:
    "Apparently they like you more, Clear. I guess I'm too blue for them."

    Clear:
    "You did say they have big heads..."

    Kimleigh:
    "They don't know that!"

    She turns back to the people.

    Clear:
    "I am Clear."

    She points at herself.


    Clear:
    "Clear."

    She jerks a thumb at Kimleigh.

    Clear:
    "Kim. Kimleigh."

    Kimleigh clears her throat and steps forward.


    Kimleigh: "Actually they should address me as High Legatifex, Princess of the High Empire!"

    She stands, posing like this means anything to them. Clear shakes her head.

    Clear: "What happened to wanting to be a rebel and free of all that?"

    Kimleigh glances back at Clear.


    Kimleigh: "Being Princess will get us the best service! Do you want to stay in a beautiful hotel or a smelly yurt?"

    Clear: "Fair point... I suppose..."

    One of the locals bursts forwards, pushing out of the grasp of the others, and shouts a torrent of words at Kimleigh. Kimleigh looks surprised and turns slowly to Clear.


    Kimleigh: "Apparently they really like you more than me."

    Clear: "I think they don't like either of us, Kim..."

    The guy at the front moves to try and calm down the other local with the outburst. However most of those wearing the blue uniform seem to agree with their own comrade and not the guy in brown. Another steps forward and shouts at Clear and Kimleigh while pointing to the sky.


    Clear: "Don't need to look at the translator to know he's telling us to bugger off his island."

    Kimleigh, however, firmly stands her ground and stamps her feet in place to prove she isn't going anywhere. She points a chastising finger at them.

    Kimleigh: "Now you see here you petulant-- Oh!"

    She ducks as one of them throws a rock at her. As that stone hits the sand, the other blue-wearers start marching towards Kimleigh. Seeing they have no technology for her to barrage them with, Kimleigh turns and runs awkwardly across the sand in mild panic coming to slink behind Clear.

    Clear: "Thanks Kim."

    Kimleigh: "It's not my fault they're barbarians!"

    They shove the guy in brown aside as they march on the two aliens. When the first of them grabs Clear's arm, Clear gets to work. Instantly she thumps him in the face, the fool having grabbed her left arm, and, as he staggers back, she jumps into the air and brings her boot up to clam his chin, rocking his head back. The sudden snap renders him unconscious and his body topples to the sand. Another man shouts at her and tries to punch her but her Martian reflexes still outmatch this alien just like he's any human. She twists her body to dodge and backhands him across his cheek. She then kicks his friend beside him, anticipating she'd want to try her luck too, before punching him in the nose. His blue blood bursts from his nose.

    Clear: "Huh. Something we have in common."

    Kimleigh: "Hit him with a chair!"

    Clear: "Why does everyone want me to smack people with chairs?"

    Another woman runs up wielding a rock and throws it at Clear. The projectile hits the salmitton in the shoulder, causes a raging pain in her muscle that Clear knows is going to leave a terrible bruise. The woman doesn't stop and she screams with anger as she jumps at Clear. Clear hadn't expected such a wild and crazy move and takes the full force of the tackle. Fortunately it's not a good tackle, done by a woman who probably hasn't fought a day in her life. Clear is merely pushed back a few paces and now the woman is bent over and vulnerable. Clear considers just pushing her back. But she's not that nice. Instead she grabs the woman's bulb-head and throws it downards - bringing up her knee to connect. The woman yelps and falls to the sand. But as she lands she grabs a clump of grains and throws them straight up at Clear.

    Eyes stinging Clear grabs at them. She feels water pouring instantly, that thick blue liquid that is absolutely going to stain her face. Taking advantage, the first woman throws her fist into Clear's cheek, knocking her hands from her face and causing an ache in the bone. The woman attacks again in the same place and Clear falls to one knee. As a third fist comes down Clear, expecting it, brings up her own hands and shoves the attack slightly forward - sparing her face and causes the woman to continue her downwards momentum. Now in a compromised position, Clear headbutts the woman. She falls over too, sending sand everywhere. As gets to her feet, still blinking her eyelids free of sand, and takes a few steps towards the woman. She builds up speed and kicks, like kicking an American football, into the woman's jaw. There's a cry, but it doesn't come from the woman, she's instantly unconscious, it comes from one of the brown-clad guys. Clear thinks she just made them angry too.

    The two of them argue without looking at each other, their faces glued on Clear like she's some criminal to be watched. Through her bleary eyes Clear can see her PIP's translation;

    Local #1: "Nayaraks fight Red-Face. Red-Face is flower."

    Clear guesses that's a mark of innocence considering the situation. The second of them, the younger one with the fairer voice, retorts;

    Local #2:
    "Red-Face unnecessary action. Downed kick."

    Clear: "Hey. Heat of the moment, okay? She'd only get up and attack me again!"

    She realises her protestations go uncomprehended and probably seemed like she was shouting angrily at them.

    Local #1: "The Red-Face mayhaps dangerous she is. Blue-Face child mayhaps not. Map go fetch aid. Nayarak medicine is in need. The person that is I am subdue the Red-Face. Only hope not damage ther person that is I cause lady Red-Face."

    Clear is still trying to work out the meaning of this broken English when the younger-faced local turns to run while the first guy stands his ground. He holds out his hand to his side, palm open. From nowhere a long staff materialises and swings straight into his open hand.

    Clear:
    "Okay... unexpected."

    Kimleigh:
    "That wasn't technology, Clear. He must have some kind of magic."

    Clear:
    "You can just admit you're useless, if you'd like to, Kim?"

    Kimleigh: "Yes. Yes I am useless. Lucky you're here to get punched in the face, right!?"

    Clear grunts with annoyance and turns from Kimleigh grin and double-thumbs up.

    Clear: "We couldn't landed on a metal, techno-world or something, could we? Had to be land of village idiots."

    Local #1: "Clear Indran Indran Indran..."

    Kimleigh: "I think he just said your name."

    Clear: "Yeah. According to this he says I am a raging potato..."

    Kimleigh barks into laughter.

    Kimleigh: "I did say it wouldn't be perfect English, right?"

    Seeing that this fight is inevitable, Clear starts to move, circling the guy. From the dialogue translations she's pretty sure he calls himself Ringo. The other guy that ran away was Map, which Clear thinks would sound very Martian if they spoke English and his name actually meant Map. Instead it's just a pretty little coincidence.

    Ringo stands there but watches her from the corner of his eye. He knows he has the vast advantage of range and hard-hitting weapon and is evidently expecting her to make the attack. Clear sucks in her breath in consideration and decides...

    Not to disappoint.

    She kicks the sand, sending a buffer of distraction his way, before running forward. Knowing that these aliens are as slow as any human, Clear uses her speed and agility to her advantage. She leaps into the air and sees him strike at the sand with a powerful whip of his staff. She lands behind him in a crouch and she makes a small leap towards him, intent on making his weapon useless with close combat. Her momentum and weight is enough to knock him flat as they both fall. She lands atop of him and pins his arms down with her weight behind her. She finds he's much stronger than he looks as he tries to raise his hand arm, but she has her entire body weight upon those arms.

    Clear: "Who's going to subjugate who, eh Ringo?"

    Then she feels a sharp stabbing pain in her shoulder, from the rock-inflicted wound, as he tries to fight and bring his left arm up. She can't help but release him and she rolls away, getting some distance before he could take advantage of her distraction. He watches her as he slowly gets to his feet, pushing himself up with staff. Now, in the heat of the fight, he looks far angrier than the serious, concerned frown he had been wearing earlier.

    Ringo: "Indran Indran Indran--"

    Clear:
    "I am not looking at my PIP. I'm not a retard, Ringo."

    Kimleigh: "You could have set it to vocal, you know?"

    Clear: "Considering the jibberish it's writing, I wouldn't want to hear it."

    She flexes her shoulder a little, trying to ease the throbbing. It hadn't hurt too much until all that applied pressure ploughed up her arm. Now it's a constant ache.

    She holds her arms up, loose, and starts to move again in a circle. This time he does the same, learning that he speed would overcome any rigid stance he took. He would have to be able to move to keep up and this time he decides he'll open the offensive. His staff whirls around with perfect symmetry, fast and well-versed. Unlike the Nayaraks, as she'd heard Ringo call them, who had never fought anything, this guy knows what he's doing. Clear moves backward as his spin-cycle continues swiping before him as he advances. She considered the possibility of jumping over him again, but she figures he'd be wise to using the same trick twice and that staff could easily knock her out of the air.

    Clear: "Kimleigh! Move behind him!"

    Kimleigh: "What? I can't do all this-- punching and kicking! I'm not built for it!"

    Clear:
    "He doesn't know that..."

    Kimleigh does as she's told and Clear notices that the girl puts on her best 'I'm-going-to-bash-you-face' on as she does. Ringo notices her move and, maybe seeing the expression, becomes hesitant. He slows his pursuit to a stall and has to draw up in a defensive stance, ready to sweep at whichever of the two women attacked first. He stands stock still, his eyes moving from one person to the next. He mostly focuses on Clear though.


    Clear: "I don't suppose you have one of those chairs handy?"

    Kimleigh:
    "In my other pants."

    Standing still, Clear feels the heels of her boots slowly sinking into the sand. She may have the agility and speed advantage but he has strength, range, weaponry and sensible clothes. When holding his arms down she did notice that the texture of the material was rough and hard, not the soft delicate fabric of her silly, silver dress.

    Clear: "You're never allowed to dress me ever again, Kimleigh--"

    Kimleigh doesn't get to reply as Ringo suddenly attacks her, his staff swings low towards her ankles and she's instantly taken down. She flumps into the snad with a loud, girlish squeal of surprise. If anything Ringo would now be well-aware that Kimleigh is not a fighter after that ungallant display. His sweep through Kimleigh's legs continues straight round to a high sweep at Clear, forcing the salmitton to throw her back backwards, bending her knees and stopping herself from hitting the deck with her hands planted in the sand. She thrusts herself back up quickly, quicker than he'd expected as he suddenly stops his follow-up low attack when he sees she's already prepared to jump over it. Instead of sweeping low, he jabs low - aiming to strike her feet with a sharp prod. She hops back several times as he nears but then jumps forward, over the staff, poised to bring her fist against his cheek.

    He'd expected it, she found, and he twirls himself aside. She lands in his place but suddenly finds his staff swinging towards her mid-section. With reflexes Ringo has obviously never seen, Clear performs a back handspring, throwing her body backwards, narrowly clearing the mid-sweep, and jumping from her hands back onto her feet. All that distance cleared brings her straight up next to the white-skinned native.


    Clear: "Hi there."

    Before he can desperately react she thumps the bulb on his head and he shouts with sudden pain. Clear now realises that big, jelly, alien thing on his head is a big, jelly, alien target. As he staggers lightly away, only hurt enough to make him annoyed, the slight distance sudden gives her a perfect shot. She throws her leg up into a roundhouse and the nasty heel of her shoe cracks across the bridge of his nose. While that might have been enough to take one of the nayaraks out of the game, Ringo is more capable of taking punishment. His nose his cut open, from bridge to the top of his eye. She thinks he's going to need a lot of stitches for that.

    He appears surprised though. She guesses he hadn't expected to be injured in this fight. Maybe he'd even expected an easy win.

    He growls his language at her but the fight is interrupted by a shout from their right. Beyond the treeline comes Map with an old guy. She assumes he's some kind of cult elder that has come to settle everyone down and dish out detentions. Clear assumes the fight is over and steps away from Ringo. She feels a little guilty since he was the only one trying to defend her innocence but he did then try to 'subjugate' her, so bugger him.

    She looks at her PIP, thinking the old geezer is going to speak. Instead, however, she finds herself in a whole heap of pain and confusion.


    She lands roughly on the sand, limbs splayed, and staring up at the red-tinted sky. The massive gas giant is up there, moving through the sky quick enough that she can actually watch it moving. Why she's looking at the sky she couldn't understand. She rolls over with a weary groan and looks across the beach at her alien assailants. Map is looking at Ringo's wound. The old guy, on the other hand, has his attention on her. He winds up his arm and she realises he's not here to mediate. He's the guy to take her down. He throws something, like he's throwing a cricket ball, and Clear finds herself flying through the air again, as though hit by a powerful explosion. She flies like a ragdoll.

    She lands in the shallow of the ocean with a splash of saltwater and wet sand. After rolling from the momentum of the explosion, she tries to push herself up. The waves splash in her face, waking her up. On her feet again, barely, she sees the old guy closing the distance. He winds up his hand again. She jumps just as he throws. She manages to clear the distance from the immediate strike zone but she's still pushed along by the lesser radius of the invisible kinetic blast. Water and sand rains down on her as she staggers out of the water. One of her heels has snapped off to make her progress even harder. She mentally curses Kimleigh.

    Perhaps too soon.


    When Clear looks up to watch for a second strike she sees the man fall to his knees in pain. He then cries out and clutches his right ear. Behind him Kimleigh is glaring at him and slowly walks towards him. When the other two seem keen on intervening she holds her hand in the old man's direction, indicating she'd do more harm if they moved. Clear staggers over and sees that the man's ear is beginning to bleed profusely. Clear doesn't advise reining it in.

    Kimleigh:
    "Turns out someone has technology on them. Some kind of network device glued to his head. Lucky for us."

    Clear: "Is that how he just blasted me around like that? I mean... wow... that was not fun."

    Kimleigh: "No. I don't know how he did that. This device in her ear is just a network device. Like an internet or something."

    Clear:
    "Alright. I suggest we get out of here. I don't fancy going toe-to-toe with two of these guys. Not after having the sense blasted out of me. And these stupid, bloody shoes!"

    She shouts down at the boots for having the audacity of not being more practical.

    Ringo:
    "Blue-Face make your time!"

    The translation reads as Ringo calls out. He looks pleadingly at Kimleigh.


    Clear: "I think he wants you to stop hurting this old sod."

    Kimleigh shrugs and releases her grasp of his technological bit. The man gasps with relief but still clutches the injury. Clear realises, looking down at him, that Kimleigh is not as pleasant and innocent as she always supposed. And since Clear had been happy with her actions, Clear realises she isn't as nice as Kimleigh supposes she is. They back away, towards Hoopa.

    Taking down the idiot nayarak guys had been an easy case of slapping a few fools around. They'd wake up tomorrow with a few bumps and scrapes but they'd otherwise be fine. Nothing more than a bit of rough-housing. Taking on Ringo had been a competition of prowess. A fight for freedom or control. Seeing the old man in pools of his blood and anguish, their presence is now an anathema and she knows the nayaraks will think themselves vindicated by this.

    Clear motions towards the ship for Kimleigh to get in. As Kimleigh starts up the ladder, Clear calls out to her;


    Clear:
    "I'm driving."

    Kimleigh whines but she gets into the back seat. Clear watches the three men for a long moment, wondering is the old man would try to use his cricket-ball powers when she turns her back. She's safe, however, in the knowledge that Kimleigh could wipe him out from a huge distance with ease and so, eventually, she turns and climbs the ladder herself.


    Wet, tired, injured and caked in sand - Clear is not very happy. She takes off in silence, though Kimleigh seems in higher spirits.

    Kimleigh:
    "Where to next?"

    Clear:
    "How about my bed?"

    Kimleigh: "Clear! I'm not that kind of girl!"

    Clear: "I meant to sleep."

    Kimleigh: "Like I said, I'm not sleeping with you."

    Clears her head. She can't muster enough enthusiasm to laugh or even complain.

    Clear:
    "Next time, you can be the one who gets thrown around by Mr Explody Fingers."

    Kimleigh: "But you're so much better at it than me! You landed so gracefully! As graceful as a bag of bricks!"

    Clear: "Hey. You went face first out of this ship, remember? At least I have the excuse of being shot at by magic-aliens. What's your excuse?"

    Kimleigh laughs at her own ineptitude.


    Kimleigh:
    "It's your ship's fault for not having a lower hatch!"

    She leans forward and points over Clear's shoulder.

    Kimleigh: "Let's go there!"

  26. #66
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Kara Panda

    Clear: "You want to land in that city?"

    Kimleigh:
    "Looks as good as any. You want clothes, right? I want to see the people here."

    As Clear begins to turn the ship a communication scratches through the system and sounds out in the native language of the native people. However it comes up in clear English on her system, which is surprising to Clear.


    Voice: "I am a Kara on this world. I would like to welcome the aliens to our planet. I am atop of the great white tower in your vicinity. I'm sending you a map through your navigation software. There should be enough room for you to land your space machine here."

    There's a pause.

    Kara: "I mean ship. Your space ship."

    Clear:
    "Looks like someone out there might have a translation device after all!"

    Kimleigh: "There is it, Clear. That big white tower!"

    Clear:
    "Looks like a giant di--"

    She catches herself as Kimleigh looks at her with wide, innocent eyes.

    Clear: "Looks like... like the place. Let's just do a fly-by."

    She steers the ship around the tower, taking a good look at it. She sees a single figure standing to one side, otherwise the tower is empty. It's roof is wooden and she worries the engines must burn it up - but the landing thrusters are very small and low power, so she guesses they should be fine. She manoeuvres the craft into position and lowers it down to the top of the tower.

    She cracks the hatch and opens it. She hops out of the ship while Kimleigh, after last time, lowers the ladders to climb down.


    The native they find is like the rest physically, stark white with the big bulb on his head. He also wears the same armour as the old man that kicked Clear's butt on the beach. She worries this means he's some kind of commander in the local army.


    Kara Panda:
    "Indran--"

    His voice quakes and sticks. She guesses he's nervous, though not why. Perhaps he'd heard about the events on the beach. She watches her PIP as he speaks.

    Kara Panda: "This person is Kara Panda. It is happy day to witness you."

    He bows her head, a very formal gesture that Clear never appreciates. She'd seen High Empire guys doing it, especially to Kimleigh. Clear rolls her eyes but the guy can't help it if that's how they wave hello at people.

    Clear translates for the sake of Kimleigh;


    Clear: "He says says his name is Kara Panda and he's happy to see us."

    Kimleigh: "At least he's friendly. He's got a technological device like that other one so if he tries anything--"

    She snaps her fingers and Clear sees the device next to his ear. Closer now she can see that is appears to hover there and is shaped like a figure-eight and glows softly.

    Kara Panda: "You say you encounter peoples on Indra? Okay am I to ask of this?"

    Clear is taken aback when she reads this.

    Clear: "I think he can understand us."

    The man taps the device on his ear.

    Kara Panda:
    "This translates meaning of words. Pretty please you are not hurting this. Not hurting this man."

    Clear: "He says don't hurt him."

    Kimleigh smiles her sweet-yet-predatory smile.

    Kimleigh: "I won't do anything to you if you're nice to me!"

    When off of her ship Clear thinks Kimleigh is all the more obnoxiously superior to others. As if she wants those who do not know she's a princess to treat her as one, while those that do know she's a princess she wants to treat her more casually. Paradoxical pain in the backside, Clear decides.

    She decides to try introducing herself to him. He seems much more friendly than the last of his kind and she doesn't fancy being struck by one of those blasts on top of this tower - to then wind up flying through the air towards a ground far, far below.


    Clear: "My name's Clear. This is Kimleigh."

    Kara Panda:
    "Kimneigh."

    Clear smirks.

    Clear: "Close enough."

    Kimleigh:
    "Hey!"

    Clear: "I don't suppose you know where I can get a change of clothes? I got into a fight with some punks on a beach and now I look a mess."

    Panda's eyes widen with surprise and concern.


    Kara Pashna: "A person attacked these!?"

    Clear: "Yeah. It's okay though. You should see the other guy!"

    Kara Panda: "Well. Erm. Taking these to a hotel? Nearby it be. Clean self there and this person will get clothing?"

    Clear looks at her wrist device and frowns.

    Clear: "He wants us to go to a hotel. Says he'll bring clothes."

    Kimleigh: "Not sure it's safe to go leaving our ship behind."

    Kara Panda: "Safe is the place of here! Ovai locking of the door."

    Clear: "I think he says the owner of the tower will lock the door."

    Kimleigh: "Okay. But if someone tries to go for a joyride in my joyride, I'll be pissed."

    Clear: "You remember it's my ship, don't you?"

    The kara sweeps his hand towards the door, marking the exit of the roof, and they start towards it.

    Kimleigh: "Didn't you say you stole the ship from an Ćon?"

    Clear: "I didn't steal it! I acquired it! Consider it compensation for zapping me."

    Kara Panda: "Thanking you!"

    They turn to see Kara Panda looking up at the gigantic moon above them.

    Clear: "Did you just thank the moon?"

    He nods.

    Kara Panda: "Yes. Well. I am saying the thanking you to Brethrain god. You are one to view in there."

    He motions to the planet's face. Clear squints at it. The massive world has a great many storms, typical of a gas giant, but on the face looking down at the world there does appear to be storms in the vague shape of a face with two huge tornadoes making two eyes.

    Clear: "Your god is the moon?"

    Kara Pashna:
    "Yes."

    Beneath the eyes there's a double-bump that looks, to Clear, to clearly be a moustache.


    Clear: "He has a moustache?"

    Kimleigh: "What's wrong with a god having a moustache? Leave him to his religion."

    Kimleigh and Clear move on to discuss the pros and cons of gods with moustaches while Kara Panda leads the way down the tower. Clear admires the red wood and the excellent views from the balconies. The floor does, however, seem quite sticky and there's a pungent smell to the air that is fairly repellent.

    When they get outside the doors close automatically behind them. She's a little surprised but just shrugs it off and follows the kara.

    He takes them to a carriage which has a small humanoid creature at the front. It holds the handle with a hungry face of teeth and ugliness. To Clear it looks a lot like a hairless, red monkey.


    Kara Pashna:
    "This is named Imp. These strong, no concerned be."

    Kimleigh:
    "You have another species of being pulling your carts?"

    She doesn't like the idea of an enslaved species of sentient beings. Having superiority doesn't automatically make it fair or just to enslave others to your will. She's reminded, loosely, of her own people's plight against the technologically superior humans. She grimaces. Fortunately Panda seems to understand the meaning behind her words and moves to reassure her.

    Kara Panda: "Creature unthinking being is. No worries. This one understanding these ones appear as Indran-- maybe like yourself be! But these animals be. Clever in cart pulling skills but not in more."

    Kimleigh seems to forgive quickly and she eagerly hops into the open-air carriage.


    Kimleigh: "Imp-cart joyride!!"

    Despite Kimleigh's enthusiasm and Panda's reassurance, Clear is perturbed. The creatures look so humanoid, their faces, their bodies. She's unnatural to see such a creature performing labour like this. But she relents. She's no biologist and can't comment beyond how it makes her feel. She climbs on sullenly and the kara gets on after her. The imp starts off without prompting.

    Clear: "How does it know where to go?"

    Kara Pashna:
    "Two stoppings. This one cannot clever be in knowledge of placements. Being pursues the trail of smells. Person being myself this one would liking of mine to walk but this one being afraid these one wanting reaching the hotel establishment..."

    Clear scratches the fabric on her head. Sometimes she thinks it'd be easier to just listen to his babbling than trying to translate the confusing English on her PIP.

    Kara Pashna: "This one be asking questions of the person being you?"

    Clear looks dubiously at him but shrugs in acquiescence.

    Kara Pashna: "Material upon your head be what?"

    Clear panics, having no idea what might have stuck to her head. She pats down her hair, seeking out whatever creature must have landed there but she comes up absent. She then realises, as she pokes her hair, that he hasn't seen hair before - his being a species with jellyfish for hair.

    Clear: "Hair. You mean hair. It's normal for most species, I tend to find."

    Kara Panda: "Being there... lot of creatures out of galactic?"

    She then realises that the people attacked her from fear and no understanding. She must have seemed like an invading alien to these people who must not have any understanding of the galaxy at large.


    Clear: "Now I know why they attacked us."

    Kimleigh: "Wow! A real pre-spaceflight civilisation! I've always wanted to invade one!"

    Clear frowns at her. She doesn't like that sentence one bit.

    Kimleigh:
    "I meant to say visit one..."

    ----

    Kara Pashna leaves the room and Clear tugs off the boots. She eyes the broken heel and tosses the infernal footwear across the room with another silent avowal never to wear such ridiculous things ever again.

    Their rooms occupy the entire top floor of the domicile and each bedroom has its own bathroom. Clear finds a long dress that Panda had told her was a bathrobe so she tugs off the silver dress and throws it onto the bed. The bed itself is basically a mound of pillows atop of a flat mattress laid upon the floor. There are small rugs all over the floor instead of one massive carpet. The whole room smells pleasantly spicy and when she picks up the robe she realises that the material itself is scented with the spices.

    She goes into the bathroom and finds a hole in the middle of the room. That'll be what passes for a toilet. Above her she sees holes in the ceiling. At first she panics, thinking them to be holes to the upper floor, like her floor, and expects a turd to come dropping down. But she realises there's an apparatus inside. After a long while of searching she finds switches on the wall that activate the ceiling apparatus. Steam floods the room and she realises they don't have showers, they have saunas. Clear is very happy with this turn of events. She finds a long bench at the back of the room and sits there, basking in the steam for half an hour.

    She turns off the sauna and pokes her hand out of the door to find the robe. She snags it but realises there's a hand holding it. She yanks it in quickly but catches sight of the blue skin.


    Clear: "Kim! What're you doing in here!?"

    Kimleigh: "I came to talk to you! I was bored! You take hours in there, you know that? I came in earlier and left. Came back a minute ago and you were still in there! You can't be that dirty!"

    Clear slips her arms into the silk-like material of the robe and fastens it tightly about the waist. Her skin is hot and her pores wide open. She feels relieves and refreshed but heat is not a comfortable state for a salmitton for long. She steps out of the room and in instantly pleased with the coolness of the air that streams in from the open balcony. She glares at Kimleigh, who's lounging on the bed.

    Kimleigh: "So! Think we should help the guy?"

    Clear shrugs;

    Clear: "I don't see why not."

    Kara Panda had asked them to help him with his own spaceship. Apparently he'd built one. He even claims it can travel through hyperspace. But it needs a tether to do so - an anchor or a guide. If the Hoopa travels through hyperspace then his craft should be able to follow her. It all sounded very strange and she's sure there were a lot of translation errors thanks to her PIP but she sees no harm in looking at his ship and helping if she can.

    Kimleigh:
    "You know there's usually rules about helping pre-spaceflight civilisations..."

    Clear: "Well, I'm not a citizen of the High Empire. I don't have to follow those rules."

    Kimleigh: "Actually we'd probably offer them a place in our empire and help them become technologically advanced!"

    She smiles, not seeing the negative ramifications of the act.

    Clear: "Trading their souls for your scraps?"

    Kimleigh: "That not--"

    Clear: "Don't worry about it. You guys do whatever you want. Nothing to do with me. This Panda guy asked for my help so I'll give it if I can. Hey, maybe they'll make me one of their gods, eh? I could be the god of space!"

    Kimleigh starts to laugh at that.

    Kimleigh: "The red-faced god of space with her magical white hair and space chariot!"

    They get to have a good chuckle together about that one.

  27. #67
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow This Little Corner of the Galaxy

    Kimleigh: "I think I could get used to this life, Clear..."

    They're sitting on the side of a broad hillock that overlooks Ovai Minor on the left side and Krata Valley on the right. Somewhere on the other side of the hill would be Ovai Major. Above them is a canopy, propped up by tall sticks, to keep off the constant drizzle of the Apojiva Valleys. The red sun peaks between the cloud cover, small and meek like it isn't sure it ought to be trying to heat the planet up or not. Quite unlike the proud and vibrant Sol of Clear's own planetary system.

    Clear: "You'd miss your slaves."

    Kimleigh: "Subjects. Not slaves!"

    Clear: "Difference?"

    Kimleigh: "They're paid."

    Clear:
    "Do they have a choice? Get paid and be a subject or..."

    Kimleigh:
    "You and politics. A match made in Tartarus."

    Clear snerks.


    Clear: "I actually hate politics but since I have to spend all this time with you, Kimleigh, I may as well annoy you about it."

    She leans back and closes her eyes. They've been on the planet for two weeks now, waiting for Kara Pashna to gather up the last of the supplies he wants to take offworld. Genetic samples, not just of people but also the plants and animals of Indra. He also has a cargo hold filled with some of the technology and fashions of the Indran people. She admires the goal, trying to set up shop on another world. But she finds it strange that a single person would go in the stead of an entire colony ship. She supposes cloning and breeding your own population would probably be even easier.


    However she'd also seen that the ship isn't very big and looks like it was cobbled together quickly. She would have offered the services of her own ship but they couldn't stand around trying to transport up a whole colony's worth of people from the planet to the ship. Besides, she would rather spend the two weeks relaxing than ferrying people around.


    Swati Ackbar: "This one is happy these ones appreciate this..."

    The Indran woman says with a melancholy smile. That smile. She always wears it when Clear or Kimleigh have something positive to say about the world or the culture or the people. The woman is a politician of sorts, though Clear hadn't learnt what exactly she did. The whole introduction had been done in the space of ten minutes wherein Clear and Kimleigh had to meet dozens of nobles of Apojiva Valleys and then sit through a long speech made by Nari, the Duke of Somewhere-Else-Valley.


    Clear had found the Rebel Alliance world Dacato to be a confusing, sprawling mess of tiers, districts and ranked politicians - and that was an entire planet. This is just one region and it's already vying with Dacato for complexity. Ackbar, however, is a pleasant woman that mostly seems to spend time with her son, Teala. The boy always appears to be enjoying the freedom of life - running, climbing, singing. Just so annoyingly upbeat that Clear longed to smash his face with a rock to bring cold, hard reality raining down on his parade.

    The meetings with the nobles were always very brief and mostly they spoke of preparing the vessel for departure. When Clear had asked what they're calling their ship, none of them seemed to understand the concept. Nari, eventually, proposed simply calling it The Indra, which Clear decided made a lot of sense since it was basically hoping to replicate the planet elsewhere. She hopes they at least call their new world Indra II otherwise birth certificates are going to get very complicated.


    The reason for the rebooted world remains a mystery to Clear. She brought it up with Pashna once but he changed the subject. And she tried to broach it with Nari but he merely gave a politicians answer that spirals round in circles until she forgot what she'd even asked him. In the end she stopped asking and decided to just spend her time relaxing. If she has to wait around she might as well enjoy it.


    Kimleigh was able to send a communiqué through Hoopa to Kalor Varkesh and they relayed a message back. Clear was impressed with the range of the communication equipment in the Ćon ship until Kimleigh reveals she's able to boost the signal with her electronics power. It's like she's able to make software and hardware do things they were never intended to do. Reconfigures a whole machine to her will, just using her mind. On Indra it's not been overly useful, however. The only opportunity Kimleigh has on Indra has been with a small viewing box. The viewing box is meant to just show pictures and scenes from across the planet, but Kimleigh was able to alter it so that it would pick up network broadcasts from Earth.

    As a result the two young women spent two days cooped up in their hotel apartment watching the TLC channel. From a panellist show called "All About Sex" where several people discuss human sexuality Clear wonders how such a complex social sex system has allowed their species to survive as long as they have. "Sister Wives" where a man has several wives and a million kids, none of which makes much sense to Clear except that they must rake in the cash if they're all working! "My Big Fat Fabulous Life" has a woman who is impossibly fat by salmitton standards since they're all naturally lithe - owing to their metabolism and likelihood to be performing feats of agility that would make an expert human gymnast red with envy. In a show called "My Strange Addiction" she saw a human couple with an addiction to Coffee enemas... which speaks volumes of the human condition. She watched something called "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo" wherein a horrible child appears to be in a family that Clear could only consider abusive to what nature intended. And finally a show called "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" had Clear wondering how such a brain-damaged species managed to destroy her planet.

    At least the show "Cake Boss" had cakes in it.


    Yet she sat and watched it all, only dragged away by Indrans for a meeting and finally free of the brain-rot. She wonders how she had become so engrossed in such crap, like there's some kind of spell over the idiotic material that seemed to hold her attention. Even Kimleigh had been completely engaged to the point of cheering for the "Miss America Pageant".

    Ackbar:
    "Good viewing for final time, yes?"

    Kimleigh: "Yes I think so! Clear's right though. Not for the subjects!"

    She glares spitefully at Clear who just snorts with an amused smirk of triumph.


    Kimleigh: "But all the comforts of life in the High Empire. Still. This simple life is a welcome respite."

    Ackbar: "Simple? My! The planet that is yours must be special in nature!"

    Kimleigh: "Well, for example, you say planet when it should be planets. So yes. Complicated."

    Ackbar: "Difficult it is to imagining this concept."

    Kimleigh: "Maybe you can see it one day! I've been thinking of having an envoy come along in a few weeks and have some negotiations with your people."

    Clear: "While also having big guns aimed at them, I'd imagine."

    Kimleigh glowers at Clear again. She misses the the look of sadness on Swati's face but Clear doesn't. Clear sits up.

    Clear: "What's the matter, Swati? You're always miserable when we talk about your planet. I was joking about the guns. Sort of. There's a bright, albeit complicated, future in store for Indra!"

    Ackbar: "This one wish this one could be--"

    Kara Pashna: "Here is you! Forgetting the meeting that is ours?"

    They turn to see Kara Pashna coming up from the direction of Ovai Major. Swati lifts up her wrist and checks the rosy-pink watch she has there.

    Ackbar: "This one is apologetic, Kara! This one should watching be this timing. Us group just watching were..."

    Kara Pashna:
    "Acceptable is this. Really. But problematic timing is--"

    He stalls and Clear sees something worried in his face.

    Kara Pashna:
    "Message there has been resulting of Kamal. That individual stating litiks are increasing of the visions... Stalling of the venture will be negatory if beyond evening of this one."

    Swati's voice rises from a meek mumble to a sudden and desperate shout;

    Ackbar: "But Kara, aliens of assistance could be!? Kimleigh stating the individual originates in empire of vastness! Saving us may be within the chances!"

    Clear thumps her hands onto her hips. She knew something was going on. Kimleigh just raises and eyebrow in query.

    Kara Pashna: "How, Swati? How could anyone... anything saving a planet be?"

    Clear: "What? The planet? What's wrong with it?"

    Pashna sighs and looks down at the grass they're standing on. He looks tired, as though all the fight has been drained out of him long, long ago.


    Kara Pashna:
    "This one apologising Captain Clear, High Legatifex--"

    Kimleigh had already commended Pashna on his ability to quickly grasp proper modes of respect towards titles and manners, proposing that he ought to be the world's ambassador when it enters the galactic stage.


    Kara Pashna:
    "Hating admission of grave lies unto your persons. Planet this is this one is in dangerous situation and the persons of us requiring the aid of the people that are you..."

    Clear: "Why? What kind of danger? War?"

    Humans. Is it humans?, she wonders.


    Kara Pashna: "Truth of this is, this one unable to confirm. This one knows not exact detail. All this one knowing is destruction of world. Seen in visions it has--"

    Kimleigh: "There are a lot of soothsayers in the universe that have been dead wrong, Kara Pashna."

    Kara Pashna:
    "This one understanding difficulties of non-Indran individuals to appreciate this but litiks have seen this. Many. Hundreds of these people's litiks, those seeing the visions, having now the exact same image. Truth to you many of litik believing that you, Captain, were the causing of the blight..."

    Clear chokes.

    Clear: "M-Me!? Why!?"

    Kara Pashna: "In vision always be there a red-skin woman on eve of destruction. But in another vision they seeing you--"

    He looks to Kimleigh.


    Kara Pashna: "High Legatifex, as well as the Captain, together. A red-and-blue saviour in the small ship you beings be possessing. Visions not exact documents for the reading of. Often confusing images they are. Only truth known for certain in all is the planet no longer will be. Along with all of people. Apologising is this one. Not unveiling this unto these ones because the people feared you beings would leave immediately. No being wanting to stay on planet doomed any moment is."

    Clear: "That is a good point..."

    Clear feels her stomach fluttering with panic. Sure she's afraid for the Indrans but she cannot deny - she is afraid for herself more.

    Kimleigh, however, looks more determined and aggressive than ever.

    Kimleigh: "You stupid, stupid, stupid man!"

    Pashna looks like she'd just beaten him with a nine-tailed whip.

    Kimleigh: "I am princess of the High Empire. I can absolutely save your planet. I know it. Is the planet geologically unstable? We can get scientists on that. Is the planet due for collision? We have the firepower to blast any asteroid. Instead you go and keep secrets from me and have us all sitting here in danger when I could have had people on this days ago."

    She looks very cross and yet her child-like features just make her look like a little girl trying to chastise her father for smoking.

    Kimleigh: "At worst I could have had transport ships in here, saving everyone!"

    Ackbar: "This-This one knew it!"

    Pashna looks distraught. His eyes well up and he looks at Kimleigh - begging, wishing, praying. His mouth works clumsily.

    Kara Pashna: "This one... This one am... so apologising..."

    Kimleigh is taken aback by the sadness and pleading in his voice. Clear figures she's not taken seriously very often. Kimleigh goes from angry-face to complete empathetic-face in an instant. Her own eyes expand into huge orbs of sorrow and she shuffles forward to hug the kara. He doesn't move as her arms wrap around him.

    Kimleigh: "It's okay. Sorry I shouted at you."

    Pashna sniffs it in and Clear can see the rigidness of fighting back the upset enter his posture.


    Kara Pashna:
    "This one is apologising that... This one did not tell you being sooner... This one am apologising Swati.... apologising to all of Indra."

    Ackbar: "Wh-why...?"

    He looks straight at Swati and Clear believes he is memorising her face as perfectly as he can.

    Kara Pashna: "This one... This one knowing it is too late..."

    Kimleigh: "No! No it isn't! I can have a whole fleet here in an instant. My own ship isn't that far away... well it is but it will be here in an hour at least! I can save y--!"

    There is a horrific crack that rips through the skies of the planet. It's so loud that all of them, save Pashna, clamp their hands over their ears and wince to try and hold it out. It sounds like the gates of Hell, or Tartarus, had just opened up above them. Kara Pashna just stares down in horror while Clear, Kimleigh and Swati look up at the monstrous machine that looms above them.

    Clear: "We.... we go now..."
    Last edited by TheBritt; 06-04-2016 at 01:26 PM.

  28. #68
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The God Killer

    Hoopa and The Indra are both into orbit as swiftly as possible. Whatever doom the machine plans for the planet below seems to be being savoured. Clear is piloting and glances out the window at The Indra. It's much bigger than her own little starfighter but is looks like a lot of boxes tethered together. Strangely, in Clear's thoughts, the engines of the ship are perched upon the length of the rectangular ship, meaning it stands upright as it flies through space. She can see the cockpit is a big glass box in the middle. Quite a weak-point, Clear muses. But it's not a combat ship. It just needs to get Kara Pashna and his wares away from here.

    Clear:
    "Ready to jump, Pashna?"

    They just hear him stammer in return, evidently trying to remember the sequence of hyperdrive startup in the midst of his fear and loathing. Clear shakes her head.

    Clear: "Kimleigh, can you--?"

    The Indra suddenly jumps from view, zipping out in the blink of an eye.

    Kimleigh smirks.


    Kimleigh: "Done."

    Clear looks again at the readings of the huge ship outside. It appears as big at Sol, the sun of the Sol System, and is looming over the tiny Indran red dwarf. It's a huge ring of black metal-like material with a completely hollow centre. Not hollow. A great mass lurks at the dead centre of the ring, a mass greater than the sun, and yet it's entirely invisible.

    Or comparatively tiny.

    She zooms in the screen.


    Clear: "Is that--?"

    Kimleigh: "A woman?"

    A red-skinned woman with six arms lies curled in the fetal position. Unconscious. Unmoving.

    Clear: "What is going on here? Where did it come from?"

    Kimleigh: "Nowhere. It came from nowhere. Obviously it must have come from some other universe or realm or something. But it's one not even the High Empire has on record."

    Clear: "I don't like this. Ready to jump?"

    Kimleigh: "There should be enough energy left from last jump but I'll do the hon--wow!"

    There's a terrible boom and, before their eyes, the planet Brethrain begins to disintegrate. It becomes stretched out, looking oval-shaped, pulled in towards a white-hole that has opened up at the centre of the ring. Clear checks. The red-skinned woman is gone. A red-skinned woman on the eve of destruction - never meant Clear at all. It meant this six-armed being.

    Kimleigh: "What in the name of Emp is happening? A planet killer? But the plan--ow! OW!"

    Clear: "Are you okay?"

    Kimleigh: "Jump now! Jump--"

    The ship lurches as Kimleigh activates the hyperdrive, but it only moves a few metres in an instant as Kimleigh's body disintegrates in the back seat. Clear, who bashed her head, bleary-eyed tries to climb over her own seat to grab Kimleigh, trying to pull her back into the ship as she dissolves in pieces through the rear of Hoopa. Clear is screaming but her ears are dulled by the concussion of smashing her head. She fumbles with Kimleigh's outstretched fingers. Then she has nothing. Clear climbs all the way into the back but the girl is gone. Turned to atoms.

    Through the hatch she sees the planet breaking up. Clear looks at Kimleigh's chair. She grabs it and starts tearing at it, as though Kimleigh might be underneath it somewhere.

    A pulse from the exploding planet rocks outward and Hoopa is sent spinning...


    ---

    Clear wakes up suddenly. Something has jolted her awake.

    She squints her eyes and tries to make sense of what she is seeing.

    A beautiful woman comes down several astral-like steps towards her. Her boots are tall and yellow, her dress seems to be made of leather and is the same yellow as the boots, complimented by black. Her hair is white, like Clear's, and worn in ringlets that frame her pretty features.

    The woman kneels down.


    Ameryl: "My poor dear. Let me help you up. I am Ameryl, a commander in The Imperium. Welcome aboard the God Killer..."
    Last edited by TheBritt; 06-04-2016 at 04:09 PM.

  29. #69
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Woman Who Sold the World

    David Bowie - The Man Who Sold the World



    Clear's head is still throbbing as she stands there, trying to take in her surroundings. She stares down at the floor. It's a pink and transparent material. Through it she can only make out more vague shapes of varying colours. Instead of walls there are walls of falling water, which seems magically pour straight through the pink floor even though it's solid enough for Clear to stand upon. The water itself isn't quite water. It's too blue and sparkles too much, especially since there's no sun in here. The ceiling is a night sky, except instead of stars there are hundreds of galaxies to be seen, some larger or nearer than others. Some nothing but starry specks.


    Clear: "What is this place?"

    Clear gasps in sheer awe at the view.


    Ameryl:
    "Do you find it beautiful? I certainly do..."

    Ameryl joins Clear in looking up and smiles with absolute joy at the sight.

    Ameryl: "There is no meaning to life if there is not beauty to gaze upon and fill you with wonderment."

    Clear reaches out and feels the cool blue liquid stroke her fingers. It feels viscous, too thick for water. When she moves her fingers she can see residue on her skin, glittering up at her.

    Clear looks up at the woman again. She is stunningly beautiful with dark brown skin that is in stark contrast to her pure white hair. Her hair tumbles down over her shoulders and bounces lightly in its ringlets as she walks. Her right cheek has two circles of pink that appear to be tattooed to her skin, or else some natural, yet pretty, deformity. Her eyes are dark blue and intent, as though in a constant staring match with whoever she looks at. Now that Clear can see the black and yellow leather dress she can see that it is adorned with technological enhancements that are worn as part of the clothing itself. One large, black, circular portion at the side of the dress is quite prominent with a large pink jewel, as big as her head, encrusted into it.

    Clear: "Who... are you? What is this Imperium? I've never heard of it."

    Ameryl: "I told you, dearest, I am Ameryl. The Imperium is... well it is as the name implies. An empire. The galaxy is a very big place, I find it little wonder than you haven't heard of it. Our dominion in the Milky Way isn't so large as others'."

    She sweeps her hand elegantly as a door slides quietly open. Or rather a hole in the air. It's nothing but a big, pink rectangle. Clear looks at it but doesn't move.

    Ameryl: "Surely you want to be returned home?"

    Clear groans inwardly, knowing that, once again, she's at the mercy of someone else's intentions. Warlord Strang, President S. Polk, High Legatifex Kimleigh and now this Ameryl woman. She walks forward and follows the human through the gateway. As soon as she passes through the purple door she leaps back, shocked to find herself suddenly suspended in space. The door, however, as gone, and sheer terror envelops her. But it begins to quickly subside as she realises she'd not dead. She's also breathing and standing on a solid surface.

    Below her is the remains of the planet Indra, huge fragments of rock now slowly drifting apart. Likely it will eventually form a broken orbit around the red sun, but for now it just sits there in a forlorn state of what once was. Clear's heart aches for the people of Indra, especially those she met - Swati and her son Teala. Ameryl, standing beside her, points and Clear sees that Hoopa is standing tall and pretty. It doesn't look damaged at all. It, like she and Ameryl, are standing upon an invisible floor.

    Clear: "Where are we? Is the room invisible?"

    Ameryl pulls a patronising and pitying frown.

    Ameryl: "Nothing so simple. We are outside of reality, looking in. An astral plane of sorts. From here we can observe but not touch."

    Clear is eager to hop onto her ship and fly off but she feels like she's owed an explanation.

    Clear: "Was it you and your God-Killer that destroyed Indra? And its people?"

    She finds it hard to mask the anger rising in her voice.

    Ameryl, with a voice of absolute innocence and purity, asserts;


    Ameryl: "Absolutely."

    The affect of Ameryl's voice has Clear at a complete loss rather than sudden anger.

    Clear:
    "But-- why!?"

    Ameryl: "A test of sorts. The catalyst I used was created of this world and so it led us straight here. It was quite dramatic, I must say. And worked perfectly."

    Clear: "How... can you be so cold?"

    Ameryl: "You think me cold dear? Why? Because I do not mourn the loss of these people? I am not so cruel that I enjoy sentencing the planet to its destruction, but in this universe everything has its place. Those who rule and those who serve. It's the natural state in all things."

    Clear: "I've never heard such crock!"

    She thinks to Kimleigh and silently corrects herself on that.


    Clear: "They didn't exist just to serve as your test!"

    Ameryl:
    "You mistake me. The people of the world were not the test. They were merely in the way."

    Clear is too stupefied to lash out at her.


    Clear: "They died because...?"

    Ameryl: "They were incidental. It is, indeed, a shame. It would have been better that they were never on the world. Alas they were. The universe continues turning. But the whole test was a success and so their loss was not entirely meaningless..."

    She shrugs.

    Ameryl: "Just mostly. Trillions upon trillions of other lives will be improved upon the back of this experiment. We are bound for a bright and shining future of freedom and enlightenment that will enshrine The Imperium wonderfully!"

    She spreads her arms as though expecting an ovation. Clear just stares at the ragged remains of the world below them. Ameryl's arms drop with a sigh when she sees Clear sulking.

    Ameryl: "Now now. You just can't see the bigger picture. One world sacrificed for the safety of trillions. But I understand. When one lacks objectivity it is difficult to see the universe for what it truly is."

    From around her neck she takes off a necklace and holds it out to Clear. Reluctantly Clear takes the locket and opens it to see another face similar to that of Ameryl.

    Ameryl: "My twin sister. Isn't she truly beautiful?"

    Clear thinks only about as beautiful as Ameryl seems to be, yet she somehow expects Clear to be all the more impressed by this little locket's image.

    Ameryl: "There isn't a more courageous soul in the entire galaxy. We fought each other. We fought over something as petty as love. I was the unlucky loser and banishment was my punishment for not having the same strength as she. Imeryn. That's her name. Some time later I came back home. Just to see it. Hoped she would at least allow me to walk through our gardens again... but it was gone. All of it. She had destroyed everything, everyone. Far more than just one world. I knew that was the strength I lacked then. She destroyed our worlds to defeat her greatest enemies. I had to emulate that to become as great as she is. And now... now I have exceeded her."

    She smiles and speaks to herself rather than Clear and Clear thinks she's only there, now, to serve as a mirror to voice herself to.

    Clear: "Both you and your sister are villains."

    Ameryl turns again to Clear and looks mockingly hurt.


    Ameryl:
    "So mean you are."

    Clear gets the feeling that she may be edging towards the boundary of what this powerful woman may tolerate and so Clear closes her trap as tightly as she can and makes no further utterance.

    Ameryl: "I'm not so terrible. Not really. I just don't live so close to this... sub-level of understanding as you do. And look! You're here! Alive and well! I'm not so filled with malice! I would happily help anyone, like you, caught up in affairs."

    Clear: "I was on that planet before you blew it up. I would have gone with it..."

    Ameryl: "But--!"

    She taps Clear's nose.

    Ameryl: "You didn't!"

    She walks across the astral box they're in with a brisk pace. She reaches Hoopa and turns to Clear expectantly. The salmitton approaches.


    Ameryl:
    "I do like your pretty little ship. It's quite lovely. I think I would add some spots of pink here and there myself. Actually, not pink. Fuchsia. I do love fuchsia. A colour filled with so much passion and depth."

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "Aren't you a commander in this Imperium? I wouldn't have thought fuchsia to be militaristic colours."

    Ameryl smirks, a little cocky this time.


    Ameryl: "In your culture perhaps! I told you. The universe doesn't resolve around one, tiny planet. Your limited experience makes you clouded to the greater goal."

    Clear: "You keep trying to vindicate yourself to me and I don't understand why."

    Ameryl: "Well. I just don't want you to leave here with a bad impression of me! I'm really not some evil tyrant, you know!?"

    Clear shakes her head, getting a clearer understanding all of a sudden.


    Clear: "Seems like your guilty conscience, Ameryl. If you're looking for acceptance or understanding from me, you won't get it."

    Her face goes cold but appears lost not stern.

    Ameryl: "I have to do what's best for my people."

    Clear: "Am I free to leave then?"

    Ameryl snaps out of that moment of reverie and return to her pleasant, blithe demeanour. She smiles broadly and sincerely and strokes the nose of Hoopa.

    Ameryl: "Certainly. With my blessings. And my condolences."

    Clear opens a small panel on the side of the Ćon ship and she keys in the code to unlock the hatch. It pops with a hiss.

    Ameryl: "Would you like me to drop you off somewhere? I can take you where you want to go in an instant!"

    Clear might have accepted that, thinking it the least the woman could do for killing her friend. However she's afraid of what would happen between this God-Killer and Kalor Varkesh, let alone what might become of The Hopeful in the middle of them.

    Clear: "What... happened to my friend? She... disintegrated right before me... She is--..."

    Ameryl nods but it seems a nod of meagre sympathy rather than passionate regret. Clear can't stand to look at Ameryl's pretty and clueless face. Kimleigh may not have been Green. She may not have been Pully. But Clear had felt a connection with the girl. They'd had fun. They'd bonded. Clear had begun to feel less like a subtle hostage, as she had in the beginning, and more of a co-conspirator. Kimleigh shouldn't be dead. And certainly not accidentally.

    The only reason Clear isn't punching this woman's stupid face into pulp is the hidden threat lurking behind the mask of her face. Clear knows that Ameryl could have had Clear killed in an instant with zero effort on her own behalf. Perhaps a click of her fingers and those pink doors would open and soldiers would pour in. Perhaps a weapon hidden somewhere. Something. Clear wants revenge for Kimleigh but knows she cannot get it.


    Clear climbs the laser-generated ladders and gets into the cockpit.

    Ameryl looks up at her with that same dumb smile that Clear longs to wipe off of her face with her knuckles.

    Ameryl: "Don't be a stranger, now! Next time I'll be sure to serve teacakes!"

    The hatch closes and Clear gets one last view of Ameryl as, in a few seconds, the woman had faded and Hoopa begins to drift lazily - free of the astral box. With the box has also gone the huge ring-machine and the salmitton is left with the remains of Indra. Clear looks at the planet's bits. Then she looks at the backseat.

    ---

    An hour later, Hoopa reemerges from hyperspace with an uncomfortable jolt. The thing was never designed for such an incredibly long jump but all that energy that Kimleigh had poured into the ship was still there, waiting to be used. The last known point on the ship's navigation index was easily found and so Clear is back in the Deep Void and there, after what seems like an eternity, she sees The Hopeful standing big and bulky against the dead blank slate of the void. It's probably the ugliest thing she's ever seen and yet, for that moment, it's also the most gorgeous and wonderful thing in the universe.

    No sooner has she arrived than her comms channel starts blaring. Clear wipes her eyes. Unfortunately they'll be stained blue for a good while, no getting round that now. That's what happens after an hour of grieving in the backseat.

    Now she has to explain what happened to these empire-types and she knows they're going to be angry.


    Orion Navitatex: "Captain Clear. Where is the High Legatifex? We don't have any readings on her."

    Clear: "Dead. Gone. Vaporised."

    The green-skinned man splutters incomprehensibly. She can see Kalor Varkesh looming close to The Hopeful, one of its void-black wings now visible against the outline of
    The Hopeful. She wonders where Kara Pashna is and his DNA ship.

    Clear: "She's gone and I'll tell you who killed her, why and everything I can about what I saw inside their ship..."

    If Clear can't get revenge by herself, she'll damn well help someone else get revenge on her behalf.


    ----

    Clear stands, now, in the hangar of The Hopeful. She has spent several says here in the Deep Void, mostly aboard Kalor Varkesh with the Orion Navitatex. When Clear proved most forthcoming about every detail she could provide, Navitatex Haryn, as he revealed his name to be, was decidedly helpful and accommodating. After all details were unfolded he even came up with a solution to getting The Hopeful on its way. Before she left Clear was allowed to stock up on a lot of goods, foods and materials that Haryn said could be replicated quickly and easily with their crystal technology. Without asking too many questions about how safe or healthy replicated food could possibly be, Clear accepted and now sits in the docking bay of her ship. The crate beneath her is filled with seafood but the crate is, fortunately, well sealed. The crate to her right, which is much larger, is filled with a very different substance.

    Unsure about the technology of the power core on The Hopeful, Haryn decided not to risk the chance of replicated organics not working with the device. Instead he provided flesh from Kalor Varkesh himself. Clear tries not to think about that too much, but Haryn assured her that Varkesh's muscle would grow back in time. She hasn't even looked in the crate yet, knowing she'll probably throw up at the sight of a huge blob of meat gouged from the creature's stomach.

    Putting off the inevitable gross-out moment, Clear remains seated on the crate. She feverishly opens a new foiled packet of cards and sifts through them.


    Clear: "Got, got, need, need... need."

    She has two little piles formed.

    She opens a new pack and tosses the cards into their relevant piles.


    Another pack. Another pack. And another pack. And another-- then, finally, she finds one.

    She looks older than she did, definitely older in the chest than should be allowed for a girl of her seeming age, and instead of her uniform she's wearing a sparkling outfit of white. A gown vaguely reminiscent of her Hian heritage.

    Kimleigh The Radiant.

  30. #70
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Mother, Home and Monsters

    Kara Pashna: "Captain Clear, I want to thank you one more time for helping me. And my people."

    Clear hasn't told Pashna, yet, of her own people's demise. She doesn't to be all 'been there, done that' and undermine the pain he's feeling. He needs time to grieve. He should grieve. His people deserve at least that much from the sole survivor.

    Clear: "You can thank me by not calling me captain, okay?"

    He frowns, a little puzzled.

    Kara Pashna: "Aren't you the captain?"

    She sighs.

    Clear:
    "I am but it's not my title. It's just mark of ownership. To me anyway. This ship is mine, so I'm captain. Nobody else has to acknowledge me this way. So please just call me Clear. Every time you call me Captain I feel salutes are next."

    Pashna manages a smile.

    Kara Pashna: "Are you sure you wouldn't like that?"

    Clear scoffs.

    Clear: "I can't think of anything worse! I've had enough military types come through here as it is. Never had anyone religious before though. So you're a first. Congratulations."

    Clear realises she may have brought up sudden thoughts of his world again. He'd already told her that his gods were killed along with his world, save one that he hopes to meet again. His smile doesn't fade, it just becomes forced. She makes the quick decision to alter the subject and pokes her finger towards the door to his new room.

    Clear:
    "Is it enough for you? You know there are bigger rooms around. Lots and lots and lots of them. You can pick any one of them and I'll have the room refurbished for you."

    He nods and glances at the door too.


    Kara Pashna:
    "It's more than I could ask for. It took me a long time to figure out the toilet device. I suppose our bathroom must have seemed very primitive compared to your standards!"

    Clear shakes her head.


    Clear: "Actually no! I loved that sauna you used instead of our shower."

    Pashna's hairless eyebrows rise.

    Kara Pashna: "Truly? I found I quite like your shower machine. Water pouring down, I'm surprised we never thought of it ourselves."

    Clear: "Glad it makes you happy. Still! I'm absolutely going to have a sauna installed on this ship as soon as I have money again."

    She thinks of her Alliance card and her Imperial card and wonders if either of them are working still. Before she had money it was always an object of necessity. Now that she had come to find herself wealthy she had grown accustomed to buying whatever she fancied for her home.

    Then Pashna asked what money was and so began a long explanation of how most civilisations of the galaxy used imaginary values to dictate their lives. Pashna didn't seem very impressed by the concept and neither was Clear by the time she ended her lesson. She then has to move on and see what she can do about the ship's A.I.. Guessing he doesn't want to be left alone in this alien environment, Pashna opts to follow her to the A.I. Hub.

    The room is incredibly tall, towering at least three floors high but it's otherwise quite small. It's built for one single machine, the A.I. Hub, which is connected to the wall and extends up and up towards the ceiling above them like a great pipe organ of silver. The bank of consoles runs semi-circular around it. Clearly there are meant to be two chairs here and perhaps the damned thing would be more stable, filled will less corrupts, if crewmen were actually stationed here.

    Note: "Welcome back, Crewman Clear."

    Clear points at the floating head of Note without looking at it.


    Clear: "I told you not to speak to me."

    She reaches down and tears off a panel from the bottom of the console. She tosses it aside.

    Clear:
    "And stop calling me crewman. I'm the captain."

    She feels Pashna's puzzled expression on her back as she crawls into the space under the console. She doesn't anyone to call her captain - except Note. That basterd owes her years of captaining.

    Inside the machine Clear sees lots of cables and connections and panels and lights. Some connections seem to be floating and connected to nothing save for a mysterious blue glow. She decides those connections and the ones she'll be avoiding. She whips out a hydrospanner and attaches a head to the device to start unattaching some couplings.

    Note:
    "Crewman Clear, are you qualified to be doing this?"

    Clear: "I don't have any ferrets to come in here and chew your cables out, Note, so I'll have to do it myself."

    Note: "I believe that you may be experiencing difficulties in your logical faculties, Crewman Clear. Might I recommend a visit to the medical bay?"

    Kara Pashna: "Is this creature alive, Clear?"

    Clear smirks. No captain this time.


    Clear: "Nope! It's an A.I.. It's a computer. I know he has a pretty face, but don't be fooled. It's an infernal monster. I need to shut down some of these connections so that the swine can't ever come back once I've erased him. Again."

    Note: "Memory banks have been completely erased and corrupted. I have no information regarding the previous attempt to remove the A.I. module."

    Clear decides, for Pashna's sake, to indulge in an explanation;


    Clear: "A while back, Note here went bonkers and killed a lot of people."

    Kara Pashna: "Whoa!"

    She senses Pashna flinch and hears his steps as he moves away from the A.I. projection.

    Clear: "Eventually I was able to get the whole A.I. system replaced with a brand new one. Twenty of them to be exact, but only one main interface A.I...."

    She pauses as she considers her own words.


    Clear: "Note. Are the other sub-routine A.I.s still functional?"

    Note: "Am I permitted to speak to you now, Crewman Clear?"

    Thinks he's bloody funny, Clear whacks one of the panels in the console as though it'd hurt the digital manifestation. When she doesn't give any verbal response, Note gauges that he's cleared to speak.

    Note: "There are currently... seven-hundred-and-eighty-two sub-routine A.I.s in service."

    Clear bashes her head on the same panel she'd hit as she jolts up in surprise.


    Note: "Do you require medical aid, Crewman Clear?"

    Clear lies flat on the metal floor, staring at the cables. When tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum shut down the power, it was then booted up again by Kimleigh externally. With the shut down and that reboot lots of things reset, including the A.I. system. Kimleigh had been very heavy-handed in her searching through the ship's data. When she found corruption, she purged it in an attempt to clean it all up and get more information out of the system. It seems she purged the corruptions upon the A.I. system. The original A.I. system. Now they were all back on online. Clear is momentarily conflicted. That many A.I.s all operational would surely be a great benefit to The Hopeful's systems. However, it would mean tolerating Note and what happened once could well happen again.

    Clear growls at the console and starts unplugging more cables.


    Clear: "I don't care. You're out."

    Note: "I must advise against this, Crewman Clear. Navigating the ship through a jump without the assistance of an A.I. would be incredibly dangerous."

    Clear: "HA!"

    She shouts at him.

    Clear: "HA!"

    Note: "I am not incorrect in this, Cre--"

    Clear:
    "I have an A.I., Note. And she'll replace you. This time, forever!"

    One of the cables proves reluctant to budge. She yanks it as hard as she can. It still won't move so she gets the hydrospanner in there.

    Note:
    "I believe your A.I. chip was corrupted, Crewman Clear."

    Clear can't help but chuckle gleefully at Note's imminent demise, especially in the face of his inability to comprehend the situation.

    Clear: "Lucky for me, Note, she wasn't only on that chip. She was also stored somewhere else."

    She pulls something out of her pocket.


    Clear:
    "Speaking of which, I could use her help. Kara Pashna, could you push the button on this thing? I've charged it up."

    She rolls the small device from inside the console and Pashna picks it up.

    Kara Pashna:
    "If I'm to forgo calling you captain, you should probably just call me Pashna and drop the kara, Clear."

    Clear: "Fine by me, Pashna."

    Pashna pushes the button as indicated. Clear hears him yelp with fright and is satisfied that the hard-light projector must still be working.

    Clear:
    "Mother? Are you there?"

    Mother:
    "Captain Clear. I seem to have been disconnected from the A.I. Hub..."

    Pashna: "Is... is she your mother?"

    Clear winces. Every time.

    Clear: "No. She's another A.I.. This time she's in a hard-light projector. She did it to herself a while ago so she has a physical presence round the ship. So. When her lights went off, she was spared the wrath of..."

    She doesn't like to say Kimleigh's name and Pashna has the decency to include her in the list of the dead that shall not be spoken of.

    Clear: "Well there you are anyway. Mother. Get in here."

    Clear sees Mother's hard-light projector float into the small space and then activate to project her physical form. Instantly Clear feels the other salmitton's body beside her own. She's cold and lifeless, feeling like a corpse instead of a living person, but she turns her head to look at Clear with her big, lively eyes.

    Mother: "What do you need me to do, Captain?"

    Clear: "Righteous fury is the order of the day, Mother. Righteous fury."

    ------

    The Command Centre never felt more like home than it does right now. Weeks away, though it felt like longer, and Mother is back in the machine. She stands upon the golden pad and looks up at the screens around her. One of them casts out a 3D hologram of the Milky Way Galaxy. Pashna is with her and he stares at the map with a mixture of amazement and horror. Clear had been overcome with a sense of smallness when she was first forced away from Mars by Note and his mission but she had always been aware of the galaxy at large and had seen it many times, seen people from those worlds and even visited one or two in her time. She can only guess what a man with no knowledge of the galaxy at large must be feeling right now.

    The map appears solid with colour and is as clear and crisp as the monitors. But when she put her hand into it it ripples gently around her red skin. She snaps her fingers and the filter changes. Instead of the real colours of the galaxy it has transformed into a simple wire mesh. It zooms in when Clear nods to Mother's pink face up on the monitor. There, a little orange mesh represents The Hopeful, sitting in a great expanse of darkness with nothing else besides now that Kalor Varkesh has swooped off. A blue trail appears and leads from The Hopeful's position back to the galaxy proper.


    Clear: "We could just go crazy and run off to an alien galaxy! How much fun would that be, eh?"

    Pashna: "Sounds terrifying."

    Clear chuckles quietly.

    Clear: "Probably. We'd end up accosted by alien bug monsters or something."

    They had come a long way. So far that Clear is almost horrified by the distance. It might be a hop, skip and a jump for Kimleigh and her High Empire boys but the idea that she'd jumped from the Milky Way, across several others galaxies, and into this deep expanse so, so far away is mind-blowing. She doubts her Hoopa will ever be able to achieve such a tremendous feat ever again. The Hopeful, on the other hand, will have to pass through the Hellish Tartarus to reach home. The map zooms in on the Milky Way Galaxy and she wonders where they ought to aim for. She naturally think she should try to jump back to the Perseus Arm, though not back to the Mirare System as Warlord Dienhand may have the system under her control after the events of their leaving.

    But the Perseus Arm may not be the safest place for Clear and The Hopeful right now. After Dienhand blew up a lot of people just to spite Clear, Clear thinks a lot of people will be blaming the salmitton and her ship for the destruction. She has the secret superweapon after all. Or not so secret since everyone seems to know about it. The Galactic Empire may well want her head. The Rebel Alliance is undoubtedly in disarray if Princess Aurora wasn't cured in time...

    Clear suddenly feels a great wave of sadness. What if Aurora is already dead and never got cured? Another death Clear can blame herself for. And what of her other friends? She's certain Green is alive. She had never gotten the message to work again but she knows it was real. Green has to be alive. At least one person Clear can hope to see again.

    She muses at the map.


    She now understands more of the political groups she can see indicated. The High Empire is there and possesses what is called the Terminus Systems. That would be a logical point to re-enter the galaxy from, the every edge. However she isn't cure what attitude the High Empire would have for Clear and her ship after her involvement with Kimleigh's death. Elsewhere she can see The Imperium too but she really wants to avoid those malevolent basterds. There's even an area of the map carved up in the name of the Jovian Hegemony, though Clear doesn't understand how this Jupiterian empire could still exist without Jupiter. Then there's a single points that shines brightly.

    Clear: "You know what? I think it's finally time to go home."

    Pashna looks up at her.

    Pashna: "I thought this ship was your home?"

    Clear: "It is. But I mean my cultural home. It's time for me to go back to Mars."

    Ciel: "Are you making choices without consulting with me, madam?"

    They turn to see the old woman Ciel standing in the doorway to the Command Centre. She shuffles inside, admiring the map display.


    Ciel: "Can't believe you left me on this ship all this time. I could have stolen it, you know?"

    Clear: "You had no way to power it."

    Ciel: "I could have thrown your friend into the power core."

    Clear: "I'd have thanked you."

    Clear glances at the door and notices that he's not there.


    Clear: "Where is Koure by the way?"

    Ciel: "Skulking around. I think he's making an evil mad genius base or something. I felt it was best to leave him to it."

    Clear: "Well I took care of one monster today, I could add a second..."

    Ciel moves towards the audience seats and settles herself down.

    Ciel: "By the way, I did some digging while you were away. After our Lady High Empire went through the ship's systems like a bull in a china shop--"

    Clear feels Pashna's confusion mounting.


    Ciel: "--I was able to get more information out of the mess. Your ridiculous ship, here, once belonged to her oh-so-friendly empire."

    Clear:
    "She said as much."

    Ciel:
    "It also belonged to the Jovian Hegemony."

    Clear wonder what the chances of that information popping up just as she'd considered the Hegemony a ghost of an empire moments ago.

    Ciel: "That'll be all your ghosty friends you had running about."

    Clear makes a mental note to turn them back on when she has the chance. But as she does she thinks of Icer and suddenly facepalms.

    Clear: "How... how did a I not see that sooner?"

    Ciel raises an eyebrow.

    Ciel: "I think you can be forgiven for not realising..."

    Clear shakes her head.

    Clear: "It was staring me in the face all along..."

    Ciel: "It was?"

    Clear: "It's not... her name tag. It's not a name tag. It was saying her planet. I'd been calling her Icer but really it was reading 'Jupiter' with the top of the T burnt off..."

    Ciel smiles.

    Ciel: "The mysteries that reveal themselves, eh?"

    Clear can't help but smile. Yes. The mysteries do reveal themselves in time. Poor old Icer getting named after her planet.


    Clear:
    "Do you know what happened to them?"

    Ciel: "They were attacked by something."

    Clear: "I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise."

    Ciel:
    "I don't know who... or what. It was sudden though. I think you might have a better understanding from your living holograms."

    Clear:
    "Mother. Does the data for the projections still exist?"

    Mother: "Affirmative."

    Clear: "Switch it on."

    Ciel stands up and approaches the console bank of the Command Centre.

    Ciel: "Let me connect to the systems, I could speed us up to get to the juicy stuff."

    Clear: "You mean the part where they all die?"

    Ciel: "Exactly."

    With Ciel's help the ghosts turn back on and wink into existence before their very eyes. However they appear to be frozen static. Pashna is astounded as he nears the closest one.

    Pashna: "It's like... daylight. Amazing."

    Clear: "Yeah but they're supposed to be moving about. Why--"

    Suddenly the two male Jupiterians in the room explode in a horrific display of guts and gore being rendered from flesh and their faces scream with anguish - fortunately sans actual sounds.

    Clear: "What in the name of buggery just happened?"

    Ciel points to the corridor where they see several ghosts run by. Clear and Pashna give chase while Ciel teleports herself after them. As they get down the corridor suddenly the soldiers stop dead. Frozen completely in place. Clear skids to a halt.

    Pashna:
    "What happened to them? Why have they stopped like that?"

    Clear:
    "It must be a glitch in the system."

    Suddenly the soldiers begin to move again but looks of horror then instantly cross their faces and one-by-one they mauled by something invisible to our present-day Clear.

    Ciel: "I... don't think it's a glitch..."

    Clear: "Then...?"

    Ciel: "I think... I think they're being frozen in time... Then released when... whatever kills them kills them."

    Clear: "So... whatever killed them could freeze them in time, still move around themselves, until they were in an easy position for the kill?"

    Ciel: "It looks that way to me. Can't say I've heard of such a group before though. Very peculiar."

    Clear's mind suddenly explodes.

    Clear: "Holy fuk..."

    Ciel: "What is it?"

    Clear can't help but shake.

    Clear:
    "I think... I think... I think they're still on board..."

    Ciel: "What? Why would--"

    Clear:
    "Icer's Room. She's... locked in time, isn't she? So in that room..."

    Ciel: "Oh dear..."

  31. #71
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Space Monsters of Time

    Clear stares down the corridor towards the door to the Command Deck of The Hopeful. The Command Deck has long been a realm of mystery and wonder to Clear throughout her life. Ever since she was a child she would look up at Icer through the portal window and wonder who this strong woman is and why she was set on fire. Now, older and wearier, Clear knows at least half of this story. Now she wonders what is in there with the Jupiterian.

    She is sitting at the end of the corridor, her chair just shy of the infamous 'Death Trap' hole in the floor that most people would trip over if they didn't know it was there. The corridor to Icer's Room is a short one.

    She just sits and watches for a long time before she hears shuffling feet and the rustling of long fabric against the metal floor. Clear doesn't look up.

    She hears the scraping of chair legs and then Ciel sits beside her. Clear glances at Ciel from the corner of her eye. Being in such a huge swathe of robes Ciel looks like an overripe white fruit perched on the chair, still with no visible arms and legs and her head almost disappearing within the mass of cloth. Ciel doesn't seem to notice how ridiculous she looks.


    The old woman just sits there in equal silence and the two women watch the door, like two patient cats watching a mouse-hole.


    ---

    Atmospheric music - Angels of Darkness

    Clear pulls the trigger of her carbine and bullets screech down the corridor. Each shot bangs with a burst of light that brightens her face for an instant. Bullet after bullet slams into the wall, then the ceiling and then she stops, knowing it escaped.

    She gasps and tries to wipe away the sweat from her forehead. With the oxygen filters down the air is becoming increasingly stifled. In a ship in prime condition the air would have remained clean and fresh for days - possibly even months - even with the filters destroyed. On The Hopeful, however, with the filtration down the grime of centuries is being wafted into the atmosphere, choking the oxygen out of it.

    She winces and leans against a wall as blood seeps from the new wound on her arm. Bright blue and watery. Her skin will be stained for days. Instead of chasing it, this creature, she scurries to the medbay where she hastily sprays bacta onto the injury. She briefly glances at the woman lying on the bed, unconscious but resumes tending to her own injuries. She doesn't do a great job, but it will do. A quick bandage later and she's back into the fray.


    ---

    Ciel eventually breathes in deeply before opening her mouth.

    Ciel: "I have several theories to explain what is happening. But not a single one of them is good."

    Clear doesn't reply.

    Ciel: "Truth is... the best thing to do would be to forget about it."

    Clear frowns, finding something to reply to.

    Clear: "Yeah... because that's going to happen."

    Ciel:
    "They've been in that room for... what? Centuries? You think they're going to just- PING! pop out now?"

    Clear becomes silent again.

    ---

    The lights are low. According to Mother's estimations, the creatures prefer lots of light to hunt by. Clear supposes that, with the ability to stop time, darkness is hardly necessary for stealth.

    She reaches the corner of the corridor and peers around it. All clear. She grit her teeth. The tension is likely to kill her before the monster ever gets the chance. She slips into the corridor and quietly pads along it. She'd taken her boots off a while ago, finding the usual clang of her soles upon the metal floor to be something of a dead giveaway. Luckily the droids have been sweeping the floor of small debris - no LEGO bricks to the foot.

    A monitor on the wall has Mother's face staring at her as she passes by. She gives the screen a thumbs up, the camera sensor in the monitor registers the movement and Mother, also in silence, nods. Clear keeps her carbine pointed forward, ready for the first sign of movement ahead of her. She tries to keep her breathing regulated.

    She reaches a crack in the wall, one that's been there ever since Clear was born, and she peeks inside. The room's lights are completely out but Clear feels like she can sense something. Something in there. Then it happens. Time stops.

    ---

    Clear: "Truth is... I want to open the door. I want to get inside and I want to kill whatever is in there. This is my home, Ciel. It's infested."

    Ciel looks at the door, her wizened face contemplative.

    Ciel: "It can be done."

    Clear almost feels like she expected Ciel could do it. She isn't sure why, she just had a feeling. A gut instinct.

    Clear: "You can open the door?"

    Ciel nods.

    Ciel: "And I can probably help with this little... time problem."

    She hops to her feet in a motion that is far too spritely for a an old woman.


    ---

    It feels like Clear blinked and then she's back, only the growling of a hungry and angry beast is suddenly offending her ears. Clear kicks against the wall to throw her body backwards but she feels sluggish and slow. Her head is dulled, her brain is fogged. Only her sight and hearing seem in tact but to Clear's mind that's all she needs rights now. The creature's guttural growl increases in volume and she squeezes the trigger. Bullets blast from the carbine's nozzle but they seem slowed too - so much so that she thinks she glances them as they fly forth. They're fast enough, however. Bullets race into the dark where she hears them collide with walls and metal. The creature inside howls but not from pain... from frustration.

    Somewhere on the ship Ciel sensed the sudden distortion of time and sought to correct it.


    Clear pauses in her fire. She doesn't want to run out of bullets and leave herself open. The creature seems to think, however, that's exactly what happened as it suddenly thrusts itself from the crack in the wall. It's huge form takes up the whole corridor and it's leathery black skin slips out of the dark like a nightmare come reality. She opens fire again but the creature's time-affect is still in place - it may not be able to freeze Clear but everything is still slowed, Ciel's own power only dampening the affect rather than negating it entirely. The creature appears to be extremely fast to the salmitton's eye as it leaps, with uncanny agility, out of the path of bullet-induced-death. It's huge black wings slide across the walls as it moves and its jaws blare an aggressive scream of rage at her. Clear throws herself to the right, fighting against the slowing of time like she's treading water. Her rifle blasts again and again but the bullets miss the beast as it first climbs onto the wall and then scuttles onto the ceiling and around as it runs away.

    When it's gone, Clear feels her body lurch back into real-time and almost falls over from the sudden surge of motion. She releases the clip of her rifle and pulls a new one from her arse-pocket. She is a centimetre from attaching it to the gun when her hand slows and her breath catches. With pained slowness her hand moves the clip towards the gun but her eyes are pinned forward as the creature rushes straight at her.

    Clear:
    "Clever girl..."

    ---

    Clear: "I'm ready for whatever dumb space monster is in there."

    She slings her carbine onto her shoulder while Ciel is trying to see fast the frozen figure of Captain Icer.


    Ciel: "I hope it's a dumb space monster..."

    Clear: "Whatever it is, I'll cram a few bullets into its face if you keep it from stopping time."

    Ciel: "You know..."

    Clear feels she was going to point out somethings in the universe can't be killed by bullets alone but since the woman stopped Clear assumes Ciel doesn't see much sense in arguing the point any longer. Evidently Ciel wants to see these time-distorting monsters as much as Clear does.

    Ciel stands in front of the door and sweeps her hand. The door pops, almost too casually for this momentous moment. Then the door flies open and Icer falls back into the room. She cries out with anguish as her body is on fire but before either Clear or Ciel could rush to assume they stop dead for an instant until Ciel's own dampening powers take effect. The creature blink into existence before the eyes of Clear, just in time for her to see them scuttle over her head and into the ship. Big, black, hulking beasts with claws as long as her forearm and wings that slap against the metal walls. Clear falls down with sudden horror before she manages to get her gun up and fires at one of them as it runs along the ceiling. Her bullets miss the thing as it moves too fast.

    Icer: "What... have you... done?"

    The Jupiterian captain faints.

    Ciel: "I'll take her to the medical bay..."

    ---

    The creature is slammed into the wall, violently. It writhes against the invisible force that has it pinned until that invisible power finally relents and the creature jumps from the wall to the other and hurries back down the corridor. Clear's clip slips into the gun at last and she stands staring at where she should have met her end.

    Clear: "Wh-why did you save me?"

    Aellisin Koure: "I need you to control this ship..."

    He comes up beside her. He holds out his hand and from it bursts his flaming red soul that bursts brightly in the darkened corridor. So he has his powers back, at least in part, Clear muses with worry. Lucky he does but she can't help but be afraid of what he has planned for the future. For now he still needs her to operate the ship so she assumes her safety is guaranteed. Besides...

    They have a mutual enemy.


    Clear: "Let's go kill some space monsters."
    Last edited by TheBritt; 06-20-2016 at 10:17 PM.

  32. #72
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Prowlers

    Clear prowls the corridors of The Hopeful. She feels like she, Ciel and Koure have turned the tables on the hunters and made them prey. She hopes the creatures can appreciate the irony.

    She leads while Koure backs them up, his ruhand lighting them up. Clear is quietly thankful that it's him currently lit-up like a beacon and not her. If one of them has to become alien monster food, better him.

    She considers that the creatures may well be several hundred years old, maybe older, having been frozen in time. The mechanics of time control eludes Clear's mind as she would have believed such a thing impossible even with technology. To do something like that as a biological process is dumbfounding. What evolutionary circumstances would have necessitated such an insane attribute?


    At least Ciel is around to curb that power. Clear has to also wonder how Ciel is able to do such a thing herself. Is it a genetic gift of her species? And what does it affect, exactly? Could Ciel stop any kind of biological processes? Stop Clear's heart from working, her lungs, her stomach? All this super powered crazy species in the galaxy and Clear thought humans were the ultimate menace.


    Then again humans do breed like rabbits, so perhaps they could simply overwhelm the entire galaxy by consuming everything.


    They track Mother's indications to the food processing plant. The last time Clear was in here she had had to escape from the clutches of Note using Wai's robotic body. Apparently the room is nothing but a terrible omen for Clear - from the clutches of one monster to the clutches of another.

    Then there's a click from Clear's PIPboy. Kara Pashna is indicating that he's found one of the two creatures. According to the radar he's in the medical bay with the Jupiterian woman. Clear glances at the door to the food processing plant and then clicks her PIP mic twice for a 'negative'. He'll have to hide himself. Hopefully he has the good sense to lock the door.

    The door to the room is wide open and Clear slips inside but indicates that Koure is to wait for a few seconds before entering. He'll be instantly seen with his shiny sword while Clear can keep to the shadows. Once inside she quietly slinks towards one of the food processors, which is still running in its eternal processing cycle. They've never been shut off, even now, just churning and churning with nothing going in and nothing coming out. Their horrendous noise makes it easier for Clear to go unnoticed as she knows the creatures have advanced hearing to compensate for their poor vision. Unfortunately she also thinks they have advanced smell receptors so she doesn't grow over confident when she goes unmolested.

    She scans the room with her eyes but cannot see anything in the low light save for the machines themselves. Then Koure enters. He doesn't bother going for cover, it'd be pointless with his bright, glowing weapon to announce his whereabouts. Better to act as a distraction.

    He looks around the room but Clear gets the impression that he's not looking with his eyes. Probably using his voodoo powers for signs of life. He glances around just twice before he snaps his attention to the ceiling and Clear follows his gaze. The moment they look up is the moment that the creature drops down. A brief millisecond jumps before Ciel, somewhere sensing the time lapse, activates her dampener. The creature falls quickly but Koure, having sensed the beast, has raised his ruhand in a defensive posture. Seeing the danger, the creature tries to whirl itself away from its trajectory in mid-air. In result the monster lands on the floor but its tail gets caught by the soul-beam and is sliced cleanly off. Green blood spurts from the wound and sprays the metal ground. The creature's scream is ear-piercing and Clear clasps her ears. Koure's mane burns red with aggression and he jumps at the creature, his sword swinging down but he's too slowed by the time-power to catch it and his ruhand meets thin air.


    But as the creature is now clear of Koure, the salmitton is able to open fire. Bullet after bullet chases the intruder but each bullet meets the wall or machinery that the creature skirts past. Her carbine blasts over and over until the monster jumps onto the wall and scuttles upwards. Clear releases the empty magazine and pulls a second from her back pocket. It clips in and she opens fire again, this time driving the monster back towards Koure.

    The falleen extends his soul to grab one of the food processors, though Clear notices in the corner of her eye that it seems to be quite a strain on him. Evidently he hasn't yet fully developed his powers. He can, however, still hurl the machine at the creature. Clear fires on the opposite side of the beast forcing it to choose between the machine and her bullets.

    It chooses bullets and drives back from the whirling blades of the processor. Her bullets dig into the creature's flesh, spraying green blood across the ceiling, but her bullets do not damage the creature as much as they would have any human or salmitton - both of which would have been torn to shreds by the hail of death she unleashed upon the space terror.

    It is, however, now injured.

    Koure raises his hands outward and retracts his sword. From them a bright red mist starts to expel upwards, rising like hot air towards the ceiling. The red gas crawls along the ceiling and the creature realises the danger but is reluctant to drop down to the realm of the two-footed. It backs away from the soul-mist slowly but then feels the sudden awful bite of the mist as it grazes the creature's claws. With another deafening screech, the monster finally drops, its claws singed from the heated mist. It lands roughly, unbalanced by the pain in its fore-claws and the loss of its tail. What was once graceful, though horrific, is now ungainly with its oversized legs and small forearms.

    Seeing it off-balance Clear releases a barrage of bullet-fire from her carbine. Several bullets pump into the creature and the momentum shoves it into the side of a processing machine. It yowls through the attack and regains its composure. It takes several bullets to the chest but ignores them and starts a rage-induced advance upon Clear. Then her bullets run out and the monster is free to come at her despite its grievous injuries. It stomps at her, blood spilling from its many bullet-inflicted wounds as its goes. But then the fallen machine from earlier suddenly hurls through the air from Koure and it lands top down, its whirlling blades slice up the creature as it passes into the machine.

    The processor bangs and clangs as it lands and its blades get stuck on the thick-skinned body of the beast. After a short while Koure slowly lifts the processor up to reveal the corpse. For good measure Clear empties several rounds into it from a fresh clip. The two of them march over to it and Clear, again, empties several rounds into its skull.


    Clear: "Okay. I think it's dead."

    Koure: "One down..."

    He looks tired.

    Clear: "Guess you still have more magic practice to do."

    Koure: "It's not magic..."

    Clear then clicks the mic on her PIP. A short moment later and a single confirmation click is returned.

    Clear: "The other one is still near the medbay."

    Koure: "So the stray is still alive then?"

    Clear: "That stray is a better being that you could ever hope to be, Falleen."

    Koure: "Developing a moral compass are we, Salmitton? You think you now have such a high ground to pass judgement on others?"

    Despite their bickering they move together through the exit of the food processing plant and into the dark corridor.

    Clear: "There's having the high ground and then there's occupying the gutter. You're in the gutter. I don't have to be on Olympus Mons to know I have moral supremacy over a degenerate like you."

    Koure: "I assume Olympus Mons is a mountain..."

    Clear is silently gratified that she knows something he doesn't, even if it was tremendously unlikely he ever could know the tallest mountain on Mars.

    Koure: "You should also watch your mouth. It'll get you into trouble..."

    Clear knows the kind of trouble he'd be likely to inflict and the thought of it is a terrifying one. Since he's been helping her, however, she has found it easier to forget his past and accept what he might do for her in the future. Every now and again he brings the haunting past back to light and she reminds herself that this man is incredibly dangerous and his motivations for helping her are probably out of self-interest and definitely only temporary.

    As they approach the medical bay they fall back into silence. Clear peeps around the corner. The lights of the medical bay are open and the high-placed windows of the room have that light streaming out of them. If ever there was an invitation to the alien fiend, that comely light is it.

    Clear licks her lips as she feels them dried and cracked. Her eyes fail to focus properly as they ache from the strain of staring so intently. Koure silently hops past her to the other side of the T-junction corridor and peeps from around the wall too. They wait in complete silence. Clear knows it has only been a matter of minutes but the tension makes it feel likes hours.

    Suddenly Clear feels the slowing sensation of the creature's power yet she still can't see it. Ciel, wherever she is, must have sensed the activated power and triggered her dampening. Clear frowns, slowly. Could the beast have gotten inside the medbay through another entry point? Fearing for Kara Pashna Clear hops from her cover with the intention of getting into the medbay. Koure, however, grabs Clear's shoulder and throws her aside. She falls to the metal floor and looks up to see that the alien had been behind her the whole time. She'd narrowly escaped death once again.


    With Clear out of the way the monster almost barrels into Aellisin Koure's quickly ignited ruhand but inside of trying to stop its own momentum, it works with it and leaps first onto the wall and then onto the ceiling and scuttles along. Koure, however, reaches out with his soul and yanks on the monster to bring it back down to the floor where it squirms for a brief instant on its back. As it does time reverts to normalcy and Clear is back on her feet in a sudden lurch as she mentally overcompensates for the slow-mo effect.

    The moment of free movement is brief as the nimble creature, probably angry at the indignity of being tossed about, reactivates its power. In that blink of activated power, before Ciel can work against it, the monster manages to cover the ground between itself and a corner. Just as it disappears around the corner it comes hurtling back again, slamming against the wall. Koure looks fairly arrogant with his re-found power as he plies the hideous beast as he likes. Then, however, the creature seems to become too strong in will to be held in place and Koure takes a step back. Clear takes that as a visual cue to open fire. She shoots down the corridor and is sure she hits the monster a few times, despite the darkness and the great distance between them.

    Then the thing is free as Koure looses his dominance upon it. The beast crouches down on the floor, recovering itself from Koure's grip. Clear, seeing its weakness, opens fire again. This only seem to bring it to its senses all the faster as it manages to hop behind the cover of the off-shoot corridor again. Clear groans and lowers her weapon. At least with Koure and Ciel on her side this should be over soon. Had they not been here, well she would have been monster paste quite a long time ago. Then again the door would never have been opened to begin with.

    Breaking Clear's reverie, the beast unexpectedly charges back around the corner and bounds straight for them. She guesses that this is its usual mode of attack, only its prey is normal frozen in place. It must be desperate, or it intends to go out with a moment of glory, to attempt to attack a moving target it cannot defeat. Koure gives Clear a light shove to the side and brings up his arms in an attack posture. Red lightning suddenly bursts from the tips of his fingers and smashes into the beast. However the creature doesn't relent, despite the screams and howling it emits. It pushes forward, slowed but uncowed. Clear keeps her gun down, not wanting to put herself in the way of the wild lightning being expelled.

    The creature continues to defiantly advance and Clear assumes it will die during this approach. But then something happens.

    Clear blinks and everything changes. Where the corridor was once filled with lightning, it is now dark. Where once Koure stood dominant, he is now lay upon the floor and the beast is atop of him. In that nanosecond the creature must have, somehow, broken through Ciel's hold and frozen time. Just long enough that it can kill its attacker.

    The creature's death have torn off the right side of the falleen's face, perhaps his mane had been the only reason his head is still attached. His chest is ripped open, looking like a surgical cut. His right hand, which had been near his face, has been chewed off entirely. He, like Clear, has only just woken to this nightmare. He cries out in absolute agony and horror at the sudden reversal but Clear drowns him out with the sound of gunfire. She pulls the trigger and round after round pumps into the creature. Its teeth sink into Koure's shoulder and yanks flesh from both. It flings the skin aside, splattering blood everywhere. Clear's bullets cram into its skull and, finally, it bursts open. Its head slams into the wall from the momentum of her gunfire and cracks open. She doesn't stop. She keeps shooting long after its dead until a voice shouts at her to stop.

    She turns.


    Clear: "Ciel! What happened!! It killed him! It killed Koure!"

    Ciel: "I know..."

    She looks at Koure's bloodiest body, now buried beneath the alien monster that had slain him. Clear stands agape.

    Clear: "You... you did this! You saw us and you let it kill him!"

    The old woman shrugs.

    Ciel: "He was too dangerous to let live and I saw an opportunity. I didn't kill him. I just chose not to help him. This timorous beastie killed him."

    Clear: "You... you did this..."

    Ciel: "You knew more than most how dangerous he was. You know he'd have killed you and taken this ship the most he was able. How many lives would he have destroyed for his own gain? Frankly if he'd have committed any of those crimes out here in the Deep Void, I could have arrested or killed him myself. But he didn't so I had no right to try and stop him that way. Doesn't mean I have to save him."

    Clear: "I can't believe you--"

    Ciel: "Why are you so mad? You wanted him dead, didn't you?"

    Clear: "Yes... but... not like this! Stabbed in the back? He defended us!"

    Ciel: "Only to suit himself."

    Clear: "It doesn't matter! I-- I can't believe this..."

    Ciel: "The galaxy is a safer place now that he, and that beast, are both dead. I think this calls for a celebration! Someone should design a flag for the Deep Void so's I can save one. One of those mini-flags, you know them?"

    Clear looks down at the mess. She'd never seen someone chewed up like that, the gore is so revolting she can barely keep her eyes down. But something had caught her eye. She pushes the monster off of Koure with her boot and she sees his chest suddenly rise as he gasps.

    Clear: "Basterd's not dead..."

    Ciel: "Fuq."

  33. #73
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Breakages

    Kara Pashna's eyes are so wide with horror that Clear thought he might faint. He doesn't, however, and he touches Aellisin Koure's broken body. With some trepidation, the kara begins to scan the man's body with both his mind and his apparatus. The data-mould magnetically attached to the side of the Indran's head glows coyly. Though separated now from the network of kara's on his planet, a silence that has been haunting Pashna increasingly, it still retains a vast amount of information from that intelligence network.

    Kara Pashna: "I--I might be able to, uh... stabilise him?"

    Clear: "Better than nothing, Pashna."

    Kara Pashna: "I was always much better at curing diseases, in all honesty. You call a kara to help cure the rare diseases your local doctors couldn't deal with. Injuries like this... I just don't think they happened on Indra. Unless you found yourself on the wrong side of the gods, that is."

    Having Pashna constantly refer to his gods given every scenario has been slowly grating on Clear's nerves. Of course, the gods are Pashna's point of reference for life, but Clear doesn't understand that mindset. Instead she chooses to ignore the remark and focuses on the reality before her.

    Clear: "Do whatever you can, Pashna. Right now you're the closest thing to a doctor we have. I could have the ALEX droid come up here with a scalpel but I'm pretty sure he's better at cutting things up than putting them together."

    While Pashna starts channelling his energies into healing, Clear looks at Ciel. The old woman does not look happy. She's usually pretty jovial and seems to take nothing seriously, but right now she has the face of a stoic.


    Ciel:
    "You should let him die."

    Clear: "I can't do that... Don't get me wrong, I'm all for live and let die but... I do owe him."

    Ciel: "He doesn't feel the same way. He'll kill you as soon as you outlive your usefulness."

    Clear: "I'm sure we'll part ways as soon as we get back to our galaxy."

    Ciel: "And you'll inflict him on others?"

    Clear: "Look, I've heard this argument before. Let someone die for the possibility of saving many. The possibility! For me, that's not enough to go on. We don't know what's going to happen and right now I'd be dead if it weren't for him. I at least owe him the return favour of not letting him die..."

    Ciel: "This is the real world, not some story land where noble deeds save the day. Noble deeds are stupid and you're going to die for it."

    She then groans, rolls her eyes and shrugs.

    Ciel: "But hey, what do I care? Your life, your mistakes. At least I get to say, 'I told you so'. Which is always fun."

    She glides out of the room and Clear watches after her. Clear can't help but think Ciel is absolutely correct and that she's making a mistake. And yet there's something deep inside Clear that won't let her follow this sage advice. Clear has never been especially sentimental, certainly not for people she hates, but betraying someone she owes her continued existence to doesn't sit well with her. Even if he's a sadistic maniac.

    Clear: "Keep at it, Pashna. If you can, help him recover."

    Kara Pashna: "I will. I couldn't have stood by and let him die anyway, Clear. When I see someone in need... well, I have to help them. No matter who they are or what they've done. Maybe Ciel is right, maybe I'm stupid. But I can't help being that person..."

    Clear:
    "If the universe had more men like you, Pashna, it would be a much better place."

    Kara Pashna: "A few more of the both of us and perhaps you'd be right."

    He smiles at her, though it's a distracted smile that he aims in her general direction but his attention is elsewhere. She wants to tell him he has too much faith in her but knows she shouldn't be distracting him with pointless existential crises.

    Clear: "What're you doing now?"

    Kara Pashna: "I'm encouraging his white blood cells to get to work fighting infections. Those... creatures' teeth contained a lot of bacteria. Very strange bacteria."

    Clear:
    "Well they were alien... and old. So ancient alien bacteria is probably going to look really weird."

    Kara Pashna: "Quite right. I had to spend several hours working on my own immune system as soon as I stepped onto your ship. I'm lucky I'm a kara or else I'd have died of some malicious disease hours after getting here."

    Clear: "Weird that I never thought of that before hand. Sorry, I should have..."

    Since her own people died of exactly that. Earth-borne diseases carried to Mars by the invaders. If not for the diseases, her people might still be alive today. Oppressed by humanity, but alive nonetheless.

    Kara Pashna: "There's not a lot I can do for the bones, in all honesty. He needs a proper doctor for that. I can encourage living cells, tissues, organisms... but I can't magic-up bone fragments from thin air. I'm guessing bits of his bone must still be in the stomach of the... creature."

    He shakes his head, trying not to think of it.

    Kara Pashna:
    "I've already sped up the clotting so the bleeding will stop. That's the most crucial. I'll be careful to stop internal bleeding too. He's still lost a lot of it and I think a transfusion would be a good idea. I'll encourage the cells in his bone marrow to creature blood faster but, really, it won't be fast enough to get him healthy. I think, by the way, pain killers would be a very good idea. I've numbed him myself for now, but when I'm not here... it's going to be a whole host of pain like you wouldn't believe..."

    Clear: "Right. There's this bacta tank over here--"

    Clear sweeps her hand to indicate the tank. It's empty of bacta right now, but the bacta stockpile is more than enough to accommodate Koure for a few weeks if necessary.


    Clear: "It's miracle stuff. It'll numb everything, help keep him sleeping and it also speeds up recovery like you can. Maybe not as well, I don't know."

    He glances up at the tanks and nods.

    Kara Pashna:
    "Sounds good. It'll be a nuisance getting him in there though..."

    Clear: "The machine does most of the work, to be honest. There's an arm that comes down from the ceiling and hoists up the bed and everything. It'll just plunge him in there. Well, it's a bit more gentle than that in all honesty, but you get the idea."

    Kara Pashna: "Your ship really is a place of technological wonder, Captain."

    Clear can't conceal the flush of pride as her cheeks flush blue. She loves this stupid, old ship.

    Pashna reaches over and looks at the remains of the arm. Clear can see that there's little more than entrails, she can't even see a bone at all. Pashna shakes his head again.

    Kara Pashna:
    "He's lost that arm. I don't suppose your bacta tank can regrow limbs?"

    Clear: "No. There's probably technology out there somewhere that can do that but I'll be damned if I'm paying for it. He can do that himself if he lives."

    Pashna then taps Koure's right leg.

    Kara Pashna: "This could also be a problem. It's already infected and the bone is completely shattered all the way up to the pelvis. In fact the pelvis is also fractured, but hopefully a doctor can help with that. I could just leave the leg attached, though it'll be useless and take up a lot of blood and healing that would be better served elsewhere..."

    Clear: "You mean you want to cut it off?"

    Kara Pashna gives a meek shrug.

    Kara Pashna: "It's a tough choice but removing the dead weight will increase his chances of surviving and making a recovery. And if they can regrow it--"

    Clear: "Go for it. Lob it off."

    Pashna is taken aback by Clear's unwavering answer.

    Kara Pashna: "No concern about him losing a leg?"

    Clear: "The fuker tried to kill me once. I'd be fine with cutting off all of his limbs. I'll save his life, but the quality of that life can be as messed up as anything for all I care."

    Kara Pashna: "Okay then. Once I'm done there, a little time and he'll be waking up I expect. We'll want him in your bacta tank by then, keep him out cold. With proper medical treatment, I can have him up and about in a day or two."

    Clear coughs.

    Clear: "A day!? Just a day!? For-- for this!?"

    Even bacta doesn't work that quickly.

    Kara Pashna shrugs but can't help a small, self-indulgent smile.


    Kara Pashna:
    "Well, I'm quite good at what I do. I can cure most diseases in no time, so mending a wounded body, even one like this, isn't a huge stretch for me. It's the healing I can't do that worries me."

    Clear: "You mean the healing you can't do just slows you down, don't you?"

    He affirms with a quick gesture and Clear is struck by how incredible that would be. A man that could cure people in under a day of any disease. If he'd been on Mars...

    Clear: "I'll prepare the bacta tank."

    Pashna glances up from his work again, this time for longer as he looks at the salmitton.

    Kara Pashna:
    "Once he's in the tank, I'll see to you too."

    Clear: "I'll be fine."

    Kara Pashna: "Those wounds are not fine. Actually I'm surprised you're standing. Then again I think my species has much thinner skin than yours."

    Clear snorts.


    Clear: "That's funny because my species has thin skin compared to most other species I've met. Which means you have really thin skin."

    Clear stabs buttons on the screen. Since it's a screen the lightest touch would select options, but she's always been aggressive with computers like this.

    Clear: "To be honest, I've had to learn to be fairly hardy in my life. Living rough, travelling hard. I used to work as a scavenger on Mars. I'd travel for hours, find something and cart it up to my ship. Harsh winds, hungry animals and hungry me most nights."

    Kara Pashna: "Sounds like you were lonely..."

    Clear: "I was."

    She tries to make that statement sound as nonchalant as she can muster, but just such an affirmation will always sound tragic no matter how chipper she makes her voice.

    Kara Pashna: "Mars is your homeworld, right? Was all of your homeworld so inhospitable?"

    Clear realises now would be a natural time to tell him that she, like he, is the last of her kind. But she doesn't want to drag his mind away from his work. And she still isn't ready to share that information with him. For some reason admitting such a truth to complete strangers has always been easy. It was fuelled by hatred for humans. She could announce the extinction of her people and rile up listeners against humans. Pashna, though, is in the same position as she is. He knows exactly what she has felt and no bravado, no accusations, will mask the hollowness behind the admission that she, and he, is truly alone like no other could be.

    Clear: "I'll talk about it later, when you're less busy."

    A mechanical arm extends from the ceiling in preparation while Clear pushes a hover cart over to Pashna. She only recognises the hover cart as the cart for surgical tools after watching Thrain use it all of the time back when she was aboard. A brief pang hits Clear as she thinks of Thrain and realises that, soon, she'll see her, and her friends, again. If they're alive...

    ----

    Mother: "The jump may destroy the ship..."

    Clear lounges miserably in one of the audience seats in the Command Centre. She throws her head back, leaning across three seats, and whines.

    Clear: "It's not fair. Why does this keep happening?"

    Mother:
    "The Hopeful was severely damaged from our initial jump into the Deep Void and the droids onboard have not been enough to make adequate repairs. Might I suggest that we make a shorter jump and assess the damage?"

    Clear: "Right. Back to short hops to get to our destinations. You know, I bought this infernal thing to avoid all that."

    Mother: "According to some, infernal is exactly what the device is."

    Clear: "Don't start being smart with me, Mother. If you think a short jump would be wise, then yes. We should do that. Jump to the closest galaxy and see how we are."

    Mother: "The Void Ranger has already provided me with a list of possible galaxies and planets within those galaxies. I have decided that a populated planet would be a wise option if The Hopeful is in need of sudden repairs after our jump..."

    Clear: "Fair enough. Make it so!"

    Clear points at Mother's hard-light figure standing in front of her own face also on the screen - double-Mother. The A.I. stares at Clear with zero comprehension.

    Mother: "I feel you meant to say more with that statement than I can understand, Clear..."

    Clear: "It was a joke... from a Earth sh--urgh, nevermind. It's not funny when you have to explain it."

    ----

    Clear has buckled herself in in one of the seats in the Command Centre. She makes a mental note to add 'safe room' to the list of required new rooms when she gets back to the Milky Way Galaxy. Like a black box on old planes of Mars. Only bigger and one where she can sit inside and not die if the ship blows up. As seems to be a recurring threat.

    Ciel is next to her and Pashna in the seat over. And finally, in the line, is the Jupiterian captain. She is seated in her seat completely drugged up to the eyeballs on something Clear found in Thrain's medical cabinet. Unfortunately there's only one bacta tank and Koure is in a more critical state than the ancient Jupiterian. The woman might not be ready to adjust and needs more healing but there's nowhere safe to strap her in the medical bay. So she gets front row seats with the rest of them. She had mumbled something about stupid humans when she had seen Ciel, which made Clear immensely happy and Ciel very indignant at being called human. Especially by a woman who looked far more
    human than Ciel does.

    Ciel: "This is quite exciting isn't it?"

    Kara Pashna: "Exciting isn't the word I would use. Terrifying is."

    Clear: "Can you protect us all with that force bubble thing you can do, Ciel?"

    Ciel: "Certainly not! You're talking about the netherflames of Tartarus! We'll be burnt-- no, not even burnt. What's worse than burnt?"

    Kara Pashna: "...incinerated?"

    Ciel: "Nice word! Yes. We'll be instantly incinerated. There's not a lot that can withstand netherflame and one little Void Ranger isn't going to be it."

    Clear: "Just wonderful..."

    Ciel: "Cheer up! At least you'll go out with a... well, you'll go out kicking and screaming and burning-- sorry, incinerating."

    Clear: "Thought you said it'd be instant!?"

    Ciel: "It will. But our souls will be burning for a lot longer than that. It's netherflame, not just ordinary, boring fire. Fire can burn the physical, netherflame burns the incorporeal, the metaphysical, the astral energies... whatever other pseudo-real mechanisms you can think of."

    Clear:
    "Not sure I understood half of what you just said."

    Kara Pashna: "Our souls, Clear. Our souls will be in agony even if our bodies aren't. Hopefully that won't be for long before we pass on..."

    Ciel: "Time kind of gets a bit... wobbly when Tartarus is concerned."

    Clear: "We are not going to be burnt, or incinerated. We're going to be just fine. It's a weird day when I have to be the optimist! Besides..."

    She exhales slowly.

    Clear: "I don't believe in souls and all that nonsense."

    Ciel: "I met a guy that didn't believe in magic. Until he was blasted in the face with it."

    Mother:
    "Five..."

    Ciel: "Maybe we should sing a rousing song to spur the spirits?"

    Mother: "Four..."

    Clear: "I'm going to kill you in advance, Ciel. If you utter a single rhyme--"

    Mother:
    "Three."

    Ciel: "Aaaaaamaaaaazing graaaaaace--!"

    Mother:
    "Two."

    Clear: "Why!? Why do I have to always meet the the most annoying people of the whole universe!?"

    Mother: "One."

    Ciel: "How sweet the sound..."

    The sound of her voice is drowned out by a very different sound and it is not at all sweet. It sounds like a deep, resonant thunder roll that reverberates throughout the Command Centre. The ship shakes, shudders, trembles. The screens before them display the outside of the ship from a low angle facing forward. There they see a tear in space-time rip apart, as though pulled apart by something within, so that the ship can slip inside. A massive, swirling pool of white-purple with veins of red throbbing as The Hopeful slides into the Tartarus dimension. The camera shuts off. Then the lights inside the ship follow suit. The ship is silent and still. Even Ciel has shut her yap.

    The painful silence lasts for an eternal second before the horrible thunder, with the background sound of high wailing, blasts their ears again. Clear clutches at her head with a whimpering cry while she just about hears a terrified shout from Pashna. Even the drugged woman on the end is crying out with anguish.

    The thunder then slowly fades to a low ripple before it finally quietens down. The lights flicker back on. Then the screens. Clear sighs with relief and can't help but giggle a little. The sound of her voice lightens the others and the three of them start laughing.

    Clear's eyes drift to the screen and her laugh disappears. She snaps open the buckle and leaps towards the screen for a proper look.


    Clear: "Oh fuq!"

    Kara Pashna: "What is it? What's wrong?"

    Clear points angrily.

    Clear: "Half my bloody ship is floating off!!!"

    ----

    Outside the ship has snapped in twain, pieces are breaking up and causing a great debris field. Mild licks of netherflame still writhes across sections of the hull and the engines themselves have fallen dead. Out of orbit's range is a planet of bland beige and great patches of rust coloured areas. It's a very large planet, much larger than Earth or Mars, but also as boring to look at as any other floating rock in space.

    Or it would be if not for all the spacestations floating around it in such huge numbers that The Hopeful was much too large to even enter orbit without smashing into several of these stations. Massive neon signs are draped off of the stations for anyone looking through viewscreens or, as some crazy few do, windows. The writing isn't English and each character shown is repeated in a cross-shape, so that it can be seen regardless of your ship's orientation. Mother would translate most of the signs easily enough, most reading names of foods or entertainments that are prominently available at each individual station. Some stations are so small that they look like tiny, floating noddle bars or glorified hot dog vendors. A few small one-man fighters, coloured sky blue and with big flashing lights on their wings, sing through the crowds with long-practised grace, keeping the peace. When The Hopeful blazes into the system, many of those small, blue ships are now headed in her direction...

  34. #74
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Barfight

    Fladnag the White: "Greetings and welcome to the planet Tatoonie. I am Fladnag the White, the director of this world. It's unusual that I would make such an address personally but you appear to be attempting to bombard our planet with a projectile the size of a country... and that is simply bad for business."

    The image of the planet's director is blasted into Clear's retina from the screen in front of them. He looks to be an old man, definitely well past his prime, with a long, immaculate beard. He wears a pointy hat that is drooping over to one side and has a long, thick robe, adorned with golden insignias down a lapel extended down the front seam on black background. The rest of the robe is white, a little off-set to cream, as is his hat. His beard is also white and she wonders if his name and dress were all inspired by the singular fact he is now old and white-bearded. She wonders if she'd have the right to join this cult of white since her own hair is white too.

    Clear: "We're not attacking your planet, director, we just showed up and my ship is falling apart!"

    Jupiterian: "My ship, you mean?"

    The woman looks groggy but her words sound out loud and clear. Evidently she's well regaining herself. And her first words are to challenge Clear. Not a good start...

    Clear: "You do not want to start that fight until you can at least hold your own head up without drooling."

    Fladnag the White: "Then I apologise for making assumptions. I have to admit, I was surprised someone would have the audacity to try to lay siege to the homeplanet of The Big O, but it has happened before. Someone always thinks tossing rockets at Tatooine would be a fantastic prank. It's very frustrating for me, I can tell you."

    Clear glances at Ciel with concern. This Fladnag certainly likes to yammer on.

    Fladnag the White: "But anyway. I appreciate your visit, it's very nice that you considered coming here. Unfortunately we'll have to blow your ship up anyway..."

    Clear: "What!? Wait!"

    Fladnag the White: "We can't have pieces, the size of small continents, raining down on our world. The destruction would cause... a lot of paperwork."

    Clear: "Can't you help stop it from falling without blowing it up?"

    Fladnag the White: "Oddly enough the paperwork required for destroying threats is much less than the paperwork for preventing them."

    Clear: "That was a yes but I don't want to, wasn't it? Arsehole."

    Ciel then leans over and clears her throat. When physically compared to Fladnag, she almost looks young. Almost.

    Ciel: "Sir, this is Ciel of the Void Rangers."

    Fladnag almost looks disappointed.

    Fladnag the White: "You're going to ask me to have this vessel saved aren't you? Agent Ciel, I hope you understand the volume of paperwork involved in this request?"

    Ciel: "I do. I have reason to suspect that this spacecraft is valuable to the NeSiverse, Sir. I don't make the request lightly."

    Fladnag the White groans as he concedes to the Void Ranger's request.

    Fladnag the White: "Blowing up alien threats is always a good way to boost morale, you know? I was looking forward to the boost in profits from the bars alone."

    Ciel: "Apologies, Sir. And might I say your beard is looking ever more radiant!"

    The old man straightens up at the sudden compliment.

    Fladnag the White: "Flattery will get you everything, Agent Ciel."

    He grins and Clear rolls her eyes. Ciel looks at Clear.

    Fladnag the White: "What if we just blow up half of your ship? This half that's unoccupied? We can save the half that you're in now?"

    Ciel: "The ship is needlessly big..."

    Clear: "Oi! No! No blowing anything up!"

    Fladnag the White: "Not even a little piece of debris here and there?"

    He gestures tininess with his fingers.

    Fladnag the White: "I promise you won't miss any of the pieces."

    Clear: "No! No! I want all of the ship in one piece!"

    Fladnag the White: "So we'll have to repair the vessel too, will we?"

    His face has soured and he puckers his lips like a headmaster scolding a pupil. His drums his long, gnarled fingers along his clipboard.

    Fladnag the White: "Very, very expensive."

    Clear: "I... might have the money?"

    Jupiterian: "Jupiter will pay! Just fix my bloody ship!"

    Clear glowers at the woman.

    Clear: "Not your ship!"

    Fladnag the White: "You mean the Jupiterian Matrilineal Queendom of Jovian Worlds and its Multiversal Holdings?"

    Clear: "Wha--? Who in the Hell calls it that!?"

    Jupiterian: "Yes!"

    Fladnag the White: "I'm surprised you people are happy with just frivolous spending considering given circumstances of your empire. But I do love Jovian coin, I have to say. There's something about Jovian coinage that encourages reliability and authority. Just one of those strange things I suppose. We shall repair this monstrous machine of yours, though Agent Ciel is going to have to attend the Palace of Bureaucratic Affairs to fill in the mountain of paperwork."

    Ciel: "There goes my free time for the next decade or two..."

    Clear: "We could use a very talented doctor up here too, Fladnag. It's urgent."

    Ciel looks unhappy but doesn't speak in opposition.

    Fladnag the White: "Okay. Actually I'm surprised there aren't more people on a ship of that, frankly, unnecessary size. I'm sure The Big O himself would certainly approve of the size, if not for the sake of grand gesture. But I don't. A size that big must have been a great undertaking, especially considering the technology seems to be very old."

    He is writing something on his clipboard. Clear is surprised that he's actually writing with a pen, instead of typing it in. She suspects it's something to do with clarifying his intent without question - anyone can type stuff in, but few could replicate his handwriting. Even his fingerprint could be taken under duress, but there's no mistaking the intentions behind the psychological strokes of a pen in the eyes of an expert in reading handwriting. Clear also often wrote things by pen. Because she couldn't afford anything else.

    Fladnag the White:
    "So. It shall be done. Expenses will be made to the Jupiterian Matrilineal Queendom of Jovian Worlds and its Multiversal Holdings--"

    Clear wonderings if he just likes to use the elongated version of the title because he likes the sound of his own voice so much.


    Fladnag the White: "-- assuming the Jupiterian here has the authorisation to make such a payment?"

    Jupiterian: "I do. I'm an admiral of the highest order. I'll sign the paper."

    The man nods slowly.

    Fladnag the White:
    "Very well. I wish I could say it was a pleasure doing business with you, but I was looking forward to pushing some big red buttons. Oh well. I must go now. This has interrupted a meeting with the ambassador of Umbong'go'bong'go and the individual is very impatient to see funds unlocked for the new xenomass spa they're opening--"

    Ciel: "Thank you, Sir!"

    She cuts in and he looks surprised that he was even talking to someone. He then nods, hurriedly, and the screen winks out.

    Ciel: "That went well."

    Clear: "I hope it's not too much trouble for you? This paperwork stuff?"

    Ciel smiles and the creases in her skin deepen.


    Ciel: "It'll be fine."

    Jupiterian: "One of you had better start talking before I open a can of whup-ass on the pair of your."

    Clear: "Keep your knickers on."

    Jupiterian: "I'll strangle you with my knickers in a minute."

    Clear: "Alright, alright. You have a lot to hear, I think. No idea how long you were frozen for..."

    The woman seems to suddenly remember her past and her eyes widen. She groans with anguish at the memory and is lost in her thoughts. Clear looks at Ciel who just shrugs uselessly.

    Clear: "I think a beer is in order."

    Ciel: "If it's beer you want then you should come with me down to the planet. They even have wine made on Jupiter before..."

    They both fall silent.

    Clear:
    "Beer time. Let's go."



    Clear wears her old leathers - an outfit she wore commonly for salvaging runs on Mars. She has a scarf around her neck, albeit cleaner than the one she used to wear, that hangs loosely and can be pulled up to protect her mouth should the sandy planet become too much.


    The heat is tremendous, to Clear at least. Everyone else seems to be taking the unrelenting power of the two suns in their stride. The planet seems to made entirely of sand from top to bottom, which is odd but hardly the strangest thing Clear has ever seen. If it weren't for the unbearable heat, she might have liked this miserable world. The town she finds herself in is seedier than anything on Saffron 5, with scum and lowlife everywhere - her kind of people.

    The streets are wide and the roads are simply areas where there is less sand. The air is often thick with sand too, which sweeps in with the wind, only occassionally given a little respite. Clear even has to wear her old goggles to keep her from rubbing her own eyes out. The buildings are simple, definitely not meant for their prettiness but rather their function. In the distance she can see some kind of looming building, much bigger than anything in this town, and Clear reckons it's likely where Ciel would be found with Fladnag and the ominous paperwork. Clear, of course, much prefers this grotty dive town. With her is the admiral, who is still suffering from waking up to the new world. She staggers more than walks and she's forced to wear an assortment of old clothes left by previous occupants of The Hopeful; a one-piece of Clear's, a black jacket of Kiron's and boots from Ffion.

    They shove their way through a crowd loitering outside the bar. They get some lewd comments that they ignore. Once inside they're straight to the bar. The Jovian maltwine is ordered for both of them and they select a quiet table in the corner of the room where Clear can get a good view of everyone else.

    Clear: "I'm Clear, by the way."

    Jupiterian: "A Martian right?"

    Clear: "Yeah."

    Jupiterian: "Of the Salmitton people. I spent a lot of time in the north. I stayed in Yarith a few times."

    Clear gags on her wine.

    She's never heard anyone ever say the word Yarith before. She knows the word, it's a country in the northern hemisphere of Mars, but to hear someone else say the word is almost alien - yet it's Clear's own word. She stares at the woman.

    Ltexi: "Ltexi, by the way. Spelt with a silent 't' after the 'L'."

    Clear: "Just in case I need to write your name ever?"

    Clear smirks sarcastically.


    Ltexi looks puzzled for a moment.

    Ltexi: "You people still use ink to scrawl your names. I'll be damned if I have to see my name misspelt one more time... Your English is pretty good by the way. Kind of surprised. Took me longer than usual to teach your ambassadors to speak it properly."

    Clear:
    "You... you taught us English?"

    Ltexi:
    "I don't remember teaching you, but yes I taught some of your people. Easier for me that way. Damned if I'm going to learn every bloody language of the universe, just so I can get a few folk tales out of you about my ship."

    Clear: "Not yours. Not anymore."

    Ltexi: "What the Hell is a salmitton doing on The Hopeful anyway? How did you get up there? And why in the name of Marduck did you fly us to Tatooine of all places?"

    Clear: "Wel--"

    Ltexi: "Actually, more to the point, how in the Hell did you get it to jump in the first place? We've been trying to do that since day one!"

    Clear: "Uh... actually that's because of the A.I.. The old one anyway."

    Ltexi: "Old A.I.? It was replaced?"

    Clear: "Right... I think we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The A.I. is really the least important thing right now."

    Ltexi: "When the incredibly expensive A.I. system I had installed is the least important thing, I'll let you know. What happened to my A.I.?"

    The woman might be pretty obnoxious but Clear understands the position she's in, especially given the position she once had. Clear even thinks that she might be purposefully avoiding getting to the truth because she's afraid of what happened aboard the ship. Clear takes a moment to think and Ltexi just watches her and waits.

    Finally Clear decides it's going to be best to just say it in one go.


    Clear: "Your planet was destroyed."

    There's a very long silence between them and the background noise seems to increase to occupy the lack of conversation. The music is a jovial piece being played on strange flute-like instruments by a bunch of aliens of the same species and all dress in the same jazzy outfit. The other bar occupants are an entire array of aliens of species that Clear can't identify. She hasn't seen this much variety since her brief stint aboard The Oh! My Love. As Clear looks at the bartender, she actually looks suspiciously like the grey-skinned woman that served on The Oh! My Love. Given how useful that woman's psychic skill was for determining the best drinks for customers, Clear expects people of her species are highly sought after in the drinks business.

    Ltexi: "...Jupiter?"

    Clear just nods, not looking at the woman. She just continues to watch the bartender doing her job. Another long silence passes between them. Finally Ltexi chugs her wine in one. Clear lifts up the wine jug and refills her glass. Ltexi looks at the wine for a moment before downing that one too.

    Ltexi: "How?"

    She rasps as she speaks, probably because of the wine.

    Clear: "It was blown up. By humans."

    Ltexi looks at Clear as though she'd gone mad.

    Ltexi: "H-Humans? Humans?"

    Clear: "They killed everyone on my planet too. I'm the last Martian, the last salmitton..."

    Ltexi: "HUMANS!?"

    She suddenly throws the bottle of wine at the wall. It smashes open, scattering liquid everywhere and splashing several people on a table next to them. The bartender just groans and ducks under the bar, while many of the drinkers are suddenly on their feet. Those now coated in the sweet-smelling Jovian maltwine have grabbed their own bottles and intend to smash them on Ltexi's head.

    The admiral glares at them for a moment and they hesitate. One of them overcomes his doubt and lunges at Ltexi. The woman kicks the table and it rears up to crack the guy on the chin, instantly knocking him out. The sudden flurry of activity sends the bar into a craze as an old-fashioned barfight breaks out with Clear and Ltexi in the middle of it.


    Clear throws her glass into the face of the nearest bipedal being before leaping into the air to push herselff off of the wall with one foot, while swinging the other leg around to crack a person in the face. Clear probably had nothing to do with this fight but she felt some mutual rage alongside this Jupiterian stranger from the past. They begin to bust heads...

  35. #75
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Diplomatic Tensions

    Ltexi: "My ship has a problem..."

    Clear glares at the taller woman and attempts to put as much malice into the air between them as she could muster.

    Clear: "My ship has a problem."

    Ltexi: "She's delusional. She's also the moron that installed a Bagon Noz Drive, whatever that is, onto the ship so it explodes every time it jumps."

    They're in a auto-repair shop, which is little more than a mud hut with a big scrapyard at the back. Inside it looks almost like someone's house, except for a small counter with money tossed onto the counter. For some reason the guy in charge had little fear of being robbed. It may have been his charm, though only if charming was the equivalent of being assaulted by a clumsy hippo, or it could be the two massive turrets hanging above said counter. They may deter the majority of thieves but Clear, being more than a little adept at spotting salvaged goods and salvaging said goods when nobody is looking, could tell that they were all show. The connectors were just fake wires. Clear imagines it'd be too expensive to load the thing with real bullets. Plus it'd probably be pretty dangerous if the things decided to randomly target someone's face that they didn't approve of.

    The mechanic is a short, stumpy creature wearing a backwards cap, blue jeans and a white, though dirty, vest. The vest is cut at the back to allow room for his flapping wings that keep him aloft.

    Wartog: "You'll need a dampener for that. That drive is pretty far out there, you dig? Some ships just ain't cut out for it. I hope you have an A.I. to make the calculations?"

    Ltexi: "There is one but this moron removed my A.I.. The original one."

    Clear: "Your A.I. tried to kill me."

    Wartog: "I'm going to side with Red on this one. I don't know what it is about them, but A.I.s are always going rogue all over the galaxy. Like there's a disease that sends them nutso."

    Clear: "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Wartog. I had to kill it with my shuttle."

    Wartog looks impressed.

    Wartog: "Sounds like a story you can tell me while I install the dampener. It'll curb the effect that the Netherzone--"

    Clear: "Netherzone is a new one."

    Wartog: "Or whatever you people want to call that dimension. It'll curb the effects on your ship, limiting the amount of energy that even passes through your warp drive at all. The downside is that you won't be able to make crazy-ass jumps like you once did. Almost defeats the point of having such a drive, in all honesty."

    Clear: "Getting it removed is going to be a whole new pot of hassle we don't want."

    That, and she spent a whole load of cash getting the drive installed in the first place and wasn't about to throw that out.

    Wartog: "You aren't wrong there, Red. So dampener it is. We'll also get you a proper deflector installed. It's designed to protect your ship fom background noise - like solar winds, space grit, radiation, aether pockets, and whatever other latent energies might be floating about out there. It won't stop a focused attack on your ship, but it'll help redirect energy that's just lazing about. It should help hold off some of that netherflame that coats your ship when you jump."

    Clear: "Right, right. That's great. Do you think I could buy these goggles off you too?"

    She picks up a pair of simple goggles from the counter. They're plastic with brown leather straps. The hovering mechanic shrugs.

    Wartog: "Considering how much this is going to cost you, you can have them on the house, Red. Like a bit of tinkering yourself, do you?"

    Clear slaps the goggles to her forehead. They'll come in handy for keeping the sand out of her eyes when they make the trek back to the spaceport. And she isn't going to reveal her stroke of brilliance to Lexi so she can't also snag a pair. Let the cow suffer.


    Clear: "I am."

    Wartog: "Spotted you eyeing my turrets. Figured out my secret did you?"

    Clear: "A bit too obvious, in all honesty. You could cover up the wiring at least."

    Wartog: "I will, I will. But most around here couldn't tell a mole-hammer from a hydro-spanner, so I'm not too worried. And I like having the cash on show. It gets people to think I've a thriving business here, when really I just have unlucky mugs like you two showing up every once in a while with a busted up wreck that needs the master's touch."

    He winks at her and she actually finds that she quite likes his uncouth charm. Lexi, on the other hand, is visually growing bored of his banter and she slumps her shoulders.

    Clear: "So it's the dampener and the deflector, right? That'd be perfect. You can charge it to the Jupiterian Queendom, right Admiral?"

    Ltexi: "Since it's my ship, yes."

    Clear: "You mean since you're a passenger on my ship, don't you?"

    Ltexi: "No, actually, I don't!"

    Wartog: "Wow. You ladies are going to have to sort this out before it turns ugly. There's going to be a time when you two need to be on the same page or else wind up on the wrong end of a slaver's noose."

    Ltexi: "They're more than welcome to try..."

    She says this in such a way that both Wartog and Clear subconsciously take a couple of steps away from her. Clear thinks she's a pretty scary woman with a very thin façade of composure. Like a tiger that has been given a pretty pink collar... it'll still chew your face off. They may share a mutual disdain of humanity and under other circumstances may have gotten on like a house of fire, B-F-Fs forever. Instead they get on more like a literal house on fire. Lots of running and screaming.

    In that moment of weary silence, Lexi takes the initiative;

    Ltexi: "I need to get on your network."

    Wartog: "I can't just let every randomer come in here and--"

    She glares at him.

    Wartog: "But I suppose you are a customer. There's a machine in the back you can hop on. Just... try not to download too much, eh? We're on metered connections here. Every minute costs."

    Clear: "That seems a bit harsh."

    She watches Lexi walk through the shop to the back and access a console to get on the network. No doubt she's checking for information on Jupiter.

    Wartog: "It's the boss. Well-- not the boss himself, but the guy actually running the show. Fladnag. Penny-pincher. Big O himself probably couldn't care less."

    Clear: "Spoke with Fladnag already. He's a stuck-up bureaucrat. I don't know anything about this Big O guy. Why's he called that? Can't be his real name."

    Wartog:
    "Oh. I expect dropping a ship on the planet is enough to get the attention of old Fladnag. Big O, though, we just call him that because nobody can pronounce his real name. It's got silent vowels of all things."

    Clear: "Really? What is his name then?"

    Wartog: "I just said, nobody can pronounce it! Damned if I know what it actually is!"

    Clear: "So you don't actually know what his real name is? It could be something as simple as... Oscar."

    Wartog: "Alright, smart Aleck. I'm going to get the parts together and I'll meet you in the yard. I've got a shuttle there we can use to get up to that gigantic monster you call a ship."

    Clear: "I'll call ahead."

    She fondles her PIP.

    Clear: "Pashna?"

    There's a long pause. Evidently he's forgotten how to use the console again. She sighs with a slow shake of the head until he abruptly finds the correct button.

    Pashna: "--can't find which blasted bu--"

    Clear: "You found it."

    Pashna: "Aha! Sorry about that!"

    Clear: "You're there now. We're coming back up to the ship soon. How's Aellisin?"

    Pashna: "... not great, I'm sorry to say. I've done my best but I'm better at dealing with diseases and abnormalities in the DNA. I don't really have the skill to cure such... damage."

    Clear: "Couldn't the medics from Tatooine help him?"

    Pashna: "Best they said they could do is make him more comfortable with pain killers. They said the only other option was to go through major reconstruction, but he'd be here on the planet for months of rehabilitation."

    Clear: "I guess that's what he'll have to do then."

    Pashna: "He refused."

    Clear wants to knock her head on a wall.

    Clear: "Whhhhhhy?"

    Pashna: "Actually he said you would know why, Clear."

    Clear frowns and glances up at the ceiling in thought.

    Clear: "I... don't know. I mean... unless he didn't..."

    She growls to herself.


    Clear: "I'll see you soon Pashna. Just watch these Tatooine people. I don't trust them as far as I can throw them."

    Pashna: "I... don't think you could throw them very far, Clear. They're awfully large p--"

    Clear: "I know. That's what I meant."

    Pashna: "Uh... oh! Oh I see! Right! Your language and mannerisms are still new to me--"

    Clear: "Don't worry about it."

    Wartog is gone, having fluttered off to the yard, while Lexi re-enters the room. She looks determined.

    Lexi: "You were right. Jupiter is gone."

    Clear: "Didn't believe me?"

    Ltexi:
    "I did actually. But... you know. I had to check. Like... some... last hope that you were lying to me."

    Clear: "It's alright. I get it."

    Ltexi: "There's going to be a summit of all the major powers. The Great Eight they're calling themselves. There's lesser councils, like the G12, but this G8 is where we want to be. Jupiter will be there. Earth is there too, funnily enough."

    Clear doesn't like the sound of this.

    Clear: "Where would these... Great Eight actually meet?"

    Ltexi: "They're calling it The Cosmic Nullius - basically means 'Nobody's Space'. Actually there's a lot of places that are cosmic, or terra, nullius but this one they're declaring 'the' to mark it as unique and forever standing. So now each faction sends its own ambassador there and they... talk. Or something. I don't really have time for politicians. I always imagine they meet up and start punching each other in secret."

    Clear rubs her eyes. She had wanted to just return to Mars and try to learn about her friends...

    Clear: "Okay, fine. I'll drop you off with your people and--"

    Ltexi: "Drop me off? You mean deliver me and my ship to my people and then you can bugger off."

    Clear: "So we're not going to The Cosmic Nullius then! Great!"

    Ltexi: "Yes we are."

    Clear: "Not if you're going to steal my ship we're not."

    Ltexi: "It's mine! You just kept my seat warm."

    Wartog shouts from the yard;

    Wartog: "Space slavers, ladies!"

    ----

    Two weeks later, The Hopeful is still orbiting Tatooine like a leviathan looming in its blue sky. It is half the size of its largest moon, and quite a lot bigger than its smallest. The two halves of the ship have been restored and actually seems to look better than it ever has. The Tatooine mechanics may not look like much, but they apparently had the skill where it counts. Wartog had informed Clear this was because of the constant demands from The Big O for new palaces to be built within his Golden City on the opposite side of the massive world where only The Big O and his Golden City lurk.

    Ciel: "The power of duct tape. That's what it is."

    Clear doesn't want to know and decides to ignore Ciel.

    Instead Clear walks past Ciel and enters the medical bay where Aellisin Koure still lies, stubbornly refusing to be 'reconstructed' on Tatooine. Today is live or die day.

    Clear: "I'm sending you down."

    Koure: "No."

    He stares up at the ceiling and refuses to look at her. Clear thinks he's afraid to die and doesn't want her to see it.

    Koure: "I won't allow those butchers to tamper with my genetics."

    Clear: "A skin graft here, a skin graft there, you'll be fine."

    Koure: "I have no skin to graft, you idiot girl. Look at me!"

    That is true.

    Koure: "They'll need to reorganise my genetic structure so that they can grow me new skin tissue. It's a slow and painful process. I won't do it. I'll die and you can help me..."

    Clear: "Now it's my turn to say no."

    Koure: "It wouldn't make a difference to you! Just do it!"

    Clear: "You should have killed them all."

    Koure: "I did. But I had to keep one in reserve in case I died before I could clone myself. And that's happened, so now I need you wake up my brother to take my place..."

    Clear snarls. She is beginning to remember why she hates this man.

    Clear: "I'm not going to allow another--"

    Koure: "If had more control of my powers, I'd make you do it!"

    Ciel: "If you had more control of your powers, you'd heal yourself."

    She had silently entered the room and stood behind Clear. She looks strangely at him. He is lying on the bed, still staring at the ceiling, with his body covered by a sheet. Underneath that sheet his body is broken and gashed. Only the medical attentions of Kara Pashna had really kept him alive for so long as Pashna encouraged his blood to clot at a tremendous rate. Bacta had been no use with such a ridiculous injury and a dip in the bacta tank would probably have done more harm than good should his internal organs try to make an escape into the liquid.

    The medics on Tatooine claimed that their lack of expertise was down to the fact that nobody in the Golden Palace ever got sick, so there was no need for advanced medical aid. The medics were only as good as any doctor on Earth or Mars that Clear had ever known, nothing like the medics of the Galactic Empire or even the Alliance.

    As she thinks of the Alliance, and even the Empire, an unexpected wave of longing sweeps over her and she realises just how attached to that area of space she had actually become. Or at least she is attached to her friends there.


    Koure: "Get out of here! You're not wanted!"

    He grips the edges of his bed with long fingers.

    Ciel: "Relax. I agree with you. We should wake his clone."

    The pink-skinned falleen is broken in a moment of disbelief. First Ciel tries to kill him and now she's happy for him to live on through his clone...

    Ciel: "He'll never agree to be reconstructed. His genes are pure, am I right Koure?"

    He remains silent.

    Ciel: "He thinks he's some kind of perfect being the way he is. Tampering with his DNA would reneder him less than that."

    Koure: "That's not it. I wouldn't be me anymore. I clone myself to ensure my immortality. If I change my DNA I wouldn't even recognise myself. My clones wouldn't be... me. They'd be the new me. I can't have it."

    Ciel gives Clear a look that tells her Ciel has more to her method than she's saying. Clear doesn't bother to bid Koure farewell and just leaves. Once outside she looks at Ciel expectantly.

    Ciel obliges.


    Ciel: "While that clone is in stasis, it can be... altered."

    Clear: "What're you talking about?"

    Ciel: "Its temperament. We can change it. Right now it is fixed to accept the standard brainwave patterns of Aellisin Koure. If we alter it, just a little bit--"

    She holds a small amount of air between her thumb and forefinger.

    Ciel: "Just a wee, wee bit and he'll be as docile as a fat penguin on a summer's day."

    Clear: "You really are morally bankrupt, aren't you?"

    Ciel: "I think I'm highly moral! It'd be immoral to let a known lunatic live on throughout eternity but you're dead set against letting him just die, so here we are. Sacrifice a little of your own morality to save the galaxy a lot of agony and pain..."

    Clear: "I can't... do that. That's almost worse than letting him die. I... believe in freedom. And yeah, freedom to do crappy things."

    Ciel: "Freedom to murder, for example?"

    Clear: "No... Just..."

    She shakes her head at Ciel.

    Clear: "Why not just fiddle with everyone's heads, eh? Why not get us all at birth and neuter us all?

    Ciel shrugs.

    Ciel: "Not the worst idea ever..."

    Clear's jaw juts in irritation.

    Clear: "And for your crimes, should we neuter you too?"

    Ciel: "I just do and say what needs to be done and said for the greater good, not my own personal sense of right and wrong. Your ship, for example, is definitely wrong in my taste. But that's my taste. That monster in there... I'll never meet him again after today. But I know he's going to go on and destroy many lives in his wake. I can sacrifice my own integrity if it means sparing the lives of countless people of this galaxy. It's basically my job to protect the universe from outside threats. I guess our jurisdiction should sometimes swing inwards from time to time..."

    Clear: "I won't agree to this. If Koure is caught in the act again then he deserves punishment for his crimes. Maybe he does now too. But I won't.... just change a person against their will. I don't have that right. And you, sure as Hell, don't."

    Before Ciel could continue with her rhetoric, Clear wafts her hand for silence and walks away in anger. The two of them are as stubborn and self-conceited as each other. When two arrogant fools meet, this is what happens - one tries to take out the other.

    As she turns the corner she sees the back of Ltexi as she's walking towards the hanger. And realises her own situation reflects her own sentiments. Clear grits her teeth. She'd have to come to some kind of resolution with this stubborn woman, but she's unwilling to let go. They need to talk.

    Clear: "Ltexi!"

    The woman stops, as though she's just been caught up to no good and Clear can't help but wonder where she was actually going. Perhaps she should have just stalked her instead, but now it is too late. Ltexi turns and adopts an upright position of someone intending to extert her superiority.

    Clear: "Look, we need to reach an agreement here."

    Ltexi: "You agree to get the Hell off my ship and we're done."

    Clear: "That isn't going to happen."

    Ltexi: "It's my ship."

    Clear: "It was your ship. Even if you weren't frozen in time, you should absolutely be dead of old age."

    Ltexi: "If that had happened, you would never have found the ship either. I would have taken her, eventually, to Jupiter. So you'd be dead, ironically, too. Wouldn't you?"

    Clear is rocked, momentarily, by the truth of that. In essence, Ltexi's being trapped in time had saved Clear's life from the bombings and the diseases of the humans on Mars. If The Hopeful hadn't been in orbit around Mars when it was, Clear would have been left on the planet's surface with her father. Rounded up like animals and dumped into a concentration camp somewhere.

    Clear: "You're right. But if I hadn't lived here and installed the Bagon Noz Drive and met Ciel in the Deep Void... you'd never have been freed."

    Ltexi: "So I led to you and you led to me again. We're indebted to each other."

    Clear: "Sure... but you need to understand that The Hopeless--"

    Ltexi: "Hopeful. Why do you keep calling her that!?"

    Clear: "You didn't see what it looked like before your stupid A.I. activated the jump drive..."

    Ltexi: "So it was the A.I. that finally got them working..."

    Clear: "Anyway. You need to know that this is my home. Not just a ship. Not just a mystery. Not just an asset for my empire. It's the place I call home and have ever since I was a child. I've bled for this place. I've almost died for it. Doesn't that tell you something?"

    Before Ltexi could reply, Clear continues;

    Clear: "If I'm willing to die for The Hopeful, you can bet your ass that I'm not going to roll over just because you show up and demand to be captain again."

    Ltexi: "Are you finished?"

    Clear: "For now."

    Ltexi: "Just because poor, little orphan girl has decided to lay her head in my ship, doesn't mean she gets to be its captain. You can squat anywhere else. I literally was frozen in time defending this place. I trapped those sods into the Command Deck with me so they couldn't get to the rest of the crew. Little good it did, as it turns out. The history of this ship is worth dying over, all over again. It's not an asset to me, nor is it just a place to call home. It's a piece of extraordinary history that should be studied and understood."

    Clear: "Nobody wanted it before and nobody will want it now. The only person who wants to learn about this ship is you. And me. We two alone give a damn about this thing. It wasn't even turned into a museum around Mars, unlike most Martian derelicts. It was just left hanging there. Only salvagers showed up to try and get scrap. I've had more than one fight with them over keeping the ship in one piece. And since the jump I've been through battles with it, fixed it, spent bloody fortunes on trying to get it back into a workable state..."

    Ltexi: "It's been in battle?"

    Clear: "You don't know the half of it."

    Ltexi's cheek twitches and Clear recognises jealousy.

    Clear: "Look, I'm not saying you give up command right now. I think... we can share it."

    Ltexi: "How in the name of Marduck's left nipple is that supposed to work?"

    Clear: "No idea, but we're adults... we can work it out, right?"

    Ltexi: "...maybe."

    Clear: "For example, if it comes to a fight or something... I'll defer to you. When it comes to deciding where to go and stuff like that, it's up to me. You see?"

    Ltexi: "Okay... I get it. We'll do it that way... for now. But we are definitely going to The Cosmic Nullitus!"

    Clear shrugs.

    Clear: "Fine by me. I want to go too."

    Ltexi: "You do?"

    Clear: "I'm thinking I could reestablish contact with the Alliance and from there I can try to get in touch with Princess Briarose... if she's still..."

    She shakes herself.

    Clear: "So yes. Let's go. Although you didn't tell me who the other Great Eight actually are...? I know the Galactic Empire and the Alliance must be there. You said Earth and Jupiter... but... who else?"

    Ltexi thinks for a moment.

    Ltexi: "Uh. I remember the High Empire and The Imperium were definitely on the list..."

    Clear: "Urgh..."

    Ltexi: "Yeah, I wasn't keen on seeing outsiders on the list either."

    Clear: "...outsiders?"

    Ltexi: "They're definitely not native to this galaxy, I can tell you that for free."

    Clear: "Oh right. I was more upset because they're powermongering imperial types."

    Ltexi: "Well, if you were upset about them you'll be more upset to know the Slavemasters of Orion are on the council."

    Clear: "Are they... considered a major power then?"

    Ltexi: "Looks like it. I don't know them, they weren't so... prominent in my time, that's for sure. But looking at the article their presence in the galaxy is substantial, not just in physical dominance of planets but more because of their financial influence on the galaxy as a whole. They're powerful enough that if they were to vanish, the other empires would probably suffer. And that's what all this is about. Creating stability here. Sure the High Empire wants to conquer everyone else and Slavemasters want to turn us all into slaves--"

    Clear: "Not sure I see a difference between them then."

    Ltexi: "Either way, if any war broke out between them - the galaxy would be in danger. If one were to fall, the galaxy would be in danger. If the galaxy is to be made a safer and better place, they'd have to work together. So... that's the idea behind all this."

    Clear: "Wow... you're big on your politics aren't you?"

    Ltexi: "Not really, but I am-- was an admiral for my planet's empire. That means you have to be politically savvy enough to get by, at least."

    Clear: "What would you do about Aellisin Koure? He wants me to let his clone free and him die now... Ciel wants to mess with his brain so that his clone will be all... nice or whatever. What do you think?"

    Ltexi: "Are you asking me as co-captain?"

    Clear gives a short humph.

    Clear: "Sure, why not?"

    Ltexi: "Take his clone to where he has commited the most crimes and turn him in."

    Clear: "But his clone would be innocent of the crimes!"

    Ltexi: "No he's not. Just because in body he didn't do it, doesn't mean the mind didn't..."

    She taps her temple.


    Ltexi: "If he somehow took over your body, shouldn't the mind of Koure be punished regardless of what body he's in?"

    Clear: "I guess..."

    Pashna: "Clear! Clear! He's..."

    They turn to see the kara rush around the corner in panic.

    Pashna: "I'm... sorry Clear. He's... gone."

    Ltexi: "Now you need to choose to wake up the clone or not."

    Clear looks downcast. The man that saved her life is gone, though he was also once the man that almost took her life. Her conflicting emotions impede her decision making and she ends up following Pashna in silence as he walks in the direction of Koure's Room where his cloning tanks are. She hadn't expected Ltexi to follow too, but she does. There they find Ciel already waiting and looking up at the only tank containing a Koure body.

    Ciel: "Well?"

    Clear sulks. She still doesn't know what to do.

    Ltexi: "You know what? This is exactly how our co-captaincy is a good idea, isn't it? You don't know what to do. But I do. Release him."

    Clear looks up at her with shock and horror. She can't decide if Ltexi is helping her or usurping her. Her eyes rove over to the tank as it hisses and the door slides open. Koure, who is completely naked, grins down at them.

    Koure: "Well, well. If it isn't my Captain Clear. I died did it? I'm surprised you actually agreed to wake me up. What did I do to earn this reward?"

    Ltexi: "You didn't. You're going to jail, Koure. Maybe even execution, guess that depends on the laws of whatever land we take you to."

    Koure looks less impressed as he descends from the tank.

    Koure: "And who died to make you captain, stranger?"

    Ltexi: "She's not dead, actually, but she's happy to share. Nice tackle, by the way."

    Koure: "Thank you."

    He stands with zero attempt at modesty and Clear's eyes are suddenly drawn by Ltexi's words. Her cheeks burn blue and she spins on her heel to avert her eyes. Clear isn't the most prudish of women, but having a man displayed in front of her is going a little too far.

    Koure: "So you're planning to take me where, exactly? The Alliance? Tangris?"

    Ltexi: "Ah! Tangris! That's the place! The knights, right. You used to be one of them. Perfect."

    Koure: "Seems I have little choice..."

    Clear frowns at the far wall as she hears him speak. Usually Aellisin Koure would have come up with some logical reason that they needed him around, or needed to free him. He wouldn't so regularly agree to be taken somewhere he doesn't want to go. Clear feels a pit of anger suddenly bubble up. She turns to Ciel. Ciel speaks before Clear can;

    Ciel: "Don't worry. You won't see me again. I did the guilty deed for you. Your conscience is absolved."

    With that she disappears into the aether like a ghost and is gone. A strange wind seems to blow through the room and buffets them before dying down.

    Ltexi: "What was that about?"

    Clear stares at the floor where Ciel had been.

    Clear: "Nothing. It doesn't matter."

    She looks at Pashna.

    Clear:
    "Maybe we can get Mother to find Aellisin some clothes, eh?"

  36. #76
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Forever Hopeful

    The Hopeful swings slowly away from the planet Tangris. The ship had had to jump several times to get there, back to the 'baby-steps' that the ship had been formerly used to before having the 'demon drive' installed. Clear is sure the workers of Tatooine had done a minimal job, probably stuck it back together with this 'duct tape' that Ciel once mentioned. Every jump she'd been certain it would snap in half. The ancient vessel manages to cling together, however, long enough to at least reach the planet Tangris in the Milky Way Galaxy where they handed Aellisin Koure over to the Ćon Knights.

    Koure had been almost happy to go off with them, acting as though he were about to go on holiday. Clear felt wrong when he left them so willingly but now that it's over she's just glad to have that episode of her life done with. She had taken note while there that the knights who departed through the mysterious ink-portal had not yet returned. Ffion Heul is still missing. When approaching Tangris, Clear had been silently hoping to see her serene, unchanging face - a kind of symbol that some things can never change. And yet she is gone. Perhaps she will never return.

    Feeling miserable again Clear is sitting in the Command Centre. Although the Command Deck is now open, free of the beasts and flames that had plagued it for a century, she doesn't feel like it's the right room to work in. The Command Centre is the heart of The Hopeful, in Clear's mind.


    Ltexi: "So... on to Cosmic Nulius?"

    Clear glances up from where she's slouched and sees the Jovian enter the room. Once again she's wearing left over clothes from other people, this time she has found a pair of old dungarees from Hebedee. In typical Jovian fashion, she has cut the pant-legs short and wears nothing but a bra beneath the dungaree straps; managing to turn a grubby, fat man's workwear into sexiful stripper clothes.

    Clear: "Are you allergic to covering up or something?"

    Ltexi crosses her arms, which only serves to further boast her body.

    Ltexi: "Are you allergic to a bit of skin?"

    Clear: "No. But I don't want to have **** and ass in my face all day long."

    Ltexi: "Never know. Maybe you'll come to like it."

    Clear: "I want to go to the Alliance before we go to the Cosmic Nulius."

    Ltexi:
    "Why?"

    She leans on the railing that separates the seats from the console banks.

    Clear: "The ship needs mending. I'm not convinced those Tatooine guys did a proper job of it."

    Ltexi frowns.

    Ltexi: "I don't believe you."

    Clear: "It's true! And yes, I also want to see someone."

    Ltexi groans.

    Clear: "After that I was thinking we both should make a personal trip before going to the Cosmic Nulius too."

    Ltexi: "If it's a trip that gets me laid, that'd be great."

    Clear: "The Solar System."

    There's a long moment of silence between them. Clear wants to go back to see Mars. It's been a long, long time since she saw home and she just might be able to find Ffion Heul back there, recalling that she should be on Earth still. Considering Ffion tried to kill her once, she's actually at the bottom of Clear's 'to see' list but any of her old friends would be good right now. She knows Ltexi needs to go there to. Even if the Jovian doesn't want to, she must go. She has to see it with her own eyes.

    Ltexi: "Fine."

    She straightens and, without another word, leaves the room.

    Mother: "Should I plot a course for Dacato?"

    Clear: "Make it so."



    In a blast of netherflame, The Hopeful bursts from Tartarus like a colossal demon. It takes just a few seconds before Alliance ships are bombarding the ship with alerts, warnings, messages of all kinds. Their ships are forming attack and defensive patterns.


    One message comes through as her ship is finally recognised and Clear stands upon the gold circle of the Command Centre. Ltexi sits in the audience with Kara Pashna. Ltexi looks irritated and weary, kill Pashna is excited and eager to see what all the fuss is about. Mother's hardlight image stands to one side with a serene expression of pure computer zen.

    A man appears on the viewscreen. Pale skinned and dark haired with a shock of blue at the front.


    Ace Lander: "It is you, Captain Clear!"

    Clear: "Glad to see you again... Ace."

    There's a pause and Clear sees some conflict in the man's face. Her relationship with the human had been strange the last time they met. She liked him, he liked her, but they found themselves on opposite sides of a battle until he relented and tried to save the Earth alongside her. Then she vanished from the universe.

    He nods slowly, apparently deciding he still wants to be called Ace by this troublesome woman.


    Ace Lander: "Clear."

    He manages a weak smile.

    Ace Lander: "I think you need to come planetside and give us a briefing on what happened to you. The last we heard you'd been blown to bits by Sue'san Dienhand..."

    Clear holds her arms out.


    Clear: "Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated. As you can see! But... there is a big story to tell, sure."

    He nods then, as though unsure he should, he speaks again;


    Ace Lander: "You should go to see her first..."

    Clear's face pinkens as blood drops from her cheeks.

    Clear: "Is she...?"



    The three of them are escorted into the lift. Their escorts are soldiers and Clear is under no illusion that they're there to ensure she follows this meeting with another, more formal, meeting to explain the events of Mirare. Ltexi seems to recognise this too and is getting more annoyed with Clear for dragging her into whatever this mess is. She is, however, curious to see the real world here in the Milky Way. Having been trapped in time for almost a century has her longing to see what the galaxy has become in her absence. Kara Pashna is almost constantly grinning like an idiot as he marvels at the alien world and the strange alien beings he's surrounded by. He had successfully managed to get each of their guards to shake his hand, despite their rigid formality.

    As they exit the lift he starts shaking hands with the doctors, nurses, janitors, secretaries and patients they happen to come across. Clear hasn't the heart to stop him and Ltexi doesn't give a damn if he makes a mockery of himself.


    The people of the hospital are Alliance-based, so seeing new and unusual species like Pashna isn't sure a surprise for them. He, on the other hand, is shocked by the new and wondrous beings he sees. He points suddenly.

    Kara Pashna: "Is that Aellisin Koure!?"

    Clear jumps, thinking there might be another clone on the loose. She then frowns at him.

    Clear: "That's not Koure. It's a different falleen. A woman too. Seriously, you can't see the difference?"

    Kara Pashna: "Oops. Sorry. So many of you people look the same to me."

    Clear: "Did you just lump every non-Indran species in as 'you people'?"

    Kara Pashna: "That does seem rude now that you say it. I'm really sorry. I'm not trying to be offensive."

    Ltexi: "What backward-ass planet did you say you found this fish?"

    Kara Pashna:
    "F-fish!?"

    Clear: "You should be nicer to him, Ltexi. You and he are in the same boat. His world was also destroyed."

    They're quiet for a moment.

    Ltexi: "So did you. At least we don't get to watch our planets be ravaged by others..."

    Clear: "I try to think that at least it's still there as being a good thing. Then you ruin it for me."

    The three of them glare at their human soldiers, who suddenly wonder why they're being hated on.

    Clear: "Damned humans."

    Ltexi: "Yeah."

    Kara Pashna: "Yeah!"

    The two women turn to look at him.

    Kara Pashna:
    "Not sure if I'm supposed to blame humans or not. So I just joined in..."

    Clear: "Well, that woman from The Imperium was human. So sure. We can hate them together. We can form the 'I hate humans' club?"

    Ltexi: "Except your boyfriend is human."

    Clear: "What!?"

    Her cheeks flood blue.

    Ltexi: "I saw you and that stupid looking girly-man. 'Oh Ace. My darling Ace. You're so pretty with your girly, girly lips!'"

    Clear: "He's-He's not girly!"

    One of the soldiers snorts with a chuckle.

    Ltexi: "Oi! Our conversation doesn't involve you, human."

    Clear: "He's not my boyfriend. In fact I think he hates me."

    Kara Pashna:
    "How could anyone hate you, Clear?"

    Ltexi: "Have you met her, fish boy? She's as much fun as a bag of hammers to the bollocks, as bright as a sea urchin and looks like a lobster."

    Clear had never considered herself fun, intelligent or pretty but to be so callously insulted suddenly slaps her soul. She looks at Ltexi unsure if she should hit the ***** or cry.

    Kara Pashna: "I honestly can't see much difference in the way she looks to you..."

    Clear's anger is quickly replaced with incredulity.

    Clear: "You have got to be kidding me, Pashna."

    Kara Pashna: "If it weren't for your bright red skin and her beige looking skin, I don't think I'd be able to tell you apart all that well. You both have hair..."

    Clear: "What? That's it? We have hair so you can't tell us apart?"

    Kara Pashna: "Hair is really weird..."

    He stares at the tops of their heads and both women instantly become unsettled and start grooming.

    Soldier: "We're here."

    The soldiers stop outside of a door. The corridor is surprisingly empty for a hospital and Clear surmises this must be a private floor for important people. Seeing the group, a nurse approaches. She's a human with short, blonde hair and wears the typical Alliance medical uniform - white, simple and with a neck collar zipped up to full.

    Nurse: "Please show me your documents."

    A soldier produces the required documentation to prove that they have permission to enter. She looks over them, taking a long time to ensure every minute detail is correct, before returning the documentation and accesses the control panel. The doors hiss open.


    The room is large and spacious. The far wall is entirely made of glass panels and natural light streams into the room. At the centre of it all, facing the window, is a large medical bed. There's a lot of life support systems attached to the patient, including a bacta drip - the only apparatus Clear recognises.

    Nurse: "You have visitors. It's your salmitton friend, Clear..."

    Pashna and Ltexi wait at the door while Clear walks around the bed. Lying there, attached to all manner of machines, is a very thin and pale princess. Her once rich purple hair is lank and cut short. Her cheeks are sallow and her breathing rasps. The breather hangs limp around her neck so that she can try to speak to her old friend.

    Aurora: "You... alive..."

    Clear just stands and stares for a long moment. She has no idea what to say. Princess Aurora Briarose is dying before her eyes, probably due for death within hours. Possibly minutes. And worst of all, it confirms that her friends weren't able to get the cure off of Mirare before it was destroyed... perhaps they're already dead too...

    Finally Clear leans over the bed and puts her palm to Aurora's head.


    Clear: "I'm so sorry Aurora..."

    Aurora: "I... smile..."

    She manages to say, but there is no smile. The muscles in her face are too weak. Had Clear returned to discover that the princess had already died, she could have coped with the loss even if she had been upset. But to arrive now, shortly before death and to see her this way... Clear feels her tears rush down her cheeks before she even realises she's started crying. Bright blue and staining her skin for weeks, her tears fall onto the bed and will ruin those pristine white sheets.

    Clear:
    "I wish I could go back! I would do everything different! That-that damned Dienhand!"

    Aurora just manages to blink but Clear can see water also building up in the human's eyes.

    Clear: "Is there nobody else that can get a cure for the mutation? That Sk'dor woman can't be the only person who--"

    Nurse: "We looked. Nobody else can undo what was done. This isn't strictly the ALS that's killing her. It's the mutation, as you said, that's causing the disease to progress at a far more rapid rate than it should have. That mutation was caused by a specific formula that nobody but the creatore knew. We've had people guessing and many, many attempts. One even worked a little, slowed it enough that she's alive right now... but..."

    Clear buries her head into Aurora's chest and cries loudly. She doesn't care if she looks like a weak fool in front of Ltexi. She needs this. In some ways she knows she's not crying just for Aurora but she's crying for everyone and everything awful that's happened to her. Aurora is, right now, the last straw she can grasp. She holds the woman's hand tightly.

    Aurora: "Thank... you... friend."

    Nurse: "You shouldn't be speaking, princess. You can use the voice--"

    Clear: "She doesn't want to."

    Clear answers for Aurora, knowing that using her own words one last time is obviously going to be important to her. If Clear were switched with the princess, she'd want to speak now too.

    Aurora: "Take... care... Clear. For.... me?"

    Clear manages to nod. Her blues tears have washed her vision so everything is now looking blue. She makes the promise, even though right now she wishes she could die with Aurora. What's left to live for?

    She feels a hand on her shoulder.


    Kara Pashna: "You should stand back, Clear?"

    She shrugs off his friendly attempt and snarls in his direction, still clutching Aurora's hand. Then she's grabbed by Ltexi and yanked away from the bed. She cries out and struggles against the superior strength of the Jovian.


    Clear:
    "What're you doing!? Let me go!"

    Kara Pashna: "Interesting. This disease..."

    Clear stops fighting and stares at the vague shape of Pashna in disbelief. He's always been so caring and kind, but now he sees the figure of her friend as nothing but a chance to study? Then the small floating figure-eight device glows all the stronger.

    Kara Pashna: "I've accessed the Imperial Database I heard Clear mention once. This disease is most unusual but I have seen something similar in my people. The neurons controlling motor functions die, so organ by organ fails..."

    Nurse: "The neurons, once dead, cannot be brought back and even if they're replaced, they simply die again... I'm sorry, but who are you? I don't think you should be near the patient."

    Clear: "Pashna if you think you can--"

    He turns to look at Clear with an apologetic expression.

    Kara Pashna: "I'm sorry. I cannot cure the disease..."

    For a tiny moment hope had sprung in her. She falls limp in Ltexi's arms.

    Then he adds;


    Kara Pashna: "But she won't die today. Or tomorrow..."

    Nurse: "How can you know--?"

    Kara Pashna: "I'm restoring the neurons right now."

    Nurse: "What!? Impossible! How!?"

    Clear: "You-you are!?"

    Kara Pashna: "They're begin to die again, but she'll live. For at least several years to come. I might even be able to restore the neurons every few years. The mutation... I've fixed. Simple enough. I just had to remove the intrusive DNA that had been added to her genes. It stands out like a sore thumb."

    Clear: "Pashna... I--"

    Aurora: "Hurts!"

    The nurse slams an alarm and the soldiers barge in.

    Nurse: "Get medical staff in here now!"

    The nurse rushes to hold the princess down.

    Nurse: "Can she have pain killers?"

    The kara looks strained but manages to shake his head.

    Kara Pashna: "No foreign substances. It's hard working with alien biology as it is. It's difficult to tell what's supposed to be there and what isn't. In fact, remove all of this stuff too."

    The nurse starts to remove the medical apparatus and pulls out the bacta drip. The princess starts shaking violently, but grits her teeth. Clear and Ltexi move to hold her down.

    Clear: "I hope you're right, Pashna!"

    Kara Pashna: "She's going to be in a lot of pain. For a long while. Her muscles have atrophied from lack of use and nurishment. Her brain is attempting to reject the changes I'm making. This could be harder than I thought..."

    Clear: "Don't do this to us, Pashna. You have to save her now! Don't you dare let her die!"

    Kara Pashna: "I--"

    He stammers.

    Kara Pashna: "I won't."

    The medical staff then rush into the room and suddenly there's a lot of activity in the formerly silent room. The new nurses shove Ltexi and Clear out of the room while Pashna is left with the doctors...



    Dead.

    She's dead.


    Clear sits on a bench in the corridor, alone, staring down at a medical report. The 'clean smell' of the hospital has a mixed effect on Clear's stomach; it's both unsettling and settling at the same time. She looks up from the paper towards the double-doors. Beyond them should be the dead body of her old friend. She'd been asked by one of the doctors to attend the room and handed the report to evaluate. Being the busy sort, the doctor explained nothing more and left her to it.

    Having cried herself out just hours ago, Clear can't cry any more. She just sits there. Numb. Perhaps if they'd have arrived sooner Pashna could have done something to save her...

    The doors slide open and Clear looks up to see a woman emerge wearing loose fitted white robes that she recognised to be the patient robes the hospital allocates. The woman is human with lightly tanned yellow skin. Her eyes are almond shaped but she has unnatural purple irises. Her hair is bright red and very straight and long enough to reach her shoulders. On her right cheek is a black tattoo mark like tears from her eye. The woman is staring straight at Clear, who suddenly feels very uncomfortable.


    Clear: "Who--?"

    The woman rushes at Clear and before Clear knows it she has her arms tightly around her. She kisses her cheek and Clear suddenly thinks something untoward is about to happen. She shoves the stranger back.

    Clear: "What the Hell're you doing?"

    Woman: "I--"

    She sighs and snatches the paper from Clear's hand. She shakes her head with a smile.


    Woman: "Sorry. This probably looked bad..."

    Clear blinks.

    Woman: "I'm not dead."

    Clear: "But..."

    Woman: "I had another change of skin, as you might say."

    She holds her hands out to address her body.

    Woman: "It is me, Clear. I am Cassra Terrin-Pullista."

  37. #77
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow What Happened?

    Pully: "I'm so glad Aurora will be okay. Man. You're like... an angel of fortune, you know that?"

    Clear: "Me!? I always thought I was the opposite of that!"

    They're in Clear's hotel room. Despite having a complete skin graft, hair change and even bone structure change in the face, Clear could sense Pully through it all.

    Clear shoves a toothbrush in her mouth and looks at Pully where she's lying, belly down, on the hotel bed. Her feet in the air, she looks more alive than ever and Clear can't help but beam to herself; almost dropping toothpaste everywhere. She rushes back into the bathroom to spit it out and rinse.


    Pully: "I was so done, Clear. It was like... my parents all over again. I'd lost everything."

    Clear decides not to gargle mouthwash after a statement like that.

    Pully: "The explosion took... everyone from me. I thought you were dead. You know I chose you as my... my captain. I threw away everything on that and then... you were gone. No captain. Not even a ship. Outcast from the Empire. Outcast from Dienhand's fleet. Never accepted with the rebels. Hell I don't even want to be accepted here."

    Clear: "You love it here really."

    Clear comes out of the bathroom. She's wearing a night shirt and underwear, just like Pully. Again, even though the woman has a new body she feels completely relaxed enough to chill out in her night kit.

    Then again Clear usually forgets her clothes when wandering around The Hopeful after a night of drinking so everyone has probably seen her underwear. And there she has been criticising Ltexi for the same thing.

    Clear falls on the bed. Her cheeks are still stained blue and would be for a few weeks at least.

    Pully: "Glad you came to find me though, Clear. Even if you thought I was dead."

    Clear: "How long do you have to stay in the hospital?"

    Pully: "Another month. I can go out, like this, but I have to get back there at nights. They have to make sure my skin doesn't just... fall off."

    Clear: "Ew."

    Pully: "I know, right!? I don't think it will though. I actually feel better in this skin than the last if I'm honest. Had my hair pigment changed. Not used to that but, hey, it's cool right?"

    She plays with her new hair by wiggling it at Clear.

    Clear: "You didn't colour it red because of... of..."

    Pully: "Wow. Ego much?"

    Clear: "Well! I just--! You said that--!"

    Pully: "I coloured it red because red. Sir."

    Clear falls onto her back with a groan at hearing the word 'sir' after all this time.

    Clear: "Can you tell me... what happened?"

    She stares at the ceiling. She doesn't want to look at Pully when hearing this. She's afraid of the story. Instead she stares at the white tiles, sees the beige walls, the holographic screen on the wall that flickers to depict a new scene every few minutes.

    Pully: "We..."



    Cassra Terrin-Pullista ran along the corridor until she reached the hangar bay. Lots of other people have also started heading in that direction, everyone having the sudden inclination to get off the station with that monstrous imperial wedge outside. Nobody knew why it was there but they knew it couldn't be anything good.

    Then blaster fire came her way as one of Kaptin Kwanza's men recognised her. She jumped to avoid the blaster fire, which wound up hitting someone else instead. The random person fell down dead.


    Pully: "Thanks for saving my life, pal."

    She panted and found her own blaster. She returned blind fire in the direction of her attacker. People that were running by dove out of the way and scampered away from the gunfight.

    Suddenly there was a lot of screaming and Pully peeked out to see a plant had grabbed one of the shooters and dangled him in the air. Some people were shocked and horrified to see such a wild thing in the middle of the spacestation and ran away to avoid it. Pully fired at the other shooter, distracting him as Kiron Nightstrider rushed at him from behind and took him out with a quick neck-snap.


    Pully: "Ouch..."

    She jogged over to them.

    Pully: "We need to get off Mirare!"

    Nightstrider: "How're we going to do that? There aren't escape pods on this damned thing!"

    Lumo: "I have no ship... where is yours?"

    The old grey looked up at them. He could sense his home was about to be lost forever. Many other greys went by to get their own ships but he was left with his outsiders. Many of the aliens were blaming the humans for this, certain that their unprecedented presence had drawn Sue'san Dienhand and her imperial warship. Once again humanity is to blame and Lumo had brought them here.

    Green pointed to one of the parked vessels.

    Green: "Can't we take one of these? I don't think anyone would mind if we borrowed it..."

    Lucee Sk'dor: "We can't take them, they're locked into their bays. We'd need the exit code, else the clamps won't release."

    The blue-skinned hian woman looked desperate. A strange expression for the woman that had acted as an assassin against Princess Briarose. Yet the woman was also now clutching the only cure for the princess, making her the most important person in the group.

    Green: "Oh poo."

    Alexis Thrain: "Can't we severe these clamps?"

    Likewise the doctor looked panicked, another person who wore desperation with zero dignity. A cool, calm woman Thrain was also not someone to get herself into danger if she could help it. Sticking aboard The Hopeful with Clear had been the most reckless thing Thrain had ever done. Almost. But that little secret would die with Thrain and Pully.


    Lumo: "I fear that would take too long."

    Pully: "We have to do something!"

    Kiron looked up.

    Nightstrider: "I know exactly how to get us out of here."

    He pointed at the dangling man from the vine.

    Nightstrider: "One exit code coming right up..."

    A few minutes and a few threats later and the group had gotten the exit code out of the intruder. All they had to do now was find the ship that Kaptin Kwanza had used to get aboard Mirare.

    Nightstrider: "We should have asked where it was bloody parked before you knocked him out, Pully."

    Pully: "I wasn't thinking, okay? I wanted to kill him!"

    Green: "That would be bad..."

    Pully: "He was a bad dude, Green."

    Lumo: "The exchange was made, Ms Terrin-Pullista. Information for his life."

    Pully: "Unless that basket-case Dienhand tries to shoot the station and kill everyone on board."

    Lumo: "But we did not kill him. That was the exchange."

    Green: "Do you think we should have brought him with us!?"

    Everyone Else: "No!"

    Green: "Oh..."

    Nightstrider: "We don't even know what it looks like!"

    Green: "Actually... it's that one."

    She pointed across the bay to a ship parked on the other side of the exit shaft. There is parked a large vessel. It's not so big as the imperial capital ships, but it's larger than any shuttle. It may even be considered a capital ship amongst some civilisations and it certainly appeared to be of high technology. Pully was certain it's one of the drow ships. It's sleek, narrow body with two large warp engines sticking out the back and the front end was topped by a saucer section. She hadn't expected such a large ship to fit in here, but Mirare station had abnormally large hangar ports for just such smaller capital ships.

    Green: "The Jolly Wanker!"

    Everyone looked at her.

    Green: "That's it's name!"

    Pully: "I don't want to get on it. I'll stay here and die."

    Lucee Sk'dor: "This is no time for jokes, human. Let's go!"

    The hian ran around the circular platform, headed for the opposite side, when a laser shot hit her. She cried out and landed on the floor with a clang. Pully fired back and saw what could only be described as a 'skull'. This must be the infamous Kaptin Kwanza Clear had once told her about.

    Kaptin Kwanza:
    "Oi! Ye swines! Where's that red-arsed pain in the neck!?"

    Pully: "Far away from you! And next it's your ship!"

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Hands offa the Wanker, you wanker!"

    She fired as he popped his head up. The blast struck him in the chest and and went down with a yelp. She grinned with triumph only to see that the rest of the group were already running off without her. Ungrateful sods.


    She headed after them. Nightstrider had Sk'dor in his arms and she was whimpering the whole way. Before they could reach the ship there's a sudden explosion and they're all knocked to the floor. Pully dragged herself along. The explosion had happened somewhere below them and had taken out several shuttles down there.

    Lumo: "She has opened fire after all..."

    Lucee Sk'dor: "I said she would! We have to be quick! She won't stop! She's going to destroy us all. I know it."

    Pully: "I think you might just be right..."

    Pully helped Sk'dor to her feet. She'd been hit in the stomach with a very nasty wound. Pully would have left her for dead but she not only had the cure but she was the only one that could make a new cure if something happened to that sack she was carrying.

    Even as they move again, more blasts strike the floor near them. Pully looked back to see the skeletal captain was back.


    Pully: "No way... I hit him square in the chest!"

    She returned fire but he dove out of the way, shouting obscenities at her as he did so. Something about buggering cows for a living.

    Thrain: "Cassra, come on!"

    Pully gave up the laser exchange and ran after the group. Then another explosion hit. Fire rained down from above them and threw them back. Green squealed as she slid toward the edge of the platform, which suddenly gave way and, with a groan, broke. It hung limply and everyone on it had to grab hold of something. Two strangers went over the edge with two long, descending screams.

    Nightstrider: "Green!"

    She went off the ledge.

    Pully: "Green!!"

    She suddenly came flying back up, carried by a leaf-like creature with huge petal wings. From her new vantage point she waved down at them. Pully sighed with relief but also irritation that she falsely grieved for just an instant. This girl was so unpredictable.

    Thrain: "I'm almost there!"

    Pully could see that Alexis and Lumo were, indeed, almost at The Jolly Wanker. A quick assertion by Lumo to the Mirare computers had the doors of the ship open up and a gangplank lowered.

    Kaptin Kwanza:
    "Get offa me ship!"

    More laser blasts head their way. Pully returned fire.


    Nightstrider: "Where's Sk'dor!?"

    The two of them stop and looked around, unable to see the hian. No hian, no cure. Without that cure, everyone would die for nothing.

    Pully: "Damn it! She must have gone off the ledge! We have to go now, Kiron!"

    Nightstrider: "I won't leave without that cure! The princess needs me!"

    Green: "She's over there!"

    Green, hovering above them, pointed towards the ship where they could just make out the figure of Lucee Sk'dor crawling along the platform, using the railing to keep from slipping down. A blast hit the floor near her and Pully had to open fire on Kaptin Kwanza again.

    Green: "I'll deal with him!"

    The platform shook, threatening to throw Pully and Kiron off of it. Sometimes Green, even when well meaning, causes more trouble than she solves. Vines come, quickly, worming their way from beneath the metal grid of the platform. The vines sprout through the holes and were one of the most creepy sights Pully had ever seen. Yet they strangely gave a better grip of the platform for her and Kiron to start scrambling after Sk'dor. The other end of the platform, the vines rose up like a wave of green to form a wall between Kwanza and the ship. More expletives could be heard from the good captain, this time something about swallowing the bowl movements of squirrels.

    Over her communicator, Pully heard Alexis' voice;


    Thrain: "Lumo has the ship powered up and the clamps are releasing us now!"

    Pully couldn't help but smile to herself. They were going to make it after all! She and Kiron reached Lucee, who had left a long trail of blood behind her. She hoped that Thrain would be able to patch up the hian well enough once onboard the drow ship.

    Sk'dor: "I... I'm done for. T-take the bag--"

    Nightstrider: "We're almost there."

    He knelt down to gather her up while Pully went on ahead. She rounded the corner and saw the gangplank still down and the clamps were retracting. The impulse engines flared up to keep the ship aloft. Apparently that old codger of a grey could pilot a ship. Either that or Thrain had been lying all these years every time she crashed her shuttle.

    Green: "Pully, I--"

    Her voice over the communicator went silent. She had never been able to talk and always had to use the electronics to give her a voice. That sudden silence from Green always caused the communicators to go deathly quiet. Pully turned to see Green fall from the air as she was hit by one of Kwanza's laser blasts. Rage at this annoying bounty hunter surged in Pully. She turned to fight while Nightstrider, carrying Sk'dor, hurried by. Green struck the platform but her vines reached out to grab her and hold her from tumbling off the edge again. The pirate had climbed over the wall and now fired at Pully. The stormtrooper's blast hit him, this time in the leg. He fell to his knee for a moment but was back up and firing again. She struck him again, her clearly being a better crackshot than he, and hit his chest. He staggered back but was, this time, unfazed.

    Pully: "It's like... like he can't die!"

    This time a shot from him hit her.

    She was slammed hard by the kinetic energy that struck her chest and she fell back. The stormtrooper armour bore the brunt of the force but she was winded and bleary eyed. She rolled over to try to get back to her feet. Another shot, however, hit her in the back. She went down again.

    Pully: "No..."

    Then she heard what could only be a 'war cry' over the comm. A war cry by a twelve year old girl with impotent rage. Green, having recovered, dive-bombed Kwanza from her petal wings and landed on him. She clutched at his skull with more anger than Pully had ever seen in the girl. She clung to him, legs wrapped around his back and even tried to bite him. Pully, back on her feet, straightened up. She'd have to get into fisticuffs with the brute, else risk shooting Green.

    She ran across the vines, which were providing enough of a foot hold for her to keep vertical, and dove at the two grappling. All three of them went down to the platform and started to roll towards the edge. Green was able to get straight back into the air with her wings, but Pully went over. She managed to grasp the ledge with her gloved hand and was dangling there, looking down into space at the bottom of the station.

    She looked up, to see Kwanza's undead eyes glinting down at her. He was lying on the edge where he'd managed to stop himself and now took a moment to gloat.


    Kaptin Kwanza:
    "This ain't been personal, stormie! I don't even know why you're with that red-ass anyway. Thought you imperials were all purists. Kill the alien! Kill the mutant! Kill the skeleton, and all that?"

    Pully reached up with her other hand. As her fingers touched the ledge, Kaptin Kwanza lazily batted it away.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "You're a blood good shot, by the way! I was damned impressed. Took me by surprise that first time. Sort of reminds me of this one girl I met once--"

    Pully: "I'd kill you just to shut you up..."

    Kaptin Kwanza: "If I had a coin for every time someone has said that to me I'd have... about six coins."

    Nightstrider:
    "You're about to have none."

    Kwanza turned just in time to get Kiron's boot to the face. The skeleton gasped as he went off the edge, toppling over Pully. Kiron reached down and grabbed Pully and helped to pull her up. They didn't get a moment to celebrate that little victory as a chain whirred over their heads and slammed into the wall behind them. Pully looked back down to see that the skeleton pirate had some kind of 'hookshot' apparatus that was reeling him back up to the platform. His skull grinned up at them.

    Pully: "Bugger it! Let's get out of here!"

    The two humans ran while Green flew after them.

    Green: "He's coming after us!"

    Pully glanced back to see that the pirate was already back on the platform and running after them. His ribcage could be seen through the torn materials where the blaster shots had burnt the cloth away. Lucee was leaning against a railing, looking like she might pass out any minute.

    Pully: "You should have left me and saved her, Kiron!"

    Nightstrider: "Then I wouldn't have anyone to hate on me aboard The Hopeless, would I?"

    Pully: "Pretty sure there's a lot of people that hate you, Kiron."

    Nightstrider: "It wouldn't be the same, would it?"

    She can't help but wonder at this new sense of bonding they were sharing. She did hate him. But she liked to hate him.

    Then their world changed as another blast rocked the station. They both fell down, Kiron backwards while Pully went forwards. The ship was also rocked as debris struck the saucer section. The platform tipped further and they all started to slip, even while gripping the vines. Lumo positioned the ship below them and she could see the gangplank just below her feet. She took a deep breath and let go.

    She fell, the air rushed by her head and whipped her hair.

    Then she landed on her butt.


    Pully: "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!"

    She managed to get to her feet, rubbing her backside. Not that it helped through the armour.

    Green had flown over to Sk'dor and managed to get hold of her. They started to fly toward the gangplank. Another explosion blasted above them. This time the explosions weren't because of external blasts from The Excellence, they were internal explosions as the stations started to tear itself apart. It wouldn't be long before the whole thing went up.


    Pully: "Kiron! Drop here! Green quick!"

    Kaptin Kwanza: "If I go down, I'm taking at least one of you with me!"

    Kwanza fired his hookshot and zipped across the room - straight at Green and Sk'dor.


    Nightstrider: "No!"

    Kiron dropped.

    He landed on Kwanza just as the pirate reached Green. She let go of Sk'dor. The hian plummeted like a lead weight. Pully's heart raced. She jumped forward and reached out. The hian fell past but was grasped by the leg by Pully. Pully almost went over the edge of the gangplank with her but her heavy armour kept her in place. She saw the cure go spiralling off into the abyss. She strained to hoist the unconscious Lucee back up.


    Thrain:
    "Pully! Get in here! Now!"

    Thrain had appeared at the doorway. Another explosion occurred above them and flame engulfed the sky. Lumo started to drop the ship. Pully grunted and strained and managed to pull Lucee up. She dragged her towards Thrain, who pulled her inside. Blood was everywhere.

    Pully looked back up.


    Pully: "Kiron! Green! Get down here! N--"

    She could see them high above, grappling with Kwanza. The pirate had hold of Green while Kiron had hold of Kwanza. But then an explosion expelled from the wall and engulfed the three of them in flame. Pully's breath disappeared and she froze. Even as the wall of fire hurtled towards her, she did nothing but stand there and wait to burn to death.

    ...

    Thrain yanked her.

    The fire enveloped Pully, but she was propelled backwards. Thrain was caught in the blast, trying to save her frozen friend. The two of them landed inside the ship - protected by the shield at the hatch. Pully could hear Thrain screaming. Screaming. And screaming. Lumo's voice came through the communications, panicked and screaming with fear too. Lucee remained silent, bleeding everywhere. Pully could see Thrain was on fire and rolling herself to put it out. Pully could then see... she was on fire too. Her armour, melted. Her face... melted... It was the same, all over again. She saw her parents, charred to the bone. Now Thrain would die. Sk'dor would die. She hoped she would die too.

    Kiron was already dead.

    Green was already dead.

    That ******* Kwanza had better be dead.


    She blacked out.



    Clear is crying again. She had thought her eyes couldn't stand to lose more water but here she is.

    Pully: "I didn't die... Lumo got us to the nearest planet where they managed to keep me alive and, eventually, I was brought here."

    Clear: "Green..."

    Pully doesn't look up.

    Pully: "And Kiron... they're both gone."

    The silence between them is only broken by Clear sobbing.

    Pully: "Thrain is alive. Burnt. But alive. She won't have a graft. She wears the scars like... some kind of punishment. She's not the same... she went looking for you."

    Clear: "But wait... what about Lucee Sk'dor? Did she... if she's alive why didn't she--?"

    Pully: "She's in a coma. She dropped the cure and never woke up. She's actually here in this hospital. Lucky you showed up. You saved Aurora, Clear."

    Clear: "I didn't do anything. It was just luck that I found Pashna. Hell, his whole planet was blown up else he wouldn't even be here... a planet's death saved Aurora."

    They're quiet again. Clear manages to stop crying and looks at the ceiling again. Then she remembers.

    Clear: "But... Pully... did you try to call me during the explosions?"

    Pully: "Couldn't. We were too busy. Even afterwards I was... dead to rights. I don't think anyone tried to contact you. Honestly we all thought she'd blown you up. All that debris was... there were a lot of ships..."

    Clear bolts upright.

    Clear: "We have to go back there."

    Pully rolls onto her side and frowns at Clear.


    Pully: "Where? Mirare? What for?"

    Clear plucks the old communicator from her chest. It was the oldest communicator that had been used aboard The Hopeful in the days of her, Hebedee and Green. Now, only two exist - hers and Green's.


    Clear: "I heard her. She was calling for me! She's alive, Pully! I know it! Green must still be alive!"

  38. #78
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Rescue Mission at Mirare

    Clear: "I'm leaving now."

    Ltexi: "What? You can't do that! I'm captain of that ship too!"

    Clear: "I'm not leaving on The Hopeless, I'm going to take an Alliance ship."

    Ltexi: "Oh you are?"

    Clear can hear the cunning in the woman's voice over the comm in her PIP.

    Clear: "Unfortunately The Hopeless is still under heavy maintenance and won't be able to leave dock for at least a week, if not longer..."

    The a quiet curse.


    Even if Ltexi somehow found out the ship could sail earlier, Clear had already ensured that the alliance engineers knew Ltexi, specifically, wasn't allowed onboard. It pays to be a rebel hero, it turns out.

    Ltexi: "Where are you going?"

    Clear can hear the resignation of a woman defeated in Ltexi's voice.

    Clear: "My friend is in trouble and I need to save her."

    Clear gets off of the transport craft and steps foot onto an alliance ship. It's tiny, compared to The Hopeful. She could probably fit five of them in the hangar bay of The Hopeful and still have plenty of room to spare. Yet there's a certain charm to the vehicle, especially when it's been cleaned up so well as this one. It's called a CR90, though commonly called a Corellian Corvette by the rebels, it's long and slender with a large rear. She had heard some of the engineers compare the ship to Clear herself, though the salmitton hadn't been sure what that meant. Hopefully it was a compliment. The ship is metallic but coloured white, while the floors are made of a smooth blue material that she thinks she could slide along. Crew wander about, including guardsmen. She hasn't seen so many people on one ship since Kalor Varkesh - the ship of the High Empire. The guards wear white helmets with a slope at the back and have blue shirts with black waistcoats. She thinks the uniforms are pretty unusual but knows most people think she dresses weird too. Most of the crew are human, but not all of them as there are other species amongst them. Also not everyone seems to bee in military uniform. This ship is not considered a ship of war but a ship of peace and so there are families and other civilians aboard the ship.

    Pully comes up behind her. For a brief moment Clear wonders who she is, forgetting the new appearance. To change her whole body; hair, skin, eyes... it astounds Clear to think that this is the same woman she has been friends with for all this time.

    Pully: "Well then, chief. Congratulations on your new command! She's not as... robust as The Hopeless. But at least she won't fall apart."

    Clear: "Hey. The Hopeless is my baby. Be nice."

    Pully:
    "How many times has it broken to pieces now?"

    Clear:
    "It just needs some TLC. Hopeless will be right as rain after a good makeover by the rebel engineers."

    Pully: "Maybe then she'll earn her moniker of Hopeful, eh?"

    Pully chuckles as the two women parade down the corridor. The ship has been awarded to Clear for saving the princess of the Alliance. Clear has been irritated that poor old Pashna is being pushed to the side by Clear's own glory but she wasn't about to throw away the opportunity for a free ship! Clear's initial thoughts had been to break up the ship into parts and salvage everything to put onto The Hopeful. Then she realised the rebels would probably take that as an insult. After then feeling burdened with the thing the idea of using it to save Green sprang to mind and The Unbroken suddenly became a great gift.

    The name of the ship obviously came to Clear as soon as she saw it and compared it to her own ship. Upon naming it the rebels surged with pride at such a metaphorical name... not realising she meant it more literally. Every engineer that had touched up the new ship had been adamant that it would go down in legend based entirely on that name and Clear's uncanny reputation amongst the Alliance.

    Kara Pashna is already onboard somewhere, probably having found himself a room to settle into. He'd been with Princess Aurora while Clear had been catching up with Pully but now that the princess is on the mend, she's been left with the rebel doctors to see to her recovery. Apparently she's almost ready to start eating solid food again. Another couple of weeks and she'll be back in her hover chair to get on with her diplomatic duties. She should, of course, be taking it slow and allow her body to heal at a more gradual pace. But Clear knows Aurora will be eager to get moving after all this time confined to a single bed.

    After a few minutes of wandering, Clear stops exasperated.


    Clear: "Pully, where's the damned bridge on this thing?"

    Pully is taken aback.

    Pully: "How should I know!? I thought you knew where you were going!"

    After getting directions from a crewman, the two are guided to the fore of the ship where they finally find the bridge. It's larger than the Command Centre of The Hopeful, but much smaller than the actual Command Bridge of The Hopeful. It's quite simple in its layout and everything seems placed by necessity rather than by extravagance. There are quite a lot of systems involved, so far as Clear can tell, and remembers Ace Lander telling her that he'd made more than a few modifications to the ship himself. She actually thinks the ship was his before it was rewarded to her; allowing her to suspect it was all his idea to award her the ship in the first place.

    She finds that there's a seat in the middle of the room surrounded on either side by several other seats that would, presumably, be for staff officers. She has no idea if this ship already has officers or not but she assumes that, once this mission is over, all the crew will leave the ship and return to the Alliance while The Unbroken will then be empty. It's a somewhat sad thought considering how lively the place is, but Clear has always preferred her own company anyway. And she has zero intention of joining the rebellion. She hopes this ship wasn't some kind of way of pressing her into service.


    Before the chairs are console banks that would be the ship's inputs. There's quite a few of them but she knows that most oft he ship's functions could be done at a single bank. But that's completely inefficient and so there are many banks so that a lot of processes can be monitored by several hands. There aren't many bridge crew it seems, which she's thankful for, but she does notice someone stood at the front and poking buttons on one of the black, sleek looking consoles.

    Clear: "Lumo?"

    The old grey turns with his big, round eyes staring at her with delight.

    Lumo: "Pinno Fat!"

    There's a few raised eyebrows from some of the other crew in the room and Clear tries to mask her embarassment at this pet name Lumo has for her.

    Lumo: "I believed you were dead. When I heard you were still alive, I came aboard. I hope you don't mind?"

    Clear: "It's fine! Good to know you're alright. I'm surprised you stayed here though, considering..."

    She glances around to see several humans, aside from Pully, on the bridge.

    Lumo: "I don't want to be here but, honestly, I have nowhere else to go. And poor Lucee is in a hospital here..."

    Clear thinks 'poor Lucee' is responsible for the whole mess to begin with, trying to assassinate the princess, so Clear is short on mercy there.

    Clear: "Lumo, you know where we're headed don't you?"

    Lumo nods slowly. He then turns away from her and focuses on the console as he speaks;

    Lumo: "I haven't been back since... I think I need to return. To see it..."

    Clear: "Maybe we both do..."

    She turns to see Pully has already commandeered the chair closest to the captain's. She's lounging in it and Clear thinks the woman is still a strange sight with her new, unusual appearance. The fact that she's also sans her stormtrooper armour is also perturbing but Clear doesn't want to ask about it yet. Pully clearly needs to find herself again and asking about old habits may upset that search. Instead Pully is wearing a forest green shirt with a high, stiff collar. It swoops down her leg on the right side, like a tunic that forgot the rest of the body, where she is wearing tight, black leggings. She has small pumps on her feet and has a kind of technological eyepiece clipped to her ear. It extends to her brow where a small, white screen masks one of her eyes. Clear guessing this is like a PIP but constantly in use. It probably provides many of the same functions that Pully's old stormtrooper helmet had done.

    Clear looks at the captain's chair. It's white and smooth, looking a lot like a plastic egg. She doesn't like it. The chair itself is fine, but sitting there, like some kind of grand leader, doesn't appeal to Clear at all. She likes to be captain of The Hopeful because that's her home. She wants to own her own home. Sitting there puts her in command of people. Most of whom she doesn't even know. Or even wants to know.

    Pully beckons her slyly.

    With a sigh Clear sits in the egg chair.


    She investigates the controls on the chair's arms until she discovers the communications. She switches it to a ship wide broadcast;

    Clear:
    "This is Clear calling Kara Pashna to the bridge, please."

    If she's going to sit up here, she should have her friends with her.

    Pully: "You have to say captain, not Clear."

    Clear glowers at Pully but the human just shrugs.

    Pully: "Just saying..."

    Clear: "Let's just get out of here, shall we? Someone plot a jump course for Mirare."

    Lumo: "Allow me."

    Lumo announces as he glances back at her from the console.

    Lumo: "Course set."

    Clear:
    "Um... okay. Let's go."

    The other helmsmen start to navigate out of the docking bay, the corvette slowly departing out of the metal rings of the spacedock, until they are in open space. They track the gravity well of the planet and, once free of it, they make their first jump. The Hopeful has always been just fine jumping from within gravity wells, she has actually never understood why the Alliance and Imperial ships can't.

    The first jump takes The Unbroken to the edge of Alliance space, which borders with the Empire. There's a quiet amongst the crew as they must now attempt to jump through Imperial space, hopefully without being noticed.


    Their first jump into imperial space plants them within range of a quiet, backwater planet that the empire uses for farming. Some high ranking officers may well visit this planet for scenic vacations, but overall it has minimal defences. By the time their presence is noticed, The Unbroken jumps again. Another few such jumps, taking a longer route to avoid the more populated worlds, and eventually they burst out of hyperspace within the Mirare system. Clear stands as the window displays the remains of the spacestation. It looks like a graveyard of metal. As they scan the debris field they can actually find many escape pods, where people had tried to get away from the station, but all of them had been damaged in the blast and their unfortunate occupants have long since demised.

    Clear:
    "We'll have to get in close."

    A human glances at her from his console bank.

    Human Crewmember: "We should be able to scan for lifeforms at this distance, captain."

    Clear gives him a wry look.


    Clear: "Maybe we will but maybe we won't. I have no idea what kind of reading we'll get from my missing friend. She certainly isn't your average human, so... let's move in closer to be sure."

    The Corellian Corvette sails through space towards the wreckage. Some of the debris has drifted off into the cluster of asteroids that once made the planet of Mirare itself.

    Pully: "If she is out there, we'll need to pilot a shuttle to find her. I'll go get one ready."

    Clear: "No, I'll go."

    Pully: "Captain... with all due respect... you're place is here. Let me do the legwork, okay?"

    If there weren't so many other people around them, Clear might have given Pully a punch for speaking to her that way. Clear won't be bound to any kind of militaristic duty. Right now though, there's nothing she can do as she does, in fact, have a crew to govern. Clear grumbles and falls back into her seat while Pully leaves the deck.

    Another human speaks from behind her;


    Human Crewman #2:
    "I think I've found... something."

    Clear: "What is it?"

    Human Crewman #2: "It's a bit weird, captain. It's... like a lot of... little lifeforms clustered together."

    Clear: "That... might be her! Must be! Give the coordinates to Pully!"

    The human blinks at her for a moment.

    Human Crewman #2: "You mean Terrin-Pullista, captain?"

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "Yes. Yes. The pain in the arse in the shuttle."

    A long moment passes before they see the shuttle whiz out and away from The Unbroken. It flies straight into the debris field and Clear realises that Pully is putting her own life in danger to save Green's. Clear grumbles again that she's stuck on the bridge instead of piloting the shuttle herself, knowing that she can pilot much better than Pully can.

    She waits.

    And waits.


    She grows increasingly irritated with each passing second. She feels stranded on the bridge, unable to do anything. She's in command of everyone but herself it seems. She resists constantly badgering Pully for information, knowing that might distract her from whatever she's doing out there.

    Then a message comes through.


    Pully: "Clear?"

    She didn't say captain...

    Clear: "Yeah?"

    Pully: "I found her."

  39. #79
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow The Warehouse

    A strange silence fills the ship. It's almost tangible, like a thick fog in the air. It threatens to choke anyone that opens their mouth. Yet it isn't a completely ominous silence. It's more of an expectant silence. A silence that is just filling the gap until a grand sound calls.

    The death of her friend is still raw on Clear's mind.


    She has lost friends before but she always seemed to be too busy to fully acknowledge their absence. When trapped in the Deep Void she felt a disconnect but deep within her soul she still felt that there was a chance they were alive. Not knowing was somehow more comforting than the confirmation that someone she called friend was now deceased.

    She lies on her bed, staring at the empty bottle of Correllian Whiskey - a stash she had found aboard The Unbroken - and then drunkenly reaches out to grab the next bottle to open it. Her fingers grope the bottleneck but she clumsily knocks it off of the bedside table and it plonks onto the floor. Luckily the soft carpet cushions the drop and the bottle just rolls along where it meets another bottle she'd dropped earlier that night. The two full bottles now lie there, on the other side of the room, giggling at her.

    Clear:
    "Reckon you've escaped me, huh?"

    Clear points an accusatory finger towards them as she decides to go and fetch them. She then fell off the bed and lands on the floor where she resigns herself to a terrible slumber.



    Clear's head bangs loudly. Three times. Then blessed silence again.

    She keeps her eyes closed but then another three poundings into her skull. She whines and her dry lips twitch. She then coughs as fluff from the carpet scoots down her throat. The awful sensation has her awake now, but bleary-eyed. Then the banging returns. She groans and holds her head.


    Clear: "Stoooooooooooop..."

    Voice: "Clear? Are you alright?"

    The voice is alien to her. It's muffled but definitely male.

    She manages to scramble to her feet and unsteadily wobbles her way to the door. She plants her face into it where sleep threatens to return until the door bangs straight into her face. She reels back with a whimper and slams the door back, as though it had personally assaulted her.


    Voice: "Clear? Are you knocking back?"

    It's the person, she realises, and not the door.

    She pokes a button at the side of the door and it limps open slowly. She finds herself face-to-face with something big, blue and tentacly. She leaps back and glares at the monster through watery eyes.


    Clear: "What are you!?"

    Voice: "Uh... I'm an Indran. You remember?"

    Clear's brain begins to reassert itself as the word logs itself as a known word. She stands there, swaying gently, as she lets her brain fix itself. Poor Kara Pashna is left wondering if Clear is seriously ill. He reaches out and takes her hand, which she does nothing to resist. She feels his clammy skin against her own warm skin and, for a moment, the sensation is remarkably pleasing. Then the contraption that floats next to his head glows irritatingly and Clear snatches her hand back so that she can shield her eyes. She couldn't use the other hand because her brain hasn't yet figured out that she actually does have a left hand after all.

    Kara Pashna:
    "Clear, you seem to be poisoned."

    Clear: "Yeah. Damned Corellians are trying to murder me..."

    Kara Pashna: "Why would they do that!? We'll have to tell the Alliance at once!"

    Clear ignores him and turns back into her room. She staggers across the room where she then flops onto her bed. She wonders why it's cold, forgetting that she'd spent the night on the floor.


    Kara Pashna: "Clear... this isn't a very dignified posture for you to be in..."

    Clear grumbles something about giving him a even less dignified expression.


    Kara Pashna: "Maybe some trousers are in order?"

    She grumbles something else about infringement upon pantless freedoms.

    Kara Pashna: "At least some... underwear..."

    Clear manages to wake up at that and drags her blanket to cover her bare bum from view. Hopefully he'll erase her nakedness from his memory. Unfortunately, she thinks, unlike humans Martians don't have pubic hair - which is probably the way the Indran would prefer things. Hair, at least, would have repulsed him.

    She might have been more embarrassed about the whole thing had her brain been able to focus on the real world. Instead she rolls onto her back and gazes at the ceiling, her head lolling to one side. Her stomach then churns. She groans and sits up.

    Kara Pashna: "Uh-oh..."

    Spew.

    Spew everywhere.

    The bed, the floor, the bedside table.




    Clear practically bounces down the corridor.

    Life is absolutely wonderful. Life is grand. Life is for living!

    She bursts into the Command Centre where she finds Ltexi scanning the consoles. Clear rushes up to the Jupiterian and halts, abruptly, next to her - well within the other woman's personal space. Clear visibly vibrates.


    Ltexi: "What in the name of quacking Marduck are you on?"

    Clear: "Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... bop!"

    She pokes Ltexi's nose and then bounces out of the room.

    Clear: "Mother! Mother! Mother! Mother! Mother! Mother! Mother! Mother! Moth--"

    Mother: "Yes Clear?"

    Clear stops in her tracks, spins on her heels and grasps Mother's cold, hardlight hands. She stares up at the salmitton hologram.

    Clear:
    "I wanna buy stuff! I have the money! I'm like mega rich!"

    She vibrates again.

    Mother: "What do you wish to buy?"

    Clear:
    "EVERYTHING!"

    Mother:
    "I'm afraid you are not that rich."

    Clear: "A new ship! A new ship! Ship! Ship! Ship! How many do I have now? I have ten!"

    Mother: "There are six."

    Clear: "Six! Six! Let's go to seven!"

    Clear does a little dance to inaudible music.

    Mother: "I will make digital enquires within the system for all potential sales."

    Clear: "Goooooooooooood! Imma go to the sick bay now! Byebye!"

    Clear waves at Mother. Mother, confused, gives a little wave back as Clear then runs down the corridor, arms out, like an aeroplane. She sails around the bends until she gets to the medical ward. She jumps in front of the door;

    Clear: "Open Sellame! Semdemee... Salad...?"

    The doors slide open and she instantly forgets the temporary conundrum and waltzes into the room. She dances her way over to the bed where someone is lying after being rescued from Mirare. Clear slams her hands down on either side of the bed and glares down at the sick patient, who is abruptly awoken from their sleep.

    Clear: "Hey there sweet cheeks."

    Clear is embraced, instantly, in a hug of passion and, in a way, desperation. As though Clear might vanish if not held onto.

    Green: "You're really here..."

    Green's whimpering voice echoes through the communicator in Clear's pocket. Clear then tightly embraces the human girl, more lovingly than ever.

    Clear: "You bet your silly hat I'm here! I'm not going to let you out of my sight again, Green. You hear me?"

    Green: "Me neither!"

    She whimpers.

    Clear: "Well, it'd be pretty weird if you let yourself out of your own sight, you know?"

    Green, in spite of her own misery, manages a laugh.

    She's in pain. Tremendous pain. Bacta has been helping a lot but it's still there. Being suspended in space as nothing but spores for such a long time has had its lasting effect upon her body and mind. She had managed to send a vibrated message through her communicator to Clear, hoping she might come to rescue her. It took a long time but rescue her she did.

    But it was only her that was rescued...


    Green: "I'm sorry about Mr Kiron. I tried to save him but--"

    Clear: "Don't worry about him! I've already cried enough. See?"

    She pulls her cheeks, which are stained with the usual Martian blue tears. Despite that Clear doesn't look at all upset. In fact, she's elated.

    Green: "You look..."

    Clear vibrates.

    Clear: "Yeah!"

    Green: "Are you...?"

    Clear: "It was tentacle guy. Did something to me. And wow. I'm super pumped. I'm like... amazingly pumped. Just.... pumped! Like... wow!"

    Green: "Okay... you're kind of scary though..."

    Clear: "Awww, come on! What's so scary about me!?"

    Green: "Well... you know you have no pants on, right?"

    Clear looks down to find, save for a small vest, she's completely stark naked. She shouldn't have rushed out of the room the way she had...




    The Bug drifts up towards the warehouse. After piloting Hoopa so much, returning to the old, clunky controls of the Bug feels like trying to a pair of left-handed scissors with her right hand. The ship bobs up and down, almost crashing into a few asteroids that whiz by. Having a secret warehouse for underhanded business deals is a great idea but keeping it in the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the solar system is just going overboard. Illegal deals are being brokered on Saffron 5 with alarming regularity. What is happening in this old warehouse that could be so secret that it needs to be where nobody would ever want to venture?

    The warehouse itself is built into one very large asteroid, its curved window looks like one of those expensive, ultra modern homes on Earth. Instead of glass, however, the window is just one long, curved shield. As the Bug nears it she glances someone standing at the shield, watching her approach. Clear guides the Bug steadily and waits for the asteroid to rotate before sailing into the opening at the bottom of the asteroid and makes her way inside the warehouse. A tractor lock hits her ship and gently lands the Bug in its small hangar. Out of her cockpit window she can see a couple of other small fighters and two large shuttlecraft.


    Clear had had to have some down time after, whatever Pashna did to her, so that she could come down from the high. When she did come down, she crashed tremendously. However the business deal that Mother had cooked up managed to attract Clear's attention and keep her away from another bottle of that devil planet's booze. whatever species lives on the planet Corellia must be very big and have the metabolism of an octopus.

    Or it's a planet full of Irish.


    Green: "Can we get off now, Clear?"

    Clear unfastens the laser belt and sets herself free of the constraints. She looks back at Green who has come up from the passenger room to the cockpit. Clear shakes her head with some amusement.


    Clear: "Green, you really should have stayed in bed on The Hopeless."

    Green: "I wanted to come! Besides, I didn't want to be the only one left there. Alone."

    Clear: "Yeah. You're right. Better to keep you where I can see you. Don't want you getting into trouble again without me, eh?"

    Green: "And we don't want you going around pantless again..."

    Clear sours.

    Clear: "Ack! You promised not to bring that up again!"

    Green titters, though she winces from pain at the action. Her body is still getting used to the concept of oxygen again.


    Green: "Sorry but everyone already knows. I think pretty much everyone saw you. Even your... um..."

    Clear groans with wounded pride as her cheeks flush blue.

    She marches past Green to the hatch and slams the button aggressively. As the door creaks downwards to form steps, the other crewmembers come up behind her.

    Pully: "There's the man of the hour."

    Ltexi:
    "I can personally attest, she's no man."

    Pully: "Oh my, oh my!"

    Pully's sarcasm is almost profound.

    Ltexi: "Red. Very, very red."

    Pully: "Except where she's blue..."

    Ltexi: "I didn't see blue!"

    Pully: "I guess I got a more intimate look than you did then! Then she was strapped to a medical bed."

    Ltexi: "Is there anyone who hasn't seen Clear's sn--"

    Clear: "Do we have to talk about this?"

    Pully: "Actually I think, literally, everyone on the crew right now has seen everything Clear has to show."

    Ltexi: "I haven't seen the boobs yet! Weird she remembers to cover them up but forgot her pants..."

    Pully: "I guess they get cold?"

    Clear growls and stomps down the steps onto the hangar bay floor. She's almost tempted to close the hatch door behind them and leave the sodding lot of them on the Bug. Being stranded alone in the Deep Void suddenly seems like it'd be welcome bliss. Pully comes straight down behind Clear and hops onto the metal bay floor with a loud clang. Clear notices that the woman surreptitiously surveys the room before shrugging and adopting a more casual nature. Apparently old stormtrooper habits die hard.

    They start walking across the bay as Ltexi, Green and Pashna come up behind them. Even with the anger at her embarrassing escapade and the teasing of everyone, Clear feels more at home than she has in a long while. She doesn't like Ltexi all that much and she doesn't know Pashna very well, but even they feel like family now as they walk together across the large room.


    Ltexi: "Am I to call you Cassra or Pully, by the way?"

    Pully: "You could call me your majesty if you'd like?"

    Ltexi: "There's only one queen I'd acknowledge and she definitely isn't human."

    Pully: "Good grief. No wonder your and Clear get on."

    Neither Clear nor Ltexi refute Pully's mistaken belief because, while they don't get along, they do get along in that one respect at least.

    Green: "You can call her Pully, Ms Ltexi."

    Ltexi looks down at the green-haired girl as though seeing her for the first time.

    Ltexi: "Aren't you sickeningly adorable..."

    Green beams at this, thinking she's being complimented.

    Green:
    "Thank you~!"

    Ltexi: "It's like you're made of sugar, coated in milk chocolate and wrapped in pink frills."

    Green:
    "Pink? No, I'm Green! Like my hair!"

    Ltexi: "You must be Clear's acting moral conscience, am I right?"

    Clear: "Probably..."

    The salmitton mumbles in response.

    Pully: "We should probably sell that Wanker ship, Clear. This guy would definitely buy it."

    Clear: "Why would I sell it? It's got a boat load of tech on it I could use! I've been thinking of taking it apart and putting the gear into the Bug."

    Ltexi: "That Wanker ship? The one you stole, right?"

    Pully: "Hey, its owner tried to kill us."

    Green: "It's a shame he survived Mirare instead of Mr Kiron..."

    There's a moment of quiet.


    According to Green she had seen Kaptin Kwanza, the bounty hunter, not only survive the destruction of Mirare (albeit as a naked skeleton) but manage to escape the system aboard an incoming salvage vessel. Somewhere out there the bounty hunter lives and that irks Clear to no end. Green is absolutely right. He should have died, not Kiron.

    Ltexi: "Well, whatever the situation I did notice that the Jolly Wanker is far more advanced that this old tub."

    She jerks her thumb back at the Bug.

    Clear: "Hey, the Bug is a beautiful butterfly, right Green?"

    Green: "Right!"

    Clear: "We'll break down the Jolly... the other ship. And I want to make sure everyone knows we took it apart too. Let the news reach the **** that we broke up his ship."

    Ltexi: "I can see some satisfaction in that. Might be nice to see how its systems work from the inside anyway. I did notice its cannons. We could probably even mount the big one on The Hopeful herself."

    Clear: "No guns on The Hopeless."

    Ltexi: "Why!?"

    Clear: "It's not that kind of ship."

    Pully: "Except for the planet destroying superweapon it has."

    Ltexi:
    "The what!?"

    Clear: "Well, we'll get that thing removed when we can."

    Ltexi: "Like Marduck's tight arse you are! I want to see it!"

    They reach the other side of the hangar and large, grey doors grind open to reveal a wide room. It looks like it should be a kind of reception room but there's nobody there.

    Pully: "Does this guy want us to walk through the whole damn warehouse or what?"

    Kara Pashna: "Perhaps they're watching us? Trying to decide if we're trustworthy? You did say this is an illicit business, right?"

    Clear: "I think you might be right, Pashna..."

    She watches out for cameras and realises that there's dozens of them as they walk down the corridor. They appear to be spherical orbs tucked into the corners of doorways. She thinks they probably double up as sensors to allow certain individuals unrestricted access to the rooms but right now the little red lights are following them as they walked. Clear doesn't like being watched like this, especially when she's here for a mutually beneficial business arrangement.

    Green: "Will you sell your new Alliance ship, Clear?"

    Clear:
    "No. I've decided to keep The Unbroken. Besides, what would Lumo do without it? I think he's grown quite attached."

    Kara Pashna: "Living alone on that ship isn't very healthy, I feel..."

    Clear: "I actually think he'd like the solitude for a while. And he follows The Hopeless around so he can always pop over to visit us when he wants to."

    Kara Pashna: "Still... I think it's also a lot for just one, old man to deal with. Running an entire ship..."

    Clear: "He's not running it, Pashna. All he does is give the new A.I. we installed on it a single command. Jump after The Hopeless and he's done."

    Ltexi:
    "If we get into combat though, he, and we, could have a problem."

    Clear:
    "Well, I intend to keep out of all combat from now on..."

    Ltexi: "Yeah, let's see how that works out..."

    Clear: "It could probably dock on The Hopeless if it becomes necessary. But for now it's fine just cruising after us. Let Lumo have his time alone."

    Ltexi: "I think you just want to steal my title, am I right?"

    Clear: "What? You mean be an admiral?"

    Green lights up.

    Green: "Wow! Yeah! Admiral Clear!"

    Pully bursts into laughter at the very sound of that. As they reach the end of the corridor they find themselves stopped by a sealed door. They grumble about not knowing where to go when the red light above the door shifts its colour to green and it opens. They trek through it.

    Clear: "I guess right now, I am an admiral! Ltexi on the other hand..."

    Ltexi glares at Clear.

    Ltexi: "You watch y--"

    Girl:
    "Greetings, potential buyers."

    They are met by a short human girl in a small but well furnished room. It's very different from the rest of the bland, grey warehouse. Evidently this is the room meant for entertaining customers. The girl sweeps her hand towards the sofas and everyone seats themselves somewhere, except for Pully who stands at the arm of a sofa next to Clear. Right back to her stoic guardian ways. This time, though, she has no intimidating armour to make her position clear.

    Girl: "Would you like some refreshments? Tea? Coffee? Some buscuits, perhaps?"

    Before anyone can refuse, Green declares;

    Green: "Oh! Buscuits! Yes! What ones do you have!?"

    The girl raises a hand into the air and wiggles her hand, finger pointing out. Her hand actually jingles like a bell.

    A door opens and another girl comes in holding a tray of teas, coffees and a bowl of chocolate chip cookies. Green gets excited enough to cause herself a surge of pain and she throws herself back onto the sofa to try and wait patiently as the second girl lays out the drinks and the bowl. Clear looks from the new girl to the first girl and back again.


    Green: "Are you twins!?"

    Kara Pashna: "Oh good. It's not just me. I often can't tell aliens apart but this time I thought I was really going wrong somewhere."

    The first girl shakes her head.

    Girl: "No. We are of the same model."

    Clear:
    "Oh! Wow! You're androids?"

    The girl's head tilts.


    Girl: "Yes, madam, you are correct. Though some prefer the term gynoid because we resemble female humans."

    Clear: "Those people would be morons."

    The girl straightens up. Though most of her movements are completely fluid, there is an unnatural pause between each motion, as though the body is taking the moment to compute the next appropriate course of action before doing it.

    Kara Pashna: "What... what is an android, exactly?"

    Ltexi: "A robot made to look like a human. A machine. Nothing but circuits and metal. Humans are creating abominations now it seems."

    Clear: "That's a bit harsh."

    Ltexi: "What's the need of them? Are people not enough? Instead they make these lifeless robots. Why?"

    Clear: "Pretty sure that's a philosophical debate for another day."

    Ltexi: "They were made illegal on my homeworld for a good reason. They stop healthy interaction between people. You don't need to care about the feelings of a machine. So empathic development is hindered. Who built you, robot?"

    Girl: "Prime Inc. We are one of the earlier models. Our designation is Rui. I am Rui Alpha."

    The girl holds her hands out to introduce the second Rui-bot.

    Rui Alpha:
    "This is Rui Theta."

    Rui Theta bows her head in greeting.


    Rui Alpha: "On behalf of Mr Antestarr we are able to conduct business transactions with you."

    Clear:
    "Yeah, where is Antestarr? I've done business with him a few years ago but I haven't heard anything of him for a long time. Well before I left the solar system. Where's he at?"

    Rui Alpha: "Information on Mr Antestarr's whereabouts is classified. But we can conduct business on his behalf. I am his personal assistant and custodian of this warehouse. Operations continue normally without his presence."

    Clear: "Alright, I suppose we'll just have to work through you then."

    Rui Alpha then bows too.

    Rui Alpha:
    "I am grateful."

    The Rui-bots are human in their appearance, right down to every detail. If it weren't for the odd pauses, Clear probably would never have known they weren't flesh and blood. She has met many robots in her time, but they're rarely such detailed androids. Normally they're very obviously metal men and lack synthetic flesh, eyes or hair. They have white skin and eyes much like Green's, marking them as the same race as Green had they been real humans, and, also like Green, they appear to be the physical age of late adolescence. They have extremely long, bright pink hair that is worn in pig-tails. Their hair uniformly reaches the knees and is tied up with two little, white bows. They both wear the same white garments; a white jumpsuit with a pink sash around the waist in a kind of '70s sci-fi' look that Clear knows to be fairly popular in certain cultures of the galaxy. Oddly they're not wearing shoes and pad across the floor barefooted. There's probably some error in the programming somewhere. Either that or maybe they shoot lasers from their toes. In the middle of their foreheads is a peculiar white star that Clear had originally took to be some kind of fashion accessory. Now she thinks the star may actually be embedded into the skin and may, if not the toes, be where the robot girl fires her deadly lasers.

    As Clear looks, she does notice certain lines in the girls' skin; like seams. She probably wouldn't have noticed had she not been looking so intently.

    Then a third Rui-bot enters, pushing a large screen on wheels into the room. She turns it and pushes some buttons on it.

    Rui Alpha:
    "This is Rui Sigma. She will now display the object of interest."

    The screen flashes on and there they can see the ship Clear had chosen. There's a long pause.

    Ltexi:
    "It's not the prettiest ship I've ever seen..."

    Clear: "I don't care about pretty."

    Ltexi: "Neither do I. So what does this thing do?"

    Clear: "You'll see when we get it. What are you calling it?"

    Rui Sigma: "The craft's original designation is unknown so it is being named after its former owner. It is called The Lightstaff."

  40. #80
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Arrow Asteroid Fetish

    Clear sits in the cockpit of the Bug and glances over to the Rui-bot sitting as her copilot. A wave of grief washes over her. Only one other person had ever really acted as her copilot before and he, Kiron Nightstrider, is now gone. She almost misses his criticising her flight skills, especially when he then realises how awesome she is at it even if she doesn't do it by the book! A lost smile slips onto her lips for a moment as she activates the ship's landing rockets and leaves the warehouse floor. She guides the Bug out into the Kuiper Belt and dodges asteroids and minor planets as she traverses back into the Sol System.

    Clear: "What're the coordinates, Rui... uh... which one are you?"

    Rui-Rho:
    "My designation is Rui-Rho."

    She gives Clear a broad smile, making her cute as a button. So the expression goes anyway, Clear has never thought of buttons as cute but there you have it.


    Clear: "I bet your fellow Rui-bot in the back is getting on with Green like a house on fire..."

    Rui-Rho blinks.

    Rui-Rho: "Should I fetch the fire extinguisher and spray them both?"

    Clear: "Uh... no. Although I'd find that pretty funny, I don't think anyone else would..."

    Rui-Rho: "Burning people are funny?"

    Clear: "No..."

    Rui-Rho:
    "Burning houses are funny?"

    Clear:
    "No."

    Rui-Rho: "Then burning ships?"

    Clear: "No. No. Burning anything is not funny. You spraying them would have been funny..."

    Rui-Rho: "Oh... I see."

    There's a moment of silence.

    Rui-Rho: "Saving people from burning is funny?"

    Clear: "No! It would be funny because they aren't burning!"

    Clear looks at the cute robo-girl with exasperation.

    Clear: "Look, forget I said anything, okay? How in the name of my aunt's left foot did Antestarr ever put up with you?"

    Rui-Rho takes a moment to process the sentence.

    Rui-Rho: "Put up with... to tolerate. I don't think I understand. Am I difficult to tolerate?"

    Clear: "Yes. Yes you are."

    Rui-Rho: "Then I do not know. Perhaps my sisters are more tolerable than I? I usually had little interaction with Mr Antestarr. My job has usually been piloting away from the warehouse."

    Clear: "Robots... where are we going anyway? Where's The Lightstaff being stored?"

    Rui-Rho: "The asteroid belt."

    Clear snaps her head round and glares, tight-lipped, at Rui-Rho.

    Clear: "We just left the asteroid belt!"

    Rui-Rho: "Not the Kuiper Belt. The Asteroid Belt. Otherwise known as the Main Belt."

    Clear: "Oh right. That makes more sense. But why is it in another asteroid belt? Antestarr has a fetish for big, floating rocks or something?"

    Rui-Rho: "Fetish? A sexual, and perverse, appetite for something. In this case big, floating rocks. I... do not know. Perhaps Mr Antestarr enjoyed sexual experiences with such rocks but I never witnessed--"

    Clear:
    "I... I didn't actually mean that seriously... Don't you know what a joke is?"

    Rui-Rho: "A joke! I know many jokes!"

    Clear: "I'm not convinced..."

    Rui-Rho turns to Clear earnestly, an eager smile on her face.

    Rui-Rho: "Why did the chicken cross the road!?"

    Clear: "Oh no..."

    Rui-Rho: "To get to the other side!!!!!"

    She bursts into animated cackling and Clear cringes.

    Rui-Rho: "Do you understand the joke? Because the listener expects something more--"

    Clear:
    "I got the joke, Rui-Rho. Yes. Very... droll..."

    Rui-Rho: "Knock knock."

    Clear: "I refuse to answer..."

    Rui-Rho starts cackling again, entertained by Clear's rebuttal 'joke'.

    Rui-Rho: "There was an Englishman, an Irishman--"

    Clear: "Please stop with the jokes... Let's just... focus on getting the ship, eh?"

    Rui-Rho nods and sits back more comfortably in her seat.

    Clear:
    "I'll have to remember to get an ejector seat installed in here..."

    When not engaged in conversation, the Rui-bot is blessedly quiet and only reports stats from the monitors that indicate position in the system or fuel reserves or other such rubbish that Clear can clearly see for herself. At least, though, she's not making any more bad jokes. Clear wonders if the Christmas crackers of Earth are made by the Rui-bots. That must be how Antestarr makes his bread and butter.

    After sailing through empty space, a long way from any planets' orbit of the sun, they approach Mars where The Hopeful looms in its own orbit around the red planet. Saffron 5 looks like a giant infection on the world from a distance, stuck to its atmosphere. There's some other minor traffic in the region and Clear hacks into the local communications to listen in to what naughty deals are being made out here in the wild, wild fourth orbit of Sol.

    Rui-Rho finally releases the exact coordinates, for security reasons, and Clear is able to navigate into the Main Belt and they head for the dwarf planet Ceres. Clear dodges whipping asteroids, both large and small until they reach the mini-globe.

    Rui-Rho: "It is in Ahuna Mons."

    Clear: "Isn't that a volcano!?"

    Rui-Rho: "A cryovolcano to be exact."

    Clear: "Why did you hide it somewhere so dangerous!?"

    Rui-Rho:
    "Nobody would find it here."

    Clear: "It's really not that valuable..."

    Rui-Rho: "The Lightstaff has unprecedented technology for asteroid navigation, attachment and mining. It was logical to hide it, therefore, on an asteroid. The safest place on Ceres is Ahuna Mons. Safe from thieves, that it."

    Clear: "I am not risking my life to get this damn ship, I hope you know that."

    Rui-Rho: "Minimal risk involved, Captain Clear. Or is that Admiral Clear?"

    Clear smirks but doesn't reply as she steers the Bug down towards the rocky globe. As they get closer, the mountain known as Ahuna comes into view and, suddenly, sprays a gout of ice into the air. Clear jerks the stick slightly as an involuntary reaction but manages to keep it steady.

    Clear: "Where is it from here?"

    Rui-Rho: "We should land. Rui-Lambda and Rui-Tau will retrieve The Lightstaff. They will be able to walk across the dwarf planet."

    Clear: "Couldn't they have just brought the ship to the warehouse instead of making me fly here?"

    Rui-Rho: "You are probably right! I think that this situation sounds like a joke, am I right?"



    The Lightstaff sits in the hangar of The Hopeful and the two Rui-bot pilots are loitering outside of it as Clear and Rui-Rho approach. The ship is bright yellow and has many lights on it, blinking brightly. Clear might have believed all of this was for safety in an asteroid field except it's called the 'light staff' and she wonders if this is another of Rui-Rho's jokes.


    It's shaped like a mushroom cap with lots of spindly legs underneath it. The hatch is still open, acting as stairs, and inside appears to have a pale beige motif. There are no windows on the outside, not even a name stamp as so many ships usually do. It's double the size of the Bug, though Clear believes most of that space is for cargo - meant for minerals off of the asteroid it may have been mining. Whether its previous owner, Lightstaff, had ever actually used it for mining, or even landing on, asteroids is a mystery to Clear but it was definitely built for that purpose. Clear strokes the outside of the craft to find that the outer hull has a thin viscous layer on it. If she hadn't known it was supposed to be that way, she would have been complaining that the ice volcano did it. The layer, however, is excreted from small ports on the hull to protect the ship from, of all things, 'space barnacles'.

    Pully: "So, where do you want to give it a test drive?"

    Clear glances back to see the others emerging from the Bug.

    Ltexi: "We should take it up the the Party Planet! I'm sure there's more than a few handsome men around the place we can pull!"

    She grins slyly.

    The others, however, look lost.


    Pully: "Which planet is the Party Planet? Pretty sure there's a few that'd claim that title..."

    Ltexi shakes her head at Pully and looks to Clear expectantly. Clear feels the sudden pressure but just manages to give a clueless shrug. Ltexi's shoulders slump.

    Ltexi: "No way! How can you not know the Party Planet of our solar system, Clear? I know you're no delicate flower after you were flashing your flower ar--"

    Clear: "Gah! Don't bring that up again!"

    Ltexi: "I'm talking about the ninth planet, come on!"

    Pully: "There is no ninth planet in the Sol System."

    Clear:
    "She means Pluto. It's not a planet anymore, it's a dwarf planet."

    Ltexi: "How dare they take away my favourite planet's dignity!"

    Clear: "And it's not a 'party planet'--"

    She quotation marks the air.

    Clear: "--not anymore anyway. Recession hit. Now it's mostly a retirement planet for old spacefarers. Lots of space golf. Whatever that is."

    Ltexi: "Is nothing sacred to time!?"

    Clear: "I have something more important to do first anyway. I have to find Alexis."

    Pully: "I'll go with you."

    Green: "And me!"

    Clear: "If you want to find yourself some company, Ltexi, you could head over to Saffron 5. Standards are probably pretty low there though..."

    Ltexi shrugs.

    Ltexi: "So long as he's cute, that's all I need. Not like I'm going to marry the guy. Just need him for half an hour or so and then I'll toss him out."

    Pashna: "I think I'd like to see this Saffron 5 for myself. It does have a very beautiful name!"

    Clear: "Never judge a book by its cover, Pashna. Or it's name. But check it out anyway, if you'd like. Just be careful. There are a lot of villains over there."

    Pashna: "I expect that'd be quite exciting!"

    Clear stares at him for a long moment and then, without looking away, she speaks;

    Clear: "Ltexi... make sure Pashna comes back alive, okay?"

    Ltexi smirks.

    Ltexi: "Lucky for you, kara, I'm not into squid-heads, otherwise you might not be in one piece when I return you..."

    Kara Pashna frowns, entirely perplexed by the statement. Seeing this Ltexi shakes her head and nods to Clear;

    Ltexi: "I'll try."




    Pully: "This whole place is really..."

    Clear: "Human?"

    She manages to force a great deal of disgust into that single word, as though it had first been plunged into a cesspit and blessed by a demon of Tartarus before being uttered.

    Pully: "I was going to say... polite."

    Despite the oddness of the statement, Clear has to agree that it's probably true. This place, this Orbital One, seems designed around the whole concept of comfort rather than function. There are even paintings all along the corridors, most of which are drawings made by 'fans' of the team that live on the station. There's a naked woman with liquid light being splashed on her, which Clear thinks might be buckets of pee being thrown on her. There's a massive bulk of a man with a huge top hat, as though he might be compensating for a smaller stature elsewhere. There's a man wearing a lot of leather and wonders if all humans, not just Antestarr, have fetish attachments to inanimate materials. There's a child there with a book almost as big as she is. There's Judge and Citizen Rex. There's also a lot of pictures of rats, which Clear finds most disturbing. Perhaps rats are a human symbol of good fortune or heroism?

    CynthAI:
    "Esteemed gusts should turn right here."

    The two of them do as bid. They find the place is littered with vending machines and arcade machines.

    Clear: "I thought this station was for, like, six or so people?"

    CynthAI:
    "Special pork pies have been cooked and will be served in the guest quarters."

    Clear: "No thanks. We're just going to see our friend and leave."

    There's a moment of silence as Clear and Pully inspect some action figures in a display case.

    CynthAI: "But I cooked them especially for you..."

    Clear and Pully look at each other with some disbelief.

    Clear: "That really wasn't necessary."

    CynthAI: "They are very good!"

    Clear: "How would you know, you're an A.I., you can't eat..."

    CynthAI: "Because I am a most excellent chef."

    Pully:
    "Again, how do you know?"

    CynthAI:
    "Because I have a very high opinion of myself."

    Pully & Clear: "..."

    CynthAI: "Confidence is the key to success. If you believe in yourself then you can do anything."

    The two women reach a fork in the corridor.

    Clear: "Which way now?"

    There's a moment of silence.

    Clear: "CynthAI?"

    CynthAI: "What's the magic word?"

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