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Thread: Clear and The Hopeless

  1. #81
    Tea-sipper, character-killer


    Clear and the Hopeless: Page 3
    Posts 81 - TBA

    Chapter Two
    The Living Daylights
    Clear was separated from her friends for many months when she was stranded in the Deep Void. She had narrowly escaped destruction at the hands of Sue'san Dienhand, the Warlord commander, but saw the obliteration of the Mirare Spacestation where her friends had been. All but one of her friends survived, though not without their physical and emotional scars. In the Deep Void Clear met with Kara Pashna, whose planet was destroyed by The Imperium, and agreed to help him find a new world to colonise for his lost people. Once returned to the Milky Way Galaxy, Pashna helped to save the life of Princess Aurora Briarose and Clear gathered up most of her former crewmates.

    She also freed the Jupiterian admiral, Ltexi, from her time prison aboard The Hopeful but finds herself at loggerheads with the woman who believes The Hopeful belongs to her and not Clear. Clear agreed to co-captaincy but their relationship is still strained. Now that they are in the solar system they intend to finish their business and then head to the Cosmic Nullius where Ltexi might better ascertain the current situation of her people. In her time she had lived on Jupiter, but her world was blown apart by humanity. All she knew has been lost. Clear hopes to help her friend, Pashna, get authorisation for settling a new world, while her friends are determined to follow her as they once had done. They are also joined by the android Rui-Rho, who had sold them a new ship named The Lightstaff, and, aboard an escort ship named The Unbroken, is Lumo, an old grey whose home was Mirare station. Upon The Hopeful are also Green and Pully, Clear's closest friends, and Mother, the ship's A.I.. Finally Alexis Thrain agrees that she shall meet Clear and her crew at a later date, after completing her obligations.

    Posts TBA- TBA

    Chapter Three
    Last edited by TheBritt; 12-21-2016 at 02:33 PM.

  2. #82
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Orbital One

    Clear: "What's wrong with her?"

    Alexis Thrain, former imperial doctor and now doctor for Hero Force One, glances up from the sleeping beauty on the medical bed. Thrain shakes her head, a mixture of irritation and pity.

    Thrain: "She's off saving the galaxy at the expense of her own body."

    That makes Clear feel incredibly guilty. She's usually acted in the best interests of herself. She'd never risk herself to save others, save perhaps for her friends. She would help if she felt she could, but she would never do it at such a dark cost. The concept also makes her feel angry. As though Judge is somehow at fault for being so selfless and making Clear feel damned guilty about it.

    Thrain, after checking the diagnostics on the sleeping Earther, looks up again, this time staring at Pully.
    Thrain: "That's the body you chose?"
    Pully: "Now she notices me."

    Thrain makes her way around the bed and holds out a scanning device she'd been using on Judge a moment ago. She starts scanning Pully.

    Thrain: "You should still be in the hospital. You're not ready to be out."

    Pully groans.

    Pully: "I feel fine."

    Thrain: "That doesn't mean you are fine. Take your clothes off."

    There's a pause and Clear waits for Pully to give some kind of snide remark and refuse the command. Instead, to Clear's absolute surprise, Pully starts to unfasten her shirt.

    "You're actually going to do it?"

    Pully: "She won't leave me alone until I do. There's nothing to find anyway."

    Clear: "Ooooooookay. Well before you two get naked and have some alone time--"

    Pully: "Heeeeeeeeeey."


    Thrain: "Thrain."

    Clear: "We came to get you."

    "Well I guessed this wasn't just a social call."

    She looks over at Judge, still sleeping.

    Thrain: "I don't think I should leave yet though. They need me. She needs me. Until her situation is resolved, I shouldn't go..."

    Clear: "It's a shame we didn't bring Kara Pashna along. He might have been able to help..."

    Thrain looks curiously at Clear.

    Thrain: "Who?"

    Clear: "He's a kind of doctor. He has some special tech that helps him heal people."

    Thrain stares at Clear for a long moment until the salmitton wonders if she has something on her face.

    Thrain: "You replaced me!?"

    Clear: "No! I mean, he's just with us. He's not replacing you!"

    Pully: "You did try to forcibly probe Clear once, I wouldn't blame her for replacing you."

    Clear: "I'm not--"

    Thrain looks hurt, almost like a lost puppy;

    Thrain: "You know I only came to this stupid station to wait for you! I waited here all this time! Searched for you every day! And now you replace me!?"

    Clear: "I'm not replacing you. And since when did you get so emotional anyway?"

    Thrain straightens her back and tries to look earnest.

    Thrain: "I'm not emotional. Just betrayed."

    Clear: "Alexis..."

    Clear actually pauses to allow Thrain to correct her but she doesn't. Uncomfortably Clear continues;

    Clear: "You're not being replaced. I came back to get you, didn't I?"

    Thrain: "Last."

    "That was a coincidence."

    Pully: "The probe Thrain. You tried to probe."

    Thrain: "I said I wouldn't do it again!"

    Clear: "I know you won't. So. Whenever you're ready you can come back to The Hopeful."

    Thrain turns her stare to Pully. From a pocket she whips out a long probe.

    Thrain: "I had better do a thorough examination. Clothes off and bend over."

    Pully blanches.

    Pully: "Yeah, on second thoughts I'll skip the medical check and stop bringing up the probing incident."

    Thrain smiles with such warmth that it's a horrifying sight to behold. She reaches out and pats Pully on the shoulder.

    Thrain: "I insist. I'm your doctor. Trust me. This is absolutely necessary."

    Clear turns and hurries away.

    Clear: "Bye Pully!"

    Pully: "Don't leave me here! I saved you from this! Save me!"

    Clear: "Byyyeeeeeeeeeee!"

    A moment later and Pully runs past Clear, down the corridor, blindly. Clear laughs, especially because she's half dressed. At least Clear is no longer the only streaker on the ship. Thrain comes up beside Clear and removes the surgical glove with a terrifying slurp.

    Thrain: "Almost had her too. But seriously Clear, I want to return. I just need more time to fulfill my obligation here."

    Clear: "No problem."

    Thrain: "Even if you replaced me."

    Clear groans.

    CynthAI: "I must ask that esteemed guests wear clothing at all times. If you are a friend of Mr Hyperon's and you have forgotten to bring clothing with you, again, then I have gathered a collection of garments for just such an emergency..."

    Clear looks at Thrain with some concern.

    Clear: "Dare I ask?"

    Thrain just closes her eyes wearily.

    After collecting Green, who had been waiting in the Bug for Clear and Pully, the trio had returned to The Hopeful just in time to see Pashna wabbling wearily out of The Lightstaff. He looks even whiter than usual and his tendrils droop lazily. Pully, Clear and Green watch him go by. He doesn't even look at them. He just staggers by.

    Pully: "Either Ltexi is the worst pilot ever, or he is absolutely wasted."

    Ltexi: "Probably a bit of both! I did jerk the ship around a bit after I saw bow bladdered he was. Haha!"

    She laughs with glee at the misery of the poor kara. She skips down the steps from The Lightstaff and saunters over to the other three women.

    Ltexi: "Well, I enjoyed myself. So did he. Too much fun in his case. He's never even sniffed anything as strong as a bottle of lemonade. I got him a couple of glasses of gin and this is what happened. I don't know if he was supposed to stay a virgin to be a priest, or whatever he is, but he's not anymore..."

    "You didn't--!!?"

    Ltexi: "I didn't! I found him a nice tentacle girl. I think it was a girl anyway. Hard to tell with all those tentacles, you know?"

    Clear: "I said look after him!"

    Ltexi: "I did! Brought him back in one piece, didn't I?"

    Pully: "Except his mind, which is probably shattered."

    Green: "Poor Kara Pashna..."

    Ltexi: "He'll be fiiiiiiiine!"

    She wafts her hand dismissively.

    Ltexi: "In the meantime, that stupid robot girl is still here."

    She thrusts her hand towards Rui-Rho who seems to have been stood in the hangar the entire time everyone was away and returned.

    Clear: "Uh... Rui-Rho, why are you still here? The transaction is complete. Was there a problem with the payment?"

    Rui-Rho: "Ah! Captain Clear! I have a new transaction request for you!"

    Clear: "Oh?"

    Rui-Rho toddles towards them in a slightly delayed walking motion that puts her somewhat in an uncanny valley movement that creeps Clear out.

    Rui-Rho: "I would like to remain on your ship for a short while. I can seek new business deals. In return we will offer you a percentage of whatever contracts we accrue! My stay wouldn't be long, just long enough to get some new deals underway."

    Green: "Yay! A new member of the ship!"

    Clear: "I didn't agree..."

    Green looks up at Clear with a knowing expression.

    Green: "Yeeeeet."

    Clear just rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "Fine. I don't really care, I suppose. Just keep your jokes to yourself."

    Green: "Jokes? You know jokes, Rui-Rho?"

    Rui-Rho nods energetically at Green.

    Rui-Rho: "What is the karate expert's favourite drink!?"

    Clear: "Please no..."

    Green: "I don't know."

    Rui-Rho: "Kara-tea!"

    Pully: "That's not even f--"

    Green starts giggling wildly. Clear actually whines in pain.

    Clear: "Okay, I changed my mind. This will never work. Not unless there's any of that Corellian Whiskey left?"

    Pully: "I doubt it. You did end up pantless, remember?"

    Ltexi: "Well since you're welcoming someone onboard, I guess I get to do the same!"

    Clear then stares at Ltexi, suppressing the urge to rebuke her 'co-captain' on principle.

    "We have to make a pit stop at another planet before we leave the system. I met a guy who knows a guy who knows another guy on the planet Saturn that wants an escort to the Cosmic Nullius. We might as well make a buck on the way, right?"

    Clear sneers but shrugs.

    Clear: "Fine. We can at least check it out. Though I don't like the Kryptons. They smell bad..."

    Green: "Yay! Road trip!"

    Pully: "There are no roads, Green."

    Rui-Rho: "Space trip!"

    Green: "Yay space trip!"

    The two girls giggle excitedly at each other. The three taller women cringe.

    Pully: "I think I'm going to throw up from the cuteness."

  3. #83
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow The New Guests

    Since its repairs, The Hopeful has been running more efficiently than normal. The computers tended to stay online for longer, before the almost mandatory blue screen of death appears, the vending machine outside of the medical bay has been serving its cans of pop lukewarm instead of piping hot and the lights didn't feel the need to resort to strobe effects just because someone flushed a toilet in one of the ship's billions of rooms.

    Even most of the more dangerous cracks in the flooring have been sealed over with a thick adhesive substance. It doesn't look pretty, making for a goopy looking patch on the otherwise metal flooring, but at least Clear wouldn't be breaking her neck from tripping over on her way to the hangar. The reunion of her and her comrades, the repair work, seeing Mars still exists and now the prospect of going off on an adventure has Clear feeling almost jubilant. She even waived the offered transportation fee that the Krypton offered her for boarding her vessel. She even forgave the stench that drifted out of his ship when he landed. When he complained that The Hopeful 'smells funny', she even laughed.

    Clear: "Mother, you should show Uppity Bags to his room."

    Uppity Bags looks from Clear to Mother.

    Uppity Bags:
    "Ah. Mrs Clear is it?"

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "No, I'm Clear."

    Uppity Bags:
    "Oh! Sorry! I assumed that was your family name, with you being Captain Clear."

    Clear: "Seriously? You're supposed to be the ambassador for your planet, Mr Bags. You should know not every culture have surnames. Mine doesn't."

    Uppity Bags shifts uncomfortably and looks at Clear with big, pleading eyes.

    Uppity Bags: "I am so sorry. I didn't mean to offend you, captain. I made a mistake, please, please, please forgive me!"

    Clear is taken very aback by this display of grovelling. The Krypton, as with most of his species, is very tall. His body is squat, looking like a lumpy potato, and sits atop of two incredibly spindly legs. His arms are the same as the legs, like two bendy sticks that hang from tiny, virtually invisible, shoulders. He's wearing a crystalline substance as clothing. It's faintly green but often comes in a variety of colours. Few species wear it as they find it cold, uncomfortable and heavy but the Kryptons have never worn anything but this material as their standard mode of clothing. Seeing one wearing anything else would be a peculiar experience for Clear. The substance gets called Kryptonite colloquially because the original Krypton word takes several minutes to say and would make the average English speaker feel that they've been doing the tango in their own mouth. Clear has managed to haggle a few Kryptonite shirts into her own possession in years past because they're incredibly durable and work very well against bullets. But even these shirts don't last forever. Instead the Kryptons have even more durable garments, which Clear has never had the luxury to see never mind possess.

    Clear: "It's... fine. Please stop doing that."

    Uppity Bags nods with a slow, appreciative bob of the head. His big eyes look like runny eyes.

    "This isn't actually my mother anyway. Well... she is... Well, she's the A.I.. I really should have named her something else..."

    Uppity Bags: "Ah! A.I. technology! How very fashionable!"

    He grins at Mother.

    Uppity Bags: "We don't use A.I. tech, it's considered unsafe. But honestly, I think it's very... up-and-coming!"

    Clear is pretty sure A.I. technology has existed before the Martians or the Kryptons existed but decides to leave Uppity Bags to his delusion. Instead she sweeps her hand in the direction of Mother for the Krypton to follow.

    Clear: "Well this A.I. will try her best to be as, uh, fashionable as you like, mate. I mean-- Ambassador Bags."

    Uppity Bags: "Thank you, captain. I'm very glad to have found you and your incredible ship. Our own ships are quite, howtosay, primitive. We're really only just stretching our space legs, you know? Signing up to unification agreements with Earth has really done wonders for our technological advancement, I can tell you!"

    Clear's smile falters at the thought of his race coming to a mutually beneficial agreement with humanity, while her own was wiped out.

    Clear: "It's fine by me. We were planning to go there anyway, taking you along with us isn't any kind of inconvenience. But I'm surprised you didn't go with the Earth ambassador? I know that they sent one, why didn't you go with them?"

    Uppity Bags had been about to leave with Mother, his bags in hand, when he stopped and returns to the conversation.

    Uppity Bags: "Yes, well, they are part of the G8. Ours is considered... of lesser influence in galactic affairs, so we'll be in a lower tier of political affairs, I'm afraid. Still! With our association to Earth, I believe that Saturn will be considered in their negotiations too. I heard that one of the major issues they intend to raise is the subject of Zenos. This second sun we've got mucking up the solar system."

    Clear feels the hairs on her neck stand up. She doesn't have to turn around to know that Ltexi not only heard that but is now glaring in their direction.

    Uppity Bags:
    "So we'll see how that pans out. We've made our recommendations to Earth. Or the Krypton ambassador on Earth did. Strangely he's gone quiet recently. Like he's fallen asleep on the job. Reckon they'll have to send a replacement."

    He shrugs, which is weird to see with his tiny shoulders.

    Uppity Bags: "But none of that is to do with me. I must focus on trying to establish friendly trades with others in the galaxy. I heard that there's a possible market for our Kryptonite."

    He taps his crystal shirt.

    Clear: "I'm certain of that, yeah. And anything better you might have..."

    She says this slyly, certain he would get her hidden meaning. He did and instantly looks shifty.

    Uppity Bags:
    "The shirts you're referring to won't be available for sale, I'm afraid. We've only had one instance of xeno-warfare in our history when some human visitors came and conquered the G-Krypton City, I'm sure you know this--"

    Clear obviously doesn't but decides not to make herself look ignorant and dumb by admitting it.

    Uppity Bags:
    "--and our... liquid metal garments were especially useful against their weaponry. The G-Kryptons were defeated by superior numbers and superior minds. Not by superior weaponry, I can assure you. That technology has come leaps and bounds too, over the years. We have to keep something for ourselves should the need ever arise. The fate of your people didn't go unnoticed, captain..."

    Clear feels incredible. It seems her people may be dead but they're not forgotten and their demise, at least, holds some meaning for others. An entire race of people.

    She nods with grim acceptance and he gives her a smile that she suddenly realises is the first genuine expression he's given her.

    Clear: "Well, good luck in your trades. If you want to look around the ship, by the way, feel free. Just call out for Mother and she'll come."

    Uppity Bags: "Calling out mother might be an odd experience... still, I actually imagine there's going to be a lot of odd experiences in the the Cosmic Nullius. There's a species that eats its own faeces as sustenance. Can you believe that? I have to prepare for a bit of culture shock! To think my ancestor, Flannel Bags, wrote in her book that walls were the greatest culture shock she experienced from the humans. And now I have to face a people that eat and defecate at the same time... the galaxy is a funny place, captain."

    He gives her a wiggle of the wrist as he picks up his bag.

    Uppity Bags: "Thank you for welcoming me aboard, captain. I'm sure I'll enjoy the experience of your vessel. And between you and me, leaving my boring old city life in G-Krypton City will be an unmissable adventure no matter how good or bad it all turns out."

    Clear: "And here's me thinking life in the most populated city on Saturn would be plenty adventurous!"

    He pauses at the steps, leaving the hangar, and shakes his head as only a man dispelling the stereotypes of ignorance can;

    Uppity Bags: "More people in one place just means there's more people to be bored in one place together!"

    He laughs as he ascends after Mother and exits the hangar.

    Ltexi: "What do you think they're proposing for my world?"

    Clear jumps, forgetting Ltexi would be looming behind her.

    Clear: "Buggered if I know. We'll find out when we get there I suppose."

    She sees the indignation in Ltexi's face and understands that pain. Watching her own world become ravaged by humanity was hard. The graves of her people being robbed, even by Clear herself. Zenos is the Jupiterian grave. The humans probably want to harvest it for energy or something but Clear doesn't want to stoke that fire with Ltexi and ruin the positive vibes streaming through Clear.

    Clear: "Where's the other guy you picked up?"

    Ltexi: "He's probably on his way here now. I didn't pick him up, only the ambassador. The other guy is being picked up by Green and that lolita-bot."

    Clear has no idea what 'lolita-bot' is supposed to mean but understands she's referring to Rui-Rho. Letting Green go off with nobody but the child-robot worries Clear deep in her heart, even though she knows Green is actually an adult and the girl is a machine - both capable of looking after themselves. It still seems dangerous though. Luckily Saturn isn't famed for its criminal element so she decides not to start demanding Ltexi guard either of them on these away tasks.

    "The Lightstaff is returning to dock."

    Mother's voice sounds in the hangar and through Clear's PIP. The salmitton looks up to watch the yellow, mushroom-like ship slip through the protective oxygen shields and the flimsy energy shields, producing two wobbles in the view of space as it enters the hangar. It comes to a swaying stop and then makes an abrupt vertical drop with a sudden and horrific clang. Despite what appears to have been a crash, the ship has landed on its legs and sits like a crab.

    Ltexi: "That was supposed to happen."

    Clear: "It was!?"

    Ltexi: "That's how it lands. It sort of... latches onto the surface and just drops... part of the reason it's good for landing on asteroids."

    The hatch drops open and Green bounces down the steps. When she gets to the bottom she sweeps her arm towards the hangar in an overly enthusiastic gesture of welcome. From The Lightstaff emerges a drow. Clear masks her grimace. In all her time drow are often the most cunning and sly of brokers when it comes to the black market. It would be unfair to say all drow are evil and selfish, she knows that's very untrue, but most of them possess such quick wit that often washes over the average human that's trying to bargain. This guy doesn't look like a trader though.

    He beams a broad smile that looks a politically worn as Uppity Bags' had. He has short hair, which Clear instantly thinks as odd as most drow, including males, have long hair. It's a cultural mark she assumes. It's bright white while his skin is black, so obsidian that he might blend in against the dark of the Deep Void. He's also not wearing traditional drow garments. Though drow like brightly coloured clothes, this obnoxiously green and orange shirt he has on would makes the eyes of any common drow water. He has a pair of very short white shorts that Clear is sure are meant to be worn by women in hot countries of Earth. On his feet are sandals. He comes down the steps.

    Green: "Welcome to The Hopeful, Mr do'Ziikin! This is Captain Clear! The most respected hero of the Alliance, saviour of princesses, survivor of the Deepest of Voids--!"

    Clear: "Green... don't do that."

    Green pouts.

    "Well, it's true!"

    do'Ziikin: "I'm afraid she's already given me a lot of stories of your merit on the trip over here. I'm Dhaeriend. But call me Dhae if you'd like. I know my name's a mouthful."

    Clear: "Alright then, Dhae. Nice to have you aboard. I take it you're not an ambassador?"

    do'Ziikin: "Nope! Thank the moons! What a terrible job that would be! Tiptoeing about, careful not to offend anyone's sensibilities! I sort of just blunder into TBH."

    Clear looks aghast.

    Clear: "Did you seriously just say T-B-H?"

    Green runs over, dragging the drow's satchel behind her. It clatters along the floor, forcing a wince of desperation on the man's face. At least he won't be bored during his trip as he tries to glue back together whatever heirlooms were in the bag.

    Green: "Mr do is a scientist, Ms Clear!"

    do'Ziikin: "Not a scientist. An alchemist. Not really the same."

    He comes after Green with the mannerisms of a man desperate to protect his belongings while not wanting to hurt the feelings of the person currently demolishing them. His fingers wiggle, a motion he tries to control by ringing his index to his thumb. His smile is forced into being but marred by the worried brow.

    He points as politely as he can.

    do'Ziikin: "Mind if I take that off your hands there, Lady Green?"

    Green drags the back around, doing an impressive amount of further damage - as though intentionally adding a final hurrah of destruction - and holds out the strap to him.

    Green: "It's pretty heavy, Mr do. Are you sure you don't want me to carry it for you?"

    "I think you need to look up the meaning of the word carry in a dictionary, Lady Green. And consider what the word drag means."

    He takes the satchel and slips it over his head with a sigh of relief. Clear tries not to laugh to openly at his misfortune.

    Ltexi jerks a thumb at Dhae.

    Ltexi: "You should definitely take this guy's money. He's a scoundrel."

    do'Ziikin looks affronted... but not by much.

    do'Ziikin: "Moi!? I assure you I am no scoundrel! Unless money's involved then yes, you might have a point. Sounds like you were thinking of offering me free passage, perhaps?"

    He gives a thin-lipped, prying smile.

    do'Ziikin: "Everybody loves getting things for free, especially scoundrels!"

    Clear can't help but like him. She knows he's a sly fox but he's so completely honest about being such a swine that it's compelling. She knows she can trust that he cannot be trusted. The Krypton ambassador, on the other hand, is a very different sort.

    Rui-Rho has come out of The Lightstaff and descends the steps. She pushes a panel on the ship and the hatch whirs its way back up and seals.

    Clear: "Yeah, I decided not to charge you. We were going to the Cosmic Nullius anyway."

    do'Ziikin: "Cosmic Nullius? Oh no! I must be on the wrong flight!"

    His feigned tone ought to have made it clear to everyone that he was joking. Everyone except a machine.

    Rui-Rho: "That is most unfortunate! Would you like me to fly you back to the X-Krypton City?"

    do'Ziikin: "By the moons, no! That was one dreary, dreary place! It's a city clinging to a history of importance and ignores the fact that every other city is now more important than it. I swear, they still make buildings without walls there. You can imagine the nights were pretty bloody breezy."

    Clear: "Buildings without walls?"

    Dhae makes a stuttering laugh.

    do'Ziikin: "Believe it or not the Kryptons made all their buildings that way before the humans showed up. Sex must have been like a voyeuristic sport!"

    Clear cringes.

    Ltexi: "I remember! Hard to think they actually have walls now. Kind of sad to imagine, really. Cultural heritage out the window."

    Dhae looks sidelong at Ltexi.

    do'Ziikin: "Let me guess, you're one of those people whose hearts beat so slowly that you live for hundreds of years longer than good, honest species?"

    Clear: "Good and honest aren't two words I'd usually use to describe a drow, Dhae. But actually she was frozen in ice for a hundred years or so."

    Ltexi: "Just tell the universe, why don't you?"

    do'Ziikin: "I assure you, captain, the drow people are sincere and lovely. It's just people like me that give everyone else a bad name!"

    He laughs.

    Clear: "I don't doubt that. Alright. We should show you to your room. Rui-Rho, would you do it?"

    do'Ziikin: "Send a machine to do an organics job, eh? You know they'll rebel one day?"

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    Clear: "She's not a servant here. She's just another member of the crew, actually."

    do'Ziikin: "Then I guess the rebellion is already upon us! I'd better batten down the hatches of my room and weather the storm!"

    Rui-Rho tilts her head as she processes this.

    Rui-Rho: "I believe there are approximately four trillion rebellions occurring within the known galaxy at present. There are, however, no rebellions to be weary of within the immediate vicinity. There are also unlikely to be any storms in this area of space. Spacestorms are also a very rare occurrence--"

    Dhae looks down at Rui-Rho with pity;

    do'Ziikin: "I was just joking, little robo-mite."

    Rui-Rho perks up.

    Rui-Rho: "I am good at jokes! Shall I tell you one!?"

    do'Ziikin: "Uh-oh. Why do I have the sudden feeling I'm about to fall into a hole I can't dig my way out of?"

    Rui-Rho: "Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon?"

    do'Ziikin: "Oh dear..."

    Rui-Rho: "Great food, but no atmosphere!"

    She looks up at him with her face frozen into an expectant, open jawed smile.

    do'Ziikin: "I take it back, X-Krypton City wasn't so bad after all. There were a lot of very nice museums and theatres. I'll book a ticket on the next ship."

    Clear snickers.

    Clear: "Don't worry, the walk to your room is only about, say, ten minutes!"

    She grins maliciously.

    do'Ziikin: "Apparently I'm not the only scoundrel in the galaxy! Come then, chibi-robo! Abuse me with your jokes. At least I'll have lots of material to annoy my family when I next see them."

    Rui-Rho leads Dhaeriend do'Ziikin to the stairwell.

    Rui-Rho: "Do you know why a bicycle can't stand on its own?"

    do'Ziikin: "I'm on tenterhooks to know why..."

    Rui-Rho: "Because it's two-tired!"

    "By the moons, I might not be able to make it ten minutes..."

    Ltexi: "So. On to Alliance space? Get a quick repair or two and then straight on to the Cosmic Nullius?"

    Clear: "That's the aim. I want to get the sub-A.I. managing the toilets to stop flushing them all at midnight for absolutely no reason."

    Ltexi: "Yeah, never heard of an overly enthusiastic toilet A.I. before. I wouldn't mind getting the video in my room fixed too. I've missed a hundred years of porn!"

    Clear looks at Ltexi.

    Ltexi: "Okay I'm lying. I made my own on Saffron 5. I tell you, some of them men there will do anything you ask. One had this ping pong ball and--"

    Clear: "You know what, I really don't want to know where it went. Thanks."

    Ltexi: "There was another bloke and this donkey..."

    Clear: "I would happily listen to Rui-Rho's jokes over this!"

  4. #84
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Chapter Three: The World of Tomorrow

    Chapter Three
    Clear and the the World of Tomorrow

    The Hopeful lurches out of Tartarus like a drunk hippo. It slowly drifts away from its appearance point, as though it is trying to sober up its brain enough to figure out where it is.

    Before the ship is the largest structure any person onboard has ever seen. Well over five hundred times the surface area of Earth or Mars, this megastructure wraps around a star, with just four narrow strips in its form to reveal that bright, yellow light within. It was marked out by the former asteroid belt that once surrounded this particular star before the colossal sphere was built. From the outside, the cosmic shield makes the sphere look like a very, very big marble.

    The Hopeful is seven hundred miles long, largest than the majority of spacecraft out there, and yet it is a pinprick against the Cosmic Nullius. The Hopeful steers towards one of the four gaps that, while small on the sphere itself, are wide enough to allow a few planets through. As they draw nearer, guidance locks are activated and The Hopeful is given guidance to access the Cosmic Nullius on autopilot.

    Mother: "Why do they call it autopilot when it is I that must steer?"

    Clear: "I am really not prepared to get into an ethical discussion with you right now, Mother."

    The two salmittons are standing in a long room that Ltexi introduced them to. She calls it the observatory. Clear just calls it the lounge. It's an incredibly long room that is made significant because it juts out from the hull of the ship in a glass encasement to observe the wondrous field of stars beyond. Now the field of view is taken up by the sphere. Clear gulps a drink of gin and tonic. It's only a small dash of gin but it's enough to calm her nerves. Plus it's gin brewed on Saturn and she isn't about to waste it.

    The Hopeful reaches the gap, like a gigantic gate to mark the passage from the wilds of space to civilisation. On either side of the lounge windows the metal carapace ends with tall structures that can only be dwellings. Trees and other plants grow as much for decoration as for their oxygen-producing abilities. Once inside they're able to see the land is covered in green fields, towns, cities, lakes, and even oceans. The land curved right round the inside of the sphere, facing the bright, yellow star at its heart. There Clear can see several planets actually still reside within their original orbit around the star, along with their own moons. Yet there is no darkness of space, only the haze of blue atmosphere that forever makes up the sky. There is no night here, only the eternal daylight.

    The Hopeful is guided towards one of the planets, as it slowly makes its way around the star. As they near Clear realises that the whole world is covered in cityscape. Unlike the land below, the planet has no greenery; it is function only. Information requests come through and Clear opts to leave The Hopeful in orbit around the planet, while they travel down to the cityscape in a shuttlecraft.

    Uppity Bags: "Now that is a magnificent sight!"

    The lanky G-Krypton walks into the room, his long legs striding languidly. He gazes out of the the window with amazement. Clear is in awe of what she sees and she has seen much more than Uppity Bags has ever dreamt of. She can only imagine how he must feel seeing this.

    "Are you ready to go? I'll be taking us down in a shuttle. The information board tells us we'll be teleported down to the Cosmic Nullius from there."

    Uppity Bags:
    "A whole planet just for transportation? The mind boggles."

    Clear: "Officially the whole planet is just designated as Port. But in the notes it's usually referred to as the Garage. So yes. A whole planet just for transportation and parking."

    Uppity Bags: "I actually feel... a little queasy..."

    Clear: "Uh oh. Mother, do you have any sick bags?"

    With The Hopeful, and its remora fish The Unbroken, orbiting the Garage, Clear piloted everyone down aboard the Bug. From their docking bay it was a short walk to the transporter room where some friendly staff checked their certificates, passports, and identities. They were then given badges and documents to take with them and transported down to the Cosmic Nullius sphere.

    Clear is wearing a loose-fitting, white onesie with a simple blush sash around her waist and a thin neckerchief tied limply around her neck. In an incredibly rare display she has unfastened her long hair from its usual braid and to reveal just how long her wavy, white locks actually are. Green keeps staring at Clear's hair as though its an alien attached to the salmitton's skull.

    Green is wearing a pretty, little summer dress of yellow with a blue floral pattern pasted onto it. She has a pair of very simple, white sandals on her feet and, along with the straw hat atop of her green hair, she looks set for a trip to the beach.

    Green: "Look! You can see the land going up!"

    In the distance they could indeed see the land going up towards the sky where it would then eventually disappear from view in the blue haze of the atmosphere. Every single person in the group experiences vertigo and they decide to take a break to try and get used to this new world. Uppity Bags throws up into a paper sick bag. At least Clear came prepared for it this time.

    do'Ziikin: "It really is something... In all my travels never, ever have I seen anything so spectacular. Before I came here I rated Outpost Finangle as the greatest manufactured wonder in the galaxy. Sorry to the outpost but it's now downgraded to number two..."

    The drow gets up from the bench where they have been sitting and stretches his arms wide to bring some life back into them after their long rest.

    do'Ziikin: "Then again, the last time I was there was a couple of lifetimes ago. I hadn't even awoken then. I was like a fresh-brained idiot child, eager to run away from my mother."

    Green: "Why did you want to run away from your mother!? Wasn't she worried about you?"

    do'Ziikin grins.

    do'Ziikin: "Probably! But all she wanted me to do was settle down as a husband for some old noble woman. I wasn't prepared to be treated like a prize to be given away. So I left with a bunch of humans and never regretted it."

    Clear: "All praise our masters and overlords, the human race..."

    do'Ziikin: "Your sarcasm might be so heavy you'll drop off of this station..."

    Green: "No!"

    Green grabs Clear's hand.

    Clear: "He's joking, Green. You can't fall off."

    Green: "I-I know that..."

    Despite her words, she still clutches Clear's hand as though she might suddenly start to float away. Dhaeriend do'Ziikin has ditched his previous outfit in favour of a more conservative getup in a simple white shirt and khaki trousers. He has a trilby on his head.

    Clear: "You are the weirdest drow I've ever met."

    do'Ziikin: "Probably because I'm the most well travelled. I kind of have a reputation for it now, after all these generations."

    Uppity Bags: "You said something similar a moment ago. What do you mean by generations and lifetimes?"

    Clear groans.

    Clear: "Please no religion..."

    "Well, since you asked Mr Ambassador, I shall tell you! Ignore the naysayer, she doesn't know what she's talking about--"

    Clear: "Oh! Would you look at the time! We have to go!"

    Clear hops to her feet and starts marching off with Green in tow. Drawn by their intrepid leaders departure poor Dhaeriend is cut off from his explanation with a mere 'tell us later' from the Krypton ambassador.

    They walk along a path that overlooks a long river of incredibly blue water. Clear is certain it's no ordinary water. Water is never
    that blue. A boat drifts along it, the water cutting at its prow with a bright, luminous glistening that looks like magic to Clear. The boat is tall and red and filled with tourists and revellers. Above the boat fly several creatures that look like airborne stingrays, their mouth and nostrils looking like a cute little face - while their true eyes reside atop of the creature. They make chirruping noises, somewhere between a tweet and a mumbling baby. The most commonly used plant is a white bell shaped flower that has a coconut like fragrance. The flowers are very big, the size of Clear's hand, and hang from small trees arranged upon decorative tiers like a layer cake. From the directions given to the group, they head along the riverside until they reach a new transporter. The transporters here all connect to just one other pad, keeping things simple but requiring some footwork on behalf of residents.

    They pass by a small spaceport where they see a rocket that is bound for the opposite side of the Cosmic Nullius. Its route would take it around the inner planets and past the star to the other side. Clouds hang over the spaceport with the obvious intention of raining down on the concave world. Fortunately Clear's group is quick enough to avoid getting caught out in it. Above the clouds Clear can see two of the inner planets against the blue sky. The Port lurks like a black, ominous plate that slides across the sunlight. She thinks she can just make out the ring of orbiting capital ships around it, where her own would be sailing in the long line. Another planet floats further off but she can see that it is coloured blue like the atmosphere of the Cosmic Nullius, suggesting that it has its own natural ecosystem instead of being coated in a cityscape like the Garage is. With its single, white moon, the planet reminds Clear of Earth. Maybe that makes the Garage the equivalent of Mars. Seems pretty accurate.

    Lumo, taking a break from The Unbroken, toddles along after the group, usually falling behind until they wait for him to catch up. He seems to be happier than Clear has seen him since she returned to the Milky Way and for that reason alone she thinks this trip was a good choice. When they reach the teleporter Clear encourages him to go first, along with Green and Ambassador Bags. The three of them dematerialise upon the pad and vanish. Clear steps up next, along with Admiral Ltexi and Rui-Rho. She feels light-headed, like she is suddenly drunk, and then the world around her dematerialises. She knows it is actually her that was dissolved, but to her it seemed like the world had done so.

    When the world reappears a moment later she steps gingerly off of the teleporter pad. She doesn't like the sensation of it very much but at least Uppity Bags hasn't thrown up again. The signal light on the pad turns from red to green when the three of them got off of it. A moment later and it turned red, indicating that the other pad is occupied. They begin to walk on, expecting that the rest of the group will catch up. Ltexi is wearing her old outfit, a smart militaristic jacket with tall, knee high boots and then nothing but a pair of knickers. When Green expressed an interest in wearing the same clothes, Clear quickly shut down that idea. Ltexi had decided it would be best to wear her original military uniform to better exert her case to the Jupiterian ambassador when they meet her. As the admiral walks, her boots resound loudly against the stone floor and her hand trails along the railing along the promenade.

    "What do you want to do, Dhae? Will you leave us when we get to the Saturn consulate? Or do you want us to take you to the Caledonian embassy?"

    do'Ziikin: "The longer I can put off going there, the better. But I don't want to be left with the boring old Kryptons--"

    He hastily adds towards Uppity Bags;

    do'Ziikin: "--no offence meant, of course."

    Uppity Bags: "Hmm? What?"

    Relieved that Uppity Bags hadn't even heard the remark the drow just shakes his hand toe dismiss his comment to the Krypton and resumes talking to Clear.

    do'Ziikin: "So I'll tag along with you and yours, if that's alright by you? I hear you're off to see the Jovian ambassador? I think I'd be interested to see what's going on over there."

    Lumo: "They may think you are a drow spy..."

    Lumo smirks.

    do'Ziikin: "A spy that wanders up to the front door and says hello? What kind of spy would I be, huh?"

    Lumo: "Unless that's exactly what you want us to think?"

    do'Ziikin: "Wow. How cunning I apparently am."

    Pully: "You are a drow. Can't be trusted."

    do'Ziikin: "And what did a drow ever do to you, human? Am I to be punished for the crimes of another drow? Because all drow are the same, right?"


    Pully glances at Clear with a sudden mask of guilt and silences herself. Clear frowns, thinking she must have been about to make a remark that would have offended her just as much as Dhaeriend. Pully might like Clear and be fine with most aliens but Clear has noticed that she occasionally has something of a racist attitude towards certain peoples or the concept of 'aliens' in general. Something from her upbringing in a society dominated by the Galactic Empire. Clear lets it slide. She's enjoying the atmosphere and doesn't want to go punishing her friend for every mistaken comment.

    Pully is, again, without her armour. Clear thinks this is for the best lest she be mistaken as a citizen of the empire in such a politically charged environment. Instead she's wearing an angular suit of black with a white cravat. She has suit trousers on, coloured white, and a pair of simple, heeled boots. To Clear she looks like she belongs in an office. She's even wearing glasses - albeit glasses of red laser glass. She's wearing a very small, compact and fashionable PIP that is no bigger than a watch, while Clear is still wearing her big, bulky PIP machine.

    The consulate for Saturn is a large white building that, on Earth, would have looked colonial in style. It has many balconies with short, wooden railings and all of the walls are white-washed. The windows are all glass and transparent except some of the windows upstairs which are completely black. Clear guesses that is how they shut out the permanent daylight when it comes time to sleep. Uppity Bags bids his farewell to the group and his thanks to Captain Clear before he turns and enters his consulate. The grounds where the consulate stands belongs within the Earth's embassy estate as the Kryptons have signed up under Earth's banner. As they walk around the consulate they can see the Earth embassy further back. It looks much the same as the Saturn consulate but it's coloured eggshell blue. Outside it Clear can see some humans milling about. She knows she'll probably have to come back here at some point but for now she's keen to avoid the place.

    She hurries away and the others are left having to quicken their own pace to keep up with her.

    They must take a fast-speed monorail to get to the Jovian embassy faster and when they reach the estate they find there's a few consulates upon their estate, representing different significant worlds within the faction's domain. Ltexi points to three consulates which have been built close together and refers to them as the Jovian Block, a trio of worlds that have been coordinating together against the rest of the empire for centuries even in Ltexi's original time.

    Ltexi: "In a way it's comforting to see some things never change..."

    The Jovian buildings are much bigger than the Earth's, built from carved stone and built up in the classical Jupiterian style. They do have some brightly coloured motifs to adorn the buildings, something Ltexi distresses at thinking it an insult to her sensibilities, and their roofs are sharply peaked. The smallest building is actually a church to Marduk and not a consulate at all. Above its door is a large statue of the Marduk god, it having an enormous human head but the body of a duck. Clear thinks the mythological beast looks like nightmare fuel.

    The primary embassy is much larger than the other consulates, dwarfing them all, and stands with three massive towers. Its doors are huge and constantly open. In the garden before it is a big globe that slowly rotates above a pool. They stop and look at it.

    Clear: "It really was an ugly planet though."

    Ltexi gives Clear a shove.

    Clear: "Haha, hey it's not my fault it's the colour of shi--"

    Green: "Wheeeeeee!!"

    Green runs off towards the door. It takes Rui-Rho a moment to follow suit and gives her own, somewhat more robotic, exclamation of delight as she runs after the human.

    Rui-Rho: "Wheee!!"

    Lumo: "They'll probably get themselves arrested before long..."

    do'Ziikin: "Because we're all spies round here, right?"

    Ltexi: "Hopefully there's a shoot on sight policy. Let's wait here and see."

    Clear: "Ltexi!"

    Ltexi: "I'm just joking, relax. I've gotten used to having that Rho-bot doing all my laundry for me."

    "Seriously? You've been taking advantage of the poor thing?"

    Ltexi: "She likes it!"

    Clear shakes her head disapprovingly.

    Pully: "I'm surprised they built a building for Jupiter since, you know, it doesn't exist now..."

    There's a deathly silence and Pully realises she has probably just broken a nerve. Ltexi speaks, without turning to look at Pully;

    Ltexi: "The queendom still belongs to Jupiter, whether the world is here or not. We are Jupiterian in our hearts."

    There's a long pause as they walk towards the building.

    Pully: "You know there's no queen now, right?"

    Another nerve touched and Ltexi grits her teeth.

    "We'll see about that..."

    Kara Pashna, who has been very quiet during the whole trip, pipes up suddenly;

    Kara Pashna: "Well, I think this will be very interesting!"

    Clear looks at him.

    Clear: "That's an understatement. Hello, I was frozen in time a hundred years ago. What's new?"

    Ltexi: "You know what, Clear? That's exactly what I'm going to say."
    Last edited by TheBritt; 07-21-2017 at 07:10 AM.

  5. #85
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow The First Assembly of the G8

    Clear is guided to a room of the Jupiterian embassy, which is quite small and has stone table at its centre, which appeared to have been carved out of one solid slab of rock. A small stool is provided and she's asked to sit down. Aside from a small cup sitting on the table, the room is incredibly spartan. The cup doesn't even have any water in it. As she sits she realises this feels a lot like being imprisoned and she has no idea why they'd treat her this way.

    Ltexi had barged into the ambassadors rooms, forcing the few guards out of her way that were present. Clear and the others had been left outside the room while she went in and talked. Shortly afterwards, the group was guided away to these rooms. Clear supposes it's not every day a woman dead for a hundred years shows up on the doorstep.

    Clear sits for a long minute twiddling her thumbs. Boredom and irritation quickly set in and she starts playing with the cup. She taps it firmly on the table and, suddenly, the cup bounces from her hand and off of the table. She leans over the table to inspect the probable demise of the cup only to find a man lying on the floor. She leaps back in fright.

    "Wow. You squeal like a girl."

    Clear: "Wh-where the Hell did you come from!?"

    The man sits up and and peers at her over the edge of the table.

    Stranger: "Why so afraid? You were happily groping me a moment ago."

    Clear: "What?"

    The stranger shakes his head and gets to his feet. He is pretty tall and broad shouldered and wears an open, loose fitting shirt to reveal the dominant muscular abdomen of his torso. His hair is curly and floppy, looking like its sitting on his head instead of growing from it. He wears a smug grin as he leans on the table.

    Stranger: "Seems you don't know this admiral Ltexi as well as she says you do..."

    Clear glances down at the floor, hoping to see some kind of trapdoor. She thinks he could have teleported into the room but surely she would have noticed the bright lights that such devices normally emit. The Jupiterian moves round the table and straddles his stool.

    Stranger: "I'm Jteff, by the way. Pronounced Jeff but with a silent t."

    Clear: "Right. I think most Jupiterian names do that."

    Jteff: "We're nothing if not consistent with our naming conventions, eh?"

    Clear: "How did you get in here? Actually--"

    She looks again at the floor.

    Clear: "Where did that cup go?"

    He sighs.

    Jteff: "I was the cup. I was watching you. Then you started fondling me. Couldn't let that go on for too long so I made my escape, landed on the floor and revealed myself."

    Clear: "You were the..."

    She thinks.

    Clear: "Right. Of course. Now I get it. Damned Jupiterians. That was a pretty nasty spirited trick! You'd better not be doing the same to my friends, they'll probably not know you lot can even do that! Poor old Lumo might have a heart attack."

    There's a short pause before Jteff taps a communicator attached to his shirt.

    Jteff: "Cancel surprise object for the old grey."

    Clear glowers at him.

    Clear: "Why're you doing this to us?"

    Jteff: "A woman shows up out of nowhere and claims to be a celebrated hero from our past. A little interrogation is more than warranted, wouldn't you say?"

    "Just do some biological scans on her, you'll know for sure then. Her genetic markers will reveal her DNA doesn't correlate with modern markers. Hell, dig out her bone marrow and you'll get a more conclusive answer."

    Jteff: "Bone marrow? That'd hurt like no tomorrow. Pretty harsh of you."

    Clear: "She could use a bit of punishment and humiliation."

    Jteff: "You're not friends then?"

    Clear: "If friendship involves lamenting the day I met her, then sure."

    Jteff: "Colour me surprised then."

    Clear: "Look, sure she's a friend I suppose. Not a close one. Not one I like. But yes, we work together. I'm sure she told you I freed her from the time lock?"

    Jteff: "She did."

    Clear: "I saw her there ever since I was a little girl. A silent, frozen figure in a window. I didn't know who she was, where she came from or why she was like that. When I was able to open the lock, turned out there were aliens in there that could freeze time. Luckily we killed them and then Ltexi woke up. She turned out to be a right *****."

    She collects herself.

    Clear: "You can imagine I had dreamt up stories of the mystery woman behind the glass. She was basically a fairytale princess by the time I was an adult. I'd spent so much time alone on that ship, but Ltexi was always there. I'd confided in her frozen figure. Cried to her... then I met the real her and she was..."

    Jteff: "A disappointment."

    Clear: "Exactly."

    Clear, in her heart, had wanted Ltexi to be a mother to her. That's who Ltexi was to Clear as a girl, the only adult she could talk to after her father's death. If Note had been her father figure, then Ltexi was her mother. Opening up to Jteff on certain personal details is enough to help Ltexi's story, but she isn't going to reveal her deepest secrets. Besides, Ltexi would take the piss out of her if she knew.

    Jteff: "I get that. Never meet your heroes they always say, right?"

    He leans on the table, hands clasped.

    Jteff: "Your story is instrumental in proving the admiral's tale. You were the only one who was there when she was released and you saw her frozen for most of your life. A very useful statement."

    Clear: "I expected a woman to come and interrogate me, to be honest. Kind of surprised to see a..."

    She trails off as her eyes rove downwards.

    Jteff: "Welcome to the modern era. We even have the right to vote now."

    Clear: "Yeah, I heard about that. I think that's a new one for everyone in your country, not just the boys..."

    He just gives a small, amused snort and moves the subject on.

    Jteff: "We would like to study your ship, especially the room she was trapped inside. I don't suppose you kept the remains of the alien?"

    Clear: "I threw them out of an airlock..."


    Clear: "But I did keep a blood sample. Aren't I smart?"

    Jteff: "Yes. Yes you are."

    Clear: "Actually it was Kara Pashna that suggested it. But thanks for agreeing with me anyway."

    She smirks and he indulges in a warm chuckle. Clear realises she's flirting with this guy and that sudden knowledge strikes her into a sudden, icy silence while Jteff taps his communicator.

    Jteff: "Preliminary details established. Any confirmation on the biological tests?"

    A voice returns confirmation that tests reveal ancient genetic patterns and that the subject displays advanced knowledge of that particular period. Apparently even down to the the minor details of underwear fashions of the time. The voice then declares that the interrogations are to be postponed as an urgent assembly has been called.

    Jteff stands up and indicates the door;

    Jteff: "If you'd come with me, seems we'll have to continue our chat later."

    Clear: "Where are we going?"

    Jteff: "We'd been expecting an assembly meeting any day now, just bad timing that they're called it right now. It's actually going to be the very first official meeting of the G8."

    Clear: "G8?"

    "The eight most influential factions in the Milky Way galaxy. One of that eight is, of course, Jupiter."

    Clear exits the room and is guided down the corridors of the Jupiterian embassy. All of the building resembles a kind of ancient prison in Clear's eyes.

    Clear: "I think I remember Uppity saying something about his being a lower tier..."

    Jteff: "Who?"

    "Oh, sorry. Ambassador Uppity Bags from Saturn. They're not in the G8."

    Jteff: "Oh, I see. The Kryptons do have weird names, don't they?"

    Clear: "Says the silent t..."

    Jteff: "Ouch."

    Clear: "So, am I allowed into this G8 meeting?"

    Jteff: "Absolutely! Everyone is welcome to watch. They made the conference room like a massive stadium. Since this is the first ever assembly, I expect it will be packed so make sure you don't get lost in the crowd. Your group can come with us. We'll want to keep an eye on admiral Ltexi anyway."

    Clear: "Sounds like we're still prisoners..."

    Jteff: "Never! Your our... guests that aren't allowed to leave yet."

    Clear: "I tell you this for free, if I want to leave at any moment I will. Otherwise you'll wish you stayed a teacup."

    Jteff: "I'll make you a deal then, you cooperate with us and we'll owe you a big favour."


    Jteff: "Wow, that was quick."

    Clear: "I already know what I want."

    Jteff: "And what's that?"

    Clear: "I'll wait. We'll have to see what happens after Ltexi is confirmed and restored into your culture or whatever you plan to do. Make her an admiral again? Make her your queen since you don't have one."

    Jteff laughs as they step out into the bright sunlight of the Cosmic Nullius.

    Jteff: "Actually she was the second cousin of the queen in her time period. Technically that would mean she is a closer genetic match to the original royal family than the current heirs of today."

    Clear: "Wow. She would make the worst queen ever."

    Jteff laughs again.

    Jteff: "Lucky, then, that we're happily enjoying our republic period, isn't it? There are some that would restore the monarchy but most of us think it's time to move on and embrace this new government."

    Clear: "I agree with you. Absolute power corrupts absolute after all. I bet you've had a few crackpots on the throne in the past."

    Jteff: "Ain't that the truth."

    They stand and wait outside for a brief moment before they're joined by others. Her friends are guided out of the embassy by their interrogators and other Jupiterian dignitaries congregate so that they could all travel to the assembly hall together. Once the entire group has collected they begin to move. Clear feels weird being in such a massive group of people. She could only imagine what her ship would be like with these kinds of numbers.

    Actually she might never even notice if they were all separated over the entire breadth of the ship. They might never even meet.

    "I'm so excited, Clear! The meeting was called by Earth, did you know?"

    "It was? Why doesn't nobody tell me anything?"

    Ltexi: "Nobody wants to worry your pretty little head, boy."

    Jteff: "A blast from the past. Already with the sexism, admiral?"

    Ltexi: "It's not sexism, just the natural order of things. Boys aren't meant for this kind of thing. You just don't have the mental capacity."

    Clear sees the anger bubbling beneath the mask that Jteff tries to wear. Clear had heard Ltexi being rude before but never this bad. She assumes that her deep rooted sensibilities are stronger for her own people than others'.

    Jteff: "And does anybody know the agenda that Earth has put forth?"

    One of the aides reveals that it's something to do with Jupiter itself, which only serves to sour the mood further amongst the Jupiterians. Clear, for a moment, feels a sense of solidarity with this human-haters but she sees little Green looking at her with her big, watery eyes and can't harbour the venom she once did.

    A while later and the gaggle of people take a teleporter to the assembly hall. The building is massive, towering up into the air. Most prominently Clear notices crystalline facets to the structure that reminds Clear of the crystal used by the High Empire. When she asks Jteff about it, he reveals that the High Empire especially aided in the construction of the Cosmic Nullius as only the High Empire and The Imperium really had the manpower to build such an immense megaconstruct.

    They have appeared about midway up the building on a platform that looks way down to the ground floor. The people down there look like big insects scurrying about the gardens that surround the tower. People keep appearing from various teleporter pads on their suspended platform and Clear's group is hurriedly ushered inside the assembly hall. Clear spends the next five minutes being swept by the crowd, following them inside and up a narrow staircase until she emerges in the stalls of the stadium-like hall. She can look down and the billions of seats that sweep around the whole tower and she feels a great sense of vertigo. She instinctively shuffles away from the drop and bumps into the seating. Ltexi comes up behind her and prods her to move on. Clear glances back at her and then notices, over Ltexi's shoulder, that Jteff is going a different way than everyone else.

    Clear: "Where's he going?"

    "Who? The ambassador? Probably down to be in the meeting. Where else would he be?"

    A personal interrogation from the ambassador himself? Clear thinks that's odd but she supposes the situation is an unusual one and Clear has the strongest testimony to the truth of it. Ambassador Jteff. There's something wrong with that name and title together.

    Clear shambles along the thin walkway between the seats to her right and the backs of the seats to her left. She hates being around so many people and feels a strong urge to back up and run away. Ltexi prods her in the back again.

    Ltexi: "Seriously, is your arse so big it slows you down?"

    Clear: "It doesn't slow me down as much as much as your fat head slows you down."

    Ltexi: "Damn, I don't have a good come back for that one."

    Clear finds a gap in the seats with stairs going up and down. She glances back at Ltexi for best directions but she just shrugs.

    Ltexi: "I doubt it matters where we sit."

    She chooses to go down several rows until she finds a long line of empty seats her entire group can fill. She goes all the way to the end and pushes the seat down to sit herself onto it. She sighs with relief, being off of her feet, and looks out at the sea of people. She can't believe that there's so many of them. Ltexi sits beside her and beside Ltexi is Kara Pashna. He seems to be enthralled by all of this. Since toothbrushes were a marvel to him, all of this just adds to his expansive list of wonders to gaze at.

    "Are you okay, Pashna?"

    Kara Pashna: "Very. Thank you Clear. I just wish my people could be here. Wish that they could be a part of... this."

    Clear: "Me too..."

    Ltexi: "Great. I get stuck between the orphans. Are you two going to do much of this 'my people are dead' melodrama?"

    Kara Pashna: "You are quite heartless, Admiral Ltexi..."

    Ltexi: "Hey. Technically my people are dead too. These imbeciles are not the same people I once knew. But you don't see me whining about it..."

    Clear: "They will be your people once you have your identity confirmed."

    Ltexi: "Suppose that's true."

    There's a loud gong sound, indicating that the conference will soon begin. The people start to quieten down and those still standing move to seats. There are, however, still people filing into the hall and Clear expects that there will be a lot of people who will miss the start.

    The lights in the hall dim and a thin beam of light shines down from the ceiling high above her to the very bottom of the massive tower where the conference would be held. She squints. She can barely make out the figures of the people down there but they seem to be divided into eight groups.

    Then images appear in the air, spread out from the thin beam of light. The images are reflections of those down below and the beam of light projects in such a way that it plays a visual trick on the eyes - no matter where she is in the room, the same image will appear. She could be ten rows down and still see the exact same image before her. She could be on the other side of the hall and see the same image again.

    She spies Ambassador Jteff at the Jupiterian panel, a tall stone podium with the crest of the Jovian royal family emblazoned upon it. Above his podium words appear, typed clearly for everyone to identify which podium is which. It types out in English, the most common language in the galaxy, and then in a few other languages. Clear can't read any of them expect one, which uses the same characters as English, and appears to read 'table bashers'. She can't help but wonder what language that is from.

    Closest to the Jupiterian podium is that of the High Empire, their podium made from their unique crystalline material, and has a flag of red and black hanging at its front. The woman there is a species that Clear doesn't recognise but appears to be like an anthropomorphic cat creature. Caledonia has, of course, a drow woman for its ambassador. Earth has a polished wood podium with a stylised image of the Earth on it. In the small group of humans, Clear spots Ambassador Upitty Bags. Looks like he gets a front row seat to the G8 this time. She is also entertained to see that the alien name she can read for Earth seems to read 'sods'.

    Then there is also the Alliance and the Galactic Empire of the Milky Way, both with human ambassadors. The Imperium has an ambassador that Clear could hardly describe. The being is humanoid but barely. Its head is entirely black and has a face that looks like a white, unmoving mask. Upon its body is a brightly patterned robe that trails long the floor as the creature steps up to The Imperium podium. Its long, thin, black arms end with long white fingers attached to a black palm. It has a habit of cocking its head to one side as it stands there quietly. Clear grows uncomfortable looking at it, not just because the creature is creepy but because she has a deep dislike of The Imperium in general. Finally there is also the Slavemasters of Orion podium. Clear is angry that they are allowed to the diplomatic table at all, let alone the G8, for their open practice of slavery. Their podium is marble and their symbol is that of the Orion star system from a top-down view.

    Another gong marks the start of the session. Sound emerges from all around Clear - from outwards and from speakers in the seat's arms. Initially it's a little overwhelming but she adjusts. She also notices that writing is appearing, delivering the spoken words in written form in some alien language. Clear suspects that those particular aliens may not be able to hear, unlike most sentient beings of the galaxy. Clear glances down at the row in front of her where she sees a whole line of other humanoids. The man right in front of her is one of the equestrian-headed beings who claim the planets Neptune and Uranus in the solar system. Next to him is a nondescript human but next to her is a robot, his metal body glinting gently in the glare from the shaft of light. It seems every walk of life is here today.

    The human ambassador for Earth steps up to his podium. He is an elderly man, much older it seems than the other ambassadors, and has gery hair with just some flecks of colour left in it. Despite his age, he has retained some youth to his looks that makes him appear distinguished. He uses a cane to help him up the couple of steps to get up to his platform and rests it against the podium. Before he speaks he looks up at the crowds. To Clear it appears as though he's looking up at the people above her, but she knows he's way down below looking up at her.

    He adjusts his tie, looking a little nervous, before he speaks;

    Ambassador Simon: "I have called this emergency conference to discuss a grave matter that threatens the lives of billions of people."

    His name appears, typed, above his head. Clear winces at the spelling, wondering how she'd ever be able to pronounce that. Most of the men of Earth she has met are called Dave or Martin or Bob. She figures he must be from one of the more obscure Earth nations. Like that place called Europe. Or the one called Africa. She's pretty sure they're small, weird places with big, weird names.

    Ambassador Simon: "Some of you may recognise me, but for those that do not I am Ohqeanos Simon and my wife is of Jupiter--"

    Ltexi: "No way! A human and a Jupiterian!? That's... disgusting."

    Clear: "I'm pretty sure you had sex with at least one hu--"

    Ltexi: "Sex is sex. Marriage is something very different."

    Ambassador Simon:
    "So when Jupiter was accidentally destroyed--"

    Ltexi, and many others, especially Jupiterians, boo loudly when he says 'accidentally destroyed'. Clear wonders if this kind of behaviour is acceptable but decides to join in. Human-hating en masse makes Clear feel very satisfied with her years and years of doing it alone. The ambassador waits for a long moment, waiting for the booing to calm down. When it finally seems to have dwindled he continues;

    Ambassador Simon: "I, as evidently many of you are also, was devastated. Jupiter was, in many ways, my second home. It is the world where I truly came into my own and learnt who I was and what my future would be. I helped stop the doomsday weapon then that threatened the planet--"

    Ltexi: "So the humans have tried to blow it up more than once!?"

    Ambassador Simon: "for it to then be destroyed anyway. My efforts in vain, my home destroyed and my wife's family, my family, killed. My children never able to trace their Jupiterian heritage."

    Ltexi: "There's half-Jupiterians these days? That's just so many levels of wrong. Does his wife just have a massive kink for aliens or something? I wonder how many human husbands she has..."

    Clear: "Seriously? I bet you're imagining it now, aren't you?"

    Ltexi: "Nothing wrong with imagining having six human husbands all in bed at once -- so long as it stays a fantasy."

    Clear tries to not let that image pop into her own head and stares dilligently at the ambassador.

    Ambassador Simon:
    "So I ask that you please believe me when I tell you that I have a deep respect and love for Jupiter and the loss of the world is not only a tragedy of epic proportions but a personal tragegy for me and my family."

    Ltexi: "He's really laying it on thick isn't he?"

    Kara Pashna: "Quite the orator."

    Ambassador Simon: "However, where once stood a world of history, a world of culture, a world of honour -- now stands a threat. This new star called Zenos has already had a dramatic affect upon our star system and, small as it is now, is likely to grow in volume as the star builds itself up. Eventually the heat within our star system will be so hot, no life could possibly exist there. Earth will die."

    Clear: "Taste of your own medicine much?"

    Ltexi: "Exactly right. Let them burn."

    Ambassador Simon: "But it is not just the Earth that is threatened. Every planet in the solar system will be turned into a ball of heat. Venus, home to the rockmen, Neptune and Uranus are home to the fayrie. The inhabitants of Pluto and Charon. Mars, home to humans--"

    Clear grimaces. She'd happily watch them burn most. However she doesn't want Mars to become as hot as Mercury and everything that was once her people's home to be melted down to nothing.

    Ambassador Simon: "And, of course, the Kryptons of Saturn. To emphasise this point, I ask my colleague Ambassador Uppity Bags to beseech you now."

    The ambassador turns and slowly makes his way off of the podium's platform, using his cane to keep him steady. The audience is alive with murmuring as everyone debates the subject.

    Uppity Bags ascends and leands towards the podium, evidently searching for a microphone that isn't there. Eventually he decides to just speak and hope for the best.

    Ambassador Bags: "People--"

    He's surprised by the sudden volume of his own voice.

    Ambassador Bags: "Sorry. People of the galaxy. I know my people, the Kryptons of Saturn, are not the most influential of people in the galaxy. We are not the most important of people. We are not likely to be missed should be we destroyed by Zenos' heat. But I do emplore you, surely we deserve the opportunity to live. We deserve the right to existence. Fault for the destruction of Jupiter is not the issue here. It is the survival of all the species of the solar system. You may blame humanity for the unexpected actions of a few of their kind, but what fault have the Kryptons? Are we to be destroyed in the fires of Jupiterian vengeance?"

    Some shouting ensues from certain quarters but not as vehemently as earlier. Even Ltexi is eerieely quiet.

    Ambassador Bags: "We require that Zenos be extinguished, so that others might live. Various proposals have been drawn up and the best solution has been conceived. The sun should be drained of its energy and rendered inert as a gas giant. That is the proposal for today's conference. Thank you for your patience and I hope that the other ambassadors will come to the right decision today. We now call recess. Our plans will be sent to each of the ambassadors for consideration and we will reconvene in two hours when discussion can be meted out."

    The lights in the room illuminate to normal levels and people stand up and start to depart. Clear sees that Ltexi stands up and follows suit. Soon enough her whole row is leaving the assembly hall and they gather up outside. Ltexi seems especially agitated and Clear understands why. The whole speech had been very careful, using a man who has personal ties to Jupiter was smart of the humans of Earth. And then using non-humans to beseech the other ambassadors worked too. The problem for Clear is that they were right and it annoys her that the evil of humanity will not only go unpunished but will must be cleaned up by everyone else too.

    As they stand about discussing the situation, the assembly tower and the general mood of the people a messenger appears and delivers a summons to Clear personally.

    Pully: "Who loves you today, huh?"

    Green: "Oh, I bet it's the handsome Mr Lander!"

    Ltexi: "Oh, that's right. I forgot you have yourself a little human boy toy."

    Clear feels her cheeks flush blue.

    Clear: "He's not-- he's just some man. I mean-- I wouldn't say no but-- I mean-- Just shut up the lot of you."

    There's a lot of chuckling from everyone.

    Ltexi: "Well, one thing I will credit human men for -- they don't require a lot of encouragement, am I right?"

    She winks at Clear and Clear just sulks as she checks the summons message, taking the paper from the envelope. It's handwritten in a very charming and elegant cursive style requesting her attendance in the Earth chamber of the hall.

    Pully: "Weird. What do they want you for?"

    do'Ziikin: "Maybe old Uppity wants to say hi again?"

    Ltexi: "Wanting to drag us all the way down there just for him to say hi after leaving him a few hours ago? Bloody Kryptons."

    Green: "Well, I want to see the Earth chambers! And their embassy! It's been so long since I last saw my home... I .... Ms Clear, can we please go?"

    She looks up at Clear, her hands clasped at her chest.

    Clear: "Green. You do that innocent begging look on purpose, don't you?"

    Green: "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!?"

    Rui-Rho: "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!?"

    The robot girl stands in the exact same posture besides Green.

    Kara Pashna: "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeas e?"

    He likewise mimics the two girls.

    Clear: "Pashna. You don't have the cute factor to pull it off."

    Kara Pashna: "Well, I thought it was worth a try."

    Pully: "Maybe if you did a more, 'please, I'm a naughty boy and I need spanking' look, she'd go for it."

    Clear: "Hey!"

    Kara Pashna: "I honestly have no idea what you mean by that, Ms Pullista."

    Pully: "Lucky I think your tentacles are sexy or I'd smack you for calling me Ms Pullista. It's Pully. And my surname is double-barrelled anyway. You'd have to say Ms Terrin-Pullista all the time."

    Kara Pashna: "Pully it is then."

    Green is already tugging on Clear's hand in the direction she thinks the Earth chambers must be and Clear, somewhat reluctantly, lets herself be dragged along.

    Ltexi: "Not sure I really want to go. Still, being in the heart of the enemy camp could be interesting."

    Lumo: "Indeed, I concur..."

    do'Ziikin: "I feel like I'm in one of those spy movies! Tinker Sailor Soldier Martian!"

    The group marches on and they enter a large turbolift, which is spacious enough not only for their group but also a few other people as well. As she stands there Clear feels eyes on her. She glances back to see an Orion gazing straight at her, making no attempt to mask his intent stare. Clear stares back.

    Clear: "What the Hell're you looking at?"

    Orion Man:
    "A very beautiful rare commodity."

    He smiles.

    Clear: "Commod-- Orion, you are about to get the beatdown of your--"

    Pully: "Leave it, Sir. Don't sweat it. These Orion bastards will say that to everyone. Scum of the galaxy."

    Orion Man: "Come now. Our trade keeps the galaxy turning. There's no richer faction to be found. If our trade were so awful, why do we have so many customers?"

    Pully: "I guess the whole galaxy is full of scum then."

    Orion Man: "Well then, I am scum. But you, red skin, are still worth a pretty penny. If you like being free, you should watch your back."

    The lift doors open and he walks towards them. He stops in the doorway, hand holding them open.

    Orion Man: "Not that it would help you though. If someone is willing to pay the right sum for such a rare prize, you'll be taken one way or another..."

    He grins as the doors close on him.

    "Why does everyone want a piece of your arse, Sir?"

    Ltexi: "Because there's enough of it to go round?"

    Clear: "I'm not afraid of them. I'll beatdown anyone that tries to take me. And stop calling me Sir."

    Pully: "Sorry Sir."

    Clear rolls her eyes and steps off the lift as the doors open again. The group files out and they follow directions towards the Earth chambers. Standing outside the big, square, double-doors are two human guards. When they see Clear at the head of the group, one of them opens the doors while the other announces that they've been expecting her. The group is allowed in.

    The room is quite long with very Earth-like furniture. There are three long sofas that are coloured navy blue in a very ultra modern style. There's a white coffee table in the middle of the sofas and to one side Clear spies a water cooler. On the walls are paintings of important humans; Elizabeth I, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Mao Zedong, Stephen Hawking, Plato, Nelson Mandela, Louis Pasteur, Arkng Thand. The last one she sees is the only painting that sparks some kind of recognition but she can't think who he is. Perhaps he was a famous scientist or something. She is distracted from the paintings by the constant clicking of a metronome at the centre of the coffee table and she stares aggressively at it. Why people liked these things is baffling to her. The constant tick-tick-tick annoys the buggery out of her.

    Ambassador Simon: "Thank you so much for coming. I'm Ohqeanos Simon."

    He glances at everyone as he enters from another room but goes straight to Clear.

    Ambassador Simon: "Captain Clear, I believe it is? Ambassador Bags told me all about his time spent with you aboard your vessel."

    He acknowledges Uppity Bags as he enters from the other room. The Krypton gives Clear a smile and waves his tiny hand at the others.

    Clear: "Why did you want me here?"

    Ambassador Simon: "Right, yes. Would anyone like a glass of water?"

    Ltexi: "I'll take something alcoholic if you've got it."

    The ambassador holds out his hand towards a closet door at the back of the room. Uppity Bags opens it to reveal a large stock of liquors. Ltexi slaps her hands together and Pully hurries over to get a good look at the selection.

    Clear: "Get me something strong, Pully!"

    Pully: "Aye aye, Captain!"

    Ohqeanos holds up his hand.

    Ambassador Simon: "Please hold on a moment. Drink and work rarely mix."

    Clear: "I didn't realise I was working."

    Ambassador Simon: "Well, that's why you're here. We had been considering appointing an ambassador for Mars. It's got its own government, laws and regulations and should have its own representation amongst our embassy. As the only Martian in existence, it would be a crime if anyone but you were to occupy that role..."

    There's complete silence as shock hits everyone in the room save for newcomer Dhae, who chuckles as he raids the liquor store.

    Clear: "... me?"

    There's a definite tension and mild surprise sweeps across Ohqeanos' face as he doesn't seem to see why nobody is celebrating this sudden job opportunity. Clear feels mostly disgust.

    But as she savours the thought, he is right. It would be a crime against her people if anyone else took the job. However she not only doesn't want the job, she abhors the very idea of working with the humans that made her the only qualified person to begin with.

    Clear: "Pully..."

    Pully shoves Dhae out of the way, who complains as he almost spills a very large jug of whatever insane cocktail he was making in it. She snatches the obvious bottle of Correllian Whiskey and pops the cork. She pours a very full glass and hands it over to Clear. The salmitton sees the disapproving frown Ohqeanos' face but he doesn't comment. She watches him as she swigs her drink. The bitter splash against the back of her throat gives her an instant pleasurable wash of succour. She then takes a deep breath and savours the strong taste on her tongue.

    Clear: "You can shove your job up your arse, mate."

    Ltexi: "Well said, Clear."

    Ltexi takes the Correllian Whiskey bottle from Pully and chugs a swig straight from the bottle. She coughs and winces from the strength of it and looks at Clear with newfound admiration for her drinking tolerance.

    Ambassador Simon:
    "I... see. I'm sorry, I thought you would see this as an opportunity to try to... fix the mistakes of the past."

    Clear glares at his over her glass.

    Clear: "You can get away with saying it was a mistake when Jupiter was destroyed, but there was no mistake when your people invaded my planet."

    Ambassador Simon: "I'm sorry. Yes. You are right. I didn't mean it that way. I meant to say you can repair the damage done. You would have the voice of the planet. People will listen to you, the last Martian, and you could direct the path of your homeworld."

    Clear: "Still no."

    Ambassador Simon: "Oh... well, I am surprised. I honestly hadn't expected that."

    Clear: "Sucks to be you. Is that all you wanted me for?"

    Ambassador Simon:
    "Well, I--"

    Ambassador Bags: "Captain, we really want you to take the stand with us and try to convince the council that we must rendered Zenos inert fort he sake of our solar system."

    Ltexi: "You have got to be kidding me."

    Clear: "So you offer the job and then tell me the cost of hiring, eh? That was the plan?"

    Ambassador Simon: "No! Not at all! The job is yours regardless of whether you would choose to speak! Of course, it'd be hard to represent a world that doesn't exist should this star continue its existence."

    Ltexi: "That star is all that is left of my home! You killed it once and now you want to do it all over again!"

    Clear: "Besides, my world was destroyed a long time ago. That world was one of Martians. Your Mars is a world of humans."

    Ambassador Bags: "But Captain, your voice as the last Martian could persuade them. You'd save what's left of your world and help save mine. We need you, Captain."

    Clear sits heavily on the sofa with her glass in hand. She knows Uppity is right and she does want to help but, but the idea of helping the humans cover their crimes is abhorrent to her. Ohqeanos sits down on the sofa beside her, leaning on his cane as he drops down. He taps a finger against it as he considers what to say next.

    Ambassador Simon: "I know you are angry. It seems that there's no justice to be found for the villainy done against you. I feel it too. I have spent my whole life in and out of hospital, weak and afraid. I lost the affections of my wife--"

    Ltexi: "No surprise there."

    Ambassador Simon: "I rarely saw my children because I couldn't visit them and they didn't want to visit me in the hospital. I don't even know if any of them love me and I know they certainly don't respect me. Perhaps they merely pity me. And then, suddenly, I was freed from all sickness. Just like that. But now I'm old and my entire life has been wasted. I am angry at the universe. But I won't wallow in it. I can still do something with the rest of the time I have. I can be a better man. You can too."

    Clear: "Being sick isn't the same as having your entire people slaughtered."

    Ambassador Simon:
    "No, I know. I mean to say what you do with your life is important. You can waste it in hatred or you can do better and change the future so that your people can be honoured and respected properly."

    Clear looks from him to her friends but she's unable to read them properly. Green looks afraid, Ltexi looks pissed but otherwise everyone just looks concerned for Clear. Except Dhae who is grinning like a loon as his drinks his fish bowl cocktail through a ridiculous looking straw.

    "I want a memorial for my people."

    Ambassador Simon:

    Clear: "One on Mars and one on Earth. I want humans to see what they did and regret."

    Ambassador Simon: "I'll see to it that's done. I know it will be approved."

    Clear sips her drink.

    Clear: "And I want-- no. Nothing. I'll talk to the G8. But I'm not taking this stupid job."

    Ohqeanos looks a little disappointed but also relieved. At least he got half of what he wanted from her and it's the most pressing of the two matters.

    Ltexi: "I can't believe you're going to go along with them. After what they did. To both of us!"

    Clear: "What am I supposed to do? I can't let everyone die out of spite."

    Ltexi: "Why the Hell not? I think spite is a grand reason to let them die. It's much better than an 'oops it was an accident', their reason for blowing up my planet. Murdering my family, my descendants."

    "Don't you think the Kryptons deserve the chance to have descendants too, Ltexi?"

    Ltexi: "Who gives a damn about the Kryptons!? A backward people that nobody gives a toss about! I was the one that uplifted them to begin with! I was there when the Kryptons were busy hacking each other for fun. And even then, these stupid bloody humans were at it too. Killing, conquering, destroying everything like a bunch of barbarians. It's one thing to claim lands, to defend yourself against others, but it's another to treat war and destruction like a game. And that's what both humans and Kryptons do. Give them their descendants, what for? How many planets do they need to blow up before the galaxy wakes up and sees them for what they are? How many genocides do they need to commit before someone gives them the punishment they richly deserve?"

    She tosses the whiskey bottle to Pully, who fumbles with it but manages not to drop it.

    Ltexi: "Damn the humans. Damn the Kryptons. And damn you, Clear."

    Ltexi storms out and the room falls into dead silence. Even Dhae now realises how intense this situation actually is and he looks meekly around at everyone. Green looks like she might cry. Rui-Rho looks confused. Lumo torn. Pully anxious. Pashna solemn. Uppity Bags hurt and shocked, like he was just slapped in the face. Then punched in the gut and and told his family was dead. To be so utterly disrespected by a woman he clearly admired, respected and possibly revered for what she had done for his people must be one of the worst personal insults he could take. Don't meet your heroes Ambassador Jteff had said.

    Clear: "We should go to the assembly hall now before I change my mind and go after Ltexi."

    Clear says in such a dark tone that nobody is about to argue with her. She stands up, putting her glass on the table as she does so, and turns to Uppity Bags for him to lead the way. As everyone else also begins to follow the Krypton for the door, Ohqeanos halts them.

    Ambassador Simon: "I'm sorry, the rules of the assembly won't allow everyone to accompany Clear to the conference."

    When he sees the anger on Clear's face he quickly adds;

    Ambassador Simon: "I should be able to get approval for one person to accompany you for support."

    Clear: "Pully. Come with me, okay?"

    Green: "But I want--!"

    Pully: "Can it, pipsqueak. You'll only cause trouble."

    Green sulks but accepts the terms. An aide offers to guide everyone to the audience seats while Clear and Pully go with the two ambassadors. They don't speak as they go, well aware that Clear sits on the edge of a knife. Pully puts a comforting hand on Clear's shoulder blades as they walk through the doors leading to the centre stage of the assembly hall. She is led around the central circle to the area reserved for the Earth ambassador and his aides. There's a few humans here, ready to help Ambassador Simon should he need it. They stand in a group and welcome Clear and Pully when they join them.

    Clear looks across the hall to the other podiums. She sees that The Imperium ambassador is already back, possibly he never left, and just stands behind his podium like a silent statue. Clear is offered some water, which she accepts this time, washing down the whiskey.

    The ambassador to the Galactic Empire enters next, accompanied by her own human aides. She is quite short but it's obvious that her tall boots put an extra inch or two to her height. She is wearing a smart, grey military uniform and Clear wonders if she had been a military officer before accepting the position as ambassador.

    After a while of waiting, Clear beginning now to calm down and steady herself for the speech she been asked to give, the other ambassadors enter around the same time. Above Clear knows at there are billions of people going to be watching her. Fortunately the glare of the light shaft blinds her to anything beyond the first row of seats several metres above her. The thin beam is not so blinding higher up, but here at the base it spreads outwards - obviously encompassing the whole circle so it can project their image all the way up the tower.

    Finally Ambassador Simon steps up to the podium, taking each step with his cane, after the second gong has sounded.

    Ambassador Simon: "We shall now reconvene. As we made the proposal, the other ambassadors are entitled to speak their minds on the matter first."

    There is no surprise when it is the Jupiterian ambassador that steps up first. Ambassador Jteff takes to his stone podium and stares over at Clear with the humans as though she has personally betrayed his trust - even though they only met a few hours ago. She supposes she did fondle him as a teacup, perhaps there's some bonding in that.

    Ambassador Jteff: "We of course must raise an objection to this proposal."

    There's a series of cheers but also jeers. The audience definitely seems divided.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Zenos is not only a star but it is the graveyard of my people. Not only my people but the very heart of our culture, our society. The Jupiterians have stood in this galaxy for longer than most species and our arms stretched wide from Jupiter. The day Earth destroyed Jupiter was the day they took our heart, the killed our beloved queen, they took everything that made us who we are. Our world was filled with portals, that is our mode of transport and most of you will know. When Jupiter blew up, the blast went through those portals. The damage was far reaching. Hardly a world within our hegemony survived the attack. Billions and billions of us died and Zenos stands as our monument. But it is also the ultimate punishment for those that showed the galaxy what they are! Their world, their people, will be killed by their own design. It is the ultimate retribution. It is karma. It is justice. The people of Earth shall reap what they have sown. And the galaxy will be all the safer for it. Tell me, who shall be next should Earth survive this star? What world will they ravage first? Another one of ours? Perhaps they'll go for the Orions or the drow? Maybe they'll attack one of their own species, the Alliance or the Galactic Empire? Perhaps they will even have the audacity to attack the mighty Imperium or the High Empire? I believe their hubris to be more than enough for that task. How many of us must die before we realise the threat that Earth demonstrates? Even these other human factions are not exempt from the evil of their species; Mirare being the prime example. First their world and now, in recent news, humans have destroyed what was left. And this is exactly the same. They wish to destroy what is left of our legacy. Earth is a blight on the galaxy. At least it might serve as a lesson to the other human factions that their wanton destruction will be paid in kind...

    There are a lot of cheers from above. She can't hear any jeering.

    As none of the other factions have dissimilar arguments to those already presented by both sides, Ambassador Simon calls Clear to the podium, introducing her as Ambassador Clear of Mars. Clear snarls at Ohqeanos on her way past. He knows he has overstepped but she understands that he had to introduce her in as official light as possible. Yet she will not forgive him for that and later she will be having words with the old coot. She takes a moment to collect herself. She knows what she has to say but opening up at this moment is going to be the hardest thing she has ever done. She glances back at Pully. The human woman mouths 'you can do it'.

    Clear: "People of the galaxy. I am... Ambassador Clear of Mars. I am... the last of my kind. A Martian. A salmitton. Perhaps not many will know of my people or my world, but surely you have heard the tales of humanity's greed and acts of genocide. I can attest the accounts are not exaggerations, they are entirely true. The people of Earth attacked my world, slaughtered my people and those that surrendered were rounded up and left to die from Earth-bound diseases. I was fortunate enough to have an... an enterprising father who stole a human shuttlecraft and left orbit to dock on a forgotten, derelict spacecraft. It's there that my father died. It's there that I grew up as the very last of my kind. And it is the fault of humanity..."

    She knows this speech isn't propelling Earth's cause just yet, but perspective is essential in this. And she isn't going to lie.

    "I've spent my entire life hating them. I watched them raping my planet. They took everything, picked the bones clean. I will never forgive them. I will never forget their crimes. They have wronged me just as much, if not more so, than any Jupiterian. You may have lost a world--"

    She shouts now, drowning out the protestations of her claim;

    Clear: "--But you still live! Your people are still here! A great power of the galaxy. You have the luxury of survival! The luxury of... children. My people will be lost once I am dead. My death will be... the death of my entire species."

    She doesn't mean to let the pain into her words but as she says them she can't help but cough back the sorrow that wells up. Children. She never even realised until now just how much she wishes that could be possible.

    Clear: "And yet here I stand! I stand with Earth in defiance of the great and might Jupiterians. Tell me, amabassador Jteff, is there no crime amogst your people? I know the stories of Queen Ptetra. How she had her mother murdered, sacrificed her own people for magical powers. Tell me, when she was finally killed, how did you punish the children she had with her first husband? Or did you make the first daughter queen? If you want to punish the humans of today, then you must punish the descendants of all your own criminals. Can you, ambassador, safely say that no criminals lurk within your family tree? Are you to be judged by their actions? Are you capable, never mind responsible, of the same acts yourself?"

    Clear allows that to sink in.

    Clear: "We all long for revenge. I understand the feeling. I experience it every day. Every new human I meet I want to hate. But hate will earn us nothing. Hate will not repair the damage done. Hate will not give us a better future. Earth should pay for its crimes by remembering them and never repeating them. Their punishment is to become better than they have been..."

    She pauses.

    Clear: "Zenos may well be a monument dedicated to the horrors that humanity is capable of but if it is not extinguished then there will be a new monument. The entire solar system. Every planet will be a monument. A monument to the vindictiveness of Jupiterians. A monument of hatred. I will not let this happen to Mars. I want Mars and Zenos to be immortalised as symbols of temperance and peace."

    She looks up into the audience and wonder where her friends are. She tries to imagine the face of Pashna as she draws upon his name now;

    Clear: "There is another person I know to be the last of his kind. And I envy him so, so much. Kara Pashna's world was destroyed. Destroyed by them--"

    She points accusingly at The Imperium.

    Clear: "They are just as guilty. The High Empire, how many worlds have you conquered, how many people killed and deprived their freedoms? The Alliance, the Galactic Empire. All the same."

    She waits, dramatic effect.

    Clear: "But you know, Kara Pashna has not said a single word against The Imperium. He has not spent even an hour complaining, hating or loathing their existence. Instead he spends that time planning the return of his people. Devising ways that he can bring them back from the dead on a new world. He sees hope, while all we have seen is darkness. He is the example we need to follow. His is the way to be be better than we are."

    Clear nods slowly, wishing she could live up to her own words.

    Clear: "Ambassadors of the G8, I hope you'll vote for a brighter future. I hope you vote for a world of tomorrow and not allow anger and outrage to turn that world to ash..."

    As she steps down she can hear cheering from the audience, exclamations of 'hear hear', shouts of justification and admiration for her words. She feels so overwhelmed that she wants to hide and cry her heart out.

    Instead she falls into the embrace of Pully, her oh-so-human friend.

    Clear: "I'm going to stain your clothes blue with my tears, you know?"

    Pully: "You might have just saved billions of lives, Sir. Buying a new shirt is a fine price."

    Clear laughs through her tears.

    Clear: "Stop calling me Sir."

    Pully: "Honestly, Clear, today more than ever before, you've truly earned the title."

    Ambassador Simon: "Does anyone at the council require a recess to consider their vote?"

    A five minute recess is requested and the ambassadors retire to their groups, still in the hall, and chatter amongst themselves. Clear receives warm praise from the humans and Uppity Bags. Bags, in particular, looks like he might cry too.

    The five minutes fly by and the G8 is asked to cast their votes. Earth, as the introducer of the topic, rises first. Of course they vote in favour of rendering Jupiter into an inert gas giant. The next around is the Alliance. The ambassador, a human male with very short red hair steps up. He takes a moment and then announces his approval for the plan. One score. Next is the Galactic Empire. The woman, whose hair is long, curled and blonde, also takes her time but then confirms that she too agrees. Neither is especially unsurprising, Clear thinks, given that they're both human. Punishing Earth for this crime would be like punishing themselves.

    The Imperium ambassador is already standing at his podium. Clear sees that his name is typed over his head as Ambassador Jacquelle. When he speaks his mouth doesn't move, revealing that he is, indeed, wearing a mask over his true face.

    Ambassador Jacques:
    "The case made for undertaking this grand venture have been laid out. A case for refusing has also been laid out. Neither argument has satisfied The Imperium. We do not care to punish any power for its actions nor do we care to save them. So we shall say nay."

    Clear realises that pointing the finger at him and laying blame for the destruction of Indra may have just cost The Imperium vote.

    Next are the Slavemasters of Orion. Clear almost expects they might say nay just for the fun of it. Their ambassador steps up. She is in the later years of middle-age, showing prominent signs of aging even down to some flecks of grey in her otherwise, long, dark and tightly curled hair. She wears a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and a very tight shirt that seems to grasp at her large breasts. Around her neck is a choker, which Clear thinks is a facetious jibe at her own practice. Like slave collars are now fashionable. Her name appears as Lady Galesh, which surprises Clear as she isn't referred to as Ambassador. She guesses different cultures have their own titles for such roles.

    Lady Galesh: "Orion shall always promote the procreation of life within the galaxy. The more the merrier, as we might say. Allowing the deaths of entire species is very much against everything we stand for. It would certainly be bad for business..."

    There's a clamouring of anger from the audience and Clear feels it too. She isn't even sure she wants their vote now.

    Then Jupiter. Ambassador Jteff looks directly at Clear as he ascends to his podium. He looks at her for a long moment, as though he is still making a last minute decision.

    Ambassador Jteff: "The Jupiterian Republic... stands by our previous statement. The peoples of the Sol System are a dangerous menace to the galaxy and we shall not lift a finger to help them."

    Clear had almost expected a last minute change of heart and yet there it is. Ohqeanos looks especially pained, evidently wishing he had better relations with the people his wife represents. As the Jupiterian ambassador steps off his podium he almost looks apologetically at Clear and she thinks that perhaps he was torn after all but, unlike Clear, he has not yet let go of his absolute hate.

    The cat-like woman of the High Empire steps up to her crystalline podium. Clear isn't sure what to expect of the High Empire. She knows she has fairly biased opinions of the faction since she had become good friends with Kimleigh, a princess of the empire, yet she doesn't like the state of rule nor their warmongering and goal of attaining power throughout the universe. The ambassador's name appears over her head. Ambassador Guin.

    Ambassador Guin: "The High Empire not only approves of the proposal, we are more than willing to lead the endeavour with our technology and ensure that this star, Zenos, is rendered inert. We have seen the plans and it is certainly within our capabilities to carry it out."

    Clear sighs with relief. Had the High Empire voted against things might have appeared desperate. But as things stand, she knows they have already gained the majority vote of in eight. The vote of Caledonia isn't necessary to win, but she hopes that the drow make the right decision nonetheless.

    The drow stands up to her podium and her name appears over her head. Clear reads it as Minister Lysse.

    Minister Lysse: "The people of Caledonia have been wronged by humanity of Earth in the past. But we drow never forget the truth of our events. For all the war that humanity brought to us, our people were quick to draw the sword too. Eager to repel the invaders and diminish them in blood. To make it worse, we are well aware of the mortality facing other sentient beings while we drow are reborn from our past lives. Killing a human is not only an act of murder but the unforgivable act of ending their existence. Death can never be a punishment. And so we are wholly in favour of saving the Sol System from destruction."

    Before Minister Lysse had cast her vote there was already a stirring of success but when she gave her approval the audience cheers with relief. A chant even springs up as the more jubilant, and probably more drunk, members of the audience start up with;

    Audience Chant: "The World of Tomorrow! The World of Tomorrow!"

    Clear stares up into the bright, white light with a mixture of horror and awe. She isn't worthy of breaking in such a chant but the people are jubilant that the first gathering of the transgalactic community has ended with a call for hope for the World of Tomorrow.

    This day will not be forgotten for a long time.

    Peace prevails.

  6. #86
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Enemy Collaboration

    Clear has become something of a celebrity.

    Even those that didn't know her now know her popularised slogan; The World of Tomorrow. Under new forms such as 'Let's Build the World of Tomorrow' or 'The World of Tomorrow is Due', the expression has caught on across the Cosmic Nullius. Clear wishes she could have trademarked it and be paid royalties for all these ambassadors now banding it about.

    There have been many meetings since that first one as meetings are held throughout the entire day in various locations across the Cosmic Nullius. No further G8 meetings have been held as yet, however. Clear was almost forced to take the mantle of Ambassador for Mars else her role in the first meeting would have been suspect and may well have negated the entire affair. Her terms had been that it's largely an honorary title, however, and she'll never be asked to attend any meetings she didn't want to attend. This suits her just fine. Besides, it suits her other plans to gain this official rank. And so her friends have been annoying her for days by calling her Ambassador Clear.

    One friend, however, has been conspicuously absent and nobody wants to try to force themselves into her graces.

    Today, however, a summons to the Jupiterian embassy has arrived and Clear is on her way. Lumo is with her, slowing Clear down to a crawl as he shuffles along the causeway above the blue river. The light of the star glitters over the liquid's surface brightly and some fish, coloured in vivid hues like red or pure yellow, hop out and back in again merrily. A large boat sails down the river, its solar sail ever turning to face the sun, while a smaller rowing boat slips beneath the causeway and out of sight.

    Some people congratulate or thank her on the way. One person even asked for her autograph, much to her embarrassment and frustration. She chooses to be courteous and sign the book, however. When she gets a look at the book she realises it's dubbed "A Brief Study of Martian Physiology" and it's written by Alexis Thrain. Clear avoids snatching the book to see what the wretch has been writing about her, but she's sure enough about Thrain that the book probably only contains biological studies and nothing more.

    She makes a note to punch her anyway.

    And then demand royalties.

    She and Lumo finally reach the embassy and are permitted through by the two guards on duty. Clear has been surprised to find that security of these embassies is pretty lax, though she supposes most meetings have been fairly friendly thus far and no tempers have flared. Inside she's led to the ambassador's suite where Ambassador Jteff is laid down on a long sofa with red velvet cushions and gold-coated legs. The sofa has no back as it's designed to be laid upon, as per Jovian custom. When Clear enters the ambassador beckons her over. Clear sees that Ltexi is also in the room, reclining on her own sofa, head resting against her hand. She looks at Clear with a grimace as the salmitton approaches the circle of sofas.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Please lie down, Ambassador Clear and your friend may join us too, if you please."

    He indicates to two of the sofas opposite himself. Lumo climbs onto a sofa and lies down, placing his big, grey head upon the large cushion. Clear sits instead, resting her hands in her lap.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Suit yourself..."

    He says, a little irritated by Clear's action. He points a finger to the food on the circular stone table.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Help yourself. You know Jupiter is famous for its cinnamon? Only we can make the most secret ingredient to cinnamon products!"

    Lumo: "Isn't it... cinnamon?"

    Ambassador Jteff: "Nope! Cinnamon is like the weak strain of our cinnabore. Nothing as good as it. Please try some. The cinnabns are especially good."

    Lumo: "I have a feeling we won't be staying for long."

    His big eyes swing from Jteff to Clear.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Very well!"

    He quickly takes a chug of rosé wine before speaking.

    Ambassador Jteff: "I'm sure you have an idea what this is about. We obviously have claim to your ship, The Hopeful. It belonged to our empire once and, specifically, it belonged to Admiral Ltexi here. It is ours. We wish for you to relieve yourself of duty."

    Clear: "No."

    Ambassador Jteff: "You do realise this is just a courtesy?"

    Clear: "Actually, I believe you owe me a favour don't you?"

    Ambassador Jteff shakes his head in amused disbelief.

    Ambassador Jteff: "You can't honestly expect me to honour that agreement? On your ship there's these... living daylights? The ghosts of our crew on your ship. That would be more than enough to remove any doubt that Ltexi is who she says she is."

    Clear narrows her eyes at him. She refuses to even look at Ltexi.

    Clear: "The answer is still no."

    Ambassador Jteff: "I was hoping--"

    Clear: "I wasn't finished."

    He stops, curious about her strong tone.

    Clear: "You are not permitted on my ship to make any kind of assessments for any reason. You require my permission to do that."

    He gives her a patronising smirk.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Come now, Clear... one woman versus however many soldiers I--"

    Clear: "Ambassador Clear..."

    He snaps his mouth into a thin line.

    Ltexi: "You can't--"

    Clear: "If you attempt to board my ship, that would be tantamount to an act of war. Considering the speech I gave the other day, if you boarded my ship with your soldiers and stole it from me it would look a lot like retaliation. Right now, nobody knows who Ltexi is, there's only her word for her identity so she has no claim until it's proven who she is."

    Ltexi leaps to her feet and points an aggressive finger at Clear, over the table.

    Ltexi: "First you take my planet and now you take my ship! You're as bad as any human!"

    Clear jumps to her feet, just as angrily.

    Clear: "First you want to burn my world and now you want to take my ship! It's you that's the human here!"

    Ltexi reaches out and Clear flinches to block her. Instead, however, the other woman grasps a bowl of olives and throws it across the room. It crashes into a tree and splatters olives everywhere. After a final glare at Clear, Ltexi storms from the room.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Well played, ambassador. Seems you're more politically minded than anyone ever gives you credit for..."

    Clear: "So, obviously, now that favour. You must absolve Ltexi's claim to my ship. Then I will allow a single researcher on board to observe the living daylights and check the Command Deck. You'll get all the proof you need for Ltexi's identity and the history of the attack, but I get to keep my ship."

    Ambassador Jteff: "I suppose there's no other choice. As I said, well played. I'll present an official statement to confirm that the republic and any of its members relinquish all claim to The Hopeful. We can frame it if you'd like?"

    He says sarcastically.

    Clear: "I think I'd rather like that. The frame should be silver though. And make sure the paper is nice and expensive quality."

    Jteff sighs.

    Ambassador Jteff: "This morning I thought I knew how this would all play out. Now I'm left speechless. I suppose you must despise me now?"

    Clear: "Absolutely."

    Ambassador Jteff: "Such a shame. I would have loved to be one of your husbands..."

    Clear blinks at that. Not only because of the supposed romantic interest but the fact he would be willing to share her with other husbands. Jupiterians.

    She looks down at Lumo and cocks her head to the door. He gets up and the two of them leave the room without so much as a goodbye. Clear half expects to find Ltexi out there waiting to fight her, but there's no sign. The salmitton and the grey make their way out of the embassy with Lumo offering his congratulations on a play well made.

    Once in the hall, however, she does find a figure standing in the exit. His big, bulky frame fills most of the doorway. Before he has even turned around to face her, Clear recognises the peculiar frame attached to his torso. Sega. With a sudden panic, she turns to run. But there she finds another, the Orion man from the lift the other day. He is joined by two other orions, one male and one female.

    Orion Man: "Hello again. Seems we have an extra grey for trade today. Not worth much considering he's so old. Still. Maybe there's a good organ donation scheme in these parts we can sell him to. Piece by piece."

    Lumo: "You're in the Jupiterian embassy! What are you thinking!?"

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Good point! Guards! Guards!"

    Clear turns to see her oldest and most hated enemy, the skeletal man Kaptin Kwanza. He stands there with a whole new pirate-like outfit, tipped by a flamboyant hat with a feather sticking out of it. Sega, Kwanza and orion slavers - all teamed up to get just her.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Oh! Would you look at that! Nobody's coming to save you..."

    Orion Man: "Seems the Jupiterian guards didn't need paying much to turn a blind eye today. Looks like you have a lot of enemies, despite your sudden rise to fame..."

    She watches as Sega approaches from the door. He doesn't even speak, he just stares at her as though there is nothing else in the universe that matters to him.

    Clear can feel herself shaking with fear. She doesn't think she'll be making it out of this one with only Lumo to back her up. If anything he's more of a liability. She can run but he can't.

    The first attack comes from Kwanza. In his hand he holds what is obviously a kind of taser, a small black box with two prongs. He makes a jab but Clear snaps her torso back with her usual Martian agility. Before he has even reached the end of his thrust, she grabs his wrist and forces his own momentum round so that he almost caught himself with the taser. The two orion cronies lunge and grab her arms. She pulls, trying to free herself, but the two of them are stronger than her alone. Sega steps in front of her but before he can slam his fist into her face she jumps up off of the ground, using the two orions for aerial support, and plants both of her boots into his face. He staggers backwards but she pushes her body up further still from his skull, spinning backwards through the air, above the orions and down behind them, loosening their grip on her. In this new position she uses her left foot to kick the male off of her, releasing her right hand. The woman then tries to grab Clear by the hair, probably not wanting to damage her face lest buyers get upset, but the salmitton thumps the orion in the solar plexus. The woman gasps and wheezes as the air is sucked out of her and she's winded.

    Lumo has already run for it, smart fella, and has reached the door to the embassy. Clear makes after him but she's suddenly grabbed by the long plait trailing behind her. Sega's massive, meaty hand yanks on the tail and Clear screams with pain as her hair pulls from her scalp. She flies back and topples onto her rear, one hand held against her head. He pulls on her hair again, dragging her along the floor. She kicks and writhes as she's dragged along.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Just hold the daft cow still and I'll give her a jolt!"

    He reaches down to blast her with the taser but she lashes out with her foot and kicks it out of his hand. It clatters off along the floor.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Oh for God's sake. You know, you are the most annoying woman I've ever met! I'm usually not so vindictive as all this but honestly after all the trouble you put me through..."

    He kicks her in the ribs.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "I'd much rather be relaxin' on a tropical beach somewhere but instead here I am chasing round after you."

    He kicks her again.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "And to top it all off, I have no ship thanks your mates. You know I had to taxi here? Me! Taxi! Then again I did steal the taxi afterwards. The pilot never saw it coming, at all! Haha! Blew him out of the airlock, I did. Always a good one that."

    Sega hoists her up and throws her across the floor. She lands roughly on the stone floor with a whimper of pain.

    Orion Man: "Be careful with the merchandise! She'll not sell so well if you batter her around."

    Sega turns his angry glare on the orion who falters to a silence under the oppression of the man's robotic stare. Clear is already scrambling along the floor, almost reaching the ambassador's doors, when Sega catches her by the ankle and drags her back. She cries out for help again but she knows there's no help for her in this building.

    Until the ambassador's doors open up.

    Ambassador Jteff:
    "What in the name of Marduck is happening out here? Clear!?"

    Orion Man: "No worries, ambassador! We're just taking a problem off of your hands, my good man!"

    The orion saunters over to Jteff, walking straight by Clear as though this were casual business. Sega continues to drag her along the floor and she can feel the thin material of her onesie tearing at the back where her skin is scratched and bleeding. She kicks at his hand with her other foot but can't hit his thick hand hard enough.

    Orion Man: "We'll take this pest out of here and leave you be, ambassador. I'm sorry if we've disturbed you from your work, I'll be happy to compensate you!"

    The orion pulls put a monetary card, which could be scanned in an instant. The look of confusion and fear on Jteff's face prompts further attempt from the orion to placate.

    Orion Man: "Oh, I realise we might have made a bit of a mess of your lobby. How about I give you some extra money to get that cleaned up?"

    Kwana has his taser at the ready again but Sega drops her leg, finally, and snatches it off of him.

    Sega: "Give me that. I'll do it right."

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Oi! I'm the guy wanting vengeance here! You can't deny my satisfaction, fella!"

    Sega: "Vengeance is the only thing my honour demands."

    Clear rolls over and starts to slowly creep along the floor. She can see the blinding sunlight streaking through the wide open doors of the embassy. If only she could get outside, into that light, she feels she'll be safe. Sega raises the taser into the air and, with zero mercy, brings it down with such force that the two prongs dig into her skin. The electricty blasts into her body and she screams in the horrible pain its causes. Tears stream down her cheeks when the electrical jolt ends.

    Orion Man: "That should be enough, Sega. Don't--"

    He jolts her again. Her body convulses in response to being shocked again. She feels every muscle in her body harden and the searing heat ripping up her back. It ends and she falls limp. She's awake but unable to move. She almost wishes she weren't awake then there'd be no pain.

    Ambassador Jteff: "Alright. Enough of this. Where are the guards?"

    Orion Man: "Seriously? She's your hated enemy! What would you lose here?"

    Ambassador Jteff: "I'd loose my self respect."

    Orion Man: "Pesky thing a conscience can be."

    Clear, through dazed eyes, can see them just outside the ambassadorial suite. She can feel the warmth of the sunlight on the back of her head as it swims into the dark, forboding room. She watches as the orion jabs something into Jteff's stomach.

    The Jupiterian looks surprised and slowly looks down to see the injury sustained. Nobody thinks they'll ever die. Nobody ever thinks they'll be killed. So they always look surprised.

    As he falls to his knees, he clutches at the jacket of the orion steadying himself. As if for the first time since they first met, Jteff and Clear see each other.

    He falls and sees her no longer.

    Clear can't even whimper or moan over his passing as she just lies there like lead.

    Orion Man: "Well, this got messier than I'd have wanted. Kwanza, you and my associates will take care of our samaritan. Sega, do you have the quarry?"

    Sega: "Never question me again, scum."

    The orion rolls his eyes and shrugs his shoulders as he crosses the room.

    Orion Man: "Such a stern face, Sega. You have what you wanted. The salmitton taken care of."

    Sega: "She still breathes..."

    Orion Man: "Trust me. What happens to her after today will be a fate worse than death, I'm sure. She'll make a fine, fine toy for someone. Probably several someones."

    Sega: "Will that satisfy my honour..."

    He speaks to himself, not the orion, as he looks down at Clear. She turns her eyes to glare up at him. She forces all of her defiance into that stare.

    Sega: "No..."

    Orion Man: "What?"

    Sega: "She has to die. The life of the salmitton for the life High Legatifex."

    Now she understands why he would hunt her down like this. He blames her for the death of Kimleigh.

    Orion Man: "That is not going to happen. She is worth way too m--Ack!"

    Sega whips around and slams his palm into the orion's face, spraying blood from his instantly broken nose. As Sega's fingers clench around the orion's temples, there's a sickening wet sound. Sega releases the skull and Clear sees a hole has been bored between the slaver's eyes. The slaver slumps down dead. The other two orions cry out and draw their blasters. Clear is, quietly, happy to see things begin to turn.

    Kaptin Kwanza:
    "Seriously, I don't care if she lives or dies. Either way is good for me."

    Sega's harness begins to vibrate and the blaster shots whizz through his incorporeal body. He runs across the room in this vibrating, insubstantial form. All shots, even dead on target, pass straight through him. When he reaches the orions, the harness slows and stops very quickly. He shoves the woman into the man, knocking them both aside. That is the moment he needs to seize the woman by the neck. She screams as the deadly device in the cyborg's hand pierces her skin and a moment later she falls down as dead as her employer.

    The other orion manages to hit Sega with a blast of his gun, the energy smacks Sega's black and purple armour and ripples across it as it disperses harmlessly. Another shot does the same. The orion doesn't have time to readjust his aim as Sega grabs his skull with both hands. He doesn't use the mechanism. He forces his thumbs, gruesomely, into the orion's eyesockets.

    The screaming echoes in Clear's ears.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Alright then. Guess she dies. Good enough for me."

    Ltexi: "Not today she doesn't."

    Clear sees the ferocious blast of energy before she even sees Ltexi wielding the arm cannon. The blast of energy is a long, wide beam of green that once fired doesn't stop. It hits Sega's armour which begins to distribute the energy. But it keeps on coming, forcing him backwards with kinetic force and Clear is certain it must be heating up that armour no matter how protected against energy blasts it is.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Damn."

    Kwanza drops on Clear. His bone-fingers wrap around her neck and lock in tight.

    Kaptin Kwanza: "Can't believe I'm really gonna do this. You've made me a real villain, you know that? I used to such a nice guy too."

    Clear tries to move her hands to defend herself but she's still limp from the taser shocks. As she chokes she stares up at him, trying to exude as much hatred as she can. It's all she's got left.

    Voice: "You're under arrest!"

    Two figures appear in the doorway and Kwanza is forced off of Clear, her bones scraping her skin as they're pried away. She draws deep gasps of breath and looks up to see two human guardsmen restraining Kwanza. She looks over to Ltexi. Sega's harness has started vibrating and a moment later he is gone - off into the special zone where he can travel through space-time without interacting in the corporeal world. Ltexi stops firing the cannon and sees that she's blown a gaping hole in the wall.

    Ltexi looks down at Jteff but it's Clear she runs to first. She tosses the cannon to one side and crouches down to check Clear is still going.

    Ltexi: "You going to live?"

    Clear wheezes in response.

    Ltexi gets up and gives Kwanza a thump while he's being held by the two guards. Though he moans from the beating, she moans too as her poor hand just met bone.

    Ltexi: "What in the name of Marduck is this guy?"

    Guardsman: "We have him cuffed. Whatever he is, he's going to jail."

    Ltexi goes back across the room to check on the body of Jteff while Clear just stares up at the ceiling. Two big bug eyes slowly slip into view. Lumo gives her a smile with his little grey mouth.

    Lumo: "Guess I was just in time."

    Pully: "Alright, that's it. I'm never leaving your side ever again."

    Clear is lying in a hospital.

    Everything is green, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the beds, the uniforms. It's like the doctors are meant to be camouflaged as they scurry around and stealthily jab you with needles. Like ninja doctors.

    The medicinal smell is, however, strangely relaxing. Probably she has spent too much time in the medical bay on board The Hopeful tending to herself and others. One way or another she always finds her way back to a medical bed.

    "I hope you like threesomes then."

    Pully: "Are you kidding me? Considering how unlucky she is, any man she takes back would turn out to be after a piece of her arse. And not in the way she wants."

    Ltexi laughs but Clear groans.

    Clear: "You guys..."

    Lumo: "She's awake."

    Everyone, and more, is in the room this time. She woke up earlier to find Green and Ltexi in the room, who were just happy she was alive. This time everyone has come to check on her. She feels like a zoo animal.

    Clear: "I'm fine."

    Green: "Clear..."

    She sidles up to the side of the bed and hands over a bag.

    Green: "I brought you some strawberries."

    Clear: "Better hide them from the doctor, Green. They'll snatch them right off me."

    Green slips the bag into the bedside cupboard and closes the door, all too carefully. Rui-Rho is reading the monitor hooked up to Clear's vitals, as though they might suddenly go blank. Pully and Ltexi are at the bottom of the bed while Lumo is asleep in a chair, his big head rolled to one side. Pashna has been forbidden from mucking about in Clear's system by the doctors, which Clear is secretly thankful for. She doesn't like the idea of him probing around in her cells, knowing her far more intimately than she knows herself. If it looked more dire, however, she would have gladly accepted his help. For now, though, she needs medicine and a few days of bed rest. Oddly enough it's her scalp that hurts the most, where her hair has been pulled from the skin.

    At the door of the room are two guardsmen. She now recognises that they're from the Alliance, given away by their uniforms and the silly looking helmets. As well as the two guards there's an officer in the room and she remembers him as the ambassador. Lumo must have gone to the nearest embassy for help - that being the Alliance. The ambassador edges his way through the group so that he can speak with Clear.

    Lieutenant Randy:
    "I'm Lieutenant Randy of the Alliance. Glad to see my men were able to get to you in time, Ambassador Clear."

    Clear: "Thank them for me. I owe them my life."

    Lieutenant Randy: "I will. But you need to know that this Sega character is still out there. We have Kaptin Kwanza in custody, so he's not going anywhere for now. But Sega may try again. Hopefully the orions won't try anything again now that the word is out what they tried to do."

    Kara Pashna: "How can they be allowed to get away with this?"

    Lieutenant Randy: "They just denial all involvement. The orion that attacked you wasn't part of the diplomatic envoy so he's an independent entrepreneur, as they called him."

    Kara Pashna: "I don't think I like these orions..."

    Clear looks from Randy to Ltexi.

    Clear: "What about Jteff!? Is he...?"

    The sour looks on faces answers her question before Ltexi shakes her head. Clear hates herself. She had been so rude to him, she hadn't even said goodbye to him and, in the end, he proved he has deserved much more from her.

    Lieutenant Randy:
    "Don't get me wrong, this is looking very bad for the Slavemasters of Orion as a whole. Jupiterian ambassador dead and the attempted abduction of the Martian ambassador is going to be news for a long time and the orions are going to work very hard to clean up their image in that regard. I think they'll lay low and never trouble you again."

    "Unless there are more budding entrepreneurs out there..."

    Lieutenant Randy: "Perhaps. But that's why you've hired protection."

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "I have?"

    The others look a little guilty.

    Pully: "Yeah, you did. I know the PIN for your Alliance account so..."

    Clear: "So it was you buying all that booze on my account?"

    Pully: "What? No! That was you!"

    Clear: "Now I can blame you."

    Pully: "I just did what's best for you."

    Clear: "Okay, what is this protection you're talking about? A big gun? That thing Ltexi had would be nice..."

    Ltexi: "They won't even let me have another go of that thing, never mind sell it to you. That was a weapon in the armoury I had to steal. Luckily I can still pull rank, heh."

    Lieutenant Randy: "You have hired the bodyguard services of a group. A friend of mine is one of them."

    Clear: "Bodyguards? Seriously?"

    "I'm only so good, Clear."

    Clear: "As if you're my bodyguard."

    Lieutenant Randy: "It's a group and they'll work shifts to watch over you. They have a rapid response vehicle, so if trouble comes about they'll call in the cavalry. You're paid up for the next month. Hopefully we'll manage to catch this Sega guy by then. All security forces on Cosmic Nullius are out to get the fella."

    Clear: "So now I need to be babysat?"

    Ltexi: "Don't worry. They won't watch you shagging. Only Pully will do that."

    Pully: "Oi."

    Clear: "You guys..."

    Pully: "Actually, I am a bit curious about--"

    Clear: "Don't even."

    Lieutenant Randy lifts the hat he has been holding and puts it onto his head. He straightens his uniform and nods at Clear.

    Lieutenant Randy: "I promise you're in good hands. The first guy to watch you is just outside. Like I said, a friend of mine so I know they're good. You're a good friend to the Alliance and I intend to do good by you."

    Clear: "Who are these people?"

    Lieutenant Randy stops at the door as he is about to leave;

    Lieutenant Randy: "The ST Clan."

  7. #87
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Trade Proposal

    Pully carries Clear's bag as the two leave the hospital. Clear walks slowly, still showing signs of discomfort from her fight but the remainder of her healing can be done at home and not hogging a hospital bed. As they exit the ward the current ST Clan bodyguard steps in tow with a quick;

    Falcon Zac: "Welcome back to the land of the living, Ambassador."

    Clear has spent most of her life since meeting important people demanding that people not grant her titles. With these mercenaries, however, she feels compelled to stick with the title. She doesn't want to be on friend name basis with these people. Clear nods at the human and otherwise ignores him.

    Pully guides her out of the hospital where they find a bench to give the salmitton a brief rest. Even when pumped full of bacta Clear's body is reluctant to get back to business as usual. As she and Pully sit there, Falcon Zac starts to walk around them in a square formation where he pauses at each corner survey the area. Clear restrains her annoyance at being guarded, as though she couldn't take care of herself. Yet she also knows she has come through on pure luck many a time, including this last brush with danger, so she lumps their presence.

    The man himself has been on duty several times since Clear has been hospitalised. Each shift the current clan member would enter her ward room and make the exchange in front of her, so she would always know who was on duty. The other patients in the ward were often both intimidated and fairly entertained by the happening. Most of the group are kitted out in technology that seems to cater for every conceivable possibility. Falcon Zac's entire right arm is covered in cybernetic enhancements - like an arm-length PIP. While so many people have been miniaturising down to watch PIPs and the like, these guys had just been going against the grain. She notices that he mutters something from time to time, obviously signalling his status back to his command.

    Since coming under their protection, Clear has learnt that there are many such 'honourable mercenary' groups on the Cosmic Nullius. The problem with the society here is that there's no overarching jurisdiction - there's no one ruling civilisation and therefore no one code of laws. What is legal within the boundaries of the Earth embassy may be illegal within the boundaries of the Jovian embassy. There's no military personnel to be found on official duty outside of their designated embassies. Apparently the guardsmen of the Alliance were only allowed to interfere in the Jovian embassy because Clear was the target involved. Had she been Jupiterian, they would have had to leave her to her fate.

    Clear suspects this is a recipe for a thriving black market but since the Nullius is in its infancy, such criminal rackets have yet to firmly established. She suspects her attempted abduction may have even helped stall such syndicates in the future but she doubts it will last long. She just hopes that the nature of the Nullius itself will prevail over the probable criminal element.

    Pully helps Clear back to her feet and they continue their slow march through the open-air walkways. They meander down onto a promenade that runs alongside a river that leads to the ocean. On the other side of the river is a fairly tall mountain, strategically placed by the designers of the landscape, where she can make out a hot spring towards its peak. There's a dark shroud around the mountain that appears as a greay-black, hazy sphere. The darkness is being projected to simulate the sensation of evening time and the air would likely be chilled to maximise the effect of the hot spring.

    "We are so going up there to visit tomorrow, Pully."

    Pully: "I'm up for that. Do you think Rui-Rho can get into the water, or would she fizzle?"

    Clear: "Poor robot. I still don't understand why she wants to follow us around. Surely she can do better business without us?"

    Pully: "I think she's taken to Green. The one I don't get is that new guy, the drow."

    Clear: "Dhae?"

    Pully: "Why is he hanging around? I mean, we all have our reasons to be aboard The Hopeful. I was assigned to you and sided with you. Lumo is captaining The Unbroken. Pashna needs your help to get his new world. Green worships the ground you walk on... but why is this guy stalking us now?"

    Clear: "Boredom he said."

    Pully gives her a dubious look. It's a little unsettling as in that frown and thin-lipped grimace she sees Pully's old face. Sometimes Clear forgets she ever had a different face and other times Clear forgets and is momentarily startled to see this stranger looking at her.

    Clear: "I don't know. I really don't. He seems harmless enough."

    Pully: "Yeah, well, he hasn't shown himself to be of any use to us yet and, really, we should be more careful about who we trust. What if those orions offered this Dhae guy some cash to turn you over? Would he do it? How can we know? We don't even know the guy."

    Someone on a hoverbike whirls by with the familiar whooping sound of its engine. Clear watches it go by while her brain settles on what to say. Falcon Zac watches the bike too, though it may have been with suspicion than Clear's idle curiosity. His short cape picks up and billows in the displaced rush of air as the bike goes by before it then gently settles down again. He then glances around, probably checking that the bike wasn't a diversion, his rifle poised.

    Clear: "You're more suspicion than most, aren't you Zac?"

    Falcon Zac: "Ever been locked in the trunk of a vehicle?"

    Clear: "No..."

    Falcon Zac: "And I'll make sure you never have the experience."

    Clear: "Thank... you..."

    Falcon Zac:
    "Let's just say it's cramped, dark, hot, next to no oxygen and no toilet."

    Clear: "Sorry, let me rephrase. Thank you, Falcon Zac. Happy now?"

    "Actually, Falcon-guy, do you guys do security checks on people?"

    Falcon Zac: "Sure."

    Pully: "Can you do it for members of our group?"

    Clear: "What?"

    Falcon Zac: "Sure. Someone is probably already doing it anyway. Anyone in the ambassador's orbit gets a background check."

    Pully: "Lemme know what turns up. Especially about that drow character."

    Falcon Zac: "Suspicious one that."

    Pully looks sidelong at Clear.

    "See? Not just me!"

    Clear: "He probably thinks your pants are suspicious."

    Falcon Zac looks Pully up and down.

    Falcon Zac: "They are coloured teal. Teal is a sinister colour..."

    Pully: "Check out the comedy genius on this guy."

    He gives a smirk. He has a wide, large-lipped mouth that appears highly animated. He hair is shaved short, showing dark prickles of hair on his head and face. He's not very tall, but his red, leather, military boots give him an extra couple of inches. Clear is pretty sure the brand is Dr Martens, judging by the yellow stitching of the sole. A fashion conscious mercenary of all things. At least they're a style of boot Clear has always approved of - perfect for parading around the wastelands of Mars.

    Here on the Cosmic Nullius, however, she's better off with the soft slippers that are currently on her feet.

    She even thinks his entire getup looks like it would have been perfect for Mars. He has a brown, suede bomber jacket - complete with sheepskin around the lapels. He is just missing eye protection and a scarf. She might have asked him if he has done any scavenging in his life, but she doesn't want to get too attached to someone only paid to be there.

    The rest of their conversation mostly consists of idle speculation over the motivations of Dhaeriend do'Ziikin, ranging from him being a spy for the Jupiterian government to him being a secret fanboy of Clear's that has a creepy stalker infatuation and is probably in Clear's room sniffing her knickers. Clear requests that someone from the ST Clan double check that nobody has been in her room after Pully came up with that particular theory. Eventually they reach the Earth embassy where Pully shows her a recent expansion to the grounds, mostly being a new plot of lawn, where Clear's very own Martian consulate will be. Clear is surprised to feel a sudden elation at this. She knows it's not because of her own sense of glory over the matter but the fact that, finally, her world will gain some honour.

    "They better not colour it red."

    "Why would they colour it red?"

    "Seriously? You humans see me and think, red. And so everything associated with me is suddenly red this and red that."

    Pully: "HA! Maybe I don't get that since I know you're blue where--"

    Clear slaps Pully's arm. The other woman laughs but keeps that information to herself. Falcon Zac only gives them a cursory quizzical glance and doesn't get Pully's implication. Instead he marches out onto the lawn and kneels down to check the ground. Clear rolls her eyes.

    "Looking for landmines?"

    Falcon Zac:
    "I'm paid to check stuff. So I check stuff."

    He stands up again.

    Falcon Zac:
    "Prime astroturf. I guess it'll be replaced with real grass once the building is done. It's easy to set this stuff on fire though..."

    Clear: "Conspiracies round every corner, eh?"

    Falcon Zac: "You'd be surprised. There was this one guy who was almost murdered because someone poisoned his toothpaste. Another guy was almost murdered by a snake in the bed."

    Clear: "Does that mean you're going to check my toothpaste and bed before I sleep?"

    Falcon Zac: "Already done."

    Clear: "Good grief."

    Falcon Zac: "Having quarters in the embassy helps though. There are guards and cameras everywhere so we can monitor the access points to your room."

    Pully: "Didn't help much in the Jupiterian embassy, did it?"

    Falcon Zac:
    "The orions bribed all the guards involved. Besides..."

    He gives that cocky smirk.

    Falcon Zac: "You didn't have the ST Clan watching your back then."

    Woman: "And it seems you'll be needed since Kaptin Kwanza escaped!"

    They turn to see a woman approaching from the Earth embassy, her tall, knee-height boots, clopping over the cobblestone path leading across the zone.

    Clear: "What? Seriously? How!?"

    Before she could respond to Clear, Falcon steps between them.

    Falcon Zac: "Identify yourself, lady."

    Clear: "She's the ambassador from the High Empire, Zac."

    The woman gestures a palm to Clear and gives Falcon Zac a 'listen to her' look. He stands a moment longer.

    Falcon Zac: "Got any paperwork to prove that?"

    Clear: "Okay, now you're being stupid."

    Falcon Zac:
    "Could be a Jupiterian in disguise. You never know."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "That'd be a very talented Jupiterian to be able to guise themselves as someone else so flawlessly. Actually I've never heard of any Jupiterian being able to get it themselves to appear one hundred percent like someone else. It's not even possible. So. I am Ambassador Gwynne. Please shoo."

    She wafts her hand at him.

    He shifts aside reluctantly.

    "How did he escape?"

    Ambassador Gwynne:
    "Who? Oh! Yes. The other fellow, this Sega, used some kind of teleporting technology to get inside the prison and then teleport them both out again. It must have been a very unusual device he used because the Alliance definitely has anti-teleportation fields around their prisons. Actually they might have a field around their whole embassy. I know we do."

    Pully: "It doesn't take an ambassador to tell us this."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Quite right! I didn't come here to tell you that anyway. Just thought you'd be interested. I heard you were being released today so I thought I should come along and get an audience with you while I can. Sorry, I know I've got you standing out here like this -- you don't have an official ambassadorial suite yet and your friend, the admiral, said you wouldn't care where I met you so just meet you outside on the lawn and so that's where I am, I do hope it's okay, I know it's--"

    Clear: "It's fine, it's fine!"

    Pully: "And I thought Green liked to ramble on."

    Ambassador Gwynne:
    "Oh! That's great! Okay, well--"

    She looks around and waggles her briefcase pitifully.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "I did bring some documents for you to see but, uh, there's no table so I suppose I'll just, uh, say it and you can take the documents later..."

    She straightens her back so that she stands at her full height. It's not very impressive as she comes around just five feet. Only her tall, cat-like ears extend over her head height. The cut of her black, colonial style coat does give the illusion of extra height that, from a distance, might make her appear taller. But when standing up close to Clear, who is not very tall herself, Gwynne looks tiny. Even the tricord hat on her head doesn't add to her stature.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Either way, it's documentation stating that your ship, The Hopeful, does, in fact and actuality, belong to the High Empire--"

    Clear grunts and shuffles past Gwynne without a word. Gwynne, surprised, then scurries after Clear.

    Ambassador Gwynne:
    "Sorry, was I clear enough, ambassador? The Hopeful was once under the jurisdiction of the High Empire. According to the information collected by Kalor Varkesh during your last meeting, information on The Hopeful turned out to be critical and--"

    Pully: "You picked a really bad day for this, cat-girl."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "W-wait! The Hopeful was on a crucial mission when it was lost and--"

    Clear: "You can't have it and that's the end of the story. I don't care whether the ship was once part of the army of your armpit, you ain't having it. Why not go and fight Jupiter over it? They also reckon it's theirs."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "That shouldn't be a probelm--"

    Pully: "Wow, gonna start an intergalactic war with the High Empire just for a broken, old ship?"

    They reach the entrance to the embassy and Clear, not missing a stride, sweeps inside. Gwynne hesitates but, determined, pursues her inside.

    Ambassador Gwynne:
    "If we had to, we would. For this vital artefact! But that's what I'm trying to inform you of, if you would take a moment to listen to me, we don't want to take the ship away from you, we need to examine it for signs of an artefact! The mission of the ship was to gather an artefact and return it to Earth! Your ship was--"

    She dodges a door and Clear swings it open.

    Ambassador Gwynne:
    "f-found in the Sol System so there's a good chance that it was successful in its duty and was about to complete its mission when something happened to strand it in orbit around your homeworld, that pretty, little red planet--"

    Clear: "You really think calling Mars pretty is going to get you what you want?"

    Despite Clear's words, she is secretly warming up to Gwynne all thanks to that little compliment. Nobody ever calls Mars pretty.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "N-no! I just-- we need the artefact, ambassador. If we could just investigate the ship to see if the artefact is there, we shall never bother you again."

    They burst into the ambassadorial suite for the Earth. Ohqeanos Simon almost spills his cup of coffee in surprise at the suddenness of the intrusion.

    "If there was an artefact, I'd know about it."

    Clear lies. There could be thousands of artefacts all over the gigantic ship as she's only ever been able to investigate a tiny percentage of the craft.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "M-maybe you have found it and didn't realise? It would look like a tall obelisk--"

    Clear's attention snaps.

    Clear: "What will you give me for this thing?"

    Ambassador Gwynne falters at the sudden change in mood. She blinks her large, yellow eyes.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "W-well, we would relinquish our claim to the--"

    Clear: "No way. You barely have a claim at all. Just because you say you owned it doesn't mean you did."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "I do have the paperwork here--"

    Clear: "High Imperial paperwork. It's worthless."

    Ambassador Simon speaks quietly, without looking up from the book he's reading.

    Ambassador Simon: "I'm not sure an intergalactic court would agree with you..."

    Clear: "Quiet you. I didn't ask."

    Pully: "Come on, cat-girl, you can do better than that. Your empire wants this obelisk thingy so badly, you can give us something in return."

    Clear sits down on the sofa along with Pully. Falcon Zac hovers at the door while Gwynne stands around awkwardly as she hasn't been offered a seat by either of the Sol System ambassadors.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Yes. Yes I think we can provide you with ample reimbursement. What would you like? Money?"

    Clear leans back on the sofa thoughtfully.

    Clear: "I don't know yet. You have to give me time to think about it."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "And in the meantime we could come over and try to--"

    Clear: "Nope."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "No? But--!"

    Clear: "Let's assume that I might know what you're talking about. Might. So you'll be taken straight to the artefact once I've decided what my payment shall be."

    The fioxlon woman considers.


    Ambassador Gwynne: "Fine. Your reward will be ample so long as you allow us to take our artefact."

    Clear leans over to the table where there's a few choice snacks laid out. She snatches up a teacake.

    Clear: "Right now, it's my artefact."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "But--!"

    Clear: "It's been in my custody for many years now. I've kept it safe. That means it's mine. I'm willing to give it over to you and then it'll be yours."

    Ambassador Simon speaks, again not looking up from his book.

    Ambassador Simon: "Ambassador Clear seems to have a point..."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Quiet you!"

    She then catches herself with an embarrassed gasp.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "I am so sorry, Ambassador Simon! That just blurted out because I was thinking of Ambassador Clear's reaction and I couldn't help but imitate it without thinking! I didn't mean to do that, I am profusely sorry and I should never have--"

    Clear: "It's fine! Wow. You do ramble on."

    Pully: "Told you."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Very well. Please come to a decision soon. The faster we have our artefact secured, the faster the emperor will be pleased."

    Clear: "Huh. The Highemperor himself wants it?"

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Everything we do is in service to him."

    Clear: "Alright. I promise I'll come to a decision by the end of the day. That good?"

    Gwynne swells and grins.

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Very much! Thank you for your understanding, Ambassador Clear. This transaction will satisfy both sides, I'm certain. I'll take my leave."

    Ambassador Simon: "Ambassador Gwynne, please take a teacake with you."

    He finally lowers the book and gestures to the cakes on the table.

    Ambassador Simon: "Or perhaps a jam tart? I wouldn't recommend the twinkies though. Someone said they've gone bad and might send you loopy..."

    Ambassador Gwynne: "Um..."

    Uncertainly the young woman picks up the closest food, which happens to be a teacake, and looks at the human to check she chose well. He nods with a smile and she returns a quick nod and bids them farewell. Falcon Zac steps aside to allow her to exit but watches after her as she goes.

    Pully: "Well that was a bizarre encounter."

    Ambassador Simon: "You did seem a little mean to her..."

    "She shouldn't have caught me on the day I come out of hospital. And definitely she shouldn't be claiming my ship as hers."

    Ambassador Simon: "Still, a little more tact might be a good idea in future? You want as many friends as you can get, remember?"

    Clear: "Suppose so. I'll be nicer to her next time."

    Clear swings her feet up onto the coffee table. She ignores the indignant frown from Ohqeanos and munches on the teacakes.

    Clear: "Can cat aliens even eat teacakes?"

    Pully: "Can red aliens eat teacakes?"

    Clear: "How droll you are."

    Ohqeanos removed his thin-rimmed reading glasses and pockets them.

    Ambassador Simon: "This biography seems rather loose with the facts, I expect. Should I ever meet this Dorian Gray person I'll have to separate truth from fiction."

    Clear: "And why would you ever meet him?"

    Ambassador Simon: "He's a friend of a friend."

    He waggles the book at her.

    Ambassador Simon: "But reading in general is good for the mind. Keeps it active. Did you read that book I sent to you?"

    Clear: "What book?"

    Ambassador Simon: "You didn't get it?"

    Falcon Zac: "Sorry, it was taken by the ST Clan. It was screened by my PIP and registered dangerous substances. It was taken away to be burnt."

    Ambassador Simon: "Wh-what substances!?"

    Falcon Zac: "No idea. To be honest my PIP makes a lot of false positives because it was designed by drow, who are allergic to several harmless human substances like chocolate."

    They all glance down at the teacakes.

    Falcon Zac: "Yeah, that'll be it."

    Clear: "Just great. Keep up the good work, boys!"

    Falcon Zac taps his earpiece.

    Falcon Zac: "Yo, Mabey, need a replacement copy of that book we burnt."

  8. #88
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Family Values

    The doors to the ambassador's office burst open. Falcon Zac jumps and turns on his heel to face the sudden intrusion.

    Falcon Zac: "Identify yourselves."

    "Out of my way, lackey."

    Ambassador Simon: "It's alright. She's here to see me, not Ambassador Clear. She's safe. Mostly..."

    Falcon Zac steps aside but he watches the group dubiously. The woman leading the group is a tanned, youthful woman with ginger hair that verges on being brunette. She's wearing khaki clothes, from her shirt to her long shorts. Only her military grade boots are black. She's obviously ready for a trek rather than a council meeting. She makes a cursory glance around the room but appears uninterested in her surroundings. Clear thinks the woman seems to think she owns the place and nowhere will ever be good enough. Ohqeanos rises from his seat and Clear sees a deep warmth in his eyes.

    Ambassador Simon:
    "I didn't expect to see you so soon, Polly."

    Polly: "My husband becomes ambassador of Earth, I think that's reason enough to come and see you."

    Clear can't help but look from the young woman to the old man and back again. Cradle snatcher.

    Ambassador Simon:

    "Honestly I-- I just wanted to see you... like this. Standing. Whole. You do seem... more vibrant."

    Ohqeanos smiles, his eyes sparkling.

    Ambassador Simon: "Thank you. I feel vibrant. I haven't felt this alive since we were young."

    Clear silently groans. Someone else who has defied ageing. She's starting to think this anti-ageing stuff needs to be made available to the public since so many seem to have it.

    Polly and Ohqeanos seem to be happy for a moment before awkwardness sets in. Clear sees that there's tension enough that it's almost a tangible wall between them. Two people who have shared everything but now can't seem to find that closeness again. Clear thinks there's a romance novelin the making. To pierce the awkward tension, Polly introduces the people she's with;

    "This is Rosebud. She's the granddaughter I told you about."

    Clear thinks the family separation must have been really bad if he never even met his own granddaughter. The woman Polly introduces has one of those faces that seems to defy age recognition. She looks like she could be very old or very young. She, unlike her grandparents, has black skin and very black hair. A shock of crimson red runs through the forelock, while the rest of her long hair is tied up using a lock of her own hair. The intricate design is meant to look quite punkish and messy but Clear is certain it must take hours to put together each morning. Though their skin tones differ wildly, Clear thinks that Rosebud has the very same eyes that her grandfather has - the same hazel iris and the lines at the temples that cause their eyes to 'sparkle' when they smile.

    Chronos: "I'm actually called Chronos these days. Ignore nana."

    Ambassador Simon: "Nana? That's nice you call her that."

    Chronos: "I'm to call you grandpapi, apparently. I hope that sits well with you?"

    The old man laughs.

    Ambassador Simon:
    "Grandpapi will do just fine. You can call me anything you like. I'm just happy to finally meet you."

    Chronos gives an enthusiastic smile and embraces her grandfather. Clear looks to Pully and they share a desperate, wide-eyed 'we're intruding' moment.

    Chronos: "I didn't expect you to be so warm..."

    Ambassador Simon:
    "Sorry about your grandmother. She can be cold as ice on the outside, but I assure you she has a very warm heart inside. Especially when it comes to her children. That's why your mother always got as much cake as she could manage."

    Chronos: "Lucky Jupiterians don't get so fat then, eh?"

    Clear had almost forgot that Ohqeanos said his wife was Jupiterian. Clear looks at the woman again. Her appearance could be the manipulation of her physical form, like Jteff had done, to just look younger. If Clear has been following right Chronos' mother is half-Jupiterian. No mention of the father but if he's not a Jupiterian and is a human, Clear wonders if Chronos has any of the Jupiterian transformation abilities or not.

    Chronos: "These two work for me, by the way. Agents Burton and Rain."

    Agent Burton: "How do you do."

    The second agent appears to shy to say hello. She hangs back behind the older, taller woman called Burton and peeks out. She appears young with a youthful, rounded face and bob-cut purple hair. Clear is certain that Agent Burton is human but she isn't sure about Rain. Burton's hair is worn in an upknot but it then cascades down, over her shoulders, in tight dark curls. Flecks of grey throughout her hair belie her age. She wears a black shirt with a black corset, which narrows her waist. Clear has seen corsets before and knows the damage they do to the body. Why any woman would wear one is beyond Clear. Frankie also has a black skirt on, which has a gauze underlay that pokes out from the hem of the cotton skirt. She has tall, black, military boots with incredibly high heels. This woman must be a masochist with those heels and that corset. Rain has a similar outfit but she has black trousers instead of a skirt and while she has a bright red tie, Burton has a red cravat. Underneath Burton's cravat can just be seen a green pendant hanging from a silver chain.

    Clear doesn't know what organisation they're from but Chronos is evidently the boss. She, however, isn't wearing any kind of traditional formal suit. Instead she's wearing a thick, dark cloak that hangs in close over her shoulders leaving only a narrow slit of her body to be seen. There she is wearing a brown, cloth dress that is low cut and hangs very loose, tied with a simple sash.

    "I'm really just here to meet you though, grandpapi. Maybe we could go for dinner or something? Get to know each other?"

    Ambassador Simon:
    "That would be wonderful! I was just finished talking with Ambassador Clear anyway."

    He sweeps his hand in Clear's direction.

    Ambassador Simon: "The last living Martian in the galaxy. A living legend."

    Clear chokes.

    Ambassador Clear:
    "You really shouldn't introduce me like that. I'm just Clear."

    Chronos puts her hand on her hip.

    "Anyone that introduces themselves as 'just' anything always turns out to be the most important person in the galaxy."

    Ambassador Simon: "Aha! A woman after my own heart. I know exactly what you mean and you are dead right. This woman is a magnet for trouble, I can tell you."

    Pully: "Okay, that is true."

    Chronos: "You know, we could all for a meal together? Make it a party? First to get absolutely drunk has to pay the bill."

    Clear: "Free dinner for me then!"

    Agent Burton: "Wouldn't be too sure of that, ambassador. I reckon me and Rain'll give you a run for your money. Right Rain?"

    Agent Rain: "I don't like drinking."

    Agent Burton:

    Polly: "Actually I need something from you first, Ohqeanos."

    Clear feels as disappointed as she expects Ohqeanos must. Chronos is here to see her grandfather but his own wife is here wanting something. Ohqeanos makes a stoic attempt to mask the hurt with such a straight face that proves its own façade.

    Ambassador Simon:
    "And what is that?"

    Polly: "An introduction to the Jupiterian Ambassador."

    Clear sighs heavily while Pully scoffs.

    Pully: "Good luck with that."

    Polly: "What is that supposed to mean?"

    Ambassador Simon: "You've come at a very bad time. The ambassador was just murdered recently. Ambassador Clear was almost dead too."

    "Trouble out here already? So much for political peace and stability."

    Ambassador Simon: "Give us time, Chronos. And truthfully the attack was not politically motivated."

    Clear cups her face in her hands. She hates feeling responsible for the deaths around her. Everyone that's died, she feels like she killed them by just being there. Kaptin Kwanza, Sega and the orions had been there for her and Jteff was killed instead.

    Polly: "There must be somebody in charge over there. Can you at least take me to the embassy? I should be able to get someone to listen to me once I'm there. I am of the royal line after all."

    Clear's interest perks up at that.

    Clear had assumed the royal family had all died on Jupiter, hence it became a republic. But here stands a member of the dynasty and yet the empire isn't in her hands.

    Clear: "I could introduce you, if you'd like.

    She spoke before she realises what she's saying. The moment she says it is the moment she regrets it. Once again she's about to throw herself into a political war.

    Ambassador Simon:
    "Are you sure--?"

    He seems to want Clear to back down, perhaps wanting to spend time with his wife, but Clear knows a better option when she sees it. For his sake.

    Clear: "You can spend time with your granddaughter, while I take your wife over to the embassy."

    Chronos: "Hey, now that is a good plan."

    Polly: "Maybe your agents should come with us, my girl? If the ambassador has been attacked before--"

    Falcon Zac: "That's what I'm here for, lady."

    Polly looks at Falcon Zac with a frown.

    Polly: "A mercenary?"

    The words fall like spit.

    Clear: "He is very thorough, Mrs Simon."

    Clear doesn't know why she feels the need to defend Falcon Zac and his organisation but she doesn't want to see this powerful woman chew him out and leave his pride in tatters.

    Polly: "Maybe..."

    Agent Burton: "We should go with Mrs Simon anyway. Give you some room, chief."

    Chronos: "Fine by me."

    Polly: "Right. Ambassador Clear, lead the way."

    Clear gets up and catches the eye roll that Pully gives. Clear had almost forgotten her body isn't in the best of shape and winces as she staggers away from the sofa. Polly's eyes slip from Clear to the table and she saunters over. She peruses the snacks available.

    Polly: "You always did have a sweet tooth, Ohqeanos."

    Ambassador Simon: "That's why I married the best cook in the solar system."

    Polly manages a smirk.

    Polly: "I am pretty handy with a rolling pin."

    She leans down and takes a battenberg.

    Polly: "Off we go then."

    A moment later and the group exit the Earth embassy. Ohqeanos Simon leads his granddaughter off to the right while Clear leads the rest of the group to the left. Before they get very far, however, Falcon Zac pipes up;

    Falcon Zac: "Ambassador, it's time to change shifts. I'll be leaving now."

    Clear: "Oh right. Where's your replacement?"

    She doesn't see another mercenary agent present and actually finds she's annoyed by the tardiness. She is paying for this service, even if she doesn't really want it.

    "I'm here."

    Clear jumps at the voice and everyone turns to see a shimmer in the air. It begins to coalesce into a solids state - a person.

    Polly: "Transforming yourself into pure aether? That's a dangerous trick..."

    The woman stands before them now. She's tall, with long legs giving her much of her height, and has very soft, black hair that bunches around the shoulders. She has large, earnest eyes but a patronising smile. Her skin is a dark tone of green.

    Clear: "An orion? Are you kidding me, Zac?"

    Woman: "Just because some orions attacked you, doesn't mean we'll all attack you."

    Polly: "Your people do promote slavery though. I think that's reason enough to distrust you."

    Clear is always surprised to find Jupiterians more distrustful of alien races than she is herself.

    "Can you really blame me?"

    Woman: "I suppose not. I'm Ms Mezz. You trusted Falcon Zac so you can trust me. I'm the instructor for the ST Clan. I taught him how to protect you."

    Polly: "Mercenary, mage, orion. None of these are good qualities in my book."

    Agent Burton: "And the blighter did just sneak up on us."

    Ms Mezz: "Mercenary, yes. I'm well paid by the ambassador here. Mage, yes I am long practised in the arcane arts. Orion, yes but I am no slaver and I aim to protect you from my own kind. I can be trusted, ambassador. You paid me to do that."

    Clear: "My trust is earnt, not bought. You better turn out to live up to this honourable mercenary brand you guys are promoting."

    Polly: "You're going to take her with us? Back to the place that her kind tried to murder you?"

    Clear pauses and looks at Ms Mezz.

    Clear: "She deserves the chance."

    She glances at Pully.

    Clear: "Humans destroyed our worlds but I trust some of them with my life. I'll give Ms Mezz the same opportunity."

    Ms Mezz: "I knew you would."

  9. #89
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow The Jovian Plot

    Clear leads the group to the Jupiterian embassy. As they step into the main foyer Clear stops and stares at the room. This is where it had all happened not so long ago, now swept clean. She sees where she had been lying on the ground dying. She looks up and sees where Ambassador Jteff did die.

    The two agents of Chronos march into the room and start to admire the décor quizzically. They, like many, are baffled by the presence of stone on such a technologically advanced station. The trees growing within the embassy, creeping through open holes in the ceiling made for them, don't have the same spiritual significance to them as they do to the Jupiterians. Ltexi had explained how trees are culturally significant. A tree represents long lasting life and strength. Many of the trees on Jupiter had been sources of power, whether that was energy or magic or otherwise, and even their ships were simply trees in space. In all her years, Clear realises that she's never actually seen a Jovian spacecraft, despite living so close to them for so long.

    Pully nudges Clear gently.

    Pully: "You okay, Sir?"

    Clear: "Not really. But there's nothing to be done about that."

    Pully gives Clear a concerned frown but she clearly concedes the point. Of course Clear isn't okay but there's nothing that can be done to correct that now. It'll take time.

    Some Jupiterian guards approach and then, at Clear's request, one of them sets off to find Ltexi while the other guard remains to watch the group. Clear stares at the guard and he stands, keeping his eyes averted from her. She doesn't know if he was on duty that day but if he was she's going to force as much guilt into this stare as she can muster.

    It takes a while before Ltexi finally shows. She is wearing a brown, sleeveless tunic but it does have a pair of black shoulder pads. Across her torso is a sash that hangs off of the shoulder and reaches across her chest. On the white sash are a lot of medals and insignias that are obviously military awards and rank marks. Below the tunic she wears a brown sarong that exposes ninety-nine percent of her right leg, flashing what Clear would have considered Ltexi's underwear if Ltexi wasn't always parading around with said garment as outerwear. She has brown boots on to complete this new military uniform and Clear admits that Ltexi looks like a new woman.

    Clear: "Should I say congratulations?"

    Ltexi: "Damn right you should. After the scientist types went and checked over The Hopeful, saw the records and the, what did you call them?"

    Clear: "Living daylights."

    Ltexi: "That's the one. So after that it's been established I am who I say I am and I've been reinstated into the admiralty. Of course I'm now also a celebrity, so that's fun."

    "Had any boys throw their underwear at you yet?"

    "Not yet, but I'm hoping."

    Polly: "Congratulations, Admiral Ltexi. It's good to know there's now a firm hand behind Jupiter's defence."

    Ltexi: "That's for sure. I tell you, the soldiers today are completely wet behind the ears. None of them look like they've wrestled a bear in their entire lives."

    Clear is pretty sure Ltexi is joking but the punchline gets no chuckles from either of the Jovians and Clear gives Pully a worried, sidelong glance.

    Polly: "They've gotten complacent. So many years of peace have dulled their senses. The only people that have dared to attack us are given a free pass, so I'm told."

    Polly doesn't look at Clear but the salmitton feels she's just been called out on her position during the last G8 vote.

    Ltexi: "Sounds like you're a woman after my own heart. Sorry I only woke up from the freezer a short time ago, I don't know who's who around in this day and age."

    Ltexi pushes open the doors to the ambassadorial suite and invites Polly inside. Pully glances into the room but motions out of it with her head.

    Pully: "I'll wait out here, Clear. I don't fancy being locked up in a room talking politics for an hour. I'll just loiter here and wait."

    Ms Mezz: "I'll go in with you."

    Clear shakes her head.

    Clear: "I think I can manage by myself, thanks."

    Ms Mezz: "But--"

    Clear: "I'm paying you to keep me safe, not hover over me all day long. I'd like a little bit of space."

    What she doesn't say is that she wants to spend a little bit of time alone with Ltexi and possibly attempt to talk about their relationship. Clear has no idea what Ltexi's plans are without The Hopeless in her life and as much as Clear is determined to see the ship forever in her own possession, she does feel guilty that she has usurped Ltexi so completely.

    Clear goes into the room as Polly and Ltexi go in ahead of her. Clear turns on her heel and closes the doors with Ms Mezz staring disapprovingly at her.

    Ltexi: "So, what did you say your name was?"

    Polly: "I'm Princess Ptolly of Jupiter."

    There's a long moment as comprehension finally dawns on both Ltexi and Clear. Clear looks at Polly in surprise but then stares at Ltexi with shock as she flies down to one knee and bows her head.

    Ltexi: "Forgive me, your Grace, I had no idea."

    "It's been a very long time since anyone bowed to me..."

    "Yes, this republic is not the kind of world I have known."

    "Oh, it's not only that. People stopped bowing to me long before the republic..."

    Ltexi: "That's... unimaginable!"

    Polly: "I married a human of Earth. My role as claimant was dropped because of that. I still get the title, but none of the perks these days. That and I lived in a country called the United States of America - also a republic with zero respect for monarchy."

    Ltexi: "I am... sorry that you had to endure that, your Grace."

    The pain in Ltexi's voice sounded so genuine, so concerned. Quite unlike the Ltexi Clear is used to.

    Polly: "Don't worry about it. I got used to it. I even kind of prefer it, if I'm being honest. It's nice to have anonymity sometimes. I've had a decent life away from Jupiterian politics. Left it all to my sister until..."

    They remain silent for another long moment until Polly finally realises that Ltexi is still on her knee.

    Polly: "Come on, rise Admiral Ltexi. I am not the ruler of anyone."

    Ltexi gets to her feet but maintains her respectful tone.

    Ltexi: "You'll have to forgive me, your Grace. I can't see you as anything but my queen."

    Polly: "That's good to know, admiral. But it's not me who you should be loyal to. There is another..."

    Clear: "Do you need me to leave?"

    Polly & Ltexi: "No."

    Clear: "Oookay..."

    Polly walks past them both towards the sofa. Clear remembers Jteff sitting there, watching her and she scowling at him. She doesn't like this whole monarchy discussion and wishes he could be here to uphold the freedom and democracy angle against these two. And yet Clear really doesn't care enough to start any kind of debate here. She actually wishes she could leave them to it; she should have rephrased her, apparently too subtle, question. Now it's too late as the three women sit down.

    Polly: "I have a daughter."

    Ltexi, for the first time, looks dubious.

    Ltexi: "She'd be half human then?"

    Polly nods but detects her new compatriot's weariness. Clear thinks she sees a momentary flush of agitation in the princess, probably sparked by the feeling that her daughter is being insulted by this stranger. She recovers incredibly quickly;

    Polly: "Yes she is half human. But last I checked Jupiter has no one else..."

    Ltexi then sounds hopeful;

    Ltexi: "Except you!"

    Polly: "No. As I said, I'm disinherited because I married an Earther. I am considered an ex-patriot. My daughter, however, is still in line. In all honesty I kept all of this from her because it would never be an issue and I didn't want to muddy the waters. Until... until our home was wiped from the galaxy."

    Ltexi: "Does she know now?"

    Polly: "Yes she does. I have started to try to push to have her instated as queen of the empire. As you can imagine the republic has been... resistant."

    Ltexi: "They don't want to lose their new power I suppose."

    Polly: "Exactly. It should be my sister and her lineage on that throne but instead it's fallen to me and my line. Losien is the true heir to Jupiter."

    Clear: "Is there a silent t in there somewhere?"

    Clear picks at the arm of the sofa. All this political scheming has her bored out of her mind already.

    Polly: "There is actually! Ltosien never uses it though. The U.S.A. where she was brought up would never understand our t. They can barely speak their own bloody language."

    The two Jovians give a jovial chuckle at the limitations of humans while Clear pouts. She's pretty certain she would struggle with weird silent letters shoved into names and words too.

    Ltexi: "So you want to install your daughter as queen but you, I guess, need support, right?"

    Polly: "That's right. You, Admiral Ltexi, have become something of a celebrity and your word will carry immense weight. Your support would definitely help. But actually I didn't come here specifically for that. I only learnt of your return when I arrived on the Cosmic Nullius..."

    Ltexi: "Then...?"

    Polly: "I came to get a fleet."

    Ltexi: "Shouldn't be hard to do..."

    Polly: "To attack Earth."

    Clear's elbow slips from the arm of the sofa as surprise hit her. She writhes to keep her balance.

    Ltexi: "That's... bold...."

    Polly: "There's logic to my madness, I assure you. First of all, my daughter is in danger right now. She needs rescuing. That's reason enough to arrive at Earth with force in tow. But, as said, there's resistance in the republic to her dominion - so she'd have to be a queen in exile."

    "Exiled to Earth I assume?"

    Polly: "She is half Earther, so yes. In her name we conquer a portion of the Earth. From there she can amass a powerbase, supporters from all over the empire until we can retake the reins. Being half human from the planet Earth she will have little legal opposition within the Jupiterian government for the conquest of her homeworld."

    Clear: "I don't think the other powers will just roll over and let you conquer the Earth."

    The two Jovians seem to only now realise that they've let an enemy spy listen into their plans. The two women look at each other before Polly tries some tact.

    Polly: "Ambassador Clear. Your name has been all over the Cosmic Nullius after your little speech. I fully understand your reasons. I don't know if I agree completely... but... I wouldn't want the Earth to be destroyed or its people killed just for the sake of our memorial. I do have friends there, my husband's extended family too. But you realise I am not talking of destroying the planet or its people? I'm talking of conquest. The humans of Earth have been nothing but trouble for everyone. They need to be brought into line. Controlled. Guided. Jupiter never conquers other species' lands - but my daughter is human. She has every right to rule those people as well as Jupiterians. And we'll all be better for it."

    Clear: "Well..."

    Polly: "What does it matter to you who rules the Earth?"

    Clear: "I suppose... it doesn't really."

    Sensing victory Ltexi smiles at her frenemy and puts a hand on Clear's shoulder.

    Ltexi: "You'll still have your job, Clear. Nobody can take Mars away from you. There's a good portion of the fleet under my command. Some captains may not want to defy the current government, but honestly even now the military is still very conservative and I'm sure many would like nothing more than to serve a real, royal leader. I can get you your fleet and we'll head to Earth."

    Clear can't help but feel this is the wrong thing to do and yet she can't argue with the fact that it's none of her business who runs the Earth. The planet is nothing but a point of aggravation to her and its people are her oppressors. They won't be dead, they'd just be controlled. Perhaps the Jupiterians, who she has found to be a largely peaceful collective in terms of external powermongering, could actually help keep the humans from blowing up another planet...

    And yet...

    Clear: "What about your husband?"

    Polly: "... what about him?"

    Clear: "I don't know him very well but I don't think he would want this..."

    Polly: "You're probably right. He's American. They're spoilt, ignorant morons that don't understand the need for a true ruler. But honestly, once he sees his own daughter sitting on the throne and guiding his people to wisdom-- well, he'll sing a different tune then!"

    Clear: "And if he refuses to be 'guided'?"

    Polly definitely hadn't even factored in her husband and she flounders for a moment.

    Polly: "I'll deal with him. He's my problem. Nothing for you to worry about."

    Clear: "And what about all the other people that refuse Jupiterian rule? You'll be putting them into camps perhaps?"

    From Ltexi's expression Clear knows that she, at least, is seeing Clear's train of speech. Polly, on the other hand, doesn't know Clear all that well.

    Polly: "Possibly. They could be corrected. At the very least, kept away. So yes. I hadn't thought on such matters, it'd be left to the governing body after the takeover."

    Clear: "Kill those that resist. Round up those that survive and enslave those that lie down before you? You're just as bad as the humans! You--"

    Ltexi: "Sorry."

    The wind from Clear's gut escapes her mouth. Her eyes bulge and she strains to drag breath. She staggers to her feet and half leans half pushes Ltexi away as the woman had just slammed her fist into Clear's stomach. Ltexi watches Clear, holding her at arm's length. Then Clear manages a gasp and Ltexi attacks Clear again, this time a short, swift punch to the chin that snaps the salmitton's neck back. The world turns black.

    Ms Mezz: "We are going to start watching you while you **** from now on..."

    Clear's vision wobbles as she struggles to regain her senses. She feels light headed and surprised at her surroundings. It takes her a few seconds to remember what happened. She jolts her head up when she recalls being struck but the sudden motion leaves her feel woozy and she lies back down.

    Clear: "Why does this keep happening to me?"

    Pully: "Can't believe they decked you."

    Clear finds that she's lay on the sofa. At least Ltexi didn't leave her sprawled on the floor.

    Ms Mezz: "I should have checked the room before letting her in here. They must have took the rear exit there--"

    She points towards a pair of open veranda doors through which a gentle breeze is blowing a beaded curtain.

    Pully: "We should've done a lot of things but didn't. Too late now though. Why the hell did they lamp you, Clear?"

    Clear: "They're... they're going to attack the Earth."

    Pully laughs.

    Then she realises Clear's not joking.

    Pully: "They can't do that! That's just crazy. Jupiter has hardly ever attacked non-Jupiterians. They just don't do that kind of thing."

    Clear: "Apparently Polly's daughter should be queen and because she's half human it means she can be a queen in exile on Earth if she conquers some of it. Or something like that. What the Hell do I know?"

    Pully: "Lemme guess, you said something along the lines of 'Hey you conquering swines, why don't you bugger off and leave the scummy humans alone?'. You know, for someone who hates humans you do defend them a lot..."

    Clear: "Good point. From now on I'm going to ignore them all. Starting with you."

    Ms Mezz helps Clear sit up. After a moment's orientation, Clear is able to get back to her feet. Her stomach hurts, however, as Ltexi's dig has bruised over old bruises from the other day.

    "I don't know how many more beatings my body can take..."

    Pully: "Well, we'd better go and tell that Earth ambassador guy that his wife has gone full on Thrawn mode."

    Clear gets to her feet.

    Clear: "Thrawn mode?"

    Pully: "Uh, right yeah. He was an Imperial admiral that was big on conquering. A conquering machine. Huh, which is funny since someone told me they thought he was an android once."

    Clear: "Right, right. I know who he was. Okay, let's go tell Ohqeanos..."

    Pully: "I hope he doesn't have a heart attack or something."

    Ms Mezz: "And what will you do after you've told him?"

    The woman crosses her arms with an air of superiority and frustration. Like the school teacher Clear never had. Clear is sure Ms Mezz already expects that Clear is going to volunteer herself to help Earth against the Jupiterians and disapproves, but oddly enough this just makes Clear want to do it even more.

    Clear: "I don't know yet."

    It's not lying when it's mostly true...

    Clear is standing on the bridge of The Unbroken - the CR90 corvette that usually trails after The Hopeful under the control of Lumo. Fortunately Mother has been uploaded to both ships, meaning she is able to communicate with herself (a thought that struck horribly close to Clear when she considered her own experiences with Hope in the Dream Viewer) and ensure a symbiotic relationship between the two ships. Provided that they're in proximity to each other. When separated The Unbroken is on its own. So today The Unbroken has a crew.

    Clear is captain with Lumo her 'number one' as he likes to be called. Clear had wanted to call Green her 'number two' but Green became very upset and said it would be very mean. Clear decided it was just another 'Earth thing' that she doesn't understand and moved on.

    Aside from Lumo, Pully has the most experience on a warship and she opted to stand over tactical. Clear knows she is supposed to stay in the captain's chair but she has made sure that at least one of the navigational consoles has been left free for her to use. She might be more experienced at flying a starfighter or a shuttlecraft but she's always believed flying a fatter ship must be easier.

    Falcon Zac: "We're out of the gravity well of the Cosmic Nullius now, ambassador."

    Falcon Zac is sitting at one of the other helm stations, looking far more like a professional soldier than he had done stalking Clear through the promenades of the Cosmic Nullius.

    "Mother, is The Hopeless ready to jump?"

    Mother's hard-light projection is being kept on The Unbroken. She stands next to the three command five command chairs. Clear always finds it annoying when Mother forgets to sit down. Despite being an A.I. her hard light body does get tired and stressed but Mother only registers these as 'conditions' and, probably because she's used to The Hopeful having a myriad of problems constantly, she rarely thinks to relieve the physical stress. Clear points at the far right chair and Mother takes the command to sit herself down.

    "The Hopeful is ready to jump at your command."

    Clear: "Make sure to synchronise our jumps. Zac, on your mark."

    ST Clan Leader: "You do know I'm the leader of the ST Clan, not Falcon Zac?"

    The man turns in his seat and leans his arm on the back of the chair.

    Clear: "Tell me your name."

    ST Clean Leader: "Already told you no."

    Clear: "Then I'm not going to talk to you until you do. Zac, jump!"

    Falcon Zac smirks.

    Falcon Zac:
    "Sorry boss! We gotta get paid, right?"

    ST Clan Leader:
    "Come on, ambassador. I can't tell you my name for security reasons. Most of the clan don't even know my real name."

    Falcon Zac:

    Clear: "Stow it. In fact I'm going to give you a name."

    Falcon Zac: "Two..."

    ST Clan Leader: "No, don't do that."

    Falcon Zac: "One..."

    Clear: "Arseface. Lieutenant Arseface."

    ST Clan Leader: "No amount of money is worth this..."

    The Unbroken tucks in close to The Hopeful and when the larger vessel tears open space-time to reveal the netherflames of Tartarus, the ST Clan members on the bridge collectively gasp with astonishment. Ms Mezz, who is sitting to Clear's left, seems very ill at ease all of a sudden.

    Their first jump takes them straight from the Norma Arm, where the Cosmic Nullius is located, and into the Centaurus Arm. The Cosmic Nullius has a handy-dandy navigation chart that offers the best route from the Cosmic Nullius to each of the primary worlds of the G8, including the Earth. The map's route causes a serve through the Centaurus Arm to avoid a sector of the arm that has been marked 'too dangerous' for travel. A second swerve takes them far away from the inner edge of the Centaurus Arm, which is marked as even more dangerous. Clear grumbles about all this stalling but continues to follow the path anyway. Finally out of the Centaurus Arm and, soon, they're in the Orion Spur, perched just outside of the Sol System.

    Clear: "Check sensors and see who has come to play today..."

    Mabey is over at the sensor panel.

    Mabey: "Jupiterians."

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "Yes... how many?"

    Mabey: "... many."

    Ms Mezz: "Sorry, he's not very talkative. Or cooperative for that matter."

    ST Clan Leader: "Mabey, give a full report."

    Clear: "Thanks lieutenant Arseface."

    ST Clan Leader: "Mabey, be as obstructive as you like."

    Ms Mezz: "You two... Mabey. Are there only Jupiterians in the system?"

    Mabey: "... warp signatures inbound."

    Clear: "The Alliance?"

    Mabey: "Yes and no..."

    Clear: "What the Hell is that supposed to me--?"

    Several Star Destroyers slam into the system, not far from The Unbroken and The Hopeful.

    "Hoooooo buggery."

    "Heeeeeeeello and good morning! This is The Unbroken!"

    Everyone in the room slowly turns to look at Green. She's standing at the comm station.

    Green: "My name is Green! It's nice to hear from you Mr Imperial Man! Do you need something from us? We have lots of cake on board. I don't know where it came from though. Or how old it is. I ate some of it an hour ago and my tummy is really bad now. I probably should have asked about it but there's so much of it! Like mountains of cake! It looked really ni-- oh sorry! I forgot who I was talking to. I like this headset. Your voice is really clear!"

    Clear: "Actually... let her talk. Maybe it'll stall them..."

    ST Clan Leader: "It's no wonder you're always in trouble if this is the kind of company you keep, ambassador..."

    Clear smiles.

    Clear: "You don't know Green at all. I guarantee she'll save everyone's life before the day is through."

    Green: "Why do you want to speak to my superior officer? Did I do a bad job? I'm sorry I've never used one of these before!"

    Mabey: "Imperials are moving further into the system. I don't think they're taking us very seriously..."

    Green: "That wasn't a very nice thing to say! I'm doing the best I can! You should be nicer! I can't even speak, did you know that? I have to create plants to speak for me! They vibrate the-- what do you mean you don't believe me!? Are you saying I'm lying!? I'd never do that! Well except that one time I put a spider into Clear's bed--"

    Clear: "I knew that was you!"

    Green: "AH!"

    Ms Mezz: "They don't see us as a threat, that's good for now. But why the heck are the Empire here? Are they really going to defend the Earth?"

    Green: "You want to talk to Clear? How do you know her name!? I told you? Oh I guess I did... Who is the president and why does he want Clear? President Spunk?"

    Clear winces. Luckily Green doesn't even know what she just said.

    Green: "Oh sorry. Clear!"

    Clear: "Yes Green?"

    Green: "There's a President Spud who wants to talk to you!"

    ST Clan Leader: "Maybe we shouldn't talk to him? Just let him go on his way and see what happens between him and the Jupiterians?"

    Ms Mezz: "If we don't talk to him we don't know what he's planning to do."

    Falcon Zac: "Why would the president be on one of those ships anyway? And why would he want to speak to Clear personally?"

    Clear: "I... sort of know him. A bit."

    ST Clan Leader: "See? It's the company you keep that gets you into trouble."

    Clear: "Green, patch him into the video screen."

    Green: "Okay..."

    Clear turns to look at Green.

    Clear: "Green."

    Green: "I'm trying!"

    Clear: "Do you know which buttons to press?"

    Pully: "Press the little green one. Now the yellow one. And now the white one to confirm. Got there in the end Green."

    Green: "Yaaaaaaay!"

    She cheers as the image of President Skroob Polk appears on the screen. This is not quite the kind of welcome he's used to hearing and he's taken aback a bit.

    S. Polk: "Thank... you..."

    Clear shakes her head at Green but turns her attention to the screen. Pole is wearing a grey, three piece suit much like the last one she saw him in. His hair is grey and pulled back over his head and his pencil thin moustache is groomed to perfection. He's in a darkened room but just behind him Clear spots a woman and she's certain the woman isn't an officer.

    Her image should appear on his own screen, though she isn't sure if she'll appear as a hologram or as an image on a monitor. She crosses her legs and leans back comfortably. She wants to express an air of nonchalance, even if, inside, she's as nervous as a bucket of eels.

    Clear: "President Polk..."

    S. Polk: "Captain Clear. It's good to see my favourite agent again."

    He holds a sarcastic tone but the ST Clan members around her all perk at that designation. Ms Mezz is even writing notes down into a datapad.

    Clear: "I was never your agent--"

    S. Polk: "I assigned you to the Mirare Station to find out information for me and you did it. That sounds like an agent to me. It's just a shame you went and got the station blown up..."

    Clear: "You wanted me to get you the princess. That's what you were really after all along. Access to Earth. So what are you doing here now?"

    S. Polk: "News from the Cosmic Nullius spread very, very fast. Especially when there's a fleet of Jupiterian ships bound for the Earth."

    Clear: "You're actually going to help them conquer the Earth?"

    S. Polk: "No! Why would I do that!?"

    "Oh... so you'll help us stop them?"

    S. Polk: "Help you? You and your one ship? Yes, I will stop the Jupiterians. And then I will conquer the Earth myself."

    Clear: "Oh...."

    S. Polk: "I can't let them beat me to it. My name rests on this enterprise. I will see it done. We can't let any aliens control a human world."

    He then seems to remember he's speaking to one.

    S. Polk: "Not that aliens don't have their uses, of course..."

    Clear: "Just great..."

    S. Polk: "I know you can be a positive asset, captain. So I'll make you this offer once. Join me now and you'll be richly rewarded. I would personally see to it that your homeworld, Mars, is restored and you can be made governor of it. Maybe even governor of the Earth itself. I do need someone competent in control..."

    ST Clan Leader: "That is quite an offer..."

    He seems to be taken in by the offer but Clear is dubious. Even if all of that is true and Polk would deliver on the promise, Clear doesn't want to rule a planet. Nevermind rule two of them. She doesn't even want to be ambassador. When pitching your offers, you need to know who you're truly dealing with in Clear's experience. And Polk doesn't know her at all.

    Clear: "How about you shove your offer up your--"

    The screen goes blank.

    Falcon Zac: "Didn't even say goodbye. How rude."

    Green: "He was really rude!"

    Mabey: "They're still headed towards the Earth."

    Pully: "It's not like we're a threat here all by ourselves."

    The star destroyers are backed up by smaller corvettes that circle around the larger capital ships. Amongst the star destroyers is what Clear has heard called a super star destroyer - such an original designation. It's a ship that lokks like an extra long, extra massive star destroyer. She assumes this must be Polk's personal vessel.

    As though reading her mind, Mabey speaks;

    "The super star destroyer is called Spaceball One..."

    There's a momentary silence as everyone comprehends why the ship has such a ridiculous name but Clear realises that she's run into "The Jolly Wanker" and "The Ah! My Love" before now so "Spaceball One" seems right at home amongst the freaks of the galaxy. The ship itself, however, is huge as it stands as the largest ship she's seen beside The Hopeful. The Hopeful is still double its size, but a ship that is even half a country's length is a rather large thing.

    Clear: "Well then, we wait."

    ST Clan Leader: "Good. The longer we're out here, away from any fighting, the longer you're safe. And the longer you're safe, the longer we're all doing our jobs."

    Clear: "Yeah well, if I'm paying you the least you can do is crew my ship, right? How much am I paying you all anyway?"

    ST Clan Leader: "Mega spacebucks, I can tell you that much!"

    He grins broadly. He's a human, like most of the ST Clan, and quite tall. He has broad shoulders and a very muscular frame. To accentuate those muscles, he wears a tight, grey vest. Over it he has an open denim jacket coloured bright red with several, also open, faster belts down it. He has loose, beige cargo pants and thick boots. To Clear he looks like everything she'd ever imagined a roguish mercenary would look like. Definitely not worth the money.

    By contrast Mabey, over at the sensor station, is short and quite fat. He has a set of red tinted goggles on his face that make his features appear even more pudgy than they actually are. Otherwise he has a long black trench coat on, which helps to mask some of the excess weight. Under the trench coat are so many belt buckles that Clear thinks he might have just come from a bondage session.

    Clear has to concede that the ST Clan are certainly diverse in appearance, if not species. She doesn't know much about their history or other adventures outside of her own and doesn't bother to ask. She learnt from Ms Mezz that the clan was founded in the earlier years of the rebellion against the Empire and started by actively raiding their mines and trade centres. When the Alliance was established, the clan became a mercenary unit that hired itself out to small time businesses or worlds that were unable to get adequate military support from the republic government. This, however, wasn't paying the bills so they went to the Cosmic Nullius to try to get better funding where they did a few odd escort jobs until Lieutenant Randy of the Alliance, and friend to Falcon Zac, gave them Clear. And now Clear is stuck with them.

    At least, she thinks, if it comes down to it she can hide behind them in a gunfight.

    Mabey: "They're approaching Mars now and slowing down."

    Clear: "The Jupiterians?"

    "They're already around the Earth."

    Clear taps her finger on the arm of the chair as she thinks.

    Clear: "I need to know about a station around Earth. It's called Orbital One."

    Mabey doesn't bother to confirm that he's going to check.

    ST Clan Leader: "Spaceball One, Orbital One. What's with these one names? Should we call this Unbroken One? Where's Spaceball Two or Orbital Two?"

    Clear: "I always thought it was a human thing. I'm surprised you're not ST Clan One, frankly."

    ST Clan Leader: "Uh..."

    Falcon Zac: "Actually he is ST One! Haha!"

    ST Clan Leader: "Pay cut for you ST Four."

    Despite the idle threat, Falcon Zac quietly chuckles.

    Ms Mezz stands up from her seat, looking concerned and irritated.

    Ms Mezz: "Doesn't Earth have its own defences? Where's its fleet?"

    Clear: "They do and don't. I know it doesn't have any kind of official fleet or anything like that. There might be some people willing to fight though. Don't ask me who they are or where they are. Mostly they rely on major installations I think. I know they did have a spacefleet once. They used it to attack Mars. But I guess it was too expensive to maintain. Only ships I regularly see from Earth are cargo ships taking stuff to and from Saffron 5 on Mars."

    Ms Mezz: "Aren't they going to use these installations then? There's almost no fighting going on. Until the Imperials get there anyway..."

    Clear: "Maybe they went down to the planet? Or they knew the Empire was on the way and they're getting ready for that? I don't know why the Earth isn't fighting back. The only installation I even know of is on its moon and it was shut down years ago. I think it's still there but you only ever get tourists going to Luna these days."

    ST Clan Leader: "And this gets on the G8?"

    Clear: "I think Earth has more luck than anything. Plus they seem to have a knack for getting themselves involved in everything going on."

    Ms Mezz: "Probably the case. Still. It bothers me that the world is just left so wide open."

    Ciel: "Probably not as wide open as you'd think."

    Everyone on the bridge leaps to their feet with weapons in hand at the sudden intrusive voice. Clear holds her hands up to try and calm everyone down when she realises who has decided to grace them with her presence.

    Clear: "Relax! Relax! She just a senile, old pensioner that has apparently forgotten how pissed off with her I am."

    Ciel: "I am certainly not a pensioner. I'm still employed!"

    Green: "Are you Clear's friend?"

    Ciel: "I am!"

    Clear: "She's not!"

    "I was in a meeting with the other Void Rangers about the fleet orbiting Earth when, lo, I saw my old friend Clear arrive in the system! This ship is a much better fit for you than that stupid old thing you fly about the universe. I went over there looking for you and had a piece of the ceiling fall off and nearly kill me."

    Clear: "Ships know when someone shouldn't be trusted..."

    Ciel rolls her eyes and walks across the bridge, checking out the other people present. She looks surprised.

    Ciel: "I never knew you had so many friends, Clear!"

    "I'm her friend!"

    ST Clan Leader:
    "The ambassador is like an adorable kitten. An adorable kitten with... spikes. And is poisonous."

    Clear: "You're a moron. Why am I paying you again?"

    Ciel: "Paying to have friends? Clear..."

    Green: "She doesn't pay me!"

    Pully: "You're really not helping her, Green."

    Clear: "They're not my friends--"

    Falcon Zac: "Now I'm hurt!"

    Mabey: "Me too."

    Clear briefly casts a stupefied glance over at Mabey before continuing;

    Clear: "I pay them to protect me. More importantly, what the bloody Hell're you doing here? Shouldn't you be off murdering people in the Deep Void?"

    ST Clan Leader: "I think I'll make 'it's the company you keep, ambassador' as my new catchphrase."

    Ms Mezz: "Beginning to see your point, Leader."

    Ciel: "Void Rangers have been called to protect the Earth for a while. It's all very political but there's a few of us here to help defend the planet from outside forces!"

    Clear shakes her head with surprise.

    Clear: "I can't believe you're actually here though. I honestly didn't think I'd ever see you again."

    Ciel smiles, creating hundreds of extra wrinkles on her wizened face.

    Ciel: "Missed me did you!?"

    "Missed you like I'd miss gut rot!"

    Ciel: "Well that's fine. I won't stay long. I just wanted to know why you're even here. Are these fleets friends of yours?"

    Clear: "Not even close."

    Ciel: "Good! Oh. It seems like some more are coming..."

    Clear: "What do you--?"

    Mabey: "There's a new fleet inbound. Alliance."

    Clear: "What about Orbital One, Mabey?"

    Mabey: "The station is there. No problems so far."

    Green: "Is Dr Alexis on the station, Clear?"

    Clear: "She is."

    Pully: "Then I think I know what our first job should be."

    Clear: "I agree. Zac, lay in a course for Orbital One."

    ST Clan Leader: "You know that's actually my job?"

    Clear: "Sorry. Lieutenant Arseface--"

    Ciel: "That's an interesting name, young man."

    ST Clan Leader: "Not my name..."

  10. #90
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Attack of The Hopeless

    Clear: "Mabey, I need to know if Admiral Ltexi is still alive!!!"

    Clear's mind wants to crack wide. She wants to succumb to despair. That would be easier than holding it together and seeing this through.

    Ever since Kiron Nightstrider showed her his dream of The Hopeful destroying the planet Algernon with its superweapon, Clear has been in complete denial that such a weapon could possibly exist. She told herself it couldn't be. Even when Aellisin Koure was in the weapon control room and activated the superweapon to obliterate Tangris, Clear refused to believe that was really what it was. Without the actual shot, without the definitive evidence, she could cling to the idea that The Hopeful was nothing more than a gigantic bucket in space.

    There is no denying it now.

    The Hopeful is a devastating weapon of mass destruction.

    Mabey: "She is alive and still relaying messages within the Jupiterian fleet."

    A small tear wriggles free of her eye and she quickly wipes it away before anyone notices. She hates Ltexi in so many ways, but through all of their rivalry she admires and loves the stubborn *****.

    Pully: "Clear... I hate to tell you this but The Hopeful is charging up another shot."

    Clear: "Who the Hell is doing this!? You're here, I'm here. The only person over there is Lumo! Is it Koure? Has he found his way back here? He can only control women, not men, right?"

    Ciel: "It is definitely not Koure. He's out of action, I can assure you of that."

    Clear: "I remember..."

    Ciel shrugs.

    Ciel: "Can you still say I was wrong? This could have been Koure, couldn't it?"

    Pully: "It's firing again!"

    Through the viewscreen of The Unbroken, where Clear is standing with her team, she sees several white lasers ignite from various points upon the inner ring of the slightly-croissant-shaped Hopeful. The beams converge and generate a large sphere. The sphere expands as it charges.

    "We have to stop this!"

    Pully: "It's... it's targeting Spaceball One."

    President Polk deserved what is about to come, certainly, but not like this. The Hopeful shouldn't be a weapon, it's a bastion to the lost. It's a safe haven for the weary and broken. It is the unassuming and unpretentious realm of those that have fallen through the cracks in the universe. It is a home to Clear. It should never be an object of war.

    Clear: "I'm going aboard! I'll take The Lightstaff over and I'll find out who's mind-controlling my friends this time."

    Pully: "Alright. I'll get my gear--"

    Clear: "I'll take the ST Clan. You take The Unbroken and get Alexis off of Orbital One before The Hopeful blows that up too."

    There's a moment's hesitation in Pully, but she quickly recognises the determination in Clear and there's no time for an argument.

    Pully: "Aye, Sir."

    The ST Clan gets up and they head out of the door. Clear, before she leaves, glances back.

    Clear: "Ciel, if you're happy to help, could go to The Hopeful ahead of us?"

    Ciel is gone in an instant, surrounded by the sphere she uses as a transport mechanism.

    Green: "Clear... will you be okay?"

    Clear gives Green a sorrowful shrug.

    Clear: "No. Not really."

    Green's eyes widen.

    Green: "But--!"

    Clear: "Just look after Pully and Thrain for me, okay? Mother's hard-light will stay here so she can tell you what I'm doing whenever you ask her."

    Green looks at Mother, who is standing close by with a bemused look on her red-skinned face.

    Green: "Mother?"

    Mother: "How may I help you, Green?"

    Green: "What is Clear doing right now?"

    Clear: "Seriously, Green?"

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    Mother: "Clear is leaving you."

    Clear hears Green, even as she walks down the corridor towards the exit hatch;

    "I thought so..."

    The ST Clan and Clear cram into The Lightstaff. There's no actual docking bay on a ship as small as The Unbroken corvette, but The Lightstaff has the unique feature of clinging to things with its odd legs. The ship's body, pressed against the exist hatch of the ship, can open a door to allow passage from one ship to the other. Clear gets into the cockpit along with ST Clan Leader.

    Clear: "Lucky I'm paying you those mega bucks, huh?"

    ST Clan Leader: "We're mercenaries, ambassador, but what's happening out there, right now, is about more than money."

    Clear: "Does that mean I get a discount?"

    ST Clan Leader:

    The Lightstaff detaches from The Unbroken and gently rolls away into space. Through the forward window she sees the corvette and then the incoming Alliance fleet in the distance. The screen displays tells her the various Alliance ships involved and she catches a glance at the name Ace Lander as one of the commanders there. She tries not to think about that right now. Let him, and the Alliance, do their jobs and she can do hers.

    ST Clan Leader:
    "Didn't expect him to be here!"

    Clear's heart almost lurches through her mouth and she glares at ST Clan Leader with wild, accusing eyes.

    ST Clan Leader:
    "Lieutenant Randy is supposed to be sticking to his ambassadorial role, not running about playing war hero."

    Clear: "Oh right. He's here too--?"

    She could almost melt with relief.

    "I guess he tried to follow the Jupiterian fleet when he heard they left the Cosmic Nullius too."

    ST Clan Leader: "Looks like your weapon is about to fire again, Clear."

    Clear turns the ship around and heads straight for The Hopeful. They're just in time to see the weapon released. A thin beam of light shoots out like a ruler at such a speed it's as though it had always been there and never travelled at all. Having detected the lock-on, however, the Empire tried to save its Super Star-Destroyer by sacrificing another Star Destroyer that sat in the beam's path. The shaft of energy pierced straight through the first Star Destroyer and still hit the second, albeit with significantly less strength. The sacrificial ship imploded and then exploded as the energy released. Spaceball One looses its fore, which is sheared off and vaporised, while the aft then starts to drift away like a dying whale.

    ST Clan Leader:
    "The most powerful Super-Star Destroyer, wiped out with a single blast..."

    He then looks at Clear.

    ST Clan Leader: "Are you sure you want to stop this? I mean, it's done nothing but destroy our enemies."

    "My house will not be some... space tank!"

    ST Clan Leader: "Space... tank. Creative."

    Clear: "I know how this is going to go. And it's going to go 'out of hand fast'. I can tell you that. Now everyone knows my ship has this weapon, they'll all want it. Soon as I get on there, I'm going to find out how to destroy everything about the weapon."

    ST Clan Leader:
    "Okay. You're the boss."

    There's a moment of silence between them as The Lightstaff races towards the Hangar Bay of The Hopeful, which yawns like a giant maw.

    ST Clan Leader:
    "You know, if you sold the weapon parts you could--"

    "I won't give a weapon like that to anyone."

    ST Clan Leader: "Okay, okay. You're right. Wise choice."

    Another moment passes.

    ST Clan Leader:
    "But the energy cells alone for that things must be worth--"

    Clear: "The passenger seat is actually an ejector seat, you know?"

    ST Clan Leader: "Sorry. I can't help it. Just looking at all the angles."

    Clear: "There's only one angle for me. The weapon is gone. Got that, Lieutenant Arseface?"

    ST Clan Leader: "Still going to call me that?"

    Clear: "Are you going to tell me your name?"

    ST Clan Leader: "Dave."

    Clear: "Your name is Dave? Seriously?"

    ST Clan Leader: "No it's not, but you can call me that if you'd like."

    "I want your real name."

    ST Clan Leader: "John."

    She looks at him.

    ST Clan Leader: "John Johnson. My middle name is Dave. John Dave Johnson. Actually my family name is a hyphen name. John Dave Johnson-Daveson."

    He looks at her.

    ST Clan Leader: "The third."

    Clear: "Arseface."

    In the Hangar Bay Clear's group gathers together, both those who were aboard The Hopeful and those she has brought with her from The Unbroken. Back on The Unbroken only Green and Pully remained. Dhaeriend zo'Diikin, the drow that had decided Clear was too much fun not to hang around with, comes stomping down the metal stairwell from the corridor and into the hangar. He's wearing a large pair of goggles over his eyes and looks to be wearing some kind of exo-suit that sparks every few minutes and will probably catch fire any minute. A small, hovering machine stalks after him through the air, kept aloft by four very obvious anti-gravity pads at its top and bottom. The machine has two googly-eyes fixed to its front. Clear instantly decides she isn't going to ask.

    do'Ziikin: "Welcome back, capitan! I'm ready to help!"

    Clear: "Where's Lumo?"

    do'Ziikin: "Not here."

    Clear: "Yes. I can see that much."

    do'Ziikin: "Mother has been trying to contact him for a while now but he's not responding. She says he's not dead, so he must be asleep."

    Clear: "Or ignoring her."

    do'Ziikin: "That's too rude for Lumo! He'd never do that!"

    Clear: "Unless he's being mind-controlled. It's happened to us before. I should have known it could happen again."

    "Ah. That explains the message."

    Clear: "...What message?"

    "Some woman sent us a message saying that her friend is mind-controlling someone onboard this ship to shoot the super-weapon."

    Clear: "Why... didn't you tell me that sooner?"

    do'Ziikin: "It only came through a moment ago! Plus I did kind of forget, to be honest."

    Rui-Rho, the cute robot-girl, pipes up;

    "Where is Green?"

    "She has another mission to do, Rui-Rho."

    ST Clan Leader: "I hate to say this, but I'm not sure we should take these two on our little... venture. Better they wait here, you know?"

    do'Ziikin: "No need to worry about us!"

    ST Clan Leader: "Kind of more worried about us getting into trouble because of you two."

    do'Ziikin: "Wow, your new friend is super rude."

    Rui-Rho: "Super friends!"

    Clear: "We are not super friends."

    ST Clan Leader: "Now who's being rude?"

    Clear: "Where the Hell has Ciel gotten to anyway?"

    Clear grumbles, rolls her eyes and marches off. The fact that everyone always wants to have some banal conversation about something stupid right before they've meant to be fighting for their lives. Being the leader of the group everyone else starts to plod after her. She makes a mental note to get some kind of anti-mind control technology for the ship. Then she thinks she should get some anti-everything technology for her ship. Time and time again it seems she and The Hopeless are in danger from some arsehole, whether it be because they want the ship or because they want her herself.

    As she reaches the bottom of the metal staircase one of the ST Clan lightly grabs her shoulder.

    Falcon Zac: "Sorry, we're going to have to go first. Our job is still to keep you safe."

    Clear just shrugs. She is beyond arguing for the sake of her pride.

    Zac's cybernetic arm grips the handle rail of the stairwell as he clambers up ahead of everyone else, practically lurching himself up by pulling on the rail. With his biological arm he carries a sub-machine gun called a Cyclone that Clear has seen in the hands of criminals and scavengers. The Cyclone allows for rapid-fire at close range and is relatively cheap compared to the more expensive assault rifles that most military organisations would use. Clear never had much use for one herself since she, when a scavenger, never took on hordes of enemies. Her good old carbine was much more suitable for picking off enemies at a greater distance, preferably before they even saw her coming.

    On his hip she also notices a MagSec pistol. That thing is a common weapon used by station security on Saffron 5. Though it fires 9mm bullets, the pistol charges each bullet with additional kinetic energy that allows it to better penetrate armour as well as make a very satisfying zoop, zoop noise when it shoots. That signature noise often meant it was best to put your head down and wait for the criminal element to be phased out. If you didn't, you'd be liable to end up with a hole in your own skull since the damned things are ridiculously inaccurate for a pistol. Clear often wonders if the security staff of Saffron 5 have a collateral damage quota they have to hit each time they enter a bar.

    Clear trots up the steps after Falcon Zac and everyone else trails after her. He passes through the airlock doors and into the ship, leaving the hangar bay behind him. As he goes she notices, for the first time, that the little cape he wears has a four-leafed clover printed on it. She resists facepalming but they she has to admit, she seems to have a great deal of bad luck so maybe having his cape around will do some good for a change.

    ST Clan Leader: "What are we to do with the guy when we find him?"

    Clear: "Is that even a question? Just knock him out! What, you think I'd agree to shooting a guy under mind control? Lumo has saved my life. He wants what's best for everybody. He's not to be hurt."

    There's a sudden shouting from Falcon Zac and everyone is on alert. Clear rushes the last of the steps and bursts through the airlock doors.

    Falcon Zac: "DOWN! DOWN ON THE GROUND!"

    The man looks down at the ground dubiously.

    Kara Pashna: "I don't see anything... what am I looking for?"

    Falcon Zac: "I mean get down--"

    Clear: "Zac. He's with me."

    Falcon Zac: "How do you know he's not being mind controlled too?"

    Kara Pashna:
    "Mind controlled!?"

    Clear: "...are you being mind controlled, Pashna?"

    Kara Pashna: "I doubt it! I have had a craving for ice cream the past hour though. Could be a side effect!"

    Clear: "See? Not mind controlled."

    Falcon Zac: "Wouldn't someone who is mind controlled tell you they're not mind controlled?"

    Clear: "As would someone who is not mind controlled..."

    Falcon Zac: "... the ice cream obsession c--"

    Clear: "He was joking."

    Zac slowly lowers his Cyclone SMG but narrows his eyes at the religious Indran.

    Falcon Zac: "I've got my eye on you, squid-guy."

    Kara Pashna: "You know, I'm beginning to think squid is a racist term used against me..."

    Clear: "They call me red-skin all the time. Just call them monkeys. That's what they're descended from."

    Kara Pashna: "Those furry creatures with the red bottoms?"

    Clear: "Exactly!"

    Falcon Zac: "No, not exact--"

    Kara Pashna: "Well then, monkey-guy, it's nice to meet you."

    Zac sulks and gives a groan as he stalks past Kara Pashna. Clear looks Pashna up and down with some concern as she observes his clothes.

    Clear: "Pashna... what are you wearing?"

    Kara Pashna: "Ah! I was researching Earth clothing and thought I would like to try something that they might traditionally wear there. The material is a little rough for my skin though. Maybe I should find a softer fabric and have those fabricating machines make a new one for me. What do you think?"

    Clear: "It's... a dress."

    Kara Pashna: "So that's what they call it? I quite like this material on the cuffs. I think it's called lace."

    The dress he's wearing a maxi dress that's blue with polka dots that would have been a common sight in 1950s U.S.A. for women. In 2017 on a male alien, however, the sight is... unsettling.

    Clear: "I... ah... don't have time to talk about fashion, Pashna."

    Kara Pashna: "Sorry! Yes! The trouble with the battle outside. Our friend Lumo seems quite excitable about it all."

    ST Clan Leader: "Do you know where he is?"

    Clear glances back as the ST Clan are coming through the airlock doors. ST Clan Leader approaches them but looks down the corridor to his left, which leads to the old Command Deck where once Ltexi and the time-pausing aliens were entrapped. He saunters rather than walks, his shoulders swaying rythmically and his face holding a comfortable status as though he owned the place. When he stopped in front of Clear and Pashna he urges the other Clan members go move past. Mabey, Ms Mezz and a man named Jor Bo. Jor Bo, unlike the others, is armed to the teeth with various guns all strapped to his body but in his hands is the FN F2000 that could probably mow down an entire crowd of people in an instant.

    Kara Pashna: "I'm not sure where Lumo is. He said you'd be unhappy with him but he had to do something. Shoot that cannon I suppose."

    ST Clan Leader: "Why would he say that if he's mind controlled?"

    Clear: "Alexis knows the mind controller. She must be trying to persuade the person to stop."

    ST Clan Leader: "Right. I've seen some crazy stuff in my life but I'll never get to grips with something as terrible as mind-control. I can't think of anything more criminal."

    Clear: "Mother?"

    ST Clan Leader is taken aback before he remembers who Clear is actually talking to.

    Mother: "Yes Clear?"

    Clear: "Any chance you know where Lumo is?"

    Mother: "Negative. He has not left the ship but I cannot detect him."

    Clear: "What about... power surges? That weapon is powered by several nodes, it looked like. There must be sudden surges of power somewhere on the ship?"

    Mother: "Yes, it would seem so. There are several points where power is spiked moments before firing the weapon. The energy for the weapon, however, is self-sustained. It does not draw on The Hopeful's usual power core."

    Clear: "That explains why it can fire massive energy beams but not keep the bathroom light on..."

    ST Clan Leader:
    "Some ship you have..."

    Clear: "It's got a lot of character."

    ST Clan Leader: "Mother, download the locations to our devices. Maybe we should split up, we'll find him faster if he's at one of these locations."

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

    ST Clan Leader: "Seriously? He's a grey and he's old. How dangerous is he going to be?"

    Clear: "I'm more worried about one of you macho-gun-toting-cowboys gets trigger happy while I'm not around."

    ST Clan Leader: "That won't happen. You say he's to be kept safe, then that's what's going to happen. Your rules, ambassador."

    Mother: "Incoming..."

    Clear frowns.

    Clear: "Incoming what?"

    Mother: "Enemy fire."

    The ship suddenly starts rattling and Clear falls against the wall. After blasting two ships out of the sky, she shouldn't be surprised at a retaliation.

    Clear: "Can we hold up to the attack?"

    Mother: "Not under continuous fire."

    ST Clan Leader: "I hate to say it again, ambassador, but maybe we should keep this weapon active. At least for now?"

    Clear can't help but consider the possibility he's right. If it means her death and the destruction of The Hopeless, anything in her arsenal should be considered. She could just jump the ship back out of the system and leave the rest of the fighting to the Alliance. Pully, aboard The Unbroken, could even manage without Clear. She had wanted to stop Polly Simon from her mad quest, but more so she wanted to drag Ltexi back to The Hopeless. Even kicking and screaming, Ltexi is Clear's friend and therefore Clear's responsibility. As a little girl Clear had always imagined that Ltexi, the frozen mother, would be the one in control and the one to tell Clear to stop being lazy or to do her homework. Just like in the teen movies from Earth. Instead, now, it seems Clear must be the one to curb Ltexi's bad behaviour instead.

    Clear: "Okay, let's just try to get the ship out of harm's way for now. Mother, move away from the attacking ship."

    ST Clan Leader: "How do you know it's just one ship?"

    Clear: "We'd be dead otherwise. I installed new shields on her, but we've no hull plating to speak of. Pieces will start crumpling under the slightest pressure."

    ST Clan Leader: "You did say she has character..."

    Clear: "You should've seen it a while back. It is ugly now, it was hideous before I got the repairs done."

    Then the shuddering slows until it stops.

    Clear: "You got clear fast, Mother! What happened?"

    Mother: "They are coming."

    Clear: "What do you mean?"

    Mother: "Prepare to be boarded, captain."

    Clear: "Oh bollocks. There's literally nothing to stop them coming aboard!"

    ST Clan Leader tugs his handcannon from the straps on his leg. It's a pistol revolver but ridiculously oversized. Clear looks at it.

    Clear: "Compensating for something?"

    ST Clan: "Yes. Not having an assault rifle."

    Jor Bo: "No worries, boss. I got us covered there!"

    Jor Bo is seen returning from his walk down the corridor, his gun primed forward as though the enemy is already bearing down on him.

    ST Clan Leader: "You did say we're a bunch of gun-toting-cowboys, didn't you?"

    ST Clan Leader snaps the chamber of his pistol to the ready.

    ST Clan Leader: "Lucky you were right!"

    Clear: "Let's find a defensive position. I know how to fight the Empire but I don't know what to expect if it's the Jupiterians."

    She is about to ask which it is from Mother when the A.I. preempts her;

    Mother: "It is neither."

    Clear: "... then who!?"

    A screen flares to life. The screens are normally turned off to conserve power so she hardly even remembers they exist half the time. The screen initially shows Mother's face, as a kind of loading screen (which she suddenly thinks is lucky because a while back she had a picture of a penis as the loading screen, which would have been infinitely embarrassing, even as a joke, for these guys to all see). When it changes she sees a grey wedge ship.

    Jor Bo: "It is the imperials, your A.I. should drop the I..."

    Clear: "What is she doing here? I can't believe it..."

    ST Clan Leader detects the sudden anguish on Clear's face.

    ST Clan Leader: "Who? Who is it? You know this imperial ship?"

    Clear runs a hand through her white hair and holds the back of her head.

    Clear: "It's not an imperial ship."

    She presses the screen and the designation information for the ship appears. Named 'The Excellence', under the command of Sue'san Dienhand. Successor to Deonal Strang, destroyer of Mirare and sworn nemesis to Clear.

    A text message forces its way onto the communications screen;

    Message: "I am coming for you."

  11. #91
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Plan B

    Clear, ST Clan Leader and Ms Mezz are all huddled around Mabey and his PIP. Mabey's PIP is no bigger than a watch but it projects a massive holographic image that they can all see.

    Clear: "Do you get the adult channels?"

    Ms Mezz: "You wouldn't want to see the kind of adult channels Mabey signs up to."

    Mabey: "How droll you both are."

    The projection shows the Hangar Bay and the stormtroopers unloading from an imperial transport. The shuttle's wings have folded up and its ramp has been descended. The glass of the cockpit remained resolutely dark so they couldn't see the pilots, but the captain of the troopers Clear recognised despite all of the prosthetics. His shaggy blonde hair and edgy beard mask some of the ravaged skin but the half-mask plate would only be hidden if he put his white helmet back on.

    Clear: "That's Turbo."

    ST Clan Leader: "What?"

    Clear: "Sorry, I mean Captain Kraftlight. His designation used to be Turbo when he was a grunt for--"

    Clear realises she'd have to go into a lengthy explanation of her time spent with Deonal Strang, Captain Londris and their battle with the plant-monsters of Green and Clear doesn't want to hear another 'the friends you keep' line from ST Clan Leader.

    Clear: "Forget it. All you need to know is he's efficient and loyal. I watched him almost die, it's why he's... more machine now than man. Those cybernetics aren't just for life-support, I can tell you that."

    Mabey: "Cyborg stormtrooper. Got it."

    Ms Mezz: "There's more than the usual number of troopers for one captain."

    Clear: "I did mention Dienhand really hates me."

    ST Clan Leader: "They're unloading a lot of heavy ordinance."

    "Really, really hates me."

    Mabey: "Someone else is getting off the ship..."

    ST Clan Leader: "Uh oh. Looks like your old friend is back."

    Clear groans as she sees Kaptin Kwanza saunter off of the transport like he was disembarking his own pirate ship and planned to head to the nearest tavern. His tricord hat stood proudly atop of his bare skull and his heavy clothes hid the rest of his bone-body.

    Mabey: "What is this guy?"

    ST Clan Leader:
    "I'm not sure I even want to know."

    Ms Mezz:
    "Knowledge is power, remember?"

    ST Clan Leader: "Knowledge would probably be a trip in a straight jacket in this case."

    "I remember he was set free by Sega, right?"

    ST Clan Leader:
    "So if Kwanza is here, Sega is probably here too. Still on the ship?"

    Clear: "More likely he's already roaming the ship. He has that harness that lets him enter this Special Zone to travel through spacetime."

    At that, the ST Clan members all glance around as though he might be standing just behind them.

    ST Clan Leader: "He could be a problem then. For now we'll stick to the plan. Tactical retreat. Falcon Zac and Jor Bo have made preparations. We should head to the lift now."

    Clear: "I wish Pully and Green were here..."

    Mabey: "We're not good enough for you?"

    "Pully was a stormtrooper, she knows them better than any of us and Green... well she doesn't look like much but she could probably take out this entire group before we finished breakfast."

    ST Clan Leader:
    "I think that's pushing it, but I do understand. I've seen the reports. But don't worry, we're professionals."

    "Is that why you still have Cornflakes in your hair?"

    He snaps a hand to his hair is surprise, then narrows his eyes at Clear who is smirking broadly.

    ST Clan Leader:

    Mabey closes the holoprojection and they move down the corridor. At the far end they can still see the entrance to the Hangar Bay. Clear passes by her bedroom door and pauses to set a lock on it.

    ST Clan Leader:
    "You're wasting time with that?"

    "Hey, I've got very valuable booze in there! I don't want them pilfering it!"

    Ms Mezz: "Clear, you st-- what's happening!?"

    The whole ship has started shaking. At first its an unusual tremble that Clear thought was weapons-fire but then the corridor is shaking more violently. A few of them fall over, though Clear's Martian agility gives her cat-like footing as she balances herself. The lights flicker enough to give anyone an epileptic fit.

    Clear: "Mother, what the hell is happening? Are they blowing up my ship!?"

    Mother: "The ship is coming apart."


    Mabey: "I knew we should have turned it into scrap while we had the chance."

    "You're not scrapping my ship!"

    A screen close to them illuminates and they see that Mother doesn't mean the ship is breaking apart, she really does mean it is coming apart. At various points along the steady curve of the ship the outer hull is separating to reveal a much sturdier-looking hull compartment inside. Clear frowns with interest as she watches the ship expand like like a Transformer. From these freshly exposed sections emanates additional charge for the super-weapon.

    Clear: "Why is it everyone else knows more about my ship than I do?"

    Ms Mezz: "What is that? Extra power for the weapon?"

    Clear: "Looks like it."

    Ms Mezz:
    "It already blew up a ship, how much more power does it need?"

    Mabey: "Enough to blow up a planet?"

    Clear: "But this friend, this Judge, of Thrain's is from Earth. Why would she blow up her own planet?"

    ST Clan Leader: "Doesn't matter. If that's what she wants to do, we have to stop your grey friend right now. No time to waste!"

    Clear: "Right. I'll go there now. You hold off that lot."

    She jerks a thumb down the corridor towards the hangar bay doors.

    Mabey: "Great, we get to fight her fight while she runs off?"

    Clear: "You're being paid, aren't you?"

    Mabey: "Evidently not enough."

    Clear: "I'll go get my own posse and get in touch when I've sorted out the problem."

    ST Clan Leader: "Those three will just slow you down."

    "Better they stay out of your way, isn't it?"

    ST Clan Leader: "Good point."


    There's a brief pause broken when Kara Pashna's head pokes from behind the door to a break room nearby. Clear smirks.

    Clear: "They even know they're the idiot team."

    Clear urges for Pashna to follow her, which he does (still in his frock) along with Dhaeriend do'Ziikin and Rui-Rho. They hurry down the corridor towards the far lift, glancing back when laser blasts straight screeching. She sees Mabey throw a smoke canister to block the stormtroopers' line of sight. It would only provide a momentary relief as the troopers' would alter the view setting on their helmets in a short moment, but it would be enough to give Clear and her comrades that extra time to reach the lift without incident.

    Clear: "Mother, take us to where one of the charging rooms is. I hope the old geezer is in the first one we search or it could be the last..."

  12. #92
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Green Sector

    Jor Bo: "This way, we'll cover you!"

    Jor Bo and Falcon Zac, who had been lurking in wait should the enemy cross their path, now usher Clear's group towards the lift. The large, bulky doors to the lift grunt apart to reveal the industrial elevator box. The lift is big enough to be considered a small room, designed either for a lot of people or a a lot of hardware.

    Yellow lights at the back of the lift flash but because none of her current compatriots are overweight, she didn't get the chance to make a 'wide load' comment. Jor Bo is the opposite to fat, in fact, to such an extent she wonders if he's anorexic.

    Pashna's clogs slap against the metal of the lift as he gingerly steps onto it, having earlier ditched his attempt at wearing high heels. Clear hadn't yet had the heart to tell him that he might want to reconsider the social faux pas of cross-dressing but both Dhaerien and Rui-Rho seem to be encouraging him on with their enthusiasm for this human fashion of which the drow knows little and the robot doesn't understand.

    Jor Bo lurches onto the lift after them. His tall, gangly frame forces him to duck to get inside. His hair is shaved short back and sides but the crown is voluminous and spiked wildly upwards in a very modern, fashionable style that Clear thinks makes him look like a porcupine sits on his skull. The spikes of his hair brush against the lift frame and bounce back into place thanks to the lashings of invisible hair gel. He urges the three of them to step back as he tugs a seemingly innocuous laptop from a bag. He gives it a firm shake and the whole silver case falls apart before it snaps back together magnetically into a new shape. It now appears to be a gun.

    Jor Bo senses Clear's surprise and he grins his big, pearly white teeth at her;

    Jor Bo:
    "Got this one off of Mabey. Laptop gun. Boss gives you a hard time at the office, he'll soon regret it! Amiright!?"

    Clear: "Next time I work in an office, I'll keep it in mind."

    He tosses the thing and just moments for the sub-machine gun hit the floor it sprouted legs and became a turret. With his PIP, Jor Bo programs the targeting systems.

    Jor Bo: "When the doors open, stand back if this thing starts to fire. If not, you'll hear the music later if these slimeballs get by us."

    Clear: "I wouldn't mind getting my hands on a few of these in future, actually. Where did Mabey get this one from?"

    Jor Bo: "A guy that knows a guy that knows a guy who got it from his cousin after it fell off the back of a lorry."

    Pashna: "My! That was very precise!"

    Clear rolls her eyes.

    "Your fetish for weapons is kind of disturbing, you know that Jor Bo?"

    Jor Bo pulls out a pistol, as though 'disturbing' means 'highly interesting' and snaps in a new cartridge of magnum rimfire bullets.

    Jor Bo: "This is the Kel-Tec PMR-30. It has a special, factory-shipped, double-stack magazine that has a capacity for thirty rounds-"

    He pokes the magazine he has just inserted.

    Jor Bo: "It uses fibre optic open sights and here I've installed a red dot sight for acc..."

    The doors have closed and the lift descends while Jor Bo continues to ramble on and on about his 'special pistol'. She can still his voice trailing off as the lift gets further away. She looks down at the turret with some concern, not sure if she entirely trusts Jor Bo's handiwork. But the man does know his weapons.

    Dhaeriend pulls the leather-bound goggles from his eyes, which had been enlarging them far in excess for Clear's comfort, and snaps them to his black-skinned forehead.

    do'Ziikin: "This is getting pretty exciting! I knew signing up with you was going to be great!"

    "You expected to get into danger when you signed up and you're happy about it? There's a back-handed compliment."

    do'Ziikin: "My family would have me sitting at home like a good little boy. Be a good househusband. But dammit, there's more to life than that!"

    Pashna: "Is that your current family or one from a past life?"

    do'Ziikin: "All of them. I'm male so I'm too weak and fragile to look after myself."

    Clear: "You are not too weak and fragile to look after yourself, Dhae."

    Dhaeriend grins brightly.

    "Thank you!"

    Clear: "You're too stupid to look after yourself."


    Clear: "Why do you have a kitchen cupboard strapped to your back?"

    He glances back as though he wasn't aware of the big box he is lugging around with him.

    "It's my medicine cabinet! Well, it's not just got medicine in it. Actually there's really not a lot of medicine in there at all, but it's the same kind of thing! Lots and lots of potions."

    Clear: "Is that what you've been doing all this time? Brewing energy drinks?"

    do'Ziikin: "I have a few energy drinks, certainly! But that's not all! I have potions that you can use to melt through metal, for instance."

    Clear: "And you brought that on my ship!? My metal ship!?"

    The drow pauses as he considers this new transgression.

    do'Ziikin: "Well... hindsight is a luxury we don't always have."

    Clear: "A brain is a luxury you rarely have."

    do'Ziikin: "Is this pick on Dhae day?"

    He then barks a quick laugh.

    "Dhae day! Ha!"

    "...Absolutely. As of now, I declare it a national holiday. We're going to burn effigies of you. Only they're not effigies. It's you."

    do'Ziikin: "I think a day dedicated to me would have a lot of cake. And club music! And dancing boys!"

    Clear: "Okay, now I declare this national holiday banned."

    "Shall I allow Mother to send me map data so I can guide us to the target destination?"

    Clear: "Good idea."

    do'Ziikin: "These lifts are really slow."

    Clear: "You know how it is when there are some people that just annoy you so much you want to punch them repeatedly?"

    do'Ziikin: "No?"

    "Just me then."

    There's a pause.

    "Why do they call them turbolifts if they're going to be so slow?"

    Clear: "Some days, you just regret the choices you made in life and wonder what your life could have been."

    "I regret nothing! You can only live each life the only way you know how.

    Rui-Rho: "Our floor is coming up."

    Another pause.

    "Maybe they need to invent hyperlifts. Then they'll get us around faster."

    The doors open and Clear has to resist the urge to push Dhaeriend out and go to another floor without him. He stomps off of the lift, the big boots of his steam-punk exo-suit being far too large, followed by Rui-Rho, Kara Pashna and Clear. She misses Pully, Green, Thrain, even Kiron. If they were the A Team, this lot are the G Team with any number of other people she could have filled up her roster to make up the letters in between, including the ST Clan, her worst enemies and a potted plant.

    Clear: "Guide the way, robo-girl."

    Kara Pashna: "Clear, how are we going to break this mind-control on Lumo? Would it be safe to knock him out?"

    Clear: "I'm sort of hoping Pully and Thrain will be able to convince this Judge character to stop whatever she's planning."

    She glances down at her PIP, which is still displaying the current readouts and schematics of the ship. It's still extended and generating more energy than ever.

    "I don't understand it. Why does it need more energy? Even closed it can blow up the largest ships out there."

    Kara Pashna:
    "Maybe to strike through multiple ships? Destroy them all in one large blast?"

    Clear: "Maybe... unless they want to hit a bigger target."

    There's a worried break in their conversation as they consider what is out there bigger than the ships.

    Kara Pashna:
    "The planet?"

    "Can't be. This psychic woman is from Earth and wants to protect it."

    She feels lost, both mentally and physically. She doesn't know why this is happening and she feels exhausted with constantly trying to protect her ship from everyone that comes her way. But this area of the ship is completely new to her. Alien even. Its aesthetics even seem entirely different than the sectors of the ship she spends most of her life. The walls are a dark green colour and even glow softly by way of illumination. There seem to be a lot more doors down here, which constantly bar their path to nothing but the continuing corridor. She has seen such doors when acting as blast doors on Imperial ships, but she hadn't expected any on her own ship. She suddenly stops when she hears a suspicious noise.

    "Do you hear that?"

    Rui-Rho: "It is a cleaning bot."

    Clear looks at Rui-Rho as though she just admitted she likes listening to Justin Bieber.

    "What!? There are cleaning bots on my ship!? Since when!!?"

    Rui-Rho: "The robot tells me its been here for... twenty nine million years."

    Clear looks at Rui-Rho as though she followed up Bieber with Rebecca Black.

    Clear: "So the thing is so old and broke it doesn't even gets its date right. Just great."

    She watches the cleaning bot as she sweeps along the floor, sucking at the metal with feelers that wriggle about; giving the robot the appearance of a little, living creature.

    Rui-Rho: "They call this Green Sector."

    "You don't say..."

    She looks at the hideously coloured walls.

    Rui-Rho: "This is the habitat sector."

    "Habitat? You mean where people used to live?"

    Rui-Rho pauses and Clear recognises that inhuman tick as her computer-brain is trying to overcome some illogical flaw that only rational beings could appreciate and understand.

    Rui-Rho: "They still do."
    Last edited by TheBritt; 11-29-2017 at 12:51 PM.

  13. #93
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Theirs

    Clear: "Scan again."

    "Performing task!"

    Much to Clear's absolute surprise (and abhorrence) Rui-Rho makes a little dance, bobbing side-to-side with her fists clutched just below her chin.

    Rui-Rho: "Life-forms, you tiny little life-forms--"

    The other three stare in bewilderment.

    Rui-Rho: "You precious little life-forms. Where. Are. You? Boop-boop-boop-doop-doop-do!"

    Clear: "There's no way Antestarr programmed that into you... surely!"

    "I like to watch androids in movies."

    "You're lucky you don't belong to me, I swear I'd have your memory wiped just to make sure you never do anything like that ever again."

    "That happened to the droids in St--"

    "Don't care about your movies. What did your, uh...

    Clear is worried there is no exact word to describe what she had just seen.

    Clear: "Scan... tell you?"

    "Life-forms detected."

    "How many?"

    Rui-Rho: "Forty thousand. Exactly."

    Pashna: "Wow!"

    "That's a very specific number!"

    Clear rolls her eyes as she realises what Rui-Rho is doing.

    "Bloody robots. Rho, you do not scan for things like... space rats. You understand?"

    "I did not include the space rats."

    do'Ziikin: "You have space rats?"

    Clear: "The ship has been a derelict for bugger knows how long. Of course there are space rats."

    "What is a space rat?"

    "It's a rat. In space."

    Pashna: "In space!? They can survive in a vacuum!?"

    Both Clear and Dhaeriend were about to laugh when they considered the plausibility of that.

    "That would explain how they get through the entire damn galaxy."

    Rui-Rho: "If I include the space rats then there are twenty billions life-forms on--"

    Dhaeriend slaps a hand to his mouth as he almost squeals in horror at the very thought of so many rats all around him.

    Clear: "Okay. I know the brain of a robot. She's still including some other kind of vermin."

    "Space mice?"

    "Would there really be a difference between space rats and space mice?"

    "Space mice are cuter!"

    "We could use the synthetics laboratory to create a gigantic block of cheese and lure all of the space rats and space mice into one place! And then we can keep them as pets."

    Clear: "I was hoping you'd suggest opening an airlock, actually."

    do'Ziikin: "You don't have airlocks on this ship."

    "There are many airlocks on this ship."

    Clear: "There just aren't any in the area we live. I learnt that one a few days ago when I was trying to think of a way to get rid of any... unwanted guests."

    "Like the stormtroopers?"

    Clear gives Dhaeriend an evil look.

    "Sure. The stormtroopers..."

    Pashna: "Are you including any vermin in your numbers, Rui-Rho? You understand what vermin are, don't you?"

    Rui-Rho: "Vermin might include, but are not limited to, space rats, space mice, space moles, space pidgeons, space wombats and humans."

    Clear: "HAHA!"

    Pashna: "You added humans to the list of vermin on the ship's databanks?"

    "Damn right I did. Did it ages ago. Forgot all about it actually. Well done, Rho. I've never been more proud."

    Pashna: "That's very mean. How does Cassra tolerate this abuse?"

    "She added my name to the official list of prostitutes on Saffron 5."

    Pashna: "How do you tolerate each other?"

    "You can't talk. You had a god-penis-tower on your planet."

    do'Ziikin: "You did!? That sounds like a sight to see!"

    "What does a god-penis-tower look like?"

    Clear: "Do you know what a tower is?"


    "Great. Do you know what a penis is?"


    Clear: "Great, but again I'm worried about what Antestarr teaches his robots. Do you know what a god is?"

    Rui-Rho: "I believe so."

    Clear: "Then you have your answer. God. Penis. Tower."

    Clear has never seen the robo-girl's face mush into an expression of disgusted horror before. The salmitton nods with satisfaction.

    Clear: "I think she got it."

    Kara Pashna shakes his head with mild amusement. Clear realises she should have known he wouldn't rise to any kind of challenge, even if she insults one of his gods. She supposes the penis god was one of the easier targets anyway.

    "Okay, Rho. These life-forms you've been getting. You're going to have to explain what they are as best you can. And if they turn out to be a bunch of very mouldy sandwiches that Hebedee left down here, I'm going to be pissed."

    do'Ziikin: "Who's Heb--?"

    "Ask me another time. Rho?"

    Rui-Rho: "Would you like me to show you?"

    Clear: "I think you'd better."

    She begins to walk off in her surreal half-robot half-little girl fashion which consists of simulated bobbing of the head and swinging of the arms. Clear watches the back of her pink-haired head and imagines it to be filled with nothing but cotton candy and wires.

    They follow after the robot girl, down the green coated corridor. As they move Clear can hear the hissing of Dhaeriend's exo-suit joints and she groans with contempt.

    "Dhae. Why are you wearing that thing? It sounds like you're going to need oiling in a minute."

    do'Ziikin: "So glad you asked!! This is my powered exoskeleton that I designed when I was just a few incarnations old! It all began when--"

    Clear: "Save me the speech. Why are you wearing it?"


    "From the space rats?"

    "The danger you're constantly in!"

    He pauses.

    "Protection from the space rats is a plus."

    Clear: "I seriously wonder how your brain works at times. When someone else thinks straight, you think in a zig-zag. Then you meet several roundabouts and a spaghetti junction before you reach the final destination everyone else was at hours before you."

    "That sounds like a compliment to me!"

    "Colour me unsurprised."

    Pashna: "But--"

    Pashna looks at Clear with worry.

    "Don't you like being red? I thought it was quite a fitting colour for you!"

    Clear: "It's just an expression, Pashna. Stuck between you two is a nightmare, I swear."

    "Red! The colour of passion and energy! Colour of romance and sex!"

    Clear: "Please don't ever look at me and use the word sex ever again. I might throw up on you."

    Pashna: "You know, I had been wondering about that."

    Clear looks at him incredulously.

    "Oi! I didn't think you the type for lechery!"

    "I thought you said he worships a god-penis?"

    "Good point..."

    "I didn't mean you, Clear. I meant to say, I had wondered how the various species... mingle."

    do'Ziikin: "Saying hello is usually a good start!"

    "He means how do we fuq."

    "Oh! Nobody taught you the birds and the bees, Pashna?"

    "Birds and bees? Can they mate too!?"

    "Dhae, you're confusing him."

    She looks at Pashna.

    "Which isn't hard, I know."

    She then looks at Dhaeriend.

    Clear: "Especially by you."

    do'Ziikin: "Oh. Well. My last mother said it like this; when a girl wants a man, she tells him to get to her bed and--"

    "He means because we're different species, it should be impossible to have children without genetic compatibility. Though if you mean just sex, the bigger question would be why does everyone look martianoid?"

    "You mean drowoid."


    He smirks at them.

    "I doubt anybody knows why we can have children. Some species can, some can't. Must be something to do with why we all look--"



    They call at the same time.

    Clear: "Idiots."

    "You said martianoid a minute ago!"

    Clear: "Exactly why you're both idiots. I'm right and you're both idiots."

    She swaggers off after Rui-Rho and into a room the girl tottered into, leaving the two men to lick their wounded prides.

    The moment she passed into the room, a wall of cold struck her so hard she almost jumped back out of the room. She clamps her hands over her arms and rubs vigorously.

    Clear: "Wh-why is it so c-c-c-cold!"

    Voice: "Excessive heat might have a detrimental affect upon the people in here."

    Clear turns to see a small glowing ball float down towards her. She looks at it suspiciously and then it speaks again;

    "Am I communicating adequately with you? I have studied your language in the Oka's databanks."

    A lot of questions barge into Clear's head and she has to quickly prioritise them all. 'What are you?', 'Why are you here?', 'What people?', 'What's an Oka?', 'Why do you sound like Rui-Rho on helium?' But only one question ever truly matters to Clear.

    Clear: "... what are you doing on my ship?"

    The orb ripples and, for a moment, it breaks apart like a splash of oily water. When it reforms its circular shape, it speaks again with its small, mechanical voice.

    Voice: "I am The Keeper. I have always been here."

    do'Ziikin: "So I suppose this means this is your ship, Keeper?"

    Clear: "Like hell it is!!"

    The Keeper: "Not mine."

    The orb melts into a stream of liquid that flows quickly behind Clear, drawing their attention to the rows of what, Clear instantly recognised to be, lifepods.

    The Keeper:
    Last edited by Gebohq; 11-29-2017 at 10:34 PM.

  14. #94
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Terraformer

    Clear: "So, if you've been here this whole time, why haven't I seen you before now, Lightbulb?"

    The Keeper: "I'm confined to this room and I can only access this room's systems. That's my purpose."

    She walks past The Keeper and towards the lifepods. They're all half the size of an average adult human woman. They're stacked up tightly, like boxes in a warehouse, and on the front of each pod there's a holographic display that shows the information for what's going on inside. When she looks at the closest one, the text is complete jibberish of squiggles. She resists the urge to find the plug and pull it.

    "Who are these people?"

    The Keeper: "They built the Oka."

    "You said that before, what is it?"

    The Keeper:
    "This is the Oka."

    "This room?"

    "He means the ship."

    The Keeper: "That is correct!"

    "Rho said there's forty-thousand people in here. All in the life pods?"

    The Keeper: "Also correct!"

    Pashna: "It's a colony ship, Clear."

    "How do you know that?"

    Pashna: "We had to calculate how many it would take to colonise a new planet back on Indra. Our exact number was just below forty-thousand. Assuming this species requires the same kind of genetic diversity as my species, then forty-thousand sounds about right. I did check those numbers with other species, like humans, and theirs is the same."

    Clear: "Colony ship. That would explain why there's no weapons."

    "Except for the mega canon!"

    Clear: "Ah, bugger. I almost forgot that! We don't have time for all this!"

    The Keeper:
    "That is not a mega canon."

    Clear: "We don't need the technical specifications, Lightbulb. Jus-ew!"

    She had pulled one of the boxes from its slot to look through the glass. Inside there is a gelatinous blob.

    Clear: "--I guess they didn't survive the road trip then?"

    The Keeper flows over to Clear and takes its round shape again.

    The Keeper: "They are not yet born."

    Clear: "What?"

    The Keeper: "This is the embryonic fluid. Once ready to colonise, they will birth."

    Clear: "In that slop? They'll be born in that slop? Not inside their mother?"

    The Keeper: "Inside the mother? Like a parasite?"

    Clear, Dhaeriend and Pashna are unable to argue with that.

    Clear: "Well. Whatever your situation, we have to stop the super weapon."

    The Keeper: "It is not a super weapon."

    Clear: "Whatever you want to call it, we need to stop it."

    The Keeper: "Terraformer."

    Clear had already started to leave when she stops and frowns at Keeper.

    "Seriously? I saw it blow up a spaceship."

    The Keeper: "Without adequate tuning, the terraformer must have had adverse affects upon the organic matter on the vessel."

    "Organic-- you mean the people!?"

    The Keeper:

    "The weapon terraformed the people in such a way it caused the ship to explode!?"

    The Keeper:
    "It is not a weapon, it is--"

    "That's... horrifying. I mean... those people. Nobody should be subjected to something like that. Oh my..."

    She feels like being sick at the idea of flesh and blood and transformed at such a rapid pace that it must have expanded to envelop the ship's engines, controls and anything else that might have caused the ship to explode.

    Pashna: "More than ever, I think we need to stop the terraformer."

    Clear: "Yeah..."

    She gasps through a dry mouth.

    Clear: "Lightbulb guy, you're some kind of A.I., right?"

    The Keeper: "I am an artificial intelligence, correct!"

    Clear: "Can you access the Hopeless' schematics? Get us the map details for where the terraformer is controlled from, right now?"

    The Keeper: "The Oka."

    Clear: "Don't make me find a box to put you in."

    Rui-Rho: "I have the information now! Thank you Mr Lightbulb!"

    The Keeper: "I did introduce myself as Keeper, correct?"

    Pashna: "We should hurry."
    The A.I. ball splashes its way over to the lifepods with the organic goops.

    The Keeper:
    "We will await your return!"

    "Yeah, you do that."

    She hurries out of the room, not just because of the imperative mission but out of disgust too. She hears the other three scamper after her; the clumsy tip-toeing of Rui-Rho, the cautious steps of Kara Pashna and the heavy stomping of Dhaeriend do'Ziikin's exosuit.

    As she glances at them, movement catches her eye far behind. The bright white figure of a man in armour.


    Stormtrooper: "She's here!!"

    A red bolt from the stormtrooper's laser carbine whines through the air and slips straight between the whole group before it slaps against the wall ahead of them.

    "Leg it!"

    Clear runs with Pashna wobbling after her, his dress not doing him any escape artist bonuses. Rui-Rho jogs, rather than runs, like she's skipping around the lake at lunch.

    "Go! Go! I can take the shots with this suit!"

    Clear reaches the corner and uses it for cover as she shouts to the drow;

    "Dhae! Get over here! That suit's never going to--"

    "I'm fine! G--"

    The laser bolt smacks him square in the chest and he is sent flying back. He slams against the wall in a broken heap. Clear and Pashna desperately reach out, scrabbling for his arm, and yank him behind cover.

    Clear fires back down the corridor at the troopers, causing them to huddle up. She expected that they would scatter, making them each harder targets, but huddled up means even the best of shooters would eventually find themselves caught as the small army progress sternly up the passage no matter how many of them she hits.

    "I'm fine... fine... see? Is that my blood?"

    Pashna: "I think it's your... fluid."

    He plucks a container from the side from the back of the suit and waggles it at Dhaeriend.

    "Oh. It's the fuel for the suit. I have another canister in my pack."

    "No time. Move, you bunch of numpties!"

    She curses the names of Pully and Green for not being here when she needs them.

    Then there's an ominous rumbling.

    The tremors feel localised, so she knows it's not the ship opening further. She staggers back after the other three when the ceiling above suddenly cracks open and a massive slab of metal plummets and smacks with a sickening clang upon the floor where she might have been squished a moment ago.

    Jor Bo:

    The lanky gun-nut drops from the hole with an AK-47 pounding round after round towards the troopers.

    Jor Bo:

    He dives as return fire comes his way and lands near to Clear. He looks up at them.

    Jor Bo:
    "Oh, hey there. You didn't get very far, did you?"

    "We got sidetracked."

    "By blobs and a lightbulb!"

    Jor Bo: "Uh... right. You should keep moving, we got you covered from here."

    On cue for his use of the word 'we', Falcon Zac drops from the hole with a massive minigun weapon Clear recognises as Zac's 'Reaper'. The thing was apparently designed for use by some nasty bug-like alien species but humans can manage to use the, albeit unwieldy, weapon. It blasts repeated bolts at a blinding rate of fire and Clear hears one of the troopers cry out for cover. Zac's metallic arm takes most of the recoil that might have ripped off a normal human's arms off and he stands defiantly in the middle of the corridor. He might have been a target had it not been for the wall of his own rounds.

    Clear: "Rho, go!"

    Rui-Rho scrambles to her feet with some effort, probably the most human thing Clear has ever seen her do, and starts to jog down the corridor. Jor Bo helps Dhaeriend get to his feet, who had a medical boost from Pashna and his naptha tank replaced. Clear is just thankful that little canister didn't ignite. Then again, Dhaeriend running and screaming while on fire would make an excellent distraction...

    Rho jukes to the left into an alcove where she points at a circular spot on the floor. It appears moist and almost fleshy. Rho points at it.

    "Down here."

    Clear looks at it dubiously.

    "It looks like... a sphincter."

    Clear: "I didn't want to say it."

    Rui-Rho: "It's a passage."

    "Exactly what Dhae said."

    Rui-Rho cocks her head to one side as she tries to figure that one out. A loud bang from behind them snaps Clear into action.

    Clear: "Alright. Fine. Dhae, you first."

    do'Ziikin: "Okay!"

    He takes a single step forward then stops.

    do'Ziikin: "Wait, why am I first?"

    Clear nudges him onto the sphincter-door.

    "You're the woman! You're supposed to go first in case I get hurt! Treating us boys like this--"

    "You hate drow sexism."

    do'Ziikin: "Except when it means I have to go down an arsehole first."

    Pashna: "It doesn't seem to work anyway."

    Clear gives the door a kick. Half-a-second later and it slurps open. Dhaeriend slides down with a howl of anguish and Clear leans over to watch him go. He doesn't fall, he's squeezed along by the flesh-like walls of a narrow pipe. Clear winces with disgust.

    Clear: "Tell me when you get **** out!"

    "I'll never look at a toilet the same way again."

    Clear: "Are you out then?"

    "Yes. As you say, I have been **** out."

    Clear straightens and stands at the corner of the alcove. She pokes her head round and can see both Falcon Zac and Jor Bo are still exchanging fire with the stormtroopers, only part of the walls have been blown off.

    "Pashna, you're next."

    "I think I should reiterate Dhaeriend. Why me?"

    "I have the gun."

    "... fuq."

    Clear: "Who taught you to swear?"

    Pashna: "Admiral Ltexi. She taught me a lot of very colourful English, actually."

    "I bet she did. Now, down the poop shoot."

    Pashna: "Poop shoot is not one I know, but I think I can guess what it means."

    The shoot had closed by now so he stands on it. When it does nothing he stamps his foot, which causes it to respond as before and he falls into it. A moment later she hears his voice call up;

    Pashna: "It's quite pleasant actually!"

    Rui-Rho steps up next, kicks and slips down with an all-too-mechanical 'whee'. Just as Clear is about to turn and make her own trip she sees Jor Bo slam against the wall after taking a hit to the shoulder. Falcon Zac pushes him aside and covers him as he pulls a syringe from Zac's tool-belt. He jabs it into his arm.

    "You can fall back some! Quickly! This way!"

    The two humans don't need telling twice. They run towards her. When they reach her, sweating and bleeding, she nods her head to the hatch.

    Clear: "Stand on it and stamp your foot. You'll go down."

    Falcon Zac gingerly steps onto it with a weary look at his feet.

    Falcon Zac: "This looks pretty gross."

    He stamps and is swallowed with a cry of horror. Jor Bo glares at Clear as though she had just killed his cat.

    Jor Bo:
    "What just happened!?"

    Clear: "Just get down there!"

    Jor Bo: "No way! You first!"

    Clear: "I'm paying you, remember?"

    Jor Bo: "Which means I have to cover the rear!"

    Clear: "Rear. What a choice of words..."

    She stands on it, takes a deep breath, and smacks it with the heel of her boot. The flesh parts and she's sucked in. She feels the flesh of the pipe contracting around her, pushing her. It's wet and sticky. She clamps her hands to her face in revulsion. It lasts just two seconds as she's then **** out. She slips from the hatch like a foetus and lands on the floor, feet-first like a cat. She had been spat out of a wall hatch, so the pipe must curl around. She shakes her limbs, disgusted in mental anguish as her skin crawls. Though it had felt wet on her skin, she finds that she is perfectly dry.

    "Didn't you like it?"

    Clear: "Of course not! It was slimy and minging!"

    "Not sure what mining means but I found the wetness to be very pleasant."

    Falcon Zac: "You're a freaky fish guy, so no surprise."

    Pashna: "That's speciesist, you know?"

    Clear looks around and sees Rui-Rho at the end of the corridor they're now in. It is green, like the last, so they're still in the designated Green Sector. When Clear comes up behind the robot, the girl speaks up;

    "This is not the room with Mr Lumo in it, but it is one of the power rooms for the terraformer. We may be able to access the controls from here to stop it."

    Clear swipes her hand upon the panel and the doors open. Given that she's never been down here before, she half expected that her genetic signature wouldn't be accepted. They march in, accompanied by the sounds of Jor Bo behind them freaking out as he came out of the shoot.

    Inside there is a large generator that takes up most of the room. From the warning labels, she is pretty sure there's a danger of it catching fire. The other side of the room is completely black with nothing on it. Around the generator are dozens of databanks which Rui-Rho starts tampering with. Clear wanders onto the black space, trying to figure out what it is for. Suddenly the walls, ceiling and floor light up with external images. She jumps in shock and lands back in the other half of the room. The starscape vanishes.

    With some suspicion, she steps back onto the black. It lights up again.

    Dhaeriend: "That is pretty cool. You can see everything!"

    Clear sweeps her hand through the air, expecting the images to respond to motion controls but nothing happens. She is looking at the Earth and can catch some of the battle going on on the ceiling screen. She reaches out to touch the wall. Nothing.

    Clear: "Weird. I wonder how you can make it show us the rest of the battle."

    No sooner than she thought it did the view move.

    Now she can see the Imperials, Jupiterians and Rebels all blasting each other to pieces.

    "This is climate control. The station can adjust heat settings for the beam. If you wanted to terraform a hot world, you could cool the atmosphere. Or heat up a cold world."

    Clear: "So each station has different functions?"

    Rui-Rho: "It seems so."

    "But where is Lumo?"

    Rui-Rho: "At another station."

    Falcon Zac: "We can see that..."

    Rui-Rho: "He is in the core adjustment room."#

    Falcon Zac: "Core adjustment? Like the primary control room?"

    Jor Bo:
    "I think it means the room that lets you change the core of the planet."

    Falcon Zac:
    "Jeez! So a solid core could become molten? Imagine the damage--"

    He then realised they had already seen the damage it could do.

    Clear: "Can we shut down the terraformer from here?"

    "I have already tried. No. Lumo is logged in as the administrator."

    "Can't I override him? I'm the captain!"

    Rui-Rho: "No. I--"

    She pauses in an unusual human stutter of concern.

    Rui-Rho: "I believe he has been setting this up for a long time. Weeks even."

    Clear: "What...?"

    Everyone falls silent. So far they had all been operating on the assumption that Lumo was mind-controlled by this Judge woman from Earth. Nobody wants to look at Clear, the person who never doubted him until now.

    "But... why!?"

    Dhaeriend: "He had no love for the Empire, so shooting them is one thing. But why attack the Jupiterians?"

    Jor Bo:
    "Were they just in the way?"

    Falcon Zac: "Taking out the biggest threats first?"

    Clear: "Why even start all of this here, now?"

    Pashna pipes up with a quiet voice.

    "Is that a target?"

    They all turn.

    He's pointing to a small reticle.

    Aimed at Earth.
    Last edited by TheBritt; 01-14-2018 at 08:34 AM.

  15. #95
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow From the Frying Pan and into the Fire

    Falcon Zac: "He's going to blow up the Earth!?"

    Jor Bo: "How did you meet this guy again?"

    Clear: "On a spacestation where he had me kidnapped..."

    Jor Bo: "You'd think we'd have seen this coming..."

    "All of the human-hating might have something to do with it. I mean, I hate humans a much as the next guy--"

    She becomes aware of human eyes on her.

    Clear: "But I wouldn't blow up the whole planet. I never realised how rooted in anger he really was 'til now."

    Falcon Zac: "So how do we reach this core room he's in?"

    Rui-Rho points towards the right-hand window. It's tall, reaching up to the very ceiling, and very thin, just about the width of Clear's hips. Clear peers through it and sees that they are currently on one of the curves of the ship - and in the far distance is the opposite curve.

    Clear: "You have got to be kidding me..."

    Falcon Zac: "We won't be getting over there any time soon."

    They hear the sudden sounds of stormtroopers in the corridor. Evidently they have been passed out of the squeeze-shoot. A moment later and there's a very loud 'tink-tink-tink' sound as a canister bounces off of the ground. Dhaeriend, in a spur of the moment, quickly punts the canister and it flies back out of the room, spraying smoke as it goes.

    "Is there another way out? A lone smoke canister isn't going to be all they'll throw in here given a minute longer."

    "It is the only way in or out. Unless..."

    Clear: "Unless what?"

    Jor Bo: "Pretty sure those are infamous last words said by someone."

    Rui-Rho: "There. We can leave now."

    The organics all look at each other, thinking the android must have a circuit loose. They watch her approach the window and wave through it. Clear, unable to resist the curiosity (and half expecting to find Rui-Rho is waving at her own reflection) peers over the robot's shoulder. Outside, flying fairly close to the ship, is Clear's good, old Bug.

    Clear: "It's Pully and Green! They must have got the doc already!"

    Rui-Rho: "I told them we needed pick up."

    "You do realise that window isn't actually glass right? You can't just give it a good kicking and break it down."

    Falcon Zac steps forward with his reaper.

    Falcon Zac: "Who said anything about kicking?"

    Clear hurries Rui-Rho out of the way and they all take cover as Zac opens up his reaper upon the wall. The bullets slam into the transparent metal and scratches begin to appear on the surface.

    Clear: "It's not enough. We need something stronger."

    There comes a 'tink-tink-tink' and they look down to see a thermal detonator has been thrown in. Before anyone can even scream for their mothers, Dhae punts it. Straight at the window. The explosion blasts outwards but as the wall disintegrates, the vacuum sucks the fire out very quickly. Along with most of the room.

    The people fly out and Clear kicks and whirls in panic.

    It lasts just a second.

    Then she slams into a metal wall.

    Clear: "Bugger me sideways..."

    "I'll take a pass on that, sir."

    Pashna lands on top of Clear but before she could shove his weight off they are both crushed by the horrifying weight of Rui-Rho and her metallic backside.

    "Lucky you had the doors open!"

    Falcon Zac: "No thanks to you, you damned lunatic! You could have warned us you were going to do that!"

    do'Ziikin: "I didn't even warn myself! I couldn't help it! Just took the shot!"

    Clear: "I'm sure you were a sportsman in a past life..."

    Clear grumbles.

    "Well actually--"

    Clear: "Say another word and I'll punt you out."

    The airlock doors that separate the cargo section from the rest of the ship begin to open as the outer door is closed. The shield keeps the air in, but the safety mechanisms keep the doors closed anyway. Once they're open Alexis Thrain steps out with syringes in hand.

    Thrain: "This is going to hurt."

    She jabs the first person who is sprawled at her feet, which happens to be Jor Bo, and he squeals like a two-year-old having a tantrum.

    Clear: "Nice to see you again too."

    For that, Thrain chooses to pick on Clear next and shoves her over. A quick tug on the trousers and the needle slams into Clear's bum cheek. The needle hurt. The liquid burrowing into her body canes.

    Clear whines.

    Thrain: "You were just exposed to vacuum, this will help you to breathe, not freeze to death, will stop your veins exploding and your organs failing. Oh and it will help your sore throat, if you have one after screaming in silence for a couple of seconds."

    She jabs Falcon Zac who bolts to his feet and runs out of the cargo hold, yipping his way to the cockpit where Green would be piloting. Pully helps Clear to her feet as they watch Thrain stab her needle into Dhae's obsidian-coloured buttocks. He just smiles, which instantly freaks out the two women.

    Clear: "Thanks for coming, Pully."

    Pully: "Thank the fembot. We got her message for pick up on our way back."

    Clear: "Listen, I don't think Lumo is under the mind-control of that Judge woman after all."

    Thrain: "I doubt it too. Judge went down to the Earth to help her team fight enemy ground forces. She's probably powerful enough that she could do both, but she didn't even seem to acknowledge the battle up here. She just wanted to get down there. You think the war up here is bad, I'm getting the planet is much worse right now."

    "There won't be much fighting left down there if Lumo has his way. He's targeting the planet with the terraformer-weapon. He's going to blow it up and everyone on it."

    Thrain is about to stab Pashna but he holds his hand up to stop her. He shakes his head with a small smile.

    "I can take care of my own health, thank you. I have adjusted my cells so that the vacuum damage has been nulled and I have regulated my heart rate. I'm quite alright."

    Alexis doesn't bother to argue. She has seen many aliens with 'whatever-abilities' to even bother questioning them any more. She barely takes her eyes off of Pashna when she jabs the needle again, this time into the bare bottom of Rui-Rho.

    The needle bends.

    Thrain: "Oh right..."

    Rui-Rho: "That tickled."

    "Pull your pants up, idiot."

    Pully: "We're already on our way to the far arm. I sometimes forget how damned big this ship is."

    Clear moves through the tiny Bug corridor and into the cockpit where she sees Green at the controls with Justin Beiber blaring out of the speakers. Clear winces and plants her hands over her ears.

    Clear: "Green! Turn that crap off!"

    Green dives off of the pilot seat and wraps her arms around Clear.

    Green: "I thought you were dead!"

    "I never die. You should know that by now."

    Falcon Zac reaches over and flips the switch to turn the racket off, much to Clear's relief. Clear nudges past Green and sits in the pilot's chair with Zac in the co-pilot seat. Green adopts one oft he back seats, where she would continue to try and drive, as is customary.

    Clear: "Almost there."

    She steers the Bug close to the arm and she can see the same thin window that had been in their previous room.

    Zac: "I don't fancy another spacewalk if I'm honest."

    Clear: "Me neither. But that's why Green is going to help us, right?"

    Green: "Oh! How about I put plants around your head that will breathe out oxygen!"

    Clear: "That is the single, dumbest idea you have ever come up with Green."


    Clear: "How about something more straight forward? Like a big plant tunnel?"

    Green: "Oh. That would be easier wouldn't it?"

    Clear: "Yes."

    Zac: "You can do that?"

    Green: "You betcha!"

    She grins before her plants have even finished relaying her voice commands and then she skips off back to the cargo hold. Clear turns the Bug around so that the doors would face the window of The Hopeless.

    "You're going to have to stay here, Zac."

    Zac: "Aw, c'mon boss!"

    Clear: "Someone has to pilot this bucket."

    He rolls his eyes and gives in. Clear gets out of the cockpit and glances back as the airlock doors close and seal off the cockpit. The cargo door hisses open and Green stands forth, everyone else gathered behind the little green-haired girl.

    Plants begin to grow from the floor and walls and ceiling of the Bug; green and blue vines as thick as Clear's own arms. Little flowers bud and spread open, decorated with little happy faces of yellow. The vines wrap tightly around each other as they grow outwards and towards The Hopeful's hull. When they reach the metres-thick plating the ends of the vines also turn into buds, but this time instead of flowers sprout whirling thorns and start to burrow into the armour.

    Jor Bo:
    "That's actually pretty damn scary."

    "Tell me about it."

    "You think I'm scary!?"

    Clear put a hand on Green's shoulder.

    Clear: "Absolutely. And that's not a bad thing."

    "It isn't?"

    Jor Bo:
    " isn't?"

    "No! It means you're awesome, Green."

    Jor Bo pulls a mine from his belt and waggles it at Clear.

    Jor Bo: "It's no thermal detonator, but this might give the plate enough of a jarring to shake it loose once Green is through."

    Clear: "Good idea."

    Jor Bo steps forward and then realises he would have to be the first to test Green's vine-tunnel. He steps back.

    Jor Bo: "Maybe someone else should try..."

    do'Ziikin: "I can do it!"

    Clear is beginning to think Dhae would volunteer to have his own head blown off if it meant trying something new. He accepts the mine.

    "My exosuit should keep me safe from the blast and keep me alive if I do get blown out into space!"

    Thrain: "Again."

    The drow lifts one of his thunderous legs and steps onto the soft plant matter tentatively. Finding it solid he starts to walk down it. When he reaches the window he plants the mine but also peers in through the glass. He turns sharply and starts running back at them.

    Clear: "What is it?"

    Dhae pushes the detonator switch and the mine blasts apart. It's a very weak blast compared to their previous encounter with explosives, but it would have been enough to shatter the bones of an adult man. Its power slams the wall and it finally shakes loose. Dhae still looks concerned.

    "I thought it might have blasted the wall inside like a champagne cork..."

    Jor Bo: "Whhhhhhy would you want that to happen?"

    do'Ziikin: "Because they're inside!"

    They look down the vine-tunnel and stepping over the rubble of the metal wall are stormtroopers. At their head is their captain, the man Clear had once known as Turbo.

    Captain Kraftlight looks up at them and slowly raises one hand and points straight at Pully.

    Kraftlight: "TRAITOR!"

    With his other hand he snaps open an energy baton, which sparks with lethal energy discharge.

    Pully: "You see the trouble you get me into, Clear?"

    "Go get him, tiger."

    One of the stormtroopers tosses an electric baton towards Pully. She stoops down and lift it before igniting the electrical current that swirls around the shaft. She stands uncomfortably on the vines and waits for Kraftlight to move first. Only when he charges towards her, does she charge too. The two white-clad knights throw their full weight into that first strike and their batons connect with a brilliant, blinding light.

  16. #96
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow Ready to Die

    As the two batons clash, electricity sparks burst forth and cast sudden, brilliant illumination in such constant flashes that might give anyone a seizure. The two stormtroopers shift unsteadily across the vine tunnel, trying to preserve their footing and make attacks. As Kraftlight parries an attack from Pully, her baton slaps the side of the tunnel which emits a grotesque crackling of burning organic matter. Green whimpers at the harm being done to her beloved plants.

    Pully makes a grab for Kraftlight's weapon-arm as he tries to slam his baton down in a heavy arc. She grips his wrist but quickly realises this must be one of his many mechanical parts as the force pushes her down to one knee. His face is invisible behind the helmet's visor but Clear can imagine the eager, wide eyes he must be boring into Pully's own helmet.

    Thrain: "Cassra, if you die your body is officially donated to science!"

    Alexis shouts down the vine-tunnel.

    Thrain: "And by science, I mean whatever I want to do with it!"

    Clear thinks that alone should be incentive enough to make Pully not want to die.

    Pully rolls aside and lets Kraftlight's baton smack the floor. Small flames lick up from the vegetation. He takes a wild swing at her, using his baton akin to a cricket bat, and whacks Pully off of her feet. She lands flat on her back but manages to hold onto her own weapon, bringing it up fast enough to block the follow-up attack that descended towards her. Leering over her, Kraftlight puts his weight into the push. Pully pulls back her legs and then bunny-kicks him backwards. As he stumbles over the vines, she scrambles to her feet again.

    She makes a low sweep, which he dodges deftly, but follows it up with a high sweep which he must duck to avoid. As he ducks she launches her knee upwards and hits his helmet with her armoured joint. The shock of a hit to the helmet might zap the circuitry for an instant but not enough to do any real damage.

    Then their batons clash again with a shower of sparks.

    Kraftlight lets his baton slide down, which causes Pully to fall with the momentum of the motion, and brings up his mechanical arm to grip her throat. He hoists her off of her feet and Clear sees Pully's legs wriggling to get a footing on the floor.

    Clear: "You know what? Fuq this bollocks."

    Clear wrenches the silver laptop from the hands of Jor Bo and shakes it. It bursts apart only to quickly snap together again as a submachine gun. She opens fire.

    The laptop gun bullets whiz through the air and spray Kraftlight in a hailstorm. His armour stands up to the onslaught but knocks him back and he drops Pully. There's a sudden raucous from the stormtroopers behind him, who had been expecting an honourable duel to the death, and they start to unholster their own weapons. The faster of them grab their blasters and return fire at Clear's crew, but her barrage of SMG bullet-hell makes them a poor shot.

    Jor Bo: "So much for honour and all that then!"

    He yanks the FN F2000 from his back and opens fire. The assault rifle packs a much harder punch than the SMG Clear is wielding and doesn't go through so many bullets so fast. He hits a couple of stormtroopers, who are battered back by the bullets, but takes cover himself behind the hatch of the Bug. Bolts of energy stray in his direction.

    Thrain: "Clear! You just made everything worse!"


    Jor Bo: "It's a bit late to be crying for your mother!"

    Mother's voice sounds out;

    Mother: "Yes, Clear?"

    Jor Bo: "Oh right. Forgot."

    Clear: "Disable the atmospheric shield around the terraforming room ahead of us!"

    Pashna: "Are you sure that's such a good idea?"

    Clear: "I am! Do it, Mother!"

    Mother: "As you wish."

    Clear: "Green, get ready to move your plants!"

    do'Ziikin: "Oh, I see what you're doing. That's just... mean."

    Thrain: "Cassra is still out there!"

    Clear: "Pully! Hold onto the vines!"

    She turns to Green, hoping Pully heard that.

    Clear: "Release."

    Green does as she's told and the vines let go of The Hopeful, breaking apart, and exposing the hole in the terraforming room to space. The stormtroopers are suddenly being sucked into the vacuum. A couple try to hold onto the walls or equipment inside but eventually they loose their grip. The atmospheric shield around the Bug's cargo doors keeps Clear and company safe, but as Clear looks down she sees Pully dangling from the vines for dear life.

    "Green, send down a vine."

    When the thick vine reaches Pully, she grabs it. The sticky pollen that coats the vine may be gross but it helps Pully hold on tight. Clear motions everyone to pull one the vine and soon enough they have their stormtrooper cohort back with them.

    "Welcome back."

    Pully struggles with her helmet for a moment before whipping it off. In that moment Clear realises she might have made a mistake after all. Pully shoves Clear with a desperate growl.

    Pully: "You had no right!"

    "I just saved your--"

    "I am still a stormtrooper and that was our fight! Not yours! He deserved better than to be tricked. If he'd won then that's that. You had no right to get in the way!"

    Clear: "We don't have time for your personal vendetta, Pully. We need to get in there and shut down the terraformer. Or did you forget?"

    Pully just glowers at Clear, pouts and then puts her helmet back on and turns her back.

    Pashna: "I think Mother can reapply the atmospheric shield to the room now."

    Mother does so and they see nothing else being sucked out into space from the bowls of the ship. Clear sees little white figures floating off, caught already by the gravity of the Earth, and even if they survive for a while inside their suits, they'll soon burn up as they descend into the planet's atmosphere. A nasty way to go. But that's what they get for invading her ship.

    Falcon Zac steers the Bug closer to the hull and Green recreates her vine-tunnel and they trek, unhindered, across.

    "If Lumo was in here, I think he would have been vented into space along with the rest of them."

    Clear: "He was probably hiding long before the stormtroopers got in here. He could be inside one of the cupboards or vents or whatever."

    Pully: "Mother, are there any life signs in this room aside from us?"

    Lumo: "No need, I'm here."

    They turn to see a door to an overhead compartment swing open. Clear glances from the ground to the cupboard and wonders how the old, three-foot grey managed to get all the way up there. As he swings his legs out, he knocks several tools out with a lot of clatter. He pauses and looks at them;

    Lumo: "Would someone help me down?"

    Jor Bo, being the tallest, shuffles over, albeit with some confused trepidation, and lifts Lumo down like he is a human child. Once his feet are on the floor, Lumo looks ever more frail as he hunches his back and potters over to one of the control panels.

    Clear: "Don't touch that. You've done enough damage already."

    Lumo: "This is why I didn't tell you what I was doing, my dear salmitton. You, of all people, should have been helping me. These humans murdered your entire species. But you've spent too much time among them. You've been blinded by the individuals instead of the greater evil of their people."

    "I said don't touch it."

    Lumo: "I am just opening the display so you can see."

    She nods and allows him to activate the projector at the far end of the room, a display of the solar system beyond the ship just as Clear had accidentally experienced in the previous room. There they can, once again, witness the battle raging outside.

    The Empire, the Jupiterians and the Alliance are at each others' throats in three-way combat.

    The aft section of Spaceball One, the flagship of President Polk, has drifted towards the moon and, without intervention, would be crashing down there within the hour. Pashna steps forward and asks the view to zoom in and they can see escape pods and small shuttles fleeing the ship. Clear bets Polk was on the first one to evacuate.

    One of the smaller Jupiterian ships is taking mean-spirited pot-shots at the escape pods. They're too small to hit with any real accuracy, but the beam weapons of the Jupiterians are wide enough to engulf such an area that they manage to take out several pods with relative ease.

    An Alliance ship moves in between Spaceball One and the Jupiterian vessel, protecting the escaping imperials with its own hull. Swarming into formation are dozens of the infamous Alliance X-Wings as they move to cover the approach of the formiddable Y-Wing bombers. The Y-Wings open up with ion shots of blue that slap against the Jupiterian shield, spreading the ion energy across them to weaken them before the bombers could slip through and get access to the Jupiterian wood-armour. They unleash their payload of bombs but the beam weapons of the capital ship return in kind. A single beam streaks across the gulf of space and slices through several of the bombers that are stuck into formation. The X-Wings spiral down towards the exposed beam cannons with the intension of destroying them and Clear hopes that their commander, one Ace Lander, would be okay.

    "Why are you showing us this?"

    Lumo: "This is the true face of humanity, Clear. This is what they do. Jupiterians have never been the most loveable of people, but rarely have they ever engaged in all out war. Humans, on the other hand, wage war as a way of life. For fun, even! They celebrate their war heroes above all others."

    Jor Bo: "That's not true, come on!"

    Lumo: "Really? How many scientists throughout Earth history can you name? And then consider how many conquerers you can name."

    Jor Bo: "That proves nothing."

    Lumo: "And it won't stop. They'll keep at it forever. The entire universe will be better without them. The martians, the greys... what species will be next?"

    Clear: "We don't have the right."

    Lumo: "But they do?"

    Clear: "Two wrongs don't make a right. Isn't that the expression?"

    "A human expression to avoid just punishment. I believe they have another expression too. An eye for an eye. A planet... for a planet."

    He shows the Earth and the reticle still centred there.

    Jor Bo:
    "We'll shut it down, Lumo."

    Lumo: "You can't."

    Jor Bo:
    "Says you."

    Lumo: "I've locked you out of the system. Even the captain, here. I've been setting it up ever since Clear returned from the Deep Void."

    Clear: "I'm thinking it might have been your plan ever since you found me on Mirare..."

    "True. I had expected you would work with us against the humans but when I saw you'd practically become one of them I realised it would take some time and persuasion. Then they came and finished off what was left of my people. I knew you'd come back and as soon as you did I started my investigations. Found the terraforming stations and knew one day you'd bring your ship back here. I'd expected it would be to visit Mars, not the middle of a battle, but this seems as good a time as any."

    do'Ziikin: "There must be a way to access the controls."

    Mother: "The system has been coded by a vocal password tuned to Lumo's voice print."

    Thrain: "So we force him to say the password?"

    Lumo: "Good luck with that."

    Jor Bo:
    "We blow up the room!"

    Mother: "That won't stall the terraformer. You would need to destroy the entire apparatus."

    Clear: "Can we do that?"

    Mother: "You would need to destroy the ship."

    There's a horrible silence.

    Thrain: "We could just jump away. There'd be no target then. Even if there was, we just jump to some random, barren rock and blow that up instead."

    Mother: "Once the terraformer is engaged, the ship cannot jump."

    Thrain: "Even though we replaced the original engine?"

    "The original engine was replaced many centuries ago."

    Clear: "There has to be something we can do?"

    Jor Bo pulls out his favourite pistol, the Kel-Tec PMR-30, and pins it to Lumo's large head. The old grey seems lackadaisical about having a gun to his head and Clear knows he didn't intend on diverting from this path, even at the cost of his own life.

    "Kill me, human. Let me join my people in the manner they all died - shot to death by your kind."

    Jor Bo grunts with frustration. It's not in him to murder an unarmed man, even if they told the key to the salvation of his entire species.

    Thrain: "We can't kill him. We need him."

    She steps forward and Clear remembers how imposing this doctor could actually be.

    Thrain: "We need to force it out of him. Apply enough pain, he'll tell us anything just to be released from it."

    From a satchel she has slung across her chest she tugs a rubber glove onto her bare, white hand. Clear thinks she looks all too happy with the scenario.

    Thrain: "I happen to be somewhat versed in grey anatomy and I know there's a particular pressure point just between the eyes that, when damaged, will cause such intense pain the subject could well suffer a protracted, and extremely painful, death in the span of five minutes. Of course, I also know how to stop you from dying. So I could do it again. And again..."

    Lumo: "I don't doubt that, doctor. Where's there's a weakness to exploit, there's a human."

    "So you'll do as you're told without a fuss?"

    Lumo smiles. It's a smile of serenity. Clear sees he has made peace with whatever gods he holds to.

    He reaches up to the gun and, before anyone, even Jor Bo, could react there's a thunderous bang.

    Jor Bo drops the gun in surprise.

    It clatters to the floor just a moment before Lumo's body hits.

  17. #97
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow The Ever Hopeful

    Ten minutes later and Clear is sitting alone in the terraforming station, just looking at the still corpse of Lumo. She actually envies him. Now he has no worries, no problems. Just eternal peace.

    She even wishes she could be more like him. Die for a cause she believes in so fervently. She does hate humans and yet she couldn't muster up enough hatred to blow up an entire planet of them. How did he manage to conjure up so much bile and manage to keep a straight and kind face the entire time? How could he look at Green and want her dead...?

    Everyone else had vacated the room to let Clear have some time alone.

    There's a war going on beyond the ship's hull, where people are dying in blazes of glory and yet they find time for a moment of silence. She knows it's for her sake and not the sake of Lumo.

    It takes her time but she eventually pulls herself to her feet, using the console next to her for support. She switches her PIP to the communicator.

    Clear: "Okay, everyone... abandon ship."

    She hears a sudden flurry of confused and worried voices, from Green to Thrain to Jor Bo, but she ignores them as she mutes the speaker. She exits the room to find nobody there, much to her relief, and starts down the corridor. The corridor here is blue, so she assumes she must be in the Blue Section of the original creators of the Hopeless.

    "Mother, set me a map to get me to a lift that will get me back to the Command Centre."

    She scurries down the corridor, knowing the others went right she goes left to avoid them. She finds one of the arse-doors that spat her out earlier and looks up at it with some uncertainty. She pokes it and, with an aghast cry, she is slurped up by the sphincter and squeezed along the soggy passage until she is pushed out onto an upper floor with just a little of the mucus on her clothes. Most of the slime falls off as she, with some queasiness of the stomach, gets up.

    The trip to the Command Centre is a short one but it feels much longer. The turbo lifts whiz her from level-to-level, crossing miles of ship in minutes. When she finally reaches the familiar corridors that she is used to, the corridors evidently designed after the original occupants, she makes a quick check on the infirmary. She finds that Ciel and her injured Void Ranger friend are gone. She then takes the long way towards the Command Centre, peeking in on the Dreamviewer, passing by the bedrooms with hers and Pully's next door to each other. She even glances towards the Hangar Bay, where she expects the others are scrambling either into the Bug, the LightStaff or are pilfering the imperial transport. She remembers that Kaptin Kwanza had been in the hangar and hopes that someone gave him a good kick on her behalf.

    She turns and is finally back at the command console, with the chairs to her back and the broken Organic Intelligence disc as gleaming as ever. Standing there is Mother's hardlight projection, as well as her face on the monitor - something that has always freaked Clear's brain out.

    Mother: "The crew are waiting for you in the hangar bay, already aboard their ships."

    Clear stands at the console and taps in new commands.

    "How long before the terraformer activates now?"

    Mother upon the screen answers;

    Mother: "Approximately five minutes."

    "And how long to reach these coordinates at full impulse?"

    Mother: "Ten minutes."

    "Damn... We need to send out a warning to as many people as we can. They need to get clear of the system..."

    Mother: "I shall relay the message and describe the situation."

    Clear mulls over the console controls for ways of increasing the speed or delaying the terraformer. She finds the power options and, with her new knowledge of the location of the terraforming systems, starts to slowly syphon power from those systems and into the engines. But it isn't enough. The terraformer will blow up the planet before she can get away.

    A display of the battle outside is shown on a holoprojector. It isn't as clear or as engrossing as the displays of the terraforming stations but the salmitton is able to watch the movements of the ships. The Jupiterians begin to move slowly out of the way first, their strange wooden hulls propelled by solar energy imbibed from large solar sails.

    One of the large Alliance ships then begins to move, except it doesn't move away from the Earth. Instead it inches closer to The Hopeful and centres its mass between the terraforming ship and the planet. A second Alliance ship moves into similar formation and then a third. Clear sends a priority message warning them of their impending doom. A written message responds that they do their duty to save a planet filled with billions of people. Little escape pods shoot out from the capital ships and this time, nobody stops them.

    And then an imperial ship, one of the big star destroyers, joins the Alliance ships as a wall.

    If the gulf between her ship and the humans hadn't been so large, they might have been able to shoot The Hopeful out of the sky. As it stands, their turbo lasers won't stretch far enough and even if the Jupiterians beam weapons could bridge the gulf, they seem uninterested in doing anything to stop it.

    As The Hopeful speeds away, the Earth gets smaller and smaller but the other ships attempt to keep themselves in blockade formation as they chase the gigantic doomsday ship. Clear checks the numbers, and sees it will be tight. She might just make it.

    "Mother. Tell the idiots in the hangar to seal their ships. I'm going to vent the hangar bay."

    Once Mother confirms that they have sealed their ships, albeit with a lot of protestations, Clear vents the hangar bay. The ships inside are suddenly whipped out into the vacuum of space - leaving Clear behind. She can imagine the indignation of all her friends, as well as the frustrations of the ST Clan, her protectors, but they'll have to suffer with it.

    The display shows the little ships linger in the wake of The Hopeful but they gradually slow and sit in the void and watch. They don't have to wait long before the hull of The Hopeful begins to shine brightly, like a gigantic comet, as the ship hurtles towards the sun.

    The protective shields on the ship only work to a degree and the power of the sun seeps through, heating up the usually cool atmosphere of the ship. Clear sits at the console and watches the numbers until she becomes aware of someone behind her.

    She doesn't need to turn around to know who it must be.

    Clear: "You blame me for Kimleigh, I know. But you're wrong."

    Sega: "It is too late for excuses."

    He is standing motionless, not making a sound.

    Clear: "It's not my excuse, it's yours!"

    She spins in her seat to glare at him.

    "You failed her, not me. I wasn't her guardian, you were. You blame me because you're too much of a coward to blame yourself."

    He lunges at her and, once his massive hand has her by the neck, he whips her across the room. She slides along the floor until she slams into the seating fence. Before she could get up, he kicks her in the stomach and the wind is knocked out of her. She wheezes to catch her breath.

    When he reaches out for her neck again she squirms against his strength. She knows there's no point because she would be burning up in the sun in just a few minutes. But she doesn't want the creep to have the satisfaction of killing her first.

    She plants her boots on his chest and pushes with all her might. He manages to keep hold for longer than she expected but eventually she propels herself back. She lands on her back but rolls out of the way when he tries to stomp on her.

    She springs to her feet and jumps up against the fence to give her more leverage to swing her foot around through the air and slam into his skull. He staggers a little, giving Clear the opportunity to perform a backflip and scissor kick him upon the chin, snapping his neck back. Any normal human would have been rendered instantly unconscious by that but Sega just stumbles again. When she tries another kick to the head, he sends his hand out with an open palm and snags her by the ankle. He wrenches her leg down, which pulls Clear in towards him at which moment he wraps his bulky arm around her neck and gets her into a sleeper hold. She wriggles her legs, she tugs at his arm and she even tries to bite him - but he has her locked in tight.

    Sega: "You caused the death of the High Legatifex. You caused the death of many, many more besides when I researched you. Snuffing you out redeems me not only in the eyes of the High Empire but in the eyes of the entire Galaxy."

    Clear spits in anger.

    "You still think you're innocent? Watch..."

    The display still shows the Alliance and Imperial ships in their blockade but they are suddenly blasted by the terraforming beam. The beam slices through the star destroyer and hits two of the Alliance ships behind it. The massive capital ships begin to split apart and, to Clear's dismay, their pieces hit the other ships in their wall and cause massive damage all around. In amongst them all would be the human Ace Lander in his X-Wing, probably trying to shoot the debris to a desperate attempt to save as much of the remaining ships as possible.

    She wants to cry but she knows it's not for them. It's for herself. She wants to cry because a big part of her thinks Sega might just be right. Going down with the ship isn't just because she's the captain. Not just because this is her home. It's because she ought to be punished. It's because she has to make up for the despair her mere existence has caused everyone else.

    The world begins to darken as she can no longer breathe. First she'll lose consciousness and then Sega will take his time to slit her throat. She doesn't want to die this way, not by his hand.

    There's the unmistakeable sound of blaster fire, which snaps Clear out of her reverie.

    Sega slumps to the side and Clear is allowed to gasp for oxygen. She turns to see the hardlight projection of Mother holding the guilty blaster.

    The A.I. shouldn't be able to actively hurt others, especially in the hard-light state, and yet she just did. These A.I. and their evolving beyond their simple states. She might have been worried or even angry but when the A.I. breaks its bonds for the sake of saving her life, Clear can't really argue.

    Mother leans down and pulls Clear beside Sega's corpse. Clear lies there, stares up at the ceiling, in a state of bewilderment. The lack of oxygen has rendered her unable to protest at whatever Mother is doing and, strangely, she feels giddy. Soon she will burn. The heat of the sun is piercing the ship and sweat drips down Clear's forehead.

    Clear: "This is the end, Mother. I kind of... hoped to jump out of the system or something. Keep us going... but I guess not."

    She can hardly move her head but her eyes follow the red-skinned A.I..

    "I'm sorry you have to go down with me."

    Mother then looms over Clear and their eyes meet. She gives such a smile as Clear could almost believe this is her real, long-lost parent. It's organic, it's bright, it's sad.

    Mother: "Goodbye Clear... and thank you."

    The world around Clear begins to vibrate and shake. She guesses the ship is being pulled apart by the gravity of the sun before it even reaches the inferno. The world seems to split around her and then everything goes dark.

    The End...

  18. #98
    Tea-sipper, character-killer

    Arrow This is the World of Tomorrow


    The planet Mars is a barren and desolate world where the residents act like cowboys and the land can barely sustain the desperate plant matter that strives for growth. Deimos and Phobos, the planet's two moons, are currently in the night sky and are set against the beautiful starry backdrop. The faint glimmer of the blue planet Earth can be seen to the naked eye and in a few hours the sun would rise above the tall, red-dust mountains.

    Dhaeriend do'Ziikin stomps his way across the road, which has largely been overtaken by the red weed common on Mars and, once long ago, Jupiter. His exosuit isn't used to the terrible dust storms of Mars and is creaking already. He had had to replace the fuel canister several times as the suit went through the liquid fuel much faster than usual.

    He gets to the shelter.

    Once it had been a fuelling station for the Martian vehicles but in recent weeks it has become the projection station for Kara Pashna and his repopulation project. A few sheets of metal have been propped up to keep the strong winds out along the northern side, but the south is mostly shielded by the buildings on the opposite side of the road.

    Little lights hang from the flat roof, powered by little solar panels that Dhae had bartered for from some human traders passing by several days ago. Pashna, who preferred to work at night, was very grateful. Pashna is now at his usual workbench and is filtering through the genetic sequencing of his lost people. The entire wall had been taken from his rickety ship, aptly named The Indra, as well as all of the genetic information he needs to restart his planet. Dhae had jokingly called Mars Indra II but that didn't go down very well. Pashna is determined to show the original inhabitants of this planet as much dignity as he can afford. The Indrans shall become the new Martians and honour those long-dead people who didn't have the same chance at revival as the Indrans do.

    Unfortunately work is slow. The DNA sequencing alone will take many months to prepare and they have no money to build the vats, the life support systems or get any of the fluids necessary to grow the Indran clones. Yet Pashna seems ever hopeful.

    Dhae puts the sack of food on the table, which mostly consists of the bright yellow potatoes that grow on Mars. About the only edible vegetable that will grow here. In the city to the south there is a great greenhouse run by a couple of Kryptons that sell some better fruits and vegetables but they're too expensive for every day purchasing. The best food comes from Saffron 5 but the journey takes Dhae several days so he can only buy canned and packaged food from there. Anything fresh will rot long before he gets home.

    As Dhae gets out of his exosuit he looks up at the photograph on the wall. The last time they were all together.

    After The Hopeful went into the sun with an unexpected bright blast of light, the crew had landed on Mars to get their emotions in check. Green had been inconsolable to the point everyone worried for her mental health.

    Yet it was Green that left first. She didn't want to stay on Mars. She wanted to lose herself in the ancient forests of her home on Earth. Cassra Terrin-Pullista and Alexis Thrain went to join the the emerging Resistance movement. Dhae suspects Pully needed to lose herself too, only in action rather than a forest, and Alexis just wants to make sure Pully stays safe with the rising threat of the First Order. Rui-Rho went back to the mysterious asteroid warehouse of Conglomocorp despite Dhae asking her to stay on Mars.

    The ST Clan went back to the Cosmic Nullius, heads hung low in failure. Ciel was never seen after she and her injured brethren left The Hopeful and Dhae assumes she got back to work as a Void Ranger.

    The Indran, now taken apart and broken down for use in the shelter, was the first of the ships to be used up. The small fighter than Clear had inherited from Aellisin Koure was taken by Pully and Thrain and the Bug, which has long been on its last legs anyway, finally gave up and broke down. Only Clear had ever been able to keep that thing running and Dhae is sure that only worked through sheer stubbornness to let it go. Only the LightStaff remains functional and because its fuel is almost out, they haven't used it even to get to Saffron 5.

    Kara Pashna had always been determined to begin his project on Mars as he sees it as honouring the friendship he held with Clear and the connection between his extinct people and those of this red world. Dhae finally admitted to Pashna that he was trying to escape the ire of his family. In every life he has run away from them, from his duties as a male drow and sought wild and exotic adventures. A lifestyle frowned upon by almost every drow of Caledonia. Hiding out on this barren rock, far from civilisation, keeps him safe from unwanted attention.

    He digs into the sack and pulls out a couple of the yellow spuds for cooking. He decides not to disturb Pashna while he's so engrossed and heads straight for the door to the building next to their shelter. It was originally a window when they arrived but a bit of D.I.Y. with a big hammer made it a door. In there were their beds and the kitchen appliances. They couldn't afford real modern technology so they made do with a little gas burner and bottles of water for cooking.

    Before Dhae gets to the door, however, he sees someone approach the shelter from the corner of his eye.

    He drops the spuds.

    Dhaeriend: "Pashna..."

    Pashna first turns to Dhae and then to where the drow is gawking. Pashna slowly puts down his vial and steps towards the open-side of the shelter.

    Pashna: "You're... alive?"

    Clear: "Damn right I am."

    She tosses Sega's harness to the floor.

    Clear: "What the fuq did you do to my Bug!?"

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