Template:PostIn CatH Post 49 Clear has managed to get permission from Lumo for her human friends to come aboard Mirare Station, which is usually very anti-human. They are in the herbology shop owned by Lucee Sk'dor, who is creating the antidote to the ALS acceleration virus she created and poisoned Aurora Briarose with. Lumo warns Clear about her choice in new jumpdrive for The Hopeful, the Bagon Noz Drive, which is claims would traverse Hell, specifically Tartarus, to travel across the galaxy. Clear decides to go and speak with the engineer about this but she is suddenly attacked by Kaptin Kwanza looking for her bounty. He summons Sue'san Dienhand to collect but Clear manages to escape and uses The Bug to get to The Hopeful. She intends to draw Dienhand away from Mirare Station but, instead, Dienhand declares anyone aiding Clear is to be executed and she destroys the entire station, including Lumo, Sk'dor and Clear's friends, Green, Pully, Thrain and Kiron. Mother jumps, using the uncalibrated and untested drive, out of the system and The Hopeful seems like it will be destroyed by the power of the jump.
Clear rolls her eyes at being called 'Pinno Fat' again. The is standing in the herb shop that Clear remembers getting the datura powder from just before she left the station last time. The shop's keeper is the blue-skinned Hian woman wearing the white robe that reminds Clear so much of Salmitton clothing. She is sitting in the corner brewing the cure for Aurora Briarose's condition. In fact the cure may even aid in relieving symptoms of the original ALS[Ext 1], not only the advanced state induced by the very same Hian woman's previous formula. Clear, however, isn't prone to blind hope.
Clear: "I am. It's unfair to judge Aurora by the rest of the humans. She's not guilty for the sins of humanity. Her own world was destroyed too, just like yours."
Lumo: "And yours, to an extent. I have the luxury to mourn the death of mine. You have to endure the continued rape of yours."
Pully: "You know there are humans in the room, right?"
Clear: "You forgot my species already, Kiron? Speciesist."
Clear had spent many hours bartering for permission to allow her human companions a visit to Mirare. Ultimately, after a long sequence of refusals, Lumo agreed on account of them helping Clear save the galaxy from Captain Rynard and the Empire. No mention was made of Jeb, perhaps from embarrassment at the young grey's guilt or from secret wish of the man's success thwarted by Clear as well as their enemy's.
Nightstrider: "There's one of you in the entire galaxy. How can I remember?"
Clear: "There's only one Kiron Nightstrider in the galaxy, I remember those words well enough."
Nightstrider: "Not the same..."
She stares at him and he relents with a groan.
Nightstrider: "Okay, okay. I'm sorry I forgot the name of your species."
Clear: "Actually that's the name of my race. But thanks anyway."
Clear almost fell over and even Kiron looks aghast. Pully just guffaws while the alien troop in the shop shrug and stare with blank, uncomprehending faces. Before Clear can reprimand Green for saying such a thing a comm call comes through from Mother.
Mother: "Clear. I am ready to begin running simulations and tests for the Bagan Noz Drive. Shall I initiate?"
Clear: "Go ahead, Mother. Remember what the engineer said, double check the results with ourwarp core."
Lumo: "Your... mother?"
Clear looks embarrassed.
Pully: "Only if Clear's secretly a baby A.I...."
Nightstrider: "The ship's A.I. is called Mother."
Kiron manages to save Clear some further embarrassment of explaining the name further. Lumo nods, apparently not seeing anything unusual in the choice of name for their A.I. and Clear is silently grateful to Kiron.
Lumo: "I'm glad you took my advice for your jump drive. Buying it here was a wise choice..."
Clear: "I think so."
Lumo: "Though I have to wonder at your choice of drive..."
Clear: "What's the problem?"
Lumo: "It's a somewhat... unorthodox drive, to say the least. It will be fast, certainly. Carry you right across the galaxy in an instant. But... not the prettiest way to do it."
Pully: "Sound like you know more about the drive than we did, old man."
Nightstrider: "I told you to go for the hyperdrive..."
Clear: "The guy said the Bagan Noz is faster than any hyperdrive."
Kiron puts his hands up defensively.
Nightstrider: "Just don't blame me when the ship blows up on us."
Lumo: "It seems the engineer didn't inform you that you'll be leaving space to make your jump?"
Clear: "He did. He said it's just like any hyperdrive but faster. A hyperdrive you enter hyperspace, right? This does the same thing."
Lumo: "Except it isn't hyperspace it will take you..."
Green: "What space does it go to?"
Pully: "Bagan space?"
Clear: "Noz space?"
The two of them chuckle at their little jokes while Lumo shakes his head with concern.
Clear, Pully and Kiron look at him dubiously. Lumo rolls his eyes and pulls a chair towards them.
Lumo: "What is this?"
Clear: "A chair."
He looks up at Pully.
Pully: "Yeah, it's a chair."
He then looks at Green. She shrugs.
Green: "It's a chair, right?"
Lumo: "Lucee, what would you say this is?"
Lucee Sk'dor smiles to herself. She doesn't look up as she continues her work, adding a new herb to the mixture.
Sk'dor: "A bed."
Pully: "Are you kidding me?"
Lumo smiles up at them.
Lumo: "Hians sleep sitting, not lying down."
They're all taken aback. Clear is extra surprised because neither Pully nor Kiron seem to have known this and they are her sources of knowledge for this region of the galaxy. Lumo shakes the chair a little, drawing attention to it.
Lumo: "Just because the object holds a different meaning for some people than it does others, doesn't mean it is no less that object you believe it to be."
Clear: "I see. You're saying just because we won't consider this other space to be Hell, doesn't mean it isn't Hell?"
Lumo grins and points at Clear.
Lumo: "Smart girl."
He pushes the chair back and Clear feels uncomfortable about her choice in drive.
Clear: "So the drive is dangerous?"
Lumo: "I don't know. But any device that takes you through Hell seems dangerous to me. Can't say I've ever been brave enough to try it. Your drive most certainly will work, of course. Hell is everywhere and nowhere. Time is meaningless there. But the things you may see... I shudder to think."
Green suddenly grins and pipes up;
Green: "Lucky most rooms don't have windows on our ship!"
While Clear rolls her eyes, Lumo nods and smiles at Green indulgently.
Lumo: "Indeed, lucky it is!"
Thrain: "Okay. I think I have everything I need!"
Clear looks up to see Alexis Thrain bustle her way through a beaded curtain carrying a massive box of herbs, plants, spices and other such concoctions.
Pully: "Got enough crap there, Thrain?"
Thrain: "Can never have enough supplies!"
Thrain grows defensive.
Clear: "I thought you didn't like all this... herbal medicine?"
Thrain glares at Clear through squinted eyes.
Thrain: "I didn't say the medicine itself was useless, just--"
She suddenly glances at Lucee Sk'dor and shrugs, putting the box down. Lucee, still not looking up from her work, just smiles and slowly shakes her head. Thrain rests on the box with a hand on her hip. She looks quite worn out from all of her shopping.
Thrain: "What're you all talking about?"
Clear: "Hell. Apparently."
Lumo: "Tartarus is what most would call it."
Thrain: "Wow. What a thrilling conversation I've been missing. I think there might be more shopping to be done. Please don't wait for me..."
Thrain's sarcasm isn't lost on anyone as she disappears back into the front of the shop where all of the goods are sitting on display. As though to prevent further talk of religion, Lucee stands up and carries the bowl she used to make her mixture, and pours it into a flask. Kiron approaches her.
Nightstrider: "Is it ready?"
Sk'dor: "Yes it is."
He holds out his hands expectantly. Lucee looks first at Clear, who nods.
Clear: "I trust Kiron in one thing at least - he'll do anything to help his princess."
Nightstrider: "I will."
He takes the flask and Lucee moves back to the table to prepare another batch.
Nightstrider: "This isn't enough?"
Sk'dor: "No. You'll need three flasks of it. Each flask is to be taken once every week for three weeks. After that she'll need to take something else, which I'll prepare once I'm done with this."
Pully: "Wowee. This is going to take forever..."
Lumo: "Sorry. I hope you can be patient."
Green: "Can we go shopping!?"
Lumo looks hesitant but then nods.
Lumo: "With escorts, yes. Can't have humans running around the place. Haven't had any here since... ever. Actually."
Pully: "Don't trust us?"
Lumo: "No. No I don't."
Pully: "Can't argue with that."
Nightstrider: "I'll stay here and wait."
Pully: "I'll get Thrain. She'll want to come with us. If she can stop ogling whatever weird plants she's studying in there."
And so Pully, Green, Thrain and Clear set out from the shop with an escort of several very large aliens. Some green, some furry, some slimy. The women search around various shops, though many of them actually refuse to serve them. They don't want their shop tainted by humans. While Pully and Thrain shrug off the insults, Green seems to get increasingly upset. Eventually they decide they should go back to the herb shop for the sake of Green's mood. Clear, however, says she wants to check with the engineer that sold her the Bagan Noz Drive.
Thrain: "You're not buying into that Hell nonsense, are you?"
Pully: "You never know, Thrain..."
Thrain: "Not you too!?"
Pully: "I like to keep an open mind."
Thrain squints at her.
Thrain: "You're trying to wind me up aren't you?"
Pully: "Kind of, yeah."
She laughs as Thrain growls and stomps off towards the shop. Pully waves at Clear and the three humans are left with their escort while Clear gets to wander off alone. She heads in the direction of the engineer's shop, wondering how to chastise selling her a jumpdrive to Hell. When she gets there, the smell of burning meat fills the air and a thick cloud smogs up the street. One of the small vendors down the way is trying to put out a fire he started. Clear rolls here eyes. This station is certainly lively. She then stops as the smog begins to clear up. Standing at the front of the shop is the engineer and another a figure. The figure is very thin and wears a broad hat like the seafarers of ancient Earth. He turns his skull in the direction of Clear and instantly recognises her. Clear is already running as Kaptain Kwanza, the space pirate, gives chase. She wonders how he had followed her all the way here and after such a long time he shows up now.
She jumps over a stall and glances back to see Kaptin Kwanza slide over that same table, knocking fruit everywhere and getting a lot of angry shouts from the vendor. He is slower than her, but not by much.
She slams the communicator on her chest, it's easier than trying to navigate the call options on her PIP. However it means here's only two people she can communicate with. Mother and the only other person that still has one of the old communicators.
Green: "Hullo Ms Clear! We're at the shop now! Ms Alexis--"
Green pauses while Clear ducks into an alley.
Green: "I mean Ms Thrain wants to know how long you'll be. Ms Sk'dor has almost finished her work."
Clear: "NOW! NOW GREEN! WE LEAVE NOW!"
Clear knocks an old lady over as she crashes into her. Clear tries to help the woman to her feet but when Kaptin comes up the alley behind her she has to leave her to fend for herself. Kwanza almost knocks the poor woman over again as he runs by.
Green: "We're not ready now, Ms Clear! Just another hour!"
Clear: "GREEN! WE H--!"
Clear feels her body suddenly convulse. Pain cascades through her muscles as electricity burrows through them. The focal point is the middle of her back where the taser must have hit. Shaking, she falls to the floor in a heap. A few minutes later her body is relaxed but she's too groggy to resist being dragged along by her legs. Nobody tries to stop the walking skeleton and she thinks it's unsurprising. Kidnapping seems to be a past time on this station if Clear's two visits are anything to go by.
She's tossed over against a wall and she can hear the captain speaking into a comm of his own.
Kwanza: "I have your prize, Warlord. When do you want to collect?"
Clear feels some spirit coming back to her limbs but she tries not to make any sudden movements just yet. She doesn't want another taser in the back.
Kwanza: "Okay. I'll get her to the Jolly Wanker and fly her out to you."
The name of his ship is still a kick to Clear's mind, especially given how cruel kidnapping is - the jovial name seems additionally wicked of him. He reaches down and hefts her up onto his shoulder. The bone digs into her gut but she tries not to react to the discomfort. She feels him spank her behind and, again, resists the urge to fight him just yet.
Kwanza: "Glad to find you in one piece, lassie! Been searchin' for this fat arse for too long, I tell ya. You certainly gave me the run around! Then, I gets to Imperial space and what do I hear about? The red-skinned alien. Over and over. Everyone's talking about you, you know? The lonesome hero they call you in Alliance space."
He walks down an alleyway, his heavy boot-falls echoing off of the walls.
Kwanza: "Then you have the best of all. Warlord Dienhand has a bounty on your head! Ha! I marched right in there and demanded more. Told them how much you were worth alive. She doubled it even then. I am in for a gigantic payday for you, milove. Sorry you won't be surviving this sale though. Wanted to give you over to a collector or summat. Then I could always come back and check you out on occasion. But then you had to go murderin' people. Honestly, little Salmitton, did you honestly think that was a good idea, huh?"
She holds her tongue, continuing to play possum.
Kwanza: "Well, now you have to pay the price. Crime's a crime and you got to be punished for it."
She, obviously, doesn't point out the hypocrisy of that.
Kwanza: "There's few things I can't stand in this universe. One of them is killing. Another is tea. I hate tea. I had this friend once. Obsessed with tea. Just tea all day, every day. Don't get me wrong, I loved the guy! But I hated everything to do with tea by the end. Just the smell of tea makes me want to pull my hair out."
He then barks a laugh as he pushes a button for a lift.
Kwanza: "Or I would if I could! And no, that isn't how I lost my hair. Or my skin. Or anything else. But if I still had them, I would lose them if someone had even a cup of tea in this lift. I haven't spoken to him since then. Don't think I could face him and his tea after all these years."
Clear listens to the sound of the lift grinding its way up towards the docking bay, drowning out the endless prattling of Kwanza. His overly friendly nature doesn't sit well with his evil and cruel actions. Talking of his past, his friend, his ship, the colour of his pet cat and how she destroys every plant he owns. She waits and waits. Then they're heading along the dock and Clear feels her communicator vibrating against her chest - Green finally trying to call back. Clear thinks of all manner of nasty acts of vengeance she could take against Green for being so completely useless in communication. Then Clear finally sees her chance. On his way to the Jolly Wanker, Kwanza has passed by the park Bug.
In a suddenly flurry of movement that the skeletal man isn't expecting, Clear grabs his skull and jumps off of his chest. He's yanked by the neck and Clear honestly expected his head to pop off but it doesn't. Instead she brings his head down and brings her knees up to connect. Kwanza reels back while Clear herself wails at the pain of kneeing a very hard skull. Before he can get his bearings, she sweeps her legs across the floor and he's knocked flat on his back. She hops over him. She considers herself, at this point, to be lucky she's the only Salmitton in the universe. Her body is much faster at recovering from shock than any human. Kwanza clearly thought she'd be just like any other human he's kidnapped in the past. She's also thankful she waited til her full strength was back.
She hops over his prone form and runs for the Bug. The door slides open and she hits her communicator.
Green: "Ms Clear! Where have you been!?"
Clear: "Green! I'm going to The Hopeless now!"
Green: "Oh great! We're ready too! We'll go to the Bug now!"
Clear: "No! I'm going alon--"
Clear hits the door close button as Kwanza comes running at her. She grabs her old carbine from the locker and aims it at him. He instantly dives to the floor but she doesn't fire on him. The doors close. She heads to the controls and starts the activation sequence.
Clear: "I'm headed there now. I can't wait for you."
Green whines like a child.
Clear: "Dienhand is on her way. I need to get to The Hopeless to draw her away from the station. Just like last time."
Green: "Um. Ms Pully says that's fine. They'll take another ship or you can come back for us later..."
Clear: "That's my thinking exactly. Be careful. Kaptin Kwanza just attacked me. He's on the station."
Green: "Is he the creepy pirate guy we met that one time?"
Clear: "Well remembered, Green..."
Once onboard The Hopeless, Clear demands the status of the new jump drive.
Mother: "Tests are not yet completed."
Clear: "Seriously? You've been doing them for hours!"
Mother: "Jumping through space is a very difficult and complex procedure, Clear. You could just right into the middle of a sun or an asteroid field..."
Clear: "Right. Rig--"
Mother: "The Excellence has arrived in system."
Clear: "So soon? Damn... we'll have to come back for them."
Mother: "Communication from The Excellence."
Clear: "Put it thr--"
Mother: "Communication from Cassra Terrin-Pullista."
Clear: "Terrible timing. Dienhand can wait. Put Pully on."
Pully: "Clear. We found your man. We're in a firefight with the sod now. Lumo said he'll get his thugs down here in no time to help us deal with him. Says Kwanza's own gang is spread out across the station, apparently they were all out looking for you and Green."
Clear: "Be careful, Pully. No need to get injured on his account. I'm on The Hopeless now. Dienhand has just arrived in system. I'm going to bait her into chasing me now."
Pully: "Then you be careful, Clear. Don't underestimate Dienhand. She'll be thinking of some way of catching you. She's not easily duped twice."
Clear: "I have this new Hell-drive, remember? I can jump super fast. I'll be in Alliance space in a blink and back again, while Dienhand is sailing about wondering where I've gone."
Pully: "There you go underestimating her."
Clear: "Just take care of yourself, Pully. I'll see you soon. Try to think of this as a vacation."
Pully: "Yeah. Great. Vacation on the universe's most xenophobic spacestation. Don't take too long, eh?"
Clear: "Mother, how long til you can jump?"
Mother: "I can engage the drives now, but my calculations will be very slow. I estimate at seven minutes."
Clear: "So I have to keep her talking for seven minutes? Great..."
Clear switches to Dienhand's channel. The woman looks up from whatever she was doing to stare at Clear. Clear always thinks Dienhand looks strangely normal for a cruel Warlord. The woman needs spiky pauldrons, miss-matched eye colours, a sinister scar - something to make her look extra menacing.
Dienhand: "Surrender yourself, Captain. I have you now."
Clear: "Not yet you don't. My new jump-drives are engaged and I'm ready to get out of here."
Dienhand: "Indeed. So I suppose I should chase you?"
Clear: "I'd prefer if you'd just let all this drop. Go home. Play warlord in your space wars."
Dienhand: "Honour is one the line, salmitton."
The woman turns from Clear to someone else.
Dienhand: "Are we in range to fire?"
Clear: "If you fire on my ship, you couldn't take me prisoner for your trial..."
Dienhand then smiles.
Dienhand: "I won't fire on you, salmitton."
Dienhand: "Anyone that aids you is now condemned as a terrorist and a harbourer of terrorists."
Clear: "Wait! Wait! I surrender!"
Dienhand: "Good to know. You can reflect on this incident when you're in prison. Lieutenant? Open fire."
The screen displaying the exterior of the ship is sudden lit up with green bolts that blast forth from the yellow-and-grey Star Destroyer. The bolts smash into Mirare spacestation, blowing apart entire sections of the old structure. In areas the station's shields have held, however, stopping the green bolts of death for a short time. Clear feels her communicator vibrating and she pushes it.
Green: "Clear! The station is being attacked! What do we do!?"
Clear: "Get out of there!!"
Dienhand: "Oh, you have friends on the station? I wish I had known. I would have fired sooner..."
Clear: "You-! You have your man onboard! Kwanza! You'll kill him too!"
Dienhand: "Pirate scum. Worked for a bounty, nothing more."
Clear: "Stop! Stop please! I give up! Kiron! He's on the station! We'll both come quietly! Please!"
Dienhand: "You take me for a fool, captain. You did the last time and you intended to do so again. Last time I indulged. It was entertaining. But this time I wish to win. Anywhere else you go, I will destroy it. Anyone else who helps you, I will kill them. You will watch this demonstration and you will know what is to come should you flee..."
Clear: "And Kiron? You wanted us as prisoners, didn't you?"
Dienhand: "I only need one of you. And honestly, it is your name on everyone's lips. You saved the sweet rebel princess, you stopped the terrorist greys, you stopped the plans of Captain Rynard - a good man, by the way, despite working for the wrong side - and so it is you who will stand trial. A powerful symbol to the galaxy that Warlord Dienhand is not to be trifled with. Even the greatest hero dies at my hands. Warlord Strang killed Duke Hyperon, I killed Clear the lonesome hero. Both the Empire and the Alliance will be heartbroken, I'm sure."
Clear: "Mother! Disengage the jump!!"
Mother: "Unable to comply."
Clear: "Just stop! Please! Stop!"
There is an explosion from the station. Then a second. Then a third. A sequences of explosions like dominoes, each set off by the last. Huge pieces of the station drift apart.
Clear: "Green! Green! Are you okay?"
The communicator remains silent.
And then, in one last huzzah, the remains of the station explodes in bright white and blue light that expands and then, suddenly, contracts in on itself. The delicate, tiny remains float quietly towards the ice belt to join the rest of the greys' graveyard. Clear stares at it, unable to even scream. Lumo. Kiron. Thrain. Pully. Green.
She feels like she's been struck in the chest and breathing becomes an effort. She gasps. Her eyes water up.
Dienhand: "This is your legacy, Captain. I have enjoyed this moment immensely. You will forever be my conquest and I shall remember you. Long after you've been executed for murder."
Clear falls against the console and Sue'san Dienhand observes her like a predator observes its fallen prey. Ready to eat.
Dienhand: "Such pain you are in, Captain."
Mother: "Jumping in five..."
Dienhand: "You intend to jump again, Captain?"
Dienhand: "I will hunt you down. Again. Forever."
Dienhand: "I will kill everyone to get to you."
The Hopeless shakes violently and the communication shuts down. The lights blink off and on several times before they simply shut down. The red emergency lights turn on. The whole room shudders. Clear sees emergency readings appear on the console. System failures. Damage notices. Hull warnings. The Hopeless is breaking apart. Just like Mirare did. Just like her friends did...
She kneels there, before the console. The screens then go dead. The shuddering becomes more and more violent. Clear is then thrown across the room, she slides along the floor and hits the barrier between the front of the Command Centre and the chairs. She reaches out with all her willpower and grabs a bar to save herself. The room bounces. And then, with a great final crash, the ship stops. Smoke billows into the room from the corridor. She doesn't know what broke out there but something must have. The red lights remain but silence holds sway over the ship. Clear lies on the floor. She's too wounded to move. Emotionally.
She stares at the smoke slowly filling up the room. She closes her eyes.
She opens them. She sees her mother's face looking down at her. And then she closes them again.