Template:PostIn CatH Post 62 Clear and Kimleigh are being chastised by Kimeligh's guardian, Sega, for their jetpack joyride in CatH Post 61. Kimleigh shows that she isn't blindly patriotic to the High Empire though she does show a dismissiveness when Clear points out flaws of the empire and her father, The Highemperor. When Bug, the bounty hunter, has reportedly located an outlaw named Indigo Shade, Kimleigh is summoned to the bridge of Kalor Varkesh. She sends Sega to assist Bug and with him gone she decides to take Clear on another joyride - this time she steals Sega's kinetic harness, which allows them to be transported to a pocket dimension called The Special Zone. They rush down the semi-circular tunnel to reach the end, which allows them to revert to real-space and on the bridge of Kalor Varkesh where Clear is permitted to sit with Kimleigh and the Navitatex, an Orion. The ship jumps to a new location in the Deep Void where they find Kimleigh's outlaw sister and her fleet of old, graveyard ships which move to attack.
The Special Zone
Clear is sitting in the same armchair of Kimleigh's leisure suite that she had on her first visit. The plush material and deep cushions give her a sense of comfort under Sega's tirade. He has been shouting for the past fifteen minutes, first at Kimleigh and then Clear and now Kimleigh again. Kimleigh is reclining on the sofa and staring off into the distance, evidently ignoring every word that passes Sega's mouth.
Sega: "You are far too old to be acting the child--"
Clear rolls her eyes at that.
Sega: "--taking in strays--"
Clear glares her eyes at him for that.
Sega: "--and abandoning your mission!"
Clear now casts curious eyes at Kimleigh.
Kimleigh just sighs with exasperation.
Kimleigh: "Do you know where my wayward sister is, Sega?"
He splutters but she doesn't give him time to accurately formulate a response.
Kimleigh: "No, Sega. No you don't. I don't know. You don't know. The crew doesn't know. Even the bounty hunter doesn't know. So until one of them is able to find her, I'm going to do whatever the Hell I please."
Sega: "High Legatifex! You must act with a station of decorum at all times! You are a princess of the High Empire! You shouldn't be slumming it with this vagrant--"
Clear wonders if he's trying to bait her into a screaming match with him but she refuses the challenge. She may not be an officer of the High Empire but she has enough dignity not to go round insulting people for their birth.
Unless they're human, of course.
Kimleigh: "Enough! I'm bored now. Leave me alone."
Sega: "You know I can't do that. I'll stand at the back of the room. Watching."
With a loud groan of annoyance she throws her head back, over the arm of the sofa.
Kimleigh: "I am going to complain ceaselessly about you to my father when we return, Sega."
Sega: "He shall believe that means I'm doing a good job."
Kimleigh: "Then I won't complain!"
Sega: "He'll assume I'm doing a very good job."
Kimleigh: "He's very annoying isn't he, Clear?"
Sega: "You don't have the right to insult me."
Clear: "You don't have the right to insult me either, but you did."
Kimleigh: "Let's not go down this road - he'll go on for hours about how citizens of the High Empire are superior to all other citizens in the universe because -- High Empire. It's the bestest!"
She mockingly double-thumbs up to Clear.
Sega: "As princess of the High Empire you should have more respect for--"
Kimleigh: "I have infinite respect, Sega. But I have zero blind adoration. Something my father has never understood - there is always someone, something, better. No matter how perfect you think something is it is not. You perfect something but that only flaws something else. And you, Sega, are a fool for thinking yourself better than anyone else just because of where you were born and who you serve. Like the universe gives a crap. It'd be here without the High Empire--"
Sega: "If someone were to hear you speak this way there'd be an inquisitor down here in an instant, High Legatifex! Please keep your comments to yourself!"
Kimleigh: "There's only Clear here and she doesn't care about our politics."
Clear: "All I care about is my ship..."
Kimleigh: "Right! Yes! It needs organic matter... Not really much we can do about that from here. But I can engage your ship's drive. The old girl seems pretty beat up though, I hope she can handle the strain of a jump?"
Clear replies an affirmative but inwardly she has to wonder. The new jump drive is incredibly intense. But the risk is worth it. She doesn't want to miss this chance and Kimleigh never returns.
Sega: "And where would you escort that monstrosity?"
Kimleigh peeps her head over the rear of her sofa so that she could glare at the ever-present guardian;
Kimleigh: "Was I talking to you, Sega? No. Be quiet back there."
He does so and yet Clear can feel his overbearing presence more through his silence than through his arguing. She refrains from glancing in his direction and strives to keep her attention on Kimleigh.
Kimleigh: "Since your ship is actually the property of the High Empire anyway..."
She pauses in her speech, waiting to see Clear's response. Clear, of course, is dumbstruck but she can't argue the point with a princess of such powerful people and the only people able to get her to safety right now. Seeing that Clear is annoyed but speechless, Kimleigh merely continues;
Kimleigh: "We can use one of our facilities to get... The Hopeful, wasn't it? Get The Hopeful into ship-shape!"
Clear is quiet for a moment. Then, her voice cracking a little;
Clear: "And then?"
Kimleigh shrugs and sits up, elbows leaning on her knees.
Kimleigh: "And then we'll see. Honestly I don't know. It's quite a mystery and a mystery I am eager to explore. Perhaps I should come and visit the ship for myself! What say you to that!?"
Sega: "You shouldn't go over there, High Legatifex--!"
Kimleigh: "Didn't I tell you to shut up, Sega? You're here for my protection, not to order me about."
Sega: "And it's for your protection that I have to in--"
Kimleigh: "You'll protect me, won't you!? What's to worry about!?"
Sega: "I'm not so arrogant to believe I can keep you safe from an unknown enemy..."
Clear: "There's no enemy aboard my ship. Just a space cop and a... well someone I don't like but he's harmless right now."
Kimleigh: "See? Just two of them. It'll be fine, Sega."
Sega: "So she says!"
Kimleigh: "We scanned the ship. The numbers were explained away earlier. All that's there are those three and a lot of vermin--"
She looks earnestly at Clear.
Kimleigh: "You know you have rats, right? Lots of them!"
Clear: "I suspected there must be somewhere on the ship. But it's just so big I couldn't deal with them. I don't even know where they are. None of the ship's maps even work."
Kimleigh nods slowly, biting her lower lip.
Kimleigh: "Yes... I did notice that. Lots of corrupted data. I only know as much as I could feel through her electronics. Remarkable really. I'm pretty excited about playing in her. I bet she's quite lovely on the inside, right?"
Clear shakes her head apologetically but fairly humoured too.
Clear: "I'm afraid not, Kimleigh. The Hopeless is very, very old and has barely seen a day of maintenance. Actually it has. It's had several months of maintenance from two different crews and they barely managed to coat the surface damages. I had certain areas upgraded bit-by-bit. I've never had much money in all honesty. When I finally had some most of it went on changing parts of the ship."
Kimleigh looks at Clear with starry eyes.
Kimleigh: "You must have had a wonderfully terrible life, am I right!?"
Clear doesn't understand how 'wonderful' and 'terrible' really go together but she gets the impression that Kimleigh is somehow romanticising a troubled life.
Clear: "I suppose so... I told you my species is wiped out. Includes my parents. I lived alone on my ship so... yes. It's not been easy."
Sega: "And where did you get that money you mentioned?"
His words are more growled than spoken and tinny as they warbled out of his mechanical voice box.
Clear: "Other nations that employed me. One pressed me into service and the other rewarded me for service."
Before Sega could continue his questioning, Kimleigh butt in;
Kimleigh: "I don't think now is the time for Clear's backstory. Maybe we should get ready to visit your ship?"
Clear shrugs in agreement and they both stand up, just in time to be interrupted by an emergency communiqué from the bridge of Karlor Varkesh.
Kimleigh: "I'm on my way."
She speaks into the air and Clear has no idea where the microphone is. She first shrugs in apology to Clear and then half-turns to speak to Sega.
Kimleigh: "I want you to find Bug and help him in whatever he needs."
Sega: "That's not--"
Kimleigh: "You know where I'm going, Sega. No need to be watching me on the bridge. Bug, on the other hand, is a slippery little toad. You've been chasing me all over this ship for a long time now. There's nobody I'd trust more to keep tabs on our, supposed expert, hunter."
Sega hesitates but eventually nods and leaves the room. Kimleigh stares at the door for a moment and then smirks.
Kimleigh: "I didn't think that would work!"
Clear almost facepalms.
Clear: "That was all staged!?"
Kimleigh shakes her head as she hurries towards the door.
Kimleigh: "No! I just took advantage of the situation to get shut of him! Ha! Come on!"
Clear jogs after the hian girl, leaving the leisure suite behind.
Clear: "Are you sure you want me going to your bridge?"
Kimleigh points and they jog left.
Kimleigh: "I'm not taking you to the bridge. Don't worry, there's plenty of time yet. I want to make a quick detour!"
Clear is concerned about this but she's not at liberty to protest. She feels herself being drawn into this girl's schemes and, shockingly, enjoying it. She can claim innocence, pressured into service by another, and get the thrill of the crime. But a part of Clear doesn't like that she likes this. She has more important things to worry about and yet the time spent being silly with Kimleigh is quick and easy pleasure to come by.
The trip isn't long as they take a turbolift. Clear can imagine that they might be zipping along the dragon's veins in their little box. When Clear asks where they're going, Kimleigh just grins and tells her she'd find out when they arrived.
Clear: "Why are you looking for your sister? She's a terrorist?"
Kimleigh sighs mildly despondent.
Kimleigh: "Basically, yes. She doesn't like our father. Considers him a tyrant."
Clear folds her arms.
Clear: "Seems pretty accurate from my perspective."
Kimleigh: "He is a good and caring man, Clear. He's no tyrant. I think. He... is controlling I guess. Wants to rule others, even if they don't want to be ruled. He treats them as well as he can though!"
Clear: "I've heard slave masters say the very same thing."
Kimleigh: "Oh! Slavery is illegal! He believes strongly in civil liberties does my father!"
Clear: "If he's forcing people to obey him, I don't see much of a difference. Obey and you're free, disobey and you're dead? That's not freedom. It's just slavery in a different packaging."
Kimleigh doesn't reply and sulks a little as she pokes the panel for the lift. The doors eventually open and they set foot in another area of the ship. It appears to be the crew quarters for the soldiers. Some of the men and women look surprised to see Kimleigh striding quietly down the access corridor.
Kimleigh: "He is a powerful man though. He'd say that gives him the right to rule."
Clear: "Might makes right? Typical of someone who dominates to justify himself with strength alone."
Kimleigh just grins mischievously.
Kimleigh: "And you said you don't do politics!"
Clear: "I don't! But I don't want some knucklehead ordering me about just because he's got lasers shooting from his arsehole or whatever strength he says he has."
Kimleigh: "Now that would be a wonderfully terrible sight to see! My poor father!"
Her giggling quietens as she walks through a set of doors much larger than the other quarters. Clear had noticed that Kimleigh is able to wander through any door, even doors that others have to be scanned by computers to pass through. They must be set up to instantly acknowledge her - or it's her special electrical power at work. No electronic lock can keep out a girl who can control that lock.
The lights blink on, fading up from a low light to a bright white envelope. Clear thinks that's a nice touch to the lighting system, not blinding someone from dark to instant light but a gradual increase that allows the eye to adjust. She wonders if she can get Mother to implement it on The Hopeless. Her mind briefly wonders if Mother is back online yet but Kimleigh distracts her quickly by jiggling a device at her.
Clear: "Is that... is that the harness Sega wears?"
She then looks around in horror.
Clear: "Is this Sega's room!?"
Kimleigh nods eagerly.
She pushes her arms through the holes. Built from a man much bigger than this little girl, the device is quite limp on her body. She approaches Clear, holding open the straps.
Kimleigh: "You have to hug me so we can go together."
Clear: "Go? Go where? I thought this thing was some kind of kinetic distorter? Makes vibrations or something?"
Kimleigh: "It does when on a low setting. But increase the speed and it does sooooooo much more! Didn't you wonder how he got around so quickly?"
She waggles the straps at Clear, urging her to slip in. Clear kneels down and, suddenly very uncomfortable, hesitantly puts her arms around Kimleigh. The girl tightens the straps and smiles at Clear's discomfort.
Kimleigh: "Don't worry, Clear. I'm not gay! Not very anyway."
She s******s, thinking herself very amusing. Clear is tempted to ask if she even knows the first thing about sex but decides she really doesn't want to know the answer in case it's disturbing. She feels the straps are tight around her shoulders and Kimleigh is pushed up against her. The girl's skin is silky soft, even softer than Clear's who has been told many times that her skin is unnaturally smooth by a few humans. But Kimleigh, as a hian, has skin like a bag filled with water. Only her hair is the complete opposite and is as stiff as a table stuck to her skull.
Kimleigh whispers into Clear's ear, instantly exacerbating how uncomfortable and weird this all is.
Kimleigh: "Ready for another joyride Clear?"
Clear feels the harness start to vibrate. Then she doesn't. Instead she feels perfectly still, motionless. Instead the room around them is shaking. A little and then a lot - violently. Clear is afraid but now Kimleigh's hug feels reassuring, despite her initial feelings about it. Clear realises she's clutching the girl too hard and tries to calm her grasp to save her embarrassment. As the world around them shakes harder and harder the colours blur and wash into each other - yet Clear is certain new colours are washing into the muted colours of Sega's quarters. Bright blue. Bright red. Then the world starts to slow and clarifies. Clear is so taken aback she pulls back from Kimleigh but the girl has her held tightly.
Kimleigh: "Don't do that! You'll go flying! I know we look like we're standing still but we're actually the ones moving. If you break out of the harness your kinetic momentum will continue and you'll go off at a hundred miles an hour into a wall. Splat! One squished pretty salmitton girl."
Clear: "Right, right. But where are we?"
Kimleigh: "I've been calling it the special zone. I have no idea what else to call it."
The world has now come to a gradual stop and Kimleigh unfastens the straps so that they can separate. She smiles a little smugly.
Kimleigh: "I don't get to hug people very often so that was fun too!"
Clear: "I don't hug people very often either. And I prefer it that way."
A brief flash of Green pops into her head but Kimleigh draws her back to the bright, garish world around her.
Kimleigh: "Clear the Lone Wolf! She doesn't need sissy hugs because she's so badass!"
Clear might have had more to say on that little line but she's amazed by their new location. They appear to be in a half-pipe of bright orange with the occasional yellow stripe. Above them is a starry sky of deep blue, which becomes a hazy green on the horizon. Kimleigh points down the path.
Kimleigh: "That way!"
As they walk Clear taps her foot against the road. It's made of a kind of metal she's unfamiliar with.
Kimleigh: "I already set the coordinates in for the bridge. It'll be very funny when we BANG onto the bridge! They'll all die of fright!"
Clear: "Are you sure they'll not going to open fire by instinct?"
Kimleigh: "They're all highly trained professionals, Clear. They don't operate by instinct, they operate by discipline. Instinct causes unnecessary causalities and emotional drama that impedes true service. Don't think or feel, just know what and when to shoot. And knowing comes with years and years of training."
She sounds very proud of the war machine under her employ and she thinks she is an apple that didn't fall very far from the tree of the Highemperor after all. Maybe he, too, was once a rebel without a cause...
She doubts it.
Kimleigh starts running and Clear runs too. The metal clangs loudly as they go but the wind sounds fierce, as though they're running much faster than they ought to be capable of doing. A minute later and they're at the end of the track, a tall wall before them. Kimleigh opens the straps of the harness and Clear, somewhat disappointed that they didn't spend long in the special zone, slips her arms in. This time her hug is much more comforting and Kimleigh tightens the straps.
The special zone wobbles and then shakes aggressively. The colours wash until Clear sees darker tones seep into the orange and green. The world stabilises and they're on the bridge of Kalor Varkesh. The ceiling appears to be white and smooth, like bone, and Clear makes the very obvious leap of logic that the High Empire would be just arrogant and pretentious enough to put their command centre in the braincase of the beast. Where else would it go, she could imagine Kimleigh declare.
The room is littered with crystalline moulds of all shapes and sizes. Clear had seen crystals around the ship's corridors and a few small ones in Kimleigh's leisure suite but here the room is crammed with them. Many of them are flat, like brightly coloured glass, and people are swiping their fingers over the surface. Some other crystals are being rubbed in different ways and some appear highly suggestive in Clear's mind. She has to turn away from watching one woman vigorously working her hand over one elongated pink crystal.
Kimleigh: "Welcome to the bridge, Captain Clear! You should probably take a seat here."
She shoos a woman from one of the three chairs on the highest platform of the bridge, overlooking the rest of the ship. The woman moves over to one of the crystal banks and slides a small crystal into a slot, activating the unusual technological machine. Clear sits down and watches as a man gets up from the central chair and sits in the right-side chair, opposite Clear. She assumes he's the captain, or the navitatex as he called himself earlier. The chairs are all carved from the same red crystal, smoothed out like gems to be comfortable. Only the backs remained the regular, raw crystalline shape as spikes of sharp red stone stand up behind them. Kimleigh takes the central chair, the biggest and most prominent seat in the room.
Clear: "You know, I probably shouldn't be in here, Kim-- High Legatifex..."
Kimleigh wofts her hand dismissively.
Kimleigh: "Forget it. I decided when we were in the special zone that I need you to be around so we can visit your ship anyway."
Navitatex: "I fear you'll be too busy dealing with our quarry for pleasure trips, High Legatifex."
Kimleigh: "There's always time for pleasure trips, Navitatex!"
She then turns and glares at him with a pout.
Kimleigh: "You weren't surprised to see me burst into the room, by the way. I'm very disappointed."
There's a pause before the navitatex makes a sarcastic feign of fright.
Kimleigh: "How droll you are..."
She doesn't sound amused.
Navitatex: "Your guardian sent word that he detected you entering his quarters and suspected you'd be using his harness for flights of fancy."
Kimleigh: "Damn. I should have known someone like he would put detection systems on his door..."
Crewman #1: "We're travelling to the location now, High Legatifex."
Clear: "Wait, what about m--"
Kimleigh: "We'll come back, captain. Don't worry yourself. I still want to see your ship, remember?"
Clear is actually comforted a little by that. She does think she'll be claiming the ship as a possession of her empire after all. Still, she's very unhappy that she's being dragged into something at all. Immediately, so far from home, she wishes she could have just stayed on her own ship and waited for Kimleigh to return even if that meant being unsure if she ever truly would.
She glances past the girl towards the man on the right. He's a man with deep green skin and is very lithe, with little to no muscle on his body at all. He wears similar plated armour to the other crew, though he has a dark blue cape attached to his golden breastplate. He has dark hair that is swept neatly back and to the side with products, giving him a sleek and suave appearance. The hair, Clear sees, is actually incredibly dark dark that simply appears black at a glance. His lips natural colour is darker green than his skin and his irises are blue. Clear recognises his species, having seen Orions on Saffron 5 from time to time, but she has no idea where they originate or anything about their culture. She does recall them wearing very little clothing, usually looking more ragtag than Clear usually does. This one, however, seems to have elevated himself to be more presentable as to suit his station.
Clear sees that both of them are stroking the smooth crystal surfaces of the arms of their chairs and Clear prods hers. She feels an instant wave of nausea strike her and her mind races through dozens of bytes of information. She snaps her hand back. She couldn't make any sense of the calculations her brain was automatically running through when she touched the chair and she doesn't want a repeat experience. A machine that leads your brain through the process seems like a dangerous tool that could end up controlling the mind of the user. And yet there's an entire empire using this tech, so she concedes she could just be paranoid. An experience like Note, however, is likely to cause such feelings.
Crewman #2: "We've arrived. We're still in the Deep Void but there are multiple signatures."
Crewman #3: "It--it's a fleet! An entire fleet of ships!"
Kimleigh: "I guess she's more wily than we'd thought. Project. I want a visual."
A moment later and the circular platform below Clear, Kimleigh and the navitatex lights up. The projection is a 3D display that looks so solid and tangible Clear could have sworn she was looking at a set of model spaceships. She counts a dozen ships.
Clear: "They look almost as run down as The Hopeful."
Kimleigh tilts her head.
Kimleigh: "You're not wrong. So she has a fleet but its a ragtag heap of junk she's probably salvaged from some ship graveyard."
Clear actually thinks this sister of Kimleigh's sounds like a woman she'd get on with very well.
Crewman #3: "The ships are moving."
Kimleigh: "Are they crewed?"
Crewmen #3: "Unable to confirm. Scanning is blocked."
Kimleigh just stares off without response. Her eyes are so focused on staring at nothing that Clear realises she must be using her mind to explore the ships' electrical systems. Clear leans forward.
Clear: "Oi. Orion."
Navitatex: "I suggest you don't communicate with me, Martian."
Clear's expression sours instantly.
Clear: "Too good to talk to a Martian now are you, Orion?"
Navitatex: "I wasn't trying to be rude. But you're not a welcome presence on this ship. The High Legatifex likes you but to the crew you're a liability. It's nothing personal. You're just not one of us."
Clear supposes she couldn't argue with that.
Kimleigh: "Don't be mean, navitatex. I trust her and that means you should too."
She has snapped out of her reverie.
Navitatex: "I'm sure she's trustworthy, High Legatifex. I'm not saying she'll betray us. But she doesn't know our ways or how we operate. This is a military vessel, not a pleasure yacht. I just don't trust her to ability to function as part of our whole. That's all."
Again Clear couldn't argue with the logic, even if it is ultra cold.
Kimleigh: "I wish this was a pleasure yacht. Then we wouldn't be about to get our backside's spanked."
On the projection, massive energy beams are unleashed from the cannons of the second-hand vessels.