CatH Post 83 sees The Hopeful in better condition than it has ever been, which is not saying much, and Clear wants to take on two passengers en route to the Cosmic Nullius. The first passenger, brought onboard by Ltexi, is Ambassador Uppity Bags, the descendent of Flannel Bags, who reveals that his people, the Kryptons, have signed a unification pact with the humans of Earth. However they have also reserved their best technology just in case the humans ever attack, learning from the demise of the Martian people. This makes Clear proud and feels her people are gone but not forgotten. The second passenger is Dhaeriend do'Ziikin, an alchemist drow who is very witty and likes jokes. Unfortunately this prompts Rui-Rho to barrage him with her unique brand of awful gags, which horrifies him as she leads him to his room. Ltexi wants to get the video screen in her room fixed so that she can watch her own homemade porn that she made while on Saffron 5, much to Clear's own horror.
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[Ext 1] 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.
Uppity Bags looks from Clear to Mother.
Uppity Bags: "Ah. Mrs Clear is it?"
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 eggs.
Clear: "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?"
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.
Mother: "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.
Clear: "Green... don't do that."
Green: "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?"
do'Ziikin: "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!"
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!"
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: "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!"
do'Ziikin: "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!"