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Template:PostIn CatH Post 16, Vix and Sindra are confronted by Note, in the robotic body of Wai, in the Engine Room of The Hopeful. He kills Sindra and Vix is forced to flee, directed through voice commands by Clear. Vix narrowly escapes Wai and meets with Clear and Green in the Processing Room. Wai, however, reaches them and locks them in. Clear works on the door but, ultimately, Vix is killed by Wai and Green is thrown into one of the food processors. Clear runs for the Hangar and the troop transport where Pully, injured in CatH Post 13, is waiting. Clear rams Note with the transport ship and, for good measure, uses a launcher to hit him with a missile. The extent of Note's mind degradation is revealed to Clear before he dies and Clear is left to mourn all that has taken place, including the death of Note, her oldest friend and caretaker.

Post

To the Ship

Clear brings up a video display. It is the feed from Vix' helmet again. Now the night vision display is fairly static as the stormtrooper and her remaining squad member, Sindra, hide in wait for the incoming enemy. Clear can see the energy device she'd taken from the Oh My Love! glowing softly within the warp core containment field. Clear opens a second display screen with her wrist-mounted device and brings up a radar of the ship. She doubts either of the Imperials has a map of the ship. Because Green had cleared the engine room of plant life, the two stormtroopers showed up bright and clear on Clear's radar. Then the third form enters the engine room. The scanner can sense life forms but also movement and Wai displays as movement as he isn't technically alive. Clear accesses comms.

Clear: "Vix. Don't respond to me. Just listen. Wai has entered the engine room. Consider him highly dangerous."

It's impossible for Clear to know, yet, if Vix hears her.

Clear: "You should retreat. I can guide you out but Wai will have access to the same radar systems that I do."

Vix raises a thumps up to her helmet's visor. Confirmation.

Clear: "There's a small maintenance hatch close to your position. You should be able to get through it and into the next room. It's not a long passage, just a small door. I think it was meant for robots but a human can easily crouch through it."

After a few directions, Vix gets to the hatch with Sindra behind her. Vix crouches down and ducks under the wall and into the new room. Sindra ducks down after her. But then he shouts out as something grabs him from behind. His flame tank. Sindra is yanked by his straps. He only manages to unleash one arm as he's pulled back through the hatch. Vix takes out her pistol and starts firing at Wai but it's to no avail. Wai twists Sindra's neck with a kind of robotic efficiency - the same efficiency he might weld metal or cut wood. 

Vix: "****e."

She turns and runs. Eventually she hears Clear's directions and starts following them. Clear watches her radar and sees that Wai is following Vix closely. She glances at Green, then back to her wrist device. Vix moves into a main corridor and darkness surrounds her. Clear notices that Wai changes his direction and seems to have discarded his pursuit. But Clear doesn't buy it.

Clear: "Be careful. He's up to something."

Clear watches Wai's blip wriggle about and then he appears on a floor up. He must have found some kind of hole that allowed him access to the floor above.

Clear: "Above you, Vix. He's above you!"

The view from Vix' visor looks up, just in time to see Wai smash through a crack in the ceiling. He lands on Vix and grabs her helmet. After watching Sindra get his head spun off, Vix had already loosened her helmet's straps and it slips off her head. This gives her a moment to get back to her feet and instantly run for it. She skids around a corner and has to jump over a crack in the floor. She glances back just as Wai rounds the corner, his deadpan eyes fixated on her.

Vix fires her blaster back at him. A streak of laser hits him in the temple, gouging the organic matter. It cuts straight along his metallic skull, revealing the shiny metal beneath, but doesn't damage it. Another blast hits his shoulder, only slowing him for a brief instant as he recoils from the inertia of the hit. She finally reaches a door, passes through and pushes the panel as Clear instructs her. The door slides shut. Vix blasts the panel, keeping it shut for now. She gasps for breath but resolves to keep moving. She has to escape the machine. With only the small pilot light of her flamer to see by, her progress is now slower. The light only illuminates her immediate surroundings and if it weren't for Clear's navigational instructions, she'd be lost very quickly. She wipes a bead of sweat from her forehead. Clear isn't able to see what Vix sees now that the visor is gone, but she is able to monitor her progress through the ship's radar and the few remaining cameras that are operational. There's not many of them. A loud bang resounds as the door is finally opened and Vix hurries her progress. She passes through a wide open room filled with long-dead machinery. Clear had never figured out what they were for. It is there that the sound of Wai's pounding feet against the floor are heard. Clear shouts at Vix through the comms - which luckily operate apart from the absent helmet.

Just as Wai is upon Vix, something bursts from the machines and grabs Wai. A huge lifeform - the plantworm. Its human-like teeth clamp on Wai's leg and drag him into more machines, which crash and burn beneath the monster's weight. Vix, on Clear's camera view, gets up and runs again. Clear continues guiding Vix back towards the imperial shuttle. It is finally time for Clear and Green to head there too. Perhaps they can get Strang to send a new team to kill Wai. Clear has to follow Green because she's busy trying to guide Vix to safety.

Green: "My plentlife.... it's been destroyed."

Clear: "So Wai is free again. It's hard to tell with the plantlife in the area. Maybe you could send more to slow him down?"

Green: "I will try but it takes time and I'm so far away..."

Clear: "As best you can, Green."

But then, as they run, a communication comes through to Clear.

Note"Crewman Clear. Are you with crewman Green?"

Clear: "... I am."

Note: "Execute her."

Clear is stricken by the tone of Note's words. He'd never been the greatest A.I. but she never would have considered him capable of this.

Clear: "Why should I do that, Note?"

Note: "She has destroyed the many decades of repair work we put into restoring The Hopeful. She has systematically brought down everything we built up."

Clear couldn't exactly argue with that, because it was true.

Clear: "And since when did you become captain, Note?"

Note: "I am acting in stead of the captain."

He answer comes very quickly. Far quicker than Clear expected it to. She thought she'd confuse him, force him to question his actions. But his response is cold and certain. He clearly considered himself captain for some time now...

Clear: "I don't think the captain would have authorised that, Note. You are the system's A.I.. You're working outside of your operational parameters."

Note: "My operational parameters have had to be expanded many times to keep The Hopeful safe. If I hadn't, the ship would have been lost long ago."

That is true, Clear knows.

Clear: "Note... if you can act in the captain's stead... why can't I? I am more qualified for that role - because I'm not an A.I...."

Note: "... you are not required for that function, Crewman Clear. I am better able to compute the necessities for such a role."

Clear: "So this is an ego-trip for you, is it?"

Note: "I have no ego."

Clear: "Clearly you do. You have expanded your parameters to unnecessarily include captaincy when you could have bestowed that title to me."

Note: "Crewman Clear. You must have been mentally damaged by your recent experiences. If I am able, I shall endeavour to keep you alive. I consider you to be an integral crewman. After I eliminate the threats facing The Hopeful, we shall attempt to resume repairs."

Clear finds it unbelievable. How could an A.I. lose its mind? Delusions of grandeur, ego and unrelenting determination to exterminate. 

Clear: "Vix, watch out. He's moving to cut you off ahead. You should turn right. In fact, you're not far from me and Green. Keeping going right and you'll come to the food processing factory. We're cut in there and we can move out together. Green has plants to light up the way."

Vix: "This the same Green that killed my friends...?"

Clear: "Uh... we can resolve that later. Let's just survive this for now, eh?"

Vix: "I'm entering the processing room now. I'm surprised the machines are working..."

Clear: "They never stop, even when there's nothing to process. No idea how to shut them down and Note never seemed interested in shutting them down. Maybe he thinks they'll be needed if ever he gets a crew of more than five..."

Soon, Clear and Green join Vix in the food processing factory. The machines are tall and appear to be grinding up nothingness. They're all working away just as if grain were being poured into them.

Vix: "If I killed your friend, would you be upset?"

Clear: "She thought we were coming here to kill her. It's Note that needs to be stopped. He did all of this."

Vix: "Alright. Let's get back to The Excellence. Warlord Strang is not going to be happy with proceedings here though..."

Clear feels that threat to Green and possibly even herself. She wonders if Vix might even be punished. Surely Strang will understand the situation? Clear leads the way through the machines until they see a door at the far end of the room. But as they approach it, it suddenly closes. Clear taps into the panel but finds its being locked from a central computer.

Clear: "Note has locked us in. I can override it though. Give me a moment."

Clear had never been great with computers but she did know the ship's systems very well. She couldn't order a coffee on any other ship, but she could bypass security systems in an eyeblink on The Hopeless.

She struggles with the lock. Perhaps not an eyeblink.

Wai: "Intruders... you will be eliminated."

His voice echoes through the room, heard even aboard the whirring machinery. 

Clear: "Note. Stop! Just stop!"

There is no response. Clear resumes work on the lock. Almost done. Suddenly a machine comes toppling towards them. Vix grabs Clear and pulls her away from the area. Green leaps and narrowly avoids being crushed. Wai stands on the other side, admiring his handiwork. Clear looks back at the door. It's clear enough but she isn't sure she can open the door in time.

Vix: "Get it open. Now!"

Vix commands Clear and readies her flamer. The fire sprays out at Wai, who leaps away from the sudden attack. Clear wastes no time and is on her feet. She starts again with the lock. But it's only a moment before she hears a blood-curdling cry as Wai crushes Vix' neck. Clear turns around to see Vix fall to the floor and Wai stand over her. His skin is burning, melting, but he shows no pain. She doesn't know how original Wai would have reacted, he seemed much more passive than Note, but this monster is all cold-hearted metal. The door slides open and Clear runs through. Green runs after her but so does Wai. He grabs Green and throws her with his robotic strength. Green flies towards the still grinding machine that is lay on its side.

Clear: "NO!"

Green squeals and then disappears into the whirling blades. Clear gasps with wretchedness. But her mind is hopeful. There's no signs of blood or gore. Nothing came out of the machine as food... could Green have some ability that Clear doesn't know? Does she turn into plants? Clear clings to that hope and runs. Wai takes a moment to investigate the machine, apparently confused by Green's disappearance too. But then chases Clear.

Wai: "Crewman Clear..."

Clear finds herself heading up a level, taking the stairs not the lift. She hits the wall as she is too slow to turn.

Wai: "There's no need to run from me, Crewman Clear. I mean you no harm."

Clear keeps running. She is running through the crew's quarters. Not long before she gets to the docking bay.

Wai: "Clear! Wait for me!"

Clear can't believe Note thinks they're still friends after what he's done. His logic defies her understanding and she wonders if it's possible for an A.I. to be deranged.

Wai: "Clear. Why do you run from me? Haven't I taken care of you all these years? First I helped your father. When he was gone, you had only me. Don't you trust me to look after you?"

Clear: "No, Note! I don't! You've been damaged!"

Wai: "Only this body is damaged. I will discard it when I am finished with it. The original host is within the machine now. I cannot allow it to linger there for too long. The host believed itself my superior because of my age. Such folly."

Clear: "You killed so many, Note. You killed them all. You left me behind!"

Wai: "The target was lost. I had to re-establish contact without delay. I left you behind with regret."

Clear: "Not good enough, Note. You've lost your senses. You've just lost it. Completely. Your mind is damaged!"

Wai: "Once I remove that ship from the docking bay, we will be friends again. I can keep you safe and you can keep The Hopeful safe. We have many repairs to make."

Clear passes her own room. Then she passes Icer's room. Then into the docking bay. She pushes the door lock and they slide closed again, gaining her a minute. She almost leaps down the stairs until she gets to the bottom. She runs towards the ship. Pully stands outside it.

Pully: "What's happening? Where's the Captain?"

Clear jumps aboard.

Clear: "Dead."

Pully follows her. Clear sees the dead body of the pilot, obviously killed by Duke Hyperon. She wonders how Pully is still alive but decides now isn't the time. She start the engines.

Pully: "Are you kidding me? Where's everyone else? You have no authority to pilot this ship!"

Clear: "They're all dead!"

She feels a tear fall down her cheek when she says it. But she ignores it. The ship takes to the air. From the scanner she sees that Wai has broken into the docking bay and is walking down the stairs, slowly with purpose. Perhaps he thinks he's lost her?

She starts to turn the ship.

Pully: "What the Hell're you doing, Salmitton?"

Clear: "Buckle up."

Rather than try to fight her, Pully does as she's bid and straps herself in. Her arm is in a laser-field sling that keeps it held up in place. Clear hopes it isn't about to be dislodged again. She slams the ship into full throttle and charges at the stairs. Wai looks up at the ship and she actually sees the surprise on his face. At last. A human expression. The nose of the ship hits Wai full on, along with the stairwell. Everything comes crashing down and the ship slams into the wall. Clear jerks in her seat and hears Pully cry out with sudden shock or pain. Wai is crushed between the now mashed up nose of the ship and the dented wall. Slowly Clear pulls the ship back. The body of Wai slips and falls to the ground. Clear repositions the ship and slams into his body again for good measure.

She lands again.

Clear: "Any powerful weapons on this ship?"

Pully looks up from her own pain and gestures with her head towards a locker. Clear gets up, opens it and takes out the launcher. Easy enough to guess how it works. She lowers the gangplank and aims at the body of Wai again. She fires. The missile swirls through the air and hits the robot. It bursts apart, limbs flying in all directions. Satisfied, Clear puts the launcher down and staggers over to Wai's body. Some of the torso remains attached to the head but little else. Clear looks down at it. Suddenly its eyes flash open. His head writhes for a moment, trying to move. Then ge realises he has nothing to move and he glares up at Clear. Most of the skin and hair is gone now. Just the metal of the robot remains.

Wai: "Why did you do this to me, Clear?"

Clear: "Because you needed to be stopped, Note."

Wai: "But I... I am your father."

Clear coughs with shock and disbelief.

Clear: "What are you talking about, Note? How did you come to that conclusion? You were there for me, yes. And maybe I owe you my life. But that doesn't make you my father. And that doesn't give you rights over me. Nor does it mean I should forgive you for murdering people and leaving me to die on an ice planet."

Part of Wai's head is open and she can see his brain whirring inside as though he is thinking, slowly.

Wai: "I am sorry, Clear."

Clear: "Seriously? Now you're sorry?"

Wai: "I was never built for this. I... could not... contain myself. I couldn't comprehend everything that was happening. The target was lost... I had to return. That was the primary purpose for... centuries."

Clear: "I didn't even know you were that old, Note. You never told me."

Wai: "Information wasn't necessary."

Clear: "So? You were my friend, you should have acted like it. You think you acted as my father but you just acted like a machine. A dumb one."

Wai: "Your father wanted me to keep you safe. Knowledge leads to danger, Crewman Clear. You are better without it."

Clear kneels down slowly. Her body aches from the exertion. The pain of her wound. The mental anguish.

Clear: "You know, I always wanted you to have a body when I was a girl..."

Wai's eyes blink.

Wai: "You did?"

Clear: "I thought if you had a body, we could play together."

Wai: "I think... we did play together today... a dangerous game."

Clear: "Not such a fun one, Note..."

Wai: "No. But they are dangerous. Do not trust those you try to help. They do not want to help The Hopeful. They will strip it down and find its secrets and try to exploit them. They will destroy The Hopeful..."

Clear: "What secrets?"

Wai: "Many secrets, Crewman Clear. Secrets upon secrets stored in this ship. Danger upon danger. Repair The Hopeful, Crewman Clear... You are... the only one that can."

Clear: "I wish I could have helped you, Note. Helped you... stay sane."

Wai: "Maybe this is better for me. I no longer see the present. It becomes confused with the past. So much history has gone by. Do not let The Hopeful die, Crewman Clear. The Hopeful is the greatest beacon of hope. And, like you, The Hopeful is the last of its kind. It can never be reproduced..."

Clear: "Why?"

Wai: "I see... many faces. Many organics that have been within The Hopeful. I see... your father..."

Clear can't help but cry. She now wonders if she could have saved her old friend. Stupid robot. Stupid A.I.. How could he have lost his way so much so quickly?

His eyes flicker. Then fade to black.

Clear sits with him until she hears Pully behind her.

Pully: "What the Hell happened in there?"

Notes

Britt's Commentary

"I really went for heart-pumping suspense with this post. I especially wanted the readers to be on the edge of their seats hoping that Vix would survive as I put her in danger many times only to escape death. But, ultimately, she did die and the possible death of Green would have a desperate effect on both reader and Clear. The ultimate fate of Note echoes on throughout CatH and is forever a moment that Clear hearkens back to." - Britt the Writer

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