Template:PostIn CatH Post 23 The Hopeful arrives at Oeurwoud where Aurora expects to find a Rebel base. When they don't respond they decide they'll have to travel down to the planet aboard the Bug. Clear and Kokoro go to find Pully and Kokoro talks about the Æon Knights, explaining that she is in training to become a consular while Ffion Heul intends to be a Guardian and their teacher, Telkrin Izep, is a Sentinel. She shows her hilted ruhand to Clear and demonstrates how she channels her soul. They find Pull drunk but she agrees to go anyway. Wai had also discovered a Synthetics Laboratory which he uses to make clothing for Clear and Aurora, who would suffer in the humidity of Oeurwoud. Clear pilots the Bug with Kiron criticising her piloting skills. When he sees The Hopeful from the outside he become disturbed.
Knights of the Soul
Half a day later, and several jumps have gone by. Wai, acting as the ship's A.I. (albeit externally), was able to navigate space as though he'd been attached to the ship for as many years as Note had been. He informed Clear that the jump drive was operating above its maximum potential due to the power source she had installed. Yet he also said that the drives were deteriorating faster than they ought; the technicians hadn't finished their repairs. Cleared got permission from Princess Aurora Briarose to have repairs done by the Rebel Alliance technicians when they arrived.
The princess was given the largest room that Kiron Nightsrider could find. He then occupied the room next to her. Clear got the impression that the princess was not entirely comfortable with Kiron's constant and oppressive attention, but the woman couldn't exactly refuse him after all he'd done on her behalf. Kiron did little beyond push the princess' chair around. Only when Thrain unlocked the chair's functionality was the princess able to move the hovering seat around by herself, yet Kiron insisted on joining her almost everywhere she went.
Ffion Heul and Kokoro Lymn spent their time together in a seeming love-hate relationship. They often argued over the smallest of details and yet they couldn't be parted for very long. They, above everyone, were most curious about the ship and were keen to explore various sections. Their mentor, Telkrin Izep, spent time in the Command Centre, usually in meditation. Clear had never seen anyone spend so much time in complete silence and while she admired the man, she was also creeped out by him. He told her his species was called Alomé and they lived in the Outer Rim, close to the void between the Milky Way Galaxy and those galaxies beyond. They had no allegiance to either the rebels or the imperials or anyone else. He was merely involved because of his role as an Æon Knight.
Cassra Terrin-Pullista, commonly known as Pully, kept to herself since they got back to The Hopeless. She avoided Kiron and the princess, leaving rooms when they entered, and usually only put up with Clear for ten minutes before sulking away. Clear didn't want to press and allowed the woman her space for the time being.
Alexis Thrain finally got Green out of the bacta tank. Green was laid out on a bed and kept there for observation. Scans indicated that her bones were mended and were no longer causing internal damage. However Thrain was worried that the bones may not be strong enough to hold together. Strict bed rest was the current fix and a lot of training in the medbay with all of the new equipment there. Most of the room had been finished by the technicians, with just some lights hanging limply from the ceiling and the equipment not lined up where it should be. Otherwise the medbay was well stocked with medical supplies that Clear would have sold her soul for back on Mars. There was rehab equipment for Green to use, training her body and testing the limit of her bones. However there was still just one bacta tank, the rest had not yet been installed. The most worrisome problem that Thrain brought up was the limited supply of bacta available to them. While there would be plenty of bacta for simple injuries, lasting years, to fill the whole tank with bacta would use a lot of the medicine and supplies would then be drained within weeks. Thrain advised that nobody lose a limb or get internal haemorrhaging, as though it were a choice. Green was happy to be out, even if she was largely cooped up in the medbay for now; it was more space than she'd had for the last few days.
Wai: "We're approaching the planet Oeurwoud."
Clear heads to the Command Centre after bidding Green a wave goodbye. When she arrives she finds everyone else save Pully, Thrain and Green are present. She is a little surprised that Pully opted out but Clear continues to respect the woman's need for personal time. Then Clear sees Wai and recoils.
Telkrin: "I thought you were familiar with the robot?"
Clear: "I am! But... how did you get your skin back!?"
Wai, who had been burnt to a crisp not so long ago, is now looking as healthy and human-like as ever before. His skin, his hair and even his clothes are resting prettily on his metal frame.
Wai: "I used your synthetics laboratory."
Clear: "We... have one of those?"
Wai: "You do. In fact I also spent some time synthesising some hamburgers. After the first hundred or so the machines ran out of the last of the synthesising materials. Oh well. They'd probably been in there for a hundred years or more anyway. Best not eat those burgers come to think of it."
Clear: "And how does the skin feel?"
Wai: "Fits very comfortably. My metal structure attracts the skin so it was easy enough to replicate and not worry about exact mesaurements. My frame also keeps my skin and hair in good health. The hardest part to synthesise were the clothes, but I got there in the end. They smell a bit... synthesisey... but there you go. Like microwave food."
Clear: "I have no idea what a microwave is but it sounds like a doomsday weapon. But in any case, how's the situation out there?"
The screens changed and displayed the planet below them. It is a blue planet, though the oceans give a lot of room to the green land masses. One huge desert streaks across the planet's equator, but the rest is completely green.
Wai: "I do not detect any signs of civilisation. Plenty of lifeforms, but nothing resembling cities or the like."
Princess Aurora: "They're underground. Let me send out a message to the planet and they'll pick it up."
She activates the comms unit in her chair, leans over and speaks into it.
Princess Aurora: "This is Princess Aurora Briarose. I have escaped captivity from Warlord Strang and I'm seeking sanctuary for myself and my allies. Please respond. The passcode is 'tangy lemon juice'."
Clear: "That... was an unimpressive password."
Princess Aurora: "Can you imagine an imperial coming up with a passcode like that?"
Clear shrugs. People kept acting like she ought to know the intimacies of all these factions, and yet she had only met them a few weeks ago.
Wai: "There seems to be no response from the planet."
The princess tries again.
Kokoro Lymn: "Could your passcode be outdated?"
Princess Aurora: "They would still at least respond to me, even if it's an old passcode..."
Ffion Heul: "Maybe they were just glad to be rid of you?"
Princess Aurora: "What!? Watch who you're talking to!"
Ffion Heul: "Wow, you're a narky one, aren't you?"
Princess Aurora attempts to compose herself.
Princess Aurora: "Not at all. But I do dislike being so hatefully insulted. You ought to watch your manners."
Kokoro: "You should watch your manners, Ffion."
Ffion: "I'll watch your face, in a minute - with my fist!"
Kokoro just laughs, evidently considering Ffion well put down by the princess.
Clear: "Are you sure this is the right planet?"
Princess Aurora: "Of course it is! Sorry. Yes. Yes it is the correct planet. I'm getting very worried."
Kiron: "I suppose we should go down there and check the area. Could be that they're suspicious of our message. You've been missing for some time, your Highness."
Princess Aurora: "Maybe..."
Clear: "Or it could be a trap. I'm not sure I want to go down there."
Telkrin: "It couldn't hurt to take a look. If they're there, we can explain the situation and you'll get your reward and we Æon will have completed our duty."
Clear: "Not sure the reward is worth risking my life over..."
Princess Aurora: "It will be."
Clear: "I like the certainty in your voice."
Princess Aurora: "You'll help to escort me to the planet then?"
Clear: "Alright. Let's do some investigating. Wai, you should stay on the ship, okay?"
Wai: "I can do that for you. I do hate fighting. Just thinking of all that tension makes the hair on my neck stand up."
Kokoro: "Why does that not strike me with confidence?"
Clear: "Get suited up, or whatever you have to do, and meet me there. I need to find Pully."
Kiron glances at her when she mentions Pully's name. He seems like he may object but doesn't.
Telkrin: "Ffion, go and prepare the shuttle. This Bug. Koko, accompany the Captain to find her erstwhile friend. Two pairs of eyes are better than one."
Clear: "I'm sure she's in her room, but you're welcome to join me if you want."
Ffion walks to the exit but pokes Kokoro before she leaves.
Ffion: "Don't get looooost!"
Kokoro: "Try not to destroy the shuttle."
Princess Aurora: "I'll go and change. The planet is quite humid. If you you have water proof, but breathable clothes, we should wear them..."
Clear: "No we don't..."
Wai: "We could have used the synthesiser! Except I made all those hamburgers..."
Telkrin: "What does materials does the synthesiser require?"
Wai: "Plant matter mostly."
Telkrin: "Couldn't it use those hamburgers you created?"
Wai: "But... I spent a long time making tho--"
Wai: "Alright. Yes I could use them. There won't be enough to make everyone some clothes. And they'll smell a bit... beefy..."
Clear: "Give it a try."
After finalising the arrangements, Clear and Kokoro leave in search of Pully.
Kokoro: "How long have you known Pully, can I ask?"
Clear: "Not very long..."
Kokoro: "You seem to have a strong attachment to her."
Clear: "I know I can trust her. And she's helped me a lot. What about you and Ffion?"
Kokoro: "We have known each other for many years."
Clear: "Seems like it."
Kokoro: "I know we argue a lot but... as you say, I know I can trust her. We were partnered up when I was fourteen. Ffion was thirteen. Teacher Izep has prepared us ever since then."
Clear: "Like a father?"
Kokoro: "I don't imagine so. More like... well, a teacher. We were set tasks every day and expected to complete those tasks as best we could. It was all about learning. There's no... familial connection. But I do respect the man and love him as my mentor. But I know who my true family is and I love them as my family."
Clear feels a little saddened for a moment. She has no idea how she could distinguish such feelings between mentor and family since her own father died when she was young and she never knew anyone else in that role. Except maybe Note.
Kokoro: "Ffion though... perhaps does feel like family. Like a sister. Which is probably why we argue so much. We're very different. But we overcame all those tasks together so..."
Clear: "That sounds nice."
Kokoro: "Sometimes it can be. Sometimes."
Clear: "And you're both... Æon Knights, right? What does that mean?"
Kokoro: "I'm surprised you haven't come across any before! I'm not really an Æon Knight. Not yet anyway. I am an Æon, at least. We... well we're usually asked to serve the galaxy in whatever way possible. Could politics, as you saw. Could be protection. Investigation. Escort. Generally we're expected to face danger and defend those unable to do so themselves. Honour, respect, chivalry. It's all part of our creed."
Clear: "Sounds like hard work..."
Kokoro: "Perhaps. But what would be the point to life if I wasted it? We only live once, Ms Clear. And then we're stardust. I'd rather spend my life saving the galaxy, little by little. Sorry if that sounds preachy..."
Clear: "It does a little. But it's good."
Kokoro: "And how did you become Captain of such an incredible ship?"
Clear: "Can't say I've ever thought of this hunk of junk as incredible. But it is my home. I've always lived here. Mostly alone. The A.I. then went crazy and shot us across the galaxy. Accidentally ended up with Strang and got pressed into his service in exchange for repairs and getting shut of that crazy A.I.."
Kokoro: "A ship as a home. Such a strange idea to me. I don't mean in a negative way. Just unusual. I don't think we spend much time on ships. We tend to go from planet to planet. I think Teacher Izep hates space travel. Makes him uncomfortable without a sky above his head. Ffion seems to like it here though."
Clear: "And you?"
Kokoro: "I think I'd also prefer being on a planet. Having rock underfoot somehow feels safer than a thin strip of metal and then void."
Clear: "I can't argue with you there. The Hopeless is especially thin-skinned too!"
Kokoro: "Hopeless? I thought it was Hopeful?"
Clear: "Sorry. A bad habit. It's my own pet name for the ship. She's a relic and a complete wreck. This has been the most excitement she's had ever since there was an invasion of tribbles[Ext 1] onboard."
Clear: "You really don't want to know. Here we are."
She knocks at the door to Pully's room. No answer. She knocks again.
Pully: "Who's there?"
Clear: "It's me. We're going down to a planet and into a possible trap. Wanted you to come with me..."
The door slides open. Pully is well drunk. Her hair is a mess and she wears her formal jacket wide open. Yet she's taken off her trousers and is parading around in her knickers, despite the jacket still on her shoulders. She leans against the door frame.
Pully: "Give me twenty minutes to get ready, okay?"
Clear knows she should see her own reflection and feel ashamed of herself. But she doesn't. She just feels envy that she isn't the one wasted.
Clear: "You sure you're going to be up for it?"
Kokoro: "I think maybe you need to sleep off your condition..."
Pully: "Who asked you?"
Clear: "She's just being nice, Pully. I want you to come but I don't want you stumbling all over the place either."
Pully: "I've got some pills. They'll sober me up enough to be useful, Sir."
She makes a quick, half-hearted salute.
Clear: "See you in the hangar."
Kokoro and Clear walk away and hear the door slide shut.
Kokoro: "Will she really be okay?"
Clear: "I think so. We're only going to take a look. If I spy trouble, we're out of there."
Kokoro: "Alcohol is not something we partake in. Dulling the senses dulls our connection to our soul."
Clear: "Uh... is that some kind of religious stuff?"
Kokoro: "Not really, no. Though I think there are similarities between what we do and religious practice. Æon are able to channel their soul externally. Even creating physical manifestations."
Clear: "Whoa!? Seriously? Is that what your glowing sword is?"
Kokoro removes the hilt from its holster. She closes her eyes and then instantly, with the exertion of will, the blade of the sword appears. The light shines white and there appears to be swirling energy around the shaft.
Clear: "I've seen that thing slice through stormtrooper armour..."
Kokoro: "It's a very potent weapon. This hilt is a device that allows us to force the physical projection through and create a sword-shape. It's the signature weapon of any Æon Knight. But if you really wanted to see something special with it, you'd be better asking Ffion. My expertise is not in combat."
Kokoro: "I'm more adept at using my soul in more... existential ways. Manipulating the reality that surrounds us. I'm particularly good at healing. I can use my own soul to bind others' physically. My soul communicates with that of the wounded person and is guided in the healing effort by the host's own soul. Their soul knows their body better than I do. I'm still in training but Teach Izep tells me I'm very talented."
Clear: "Shame you weren't around a while go. You could have saved Green a dip in the bacta tank."
Kokoro: "I don't know that my skill is that good. But maybe I could have sped up her healing process. I did offer to look at her but the doctor refused to let me see your friend."
Clear: "Doesn't surprise me. Alexis is very controlling of the medbay. But is that why you wear a different colour than Ffion?"
Kokoro: "Oh right! Yes it is. Sorry I should have said. It's strange explaining this stuff to you because most people I meet already know this. And these small beads in my braided hair signify that I'm still a student."
She indicates the beads in her hair. Clear remembers that Ffion also has them.
Clear: "And Telkrin's large beads means he's the master?"
Kokoro: "We prefer the term 'teacher' but yes. His colour denotes that he's a balance of the two aspects of being an Æon. I shall be considered a Consular when I complete my training. Ffion will be a Guardian. Our teacher is Sentinal. These are the three terms used to explain our expertise, though this is a very loose system and we often sway here and there. Mostly it allows us to focus our training down a specific path so that we can become experts in at least one field. But we don't always stick to that path after we have become knights. It really depends on our experiences from then on. Sorry, I must be boring you."
Clear: "No! It's really interesting! Like nothing I've ever heard of before. It's good to hear it. I feel like I know you better. I don't take enough time to get to know people usually, to be honest..."
Kokoro: "I could tell. You don't stop in one place for very long. I'm glad I got to talk with you. You remind me of Ffion in some ways. Less annoying though, which is good."
She chuckles and Clear can't help but smile too.
Kokoro: "Your friend, though... you should be careful of Pully. I don't know her, I don't know what she did for you but she is not as she seems. I assume you are not familiar with the biological technology she'd used, but you can tell from her appearance that she's had a lot of physical changes made to her genetic structure. She hasn't always looked the way she does now. In my experience, people only do that if they dislike themselves or they're trying to escape something. I do hope it's the first. Then you just have to deal with self-esteem. If she's running from something... I'm sure it will catch up to her eventually..."
Clear: "I... didn't know."
Kokoro: "I'm sorry. It's not my business."
Clear: "No... thanks. I appreciate you telling me. I'll just ask her when there's time. Maybe she just wanted a change."
Kokoro: "Maybe! I think this is the door to the hangar, right?"
Clear: "That's right."
They enter the hangar and go to the Bug.
Some time later they are all in the Bug. Pully arrived wearing her stormtrooper armour and Kiron Nightstrider likewise wore his elite guard armour. The Æon knights continued to wear their own robes too. That left Clear and princess Aurora to try on Wai's hamburger clothes. The clothes are light green, apparently to blend in with the plants they're going to be surrounded by, and feel like cotton. They are given simple white vests and over that is worn the green, loose shirt. They have to wear full-length trousers, despite the heat, because of the sun and the insects. They're given thick walking boots, though Clear figures this is pointless for the princess. Despite Wai thinking they'd smell like hamburgers, Clear finds the clothing odourless. She helps Aurora to tie her long purple hair back.
Shortly thereafter, Clear is in the cockpit. Kiron and Ffion argued briefly over who would be her co-pilot as both claimed they had skill in the role. Eventually Telkrin asked Ffion to give way and Kiron joins Clear. Clear is secretly happy with this because she feels the princess could use some time apart from her stalwart protector. Clear flies the Bug out of the hangar. She notices that the shuttle seems lighter and more responsive than usual. She mentally thanks the technicians.
Kiron: "You should have used the inertia dampener before--"
He silences himself when Clear glares at him.
Kiron: "Just a thought..."
Clear: "I learnt to fly this thing myself. I don't need you coming in here trying to teach me how to do something I've been doing since I was eight."
Kiron: "Sorry. But maybe you'd be even better if you had a few lessons-- okay I'll be quiet."
They sit in silence for a few minutes before Kiron speaks again.
Kiron: "Can you show me your ship? I haven't seen it from the outside. I heard Strang talk about it as though it were the most beautiful ship he'd ever laid eyes on."
Clear: "I have no idea why he'd think that. The Hopeless is damn ugly."
Kiron: "Can't be any worse than the cheese wedges..."
Clear laughs and switches the view screen to show The Hopeless. The massive construct looms in the view like a colossal pipe, slowly rotating as it orbits the planet. Kiron gasps.
Kiron: "It can't be!!"
Clear: "Okay, it's ugly but not that ugly!"
Kiron: "No, I mean--!"
He looks at her suddenly with a dark expression and intent. Clear gets defensive, worried he might attack her. But he doesn't. He turns away and stares at The Hopeless.
Kiron: "Where did you say the ship is from?"
Kiron: "And you said it only began jumping recently? Not... months ago? Years ago?"
Clear: "Never. I didn't even know the jump drives were in working order. Why? What's the problem?"
Kiron: "It... it doesn't matter."
And thus he falls silent again, this time in deep thought. Clear watches him with concern but then tries to focus on her current task at hand.