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Template:PostIn CatH Post 30 The Hopeful Crew have boarded The Hopeful in the Twithran spacedock. Clear and Kiron have the unconscious Aurora in the medical bay with Thrain who must run scans to see what has been done to the princess in CatH Post 29. They leave the medical bay and go to the Command Centre where Kiron broadcasts a message to Sue'san Dienhand, goading her into pursuing The Hopeful and leaving the planet Dacato. It almost works - one ship stays behind to continue damaging the cities below. Kiron is convinced that The Hopeful can destroy The Excellence and takes Clear to view his dream in the Dreamviewer. In the dream she sees that Algernon was destroyed by a ship that is identical to The Hopeful - and yet she's certain the ship never left Mars. She dismisses the possibility that The Hopeful has such a superweapon and, instead, she jumps out of the system without engaging The Excellence.

Post

The Dream

Nightstrider"What's wrong with her!?"

Thrain: "Give me some time to run scans, imbecile!"

Clear"There's no time for this! Thrain, do what you can. Kiron, get out."

Despite having such a tiny crew for such a gigantic ship, suddenly The Hopeless seems very busy. Clear leaves the sickbay, where she and Kiron had pushed the unconscious Princess Aurora of Algernon. Thrain had arrived before they had and was waiting in the sickbay for them. Getting to the Twithran dock had been relatively easy. The capital ships didn't seem interested in the small vessels fleeing the planet, nor had they paid any attention to the docked ship. Evidently Kiron's hunch was probably correct - Sue'san Dienhand intends to vacate the world as soon as she has her prey. Deploying spacefighters would mean retrieving them afterwards, taking up time to flee should the rebel fleet make its sudden return.

Clear runs to the Command Centre.

Wai: "Engines are running and we're leaving Twithran now, Captain."

Clear: "Our state of repairs?"

Wai: "Largely superficial. The ship looks better but its internals are still incredibly vulnerable."

Clear: "Any chance they'll just let us run?"

Nightstrider: "It's a possibility, but I doubt it. One of those ships will be ordered to deal with us sooner or later. Which is what we want anyway, right?"

Clear: "I'm beginning to wonder..."

Nightstrider: "Chance to be a hero, Captain Clear."

Clear: "I really, really don't want to be one. I just want a quiet life of drinking and sleeping."

Ffion Heul runs into the room, somehow she had managed to get changed in the short space of time she's been aboard. She's now wearing her typical Æon apprentice outfit.

Heul: "Is there anything we can do?"

Clear: "Not unless you can blow up a spaceship with those magical powers of yours..."

Heul: "..."

Clear looks at her.

Clear: "You can't do that can you?"

Heul: "No."

Clear: "For a moment..."

Heul: "If you have a spacefighter, I might."

Clear: "Wow. Aside from that being amazing, sorry no starfighters."

Heul: "You should add one to your list of necessities."

Wai: "We're free of Twithran but a ship has broken away from the group and is starting to give chase."

Clear: "Can we outrun it?"

Wai: "Yes. But the remaining ships are still bombarding the planet."

Clear: "Wait until we have a clear departure avenue..."

They wait.

Wai: "We're in our avenue."

Clear: "Kiron. Are you ready for your close up?"

Kiron stands on the circular pad of the Command Centre and a message is initiated. They wait for The Excellence to respond to the request. Eventually the face of Dienhand herself appears on screen.

Dienhand: "So there you are, traitor. Running with your tail between your legs? I knew you for a coward. Murdering a defenceless man in cold-blood."

Nightstrider: "You should thank me, Dienhand! I guaranteed your promotion!"

Dienhand: "You dare mock me, traitor? I am not so easily riled."

Nightstrider: "Yet you bombard an entire world just for my sake?"

Dienhand: "A matter of honour. You will suffer, traitor..."

Strangely she doesn't sound angry, she speaks with what she believes to be cold facts.

Nightstrider: "Then you best hope you can catch me."

Dienhand: "You can't escape me now. I'll follow your trail..."

Nightstrider: "We'll see."

He shuts off the communications.

Clear: "I hope that was enough."

Wai: "I can confirm that all but one of the enemy ships have turned to give chase. One vessel remains behind to possibly do some lasting damage before leaving."

Clear: "Damn..."

Heul: "Better than before. This is a victory."

They stand in silence as they watch the ships manoeuvring.

Nightstrider: "There is a way to end this now..."

Clear: "How?"

Nightstrider: "Destroy The Excellence and Dienhand onboard."

Clear: "Ffion said she can't blow ships up."

Nightstrider: "You can."

Clear frowns and looks at Ffion. Ffion just shrugs, also thinking Kiron has lost his mind.

Clear: "Are you trying to say I have some super magic power? Because I really don't. What has Thrain been putting in that report about me?"

Nightstrider: "Your ship."

Clear: "The Hopeless has no weapons. You want me to ram The Excellence? I'm not a fan of suicide."

Nightstrider: "It does have a weapon. I've seen it. Wai, is that dreamviewer installed?"

Wai: "It is."

Nightstrider: "I'll show you. Maybe you'll know what to do then."

Clear: "This isn't really the time for a trip in your wacky machine."

Nightstrider: "Trust me."

She follows him after giving Ffion a desperate look. Ffion turns back to the screen with Wai. Kiron leads Clear down several corridors at a jog until they finally come to a room with open doors. They enter and find that the room has been completely decked out with screens, padded flooring and the dreamviewer itself at the centre of the room. Even the walls have been tiled with black to help the viewer focus. Kiron asks Clear to sit and he inserts the chip. She watches him swipe through the menus until he accesses his cloud server. Then he downloads the file marked "The End". That makes her feel uncomfortable but she doesn't remark. She waits for the file to load. She doesn't know why she has to lie down for this, as the screens outside of the seat would display the same image. She guesses he wants her complete attention.

The screen finally lights up.

There she sees a planet. It's green in colour but she's sure most of the green is liquid. White clouds sail through its atmosphere.

Nightstrider: "That's Algernon."

The mysterious planet at last. She has heard so much about the world it's almost underwhelming to see it for real. She'd half expected it to be glowing bright white with gods flying around it like a halo. Instead she finds a relatively simple planet and not even especially iconic in appearance. 

Then something looms. A shadow appears at the edge of the planet. As the planet turns, so does the ship. The ship has several prongs extending from its base structure, like petals of a flower. Light charges along each prong with a unique colour. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Once the lights reach the tips of each respective prong, they suddenly lash out into a focal point at the front of the ship where they converge into a single beam of white light. That white light blasts down at the planet. It pierces the clouds like a weight dipping through milk. First flame spreads across the world, followed by it breaking apart. It snaps up into huge chunks of rock. It's almost sickening and Clear flinches at watching a world of people suddenly die. She can understand why Kiron and Aurora feel so strongly for their people. She wonders how would feel if she ever saw a video of her own people dying at the hands of humans

The ship, its job done, slowly turns. As Clear watches it she thinks it somehow looks familiar in shape but the prongs were disguising that fact. The prongs then closed, like a flower at night, tucking into the frame. With them down the shape becomes a little more familiar. The prongs fasten into opening of the ship, hidden completely from view. Clear jumps out of the machine.

Clear: "What kind of stunt are you trying to pull!?"

Nightstrider: "Why would I do that?"

Clear: "That... it isn't mine..."

Nightstrider: "You saw it yourself."

Clear: "It isn't possible! The Hopeful has never left Mars!"

Nightstrider: "It must! It was there! It destroyed my world!"

Clear: "You think I wouldn't notice my home vanish? Make a quick stop to blow up a few planets!? You said it yourself, Kiron - that was a dream. It wasn't reality!"

Nightstrider: "You're right. But look at it, Clear. It is The Hopeful. How could I dream of this ship before I'd ever seen it?"

Clear: "It never left Mars, Kiron..."

Nightstrider: "Fine. Believe what you like. But I just saw this ship blow up a planet. This ship is armed. You can help destroy The Excellence here and now with that weapon."

Clear: "There are no weapons! This bucket hasn't been able to fire a pellet in all the time I've lived here. Hell it barely keeps the lights on! Powering something as crazy as that is just-- it's impossible! If they even exist, they're unusable."

Nightstrider: "Are you absolutely certain, Clear? You said your A.I. was lying to you for many years about the hyperdrive, right? Could it have lied about anything else?"

Clear hesitates.

Nightstrider: "It could have stored power elsewhere and you never even knew that power reserve was there? There was always just enough power to keep you alive, right? Always just enough repairs done to keep the ship functioning. Could that be your A.I.'s method of controlling you? Keeping you onboard, doing pointless tasks."

Clear: "Can't be... I'd have... noticed. And Wai. Wai would have noticed."

Nightstrider: "What if Wai doesn't know where to look?"

Then Wai's voice came over the comms.

Wai: "We're in position to jump. We're still being pursued."

Nightstrider: "It's possible, right?"

Clear looks at Kiron. If he's right then it's possible that The Hopeless really did make a jump and wipe about the planet of Algernon and Clear was where? Scavenging on Mars? Sleeping? ... Drunk? She grits her teeth before replying to Wai.

Clear: "Wai, can you do a system scan before we jump?"

Wai: "I already cleared our integrity for jump."

Clear: "I mean... can you scan for hidden stores of power on the ship?"

Wai: "Uh... that's a weird idea. I hate to tell you this but hidden presumably means hard to find. It could take a while if such a thing exists..."

Nightstrider: "If it exists, you can finish off Dienhand right this instant. You'll be the hero of the Alliance. And this ship... it will be a symbol of hope like it's namesake... instead of a symbol of death I know it can commit."

Clear stares at him. She thinks and thinks. She doesn't truly know what to do. She doubts Kiron, but she also doubts herself. And she certainly doubts Note, the old A.I..

Clear: "Wai..."

Wai: "Yes?"

Clear: "Make the jump."

Nightstrider: "But Clear--!"

Clear: "I won't risk my life on your dream, Kiron."

She leaves the room.

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