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Template:PostIn CatH Post 34 Clear is watching the new A.I.s, installed in CatH Post 33, trying to clear the systems of bugs for the air filtration. Pully, who is also in the Command Centre, chastises Clear for setting the new A.I. to look like her mother, citing that it's unhealthy. She tells Clear of the death of her own parents, who were blown up when they visited Pully's training academy for a ceremony. The same attack left Pully needing her entire face surgically reconstructed. Instead of going with her original appearance, and being reminded of her parents through her appearance, she has her face completely altered to what it is now. They decide to get drunk together over their mutual losses. When Clear leaves her room later she finds Alexis Thrain with books and she announces that she's installed a new library because she loves reading old books. She also tells Clear that her Alliance card has been blocked. Later still Clear is in the Command Centre with Ffion Heul and is ready to follow the Æon Knights to Oeurwoud but when they jump they're met by a rebel fleet. Captain Ace Lander of Glytch Squadron is there with a friendly face and explains that Kiron Nightstrider, who left Clear's ship in CatH Post 32, has revealed his dream, using a dreamviewer, to Governor Oit on Dacato and the alliance wants to bring in The Hopeful to search for the possible superweapon that destroyed Algernon. Although Lander seems sincere, Clear refuses to be arrested and decides to run through Imperial space to get back to Tangris. Mother, however, from listening to their conversation believes that they wish to charge The Hopeful's primary weapon. Clear and Ffion are shocked and horrified, both believing the dream to be a farce and there to be no weapon, and Clear orders Mother to jump.

Post

Added a Library

Clear is typing into the console in the Command Centre. The air filters have all been repaired, at least the useful ones, and she could already tell the difference. Breathing seems easier and the air sweeter. Since Mother was installed, one of the lesser A.I.'s acting as a clean-up program for the computer systems reported that the entire ship's software was corrupted, unstable, unusable, infected and out-right messed up. Their first duty became clearing out the bugs and problems with the air filtration programs. The screen now shows that a defragmentation process for hard drives is in progress. She watches the percentage go by before she sighs.

Clear: "I can feel your eyes burning in the back of my skull..."

Pully"Do I really need to point out how much of a bad idea this is?"

Clear: "I know it was but it's done now. Too late."

Pully: "We can get it changed next planet stop."

Clear: "We'll see."

Pully: "Don't you think this is going to awkward for the rest of us? Talking to your mother?"

Clear: "It's just her face, Pully."

Pully: "I know how you feel, Clear. I really do. But this is a bit unhealthy..."

Clear: "I really don't think you know how I feel, Pully."

Pully is quiet for a moment and Clear realises she was being rude.

Clear: "I'm sorry--"

Pully: "No, you're right. I don't know how you feel. You never even met your mother. I only had to watch mine die..."

Clear winces. She's been very selfish.

Clear: "I'm sorry, Pully..."

Pully: "Long time ago now. I learnt to accept it. When I was still in training my parents came to visit the base. They were allowed to watch some stupid ceremony. I can't even remember what it was for. Getting high marks in a firing test or some rubbish. But anyway. Rebels attacked the base. It's a military base and killing a bunch of trainees would mean less professionals later on, right? Their Y-Wings dropped bombs after their X-Wings swept the area clear. One bomb hit us. My father was gone instantly. My mother survived long enough to be put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital. She died on the way. I... I survived after surgery."

Clear leaves the console and moves across the Command Centre to the audience seats. Pully is sat in the front row, leaning on the safety rail. Clear gets into a seat behind her.

Clear: "That's terrible. That's why you hate the rebels so much?"

Pully shrugs.

Pully: "I didn't even know I really hated them until I got stuck with them. That idiot princess... she might seem all nice and flowers now that she's stuck in that chair but once she was out with the rest of them, gun in hand. She's killed plenty of people. Maybe even attacked them with that weird old sword. And seeing Kiron switch sides so... easily. Instant acceptance."

Clear: "I don't think he ever really supported Strang, to be honest."

Pully: "Maybe... but I don't get it. You give your life to something and then just--"

She snaps her fingers.

Pully: "--throw it away."

Clear: "I think he was conflicted though. He gave his life to Algernon too. But I don't know. Maybe you're right. As for Aurora... it's what she believes in. You believed in Strang and his vision. She believes in... whatever rebels believe in."

Pully: "Yeah, I know. Just thinking out loud. But I know that living in the past isn't going to help you, Clear. This Mother thing you've created is... not going to help."

Clear: "Maybe. But I'm not like you. I never knew my mother. I just saw her face. This is the first time I've ever seen her face move. It's just... nice. I don't think she's my actual mother. It's like a memento. That's all."

Pully: "... I'm unconvinced. But I'll leave you alone about it for now."

Clear: "If it becomes a problem, I'll change it. Okay?"

Pully: "Okay."

Clear: "And I'm sorry about your parents. Thanks for telling me."

Pully: "It's okay I guess. Life's hard. After the bomb I was scarred. A lot. When they were trying to piece together my face... I told them to change it. I went with something so unlike my parents..."

She points at her own face.

Pully: "I didn't want to look like them. I didn't want to be reminded of them when I look into a mirror. Now I see a different woman. Sometimes I'm still surprised when I look into a mirror and see a stranger."

Clear: "I had been wondering..."

Pully: "Well now you know. It's better to forget it all."

Clear looks at Pully for a moment.

Clear: "Your new face suits you."

Pully laughs.

Pully: "How do you know? You never saw my old face!"

Clear: "I just know. This is who you are now. No one has seen your old face. So this is you."

Pully: "Except one. But thanks anyway."

Clear: "I guess you mean Alexis?"

Pully laughs again.

Pully: "I think you're driving her crazy calling her that. Even I call her Thrain."

Clear: "Actually I think she secretly likes it."

Pully: "Maybe you're better at the whole politics thing than I gave you credit for, Clear."

Clear: "Want to get drunk?"

Pully: "I've just voted you to be president."

----------

The next day Clear stumbles from her room when she hears the sounds of strange men outside her door. She'd managed to put her trousers on, fortunately, and comes face-to-face with workmen and a few droids. She watches them stroll by one-by-one. Then, at the rear, comes Thrain dragging a cart filled with books. Clear looks at Thrain then at the cart.

Clear: "What... are you doing?"

Thrain: "Taking these to the new library. They're just going to finish building the last of it now. I really wanted to make the window larger but your new A.I. refused to let me. Speaking of which, Clear, I have to tell you how much I disapprove of your choice for the A.I.'s physical appearance. It's not good for your men--"

Clear: "I know, I know. Hearing people's complain is doing my mental health more damage than Mother ever could."

Thrain: "And calling it Mother of all things--!"

Clear: "Was I drunk when I gave you permission to do this."

Thrain suddenly looks a little sheepish.

Thrain: "I didn't think I needed permission."

Clear grimaces.

Clear: "You're changing a section of my ship..."

Thrain: "I have to live here too, Clear! I was forced into this situation! It's only fair that I get a library!"

Clear: "I don't think you've ever done anything you didn't want to do. And relax it's fine for you to have a library. You should have told me though."

Thrain: "I didn't mean to buy it... it just kind of happened."

Clear: "What?"

Thrain: "I was there. I was just looking at books. And the next minute I had my card out and I was paying for the whole bloody package. It's like I had a time lapse!"

Clear: "Well... just... remember to ask next time. And Mother is probably right about that window. I'm surprised you chose one of the external rooms. It's a bit far."

Thrain: "I found a lift."

Clear: "And it works?"

Thrain: "It does now. So yes. And a nice window view of space is wonderful when sitting down with a good book."

Clear: "Windows are a structural weakness. Which is fine if you have shields... but we don't. Your library would be the first thing ejected into space if we get shot there..."

Thrain stammers before composing herself.

Thrain: "Then we should buy shields!!"

Clear snickers. She likes seeing Thrain on the back-foot for a change.

Clear: "Why are you even buying books anyway? I'm surprised this section of the galaxy even has them!"

Clear bends over to grab a book from the top. "Britt: The Legend by Nostradamus". Clear studies the pictures inside as Thrain replies.

Thrain: "Most books are in digital form these days. You can get fully enacted books now, and just watch them. But I am old-fashioned. There's something about the touch and smell of an old book that just..."

Thrain grins.

Clear: "Wow. I've never seen you grin like that before. Not even for your biology stuff."

Thrain: "Studying you is work, Clear. I mean... it is fun. But work fun--"

Clear gets that creepy feeling from Thrain again.

Thrain: "-- but reading is a passion. Reading is my true love. And here I have books from across the galaxy! That one you're holding is an original print from 1555 Earth! Can you believe it!?"

Clear: "Oh great. Work of the oppressors..."

She holds the book out to Thrain.

Thrain: "Oh right. Sorry."

Clearly Thrain isn't used to saying sorry, even for the most minor of unthinking offences. She takes the book and carefully returns it to the top of the pile.

Clear: "It's fine. I suppose they weren't invading Mars in 1555. I assume that's the Earth date, by the way? Martian dating systems were lost a while back so I only know the Earth ones used on Saffron Five."

Thrain: "Earth date, yes. Here we tend to use both the Earth dating method and the Imperial one."

Clear: "Why use the Earth method so far from Earth?"

Thrain: "Actually, I have no idea."

Clear rolls her eyes. Even so far from Earth she can't escape its influence. Clear looks at the cart.

Clear: "How many books do you have?"

Thrain: "I know there aren't many here--"

Clear: "That's not all of them!?"

Thrain: "Of course not! I already deposited the rest. I paid for everything with that Alliance card I was given. Including the room. Except for this small pile at the end. I had to use my own credits account."

Clear: "How come?"

Thrain: "My Alliance card stopped working."

Clear: "You used all of your money already!?"

Thrain: "No! It had money. It was blocked. I thought you could tell me why."

Clear frowns.

Clear: "No idea. I wonder if mine's blocked?"

Thrain: "See if your A.I. can buy something with it. See what happens."

Thrain continues on, pulling her cart of books with her.

Thrain: "See you later. By the way, your shirt is inside-out. Have I warned you about alcohol abuse yet?"

Clear groans and slips back into her room.

-----------

Heul"Are we ready to leave?"

Clear looks up from the console of the Command Centre.

Clear: "Sure. I got your message and prepped everything. Mother says we're good."

Heul: "Who?"

Clear: "New A.I. is called Mother. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done on the systems but we can begin jumping for now."

Heul: "Right. Weird name. The other Æon Knights are travelling ahead in their own ships. They'll have less obstacles to avoid than us, so they can make longer jumps. They'll get their in advance and we can provide some support if necessary."

Clear: "Fine by me. But why aren't you and Kokoro going in your own ships too?"

Ffion's face darkens.

Heul: "We're not Knights. We don't get to ride alone..."

Clear tries not to laugh. Just as Ffion is about to leave she stops and turns.

Heul: "By the way, our Alliance cards stopped working. Did our reward run out or something?"

Clear: "Mine too and Thrain's. According to Mother our cards have been blocked."

Heul: "Why would they block our cards?"

Mother's face appears on the screen.

Mother: "Jumping in five..."

Heul: "Bugger."

The two women line up against the wall, ready to be pinned. When the countdown is over the world elongates and processes the colours of faster than light travel. Then it ends and the two of them stagger away from the wall. Ffion drops to one knee.

Heul: "I'm never going to get used to that..."

Mother: "Incoming message."

Clear: "Weird..."

She moves to the circular platform and affirms the incoming message. A face appears on the large screen. His face is tanned and his hair quite dark but with a streak of blue at the front. Unlike the smart suit he wore last time they met, he now wears the orange jumpsuit of a starfighter pilot.

Ace Lander"Hello Clear! Nice to see you again!"

Clear: "Captain Lander! I'm glad to see you're okay! Kind of surprised to see you here though!"

She checks their coordinates on a second screen. 

Lander: "Well we came to meet you."

She realises that there's a small rebel fleet out there. Two larger vessels and dozens of starfighters. She begins to feel uncomfortable. First the declined cards and now this.

Clear: "What's going on, Captain?"

Lander: "You can call me Ace. Seriously there's nothing to worry about. It's all a bit daft really. Your old friend Kiron Nightstrider came back to Dacato and had a meeting with Governor Oit. Sure you remember him, he's hard to forget. Anyway. Kiron says something about his dream and in his dream he saw your ship, The Hopeful, blow up Algernon. He showed them the dream and it was authenticated as valid. I'm afraid it's evidence now. So they want to check over your ship for this doomsday weapon and verify if your ship was there at the time of destruction."

Clear: "All this over a dream?"

Lander: "A surprisingly accurate dream. He had the dream before the event occurred. The blast pattern in the dream corresponds with the current spread of asteroids. I know sometimes dreams are dreams. But sometimes, close to the flux, dreams are prophecies."

Clear: "Neither me nor my ship did this."

Lander: "I know you didn't do anything, Clear. And maybe it wasn't your ship either. Maybe it's one big metaphor after all. But we have to verify this."

Heul: "They'll arrest you, Clear."

Clear looks at Ffion.

Heul: "I'm not saying you'll be treated unfairly but they will arrest you. This guy might be your best friend and worship the shoes on your feet but Algernon is a sore subject for many in the Rebel Alliance. If they think they have a culprit, you may find yourself in the firing line."

Clear nods. She breathes deep.

Clear: "I cannot come with you, Ace."

Ace Lander winces his eyes. Despite his handsome youthful complexion he looks very tired. 

Lander: "I don't want to be a part of this, Clear. I thought you'd come in and get this sorted without a fuss."

Clear: "How can I agree to this? I'm a foreigner to this system. I didn't destroy your world. I'd never even heard of it until I saved its princess!"

Lander: "And I told you I believe you! I know!"

Clear: "Maybe you do, Ace. But I don't think everyone knows me as you do. I don't be punished or blamed or even accused of something I know nothing about in a world not my own. And certainly not over a dream!"

Lander: "But C--"

She cuts the communication.

Heul: "I hope you're ready to run?"

Clear: "Mother, turn us about."

The ship begins to turn from the path of the enemy fleet. On the screens she sees that some of the starfighters are beginning to approach.

Heul: "I believe that guy when he says he doesn't want this. They're planning to scare you into surrendering."

Clear: "Where do we go?"

Heul: "Our way to Ouerwoud is now blocked. We have to pass through Alliance space to get there. Dienhand lies the other way. All that's left is back to Tangris or... Imperial space."

Clear: "So back to Tangris?"

Heul: "It's our only ch-- it was our only choice. Now they've blocked it."

Clear checks the scans. Two more capital ships have jumped from hyperspace and stand between them and Tangris. Although three-dimensional, the only angles left to them and Tangris are now through Alliance space or through Imperial space.

Clear: "Imperial space it is. Perhaps we can get to Tangris from there."

Heul: "They may even grant you amnesty. Enemy of and enemy after all."

Clear: "Take us out of here, Mother."

Heul: "Shame this thing doesn't have a doomsday weapon. We could have blasted our way out!"

Clear: "Even if it did, I wouldn't use it. I suppose you and Kokoro are okay then?"

Heul: "With your death ray ship? I think so. I didn't believe it for even an instant."

Mother: "From your conversation should I deduce that you want to power the primary weapon?"

Clear and Ffion Heul stand in silence for a long moment, just staring at the console. 

Mother: "We are in position to jump. Do you wish to engage jump drives or power the primary weapon?"

Clear manages to speak through a cracked, dry throat.

Clear: "Jump."

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