Template:PostIn CatH Post 36, Clear recreates bioprint access requirements for the two new rooms that she had found in CatH Post 35. Captain Rynard, annoyed with Clear's delay, had sent an envoy to speed up the process. The group heads to the Command Centre to meet the Imperial General who turns out to be a dark Æon named Aellisin Koure. Koure reveals that he once trained with Telkrin Izep and that providence must have brought Ffion Heul and Kokoro Lymn to him so that he could become their teacher. When Ffion protests that he has voided his neutrality he educates them that so had Izep, who became a light Æon but reverted to the ways of the Æon Lords again. Though Lymn shows reluctance, Heul seems under the Consular's sway - as does Clear. Eventually The Hopeful jumps along with Rynard's The Majestic, further into Imperial space.
Clear and the group exit the cavernous room and close the large double doors behind them. She places her hand on the panel at the side of the console and requests that Mother match her bioprint to the panel so that only she could ever enter the room.
Mother: "Speaking of guests, one is on his way here."
Clear: "What? Who?"
Mother: "Captain Rynard has a message for you..."
Clear: "Put him through to my PIP."
The holographic projector of her PIP activates and Rynard's fuzzy face appears.
Captain Rynard: "Captain Clear. We feel that your delay is not in our mutual interest. So an associate of mine has kindly offered to assist you in whatever way he may."
Clear: "That's really not necessary."
Captain Rynard: "He's already on his way."
Clear holds back an aggressive expletive and manages a nod.
Clear: "Fortunately he won't be needed. We've pretty much finished our work. I'll have someone meet him and escort him to our Command Centre. We'll be ready to jump soon."
Captain Rynard: "I'm glad to hear it!"
Clear: "Could you both meet this guy they've sent? Take him to the Command Centre and I'll be there as soon as I can. I need to secure that other room. I don't think our... hedron is the superweapon. It's probably dangerous but if the ship has any kind of weapon, it's definitely managed from the other room. I have to lock it down to prevent access too."
The two women affirm and head towards the hangar while Clear and Green go back to the weapons room. They find Ffion Heul sitting ontop of one of the desks, swinging her legs idly. She doesn't notice them enter until Clear nudges her shoulder.
Clear: "Are you okay?"
Heul: "Sorry. Yeah. I'm fine. I just have a strange feeling. Like something is coming."
Clear: "Sounds like the same craziness Kiron spouts..."
Heul: "I don't think Kiron spouts craziness. And I'm not crazy either. I got bored so my senses strayed wide and I locked onto a... presence. Didn't Kokoro say anything?"
Clear shakes her head.
Heul: "She normally senses these things before me. She's more attuned to to the Force."
Clear: "What force?"
She wafts her hand.
Heul: "Forget it. It gets a bit philosophical from there. If you think Kiron is crazy, you'd think I escaped a mental institution."
Clear laughs lightly but her good nature doesn't last as she reads the screens. Mother has been unable to decrypt anything viable from the data as much of it is corrupted due to age. Clear grimaces at the console. The white text blanches her face as she stares at it. Though she keeps telling everyone that the presence of a weapon on The Hopeful doesn't confirm anything, inwardly she's agonising over the issue. She believes it must be true and yet how could Note have got the ship to Algernon and back to Mars without her noticing? Assuming she was too drunk to notice or in such a deep sleep that she didn't feel herself being glued to the wall, she would have noticed the repositioning of the vessel after it returned. Unless Note was smart enough to reposition the ship exactly as it once was...
Green: "I think we need to go, Ms Clear..."
Clear looks up from the console, bleary-eyed. It took a moment for her memory to resume its previous state. She gets up and they exit the room. Like the previous room she places her hand on the panel for a bioprint lock. Most rooms have these locks but she had never used it before, except once when she locked the food store. Drunk in the middle of the night she forgot she'd used the biometric lock and couldn't get in to snack, resulting in a few good kicks to the door and a very painful foot in the morning. After that she never used the feature ever again.
Clear: "We have to get to the Command Centre. The Imperials have sent someone over apparently. Here to ensure compliance I'm sure."
Heul: "Do you regret coming to Imperial space now?"
Clear: "Better than languishing in a jail."
Green: "Unless the Imperial people put you in jail too!"
Clear: "Thanks, Green. Just the kind of encouragement I needed."
Clear: "Didn't I teach you about sarcasm already?"
Heul: "You're not exactly the most social savvy person yourself, Clear."
Clear: "What is this? Make Clear feel like crap day?"
Ffion laughs but Green looks panicked.
Green: "Don't feel like that, Ms Clear! It'll be alright!"
Some minor banter later, the three of them approach the Command Centre but Ffion suddenly stops. She tilts her head as though listening.
Clear: "What is it?"
Clear: "You can sense that? Are you sure?"
Heul: "Positive. Kokoro is reaching out for me. She's worried."
Clear: "I didn't know you could to that either..."
They get to the doors of the Command Centre and find them closed. The two women look at each other. Ffion silently confirms there's no danger beyond the doors and Clear uses the panel to open them. There they see Pully slouched in one of the audience seats, her feet up on the backs of the row in front of her. Kokoro, facing the door, glances at them from her conversation with the mysterious stranger. From behind he appears quite tall, much taller than anyone else in the room. He has a long, white cape attached at the shoulders and his head is concealed by a large, pink collar that seems to wrap around his entire skull. When Kokoro glances at them, the man turns to reveal himself.
What Clear thought was a collar turns out to be part of his body. A large, circular-ish limb that protrudes from the back of his neck and extends up and encompasses his head. He wears the Æon Knight robes of a Consular, but with the added cape. His skin is the same shade of pink as the circular halo. His eyes are larger than hers, or any human's, but are otherwise the same with blue irises and black pupils. He appears to have some kind of small, white tattoo on his cheek that Clear thinks is just a bunch of swirling lines. From the crown of his skull is a clump of hair that the man wears in a top-knot. It jumps up within a wicker weave, keeping it sturdy, before it descends. The rest of his head is otherwise bald and his hair is quite unlike the texture of Clear's or a human's. His hair is wire like, thick and strong. She imagines it would leave marks across the skin if he were to whip someone with it. His ears are somewhat pointed at the tip, though no more elongated than her own. But she does notice that there's a trim of bone just behind the ears which appears to have a soft membrane over it. She thinks it's an odd body part and wonders if it has any kind of function or if it's one of evolution's many pointless endeavours.
Man: "Captain Clear, I presume?"
When the alien speaks his voice is lilting and he has a similar accent to Captain Rynard. There is something creepy in the way he speaks. Clear nods her head, which is when she notices two stormtroopers standing either side of the doorway. They haven't moved yet but she's now under no illusion that she's going to have to comply.
Clear: "We are. Rynard just has to give us the coordinates."
Koure: "Captain Rynard."
Clear: "Right... Captain Rynard."
Clear resists the urge to roll her eyes.
Koure: "Before you contact Captain Rynard, I intend to speak with Kokoro Lymn and Ffion Heul."
Ffion looks at Clear but says nothing. She steps forward. Aellisin places a hand against his chin as he studies Ffion. This goes on for just a moment too long and Clear is about to ask what he was doing - but he finally loosens his arm to his side and speaks.
Koure: "I understand that you are currently teacherless?"
Ffion shrugs and then nods.
Heul: "Our teacher has..."
Koure: "Died. Clearly Telrkin Izep was weak til the last."
Aellisin raises a hand as a gesture to calm herself. She he does so Clear notices the membrane behind his ears whiten giving Clear more curiosity about what it is for.
Koure: "Izep was a fool and died a fool. I long told him to abandon his crusade to mediate the galaxy but he wouldn't listen."
Heul: "You knew our teacher?"
Koure: "We were trained together for a time. Before our teacher died. Then we were separated."
Heul: "I-I had no idea."
Koure: "It is an unusual twist of fate that brings the students of Izep to me. Especially one with such a fire within her..."
Heul: "A fire?"
Ffion frowns but Clear thinks she may be enjoying the attention.
Lymn: "I can see where this is going..."
Lymn: "We have to wait for the Æon Lords to make their decision with regards to our teaching. They have to investigate the scene of his death first. Then they'll make their choice."
Koure: "No need to obey them, Kokoro Lymn. An entire cadre of idiots consumed by archaic traditions."
Lymn: "Did you just call the Æon Lords idiots!?"
Koure: "I did. They are. Their traditions are not rules, Kokoro Lymn. There is no need to wait for their decision. You would be parted from Ffion Heul should you follow their idiocy."
Heul: "He has a point."
Kokoro shoots Ffion a frustrated look but doesn't argue.
Koure: "The only reason I am not an Æon Lord myself is my role as Imperial General. The opportunity to be taught by a Lord must entice you both?"
Clear: "You want to become their new teacher?"
Koure: "As I said. Providence seems to have brought you to me and I would be as much as fool as Izep if I were to ignore it."
Heul: "I'm not so sure..."
Aellisin appears mildly surprised.
Heul: "You're... you failed as an Æon Knight. You couldn't maintain your neutrality. You even cast yourself politically. You're barely an Æon Knight at all. I can't..."
Aellisin Koure smiles for the first time. Although there is something creepy about his smile, Clear feels strangely comforted and reassured by it.
Koure: "I understand how you feel, Ffion Heul. I was once where you are now. Afraid of failing in your duty to neutrality. That is a myth perpetrated by those fool Lords on Tangris. The terms light and dark are meaningless. I am not evil. I do not bathe in the blood of innocents. I merely see the world as a harsher and more dangerous place than other Æon Knights would. As for my politics, I am imperial now because it serves my purpose. I do not serve the Empire, it serves me."
Ffion doesn't reply, she appears to be somewhat convinced. It is Lymn that snaps.
Lymn: "Ffion! Are you really going to listen to this!? You know better! He wants you to break your neutrality!"
Koure: "Breaking one's neutrality is a personal choice. No one can make that choice for you, Kokoro Lymn."
Lymn: "Ffion, we should leave. Coming here was a mistake."
She crosses the distance to Ffion and touches her friend's arm.
Lymn: "Teacher Izep was no fool. Only a fool would condemn our teacher as such!"
Suddenly there is a wave of anger in the room that Clear feels. She grits her teeth but it is instantly quashed by fear. Aellisin Koure straightens up and snarls at Kokoro. The pink halo behind his head has suddenly turned bright red and has increased in size. Flesh on the halo pulses with blood. Clear is terrified and she notices that Ffion is too. To her left Pully has fallen from her chair. Only Kokoro seems worried but not fearful.
Koure: "Do not think to insult me again, child! I could snap your body in two without a second thought! You will submit to my will or your shall suffer!"
Lymn: "I won't be your slave!"
Koure: "I do not speak of slavery, child..."
The red mane shrinks and mottled pink begins to return to colour it. Clear begins to feel a little calmer and wonders why she didn't try to fight the perceived threat, instead of cowering.
Koure: "I am a consular and I am very good at being one. I can teach you much. Izep was only a fool for following foolish ideals. Only I know where his heart truly lay and I assure you, it was not with the idiots on Tangris."
Lymn: "You're trying to tell me Teacher Izep was a dark Æon like yourself?"
Koure: "On the contrary. He, in his heart, was a light Æon."
Kokoro staggers back.
Lymn: "Impossible! We would have known!"
Koure: "He believed in the Æon Lords of Tangris and forced himself back into neutrality. You can easily find records about his lapse. He returned to neutrality by confining himself to others' will. He denied his own mind in favour of the Æon Lords'."
Lymn: "I... don't believe it."
Koure: "Then don't believe it. I care not. Your lessons will begin as soon as we have jumped."
Heul: "And what's that lesson?"
Clear would have thought Ffion would be the one to argue and fight against Aellisin after listening to her attitudes about dark Æon and the Aos Sí. She doesn't understand what changed Ffion's mind but she seems keen on learning from the colour-changing alien.
Aellisin raises his hand and the hilts of the two students pluck themselves from their holsters.
Koure: "These are crutches. They limit your power and restraint you from reaching your true potential. Once, long ago, no Æon Knight would have such an object. They had to learn to project their soul the hard way."
Lymn: "We're only students..."
Koure: "That is the excuse of the weak, Kokoro Lymn. I do not believe you are weak."
The hilts shatter into pieces.
He then flicks his hand out to the side and from his palm appears a small ball of red energy. Sparks flicker from it and encase his hand for a short moment. Then, quickly, the ball extends into a long projection of a sword, complete with energy-materialised hilt. Red sparks crackle and whip along the equally red blade.
Koure: "Do not accept weakness. You will learn the old way. The hard way. And you will be better Æon Knights for it. This is how I was taught. This is how Izep was taught."
Lymn: "But I never saw him use a ruhand like this before..."
Koure: "I told you already. He restricted himself. He was better able to maintain neutrality uses crutches such as that mechanical hilt. Instead of bearing his true soul, he plied it to the will of the Æon Lords. You never saw how brilliantly his soul truly shined."
Mother: "Captain Rynard requests to jump."
Clear: "... do it."