Template:PostCatH Post 44 opens with Clear, Kokoro Lymn and Ffion Heul all in the medbay of The Hopeful. Lymn is rendered unconscious because of the extreme pain, but Alexis Thrain is certain that Lym's muovinian genetics will save her life. Heul has mentally blocked out the world because of her own actions and self-loathing. Sootik Kassuin arrives and The Hopeful jumps in pursuit of his missing student, Jeb. They arrive in Imperial space and Captain Rynard demands that they stay out of the situation when Clear realises that he is trying to capture Jeb's ship. Kassuin reveals that Jeb has kidnapped Princess Aurora Briarose and that Jeb must be one of the Latter-Day Greys of Memnoch. Clear realises that Rynard, and President S. Polk, are after Aurora for the power she could command on Earth. TIE fighters are trying to herd Jeb into The Majestic's tractor range and Clear decides to stop them. She uses The Bug's tractor-shears to cut the beam when it eventually happens - protected by Kassuin in his Æon Ship and Heul in Nach. When Heul comes into danger Jeb refuses to help her and flees the system. Once back on The Hopeful, they jump after him and find themselves in Rebel space. Clear asks Pully to tell Ace Lander the truth and for Mother to prepare to jump after Jeb again.
Clear stares up at the now familiar tiled ceiling of the medbay. How many times has she had to come here? Too many. She turns her head to the right and sees Kokoro lying on the only other medical bed, the muovinian's eyes closed as she sleeps through the pain of her ordeal. Thrain assured Clear that Kokoro would be just fine. A quick bit of research revealed that muovinians are made of a strange plastic-like substance that oozes throughout their bodies and coagulates when exposed to the air. Thanks to Kassuin's efforts, most of the 'bleeding' was stopped and the plastic-ooze is solidifying around the wound even now. Thrain had already sewn up the hole and Kokoro's body is doing the rest. Painful though and so Thrain put the young knight into a chemically induced coma.
Clear turns her head to the left. There are only two beds in the medbay, something Clear now recognises as a major flaw. On the floor is a makeshift mattress made from cloth produced in the synthesiser room. Ffion Heul lies there with her back to Clear. Clear knows she's not sleeping. When Ffion first woke up she wailed and lamented her actions, both those under Aellisin Koure's control and those of her own, albeit muddled, mind. Then she shut down, rolled over and didn't speak. She barely responded to Thrain's attempts to help her fix the gash in her skull. An injection of pain-killer later and Ffion stopped responding altogether. Clear wants to throw something at the stupid woman.
It doesn't seem fair to Clear that Ffion gets to lament and feel sorry for herself after almost killing both Clear and Kokoro. Ffion should be at Clear's bed, helping Thrain, not curling up and blocking everything out. She has making up to do and shutting herself off isn't helping. Clear doesn't even know if she can actually forgive Ffion. Before the incident they were great friends but having your friend prepared to kill you, even in such a breaking point of the psyche, is an experience Clear doesn't think she can ever forget.
The doors to the medbay slide open and Kassuin enters. His eyes scan all three prone women before settling on Clear, the only one still conscious.
Kassuin: "How do you fare?"
Clear: "I'm fine. Alexis--"
Clear: "--tells me you did most of the work. I'm on pain-killers now. I can't feel anything below the waist."
Clear: "Mother says she's ready to jump. But the jump drives are stupid and old. These beds have their own little gravity wells in them to keep me and Kokoro pinned to the beds during the jump, but Ffion needs to be held up to the wall. Could you... help?"
Kassuin doesn't reply verbally. He marches over to Ffion and hoists her with his telekinesis. He hovers her over to the wall. She lies flat against the white metal wall and stares off vacantly into the middle distance. Kassuin positions himself against the wall.
Kassuin: "Whenever you are ready."
Alexis Thrain, likewise, stands close to the wall.
Clear: "Mother. Jump."
The world around them blurs to blue, then to redshift. The red colour creates a beautiful pink effects over Kassuin's skin that is strangely mesmerising. Ffion seems not to even notice that she's hurtling through space at impossible speeds, whizzing faster than light across the Perseus Arm. Then they slow down and Kassuin falls from the wall one knee. Just before Ffion topples to smack against the hard floor he thrust his arm in her direction and props her up with the power of his soul. The power of the Force, as Ffion often called it.
Mother: "We have arrived. We are being hailed."
Clear: "By whom?"
Clear: "Pully. Can you deal with the comm?"
Pully: "Sure thing. I'm in the Command Centre now."
Clear: "Mother, relay the video comm to the medbay screens."
The screens of the medbay instantly shine on and are split in two halves. One half shows Pully. She seems unharmed, despite the aggressive action Clear had to use on her earlier. The second screen then flickers to life and the beared face of Captain Rynard appears. Clear glances at a second screen which displays the action and information going on outside The Hopeless. Usually everything could be displayed on the gigantic single screen of the Command Centre, but the smaller screens of the medbay, usually reserved for medical read-outs, can only accommodate so much information each. She notes that The Majestic is not the only ship out there.
Captain Rynard: "You are warned to vacant Imperial space immediately."
Pully: "Why's that?"
Captain Rynard: "You have already allied yourself with the, now, traitor Aellisin Koure and you are violating a military engagement."
Kassuin: "I have just received a communication from Tangris, Captain Clear."
Clear: "What is it?"
Kassuin: "My student, Jeb... he has kidnapped your friend, the princess."
She stares at the monitor showing the outward events. She sees The Majestic slowly approaching Jeb's Æon ship but a squadron of smaller starfighters are attempting to herd the ship back towards the Majestic. Their firing patterns are clearly non-lethal and their attack pattern places their own fighters directly in the flight path of the Æon craft.
Kassuin: "He intends to capture Jeb. Why?"
Clear: "Ask him why he's trying to capture the Æon ship, Pully."
Captain Rynard: "I can see this conversation isn't going to go anywhere. If you try to interfere you will be fired upon."
Rynard's screen goes blank.
Pully: "Sensible man."
Clear: "Stop admiring him."
Clear thinks back to Mirare and the words of Lumo, the old grey. Evidently Captain Rynard and Present S. Polk are well aware of Princess Aurora's lineage and hidden ability to control the magical beings of Earth.
Kassuin: "Once that tractor is on Jeb, he's captured an there's nothing we can do about it."
Clear: "Actually there is something I can do about that. But I need to get to the Bug."
Thrain: "You can't walk, let alone pilot a ship."
Clear: "I don't need my legs to pilot the Bug. I just need to get down there."
The doctor sighs.
Thrain: "Nobody listens to me. When you come back here complaining that your joints haven't set properly, expect me to bask in the 'I told you so' line. There's a hover chair at the back of the room, the one first used by Princess Briarose before she got her own chair on Dacato."
Alexis comes back pushing the hover chair. With the help of Kassuin Clear is soon in the chair. She hovers out of the medbay and through the corridors towards the hangar. Kassuin joins her.
Clear: "Pully, stay in the Command Centre. Green, are you at the hangar now?"
Green: "Hello Clear!"
Clear rolls her eyes.
Clear: "Hello Green. Are you in the hangar?"
Green: "Yes! It's really cold down here."
Clear: "I know. I won't be long and we'll be in the nice warm Bug. Okay?"
Green: "I'll open it now."
Clear: "Good idea."
She looks up at the tall Æon Lord.
Clear: "Are you sure you're okay to do this? It's going to be dangerous, just you against all those fighters..."
Kassuin: "The TIE fighters are designed en masse. No shields and flimsy armour. Quantity over quality was the idea. Inside my own ship, I'll be a object of death. I assure you, I am not concerned."
Clear: "Right... just remember you have to keep me safe too."
Kassuin: "I'll try to remember that."
That doesn't comfort Clear, especially when she knows he doesn't especially value her life. It is difficult to trust a man that doesn't care if you live or die - however she does believe she can trust him to keep her alive so long as she's necessary for the mission. She passes her bedroom door and wishes she could just go and curl up in bed for a few hours with a nice bottle of exotic spirits.
The doors to the hangar open and she realises how difficult life in a hover chair must be for Aurora. Stairs.
She fiddles with the chair settings, having now idea how to set it to 'hover-down-stairs-mode'. Kassuin, already at the bottom, grows impatient and uses his telekinesis to lift Clear up and lower her to the hangar floor. Clear nods her thanks at him, feeling quite embarrassed.
Green stands in the doorway of the Bug and waves Clear over. Kassuin heads towards his own Æon ship. She glances the other way to see the Æon ship of Aellisin Koure and wonders if she'll get to keep it for herself. It'd be no use to her now, but the thing is armed and dangerous and might be a useful weapon in the future. Plus it's quite pretty and sure beats her old hunk-of-junk Bug. Yet for all its worthlessness, it dos have one or two points that make the old girl invaluable. Like today.
Clear ascends the short ramp into the Bug and gets into the cockpit. She hoists herself out of the hover chair and into the pilot's seat. Green moves the chair to the living room and returns when Clear has the Bug in the air. They quickly zoom free of the hangar and enter the vacuum of space. Her radar shows Jeb's ship being slowly encouraged towards The Majestic. Then Kassuin's ship leaves The Hopeless and falls in beside the Bug.
Kassuin: "I'm going to open a communication with my student and try to get him to cooperate with us."
Clear: "Any idea why he'd kidnap Aurora?"
Kassuin: "I have heard tell of a group of his species that call themselves the Latter-Day Greys of Memnoch. They have sought out Princess Briarose before, I believe. All of that is speculation though. I never suspected my own student would be a member of such a group. Even now... I am surprised he would be dedicated to anything other than himself or the Æon Order."
Clear remembers that Lumo mentioned that group. They were the ones that had kidnapped her previously and took her to Earth. Clear feels like she's getting herself involved in something much bigger than herself but she has no choice - she can't allow the humans to get even more power and destroy the lives of more aliens in the galaxy.
Kassuin falls silent, engaged in private audience with Jeb. Their flight path takes them directly between The Majestic and Jeb's ship, but the flight path of Jeb takes him ever-closer towards the large capital ship. She wonders if she can possibly make it in time. Then she spies a second squadron of TIE fighters exit The Majestic and head straight for her. She hopes that Kassuin is truly enough to keep the fighters off of her. The Bug has nothing in the way of offensive capabilities and very little in defence. She now wonders if this really was such a great idea after all...
The TIEs swoop in from above and Kassuin opens fire first. The green bolts blast forth. Clear notices that they deviate, slightly, from their standard trajectory to track their targets. The blasts don't start whizzes around after their enemies, but that slight tracking motion allows more hits to land. Two TIEs are blown apart in the first wave and the Æon Lrd successfully attracts the attention of the entire squadron, leaving Clear free to continue her flight path straight for the intended flight path of Jeb's ship.
Green climbs into the co-pilot's seat. Her voice rattles over the old communicator attached to Clear's chest.
Green: "This is really exciting!"
Clear: "A little bit too exciting for me, Green."
Clear only kept the old chest-communicator now for Green's benefit. The only two remaining, the third having burnt up along with Hebedee, are tied exclusively to The Hopeless and cannot be used to chat with another communicators out there. An entirely closed system for just her and Green.
Green: "I know you like it really."
Clear has to concede that a big part of Clear is beginning to enjoy the space romps as of late. She constantly longed to return to Mars and live her old, sedentary life - but in her heart she shows she'd probably miss all of the adventure and all of the action of her new life. Yet, still, she would jump at the chance to return to the Sol System.
A wing of fighters seems to spot Clear and, at least curious, have broken off their pursuit of Jeb and head straight for the Bug. Clear panics. Mars is sounding very nice about now. But, suddenly, another ship flares into view. Clear hadn't noticed the new blip on her radar but thanks whatever gods are out there that it showed up when it did. The Æon ship, which Clear knows to be named Nach, angrily blasts apart one of the TIEs and the remaining grey ships scatter. The yellow streak of Nach passes by the Bug and pursues one of the TIEs.
Clear: "Thank you Ffion."
Heul: "I have a lot more to do before I deserve that thanks."
Clear: "Yes you do. There's at least three more out there. That's a start."
Another TIE is vaporised from the radar, marking Ffion's dedication to that task.
Green: "Wow! Ms Heul really is awesome!"
Clear: "She can be, Green. She can be."
Kassuin: "Jeb reports that he's already been locked in the tractor beam. He's being pulled into the Majestic's hangar. Captain, if you're going to do something now would be the time."
Clear already has the Bug running at full power. She flips a few switches and diverts power away from her shields and into the engines.
Green: "That doesn't seem very safe..."
Clear: "It's not. Ffion. I really need you with me."
Heul: "I'm right beside you."
The remaining fighters that had been herding Jeb into tractor range, now break off their original tactics and swarm towards Clear and Ffion. Jeb's ship can do nothing but be reeled in by he much larger vessel.
Heul: "Ffion... I have no shields here."
In response Ffion's ship barrel rolls in front of the Bug and urges forward, possessing much greater speed and manoeuvrability than Clear's clunky old thing. The Nach deploys a large warhead. The bomb hurtles forward and the TIEs are forced to either scatter or die. When it explodes the force of the blasts knocks out two of the fleeing TIEs, slamming the frail ships with concussive force that causes them to smash into each other. The Bug itself rocks from the blast but its too far away to be damaged. The Nach passes through the blast radius first and Clear follows it.
She finally in range of Jeb's ship.
She activates the tractor sheers.
Jeb's green Æon ship shudders and hangs limply in the air for a moment. Clear guesses Jeb doesn't understand what has suddenly happened. Then his engines flare up again and he's away. Clear imagines the rage of Captain Rynard with smug satisfaction.
But without Jeb's ship being lured in, there's nothing to stop TIEs from pouring out. Apparently Rynard really is very mad. Starfighters cascade from the hangar and Clear swerves the Bug back around towards The Hopeless. As she goes she sees Kassuin's ship headed towards her, having taken out the entire squadron single-handedly. Clear almost fears the very idea but is grateful that, for now, he's on her side. She continues to kick extra power to the engines. With nothing before her, her best defence is speed.
Heul: "Ack! My shields are down!"
Kassuin: "Jeb. Help her."
Jeb's ship continues to speed away from the scene.
Kassuin: "Student! Do as I tell you!"
Jeb pays no heed as he roars away from The Majestic, leaving Ffion to her fate.
Green throws her arms into the air and Clear sees plants start springing up on the hull of the Bug. They twirl in the air and then, like deadly giant sugar-daddies of dandelions, drift towards the mass of TIEs headed at Ffion. A spore connects with a TIE and it instantly turns into a dead-weight, its power drained, and drifts careless through the vacuum until it collides with one of its squad mates and causes them both to explode. Seeing this, the TIEs swerve and dodge to avoid the incoming missiles. More and more dandelion pollen generates and starts to drift through space like deep sea mines. TIEs jerk and swerve to avoid these obstacles. The Nach, given more breathing room from blaster fire, deftly manages to avoid the incoming beacons. Ffion bursts out of the mine field and soars up and away, giving time for the shields to recharge. Kassuin sweeps close to the Bug, firing off shots into the minefield, adding extra hazard to the unfortunate TIE pilots.
A bleeping begins on Clear's sensors. Jeb has jumped. Clear snarls at the sensor, as though it has wronged her.
Mother: "Yes Clear?"
Clear: "Trace the jump signature again. We're returning. As soon as we're aboard, make the jump."
Likewise it seems the TIE fighters are returning to The Majestic, having taken a lot of casualties. Clear imagines someone is going to be demoted for this blunder aboard the Imperial command ship. The Bug slides into the hangar and the oxygen shields with a light ping noise. Then come the two Æon ships, which both land softly onto the deck. The sleek yellow slip of Ffion's craft and the bulkier frame of Kassuin's. Clear doesn't get out of the Bug. The world redshifts.
When it settles again she checks the sensors. Rebel space and a lot of ships out there. Jeb's ship is veering straight away from the rebel fleet and communications are going wild.
Clear: "Pully, address the communications. Tell them the truth. We're pursuing the renegade Æon who has Princess Aurora captive and intends to take her to Earth."
Pully: "It's your boyfriend."
Clear: "Just tell him I'm too busy."
Pully: "So you admit he's your boyfriend!?"
Clear: "What? No! Pully!"
Pully: "I'm on it. I'll tell him you were thinking about him."
Clear: "Don't! Pull--! *****..."
Green is giggling in her seat beside Clear.
Clear: "Don't you start too."
Green: "I think it's cute. He's a handsome man!"
Clear: "Green, I don't even think you know what a handsome man is."
Green: "You think I've never been with a man?"
She gives Clear a sidelong, sly smirk and, in a single instant, Clear sees Green not as the silly-headed girl but as a woman well capable of judging people for who they really are. She's about to say something when she sees Jeb make a quick jump out of the system.
Mother: "Ready to jump."
They go to lightspeed and beyond. When the world crashes back into place Clear has to take a moment to catch her breath. The jump was a long one. She checks her scans.
Clear: "Oh wow..."
On her viewscreen display she sees the dwarf planet outside in its binary orbit with the much smaller ball of rock and ice known as Charon. Pluto is the largest object of the Kuiper belt - the belt lurking on the edge of the Sol System. Clear's home system.
Clear: "Green... we're home!"
Jeb's ship shows up on the sensors. He cruises in close to Charon before shooting off into hyperspace again.
Pully: "Risky move so close to the system's sun..."
Clear:"We don't have much choice... Mother can you mimic the jump and avoid the local bodies?"
Mother: "Affirmative. Ready to jump on your mark."
Clear: "... do it."