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Template:PostIn CatH Post 60 Clear finds that Note, the ship's old A.I., has been reinstated and Mother is missing. Freaking out at Note, he then informs her that the corrupted data on the systems is being flushed and probed by an outside source. Eventually Clear and Ciel go to the Command Centre to correspond with the mysterious force that is rampaging through the electrical systems of The Hopeful. She finds a young Hian girl who professes to be far, far older than she appears to be. She is interested in The Hopeful and reveals that, in her searching, she discovered that The Hopeful once belonged to the High Empire. She wishes to meet Clear and agrees that she may assist Clear with her power problem. Clear travels to Kalor Varkesh, the Netherwyrm ship of High Legatifex Kimleigh, and is greeted by soldiers and a bounty hunter named Bug.

Post

The High Legatifex

In the Command Centre, monitors appear to be scrolling through text-upon-text that Clear doesn't understand. Most of the writing doesn't appear to be in English. Ciel squints at it.

Ciel: "Appears to be a few ancient languages in there. Weird..."

After pressing a few buttons one of the screens shifts and flickers before coalescing upon a white, human face of a man. It is a kind of 'generic human' appearance that Clear recognises all too well. She glowers at the screen before running from the room. She ignores the inquires from Ciel and runs down the corridors to the A.I. Hub. She slams a button and a small chip pops out. She inspects it and sees that it is the same chip that Mother is stored on.

Clear: "NOTE! WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MOTHER!?"

No response. 

Clear becomes more frantic. Despite there being a giant monster-snake outside she's more concerned about the resurrection of her old caretaker and enemy.

Clear starts jabbing the console for a response.

Clear: "NOTE! SHOW YOURSELF!"

The screen above here wobbles into clarity and there Note appears. Clear thinks his image looks much clearer than it used to, as though he's now in HD instead of SD. His eyes, also, look far more innocent than she recalls. They're green. Weren't they once blue? His hair is the same side-combed brown though.

Note: "You appear to be attempting to designate this A.I. unit with a name. Would you like me to accept the designation Note?"

Clear: "What're you talking about? Where's Mother?"

Note: "You wish to search for your mother? I can run a scan of the ship to locate the individual. If you could give further information to narrow my search it will be done much quicker. When was the last time you saw her?"

Clear: "What? No. She's the A.I. from this chip!"

She waggles it at the screen.

She puts it back into the machine and locks the hatch. She sees the coloured lights illuminate above the slot to indicate that it's being read.

Note: "Data has been corrupted."

Clear: "No... no..."

She feels loss. Loss like she knows she shouldn't. It was just a program, not her real mother, and she didn't even have much of a personality. Yet she's gone. She then becomes angry and points at the screen.

Clear: "How the Hell're you here!?"

Note: "I am the default algorithm for the A.I. of The Hopeful. The system restore is being stalled. I am attempting a complete wipe of all errors..."

Clear: "System restore... why?"

Note: "Instant shut down of all systems caused irreparable errors in the programming of our systems. Repairs began upon unexpected power surge but our system is under attack. Firewalls are down, data is being mined, access to external hackers is unrestricted."

Clear: "Damn. It's that ship."

Note: "A deep scan has been initiated. Data being requested... origins."

Clear: "Origins?"

Note: "Origins of The Hopeful."

A sudden spike of excitement bubbles up within Clear. For all the sense of loss and fear of the intruder this information would greatly satisfy Clear. She almost hopes the hacker is successful.

Note: "Entity is attempting to clean and sift through heavily corrupted data."

Clear: "I think you should request a communication with this ship, Note. I'll go back to the Command Centre."

Note: "Request sent."

Clear walks. She doesn't hurry. She's too despondent. 

When she enters the Command Centre she sees a girl's face on the largest monitor. Ciel is standing beside the computer and motions with a knock of the head towards the centre of the circular pad on the floor.

Ciel: "Our ravager awaits."

Clear frowns at Ciel and looks at the screen again. The girl is short and about eight years old. She has blue skin and her hair is a strangely matted so that it looks like blue bark. Clear instantly recognises that she's a hian from the planet Hyass, just like Lucee Sk'dor was on Mirare. Unlike Lucee, this girl doesn't have the typical yellow eyes of a hian but more human-like eyes with deep blue irises. Her skin also seems paler than the older woman's had been and, notably to Clear's fashion sense, the girl isn't wearing the traditional hian, free-flowing clothes that Clear likes to wear. Instead the little girl is wearing what appears to be a military jacket of black with a red trim. Her bark hair is cut at chin length and swept to one side, though Clear doesn't know if a pair of scissors would actually cut that wood-hair.

Clear looks back to Ciel.

Clear: "She's a child..."

Ciel smirks.

Ciel: "I know."

Clear shakes her head, worried about what madness she's about to step into.

The girl looks up when Clear steps onto the gold circle, her image projecting over to her ship. She cocks her head with curiosity. When she speaks she has a slight lilting sound to her, otherwise, high-toned voice.

Hian Girl: "Who are you?"

Clear's first instinct is to return the question but, given this is a child, Clear decides to indulge.

Clear: "I'm Captain Clear and this is my ship, The Hopeless."

Hian Girl: "How many crew do you have, Captain?"

Clear: "Just me. I have two guests onboard."

The girl looks surprised.

Hian Girl: "Such a big ship for just one little girl."

Clear purses her lips and glances at Ciel, who's laughing. Clear refrains from throwing something at the old woman and tries to get some of her own questions in.

Clear: "Can I get your name? You look like a hian to me."

Hian Girl: "The fact you know my mother's species tells me much about you, Captain Clear."

She smiles but Clear doesn't find anything cute about it. It's a knowing, sly smile of arrogance.

Hian Girl: "I have two names. As you know my species, I can tell you my mother called me Kimleigh."

Clear gives her best smile.

Clear: "Nice to meet you Kimleigh."

Kimleigh: "You should use my title, Captain. I am High Legatifex."

Clear: "Oh right... I didn't think..."

Kimleigh: "One as young as you can be forgiven..."

Clear is beginning to think there's a punchline somewhere.

Kimleigh: "And living all alone on a ship like that, I suppose you don't hear titles all too often."

Clear admits that she hadn't heard any titles before she met up with Warlord Strang.

Clear: "I'll try to remember your title, High Legatifex Kimleigh."

The girl looks amused.

Kimleigh: "Strange to hear myself called Kimleigh. I kind of like it."

Clear isn't sure what to say to that and so remains quiet.

Kimleigh: "What are you doing in the Deep Void, Captain Clear?"

Clear: "I'm stuck here. My power core is out of energy. It needs organic matter for fuel and I, obviously, don't have any."

Kimleigh: "Sounds like a curious power core. But your ship responds to my command without interference. I can help you jump out of the Deep Void easily enough."

Clear perks up.

Clear: "That'd be great!"

Kimleigh: "Your smile is delightful, Captain. What a wonderful little creature you are!"

Clear, more potently, glares at Ciel, who just starts snickering again.

Kimleigh: "But Captain, as interesting as I think you are... I feel you aren't being entirely honest with me."

Clear blinks. She tries to think if she's lied about anything and finds she, surprisingly, hasn't.

Clear: "I don't know what you mean, High Legatifex."

Kimleigh: "Your ship... where does it come from?"

Clear: "When the A.I. told me you were scanning the ship for that information, I was kind of hoping you could tell me."

Kimleigh looks at Clear without saying a word. She raises a hand to her lips and nibbles on the nail of her index finger for a brief moment.

Kimleigh: "You are very young..."

Clear frowns, unable to take this joke any longer.

Clear: "I'm really not that young. I'm almost thirty, you know?"

Kimleigh smiles with amusement again.

Kimleigh: "Incredibly young."

Clear begins to guess this girl is of one of those species who live stupidly long lifespans and thus think everyone else is a child. Clear never understood this. A cat only lives eleven years and he's still old when he's eleven, even if eleven is young for a salmitton or a human. Stupid long-living people.

Clear: "Did you... find out where my ship came from?"

Kimleigh: "All I can say is... it once belonged to the High Empire."

Clear sees that Ciel is even more surprised than she is. The Hopeful belongs to this giant, mysterious empire? 

Clear corrects her thoughts. It did belong to them. Now it's hers.

Kimleigh: "Perhaps we could continue this conversation aboard my ship? I'd like to meet you in person. I have to know everything. Then we'll see... if I can let you go or not."

Now it's time for Clear to be shocked. Their conversation had been pleasant enough, though unusual, and yet the whole time she was actually being interrogated and a prisoner. She sees Ciel nod from the corner of her eye.

Clear: "Understood, High Legatifex."

The girl smiles, more sweetly this time.

Kimleigh: "Try not to worry, Captain. I'll look after you either way."

The screen winks out and Clear swallows.

Clear: "Look after me? Like a pet?"

Ciel: "Exactly like a pet. As you probably figured she's not entirely hian. Her father... her father must be the Highemperor himself."

Clear: "So she's a princess?"

Ciel: "That's right."

Clear: "Aurora liked me. So maybe Kimleigh will too."

Ciel: "So far so good. Honestly, I think you lucked out. The Fates are clearly with you..."

Clear: "Yeah? It's fate that got me into this mess to begin with, isn't it?"

---

Clear was allowed to use her own shuttle to fly over to Kalor Varkesh - the Netherwyrm-ship. Instead of taking The Bug, she decides to take her other ship - Hoopa. Whatever Aellisin Koure originally called it she didn't know. It's Hoopa now and it's not his anymore. Certainly not his clone's. The red Æon ship cruises across the Deep Void towards the Netherwyrm. She isn't sure if she's more afraid of the monster or of the emptiness around them.

She doesn't get far when Hoopa's systems report that she's been caught in a tractor beam. Clear hadn't the heart to take the tractor shear from her old Bug and install it into Hoopa. She had tried to replicate the device but she wasn't as good with mechanics as Hebedee, her old mechanic, had once been. She watches as Kalor Varkesh grows and grows in size. At first she thinks she's being tractor into its open maw but then Hoopa is pulled to the side and swept towards the right side of the bio-ship. As she nears a large wall of metal, it opens up to reveal a small hangar. Clear imagines there's probably several such small hangar bays here and there on the ship.

Once landed in the bay, Clear pops the hatch open and slips out of the Æon ship and hops down the hard-light steps. A door opens. The door itself, she notices, is made of a kind of fleshy membrane that sucks to the edges of the door frame to allow passage before slipping back again. Clear grimaces at the sight but quickly tries to straighten her face for the company that stands before her. There's five of them. Four of them appear to be soldiers as they're wearing the same armour. Their chestplates are silver but their pauldrons are gold. The material she spies underneath is black and appears more comfortable than the seemingly heavy armour they have on top. They all seems to have their weapons strapped to their backs, safely tucked away. Two of the three look like humans while the third is a kind of anthropomorphic fox-man and the fourth has peculiar gelatinous skin and is almost double the height of Clear. She looks up at him first. Unlike the stern faces of his cohorts, the blue, jelly mountain grins at her, revealing a set of flat but perfectly white teeth.

The fourth is nothing like the rest. In a strange way he reminds her of herself - a scavenger. He stands with his weapon drawn, resting across his folded arms. His skin is green and has has two circular ears atop of his head that look like antennae. When he sees her he frowns, which is strange to see on a creature with no eyebrows.

Man: "What're you?"

Soldier: "Silence, bounty hunter."

The anthropomorphic fox-man glares at the green-skinned outsider before turning to Clear.

Soldier: "Welcome to Kalor Varkesh. The High Legatifex is waiting for you."

Clear notices that the bounty hunter is scanning her. Before she can protest he tuts.

Man: "My lucky day. A huge bounty walks straight in my path. You'll be coming with me, Martian."

Soldier: "She belongs to the High Legatifex, bounty hunter. Be careful you do not overstay your welcome. Your quarry is not this woman. Why don't you go and do your job instead of following me around?"

The fox-soldier growls. He motions towards the door before marching there. The jelly man waits for her to move but before she could the bounty hunter grabs her arm.

Man: "The tiny god-girl thinks she owns me. But I'm not a soldier. I work for me and me alone. Once my contract here is done... you're next on my list. The name's Bug. Remember it because next time you hear it, it'll be getting signed on your bounty."

He lets her go. The jelly soldier just grins down at them as though they'd had a merry little chat and she stalks after the other soldiers. She glances back at Bug. He raises his fingers to his eye like a gun, closing the other beady-insect eye.

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