Template:PostCatH Post 42 opens with Clear groggily coming to her senses. Lord Sootik Kassuin, an Æon Lord, explains that she has been under the influence of falleen pheromones and thus under the control of Aellisin Koure. She has lost several days of memory and during that time allowed Koure access to the entire ship - including the superweapon which she activated for him. The Hopeful is orbiting around Tangris and he has the intention of blowing the whole world to pieces. Clear is unsure if she should believe Kassuin and when she sees Pully she chooses to ditch Kassuin and go with Pully. Unfortunately Pully, though lucid, turns out to be under the control of Koure after all and Clear has to knock her out. Clear heads to the weapons room where Koure intends to throw her into a flash-freeze carbonite machine, turning her into a carbonite statue. Ffion Heul is under the control of Koure and is attacking her lifetime friend and sister, Kokoro Lymn. Kassuin arrives just before Clear is frozen and Koure must deal with the Æon Lord, releasing Clear.
Slowly sound begins to return to Clear's ears and her blurry vision swims until it steadies itself. She feels like she's going to be sick. She falls against the cold bulkhead of the corridor and whines to herself. She doesn't remember drinking at all, nevermind getting so drunk she passed out in the hall. She wonders what kind of booze Pully must have forced on her this time.
She groans from a stinging headache and rubs her eyes. When she opens them again she sees plants. Everywhere.
Clear: "This again? Green?"
Kassuin: "I don't know which of your friends is Green. If she's the tiny-sized human, I had to bash her face a few times to put her down..."
Clear: "WHAT!? You hit Green!? Why!?"
Clear staggers away from Kassuin. She has no idea how or when he got here. He's crouched down as though he snuck up behind her - but Clear isn't sure she wasn't too drunk to remember him being there the whole time.
Kassuin: "Your senses are coming back. Fortunate for both of us. It would have been harder to render you unconscious without hurting you... too much."
Clear: "What? I... I don't... what's happen--"
She throws up. And the mess isn't pretty.
At least it fertilised the plants.
Kassuin: "That's a good sign."
Clear: "It is!?"
Kassuin: "Pay attention because I won't explain this a second time. Your ship is currently in orbit around Tangris--"
Clear: "Since when?"
Kassuin: "--Don't interrupt me."
Kassuin: "I said don't interrupt me! Do you remember meeting Aellisin Koure?"
Clear: "I do."
Clear: "Like you."
Kassuin: "A little. I am Aos Sí. And don't interrupt me. His species secrete pheromones that allow them to alter the minds of the opposite sex. Evolutionary terms, this is traditionally meant to simply make them more sexually attractive. But some of them have greater control over this... talent. You have been under his control for quite some time. You won't have been aware of it. The longer you spent with him, the deeper his control ran."
Clear: "It can't be..."
Kassuin: "Not only you. It seems your entire crew were female. All are likely his puppets now. Many Knights and Lords have been investigating Oeurwoud or other worlds with similar tales of the dark water. Luckily I was still here. I attempted contact but only got cryptic messages from your A.I.. It seems the A.I. was attempting to indirectly communicate with me that there was a problem. Eventually I gathered from it that your ship has been taken by Koure. He's well known on Tangris as a renegade. He'd like nothing more than to wipe out all other Æon. Come on, I'll explain more as we move."
Clear nods and follows after the knight. They move quickly and silently save for Kassuin's voice.
Kassuin: "Under his control, you did everything he asked of you. He has complete access to everything this ship had hidden. Including this... superweapon. I'd wager his goal was to gain access to that the moment he saw your ship enter Imperial space."
Clear: "What happened to the Imperial ship that was escorting us? Captain Rynard?"
Kassuin: "According to your A.I., Koure crossed him and disabled The Majestic's jump drive. They may arrive eventually, but I don't know whose side said captain will be on. Koure has activated the superweapon. Or he's trying to. Your A.I. seems unsure. Knights and Lords are searching your ship for him, but this is a very large vessel. I was attacked by you and your small friend. I rendered her unconscious after slaying several unusual creatures--"
Clear: "Yeah, she does that."
Kassuin: "Stop interrupting. Then I noticed you had datura powder hanging from your belt. I don't know how it got there but it's one of the few elements that can counteract the effects of Falleen pheromones."
Kassuin: "I forced the powder down your throat and here you are. I think you're more useful awake. You have to tell me where he would be if he's power this weapon."
At that moment Clear suddenly gets a pang of suspicion. He could well be telling the truth about everything. It all sounds possible from the wording of Lumo. But she also distrusts Kassuin. He appears from nowhere with this story and demands to see the weapon controls...
Kassuin: "Likely under the control of Koure. In the weapon room or trying to fight other Knights searching the ship. Everyone is aware that they're under the power of Koure and will try not to harm them."
Clear: "Where are the other Knights? Is Kloo Celli here?"
Kassuin: "She went to Oeurwoud. Why are you stalling? Take me to the weapon room."
Clear begins to lead the way, but as she does so she starts messaging Mother with her PIP. Mother doesn't respond. It seems her PIP is being jammed somehow. Clear hesitates as she guides him through a room, still towards the lift that would take them to the weapons system. Is this one elaborate ploy? Where is everyone else?
She pushes the button the lift and they wait. When the doors open they're met by sudden blaster fire. Clear leaps to one side. She catches a glimpse of stormtrooper armour.
Clear: "Pully!? Pully is that you!?"
Pully: "Sorry boss! Didn't know you were up here! Just shooting at these Æon blokes crawling all over the place!"
Clear comes out of hiding. Her hunch about Kassuin had been right then. She points towards the corridor where Kassuin had gone into hiding himself.
Clear: "I just saw that Kassuin. He says he attacked Green!"
Pully: "Hitting little girls?"
Pully sprays covering fire and backs up back onto the lift. Clear follows her.
Kassuin: "You little wretch!"
The purple alien shouts as the doors slide shut. Clear leans against the lift wall and sighs heavily. Her head is still throbbing.
Clear: "Lucky you showed up, Pully. He tried to trick me into taking him down to the superweapon room."
Pully: "Don't mention it, boss. Glad to pull your backside out of the fray time and time again."
Clear: "You make it sound like I'm always in trouble."
Pully: "You ain't?"
Clear: "What're they doing here, Pully? Why are there Æon Knights on the ship? Where are the others?"
Pully: "They're after Aellisin. He's not like them. He refuses to subject himself to the rules of Tangris. So they came to take him. Don't you remember?"
Clear: "No... I don't remember anything... not since... we first came back from Mirare."
Pully: "That was two days ago, Clear. Wow. Did that Kassuin hit you?"
Clear: "No. We'll have to find Green. I hope she's okay. Where are Kokoro and Ffion?"
Pully: "They're fighting. Kokoro just... I don't know. Went crazy, sided with the Æon Knights of Tangris. Whatever the case, Ffion's taking care of her."
Clear's blood freezes up and her spine shrivels.
Clear: "Pul-Pully... where are we?"
Pully: "In a lift... seriously, Thrain will have to look at you. He must have smacked your head really hard."
Clear: "I mean where's the ship? Are we still in Imperial space?"
Pully: "No! We ditched them as soon as we managed to route power to the superweapon. Time to blow Tangris to bits! Wow! It's going to be crazy."
The fact that Pully seems to coherent astounds Clear. Being under the control of pheromones sounds like something that would render the victim insensible and yet Pully appears as cognitive as ever.
Clear: "Can I borrow your helmet, Pully?"
Pully: "Huh? Why?"
Clear: "My PIP is broken or something. I just want to access map systems through your helmet."
Pully tugs the white helmet from her head and holds it out for Clear to take it.
Pully: "I think you set Mother to scramble systems. I don't even think my helmet will be much good but try it an--"
Clear snatches the helmet and clobbers Pully across the back of the head with it. She falls forward and lands on all fours in shock.
Pully: "OOooooooooow... did you ju--ack!"
Clear snakes her leg around Pully's neck and clamps down, holding her friend's neck behind her knee. She tightens her leg muscles and uses her weight to pin the stronger woman down. She could have used her arm, but Clear isn't good at holds. Plus she's always had very strong thighs. Eventually Pully stops struggling and is out cold. Clear checks that she's okay and lays her safely at the back of the lift. She'll have to apologise profusely later.
The lift doors slip open and Clear is in a very dark passage that she knows will take her to the superweapon room. She sucks up the courages and sneaks forth. She tries to move as quickly as possible without banging her way across the metal floor. When she gets to the door in question she discovers that it's open and light is pouring out. Inside there's the sound of fighting. Clear peeks inside.
The first thing Clear notes is that the room is suddenly three-times bigger than it once was. Where the back wall had been, was now wide open like a gigantic door to reveal a whole new area of consoles and equipment evidently meant to help power the weapon. There, on the second tier, she sees swinging shafts of light. Ffion and Kokoro strike and attack like Clear has never seen them do before. She as to try and stop them somehow...
She slips into the room and heads to the nearest console. A quick glance as she sees that the entire system has been rebooted and appears to be fully operational. She hears Kokoro grunt with panic and Clear looks up to see her fall against the railing. She looks down straight at Clear and there is a moment of recognition that passes between them. It lasts just a second as Kokoro rolls herself out of the way of an incoming deadly strike against the railing. Cut in half, the integrity of the metal pole is weakened enough to send a small piece of it flying towards Clear. She hops out of the way.
Koure: "Ah. Captain. You're back."
Clear turns suddenly to see the falleen slowly approaching her.
Koure: "I didn't expect you to come back in one piece. I hope you managed to kill at least one of them before you ran away?"
Clear: "I... ah... saw Kassuin. He killed Green. I saw Pully but I think he got her too. I had to run."
Aellisin shakes his head slowly.
Koure: "Captain Clear. Cowardice doesn't become you."
He walks past her unhurriedly and she follows him. She hears a shout of aggression from Ffion.
Lymn: "Come back to me, Ffion!"
Heul: "Don't waste your breath, Kokoro. You betrayed me. You betrayed us. You betrayed our master!"
Lymn: "Listen to yourself! Master!? When do Æon Knights bow to masters!?"
Heul: "You'll soon be dead, Kokoro. Then you'll understand."
Lymn: "I know you're fighting his control over you, Ffion! If you weren't holding back, I'd be dead by now..."
Heul: "Stop talking!"
Koure: "Aren't they entertaining? The drama! To be so young again would be a wonderful thing. Instead I simply have old debts to pay. I truly wish Izep could be here now to see this moment. I honestly don't know if he'd cry or if he'd relish the day that Tangris was brought to its knees. You know I had a group of students send me a video begging me to spare their world? It was almost sickening to watch them grovelling."
He reaches the top of the stairs and turns his attention away from the fighting friends towards the systems that Clear doesn't recognise.
Koure: "You, my dear Captain, have been the ultimate gift. You and your fine ship. The power this single vessel holds will surrender the entire empire to me. Then the rebels and then everything else that stands in my way. I did consider demanding that princess friend of yours be handed over to me before I destroy the planet. But honestly. I think I'd rather just blast Earth to pieces too. Who wants to own a backwater planet like that anyway? Humanity. They're as stuck in the past as the fools of Tangris."
He looks up at a monitor display power levels that are all rising.
Koure: "That power core you put in this ship, by the way... fascinating. This ship has so much to explore. I'm going to enjoy it thoroughly, I assure you."
With his back to her Clear leaps at him, ready to strike his mane. But she finds herself suddenly suspended in the air, unable to move an inch.
Koure: "Interestingly part of the weapon's components require carbonite inserts to trigger a chain reaction. Each insert has already been placed, but if they weren't I could use the carbonite flash freeze machine over there to instantly create new ones. Whoever designed this weapon obviously wanted it to be used. And often."
He turns to look up at Clear dangling in the air. He moves his hand, and thus her. She swings across the room as solid as a statue. She sees the carbonite flash freezing machine before she even gets near it. A pit in the floor that stretches down to the first tier where the pipes pumping in carbon and tibanna gas would connect to the main shaft. Within that shaft the mixture would be flash frozen and provide solid carbonite as inserts for the weapon. If she were inside that pit when it was activated...
She tries to move and fight but only manages to wriggle her limbs about.
Clear: "Let me go!"
Koure: "You will make a nice trophy, Captain. A beautiful work of art for me to admire. I'm actually glad you came back. Being killed by Kassuin would have been a waste. Shame about your friends."
Kassuin: "She lied."
Clear is suddenly dropped. She slams against the edge of the pit with a loud clang. The pain rips through her body but she doesn't dwell on it because she has to suddenly scramble to stall her fall into that pit. She manages to grab the grate of the second tier floor and yank her legs back out of the shaft.
She looks up. Kassuin holds his hand out and, in an instant, a red blade of energy springs forth. Aellisin stares at Kassuin and, without breaking that stare, he summons his own ruhand with a crackle of red lightning. Though Clear knows she doesn't want Aellisin to win, she isn't sure she really wants Kassuin to win either...