Template:PostCatH Post 48 opens with a short Non-Story Note remarking that this post links directly with NeShattered Post 100. The Hopeless arrives at Oeurwoud and Clear communicates with the Æon Lord Kloo Celli who shows her how they have managed to contain the Dark Water over several days and have revealed a portal through which she believes Telkrin Izep vanished, as seen in CatH Post 24. Kokoro Lymn and Sootik Kassuin go down to the world to join the other Æon in travelling through the portal to investigate the Dark Water and save Telkrin Izep. The Hopeful then jumps to the Mirare Station after a teary goodbye with Lymn. There Kiron Nightstrider tells Clear that he still believes The Hopeful is responsible for destroying Algernon but he will stay there so that he can learn the answers. His relationship with Clear is tenuous at best.
And Then There Were Four
When The Hopeless jumps into orbit around Oeurwoud the systems display several much smaller ships in the vicinity. Quite quickly a communication request comms through Mother's systems. It isn't, however, from one of the ships but from the planet. Clear authorises the call.
Clear: "We were derailed..."
Kloo Celli: "I know. I was trying to make a joke. I guess I'm not a very funny woman."
The Æon Lord is standing in a forest still wearing her bulky, brown Æon Lord robes. Clear wonders why she hasn't boiled inside them yet.
Clear: "What happened to the Dark Water?"
Kloo Celli turns her head to stare off into the forest for a moment. Then she turns back to Clear.
Kloo Celli: "It is still here. Hold on a moment."
She reaches out to the camera and turns it. The screen pans across a metal platform suspended high above the ground where Celli is standing. Down below is a thick layer of black ooze blanketing the ground. The inky water lolls, laps and bubbles frequently but despite the stirrings it doesn't give chase the way it had done Clear and the unfortunate Telkrin.
Clear: "Hasn't it moved?"
Kloo Celli smiles sweetly, but somewhere behind that sweet smile Clear feels a malice.
Kloo Celli: "Not since we neutered it."
Clear is almost too afraid to ask.
Clear: "... how?"
Kloo Celli: "You can't see it but there's a massive sphere of suppression in the area, created by all those Æon on the planet. We take up positions and exert our will to suppression the darkness. Combined we have been able to maintain this area. After several days of attacks the darkness subsided and conceded defeat, it seems. Yet it sits and waits, I am sure, for an opening. We are currently in Aggron Forest where your last sighting of Telkrin Izep was reported and we believe we know what happened to him..."
Pully: "You mean other than being swallowed by a giant mud muddle?"
Pully gets up from her chair and walks up to the screen with interest. The Æon woman closes her eyes and smiles again. That 'I-Know-Something-You-Don't' smile.
Kloo Celli: "I do not believe him to be dead..."
Clear looks at Pully then back to the screen. She pushes a button the console, muting the communication for a moment.
She then unmutes the communication and watches as Celli moves the camera again, this time, half-submerged by the darkness, is what looks to be a black line. But even as the camera moves, the tear, strangely, appears two-dimensional against the tree-line behind it.
Clear: "What is that?"
Kloo Celli: "Some kind of rift. A tear in space-time."
Clear: "Telkrin made that rift?"
Kloo Celli: "I highly doubt it. It could have been created by this dark creature or it may have been created by someone... something on the other side of that rift."
Clear: "What's your plan?"
Kloo Celli turns the camera back to herself.
Kloo Celli: "What do you think it is? We're going through there, naturally."
Pully: "Dangerous much?"
Kloo Celli: "We're Æon Knights of Tangris. Danger is our profession."
Lymn: "Clear, you wanted to see me? I was getting ready to leave..."
Clear points to the camera and Kokoro approaches. She bows to the Æon Lord who smiles back.
Kloo Celli: "I hope you're ready for some adventure young one..."
An hour later and everyone still aboard The Hopeless is gathered in the Command Centre. The camera is on again, this time it has been moved to a platform constructed to lead into the rift. Standing on the platform is a long line of Æon, mostly knights dotted with some Lords and just one student, who stands closest to the camera. The lord at the fore is Kloo Celli herself. She pushes at the darkness within the rift and confirms that it gives way to her spiritual exerts. She pushes harder and a second lord joins her - Lord Kassuin. The student looks anxiously from the lords to the camera.
Lymn: "Clear, I just wanted to say thank you again."
Clear folds her arms.
Clear: "The best thanks you can give is seeing me again."
Lymn: "I shall. And so shall my Teacher."
Clear: "I hope so."
Clear jumps at a sudden outburst to her right and looks down at the green-haired human girl who has started wailing.
Green: "GOODBYE MS KOKO!!!!"
Kokoro can't help herself and smiles warmly.
Lymn: "Goodbye Green. Don't worry about me, I'll be just fine. I have Lord Kassuin to protect me. The Æon holding the darkness at bay will remain here until we return with Teacher Izep."
Clear: "Will they be able to hold the Dark Water off without someone to relief them?"
Lymn: "Some of them have already been there for days, Clear..."
Everyone in the Command Centre looks surprised, not just Clear.
Lymn: "More adept Æon, especially Consular, can focus upon a single task and enter a meditative state. In that state we can remain for days on end, depending on how advanced our skills are."
Pully: "You learn something new every day."
Nightstrider: "Sometimes I wonder why the Æon haven't conquered the galaxy."
Lymn: "That wouldn't abide by power creed, Kiron."
Pully: "Besides, not everyone is a megalomaniac."
Nightstrider: "Human nature, Pully."
Clear: "This time I'm inclined to agree with Kiron."
They notice Kloo Celli disappear into the rift. A second later Lord Kassuin joins her. Then, one-by-one, the lines enters. Through the tear Clear is sure she can see wood amongst the boots of Æon. Kokoro looks at them one last time.
Lymn: "Clear. Stop getting into trouble."
Clear: "Please tell everyone else that!"
She laughs and turns away from them before running through the rift. The crew of The Hopeless stand and watch, waiting for a moment, before, finally, turning off the connection...
Nightstrider: "So... this superweapon..."
Clear: "I'm going to send you into that rift after her if you ask me one more time."
Nightstrider: "Questions need answers, Cl--"
Pully: "I could throw him in the brig, boss."
Nightstrider: "There's a brig now?"
Pully: "There's like a million empty rooms, one of them will do as a brig! Can I lock the door? Yes? It's a brig."
Clear: "I'm going to sleep. Mother, jump to Mirare in twenty minutes."
Clear leaves the Command Centre and turns right. Green shouts after her;
Green: "That's not the way to your room, Ms Clear!"
Clear makes her way to the Dreamviewer and lies down. She's been using the device more and more frequently. Not only does it record her dreams, it can induce sleep that has been avoiding her as of late. She settles down into the machine and turns it on. She glances at the last dream she had. Since installing the new A.I. Clear had been dreaming about her own mother. She knows it's unhealthy but she doesn't know how to resolve the current situation. There isn't anyone to talk to even if she could muster the courage to do so. Instead she takes solace in the fact that her dreams do no one harm but herself.
She opens her eyes. The moment her wakefulness registers on Mother's scans the A.I. informs the Captain that they are orbiting Mirare. Clear gets up from the Dreamviewer and rubs her head. Then she notices Kiron Nightstrider standing in the doorway.
Clear: "What the--? Have you been watching me sleep?"
Nightstrider: "Relax. I just arrived. I figured I'd watch... doesn't matter."
He enters the room and nods towards the machine behind her.
Nightstrider: "Gets addictive doesn't it?"
Clear: "I'm fine."
Kiron rolls his eyes.
Nightstrider: "I didn't ask. I just said it was addictive. But now I'll say be careful. Try not to overdo it."
Clear: "I knew you'd say that. That's why I said I'm fine. Come on. We should go to the station. I have a jump drive to buy."
Nightstrider: "And medicine."
Clear: "That's a given."
Nightstrider: "Just thought you'd forgotten why we're really here."
Clear: "I know. I don't need you to remind me."
Nightstrider: "You're still sore with me? Fine. I'm not exactly comfortable with you yet either. I still think this ship is responsible."
Clear: "Then why are you here?"
She leaves the room and he follows her.
Nightstrider: "This seems like the only place I'd ever get answers."
Clear: "If you're going to stay, you're going to make yourself useful and help me get a good deal for my jump drive."
Nightstrider: "I think a jump drive for this monster of a ship will be expensive..."
Clear grins at him.
Clear: "Lucky I got a second reward from the Alliance then!"