Having run out of fuel for The Hopeful, Clear and Green must travel to a local spaceport to trade Martian goods for workable fuel - all in the hopes that Note, the ship's A.I., will jump them back to the planet Mars. After narrative exposition, detailing the presence of humanity on Mars and the existence of Saffron 5, Clear and Green search for the dirtiest bar they could find - where they would discover the shady types willing to trade for illegally cheap prices. After being directed to a group at the rear of the bar by a robot bar tender, the group of humans recognise Clear as a salmitton. The last of her kind. The leader of the group is a skeletal creature named Kaptin Kwanza and he readies to chase her down just as she runs.
The Spaceport Edit
The bug hovered over the landing pad and then, with a clunk, it settled. Clear unfastened her safety harness and waggled her aching legs. The journey hadn't been overly long but she hadn't moved from her seat at all the entire time. She headed through the bug to the living area where Green still sat, strapped in and looking nervous. Clear leans on the door frame.
Clear: "It wasn't that bad, was it?"
Green: "Oh. Uh. No. I just... don't like space travel very much..."
Clear: "Seems like you chose a strange place to live then. I think you were at the human port weren't you?"
Clear is referring to the day Green arrived aboard The Hopeless. She had been living at the human port on Mars. The only part of the planet still inhabited with living beings and it was home to the conquerors. The genocidal humans. The humans had built a massive port in the southern hemisphere that loomed up from the surface and rose into the atmosphere like a vase. It was an impressive structure to be sure. And impressive symbol of human dominance over the Solar System. After the humans then obliterated Jupiter from existence, the human port because less and less frequented. That's about the time Clear noticed she was winning in the salvage competition over Mars, especially its northern countries. The port, named Saffron Five by the humans, mostly dealt in trade and leisure activities. Mining bases in the asteroid belt would transfer their goods to Saffron Five, where they would then be sold on to other places such as Earth. Although Clear liked to call it the human port, many alien species were present there and some had expressed interest in the ancient derelict spacecraft Clear inhabited. None enough to venture there after a stern warning from Clear, however. Such derelicts were not uncommon and often some entrepreneur liked to turn them into orbital museums. Several Martian spacecrafts had been treated as such, and those that weren't had either been salvaged completely or stolen by pirates looking for cheap ships. The Hopeful isn't Martian and therefore few paid it much mind.
Green's face is instantly the picture of sadness with her mouth down curled. If Clear had been any softer hearted, it might have broken.
Green: "They took all my money!"
Clear: "And then we picked up your request."
Green: "The Hopeful was quiet. It seemed like a great place to stay and figure out my future plans."
Clear: "Which are?"
Green shrugs and unbuckles herself.
Green: "I guess it doesn't matter much now that we're so far from Earth."
Clear: "Only if those plans involve Earth..."
Clear doesn't like the sound of "Remembered Forces" at all. That's another army and an Earth-bound one at that. Clear had been brought up to avoid military types and steer clear of law enforcement in general. It was safer that way. Many humans often lamented their actions during the Earth's Conquest of Mars, which the humans called the Martian War, citing how terrible human actions had been. But it was too late for wishing now. With the humans came diseases that finished off the remaining and captive population on Mars. Clear suspected she had only survived the rampant spread of disease because she lived aboard a secluded spacestation with just her father. The concentration camps, where the humans had put the Martians who had surrendered (calling them reservations rather than concentration camps), were barely fit for habitation and held no hope of yielding enough food even for the dwindled population. The diseases finished the job. When the last Martian on Mars died, the disease had found its last host and was eliminated along with those it had infected. Clear had learnt much of this from one of those museums the humans had built within the shell of a Martian spacecraft.
Clear pushes a button on the panel by the exit and the door slides down. She and Green step onto the landing pad, which had moved her small ship into its docked position. She isn't quite sure where she's supposed to go as the signs aren't in English, but there are arrows and she follows those. Green stares at everything with wonder and amazement while Clear generally scorns everything she sees, trying not to look like a victim and therefore an easy target. The arrows take them around a circular walkway that accesses all of the various small craft belonging to other visitors to the port. Clear couldn't help but covet the many craft she could see. Any one of them would be better than her old bug. She then stumbles across a lift and gets inside. She has no idea which floor to choose from and so she presses one about the centre. The lift shot down quickly but smoothly and, before she knew it, the lift doors open. She peeks out.
Clear: "Look like... a hotel. We should try another floor."
She gets back inside and Green presses another random button. This time it opens into what looks like a mall. They exit the lift and admire the grandiosity of the place. Lights dazzle everything, noises and smells assault Clear's senses. It's almost too much for after the quietude of Mars and The Hopeless. She flinches as she feels something touch her hand, then realises it's Green nervously pawing at her. Clear reluctantly allows Green to hold her hand. Clear was sure the girl was older than she looked, she would have thought she'd act more mature than this. Clear may not have been so irritated by Green's actions if Clear were more used to contact with other people. When Green starts to cuddle up to Clear's side, Clear protests.
Clear: "Hey, hey! Calm down, okay? Take it easy and stop getting so close."
The voice is a little distorted through the communicator, likely Green's controls over the small plant in her satchel were affected by Green's mood. The two young women begin their progress around the mall. Clear eyes several objects but finds that their price is in a currency she didn't understand. Even if she had money she couldn't buy anything. Eventually she finds the bar strip and starts to inspect them.
Green: "This one looks nice."
Clear: "Exactly why we're not going to go in there."
They continue to walk until they find the dirtiest and grimiest bar at the very bottom of the mall's bar strip. The patrons of the bar mostly seem unscrupulous. Meaning they're more likely to be trading in anything they could get their hands on. Clear heads to the bar. She leans on it. It glows blue and makes her red skin look green. The stools are all hover stools supposed to look "futuristic" but most people felt they were simply tacky. Not that Clear would refuse one for her bedroom back on the Hopeless. The bar tender rolls towards her, its robotic head coloured blue and looks like a rubber tipped pencil.
Robot Bar Tender: "How can I serve you, madam?"
Clear: "You sound a bit too formal for a place like this, robot."
Robot Bar Tender: "I was recently installed by the landlord to try to bring some... 'class' to the venue, madam."
Clear: "Sounds about right. Anyway, I'm looking for someone that might be interesting in some trade."
Robot Bar Tender: "Many of our patrons fit that description, madam. However at the rear alcove you may find a captain also searching for business opportunities."
Clear: "Thanks, robot."
She heads to the rear of the bar with Green hot on her heels. She passes several people on the way, none of them from the Solar System. She didn't recognise a single alien species until she reaches the alcove. Humans. Five of them. And one... something else entirely.
Clear: "I heard you were looking to do some business?"
The one that didn't look human looks... like a long-dead human. A skeletal form with clothes hanging of his bones like he was a coat hangar. On his head sits an old-fashioned human pirate's hat, complete with a skull and cross-bones. A little on the nose, Clear feels.
Kaptin Kwanza: "Aye, that be right, lass. I'm Kaptin Kwanza. Who're you?"
Clear: "Clear. Just call me Clear."
Kaptin Kwanza: "Well alright, Just Call Me Clear. What kind of..."
He looks her up and down with his eyeless sockets.
Kaptin Kwanza: "...business were you interested in?"
Clear: "Trade. I have Martian goods to sell. I'm just looking for fuel, no need for cash."
Kaptin Kwanza: "Hot goods are they then?"
Old Man: "Hold on a second. Martian? Boss. She's a Martian!"
Kaptin Kwanza shrugs his shoulder bones.
Another of the humans, a younger woman, pipes up.
Young Woman: "Aren't they all dead?"
Old Man: "Supposed to be! And yet..."
He points straight at Clear. Lightbulbs seem to ding above everyone's head, including Clear's. She backs away. The humans and Kaptin Kwanza all rise. The Kaptin's skeletal teeth are fixed in a grin as he stares at her. Waiting for her to run.
She doesn't disappoint.
Britt's Commentary Edit
"This post was meant to add some background history to the fate of Mars, especially as my original idea of a completely abandoned and desolate world didn't match the idea that Gebohq the Writer had had in mind for the planet, which was more of a "Wild West[Ext 1]". Then there was also an old reference from The Never-ending Story that mentioned a spacestation on Mars (citation needed). This resulted in an amalgamation of points into the creation of Saffron 5 and regions under human control."
"It was also important to show how Clear is ultimately influenced by human culture, far more than her own. Her knowledge of the war mostly stems from information in museums created by humans and she can only read and speak English (referenced by the non-English sign posts of the station). This is meant, along with the history of Mars, to reflect the white American[Ext 2] conquest of North America from the Native Americans[Ext 3] and the Native Americans subsequent incorporation into American society and the loss of their own cultural identity."
"This was also the first time a major Character from the Britt: The Legend series of shorts was featured as a character in another Story, aside from Britt himself. Kaptin Kwanza not only adds more continuity between Clear and the Hopeless and the other series but demonstrates a different perception on the same character. In Britt: The Legend, Kaptin is a good-guy comic relief character and yet in Clear and the Hopeless he's a villainous antagonist, all without losing any character traits from his original début. This, in essence, is one of the aims of Clear and the Hopeless - to shed a different, often more realistic and non-meta, light on the same universe as The Never-ending Story."
"I was also quite keen to demonstrate Clear's discomfort with others and Green's absolute trust and dependency on the strength of others, both of which was nicely represented through the attempted hand-holding. As two of the most prominent characters of CatH, their relationship has to start at the bottom and build up." - Britt the Writer