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Template:PostCatH Post 70 has Clear helping Kara Pashna settle onto the ship before they go to the A.I. Hub where Clear takes a hydrospanner to the circuits to destroy the remains of the ancient A.I. dubbed Note who was accidentally returned in CatH Post 60. Fortunately Mother, believed lost, was also stored on her hard-light projector and is returned to her position as The Hopeful's A.I.. Clear then must determine where to return to in the Milky Way Galaxy when Ciel enters the Command Centre and informs Clear that she's able to have the final moments of the previous Jupiterian crew shown through the 'ghosts' Clear had created in CatH Post 52. When they watch they see that the Jupiterians are frozen in time before being slaughtered and Clear realises that the mysterious creatures that murdered these people must still be onboard - in the Command Deck where 'Captain Icer' is still frozen in time.

Post

Mother, Home and Monsters

Kara Pashna: "Captain Clear, I want to thank you one more time for helping me. And my people."

Clear hasn't told Pashna, yet, of her own people's demise. She doesn't to be all 'been there, done that' and undermine the pain he's feeling. He needs time to grieve. He should grieve. His people deserve at least that much from the sole survivor.

Clear: "You can thank me by not calling me captain, okay?"

He frowns, a little puzzled.

Kara Pashna: "Aren't you the captain?"

She sighs.

Clear: "I am but it's not my title. It's just mark of ownership. To me anyway. This ship is mine, so I'm captain. Nobody else has to acknowledge me this way. So please just call me Clear. Every time you call me Captain I feel salutes are next."

Pashna manages a smile.

Kara Pashna: "Are you sure you wouldn't like that?"

Clear scoffs.

Clear: "I can't think of anything worse! I've had enough military types come through here as it is. Never had anyone religious before though. So you're a first. Congratulations."

Clear realises she may have brought up sudden thoughts of his world again. He'd already told her that his gods were killed along with his world, save one that he hopes to meet again. His smile doesn't fade, it just becomes forced. She makes the quick decision to alter the subject and pokes her finger towards the door to his new room.

Clear: "Is it enough for you? You know there are bigger rooms around. Lots and lots and lots of them. You can pick any one of them and I'll have the room refurbished for you."

He nods and glances at the door too.

Kara Pashna: "It's more than I could ask for. It took me a long time to figure out the toilet device. I suppose our bathroom must have seemed very primitive compared to your standards!"

Clear shakes her head.

Clear: "Actually no! I loved that sauna you used instead of our shower."

Pashna's hairless eyebrows rise.

Kara Pashna: "Truly? I found I quite like your shower machine. Water pouring down, I'm surprised we never thought of it ourselves."

Clear: "Glad it makes you happy. Still! I'm absolutely going to have a sauna installed on this ship as soon as I have money again."

She thinks of her Alliance card and her Imperial card and wonders if either of them are working still. Before she had money it was always an object of necessity. Now that she had come to find herself wealthy she had grown accustomed to buying whatever she fancied for her home.

Then Pashna asked what money was and so began a long explanation of how most civilisations of the galaxy used imaginary values to dictate their lives. Pashna didn't seem very impressed by the concept and neither was Clear by the time she ended her lesson. She then has to move on and see what she can do about the ship's A.I.. Guessing he doesn't want to be left alone in this alien environment, Pashna opts to follow her to the A.I. Hub.

The room is incredibly tall, towering at least three floors high but it's otherwise quite small. It's built for one single machine, the A.I. Hub, which is connected to the wall and extends up and up towards the ceiling above them like a great pipe organ of silver. The bank of consoles runs semi-circular around it. Clearly there are meant to be two chairs here and perhaps the damned thing would be more stable, filled will less corrupts, if crewmen were actually stationed here.

Note: "Welcome back, Crewman Clear."

Clear points at the floating head of Note without looking at it.

Clear: "I told you not to speak to me."

She reaches down and tears off a panel from the bottom of the console. She tosses it aside.

Clear: "And stop calling me crewman. I'm the captain."

She feels Pashna's puzzled expression on her back as she crawls into the space under the console. She doesn't anyone to call her captain - except Note. That basterd owes her years of captaining.

Inside the machine Clear sees lots of cables and connections and panels and lights. Some connections seem to be floating and connected to nothing save for a mysterious blue glow. She decides those connections and the ones she'll be avoiding. She whips out a hydrospanner and attaches a head to the device to start unattaching some couplings.

Note: "Crewman Clear, are you qualified to be doing this?"

Clear: "I don't have any ferrets to come in here and chew your cables out, Note, so I'll have to do it myself."

Note: "I believe that you may be experiencing difficulties in your logical faculties, Crewman Clear. Might I recommend a visit to the medical bay?"

Kara Pashna: "Is this creature alive, Clear?"

Clear smirks. No captain this time.

Clear: "Nope! It's an A.I.. It's a computer. I know he has a pretty face, but don't be fooled. It's an infernal monster. I need to shut down some of these connections so that the swine can't ever come back once I've erased him. Again."

Note: "Memory banks have been completely erased and corrupted. I have no information regarding the previous attempt to remove the A.I. module."

Clear decides, for Pashna's sake, to indulge in an explanation;

Clear: "A while back, Note here went bonkers and killed a lot of people."

Kara Pashna: "Whoa!"

She senses Pashna flinch and hears his steps as he moves away from the A.I. projection.

Clear: "Eventually I was able to get the whole A.I. system replaced with a brand new one. Twenty of them to be exact, but only one main interface A.I...."

She pauses as she considers her own words.

Clear: "Note. Are the other sub-routine A.I.s still functional?"

Note: "Am I permitted to speak to you now, Crewman Clear?"

Thinks he's bloody funny, Clear whacks one of the panels in the console as though it'd hurt the digital manifestation. When she doesn't give any verbal response, Note gauges that he's cleared to speak.

Note: "There are currently... seven-hundred-and-eighty-two sub-routine A.I.s in service."

Clear bashes her head on the same panel she'd hit as she jolts up in surprise.

Note: "Do you require medical aid, Crewman Clear?"

Clear lies flat on the metal floor, staring at the cables. When tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum shut down the power, it was then booted up again by Kimleigh externally. With the shut down and that reboot lots of things reset, including the A.I. system. Kimleigh had been very heavy-handed in her searching through the ship's data. When she found corruption, she purged it in an attempt to clean it all up and get more information out of the system. It seems she purged the corruptions upon the A.I. system. The original A.I. system. Now they were all back on online. Clear is momentarily conflicted. That many A.I.s all operational would surely be a great benefit to The Hopeful's systems. However, it would mean tolerating Note and what happened once could well happen again.

Clear growls at the console and starts unplugging more cables.

Clear: "I don't care. You're out."

Note: "I must advise against this, Crewman Clear. Navigating the ship through a jump without the assistance of an A.I. would be incredibly dangerous."

Clear: "HA!"

She shouts at him.

Clear: "HA!"

Note: "I am not incorrect in this, Cre--"

Clear: "I have an A.I., Note. And she'll replace you. This time, forever!"

One of the cables proves reluctant to budge. She yanks it as hard as she can. It still won't move so she gets the hydrospanner in there.

Note: "I believe your A.I. chip was corrupted, Crewman Clear."

Clear can't help but chuckle gleefully at Note's imminent demise, especially in the face of his inability to comprehend the situation.

Clear: "Lucky for me, Note, she wasn't only on that chip. She was also stored somewhere else."

She pulls something out of her pocket.

Clear: "Speaking of which, I could use her help. Kara Pashna, could you push the button on this thing? I've charged it up."

She rolls the small device from inside the console and Pashna picks it up.

Kara Pashna: "If I'm to forgo calling you captain, you should probably just call me Pashna and drop the kara, Clear."

Clear: "Fine by me, Pashna."

Pashna pushes the button as indicated. Clear hears him yelp with fright and is satisfied that the hard-light projector must still be working.

Clear: "Mother? Are you there?"

Mother: "Captain Clear. I seem to have been disconnected from the A.I. Hub..."

Pashna: "Is... is she your mother?"

Clear winces. Every time.

Clear: "No. She's another A.I.. This time she's in a hard-light projector. She did it to herself a while ago so she has a physical presence round the ship. So. When her lights went off, she was spared the wrath of..."

She doesn't like to say Kimleigh's name and Pashna has the decency to include her in the list of the dead that shall not be spoken of.

Clear: "Well there you are anyway. Mother. Get in here."

Clear sees Mother's hard-light projector float into the small space and then activate to project her physical form. Instantly Clear feels the other salmitton's body beside her own. She's cold and lifeless, feeling like a corpse instead of a living person, but she turns her head to look at Clear with her big, lively eyes.

Mother: "What do you need me to do, Captain?"

Clear: "Righteous fury is the order of the day, Mother. Righteous fury."

------

The Command Centre never felt more like home than it does right now. Weeks away, though it felt like longer, and Mother is back in the machine. She stands upon the golden pad and looks up at the screens around her. One of them casts out a 3D hologram of the Milky Way Galaxy. Pashna is with her and he stares at the map with a mixture of amazement and horror. Clear had been overcome with a sense of smallness when she was first forced away from Mars by Note and his mission but she had always been aware of the galaxy at large and had seen it many times, seen people from those worlds and even visited one or two in her time. She can only guess what a man with no knowledge of the galaxy at large must be feeling right now.

The map appears solid with colour and is as clear and crisp as the monitors. But when she put her hand into it it ripples gently around her red skin. She snaps her fingers and the filter changes. Instead of the real colours of the galaxy it has transformed into a simple wire mesh. It zooms in when Clear nods to Mother's pink face up on the monitor. There, a little orange mesh represents The Hopeful, sitting in a great expanse of darkness with nothing else besides now that Kalor Varkesh has swooped off. A blue trail appears and leads from The Hopeful's position back to the galaxy proper.

Clear: "We could just go crazy and run off to an alien galaxy! How much fun would that be, eh?"

Pashna: "Sounds terrifying."

Clear chuckles quietly.

Clear: "Probably. We'd end up accosted by alien bug monsters or something."

They had come a long way. So far that Clear is almost horrified by the distance. It might be a hop, skip and a jump for Kimleigh and her High Empire boys but the idea that she'd jumped from the Milky Way, across several others galaxies, and into this deep expanse so, so far away is mind-blowing. She doubts her Hoopa will ever be able to achieve such a tremendous feat ever again. The Hopeful, on the other hand, will have to pass through the Hellish Tartarus to reach home. The map zooms in on the Milky Way Galaxy and she wonders where they ought to aim for. She naturally think she should try to jump back to the Perseus Arm, though not back to the Mirare System as Warlord Dienhand may have the system under her control after the events of their leaving.

But the Perseus Arm may not be the safest place for Clear and The Hopeful right now. After Dienhand blew up a lot of people just to spite Clear, Clear thinks a lot of people will be blaming the salmitton and her ship for the destruction. She has the secret superweapon after all. Or not so secret since everyone seems to know about it. The Galactic Empire may well want her head. The Rebel Alliance is undoubtedly in disarray if Princess Aurora wasn't cured in time...

Clear suddenly feels a great wave of sadness. What if Aurora is already dead and never got cured? Another death Clear can blame herself for. And what of her other friends? She's certain Green is alive. She had never gotten the message to work again but she knows it was real. Green has to be alive. At least one person Clear can hope to see again.

She muses at the map.

She now understands more of the political groups she can see indicated. The High Empire is there and possesses what is called the Terminus Systems. That would be a logical point to re-enter the galaxy from, the every edge. However she isn't cure what attitude the High Empire would have for Clear and her ship after her involvement with Kimleigh's death. Elsewhere she can see The Imperium too but she really wants to avoid those malevolent basterds. There's even an area of the map carved up in the name of the Jovian Hegemony, though Clear doesn't understand how this Jupiterian empire could still exist without Jupiter. Then there's a single points that shines brightly.

Clear: "You know what? I think it's finally time to go home."

Pashna looks up at her.

Pashna: "I thought this ship was your home?"

Clear: "It is. But I mean my cultural home. It's time for me to go back to Mars."

Ciel: "Are you making choices without consulting with me, madam?"

They turn to see the old woman Ciel standing in the doorway to the Command Centre. She shuffles inside, admiring the map display.

Ciel: "Can't believe you left me on this ship all this time. I could have stolen it, you know?"

Clear: "You had no way to power it."

Ciel: "I could have thrown your friend into the power core."

Clear: "I'd have thanked you."

Clear glances at the door and notices that he's not there.

Clear: "Where is Koure by the way?"

Ciel: "Skulking around. I think he's making an evil mad genius base or something. I felt it was best to leave him to it."

Clear: "Well I took care of one monster today, I could add a second..."

Ciel moves towards the audience seats and settles herself down.

Ciel: "By the way, I did some digging while you were away. After our Lady High Empire went through the ship's systems like a bull in a china shop--"

Clear feels Pashna's confusion mounting.

Ciel: "--I was able to get more information out of the mess. Your ridiculous ship, here, once belonged to her oh-so-friendly empire."

Clear: "She said as much."

Ciel: "It also belonged to the Jovian Hegemony."

Clear wonder what the chances of that information popping up just as she'd considered the Hegemony a ghost of an empire moments ago.

Ciel: "That'll be all your ghosty friends you had running about."

Clear makes a mental note to turn them back on when she has the chance. But as she does she thinks of Icer and suddenly facepalms.

Clear: "How... how did a I not see that sooner?"

Ciel raises an eyebrow.

Ciel: "I think you can be forgiven for not realising..."

Clear shakes her head.

Clear: "It was staring me in the face all along..."

Ciel: "It was?"

Clear: "It's not... her name tag. It's not a name tag. It was saying her planet. I'd been calling her Icer but really it was reading 'Jupiter' with the top of the T burnt off..."

Ciel smiles.

Ciel: "The mysteries that reveal themselves, eh?"

Clear can't help but smile. Yes. The mysteries do reveal themselves in time. Poor old Icer getting named after her planet.

Clear: "Do you know what happened to them?"

Ciel: "They were attacked by something."

Clear: "I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise."

Ciel: "I don't know who... or what. It was sudden though. I think you might have a better understanding from your living holograms."

Clear: "Mother. Does the data for the projections still exist?"

Mother: "Affirmative."

Clear: "Switch it on."

Ciel stands up and approaches the console bank of the Command Centre.

Ciel: "Let me connect to the systems, I could speed us up to get to the juicy stuff."

Clear: "You mean the part where they all die?"

Ciel: "Exactly."

With Ciel's help the ghosts turn back on and wink into existence before their very eyes. However they appear to be frozen static. Pashna is astounded as he nears the closest one.

Pashna: "It's like... daylight. Amazing."

Clear: "Yeah but they're supposed to be moving about. Why--"

Suddenly the two male Jupiterians in the room explode in a horrific display of guts and gore being rendered from flesh and their faces scream with anguish - fortunately sans actual sounds.

Clear: "What in the name of buggery just happened?"

Ciel points to the corridor where they see several ghosts run by. Clear and Pashna give chase while Ciel teleports herself after them. As they get down the corridor suddenly the soldiers stop dead. Frozen completely in place. Clear skids to a halt.

Pashna: "What happened to them? Why have they stopped like that?"

Clear: "It must be a glitch in the system."

Suddenly the soldiers begin to move again but looks of horror then instantly cross their faces and one-by-one they mauled by something invisible to our present-day Clear.

Ciel: "I... don't think it's a glitch..."

Clear: "Then...?"

Ciel: "I think... I think they're being frozen in time... Then released when... whatever kills them kills them."

Clear: "So... whatever killed them could freeze them in time, still move around themselves, until they were in an easy position for the kill?"

Ciel: "It looks that way to me. Can't say I've heard of such a group before though. Very peculiar."

Clear's mind suddenly explodes.

Clear: "Holy fuk..."

Ciel: "What is it?"

Clear can't help but shake.

Clear: "I think... I think... I think they're still on board..."

Ciel: "What? Why would--"

Clear: "Icer's Room. She's... locked in time, isn't she? So in that room..."

Ciel: "Oh dear..."

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