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Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 13

Part II

A formless glow born of a billion distant light-sources shone on the other side of a clear partition. It held no warmth and no chill, and it might have been a painting or an illusion freed from the sleeve of a conjurer. A man was seated before it. He had been gazing into it since its birth, and with each rise and fall of a celestial empire, he had become aware of another aspect of his being.

When the first galaxies formed out of the scattered froth of genesis, he had discovered his heart, and when that primal wave of matter expired in the sinking, blazing catastrophe of implosion, he had uncovered his lungs. And at last, after objects numbering just shy of an infinity had perished a billion times over in the same grand cycle, he had acquired the use of his mind. Now, his being matched the cosmos in its complexity; both were a sum of countless bits of excited energy working together in uncertain unity.

He smiled faintly and watched the light beyond the partition. What wonders would he gain use of in the ages to come? He knew, somehow, that the universe had much more life to give. This beauty before him was barely escaped of its infancy; what possible form could it take that would be superior? He settled in his seat and awaited the splendor yet to come.

But instead, from quite out of nowhere, a terrible high-pitched whine exploded in his ears. His entire body seethed with pain and he choked on a pitiful cry. Somewhere in the back of his mind the horrible sound was processed and broken up into discrete units, each bearing their own meaning.

“Long live the Admiral,” it insisted at him, “Hail to the Sovereign of Andredony returned to life!”

The man turned from the silver flecked blackness and looked around. He was seated in the center of a large circular room. Display screens and stacks of ellipsoid consoles lined the walls. There was one other like him in the room, standing stiffly with one hand held up to his forehead.

“Who am I?” the man asked, his voice trembling.

“You are Admiral Noel Stalkforth,” the other began, his voice thick with pride, “and you are on the bridge of your flag-ship, the Jade Javelin.”