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Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 14

A rush of memories returned at the mention of the ship. His mind played back scenes of mammoth trees, ghostly colors, and birds with long, muscled wings gnawing away at a ceiling of interwoven branches. Lurking at the edge of every image was a dark skinned figure clad in gray with a face sometimes sympathetic and sometimes hostile, but always heavy with guilt. Words came back to him as well. ‘Lumina.’ ‘Lantern Hawk.’ ‘Toruln.’

He tried to stand but found himself strapped into his chair. He screamed and struggled against the bonds until foam collected in the corners of his mouth and the veins in his throat stood out like metal cables. “Where are the Lampflowers? What is this steel hell?” he said.

The other man’s mouth fell open in surprise. He quickly raised his wrist and whispered into it. A previously hidden door opened in the wall and a second man stepped out. This one was tall, gaunt and dressed in black and red. He walked up the Admiral and began inspecting him. He pulled up his eyelids, waved instruments in his face, and stared into his pupils. Then he backed off.

“Well?” asked the first man.

“He’s gone into shock,” the second replied. “His mind has atrophied to the point where it can barely process foreign stimuli.”

The Admiral sank into the chair and stared at the emaciated man; he dug his fingers into the armrests until blood began to leak from under his nails.

“We've seen this phenomena before in people who’ve reverse migrated from Lumina,” the second man continued, ignoring his patient’s glare. “They’re incapable of re-adapting to such a high degree of systematic regulation.”

“What do we do then?”

“I suggest we put him into hibernation until we make the null-space leap.”

The first man somehow managed to stiffen more. “We’re under strict orders not to tranquilize the Admiral, again.”

“Whatever you say, but he’s not going to fully recover for some time— perhaps never.”

“Is it safe to release him?”

He stuck something into the Admiral's neck. “Now it is.”

“Thank you. Dismissed.”

The second man vanished as quickly as he had arrived, leaving the two alone on the bridge.