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Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 17

The ship traversed the void between the gas giant's shell and the small white sphere. It docked with a spaceport that had seen better days, or perhaps better millennia.

Jole led the Admiral out of the Jade Javelin and into the spaceport. They walked in silence down a series of long empty corridors. At last they came to the space elevator, a sphere of crystal that would spirit them safely to the surface.

The Admiral looked down through the elevator's transparent floor. From high up, the planetoid's landscape appeared to be a smooth whitish plain marked with elliptical grooves, like a topographic map or a positronic brain. These markings emitted silver light, and seemed to be the planet's only source of illumination. As the elevator moved closer, it became apparent these grooves were in fact massive trenches carved into the earth. On their precipices, silver sculptures hung down like jagged, sparkling vegetation.

The elevator landed safely, and the two men stepped out. The ground was blue-gray, possessing of a subtle glow, and spread out in perfect flatness as far as the eye could see. The sky was solid black and sealed off the horizon like an airtight lid, making the vast featureless landscape feel somehow claustrophobic. The climate was neither hot nor cold, and lacked even the slightest breeze.

In the distance, silver light spouted from a trench and spilled over its sides.

“The Trench City of Lazar-Om,” Jole said, pointing. “That is our destination.” A fierce wind picked up as they neared the city, quickly drowning out their voices and slowing progress to a crawl. Eventually, they arrived at a huge archway with intricate patterns running up its sides. A high crumbling wall spread out from either side, and beyond was the silver sculpture garden seen from the elevator.

As they stepped through the archway, the wind died down and the air became perfectly still again. The Admiral suddenly realized they were not amongst sculptures at all, but rather in the remains of a ruined city. Piled on top of one another like corpses, building after building clutched to the ghost of its original form. Fearsome blades emerged from heaps of shattered polygons and smooth cables swirled about polished pillars that curved at random intervals, leading nowhere. Light from the trench bounced off the edges and trembled on patches of exposed ground. It seemed that time had died here, that the ruins were paused in a random stage of decay. They had been this way for time immemorial and would continue so until the galaxy’s death.

“What is this place?” the Admiral whispered.

“My liege, this is the cradle of mankind.”