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Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 21

There was no morning on Namurai Sun Jewel I, but in the hours of waking, a mist passed over the trench and coated all in a glimmering sheen. The silver buildings gleamed and the black sky seemed to soften and relent its crushing presence. The Admiral woke in his quarters covered in moisture. It was not like the delicate and fragrant dew of Lumina, rather it clung like honey and disturbed his skin. He rolled out of bed and ran to the dry-shower, where he scrubbed furiously with noxious chemicals. As he stepped out, a hard knock came at the door. Opening it, he saw a familiar face.

“Lord Grefa?” he said. “What happened to you?”

The other man looked like a revivified corpse. His eyes were threaded with red and his skin hugged his face like wet paper on rock. His lips and eyelids were tinted green.

“Forgive me liege, I logged a full hour in null-space to get here in time.”

The Admiral stared in shock. “How is that even possible?”

A smile flickered across his face. “My place is at your side in the battle to come.”

*

The Admiral and the Officer took the trench elevator to the Patriarch’s Palace. Hundreds of blue and gray clad citizens thronged the plaza jutting out of the trench’s wall, a low murmur of anticipation percolating through the crowd. Standing in the center, a full head taller than anyone else, was Lüs Goldenpath. He greeted the Admiral with a smile and a two-fisted handshake.

“Welcome gentleman,” he said. “We’ll be done here in a moment. The citizens just need a little show.” He winked and then turned and raised his hands. Silence fell.

“Subjects of Andredony,” he began, “the menace of the Alliance of Free Worlds will soon be over. Our precious holdings, in the center of the galaxy and at its rim, will no longer feel the lash of oppression on their back, for Seraph-Admiral Stalkforth has returned from the void to bring us victory!”

The crowd threw their heads back and a cheer skirled through the trench. They shook their fists at the blackness. The Admiral watched this without the faintest surprise or alarm. As the noise died down, Lüs stepped forward and held out a small circlet with a pentagonal jewel set into its front.

“Your Mark of Rank, Noel.”

The Admiral scooped the circlet out of Lüs' hands and placed it on his head. The jewel began to glow and became warm to the touch. The Admiral's eyes widened, and his head was thrown back. A blue beam shot out of the jewel and pierced the black sky. It wavered back and forth for a moment before training on an unseen object. The jewel began to vibrate. A buzzing drone filled the trench, and the plaza and trench walls started to shake until it seemed they would shatter. But before any disaster could befall Lazar-Om, a massive green ship appeared in the sky. Locked onto its armored belly was the jewel's blue beam. Much too wide to descend into the trench, the ship stopped just above the opening and hovered expectantly.

The drone stopped, and silence fell.

“It's the Jade Javelin,” some cried. “Praise Andredony, Praise Admiral Stalkforth!”

The crowd cheered with renewed zeal.

The blue beam widened until it enveloped both the Admiral and the Officer. The two men began to rise, buoyed by a raft of glimmering particles within the column of light. As they ascended to the ship, they saw men and women cheering them from the balconies and terraces of the hanging buildings. By the time they entered the ship, the entire planet seemed to ring with bliss.

*