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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.

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“And I suppose you want me to lead the charge?” The Admiral said.

His face flushed red and he brought his palms down hard on the oval platform. “Of course that’s what I want! I want you to scream into battle aboard the Jade Javelin! Break the will of the Alliance of Free Worlds and send them back screaming to their primitive hovels. Generate enough glory so sate the bards for a thousand years!”

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“Has your memory returned yet my liege?” asked Jole.

The Admiral was silent for a time. This place was familiar, and he had certainly crossed paths with whatever or whoever was inside.

“Faintly. Somehow I feel it is the end of my journey.”

“Perhaps. This is the Patriarch’s Palace.”

Jole placed his hand in the center of the two doors, and whispered, “Ultos Huros Exedi Nom.”

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“I don’t understand.”

“Millennia ago when this planet was warm and full of life, the first humans were molded from the primal sludge and set free by the Maker. This is the last city built before the pan-exodus.“

“And then?”

He motioned broadly at the nothingness surrounding the ancient buildings. “During the aeon between our estrangement and reunion, Namurai Sun Jewel wasted away into this scoured, shriveled husk. But the ancient city was preserved with the best technologies of that primitive age, and so it remains, the last relic of our youth.”

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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.

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As they neared the solar system, the planets gained distinct shape and color. One in particular stood out, it was the fourth from the sun and shone by far the brightest. From outward appearances it was a gas giant, with a shell of copper-colored clouds and many red and purple spots. The Admiral noticed dozens of space-stations orbiting it slowly, skimming the atmosphere like dead whales drifting through an ocean of rust. As the ship neared the largest of the stations, a computerized voice filled the bridge,

“Travelers, beam your codec-packet immediately.”

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The first man went over and undid the straps.

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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.’

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.

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Half of the Blæc Guard split off and cornered the villagers. The rest lined up before the Admiral and raised their rifles. Their black armor bristled like quills, red lights blinked in place of eyes on their visors, and fearsome plastiform trunks hung from their mouthpieces. A voice lacking any resonance or warmth came from their ranks, seeming to belong to all of them at once.