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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.

Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 9

“Those lights— what are they?” Grefa asked.

“Lampflowers of course, didn’t your briefing cover them?”

“No, it didn’t...”

He went to one of the orbs and inspected it. It was in fact the bulb in the toroid of a massive flower. Except for the one suspended above the clearing, each grew naturally on the perimeter of the village.

He turned and saw the Admiral sitting with the others. He held an odd instrument and plucked at it experimentally.

“Is that an autolute?” Grefa asked, returning to the Admiral's side.

Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 7

A rustling sound woke him. He sat up and looked around. Perched on a rock a little ways off was the Admiral, brow creased as he delicately wove together several strands of reeds. The Officer looked down in horror at his mud-stained uniform. The abruptness of waking had shocked him back into his former self, if only temporarily. His entire body tensed up at the state of his hygiene.

“How long have I been asleep?” he asked sharply.

“Some time.”

“And how long have you been here?”

“Oh, some time, some time.”

Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 6

The path, barely wide enough for one person, twisted between behemoth trees twice the height of the bungalows in the village. All was shrouded in near darkness by the locked-tight canopy, and electrically charged bugs flew through the air in great numbers, breaking apart into a shower of sparks at the slightest contact. The ground sank underfoot but did not break, as if an ocean of mud lay just below a latticework of grass. Faint chiming calls echoed from above and overlapped endlessly, creating a polyphonous chorus.

Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 5

As he turned to go down the ladder, the Officer heard a commotion outside. He dove down through the square opening in the floor and did a handspring on the ground, landing in a defensive crouch. In a flash he produced long sleek gun barrels from under his sleeves.

His soldiers stood to the left, aiming their rifles at a small dirty man squatting on the ground.

“What is the situation Lieutenant?” the Officer said.

Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 4

The Admiral appeared startled, then he leaned forward and his eyes twinkled. “Is that so?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And why is that?”