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THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness is all. - 3. THE WEAKENING.


The history of the 'glory' years, those almost two centuries in which Steefax first explored, then dominated the galaxy, will not be told here. For it is not really part of my story. My brief is a different one, and it is to relate the causes and results of the catastrophe which plunged us into a dark age, and to describe our attempts to emerge once more into the light.

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness is All - 2. OTHER SPACE


In the late summer of 864 ND, the freighter Ivan 111, having just left Steefax orbit en route for the Moon, and beginning to accellerate, suddenly shuddered the length and breadth of its hull. Seconds later, the navigator looked out into space - and recognized nothing!

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness is All - 1. PROLOGUE


Hamlet, of that name the Last, King of Steefax, of that ilk the Minor, sighed. He was in the second year of his reign, and Steefax Major was in conjuction with Cylos, and tomorrow it would be time for the Prophecy. With a bit of luck, it would be like the sort of gobbledygook offered to most of his predecessors: not even the great Argons would have been expected to make much of -

When the wolf down lies with the jay,
The bunting will a golden egg lay,

given to Boris the Fourth; or -

When stars at noon very bright shine,
The rich brown loam will at night shine,

provided for the bemusement of Adolphus the Second. Poor felix the Fifth was told -

Like leaping frog, to water take as a newt,
And you'll be, of all kings, the most astute.

That monarch's jump from a high bank into the shallow end of the Royal Lake did not quite cost him his life, but it certainly deprived him of what was left of his reason.