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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?”

“A coalition of mining planets recently revolted and declared autonomy, declaring themselves the ‘Alliance of Free Worlds.' They ignorantly accuse Andredony of exploitation and enslavement, and are demanding ‘tariffs’ and ‘trade pacts’ and other such antiquated nonsense. If we do not act soon and crush their rebellion, Andredony will fall apart and the galaxy will descend into barbarism. We simply cannot function without complete control of their assets. The first lasting peace in five thousand years, the peace you single-handedly forged, is in grave danger.”

The Admiral’s cheeks rose in a cherubic smile, and what little skin showed through his beard and hair glowed with the same amorphous luminosity as his quarters. He reclined in his chair and regarded his guest. “Admiral Grefa my old friend, we can talk of this more later. But right now I must practice my autolute for the Hymn tonight.”

“No, there’s no time…“

“Wait here for me Admiral Grefa.”

“My lord, you are the Admiral,” he said weakly.

“Yes yes, of course. My, this is all very confusing,”

The Admiral rose and vanished behind the flimsy door. Moments later, the Officer heard the sound of plucked notes from within. He stood for a time listening to the music and thinking over the conversation. Picking apart the Admiral’s words was akin to digesting a tree branch. He couldn’t tell if his old commander was insane, playing a trick on him, or something else entirely. He had heard troublesome rumors of Lumina from both his superiors and his soldiers, ranging from plausible to ludicrous. On the allbeam, chatter clans told of men who were brainwashed and reprogrammed by a cult of nature worshipers. On the other end of the info-spectrum, academics and ideologues wrote essays on Lumina as a paragon of neo-luddism and a return to savagery as therapy for extreme psychic trauma. On which extreme did the planet really fall?

The less one knew, the more they assumed based on their own prejudices and predilections, that was obvious. He suspected the truth, as it often did, lay somewhere in the middle. One thing he was sure of: this enigmatic planet would not get the best of him.

He walked over to the desk beneath the window. A small book lay face down on its surface, so he picked it up and inspected it. It was bound in pliant black leather and the corners were worn from use. The pages were thick and rough and possessed a green tint. What an utterly barbaric form of media, he thought. Carefully, he opened it and looked through it. Notes written in a cramped hand were scattered intermittently throughout. Occasionally a page-size drawing of an Ophthala-bird, the creature he had seen earlier in the clearing, stared up at him with its single saucer shaped eye. He studied these, and recalled the childish creation myth about the Giant‘s Eye. Were these the ‘Lantern Hawks’ he wondered? The bit about them carrying matter in their beaks certainly fit the behavior of the birds he’d seen gnawing away at the tree canopy. He closed the book and set it down in its original position. The Admiral would surely notice he had looked at it, but at least it wouldn’t be too obvious. He scanned the room one more time for anything of note, then went over to the door. He rapped on it lightly.

The plucking stopped abruptly. “Yes, Grefa?” came the Admiral’s voice.

“I must speak with you again. Can you do this for an old friend?”

“Hmm. I’ll meet you in the Malfan Glade at evening before the Hymn. It’s just to the northwest of here.”

“Very well. I'll go there now and await your arrival. Please be hasty, these matters are not so light as you think.”

The Admiral responded with a flurry of trills.