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Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 16

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.”

Jole puffed up his chest. “We have none, for this is the Jade Javelin, flagship of all Andredony and citadel to Seraph-Admiral Noel Porphyries Stalkforth.”

A pause. Then, “Clearance is approved. Welcome home Admiral.”

The center of the space station opened like a budding flower, revealing a portal of golden light. The glow filled the view-glass and illuminated the entire bridge, awakening memories of Lamptown and the Hymn in the Admiral. The ship glided in.

After a time, the light faded and the ship emerged in a vast dark space. They had penetrated the gas giant's atmosphere and were now inside the planet. In the center of the darkness was a small silver sphere without tilt or rotation no bigger than a moon. It dangled like an ornament from the ceiling of copper clouds and sparkled like a diamond floating in calm black water.

“What is that?” the Admiral whispered.

“Namurai Sun-Jewel I. The signet of Andredony’s galactic diadem.”

“Have I seen this before?”

“Countless times Admiral.”

“I have no memory of it.”

“Perhaps that will change when we land.”