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Final Light

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The engineers reported to the Admiral that the structure of the ship was past any repair; the engine and machinery far past their prime. All ships must go to the knacker's yard, or fail to keep their contents safe from the emptiness of the void; best to let the tired metal be recovered and reborn in a new, proud vessel.

So, the mournful order was given, and the proud Cruiser Triumph was sent, with regrets, to salvage. Before the final unbuilding, it was stripped of everything useful; the wires and cables that had been her sinews and nerves were salvaged; light strips taken, fluids drained and sucked away. Every cabinet and container emptied; power plants and motors unbolted.

The atmosphere plant was the last to be removed; to ease the work of the ants that stripped her internals away. Power flowed in thru heavy cables, her own piles and generators cold, gone.

Admiral Elli Quin sent word to a few of the ending of the ship; asking them to come before all was gone. Some items needed a respectful removal; only a few had the right, that duty, to satisfy promises made in the heat of battle. Time was short; but they came.

Gathered at the main airlock were few, but they remembered. Captain Elena Bothari-Jesek, Fleet Engineer Baz Jesek, Count Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, Ambassador Ivan Xav Vorpatril, Admiral Elli Quinn.

They had been there in the important times; This was the last moment together on this ship.

On the bulkhead, a part of the skin of the ship, were three bronze plaques. Simple, with few words; each a remembrance of the shining lives that had been held within this thin skin.

Armsman Konstantine Bothari
In from the hunt,
The hound lies sleeping,
Next to the fire,
At his master's side.

Sgt. Taura Nine Dendarii
To burn as a nova,
spending life in light,
Glorious is the term,
Driving away the Darkness.

Admiral Miles Naismith
Short, but not shallow,
Briefly did he live,
Changing worlds;
Bringing hope.

 

Count Miles set a small tripod with its central pan on the deckplate; into the dish he added a few clippings of hair. Each of the others did the same; if not hair, then a small memento. Admiral Quinn covered the small gifts with a mixture of wood and paper, then murmured a brief order into the commset.

Captain Elena stepped forward, silently, to ignite the small mound. A kiss of plasma to light the past.

They stood, silently, and the fragments of their memories burned; brief light that escaped thru the adjacent port into the greater space outside.

Soon, all that was left was ash; Baz took the small dish and tripod to a force-shielded hatch, and with his gloved arm thrust it into the void outside; shaking the few remnants of their gifts into forever.

The tripod he let float away, into the eternal distance.

Silence, as memories came to be, and voices heard again.

Baz took a small cutter from a toolbag, and carefully cut the three slabs of bronze off the bulkhead. Ambassador Vorpatril took each, wrapping them in purple velvet, to pass them gently to Count Vorkosigan. The noise of the cutting a shriek, a cry of regret, in their ears.

Miles placed them carefully in a small satchel; his touch lingering on each carefully wrapped memorial. Quiet prayers were said, gently, by all gathered, when the bag snapped shut.

Moments of thought.

Baz broke the silence; "The other plaque is already wrapped and ready for shipment, Miles, it's to heavy to move by hand. Have you found a," - his voice broke - "a proper place for it?"

Miles looked up, and away - "Yes. In the hills above the Long Lake - Elena knows it - is a cavern; One room is lit by the sun twice a year; I thought it a proper place to hold the memorial plates. That cavern was used by my Grandfather as a base during the Ceta war; it's still filled with the ghosts of those - soldiers. They'll recognize their own..."

"These," he placed his hand of the valise; " - will go to my family plot; for the memorial wall. Your father's" - he looked at Elena - "will go on his headstone."

The group stayed motionless, silent; until the commset of Admiral Quinn's wrist beeped to start a message. "Admiral; we're about to shut down the grav in your area; you might want to head somewhere else." They looked at each other, Miles leading the way to a passageway that led away to their shuttle.

A small craft floated away from the side of the Triumph, the last residents gone.

It's last valuables removed; it's last treasures - preserved.