Ascension: Last Orders

Mauris gasped, clutching the edge of his ancient writing desk as Laik rushed to support him.

“Are you alright?”

“That…device,” he replied, between shallow breaths, “alien to my constitution. There was some…pain.”

“I am sorry,” said Laik. “But – it is done?”

With trembling hands, Mauris opened a huge ledger at a certain page. Laik saw a beautiful woodcut illustration of a spacecraft, against a white background. A beam of light, intruding into frame, appeared to strike the vessel. On the facing page, another frame: empty, but for a few diffuse specks.

“My people,” said We, “enabled this.”

Laik spun round, noticing the other for the first time.

“Who is this?”

“A new acquaintance,” said Mauris, “It gladdens me to find the universe still holds such novelty, even at my age.”

“I am happy for you,” replied the commander, “but sad for this thing that I must do.”

He proffered a scroll, which the old man took and unrolled slowly. He read for a few moments before looking at Laik, tears brimming in his eyes.

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