Riven Space

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Discovering the Rift

“Admiral!” A smartly dressed lieutenant saluted, “A. . .” Uncertainty eclipsed his spit-and-polish, “Well sir, someone calling himself a ‘messenger’ has arrived.”

Admiral Jennings looked up contemplatively. His eyes narrowed on the anxious lieutenant. “His credentials?” The lieutenant nodded to the desk, where the forms instantly appeared within the display surface. The Admiral barely glanced at them, “Is that all?”

“No sir.” The lieutenant surreptitiously wiped a hand against his pant leg but maintained his poise, “He also brought this.” Finally, something real rose to sit on the surface of the desk: a small blue and red seal that should have carried no significance at all. The Admiral picked it up carefully. “Of course. See that he is let in.”

The lieutenant visibly started, but the Admiral said nothing more. Finally, the lieutenant faded out of existence. The Admiral found himself wondering about the reality outside his office. Perhaps even the young lieutenant hadn’t been real. Certainly a projection could be faked. Had he even once met the lieutenant? He searched his memory fruitlessly. How long had it been since the Admiral had seen someone real other than his family? The world must be very different than it looked from his office. Every indication that had reached him in this safe nest was that the tiny red and blue seal should not be there.

As if held in stasis, silence filled the office for a long moment before footsteps could be heard outside the door. The Admiral remained seated and raised his eyebrows slightly in anticipation. The door slid open and a nicely dressed courier stood on the threshold. Already acquainted with other recipients’ discomfort at his company, the courier waited patiently. The Admiral nodded imperiously.

“Thank you, sir. I realize that this is unusual,” the courier stepped into the room and allowed the door to close behind him. The Admiral’s nostrils flared briefly.

“I’ve seen your credentials,” the Admiral gestured to the virtual forms on his desk as well as the small seal that had preceded the messenger.

“Yes sir. You realize this is of the utmost security?”

The Admiral nodded. His desk slid down into the floor so he could get up. The floor rolled over its top without disturbing the seal. He and his guest stood only three feet apart without the secure desk between them. “I suppose we need to find somewhere to talk.”

“Yes sir.”

“I find it hard to believe that these precautions are necessary.”

“They are, sir.” The courier stared around the office with a doleful expression, “I assure you they are.”

“I was led to believe that the only possible reason for someone to use this seal and send a physical messenger,” he made it sound as if the courier were a pack mule, “was virtually the end of the universe.”

The man said nothing aloud.

The Admiral’s expression hardened and drooped at the same time. His eyes saw conflicts centuries old. He had lived a long time, and had grown to like the state of the galaxy as it was: civilized, peaceful, and dull. He shook his head slowly, “Do you even know what you’re saying son?”

“Can you turn that thing off, sir? Before you say anything you’ll regret.” The young courier gestured to the nearly camouflaged silver sphere. The Admiral followed his gesture and blinked in surprise. He had forgotten that the sphere even existed. It was his shadow—his hourly companion. Even his wedding night had been duly witnessed. It was narrowing in for a historic close-up of the Admirals harrowed expression when the recording abruptly ended. It was one of only three times that the Admiral ever stopped the recording.

Sometimes, the most historic moments are the ones that never get recorded.

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