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Ashes and Diamonds

By Firerose
Page 1 of 1

Earth, 497 NC

A black granite slab, eight metres by four metres by two metres.

Close inspection would reveal it not to be solid, the gold plinth painted. A low brass rail, however, restrained the populace from approaching, a transparent force wall one metre within underlining the message to the curious who could not, or would not, read the notices.

There was no silence here, no place for quiet contemplation. Apart from those paying to occupy the QuietTech booths ('Silence is Your Citizen's Right' emblazoned next to the credit slot), every two minutes the ears were assaulted by the roar of another freighter blasting off from the Northwest Dome's second spaceport. Every seven minutes came the whooshing of carriages on Line Five of the monorail, which snaked directly over the Memorial Hall. Perhaps to cover these auditory insults, discreet music emanated from several loudspeakers on a twelve minute loop programme. (Twelve minutes covered the mean visitor residence time plus two standard deviations, even excluding the 37% of visitors who chose to end their pilgrimage no closer than the vending area.) The programme encompassed the Federation Terran anthem, 'Mars' by some Pre-Atomic composer and the theme from Bate Hoven's 'Ode to Joy', said to be the hero's favourite music.

The tomb was engraved in gold letters. Six plexiglass-laminated signs repeated the inscription for those spectators with eyesight unassisted by cybertech:

Roj Blake, Hero -- First Rank

Awarded the Diamond Star for Valour, and the Order of the Inner and Outer Worlds for Services to the Federation during the First Intergalactic War

From Strength to Unity

The portable guidetext (available to hire for only 2 credits 50) gave the full citation for the two awards. 'Space Commander Roj G Blake had, without regard to personal safety or the safety of his crew, defended Federation Sector 11 against the Andromedan Fleet.' The guidetext went on to say that, after his retirement from active duties, Space Commander Blake had served as an advisor on military matters to the Terran Central Administration, before dying peacefully in his sleep on this very spot, on 35 Tertius 273 NC. In fact, if truth be told, the entire edifice had been moved somewhat over a century earlier from a location under Terminal Three (Commercial) to its present position. The original site (now within the cleaning cupboard of the ladies' conveniences) was marked with a small brass plaque.

The memorial vending area sold assemble-your-own kits of Blake's ship, the quaintly named Liberator, and sundry ear-rings, pendants and the like depicting the ship in colourful plasteen. The visitor could also purchase souvenir tea cups, dinner plates and food-dispenser magnets emblazoned with Blake's features, with a choice of five different poses. A collected edition of the twenty volumes of Blake's Military History of the Federation was available as a single data-cube in a black-and-gold leatherette presentation wallet. Despite the special discount price (only 99 credits), the Liberator models seemed to sell better.

As the guidetext entry concluded, Blake's contribution will never be forgotten.


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