Ripping yarns of derring-do from across the Fifteen Galaxies
Father and daughter pay their respects to the last heroes of the British Empire.
by Tom Menary
Silence was not a natural state of existence for General Broadchest. He was at his most contented while roaring orders from the rudder of an ironclad blazer wagon, encircled by the thunder of war.
Today, although surrounded still by that same thunder, he was observing silence. Only the sound of his bootfalls rang through the marble corridors, underscored by the flatter, softer padding of his daughter beside him.
The Royal Cosmonautical Museum was a place of silence. It was probably the closest thing General Broadchest would get to a religious experience. Its arched halls and multifarious antechambers were cloisters of solitude, where visitors shuffled from one ancient exhibit to the next in solemn reverence. If he ever set foot in a church, he imagined it would sound a lot like this.
In other words, it was dull as dishwater, but necessary. Tradition dictated it.
Several of the museum's visitors stopped as he strode by, some backing up against walls and plinths, a couple even favouring him with respectful salutes which, if not exactly up to Army regulation, were at least enthusiastically performed. He returned them crisply, and marched on with Gwendoline at his side.
All of this bored her as much as it bored him, but he was damned if she was going to grow up ignorant of history. Too many of the new recruits hadn't the faintest idea about Bodring or the Charge of the 42nd, and Broadchest was sure to pack the idiotic little sods off to the most remote Crown dependency he could think of. If ever she was going to follow in his footsteps—and by God he'd do everything to ensure she did—then she needed the full weight of history to be impressed upon her shoulders.
Hence coming here, to the Stone. The grand memorial standing out in the courtyard was still smooth and relatively free of blemishes and the weathering of time, and with any luck it would stand tall even if London collapsed around their ears.
After all, it was all that was left of the last great heroes of the British Empire.
The Jupiter Wars were ancient history now; the Broadwing lashed to the ceiling in the main atrium was caked in dust and solomite, and the museum wasn't half as busy as it had been in Broadchest's day. The Empire was expanding further from its own beating heart, and ignorance was expanding with it.
The old general sighed heavily. Gwendoline glanced a frown up at him. "Are you bored?" she asked.
Too smart for her own good, that was her problem. "I'm reminiscing. You should do the same," he advised.
"I don't have anything to reminisce about."
"Remember," he said firmly. "Remember their sacrifice."
The memorial was undoubtedly a fine work of craftsmanship; it had taken the artisans a good two years to complete the sculpture, particularly because the powers-that-be demanded it was hewn from Corvanite corundum, taken from the black depths of the Vas Corvanus, and could only be chipped away by star-iron cutters. Now it stood as monument to the Corvanite defeat by the brave souls of Britain.
Gwendoline crossed her arms, and scrutinised the sculpture in the way she scrutinised everything. "Don't you say sacrifice is meaningless for anything less than an absolute cause?"
He turned to her, surprised she'd remembered the lesson but irritated she'd chosen to bring it up now. "It was total war."
"The Corvanites aren't dead," she said simply.
Which was true; the Battle of Bodring Quasar had secured victory for the allied forces, but it was almost pyrrhic in the devastation wreaked upon the Realm. Further, while the Corvanite horde was shattered at the last gasp, the war cabinet decided not to pursue the few warlords who slipped from Britain's grasp, and the enemy homeworld was left untouched.
Broadchest had long believed that had been a mistake.
To his daughter, he simply made a non-committal grunt and clapped her on the shoulder, drawing her closer as he directed her gaze up at the corundum edifice. "We're privileged enough to have that debate now because of what they did then," he said softly. Softness was not a natural state for him either, but there were times when it was necessary. Gwendoline was growing into a demeanour as hard as his own and he wondered, not for the first time, if she could have benefited from more softness in her life. "We have a duty to uphold their legacy. Our name carries weight," he reminded her.
Gwendoline said nothing to that, and continued to gaze at the Stone, her eyes tracing the sculpture lines as if she was puzzling out a maze. Broadchest was content to let her have her space, and turned his own gaze to the depiction of the great heroes of the Jupiter Wars. They deserved to have their names shouted from the rooftops instead of muffled by the all-pervading silence of an empty exhibition. Their names should have been written in blazing trails across the Fifteen Galaxies.
In the private museum of his mind, General Broadchest vowed that, so long as he had anything to say about it, they would not be forgotten.