Ashes and Diamonds
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, restrains the populace from approaching, a transparent force wall one metre within underlining the message to the curious who cannot, or will not, read the notices.
There is no silence here, no place for quiet contemplation. Apart from those paying to occupy the QuietTech booths (‘Silence is Your Citizen’s Right’ embossed next to the credit slot), every two minutes the ears are assaulted by the roar of another freighter blasting off from the Northwest Dome’s second spaceport. Every seven minutes comes the whooshing of carriages on Line Five of the monorail, which snakes directly over the Memorial Hall. Perhaps to cover these auditory insults, discreet music emanates from several loudspeakers on a twelve minute loop programme. (Twelve minutes covers the mean visitor residence time plus two standard deviations, even excluding the 37% of visitors who choose to end their pilgrimage no closer than the vending area.) The programme encompasses the Terran Federation 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 is engraved in gold letters. Six plexiglass-laminated signs repeat the inscription for those spectators with eyesight unassisted by cybertech:
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) gives 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 goes 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) is marked with a small brass plaque.
The memorial vending area sells 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 can also purchase souvenir tea cups, dinner plates and food-dispenser magnets emblazoned with Blake’s features, available in a choice of five stirring poses. A collected edition of the twenty volumes of Blake’s Military History of the Federation is 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 seem to sell better.
As the guidetext
entry concludes, Blake’s contribution will never be forgotten.
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