Service Funeral

The ceremony is private, Hippocrates crew-and-insiders only. It is conducted in the shuttle bay, with the four surviving fighters off to one side.

The ceremony is familiar to those who joined the ship in the very first run. It begins with the ringing of a port-call bell by Jim. The five caskets are brought in by the surviving Vircan pilots. Hippocrates, decked out in his Skyguard Ensign's uniform, officiates.

Dr. Symphony-Hayes welcomes attendants thusly:

"Friends and comrades, we are gathered here today to honor the warriors of Skyguard Battle Squadron One who gave their lives in the line of duty. Though they have passed from this world, their memory shall live on with us; through us shall their burdens be borne, that they shall not have died in vain."

Kith now reads from the Book of Hegemons:

"From the Proceeding of Strife:

Spoke a Man unto the Light:
      What if I should die today?
And the Light said in return:
      Then a thousand more shall live,
      And one take up your blade;
      Their children and yours will prosper.
      I will assure these things.

Spoke the Man once more:
     What if I should die in vain?
And the Light replied:
     No man knows the mind of Fate,
     Whose Will is served when plans are broken.
     Chaos is a fellow-traveller; fear not his works.
     Have Faith in my Design and you transcend him.

Spoke the Man again:
     What if I should die alone?
And the Light answered him, saying:
     The Vault of Time gathers all---
     Friend and Treacher, Light and Darkness.
     Upon the Scale of Judgment we two are equals;
     The Void is our witness, and the Universe forgets nothing."

Hippocrates reads short personal histories of the deceased, gleaned from the surviving pilots. Then, he gives, homily.

"Before today, outside of Vircus system, the name `Skyguard' meant next to nothing. To some, it was a strange and outdated fantasy adhered to by a few people who refused to let go of the past. To others, it was a reminder of the errors and betrayals of the Shattering.

Perhaps it is just as well that we were forgotten. Three hundred years ago, the sight of a Skyguard ship here would have been a thing to fear, or even hate. There would be a lot to answer for, if anyone remembered the questions.

Yesterday, we fought to defend the people of Sparta from an implacable enemy, and something happened that has not happened for a very long time. Skyguard pilots gave their lives to defend the people of the Linked Worlds from harm. It's one thing for an eccentric machine to fly around the Linked Worlds and claim to still be on duty. It's something else for men and women to come to a place that they know nothing about, and say in the name of the Skyguard, `We will stand with you, and fall with you'.

Today, on Sparta and on Crux, the name `Skyguard' means something because Battle Squadron One has made it mean something. Those who made the sacrifice, and those who carry on, have restored honor to a name that time forgot. They should not doubt that they are all Skyguard now."

Hippocrates then pins little silver battle stars to the jackets of the surviving Vircans, and places one in each casket. Then Dr. Symphony-Hayes speaks a Final Farewell for each of the deceased:

"<Name>'s body we now commit to the Void, there to abide in honor; and his/her soul we commend to the Universe, may s/he stand at the right hand of his/her Hegemon." Then the attendants leave the shuttle bay, excepting Katya, Martan, (both in space suits), and Hippocrates. The bay doors are opened and, one by one, the caskets are lifted out of the shuttle bay by Katya and Martan, and sent on a course to burn up in Sparta's atmosphere.