It is the year 2278. The Centauri are still alive.
The palace doors have been thrown open, and a newly crowned emperor sits with his people at the banquet table. He watches the shifting patterns of color in the room - the flashes of shimmering silk, the rich brocades, the dark velvet cloaks, the occasional twinkle of a gem - and he smiles. Tonight, they have all dressed in their best - even the lowest born - and the room is suffused with a determined gaiety.
Outside, an icy wind whistles through seared, broken streets, tearing off the remains of tattered curtains in abandoned windows and scattering debris down dark alleyways. Throughout the city, ceremonial lanterns wink out, their delicate globes shattered by stones and dust. But inside the palace, it is warm, and the air is filled with music. The great hall smells of soap and linfra oil and incense and freshly baked bread.
Vir turns. By the table stand his old friend, Adi, and his wife, Amari. Amari is cradling a bundle in her arms. “Is that…?” Vir breathes, and Adi graces him with a crooked grin. Vir rises and with hesitant fingers peels aside layers of soft blankets until he reveals the face of a newborn infant within.
“He was born two days ago,” Adi tells Vir, his voice softened with paternal pride.
Adi’s sleeping son snuffles, pursing his lips twice. He is flushed a healthy shade of pink, and he smells of powder. “He’s beautiful… I mean, handsome… I mean… he’s perfect,” Vir stammers, suddenly overcome, his eyes flooded with tears. Then his smile broadens, and he takes hold of one tiny hand.
“And Andra was wondering if there was anything left to celebrate.”
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