Chapter 39

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Eight hundred and sixty-three light years away, on the eighth planet of the Rigel system, in the very heart of the capital city, deep within the towering High Palace, alone in a communication chamber, the Rigellian High Lord sat.  And thought.

Eventually, he stood, and in a swirl of ceremonial robes, swept out of the chamber, pausing only to bark instructions at the handful of technicians who had been monitoring the transmission.

"The connection must be restored.  Inform us when it is done.  We go now to confer with our fellow High Lords.  Matters of grave import are at hand."

He made his way along lofty corridors, adorned with countless trophies of Rigellian conquest.  He climbed sweeping, bejewelled staircases, bedecked with the booty of a thousand former battles.  He rode in capacious, luxuriously appointed elevators, he strode across grand ballrooms and he stalked through gracious chambers, ornamented with the portraits of his predecessors.  Finally, he arrived at an expansive landing, dominated by a pair of towering, ornately carved doors and guarded by a heavily armed, seriously platform-soled and imposingly high-hatted soldier.  The guard bowed deeply.

The aristocrat regarded her with cold eyes.  "The High Council is in session?"

"Yes, High Lord."

"Then stand aside.  The news I carry will brook no delay."

"Of course, High Lord."

With a tremendous grinding of gears, the doors slowly swung open to reveal a vast, shadowy chamber, the far reaches of which were lost in gloom.  Circled around the centre of the room sat seven members of the High Council, each High Lord perched atop an imposingly lofty throne, soaring metres above the chamber floor.  An eighth throne sat empty.

With a curt nod to the guard, the newly arrived member swept into the room, and in silence, face impassive, waited for the immense doors to grind and groan their way closed again.

With a final, sepulchral crash the chamber was once again sealed.

"It's about bloody time," muttered the High Lord, kicking off his ruby-encrusted, solid titanium boots.  "We have seriously got to get some faster doors."  He pulled his robe over his head, cursing as it tangled around his obelisk-like, gold-trimmed crystal headdress.  Eventually, with a final tug, the whole mass came free, leaving him clothed in nothing more than a pair of board shorts, lime-green with little red smiley-faces.  He gave his slightly pudgy stomach a speculative scratch.

"Alright, c'mon you guys.  I need a drink."

With just the briefest of preliminary shimmers, the entire chamber vanished, dissolving away as if it were nothing more than a dream, or to be more accurate, nothing more than a hologram, which is exactly what it was.  Bright sunshine replaced the gloom, a glittering, sun-dappled swimming pool took the place of the thrones, and rather than the sombre, stern High Lords, there were instead...well, the same High Lords, but now dressed in a bright array of board shorts, bikinis and beach wraps,  in stark contrast to their former drab robes.

Several council members, perched on stools by the poolside bar, waved in greeting.  Hi-fidelity speakers, artfully hidden in the perfectly manicured gardens, played mellow grooves.  A smiling waiter approached and bowed respectfully, before proffering a tray of drinks.

The High Lord made his selection, and after taking a healthy swig, raised his glass in toast to his fellow aristocrats.

"Aw yeah, people.  Now the High Council is in session."


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