The collective mood in the Divine Empire is festive and optimistic. The people are in the midst of 22 years without turmoil - interstellar or intergalactic.
The empire eagerly awaits the return of the great astronomer Colin Kristensen. Dr. Kristensen has been out exploring the deepest recesses of observable unthra for a quarter of a century.
His return is about to set events in motion that will change the empire for centuries to come.
The astronaut Robert Martin shot an impossibly vivid glance at Aber Lintec from behind a brilliant cloud of mercurial film on the other side of the hall. Missing frames from his likestock seemed to materialize in the vast space between the ghostly film particles and the busy steps across the hall. Aber quietly stared back from his spot atop the steps, allowing himself the indulgence of a brief spiritual connection amidst the chaos of the assembly gathered at his feet.
To the astronaut's left sat the esteemed space commander and first lord comptroller of Zenith Hall Charland Locke - the first of only two. Stoic and detached, Charland's gaze seemed ready made for centuries old rumors about system-wide neural reprogramming that may or may not have occurred sometime during the empire’s beginnings. To his credit, he very likely would've preferred his stock to be a depiction from his time in the Brava Humera, were he to have been alive during its comissioning. It was a time marked with political unrest and longstanding dissatisfaction with the Martens but also less of an obligation to toe the party line.
Charland's likestock depicted him barely pretending to enjoy all of eight seconds in his chambers - looking out of a window to his side and then swiveling slowly in his seat to center his disturbingly distant smile at the viewer until a shimmering layer of plasma washed over the room and returned his gaze back to the window.
To his left stood the Martenon homestock, a likeness of what the standard family unit of earth might've looked like in a distant past - two hinthu, three finthu, one dom'tto. The five Martens looked down at the hyperactive dom'tto at their feet and then slowly looked forward with carefully calibrated expressions of warmth and kosma across their faces. Five seconds and then a glitchy layer of plasma to restart the loop.
The astronaut Robert Marten stood with his helmet clutched to his right side and a pre-distinctive star map hanging out of his left hand - a lazily inspired take on what the heroic explorer might've been portrayed to look like in the idealized fictions of his time. His smile always seemed to adopt a different variation on every loop. His eyes seemed to follow first time observers around until they stopped and looked at him long enough to notice the unintended eeriness of his long hair, space-suit, and star map dancing ever so gently in the wind while the rest of him remained perfectly still.
The Martenon clerics had lost faith in their eternal efforts to play down the supposed connection between the mythical astronaut and their objects of worship - the Martens. The event horizon, the controversial gene-3077c and the unwieldy business about the astronaut’s last name stood out boldly in the curious minds of conspiracy theorists like dots that connected into something devastating. The undeserved - as they were called for so vehemently denying the divinity of the Martens - jumped at every opportunity to connect those dots with even more speculative dots having to do with classified poems and fictions written by pre-distinctive spools and historians about the astronaut. His return once seemed imminent. Long ago, toward the end of pre-distinctive time, the astronaut had been scheduled for a remote check-in at a near-earth station. The story as best told by the deepest and most objective wells of Astra is that he veered too close to an event horizon and was never seen again.
Out of a similar event horizon, the empire now awaited the return of the great astronomer Colin Kristensen. Eager and anxious to make a good first impression, the more spirited members of the assembly of proletors yelled over each other until one of them thought to bring Aber back into the downing’s proceedings.
“What do you say, Canceler?”