Late 24th Century Old Calendar, the year 135 in the New Reckoning.
The lighting technician looked up just as he slid the last panel shut, a smile brightening his already exuberant expression. “M-M-Mr. Stone—”
“I told you to call me—”
“I m-mean Mr. Mike. Excuse me, sir.” The man rose and dusted his hands on the pant leg of his trousers and grasped Mike Stone’s outstretched hand. “This is going to make you the most powerful man in The Company, sir.”
Mike smiled as he looked past the edge of the wall and took in the sight of over twenty-five thousand people who had gathered to hear his announcement and to witness his rise to power.
At the podium stood Ted Waters. Though several years Mike’s elder, he served as the junior partner to Mike Stone on the Gliese 581G project. He turned in a broad gesture; his hand extended toward the side of the stage where Mike stood just out of sight. “Ladies and gentlemen of the New Earth Order, join me in welcoming the man who has made this all possible. Who, by his single-minded drive, imagination, and sheer determination, has opened new regions of space for not only our exploration, but also our expansion and settlement. Help me in welcoming…Mike Stone.”
Outside the hall, a summer storm raged. Flashes of lightning illuminated the translucent ceiling, sending a strobing effect over the heads of the attendees. Arriving at the podium amidst applause, Mike raised both arms. He absorbed the praise, then pointed to the ceiling. “Now, we can’t let a little something like lightning dampen our celebration.” Smiling, he rubbed the side of his face with a knuckle while manipulating a series of small controls on the podium surface with his free hand and instantly the ceiling shimmered and became opaque.
The crowd erupted into greater applause. In the wings, Ted Waters watched and his face darkened. From above and behind Mike, a giant avatar, matching Mike’s every movement and expression, emanating from the ceiling, flickered and came to life.
The room faded to black and silence enveloped the hall. After a moment, the sound of Mike’s voice began to rise, echoing in the cavernous space, as if coming from a great distance. Overhead, the image of deep space and the planets of the galaxy zoomed into view. Following the commonly recognized spatial bodies, rose the image of a single planet, at least twice the size of Earth. The image continued forward until it filled the screen.
Mike stood with his feet spread shoulder width apart, and after first lowering his face, he thrust both arms above his head in triumph and roared.
The auditorium erupted into applause.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mike announced, “I give you Yargon!” The view changed as it followed the camera down through the atmosphere; clouds appeared then sped by as the view crashed through a jungle canopy.
Spooked, a flock of giant birds with strange and colorful plumages, rose, screaming in protest. As the descent slowed, the view opened to kilometer after kilometer of verdant plains stretching out in every direction as gentle streams and wide mouthed rivers poured in from unseen sources.
On the stage, a light, as if from a star, bluish white in color, cascaded from the rafters, illuminating Mike where he stood. His charcoal colored suit and bone scarf reflected the light from his athletic frame. Applause and cheers filled the chamber. Mike relished the moment—his ascension to greatness.
Off stage, the technician smiled and turned to look back at Ted Waters. He froze. The look of cold hatred on Ted Waters’s face burned as if it were a living thing. Locking eyes, Waters did not speak but stared at the younger man. Then without uttering a single sound, he turned and walked away.