But First, Breakfast

“”What the hell are those?”

Qit had never had a conversation with Supreme Commander Helton before, but he knew that’s who was questioning him now, even without looking up from his plate. There are only so many people on Primus Alexandria, only so many voices, and Qit knew them all well. This was not one of them.

“You’re late,” he said, “and this is my breakfast.”

“You intend to eat them? A million worlds across the Association subsisting on vitapaste and metabolic stints, and here you Archivists are eating food. You’re supposed to preserve the past, not consume it. Forget the decadence and think of the inefficiency, my God.”

Qit set down his fork and looked at the man before him. Lanky, with thin bones and thin hair. Helton spent more time free of gravity than in its clutches and it showed. His gray and white uniform was clean and pressed, the golden stars on his shoulders gleaming. A crisp uniform was an empty one, in his estimation. “I didn’t take you for a godly man.”

The Supreme Commander shifted on his feet and his eyes wandered constantly, as if stillness made him terribly itchy. “Yeah, well…I’ve done a lot of sinning. Are you going to eat those things or what? I don’t have time to waste.”

Not his own time, Qit thought. “These things are johnnycakes, and my family has been eating them for a thousand years. Don’t you have a war to lose?”

Helton did stop fidgeting then, his eyes unfocused, seeing inward. “No. The war is already lost. The Association is falling, even now.”

Archivist Qit picked up his fork again and delicately placed a bit of johnnycake on his tongue. It tasted like a home he’d never seen—never would see—but he didn’t mind; the taste was home enough. It was delicious, and when he swallowed the morsel a smile grew in its wake. “Perhaps, then, you’d be better served at a monastery than a library.”

The library, Archivist; the library! We have lost the war, but that doesn’t mean they need to win. There is still time for everyone to lose. The path forward, if it is to be found, is to be found here.”

Qit looked blankly at the Supreme Commander, and then back to his food. “After breakfast,” he said. “I will only help you destroy the universe after breakfast.”

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