As usual, the captain doesn't work on this routine, but Skefill was new here and a little nervous though he tried not to show it. Before this appointment, he was a captain of a usual cruiser for three years and before this he was a pilot of a fighter for two years. And now he is the youngest captain of a battleship in the whole spacefleet history. And what a battleship! Skefill celebrated his 23rd birthday and after two months received the order of appointment. And now this modern and powerful flagship of the whole sector is under his command. All officers of the ship are older than the captain. But Skefill knew that he deserved it all. In his 23 years he took part in and survived 2 wars, took part in a few of really big fights and hundreds of small ones, two times survived when his fighter was shot down. Several times he and regular troops had ground landings and fights on a planet surface. Once he boarded an orbital battlestation from his cruiser - a very risky operation. He received five medals before he lost his cruiser. This happened after the famous "strike of fury", when his cruiser alone went to the rear of the enemy fleet and diverted the enemy fire and instead of retreat he ordered the attack and destroyed a battleship and survived when his cruiser rammed another battleship.
Of course, he wasn't the same after a such way of life. He had broken bones in several places, had artificial skin grafts put on, and though his left hand looked natural, it was an artificial bio-limb. He had enormous scarring all over his body, and one scar on the face through the right eye and the right cheek - the memory after the "strike of fury". Doctors couldn't heal him completely.
Skefill thought, he can't be nervous at all, but he was surprising himself now - he was afraid he would not be good enough. He checked the cooling system once again. It had been working hard for two days already. All invited guests were coming and the ceremony was being prepared. As usual, the screen showed normal numbers much lower than the maximum critical level. That is good.
Today, the last two ships had finally arrived. Olaf Einarson and his son. All the Einarsons were now on the ship. The ceremony is to begin in two hours.
During the two hours, Skefill spent his time in a hangar where a black fighter, covered by a few layers of hot-proof material, awaited. He checked the computer and engines for the last time. They were the main things now. Nobody disturbed him - it was a business of Einarsons and nobody dared offer help.
When Skefill once again saw that everything worked good, he went to the control center to manage the transport between the battleship and other ships. When everything was done, he took a gold chain from a safe, put it around his neck and went back to the hangar.
Here they are. The best people of mankind, who bear the famous name that makes enemies shiver for three centuries. Einarsons, a family of four hundred and twenty seven members. Or maybe four hundred and twenty eight already - beautiful Arndis, the wife of Snorri Einarson couldn't arrive. She is in a hospital and perhaps the four hundred and twenty eighth Einarson is already shouting in his full infant's voice demanding the attention to the descendant of the famous family. Snorri didn't want to leave her, but she is a wise woman and understands the importance of the traditions of the family.
Now, he stands holding the inner communication phone and watching the clock on the wall patiently awaiting the call. This call will cost him all his month's wages, but he really managed this well. Well enough to write this to the memory books of the family.
First Snorri could made the city he lives in turned into the sub-space communication network before the queue. Nobody knows who got a bribe and who was scared to death during this process, but it was a real feat. And all this finished here, and now Snorri may receive a direct call from the distance of six light years. Skefill knew it all because he was the detail in this scheme - Snorri connected his complicated device to the energy generators of the battleship and tuned the sub-space channel to the inner communication because his own ship can't give enough power. This stuff will spend an enormous amount of energy from the battleship but Skefill didn't think about it - Einarsons are always ready to help each other.
Everybody is here and everything is ready. Small sparks on intricate gold chains appear - such gold chains is the sign of the family. People talk quietly. Skefill once more checked himself, did he do all the necessary - yes, he did. It is now time to begin.
He stepped forward. All talks immediately stopped. Skefill was nervous more than when his cruiser, without a shot, was approaching the orbital battlestation, and he was wondering if the cruiser could stand the counter fire or not. He would have preferred that somebody from the elders of the family guide the ceremony but this is his ship, so he is the master here and all others are only guests. And now everybody looks at him and waits.
Skefill breath in and began: "Welcome to my ship. I may say without fake modesty that I'm glad by my appointment. And I'm glad for much more, this great ship is under command of Einarr's descendant again. But the cause of our meeting is sad. Gunnarr Einarson is not with us today. A great man, who was the captain of this flagship before me. I remember him well - I was fighting under his command in the third frontier conflict. He was a real descendant of Einarr, his friends loved him and his enemies lived in fear of him. He was always ready to help, and he saved many lives. If there wasn't Gunnarr, I wouldn't be here now. When he learned that our fighters were being ambushed in asteroids, he ordered to go into the fight at once without telling anything to his commanders. He came with two cruisers, because he knew that we didn't have a hope to survive without a help, though everybody knows that the exit from a sub-space in asteroids on large ships is a very deadly and risky operation. And I think that most of us may remember a lot of similar events in his life. Gunnarr was never afraid of anything and always was ready to fight for the glory of Einarsons. He was a great man and I will never forget him."
Skefill stepped back. A nice speech - short and clear. In Einarson's family, long talks about nothing were not encouraged.
One more man to talk was left. Old Nikolas Einarson stepped forward. "Everybody here knew Gunnarr Einarson. Even if somebody didn't know him well personally, then without a doubt they have heard a lot about him. So I won't repeat all that you know about him. I only want to say that he died as a real man. Many people knew he believed in the religion of Vikings. Of course, this religion had changed a lot from the ancient time. But some things remain the same. If a Viking dies with a sword in his hand, his soul goes to heaven. Maybe not all of you knew that Gunnarr had always change the control of ships he flew on - he always set a sword instead of a control handle and attach the fire buttons to the sword's handle. So, his sword was always in his hand. But his gods kept him safe in a battle. A new enemy came from every side. A strong ill smitten him, bad consequences of radiation and general fatigue. He never gave enough rest to himself. And when he knew that he may not awake after the operation he laid on the surgery table holding a sword that was tied to his hand so it could not be released when asleep..." Nikolas paused: "We know he didn't awaken. But he will awake in the heavens he believed in."
Nikolas stepped back. Everything was said. Skefill turned on a projector and a large image of a fighter's cockpit appeared on the wall. In the pilot's place sat Gunnarr, almost the same as Skefill remembered him from the frontier war. The same strong face and the same expression was on it - as Gunnarr is always ready for anything. The same helmet made in the Viking's style and the same hand lays on the handle of the sword instead of a usual control handle. A powerful specially modulated electric field suppressed all bacteria's activity so not a sign of putrefaction was there. It looked like Gunnarr just closed his eyes for a few seconds before shouting through the microphone: "Where are you rushing, blind mole? If you don't care about yourself, at least think about your children. You must not leave them without father!"
For some time, everybody looked in the face of this man who will live only in their memories now. Skefill quietly went to the large room, divided from the hangar by a transparent wall. All others slowly walked after him. When everybody passed, Skefill closed and locked the heavy door and ran a system of gate's opening. Air pumps began to blow the air out with a soft hiss. The black fighter stood in the middle of the hangar as a tomb stone. A strange thing -it didn't look small in this hangar for as much bigger ships. It looked like it filled all the empty space here by a some special meaning. And the big calm and motionless face on the wall only made stronger the feeling of unreality of all this.
When the pressure in the hangar fell, a huge plate of space gate slowly went up. Bright reflections of a near star ran through the metal and stopped. The fighter shook and rose a little when the artificial gravitation turned off.
Though Skefill knew that the computer of the fighter works perfectly, he felt uncertain when he started the program of fighter.
The fighter, using only directing engines accurately went to the exit and there, as it felt the freedom, started main engines and disappeared at once. The gate closed.
The transmitter in the fighter still worked, and everybody looked at the big calm face that took almost all the wall. Now the image shook a little - the fighter was taking up the speed for the last jump.
Skefill was counting back in his mind. Three... Two... One... A bright flash and the image turned off. Farewell, Gunnarr. No one ancient Viking could ever dream of such a funeral. They were burning in a funeral boat, but not one of them could even imagine to be burnt in the most hot white-blue star in a modern space fighter. A perfect ceremony.
And suddenly, in the reverent silence, a ring sounded. Snorri quickly grabbed the phone. "I listen." A few seconds he listened then a wide smile appeared on his face, and he said with a happy voice: "A boy!"
Skefill felt himself smile. Life never ceases to stop. And when it is his turn to sit in a fighter, maybe the son of Snorri will stand in his place.
Skefill pulled the lever and especially prepared for this meeting niches with rows of cups and a few barrels of wine opened in the wall. And when everybody turned to him - all with thoughtful smiling faces - he said: "The Einarson is dead, hail the Einarson. I know this is not very traditional, but I offer a toast to LIFE."