Naoko looked thoughtfully at the viewscreens, then compared the data streaming through her proteus. It was mind-boggling to think that the whole of Humanity, the scope and stretch that was her race, had come from a single planet, in a single solar system. It was unthinkable. The rationalist inside her denied the very real proof that were Latelian history files; though much of her own planet's history had been lost across five thousand years of war and dissemination by the 'great and wise Chair', documentation chronicling the expansion of Mankind across the stars was more cohesive in Latelyspace than in any other system in the Universe.
The only being to know more was the Trinity AI, and as Garth would say, "It ain't sayin' shit about nothin."
A single world. Countless trillions of men, women and children, spread across a literal fathomless depth of planets, asteroids, space stations and other forms of habitat too bizarre to even contemplate.
"Looks like a dead apple, don't it?" Greuz asked from the co-pilot's chair. He'd gotten used to surrendering most of his authority to the young Miss fairly quickly on, and, truth be told, the old captain would admit that the girl had gotten his unruly crew onto a track that he'd been wishing to follow for some time.
"Or a dead dog's arse." Seta muttered sullenly, rubbing the nub where the tip of a finger used to be. She could still feel the whole finger, and it was driving her mad. They'd had to chop the end off.
"One world." Naoko shook her head. The majesty of it all. The horror of what 'Earth' had become.
According to Greuz, who'd somehow managed to stay in the employ of Jordan Bishop longer that was mathematically possible, the Trinity AI insisted that all the big players in Human Commerce remain on the planet until the stars themselves died. That had massive Conglomerates like BishopCo, Tynedale/Fujihara, Voss_Uderhell and others chained to the dying rock like prisoners.
And, like prisoners, fat, rich, obscenely wealthy and unconscionably powerful prisoners, they rebelled. They wanted freedom that the poorest and most basic of commoners owned, the freedom to set foot on new ground in strange solar systems, they wanted the right to shift their power bases away from murderous friends and devious enemies.
Since they could not have that, they continued to poison their world, to destroy their land, to suffocate everyone and everything around them in the hopes that, like Greuz's dead apple, one day, the world would slough off it's skin and Trinity would be forced to allow the powerful their freedoms.
Alligorni scratched his jaw. He'd never been this close to Trinity Prime. Frankly, it made his balls sweat. He'd tried convince the others to shift Naoko to another cruiser in Bishop's employ. Well, okay, he'd spent roughly three seconds trying, failing after a claustrophobic and panicky silence had literally erupted from the other crewmembers.
Alli'd grown up with horror stories of the madness that roiled under the skin. The Mad Goth King Blake lived in his even madder Arcade City, running his citizens through an endless gauntlet of endurance, pain and madness, forcing them to look up into the heavens, not at a sky, but a bizarre clockwork dome of brutal mechanics whenever they sought freedom. Alli could trace his lineage back six hundred years, and there was FrancoBritish blood pumping in his veins.
What if that Mad King called to him?
Worse still was the EuroJapanese Dome. Like the King's only forged from energy, the Emperor's Dome kept everything and everyone out. No one knew what happened on the other side of the impenetrable glistening field. Men and women, penitents and parishioners to the word of the Eternal Emperor came and went all the time, but never said anything about what they'd seen, what they'd heard, what they'd learned.
In his time as a pirate and kidnapper, actually, in all their times, every man and woman aboard the Zhivago had run into both FrancoBrits and EJ's direct from their motherlands, and of the two, Alli'd rather talk to one of the stone cold killers from Arcade City than the blank-eyed gossamer servants of the Emperor.
You could feel the terror and madness survivors of the King's predations lived with, day in, day out. You could look into their eyes and understand that they'd been through something few beings could handle.
When you talked to someone who'd held audience with Emperor for Life, they had no idea what they'd seen. And they didn't care. They'd seen their leader, a being divine and wondrous. Or so they said.
Alli usually wound up killing anyone who'd met the Emperor. Talking to them made it feel like his brain was sliding out his ear.
A panel at Greuz's shoulder beeped. He read the information over. "We have docking permission. BishopCo Tower Alpha." He sent the data over to Naoko.
Naoko nodded. "Take us in if you would, Captain Greuz?"