San Antokyo stank of ionized air, with artificial lilac esters and unfiltered carbon dioxide. You’d heard that the Corporation had cut back on funding for atmoscrubbers, but this smelled like they had been using a two-earnth net for the last five earnths. The kids of this generation would grow up stunted and simple if the Corporation kept at this pace.
You’d barely had time to lament the redolence outside the transit terminal before you and your three travelling companions were filed away in separate rovers, and you were alone in a monocar more luxurious than anything you’d taken before. The seats felt like organic leather and the mirrored gradient of the diamond cockpit gleaned like real silver, but surely that was impossible— all the silver in the system had been used up decades ago, long before the Ringed Planet appeared, before you were even born.
You checked around you for imprints— any sign as to which arm of the Corporation might be sponsoring this leg of your journey, but found nothing. An emblem you didn’t recognize, reminiscent of a tau, had been carbon-etched onto the top of the control panel, but that was your only clue. You’d heard of factions in the Southern Arm that still existed outside of the Corporate Structure, but those had only been rumors, nothing you believed and, therefore, nothing that would help you place this hapax tau emblem.
Beyond the mirrored-diamond screen, the city whelmed into view; it’s decentralized downtowns scattered along the horizon, four of them arcing lightwards as your rover tracked a course for the fifth, toward the Copper District.
This was one hell of a coincidence, you thought, as you breached the Copper’s core downtown, and the buildings grew giant around you, and the rover slowed to a canter as it weaved in and out of metro traffic. You were on Douzaines Boulevard between Five and Fifth; in a tick you’d come to the chunnel that led under the city, the fast-route out to your old apartment— the apartment that was still in your name, still furnished, still sitting, waiting, empty.
The rover applied inertial breaks in the cockpit as the outside of the monocar slammed to a stop, halting just before a row of Corporation service droids treaded into the lane: two blue, two red, two green. You noticed that one of the green droids— styled remarkably similarly to the Twins you’d flown in with— was surfaced with both Southern Arm and Federated Colonies logoture. What’s going on in Coppertown? you wondered. Logoture, especially on anything bigger than a chipset, was always unary. That your flight frigate had Federated branding had been strange enough, but to see a droid— a droid that was clearly fitted in the Southern Arm style—bear the mark of two subsets of the Corporation… that didn’t make any sense. Who would have even paid for such a venture? How would the accounting figure?… how would the budget lines?
A moment later, you felt the inertia relax again, as your rover sped out of the intersection, and down the chunnel. This was no coincidence— you were being taken home.
[Keep reading: Chapter Six]
[Or, go to: The Beginning]