After the Diomedes rescued the evacuees and captured the neutralized pirate cruiser, it jumped straight to the heart of the Sol Federation - the Earth's solar system.
Although in this universe, Earth was instead more appropriately named Gaea.
Interestingly enough, it was exactly like the Earth Eva was from, instead of some fictional human homeworld. It was even a version that existed far in its own future, and things had definitely changed.
The biggest difference was that the planet was now home to over forty billion people, and that was an ecological nightmare.
Hell, it was a nightmare back in Eva's old life. In that universe, the Earth only had the ability to support two billion people maximum. And yet it had surpassed eight billion.
Gaea's cities were many times larger than before, where each one was a hundred thousand square kilometers large on average.
For example, Tokyo had encroached on every square kilometer in Japan. The whole island had turned into a city! Shanghai's footprint swept out in every direction but the sea and spread rapidly, all the way past Nanjing. Similarly, New York City spread outwards and absorbed everything that existed between Pittsburgh and Hartford.
And as the cities' populations ballooned, so too did the suburbs and rural areas. In fact, every populous zone was larger by fivefold. Almost everywhere was inhabited. Humans' eventual encroachment and dominance over nature was inevitable. After all, consumption had always been humanity's greatest addiction.
Whatever wilderness that remained in the world had become treasures that were exceedingly rare and highly protected.
Or highly privatized.
But that wasn't all that had changed. When humanity became a spacefaring race, time changed as well. 'Days' didn't matter out in the depth of space, or on any planet other than Gaea. Instead, they shifted to 'Cycles'.
A hundred seconds became a minute. A hundred minutes became an hour. Ten hours created a cycle. Ten cycles created a week. Ten weeks became a month. Ten months equaled a year. The metric system finally caught up with time and made it a method that was reasonable, readable, and reliable across the galaxy.
Many drastic changes occurred for humanity, all of them necessary for their own continued survival.
Few species had that temerity, or that arrogance.
Although the passengers thought that they would end up landing on Gaea, the Diomedes didn't go planetside. Instead, they zoomed past every planet and headed towards Sol, Gaea's home star.
As they approached, Eva watched in abject wonder through one of the many available PubSec terminals.
Since the beginning of time, humans spent the majority of their existence looking up and marveling at the sun. Some even worshiped it. That big glowing ball seemed like it was supernaturally beyond reach, and yet it exuded a power that reached us.
To survive, we learned to harness its power.
Over time, we had come to understand that it was far larger, and more powerful than we had ever dreamed. But we still never really understood just how gargantuan and bountiful it was.
As the ship neared it, everyone who was watching felt the truest sense of the word 'tiny'. They didn't even feel like they were ants in comparison to Sol. It was more like the whole battleship itself was itself an ant, and the hundreds of people inside weren't even worth mentioning.
What was an even bigger shock was seeing a gargantuan man-made structure that encompassed and enveloped Sol itself.
It was called Helios Megastation, and it was a massive superstructure that enshrouded a good majority of Sol.
The megastation consisted of three concentric rings that each slowly spun around the Earth's star on separate axes. All of the rings were thick and wide, and they covered so much of Sol that only segments of its light shone through the gaps.
The outermost ring was the only truly habitable ring, and its smooth surface was dotted with numerous docking bays and hangars. Each one led to the various districts underneath, which ranged from residential to commercial to corporate, and beyond.
They were so plentiful that Eva began to wonder just how many people were in the station. It was so gargantuan that she couldn't even take a guess.
Trillions of people, maybe? Tens of trillions?
Eva tapped a few controls on her terminal and brought up some more detailed information on the station. And what she read had shocked her.
Humanity had long since colonized their solar system. Most planets had multiple man-made biomes and orbital stations that supported tens of billions of people. Gaea was the most populous with over forty billion, which made sense considering it was our 'home' planet.
But we had also long since expanded beyond our solar system and conquered half the galaxy.
The number of humans that were alive in the galaxy was close to breaking four quadrillion. Just the number of people in that station alone was just above a quadrillion.
A quarter of all humanity was living in that outer ring!
It was a number that Eva never needed to understand, or even see. But suddenly she had to. It was such a huge number that it made Gaea look like a swampy backwater planet.
But that wasn't the most impressive thing. No, in fact, it was the two inner rings that left Eva completely dumbstruck. Her mouth fell wider the more she read about the station.
Those rings were dedicated solely to absorbing and harnessing Sol's radiation directly. The entire station was actually a functioning dyson sphere, and it provided energy to every single human on every single planet in the entire solar system. In abundance.
Humanity had become a Type II civilization!
It was without a doubt, the most significant technology that humanity had ever created. Its very presence elevated humanity to incredible heights, and ushered in an age of incredible advancement.
In the face of infinite energy, all other barriers to survival became minuscule, and humanity became free to pursue loftier, crazier, more blasphemous goals. After all, the Sun was a god to humanity's ancestors. To them, encasing their god in a prison to steal its power was nothing short of sacrilege.
But now that humanity had captured their first god, their thirst to dominate more could only increase.
This station was humanity's core and also its greatest achievement. The megastructure represented humanity's inventiveness, potential, and arrogance all at the same time.
Eva couldn't wait to become a part of it, including the shiny, the grimy, and the outright bleak.
After they docked, every evacuee was ushered into a temporary hall where they interviewed with various Helios social workers. They were asked about themselves, just basic information such as name, age, and so on.
The workers essentially collated all their personally identifiable information and combined them with the medical data transferred from the Diomedes. All of it was then added to the Federation Citizen Database, which housed information on absolutely everyone that ever existed.
Well, as long as they had some record of that person.
In any case, the whole process was quick and very efficient, and many felt as though the Federation was overly prepared to receive just them. Except they didn't realize until later that they were just a fraction of the people who had respawned out of thin air.
These new respawns had been popping up for many weeks now, and in every human nation, not just the Sol Federation. Unlike the other nations, the Federation decided to offer all respawns unconditional refugee status while within their territory.
That status gave them some certain rights, the most critical of all was a simple wage charter. The charter allowed them to take fairly routine, everyday, surface-locked jobs anywhere in the Federation - maintenance, policing, programming, and so on. It allowed them to be productive and make an honest living, while not being able to travel too much.
Many of the people who played Bellum Aeterna were relatively action-oriented, but only saw it as a way to escape. They didn't actually want to live a mercenary life.
Who wanted to get shot at everyday? Maniacs, they reasoned.
So the wage charter was already pretty attractive. Being able to live a simple life in an exotic world with incredible technology? And with nothing to truly want for?
However, that wasn't the end of it. The Federation also promised a whole lot more if they also pledged their citizenship to them. They promised perks that included living quarters, hangar access, a small stipend, a free DI implant, streamlined pilot licensing, and access to some basic cores and chassis.
And that was truly shocking. Some felt the Federation was being way too generous. That was a lot of resources for just a few million people. That was like nothing in the face of four quadrillion, after all.
But it was incredibly simple to the Federation. Pilots were the key to a prosperous nation.
It was important to them to immediately attract skilled and productive pilots, and so offered quite an enticing welcoming package to the respawns. They determined early on that the vast majority of them had at least some piloting skill, and many even appeared to be exceptional.
Pilots were the lifeblood of the human race. Sure, there might be trillions out there already, but it was their work that kept everything moving. And besides, the only thing worse than not recruiting a million new pilots, was for your enemies to recruit them instead. Their value couldn't be stated enough.
Little did anyone know that these pilots would one day alter the course of history. And a precious few would eventually grow to become living treasures and become greatly prized by countless people across every nation, for thousands of years...
Eva's eyes gleamed.
She reasoned that getting any sort of head start was worth the price of admission. So what if she had to play citizen to some human government? It wasn’t as though she was forced to listen to anyone in it.
Plus she had a nagging suspicion that she could always expatriate, renounce citizenship, or even defect if she ever needed to, so she never felt truly "locked in" anyway.
Long story short, she chose to pledge for citizenship during her interview because she wanted the perks.
When they handed over her ID badge, they told her that she had a provisional citizenship, and that the application to complete it would be found in her DI. They suggested that she get her DI installed first, as that would be the biggest step in integrating into society.
Eva didn't even have to be persuaded - getting a Digital Intelligence was literally the main reason she even agreed to it in the first place.
Everything else was just icing on the cake.
Excited by the prospect of getting a Digital Intelligence implant, Eva immediately went to the closest cybernetics lab, which was thankfully only a few blocks away. Since she was walking, she took in the sights as she made her way over. Aside from the megacity being fully enclosed within the station, and had a holographic sky, it was exactly as if she was in a city from her old life. It was laid out in an orderly grid, with streets that ran perpendicular to each other. Those streets were littered with people and various personal transports while the sky above them was filled with all manner of mass transit vehicles. People were busy living their lives: talking, laughing, crying, creating, consuming. Same as every generation prior. The blocks themselves were varied in what they housed. There were multi-story offic
Eva's nose crinkled as a pungent smell wafted into her nose. She sniffed a bit at the air around her before she realized that the smell was coming from her body. Yikes! She was still wearing the same pressure suit as when she woke up, and that was a cycle or so ago. It had become a little gross and grimy since then. And since it was a pressurized suit, her body felt a little more than 'icky' underneath, having stewed in her own sweat for hours on end. Eva quickly leapt up and headed towards the fabricator, where she picked a relatively simple all-black outfit for it to create for her. A thousand credits were removed from her ledger in exchange for the convenience. Her eyes watered at the cost. Money was something she had always had a love/hate relationship with. Eva spun around quickly to face Nightmare, hatred etched on her face. The last person she wanted to see was Nightmare. She immediately blocked all comms from him on her DI. Preemptively. "What do you want?" she asked. Her tone dripped with venom. He stepped closer, a wicked grin plastered on his face. "Nothing terrible," he said. "I was just here to get some things, and then I saw you two." Although his tone was nonchalant, his eyes were incredibly predatory. "I think," he continued, "I mean, we think you ought to join us. We can have a grand old time, you two and us boys." Eva's eyes turned cold as she looked at the people behi
Ravens of Eternity Ravens
Eva spun around quickly to face Nightmare, hatred etched on her face. The last person she wanted to see was Nightmare. She immediately blocked all comms from him on her DI. Preemptively. "What do you want?" she asked. Her tone dripped with venom. He stepped closer, a wicked grin plastered on his face. "Nothing terrible," he said. "I was just here to get some things, and then I saw you two." Although his tone was nonchalant, his eyes were incredibly predatory. "I think," he continued, "I mean, we think you ought to join us. We can have a grand old time, you two and us boys." Eva's eyes turned cold as she looked at the people behi
Music blared in her cramped core as Eva effortlessly navigated around a debris field. She was piloting her Federation-issued starter mecha rather leisurely. It certainly wasn't anything fancy, and was fairly average. But any mecha was better than no mecha at all, so Eva was plain happy just to be in one. It just felt nice. Like she was home. Miko's countenance appeared on Eva's comms display, and she too looked rather happy and content. "Have you determined what callsign you will register?" Miko asked. Callsigns were an important part of all pilots. There were thousands of Lieutenant Mitchells, but only one Maverick, for example. It didn't just make them easy to remember and identify, it made them unique. And the callsign they picked often reflected their inner truth
The Red Planet, Mars. Named after the Roman god of war, it was the fourth among all the planets in Gaea's solar system. And true to its namesake, humanity had made it their primary military base and the heart of their military might. Thanks to Sol being mostly enclosed by Helios, its solar winds could no longer wreck havoc on the planet, and this allowed its frozen waters to melt. Humanity helped Mars' redevelopment along by terraforming it purposefully and restored its atmosphere as it used to be countless millennia ago. This covered half of Mars with an ocean of water, where its crystalline blue was a strong contrast to its reddened, oxidized earth. Littered everywhere on the surface were multiple bases and training yards, while the planet itself was surrounded by
Eva and Chengli had sprinted the entire rest of the way back, and so were red-faced and panting heavily when they arrived. This seemed to have appeased the sergeants, so they continued to the next lesson of the cycle. But not everyone was happy about the 'wonder duo', and a few jealous glares had come from a handful of cadets. Everyone was then ushered into a large sparring gymnasium, where the floor was covered in shock-absorbing mats. But before they could start any exercises, the sergeants instructed all the cadets to partner up and form into duo wings. "Choose well, because it's all about trust," said sergeant Elyn. "You gotta be able to truly rely on each other, 'coz your lives depend on it." It was the single best
The next cycle, the two sergeants came into the bunk to shock all the cadets awake, as was mandatory. They were completely surprised to see Eva and Chengli tidying up their spaces, while already dressed and ready. But that didn't stop the sergeants from flashing the lights and sounding an airhorn. "Get up, cadets!" they yelled. "It's time for your daily run! You got one hundred seconds to gear up. Let's go!" Many of them grumbled as they woke, but still suited up rather quickly. Luckily they only had to go on a run for an hour rather than last cycle's two. Many still stumbled, but they persevered to the end. At the end, they took a very quick shower then switched into their flightsuits and grabbed their pressurized flight helmets. They then headed towards the hangar
The fourth cycle was virtually the same as before. An hour run, followed by five hours of training, an hour for food, and three hours of sleep. The pattern and the habits were slowly being absorbed by all the cadets, Eva especially. She had never had such a demanding schedule in her entire life. In her old life, she woke up whenever she felt like it, and went to sleep when she got too tired to keep her eyes open. She ate, played, and lived to no-one's beat but her own. It was incredibly hedonistic, but ultimately damaging. That lack of care or discipline made her soft, lazy, and apathetic. It didn't help that she didn't have anyone who uplifted her. But this new life, these new experiences, new friends, this academy… They all helped her break out of that old mindset.