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Helios

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!

1,091,314,631,305,792

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.

CeritusOrbis

Could you imagine if everyone had access to infinite energy? What kind of society would that create? What sorts of technology could we invent?

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