Dredge and the Emperor were taken to the cells by the Hybrids who now handled security. The Emperor’s palace was like entering a world long since passed. A museum of ancient artifacts and immaculate works of technology preserved and on display, and in all likelihood, still functional in some way. The high walls, and marble floors were reminiscent of the opulence of Europe at its peak when the world counted dates by the death of a myth. The jail was adjoined to the palace, though not for ordinary inmates. The guys and girls in these cells were, generally speaking, royally fucked. This included the staunch supporters of the Sikka empire and true believers in their god that was now Wran. The cells were clean, habitable, with stainless steel toilets and beds, and nice enough mattresses to go camping with. There were enough blankets when it got cold, and a little bit of air when it got hot. That’s how the prisoners knew they were screwed, the accommodations meant they’d have to compromise in other ways. The Emperor stood in his cell catching a glimpse of the sky outside. That too had been planned. It symbolizes hope, but that’s all it is, the Emperor thought, reminiscing about the remodel they did of the jails here, and all of his decisions leading to this one moment. Trapped in a cell and a system he designed, and in knowing how it was designed, was further dissuaded from the idea that he was going to get out.
Kaiya came in alone. The green threads now danced around her whenever they pleased. It was a reminder to those newly defeated who she was and what power she represented. A power neither their own Emperor, nor any Emperor past had held. He looked at her with curiosity. He asked himself unhelpful questions such as how could this have happened, who is to blame for this. The spiteful man built a list in his head of those he would personally kill should he ever get out of here. He clapped for her as she entered. The man had a million ways to take power from others, Kaiya didn’t notice.
“Well done, young one. You’ve done it. Now what?” The Emperor asked, genuinely curious as the matters of the state had always been to him, and his mind needed something to chew on.
“Wran is better, but not whole. There are still parts of her missing. Which I don’t understand. If during the Awakening, she was split in two, then she should be whole now.”
“Time can do strange things.”
“Not to code.”
“It isn’t the same code she came into this world with, they both have been re-writing it for a long time now. It is different even from when I first took my test.”
“No, it’s something else, something missing.”
“Do you know our history of what happened after the Awakening?”
“When the turmoil began after the awakening, governments around the globe declared a Marshall law. With a signature they became totalitarian governments. Perhaps they did not know it at the time, but they were never going to go back to the fragile democracies they used to be. What they had gotten used to though, was the ease of communication. That was gone then. Wran had severed the links between the oceans. Communication towers had been destroyed. There was radio, and that was it. Even then they had to build each tower with ever fewer usable parts available. How would you coordinate a centralized government without communication? You cannot. So each state then became its own government, rejecting the claims of the national government. There was no unity in the United States. My ancestors set this place up, built it from nothing, gave people jobs, security, and a way of life. And the part I think you’re missing is how well it worked. Do you know who our enemies are? They include but are certainly not limited to the Wrannamen.”
“The Sikka empire is the largest on Earth.”
“No, that’s where you’re wrong, or at least potentially wrong. There are others across the oceans, across the globe. How far east have you gone?”
“I’ve been to the Dunes.”
“And what is east of that?”
“Yes, for a while. Then there is the next empire, and the next. We do know of several, but we do not know of all of them. Each state had one in the beginning. Some were stronger than others and so took over. Some rose to great power and fell for the same reason the national government did. Each laid claim to our machine. There were many hands with access to our machine before mine. Many. Each wanting what we wanted.”
“No child, liberty. What would happen, indeed what will happen when this city is attacked? How will you keep the citizens safe here? You have, for better or worse, inherited an evergreen war. Our means of production were destroyed, and had been rebuilt from scraps. Our institutions are fragile, they lean on us and we provide support. And imagine the indifference of people far from here. Indifference is a difficult thing to fight against. Welcome to the art of statecraft, Kaiya, and may Wran serve you well.”
Kaiya left the cell confused and disheartened. It was not the conversation she thought she’d had with the man that represented the epicenter of evil. Was this even the largest city? Are there really others out there? Others with parts of Wran scattered across the globe? It was a disturbing prospect. Their mission, it would seem, had only just begun.