Disposable bodies - excerpt





translated by Austin Wagner


2071 The sun begins dying.

2076-2247 The Exodus, or the Heroic Age of the Modern Space Era: departure from Earth for the regions around Jupiter and Saturn.

2079-2085 First humans on Jupiter’s Galilean moons and Saturn’s moon, Titan.

2125 Terraforming of Titan and Jupiter’s three ice-moons begins.

2128 “Flaming February”: the first superflare, which destroys thousands of satellites. Tens of thousands of people suffer serious burns.

2129 Acceleration of the Exodus and its terraforming projects. Commencement of asteroid drilling, as well as the mapping of the asteroid belt and the Trojan asteroids orbiting Jupiter’s L4 and L5 Lagrange points.

2186 Founding of the Galilean Quadrant Moon Alliance.

2195 The Lagrange Geneocracy is created.

2197 The first molecular material printers, start of the Materials Revolution.

2217 The Constitution of the Solar System comes into effect.

2238 The Scorched Moon Solar Flare. Lethal doses of radiation recorded in the moon’s above-ground cities. Tens of thousands die in a matter of days.

2247 The Doomsday Solar Flare. Earth is scorched and made completely uninhabitable. All life on the surface is destroyed, including two billion human casualties.

2253 Founding of the Libra Justice Organization. Its maintenance is funded by the space states of the Solar System.

2288 Vireni Orlando is born in Aerial Athena, a helium city in Saturn’s upper atmosphere.

2335 Appearance of the Doomsday Solar Flare’s surviving ghosts.

2338 Conjunction Year: closest approach of Jupiter and Saturn to one another, as close as forty light-minutes apart (over three times closer than maximum orbital distance). Occurs approximately every two decades. The relative proximity in years preceding and following a Conjunction spurs trade and tourism between the two planets, bringing the space states of the Solar System closer together.

2338 The Trial of Ghosts.



A planet-sized lie

Justice holds the solar system together, Vireni Orlando thought as the Libra Justice Organization corvette began its descent toward the watery surface of Ganymede.

They were preparing to arrest Melvin Kadek, the solar system’s richest and most influential individual, and the closer they approached, the more tense the two detectives traveling with Vireni became. They tried to hide their nervousness with idle chatter, making guesses as to how the billionaire would react, how he would sic every lawyer in the Galilean Quadrant on Libra, and how they’d try to pick apart and discredit the evidence.

The acceleration gel which filled the cabin began to retract and the corvette trembled slightly as it punched through the atmosphere. Below, thousands of artificial island cities swam amongst the waves, the larger ones in excess of one hundred kilometers across. During its terraforming, the moon’s once icy surface had been melted and was now covered in a single, unending ocean, just like the two other terraformed hubs of the Galilean Quadrant, Europa and Callisto.

Vireni had planned to run through the details of the ensuing arrest before they landed, but she couldn’t concentrate with the two detectives’ incessant chattering.

“Aren’t you nervous, ma’am?” asked the lanky, snub-nosed Jon Arata.

“No,” came the terse response.

“But this is Melvin Kadek we’re talking about,” urged Dupree, the seasoned, clever old fox of a detective. “Tell us how you plan to do it!”

“By focusing solely on the task at hand. I’d suggest you two do the same. Let’s get ready.”

There was no need for them to know about the one disconcerting question that had been nagging at her the entire trip:

Who am I to arrest the most influential man in the Solar System?

Melvin Kadek’s home was a cutting-edge luxury complex on the famous Audrey Island. But what Vireni saw in the sprawling collection of shimmering domes and eco-towers rising up from among ivy-coated boulders was this: harmony. How different life on an island like this must be than in the bowels of an astropolis.

Three transport ships from the Skyland space tower of Libra’s Jupiter Directorate caught up with them, and they flew in and landed at their designated airdock.

Flanked by the two detectives, Vireni stepped out of the corvette, fussing with her dark, shoulder-length hair and giving her neck a stretch and a crack. After a day and a half of travel, the barely one-seventh g of gravity worked wonders. She breathed deep; she loved the air on the moons. Their aroma was completely different from the constantly-filtered, artificial atmosphere of an astropolis. The Ganymedean air reminded her of salted caramel.

She smoothed out the wrinkles on her freshly-printed uniform and double-checked the nanofiber aqua-suit clinging to her skin beneath it. Eight ISSF commandos, armored all in matte black, joined them from one of the transports, and a dark-haired hostess in a checkered dress accompanied them directly to the billionaire’s residence.

Bodyguards stopped them, only wanting to allow Vireni and the two detectives in, not the unit accompanying them. Vireni nodded to the unit’s commander that everything was fine, she didn’t want any unnecessary arguments, nor any additional tension. Even in the moment of their downfall, it was prudent to afford powerful men like Kadek some semblance of dignity and respect.

Seated in a honey-amber armchair, Kadek was in conversation with his legal advisor, Laura Sibora, and three investment brokers. As Vireni and the two detectives entered the room, he glanced up, and at a dismissive flick of his finger the brokers jumped up and hurriedly excused themselves.

Kadek undid his shoulder-length, golden-blond hair from its bun, and rose, his two-meter frame towering over Vireni. He hadn’t been nearly this tall centuries ago, but the long years spent in low gravity, as well as the genetic modifications, had lengthened his body considerably. But he was always cognizant of keeping his musculature proportionate to his stature. Even with his body he wanted to emphasize his significance.

He gave an oily smile, but Vireni’s Sherlock immediately indicated that his facial muscles were overly tensed, and categorized his smile as “forced.” Unfortunately, the invisible electromagnetic field stretched taut around his body prevented any further information scans; he even kept his body chemistry under complete control, his exhalations radiating superiority and power. His slightly elevated rate of blinking was the only thing which betrayed his irritability.

“Sherlock off, this instant!” Laura Sibora croaked. “You have no right to use a behavior analyzer, and any information collected thus far cannot be used against Melvin in any way.”

“As you wish,” Vireni sighed as she turned off her Sherlock. Even without it she could see they were both trying to maintain their composure; every muscle tensed, sedative cocktails from their Pauling implants flooding their veins.

Now I understand why they call you The Eye!” Kadek snapped his fingers. “I always thought it was because you had an eye for seeking justice. Forgive my mistake, but of course we’ve never met, so I’ve never had the opportunity to stand face-to-face with you. Nobody could escape from under such a stare.”

Ever since she was little, Vireni had been teased because of her large, bright blue eyes. People said she could see right into someone’s soul with them. And they weren’t far off; her stare really did make many people involuntarily unsure of themselves.

Here before her stood Melvin Kadek, the three-hundred-year-old man who would likely never die of natural causes. Thanks to his genetic treatments, he remained a smooth-faced, charismatic, forever-young charmer, with an impish smile that could melt almost anyone. The entire Solar System was practically his, so what more could he want?

Vireni knew the answer: even more. His type was forever hungry, endlessly greedy. For him, not even everything was enough.

The Exodus had made Kadek a living legend, but the Exodus was born of desperation.

Back in the seventies – of the 21st century, that is – worrying changes were detected in the sun’s fusion processes: the temperature and brightness of its surface began steadily growing, and intensifying magnetic disturbances threatened stronger and stronger – and deadlier – superflares. Simulations showed Earth heating up so drastically that within a few centuries, almost every lifeform on the surface would be wiped out.

So in swooped Kadek, the former tech investor, who with a cadre of ambitious, likeminded billionaires, announced the Exodus in 2076. The goal of this century-spanning, mind boggling space program was the systematic resettlement of human civilization into the outer reaches of the Solar System; onto the terraformable moons of Jupiter and Saturn, as well as into artificial living spaces in the interiors of several thousand suitable asteroids.

Kadek had summarized it in his famous speech: “Earth was an idyllic, but ultimately fragile island which by the middle of 21st century we had ruined. We could only postpone the climate catastrophe, and still we did not want to accept the fact that we could not remain on that planet forever. If solar activity hadn’t changed drastically, if the sun hadn’t started casting its plasma far and wide, we all likely would have died there. Do you know what I think when I look back at our one-time home? I think our Mother Earth sacrificed herself for the future of the human race.

The cost of Project Exodus was incalculable, but Kadek’s greatest idea was yet to come: raising capital through public financing. His interplanetary companies, along with other enterprises brought about by the Exodus, sold living quarters decades, centuries in advance, living quarters that didn’t exist, but would within the next hundred years. Whether for themselves, their children, or their grandchildren, billions purchased the hope of survival in the regions around Jupiter and Saturn, and over the coming centuries more and more people emigrated to that new, construction-in-progress hope.

Kadek named himself the Captain of the Exodus, and slowly but surely, he started to cash in on the assets he’d secured around the Solar System: everyone on Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto paid rent to him, as well as the better part of people living in the island cities of Titan, Saturn’s similarly terraformed moon. He was also the owner of the largest asteroid mining and development company, Astronas, and had shares in several hundred space stations and astropolises.

Then in 2247, Earth found itself in the crosshairs of the Doomsday Solar Flare. The surface was scorched, the oceans were vaporized, and the two billion people still living there were burned alive. “Only two billion,” since by that time, thanks to Kadek, the majority of humanity was living off-Earth.

But the Exodus also meant personal tragedy for its own Captain. He’d created a new home for humanity, but couldn’t save his own family: his two children died in the Scorched Moon Solar Flare of 2238, and his wife, Marion, who remained on Earth, lost her life in the Doomsday Solar Flare nine years later.

But Vireni’s investigation now cast this tragic, heroic, many times put-to-film story in an entirely new light. The Exodus had been nothing more than a lie of planetary proportions.

Vireni looked into the eyes of the ruler of the Solar System, but all she saw was a mass murderer.

“Melvin Kadek, you’re under arrest for the murder of two billion people, the destruction of Earth, and the annihilation of the entire cultural heritage of the planet.”

I don’t care who you are

Kadek’s left eyebrow arched, and Vireni lamented not being able to use her Sherlock. Had his pulse quickened? How well could his astronomically expensive implants keep his nerves in check? Probably very. Just part and parcel of being a figure whose every move outside the home was followed by hundreds of millions. Hell, it was probably routine after all this time.

“That’s interesting,” Kadek finally spoke. “But what exactly are you charging me with, madam prosecutor?”

“Of orchestrating Plan Moses.”

“And what would Plan Moses be?”

Vireni’s jaw tightened, not that she’d expected Kadek to confess to anything. And when he finally was forced to give testimony, he would argue that he had saved human civilization, everyone should in fact be grateful to him, and those two billion souls were a regrettable sacrifice for our survival.

“Between 2071 and 2076, you and several of your business associates, along with many loyal engineers and physicists, including the since deceased Hideo Yu, Fernanda Alvarez, and Piotr Moskowitz, secretly launched several thousand specialized nuclear warheads deep into the sun’s corona. These warheads increased both magnetic instability and the rate of nuclear fusion, leading to never-before-seen superflares. By 2247, several million people had died as a result of these superflares, and then in 2247, an additional two billion died as a result of the Doomsday Flare.”

“Those scientists were the distinguished minds behind the Exodus,” Kadek responded. “Without them, human civilization would not exist today. Nor would you. It seems unfounded conspiracy theories are still an integral part of our culture – perhaps even the end result of it. I’m afraid you are sorely, sorely mistaken.”

Mistaken. Of course.

“The Prosecutorial Office recently issued the warrant. We will escort you to Veritas for evidence review, memory examination, and to get your statement,” Vireni continued coolly, surprising even herself for a moment with the weight of her words. “Please make ready for departure.”

Silence settled in the room.

Kadek glanced at Laura Sibora, and Vireni suspected they were speaking across their contacts. Sibora’s face steadily lost color until finally she gave a small nod.

“Unfortunately that won’t be an option,” Kadek answered.

“Surely you are aware of the ramifications of such irresponsible accusations,” Sibora snapped, voice cutting like a shard of glass. “Heads will roll for this! Libra leadership’s, to be sure, but not before yours.”

Vireni shook her head and met Kadek’s gaze.

“Sir, we have a warrant for your arrest, and threatening me will only make your situation worse. Please make ready for departure.”

The billionaire stepped in close, taller by a head at least. Vireni had to force herself to keep from taking an instinctive step back.

“My indictment will be the story of the century, and you’ll become the star of the Solar System, is that right? I must admit, you’re building yourself quite the career.”

“I have no career,” Vireni answered before she could stop herself. “I merely serve justice.”

Don’t explain yourself! Kadek knew very well what her buttons were and how to push them: she hated being called a careerist. She’d never done anything for the sake of her career; she was simply capable of working herself to the bone in order to bring the enemies of society to justice.

“And how old are you? Hardly fifty, is that right? At such a young age I’d achieved practically nothing. I was idling my time away on an Earth choking on its own filth, sitting back and doing nothing as we hurtled toward our own destruction. I owned a few tech companies, had a sizeable fortune, maybe a small space station or two, but in the midst of a rapidly changing climate, we did nothing. Just built our castles in the sky.”

He’s stalling. But why? What’s he playing at? Is he waiting for something?

“Sir, I’m warning you. We will take you out of here in cuffs if–”

“Now listen here!” Kadek cut her off. “It’s no accident you arrived here when you did. You’ve all been manipulated from the very first. In several days, the Trial of Ghosts will leave us with bigger problems than you could possibly imagine. So I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. In a few minutes, you’ll receive a message from Libra, and this message will spare you from failure, may in fact save your career. Because that’s what currently hangs in the balance. Please, let’s wait together. Shall I have a cocktail brought in for you? Perhaps a Long Night? And for your detectives, of course.”

Vireni could do nothing but stare as Melvin Kadek flopped back down on the couch. Svetlana Kologda should have been here too, except that the chief prosecutor wanted Vireni to serve the warrant on her own, considering this had been her case from day one: she launched the investigation, she oversaw it, she compiled the evidence, and she would be the one prosecuting in court.

She couldn’t forget for a moment who she was dealing with.

‘What do we do?’ Dupree asked across the contact. ‘What the hell is going on?’

‘Libra can take the island in five minutes,’ Jon Arata responded, ‘but that’ll be one helluva scandal…’

‘And it seems like Kadek wants a scandal,’ Vireni messaged back. ‘So let’s give him a scandal.’

“Sir, out of respect for your public visibility and reputation, we came here with all possible discretion,” she said sternly. “That’s why we’re the only ones here. We supposed you wouldn’t want an uncontrollable scandal flooding the neurosphere any more than we would. But I can have several hundred detectives on this island at the drop of a hat. Do I make myself clear?”

“Or we just wait,” Kadek stalled.

“I said, do I make myself clear?”

Just then, a message bearing the scales emblem of Libra sprang into Vireni’s expanded vision.

A priority message from Veritas.

The message sprang up in her expanded vision: Junita Memer, president of Libra, sitting in her office behind her sprawling walnut desk.

“Orlando! Svetlana Kologda has just informed me of the investigation into Melvin Kadek. I don’t know how or why you dared keep this from me, but you will both answer for it! The Prosecutorial Supervisory Board’s algorithm has reviewed the records of the investigation and found serious abuses and oversights. It determined the authenticity of the evidence is questionable, and also uncovered a slew of procedural errors. You wanted to arrest Melvin Kadek at all costs, is that right? The judiciary algorithm recalculated; it categorized the previously recommended indictments as unfounded. I have no idea how you even managed to run it in the first place. I immediately rescind the arrest warrant. You are to leave Kadek’s home this instant. You and your Libra agents are trespassing, and I don’t want a lawsuit on our hands. I’ve already notified the Jupiter Directorate, they’re calling off the operation and standing down the support units. When you get back to Veritas, I expect to see you in my office immediately.”

Vireni went pale.

Svetlana had said she was constantly running everything related to the case by President Memer! What was this about questionable authenticity of evidence? What was this about procedural errors? Memer can’t be serious!

The evidence was irrefutable, but if she wanted to respond to Memer, the communication distance between Ganymede and the heart of Libra, the Veritas astropolis, was currently forty minutes.

She had to maintain her composure, but how the hell was she supposed to do that?! For years she’d been working on the case with the utmost discretion, and it was barely an hour ago that notification of the arrest had been released.

Kadek already knew when they arrived that President Memer would send a message, and he knew what it would be about.

In other words, they’d planned this out well in advance.

They’re conspiring together!

The door opened and the head of Kadek’s private security detail, Taufik Morgan, stepped into the room, three security androids close behind. The tactical protection intel implanted in Vireni’s body jumped immediately to code red as it detected the four cyber weapons Morgan had activated, from the head laser implanted in his forehead to the vibropulsors in his wrists. The androids were also in active battle mode.

“Kindly escort the Libra agents to their ship,” Melvin nodded to his bodyguard.

‘His weapons systems are active!’ Arata messaged. ‘Should I disable them?’

‘Don’t try it, Jon!’ Dupree warned. ‘Keep an eye on the androids!’

‘The arrest warrant is valid,’ Vireni responded to both agents. ‘President Memer can’t just arbitrarily rescind an order like that, even she doesn’t have the authority. They falsified the evidence. This is political. But whatever Memer may think, Libra doesn’t play politics.’

“Taufik Morgan,” she turned to the bodyguard, “this is your first and last warning: activation of weapons systems against Libra agents constitutes an act of aggression. Shut down your weapons systems immediately! And you, sir,” she turned back to Kadek, “please make ready for departure, or else ISSF will escort you to Veritas, and the neurosphere will have a field day over your arrest.”

“Perhaps you didn’t understand Junita Memer’s message,” Kadek suggested, his voice icy. “Which part was unclear?”

“The beginning, the middle, and the end,” Vireni responded with equal chill. “President Memer is conspiring with you, and she’ll have to answer for that. I don’t care who you are, you two won’t cover up this mass murder.”

The Libra commandos waiting outside the door in the Audrey Island airdock called across her contact.

“Attention! Junita Memer has–”

The connection dropped, and she saw the flash of a ruby red laser target from Taufik Morgan’s vibration pulsar.

“Stop that right now, madam prosecutor.”

“Shut down your weapons systems and Turing security droids this instant!” detective Dupree shouted at Taufik Morgan, an impulse laser springing from each wrist. “I’m warning you, every move you make is being recorded and can be used against you!”

“I don’t think so,” Morgan growled.

He pivoted to his side with impossible speed, a vibration pulsar leapt from the holster implant in his palm, and he took aim at Dupree’s chest. One short, wheezing gasp later, the detective crumpled to the marble floor. Not even his tactical intel had been able to protect him.

Arata staggered back, his impulse lasers trying to target the bodyguard, but he moved so quickly he was nothing more than a shadowy blur. The next moment he had the young detective by his throat and was slamming him to the ground.

Then he stomped his boot through Arata’s face.

In the moment following the crunch of bone, a blaze of light filled Vireni’s vision.

Her shriek was desperate.

– Neural recording: fatal error! – the system message flashed. – Video storage: fatal error!

The pain from the flash of light seared her mind and overloaded her senses. Burning white was all that existed.

At the same time, her tactical intel switched into self-defense mode.

She saw nothing. Couldn’t even shield her eyes. Her muscles had taken on a mind of their own.

It was no longer her controlling her body, but the intel.

A blind leap for the balcony. Out through the open door. Her intel was hurling her body over the railing.

She plummeted as her aqua-suit’s air mask slid over her face.

The bitch just snapped

Self-defense mode was like riding a rollercoaster. Vireni was completely blinded by the flash, all she felt were her involuntary muscle movements, she didn’t even know which twitch or jerk would come next. It was like being tossed about with a speed and force she couldn’t resist.

Her Pauling implant shot her veins full of painkillers and reflex-enhancers.

She plummeted.

She still couldn’t see anything, could only imagine the waves getting closer and closer. She should have already hit the water, but in the one-seventh g her descent was slower than she expected.

Her heart pounded, she could hardly breathe.

Her muscles suddenly tensed, her arms snapped tight to her sides, and her body plunged feet-first into the ice cold waves.

The cold snatched her breath away, but just for the few seconds it took her aqua-suit to adjust to the frigid temperature and turn on its heating coils.

A flutter of blinks and her vision finally returned, but her eyes were still smarting.

As she struggled out of her shirt and pants and kicked off her shoes, she tried to ignore the part of her brain fixating on the eight hundred kilometers of black, yawning depths beneath her. She flicked on the air compression propulsion system in the soles of her aqua-suit, and skimmed along beneath the surface for many long minutes until she passed underneath the shadow of a ship, activated her aqua-suit’s magnetic adherence disks, and stuck herself to its hull.

She panted beneath her mask, her heart pounding in her throat despite the Pauling’s sedative cocktail.

It was becoming harder and harder to get air.

Her breath came in hitches and spurts.

A panic attack. A fucking panic attack.

The sedative hadn’t yet kicked in.


First Justitia, second Hammurabi, third is Plutarch, fourth is Draco, she began her own little calming litany, fifth is Manu, sixth comes Gaius…




A message flashed into her expanded vision: she was on the list of wanted individuals.

Then her intel shut down, followed by a host of other implants.

Libra’s supervisory virus!

They were locking her out of the network. And if the virus managed to take control of her intel, it would take her straight to the nearest Libra unit.

Given her current situation, maybe it would be best if she were taken to Skyland.

Except that the Jupiter Directorate of the Skyland tower was under Memer’s control. So they could simply get rid of her, hell, probably everyone she’d worked with on this case, and destroy the evidence.

She called up the Internal Control protocol and input a special code.

System override, emergency mode activated, came the internal message. Internal Control emergency protocol active. Incognito mode active. System refresh complete.

Her intel came to life, and the supervisory virus wiped itself immediately.

Vireni continued taking slow, deep breaths as the Pauling’s sedative cocktail final began to kick in.

Most people working at Libra had no idea anything like the Internal Control existed. The organization had been created in part for situations such as this, situations which weren’t supposed to happen. Situations like the president betraying Libra.

Skyland personnel were likely already searching for her, but as long as she was in incognito mode there was no way they’d find her.

She drafted and sent a short, encrypted neuro-message which would reach the Veritas astropolis, currently orbiting in the Lagrange Geneocracy, in forty minutes, alerting those who needed to be alerted.

Vireni had been recruited into the Internal Control Group four years ago, an independent entity which both the president and the directorates were unaware of. Her responsibilities had been extended by secret clause to include the monitoring and investigation of any abuses of power within Libra. The organization worked in absolute secrecy; Vireni didn’t even know who was in charge. So far she’d only met with a handful of insider agents, and carried out the occasional special orders.

Clinging to the belly of the Boorish but Beautiful transport ship, she escaped the area undetected. She took deep, steady breaths and tried not to think of endless depths beneath her and the ship.

She couldn’t get Melvin Kadek’s smug face out of her head. Except when she thought of Morgan searing through Dupree’s chest, or stomping through Arata’s face.

They should have gone back to Veritas, taken a much more cautious approach. Then the two of them would still be alive.

It was because of her they’d died.


Taufik Morgan had killed them.

Even so: if she’d made different decisions, they both might still be alive.

For half an hour she traveled along on the Boorish but Beautiful’s hull, putting as much distance between herself and Audrey Island as possible. Her intel had picked up a floating forest nearby where she’d be able to hide. She approached the mass of lashed-together buoy trees from below, only surfacing when she saw the network of tangled aquatic roots above her head.

Using the aqua-suit’s suspensor discs to hover just above the surface of the water, she wrenched the air mask from her face, smoothed her soaking wet hair from her eyes, and clambered up into the branches of the buoy trees, their canopies intergrown and swaying in the surf. A few sea goats were munching on some nearby foliage, but as she approached, with a leap off one branch and a bound off another, they disappeared into the forest.

The tiny orange disc of a sun was blindingly bright in the sky. It was now five times wider than it had been, but from the Galilean Quadrant it still appeared a great deal smaller than it had long ago on Earth. Its brightness, however, had strengthened so much in recent centuries that even though Jupiter’s orbit was five times further from the sun than Earth’s, the light and heat its moons received would soon reach the levels of humanity’s one-time home.

This was also thanks to Melvin Kadek, “the hero of the Solar System.”

Sunset wasn’t more than twelve hours distant, after which there’d be close to three days of night, the temperature dropping to minus ten by the end of it. And she didn’t want to spend the long night here.

In the meantime, she’d seen on the neurosphere that Melvin Kadek was heading for Lagra in one of his private corvettes. He wanted to be there for the verdict of the Trial of Ghosts.

Her own name had also popped up among Galicom’s trending topics:

< Vireni Orlando, a.k.a. ‘The Eye’, prosecutor for Libra’s top priority cases, attacked Melvin Kadek during the course of an illegal justice proceeding and murdered two of her colleagues, Harinder Dupree and Jon Arata, two agents of the Veritas Bureau of Investigation (VBI) who tried to stop her. Orlando has since disappeared without a trace. >

< The downfall of a careerist: Vireni Orlando was the youngest ever Libra prosecutor promoted to priority status, and is known for cracking such high-profile cases as the murder of Klim Odom and the overthrow of the Sonoda regime… >

Careerist. Murderer.

She was surprised at how calm she was seeing her name dragged through the mud. Then again, she’d learned at a young age how to suppress her emotions. It made the world swirling around her feel safer.

Taufik Morgan had fried her retinal link and her neural video storage, and along with it any evidence she could’ve used to disprove the accusations against her. But who could believe that she’d single-handedly killed two detectives? Why would she do something like that? The whole thing made no sense.

Then again… what would the people rather believe? That a prosecutor had attacked Kadek, or that Kadek had shot nuclear rockets into the sun, forced humanity into the Exodus, and was responsible for the destruction of Earth?

Could they really cover that up?

Well, they’d managed for the last two and a half centuries or so. She might not even be the first to start digging into the past.

Meanwhile, she was being bombarded with neurosphere notifications:

///Joey2281: One look and you can tell she’s a psychopath! Libra needs to do a better job vetting their prosecutors! /fuming///

///FreeLagra: Orlando’s like a bulldog for justice. She caught Bilal Perrót, the SolarBank director’s grandson and murderer of Klim Odom, first man to set foot on Titan. I remember how she backed SolarBank’s lawyers into a corner. Not to mention the whole Sonoda business. And you’re telling me she wanted to arrest Kadek without any good reason? Something stinks here. /suspicious///

///NerveWrackedNeural: @FreeLagra: Yeah, sure, the captain of the Exodus is a criminal. That’s why he saved humanity before Earth was crisped. /eye roll///

///Doomsday2247: I bet they uncovered some dirt on Kadek. Anyone know what they wanted to charge him with? /angry///

///Screwyouall: The bitch just snapped. They’ll catch her and lock her up. We’ve seen this before, let’s move on. /big yawn///

///NR_Windy23: I love you Melvy!!! /heart-eyes///

///Screwyouall: Anyone know where to find an erotisoid copy of The Eye?? /drooling///

///BaronOfJupiter: @Screwyouall: [unbanned-erotisoid-celebsex-link] These guys will get you a model. Saturnians, crazy expensive, but they make good shit. Have fun! /wink///

Her contact indicated the arrival of an encrypted message from Internal Control:

Temporarily removed from system. New ID attached. Rent corvette, fastest available, return to Veritas without delay. Spare no expense.

The rented corvette’s fixed intelligence accepted her new documents without issue: Irina Nigellis, VBI detective, ordered to Lagra on a pressing case. Before long, forty g’s of acceleration were speeding her from Ganymede, but the cinnamon-scented acceleration gel kept her from feeling any of the force.

On the external cameras’ screens, the banded stripes of Jupiter’s clouds swirled in their turbulent storms, stains and splashes of oil on canvas. Passing in front of the gas giant was the brimstone smear of Io, its surface peppered with mold-green craters and brown-streaked lava flows.

Despite the gel, Vireni was noticeably shivering, so the corvette raised the temperature. The heat was welcome, and helped her relax just a little.

She should have prepared for this eventuality. But for what exactly? That the president of Libra would conspire with Kadek?

The billionaire’s words came to mind: “In several days, the Trial of Ghosts will leave us with bigger problems than you could possibly imagine.”

It was as if Kadek had been much more concerned about the trial than the fact that centuries-old evidence regarding the destruction of Earth had turned up against him.

Why is he so interested in the Trial of Ghosts?

Beyond the incident with Kadek, the neurosphere was mostly concerned with the ghosts. As Vireni browsed through news item after news item, a live-streamed interview from the Galilean Quadrant’s Channel One news center flashed up:

< GALICOM NEWS: Vittorio Hansen: The Trial of Ghosts will soon be wrapping up. Our guest from the day’s proceedings is Nadine Castillo, historian for the Sterling Institute (STEIN). Welcome, professor. Who, and what exactly, are the ghosts?

N. CASTILLO: The ghosts are what we call the digitally saved connectomes of two hundred million victims of the Doomsday Solar Flare. The connectome is a reverse-engineered network of the entirety of a person’s neural connections. In other words, the totality of their original personality, intellect, and memories.

GALICOM NEWS: And why have the ghosts only appeared now, almost one hundred years after the Doomsday Flare? What happened to them in the decades between then and now?

N. CASTILLO: At the moment, we don’t know. Nor do we know who’s truly behind this. But the technology isn’t new, back in the 2230’s the Connectome Project was already causing considerable outrage. Many believed it wasn’t a human existence, and eventually the notion of human rights was redefined in the Solar System Charter of Rights because of the project: it stipulated the inseparability of body and mind, and tied citizenship status to this concept. In other words, digitized minds were not legally humans. Then in 2247, the Doomsday Solar Flare wiped out the entirety of Earth’s history, and the Connectome Project along with it. However, as we have learned since the appearance of the ghosts, in the weeks leading up to Doomsday, when constant solar flares and electromagnetic storms had cut off communication with Earth, the Connectome Project became many people’s last recourse. In Earth’s final days, nearly two hundred million saved connectomes were forwarded to enormous server parks installed in a large asteroid’s secured interior. Of course, these were just copies, imprints of consciousness. The original people died in the Doomsday Solar Flare the same as everybody else.

GALICOM NEWS: Why did they wait until now to return?

N. CASTILLO: The only thing we know for certain is that for nearly one hundred years, this asteroid was orbiting in the asteroid belt without the Solar System having the faintest idea it existed. Then in 2335, led by the ghost of Somsak Kerney, a former politician on Earth, the ghosts sought legal representation from the famous law firm Finley&Partners. They sent several servers and holoprojectors to Finley’s office on Ganymede, then the connectomes of Kerney and his associates were transferred to the devices, and their 3D projections appeared as simulations in the office. A few months later, Elijah Finley walked into the Ganymedean High Court, and as a representative of the ghosts – they call themselves the Community – filed a civil suit against the Galilean Quadrant, the Lagrange Geneocracy, and the Ring States… >

Vireni remembered that day well. She and Evron had been celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary with a romantic, candlelit dinner in the Chevalier on Galipolis, and the announcement had ruined their evening, because why wouldn’t the ghosts plan to turn the Solar System upside down at that very moment?

The biggest question was whether or not the ghosts could be considered citizens of the Solar System. If the answer is yes, then in addition to compensation from the lawsuit, they would also be entitled to nearly one hundred years of retroactive basic income, with interest, and this could mean an immense fortune for every single connectome. And according to some rumors, this is precisely why they were in no rush to return.

But the Solar System Charter of Rights is very clear: only someone with a living, flesh-and-blood body – regardless of any genetic and cybernetic modifications made to said body – and who is a registered inhabitant of the Solar System can be considered human, and thus a full-fledged citizen of the Solar System.

The ghosts did not meet either of these conditions.

If Kadek is scared of the ghosts, there must be something else at play she was missing.

(end of the excerpt)

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