The copter drew slow, low-altitude arcs through the thick air around Akkarfor Arco on Rypfe. Heavy storms pummeled the hills to the north but hadn’t yet reached here. The copter piloted itself autonomously with only occasional interruptions by Governor Dalen, who would nudge the stick this way or that to point out some mundane feature, usually to draw the Ambassador’s attention away from something more important. The two of them were alone in the small craft, and they had the airspace completely to themselves.

Ambassador Panengi was the first Union World member allowed to visit Rypfe in a generation. The Governor only agreed to the UW’s cursory inspection because they were distracted by their own economic turmoil; he thought he could turn it into a powerful propaganda piece if handled delicately. There was no one capable of performing this intricate dance other than himself.

Luckily, the Ambassador was dimwitted and lacked constitution. She asked few questions, nodding politely and without emotion. No matter; at least she hadn’t brought up humanitarian aid.

“What are the pipes for?” she asked, pointing away from Akkafor Arco. “Water? Or waste?”

Enormous round iron pipes ran radially away from the arcology like the rusted web of some behemoth spider. Their scale was so large, so unexpected, that they didn’t quite register right in the mind, but if you looked closely you could see the high points of 70-meter conifers poking up like a green carpet between the pipes, standing less than half their height.

Governor Dalen banked away, toward the coming rains. “People,” he said. “They are full of people.”

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page.

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