“A choir is made up of many voices. Many think that the louder they are, the truer their words. Sadly, most of the time, they just suffocate the truth.”
“I expected it to be larger.”
Lucifer meows, announcing that it shares my resentment. I pet the kitten and study the little island which serves as a neutral ground for the World Assembly. It's really nothing more than a dead piece of rock in the northern ocean.
Janice and I went to the observation platform on top of my palace as soon as the island came close enough to have a good look.
No, the little piece of rock doesn’t amount to much. Someone took care of flattening all of the usable area, but it’s still not bigger than three, maybe four football fields. “It's no wonder that nobody wants to have the little island. The staggering amount of airships is much more impressive.”
I turn my attention to the various fleets which are circling around the island. There is Illum and grandma's fleet of sixty ships. She had to send some of her ships away, since there is apparently a limit on how many ships a single nation is allowed to bring. The Mirai warships are sporting dark colours. Their design includes some nasty spikes. It's clear that the airships are meant to intimidate anyone who dares to look at them.
The Empire brought fifty-two ships. Their ships have long, blue coloured hulls. It’s possible to mistake them as real ships, but a closer look makes the sharp edges and the cuboid design obvious. They clearly don't care about seaworthiness. I am very sure that their ships can’t be sailed in water. These ships are just weapon platforms for whatever technology their designers decided to use.
At least they pretended that they want them to look pretty.
The Alliance ships are also already here. They are the same, already well-known, imitations of seaworthy ships. “I really have to ask Zane why the Alliance builds imitations of real sea-ships and uses them as airships.”
“It's cheap,” Janice answers. “They use the same hulls for their sea fleet as they do for their airships. The only difference is that the airships have a power core installed. I dislike the idea, but I have to admit that there are advantages to the system. They can replace a damaged airship by taking out the core and putting it into any of their sea vessels. They have to redo the rune network, but that’s a matter of a few days. It’s much easier than rebuilding a heavily damaged ship.”
I bite my lower lip. “It also means that their hulls aren't optimized for aerial combat. I am not convinced of their policy.”
My attention wanders to the Sociocrathy's ships. They are nothing more than flying platforms which are stuffed with all sorts of equipment and little buildings. I am convinced that a soldier with sufficient experience is able to tell me the entire history of a 'platform', just by looking at it. I refuse to call those things airships.
Then there is the Consortium. They arrived with ten ships, but they are huge. Each of them rivals the Zenith, Janice's flagship. Each of the sleek ships is about three hundred metres in length. They also have strange protrusions which make them look like centipedes. A very peculiar design. The guys from the Consortium are also the only ones who used metal for their entire ships.
Janice tries to reassure me, “Don't worry about them. The Consortium won't try to attack you in public with all these witnesses around. That simply isn't their style.”
“They aren't beyond sending an assassin,” I inform her coldly.
She smiles. “That's true. You have to be very careful while we are down on the island. It's unlikely, but we shouldn't let our guard down.”
I frown. “Why is an assassination attempt unlikely?”
“This is a deserted island. Whoever makes the attempt risks getting caught. If the assassin is caught, even if it's just his or her body, everyone will know who brought him to the island. It will be a catastrophic loss of reputation for whoever is involved.” Janice makes a dismissive gesture. “Of course, that won't help us if the assassin was successful.”
“So we better not eat anything down there. The most obvious way to pull off an assassination without getting caught is poison.” I turn to face Janice. “One other thing. Is it an insult that I wasn't invited to decorate a part of the island?”
Only Janice got a message to participate in the World Assembly. It's a little infuriating, since I instructed my subjects to prepare something that's worthy of Illum.
Janice shakes her head. “I think that they simply weren't prepared for you or me. Just look down there. The Consortium and the Alliance clearly had to work double shifts to clean up some space for the Mirai.”
“That doesn't sound very organized,” I answer.
“It isn't. Look over there.” She points at three rugged ships. They look like real pirate ships which were supposed to be seaworthy at some point in the distant past. “Orks. They are probably from Westfall and didn't get any space either.”
“Why are they even here?” I ask.
“It's likely that they want to ensure that the Sociocrathy isn't able to present the other nations with a one-sided story about the war between the orks and them. The Sociocrathy will most likely say that the orks attacked their fort and violated the border, while the orks will try to argue that the war between them and the Sociocrathy never really ended.”
I scratch Lucifer's neck. The bond between the kitten and me is still weak, but I can feel it growing steadily. Janice explained that the kitten won't start talking or developing its own personality. While smarter than normal, it’s mind is still the copy of a real cat. Though, I'll be able to share mental pictures and impressions with my familiar.
“That's practically the same argument which you are using against the Empire. Shouldn't you have similar enmity towards the Sociocrathy?” I ask.
Janice clenches her teeth. “Believe me, nothing is forgotten. I just made the Empire a priority when they abducted my daughter and you. Their plan would've worked, hadn't you been a reincarnated person and thwarted them without their knowledge.”
Okay. “I still want to have a little area to represent Illum.”
A stupid smirk appears on Janice's face. “What would you trade if I gave you half of the space which was reserved for the Mirai? I can't do anything against the other nations not recognizing you, but I can give you a part my area. At least, it would mean that the Mirai recognize you.”
“And it would be yet another strong signal that we are allies,” I grumble. But I want that area. There is no other choice. “What's your price? I'll pay.”
Janice laughs. “Oh, no. I don't need money.”
“What do you need? Technology? Warships? Illum is a flying dockyard. I can supply you with as many warships as you want. You just have to bring me the materials. Point me at some iron mine and you can have a fleet.” There is no way for her to refuse such an offer.
Janice makes a show of polishing her nails. “I admit that Illum's assistance would be a humongous boon to any war effort. No airship fleet in the known world has access to a mobile fortress with repair and production capabilities. Not even mentioning your technology. But no, I have something else in mind.”
“What is it? Spit it out.”
“From now on, you have to call yourself Nova.”
“That...” Isn't fair... Her price might actually be too high. “I have to think about it.”