The shuttle was a speck, sliding over the face of an empty world. The envoy watched as mountains and canyons gave way to a vast, featureless expanse, flowing endlessly to meet the horizon. Oceanus Deditionis she thought, remembering a name her father had used, and a time when such names still meant something.
Long forgotten emotions welled within her; she blinked them away and reached for the file. Symbols, black on white – obsolete, when a neural plant could have transferred and assimilated the information with a magnitude greater efficiency. But she was a sensualist: she drank fermented berry juice, enjoyed natural sleep and engaged in the arcane practices of sex – atavistic pleasures, enjoyed by a bold few.
Yet despite their censure, the Synod had allowed her to remain: a random element, essential noise within their rigidly ordered system. Finally she had bowed, the years having taken their toll. Just one last mission, one final act, for posterity…
Drifting through vacuum, she began to read.