Flynn watched as they crossed the empty expanse of space. Somewhere, a few minutes away, was the line of demarcation: the imaginary barrier that separated Alliance Space from Consortium Space. When he was an Alliance Fleet Officer, he couldn’t cross that border except by invitation or for the occasional border skirmish.
Never been far into the Consortium. A few border worlds was all. What will it be like? I know a few of the practices, but that’s it. Reese says there will be extensive rituals, procedures, and . . . how did he put it? Not taxes, right, bribes. There will be extensive bribes in order to do business.
“We’re now in Consortium space,” the computer announce in a vacant voice.
Ann looked up, but otherwise didn’t pay attention. Flynn thought there should be some kind of warning alarm that he had crossed. He thought that Consortium Sanction ships would blockade them from going further. He thought he should feel different for leaving the Alliance behind him.
And then he wanted to laugh at the idea. Lines on a map, whether a planet or through the stars are just ridiculous. Why do we care so much? Why do we try so hard to carve the stars into private fiefdoms ruled by governments? Why can’t we just explore?
The idea never would have occurred to him while he captained Atlas or any other Fleet ship. But now, with the outside perspective, he could see how ridiculous it all was. The stars didn’t care about their lines, and would not remember them long after mankind turned to cosmic dust.