Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2019, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part CIV: Knowledge
Continued from the previous excerpt
28 Firstmonth 571JR
11 May 2366CE
"I'll have to warn you," Danner told Krrd and Trace, "there's going to be a lot of attention. Maybe more for us than for you." With some reluctance, he pointed them to Warriors of the Dawn, in Aurora's library. Neither Krrd nor Trace had taken a military path to Citizenship, but were nonetheless awed when they realized they had been rescued by a man who had already earned the Legion of Honor.
It was forty-nine light-years - using the Terran measurement - from Limbo to Alexandria. The trip had to be made in Marstenspace, to conceal the existence of the Blain Drive. Aurora, using Helium-3 power for a first-level, Sixth-Generation-Improved Marsten Drive, could have made that trip in a single Transit - in nearly half a Republic year, or more than three Terran months. That was a bit much for their passengers, who at least had a world to explore when they couldn't stand each other's faces for a time. Instead they had stopped between, so they could at least look out the window:
Haylesworth, an independent monarchy - unwelcoming to Jeffersonian ideals. They paused only long enough to check messages, and to top off fuel from the Oort cloud, far beyond the reach of anyone who might think they needed permission. They'd received word, from June Bigelow, of a planetoid here with a good quantity of Helium-3. It was a little secret shared among Shipfolk.
Klein was a Republic Territory and apparently there was still a leak to be plugged in the Reserve Privateer Bureau, because newsies were waiting for them there, one batch flying their shuttle right up to Aurora's hatch as she orbited. Aurora rolled herself and gave them a puff from an RCS thruster bigger than their shuttle's main engine, sending them tumbling away.
Admiral Huang would send word of another clerk being dishonorably discharged and stripped of Citizenship, which message they received at Duquesne, a Member World from the Second Wave. Danner told Huang with satisfaction that no one was waiting for them there, and only the local media scrambled to react to their arrival.
The networks guessed, however, that they were heading for Alexandria - Danner's own birth-world as well as that of Krrd and Trace, and the usual departure and return point for Explorer missions. As they approached Beta Station the circus was as big as the one over New Israel, when they'd returned from Mark's World and Adda.
Arrangements had been made. After the Sherrington Atrocity and the last big wave of piracy, several mothballed Republic Navy capital ships had been reactivated. One was the carrier Saratoga-IX, her hull over a Terran century old but her systems updated fully, including improvements first made to Aurora. Her captain, John Krychek, had taken initiative and deployed his air wing to create a corridor for Aurora's approach, and a perimeter to keep the newsies at a safe distance. The commander of the Alexandrian Home Fleet, Rear Admiral Jirosh, a Boksi female, had made space available at the military docks on one end of Beta Station's spinning stack of wheels.
Alexandria's Order of Librarians joined this effort, deploying the Library Defense Fleet interleaved with the Space Patrol's formation. Aboard the Station, librarian-monks with two-meter staves stood guard where Marines weren't. Pistols and swords were not very concealed beneath their color-coded robes. Aurora and her Family had always sent valuable, often exclusive data from their travels, to the Order. Now they were bringing home eyewitnesses to the exploration of a new world, records of a brain-computer interface tested to destruction, and literally tons of physical samples. The Order held ship and crew in high esteem, and would keep media muckrakers away from them.
Aurora docked to a pylon at the military end of the Station, between two Maerca-class destroyers, whose crews pressed their noses to every viewport for a look at the ship which had seen more action than most of them dreamed of. The pylon and the extension leading to it were in freefall, connected by a rotating interface to the rest of the Station and its spin-weight. As the Family came through, they found at least forty Librarians lining the corridor. They snapped to Attention and their staves crashed on the deck in unison. Danner was taken aback for a moment, then came to Attention and saluted the monks. The staves rose and fell again, Danner dropped the salute, and proceeded, his Family behind him along with Trace and Krrd, between lines of Librarians of multiple species, the colors of their robes denoting their specialties and ranks.
Awaiting them at the end of the corridor and the lines of monks was Jarras, present High Curator of the Library of Alexandria. She was over a hundred years old - Terran. A Water Tribe Eyani, she was descended from the Green Sea Tribe, the first to make alliance with North Hills, in Ha'Cre's attempt to unify and bring peace to Eyan, shortly before their discovery and enslavement by the Terran Empire. Green Sea had a centuries-long history of exploration and learning, but when first meeting the North Hills tribe, they had been lacking in martial prowess. The two Tribes complemented each other, forming a High Tribe which eventually evolved into the Eyani Nation's government, after their Liberation in the Republic-Empire War.
Jarras had been born on Eyan, but raised on a dozen worlds, as her parents traveled with the Order. She had taken a military route to Jeffersonian Citizenship, through the Exploration and Colonization Service - which was mostly the Marine Corps Reserve. She'd fought and killed pirates more than once, on Frontier worlds, as Marine and Librarian both, and never bothered erasing the scar from the right side of her face - though she had replaced the eye. She was respected throughout the Order as the epitome of their calling: someone who gathered and preserved knowledge for the benefit of all, and had the strength to defend it from destruction.
She and Danner had never met, but they'd communicated several times over the years. Danner had grown up on this world, raised with a respect for learning and for the Order. He had even considered joining the Order once, in his youth; there was travel and adventure to be had, as the Librarians complemented the ECS and often worked closely together. He had chosen the Patrol instead, but after leaving active service and becoming a merchant spacer, he had begun contributing data to the Order, details often not found in official reports. It was a practice encouraged by the Order throughout Known Space, though only a small percentage of spacers bothered. Those who contributed were given credit toward the services of the Library. After finding Aurora and achieving wealth and success, his reports had increased, compiled during long Transits with the help of his Family. Aurora's Shipfolk Family was now one of the Order's leading contributors of such data. The Library made all information freely available, but collation, analysis, and professionally-expedited retrieval were things they could sell, for the money they needed to stay in operation. Solomon and his crew were feeding the Order the raw materials on which their business plan was based.
Danner and Jarras clasped hands now, then she reached up and hugged him, an embrace he returned. She tucked an arm in his, while Aurora took his other, and they continued along the corridor toward the Order's part of Beta Station. Aurora's robots began bringing out data modules and cases of samples from Limbo, while the Librarians fell in with them to share the load, many grinning widely with anticipation of examining their new treasures.
"It is so good to meet you at last, Captain," Jarras said, as Aurora and her Family gathered with her in the Order's dining facility aboard the Station. There were ten wheels in Beta Station now, each three hundred meters in diameter and forty wide, rotating for the Alexandrian-standard gravity of 10.1 meters per second squared. Long ago the Order had purchased a quarter of Wheel Six, followed by half of Nine, and had lately reserved a like amount of Eleven, under construction.
"Please, call me Solomon, or Sol."
"And you and your Family may call me Jarras. I won't bother asking what you've brought us; I'll be buried in reports soon enough." Jarras turned to Aurora. "I am also very pleased to meet you, Aurora. Many of us in the Order have been following news of your awakening and activities with- I think 'fascination' is not too strong a word."
"Thank you, Jarras. I am flattered by the attention. I hope your information-technology specialists have found my reports useful?"
"That would be Verc," Jarras answered, gesturing to a Siv neuter to her right, at the long dining table. Nis brown plumage was rippling with excitement. The copper patterns in nis green robe, like a pre-Escape circuit board, marked nim as a computer and technology specialist; the number of them, and the gold highlights, showed nis rank as head of nis Department.
"I will make time for an interview," Aurora told nim. Eyes wide, ne could only nod in gratitude, nis long, pointed black beak swinging up and down like a semaphore.
The Order had operations throughout the explored galaxy, and though most of their members were Jeffersonian Subjects or Citizens, not all were. There were Libraries in all the major nations, across dozens of worlds. Novices were recruited from everywhere - second sons, daughters with no desire for arranged marriages, exiles of many kinds; and often people who truly loved learning and wanted to dedicate their lives to it. Here, in fact, refilling Harold Trace's glass with Asgardian sparkling mead, was the third Bwor Solomon Danner had ever seen. The being wore the forest-green robe of a Groundskeeper, and the rank of a second-year Novice. Further down the table was a young Human male of the same rank, in the red robe of a Biologist, bringing a platter of loaf-meat to a towering Zaggarish female in the same color, but ranked as a thirtieth-year Sister of the Order. Jarras pointed out these details to those of Solomon's Family who hadn't known them, and to Trace and Krrd.
The castaways were getting plenty of attention themselves, from several Departments ranging from Agriculture to Stellar Mechanics. In some ways, the Order of Librarians was like a religious monastic order, where people went to escape the troubles of the outside world; in others, it was like a reborn Royal Society, the one Samuel Pepys had once been president of, and of which Benjamin Franklin had been a Fellow. Small-talk at a gathering of the Order was rarely "small". Things were discussed here at doctorate levels, shifting in the same breath to how pretty an alien flower was, or how flavorful a newly-discovered food. The conversation and meal went on for hours, while reporters were kept out. In time, the survivors of Samuel Pepys pled fatigue, and were escorted to luxurious guest suites in the Order's territory, where they would be waited on solicitously.
Alexandria, third planet in the Beta Hydri system 24 light-years from Sol, had been first settled in 35JR, by the Jeffersonian Republic's second "safety valve" dissident ship, Botany Bay II. The ship had been full of people from the American South, particularly the former states of the Confederacy; and as it happened, some of their leaders had been of Greek descent, resulting in some Hellenic place-names. They had established the Betan Confederacy, six separate states in what they had hoped would be peaceful coexistence and cooperation.
A single generation later they had begun shooting themselves to pieces. The causes were plentiful: mining rights, fishing rights, territorial disputes, tariffs, taxes. For forty-eight Republic years, thirty local or Terran, the slaughter continued, until in mutual exhaustion they negotiated peace and developed an overarching planetary republic, which eventually gained Membership in the Jeffersonian Republic in 165JR. The rebuilding process included the founding of a planetary university, and with it, an interstellar library. Scholars and students were attracted to it over the following decades.
Taking their world's name to heart, these intellectuals and academics began calling themselves the Order of Librarians, informally founded in 211JR, 2141CE, as little more than an in-joke. Soon, as tensions rose between the Republic and the Terran Empire, they started taking themselves more seriously, forming a planetary militia of both ground and space forces, to defend their home and the knowledge in their care. They also began digging vaults in the bedrock of their planet, in the most tectonically-stable regions, to preserve samples and archives. In time, the Alexandrian Library Defense Force was recognized officially as an auxiliary to the Republic's Space Patrol, and as the Twelfth Legion of the Marine Corps Reserve.
When the War came, the Twelfth Legion was activated, and fought in the European Campaign on Terra, liberating the Old World from generations of Imperial oppression. Julian Horwitz, Director of the State Library of Savannah, had served in Legio XII as commander of an infantry company, landing in Scotland with the first wave, fighting his way south through the place where Britain used to be, crossing the Channel to France, then leapfrogging across the Continent to reach the Ancient World of Greece and the Middle East. Captain Horwitz had seen with his own eyes the terrible destruction and waste of warfare: the crater where the Imperial Palace on Corsica had once stood; the garbage-strewn ruins of Rome; the shot-pocked, graffiti-covered rubble of the Parthenon; the great museums and monuments of Humanity's history, scarred or even lost forever.
Moved by what he had seen, he began campaigning for a more active role for the Library, in preserving all Human, and now Eyani, knowledge, to prevent its loss in any future conflicts. An eloquent orator, he recruited his counterparts in the other five Alexandrian states: Elis, Richmond, Orleans, Thessaly, and Carolina. A loose association before the War, they became more organized, unifying their library system, standardizing their operations, adopting facets of ancient Christian monastic culture. Lovers of learning from throughout the explored galaxy began to join them, or at least contribute, either materials or money. Soon the Order of Librarians was functioning as the Seventh State of Alexandria. Questions had been raised about their loyalties; vows to the Order could conflict with the Oath of Jeffersonian Citizenship, and not all members of the Order were Citizens, or even Jeffersonian Subjects.
Which concerns were about to be addressed. As the Pepys survivors left, Danner, his Family, Jarras, and a few of her Department heads stayed. Servants cleared away dishes but left some snacks, and the mead, before departing. Curator turned to Captain and said, "The Order does not make all the knowledge in our possession freely available." That statement was contrary to the founding principle of the Order. Solomon gave Jarras his full attention.
Continued in the next excerpt....