Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2019, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part CV: Intelligence
Continued from the previous excerpt
"It's not something we commonly speak of," Jarras continued, "but every High Curator of the Order of Librarians has been a Jeffersonian Citizen. The first allegiance of the Order has always been to the Republic, because of all the states in the known galaxy, the Republic gives the Order its best environment for survival.
"We have operations in other nations - Caledonia, Stellar Russia, Eyan, several independents. Every one, even my own birth-world, has exerted pressure of some kind, in some degree, trying to make us their pet intelligence service, or to use us for R&D for military purposes. The Republic wants that too, but they've paid for our services under our own rules, respecting our autonomy. Only the Republic will leave us alone to do our work.
"I happen to be a friend of Admiral Huang." For decades Mei Huang had been the Director of the Reserve Privateer Bureau; coordinator of thousands of armed Jeffersonian starships, the Republic's decentralized, defederalized naval militia system. Entrenched bureaucrats were viewed with outright hostility in Jeffersonian culture, but Huang's ability and integrity had been so thoroughly proven that she was a rare exception. Her approval rating among the captains of the Reserve Privateers under her authority was consistently in the eighty- and ninety-percentiles, and she had polished and tuned her department so finely, hand-picking trusted subordinates over the years, that it truly ran itself.
Solomon Danner had helped her plug leaks in her Bureau, by filing false flight plans to identify personnel accepting bribes from media networks or individual reporters to reveal the locations of the ships under her care. His involvement wasn't public knowledge, but the results were, and the planetside families of spacers who served in Reserve Privateers appreciated Huang's efforts to minimize the risks they faced - some privateers had made enemies among pirates and criminals, and a leak of their movements could lead to ambush.
Jarras continued: "Mei has told me about the intelligence-sharing arrangement that exists among the Member Worlds, and your involvement in it. Everyone in this room is either a part of your Family, or mine." She repeated introductions she'd made earlier: "Verc, head of Information Technology Studies." The tongue-tied Siv neuter, youngest of those of the Order who remained. "Jane Leander, Languages." A frail-looking Human woman, silver of hair and green of eye. "Ca'Sce, Hyperspace Technology." A mottled Hills Tribe Eyani, the browns of his pelt graying but his blue, Human-like eyes clear and sharp. "Firoosh, Military History." A Boksi female, her carapace etched with the age-faded rank of a Commander, the same Command-in-Space badge Solomon treasured on his own uniform, and a list of Space Patrol warships ending with CA206 JRS Chancellorsville. "And one other," she added, as the hatch to the compartment opened-
"Michael Danner," Solomon's father introduced himself, "Commodore JRSP Retired, unsworn auxiliary to the Order, specializing in Military Intelligence. Hello, son," he finished with a grin and a handshake.
"And how long has this been going on?" Solomon asked.
"Since about the time I 'retired'. I got bored. This gave me something to do without leaving your mother. Who says 'Hi', by the way, and wonders why she only ever hears about your death-defying exploits in the news."
As Solomon blushed, Jarras, whom Solomon knew from their correspondence had great-grandchildren of her own, grinned Human-style, showing a bit of fang. "I'm sure you have a lot of catching-up to do." The grin passed, and she then said, "But while we are rarely gathered together and may speak in privacy, we have more pressing matters." With an appraising glance and respectful nod toward his new daughter-in-law, Michael took a seat next to Jarras, across from his son.
Jarras went on: "The Jeffersonian Republic is the least-unfree nation in the recorded history of the explored universe. Everyone in this room has sworn an oath to defend it." Even Jenny Blain, who had never served in the military, swore a very similar oath when she first gained Citizenship; and she maintained it by serving as Chief Engineer of a naval auxiliary. The line between "civilian" and "military" was a blurry one, in Jeffersonian culture. "The Order of Librarians exists to preserve knowledge, culture, civilization itself, against the ravages of war. Some members of this Order may have divided loyalties, but I, and my peers at the highest levels, do not. If the Republic falls, so does the Library. We are Jeffersonians first." She said those last words with emphasis, as her colleagues gestured agreement.
"I have become aware of a potential threat to the Republic's safety, and since the Republic is the largest and most militarily-powerful nation we know of, that threat extends to the peace of the known galaxy."
"The threat comes from an enemy you, Solomon, have encountered before, though you may not be fully aware of it. -It should go without saying, but say it I shall: everything I am about to reveal is to be held in strictest confidence. Public revelation of this information could lead to the death of intelligence assets, panic among the populations of dozens of worlds, and may even precipitate the war we are hoping to prevent." Jarras emphasized this by making eye contact with everyone in the room.
"Years ago, Solomon, Commander Beth Lascomb told you that the supposed Flike-Glautak alliance was years away from becoming a threat. Those years have passed, and that Alliance has built naval forces to a point which could threaten the Republic's Space Patrol, defederalized as we are."
Jarras turned to Michael Danner, who nodded and took over the briefing, illustrating his points with projections from his wrist 'puter. "This is a cooperative effort between the Order of Librarians and the Office of Naval Intelligence, and has been for many years. Public knowledge of this arrangement could undermine confidence in the neutrality and autonomy of the Order, and the peaceful intentions of the Republic. I reiterate the need to keep everything we discuss here secret.
"ONI, as far as allowed by our Constitution, performs the functions the Central Intelligence Agency used to, in the old United States of America. Bluntly, we have spies and turncoats and double-agents in... essentially all other nations of any significance.
"Solomon, you've met... one of our other assets. The line of correspondence you opened-" both Solomon and Aurora had, with precautions, been exchanging messages with Frashkra since meeting him- "has been of considerable value. The information that asset has given us has opened opportunities within the Flike Empire. Several Flike, dissatisfied with their Emperor's rule, have come to see our Republic as a desirable alternative. At the risk of their own lives and their families', they have been feeding us vital information on Flike naval developments, and their internal political structure, the Emperor's intent and his level of power and support.
"Gr- uh, Major, Glub." Grbblb's four seemingly-immobile black eyes somehow "turned" to meet his Captain's father's. "I remember very well the first time we met. You, too, have opened vital intelligence channels for us, within the Glautak Consolidation. It should come as no surprise to any here that there is a Glaut Resistance movement, opposed to their totalitarian caste structure. They too have come to see our Republic as their only hope of liberation.
"The Consolidation has for many years been building ships, including warships, for themselves, and for sale or trade to the Flike. Latest reports indicate their Alliance Navy - they're calling it that themselves, now - has no less than ten dreadnoughts, at least two more building; four carriers that we know about; thirty or more heavy cruisers; likely well over sixty destroyers. There are support ships, freighters and tankers and tenders, in proportion. Those support elements include troop transports, enough to deliver at least thirty thousand Flike warriors in a single wave. They are all gathered at Kmar, the Flike homeworld, training crews and performing exercises. It is the largest single concentration of naval power presently in existence, and the largest since our own in the Republic-Empire War.
"But there's more. This concentration we've received reports of is little more than two-thirds of the total construction our assets have witnessed. We don't know where those other ships have gone, but there are suggestions there is another customer, or perhaps more than one - another member or members of their Alliance. The Nikar aristocracy is believed to be one, though there is no evidence we've yet seen." Prrg leaned forward at this news.
Michael added: "Another customer is suspected to be the Blood Rose."
The "retired" Commodore continued, not noticing how Aurora's purser, the man now known as Daisuke Taniyama, had become as still as any statue. "There is still little known about the Blood Rose. Many in the intelligence community doubt it even exists as an organization, but I believe it does, and as far more than a simple band of pirates.
"Several years ago, King Lars of Asgard forwarded to us an anonymous report of the possible origins and identity of the possible leader of the Blood Rose. From that, working backward and forward with seemingly-unrelated reports, we've- I have pieced together a theory.
"I've... spent years on this." Michael seemed a little embarrassed. "My theory doesn't have a lot of supporters. Admittedly, some of what I've heard is fantastic. But it all fits together, at least in my mind." Projecting graphics, he explained:
"In the early 520s, a crimelord by the name of Tamura Ken arose in Old Nippon. He started by taking over a gambling den, then expanded and branched out, to smuggling, prostitution, even slavery under the guise of indentured labor. Reported descriptions of Tamura Ken - there are no images - fit the anonymous report received by the Asgardian piracy database, of the founder of the Blood Rose.
"In 533, the Investigators Corps and the local militia raided this crimelord's establishments in a coordinated sweep. A burned corpse broadly matching his description was found, conveniently unable to be positively identified. DNA samples matched nothing in the Corps' database." The Investigators Corps was technically part of the Navy, and was the closest thing to a police force the Jeffersonian Constitution allowed. They only took action on sworn warrants from victims. The existence of their DNA database was not widely known, and would cause public outrage if it were, followed by demands for its destruction.
"I believe Tamura Ken was forewarned by corrupted members of the Corps and militia, faked his own death, escaped to the Frontier, and changed his identity, becoming Tozama Daiki. This Tozama then 'inherited' his own criminal empire, having designated himself as heir, and changed his operations to organized piracy, under the symbol of the Blood Rose.
"Interrogations of captured pirates from across Known Space lend weight to this theory... if one spends years staring at them. I admit, some of these interrogations were... more forceful than some of us would want to admit." Torture was not explicitly prohibited in the Constitution, except in the "cruel and unusual" clause, and those it was applied to were usually outlaws whose lives were already forfeit; and other societies, like Asgard, had different views. "Other reports were dismissed, even by those who forwarded them, as drunken fantasies or lying boasts." Michael showed doubt in his own conclusions, but continued: "The picture they all paint for me is, Tozama, Tamura, took over a Frontier world, Chikusei, and began using it as a base for pirate raids. He began gathering other pirates into the Blood Rose, organizing and disciplining them, coordinating their actions. At some point he began to call himself 'Emperor of Space'.
"Pirates under his orders may have been responsible for the seizure of the Sheridan Star. Or the attempted hijacking of the Morning Flower. Or the subversion of the planet Elysium. Or the raid on Gerlach. Or the attack on Mark's World. Or the enslavement of Ude.
"I've received reports from three different sources, about three different individual pirates, each telling a similar story. Details vary, but the gist is, this Tozama was very busily building a pirate empire, snapping up distant independent colonies, even new worlds, conquering their native species, expanding his territory and control.
"Supposedly this Tozama has directed the construction of multiple Balloon Worlds, equipped with Marsten Drives, heavily armed, crewed by hundreds or even thousands of pirates-turned-soldiers. His army is composed almost entirely of Humans, and he is reportedly prejudiced in favor of those of Japanese descent.
"One world, dozens of light-years beyond what we call the Frontier, was supposedly destroyed by relativistic weapons, like those used in the Sherrington Atrocity, but more thoroughly - deliberately scrubbed of all life, when its native population resisted his attempt at conquest.
"There is one report, very much unsubstantiated, that Sherrington was a result of infighting within this supposed pirate empire, that a splinter faction wanted to begin a... 'war against civilization', before Tozama felt it was time. There may have been a mutiny or even a civil war within Tozama's empire.
"This one report - from an overly-talkative pirate who was later found dead - suggests there were great losses in the fighting, and a disruption of Tozama's long-term plans, causing him to withdraw beyond the Frontier to reorganize and rebuild.
"My theory is this: that Tozama's 'empire', the Consolidation, the Flike, elements of the Nikar, and possibly several other independent nations, Human or otherwise, are parts of a...." Michael trailed off as the enormity of his notion was spoken aloud: "A vast axis of piracy and dictatorships who intend to attack and destroy the Republic, carving up the galaxy among themselves. I know it sounds absurd, but think about the current military status of the Republic - decentralized, diffuse, plenty to discourage ordinary pirates and criminals, but a very thin line indeed against a truly organized attack.
"There's one more thing which supports my theory. The gunships used in the Sherrington Atrocity, the ones which released relativistic weapons, are very similar to ships seen under construction, under heavy security and secrecy, in the Glautak Consolidation's shipyards. At least three Glaut operatives died to send us that information. Probably their families were enslaved or murdered as well. These ships also match verbal descriptions from one of the pirates I mentioned earlier, in the supposed schism among the Blood Rose."
Michael cleared his throat and concluded, "Sol- Captain Danner, Admiral Na'Lak of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Huang of the Reserve Privateer Bureau, High Curator Jarras of the Order of Librarians, and Councillor for Defense Karen Pendleton, all request you and Aurora to make an unofficial and deniable investigation of this theory."
"Bloody Hell, Dad! I haven't even seen Mom and Tina yet! To say nothing of the rest of my crew! We've been docked less than a dozen hours, we've barely begun resupplying-"
Michael held up a placating hand. "I know. I'm not talking about leaving right away. We're gathering some assets of our own to go with you, it'll be a couple weeks at least."
"Look, Dad- Commodore-" Michael winced at that- "what if I say 'No'? I don't like the idea of taking my Family into hostile territory on purpose, I've done it often enough by accident-"
From a few places down the table, Daisuke unexpectedly spoke up. "Solomon."
Daisuke, always proper and correct, rarely used Sol's given name, preferring the comforting, distancing formality of ranks and titles. Solomon stopped speaking and turned to look at his ship-brother.
The two men said nothing aloud to each other, but Michael could see there was something being communicated between them... and a new, astounding facet of his personal theory began to take shape in his mind. He struggled to keep his jaw from dropping, or blurting aloud what he now believed - a connection he had never made before.
Still locking eyes with his Purser, Solomon said, "I'll think about it."
Continued in the next excerpt....