Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part CIX: Transit

This page Copyright 2019, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
19 Fourthmonth 571JR
22 August 2366CE
Little Wheel

From Clearsky Aurora traveled to Little Wheel, a Republic Territory. It was a Terra-like planet, but with an impressive ring system with spokes of gravitational resonance which gave the world its name.
Sarah and the rest of the Family had harvested more buffipede on Clearsky without incident. Some of the meat and hides were sold here. The results of the other party, Solomon, Aurora and the Flike, were hidden in Aurora's cryopantry. Revealing its presence would lead to inconvenient questions about its origin. Aurora's robots continued, secretly, to serve this meat to her Flike guests.
Little Wheel imported some finished goods and fabbers, and a handful of new colonists, relatives of those who had gone before. Exports would come after more development of the world. The Flikes' trophies from Clearsky were discreetly shipped from here, by one of Aurora's anonymous robots, through an automated service, to make a multiply-redirected journey to Selm, their fellow exiles, and their children.

26 Fourthmonth 571JR
31 August 2366CE
Mark's World

Delilah Howell remained in her quarters with her husband Ralph Vatelius as Aurora visited her homeworld, where her first husband and unborn daughter's artificial womb had disappeared in a kinetic strike from Roger Brown's Flotilla.
The city of Markston had rebuilt in the years since the raid, as well as the other places and facilities struck by the pirates. Solomon descended to transact the Family's business, selling more buffipede meat and hides, and some durnot wine from Ude, and crel brandy from Oskran, which Aurora had been carrying around for some time. He was uncomfortable at the sight of his own statue, but pleased to see a majority of Marksers openly bearing arms. He was more pleased to see a half-dozen frigates patrolling the world's orbit, with more building, and the transponders of automated weapon platforms further out, to intercept relativistic weapons. This world wouldn't be hit the same way again.

16 Fifthmonth 571JR
25 September 2366CE

Salvation already had a respectable naval force, which had grown since Aurora's last visit. Artwork in precious metal was loaded here, much of it already paid for, Aurora being contracted for delivery. The cruiser-and-Person and her Family had a good reputation on this religious world, smiting evil, rescuing the innocent; delivering their goods intact even after putting down one of the worst pirate raids in the last century.
Trllbl reconnected with the fellow Glaut refugees she had left behind when joining Aurora's crew. A Marsten-Vatelius-Blain regeneration facility had been built here, and those who had been maimed by the Glautak Consolidation had been healed. Trllbl's husband Grbblb remained a celebrity, though expectations among the refugees had been lowered. Several did inquire about enlisting in the Jeffersonian military, particularly the Glautpolis Infantry on New Israel. Grbblb was no longer in command of that unit, but was still a reserve officer and took his responsibilities as a Citizen seriously. He evaluated several volunteers and made suggestions as to which paths they might take for Jeffersonian Citizenship, then recorded messages for them, to introduce them to Dnnbbd, presently Colonel of the still-growing Regiment. Aurora wasn't going that way, but the Net was used to reserve passage on the next ship from Salvation to New Israel.

8 Sixthmonth 571JR
22 October 2366CE

Captain Danner absolutely refused to allow his Flike passengers to hunt a DireBear, though he did allow them out of the ship for a day to discreetly harvest a pair of beefaloo, the other herbivore species the Family had intended to hunt on their previous visit to Alpine.
Most life forms on Alpine were quadruped, like most Terran life. The Great Snow Leopards really did look like their Terran namesakes, though larger, and more tan in color than white or grey. Karrok expressed a desire for a Leopard pelt - {It would look magnificent in our ranch!} - but agreed to not hunt a thing which might be a Person, or a Person's very distant ancestor.
During the stopover, Solomon reconnected with Emmy Jorgenson, the hunting guide from their last visit. She had developed a sort of partnership with the Great Snow Leopards in her region. She, her husband, and some members of the local Leopard clan would go hunting for jackalope and beefaloo together. The customers would make their shots - the Leopards could count - while the Leopards waited their turn, then put on a show for the customers' cameras once the shooting was done, while gathering their own prey. There was growing evidence the catlike things were at least pre-sentient, and as word spread, more guides were refusing to aid in hunting them. Alpine didn't have much government, that was one of the world's attractions, but there was talk of outlawing Leopard hunting. Emmy had come up with an advertising campaign for her own guide business: "Don't Hunt Leopards - Hunt With Leopards!" The advertising was working so well she'd had to hire extra hands.
"The Leopards are smart," Emmy had said by hologram. "Still not sure if they're People, but I'll say they're more than animals. I've been working out some sign language with them, and they've learned a bunch of American words, though they can't speak any language I can hear. They use scent a lot, I'm pretty sure of that, and signals from their ears and tails." She sent images of one she called Charger, evident alpha male of the regional clan. Aurora, noting the pattern of spots on his face, observed that this Leopard had been present during their last visit, though not the same one which had stolen Solomon's jackalope from under his rifle's sights. Aurora delivered biologists here, who would study the Leopards more scientifically and even test them for sentience, now that Emmy had made peaceful contact. Some of these were Eyani and some of those had worked their way out of primitive tribes, like Hu'Kah. It was thought there might be more common ground for communication.

21 Sixthmonth 571JR
8 November 2366CE

Now it was Solomon who began to withdraw into himself, as Delilah had done at Mark's World, as they returned to Sylvan and approached Illyria... but the emptiness in his heart had been filled. Aurora was with him, always. Still, Danner did not go down to this planet, where he had walked and talked with young Anna Nowak, so many years ago now.
There were vineyards in the temperate regions of Alpine now, and Aurora had always specialized in luxury cargoes. Wine and brandy were sold at Sylvan, Terran-descended woods were purchased. More passengers, unaware of the others, came and went.

7 Firstmonth 572JR
29 November 2366CE

She was not there.
Queen Agnieszka Elaine Caroline Lorentz Kordylewski Aldritch, Agnieszka the Just, the Warrior Queen, the Little Lioness, the most popular monarch in the histories of Nowy Krakow or Illyria, a firm friend to the Jeffersonian Republic, a woman who had killed armed men by her own hand and aided in the recovery of her own crown by force of arms... could not bear to again meet the eyes of the man she had once fallen in love with. Aware of Aurora's approach, she chose to spare them both the pain of what could never exist between them. Aboard HIMS Dragon, she had made a state visit to Nowy Krakow, to mend fences with Detmund the Golden, the king placed on that troubled world's throne decades ago by the last Jeffersonian punitive raid against pirates and slavers based there. Her Armsman, Champion, Commander of her Royal Guard, and surrogate father, Sir Bogdan Plebanek, naturally accompanied her, but a lesser servant, a Royal Marine lieutenant, delivered a letter to Solomon, handwritten on real paper.
It was as difficult for him to read as for her to write. As Beth Lascomb had done - very much like she had done - Agnieszka congratulated Solomon on his marriage, and announced an engagement of her own, to one of Detmund's sons. The issue of their union would be monarch of both kingdoms, uniting the crowns of four worlds... under the simple silver-and-gold crown Aurora's Family had made for her.
Sol shared the letter with his wife. The only thing he still hadn't told her of was his vision of their children. She could tell he felt concern, over little Anna marrying the son of someone not far removed from barbarian. Without prompting, she brought up information on Gregor, Crown Prince of Nowy Krakow. Eldest son of Detmund and Maryam, he had been something of a disappointment to his father, lacking Detmund's physique and presence, but inheriting his mother's sharp wits and love of learning. If he did somehow turn abusive, Solomon knew Agnieszka, for all her petite stature, had the skills and the spine to defend herself - and if she didn't, Bogdan, he also knew, would bloody well arrange an accident.
For public consumption, it had been "operatives under the orders of the rightful Queen" who had raided the Royal Vault of Nowy Krakow, drugging Detmund and Maryam in their very bedchamber. Only five people outside Aurora's crew knew it had been the Queen herself. They were Agnieszka and Bogdan, Detmund, Maryam, and Gregor. Agnieszka already had the political upper hand in the forthcoming union, three planets to one, and would make sure her Prince Consort wouldn't think he could have some other kind.

Despite the Queen's absence, Aurora and Solomon were greeted as heroes, which they were to the people of Illyria, having aided the restoration of their liberties from the Usurper, Stefan. All the Family were feted, all of them Knights of the Realm. As the Jeffersonian Navy had done at New Israel after Mark's World, the Royal Illyrian Navy formed an honor guard for the antique cruiser who was also a young woman.
There were more ships than before, and larger. The older capital ships, two battleships and two battlecruisers, had been updated and upgraded, while a pair of very new dreadnoughts bookended the orbital procession. There were at least twenty new destroyers present, and Solomon noted with interest how similar they were in design to the Lii Confederation's Shrakor-class.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Sir Stanislaw Lipinski greeted Captain Danner as a Commodore of the Illyrian Navy, and as a friend and equal, with a handshake and first names. Stan was justifiably proud of his new fleet. He confirmed the Oskran influence in the Guardian-class design, which in turn was a shrunken version of the Republic's Maerca-class, which in turn was a bit oversized for its type. Vessels were toured, notes were swapped. These two men had seen more naval combat than most beings in living memory. Solomon was paid rather a lot of zlotys to give a lecture on tactics at the Royal Naval Academy. It was carefully recorded, and would be replayed frequently.
Jenny Blain was also paid for a similar effort at the Royal University's School of Hyperspatial Mechanics. Separately, her colleague, Professor Wlad Symanski, still Rector of the University, conferred secretly with Jenny, Aurora, Solomon, and Admiral Lipinski. Part of Solomon's unofficial mission to the Frontier was to deliver, to the Republic's most trusted allies, the secret of the Blain Drive. The same had been done at Salvation, with one Bishop-Admiral Maxwell Greene.

There were changes on the planet too, and the colony worlds, Lublin and Radom. Since the overthrow of the Usurper, natural rights had been not just restored but expanded. As Agnieszka had promised, there was a general right to bear arms. Crime rates had plummeted once the people regained the acknowledged right to defend themselves. Maria Slotnik, the former Lublin police captain, had nearly worked herself out of a job as Chief of the Illyrian Investigators' Corps. Most of her time was now spent monitoring the few of her former colleagues who had avoided capital punishment, or hunting the fewer who had escaped it. She had, and needed, less than a hundred Investigators to deal with crimes on three planets. Common burglars and rapists and purse-snatchers and the like were eliminated by their intended victims, and that was the way it should be.
Taxes had likewise been slashed, as Agnieszka's "Spartan" aesthetic spread throughout all levels of the Kingdom's government. Sinecures had been eliminated - in a few cases at bayonet-point - and bureaucracies reduced drastically in size and power. The nobility's rights and powers had been reduced too. Under Stefan, serfdom had been making a comeback; Agnieszka had reversed that course again. Knights and Barons and Counts and Dukes could no longer live at leisure off the fruits of other people's labor. The smart ones formed corporations to manage their lands or other possessions profitably. Among the commoners, personal computers and Net access continued to spread, as did other technologies. Personal vehicles, both air and ground, had multiplied. It wasn't yet "a fabber in every home", but that goal was in sight, even in the rural agricultural regions.
Wine, wood, luxury foodstuffs - such was Aurora's stock-in-trade. Her own corporation sold and bought and, slipping away from celebrations and expressions of gratitude, the ship departed.

1 Secondmonth 572JR
7 January 2367CE

The Dakota Planetary Militia now consisted of two fully-operational heavy cruiser/Mobile Infantry transports, Ruthless and Heartless. After Mark's World and Sherrington, widespread public donations had financed a third, Soulless, now building. Shipyards atop both orbital elevators had also begun making their own local variation of the Shrakor-class frigates, whose design had already been simplified for ease of production and low cost. Dakota's versions were a bit more heavily armed, increasing the Oskran ships' Class Four Marsten Guns to Class Five, and the 8MW secondary pulse lasers to 10MW. Additional fuel storage and capacitor banks, and a third fusion plant, were installed to support these heavier energy weapons, at the cost of ammunition for the two standard mass drivers, which could launch international-standard missiles or Mobile Infantry drop pods. Computer automation reduced crew size, and berthing requirements, from the simpler, lower-tech Shrakor.
The people of Dakota well remembered Aurora charging to the rescue of the freighter Heritage. A few more specifically remembered Holly Cates. After thirty-odd hours away, she returned to the ship smiling and mellow. Even after all these years as a Shipfolk Family, Solomon wasn't quite sure which way his Gunner swung, if not both. It had never affected her duties in the slightest, and so he didn't care.
Dakota's exports, as usual, were grain. Aurora loaded six and a half kilotons of seven varieties. Most would be used for luxury bread to be baked on new worlds along her path. Some would be purchased as seed, to begin crops on those worlds.

29 Secondmonth 572JR
2 February 2367CE

One of those worlds was the mist-shrouded mystery of Avalon. Remarkably there had been no progress in solving the riddle of smashed construction or farming robots. The planet was still underpopulated and underdeveloped, with not a lot of resources to spare for surveillance, or biological labor which might react in more useful ways than programmed machines. The mystery was becoming a tourist attraction, with cryptid-hunters wasting a lot of time in cold damp wilderness for no significant results.
Grain from Dakota was traded here for native wood, and a certain vegetable which turned out to be packed with vitamins useful to most Common Life. Seeds of this were also loaded, some of which were intended to be transported all the way back to the Central Worlds.
If Aurora did not travel too far into harm's way.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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