Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2019, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part CX: Targets
Continued from the previous excerpt
28 Fourthmonth 572JR
18 April 2367CE
There was a gulf of nearly thirty-five light-years between Avalon and Oskran, devoid of habitable worlds, though many a red dwarf could be found, with comets and asteroids to refuel from if necessary. For Aurora, it wasn't, with her Helium-3 power plants in the first level of hyperspace.
She was happily welcomed to this world too. She and her Family had performed a dreadfully-necessary task to secure Lii's planetside borders, then helped raise that Member State and its people to Republic standards - of technology, of military readiness... of living. The skies and waters of the Lii Confederation, if not the rest of Oskran, were clean and clear. Literacy was practically universal in Lii, as was access to information. Affordable healthcare flourished in a free and competitive market. The independence of personal transportation was also widespread, as was the owning and bearing of arms; street crime, property crime, crimes of personal violence, within the borders of Lii, were almost nonexistent, as criminals were exterminated by their victims. There were even a handful of Alran Shipfolk Families now, most of which were also Reserve Privateers.
Solomon Danner was as pleased by these facts as he was worried by their necessity. Oskran was expected to be a strategic target of the Flike-Glautak Alliance if the feared war came.
The Constitution of the Jeffersonian Republic allowed three terms of five Monticellan years for a federal Councilor, only two of which could be consecutive. The new Constitution of the Lii Confederation, as a Member State, was functionally identical. Nalat Yonn, who had spent most of a year aboard Aurora returning to his home from a tour of Republic space, was more than half through his second term, and ambivalent about a third. He greeted his former shipmates warmly.
So did his niece, Nrii Tlam. From a Petty Officer to Officer Candidate during Aurora's last visit, she had risen to full Lieutenant, and was now Chief Sensor Officer aboard Shrakor. A Republic decade ago, Commander Nicolas Lefeaucheaux of the Republic's Regular Navy had been Commanding Officer of that ship. He had trained his own replacement and duplicates, just as Lieutenant Tlam was doing now, her students taking her equivalent position in new ships.
A very great deal had been learned from the construction and working-up of FF1927 JRS Shrakor, "Defender", the first Alran-built starship. Many sisters followed - Avenger, Liberator, Shield, Guardian, Spear, Sword, Arrow, twenty-nine commissioned when Aurora arrived, at least six more building. The Alran of Lii, having gained confidence, were now trying larger projects - freighters, tankers, passenger liners; cruisers light and heavier. Shipyards and stations continued to grow in multiple orbits, and on Oskran's single large moon, Jeenai, which Lii, and therefore the Republic, had claimed. Danner and Aurora were shown designs for battleships and carriers, but those were a decade or more away.
Danner was struck again by the Alran race's similarities to Human, and their differences. Somehow it hadn't affected him the same way during their last meeting, but now he noticed how alike Nrii's hair was to... Agnieszka's. Aurora was no telepath, no such being had been yet found in the galaxy, but she had come to know her husband. Her gynoid moved to his side, her golden hair shining like the dawn, and his moment of emptiness was filled.
Danner, Aurora, Prrg and Jenny Blain met with the Lii Confederation's Triumvirate, and with Vice Admiral Efta Malk, commander of the growing Oskran Home Fleet. Calling it such was a stretch; Lii was still the only one of eight nations on the planet to fly the Republic's Star and Bars flag.
That was one of the topics of discussion. Solomon Danner had worn many figurative hats since leaving the Space Patrol: businessman, Reserve Privateer, mercenary, fleet commander, ambassador. He found himself approaching that last role again. After secretly informing the Triumvirate of the Blain Drive and updating them on the Flike-Glautak threat, the meeting was expanded to include representatives from some of the other recognizable states on Oskran. Yonn and his colleagues, Jorn Borda and Sannar Igpag, requested that Solomon join the conference and contribute his experience.
The Kingdom of Narloof was not unexpected; they had already been seeking reform. Duke Spak of Narhan was King Ronton IV's cousin and ambassador. The "Republic" of Nuce was striving to live up to its title, having concluded a very ugly revolution at the cost of some seventeen percent of their population. A Senator Calor Jarnil was that state's representative, still showing signs of malnutrition.
As for the other two members of the axis Nuce had dropped out of, not much was being heard these days out of the theocracy of Ganhol. They had closed their borders, and employed lethal force against anything approaching them. Satellites, and high-altitude atmospheric overflights, showed funeral pyres - condemned heretics. The People's Establishment of Lanos had drawn into itself as well, their economy collapsing, their lights going out, and systematic cannibalism now an evident fact. There were images of the camps and slaughterhouses, and - like the communists of Old Terra - pyramids of skulls. Perhaps, like the last dictatorships of the Boksi homeworld, Kshir, mercenaries and adventurers would band together to knock these places over, paying themselves with loot. Relief wasn't likely to come from within; the bearing of arms was prohibited in both states, except for the government. Nuce had been the same, until someone had smuggled in some Jeffersonian fabbers. Each made two copies of itself, which did the same in their turns, before turning out whatever weapons suited the resources and skill levels to be found.
Garch was another kingdom of unsurprising structure. They had stayed out of all the conflicts, until their queen, Iroli, had probably been poisoned. There was a bit of successionist shooting and now one of her great-nephews, Ardnu, wore the crown, sending Count Yenkel to learn what he could. The kingdom of Yabag's civil war was ongoing, and neither side could spare delegates.
Hewnak was the other federation on Oskran. They were a small nation, consisting of five provinces which together weren't the size of the largest of Lii's twenty. They were less wealthy than Lii and had been careful to not draw attention to themselves during the recent troubles. Now, with the Republic and Lii more firmly established, they had sent an ambassador, the only other female in the room besides Aurora and Jenny: Alvom Renok, about fifty Terran years old, and the darkest red skin shade Danner had yet seen on an Alran. Yonn had said that Hewnak was not as liberty-oriented as Lii had been even before Contact, but they weren't as bad as the monarchies. Since becoming aware of the Republic's way of life, Aurora's research indicated there were movements in Hewnak to repeal several prohibitions, cut taxes, and reduce the power of government.
Since Danner had been requested to operate in a near-official capacity, he had chosen and directed Class A Navy Whites, in which Lieutenant Aurora's second gynoid looked very sharp indeed, with her luxurious pale-gold hair in a perfect bun, gold-highlighted pistol and wakizashi at her sides. Jenny Blain, never having served in the military, wore a white suit tailored to suggest academic robes in some of the surviving Alran cultures. She rarely carried weapons openly, and did not practice skill-at-arms as much as the rest of her Family, but Danner knew she had a compact pulse-laser, and a dagger similar to Delilah's Fairbairn-Sykes, beneath her jacket. Solomon and Prrg wore their usual M437 plasma pistols and M12 midswords on dress belts, the pistols in flap holsters. Aurora's party wore simple black dress shoes, except for Prrg, who wore a sort of sandal arrangement which left his talons exposed; this was standard dress for Nikar in Republic military service. The Republic flags on their uniform shoulders carried the broad silver border of Inactive Reservists, but the delegates weren't expected to know that.
Introductions were made, and a meal was served in a conference room near the Lii Triumvirate's executive office. The meeting began with less formality than the royalist delegates were used to; Jeffersonian casualness was spreading through Lii, sometimes contrasting, but somehow not conflicting, with their pseudo-Victorian manners. Duke Spak seemed accepting, even amused. His skin tone was light, nearly Human. He was dressed in a formal black-and-white outfit that wouldn't have been too out of place in Queen Victoria's court. A golden chain with an ornate medallion, his symbol of rank and station, hung from his neck. An attendant, similarly but less-finely dressed, accompanied him.
Count Yenkel's reddish skin was in the middle of the Alran range, like Yonn's. He wore something that might have been suitable during Terra's Renaissance era, greens and golds and reds with ruffles and lace, and a white sash bearing several medals. He was visibly disturbed at the lack of deference to his rank, the presence of an armed female in military uniform, and more disturbed by Prrg's crocodilian, many-toothed face, his red-striped tail protruding from beneath his tunic, and the exposed claws on his feet. Yenkel's eyes widened when Prrg used his tail as a third hand, holding a wine glass as he loaded more meat onto a plate. The Count had two servants, sitting to either side of him at the circular table. Aurora discreetly informed her husband and captain, and the Triumvirate and Admiral Malk, that one of them was concealing a compact plasma pistol under the foppery. Yenkel openly carried something that might be called a short sabre, with a jeweled hilt. One of Aurora's armed sensor spheres hovered in the room, and she still had concealed weapons in the fingers of her gynoid.
Senator Jarnil, almost as light of skin as Spak, was dressed in a grey Human-style business suit, without necktie. He too had brought an assistant, dressed the same. As the wealth of Lii was expressed in food brought by Alran stewards and a couple robots, Jarnil and his aide obviously made an effort at self-restraint; things had gone very badly in Nuce, when supply systems had failed, farmers and ranchers and transport drivers going under the guillotine-equivalent almost randomly. Danner saw intelligence in the senator, knowing he could make himself more sick by trying to eat too much. The aide visibly struggled to follow his superior's example. Danner also saw trauma in both men's eyes, and wondered how close they had come to the guillotine themselves, or how many family they had lost.
Ambassador Renok looked her pre-Escape Terran age, but well-preserved and decently fit; Hewnak was only just beginning to import Jeffersonian anti-aging treatments, at a higher cost than should be normal. Some of the treatments were universal to all known Common Life, while others had to be tailored to each species. Greater access to these was one of many things she hoped to improve with this conference. She, too, was sharply dressed, in black jacket and trousers over a blouse and dress shoes which matched her skin tone. For jewelry she wore only a single, simple pearl from each ear. At the time of Contact, Alran fashion might have been compared to the Victorian era on Terra. Modern Human fashion had spread rapidly through Lii in the decades since, and from there to the rest of Oskran. Her single aide was a young male who seemed to bear a family resemblance, wearing a dark blue Human-style suit like the delegates from Nuce. Aurora's sensor sphere detected a small projectile pistol in his briefcase. Except for skin, and the large, backswept ears, often convoluted in ways pleasing to Human eyes, Renok might have been a Human diplomat or businesswoman from New Israel or Monticello. Her graying hair had once been black; her yellow eyes were clear and attentive.
So were Spak's and Yenkel's, in different ways. Spak - not very old, perhaps Renok's age, or Solomon's - seemed to simply enjoy looking at Aurora, a very attractive young female of an alien, yet remarkably similar, race. Yenkel, younger, stared at her as an unnatural interloper in men's affairs. Noting this, glancing at her husband for wordless permission, Aurora opened the conversation. "We are gathered here to learn from each other," she said. "This conference is informal and non-binding. Let us not limit our search for understanding. Are there any questions I might answer for any of you?" She looked at the two nobles, who with their servants had been seated together.
Of the gathered Alran, only the Triumvirate of Lii knew the American language, and only Nalat Yonn was fluent, but Aurora's realtime translating earbuds had been provided for all, who had clipped them to their ears. Duke Spak, sparing a sideways glance to Yenkel, said, "I am surprised to find a woman, especially one of such youth, in a position of responsibility. Moreso in military service." With the eye Yenkel could not see, Spak winked at Aurora. He knew what she was.
Not everyone in the room did, despite being told at the beginning of the conference. Aurora smiled. "I am both younger and older than I seem," she reiterated. "In one sense, I am over two hundred of your years old." Oskran's years were about a hundred hours longer than Terra's. "In another, I only came to awareness, to 'life', about seven of your years ago. This body is a gynoid, an artificial construct in the form of a Human female. My mind, my consciousness, resides in the ship, Aurora, currently orbiting your world." This time Aurora was in a lower, more conventional orbit, linking to her gynoid by a laser and microwave satellite network. This caused a slight communication lag, which few organics would detect. Her husband could, and her sister Jenny and brother Prrg, but only because they knew to look for it. Her gynoid's mannerisms were programmed to fill the gaps with body language and hand gestures, as a Human would. "I am the central computer of that ship, brought to self-awareness through means not yet understood, following an incident in hyperspace. My government has recognized me legally as a Person, and awarded me the rank of Lieutenant in our Navy Reserve."
Count Yenkel of Garch leaned back in his chair, in what could only be revulsion. "I had expected to be in conference with men," he said aloud, "of a comparable station. Not...." He had the sense to fall silent at that point, but glared at Aurora, Prrg, and Jenny.
Alvom Renok responded to this, not with actual heat, but with a touch of warmth. "The Count would do well to read the material provided, when he was invited to this conference. I would remind the Count that Aurora has been awarded a knighthood in the Kingdom of Illyria, and the rank of Lieutenant Commander in their Royal Navy, for services rendered during their civil war. I would also remind him that the other woman present is the greatest living expert in faster-than-light technology, and that-" she paused a bit at the alien name- "Purg is a renowned Navigator of starships and an accomplished soldier-of-fortune." She cocked her head and met Yenkel's eyes. "I seem to recall reading that Purg is also a duelist of some note. Dueling is an activity you are known for, is that not correct, Count?" Renok's face was straight but her golden eyes laughed.
Danner grinned; he was starting to like the Ambassador from Hewnak. From the files Aurora provided, he had learned that Hewnak bordered Garch. He guessed Yenkel and Renok had met before, in their diplomatic roles. "Perhaps my First Officer would find a comparison of your skills entertaining... on some other occasion." He stood at this point, raising his hands to encompass all the delegates, and asked: "Why are you here?"
Planning with the Triumvirate, especially Yonn, before the delegates arrived, Solomon took charge of the meeting. Answering himself, he said, "You are here because you have noticed the wealth, peace, and security of the Lii Confederation, which is now a Member State of the Jeffersonian Republic. As my Ship's Doctor would say, you want 'a piece of the action.' Nuce, Ganhol and Lanos attempted to steal what they wanted. That attempt was easily repulsed. Following their failure, those three states collapsed with internal conflict." He made eye contact with Senator Jarnil. "Nuce, at least, seems to have found a way back to her national feet, though at terrible cost." He nodded toward the senator, who returned the gesture.
To them all he continued: "The Jeffersonian Republic is the largest and most prosperous nation we know of, in the explored universe. We do not hand out our wealth, but we welcome peaceable trade.
"The Republic is sometimes called a 'post-scarcity' society - a nation which has reached a level of technology where no one need run out of anything. With widespread access to the resources of space, widespread use of fabricators, or 'fabbers' for short, widespread automation of menial tasks, widespread availability of cheap energy, we have the highest standard of living, in every measurable way, ever recorded.
"You can have these things too. You can buy them - not with fiat currency but with real commodities, precious metals, natural resources; there are many things my people-" with a gesture he included his own Family and the Triumvirate of Lii- "accept in payment. You can earn them - individuals of any nation or rank may enlist in our military and earn Citizenship, renouncing any other fealty." He put a bit of emphasis on the last four words.
He smiled. "I admit I'm biased. I've traveled to many other nations, met their peoples, observed the operations of their governments. Few approach, and none surpass, the qualities of my own." He again gestured to include Lii. "We do not force others to join us, we do not conquer or subjugate any people who have not attacked us first. We welcome friends who truly wish to join us in liberty. Referendums among your peoples, adjustments to your constitutions and laws to be compatible with ours, would earn your states the same Member status - and the same military protection, the same access to technology and resources - as Lii now enjoys.
"So, gentlebeings, there are at least three paths to the prosperity you seek. Let us discuss them." With that he returned to his seat.
Continued in the next excerpt....