Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part CXV: Retreat

This page Copyright 2019, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
18 Firstmonth 573JR
30 July 2367CE
Rntggld

Rntggld was the eighth and newest Glaut colony, having been claimed only ten Republic years ago, more than a Monticellan decade after the Rollbottle Business. Officially it was yet another fully-controlled property of the Glautak Consolidation. In practice it was a powderkeg.
Like Botany Bay in Australia, after which the Republic's series of "safety valve" dissident ships had been named between the Escape and the War, Rntggld was a dumping ground for criminals and undesirables of every kind. Having not thought it through, the Consolidation now found itself facing a self-organizing rebellion. Several Glaut Navy ships had mutinied, captured or destroyed those who didn't in a surprise attack, and were now calling themselves the Free Glaut Armada. Of the three major continents, one had been lost to the Free Glaut State, whose flag bore a deliberate resemblance to the ancient Human Gadsden, replacing the the rattlesnake with The Kraken. The other two continents had only token populations, and were split between rebellion and loyalty, with reports of infighting.
The Jeffersonian Republic was on the verge of recognizing the Free Glaut State as legitimate, but doing so could drag the Republic into a Glaut civil war, which could quickly expand to a major interstellar war. This was frustrating to Grkbbt, acting Chancellor of the Free State, and Brttlb, commander of the Armada, who faced annihilation if the Consolidation or Alliance Navies could spare the time and resources to deal with the annoyance. Several Jeffersonian Reserve Privateers, and a few actual warships, were loitering in the system, under various pretenses, to discourage this. Information sent to Danner by ONI said Grkbbt had expressed a desire for Membership in the Republic, and the protection it would come with, but had not yet called for it openly, refraining from forcing the Republic's hand.
Into this powderkeg Aurora dropped as yet another spark. The Consolidation and the Free State had reached an armed truce; while Consolidation ships were arriving in ones and twos, the rebel Armada still had a numerical advantage and could wipe out the Consolidation forces, but would lose most of their own doing so. It was close to the Mutually Assured Destruction of Old Terra's Cold War. Jeffersonian and other merchants were doing business with the Free State, while outnumbered Consolidation warships could do little but watch. If a major Consolidation or Alliance task force arrived, the balance would swing and thousands would die.

Aurora's holds were empty of trade goods, but she had a lot of hard currency aboard, and fat interstellar bank accounts. Rntggld, well under a Terran decade old and having spent the last third of that at each other's throats, had little infrastructure or organized exports, but there was seafood and lumber, raw petroleum and a little processed plastic, useful metals and elements, to be bought. The Free Glaut put the backs they didn't have into gathering these commodities for sale, knowing that every gram of gold and platinum and rhodium meant another missile or rifle or beam weapon or ship with which to keep their newborn liberty. It made business sense for Aurora to stop here for trade goods on the way back to Republic space, and making contact with the Free State meshed with her covert reconnaissance mission... but the cruiser remained on alert, with a low-level Marsten Field constantly active. This could be passed through safely by shuttles with ordinary Faraday hulls, but could be quickly raised to combat power. There was no station to dock to here.
Aurora's shuttles descended to load cargo. Grbblb and Trllbl insisted on accompanying them, to meet fellow rebels and give at least moral support to their cause. Danner was hesitant; Frddlp didn't raise the point at Drbbldd, but Grbblb was a known target of the Consolidation and was known to be a member of Aurora's crew. "Not everyone in the Free State might be on our side," he warned his ship-siblings. "There could be infiltrators, or an attack."
Glaut couldn't smile in a way Human eyes could see, but Grbblb's voice was assured. "My wife and I have been corresponding with Grkbbt for some time," he said, a tentacle entwined with hers. "He is well aware of the risks and has been taking precautions. With your permission, Captain, we will take a FlyCycle off Four Boat to meet with him."
"Well... no." Grbblb's tentacles curled in surprise. "You'll come with me in One Boat. I'm supposed to meet with him too, do a bit more of that ambassador stuff. And be careful. You're a high-value target for the Consolidation."
Grbblb touched his pistol and rapier. "Your gifts accompany me, Captain, and my wife... 'has my back.'"

Grbblb's correspondence with the acting Chancellor of the Free Glaut State had described Captain Danner as a man who preferred straight talk. {I am aware of having placed your Republic in a difficult position,} Grkbbt said, as he touched a tentacle to Danner's hand. The Glautak did not offer apology for seeking the best outcome for his people.
"We're sympathetic," acting Ambassador-at-Large Danner replied, "but I admit it's damned inconvenient. We're grateful for your patience." If Grkbbt formally and openly requested Membership in the Jeffersonian Republic, the Republic would have two very bad choices: almost certain war against the Glautak Consolidation, with their allies the Flike Empire and possibly the Nikar aristocracy and the still-mysterious Blood Rose; or violate her own principles by abandoning those espousing and seeking Jeffersonian ideals. Grkbbt knew it, and didn't want to sour relations with his would-be protectors.
{I, in turn, am grateful for your show of force, however unofficial it may be.} Destroyers John W. Ripley, Elwert and Urakaze, and heavy cruiser Steeltown, "just happened" to have been in the region and were laying over for refueling and "minor repairs". Nineteen Reserve Privateers, from four to twenty-five kilotons, were doing the same or "negotiating for cargoes". {I am also pleased to meet The Liberator,} Grkbbt continued, touching tentacles with Grbblb. Waving another, he added, {I know, the title is overblown and inconvenient, but you are still a great inspiration to us, even moreso since the discovery of regeneration. -And this must be your Lady, Trllbl. I am pleased to meet you as well.} The Chancellor repeated the gesture, a Glautak openly exchanging courtesy with a Glauteb.
That was too much for one of the Consolidation's stay-behinds, who produced a blade and charged.

Which turned out to be anticlimactic. A dozen of the Free Glaut, of both castes, tackled the Consolidation bigot and restrained him, as he spewed curses in the gargling Glaut language. Still, the incident pointed out the precarious condition of the Free State. As Danner holstered his pistol, he turned back to Grkbbt and said, "In the worst case, there's room in the Republic for refugees who truly wish to assimilate to Jeffersonian culture. No handouts, you'd all need to work for a living, but that hasn't been a problem with the Glaut who've come so far. Do you have enough lift for everyone?"
{Another Relief operation?} Grkbbt asked, through Aurora's translation. {That would be our last resort. We were sent here as colonists and we intend to colonize. This is our world and we do not wish to abandon it.} Before Danner could say it, Grkbbt observed, {But leaving our world would be better than dying on it. We have already made plans. Your Reserve Privateers figure heavily. The captains of those ships have been very helpful. Combining with our own Armada, such as it is-} nine ships, one light cruiser, one cargotanker, and the rest destroyers- {we have a schedule to evacuate nearly eighty percent of the Free State's population. I am told more ships are on the way, Jeffersonian and more mutineers from the Consolidation Navy.}
"We're heading back toward the Central Worlds now," Danner said. "We can take a couple hundred, we've done it before. There are established communities, not least on New Israel. Jobs, education, medical care."
Glaut couldn't nod either, but having two in his crew for years, Danner saw the equivalent in Grkbbt's body language. {Children and females first,} the Chancellor said. {The lists have already been made, I will simply take some off the top. Thank you, Captain.} Grkbbt reached up to touch Solomon's hand again.

For nearly two Republic years, more than one Terran, Aurora had been secretly performing reconnaissance in enemy territory, sending vital military information back to the Republic. In return they received updates from the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Reserve Privateer Bureau, and the Order of Librarians. As the latest batch of messages arrived, Danner met again with Chancellor Grkbbt and shared what he safely could.
The explored galaxy was on the verge of war. The combined Flike and Glaut navies were massing along the Republic's "border", so far as that term applied to interstellar space. The Flike had reportedly gathered an army of over a quarter-million, trained for assault from orbit, equipped with modern weapons and vehicles. Expected targets included several independent worlds, like Sidonia, and Member Worlds or States like Lii and Hewnak on Oskran, and Territories like Gambori. Ambassador Hnnk was Expressing Concern to Emperor Jagrash the Fourth and getting weasel-words in response.
Jeffersonian warships were massing too, and the Space Patrol was a tripwire away from becoming the Jeffersonian Republic Navy for the first time in a hundred and fifty Terran years, and the second ever. Every Reserve Privateer in the Register was on alert, as was the Republic's entire militia system, just one Emergency Action Message from becoming a Marine Corps again. Tens of millions of farmers and shopkeepers and housewives and factory workers and college students were getting reacquainted with their rifles and fabbing spare power cells. Enlistment in both branches and all sub-branches was surging.
The line was thin. The powers gathered by the Flike-Glautak Alliance could punch through and pierce deep into Republic space, forcing landings, though this might not work out as well as the enemy might hope. The Occupation of New Israel hadn't, the last time an Empire made war on the Republic.
A bad case would be what Yamamoto intended for the United States: annihilation of naval forces, eliminating major opposition at the outset. If Glautak and Flike spies were as good as Jeffersonian, that might even work, especially if they'd read Clausewitz. Despite there being thousands of true Patrol warships and thousands more Privateers, there simply weren't major concentrations like the Alliance's, which had the potential to defeat Jeffersonian naval forces in detail.
Perhaps a worse case would be if the enemy bypassed Jeffersonian naval forces and struck undefended worlds deeper within the Republic, like the shell game Danner himself had played during the Illyrian Civil War, concentrating naval force from Lublin and Radom while the Stefanist fleets left Illyria largely undefended. That would result in chaos, fleets and flotillas running themselves to pieces to try to catch an enemy who wouldn't hold still, and who would strike with impunity at the homeworlds and families of the beings crewing those ships.
The worst case might be relativistic strikes, destruction for its own sake, regardless of strategic goals. Live tests had been made of the automated weapon platforms, but it wasn't hard to imagine overwhelming them - Close Transits and Marsten Guns to destroy the platforms before following with huge numbers of relativistic weapons.
The one strategic advantage the Republic still held was the secret of the Blain Drive, three times as fast as anything the Alliance could put in space - a secret not to be shared with Chancellor Grkbbt, who might face capture and torture. Leaving that last bit out, Danner summarized the situation to Grkbbt. "In your place, Chancellor, I would begin the evacuation at once, while you still have naval superiority to cover it. Trade room for time. Make for Republic space, the deeper the better - I can recommend New Israel and even Terra. Come back here and reclaim your world when you safely can. That's what the Founders of the Republic did. It took their descendants, my ancestors, two lifetimes to return... but they did."
Grkbbt was silent, thinking... then his boneless molluscoid form slumped in defeat. Turning to an aide, he said, {Issue the evacuation order immediately. Children and females first, then everyone else who will fit. Put them in each others' eggsacs if you have to. Save everyone you can.}

Grbblb and Trllbl set to helping with the evacuation. Between them they knew enough Glaut dialects to translate for all the refugees. Grkbbt assigned four of his most trusted people to guard them. Hlossh, Grbblb's self-chosen blood-brother before they became ship-brothers, followed, as did Aurora's ever-present sensor spheres.
Panic was just under the surface, but was not breaking through. The Chancellor and his staff had been planning for more than a local year to evacuate, and everyone knew their role. Unlike Rllbtl, the refugees could bring some possessions with them, but were still limited by cubic and lift capacity.
Most of Rntggld's seventeen thousand colonists were Glauteb, the lower, laborer caste. About fifteen percent were Glautak, and all but a few of these were exiles as Grbblb had been, many of them maimed. Those few others had been a group of rulers, Glautak loyal to the regime. Some of these had been out of favor with the Consolidation, not enough to be made un-Whole, but still punished by assignment to a new colony, while others had been rewarded with positions of authority. Most of this group had been killed in the rebellion. A few had turned, or claimed to.
Essentially all of the Glauteb opposed the Consolidation, though after millennia of conditioning, few had the courage to do so openly. The Glautak advertised - and brainwashed - their slave caste as intellectually inferior, fit only to serve and incapable of leadership, but Danner had seen Trllbl redesign a starship's fusion rocket to function with Helium-3 fuel. Perhaps the average intellect was lower, after countless generations of oppression, but there were certainly individuals on the right end of the bell curve. Now on Rntggld, Glauteb and rebel Glautak worked together to save themselves and each other, solving problems, figuring things out.
Boats and shuttles began landing to transfer the refugees to the orbiting ships. There were over thirty now, not all Jeffersonian. The Patrol warships would not carry refugees; if war broke out they would be in harm's way. Danner's own intent to carry some in Aurora was changed for the same reason; she was a light cruiser and would be expected to fight. Her shuttles were used however, lifting over a thousand Glaut to other ships. Lines formed in an orderly fashion for loading, with more discipline than Danner might have expected.

Grbblb, Trllbl and Hlossh seemed to be everywhere, guiding, helping, encouraging. At one point Hlossh was carrying more than a dozen Glaut infants and juveniles on his carapace. Aurora's spheres followed, projecting holograms, illuminating paths as night fell.
A Glautak child ran on whirling tentacles toward Grbblb's party. {Help!} it cried, {Please, help us! My father is hurt!} Without hesitation the three amphibian members of Aurora's Family, and their four Free Glaut bodyguards, rushed after the hurrying child. One of Aurora's spheres accompanied them.
{It's this way! Please, hurry!} the child called, racing ahead, through underbrush, between trees, across a stream, into a small clearing.
The signal from Aurora's sphere suddenly winked out, as did the three amphibians' tracking implants.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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