Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part XXII: Oskran
Continued from the previous excerpt
So the voyage went: hundreds of hours of Transit, sanity maintained by Aurora's facilities, mealtime conversation (not excluding the ship herself), and evolving relationships between passengers, punctuated by a day or three at a new world, most Members of the Republic but many not:
The wind-carved spires of Yomi's ancient glaciers and more-ancient lava flows, howling like damned souls.
The known-space-record six habitable worlds of the fantastic Gemstone system: jungle-swathed Emerald, nigh-landless Sapphire, volcanic Ruby, snow-blanketed Diamond, Terra-like Opal, not-quite-poisonous Amethyst.
The ever-changing face of tectonically-unstable Bon Chance, her atmosphere, rotation and gravity perfect for Common Life but her cities safe only afloat at sea, where shore-scouring tsunami were only a passing ripple.
Asgard, settled by a cadet branch of the Linfarger clan, displeased with “civilization” on Necessity.
The Kingdom of Illyria, ruled by the Aldritch Dynasty of Nowy Kraków-in-Exile.
Sparsely-settled Dakota, a breadbasket world feeding dozens of times her own population by export, featuring two orbital elevators to supply the endless march of the freighters - and the waste biomatter imported from parsecs away to replace the mass she exported.
Mist-shrouded Avalon, possible home of elusive beings which might be sentient, if they really existed.
Aurora was taking a different route from Monticello to Oskran from that by which Nrii and her uncle had come; every stop was one she'd never seen, and many were new even to Aurora's much-traveled crew. Crew and passengers had grown close, especially so in the case of the two Alran. Though Aurora's family would be staying at Oskran for several days, they had lived and explored together for most of a year; Nrii and Sarah had adopted each other as sisters, and the pain of separation could already be seen on both their faces as the days swept by. Nalat had struck up friendships with all the crew, especially Holly, with whom he would talk for hours. Fortunately Lii had purchased a Marsten Device in synchronous orbit years ago, and 'puters were the single hottest import item on Oskran, so everyone could keep in touch by h-mail – but all swore that Aurora would return to Oskran again.
Reluctantly, Nrii came to realize she had already lost her place in Arriod society; what now would she have to talk about, what now did she have in common, with her “friends” Hray and Glaro and their clouds of hangers-on? She had changed, grown, risen above the petty gossips and trivial scandals which had once been her entire life. She had become the detested ornle – unfeminine, outcast, abomination.
By their standards.
Nrii imagined how shocked her friends would be at her experiences of the past six years. Ornle, am I? she pondered now, moving through Aurora's companionways.
Mother doesn't know what she's missing.
As she floated along Aurora's length, Nrii settled the fit of the belt which carried an ECS-surplus M437 plasma pistol, personally refurbished by Holly, at her right hip, and a fine wakizashi, designed by Daisuke and handmade by him and Hlossh, at her left. As they neared Oskran on their months-long journey, Uncle Nalat had received word from Aunt Deti that Arriod's government, seeking favor with the Republic, had rescinded the city's restrictions on the bearing of arms; a Confederation-wide Bill of Rights, strongly influenced by Article Eight of the Jeffersonian Constitution, was moving swiftly through the national legislature.
Catching a reflection from a passing viewport, she took a moment to admire the figure she cut in her snug-fitting Jeffersonian shipsuit, how the deep-green color perfectly contrasted her red-gold hair, now floating behind her in a long, luxurious braid.
Nrii smiled, partly in joy at all she had learned and become during the voyage, and partly in anticipation of her mother's and her “friends'” reaction, as she boarded the shuttle for home.
Lii Confederation, Oskran
The greatest city on the world, Arriod, was their pride.
Arriod had existed before the Fire and had burned in it. Scholars debated her original name and function, but they had reason to agree on her place. The present city spanned some dozen kilometers' breadth of full development and as much again of suburb, growth trailing rivers and surface roads as methods of transport were developed, evolved, and abandoned for improvements. Glistening spires reflected sunlight, as did the thousands of vehicles rolling or soaring to and fro on their occupants' business. Cities, the crew of this latest starship had seen before, and while this was a lovely one, by herself she was not beyond their experience.
What made Arriod special was her center. The city was built around a circle, 5.3 kilometers in diameter, walled by an endless cliff nearly 200 meters high. The circle was a sparkling torus of water, surrounding a garden island nearly a kilometer wide, punctuated by the gleaming gold-and-marble towers and battlements of a fantastic palace, home of kings long overthrown.
The Arriod of the present was built around her Central Park, which was the remains of the impact crater which, by chance, had been centered on the original city. The crew of Aurora beheld with awe.
Hundreds of pleasure craft, water- or airborne, filled the space between island and cliff. The cliff itself had been incorporated into the city, some stretches left undeveloped, some bearing construction down to the water's surface and even below, providing scenery and diversion for tourists; as the shuttles swung round on their computer-directed landing approach the crew could observe a submersible surfacing at an island-shore dock.
The city was on, and the crater in, a vast and gentle slope. At the higher side of the rim wall, five separate and separately spectacular waterfalls – each discreetly harnessed to generate electricity – fed the torus lake; opposite at the lower, fissures drained, cracks in the world's skin shocked open by subsequent impacts, and the River Arriod – who knew what name it had before? Who could say this was its original course, above or below the city? – continued to the sea.
Five Boat, the Type 318b heavy shuttle, the comfortably-appointed civilian version of the Patrol's standard, flared for a vertical landing at Arriod Spaceport, two by three kilometers of Jeffersonian Republic extraterritoriality ten kilometers southwest of the Rim. One, Two and Three Boats, Danner's Corona and the smaller Type 208s purchased early at High City, followed, while Four Boat, the refurbished Type 300 from CAFB Everett, slid toward another part of the spaceport with the first portion of Aurora's cargo.
The land had been run-down and mostly abandoned, formerly industrial, polluted in a previous century by a people scrabbling their way out of the darkest age and having no enlightenment to spare. The Republic had much to offer, and more than beads had been paid to the natives. The environmental cleanup, by contract, extended far beyond the ceded land; three of the five waterfall generators were very new indeed, and the original two were being refit for greater efficiency and less visibility.
Two and Three Boats carried the Jeffersonian technicians and their equipment, many of whom would be working on those very plants, others on different projects of similar intent or magnitude throughout the city and the world; Ha'Lek and the three “tourists” were also aboard these small shuttles. Beside Aurora's crew, One and Five Boats carried the handful of diplomats, Jeffersonian and Alran, negotiating more such exchanges of services and goods; Fellows, Yonn and Tlam flew with Danner in his personal Corona aircar. Beth Lascomb had gently tugged strings on both ends to land Aurora the contract to swiftly deliver these statesbeings; no other ship could provide as much comfort with as much speed. A world and a people only recently discovered? A place and kind few Jeffersonians had ever seen? And being paid for the trip? Despite the other aspects of the journey, the crew leapt.
Alran were so similar in form and thought to Human, there was already talk of dalliance, while trade improved the lot of all. Their hair was astoundingly human-like, and Republic hair-care products didn't stay on the shelves. For their part, among Jeffersonians, markets were found for Alran sculpture and painting, for their music and the subtly-unique instruments on which it was played. The maker of a particular repeating handgun used in their last meaningful war, half a century ago, had more orders than they could handle. Clothing fashions, either patterns or materials, were selling and buying briskly both ways; denim jeans and bolts of every kind of cloth filled Aurora's every spare space, and Four Boat carried samples of all. As Alexandrian neoprawns were craved by Boksi, the Oskranan crel fruit was a sudden hit with Humans. Aurora's return cargo would not be difficult to arrange.
Of an estimated billion Alran before the Fire, scholars guessed fewer than fifty million were alive a year after. In terms comparable with Terra's, when the Fire fell, Oskran was remarkably similar in numbers and advancement to Man's home in the year 1850CE. In terms of science, Oskran had been burned back a thousand years in those Twenty Days; in terms of population, three thousand. Two thousand later, not yet 300 million walked their world.
Eight were the nations exercising sovereignty at the time of Contact; before the Fire there had been more than a hundred. The very existence of most had been forgotten, moreso their names. Some lost cities waited still for rediscovery, buried in desert sands or swaddled in reclaiming jungle. Some ethnicities were extinct; nearly all others were now mixed. Those who survived the Fire sought each other out and survived as best they could; their descendants continued the national forms and habits these ancestors had drawn upon a slate so terribly clean. One of her five continents – between Australia and South America in size – was inhabited by perhaps nine million nomadic savages, rarely gathering more than a hundred in one place, barely capable of making fire and speaking a language no modern scholar could say was related to any other; aside from some missionary attempt every generation or few, who often as not ended on a cook spit, these were left to themselves.
Of the eight nations which could be called such, there were five monarchies of unsurprising construction; one titular collective (Oskran had experienced her own Marx, to the suffering of millions) which, as all such, had quickly devolved to atrocity and dictatorship; and two federations.
Of these eight, the Lii Confederation was the largest, wealthiest, most powerful industrially and militarily, and as would therefore be expected, the most republican, with the most limited government and the greatest protections for the rights of individuals – their superior wealth and science resulted from their people being free to think as they chose and keep what they earned. They had far to go, many parasites and laws to shed, to match the Jeffersonian Republic's standard, but they were on the right path, and now had a functioning example to aspire to. JRS Meriwether Lewis' stealthed probes had observed all Oskran's nations before the Jeffersonians revealed themselves; though Constitution and tradition neither could nor would prohibit trade with any nation, what government the Jeffersonian Republic had treated only with Lii.
Examples from Kshir gave further guidance; the Boksi homeworld's last authoritarian nation had been liberated before Aurora's departure. Lii was the least-unfree nation of her world, and Jeffersonians dealt not with drivers of slaves. Five Monticellan years after Contact, the first gentle intimations were given that Lii, at least, might someday join the Republic, but most Alran clung, proudly and justly, to their independence, and the invitation stood without pressure. Individuals had already enlisted in Patrol or Service, beginning their paths to Citizenship; more had signed on as crew for civilian ships visiting their world. Whatever the respective statesbeings' intentions, Alran were loose among the stars.
Aurora held a free orbit at some 500 kilometers, there yet being no commercial station above Oskran, though a stack of three wheels were under construction, expected in time to become the hub of a Torus. Three companies operated tankers to refuel visiting starships, Transitioning to the cometary cloud and back – diplomats and businessmen were largely interchangeable in Jeffersonian ideology, and had constructed mutually-beneficial answers to questions of sovereignty and possession. Standing Order Number One had been easily fulfilled, some few tankers always waiting on orbit.
Daisuke was in his element, negotiating prices and arguing quality with Aurora translating in realtime. Her cargo of textiles vanished in an hour of energetic open auction – third-party lighters were bringing the rest down from Aurora's holds now – while the Purser made more contacts than he would need to refill his ship's holds to profitable capacity. Clancy happily discovered the Alran invention of crel brandy, and after offering samples in return, bartered a variety of usquebaugh for an even volume; Daisuke added a more deliberate acquisition to his shopping list. Half the ship's capacity would be filled with fresh crel. Chikaran scientists had long since invented portable cryo apparatus to convert any hold, and Danner had Epstein and Blain acquire and install such before Aurora's fifth commercial Transit, the produce run from Terra to Marseille, where Vatelius had joined the crew. Other holds would be filled with Alran fashions and the fabrics they were made from, and the world's other cultural uniquenesses; Aurora had, since her early days and her first real cargo of neoprawns, built a reputation as a ship specializing in luxury goods, delivered promptly and intact. The entire crew contributed their varied expertise to selections of cargo and destination, and though they sometimes lost money, more often they profited.
But there was more going on here than a happy visit to a new world and another business opportunity for the family.
With her own goods sold and an outgoing cargo loaded, her fuel and consumables filled and all bills paid, Aurora was free to depart at once - but her crew, and perhaps she herself, wanted to explore this new world. Yonn, home at last after years of travel, was suddenly occupied with matters of state; two local days after making orbit, the crew attended his speech to the Lii Congress.
It was a smash hit, not least thanks to the multimedia presentation holoprojected from Yonn's 'puter, crafted by Sarah with input from the rest of the crew, even Grbblb by h-mail. Yonn openly advocated the beginning of a process to make the Lii Confederation a Member State of the Republic, carefully pointing out the technological and societal benefits, and the centuries-proven history of autonomy and all-but-titular independence other Members enjoyed... and the full might of the Republic Space Patrol and Exploration & Colonization Service, the Navy and Marine Corps, in defense of any territory they considered Jeffersonian.
A few old reactionaries immediately denounced Yonn as a traitor who sought to destroy their prized sovereignty - like the United States, Lii had once been a collection of colonies from an overseas monarchy, and had fought a bitter war of independence centuries before - but Yonn counterattacked with a video presentation from Grbblb and live speeches from Aurora's crew. The Glaut graphically described the atrocities he and his people had and were still suffering, his recitation the more gripping for the detached coolness with which it was delivered. Hlossh sketched the history of his own world, the evolution toward liberty one nation-state at a time; Prrg gave a chilling first-hand account of the horrors he had witnessed as an adventurer fighting to bring down one of the Boksi dictatorships, then launched into a criticism of his own homeworld's backwardness in the face of the prosperity he enjoyed as a Jeffersonian Citizen. Cates then gave an overview of the Republic's history, drawing and frequently revisiting the obvious parallel between Lii and the United States. She described the Great Repealing of 405JR, how the burdens of government on the people were vastly reduced and the Jeffersonian standard of living, already higher than most Alran could imagine, had leapt higher still.
Though neither Yonn nor Aurora's crewmembers said so in as many words, the subtext was that the reactionaries were... reactionaries, elitists, clinging to outmoded forms of power and control, deliberately preventing the common people from assuming their rightful place in the galaxy. There were no handouts promised; the reward was to keep what one earned, speak and think and live as one chose, without begging permission from old men who'd never done a real day's real work in their lives. The entire presentation was broadcast live throughout Lii - nearly a quarter of the population had their own 'puters by now, and a deal had been struck barely a year after Contact to establish a national Net.
"Like the Jeffersonians," Yonn concluded, playing to an audience of millions, "we have a representative government. These representatives are elected to carry out the will of the people and, as our own Founders have in common with the Jeffersonians', to protect the people from the excesses of government." This garnered a few catcalls from the reactionary corner of the Hall of Representatives. Cameras zoomed in on those faces and identified them with captions before returning to Yonn. "I speak now not to this body of statespeople, but to the people whom they serve. You have seen what the Republic has to offer - the greatest treasure in all the universe, liberty. Also, the protection, against a hostile galaxy, of association with the strongest nation in that galaxy, of which we have the opportunity to become an integral part; our rights, our lands, our blood, as dear to them as they are to us.
"My fellow Lii, we cannot afford to let this opportunity pass. I urge you to contact your representatives and let your voice be heard, let your will be known. Thank you."
The Lii national Net would have collapsed, if it hadn't been designed and built by Jeffersonian contractors, automated factories making components and materials cheap, robot workers making labor brief. There were only three hundred million people on all of Oskran, and only forty-one million in Lii. The Net had been designed for a billion.
The reactionaries did not grasp the power of technology and modern communications. Their offices, even their homes, were swarmed overnight by enraged, yet still peaceful, Lii citizens demanding their immediate resignation or recall. Two days after Yonn's presentation, the libertarian faction of the Lii congress - the Alran had, only two years after Contact, adopted the American word - called for a vote to begin drafting legislation to request Membership. The resolution passed by 79%.
Continued in the next excerpt....