Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part XXIII: Matters of State
Continued from the previous excerpt
Arriod, Lii Confederation, Oskran
Tal Kenzo, Chancellor of the Lii Confederation, was particularly crimson in ethnicity, not that such superficialities mattered much among Alran, or at least among Lii. He was about the same age as Sergei Fellows, the Jeffersonian Ambassador to Lii, and had invited the Human to the equivalent of his Presidential Mansion for private conversation.
Guided by the First Amendment to the Jeffersonian Constitution, drafted centuries before upon the inclusion of New Israel as a Member World, the Lii Congress was quickly answering many questions of sovereignty and mutual defense. Lii would become a Member State; her people, Subjects and Citizens. The only doubt was when.
“So, Ambassador,” Kenzo asked over snifters of brandy, “when can we expect Jeffersonian ships to defend us?” The Chancellor was well aware of the dangers presented by the totalitarian Glautak Consolidation and expansionist Flike Empire, his own world's position between them – and that world's utter lack of any modern weapons, or even a single native craft capable of leaving Oskran's atmosphere.
“Chancellor, that question requires a more complex answer. If I may explain?” The Lii head-of-state nodded assent.
“First... Oskran is a very long way from the Republic. The ship I arrived on is one of the fastest ever built, and she still took eight of your months to get here from our capitol world. An actual task force of official warships would take at least one of your years.” Kenzo's face expressed displeasure at this news.
“Second... I would draw your attention to Gunner Cates' portion of Ambassador Yonn's presentation, the Great Repealing. Our central government is weak and frugal, very deliberately so. The Pentamvirate cannot simply whistle up a fleet of ships and send them to the very edge of Known Space. Not only would the expense be difficult to justify, such a fleet does not exist in standing, except for the Home Fleets of New Israel and the other Central Worlds, which are not large by themselves, anymore – most of the Patrol is scattered across dozens of light-years in ones and twos. Months would pass before a 'fleet' could be assembled, properly equipped, and dispatched, not even counting the time spent debating the necessity. So the straight answer to your question would be, at least two of your years before a task force of Patrol warships could be on station above Oskran.”
The Chancellor was visibly upset. “You realize, Ambassador, how, ah... disappointing this news will be. If it were to become general knowledge.”
Fellows smiled. “To which I have a ready response, sir. A very brief search on your own national Net shows that of the twenty-six starships currently in your system, twenty are Jeffersonian, and fourteen are Reserve Privateers.”
As she lived her new life as a ship of trade, Aurora nonetheless remained a reserve warship of the Republic Space Patrol. As one of the requirements to maintain her status as Reserve Privateer, and to have service aboard her count toward Citizenship for her crew, her flight plans were forwarded to Patrol Central, the training and maintenance status of crew and ship kept updated. Some ships slacked in these areas, and when caught, lost their status and were often fined or blacklisted until brought back up to standard and after completing a term of service to the Republic; Aurora was, if anything, well above the required standards.
It was a peaceful time for the Republic. The only human nations who could pose a credible threat were the Republic of Caledonia and the Russian Star Empire. The first was a firm ally, whose navy was founded on surplus Jeffersonian ships after the Republic-Empire War; the second was neutral at worst, usually an active partner in trade whose own economy had a vested interest in a stable and secure Republic. There were only two real threats to peace in Known Space: The Glautak Consolidation with their new allies the Flike Empire, on whom the regular Patrol and the Republic's intelligence apparatus were well-focused; and piracy, most infamously from Nowy Kraków but common along the Frontier's unaligned, unprotected worlds, perpetrated by renegades of every nation and race.
Still, the attacks were few and far, and as often as not driven off or destroyed outright by the intended victims. With so few real threats, Jeffersonians had progressively reduced their tax burden by downsizing both the Patrol and the ECS; each world had her own militias, with nearly-identical equipment and training, and a strong federal force-in-standing was neither needed nor wanted. The drawback to this system was, when once in a great while an official military or governmental presence was needed, there usually wasn't one nearby.
Hence the system of Reserve Privateers, sworn to answer their nation's call at need. No ship was compelled to become an RP; they were rewarded with Citizenship for their crews, and reimbursement for any expenses generated while in official service in addition to the equivalent of Patrol spacers' pay for the same period. The requirements for RP status were not great, and were in the ships' and crews' own self-interest: Maintain a state of combat readiness, a constant communications watch, perform regular drills including live-fire practice, and be prepared to be activated on short notice to act as an official Patrol warship subject to military orders and discipline. There were thousands of RPs, and demands on their time were few. In eight Republic years, Aurora had received only two test messages from Patrol Central, and no actual activations. Some RPs went decades without being called to serve – but when the call was given, at least half of all Republic ships in any system would answer, instantly. While independent or other foreign worlds often suffered, the last even-partly-successful raid on any Republic world had been three years ago on the Frontier, judged a draw by historians; the last attack on a Second Wave world had been a century ago, when that had been the Frontier; the last on a Central or First Wave world had been by the Terran Empire.
“The ship I came in, Aurora, is by far the most powerful currently present, Chancellor,” Fellows continued after describing the RP system. “But the other Republic-flagged ships, particularly Fortuna and Lorelei, are easily enough to repel any common raid.”
“And when those ships depart on their normal business, Ambassador?”
“Others will come. There is in fact a cruiser division en route to Oskran, scheduled to arrive early next year on your calendar; true Patrol warships as you requested, intended to stay here for a local year. The plan is to have other ships relieve them in rotation.” Fellows' 'puter displayed the ships' specifications; they were light cruisers, though much larger than Aurora with evolving definitions of ship classification; sisters, CL239 Alberton and 250 Moorovia of the Greenville class. Though twice the mass of Aurora, the weapons they carried were no more powerful, only more numerous – and Aurora's speed greatly outclassed these, her granddaughters.
Kenzo had been doing his own research. “These ships will be most welcome, of course, Ambassador,” he replied, “but only two? And of such relatively small type? What if the Consolidation or Empire attack in force, or even in concert? They are building ships to challenge even your dreadnoughts.”
“This is true, and a matter some concern. But I am assured that any such attack in force is years away, by which time Lii will have developed the ability to build, or at least buy or hire, her own ships and weapons. This pair of cruisers will, I assure you, be more than enough to fend off anything less until then.
“Chancellor, already some Alran have enlisted in the Patrol, to begin earning Republic Citizenship. Now that Lii is on the path to becoming Republic territory, my nation's territory, there will be no objection to sending whatever is necessary to protect her. As you're aware, the Marsten Device allows communication from here to Monticello in a mere day. News of the recent vote to request Membership has already reached the Republic, and the Jeffersonian people are already beginning to think of you as compatriots. Indeed, let me show you some of our opinion and commentary programs.” A few video clips, edited together by Fellows' staff from normal Republic broadcasts, gave the impression of welcoming the Alran people, or at least Lii, into the Republic with open arms. More than one commentator raised concerns about Oskran's unfriendly neighbors, and a couple openly called for more ships, even troops, to be sent to Oskran “in defense of this soon-to-be Jeffersonian land and people.”
Fellows added, “I give you, Chancellor, not only my personal word but the official word of the Pentamvirate: If Lii is attacked, the Republic will answer in her defense, with all available force.”
“Thank you, Ambassador. This does greatly ease my mind.” And would likely get him reelected by a comfortable margin. “But... what if some force, be they raiders or more organized enemies, attack some other nation on Oskran? What will the Republic do then?”
“Strategically, the best way to defend against any planetary raid is as far away from the planet as possible. Any force with obviously hostile intentions will, ideally, be intercepted some distance from the surface and, if necessary, dealt with there. Diversionary forces, meant to draw our official presence away from Oskran, would leave their own comrades to face suddenly-activated Reserve Privateers, perhaps totaling even greater force than the official cruiser division. Even a Close Transit attack would find those same Reserve Privateers waiting for them as they approached, to land or bombard. -Now, sir, do you see the further implications of this strategy?”
Kenzo smiled. “My 'brother nations' will be, at least potentially, in debt to Lii for their very existence. The Republic's umbrella of protection will by necessity extend over all of Oskran, even the entire star system. Quite a lever to use in negotiation.”
The Jeffersonian ambassador nodded with a smile of his own. “The Boksi example is another lever, sir. Kshir was, politically, once in a position similar to your own, though without such external threats. In time, your brother nations will become brothers in truth, and Oskran will become a Member World, just as Kshir is about to - and the Lii Confederation will lead that process.”
Western Rim, Central Park, and environs
Arriod, Lii Confederation, Oskran
Arriod, thrust suddenly into the galactic arena, quickly grasped the value of tourism. In a few short years, modern hotels had been built, yet their architecture was made to match their surroundings; no piles of steel and glass and concrete, or at least not visibly so, but inside they boasted all the modern luxuries and facilities. Though built by offworlders, the contracts made it clear they were property of Lii citizens, and largely staffed by them except for specialists like chefs and technicians – but those roles, too, were being filled by natives as they learned. There was little backwardness to the Alran people, and nothing wrong with their minds.
Aurora's crew took a suite in one such hotel, and made their usual tourist rounds. They started with a submersible tour of the crater floor and wall, their guides pointing out items of geological interest, and the tumbled remains of cliffside buildings and shipwrecks from their past. The central island had been originally formed by uplift and rebound from the planet's mantle, but had been added to over centuries by a succession of monarchs, laboriously dumping fill with slave labor before the reinvention of industry.
After the Fire, what would become the nation of Lii had begun, as most nations did, as a tribe of half-savages, a few myths and fragments of history being passed through generations by oral history. After an estimated 500 Terran years they had evolved into an iron-age monarchy of their own. This then warred with several of her neighbors, conquering some, eventually being conquered by Bez from across their Great Eastern Ocean. Bez had been the only nation to survive the Fire with something of their original form and history intact.
With that advantage, after the Fire, the Bez Empire had at one time ruled a third of the planet, and not lightly. After centuries of foreign rule, Lii revolted, inspiring other conquered territories to follow. Bez was torn apart in the ensuing wave of revolution, some 800 Terran years before Aurora's visit. Nothing remained of the Empire now, though two of Oskran's monarchs claimed blood from the Imperial line. On the land where Bez had originally stood, now crouched Oskran's single collectivist nation, technologically backward, economically stagnant, its people crushed under a totalitarian yoke, much like Terra's Soviet Union, the comparison even extending to the murder of the former Imperial family and legends of surviving princesses. Most of the other revolutions had also failed, usually devolving into monarchies of their own, their peoples forced to swallow the notion of the divine right of kings.
But Lii had been different. Blessed, as the United States had been, by favorable geography and climate and vast natural resources, her people had for generations before the revolution been expanding, settling, spreading across their own frontier, living their own lives their own way, whether Bez gave them permission or not. Like early Americans, they had no use for foreign rulers and little for domestic ones, and formed a representative, limited government startlingly similar to America's and, later, the Republic's. They'd had three civil wars in eight hundred T-years, resulting in one successful secession, then a collapse of the original government into another round of authoritarianism, then a reconquest by the secessionists who restored the original 800-year-old Constitution.
Lii's example, as America's, continued to inspire new revolutions, but again these were mostly unsuccessful, including the Nuce “Republic”'s invention of something very much like the guillotine, and the People's Establishment of Lanos' reinvention of “labor camps”, even to the slogan, “Work Will Make You Free”. Oskran was a world and the Alran were her people. None such could have a history that was simple and clean.
Documentaries had already been made for Republic consumption, slanted – but not much, really – to build sympathy for Lii in particular and Alran generally. Many a Republic ship of trade had made the long journey, bulging with galactic goods, and bursting with cultural uniqueness – and the occasional recruit – on the way home. Across Republic worlds, many a representative was getting commed by many a constituent, Expressing Concern over the dangers Oskran faced from her neighbors. The pair of CLs had been dispatched shortly after Aurora's departure, anticipating a Membership movement, though they couldn't hope to keep up with her even with Aurora's frequent stops.
The submersible tour had begun at the crater wall, in one of the developed sections whose construction had gone down below the torus lake's surface. This was new construction since Contact, built with Boksi ceramics and their centuries of experience in amphibian architecture. The watercraft spiraled around the torus, closing with and surfacing at the central island. Tourists then explored the Central Park before continuing on a dirigible, which moored atop the centuries-old palace/museum no king could now claim. Dirigibles had already been invented locally, but this one had been built with modern materials, including an armorglas gondola similar to the restaurant above Lisa's Arms – the floor was a rectangle 63 meters by 17, the seamless “walls” of the same material and angled outward at 45 degrees; chairs and tables and even the lift, leading into the upper staterooms and facilities, were likewise transparent. Not every tourist could stomach the sensation of walking on nothing, hundreds of meters above the city, but Aurora's crew were not just any tourists.
The dirigible continued her stately progress, spiraling outward from the island to pass the five waterfalls and point out the electric plants within them; the guide, obviously an advocate of Membership, took a moment to propagandize their improvement through cooperation with Jeffersonians. Then they slowly approached Arriod Spaceport, which was legally a Jeffersonian embassy, though Arriod atmospheric traffic was granted rights to use much of it as their own, with the same standard usage fees Lii charged each other elsewhere in the Confederation.
The crew were not the only offworlders aboard. Most of the recognized nations of Known Space were mostly Human; here was a Russian Imperial Earl and entourage (though these were all Human, it was worth noting that Tsaritsa Elaina, about 120 J-years ago, had made the first grants of nobility or knighthood to nonhumans; the RSE's nobility was only partly hereditary and largely merit-based, often subject to expiration or revocation), there a Caledonian merchant and her husband. But here came a Nikar, ranked as a Count according to Prrg's deciphering of his loincloth's decorations (Prrg's own carried the Republic flag and Aurora's logo – he had renounced his claim to a barony when he earned his Citizenship), and a servant; and drawing everyone's attention, a Flike, a Glautak, and three Glauteb.
“Aurora,” Danner whispered to his collar, “discreetly record what you can from those people.” The ship, through her hovering remote, acknowledged with a soft ping in Danner's ear. Another, smaller remote exited the 15cm white sphere, quietly rose to the overhead, and crawled along it to follow the group of potential enemies. The sub-remote would make its way back to the sphere when Aurora judged it appropriate; if this proved impossible, its data was being transmitted to the sphere in realtime by infrared laser, and the coin-sized object, mass-produced by automated factories on dozens of worlds, would self-destruct if captured.
Danner took a moment in thought. What am I doing? he asked himself. He was violating no laws; there was no expectation of privacy in this public place; but he had told Beth Lascomb he didn't want to be involved.
But I am involved, he realized. My family is involved. For Grbblb, though temporarily absent, was now as much his brother as Tina Caren was his sister. He and his crew would analyze the recordings themselves, as well as sending the raw data to his “retired” father, who would know what to do with it next.
Continued in the next excerpt....