Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part XXV: Social Interaction

This page Copyright 2016, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
552 JR
Jeffersonian Zone, Arriod
Lii Confederation, Oskran

For two local days, about fifty hours, Prrg had talked with Wrrn, helping him choose a new path in life. The younger Nikar was full of questions about the Republic and other nations Prrg had visited; they talked for hours, accessing the Net and Aurora's library to illustrate points. Wrrn had indeed had to abandon all his possessions in the hotel suite he shared with Grnnp, including a 'puter he'd grown very fond of; Prrg had found a comparable model in the Zone markets, along with the usual necessities of life. These were not great expenses. When, on pre-Escape Terra, the pocket calculator had been invented, the first models had cost a month's wages. Within a single Human generation, models with vastly more power and features cost less than a fast-food lunch. So it was with anything which could be mass-produced, including the robots and other machines which did the producing.
In addition to the many educational programs preloaded on the 'puter (including an English teacher), there were many lessons Prrg could teach Wrrn, not least combat. For example, as Prrg had demonstrated, the Nikar tail was prehensile, though some ethnicities possessed a greater degree. The Cargg Barony, though still ruled by an aristocrat, actually had traces of republicanism in its makeup, such as a de facto general right to bear arms and an expectation of service in the baronial militia. Besides conventional weapons - which now included modern imports - the barony's Armsmasters had always taught close combat as well, including the use of the tail. Cargg was known across Gnop for their high development of this martial art, and Prrg began to teach a few of the basics to Wrrn.
It was agreed that Wrrn should not leave the Zone; while there, he was not a slave, not subject to anyone's demands. But six square kilometers wasn't so bad an exile, and since it was in fact Jeffersonian land, legally and culturally, Prrg used it as a teaching tool, illustrating the customs and rules of Republic society, how money worked, how to order in a restaurant, how to respond to a musical performance.
This, thought Prrg, is why I came to the stars.
If only more of my people could. If only they would.
Wrrn spent many an hour in research and in thought, trying to decide what to do with his new life. Under Prrg's guidance, he conferred by comm with other crewmembers, getting their perspectives and advice. Finally he reached his decision: he would enlist, not in the Patrol but the Exploration & Colonization Service, which was really the Marine Corps Reserve when it wasn't doing what its name implied. As a slave and domestic servant, he knew how to accept discipline and orders, how to live a structured life; it was a stability he felt he needed, in transition. After five years, he would be a Full Citizen of the Republic, with many new skills. The moment after swearing the first Oath, he would be a Provisional Citizen, with the rights and protections thereof. By the end of his term, he would have figured out what to do next. He and Prrg checked out of the hotel and headed for the recruiting station together.

As they exited the hotel's lobby, they heard a Nikar voice hiss-screeching in rage, followed by the crack of a plasma pistol.
Prrg shoved Wrrn aside and down while diving the opposite direction and rolling. Reacting without conscious thought, his holstered M437 forgotten, his tail dipped into the back of his loincloth and came out with the Model G he always, always carried there.
It was inspired by the one his Human sisters had made for his Glaut brother. Each of a Glaut's six tentacles branched into two smaller trunks, which branched again for a total of four fingers each. A Nikar tail did not, so the grip was necessarily different, allowing several centimeters of the end to wrap around it, leaving the tip free for the trigger, which was recessed for safety; the usual thumb safety had been deleted. Prrg's version of the weapon was cut down to the bare minimum necessary for function. It had no perceptible recoil, unless you were a particle physicist. The power cell held only five charges, though like Grbblb's standard twenty, each was in a separate capacitor to minimize cycle time. Prrg had burned himself the only time he'd test-fired rapidly - the cermet-lined heat sink had been removed too, to save weight and space.
Plasma bolts cracked overhead, leaving bright afterimages in retinas and gouging smoking chunks and shattering glass from the hotel facade and surrounding pavement. As fractions of seconds ticked by, Prrg realized Grnnp, a mere fifteen meters away, had little idea what he was doing - probably he'd bought the weapon minutes ago, at a shop here in the Zone, maintaining his outward demeanor long enough to lull any suspicions the seller might have had. There was a good chance Grnnp would run the weapon - the ubiquitous M437, Patrol- and ECS-standard for over a century - empty of its 27 standard charges before hitting either Wrrn or himself.
But that was a chance Prrg could not take, with Wrrn under his protection and bystanders at risk. His tail swept his weapon around, low to the pavement and angled upward to minimize danger downrange if he missed. This hideout special had no sights, either, but Prrg had practiced with it a lot, in Hold 6's armored rec-room/target range.
Prrg's tail-tip slipped into the trigger's recess and squeezed as his finger would have done, and the single pulse of coherent light struck high on Grnnp's chest, a bit to one side. Flash-heated flesh and fluids burst. The Count's head, not quite severed, flopped over to the opposite side, and his spasming hand caused three more bolts to slam into the pavement near his feet as he fell backward, grotesquely and instantly dead.

There were no police in the Jeffersonian Republic. "A cop on every streetcorner" was a nightmare; the Founders had left that horror behind. Jeffersonians instead policed themselves, each acting as his own peace officer, never hunting for transgressions to punish or fines to collect, never making an institution of robbing one another. Most were Citizens, and most Citizens were armed, and many of the bystanders had drawn their own weapons, though none had managed a shot before Prrg's. As he calmly holstered his weapon - slowly and with care; even one shot made it quite warm, and his loincloth's pocket was insulated - and his countrybeings saw the Republic flag and ship logo on his loincloth, they too lowered their weapons. A few came forward to see if Prrg or Wrrn needed help, but after a moment's self-examination he waved them away.
The Zone included a single platoon of Regular Marines for embassy security; more were not considered necessary on a friendly world, especially with Privateers constantly in orbit, some with crews big enough and trained enough to offer reinforcements. But here came their Lieutenant from the recruiting office down the street, in plain gray fatigues with Mk LX rifle in hand, and three enlisteds in tow, the latter in full MI power armor: two Humans, and an Eyani with corporal's chevrons.
It would have been their squad's turn in the rotation. In friendly territory or not, Jeffersonian embassies were always ready to defend themselves, and ten Mobile Infantry could handle... plenty. Even without their armor.
Wordlessly, the lieutenant looked down at the steaming wreck of Count Grnnp, up at the stunned Wrrn, and over to the calm, collected First Officer. "Anyone else hurt?" he called; no one answered. He glanced at Prrg's loincloth. "Yer Prrg, ain't ya?" he asked with a Texan accent. The latter answered with a Human nod. "Saw vid of yer duel, th'other day. Ah reckon it's plain whut happened here."
The lieutenant - his nametape read HAINES - squatted down for a closer look at what was left of Grnnp. Meanwhile the maitre d' hotel, a Siv neuter, had emerged from the hotel entrance, nis beak opening and closing like a fish out of water. Noticing, Haines stood and said, "Howdy, Nret. Looks like th' fuss is over."
Nret took a few moments to process the situation, then finally closed nis beak. Turning to face Prrg, ne stated, "Naturally I would like compensation for repairs."
"Send your bill to IS Aurora, presently in orbit. It shall be paid promptly." Nret dipped nis beak in thanks. "Naturally I would like copies of any recordings your hotel made of the incident."
"Ah'll be needin' those too, Nret, fer mah report," Haines added. Technically the whole Zone was an embassy, and he was responsible for the embassy. If he was the kind who let authority go to his head, his superiors would not have given him the assignment. Turning to Prrg again, he asked, "This fella, he's some muckety-muck?"
"Middle-nobility on Gnop. Heir-designate to County Vrnt. His name was Grnnp."
Haines gave a chuckle. "Who stole y'all's vowels? -A few bucks to the Sanitation crew'd be a nice gesture." Prrg nodded. "We'll keep this fella on ice here 'til he can be claimed- they will claim him, raht?" Prrg nodded again. "Save me some work if y'all was to notify 'em, maybe offer shippin' costs." Another nod. "Save me some headache if y'all was to stick around a couple days fer the reply to get here, an' record a statement fer mah report." Prrg nodded a fourth time. "Far as Ah'm concerned, we're all done here, then.
"By the way... mah fav'rit grandmother lives in Rockville." Haines extended his hand. "Thanks. And tell your Cap'n 'thanks' too."
Prrg nodded a fifth time as he clasped the lieutenant's hand.
As the Marines left and the Sanitation crew arrived, Wrrn said, {Friend Prrg... I owe you my life. Again.} The former slave was visibly shaken, but standing on his own, unharmed.
{No, friend Wrrn, you really don't,} Prrg replied. {It was me he was trying to kill. You just happened to be standing next to me. -But are there any other Nikar on Oskran? Can we expect more... visitations?}
{No. As far as I know, it was just the two of us, at least from Gnop. There might be others, but they would be offworlders themselves, maybe Jeffersonians like you.}
Prrg nodded at this, then flipped open his 'puter to comm Danner with the news.
"Not surprising," Danner said when Prrg had finished reporting. "And you tell that Haines he's welcome." Danner felt good about what he'd done above Crunch. He'd saved tens of thousands of lives, and was rewarded with his greatest dream come true. "Make your statement, we'll meet you there so Wrrn won't have to leave the Zone, then we'll work on how to break the news to Urngg."

Nret was quickly forthcoming with nis hotel's security recordings, which clearly showed Grnnp attacking with neither provocation nor warning. Haines helpfully included video of the previous, formal duel in his official report, both to his superiors and to Urngg. Prrg didn't need his crew's help to record a brief and rather formal statement:
{Count Urngg, I am Prrg, formerly of the Barony and House of Cargg, now First Officer on Independent Starship and Jeffersonian Reserve Privateer Aurora. I have the duty to inform you of the death of your son, Grnnp, at my hands.
{Attached you will find recordings of our previous contest, under the Jeffersonian Code Duello Nuevo.} Aurora's hovering remote had also recorded the original incident leading to the duel, which Prrg had provided for Haines' report and included in his own. {Following this contest, your son attacked myself, and his former slave Wrrn, who was under my protection, on Jeffersonian soil, without legal cause or warning. It was necessary to act in self-defense to preserve my own life and eliminate a threat to bystanders.
{Count, I am a Citizen of the Jeffersonian Republic and not subject to Gnoppan law. Long ago I renounced my rank and inheritance, and Cargg bears no responsibility for my actions. As a person of honor, I expect you to treat with them accordingly.
{I have made arrangements for your son's remains to be transported to you. He should arrive in about eight Gnoppan months.
{Under the Jeffersonian Code, there is no cause for quarrel between us, but if you require satisfaction from me, for the next fifty hours I can be reached at this address on the planet Oskran. Thereafter and indefinitely, I can be contacted aboard IS Aurora, reserve hull number CL63, in care of the Republic Space Patrol Reserve Privateer Bureau.
{I regret the necessity of your son's death, but I repeat that I was acting in defense of myself and others. I hope you will understand and accept the circumstances of this incident, and consider the matter concluded.}

As the h-mail was on its way to Gnop, the crew began concluding their business on Oskran, making their final farewells to Yonn and Tlam, checking out of their own suite, all but Prrg and Danner returning to the ship. Wrrn enlisted in the ECS and was now the Republic's responsibility for the next five Monticellan years; the Service wouldn't let anything happen to him, short of fumbling his own grenade in training, which wasn't likely. In due course the reply from Gnop came.
{Prrg....} the Count began. {I understand the circumstances leading to my son's death. I do not and shall not hold Cargg responsible.
{You, however, are another matter. However much my son may have brought this upon himself, by Gnoppan tradition, blood calls for blood. I shall not seek you out, but if ever you return to Gnop, you shall be challenged by my second son, Brgn, as I am too weakened with age to contest you myself.
{Brgn is now heir-designate of County Vrnt. He also shall be sent offworld for education. I am sending you his itinerary. I request that you avoid the worlds he will visit. My County needs its heir.} The message ended there.
"I guess Wrrn was right," Danner said. "About Urngg being decent."
"I know him, Captain, by reputation. He is the last of the old aristocracy. The new...." Prrg shook his head in the Human manner. "They are destroying my world."
Prrg sent a simple acknowledgment, and returned, finally, to Aurora.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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