Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part XXVII: Damsel in Distress

This page Copyright © 2021, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
(Republic of Nowy Kraków)
This Imperial world seceded from the Terran Empire at the start of the War, its neutrality declared and enforced by former Imperial Navy Admiral Jeffrey Hansen. As such, it was spared from attack, though rotating elements of Second Fleet patrolled the system during the War to prevent the potential escape of the large Imperial task force stationed there. Currently this world is under treaties similar to those with Kursk, but there are reports of civil unrest as the local government sorts itself out following the assassination of Chancellor Hansen by Imperial loyalists. At present, Nowy Kraków is not considered a threat to anyone but itself. Assuming their situation stabilizes, the Jeffersonian Republic may consider releasing Old Poland to Nowy Kraków, as Old Scotland is now part of the Republic of Caledonia.

Republic of Nowy Kraków National Passenger Service
Nowy Kraków had operated about a dozen passenger liners, formerly making regular runs through Known Space. Service has been indefinitely suspended following Chancellor Hansen's assassination.

Politechnika Nowy Krakówska
Intended to be a preeminent galactic university, all classes and operations have been suspended indefinitely.

-Pocket Guide to Known Space, 4th ed.
-Monticello Publishing Corp., 337JR (2220CE)
(Kingdom of Nowy Kraków)
Following the assassination of Chancellor Hansen and the collapse of the republic he founded, former Imperial Navy captain Trevor Aldritch forced a peace and established a constitutional monarchy with himself as king. A generation later, King Trevor continues to rule well, and Nowy Kraków is a popular destination for tourists from throughout Known Space.

Nowy Kraków Royal Passenger Service
The NKRPS currently operates seventeen luxury liners, known for the quality of their service and furnishings. Passengers choose this line not for the speed of travel, but the decadence of the trip. Though officially owned by the crown, which maintains a controlling interest, some shares are publicly traded.

Politechnika Nowy Krakówska
The Royal University of Nowy Kraków is respected throughout Known Space for the quality of instruction to be found there. Many recent breakthroughs on stellar dynamics, and much of the work leading to the development of the Fifth Generation Marsten Drive, were accomplished on PNK's beautiful tree-lined campus. Students from every nation have made the pilgrimage to Nowy Kraków for the unparalleled opportunities for study.

-Pocket Guide to Known Space, 24th ed.
-Monticello Publishing Corp., 380JR (2247CE)
Following the disastrous territorial war with the Russian Star Empire, the Aldritch Dynasty was overthrown, with nearly twenty percent of the planetary population following them into exile on the Frontier world Illyria, one of the largest exoduses of modern history. Nowy Kraków herself has now descended into anarchy. It is believed the world has no operational starships and no functioning government. The inhabitants are believed to be living at a bare subsistence level. Attempts to deliver humanitarian aid, or even to report on conditions there, have been either driven away by hostile forces, or simply disappeared, presumed murdered. Travelers are advised to avoid Nowy Kraków if at all possible.

-Pocket Guide to Known Space, 30th ed.
-Monticello Publishing Corp., 400JR (2259CE)
(Kingdom of Illyria)
Settled in 396JR by the Aldritch Dynasty of Nowy Kraków-in-Exile and a surprising number of her mother-world's population, Illyria has grown to a respectable monarchy comparable to the Golden Age of Nowy Kraków herself in quality, if not yet in quantity. With a partially-merit-based nobility, many colonists are emigrating to Illyria in the hope of winning titles and lands for themselves. Queen Maria II has a reputation as a just and enlightened monarch, and the Jeffersonian Republic has established both trade and diplomatic relations with the Kingdom.

-Pocket Guide to Known Space, 33rd ed.
-Monticello Publishing Corp., 410JR (2265CE)
9 Sixthmonth 552JR

After Dakota, Aurora's Captain willed that they should go again to Illyria. Here on the edge of Republic space there were few worlds worth stopping at, and Aurora had touched most of them on the way to Oskran.
At Illyria, they sold some grain and what crel they could salvage, bought some native fruit – Chikaran cryo technology, once repaired, again making such cargoes far less risky than they had been centuries before – and stayed a few days to explore the world. On the trip out they'd had only a local day and a half, but Jenny wanted to visit their Royal University and swap notes with their local scientists on Marsten Drive development. Jennifer Blain was famous in her own right now, and felt a sort of duty to sentience to share what she had learned, helping to bring the universe closer together. When she'd h-mailed Professor Symanski about her visit, his reply had been prompt and enthusiastic.
The rest of the crew weren't as excited. “Monarchists,” Prrg had commented during the Transit, in a tone full of meaning.
Imperialist monarchists, worse yet,” added Cates.
“Now, now. They're not so bad.” Raising a hand against protest, Danner continued, “They're not us, but they're not so bad. I've looked at their system. Most of their noble titles are hereditary, true, but a few aren't, and even the lowliest peasant can, at least in theory, be raised by merit to that nobility. Conversely, titles can be revoked by a two-thirds majority of their peers, or by royal decree. The same proportion, among the ducal ranks, can even remove the King from the throne, replacing the monarch with the next in line of succession or, again at least in theory, with a whole different line.”
“Sol, I have to agree with Prrg and Holly,” Ralph said. “'The divine right of kings' sticks in my craw.”
“Oh, I'm not disagreeing. Certainly I'm not advocating the system. I'm just saying, of all the monarchies in the histories of the Known Races, this one isn't so bad.
“For example: They have three levels of knighthood, and the highest is mainly for valor in battle, like our Medal of Honor, though the way it's written Rachel Marsten or Teresa Hadley would probably have qualified. The second is rather the same, but for lesser achievements - not so much Navy Cross as Silver Star, or noncombat equivalents like saving children from a house fire or negotiating a peace treaty. The third level is, well, for bureaucrats or other long-term public service, usually awarded upon retirement. Each comes with a respective degree of nobility, a bit of land or bit of pension.”
“That explains their imperialism,” Sarah commented. “Eventually they run out of land, so they have to look for more.”
“Two more planets so far,” Danner confirmed. The Kingdom formed a notch in the Republic Frontier; Dakota was beyond it. In time the Kingdom of Illyria would be surrounded by Republic space, like the Russian Star Empire, the Eyani Nation, the Republic of Caledonia, and a handful of others. “But their population pressure is still quite low, they're fixed for a century or two at the current rate.”
“And who pays for these pensions?” Epstein asked. “Taxes, from commoners who'll likely never have a pension of their own. And who doesn't pay? The people who collect.”
“True. Like I said, they're not us. But you must admit the pageantry is stirring, the romance of it.”
“Pretty to look at, sure,” Holly said, “but I wouldn't want to live there.”
“What about the RSE?” Danner asked. The Russian Star Empire was another imperialist Human monarchy, dating back to well before the War, her five worlds actually deep within the sphere generally recognized as Republic space.
“Same deal,” Holly said. “Sure, we've got treaties, they have a decent Navy, I cross-trained with some of their Marines too, back when; those parts are all right. But I wouldn't want to live on Kursk or Minsk or St. Petersburg either.”
“You don't want to live on any planet but New Texas,” Jenny chided with a grin.
“That's right,” Holly answered with a nod. “There's only two places in the whole universe I want to live. New Texas, and this ship.” She patted a bulkhead. “But what I mean is, they don't have the same ideas of Human- heh.” She glanced at her nonHuman siblings. “Of natural rights, as we do. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, bearing arms, protection from search and seizure - our treaties protect us, you-all and me, as Citizens.” Again, precedent had been established. Outrages against Jeffersonians on foreign worlds were corrected, by any means necessary. Republic foreign policy boiled down to “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.” The lesson had been learned - and some craters had been made - in enough nations, not long after the War. It needed only an occasional refresher. “But the poor subjects? They're as screwed now as they were under any Russian tsar or Soviet premier, or Polish king or invader's boot. They're just too ignorant, kept too ignorant, to know it. Sure, they have some tech, a holo in every home - showing only the government channels, only approved entertainment chips from only approved studios. And no net access.” Illyria had several Marsten Devices for FTL communication, but they were all government-owned and -controlled; no Illyrian subject could access them without government permission and government censorship. “Not one in ten Illyrians, Poles, whatever they want to call themselves, maybe not one in fifty owns a 'puter. Or a rifle.” Jeffersonians recognized both as weapons. Governments recognized both as threats. “Maybe not one in five hundred owns an aircar, and if they do it's registered and tracked and monitored.” The Founder, Kurt Vetter himself, had made his intent plain in that regard; freedom of travel was as natural a right as freedom of speech and self-defense. The parasitic industry of vehicle registration and regulation, of uniformed thieves and professional sadists, had never arisen in the Republic he created. Aurora was registered, for advantage; Reserve Privateer status guaranteed Citizenship, and Citizenship, as Cates had just pointed out, carried weight. But no one was forced to earn Citizenship, and no ship was forced to register. Sarah Heusner's family had claimed Republic Subjectry but had never striven for Citizenship; Flying Flea hadn't been registered with any nation since before any of her living crew had been born. “This or any other monarchy,” Cates continued, “however it's labeled, however shiny and pleasant it looks on the outside, you scratch the surface and there's nothing but ugly underneath.”
“I detect a personal grudge,” Danner observed.
Holly nodded. “Family tradition. The Cateses were among the first to oppose 'governor' Webb, way back in 33. And among the first to be executed for 'treason'.” Aurora had visited New Texas four times since her rebirth, and every time, Cates had insisted they visit the New Alamo. Every time, she - and a hundred other pilgrims on any day - spat in the direction of "governor" Thaddeus Webb's weathered skull, set on a spike over the front gate of the replica mission for well over three Terran centuries. During his short-lived reign, Webb had, using as justification terrorist attacks he'd helped fabricate, attempted to create the same totalitarian systems the Founders had Escaped from a generation before. Carved in stone beneath his skull were the words, "HE GOT WHAT HE DESERVED".

The Kingdom of Illyria had, despite its putative Polish roots and southern-European name, largely copied the most successful monarchy in Human history: the British. There were differences, to be sure. Terra's Poland had, for most of its history, been overwhelmingly Catholic Christian, and Nowy Kraków's King Trevor I had kept, even welcomed, the Church's presence and influence. Nowy Kraków had been sparsely-enough settled for much of her population to follow their surviving royals into exile on Illyria; probably none now living had ever set foot on their mother-world. Some version of English was the de facto interstellar language, and though there was an accent and many a loan-word, the “Poles” of Illyria spoke a tongue close enough to Jeffersonian American.
Tourism videos showed the Aldritch Palace, the ceremonial drills and formations of Winged Hussars, idyllic pastoral scenes, research and study at the Royal University, the white-and-crimson starships of the Royal Illyrian Navy, the red-white-and-gold luxury liners of the Royal Passenger Service. Beneath this scrupulously-maintained surface, the reality differed. There was no serfdom at least; the commoners were free to travel, even offworld, but few could raise the means. An alarming number, by Republic standards, lived with little or no technology. On a Jeffersonian world, “poor” meant not having your own fabber; “lower class” meant your aircar couldn't break Mach. On Illyria, “middle class” was a personal computer or a groundcar; both was upper class. Those idyllic farm scenes, showing modern tractors and harvesters, were staged. Most used animal labor. Only the low population pressure kept the world from becoming a medieval disaster area, and while that probably wouldn't be an issue for another couple centuries, the problem couldn't be avoided forever.
Still, Danner stood by his earlier evaluation of the Aldritch Dynasty as “not so bad.” He was a student of history. Under the Terran Empire, almost half of all Terrans had been illiterate. Illyria at least had general education available to nearly all the population, and adult literacy was a respectable – well, adequate – 97%.
That launched another argument with Holly Cates, who had been a teacher of sorts, an Instructor at Monticello Station's Naval Weapons School. “It's not quite the old Prussian compulsory system,” she admitted, “but it is tax-funded, so folks who get no benefit still have to pay. And each and every system of that kind, ever, turned into indoctrination and bureaucracy and theft and waste.” To this, Danner had no response. The Republic had a literacy rate closer to 100% than 99, and managed it without a government Department (the Founders had very deliberately left it out, and structured the Constitution so that an Amendment would be required to create one, as difficult a process as the United States') or teachers' unions or stealing funding at implied gunpoint from people who got nothing out of the system. Republic children could pilot an aircar by the age of 12 T-years, and had learned to use computers long before then. When they enlisted to earn Citizenship, they could already distinguish rank, perform many of the Common Tasks, and operate standard small-arms, vehicles, and equipment – because their parents had taught them how, or had paid their own money for a school of their choice to teach them. If the school didn't deliver, it went out of business as the parents took their money elsewhere; there was no threat of government force propping it up with stolen money, no law prohibiting sending their children to a different school, no collective bargaining to inflict bad teachers on good students.
Well, Danner thought, even a Captain can't win every argument.

Blain had spent several local days at the Polytechnika, up to her eyebrows in eggheads. The School of Hyperspatial Mechanics welcomed her as a celebrity and had rambling discussions into all hours of night and day, filling many a smartboard with arcane equations. Jack Epstein, her husband, felt quite left out, but hired local servants to make sure she remembered to eat and sleep. She returned to the ship exhausted, but enthused, promising Danner even more speed.
Now the crew's business was again done and they again prepared to depart, but were lingering for last-minute passengers or cargoes. Typically, the crew brought down Four and Five Boats, their two largest, leaving the twin Two and Three Boats for their own or incidental use. Danner often let his family borrow One Boat, his Corona aircar, if he wasn't expecting to need it. Four Boat, the cargo shuttle, also carried four small two-person hoverbikes, with two more in Five Boat, the passenger shuttle; Aurora could operate them remotely and recall them to the shuttles if passengers used them to reach their final destinations, if she were over the same hemisphere; her transmitters were powerful and her receivers sensitive.
At present the other three Boats were back aboard in orbit - Cates' criticisms of Illyria were not without merit, the planet having only two small stations, neither of which were large enough for Aurora to bother docking with. While Clancy and Hlossh stayed with the shuttles, and the rest of the crew was home, Danner, Prrg, Heusner and Taniyama were taking a last-minute wander through Nowy Gdynia's spaceport market. It was a waterfront town, like Cincinnati on Monticello, but – again supporting Cates' remarks – looking more 19th Century Terra than 6th Century Republic. The local weather was threatening to rain, but Danner thought that would be an improvement, washing away some of the more noisome deposits.
For centuries – before the Escape, before spaceflight, even before Human flight – ships and their crews often wore a distinctive badge or symbol, showing pride in their ship and distinguishing them from others. Aurora's logo, since her original birth generations before the Republic-Empire War, was of a white-clad, platinum-haired Human goddess, summoning the dawn over a blue-white Terra-type world. The crew were done with uniforms, if they had ever worn them, but almost always wore Aurora's logo, below the Republic's national Star-and-Bars flag, somewhere on their clothing or harness. They especially did so on foreign worlds, whose excessive governments were unaccustomed to seeing free beings openly armed. The Star-and-Bars were recognized throughout Known Space, as was Republic policy, and the mere sight of the flag was usually enough to avoid conflict; Citizens didn't make trouble if no one made trouble with them.
Some worlds, however, either didn't get the memo or ignored it. “We are being followed,” Prrg observed.
“I see them,” Danner confirmed. Three men, in the uniforms of the Illyrian National Police, pretending they weren't watching every move Aurora's crew made. Without making eye contact, Danner paused a moment to examine a jewelry display, turning his body toward them so the flag and logo over his breast were plainly visible to them. There was no evident reaction.
“Shall we leave, Captain?” Taniyama asked - calmly. Daisuke, though as skilled with modern weapons as any Jeffersonian Citizen was expected to be, usually did not openly carry a pistol, but never left the ship without his wakizashi. However, he rarely left the ship at all except for his duties as purser, and he'd never had occasion to use his shortsword in anger since he joined Aurora's crew; Cates and Prrg, closely followed by Danner himself, usually did that work. Between them those three had dozens of fights and at least twenty kills, meaning ground combat, usually close range, not counting space actions like the one over Dakota.
Danner considered his brother's question. “Back the way we came is right past them.” Knowing their kind, Danner wanted to give them no excuse to harrass his family. He checked his 'puter, on which Aurora was helpfully - and without being asked - displaying alternate routes through the jumble of shanties which made up the Gdynia Market.
“I cannot see clearly enough,” the ship commented in their earbuds - her 15cm remote sphere was following her family as usual, “to determine if more enemy are in the area.” Since the Close Transit over Dakota, Aurora had been developing more personality and initiative. She had also begun to display a touch of bloodlust - which shouldn't have been surprising for a two-Terran-century-old warship. So far, though, she was also displaying perfect self-control, despite her choice of words just now. “Shall I go higher for a better view?”
“Yes, please.” The sphere whirred softly as its fans briefly overcame its sound-cancellation and it climbed to 100 meters, giving her a better view of the entire market. Unfortunately this put the sphere's less-lethal needler, with faster reaction time than any organic, out of effective range, narrowing the crew's options.
The cops didn't seem to notice the sphere departing. Gdynia, despite the crude conditions in the Market, was the major space-, air- and seaport on Illyria, and foreign 'bots, drones, and remotes were a common enough sight. Normally the authorities let the whole place be, understanding that foreign trade and foreign tech was vital to their regime's survival.
Why are they following us now? Danner wondered. They couldn't have been the first armed Jeffersonians to visit, and the cops couldn't be ignorant of international treaty and custom, the Pax Jeffersonia, tacit perhaps but very real for any nation not wanting a spontaneous interstellar boycott, like the one the Glautak Consolidation was still suffering.
Sarah Heusner carefully did not touch the M437 plasma pistol or M12 (the design was very old) midsword on her harness for comfort. She was no fighter, but knew enough to not give out such signals. “Trouble, Skipper?” she asked, also carefully not turning to face the... enemy. She hadn't seen as much action before joining Aurora as since, but even while growing up on Flying Flea she'd learned who the real threats to public safety were, on any world.
“Not if I can help it,” Danner answered. He led the others away through the Market... slowly.
Prepping One Boat,” Cates transmitted; Aurora would be keeping all her brothers and sisters informed. “ETA three-zero minutes.” Meaning closer to twenty, even from a 350km orbit, the way Cates flew with action afoot. Danner's aircar carried a chin-mounted plasma rifle and top-mounted laser, both infantry-level weapons but enough to burn a path through this Market, back to the heavy shuttles. The Corona also carried a few small missiles and an old-fashioned petrol-based flamethrower.
“Gently, Holly,” Danner cautioned. “Let's not precipitate what we're trying to avoid.”
Aye aye.” That was Marine-speak for “I understand and will obey.” Cates only spoke that way when she meant it. But in a corner of the map being projected from Danner's 'puter, Aurora flashed that One Boat was already undocking and maneuvering for entry.

Aurora's remote showed the position of the three cops on Danner's 'puter, trailing by some fifty meters in the crowded market - and an alley ahead where they could break the line of sight. Speaking softly, Danner alerted his crew and set their course. They reached the alley, poorly lit and empty. Danner took a glance behind and couldn't see the cops, then said, “Let's go.”
Just as the crew began to pick up speed, they heard a woman's voice behind them in accented English, saying, “Please, help!”
Danner knew this was a common tactic of the thugs, to lower their victims' guard - but unlike them he was a decent man, which was why the tactic had worked for centuries. He turned to look-
-and saw a young woman, petite by Republic standards, slim and delicate, with fair skin, eyes as blue as his own, and waves of hair redder than Clancy's spilling from beneath the hood of her cloak. “Please,” she continued, “I need passage offworld. I can pay, in gold.”
Just then the three cops caught up. Taking a moment to grasp the situation, they turned to Aurora's crew and the one in front said, “You lot - clear out. This doesn't concern you.”
Ah, Danner thought, finally understanding. It was a three-body system, not two.
Danner glanced at his alien brother Prrg. The Nikar returned a very slight nod. The two people from vastly different worlds and cultures had common tastes in friends, and in enemies. “Sorry, gentlemen,” Danner announced, “but this lady is my passenger, and therefore under my protection.”
Two of the cops drew shocksticks, the third, evidently the leader, a locally-produced slug pistol. “Nobody wants any trouble,” the latter said, as the three slowly closed the distance. “Just be on your way and forget about this.”
The lead cop was now standing in front of Danner at arm's length, pistol in his hand but at his side, pointing down. Danner examined him; modern technology, comms and cameras, could be microscopic, but just looking at the... man... Danner bet he wasn't so equipped.
Besides, his tactics stank. The cops were behaving like... cops, used to getting their way with a population who didn't know they could fight back, let alone how. To Danner's left, the second was as close to Taniyama, while to the right the third was angling toward the young woman. Prrg was on that side of the tableau, at a few meters' distance. Sarah was behind them all, having been in the lead as they began their break through the alley. Her ears were cocked forward, mouth slightly open to draw more air over scent receptors - despite being one of the two best navigators Danner had ever met, despite her race building their own starships and colonizing three other worlds, the Eyani still possessed some tools from their predatory evolution. Her fangs were showing, and she seemed now more leopard than bear.
Danner looked the lead cop in the eye and said, “No.”
The cop in front of Daisuke raised his shockstick. Taniyama's left hand moved in a blur, to grasp the hilt of his wakizashi, in an uninterrupted motion drawing the weapon and swinging it in a precise reverse-handed arc, through the thug's throat. The blade was cermet, honed to an edge only a few molecules wide. The severed head rolled away, eyes and mouth still horribly working, while the body continued to stand and arteries continued to pump.
The instant Daisuke's hand moved, Prrg's tail, already grasping a hilt, flicked one of his throwing knives, hidden in his loincloth, through the left eye of the second “law”man. His tail was mostly muscle, he had made that throw on a variety of targets in a variety of accelerations thousands of times, and his knife easily reached the brain. It had barely struck when the tail had retracted and come back out with Prrg's customized Model G pulse-laser.
For which there were no targets, as the Captain himself had run the last of the trio through the heart with his very conventional midsword.
Sarah stood where she had been the whole time, eyes wide. Her M437 plasma pistol was in her hand. She shot CPC competition, sometimes, but she'd only thought she was fast. “My apologies, Captain,” she said soberly as she holstered her weapon.
“Sarah,” Danner replied as he cleaned his blade on his kill's uniform, “never apologize for not being a hair-trigger killer.” He picked up the lead cop's pistol, then the equipment belt which went with it, and the dead thug's badge. His collection wasn't as big as Holly's, but then he only dabbled in copkilling; she was an amateur in the old French sense of the word.
Prrg noted, “We must dispose of these corpses.” Sarah hurried to assist, needing to do something.
“My compliments, Daisuke,” Prrg said while dragging one of the bodies toward a nearby trash-heap. “I could not have done better.” This was high praise indeed from the person who liked dueling, and had bested over a hundred, slain or not, of his own race or others.
Daisuke turned away to vomit. It was only the nikkei's second kill, and the first had been in hotter blood.

“What is your name, milady?” Danner asked as they hurried, while trying to seem not to hurry, across the market to their shuttles. Cates was still inbound with One Boat, just in case.
“Ah- Anna,” she replied. “Please, you must believe me, I haven't done anything!”
“I believe you,” Danner answered. “If those were legitimate cops” - an oxymoron in Jeffersonian culture to begin with; police were explicity prohibited in the Constitution, and Thaddeus Webb lost his head for trying to reintroduce them - “with legitimate cause, they would have simply taken you, with or without witnesses. Instead they acted like kidnappers. Care to tell me why?”
“I-” The woman was probably under thirty in Republic years, meaning late teens in Terran terms. She was obviously and legitimately frightened, but her brain was still trying to work. Danner began to like her. “I think they, they meant to... sell me.”
Danner scowled. Slavery, another of the Big Nine crimes against which lethal force was presumed justified by the Constitution, had been nearly eradicated in Republic space, by the simple method of killing the slavers. And he could guess Anna wouldn't have been sold to work in a field. He detached his sheathed midsword from his weapon belt and handed it to the girl. “Keep this under your cloak,” he instructed. “We'll reach our shuttles in a few minutes. My ship is Republic-flagged, and well-armed.”
“Thank you! Uh, Captain...?”
“Solomon Danner,” he replied with a smile, “Independent Starship Aurora. We'll break orbit in an hour and be in hyper seven later.” He didn't bother alerting the ship or his crewmates at the shuttles; Aurora was listening and passing the information on. Hlossh and Clancy were in the pilot rotation, and would already be warming up the shuttles' VTOL turbines, though Danner would have Sarah take over Five Boat when they reached it. If there were pursuit, he wanted his hottest pilot on the stick.
“What is your next port, Captain?” the girl asked. She spoke English fluently, but with an accent he hadn't heard elsewhere on this world. She also struck him as being a lady of some breeding, perhaps of the nobility.
“Sylvan,” he said. “It's a 520-hour Transit. We're headed for the Central Worlds, New Israel eventually. We left a member of our family there, and we're going to get him back.”

They made it to the shuttles without incident and hurried aboard, closing hatches and lifting without preamble. Half an hour later they were on the starship, and minutes after that they were boosting to the hyper limit. Aurora was monitoring Illyrian news channels - and several others; they didn't have the best comm security - for news of the incident. So far there was nothing. If, as Danner surmised, the cops were dirty or fake, either they wouldn't be missed or would be swept under a rug.
Danner tried to get to know his new passenger. “What part of Illyria are you from? Do you have any family there?”
She remained nervous and reticent, but Danner chalked it up to her narrow escape. “I am from... Slaskie. My name is Anna... Nowak. I was a clerk, a, office girl, for a freight company.”
“What happened?” They were in Hold 5 with several other passengers, where Clancy usually set up a buffet during the boost phase; the dining compartments in the forward grav ring were usually not used during boost unless they had few enough passengers to arrange the facilities at ninety degrees to normal. Danner thought the presence of others might allay any fears she might still have. More positively, he had reclaimed his personal midsword, after making a gift of one of Aurora's souvenir models.
He didn't offer a projectile or energy weapon, though he wanted to on principle. Jeffersonians learned how to shoot and to safely handle ranged weapons in elementary school, if their parents didn't teach them even sooner; but she wasn't one. He, or Cates, would see to it during the Transit, though.
“The company failed,” Anna replied. “I was left on my own, I... have no family. Only my savings.” She had paid her fare in zlotys, which meant "gold" in Polish and was truthfully advertised on Illyria. Not as strong a currency as rhodium or even platinum, but it would do. “This planet, Sylvan, they would... have such work?”
Danner nodded. “It's not a Republic world, but it was founded mostly by Jeffersonians, so it's relatively free. The main industry there is lumber for export. We'll be there, oh, probably sixty hours or so, selling and buying. After that, Alpine and Salvation, more independents, then all Republic space, Mark's World, Little Wheel, Albion, and finally New Israel. We might be staying there some time, waiting for our brother.” Aurora was a fast ship, and would likely reach Grbblb before his term as mayor of Glautopolis ended.
Anna considered. “I have never been away from Illyria,” she stated. “I would like to see more of the universe. What would be my fare to New Israel?”
“Hm.” Danner wasn't a cold-blooded coin-pincher, like some captains, and he was very fortunate to have found Aurora and an excellent crew; he had a duty to that crew to make a profit, but rarely hadn't done so. He could afford the occasional charity. “I'm feeling generous,” he said. “The same again. That will take you all the way to New Israel, a Central World. You'll be able to find anything there.” If she paid in coin, she wouldn't feel obligated to pay in... something else.
She sagged in relief. “Thank you again, Captain.”
He smiled. “Please, call me Solomon. Or Sol.”
And she smiled. “You may call me... Anna.”
Aurora made Transition before any news of dead cops or a wanted woman was cast from Illyria.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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