Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part XXIX: Sylvan
Continued from the previous excerpt
27 Sixthmonth 552JR
Sylvan was a Second Wave world.
Most Republic worlds were. The Second Wave of Human colonization was figured from the end of the War, not counting the First Wave, or Central Worlds - counted before - and the Frontier, always expanding. A Frontier world was considered one which was still independent, had little heavy industry or infrastructure, few or no major ports or orbital stations, or a Republic Territory not yet qualified for Membership. But the Second Wave also included worlds which were not under the Republic's Star and Bars; the Republic of Caledonia, an independent nation which included Old Scotland on Terra, was among the first of the Second Wave. The terms had no legal weight, and were fuzzily defined; Gambori, for example, with an influx of Glaut refugees, was rapidly approaching Representation in Congress and full Membership, despite being very much on the Frontier.
Sylvan was settled by Jeffersonians, as Solomon had told Anna, but remained sovereign, flying her own flag: Sky blue to indicate a world habitable by Common Life, green for the forests which, like Adams' World, were their major export; and a black bar sinister, anciently indicating bastardy - in their case their status as self-exiled independents, despite their lives being nearly identical to what they had left. The cultures and governments were nearly indistinguishable; the militia organization and equipment was interchangeable. The Sylvans just wanted to go their own way. Hedging their bets against the future, Sylvan's Constitution was functionally identical to the Republic's, and they even copied the tradition (which on every Member World of the Republic was also law) of large stone monuments with its full text in front of schools and government buildings. Maybe in a generation, or a century, they'd petition for Membership... or not.
Sylvan Station, orbiting at only 350km, was only forty meters longer than Aurora, geared to handle only ship's boats and aircars for administrative duties. This was explained by their industry. Large pieces of lumber would not fit in shuttles, or make corners from one airlock to another; freighters landed directly on the surface, taking on pieces 30 meters or more in length, uncut. Sylvan was called "Second Wave" or "Frontier" depending on the observer's prejudices. Sylvan's spaceport, Lumberville, rivaled Monticello's Central Terminal in construction standards, if not in size or population.
If Aurora had landing gear, she could have touched down at Lumberville; heavier ships did regularly, the force of their engines contained and deflected by berms and pumped water around each pad. Instead she orbited at the same altitude as the planet's official Station. Her boats could not accomodate the large pieces the real freighters came for, but she took on a couple shuttles' worth of high-grade wood, for luxury furniture, custom gunstocks, and the like. As Four Boat touched down to load this cargo, Jenny had been... “excited” was perhaps too mild a word, to discover a Wartime Tommy Atkins class transport, shorter and wider than Aurora but nearly as massive, several times renamed but originally LS219 Elizabeth Zane, still spaceworthy and loading on Lumberville's field. Aurora was older yet, but the opportunity couldn't be resisted; with her husband, who had proven his own self-taught engineering talent many times, she had talked their way aboard and were trading bits of tune-up for... permission to do so. With their cameras.
Sylvan had a planetary Net - nearly every world did, except the newest and most raw colonies - and Anna investigated job opportunities, even though she was planning to continue to New Israel. She found several, clerical, light industrial, driving airtrucks, cooking and cleaning - and available housing too, from apartments in Lumberville to prefab houses well outside. Curious, she visited one of the latter and was amazed to find its facilities, its quality of construction, superior to what she considered houses for nobility on Illyria. She learned she could rent one, on land owned by others, for a price well within a wage she could easily earn; or she could purchase a square-kilometer lot with about a local year's savings.
“Land is more expensive,” Solomon pointed out, “on more established worlds. -Which is why the Frontier is always expanding.”
She cocked an eyebrow at him, in a planetside restaurant where they were viewing the Net together. “I suppose you'll now tell me there are no homeless in your Republic?”
“Pretty much,” he answered with a nod. “-One of the causes of homelessness, for example in pre-Escape America, was government regulation - demands for identification and background checks, certifications, intrusions and violations. If someone couldn't jump through all the hoops, they couldn't land a job; without a job they couldn't clean up their records; without a clean record they couldn't get a job, and so on. Very often these people had no choice but to turn to crime, just to survive; and then they condemn themselves with their actions - or more accurately, their 'crimes' were arbitrary malum prohibitum and their governments destroyed them for doing something without permission. Not in my country! Or this one either. Anyone can just show up, give whatever name they choose, do some work and get some pay. Hotels and apartments treat them the same; if they can pay, they can stay. Many of our hotels are fully automated, running totally on cash.” By which Solomon meant standardized ingots of precious metals, still called “coins” whether they were government-minted or not. “Some people go years, maybe decades, with no 'records' at all. We let them. The alternative, loss of privacy, predatory enforcement, is worse than 'harboring' some 'criminal' who 'broke' some 'law.'”
“But... a murderer, a rapist, could come here, give a false name, escape punishment for his crimes....”
Danner adopted a mildly-scolding tone. “We've already had that conversation. Few such offenders survive their first attempt; fewer their second. Self-defense is expected, not punished. -I think the Republic-wide record for a serial killer was five, and that was....” He tapped his 'puter.
“Twenty-three Monticellan years after the War,” Aurora provided, “committed by a former member of the Terran Imperial Security Service against Eyani university students on Alexandria.” The ship sent a link to a 'pedia summary of the case to Sol's and Anna's 'puters. The murderer had become unhinged by the Empire's defeat, and blamed the Eyani, who had been violated in ways nigh-unspeakable during the Imperial occupation of Eyan. The Imperial abducted them, then skinned them alive. They died eventually, and eventually were found. After the second, every arms shop on Alexandria sold to Eyani at cost; after the third, nearly every business but the arms shops closed; until the positively-identified monster's head adorned a pole on the U of A commons. Private Citizens, or Subjects, or residents, had used their own resources, and the power of Alexandria's Net, to cooperate and coordinate and hunt the beast down - without dragnets or raids or checkpoints or “no-knock warrants” or violations of innocents. Danner had learned of the case, on his own birth-world, during his education - home-schooled as most Jeffersonians were, with hundreds of corporations offering competing 'puter applications - but had forgotten the details; it was two centuries past, after all.
“Hmm,” said Anna.
Finishing their meal, they walked, and talked, aimlessly through Lumberville, stopping at shops, examining architecture. Lumberville was the planetary capitol and largest “city”, but its population was barely seven thousand and had only four buildings taller than three stories.
They walked without fear. This was a free world, as safe and peaceful as any in the Republic. As Solomon had told Anna, criminals rarely survived their first attempts. Danner wore his customary M437 and midsword; and now Anna wore her own blade, and a copy of a patent-expired New Texas Arms 10.4mm slug pistol which she had fabbed herself in Aurora's shop. During Transit she had received training in both from Solomon, Holly, and Daisuke.
Anna said, “I could live here....”
Solomon finished her unspoken though: “But. It's not enough. Not really living.”
“Yet the people who do live here seem satisfied.”
“Different kinds of people. Sylvan's founders came here to escape what they saw as overcrowding and a loss of privacy. But their children will want to see the cities of the Central Worlds, travel on starships, be part of something larger. To each their own, and no one else's.”
“It is a beautiful place....”
“Sylvan was settled about 40 years ago - Monticellan, that is. They introduced some Terran trees here too, though the native species have plenty of variety. But right about now, they're getting ready to export Genuine Terran Strain oak and walnut and maple and mahogany and teak and I don't know what-all else, to this whole section of the Frontier. People will pay, and the money will roll in. Sylvan's economy is about to start booming. They're developing a tourism industry too, like Adams' World.”
“Another place I would like to see. But I can only afford our agreed passage to New Israel.”
“Hm, not exactly.” Anna looked a question at him and he went on, “I told Daisuke to pay you a spacer's wage for the time you've been putting in helping.” Anna's eyes widened. “Also, we'll likely be at New Israel for some time, perhaps even months; you could get temp work there, planetside or in the orbitals, while we're waiting, and earn another fare, to Adams', Monticello, even to Terra.”
“Terra!” she exclaimed. “Rome- tell me, does the Vatican still stand, the Pope still hold mass-?”
Solomon was reminded that Illyria was officially Catholic. He nodded. “Indeed. Urban XIX, if I recall correctly. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever been to Rome myself. Clancy might have.” The ship's Steward was Catholic too, as far as that went where Jeffersonians were concerned, and had lived in Italy.
Coincidentally, their wanderings brought them near Lumberville's church district - here was a small Catholic cathedral, there a Nazarene protestant church, an Asatru temple and a Synogogue not far away. “Do you celebrate Christmas?” Anna asked. “Or Easter?”
“Not nationally,” Solomon answered, “not anymore. A hundred worlds, each with their own calendar? Local cultures, or individuals, celebrate what and when they want.” He waved a hand at the examples. “And, not personally, no. Many Jeffersonians are agnostic, but by no means all, probably not even most. We have freedom of religion, it's at the top of our Declaration of Rights. Asatru is popular, probably second after all the Christian sects. Judaism is further down, not counting New Israel - and without their very existence being threatened every day for centuries, they've found they can afford to become more secular. But most of us just don't get excited about who prays to which god - unless they want to force someone else to pray with them.”
Anna's smile at the thought of Rome faded. “Do you allow Islam, then?”
Danner scowled. “Islam was eradicated - near enough - by the Empire, before the War. Though, the way they were going, we might have had to do it ourselves. That's one of the reasons we Escaped - and there were essentially no Islamists in the Founders' Fleet. You remember the conversation we had during Transit, about how to clean up Nowy Kraków?” Anna blanched, and gave one short nod. “Well, the Empire actually did it. Dirty business. Can't really be 'thankful' for millions of human beings murdered, even if their religion commanded them to convert or murder millions more - but no one has proposed a viable, reality-based alternative in all the centuries since.”
Anna shuddered. “Illyria is officially Catholic Christian, though we have freedom of religion too... except for Islam. I've heard there are secret Muslims, hiding throughout the Kingdom, but their numbers are small. Do you have any in your Republic?”
“Some, yes, now. But they're Reformed - Fourth Stellar Reformation, mostly. Brought their sects together, no more fighting between Sunni and Shia and whatnot, 'reinterpreted' the Koran to eliminate the parts about conversion by force, slavery, child marriage, wife-beating, jizyah. We still keep an eye on them, but it looks like they really have become civilized.”
“Illyrian law makes no distinction. All Islam is outlawed.” She frowned. “Perhaps that is unjust.”
“And perhaps it is not.” Solomon had read the histories of the Republic's Founders. Theirs was the time when Islam was rising, enslaving, destroying all of Terra. Theirs was the time when the Towers fell, and their governments became as great an evil in response. “Anyway, there's little they can do to keep themselves down anymore - anyone with a few coins or a willingness to work can hop a ship to a whole other planet. And, since the Reformations, the Imams can't, or at least don't, issue fatwas and send assassins to retrieve or murder the apostates.”
“Wait-” Anna consulted her 'puter, reminded of something. “Yes, here, one of your wartime Councillors- Moammar al Rashid? Is that not an Islamic name?”
Solomon was pleased Anna had been reading the histories he had recommended. “Astute,” he said with a nod. “But the name is more Arabic, regional and ethnic, than Islamic, religious. I remember reading about him. He was actually raised as some type of Christian, I forget which, though personally he was borderline agnostic. Just as your world has secret Muslims, there had always been Christians, secretly or openly, in the Islamic nations, usually under various kinds of oppression. He was descended from those, his ancestors emigrated to Monticello before the Isolation of Sol.” There had been no Islamic nations on Terra since the War of Unification - and there had never been any others, anywhere. The experiment had been attempted on Waramid III, more than a century ago. The result had resembled Nowy Kraków within a decade and had spent the next seven recovering... under an opportunistic pirate-conquerer-turned-benevolent-dictator, from a whole other world and no religion to speak of.
Solomon continued, “What I remember most about al Rashid was, the day after the Battle of Monticello, during the Emergency Session of Congress, he resigned his position as Councillor of Citizenship, walked out of the Pentamvirate Chamber, crossed Central Terminal's A Section, and got in line with all the other recruits for the Marine Corps. Signed up as a boot, no rank.”
Anna's eyebrows rose. “But- was he not an officer? Did he not earn his Citizenship through military service?”
“Actually not,” Solomon answered. “And rarely so for someone who managed to get elected to the Pentamvirate - only the seventh in history to that time. He'd taken a non-military Citizenship path, various government jobs in various bureaucracies. Then the usual political path, Provincial Representative, then Provincial Senator, then the federal versions, then a member of Monticello's planetary Triumvirate and finally the federal Pentamvirate. His term was coming to an end, and he later admitted he knew he wouldn't be reelected anyway, especially in Wartime with no military service record - but he loved the Republic and decided to go out with a splash that would also help serve his nation. News cameras followed him out and enlistment soared. Just taking that 200-meter walk probably helped us win the War - if a Councillor can sign up as a boot Marine, why haven't you, mister?” Solomon struck a pose with a pointing finger, like the pre-Escape “I WANT YOU” recruiting posters. Even during the War, the Republic had never used conscription. The Empire's conscripts had been smashed by patriot volunteers.
Anna laughed at Danner's pose, then asked, “What became of him?”
“He retired as a First Sergeant, one rank below Holly. Earned the Silver Star during the War, twice, in landings on Eyan and Terra. Never reentered politics. Ended up a farmer in what used to be Syria, where his distant ancestors were from. Helped the whole region recover from the War, and the Imperial Unification before it.” The United Nations Peacekeeping Fleet had bombarded the Middle East from orbit twice - first during the Eradication of Islam in 2040CE, then in 2153 during the War of Unification, after all conventional attempts to conquer Israel had ended in slaughter. On neither occasion was the UN much concerned with collateral damage. “The whole Middle East is a garden now, and he was part of the reason why.”
“How... remarkable,” Anna said - and again Solomon wondered at her response.
There's more to this woman, he thought.
More than she admits to.
Eventually the ship's business on Sylvan was concluded and they returned to Aurora. While boosting to the traditional ten-light-second hyper limit, Danner and Anna once again dined together, far more comfortably than their first shared meal, a handful of hours after he had executed a policeman for attempting to abduct her. Illyrian notions of propriety aside, Anna did feel safe with Solomon; he had always been a gentleman toward her, and how could she not trust a man who gave her weapons and taught her how to use them to defend herself?
Still... there were questions to which she needed answers. Moreso now, after accessing Aurora's library and Sylvan's Net - and learning how the rest of the galaxy viewed the world and culture of her birth. She asked, “Tell me, Solomon... what is your opinion of the Illyrian royal family?”
“Hm.” Solomon trod carefully; subjects of monarchies often had what a Jeffersonian considered an irrational attachment to their rulers. Still: “No Jeffersonian finds any monarchy attractive. We rule ourselves, not each other. But the Illyrian system does have its good points, especially the ability to earn noble rank by merit instead of heredity alone, and a process for revoking titles among peers, something lacking in most monarchies. As for the royal family itself, I don't know any, haven't studied them in the news, so I can't judge.”
Anna was silent for a moment, then said, “I was... alarmed... to discover how Illyria is viewed by the rest of the galaxy. I had no idea of... well... anything beyond my own world. Do we really seem so backward to you?”
Solomon could tell she was embarrassed by this. “Don't be ashamed,” he said. “Meaning no offense, but most people on Illyria really have no idea what the rest of Known Space is like. We, the crew, were discussing that during our Transit before we arrived at Illyria. It's a valid criticism of the monarchy. There is no technological or economic excuse for the lack of access to information to the general population. A few less gold-inlaid royal coaches, a few less million-zloty state dinners - the people have better things to spend their own money on than taxes to prop up their rulers. It's not their fault they're not allowed to. Nor is it just your world - wait until we reach New Israel and meet our brother Glub. The planet he came from makes Illyria look utopian.
“As for you personally,” he continued, “you're proving something I've believed my whole life: An individual person can become anything she has the ambition and ability for, despite any advantage or disadvantage of birth. Glub's another example of that; he went from an exiled dissident to commander of a militia unit and mayor of a town, to say nothing of his status among his fellow refugees on a dozen worlds. You've adapted to our technologies, and our culture, rapidly and well. You're one of us now, with a whole new life you can take in any direction.”
This last seemed to alarm Anna, though Solomon could not tell why. She thanked him for the conversation and excused herself to her quarters, more abruptly than usual.
Later, after Transition and in his own quarters, Solomon asked: “Aurora, please show me a summary of the Illyrian royal family.”
The ship displayed official portraits and basic information for all members of the Aldritch dynasty with a claim to the Illyrian throne.
After a moment, Solomon said, “Oh, crap.”
Continued in the next excerpt....