Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part XXXVII: New Israel

This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
9 Sixthmonth 553JR (2355CE)
New Israel

Aurora's itinerary was reported to the Reserve Privateer Bureau. Other ships were not required to file flightplans; it was not government's business and modern-day Jeffersonians' ancestors had fought bloody wars to keep it so. But Aurora was a Reserve Privateer, a flying militia; being a member of her crew counted as active maintenance of Citizenship, and she was required to report her activities to maintain that status. Some such Citizens went their whole lives without firing a shot in anger, some such ships never activated their status except in test-messages or exercises. Many Shipfolk families claimed no Citizenship at all, and Jeffersonian Subjectry only by coincidence. No one forced them to do otherwise.
Aurora had been famous before neutralizing two pirate attacks in what were, in interstellar terms, rapid succession. Someone leaked her arrival time.

A thousand starships, from a hundred worlds and none at all, formed an honor guard over New Israel. Foremost was the entire New Israel Home Fleet, for the occasion wearing their second hats as the Jeffersonian Republic's regular Navy. The dreadnought Yamato-IV and her half-sister, the supercarrier Shinano, fired salutes to a ship a fraction their size and many times their age.
Media shuttles darted about recklessly but Danner instructed Sarah and Aurora to ignore them. Most decent people wouldn't mind if a reporter bounced off a warship's hull.
Aurora was escorted by Shinano's entire Carrier Air Wing to the shipyards of Haifa Station. Originally a stack of wheels spinning to provide weight, over centuries the place had grown, and was now in the process of being covered over for conversion to an O'Neill Cylinder like neighboring Edo Station, something only being discussed when last Aurora had visited this world. The freefall shipyards sprouted from one end and were beginning to take on some of the attributes of High City, sprawling in every direction with every kind of construction.
The light cruiser was guided into a spacedock overflowing with spectators, while news cameras zoomed on her battle scars. Among them were Grbblb, nearing the end of his term as Mayor of Glautopolis - and three Councillors of the Republic Pentamvirate, with recorded messages from the other two still on Monticello. Tr'Nef, Councillor of Citizenship and senior of the Pentamvirate, presented the Legion of Honor to Solomon Danner there in the dock's gallery, with his ship as backdrop through the wide armorglas windows. Most of the crew were in attendance, those with claims to them in Republic uniform, the others in appropriately-formal wear. Grbblb wore not the three stars of a Colonel, a local militia rank, but the three silver bars of a ground-force Captain, his official Marine Reserve rank appropriate to the company strength of the 1st Glautopolis Infantry. The harness Cates and Hlossh had designed for him to carry weapons had evolved into a Republic uniform for Glaut in military service.
Expecting something of the kind, Danner had responded to one media request, by h-mail before leaving Mark's World and again during fueling stops. He chose one of the handful of reporters he figured weren't muckrakers. She had repaid him for her exclusive by campaigning for what he wanted; not the refusal of his own award, no one would allow that, but a Pentamvirate Unit Citation for Aurora and her family, and all the Marksers who had joined them in battle. Like the American award it was descended from, it was the collective equivalent of an individual Navy Cross, the second-highest military award in the Republic.
Councillor Tr'Nef read the Legion of Honor citation to the crowd:
“Solomon Danner, Lieutenant Commander, Jeffersonian Republic Space Patrol, Inactive Reserve, Full Citizen, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of his own life, is hereby awarded the Legion of Honor.
“On 25 Secondmonth 553, the Republic Territory of Mark's World came under attack by the pirate flotilla of Roger Brown, with great loss of life. The three pirate ships involved were well armed and greatly outclassed all other forces close enough to engage them.
“Citizen Danner, commanding Independent Starship and Reserve Privateer Aurora, CL63, exited hyperspace above Mark's World, unaware of the attack. Upon discovering the battle in progress, he immediately activated his ship's Reserve Privateer status and attacked the pirate vessels, quickly destroying one.
“Though his ship was damaged as a result, he then without hesitation performed a Short Transit and Close Transit to quickly engage the remaining two enemy vessels nearer the planet, destroying a second while his own ship sustained further damage.
“The largest and sole remaining pirate ship, a converted battlecruiser twice his own ship's size and far more heavily armed, began to escape the system with hostages aboard. Danner and Aurora immediately pursued, making repeated hits on the enemy, but were unable to prevent their escape.
“Despite the severe damage to his own ship, Danner agreed to pursue the enemy to their destination in an attempt to recover the dozens of prisoners, mostly children, they had taken from Mark's World.
“His crew skillfully tracked the enemy through hyperspace to the uninhabited system RAS1441, where on 8 Thirdmonth 553, having made extensive repairs in Transit with the aid of volunteers from Mark's World, he engaged the enemy again.
“Above the system's second planet, Danner and Aurora engaged six enemy ships including an undamaged heavy cruiser. Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, Danner and Aurora used an extremely daring and hazardous tactic, surprising the enemy and disabling four of their support ships. Aurora then engaged the enemy cruiser and battlecruiser alone.
“Again severely damaged, Aurora prevailed against terrible odds, disabling all enemy ships and preventing their escape.
“Danner's crew and the volunteers from Mark's World then performed repeated boarding actions on the enemy vessels, allowing the majority of prisoners to be rescued. For the next ninety-seven hours Danner held the position, giving desperately needed aid to over a hundred prisoners, many of whom had been captive for years, while preventing the escape of or further hostile actions by the pirates.
“The unanimous Pentamvirate of the Jeffersonian Republic takes pride in presenting the Legion of Honor to Citizen Solomon Danner.
“Solomon Danner is hereby promoted to the permanent Navy Reserve rank of full Commander.
“The Pentamvirate Unit Citation, and the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, are awarded to Reserve Privateer JRS Aurora, CL63, and all members of her crew present at the Battle of RAS1441.
“JRS Aurora is hereby legally recognized as the first known Artificial Person, with all the rights pertaining thereto.
“JRS Aurora is therefore personally awarded the Crimson Band, First Award, for wounds received in service to the Jeffersonian Republic, and the Navy Combat Action Ribbon.
“JRS Aurora, having served as a Reserve Privateer for more than eight Monticellan years, is awarded the status of Full Citizen of the Jeffersonian Republic.
“JRS Aurora is commissioned as Ensign, Jeffersonian Republic Navy Reserve.”
Danner turned to watch with pride as the black-gold-red plaque, one by three meters, was welded in place below the three-meter-tall letters of Aurora's name. Her own was plain, needing no further detail, but the small ribbons only forty-seven living people could wear, and five families would display in their homes with solemn pride, would bear a small gold clasp in the center: Aurora's ancient hull number, CL63.
Then another plaque was brought forward to be welded to the hull. Black, with a single red stripe in the center, it was the Crimson Band, the wound badge of the Republic military, equivalent to the old American Purple Heart. And then another: The single silver bar of an Ensign in the Jeffersonian Republic Navy. That reporter had repaid him in full: Aurora was now a Person.

“I welcome you home, brother Grbblb,” Aurora said as the Glaut came aboard for the first time in two Republic years.
“Thank you, sister,” he replied. “I congratulate you on your awakening! It is an event long hoped-for.”
“You deserve much of the credit,” she told him. “It was you who constructed my brain.”
“And it is you who have given life to what was a collection of lifeless parts.” He laid a tentacle on her bulkhead, just as her Captain so often did. He was only visiting for now, he was still a mayor and militia officer, but soon he would truly be home. Aurora would stay at this world until then.
It would have taken hours to get free of the ceremonies, the memorials, the shouted questions and requests for interviews, if Danner had not seized the reins of the event. After a very short speech, praising his crew, his ship, the volunteer Marksers who had followed him to battle, and plugging their world's Recovery Fund, he announced to the Councillors, to Admiral Maet, the Siv commander of the New Israel Home Fleet, to the other dignitaries and spectators and reporters, that he must tend to the repairs of his ship. With a smile and a wave he had pushed away from the podium set on the arbitrary “floor” of the freefall gallery, his crew following, while Yamato-IV's Marines, prompted by Sergeant-Major-Retired Holly Cates, formed a cordon blocking pursuit. Maet had the good taste to set an example and not overrule them, floating in front of the Councillors and giving them the eye as he joined the crowd in applause.
The spectators and news cameras were still there, but the crew were safely within Aurora and could relax for a time - some of them. Daisuke, taking to his new PR role, began sorting the incoming messages, deleting most. Blain was on a secure channel to the Haifa shipyard - no repair or modification (short of, say, platinum embellishment) would be refused, a representative of the Reserve Privateer Bureau had attended the ceremonies and made that explicit.
The rest of the crew were welcoming their brother home. Hlossh had one of Grbblb's tentacles entwined with a pincer-arm and neither had let go since Grbblb came aboard. Had they both been Human males... but they weren't, and Boksi intercourse and desire didn't work that way. They were blood-brothers who intended, someday, to go to war together. “I see I have new sisters as well,” the Glaut observed. “And Trllbl, at last we meet in person.” He clasped tentacles with her and burbled a short greeting in their own language.
Trllbl displayed shock, her remaining tentacles curling in what even a Human could see was submission. “Master Grbblb!” she exclaimed. “I am merely Glauteb.”
Grbblb gently unraveled one of the maimed female's coiled tentacles and held it in his own. “Enough with castes, my friend,” he said to her. “Here, on these worlds, and especially in this ship, you are free.”
“Speaking of freedom,” Ralph interjected, “brother... we need to talk. Very privately.” Hlossh bobbed his eyestalks at his blood-brother, knowing the topic of discussion, and let him go.

“So that's where I am with it,” Vatelius told his alien brother, in the latter's refreshed quarters; that section of the forward grav-ring had not been hit. “In the other known races, regeneration takes time and requires a stable gravity field - a planet. And here we are at one. My intention is to begin the process at once, for you and Trillbil, once proper facilities can be found- and secured. If it goes wrong, if it doesn't work, I don't want word getting out to your people.”
Grbblb trembled at the news. “Nor would I, my brother. To raise such hopes only to dash them would be as great a villainy as the wounds themselves.”
“Daisuke- er- yeah, Daisuke, you missed that story, he'll tell it again for you, he's already buying some property and filling my shopping list, discreetly. If we're going to be here a while for refit, and I expect we are, there's no reason not to get started. I may need more samples from you, but I think Trillbil's will be viable.”
“Of course, brother. Anything! You know what this will mean, to my entire species. If you are successful there will be statues of you on several worlds.”

Before leaving RAS1441, Danner had claimed as battle-prize four of the Class-10 Marsten Guns from the defeated ex-Russian heavy cruiser. With that ship's Drive disabled by Holly Cates' shooting there was no need to destroy the guns themselves, though the heavy's lasers and missile tubes had been knocked out by subsequent fire.
Jennifer Blain's true genius lay in Marsten technology, the Device, the Drive, and the Gun, but she was also a highly skilled shipwright, especially with her husband Jack Epstein beside her. When asked, she had told Danner, “Get the Guns. I'll figure a way to make them work.”
That way required considerable modification of Aurora's forward- and aft-most ring-turrets. The problem was power. Aurora had enough in her fusion plants, since her rebuild at Wilson's Colony she was overpowered for her size, but the superconductors and capacitors necessary to charge a Class-10 Gun wouldn't fit in her original ring-turrets. “It'll be a major redesign,” Blain told Danner and Aurora. “If we want them properly protected under armor. If we just want them to work I can hang everything outside, have them sliding around the hull as the turret turns, but considering what we've been through the last few thousand hours....”
“I agree, Jenny,” the ship said. “I do not want my most powerful weapons exposed to my enemies.” Aurora projected a hologram showing design changes, enlarging the rings to extend deeper into the hull at the cost of cargo space.
“We're thinking along these lines.” Holly, truly an authority on shipboard weapons, had joined in the redesign work. She probably should have been a Master Gunnery Sergeant instead of a Sergeant Major, but the Marine Corps in its wisdom had decided otherwise.
“You won't be a light cruiser anymore,” Solomon observed. “You'll be a hybrid. Medium, I guess? Unique, certainly.”
“I would like better protection as well, Captain,” the ship answered. “The last battles hurt me badly.”
“Steeltown Aerospace has been experimenting with a new armor composition,” Holly pointed out, “and here we are at Haifa Station.” An SA representative had already messaged the ship, one which Daisuke had not deleted, but Holly had known of it nearly a year earlier from her technical subscriptions.
“This isn't a refit anymore,” Danner said, “this is a rebuild. Like your first one when we met.”
“I wish to be the best ship I can be, my Captain.”
“You already are the best ship,” he answered, patting a console. “Now we'll make you even better.”

“I'd expected to leave the ship here,” Anna said to Sarah. “I've just been so... loose... since it all happened. I'm glad I don't have to leave.” The fare she had paid at Illyria had been returned, and she was now receiving pay as a crewmember, in addition to a now-permanent berth.
They and Delilah were shopping and exploring Haifa Station, in disguise. Though slim on a Central World dozens of light-years from Illyria, there was still a risk of assassins hunting for Agnieszka; “Anna Nowak” could wear the PUC ribbon, treasured it already in fact, but had not shown herself to the cameras and didn't dare wear it now.
Sarah Heusner was an even bigger celebrity now, the Navigator for the Battle of Dakota and the Pilot for the Battles of Mark's World and RAS1441. Recordings of her low-weight dances and copies of her dance book and freefall living guide were bestsellers. She was swarmed with fans, Eyani and other races, whenever she appeared in public, and was used to wearing a disguise.
Now she was wearing a different Harness, declaring her a simple Citizen from New Israel, while her fur showed mostly tawny Plains Tribe coloring instead of her more-white Calico-style colonial mix. Anna had changed her bright red hair to plain brown and straightened her waves. Delilah hadn't let the cameras see her either and wore no disguise. They'd had some trouble getting out of the ship with cameras watching; Aurora's remaining shuttles were followed everywhere. Clancy, less averse to being a celebrity, had drawn most of them off when departing for his own shopping trip to replace the finer points of his galley and restock the ship's stores. Sarah had then traded autographs and a group photo (again without Anna or Delilah) for a discreet ride on a shipwright workboat. Nanites fabbed by Aurora quickly made their cosmetic changes when they ducked into a restroom.
“I haven't expected anything for a while,” Delilah said. The loss came and went, sometimes battering at her like ocean waves, sometimes leaving her feeling almost normal... almost alive.
Sarah remained a cheerful extrovert despite the horrors she had seen and fought. She tucked her arms into those of the Human women on either side of her, steered them toward a nearby shop, and pronounced, “Chocolate!”
Human and Eyani biochemistry were very similar. Moments later, setting upon their confections, Sarah, a founding member of the Family, started drawing them out. “I'm glad you're staying too, Anna. You've really been a member of the Family for months.”
“Where does that leave me?” Delilah asked. “I feel like an intruder.”
“Nonsense! Ralph's thrilled to have you, someone he can really talk shop with, help him with- his work.” Delilah and Anna hadn't yet been brought into the secret of Glaut regeneration. “And you know- maybe it's too soon, but... he's available.”
Delilah was taken aback at this. “He's given no indication.”
“Hmph,” Sarah responded. “Males. But take my word for it, he's a good one. He's, well, a tomcat, girl-in-every-port, but he's been slacking on that, I think he's getting ready to settle down. I'm pretty sure he hasn't even answered the messages from the girls he knows here. He's just respecting you is all, giving you time and space. After... everything, the last thing he wants is to push himself on you, but I guarantee he's interested.
“And you,” the Eyani said, turning to Anna with a smile in her eye, “what's happening between you and Sol?”
“Oh!” Anna was equally flustered. “I... well... there's an age difference-”
“Like you both won't live to three hundred,” Sarah countered. Eyani lifespans, especially Republic-born, had been extended as much as Human. She was from New Eyan, a colony of the Eyani Nation, but their medical sciences were about as good and had been since not long after the War. Hannah Ehrling had seen to that a long time ago and there were statues of her on all three Eyani worlds. Anna's royal upbringing could afford imports, unlike the Illyrian peasants....
Anna's face fell and she became for a moment Agnieszka again. “I have a duty,” she stated.
Sarah sombered her own mood. During the Transits from their last battle to New Israel, most of the Family had told or retold most of their stories; Delilah knew what “Anna” was. “I'm sorry,” Sarah said. “I didn't mean to remind you.”
“It's something to think about,” the exiled royal said. “And there have been no messages from Illyria, even now. It's unlikely I'll ever go back there.”
“At least you have a home now. And so do you, Delilah.”
Both Human women contemplated this over their desserts.

Jenny Blain was torn between modifications to Aurora and helping her Human ship-brother find a cure for her Glaut ship-brother. Neither could be done properly from a distance. However, Vatelius needed setup time, and that much she could help with remotely. She sent not so much schematics as block diagrams for the construction crew, expecting to make adjustments later.
Needing security due to the import of the project, that crew consisted of a few Glautopolis Infantry handpicked by their commander, and several worker robots from Aurora. The location was an island not far from New Israel's north pole, well out of atmospheric or orbital traffic patterns, and the cover story was Marsten Device experiments to be performed by Blain. Ralph's presence would be explained, if necessary, as needed to examine Transition Effects - plausible given Aurora's recent string of Close Transits.
Trllbl's samples, separated during Ralph's offhand experiment, proved viable, as did Grbblb's originals, even after years in cryo. Having mapped a majority of the Glaut genetic code since Grbblb joined the Family in the first days, Vatelius soon had the correct parts, one Glautak tentacle and one eye, and twice the number for Trllbl's Glauteb body, growing in what appeared to be a correct fashion. The methods for accelerating growth - electrical stimulation, enhanced nutrient feeds - also appeared to be working, once he found functional settings, which would no doubt be refined later. Still, the process would take at least a thousand hours. Vertebrates like Humans and Eyani took much longer. Once grown to the correct size and level of development, the parts would be attached with microsurgical techniques as old as the Republic, and many months of rehabilitation would follow, learning to use them all over again.
These samples, replacements, were not kept at the arctic test facility but transported to a different secure location, lest the Marsten Field experiments disrupt their growth. More Glautopolis Infantry, again carefully chosen by Grbblb, would guard them with their lives - for all had family who would benefit if the method succeeded. The arctic test rig, according to Vatelius' theory, would be used to initiate the process.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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