Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part XXXIX: Honeymoon Cruise

This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
29 Thirdmonth 554JR
New Israel

Solomon was delighted at the news. It was still a Human tradition for ship captains to perform marriages, but one he was never comfortable with. Fortunately New Israel's contingent of Glaut refugees included some who had been exiled - and, unfortunately, maimed - for adhering to old religions instead of acknowledging the power of the state. A suitable priest was found in Glautopolis. Many of his colleagues, still in the Consolidation, would have been horrified at his openly performing a cross-caste marriage, but he instead proclaimed he was honored to rebel against the dictatorship.
Grbblb was becoming enamored of many Human traditions. At the ceremony's end, he and Trllbl - she now as Whole as he - ran beneath an arch of swords. Rapiers like the one his Family had made for him had become a component of the Glautopolis Infantry's dress uniform.

The secret of Glaut regeneration was out. Rather than attempt to profit from it, Aurora's Family, without discussion, agreed to release the entire process on the galactic Net. Glaut refugees on all their worlds rejoiced in the news, and statues of Ralph Vatelius were indeed raised.
Unfortunately the news was viciously suppressed within the Consolidation. Some Jeffersonian ships hacked into Consolidation Nets - on their way outsystem of course. They knew they wouldn't be allowed back and risked being fired on by the growing Consolidation Navy. Other ships smuggled the news into Opposition tentacles. Rebellion continued to grow, but slowly. The few Glaut who possessed the details of regeneration lacked the means to implement it. Like most totalitarian states, the Consolidation was a command economy, not a free market. New technologies were strictly controlled if not totally suppressed - for example, over a thousand Terran years had passed since the last native improvement of their Marsten Drive. Privately-owned ships, Drives, or Devices, or fabbers to make them, simply didn't exist. The penalty for owning anything of the kind, without government permission, was mutilation or death. The Consolidation was doomed, but continued on considerable momentum.

To other races, one Glaut looked much like another. Caste made no difference to Humans, Eyani, Boksi, Siv or Nikar. Nor were the Un-Whole objects of revulsion; Glaut were still too new and alien to Jeffersonian eyes to seem more alien when incomplete - and that problem would be solved presently. Thus, Grbblb and Trllbl needed no disguises when they appeared in public, only a change of harness.
By this time nearly a thousand Glaut had gathered at New Israel, with more still trickling in from the Escape Island operations on Rllbtl, which had not yet been shut down. After Gambori, Glautopolis would be the major Glaut population center in Republic space. Grbblb's term as Mayor had ended shortly after his surgery, and with it he resigned his active commission as militia colonel, naming a successor for that role and reverting to Captain (ground rank), Inactive Reserve.
He and Trllbl had spent nearly a thousand hours on their honeymoon, touring New Israel and the Epsilon Indi system while their sister Aurora completed her makeover. Grbblb had been a Jeffersonian for years and happily taught his bride all he could about her new life. He taught her the basic skills expected of a Jeffersonian - the Constitution, self-defense, piloting, computer use, living in freefall, language, mathematics, common courtesy, history. In the Consolidation she would have been considered inferior and incapable of understanding such things. On New Israel she drank them all in and thirsted for more - just as her husband had a decade earlier.

Aurora had spent much of a Republic year at New Israel, being largely rebuilt. Free of the shipyard, her new systems had been tested. “I feel lighter,” she had said to Jenny during space trials. “Faster. And of course, stronger.” The little ship from a different age now outgunned many a government warship twice her size, and was as well protected. Now she began to express restlessness, an eagerness to return to the deeps.
Solomon Danner shared her sentiment. He also had a taste for tradition. “A wedding gift,” he announced to the newlyweds. “Pick a world, anywhere. We'll stay as long as you like, and Daisuke will find a way to make us a profit doing it. And no passengers, just the Family.”
Aurora too shared her own joy with her Family. “Yes,” she said, “Grbblb, Trllbl, let me take you somewhere none of us have ever been!”
Grbblb deferred to his bride, who said, “I want to get as far away from the Consolidation as I can! At least for a time.” She knew her husband would someday go back to their common birth-world, and knew she would go with him. Her Jeffersonian education included the arts of war.
Aurora projected a starchart. “The Consolidation lies coreward of the Central Worlds. There are many Republic worlds and independent nations in the opposite direction.”
“Oh!” Trllbl said. “Husband, we can visit Terra on the way!”
“Yes, wife,” he answered, “we should see the birth-world of the people who have given so much to us. But where shall we go after?”
Examining the chart, Trllbl pointed with one of her replaced tentacles. The chosen point of light expanded to give particulars of the planet Shambhala.

Aurora couldn't wear a disguise, and wouldn't have, but did show her heels to the media shuttles attempting to follow her to the hyper limit. In minutes she had shaken them off with OMS rockets alone, her Family not minding a good 30 meters of acceleration to do so. She'd been interviewed a few times herself and was growing to share her Captain's opinion of most reporters, but had no cause to incinerate them with the wash of her fusion torches.
Hours later, having boosted on those torches at a normal ten meters, she reached the ten-light-second limit and leapt to hyperspace for the first time in nearly a Monticellan year. New Israel had been one of the first worlds visited by her great-grandmother, Enterprise, so long ago. Terra was a single Transit away.
Her new speed was c170.4, making her one of the fastest starships in regular service in Known Space. Terra, at three and a quarter parsecs, was only 540 hours away. There were a dozen-odd classes of dedicated fast couriers, much alike, in use by the Patrol and the big freight companies who could afford to operate them. They usually topped out at c173. Jenny and Aurora wanted to beat them on principle but it looked like they'd reached their limit, without dropping a lot of Aurora's mass - even now she was deadheading without cargo from New Israel. Still, that was 18 Monticellan days, or 23 Terran.

As Grbblb and Trllbl became the second married couple aboard, berthing had to be reexamined. Previously a Family standard had been established of a half grav-ring section for individual crew, and a full section for a married couple, except the Captain of course, with a full section to himself. The Glaut couple, however, stated they didn't need the extra room and would share Grbblb's existing half-section, with Hlossh in the other half as before.
The dining section and Clancy's rebuilt galley had been moved to the aft ring. With Clancy moving into the half-section next to Vatelius, this freed two sections of the forward ring. Anna and Delilah each claimed half of one, while the other became a salon for the crew's own use in spin-weight. This cost passenger capacity but would simplify serving passengers the next time they carried some.
No one aboard intended to have children in the near future. Though they rarely discussed it aloud, all felt a new time of war was coming. They did not want to create orphans, or worse, see their children killed in battle.

Delilah continued her ship-training, presently becoming another Gunner's Mate. “I never had any interest in weapons,” she told Holly Cates. “Before.”
The retired Sergeant Major nodded. “It's a fine thing to live in peace,” she said. “But peace never preserves itself.”
“Learning to use a ship's gun wouldn't have saved- my family- that day.”
“Probably not. But if more of the other ships in orbit had been better skilled, they might have held them off longer and that strike might not have hit. If you know how to handle a ship's gun you might someday save someone else's family. And if those women they grabbed had been armed and practiced, they might not have spent hundreds of hours in Hell.” Mark's World had thought itself secure from attack, well within the Second Wave of the Human Diaspora. The bearing of arms had fallen out of favor. The victims weren't blamed, the whole planet blamed itself. In the aftermath, a wave of preparedness had spread even to Monticello and Terra. The Founders had been proven right, again.
Delilah nodded. “Okay, I'm still flinching with the pistol.”
“There's a cure for that.” The women went to the forward holds, #6 again configured for target practice.
#5, adjacent, was a gymnasium and fighting salle. Trllbl was there with her husband, building her strength and learning all she could of close combat with the Glautopolis-issue rapier. Her opponents were four robots, simulating a Human, an Eyani, and two Glaut. Cates and Howell stopped a moment to watch.
The robots were on a novice setting. “You have four eyes,” Grbblb told his wife, not as a harsh instructor would but with encouragement. “Use them. Maintain your situational awareness. Do not let yourself be cornered. Our advantage over the vertebrates is speed and agility, not strength. Strike and flee, strike and flee. Never grapple. Use all your limbs, push off here, pivot there. Where will that movement take you in freefall? Will you be stranded out of reach of something to push or pull against, while your enemies close upon you? You have six limbs. What is this one doing, why is that one doing nothing?”

“Anna Nowak” was giving considerable thought to the question her ship-sister Sarah Heusner asked her in a chocolate shop on Haifa Station. Was her old life over? Was Aurora now her true home? There had been no messages from Illyria for well over a year - Sarah tried to reassure her that they could have been misrouted, but Anna could tell she was softening the truth. Jenny had not heard back from Professor Symanski either. Worst of all, news reports showed a double of herself attending public functions, openly supporting her murderous uncle Stefan.
Her own training also continued. Her royal education had been very different, sheltered, directed toward creating a Proper and Dignified Lady, secure in her Station and representative of her State. The Jeffersonian model was alien to everything she had been taught before.
She preferred it.
Her lesson today was navigation and Sarah was her Instructor. “The problem with three-dimensional navigation is a frame of reference,” she explained, “because everything is moving relative to everything else. Fortunately computers do a lot of the work for us but sometimes you don't have computers-”

Solomon Danner was still processing the personal honors bestowed upon him. The Legion of Honor was one of the two highest awards in the Republic; the PUC, equivalent to the second-highest - like the old American Navy, and unlike their Army, only those who participated in the specific action could wear it, so it would not be diluted by those who joined later. The promotion was nice but of little consequence to an inactive reservist in peacetime. To him, all these honors paled beside two others.
He had helped bring forth a new species with Aurora's awakening. That was a great honor indeed, but there was one he treasured more, one he feared he would never achieve, one he left his nation's service over, the one recognition he had craved from his nation, since childhood, above all.
Alone in his cabin, he smiled and fussed with his Navy uniform. The next time he wore it there would be a small gold badge above his ribbons, a five-pointed star wreathed in silver laurel. He technically wasn't eligible, neither he nor Aurora being in active service, but Admiral Maet, bless him, had insisted. It was a simple device, signifying one thing: Its bearer was in current command of a warship of the Jeffersonian Republic.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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