Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2021, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part XLII: Days of Rest
Continued from the previous excerpt
21 Fifthmonth 554JR
14 February 2356CE
Terra to Marseille
"Some vacation," Danner remarked, in the forward grav-ring. The half-galley, half-dining section of the aft ring had been swapped forward for convenience, the new crew salon emptied and swapped aft. The half-section dining hall was cozier for the fourteen beings anyway.
They had fled Terra and her many ghosts. The prize money and bounties from Brown's Flotilla would keep them comfortable for the next eight thousand hours or more, but waste not, want not: They were carrying True-Terran produce to Marseille, as they had done years ago when Ralph Vatelius joined the crew there. No passengers though. The aft grav-ring was locked in place, filled with dry goods, grain and spices and the like - odors would be eliminated, after, by a bit of vacuum exposure and some scrubbing robots. Aurora's gyros cancelled the torque a single spinning grav-ring imparted, saving RCS fuel. The gyros were electrically driven, and one thing Aurora was never short of was electricity.
"Nobody's fault, Chief," Jack Epstein answered. "Sometimes stuff just happens."
"A vacation is what we need," Prrg supplied. "Intrigue, battles, mysteries, old wounds - can the universe not leave us alone for just a little while?"
"At least one good thing came of it," Ralph stated, gesturing toward his Glaut ship-siblings. By the time Aurora had reached Terra, both had made a recovery not easily distinguishable from total. A wave of Glaut regeneration was sweeping Republic space, and a new round of unrest was erupting in the Consolidation as news of it leaked through the regime's censorship.
Doctor Vatelius had to issue a public statement on the Net, declining all offers of employment, chairmanship, directorship, even a promotion to full Captain in the Patrol Medical Corps if he returned to active service. He was already home and had no desire to be trapped behind a desk, like the ones his ship's Captain and Gunner had escaped.
Jenny Blain had to do the same, for the same reasons. Marsten Inc. had offered her a vice-presidency, the University of Alexandria the Gail Washburn Chair, named for the Wartime ship's engineer. Then-lieutenant Washburn had co-invented the Deitrich Maneuver, dipping a ship into atmosphere without landing, to provide direct fire support for ground troops, then escaping to orbit again. After, she had co-developed the Fifth Generation Marsten Drive, and led the team who first broke c100, one hundred times lightspeed. The testbed frigate FFX749, JRS Glennis Yeager, was preserved at the Enterprise Museum over Monticello. Once the Sixth-Generation-Improved Marsten Drive hit the Net, with step-by-step instructions illustrated by Blain herself, average hyperspace speeds jumped 20 c. That was as much as Enterprise achieved in the First Generation. The galactic economy was "stimulated" by news that everywhere just got a little closer. The same adjustments applied to the Marsten Device, reducing interstellar communication time.
Most of the crew had been offered book or movie deals, mostly focusing on the Battles of Mark's World and RAS1441. "I wonder if the next member of our Family needs to be a lawyer," Daisuke had wondered, as the messages kept coming in on the boost out of New Israel. Danner had him retain one on arrival at Terra - they could afford it. A Siv neuter, most of nis work consisted of declining requests for interviews and issuing cease-and-desist notices.
Daisuke/Takeo had been shaken by events in Kure, but took comfort in the acceptance of his Family. He had set up Net searches for his brother's new face and mon, but nothing had come of them yet. It had been some time since he sought intimacy. There had been many offers, most frivolous but some strident, since Daisuke became a celebrity on several worlds, but there were too many things in his head to leave room for a woman. He had long-unfinished business.
Anna/Agnieszka had kept her straight brown hairstyle, changing her eyes to match, not daring to be recognized. Still no messages had come back from Illyria, still Stefan's regime used doubles and controlled media to pretend all was well. She began to resign herself to never claiming her throne... which was a thing she was losing her taste for, in her republican travels. At least she had a home and family now, to replace the one her uncle had murdered.
Trllbl and Grbblb were a happily married couple, trying to keep their tentacles off each other when not in private, but Delilah was still having trouble opening up. More than a Terran year had passed since her family had been murdered on Mark's World, and she was beginning to warm up to Ralph, but it was slow going. He at least had patience; he was beginning to think she might be The One. There was time. With Republic medicine, eighty was the new thirty.
Solomon and Anna had begun dating, if in a chaste way. In virtual reality provided by Aurora's computer, they took long walks in the scenery of a hundred worlds, talking for hours about nothing and everything. In VR, Agnieszka could resume her bright red hair and sapphire eyes. Solomon had to keep reminding himself she was still a teenager in Terran years. That was getting harder to do.
Marseille was intended to be the vacation planet for the rulers of the Terran Empire. It was a good choice. Comparable to Terra, hospitable to Common Life, after Liberation it had become the pleasure-planet of the Central Worlds. The big resort companies had their operations, but there was plenty of competition. Aurora's Family selected an island chain not unlike Hawaii and did very little of anything for the next five hundred hours.
All the Humans looked pretty good in a swimsuit. Living in varying weight, moving from one part of a ship underway to another, pitching in moving cargo or shifting furniture, kept a person in really good shape. When Danner had first met Jenny Blain, she had been a bit overweight; now she made "Rubenesque" seem fat. Not that she and Jack Epstein left their hut very often. The men didn't have anything to be ashamed of either.
The Family were alone on their selected island, but in previous shore leaves Holly Cates did sometimes lack for company, only because so few could keep up with her. She didn't look as muscular as she really was. The centuries of enhancements built into the Cates bloodline left her with an active metabolism and energy to spare. She ran on the beach a lot, between large meals, and took pride in her fitness. Her appearance often caused admirers to underestimate her brain, which was another reason she had trouble finding long-term companionship. She wasn't really looking though - she was out from behind her Instructor's desk, for not yet as long as she'd been trapped behind it, and felt no itch to settle down.
Solomon and Ralph were accustomed to Holly's shapeliness, but considered her a sister. They were dumbstruck when Anna and Delilah appeared in really quite modest one-piece suits.
Daisuke, as much an athlete as Holly, would have been beating women off with a stick if the Family hadn't reserved this island for their private use. Perhaps there would be time for that someday. Instead, he tried to rest, when that failed he tried to meditate, and when that failed he returned to kenjutsu, with sparring robots brought down from Aurora. He was conflicted by his own skills, having proven them a few times now but still doubting them, while also having no taste for battle... except in one case, someday.
Grbblb and Trllbl were keeping to themselves, and each other. They'd made a little nest underwater, some distance offshore. Hlossh went to check on them every couple days, between hunting his own stretch of water and making more notes for his Boksi sea-tourist guidebook. Prrg joined him on his hunts, with a breather and fins and the tail he'd been born with. Like Terran crocodilia, the Nikar race had a partly aquatic evolution, but were air-breathers, not true amphibians like Boksi and Glaut.
Clancy spent most of his time in a hammock strung between trees, letting the resort's robots do the cooking for a change... after updating them with his own programs from Aurora. Sarah, the mixed-Tribe Eyani, had some Ice- and Water-Tribe in her genetic makeup. Sometimes she joined Prrg and Hlossh in sea-hunting, when she wasn't teaching herself sailing with one of the resort's small vessels. Other times she hunted deer and wild boar, imported from Terra for the purpose and released on an adjacent island. Hiro Motoyama's short-spears were as good as he claimed, and Family meals didn't lack for fresh meat. Another reprogrammed robot did the messy work of dressing out the animals, using some of the same subroutines Aurora used for surgery.
Aurora raised herself to synchronous orbit, where she could always keep an eye on her small, fragile, organic siblings - if necessary, her new Class-10 guns could punch through atmosphere from that far. One, Two and Three Boats were all armed and she used them to patrol the island remotely, discouraging paparazzi. Streaks of plasma or fountains of seawater in their paths usually sufficed. Republic privacy and trespassing laws were clear enough and she had shot a couple down in the first few days, carefully ensuring they could make emergency water landings without injury. For her own vacation, she sent her sensor spheres to accompany her Family on their recreations; tried to converse with other ships who, unfortunately, were not yet sentient; and gazed into the depths of the universe with her many sensors.
For three Terran weeks the Family ignored the rest of the universe... but they were spacers. Someday they might call a planet home, but that day would not be soon. Marseille had no meaningful exports, so Aurora deadheaded again. The next world was Anvil, and would be quite a contrast.
Continued in the next excerpt....