Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright (c) 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LII: A Time to Rebel
Continued from the previous excerpt
19 Sixthmonth 558JR
Lublin, Kingdom of Illyria
The Kingdom of Illyria had settled two colony worlds, Radom and Lublin, both named for cities in Old Poland.
The Aldritch Dynasty had, until recently, avoided at least some of the mistakes made by other monarchies. Despite King Henryk's indifference, technology and access to information had been spreading throughout the Kingdom's three worlds, especially the colonies. These two worlds were given some measure of autonomy, taxes to the Crown kept reasonable, representation granted in the Sejm.
Since Stefan's rise to power, those taxes had risen. Imports and exports were restricted, and the colonial governments had lost many of their powers to Illyrian control. Objections and protests were censured and censored both, and some opposition members had already been arrested for treason.
One of those was Agnieszka's cousin, Miroslaw Kordylewski, former Duke and Viceroy of Lublin.
The tramp freighter Mishima Maru Transitioned to realspace thirteen light-seconds from Lublin and, after several minutes of coasting, began making course corrections and burning for orbital insertion. This would take about twenty hours. Customs and traffic control were dealt with by Captain Yukiko Bernhard, a woman of Eurasian descent who must once have been a great beauty, but was now old and gray.
The ship was directed to a 560-kilometer orbit and instructed to wait for inspection. Several hours later a shuttle brought a rude, self-important bureaucrat, demanding the ship's manifest.
"Our cargo," Captain Bernhard stated, "is consumer electronics for your retail stores here. This was all arranged over two thousand hours ago. The contact person is Milena West, purchasing coordinator."
The customs inspector, a middle-aged man, balding and more than a little fat, who identified himself only as Haleck, sneered. "She's been put away for subversion. The Crown will be buying your cargo." He produced a 'puter, much slower and cruder than the Jeffersonian-style unit Bernhard wore, displaying a currency figure.
The captain's brow lowered. "That's barely half what was agreed to!"
"That's the only offer you're going to get. Take it, or take your junk somewhere else."
"I need to speak with your superior."
Haleck sneered again. "Sure, you can make an appointment. He should have time for you in about two months."
"No ship can stay idle that long! We'd go bankrupt!"
"Not my problem. Last chance." The bureaucrat turned to leave.
"I'll at least need the payment in metal!"
Haleck laughed. "What, you don't trust the Royal Bank of Illyria? You'll get a chip and you'll like it." Haleck's 'puter ejected the credit chip and he waved it at the captain, almost taunting her.
With speed belying her age, she snatched it from his hand. That hand moved toward a shockwand hanging from his overburdened belt. Her free hand was suddenly full of a Caledonian-made pulse-maser, halfway clear of its holster.
"Accidents happen, Haleck," she said.
Fear, then fury crossed the bureaucrat's face. "You'd damn well better leave that thing here if you go ashore. Ten years in prison for possession of weapons."
"We're Jeffersonian Subjects. The Treaty of-"
"Not anymore, you Jeffy bitch!" Spittle flew from Haleck's lips, quivering as it floated in the free-fall vestibule where the shuttle had docked. His eyes took on the glow of a zealot. "You'll follow our laws or you'll rot in our jail, treaties be damned! King Stefan is bringing order back to our worlds! All you damned anarchist foreigners, you'll get what's coming to you!"
It wasn't possible to stomp out of a freefall compartment, but Haleck tried.
Mishima Maru transferred her cargo to her three old Globemaster-VI landers, and transferred them to the government field outside Lublin City. Captain Bernhard insisted on getting the credit chip cashed before releasing the cargo - and lost another 22% in tariffs. Most of what remained went to fuel and provisions for her ship. It was a considerable loss, leaving not enough to buy an outgoing cargo, and no one would extend credit to be recovered on a cargo's delivery. "I'll never bring another cargo to your dirty little world," she snarled at the receiving clerk.
"That's just how we want it, outlander," the clerk sneered back. "We don't need your corruption and decadence here!" On her uniform, the clerk wore an armband with Stefan's personal, now Royal, coat-of-arms.
It was night at Lublin City. While handlers - none too gently - removed the crated electronics from the Globemasters and took them away for warehousing (or theft, or simple scrapping), four Human figures in black skinsuits slipped away into the darkness.
Lublin Spaceport didn't take security as seriously as it thought it did. One of the four aimed an EMP rifle at a camera pod, not realizing it had failed months ago and no one had got around to fixing it. The four rushed forward and another produced cutters and bypass circuitry for the perimeter fence - which already had a large gap pulled up next to one of its poles, the ground under it trampled into hardness. Probably the cargo of electronics would be trickling out the same way, later, for black market sales.
A couple hundred meters across a field of grass and brush, as expected, they ran into a half-dozen armed men and women. The four halted, holstered or slung their weapons, and spread their hands without raising them. The smallest of the four removed a glove, and with that bare hand reached into a pouch on her harness, producing a large gemstone, softly glowing blue-white. With her other hand she pulled down her hood, revealing wavy, bright-copper hair, fair skin, and striking blue eyes.
The half-dozen members of the Lublin Resistance reversed their weapons, muzzles straight down, and knelt before their Queen.
They rode for more than an hour in a ground-van, away from the city, through farmland, arriving at a farmhouse, barn and small outbuildings which could have been plucked from Old Terra a century before the Escape. The van disappeared in the barn and so did the people, to an underground passage concealed beneath a pile of used hay and manure from the horses kept there.
The tunnel led more than a hundred meters away from the barn to an underground chamber any member of the Viet Cong would have found familiar. This one had been excavated from the surface, roofed over with logs, and reburied. Corn grew above it, and tractors would pass overhead in harvest or planting seasons without ever knowing, though dirt would sift down from the ceiling.
More Resistance members were waiting, for a total of fifteen. They were armed with a variety of weapons, from a Republic M437 plasma pistol through slugthrower carbines to single-shot smoothbore fowlers and even a crossbow which appeared to be handmade, from a groundcar's leaf-spring suspension. Their leader, a dark-haired woman with streaks of gray framing her brown eyes, stepped forward and bowed. "Your Majesty," she said, "I am Maria Slotnik, late captain of the Lublin Colonial Police."
Attempted kidnapping, accessories to attempted murder. Remembering her narrow escape from Illyria, Queen Agnieszka's hand dipped to the Model Forty-One pistol at her hip, while her companions tensed. "No! Your Majesty!" The ex-cop dropped to her knees, throwing up her hands. Turning her head she ordered her fellows to "Stand down, all of you!" Turning back to her Queen, she continued, "Your Majesty. I renounce the policies and the rule of Stefan the Usurper and I beg forgiveness for my part in them. Do with me, with all of us, as you will." The others raised their hands and sank to their knees as well. Tears flowed from the eyes of some, thinking of the "laws" they had enforced, the orders they had obeyed, before their consciences drove them away from their pensions.
After several seconds, Agnieszka seated her pistol firmly in its holster and removed her hand from it. "Rise, my friends," she said aloud... though her voice was rough.
They gathered around a meal of ham and fresh vegetables and bread, with raw milk. After Slotnik introduced her fellows, the Queen did the same for her companions:
"Sir Bogdan Plebanek, my personal Armsman and now Commander of the legitimate Royal Guard.
"Holly Cates, Sergeant Major Retired of the Jeffersonian Republic Marine Corps and a combat veteran. She can train you, extensively, in both regular and guerilla warfare. She also has recent experience in boarding actions, for which she was decorated by the Republic.
"Solomon Danner, reserve naval officer and captain of a Jeffersonian Privateer, under mercenary contract as a Commodore of the Illyrian Royal Navy. He too is a decorated veteran, of naval combat, and I believe he can best any captain in our fleet." Her eyes met Danner's briefly and she added, "Or any half-dozen at once. I was present the last time he did so."
Shifting to the royal plural, she concluded, "We have come to incite rebellion on Lublin against the Usurper. Our goal is to free Our cousin, Duke Miroslaw Kordylewski, restore him as Viceroy of Lublin, and rally this world and her resources to Our cause."
Sir Goran Branov was an old man, but he had worked in Lublin's colonial government before a warning from a friend sent him into hiding, minutes before the police raided his home. Stefan's new viceroy, a freshly-created duke named Pedrag Wojcik, had directed his staff to compile lists of anyone who might be disloyal. Branov, a schoolmate of King Henryk, was high on the list.
Branov's job, which he'd held long enough to earn a third-class knighthood, had been with the Foreign Ministry, about four rungs down the ladder from the Minister himself. He therefore had access to most of the information a resistance or rebellion would need, and a government-approved 'puter to keep it on. He was also more knowledgeable of technology than most Illyrians, saving what data he could, then physically removing the 'puter's networking hardware so it couldn't be erased remotely, or used to locate him. The device hadn't been online in years, and its data was starting to age, strategically, but it was still valid for broad planning. After escaping the police, he'd been picked up by the Resistance, who'd acquired a copy of the same target lists. Branov still had some low-level backdoor passwords, which the Resistance used sparingly, lest they be revoked.
Branov gave an overview of the situation to his Queen and her companions. "Lublin has a population of about eight million. There is no significant percentage of non-Humans. Stefan's regime has reintroduced xenophobia, and non-Humans are very much unwelcome throughout the Kingdom. Most who did exist have been driven away by now." Agnieszka's fist closed and opened, as she thought of her non-Human sisters and brothers in Aurora's Family - including Aurora herself, now.
"There was never a recognized right to bear arms here, nor much freedom of speech," Branov continued. "Personal computers are registered - an unregistered one means jail. The Net is monitored and censored, though there are not enough people, nor powerful enough AIs, to watch everything. We have some means of coordinating, code phrases and the like.
"The Navy here consists of three cruisers, eleven destroyers and frigates, three freighters, two tankers, and a single repair ship. One of the cruisers and three of the smaller warships have been under repair for the last year. I don't know the details but they're lacking parts of some kind." A ship like Aurora, or even Mishima Maru, carried fabbers which, given time, raw materials, and sufficient instruction, could replace nearly any part. Since such proper fabbers could also make unregistered small arms and communications equipment, and equally unregistered copies of themselves, they were almost completely prohibited by Stefan's regime. The few fabbers the Navy owned had been taken offline, partly disassembled, and placed under guard. "The captains have all been replaced by people loyal to the Usurper, and many of the other officers as well. The crews are just trying to survive, keeping their heads down. So far the Navy hasn't been called on to enforce the new laws, so there haven't been any orders to be refused.
"The police are another matter." Slotnik, and some of the others, averted their eyes in shame. "I think most of those still possessed of a conscience are in this room. Others... welcomed the new policies enthusiastically, many saying they were 'long overdue' to 'put the population back in line.' Their numbers have grown in the last few years, some through local recruiting, others from Illyria, still others appear to be foreign mercenaries."
Agnieszka's hand returned to her pistol as Branov spoke. She knew she would have to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, police throughout her Kingdom, both in numbers and powers. She had seen how the Republic managed without them for centuries. There would be a difficult period of adjustment, as her people learned to defend themselves and not depend on hirelings who were just as likely to harm them, but the end would be healthier for everyone. "Sir Goran," she said, "this is your world and these are your people. Where would you suggest we begin?"
Branov turned and gestured toward another woman, best described as "sturdy". Her hair used to be red like her Queen's, her eyes still a bright green. "I'm Elisabeta Madejowa," she introduced herself. "My husband, Tomas, was president of the Farmers' Association of Lublin, until Stefan's pigs-" the ex-police in the room flinched, and she paid them no mind- "beat him to death in a cell. Then they seized our farm and evicted me and our children-" she tilted her head to a boy and two girls with a strong family resemblance, the daughters showing what Elisabeta used to look like and why Tomas married her- "and turned it over to one of their bootlickers. Our boy, Tomas Junior-" the eldest, about fifteen Terran years old- "he snuck back one night and burned the house and barn. The fat pig who stole our home died in it. Screaming." She beamed with pride and laid a hand on her son's shoulder, while his face showed righteous vengeance.
"Your-" She seemed to choke on the word "Majesty". Just as Agnieszka would never trust another police officer for the rest of her life, the common people of Lublin had difficulty trusting anyone with a title of nobility. "Queen Agnieszka. If you can guarantee reforms, security in our property, lower taxes, open markets - farmers all over this world will kill for you. And I can deliver them."
"Madam Madejowa, that is exactly what I promise, and more. You see..." Agnieszka smiled. "I have been corrupted by Jeffersonian ideals. There will be a general right to bear arms, freedom of speech and information, an end to registration and censorship and monitoring and conscription." Her face hardened. "I mean to break my Kingdom's chains."
Lublin was mainly a farming world, similar in some ways to Dakota, but now twisted and corrupt. Farms owned by supporters of Stefan got better prices for their crops, even subsidies. Those owned by loyalists were taxed at higher rates, or even seized outright and handed over to new owners. The Stefanists were a minority, but the Colonial Police backed them up - few others were armed, few enough the police didn't fear making examples. Hundreds had already been killed since Stefan took power.
Meanwhile, the toadies didn't really know how to farm. Both quality and quantity were decreasing, while prices rose. Danner would have been shocked at signs of hunger in the general population, if he hadn't read so much history. Stalin's Holodomor, the UN and Terran Empire's deliberate famines - South Africa before the Escape, when Apartheid had been not ended but inverted; Venezuela some years after, when their socialist regime refused to see economic reality. Decades of cannibalism in North Korea, spreading to the South after the UN-forced reunification. Jeffersonians didn't have these problems, having disposed of the bureaucrats who caused them. Lubliners, barely four Terran years into their oppression, remembered how things used to be, were supposed to be. There had already been some incidents, protests, even riots, harshly suppressed with many killed. Fear of punishment and murder by the regime, lack of weapons with which to strike back, lack of communications with which to organize, were the only things keeping the planet from burning.
There were hundreds of millions of privately-owned aircars in Known Space. Probably half were supersonic, with intercontinental range, and perhaps a tenth of those were orbit-capable. There were only a handful of any kind on Lublin or the other two worlds of the Kingdom of Illyria, and those mostly for government use; Henryk hadn't cared about the commoners' freedom of movement, and Stefan didn't dare allow it... but that was about to change.
Cargomaster Jack Epstein's elder cousin Hal Cohen had been a smuggler, and a successful one. Some of his exploits had been anonymously published, changing or omitting names and dates. The Republic's Navy SEALs and Marine Rangers studied them against future need, for inciting friendly populations against enemy governments. Epstein, during their current ship's conversion at Cohen's Shipyard at New Israel, got rather more detail - which he'd been getting anyway, from family reunions since he was a boy.
Mishima Maru had gathered her empty Globemaster landers and departed the system. A safe distance away, her captain had shed her gray hair and wrinkles and become again the ship's Assistant Medical Officer, LTJG Delilah Howell, JRSP (Inactive Reserve). Likewise the Stellar-Russian-built cargoliner Khameleon again reconfigured her false panels, changed the exhaust spectra of her engines, and became Independent Starship Goose Island, full of ore from New Israel, which Khameleon had parked in deep space before delivering cheap electronics as Mishima Maru. Now it was Epstein himself playing captain, quite a jump from the Petty Officer 3rd Class he'd reached when earning his Citizenship, many years before.
Sarah Heusner had been raised as Shipfolk, and had above-average computer skills. Grbblb had an aptitude for them as well. Working together, they easily eavesdropped on Lublin's planetary defense data - Goose Island's crew saw everything the regime did. The ship's orbit around Lublin was more inclined than it had to be, but not out of the ordinary for a tramp bulker. This orbit happened to take the ship to the very edge of radar coverage, near the poles.
Aurora's boats had been lost in battle and replaced twice now. The last two versions of Two and Three Boats, medium shuttles meant for light cargo or about a dozen passengers, had been the Type 347, the current Navy and Space Patrol standard. Space had easily been found for them aboard Khameleon. With a single fusion torch of its own, the Type 347 could have reached Luna from Terra, surface-to-surface, in about four hours, on internal fuel, boosting at one Terran g with the usual midpoint turnover. Hydrogen-fueled jet engines served for atmospheric travel and vertical landing. It was armed with an automatic mass-driver forward, and a pulse laser aft in a retractable, remote-operated turret, both protected by heat-shield shutters when not in use. The 347 could also carry ordnance, missiles and the like. Though Two Boat didn't carry such weapons this trip, its cargo was even more deadly.
Two Boat kicked free of Goose Island just as the radar coverage was at its weakest - and the Type 347 was stealthy by design. Quickly entering atmosphere over the south pole, the boat dove for the surface and hugged it, then ran north as low as its pilot dared to avoid radar, keeping subsonic to not attract more attention than necessary. In a few hours the boat reached a large island and delivered its cargo to the Resistance members there.
These people, none of whom had ever been off their own world or ever encountered a non-Human, were nonplussed when Sarah Heusner stepped out of the shuttle, six limbs, fur and fangs and all. But she worked her extrovert magic and quickly made friends, who grew ever more excited as she taught them to use the gifts she had delivered.
Two Boat had brought down four Class Three fabbers. One was immediately set to making MkLIX plasma rifles. Another, modern 'puters, to be used for communication, with encryption and frequency-skipping, networked through stealthed relay satellites Goose Island and Mishima Maru had already deployed, in orbits unlikely to be crossed by anything else. The third began work on simple aircars, subsonic and not very sturdy but with very good range. The fourth began making copies of itself, to be distributed to other Resistance cells around the planet.
Continued in the next excerpt....