Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright (c) 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LIII: Getting Up to Speed
Continued from the previous excerpt
20 Thirdmonth 559JR
Lublin, Kingdom of Illyria
The Jeffersonian Republic was the largest, and oldest surviving, Human nation. Jeffersonians often looked down on the people of other nations, for that and many other reasons.
One such reason was that Jeffersonians had a tradition of skill-at-arms going back centuries, to their fallen mother-nation, the United States of America. They knew how to handle weapons, safely, responsibly, and effectively. The right of the individual person to keep and bear arms, for "the restraint of Government," was as basic a pillar of Jeffersonian culture as freedom of speech and religion.
Other nations didn't trust their people. Illyria, for example, denied the ownership and use of arms to most, reserving them for the government, and those privileged enough to buy permission. Knowledge of weapons was therefore rare among the people, leading to negligent injuries and deaths when weapons were encountered, reinforcing the various governments' lies that their people were not fit to be trusted with arms.
That is a thing I will change, Queen Agnieszka vowed to herself, as she observed the Lublin Liberation Front drilling with their recently-fabbed MkLIX plasma rifles... every one of which had been fitted with practice rigs, reduced-power energy packs incapable of causing lasting injury. There had already been dozens of negligent discharges which would have killed at least as many people, if the safety measures hadn't been taken.
Agnieszka expected Holly Cates to be furious at the incompetence, but it turned out she'd done this sort of thing before, during her career with the Republic Marines, on some distant independent world on the Frontier. She'd been part of a military assistance package from the Republic to help the independents fight off pirates on their own... which then resulted in warmer political feelings toward said Republic. The Sergeant Major-Retired was exhibiting far more patience than the Queen would have expected. She even seemed happy, in her way.
She hated the classroom, Agnieszka recalled - Cates was her sister, her shipfolk Family, and they all knew all of each other's stories. But this isn't the same. Here, she's teaching people who will actually use what she teaches. Here, it's real.
"Now, troops," Cates said, "I know you're not Regulars. I'm not going to have you shine your boots and crease your trousers."
There were about a hundred and fifty fighters gathered in a half-circle, roughly company strength. These were only the direct-action branch, the ones most fit for actual fighting; as word spread of the Queen's survival and return, more people across Lublin were turning away from the Usurper. Some carried rebellion only in their hearts, but others had skills which did not involve a battlefield - food shipments to government troops "accidentally" spoiled or contaminated, factories or vehicles "accidentally" suffering breakdowns.
Cells were organizing all over Lublin, coordinated by Epstein and Taniyama aboard Khameleon a couple light-hours away, sending secure laser signals when appropriate, occasionally disguising the ship again and Transitioning near the planet long enough for a computer-generated face on a screen to be turned away by the regime - after sending or receiving burst transmissions or slipping an entry pod through the edge of radar coverage.
The fighters all had their weapons with them, to increase familiarization. A few were ex-police - Captain Maria Slotnik was among them, but she had made an example of herself by renouncing her rank and deferring to Cates. It didn't take long for Slotnik and her fellow ex-cops to learn that police and military were not the same, and that a blood feud existed between Marines and police since before the Founding of the Republic.
Cates had already made a few corporals and fewer sergeants among the Lubliners - those were mostly former Royal Army soldiers, or outright deserters from current service who couldn't stomach the new regime's orders - but she hadn't created lieutenants to lead platoons yet, nor a captain to command the company. It was early days and the organization was still fluid.
Cates stood on a small shipping container, her words amplified by a few remotes hovering above the troops. "That being said, there will be discipline here. What clothing you do have will be kept in good repair, and we're fabbing more for you. Personal hygiene will be maintained to the highest practicable level - remember that disease can kill more soldiers than an enemy. And your weapons-" Cates tilted her head to indicate a half-dozen troops running laps around the forest clearing they'd claimed as a base, rifles held high, packs full of rocks. "Your weapons are your very lives. Neglect of a weapon is unforgiveable."
Agnieszka, watching from a distance, nodded toward Cates and turned away. This much, at least, was in the best hands.
She couldn't have said the same about the rest.
"It was you nobles who caused all this-"
"I resent that accusation! My life is as much at risk here as yours-"
As Agnieszka entered the command post, which was simply the largest tent the LLF had, she found her two "cabinet members", Elisabeta Madejowa, supposed Speaker of the House of Commons, and Sir Goran Branov, putative Prime Minister, arguing nose-to-nose. Taking a page from her Family's book, Queen Agnieszka placed a hand on the back of each of their heads, and clonked their foreheads together.
The two squabbling rebels turned to see who had assaulted them, curses forming on their lips- and sputtered to embarrassed silence.
As though nothing had happened, Agnieszka said, quite calmly, "We cannot overthrow the Usurper without popular support, from both the Commoners and the Nobles. Your jobs are to rally that support. Please get back to them, or I shall find someone who can."
Solomon Danner couldn't help but smile at the incident, even though the woman he loved was slipping away from him, being devoured by her new responsibilities. He didn't call her "Majesty" any more than Madejowa would - Jeffersonians didn't use those words - but she wouldn't have wanted him to. "Commodore," she addressed him, "how go things in your area?"
"Several volunteers for the LLF turn out to have been veterans of the Royal Navy. A handful have grudges against Stefan to equal anyone else's here. Sir Bogdan and Sir Goran-" a Jeffersonian would recognize a knighthood, earned through service, though Bogdan's counted for far more than Goran's- "have investigated thoroughly and have selected six, all men-" sexual equality had not been a priority in Henryk's reign, and was less so in Stefan's; leaving aside the Jeffersonian method of only accepting the truly qualified into military service- "to infiltrate the Lublin fleet. Current uniforms and identification cards were easily fabbed, and we've gained access to most of the computers in this system." A computer capable of calculating hyperspace Transits, even one on a tramp Stellar-Russian-built cargoliner, could defeat the encryption of any lesser machine. Technology remained a blind spot in Illyrian military and security planning. "Doctor Vatelius has already performed cosmetic surgery on them, which can be expected to defeat at least facial-recognition software. False records can be created, false orders issued, transferring our rebels to regime ships. The plan is to sound out their crews and, bluntly, foment what Stefan would call mutiny. The plan awaits your approval." He handed the Queen a recently-fabbed datapad displaying a summary.
"There is great risk to these men," she observed. "If they raise suspicions... the consequences to them, to their families...."
"They don't have families anymore, due to your uncle. I've met these men, taken their measure. They figure they don't have a lot left to lose. Each will be equipped with an override device, which in the worst case should allow them to access any escape pod even if the regime officers try to lock them out." Solomon didn't mention the devices, designed by Grbblb, Sarah and Jenny, could also cause the self-destruct of an entire starship, by releasing nano/cyberweapons to take over the ship's computers and release the magnetic containment of their fusion bottles. The volunteers knew. The devices were surgically implanted, and stealthed against medical scans. Khameleon, and any Jeffersonian warship, had multiple countermeasures against a similar attack, but the Illyrian Royal Navy was not the most technologically advanced force in the explored galaxy.
"I would meet with them. If they are to risk their lives for me, I owe them at least my personal thanks."
"I advise against," Danner told her. "You're at risk too, of capture and interrogation." Word of Agnieszka's return had been deliberately leaked, as part of the effort to undermine Stefan's rule. The Usurper had responded by denouncing her as an impostor - while parading an impostor of her - and sending much of his version of the Royal Guard to hunt her and her companions. Their brutal methods, and Agnieszka's promise of Jeffersonian-style reforms, were pushing more people away from Stefan and pulling them toward Agnieszka. "It's bad enough, security-wise, that I know who they are. Besides, they're in widely-separated safehouses across the planet, waiting to be inserted." She frowned. "You can knight them later, if any of us are still alive." At this she nodded, and thumbed her approval on the datapad.
Maria Slotnik, the former police captain, knew that her life was forfeit for her crimes against the people, at her Queen's whim. After meeting Agnieszka, she learned why the Queen's hand had dropped to her pistol, and why her Jeffersonian allies would have done nothing to stop her from head-shooting Slotnik and every one of her colleagues like diseased livestock.
As if the report of her Queen's escape from Illyria weren't enough, she and her fellows had been ordered to view documentaries on police through the ages, copied from Aurora's vast libraries: Gestapo and Einsatzgruppen and Stasi, Shinsengumi and Tokko and Kempeitai, Okhrana and Cheka and NKVD and KGB, generations of oppression in North Korea and Communist China, the continent-wide predations of the American police forces and "alphabet agencies", the United Nations' "Peacekeeping" Forces, the Terran Empire's Service de Securite Imperial, "governor" Webb's "Public Safety Corps" on New Texas, and comparable atrocities from the Boksi homeworld Kshir, the Glautak Consolidation, and now the Human world Burris.
The Stellar Reformation Catholic Church was the official religion of the Kingdom of Illyria. Slotnik and her fellow former enforcers prayed for forgiveness three times a day.
But Slotnik was a convert to Agnieszka's cause. She still had some contacts in the Lublin Colonial Police, a handful of officers who adhered to the Stefanist regime only on the surface, carefully avoiding the crimes their "brothers in blue" committed daily.
Some had already been lost. Forced, before witnesses, to execute Resistance members - or the innocent who had been labelled such - some turned their weapons on their fellows, others only on themselves, and some... obeyed.
Seeking to prove herself, and to earn amnesty for herself and the few of her coworkers who hadn't proven themselves monsters, Slotnik used her contacts to gather intelligence on regime operations, and more to the point, the prison where Duke Miroslaw Kordylewski, the Queen's cousin and former viceroy of Lublin, was being held. She had volunteered to lead the operation to free him, along with all her colleagues now in the Resistance, who were now training for that mission- hard.
The prison was on a Royal Army base, much expanded since Stefan's Usurpation, with Illyrian troops known to be loyal to Stefan. The base hosted two regiments of regular infantry, a battalion of Illyrian-made tanks, and a single elite squad of expensive foreign mercenaries in Mobile Infantry power armor. Imported electronic sensors and automated weapons augmented heavy patrols on a wide perimeter. Freeing the Duke was quite possibly a suicide mission, and Agnieszka had balked at ordering such.
"Your Majesty," Slotnik had replied, "I and my fellows are volunteering for this mission. This way you need not give such an order to others, and if we are to die, our deaths may weigh against our sins in the eyes of God." The ex-police knelt together before the Queen. "We beg you to allow us to go."
Danner had been in attendance. "I have some ideas to improve the odds," he had assured the two women.
Far to the south, not quite Antarctic, Sarah Heusner, Grbblb and Hlosh had established a fabbery, along with a dozen-odd Resistance members. It had been not quite a thousand hours since Sarah arrived with four fabbers; since then the four machines had taken turns producing runs of weapons, communicators, vehicles, clothing, tools and other equipment, and copies of themselves.
A Class Three fabber could produce objects about the size of an adult Human, or pieces that size to be assembled into something larger. Some of its operations were performed by nanites, whose software contained redundant failsafes to prevent "grey goo". To make anything from aircars to underpants, all a modern fabber needed was raw materials and time. Shoveling ore, or raw cotton, or whatever it asked for, into one end, resulted in finished goods eventually emerging from the other. The more refined the input, the faster the output, as the machine had less work to do.
Lublin was still sparsely settled and much of the planet remained unexplored except by satellite. The fabbery was carefully camouflaged, not just visually but also thermally and electronically. The site was an island with mild volcanic activity, in which the heat of active machines or living creatures could be lost. Ash plumes helped conceal what millenia-old visual camouflage techniques could not. The operations were entirely indoors and increasingly underground, despite the tectonic risk. Surface buildings were disguised as lava flows. Some had to be moved, or abandoned and rebuilt, when a real one changed course.
Getting raw materials to the island unobserved was also a problem. Some were present there, or on other islands not far away, but others - alloys, conductors, chemicals, organics - had to be brought. There was little non-regime aerial traffic on Lublin, and oceangoing ships could not hide from satellites; their wakes were arrows pointing tens or hundreds of kilometers to them. Any deviation from their filed course risked capture and loss.
Aurora's One Boat, transferred to Khameleon from the cruiser, usually served as the Captain's Gig. Lost in battle and replaced twice since the cruiser's rebirth, it was presently an Apogee aircar from Steeltown Aerospace. Fusion powered, it could carry a half-dozen Common Life people and not quite a ton of cargo to a 600km orbit.
It was also submersible. The Apogee met a Resistance-operated freighter at sea and took under tow a submerged train of cargo pods, which were simply ordinary surface cargo containers discreetly refit with buoyancy controls and inflatable streamlining. Finished products were delivered for distribution the same way. Sarah and Grbblb's computer skills easily made false manifests look real... and there were Resistance members among the regime's shipping inspectors too. It was a bottleneck, necessarily for security, but each exchange included at least one duplicated fabber to be set up in another cell's safehouse or secret base... each of which could make more of themselves.
Continued in the next excerpt....