Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part LV: Stepping Stone

This page Copyright (c) 2016, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
12 Sixthmonth 559JR
Lublin, Kingdom of Illyria

The Lublin Fleet's support ships, the freighters and tankers and the repair ship, were not armed for ship-to-ship combat, and replacing their officers with Stefanists had been a lower priority. The tanker Warta's officers put up a fight but were now bloodied and hogtied in a storage compartment. The naval support elements unanimously denounced the Usurper and declared for the rightful Queen, Agnieszka.
The Army still had the rebels outnumbered, "if any order might be thought upon", but there was only disorder, against rebels better armed than they, and what had been their own Navy shooting at them. The Long Peace, the Pax Jeffersonia, reached beyond the Republic's borders. Few nations had any meaningful number of combat veterans; fewer were trained to Jeffersonian standards, as the rebels had been. Like the Colonial Police, not until now had the Army met an opponent who could fight back. The survivors laid down their arms. The power-armored mercenaries had been wiped out too, all twelve accounted for, though few were identifiable.
Except for the handful warned by Slotnik, police on Lublin were extinct - and those few would never be police again. They would come forward later, when it was safer to do so, with letters of innocence from Slotnik. For the rest who had not already been killed in the Rebellion, Solomon and Agnieszka felt some twinges of conscience over the lack of trials, but let the people finish the dirty job. Some police not on Slotnik's list had escaped and were in hiding, but they wouldn't last long, hunted by an entire world. Many were guilty of, and essentially all were accessories to, rape and murder. They would hang and the Queen and her Commodore would lose but little sleep over it.
Stefanist nobles and other supporters were also rounded up and for these, Danner and the Queen did step in to prevent summary execution, appealing to the Lubliners' self-interest. These toadies had been stealing from them for years, and might trade their accounts for their lives. One of the freighters was being readied to ferry them back to Illyria, under a Stefanist crew, rather than hold them on Lublin where they might make more trouble or become martyrs - and their first-hand reports of the swiftness of their overthrow might give Stefan doubts about what response to make.
The original Lublin net and the parallel Danner's crew had created were now open and combined. A copy of Aurora's libraries, carried in Khameleon, had been donated as seeds of knowledge to help the Lubliners enter galactic society. Eventually there would be multiple Marsten Devices in the Lublin system to connect to the wider galactic Net. Khameleon's fabbers were making the first of them now, while the Resistance fabbers, now used openly, kept pumping out personal 'puters, now sold openly in a free market.
Duke Wojcik, the Stefanist Viceroy, was captured by a Resistance cell disguised as Army troops sent to "protect" him, and taken to the countryside for safekeeping. Hours passed before he realized he was a prisoner. Other nobles found themselves in like circumstances, those lucky enough to escape the initial wave of mobs and nooses and arson.
Agnieszka's cousin, Duke Kordylewski, much weakened by his imprisonment, nonetheless resumed his duties as Viceroy. Miroslaw's portrait showed a tall, lean man, looking like early 30s in Terran years but actually over 50 with imported Jeffersonian treatments. The reality was barely recognizable. He looked like an Auschwitz survivor, his face drawn and sunken, flesh loose on bones, eyes haunted. Attempting to kneel before his Queen, he faltered, and Agnieszka dropped to her own knees to help him back to his feet. After her Jeffersonian travels she had lost much of her taste for ceremony. Yet there remained strength in him. Viceroy Miroslaw used the combined Net to address the population, denouncing Stefan the Usurper and publicly acknowledging Agnieszka as Queen. He then attended War Council meetings when not administering Lublin, remaining seated at Agnieszka's insistence while he recovered.
Danner, appointed Commodore in the Royal Illyrian Navy, took command of the remains of the Lublin "Fleet" - two destroyers, a frigate, two freighters after the third would be sent back to Stefan, two tankers and a repair ship... and Khameleon, which, though built as a cargoliner, now carried single Class-6 Marsten Guns fore and aft, and a dozen Class-5s scattered around, in addition to missile tubes and the usual lasers and point-defense. One cruiser, Dragon, and another two frigates, Jaskolka and Mewa, had already been laid up for repairs and took no further damage in the battle; Jenny Blain promised to have them serviceable in a couple hundred hours at most. Gryf had been gutted by Gabreski's sacrifice and would be out of action for much longer. Another destroyer might, eventually, be salvaged by cannibalizing two of her sisters, but that was probably beyond economic feasibility. A handful of merchant ships - most had been turned away by the isolationist regime - had run for their lives at the first shots. Only three remained, and were told they could leave if they wanted... or stay for paying work.
The plans sent to the Resistance cells included instructions for after the battle. There was some drunken celebrating, some wanton destruction, some unfortunate and possibly incorrect executions, but far less than most revolutions or counterrevolutions in history. The people of Lublin got their collective act together and prepared for the next step. That would be their sister colony, Radom.

Khameleon had visited Radom twice so far, while the LLF trained and the Resistance prepared; the worlds were under a parsec apart, and with Jenny Blain tuning the Drive, even a 54-kiloton cargoliner could exceed c140. It was less than 200 hours each way.
The question was, what would Stefan do next? Unrest was already rising on Radom - taking ships and troops from there to retake Lublin might cost him both worlds.
General Studnicki had been taken alive also. He had been found in Kordylewski's cell, holding a pistol to the Viceroy's head, but an LLF fighter got an angle and shot the general's hand off (along with a patch of the Viceroy's hair). The other hand's biometrics sufficed to gain his computer access codes. Uncomfortable with technology, as many Illyrians were, he hadn't thought to create duress codes for a self-destruct function. Now the LLF and the rightful Queen knew everything about the Kingdom's military that Studnicki had.
There were reserves at Illyria, two full Army divisions of mechanized infantry and a regiment of armor. The Navy had one small carrier with two squadrons of aerospace fighters, two dreadnoughts, two battlecruisers, six heavy and eleven light cruisers, and something over twenty destroyers and frigates, if they were all operational, plus enough transport capacity to land the ground troops. It was enough to send some to retake Lublin and even reinforce Radom, while still keeping a lid on Illyria herself.
The catch was, Illyria was four parsecs from either Lublin or Radom, and their best fleet speed was c120 on their best day - a thousand hours or more before a counterattack could arrive, if they were dispatched immediately.
"Blitzkrieg," Solomon Danner said to Queen Agnieszka. "Or as General Forrest said a long time ago, 'keep up the skeer.' If we keep our momentum, strike Radom now, we can have both colony worlds against Illyria alone."
Cates, who had been brevetted Major in the Illyrian Army, had assumed command of the LLF company herself. Now she had been raised to Colonel, over pro forma objections and references to von Steuben. "Radom has even fewer Stefanist troops than Lublin had," she said. "With volunteers from the population here, and some of Stefan's troops changing sides, I can raise two battalions to assault Radom, and a third to stay here for security. Shame about the tanks, but we couldn't let them be used against us. Five were captured intact in the city though, a platoon's worth. The Globemaster landers on Khameleon can carry them, but we have only three. The merchant freighter Sabrina has agreed to sign on with us, and they have landers which can carry the other two, but hopefully we won't need them." She turned to Danner.
The Commodore resumed, "The Radom Fleet is only one cruiser and four destroyers. I'm confident that, using surprise and proper tactics, we can neutralize them very quickly. Obviously we'd be taking the cruiser Dragon and the surviving destroyers and frigate from here, to give us the most firepower. We would leave the other two frigates and Gryf under repair, to defend Lublin - but with Jenny tuning every Drive in the system we could be to Radom and back with our own fleet in less than 600 hours, still before any response from Illyria would reach either world."
Sir Bogdan said, "Thanks to Khameleon's one visit there, I finally managed to raise the Illyrian Resistance I promised years ago. They are not ready for direct action, but there are spies in place, with a concealed Marsten Device, who can send us warning if the Illyrian Fleet departs, and probably tell us which world they're headed for. The latest word, as of nineteen hours ago, is the fleet remains at Illyria, verified by direct observation, and does not seem to be preparing for departure. The ground troops have been placed on higher alert but there is no evidence they are preparing to mobilize. I expect another report within seven hours."
Danner went on, "If Stefan does send his fleet in strength, we're in trouble. Conventional tactics won't win against them. The battleship Queen Maria alone nearly outmasses, and certainly outguns, every warship we have combined. Her sister ship and the two battlecruisers would overwhelm us even if we add Radom's fleet to our own, to say nothing of all those cruisers and lighter ships. I do have contingency plans, essentially a naval guerilla campaign, but it would be best to not fight them at all.
"To that end, our strategy should be a fast, decisive strike to reclaim Radom and consolidate her resources before preparing to move on Illyria herself. From that position of strength we would strive for a political or social solution, appealing to the crews of Stefan's ships and the people of Illyria to rise up and throw off the Usurper and his forces with... less... bloodshed." He turned back to Sir Bogdan.
"The Radom Resistance is prepared for their own uprising. News of our victory here has arrived there-" by hidden Marsten Device, dropped by Khameleon- "and has thrown the Stefanists on Radom into panic. There are rumors of mutiny aboard Radom's fleet already. Our arrival, in any strength at all, might tip the scales quickly."

The heavy cruiser HIMS Dragon had been repaired, not in 200 hours but in twenty. Jenny Blain (acting Lieutenant Commander, Royal Illyrian Navy), with the help of present and former-but-returning Royal Navy personnel who were finally allowed to do their jobs, set to work with a will. Command of the ship was given to Captain Sir Stanislaw Lipinski, who had resigned his commission in protest years ago when Stefan took power, and retired to an estate on Lublin.
The Usurper's crimes were still not public knowledge. Stefan still used doubles to portray his own royal family members he'd murdered. Many people couldn't believe the rumors and accusations. Others didn't want to. Lipinski, having interacted with Stefan as a staff officer, did not disbelieve.
An accomplished pirate-hunter and one of the few ship commanders anywhere with combat experience, Lipinski was known and respected throughout the RIN, but deferred to Danner at his Queen's request. After viewing reports of Danner's battles at Dakota, Mark's World and RAS1441, he publicly expressed confidence in the foreign Commodore's ability. Conversely, Danner, having read reports of Lipinski's actions against pirates, recommended the man to Agnieszka for higher rank. One of the Kingdom's own men would be needed in such a position soon.
Prrg was brevetted to Captain and commanded Khameleon, which Danner used as flagship of the Lublin Fleet. Sarah Heusner issued fleet navigational orders in Danner's name. Once Dragon was available the fleet spent a few days working up, practicing commands and maneuvers and tactics - then made Transit to Radom.

28 Sixthmonth 559JR
Radom, Kingdom of Illyria

A Fleet Transit could be a difficult and dangerous thing. Each ship had to be far enough from the next for their Marsten Fields to not interfere with each other, yet they had to emerge from hyperspace close enough together to be a coherent fleet, concentrating firepower and giving each other support.
Every ship with a Marsten Drive necessarily had a powerful computer to operate it, but skilled navigators were also necessary to operate the computers - Garbage In, Garbage Out. Heusner was one of the very best naturally-skilled navigators in Known Space, and had been perfecting those skills over real worlds for years. It had taken her only a single day to bring the fleet's own navigators up to a useful standard.
As Aurora had at RAS1441, the Fleet Transitioned a light-day out, then made contact by Marsten Device with the Radom Resistance for a tactical update. It was a stalemate.
The destroyer Mazur had indeed mutinied, taking themselves out of play by shutting down their fusion plants and smashing the laser-ignition arrays. Replacements could be fabbed and installed in a few hours, but Stefanist paranoia had already removed the fabber the ship carried. Mazur had essentially seceded from the navy and was in a high parking orbit, counting their rations and running the ship on batteries and their auxiliary plant.
The ground forces present on Radom, two regiments of conventional infantry with a few APCs and no tanks, were patrolling carefully. They knew what had happened to their fellows on Lublin and didn't want to spark the same fires here. Likewise the Radom Colonial Police were treading lightly. There had been the same kind of abuses here, but fewer, and some attempt at accountability and discipline. A few of the badged rapists had even been jailed, though their fellows were obviously reluctant to do so and were treating them more like hockey players in a penalty box.
The people, most of them, were on general strike. Shops and restaurants were closed, factories idle. Supplies would start running out soon. The Stefanist Viceroy of Radom, Duke Artur Wisliceny, was considering orders to nationalize resources, but saw the tensions and hadn't acted yet. The police would obey, too enthusiastically, but without Army support it would be Lublin all over again with dead cops on every Radom City streetcorner. The Army, whose tradition was to protect the nation rather than oppress its people, might mutiny and change sides.
Radom, less populous and less developed than Lublin, had been a lower priority for control. The Stefanist fleet commander, kontradmiral Jozef Greiser, was chosen not for his leadership ability or even his loyalty to Stefan, but for his pliability. He did what he was told and initiative was a frightening concept to him. He had attained his rank by seniority and family connections. He had reported Mazur's mutiny to Illyria but taken no action against it.
A Stefanist political officer on Greiser's staff was contemplating relieving him when the Lublin Fleet made a Close Transit at one point seven light-seconds from Radom's surface.

It was another Danner Maneuver, the best yet, plotted with direct observation of unsuspecting ships. The Radom Fleet had been loitering near the hyper limit in case they had to flee or received orders to relocate. The Lublin Fleet, having dressed their ranks and updated their navigation, Transitioned in a near-perfect formation arranged for maximum EMP effect. The Radom ships had only low-level Marsten Fields active for basic radiation protection. At ranges of less than 100 kilometers, these were overwhelmed by the Lublin ships' Transitions, tripping circuit breakers and scramming reactors.
Lipinski was known throughout the Kingdom, having been knighted and promoted years before by King Henryk, for his actions against pirates. Danner had suggested to Agnieszka that he be raised to Commodore, and that he be made the face of the Lublin Fleet. That turned out to be a good call, as responses came over sublight backup radio, with many a "Hail Lipinski", "Hail Agnieszka" and "Down Stefan" chorusing in the background.
Switching to a planetwide broadcast, Lipinski addressed all of Radom. A backup net had been made here as well, with thousands of prohibited 'puters fabbed and distributed among the Resistance. In gatherings of the populace, the owners of these devices held them high, their speakers turned up to maximum.
"People of Radom. I am Commodore Sir Stanislaw Lipinski, Commanding Officer of the Lublin Fleet, and by order of the rightful Queen, Agnieszka, commander of all Royal Illyrian Navy forces not suborned by the Usurper.
"In the name of the Queen, I order all military and government forces on Radom to stand down and declare their loyalty to Her Majesty, or face immediate destruction.
"The Radom Fleet has been disabled and my own has the strategic advantage. I do not seek further bloodshed, but all who know my reputation know I will not shrink from it. Viceroy Wisliceny, General Nowotny, Admiral Greiser, you have ten minutes to comply before I open fire."
It turned out that all three of those men were in the same room when Lipinski's broadcast came through. General Alek Nowotny drew a pistol and shot the Viceroy through the head, then turned the weapon on Greiser, who immediately passed on orders for all naval forces to stand down, as Nowotny issued the same for the ground forces. He also ordered the Radom Colonial Police to stand down, remaining in or returning to their precinct houses or barracks.
The police commissioner, Romanowski, objected on, of all things, constitutional grounds, claiming the military could not give orders to the police. Keeping the commissioner on the line, Nowotny broadcast the army's and navy's surrender to Lipinski, then gave detailed targeting information for Romanowski's location at police headquarters, pointing out that prisoners, political or otherwise, were not kept in the same building, and a sufficiently precise strike would not cause innocent casualties.
Romanowski was transmitting stand-down orders to the police, and his own surrender, before Nowotny was quite finished.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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