Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part LVIII: Turning the Page

This page Copyright (c) 2016, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
29 Secondmonth 560JR

Martial law had already been declared across Illyria, by Stefan, when the colonies rebelled. Agnieska used it to regain control, but announced that it would end in thirty local days, if, when the Stefanist fleets of reconquest emerged from hyperspace to receive news of their king's execution, they peacefully surrendered.
After a few officers went through a few airlocks, they did.

Much of the reason was the reason Holly Cates had been so careful shooting at Poznan. Sir Michal Judycki had been badly wounded, but survived. There had been quite the brawl on Poznan's flag deck, while from CIC the ship's captain continued fighting for the Usurper. The two factions knocked each other to ineffectiveness about the time the ship was crippled. Nineteen hours later rescue shuttles arrived, by which time the Agnieszkans among the crew had got Judycki to sick bay and saved his life.
The ship's flight recorders showed who had back-shot him, but others had already sent him through an airlock without a suit. The record clearly showed Judycki refusing to fire on the forces of the rightful Queen, and he had committed no other war crimes before then - he was absolved and offered his rank and position back. He chose long-overdue retirement instead, with the pension he would have had in either case.
His last official act was to help record the messages sent to the Stefanist fleets at the colonies. Despite his wound - Ralph Vatelius himself helped reinflate his lung - he insisted on standing for the camera, and wearing his uniform. Using security codes known to the Stefanists, he denounced the late Usurper, swore fealty to Agnieszka, and ordered the two fleets to surrender. Except for a couple lighter ships at each world, now loyal to the Queen, the rest were on their way back to Illyria.
The Royal Army and Navy had begun cleaning their own houses - Lipinski, now a full Admiral, was Chief of Naval Operations, and had found and vouched for a suitable General as a counterpart.
While all that was going on, Agnieszka, quickly recovering from her own wound under Ralph's attention, set about cleaning her own house.

A cybernetic arm had temporarily replaced the one Maria Slotnik lost in battle, a true replacement to be grown for her later. The Queen asked her to become chief of the new, Jeffersonian-style, not "Royal", Investigators' Corps. With the zeal of a convert she accepted, first sweeping out most of the National Police - many of whom were now under death sentence.
The rapists among them tended to make recordings or keep other trophies, which were now evidence - with Aurora's help the Illyrian Resistance had won the cyberwar before the Stefanists realized there was such a thing. All police records, and their personal devices, had been accessed. That was a violation of search-and-seizure protections under Jeffersonian law, but the Kingdom was not the Republic, and Agnieszka was using Stefan's own emergency powers in the short term - this had been a civil war, after all, and peacetime niceties were not appropriate. Soon those powers would be rescinded, and Jeffersonian-level encryption would spread throughout the Kingdom to prevent future abuses.
While many former police waited their turns at the gallows, some turned on their fellows, testifying in hope of exile or at least a gentler method of execution, like nitrogen gas, instead of the noose. Slotnik then carefully, personally screened a much smaller number of replacements. She was helped considerably by the Queen sweeping aside nearly all the Kingdom's malum prohibitum laws, getting out of the way of the people living their own lives, as she had promised. The new Investigators would only investigate real crimes, only by request of the victims on sworn warrants, instead of old-style police spending most of their time robbing peaceable people to generate government revenue.
Individual persons, of whatever station, now had a recognized natural right to self-defense, and the same right to bear arms, factories and fabberies for which were popping up in barns and back rooms across the planet. Burglars and thieves and the like suddenly faced a much-reduced life expectancy. It would later be suspected that some career criminals presented themselves as Stefanists, to find a seat on the ships being fitted to exile them.
Queen Agnieszka's job-approval rating soared.

The Corps was also working their way through the Illyrian population. Though few took real action against the Usurper, the commoners were almost unanimous in their opposition to Stefan's higher taxes and restrictions - only a relative handful of non-noble Stefanists were being held for trial or exile. Ships were being readied for their emigration, very much like the four "safety valve" ships, the Botany Bay series, the Republic had filled with dissidents and sent out among the stars before the War. The crew and passengers of the second eventually became Solomon Danner's ancestors on Alexandria in the Beta Hydri system.
Most of the nobility, on the other hand, had openly supported the Usurper, expecting more power and wealth for themselves - and Stefan had delivered. Dukes and counts and barons and even some knights had never raked in so much loot, in currency or property, so quickly. With Stefan setting the national tone, many began to devolve into sharing his depravities - slavery, rape, murder, and combinations thereof. Serfdom had been on the way back.
With the Queen's Army now in charge, backed up by the Queen's Navy including, for the moment, Aurora, by the time the Stefanist reconquest fleets reached the colonies, half the peerage of the Kingdom of Illyria had been hung by the neck until dead, for crimes any nation considered capital.
The other half was often a grayer area, and would require the Queen's personal attention. Some, like Duke Miroslaw Kordylewski, had been imprisoned and abused by the Stefanist regime and could be presumed innocent. Others, like Sir Goran Branov, had actually contributed to overthrowing the Usurper. (Branov was now Prime Minister and, as promised, Elisabeta Madejowa had been appointed interim Speaker of the House of Commons).

The Royal University was a mixed bag. There had been some faculty fistfights, before Stefan's regime had swept up anyone suspected of disloyalty. Once Danner's involvement with Agnieszka was discovered, that had included Professor Wlad Symanski, who had conferred with Engineer Jenny Blain during Aurora's last peaceable visit years ago - at the end of which the Queen had escaped her uncle.
Symanski had been apolitical, but as pressure from his colleagues to support Stefan increased, he became contrary, and then became undesirable. First he lost his students, then his position, and eventually his freedom. Now released, he enthusiastically denounced the late Usurper and swore fealty to Agnieszka.
Several of his colleagues, like "intellectuals" throughout the ages, believed that they and their kind were uniquely qualified to rule the masses of lesser people. Thus they had aligned themselves with the Usurper, who promised them just such an arrangement. Now many of them, and the students they had indoctrinated, were lining up for the exile ships, those who hadn't fled already.
None were headed for the Jeffersonian Republic. Federal law there prohibited non-Citizens from holding teaching positions at any level, and Citizenship could only be earned through government service, most often military, as the Prophet Heinlein had proposed in pre-Escape fiction. Many of these recent inhabitants of ivory towers would end up starving on some other world's Skid Row, doubtless proclaiming their natural superiority to the rodent-equivalents in the gutter with their final breaths. Few of them had ever held a real job, or could imagine doing so.
Symanski, meanwhile, had been appointed Rector of the Royal University by the Queen, and now had his own house to clean. With temporary authority he did so, bluntly purging the faculty and using his own judgement to select or recruit replacements. Jenny Blain and Ralph Vatelius, each of which could have been professors in their own rights, lent a hand for several days, resulting in a Jeffersonian flavor to the resulting body of instructors. Holly Cates, formerly an Instructor herself, also contributed to the University's new makeup.

Finally, it could be postponed under emergency rules no longer - the Queen had to be officially coronated before her own housecleaning could resume.
Martial law was scheduled to end at the same time as Agnieszka's coronation. Preparations for one were simple. For the other....

24 Thirdmonth 560JR

The staff went on interminably about the ceremonial robes, precedence during the processions, the display of the crown jewels, arguing which of those stolen from Novy Krakow should be included and in which order-
“Enough,” Agnieszka said, softly.
As though they had not heard, the courtiers continued. The dress, the necklace, the shoes, the ones worn by Queen Maria at her coronation, no, Queen-Consort Zlata was a closer linear ancestor, no, those worn by Queen-Mother Mira are clearly more appropriate-
Enough.” She pushed away with her foot the servant attempting to give her a pedicure. She had not pushed as hard as Gunner Cates had taught her; the servant sprawled across the rich carpeting without real injury, but the assembled courtiers drew back in shock. “Sir Bogdan.” Her Champion stepped to her side. “Clear out these... people.”
Sir Bogdan snapped the fingers of his left hand - he enjoyed that - signalling his two assistants of the day, flanking the royal dressing room's entrance, and they began herding the hangers-on out. This was quickly done, and the three guards stood to Attention, facing their still-uncrowned Queen, awaiting orders.
“Bogdan,” she said, “I need new servants.”
“Of what sort, Majesty?”
“New servants- new clothes, new shoes, even a new throne-” but not a new crown. She would keep the one her Family had made for her. “Bogdan, I have become corrupted by republican influences. All this ceremony nauseates me.”
“...The people expect it, Majesty.”
“The people who live without light and heat and clean water in an age of sentient starships?” Her brow lowered. “I promised changes and I am going to make them now.”

“But, Your Majesty-!”
“My Lord Cardinal. Too long have the people suffered under the burden of supporting not only my own house, but also the house of God. These burdens will be lightened.”
The Cardinal's eyes widened as he stood in the Audience Chamber. Agnieszka had ordered all seats but her own removed. “Surely you do not propose-!”
Agnieszka's blue eyes became as gray as steel. “I know you, Jan Wysocki. I know what you do, who you do it to, and whose money you spend on it.” She rose, and placed her hand on the butt of the pistol she had made for herself, then changed her mind - No, that would be too quick - and placed it instead on the hilt of the midsword Captain Danner had given her the day they met. Bogdan stood like a statue, making no move at all for his own weapons; the Cardinal was old and weak. His Queen, as petite as she was, could likely kill him with an empty hand.
At last, Bogdan thought. Someone worthy of the throne!
“Here is how things shall be,” Agnieszka continued in a voice of ice. “My coronation will be a simple, brief, and above all frugal affair. On behalf of Mother Church, you will without reservation declare me rightful Queen and Ruler of Illyria. Then, about a month later, you will retire, for reasons of health. You will then get off my planet, leaving your stolen wealth behind, and if ever you set foot on my kingdom's soil again I shall not hesitate to make public all your crimes and order your immediate execution. Am I understood?”
Wysocki's face was nearly as white as his hair. Bogdan thought he might simply drop dead on the Chamber floor and save everyone a lot of trouble. After several attempts, he finally said, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Bogdan. Assign a shepherd for this... thing.”
“Already done, Majesty.” The armsman pressed a stud on his uniform and another Royal Guard entered the chamber, took Wysocki by the arm, and led him away. Bogdan had chosen his own nephew Joseph, who had trained with Jeffersonian Marines in an exchange program. Both his skills and his mindset (he almost hadn't come home) were perfectly suited for the job.
Bogdan, professionally paranoid, had made arrangements for the safety of his own family before Stefan took power. The Usurper had never found them - never used them against him.

Three hours later, the coronation proceeded faultlessly, broadcast planetwide and forwarded by Marsten Device to the colonies, and the galaxy. It took twenty minutes and cost a mere 4,100 zloty. Agnieszka wore the uniform Aurora had made for her, the sword her Captain had given her, and the pistol she had made herself.
Her grandfather Henryk's coronation had taken three days and a quarter million - her uncle Stefan's nearly twice that. Her job-approval rating soared again.
When she announced the public sale of large tracts of land and other properties claimed by the Church, and more claimed by the Crown, the proceeds to be put toward the national debt instead of raising taxes, her approval rating broke ninety percent.
She placed the crown jewels, and the old crowns, the one her ancestor had left at Novy Krakow and the one her uncle had murdered her grandfather for here, in the National Museum, on public display. Her new crown, made by Aurora's crew, would be used to the end of her reign and, if she had anything to say about it, the end of her line.
She sent an official, private message to King Detmund of Novy Krakow, apologizing for the assault on himself, his queen, and their guards. She declared her claim to the Aldritch Artifacts to be non-negotiable, but offered the return of the currency-metal she and her Family had stolen, and more from her own coffers in reparation.
With the ceremony out of the way, the housecleaning could resume. “Now, Bogdan- the former Prime Minister.”

Michael “Mickey” Aliewicz, recently Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Illyria and of Novy Krakow-in-Exile, had seen monarchs come and go. He was well over 100 T-years old, with expensively-imported Jeffersonian treatments, and had outlived three kings, two queens, and now that brat usurper.
Surely, Stefan had been useful, while he lasted – that was why he'd gone along with the prince's stupid grab for power. He'd never raked in so much spoil, so quickly. His retirement was assured. Perhaps an island on Marseille, he thought, or Monticello's South Continent. But no; then I would be surrounded by... republicans. No, something further out, where a man can live like a real king.
He expected to retire, or rather to be retired, presently, as he was summoned to the Royal Presence. He'd surfed the wave of Stefan's brief reign skillfully, avoiding any blame himself – Just another victim, poor little me. Now there was the usual talk of restoration, stupid prattle about constitutions and human rights – he snorted as he prepared to enter the Audience Chamber. The people are sheep. Only a few, like myself, know what to do with power.
Only the few are worthy.
The herald opened the door and announced him. He stepped through and saw only Princess Agnieszka and her pet attack dog, Bogdan. I'll have to work on her, he thought, with the reflexes of decades of behind-the-scenes machinations, to get rid of that thug and replace him with someone I can count on.... Then he remembered he had just been thinking about retirement and leaving these worlds altogether. His face a mask of loyalty, he bowed low. “Your Majesty,” he said as he straightened. “We are all so happy to see you home safe.” He stepped forward and knelt to kiss the Royal Seal ring on her finger.
She raised her hand, slowly – then whipped it aside, made a fist, and backhanded Mickey viciously. The Seal tore open his cheek and he fell backward, crying out in pain. “What are you doing, you stupid-”
Hand to face, blood streaming down his arm, he looked up... into the muzzle of a fabbed “.41” slugthrower held very steadily by a young female hand which also bore the Royal Seal, lightly flecked with blood and small pieces of flesh. The thug, Bogdan, had not drawn his pistol, and indeed was standing at Rest, hands clasped behind him. But the armsman's eyes were locked on Aliewicz'.
Then the small computer on Queen Agnieszka's other wrist began projecting holograms. Evidence of... everything. The secret meetings with Prince Stefan, the promises of power, the reciprocal promises of wealth and influence. The kickbacks, the bribes, the outright theft under color of law, dating back more than a century, his own files from his entire career, somehow stolen from what he had thought was impenetrable encryption - he might never learn that a self-aware starship had spent seven whole seconds at her full capacity to defeat his system.
All the while, the unwinking black eye of the pistol's muzzle never wavered.
The holographic presentation concluded. “I have a deal for you,” the Queen said. “You will publicly support my legitimacy as Queen. You will privately assist the Investigators' Corps to recover as much of your stolen wealth as possible. In about a month, you will retire, for reasons of health. You will then be given a one-way ticket to the world of your choice, and your life. If you fail to fulfill, or ever reveal, any part of this bargain, or if you ever return to this kingdom, you will be immediately executed. You will be found, wherever you hide. If you refuse, I will kill you where you cower, by my own hand, this very instant.” She nodded over her shoulder at Bogdan, who pressed the stud in his cuff again. His wife's nephew Henry entered the Chamber and advanced to stand beside Aliewicz. “What is your decision?”
It took some moments- not for decision, but to overcome shock. Finally Aliewicz nodded, silently. Henry handed him a cloth for his ravaged face, took him by the arm, and led him away.
“Bogdan- the First Councillor.”

Lord Everard Chiel, First High Councillor of the Royal Privy Council, strode up the red carpet and knelt before the Queen. In his hand he held a folded piece of paper, which he raised in offering. “Your Majesty. I offer my immediate resignation, and I beg your forgiveness for my part in your father's murder. I am ready to answer for my crimes.”
Chiel wasn't nearly as corrupt as most of the government. Corrupt enough that, under the powers Stefan had seized for the throne, his life was still forfeit. But he was- what was that word Solomon had used? An apparatchik. A figurehead. A tool in Stefan's hands, and Aliewicz'.
Agnieszka took the note from his hand. “I accept your resignation, Everard. For your crimes, you shall suffer immediate forfeiture of all assets within this Kingdom, and you shall be forever and at once exiled.” Agnieszka knew he had extensive assets offworld, and would have a comfortable retirement. His sentence was far less harsh than the others'.
Everard had been kind to her, in her childhood. He was not an evil man. Only a weak one.
“Bogdan- the Treasurer.”

When the evidence began its display, Piotr Paskievich actually reached for a weapon. He had not been searched; Agnieszka wanted no hint of what awaited him. Bogdan's pistol cracked first – he trained constantly, after all – but Agnieszka's own was but a moment behind. The Lord High Treasurer of the Kingdom of Illyria fell to the marble floor, leaking on the crimson carpet.
Now I know, Agnieszka thought, why the carpets are red. She trembled just a little as she holstered her pistol. Her shot had been through the heart, and redundant, as Bogdan's had been through the left tear duct. Bogdan calmly holstered the 10mm caseless pistol the Usurper had gut-shot his Queen with. She insisted he keep it as proof of his victory, and it pleased him to do so.
“Shall I have the deputy Treasurer summoned, Majesty?”
“Indeed, Bogdan. Indeed.”
Mischa Bron was less corrupt, but by no means clean. His superior's corpse had been removed, before it began to smell; but as Bron walked along the red carpet, something squished under his shoe.
A minute later he figured out what it was and his face, too, became as white as the marble beneath the carpet- except for that spot. “I beg your mercy, Your Majesty.” He prostrated himself at Agnieszka's feet.
She left him there for a few moments, then said, “Stand.” He did so, but cast his face down, not meeting her eyes. “You will help me repair the damage Paskievich inflicted on my kingdom. Or you will be executed for treason. Which shall it be?”
Bron did not hesitate. Finally lifting his eyes, he said, “Command me, Majesty.”

“Bogdan- the Great Chamberlain.”

“But, Your Majesty-!”
Tadeusz Marcovicz was not as low a creature as the Cardinal; there was no evidence of sadism or perversion among his crimes. He was simply a thief. “Chamberlain,” she had said to his ashen face after displaying the evidence, “you are corrupt. You have stolen from the crown and, a greater crime, from the people. Your life is forfeit.” Marcovicz gulped audibly.
“Yet....” Agnieszka placed hand to chin, as though she had not already made her decision. “You are competent in one necessary area. You know how to run a royal household.” Agnieszka rose from her seat and walked slowly around the trembling chamberlain, speaking as though thinking out loud. “I have a proposal for you.
“First, indefinite probation. The slightest further transgression, and I shall take your head-” at his she suddenly drew her midsword, grabbed the chamberlain's hair, pulled his head back, and placed blade to throat- “myself.”
Releasing his head with a little push, so that he rocked forward, she sheathed her sword. “Second- you shall have a keeper.” Bogdan had already selected another nephew, who had trained with the Caledonian Stellar Guard. He had come home from the Scottish world with a heightened sense of honor and justice. “You shall be under house arrest henceforth. This may last the rest of your life, which I remind you is forfeit at my whim.
“Third- what you have stolen will be returned, as far as is practicable. You'll be given enough to live on, in relative comfort, and for appearances.
“Fourth- the skills you have developed to employ corruption and graft shall now be used to root them out and destroy them. You shall start here in the palace and continue until I say you have done enough.
“Fifth- you shall redecorate. All these... fripperies are to be removed and auctioned, the funds used to replenish the Royal Treasury and combat the national debt. These gold and other precious-metal decorations shall be converted directly to bullion. In their place... the word I am thinking of is 'Spartan.'” Agnieszka jerked her head at Bogdan, who again pressed a stud. His nephew Tomasz entered. “While your performance satisfies me, you live. Get thee hence.”
Bogdan's stony face threatened to crack. They will remember her as Agnieszka the Great....

The Lord Chancellor, or Chief Justice of the Kingdom, had boarded his hyper-capable yacht and fled the system while Stefanist and Agnieszkan warships were occupied with each other. “His accounts have been frozen?” the Queen asked of her Champion.
“Yes, Majesty. All forfeit to the Crown. He has nothing but what he could carry with him, or had already moved offworld.”
“Let him go, then. Mark him for execution if ever he returns to our realm. And bring the deputy.”
Bogdan could not resist smiling as he pressed the stud in his cuff. Two Royal Guardsmen escorted the Deputy Chancellor into the Chamber. Word was getting around, and Vlad Kowalski may have wet himself a little while waiting.
Agnieszka looked sidelong at her armsman. “How did I ever get away from you?” she asked softly, remembering her many escapes and incognito escapades in her youth.
“You always were a clever girl, Majesty. Cleverer than I ever gave you credit for.”
She reached up to place a hand on Bogdan's cheek. “No more games, my friend,” she softly said. “I understand, now.”
Bogdan was my real father, leaving aside irrelevant matters of biology, she finally admitted to herself. And I shall never be cruel to him again.

Once the royal house was in order, the Queen turned to the happier business of giving rewards.
Aurora's Family had been praised as heroes. All of them, including Aurora, had been knighted, second class, the same level as Admiral Lipinski - roughly comparable to the Republic's Silver Star, and America's before it. Agnieszka used the midsword Solomon had given her, years ago, when she joined the Family. It was now the official Sword of State, and rarely beyond her arm's reach.
In lieu of shoulders, she had rested the blade on either side of the ship's armored computer core. If ever she revisited any world of the Kingdom, the ship would be addressed as Dame Aurora Okret, RI (Rycerz, Knight, of Illyria) - and as a Lieutenant Commander of the Royal Illyrian Navy. A facsimile of the knighthood's ribbon bar had been welded to her hull beside her Republic Navy decorations.
The Family hadn't left right away. They'd accepted their contracted payment, one quarter metric ton gold, some of it torn from the palace's decorations only minutes before and weighed on the spot. Holly Cates, with gengineered endurance, had partied for days and would be long remembered in several circles. Likewise Sarah Heusner, Prrg, Hlossh, Grbblb and Trllbl had made multiple impressions, knocking many a hole in the speciesism Stefan's regime had fostered.
Solomon Danner had also taken part in the celebrations, but his heart wasn't in it. It was broken. He kept up appearances, a convincing smile, deflecting inquiries about his potential status as Prince Consort, until the Queen finally said her goodbyes, days later.

The flight to Aurora's orbit was short and silent. As the royal aircar docked, Agnieszka made to exit, and Bogdan made to follow. “No, Bogdan, stay here.”
“Your Majesty-”
She paused, and turned to place a hand on his shoulder. “I promise, old friend. I'm not running away again. And we already know everyone aboard this ship can be trusted. You are the only man I trust as much.”
He bowed his head.

The entire crew greeted her, clasping hands or equivalents, or hugging in most un-royal fashion. They retreated as Agnieszka and Solomon moved, alone, to Aurora's bridge.
For a time the two were silent, gazing through the armorglas viewports, at the blue-white Terra-like planet below.
"They are free from a monster now," Agnieszka said. "I shall see they become more free.
"They owe all of that freedom to you."
She turned to face Solomon. "If you had not rescued me, from this very world, years ago, I would have been murdered with the rest of my family. If you had not kept my secret I would have been hunted down and assassinated. If you had not fought at my side I would have had no hope of justice."
She took his hands in hers, meeting his blue eyes with her own. "...Can you not remain at my side?"
“You ask me to choose between two loves,” he said, and his voice was raw with loss. He raised one hand to caress her cheek. “Two dreams.” She stood silent, feet tethered to loops in the deck, and a tear escaped her eye, clinging to his hand in freefall.
“I could make you an Admiral,” she said. “Give you command of a fleet-” she turned her head. “No. You have a nation, you swore an oath. You cannot be chained to another. You would grow to hate me for your captivity, and that I could not bear.”
“A queen has her duty,” he gently said. “What does a woman have?”
After a time she answered, “The queen leaves no place for the woman.”
They kissed, tenderly, and parted.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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