Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2017, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LX: Progress
Continued from the previous excerpt
For background material, see the Republic Mission to Oskran
Nalat Yonn, in the years since he returned home, had run for and been elected to the new Lii Confederation Triumvirate, replacing and splitting the power of the old office of Chancellor. His sister Deti became his chief of staff.
His niece Nrii Tlam had, surprisingly, chosen to join the Lii Navy, now part of the Jeffersonian Republic Space Patrol. She had quickly risen to PO1, Petty Officer 1st Class, with a rating as an Information Systems Technician. She would be a plank-owner of JRS Shrakor and had recently been selected for Officer Candidate School.
Councillor Yonn did not hesitate to use his niece as a political instrument, pre-empting allegations of nepotism. "The Republic of which we are now a part," he had said in a recent address to the Lii Congress, "is a meritocracy. People advance on their own quality, not their family connections. Lives depend on the quality of the work my niece is performing in our Navy. If that work were not of the best possible quality I would be the first to call for her dismissal. Instead she is being considered for promotion to a position of even greater responsibility, which proves that the Jeffersonians view us and treat us as equals. I expect to see an Alran in command of a Republic warship within my lifetime, not based on some racial quota or political tokenism but because he- or she- has earned that position...."
Yonn had carved some hours out of his schedule to meet Aurora's Family at the synchronous-orbit shipyard where Shrakor was being built, and where Tlam was stationed. Since Lii was sort-of at war, three bodyguards accompanied him, but unobtrusively, while doubling as secretaries. Yonn openly wore the same M437 plasma pistol he'd bought during his travels years ago, along with the midsword presented to him by the captain of the Explorer ship Meriwether Lewis, and mentioned that his suit was tailored from modern Jeffersonian reaction armor, with memory fibers that would stiffen on impact, fast enough to matter. They were less effective against energy weapons, but another layer had a diffusion grid which should be good for a couple hits, even from the M437 at close range. At least, it was better than nothing.
The Lii calendar used an eight-day week, but with a two-day weekend like the Humans'. It was the equivalent of a Saturday morning when they made their reunion, and despite the technical state of war between Lii and three other nations on Oskran, Nrii could get a weekend off. Having changed to civilian clothes, she did not break regulations by hugging her ship-brothers and -sisters.
"Soon," she said with a huge smile, "I will be out among the stars with the rest of you!"
Yonn beamed with pride for his niece and Aurora's crew was reminded that he had no children of his own. "We're all very pleased," Danner said on the Family's behalf, "to see you and your country doing so well."
Tlam's face fell a little at that. "Thanks, again, to you and your country- our country. If the Republic hadn't delivered on her promise of warships, we'd be under invasion and civil war right now."
"Hopefully it won't come to that," Yonn said, "though we are preparing for... circumstances." Some of those preparations included orbiting weapons platforms, at various altitudes and periods, by this time covering very nearly all of Oskran, very nearly around the clock. They also served GPS, weather, and communications functions, and the existence of their weapon systems was not widely known.
Meanwhile on the surface, the Lii Confederation already had the largest and most advanced sea navy on the planet, now leaping far ahead of all others with galactic technology. On land, there had been a small standing army, now disbanded or reconfigured under Jeffersonian law; and a revived militia system, which was in the process of being brought up to Republic standards. Nearly a third of all homes in the city of Arriod, and well over half in the rest of the Confederation, now contained modern military arms, and personnel trained in their use. Panzers and combat aircraft, standard Jeffersonian designs, were coming out of various factories too, which were largely automated. "But that's not why we're here!" Yonn observed. "Come, let my niece and I show off the first Alran-built starship!"
On their way to an observation point, Nrii, eyeing the holographic projection of a 1:100 scale model of the cruiser, asked the ship, "Lieutenant Aurora, is it true you are now a sentient person?"
"Yes, Cadet Tlam. Wait a moment-" Aurora's hologram usually depicted her in her Navy Reserve color and markings. The hologram blinked, giving a glimpse of the hovering sensor sphere which projected it. The ribbon bars for her military awards, the two bars of her rank as Lieutenant Junior Grade, and her large military hull number disappeared, to be replaced with only her name in larger cursive letters. JRN hull colors had varied over the centuries, from matte black for stealth, to naked gray hullmetal for economy, to matte white for peacetime pride. For centuries Aurora had worn the latter, but now her hologram gave the impression of a semi-gloss finish. "There," she said. "Now I am out of uniform, as you are, and I may call you friend Nrii." Otherwise the ship would have outranked the cadet and inconvenient regulations and protocols would have arisen. Later she would demonstrate, for her family and friends, her white-gold-and-crimson Illyrian Navy "uniform" and Lieutenant Commander rank.
Councillor Yonn's party was given access to view Shrakor from an observation bubble in the shipyard, and Tlam pointed out many of her features with pride. The frigate, intended to be the lead ship of a class, was scaled down from the JRN's current Maerca class destroyer, and massed about six kilotons. Her smaller size, and her planned sisters, would give the Alran of Lii experience and confidence in building their own ships, before attempting larger projects. Her armament was a quartet of Class-4 Marsten Guns, the same number of 8MW pulse lasers, two standard missile tubes, and the usual tertiary and point-defense weapons. Her full crew would be just under a hundred beings. Long and slim like Aurora, instead of bulbous or cylindrical like larger ships which spun their entirety to simulate gravity, she provided spin-weight with two pods on arms which folded aft during boost, similar to the Allen class destroyer used by Burris. Shrakor was also meant to be capable of landing on planets. "We're expecting 60 meters boost in realspace," Tlam said, pointing to the twin fusion torches, "and something over c130 in hyperspace."
Jenny Blain, Aurora's Engineer, was keeping one eye on the ship and another on the schematics Tlam was projecting from her wrist 'puter. With a Councillor of the Confederation standing on one side and a recipient of the Jeffersonian Republic's Legion of Honor on the other, no one questioned whether anyone in the party had the necessary security clearances to view the data. Blain said, "Oh, I'm sure that can be improved on. Both of them. I can drop by later?"
"I shall officially invite you all," Yonn stated. "Though it will probably turn into a photo opportunity."
Blain grinned in anticipation. "Then my husband and I will have to make it worth the disruption." She tucked an arm into Jack Epstein's. "Between him-" a longtime dockworker and deckhand, and quite a good engineer in his own right, without credentials- "and Sarah-" Aurora's Second Officer and Navigator, who had been raised aboard ship and had a superior knowledge of freefall living conditions- "we can give the Oskran Sector of the Space Patrol a jumpstart on procedures."
"I shall alert Shrakor's command staff to set aside some time."
Taking Aurora's Four Boat, the group returned to Oskran, and the city of Arriod. Much had changed here as well - from what a Human would have called Victorian-era technology to solar accumulators and fusion plants and hydrogen engines, diode streetlights, automated sanitation, and a distinct lack of pollution. Yet the local architecture and atmosphere hadn't lost their unique charm. Somehow the place still looked and felt like Nineteenth Century Terra, which at least on its surface had been a time of clearer values, honor and honesty- dignity.
Even better, the Lii Confederation could claim those virtues of Victorian society without the vices of slavery or colonialism. After the Fire, Oskran's population had been reduced to levels that, across much of its surface, qualified as "uninhabited". There were no quaint native cultures to overwhelm, no "noble savages" to subjugate or to infect with foreign diseases. As for slavery, the Confederation had outlawed it centuries ago, when the separatists reconquered the original territory from tyrants and restored their Constitution.
Four Boat, under Aurora's control, hovered at a landing platform while the group disembarked on a rooftop. Fusion-powered, electrically-driven turbines provided the lift, with noise cancellation aided by baffles constructed around the platform. On the street forty stories below, pedestrians barely noticed. When all had exited safely, the heavy shuttle banked away to a remote parking field. As it departed, Star of Arriod, the same airship they'd toured in years before, approached the same platform. Mooring masts extended from the building as the dirigible neared, to secure both ends of the envelope for stability.
Nalat Yonn had contributed to Arriod's new wave of architecture, by sharing his experiences, and many images, from his travels. The city council had been enamored of Arboria on Adams' World, and the Maze in Rosalia on Albion. During Aurora's last visit, the tallest building in Arriod had been twelve stories; now there were six over thirty. Nor were they simple towers blocking sunlight, but something approaching ziggurats or step pyramids, each level boasting patios and gardens. Some even had soil two or more stories deep in which trees could take root, providing little patches of forest in the sky. Bridges connected these buildings at multiple levels, some appearing to be made of arched brick, others of riveted steel and suspension cables, still others of wood, with ivy creeping along them and up the walls of the buildings themselves. Still other bridges seemed to be insubstantial and fairie-like, with delicately-sweeping arches of armorglas giving unobstructed views to the surface a hundred and more meters below. It was a city park above the city. Aurora and her Family found it charming.
Yonn led the party from one tower to another, pointing out features and pausing for views - at these heights some of the Central Park's crater could be seen, and two of the towers were near the rim, giving an excellent view of the central island and its ancient palace. Canopies would extend over most of the park during poor weather, but it was summer in Lii and only a few were raised for shade. Beneath one, the group settled at an open-air rooftop lounge/bar/buffet.
The establishment was egalitarian and only kept the scruffiest types out; otherwise forty grams silver bought all one could eat or drink. Office workers and factory workers could rub elbows with starship captains and Councillors. Nor was racism evident, as it had been on Illyria during Stefan's Usurpation; everyone was Jeffersonian now and that counted for more than how they were shaped - though the non-humanoid members of Aurora's Family did tend to draw stares.
The sunsets on Oskran were as beautiful as on Terra, punctuated by the city's lights and, from this tower near the rim, the illumnation of the fairy-tale castle on the crater's central island. As a warm summer evening began to fall, the group sat down for some serious catching-up. Aurora's travels and battles had made news across Known Space, but as drinks flowed, some details arose that were in no one else's report. A few other customers gathered to listen.
An hour passed, and another, but eventually Yonn's bodyguard/secretaries had to remind the Councillor of his duties. "Ah, my friends," Yonn said with a sigh as he rose to leave. "This has been my most pleasant evening in many years. If losing such pleasure is the price of my office, I think I shall not seek reelection."
Danner rose to clasp hands with the Alran and with a grin said, "If that statement gets leaked it might secure that reelection. You're my kind of politician."
Taking a more formal tone for the various recorders, official and not, which Yonn knew were always near him, the Councillor said, "Captain Danner, I wish to extend the thanks of the Triumvirate and my personal gratitude for your invaluable assistance in securing our borders. And to you as well, Lieutenant Aurora, and all your crew. I think I do not exaggerate when I say millions of Lii Citizens and Subjects owe their security, and perhaps their very lives, to your efforts in turning back the invaders."
Aurora replied, "Councillor, protecting my fellow Jeffersonians is the very reason for my existence. I am proud to be of service." The hologram she projected of herself blinked back to her Navy hull markings, and the holographic representations of her weapons traversed in salute. Yonn came to Attention and returned it.
Nrii caught a military shuttle back to her quarters at the shipyard while the Family took a hotel suite just below the same tower's lounge. The following morning, Blain, Epstein, Heusner, Hlossh, Clancy and Prrg took Aurora's Three Boat to the shipyard again, to spend the day helping to instruct Alran crew in the practicalities of starship operation. They were accompanied by one of Aurora's sensor remotes, offering her own insights.
Shrakor would begin her life with a mixed crew. Her first captain would be Human, Commander Nicolas Lefeaucheaux, an experienced captain of similar small vessels; but the Executive Officer would be Lieutenant Commander Nart Bornow of the Lii Confederation Navy, who had served as Engineer on one Lii submarine, then XO on another, and had commanded a small surface ship not too different from what the United States Navy or British Royal Navy would have called a destroyer-escort in the first half of Terra's Twentieth Century. The frigate's Engineer would be Lieutenant Commander John Mr'Nak, an Eyani born and raised on Terra. These three officers were ranked higher than would normally be the case for such a small ship, but as the first of her kind and the first for her state, beings with experience were sought. Most of the ratings would be Alran, all of them learning on the job despite their previous experience. The remaining officers and NCOs were a mix of Human, Eyani, Boksi and Siv, along with an Alran medical officer and soon-to-be-Ensign Nrii Tlam as a sensor and electronics officer.
Shrakor would be as much a flying laboratory and school as a ship of war. The plan would be to use her to train more Lii Alran, rotating them out as her sister ships became available. During their visit, the members of Aurora's crew overheard an Eyani Senior Chief lecturing her section of Alran hands: "You're all experienced sailors or you wouldn't be here. There were no landlubbers chosen for your world's first starship. But space is not the sea. You know the sea hates you and wants to kill you. Space is the sea's evil grandmother. At sea there are a hundred ways to get yourself killed and another hundred to take your shipmates with you. In space there are a thousand...."
Dr. Ralph Vatelius and his wife, Delilah Howell, both reserve Lieutenants in the Space Patrol Medical Corps, spent the day at a Lii naval hospital in the smaller city of Dlayko, where the River Arriod met the sea, some sixty kilometers southeast of the capitol's crater. Delilah had a bad moment, being reminded of the murder of her first husband and daughter during the pirate attack on her homeworld, but Ralph was with her, and the architecture of the Lii hospital was different enough to not weigh on her too much. Another of Aurora's remotes went with them, adding Alran anatomy and medical procedures to her databases. Despite outward appearance, the Alran body was constructed very differently from the Human, and the cruiser and her two healers were learning at least as much as they taught.
Holly Cates and Grbblb, with ground-combat experience and training respectively, attended Lii militia exercises, while Trllbl accompanied her husband, with a third copy of Aurora's sensor remote. One of the places they visited was an internment camp for "refugees" who had slipped in before the Great Moat had been completed. They were being sorted and transferred to barges for return to their original countries.
Most of the troops guarding them wore conventional passive armor, but had been trained, and were constantly drilling, in shield-and-sword tactics. The Republic's M12 Midsword, descended from the ancient Roman gladius and comparable to weapons in Oskran's own history, was a simple weapon to fabricate; batons were even simpler. The troops carried both and used each as necessary. One of the spiritual-but-not-actual Founders of the Republic was a United States Army officer, Tom Kratman, who had a later career as a successful author before being purged after the Coup of 2012. He had also written a manual on riot control, which he had actually performed during his service in Panama a couple decades before the Escape. His real-world lessons and uncompromising attitude were taken to heart by Jeffersonian Marines, and now the Lii Confederation Militias. If things did get out of hand, towers with automatic weapons surrounded the camp, and a platoon of Jeffersonian Mobile Infantry was on standby, with two of its four squads in their power armor at all times in rotation. Nothing the "refugees" had could get through that.
Only a handful were being allowed to stay, after thorough investigation and proof they could provide or work for themselves. Some became translators, others intelligence assets - others simple laborers. Lii had the highest standard of living on Oskran before Contact, with likewise the highest technologies and the most opportunities for employment. The people of other nations didn't possess as many marketable skills, and with Jeffersonian robotics taking over many of the menial tasks, there were few places for unskilled refugees. Some simply enlisted in the Space Patrol or Exploration and Colonization Service, the Navy and Marine Corps Reserves. They would learn useful skills there. Some appeared to hate their origins enough to become ardent Lii/Jeffersonian patriots, as Grbblb had. Naturally those were carefully watched. Terran history had many lessons to teach, including the concept of "sleeper agents".
Among those lessons, besides not making the mistake of using fiat currency, Lii had also narrowly avoided the tax-funded welfare schemes that had dragged down the Republic's mother-nation, the United States of America, and most of the other nations on pre-Escape Terra. They'd been debating it at the time of Contact and had even begun implementing small test programs, but the Jeffersonian example alerted them to the danger before it was too late. There would be no handouts in the Confederation, no parasites living off the productive classes, voting for ever more of other people's money. Additionally, the Jeffersonian system of Citizenship was now the law. Only Citizens could vote, and Citizenship could only be earned through government service, preferably military.
Finally, Danner and Taniyama, and a fourth copy of Aurora, set about exploring Arriod and Dlayko both, gathering cargoes for sale at other worlds, and gathering data on what would sell here. Crel fruit and brandy would constitute most of Aurora's outgoing cargo, carefully packaged against acceleration this time. Aurora's cargo of grain and beef-analogue from Dakota had sold easily, as foreign luxury items - Lii didn't lack for the necessities of life. Like America, she had vast natural resources and could easily provide for far more than her own population and industry. There was nothing she needed to import except knowledge.
Even the necessary rare elements for building Marsten technology could be found within Lii's borders; and now Lii had her own access to space, to moons and asteroids that would not be mined out for centuries or millenia. Two of Shrakor's sisters, "Avenger" and "Liberator", had already been laid down, though their construction was deliberately slowed, awaiting lessons learned from Shrakor. Oskran Station already included orbital fabberies for Marsten Drives and small craft, the latter being simply copies of standard Jeffersonian designs.
Continued in the next excerpt....