Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part LXIX: Looking Forward

This page Copyright (c) 2017, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
The Flike was male, of course. Their females were much smaller, and not sentient. Danner's and Prrg's hands twitched toward their weapons, but the Triumvirate and Admiral Rach seemed unconcerned. Aurora's hovering sphere, with its needler, was fast enough to beat a Tueller Drill in any case.
The Flike stood in the doorway, arms at sides and slightly spread, hands open. His short middle limbs, bearing large single claws for holding prey, were folded close against his chest. He wore only a simple leather loincloth, with no weapons or jewelry visible. Danner and Prrg knew essentially nothing of Flike body language, but this one was evidently trying to appear non-threatening in Human fashion. Danner had never actually met a Flike, though he had seen one, years ago, in The Hungry Kraken, on his way to meet Eric Linfarger to assemble Aurora's Family, and then years later on the tourist airship above Arriod in Lii.
The Flike said, in accented but understandable American, "Peace." He then raised his left hand to his chest and said, "Frashkra."
Danner and Prrg moved their hands away from their weapons. "Peace," Danner said, then touched his own chest. "Solomon." Prrg, and Aurora's hologram, repeated the gestures. Danner turned to Nosc.
"Frashkra is the sole Flike survivor from the Battle of Adda, and therefore from Brown's Flotilla," she said. "He is a prisoner, but has been most cooperative."
Danner turned back to the Flike. "That is... unusual." If not unique. It was rare for a Flike to be captured alive, and thus far unheard-of for one to cooperate with his captors.
Frashkra slowly walked across Nosc's office to take a seat, which adjusted itself for his size. It was evident he was moving slowly on purpose, to appear as non-threatening as possible. Danner remembered the videos in Aurora's library, viewed in the rooftop restaurant of Lisa's Arms, in conference with Beth Lascomb, before their first mission to Oskran. In the years since, he had researched the Flike, and found another video, of a hunt-tourist - about Frashkra's size - bringing down an orak on Eyan, bare-handed. The civil and military leadership of the planet Selm and the Siv race were sipping tea while sharing a room with a one-being decapitation strike. Danner spared another glance toward Aurora, and the needler inside the hovering sphere which projected her hologram. It's not the first time I've trusted my life to her, he thought, and won't be the last.
Frashkra's American was hesitant and often broken, but clear enough. "Solomon defeat us in battle. Strong warrior. Respect." The Flike dipped his head toward Danner. "Not all Flike hunt. I... forced to join. Clan... duty. Not my want. You grasp?" Frashkra's grasping-claws twitched in subconscious reflex, from the mental effort of forcing the concept into another language. He visibly exerted conscious control over them.
Danner nodded. "I grasp."
"I not eat people. I work ship, clean, fix. I not land, I not take, I not hurt your people."
"I grasp." Danner flicked his eyes toward Nosc.
The senior member of Selm's Triumvirate said, "Recordings taken from the ships you disabled prove his claims. He is guilty by association only."
Danner nodded again. "Peace, Frashkra. Please, speak."
The Flike visibly relaxed. "You... leaders... speak of Flike, of Glaut, of... all-eye-ants. Is true. Is secret. My work, I hear, I see.
"Glaut build ships for Flike, teach to use. Promise meat, gold, slaves, glory of hunt, take lands. In... future. Many turns of sun. Plan, build, gather. Wait. Test.
"Mark's World was test. See how ree-pub-lik answers. Brown Hyoomans... throw-away. Bought with gold, promises. Other Flike watch, far away. Flike on Brown ships, send message. Not expect Solomon win fight. Big surprise. Flike leaders kill Brown, then selfs. Is... bad... un? Un-honor, Flike lose fight and live.
"Not all Flike warrior. My clan, slave to warrior clan. Serve, never hunt. Have no honor to lose. Want to live.
"Want only to live.
"On ship, I clean, I fix. I watch, I listen. Flike leaders talk of other... all-eyes." Frashkra pointed at Danner. "Hyooman." The Flike then turned to point at Prrg. "Nee-kar. All-eyes give gold. Pay for ships, weapons. Give... knowledge. Knowledge of ree-pub-lik worlds, strength, laws.
"One Nee-kar, I see..." Frashkra pointed at Aurora. Her hologram was very high quality, but discernable as artificial. "Light-picture, message to Flike leader. That Nee-kar, blue mark." With his claw-tips Frashkra sketched a triangle in the air before him, downward-pointing, then pointed to his forehead.
Danner, and their hosts, turned to Prrg. "Nrrrgt. What you would call a Duchy. About ten years ago the old Duke died and his son, Rbbg, rose to the title. He is of the second faction I described, desiring more power and control over other Nikar. The last I heard, Rbbg was on that council of Dukes I mentioned."
Frashkra continued: "Other message, I see one Hyooman. Wears mark on... shirt." Frashkra pointed to the national flags on Danner, Prrg and Aurora's uniform shoulders.
"You say, Blood Rose.
"Solomon win fight, one ship to six. Im-poss-ee-bul. Hunt ree-pub-lik, big mistake. Solomon too strong. Solomon not alone. Ree-pub-lik too strong. I read your... past. Wars. Muz-limm people. Tear-in Empire. Ree-pub-lik... fair people. Have... justice. But, if... anger, ree-pub-lik kill all Flike. I want stop war, before start. Save my people.
"But... Empire is... not good. Rule is... bad. Many Flike want peace. To hunt animals only, not people. Not take from people. Not hurt people.
"Empire should fall. Ree-pub-lik strong enough to break Empire. Many Flike help, from... inside. My clan, such."
Danner turned to Nosc, who met his eyes and nodded. "Everything Frashkra has told us, that could be checked, has been confirmed," she said. "I believe him." The Admiral and other Councillors nodded their agreement.
Danner sat quietly, thinking. "I'm no spook," he said at length; without heat, but with iron. "If you ask me to take my Family, or leave my Family, to go on some spy mission to overthrow a foreign government, I'll resign my Commission. Even my Citizenship." Without a Congressional Declaration, of War or Emergency, they couldn't stop him. Thirty years ago, as a young Space Patrol officer, he would have leapt at the opportunity - but now he was a different man, and the man he was then would not have been asked.
Yatar, the Chikaran member of the Triumvirate, shook his round head in a Human-style negative. "Admiral Maet told us you were such a man. We do not, cannot command you.
"Captain, you- and your Family- have rendered... tremendous service to the Republic. You are possibly our greatest living hero. Heroes." Danner, never seeking a spotlight, felt a little queasy at this. "We ask nothing of you except to continue as you have been - and to share information with us, as you have just done. In return, we will share information, such as this. We have already contacted Admiral Huang of the Reserve Privateer Bureau and encourage you to do the same. This will all be aboveboard and official, we are not asking for anyone to break an oath. Your information will be shared - discreetly, so as not to cause public alarm, or alert potential enemies - with the leaders of all Republic worlds. Knnd-" a Nikar name- "the Republic Ambassador to Kmar, is helping us as well. We will begin forwarding his reports to you."
Yatar turned to the holographic woman. "Lieutenant Aurora. Trouble and fate of every kind appear to seek out you and your Family. Your mere existence is an intelligence asset. We do not ask you to place yourself or your Family in harm's way, or to change your way of life. This is nothing more than an intelligence-sharing arrangement."
"I understand, Councillor. As I have said to my Captain many times, I was created to defend the Republic. In my past life I had little opportunity to do so. Now, I have done more to fulfill my purpose in life than I had ever hoped... and I have gained the capacity to hope.
"Subject to my Captain's orders, to the regulations of the Space Patrol, and my oath to our Constitution, I agree to join this arrangement." Beside her, Prrg nodded his agreement as well.

Admiral Rach and the Triumvirate rose from their seats, and the rest followed suit. The meeting was coming to an end. Danner stepped over to the Flike and extended his hand. "Frashkra. I thank you for your help, to my people and my nation. May there always be peace between us."
The towering predator bowed his head, and gently clasped Danner's hand. The Human found the Flike's skin warm and dry. "Solomon-Captain. I much honored, touch hands with great warrior."
Releasing his hand, Danner asked, "The knowledge you share is of great value. Are you comfortable here? Is there anything I might do for you?"
Frashkra dipped his head even lower. "I... kept... well. Good food. Com-for-tah-bul. Sad for... not grasp home. But, if go home, I be killed, for un-honor, for not die in battle. Empire not... need to not know I live. Clan be all killed for un-honor. I stay here, Empire not know. Best for all, for now-time."
"I grasp. Can you receive and send messages? I may have questions for you, in the future, as I learn more." Nosc and Rach seemed uncomfortable at this, and Danner added, "Aurora can provide all the encryption needed, and false addresses. We did the same during the Illyrian Civil War." After a moment, Nosc nodded, and then Rach.
Frashkra turned to the holographic Human woman. "You... ship-that-lives?"
"I am self-aware," the Lieutenant answered. "The Republic has legally recognized me as a Person."
Frashkra dropped to a knee. "Is legend!" he said, breathless with awe. "Ship-that-lives! Female-that-thinks! Will break Empire! Many turns of sun, priests say, long past! Will make Flike free!"
Aurora's image knelt and extended an intangible hand. {Please stand, friend Frashkra,} she answered, in the Flike language, which she'd added to her libraries long ago - while translating to American, for the earbuds her Captain and Family always wore, and providing a text crawl on the Admiral's and Councillors' 'puters. {Have you not knelt enough to your Emperor?}
She went on, {I know nothing of your prophecy, and little of your religion. I do not claim to be any such liberator. My purpose is to defend my own nation. I thank you for the valuable information you have given us, but please, do not worship me!}
Frashkra stood, but was still visibly deferential. In his own language he spoke, and through the translation it became clear that Frashkra was no simple laborer, but a being possessed of education. Words poured from him, in his excitement to speak his native tongue after so long among aliens. {Please, forgive me, honored one, and let me explain.
{The Emperor's line is at least ten thousand of your years old. We have great monuments of stone, recording our history.
{Over millenia, one emperor or king or another expanded their influence, conquering one nation, making a blood union with another. The rulers' tyranny ever increased, and the rights and freedoms of the common people were constantly stripped away.
{Some three hundred of your years ago, Emperor Jagrash the First unified all of Kmar under his own, single rule. His descendant, Jagrash the Fourth, holds that throne to this day... and, I have little doubt, conspires with the Glaut, and those you call the Blood Rose, to expand his power even more.
{Shortly after the unification, the priests of the Clawed God revealed a prophecy, that a female who could think and speak would bring freedom to all Flike, and break the power of the Emperor forever. The prophecy said that the female would not be Flike, that she would be both living and unliving... that 'she would stride between stars on legs made of light.' As time passed, and your people made Contact with ours, later priests reinterpreted the prophecy to suggest that this female liberator would be a living starship. That last... 'adjustment' was made only a few of your years ago.
{Forgive my excitement, honored one. Surely the priests fabricated this prophecy, to placate our people and give them some vague hope for the future, while keeping them docile and obedient in the present. Surely your existence is only a remarkable coincidence. So my mind tells me, but my heart, filled with this prophecy since infancy, reacts as though it is true.}
Aurora's Human hologram drew back in surprise - she was carefully programming her own body language. {This is the first I have heard of any such prophecy,} she answered. {Little is known of your people, among mine. That knowledge is also of great value to us. I was built...} her face showed astonishment. {Three hundred forty two of our years ago, about the time of your Unification. After many years serving my nation, for more than a hundred years I slept, unaware, waiting to be discarded as obsolete. Then my Captain-} she gestured toward Danner- {found me and returned me to service. Through a series of events, I became self-aware about ten of our years ago.}
Danner observed, "You were named after an ancient goddess." He smiled faintly.
"My Captain, let us not complicate matters!" she answered, holographic eyes wide. {Frashkra, I would also like to exchange messages with you, to learn more of this prophecy.}
{Gladly, honored one!}
Danner turned again to Nosc, senior Councillor of the Selm Triumvirate. "Councillor, Frashkra is proving to be a greater friend to us than I could have imagined. I do hope he is being rewarded for his cooperation."
Nosc nodded. "We're keeping him on a bankrupt ranch, bought at auction through a dummy name. A hundred square kilometers. Plenty of hunting - and less than thirty people know he's alive, to keep his clan safe from reprisal."
Returning to broken American, Frashkra said, "Solomon-Captain, I am in good here. Not grasp home, not grasp family, but... could be... more bad. I tell all I knowledge, in hope of all Flike be free."

The Family had dispersed for shore leave - Selm was as pretty as Terra, and was very much a Jeffersonian world. Now they reassembled aboard Aurora.
Danner related what had happened in Councillor Nosc's office. He knew everyone in his Family could keep the secret. They'd kept others for years. Aurora had recorded the interview and made it available in her library, to the Family only. No passenger or shipwright would know it existed, and if she were somehow disabled and captured by an enemy, there were redundant systems to destroy all sensitive data she carried.
Aurora boosted away and leapt again into hyperspace, bound once again for New Israel.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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