Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright (c) 2017, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LXX: The Next Level
Continued from the previous excerpt
12 Sixthmonth 563JR
27 October 2361CE
Hyperspace Transit, Selm to New Israel
For the last several thousand hours, Jenny Blain had been wracking her considerable brain for some way to increase a ship's speed in hyperspace, expressed as a multiple of c, the mathematical symbol for the speed of light in realspace. Her Captain and ship-brother, Solomon Danner, noticed her frustration.
"I think we've reached the limit," she said to him, over a meal in the crew's spin-weight salon in the forward grav-ring. "The record is 177, and that was years ago in a ship that broke herself doing it. Aurora can make 171... point four. I can't find the next step. I've tuned everything like a violin. If we were stripped down, no cargo, less mass for the Transition- I might get 172 or 3. But it looks like there's a wall in that neighborhood and I can't see any way through it."
Danner asked, "What if you Drove the Drive?"
Blain's face was blank.
"What if you used another Drive to push the first one, or pull it or whatever?"
She smiled somewhat derisively and shook her head. "It's been tried. The Drive fields interfere with each other, it can't be made to work."
"I'm no Drive Technician," Danner continued, "I'm just guessing. But do the Drives have to be exactly the same?"
Blain cocked her head. "I mean," Danner went on, "one Drive gets the ship into hyperspace, then the other Drive gets it to... I don't know-"
Suddenly Blain cried out, not quite a scream but a bellow of frustration - and of potential triumph. Still shouting a single long syllable, she leapt from her spin-weight seat, clawing at the hatch for the lift from the salon to the main hull, stumbling through it and beating on the controls, desperate to reach engineering, and her computer terminal.
Danner followed, to find Jenny frantically pounding at holographic keys, slashing her hands through the VR interface, grunting in exertion. Danner, not wishing to interrupt, watched from the hatch.
Her work went on. And on. He subvocalized to Aurora, "See she's not interrupted... but bring Jack here." The ship chirped acknowledgement in his earbud. A couple minutes later Jenny's husband arrived, and Danner softly told him, "She's onto something. Maybe big." Jack nodded and said nothing, settling in to watch with the Captain. He knew he was married to a genius, and he knew that genius in full bloom should not be disturbed.
After nearly an hour of the most intense creativity Danner had ever witnessed, Jennifer Blain floated back from the holo display and examined her work. She closed her eyes, rubbed them, shuddered, turned away-
-Recoiled in surprise to see Jack and Solomon watching. She gabbled for a moment, parts of her brain downshifting from hyperspatial mathematics to clumsy Human language. "Whu- hou- how long was I- were you-"
"About an hour," Danner replied.
"Are you all right?" her husband asked, floating toward her.
"Hah?" She blinked, patted herself. "Thirsty...." One of Aurora's remotes jetted over with a bulb of fruit juice. Jenny snatched it out of the robot hand and sucked it greedily. The 'bot whooshed away for more, as her husband floated across the compartment to embrace her.
She turned back to the display, looked at it, and recoiled with a wordless exclamation, droplets of juice flying from her mouth. She stared at her own work as though seeing it for the first time. Another 'bot chased down the spilled drops before they could foul the ventilation.
Some time later, having refreshed herself, Engineer Jennifer Blain stated, "I have, through our Captain's inspiration, theorized a second quantum of hyperspace."
The entire crew, gathered in the bridge at Danner's summons, stared in unfeigned fascination at the projected diagram their sister had created. Blain floated in the center, above - rather, forward of - where Aurora's brain resided below, aft of, the deck. Jack Epstein's arms were around his wife and she clung to them, while he hooked one foot into a grab-loop on the deck to keep them from drifting.
Jenny pointed at the projected Drive schematic she was still polishing. "It requires two modified Sixth-Generation Marsten Drives, very carefully tuned, each in a different way. If this works, it should at least double average speed - well over 200c. Maybe more, possibly much more, but there's no way to know without live testing."
"I am ready, Jenny," Aurora announced.
"No!" She looked up, forward, to what would be the bridge's overhead when the ship was under acceleration - where Jenny knew her sister's sensors were located. "Aurora, I have no idea what will happen. I don't know if there is a second- layer, level, whatever it can be called, of hyperspace. Hyper-hyperspace. You, we, might go in and never come back."
Aurora's Human hologram appeared on the bridge, convincingly floating with the others in freefall. "I trust you, Jenny."
Jenny shook her head. "Well I'm not going to risk all our lives, very much including yours," she said to her biggest sister's holographic face. "This calls for a dedicated test rig and an automated test flight. It's not like the old days," she went on, "when Marsten and Vetter and Gaines had to keep secrets and risk the unknown. We're not under such pressure." Her brow furrowed. "However...."
Danner stated, "You could be talking about the invention of the Blain Drive." Jenny blanched at this. "I think some secrecy is in order. You deserve credit."
"Oh gods," she whispered, eyes wide.
"Yup. For this you get whole planets named after you. 'Jenny's Gift', perhaps, or simply 'Blain'."
"Oh, gods," she wailed.
"The range will be short, though," she said. "This thing will drink fuel like nothing before."
"Don't worry about that," Sol answered. "Once this gets out, some other genius somewhere will design a new fusion plant. Or figure out an antimatter reactor, or something. Because now, they'll have a reason."
He went on, "If this works, we're about to become the fastest ship in the galaxy. A patent in Jenny's name should be a given. Royalties would keep you in luxury for the rest of your life," he said to his ship-sister and Engineer.
Jenny shook her head at this. "Our lives. If it weren't for all of you-" she nodded specifically at Aurora's Human hologram, for it was she as a ship who had finally cured her addiction- "I'd've been dead in a flophouse with Juice on my tongue years ago." Jack held his wife tighter, burying his face in her hair. "As for the patent, I'd call that a three-way split between me, our ship who gave me the tools, and our Captain who gave me the idea - and I'll list all the rest of you anyway. And... I'd figure on selling for a lump sum. To the Republic. Like we did before." Jenny had sold her development of the Sixth Generation-Improved Marsten Drive for a single payment, out of patriotism and a desire to give her nation an advantage over others. Her role model in this had been John Moses Browning, who invented many of the most important firearms used by the United States of America in Terra's Second World War, and sold those patents to his government for the same reasons - back when that government was still worthy of respect.
The Blain Drive, however, would demand a higher price, and would possibly be designated secret and a military priority, to prevent potential enemies from leveling the field. Danner wondered if it would even bring back the FTL Bureau, the only other police force the Republic had ever allowed to exist, beside the Investigators' Corps. Created to prevent the Terran Empire from gaining the secret of Marsten technologies, the FB had been disbanded after the Republic-Empire War, when its existence became moot, but if Jenny really could find a way to double a ship's speed, that would change everyone's rules.
22 Sixthmonth 563JR
9 November 2361CE
Edo Station, New Israel
New Israel was the second moon of a gas giant, fourth in place from the star Epsilon Indi. Cold and dry, it was nonetheless barely capable of supporting unassisted Human life. Centuries ago, it had been seeded in passing with terraforming bugs and primitive von Neumann machines, by the Founders' secret starship Enterprise, in her now-famous journey to the nearest stars comparable to Sol.
Engineered bacteria and algae, and heating units built by very early fabbers, had begun thickening and warming Epsilon Indi IVb's atmosphere, deliberately causing the "anthropogenic climate change" which never actually happened on Terra. The Founders knew it would take generations, but figured they might as well get started.
A few years later, when the Founders were almost ready to Escape, various Terran governments got wind of their possession of faster-than-light technologies. The governments attacked to steal other people's work, most infamously at Forest Grove, Oregon, the home of Vetter Aerospace and the Founders themselves. The Founders had secretly built a fleet of starships all across Terra - secretly aided, financially and materially, by Israeli separatists. In repayment for that aid, the separatists were given Epsilon Indi IVb, which they named New Israel.
The FTL Bureau was founded in cooperation with the government of New Israel, to preserve the secret of Rachel Marsten's faster-than-light technology and prevent its acquisition by any real or potential enemy. Background checks and rigorous security screening were implemented for anyone working with Marsten technologies.
The New Israelis started well enough, following up the terraforming bugs with water-comet impacts on the poles. Over the next several years, millions of Israelis performed their own Escape, a second Exodus, claiming and taming their new world.
But they erred: Israel, the nation created in 1948, had been socialist, and the immigrants brought that disease with them. It had often been excused as "lifeboat socialism", necessary for survival, surrounded by enemies who wanted to exterminate them, and under that stress (and propped up with a lot of American tax dollars in foreign aid) it actually worked, for a time... but on New Israel, socialism became what it always did: starvation and dictatorship.
As New Israel was the only other state possessing the FTL secret, the Jeffersonian Republic's Space Patrol, the defederalized navy reserve in time of peace, performed a de facto blockade of New Israel. In their desperation, some among the New Israelis wanted to strike a deal with the United Nations. Three ships were disabled while attempting to reach the hyper limit. Fortunately the Patrol always got lots of gunnery practice, and only a handful of people were killed.
After several rapid changes of government, one coalition petitioned for Membership in the Jeffersonian Republic. The Space Patrol then performed the Relief of New Israel, comparable in some ways to the Berlin Airlift at the beginning of the Terran Cold War. The massive Jeffersonian bailout of New Israel had been repaid, over the next century, with ships and weapons and resources from the Epsilon Indi system. By about 160JR the debt was cleared... and New Israelis were Jeffersonians. Likewise, the terraforming interrupted by economic collapse was resumed. Israelis had a history of turning deserts into gardens.
During this time the nikkei came and founded their own parallel subculture. Japanese immigration continued until the Republic's bicentennial, 200JR, 2134CE, and the Europa Incident, when Terran terrorists seized, and then destroyed, the cruise ship Virginia Heinlein over the Jovian moon Europa. The terrorists had demanded the release of Marsten technology - again, stealing what other people had built, and proving by their actions why they were not fit to be let loose among the stars.
In response, the Republic Isolated Sol system, cutting off nearly all immigration, trade, and communication. "Let the savages rot," Councillor d'Agustino of the Pentamvirate had famously said, and ninety-three percent of Congress agreed with her. The Republic and the United Nations continued evolving on now-divergent paths, and the Interstellar Cold War began.
Seventy-four Terran years later, the UN had transformed into the Terran Empire, crushed all other national sovereignty, brutally unified Sol system, developed Marsten technology (which they naturally called something else), and launched a war of aggression against the Republic. New Israel was the only Jeffersonian world they successfully landed on. During the Occupation, the Jewish and Japanese subcultures were forced together. After Liberation, they stayed that way.
Before the War, two major orbital cities had been built: Haifa, and Edo. Haifa, named for the ancient port city in Old Israel, was a conglomeration not unlike High City over Wilson's Colony, likewise in synchronous orbit, but without the tether. It was one of the three or four busiest ports in Known Space, along with High City, Monticello Station, and Torus Alpha above Terra. Edo Station, at an even higher orbit, was Humanity's first O'Neill Cylinder.
During the War, Haifa had been occupied by the Terran Empire, and her industries pressed into Imperial service... with the occasional interruption by kinetic bombardment from deep space, and once, a nuclear-armed kamikaze.
At Edo, the Resistance had blown an entire end off the Cylinder, breaching most of its compartments and rendering it unusable... or so the Empire thought. It later turned out to have been a secret base for the Haganah, a centuries-old name for Jewish resistance, who launched their last and biggest attack on the Empire during the Second Battle of New Israel, in support of the Jeffersonian Navy and Marine Corps reconquering their world.
Edo had been rebuilt and was now truly a city in its own right, with a population well over a million, and thriving trade and industry. It was also a center for research and scientific discovery. Materials science - armorglas had been invented there long before the War. Data storage and retrieval - on the molecular level; the pre-Escape Library of Congress could now fit on a stick the size of a Human's little finger, most of whose bulk was necessary only for the interface. Power - solar had been a realistic source since about the time of the Escape, and the first fusion breakthroughs had been made before then, by deComyn Engineering, secretly members of the Founders' Long View Foundation. Robotics... Edo had taken the ancient name of what was now Tokyo, and Japan had been a leader in robotic technology and research since at least a Human generation before the Escape; some of the nikkei had brought that knowledge with them. Once free of Terra's chains, all these sciences advanced.
Aurora, and Aurora, had come here for three reasons. Jenny Blain needed some help to develop the Blain Drive; if it worked, she would then need an improved power source for it; and Aurora the Person had her own desires.
Aurora had upgraded one of her Humanoid sparring-and-serving robots, and a part of her computer consciousness rode it across Edo Station. 'Bots were a common sight in Republic space, especially on or above a Central World, performing errands for their masters or owners. No one would know that this one was her own master. She didn't yet attempt to make the 'bot itself look Human, or project her Human hologram over it. She had something else in mind.
Another piece of Aurora, in the usual 15cm sensor sphere, along with Jenny Blain and her husband, Jack Epstein, revisited Jack's elder cousin, Hal Cohen, at his shipyard in one of Epsilon Indi's asteroid belts.
Once word got out, about how Cohen's Shipyard had built the Trojan Star-Horse, slipping the cruiser Aurora into a gutted old cargoliner, Hal Cohen had more business than he knew what to do with. For the last few years he'd actually been turning customers away. A few were obviously pirates, hoping to use the technique for nefarious ends. Cohen and his employees, several of them former captives of their kind, put them down on general principle.
He bumped everyone in his queue, though, for Aurora. They met inside his Balloon World, on a nicely manicured lawn, surrounded with the pleasant aroma of chicken being grilled by Hal's wife, Rebecca. While the meat cooked, they sipped from self-chilling glasses of durnot wine from Ude. "But you don't have any measurements yet?" Cohen asked the cruiser's Engineer, and her un-credentialed engineer husband.
"A napkin sketch," Jack said... producing that very thing. "The plan is to mount two Sixth Generation Marsten Drives in the same hull."
"We don't know yet," Jenny answered, "exactly. But I'm pretty sure it's going to be one inside the other. Sort of." Hal cocked an eyebrow. He knew a little about the Marsten Drive, he had to in his business, but couldn't visualize what Jenny had described. Well, no one else could either... yet.
Jack went on, "Obviously we'll lose cubic however it goes, but it's important to not lose structural strength. Especially for this Lady." He gestured toward Aurora's Human hologram, dressed in a plain gray unmarked shipsuit. "She has a history of getting into trouble she needs a lot of thrust to get out of."
Examining the sketch, Hal said, "Well, the good news is, there need not be any changes to the original spaceframe, to accomodate the Blain Drive." Jenny twitched at the name. "The Adamant class were built with Third Generation drives, far larger and less efficient than the Sixth Generation we've had for as long as most of us have been alive. You'll lose some of the cargo space you gained during her first refit, but not all of it."
"Is there bad news?" Jenny asked.
"Probably, but it's not directly my department. You're telling me this Blain Drive will need a lot more fuel, even if the Helium-3 reaction can be made to work. The only place I can see to put that fuel is in the remaining cargo space, losing much of your capacity."
"We still have the two forward holds," Jack observed. "We've been using them for recreation during long Transits, but if the Transits are about to get a lot shorter...."
"By the way, Hal," Aurora said, "I wish to thank you for the quality of your work, and the respect you showed me during the procedure. Everything worked exactly as intended, to the very end of the game." Aurora's hologram smiled brightly at him.
Hal Cohen actually blushed, as what appeared to be an exceptionally beautiful young woman complimented him. "Well!" he stammered. "Well. I'm, I'm glad everything worked out for you."
Aurora projected a hologram of Aurora's internal spaceframe - her skeleton. "Based on Jenny and Jack's theories, I have these provisional plans for the installation, depending on how the Blain Drive-" Jenny flinched again- "will finally be arranged. But first, my sister insists on a test rig, before installing her new Drive in me. I am eager to improve myself, but I defer to her wisdom."
"So... Hal...." Cohen had insisted that Aurora's Family call him by his first name. Jenny continued: "We were wondering if you had another ship laying around that could be easily converted. Maybe one in the process of scrapping already."
"Indeed I do! We can throw together just such a test rig from the bits we have laying around. I have three complete Sixth-Gen drives loose already, though they'll need refurbishing - hadn't got around to it yet. I also have about four or five dozen Marsten Devices, mostly Sixth-Gen, a handful of Fifth, from wrecked or broken-down Drives. And fabbers of course."
Jack Epstein noticed his wife twitch her head up, like a predator sensing prey. Jenny tapped her wrist 'puter and told it to show a schematic of a typical Fifth Generation Marsten Device. "Hmm," she said... in the way geniuses had, shortly before making real discoveries, through all recorded history.
Jack knew his brain was not the equal of hers, but sometimes he could keep up. "One step back for two forward?"
Jenny turned to him and smiled, then leaned over to kiss his lips. "If I ever do anything that makes you feel stupid," she said to him, placing her hand on his cheek, "let me tell you, you're not. Hal? I'd really like to look those parts over."
"They're down off the south lock. You'll need suits."
"We brought them."
Hlossh and Grbblb, the Engineer's Mates, and Trllbl, Grbblb's wife, and another copy of Aurora, were looking into the other thing - power.
deComyn Engineering hadn't existed for centuries. On the day of Escape, they'd blown up their factory, spread thermite across the machines and any hard drive they couldn't take with them, and left nothing for the enemy - the government - to use or learn from. Then they'd boarded the secret starship JRS Sam Houston and blasted their way out of Texas, off Terra, and away from Sol. The employees' descendants got into ranching and farming on New Texas, and then spread throughout the stars.
Other companies rose to take their place. For a time, Cincinnati Manufacturing Corporation, on Monticello, had been a leader in the field, but they'd made a series of business mistakes and thrown themselves on the ash-heap of history. Nguyen Power Systems - Asano Heavy Industries - Gruner Construction - Blake Corp - some lived, some merged, some vanished.
At Edo Station, the present survivor was EdoCorp, a large interstellar conglomerate... but that wasn't exactly what the Family needed. They were after discretion, even secrecy. Down on the surface, in the river-junction town of Rehovot, was a little outfit Hal Cohen had recommended: Rabin-Fujitomo, Inc.
Way back during the Occupation, Jacob Rabin had been a Gunnery Sergeant in the Third Legion, the Army of David. Yukiko Fujitomo had been a Lieutenant in the Seventeenth, the Samurai Legion. They'd met during Resistance operations, became friends, and after the War, married. Their descendants pursued a number of interests, with varying successes and failures. The present generation was a little shop which worked on aircars and shuttles, and quietly turned out the occasional fusion plant, at a rate to not be subject to taxation.
Alice Rabin-Fujitomo was a bright young woman, tall and slim, barely forty Monticellan years old, with dark blue eyes framed by short black hair. She'd been working on the Helium-3 problem, which had been stumping engineers for centuries. Hydrogen, the simplest and most common element in the universe, was the standard fuel, commonly transformed into deuterium by neutron bombardment if the isotope couldn't be found naturally.
Helium-3 had been proposed as a fusion fuel since before fusion power had been invented. It offered more energy for less mass, and was less difficult to store than hydrogen. Some could be found in nature, on the surface of Luna or similar bodies for example. It could also be bred in the hydrogen fusion reactors now in common use.
The fuel wasn't the problem - using it was. Getting the stuff to fuse reliably, getting more energy out than was put in, and doing it without making a bomb, was as frustrating to modern engineers as hydrogen had been, before Miles Hawthorne, president of deComyn Engineering and secretly one of the Founders of the Jeffersonian Republic, had made his breakthrough in combined magnetic confinement and laser compression.
Hlossh had been an Engineer's Mate on a string of Space Patrol warships and another string of civilian vessels. Grbblb learned anything quickly, and had been Hlossh's blood-brother since before joining Aurora's Family more than a dozen Terran years ago. Trllbl, despite the Glautak Consolidation's millennia-old prejudices, was her husband's intellectual equal. Aurora, the ship and person, could access the sum of all collected knowledge in Known Space.
They and Alice put their heads together. "The old ways aren't working," Alice said. "I can't get enough temperature and pressure to fuse Helium-3 by itself."
Grbblb observed, "Perhaps the answer does not exist by itself. What if you used a small auxiliary hydrogen fusion pack to power the ignition of the helium reaction?"
Hlossh said, "That would mean two systems, two kinds of fuel... but the idea is to start the helium reaction and get it to self-sustain. Remember how early fusion bombs were made, with a fission bomb for a fuse. Think of the small fusion plant as a starter motor."
Alice cocked her head, in much the same way the blood-brothers had seen their Human sister Jenny do many times. After some moments in thought, she said, "Let's get to tinkering."
Continued in the next excerpt....