Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright (c) 2018, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LXXVI: In Her Own Image
Continued from the previous excerpt
19 Thirdmonth 566JR
30 May 2363CE
Hyperspace Transit, Altoona to Danforth
It had been a quiet voyage. At Altoona, the last fueling stop before the Danforth system, something that might have been a raider was seen; but about the time Aurora's transponder signal would have reached them, they Transitioned away. Aurora-the-Person seemed both pleased and disappointed, that her strength was recognized but she would not have a chance to exercise it.
Gormann had kept the unpleasant job of interacting with Victor Bunn, knowing that his relationship with the man would eventually end, and in gratitude to Danner for not simply flying away in disgust. For Bunn's part, Gormann described how the "president" viewed, and referred to, Danner, Aurora and their Family as a "mercenary gunboat" and an "unfortunate necessity" of "questionable value".
Gormann had never seen combat during his Jeffersonian naval career, but had been in a few small fights as a merchant captain - his cutlass and Luger had both spilled the blood of enemies. Danner, who had spilled considerably more, commiserated. The two captains swapped tales of rough ports and imagined aloud to each other how long Bunn would have lasted on one world or another station. Being professionals, they tried to restrain themselves from expressing the growing contempt they felt for Bunn... but that was difficult, in the face of the contempt he openly displayed toward them.
The Danforth system was the next stop, where Haldred would land and never rise. Such things had been done before - Aurora and her crew had seen larger ships landing and lifting at Monticello and Sylvan and many other worlds in their travels, but it was always a tricky job, bringing ten or twelve thousand metric tons down from orbital velocity to relative zero. During fueling stops, simulations were run, using data collected by the robot probes years earlier - which numbers would need refinement. As far as was known, no sentient being had ever been to the system.
Sarah Heusner had agreed to pilot Haldred to the surface. Gormann would be in his Captain's seat behind her, with backup controls. As a true Captain should, he would ride the ship down with the thousand souls under his care, and if anything went wrong, he would share their fate.
The crews of both starships noted how Bunn, the supposed "president" of these colonists, would be taking a shuttle down instead, after a successful landing.
For over a Terran year, Aurora had been constructing a Human-style body for herself. It matched perfectly the hologram she had been projecting - tall, lean, graceful... beautiful. The project could have been completed long ago, after her consultations with the nikkei roboticists at New Israel, but she had... dithered, constantly adjusting one detail or another, scrapping and restarting twice. Truly, her artificial mind was becoming more Human.
She had begun with one of the serving-and-sparring robots her Family, and sometimes passengers, used to maintain their skills. This gave her speed few organics could match - Daisuke and Holly, maybe, or some Asgardians - and strength none could approach. The rest of the body used the technologies developed by nikkei robotics companies on New Israel, and was indistinguishably lifelike. These techniques and materials were used to make representatives, receptionists, "booth babes" for trade shows and the like; household servants for the conspicuously wealthy; caretakers for the few seriously or terminally ill patients Republic medicine could not repair or cure.
It was also known that the techniques were used to make pleasure robots - sex slaves. The exception was, those robots were not conscious, were not People under the Constitution of the Republic - thus they could not be slaves, only products and property, unless they themselves made the leap to consciousness and claimed their status and rights. Of all the computers and artificial intelligences throughout the explored galaxy, only Aurora had yet made that claim.
Her artificial skin was as fair and soft and warm as any native Norwegian's. Her hair, long and luxurious, was a silken stream of pale gold. Her eyes were a brilliant blue, bordering on violet. This body's face was the same as she had designed for her hologram - elfin, angelic. The rest of her body was flawless, athletic without losing femininity, her attributes not overdone but subtle. She wore a perfectly-fitted civilian shipsuit of brilliant white, with subtle trim in pale gold and violet-blue, matching her hair and eyes.
She introduced her new - her third - self to her Family at dinner during the Transit. "My Captain," she said to Solomon, "I am very pleased to meet you at last." She extended her hand. Her fingers were long and elegant, delicate-seeming perhaps, but there was no fragility in her.
Aurora's hologram had been attractive enough, but in the flesh, artificial though it may be, she was... distracting. She even exuded a faint scent - not heavy perfume, but the sex-robot industry had developed artificial pheromones, and Aurora had researched her project thoroughly. Her new gynoid body smelled like a clean, healthy woman. She had made her height exactly one inch shorter than her Captain.
Solomon took his ship's hand in his own, and on impulse - perhaps inspired by Johann Gormann's Victorian-era manners - bent to kiss it. "The pleasure, my lady, is mine," he replied.
Seating herself at the dining table with her Family, she described her new body, making brief demonstrations of speed and strength. "These eyes see in many spectra," she explained, "and can also be used for illumination." The eyes lit, bright white, then blinked back to a natural Human appearance. "I can also project infrared and ultraviolet, and laser for target designation." Her ship-body's shuttles could double as bombers if necessary, dropping Marine Corps-standard precision-guided munitions. Such weapons could also be dropped from warships, like herself, in orbit. "My hearing, of course, far exceeds the Human range, as does my speech." She burbled greetings to her amphibian ship-brothers Grbblb and Hlossh in their native languages. "I believe I can converse with Zaggarish unaided." That large, trilateral species spoke with modulated whistles, often above Human perception.
"I have also concealed weapons in my hands." Her index fingers became unnaturally straight, and the nails hinged open to reveal, in the left, the muzzle of a needler such as her little white sensor spheres had carried for years; and in the right, the emitter of a compact pulse-laser pistol. "Other fingers contain computer interfaces, diagnostic tools, and dispensers for medicine." She demonstrated these as well. "I wish to be useful to my family."
"It would have been comforting to have you along on Novy Krakow," Holly Cates stated.
"Thank you, sister, but you did not need my help on that mission. It was upsetting to have my family out of contact for so long, though." Neither Aurora nor Aurora could transmit or receive through Krakow City, to maintain contact with her Captain and Gunner, deep underground on their mission with Queen Agnieszka and Sir Bogdan.
"Is this body conscious," Solomon asked, "as the ship is?"
"No, my Captain, not yet. My experiments continue. At present this body is being operated as another robot extension, controlled by the ship's brain. I do not yet know if my consciousness can make the leap from one vessel to another. I expect the sensory input from this body to be very helpful in my future development."
"Glub and I should be able to help with that," Sarah Heusner said. "Now that you're finally a Person, I'm sure we all want to make sure you can stay that way!"
Solomon Danner nodded solemnly.
Aurora-the-gynoid was a weapon in Human form, but the point of the creation of this body was to join her Family in all things. Thus, she also wore more conventional weapons of her own.
A sword, yes - her brothers Daisuke and Prrg, and her Captain himself, had shown how useful they could be even in an age of starships. But what kind? The Republic M12 midsword, designed by the Founder Kurt Vetter himself, was traditional, and had proven effective for centuries - as had the Roman gladius hispaniensis it had evolved from. But Aurora wanted something special.
She examined the options - not all of them Human. A European straight style like Sir Bogdan Plebanek's, made from the skin of her other self? A naval cutlass like Johann Gormann's? A cavalry sabre like that worn by Stefan the Usurper? A scimitar from the Islamic world? The long-hilted, short-bladed pike-like thing used by the Nikar in their ancient tribal grievances? An Eyani short-spear, or two, so similar to the Zulu assegai?
Finally she chose a Japanese style - the wakizashi shortsword for convenience aboard ship, and for other occasions, a matching full-length katana. Hilt and scabbard would be white, what her Captain had called her color, when she first presented her Human holographic form to him. Details would be trimmed in violet-blue, to match her eyes, and gold - real gold, she had plenty of her own now - alloyed for durability, and to match her hair. The waiting list for a Mitsuhira cermet blade like Daisuke's was years long, but there were other makers who... approached... the Heretic's quality.
Then, a pistol. So many choices! The usual M437 plasma pistol, like her Captain's? The New Texas Model Forty-One, carried by her brother Daisuke and her absent sister Agnieszka? That charming Byek gas-sideways-toggle design found on Oskran? A Luger Parabellum, again like Gormann's? The elegance of it appealed to her, as did its history....
She could use them all, and retained her internal weapons, but for herself, she decided on John Moses Browning's immortal Model of 1911. Hers would match her colors too, satin-finished stainless steel with highlights of pale gold and violet-blue. She chose the original .45 ACP cartridge, ten-round single-column magazines, and a six-inch "longslide". Her elegant hands were large enough, her graceful fingers long enough, for the original dimensions of the weapon's frame and controls.
The swords would have to wait - they would be made by one of the Mitsuhira family's competitors, on New Israel. Aurora had placed the order by h-mail, and prepaid. That maker, Sakaguchi, had a waiting list too, but the weapons should be complete by the next time Aurora visited Epsilon Indi. The pistol she could fabricate now, in her own shop, as her sister Agnieszka had done, for the Model Forty-One she still wore to official functions as Queen of Illyria. While waiting for her daisho to be made, she paired the handgun with a midsword, identical to the one her Captain wore, the one he had given to Agnieszka years ago which was now the Illyrian Sword of State, and the one he had sent to Valhalla with Lorraine Harroldsdottir.
He fought to stop staring at her.
Truly, she was the personification of the ancient goddess whose name she bore - bringer of the dawn. Light and warmth seemed to burst from her endlessly.
Mythology came to him - how Aurora took mortal lovers, who would age and die. And was that not the case now? Her first body was already four times her Captain's own age; her mind, her brain, might be ageless-
Solomon shook his head to clear these thoughts.
The thoughts returned.
Continued in the next excerpt....