Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright (c) 2018, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LXXVIII: The Mask that Slipped
Continued from the previous excerpt
15 Fourthmonth 566JR
2 July 2363CE
"No... no, no! This is horrible!"
Victor Bunn was, to understate, disappointed at the results of Haldred's landing. Danforth IV's surface had been scarred as by a small fission bomb. Landing Hill was now more like a bowl, or at least a pedestal. Still above the flood plain, the hilltop had been scooped away by Haldred's torch. Eventually earthmovers would dress what remained, making it uniformly level, stabilizing the surface, paving it in time. Given the frequent rain, drainage might have to be drilled through the fused soil and rock beneath.
The surrounding fields and forests and river basin had been scarred too, by ejecta, and scorched by Haldred's fusion flame. On a drier world, a forest fire would now be raging, and a different landing site would have been chosen to prevent or minimize it; but here, the flames sputtered out after only a few minutes.
The area would soon recover... and would soon be getting its own attention from bulldozers and scoops, as housing was planned and laid out, construction begun. The river had already washed itself clean. The colonists were being revived, and some were already gathering the trees knocked down by the ship's landing, setting up a sawmill, building the first houses.
Bunn had been transferred from Haldred's shuttle to passenger quarters in Aurora's aft grav-ring. He went on, and on, about how this must be fixed, about the terrible intrusion, the delicate balance of nature. Solomon Danner gave no weight to those words.
Victor Bunn was on record as having ordered the murder of a thousand of his own followers.
That didn't sink in, even when Danner said as much to the "president"'s face. For the fourth time Danner repeated the charges: "You have been recorded ordering the murder of over a thousand people in cryogenic suspension."
"I never did any such thing! This is ridiculous! Don't you know who I am?"
Aurora helpfully played the recording of Bunn ordering Danner to fire. "I never said that!" he shouted. "That recording is fake!" Danner wondered if Bunn might actually believe that - wondered how far the man's mind had cracked.
By video or holoconference, members of Aurora's crew, and of Gormann's, asserted that they had, in fact, seen and heard Victor Bunn say the words in the recording. "You're all liars!" Bunn retorted. "This is a conspiracy!"
Having quite enough, Danner responded, "On recorded evidence and first-hand testimony, by my authority as a Reserve Privateer of the Jeffersonian Republic Space Patrol, I arrest you, Victor Bunn, on the charge of ordering the murder of one thousand twenty-nine sentient beings. You will be secured in cryogenic suspension and transported to the nearest Jeffersonian Republic district court for trial."
"You have no jurisdiction here! This is MY world!"
"Neither you nor your followers bothered to renounce Jeffersonian Citizenship or Subjectry before arriving here. You, and they, do fall under my jurisdiction as a naval officer and Reserve Privateer."
"Then I... I renounce my Citizenship now!"
"Your Citizenship lapsed over two decades ago, for failure to renew. You reverted at that time to a Subject."
"I renounce my Subjectry!"
"In that case, you are prima facie guilty of attempting an internationally-recognized act of terrorism. Instead of trial in a Jeffersonian court, that makes you Outlaw, and I can stuff you through an airlock right this minute."
Finally Bunn began to grasp the gravity of his situation. "...Awaken my followers! Hold a referendum! They will confirm my status as head of state!"
"Oh, yes, Mister Bunn. Your followers are already being awakened, and being shown the evidence against you."
"That's... that's prejudicial! That recording is taken out of context! And it's fake! I demand a lawyer!"
"Yes, we awoke the lawyers among the colonists first. More than twenty of them so far. Asked each of them if they would act as your defense attorney. After seeing the evidence of you ordering their murder, they each declined."
"Goldschmidt! Gloria Goldschmidt!"
That woman appeared at the entrance to Bunn's quarters, in Aurora's spinning grav-ring. Stepping out from behind Danner, she said, "Victor... you've lost it. You've lost your mind."
"Gloria! Tell this... this madman! Tell him I'm the President!"
"I was on that ship, Victor. The ship you ordered destroyed, to protect flowers and trees. I was on that ship!"
"Well of course I didn't mean you-" Though how she would be retroactively excluded from the destruction of the entire ship, he did not specify.
Suddenly Bunn's face fell, his eyes widened. "No. No, no, NO! This is all a trick! It was his idea!" Bunn pointed at Danner. "That... that bloodthirsty militarist! I've looked him up on the Net! Do you know how many people he's killed? He already destroyed a ship full of innocent people!" Danner stiffened. "He wanted to do it again and he's using me for a scapegoat!"
Goldschmidt put a hand on Danner's shoulder and answered, "Yes, I've read Captain Danner's record. If I had been on that ship, Victor, my last thought would have been to thank all the gods that he had ended my suffering." She turned to face Solomon. "Captain, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of this. I was supposed to have been his vice-president, and... more. I helped him bring these people together, helped convince them to come here, to trust him. This is as much my fault as his." She stepped back and clasped her hands before her. "My Citizenship in the Jeffersonian Republic has not yet expired. I surrender to your authority and I stand ready to answer for my crimes." Tears welled at her eyes. "I was... so wrong...."
"NOOO!" Bunn suddenly reached for his waist- produced a small pulse-laser pistol- pointed it, not aiming because he didn't know how, in the direction of Danner and Goldschmidt- jerked the trigger-
Goldschmidt flinched away-
Aurora's Human hologram appeared in the compartment; her robot body was on the surface, helping revive and orient the colonists - and gaining more sensory input for her mind's future growth. "Mister Bunn," the hologram said, "as I have already explained to my Captain, I had my extensions take the precaution of disabling this weapon while you slept." Two more of those extensions now appeared at the compartment's hatch. Bunn's own two serving robots were easily shut down remotely by Aurora's computing power.
Now, her hologram's face grew angry. "You ordered the murder of my sister. You attempted to murder my Captain." One of her hovering sensor spheres followed her robots. "You will never do any such thing again."
The sphere spat, a sedative needle struck Bunn, and the sociopath collapsed to the compartment's spin-weight deck.
Aurora's robots carried Bunn away, to be placed in one of her own cryogenic pods. When next he woke, in hundreds or thousands of hours, it would be in a cell, with a court-appointed defense attorney... and a court-appointed psychiatrist.
Gloria Goldschmidt watched him go, then turned to Solomon and asked, "Shall I go with him?"
Danner looked at her and asked, "Did you- do you still, care for him?"
She paused in thought before answering, "I pity him now. What's left of him." She shook her head. "As I said, I am ready to pay for my crimes."
Danner also paused in thought. "I suppose cases could be made, of fraud, violation of rights... but if you really want to make things up to these people, I think that would be better done right here." Her eyes widened, and he continued, "Danforth can still be a republic. Not the kind he imagined. Your constitution, your laws, your very concept of rights and powers, will need to change."
Her mouth worked silently for a moment, then she shook her head. "No, I can't. I couldn't possibly, not after everything I did with Victor. I can't even stay on this planet! I'd be killed in my sleep... and I'd probably deserve it." Tears welled in her eyes again.
Danner pursed his lips and considered. "Well, we were contracted to stay for another thousand hours or so, for support. You can stay aboard here, think things over. Meanwhile the colonists are already demanding elections and a new constitution. I could... help with that. Simply give them a commonly-adjusted version of the Jeffersonian - Sylvan's makes a good template, a lot of colonies have used it." That would also leave the door open to eventual Membership in the Republic.
The colonists were indeed demanding changes from Bunn's original plan, and they were proving Solomon Danner wrong as they did it.
Danner, eyeing the list of colonists from different religions and ethnicities, had expected Bunn's social-engineering experiment to quickly devolve into factional warfare, without the Pax Jeffersonia keeping the lid on the planet they came from. Instead he was pleasantly surprised to find them petitioning for what he had suggested to Goldschmidt - a Jeffersonian-style constitution.
Blood had spilled, though. Nearly a hundred other passengers had been expecting roles in Bunn's government, which was evaporating as they awoke. Some turned, as Goldschmidt had, and would return in cryopods to give testimony in a Jeffersonian court. Some pretended to be ordinary colonists like the ones whose taxes they expected to live off of. Some of those were found out, and shunned to the point of buying cryopassage on Aurora, back to a Republic world. Though Winsom had made off with the colony's currency reserve, individuals still had their own silver, gold, platinum and rhodium. Bunn probably would have "nationalized" it, replacing it with fiat paper or the like....
A few had suffered psychotic breaks like Bunn. Some screamed at the unfairness of the universe, others sat in mud and cried. Two had been killed in self-defense, after opening fire on the "filthy traitorous peasants" - naturally they held themselves exempt from Bunn's prohibition of weapons. The colonists as yet had few guns of their own - fabbers from Haldred and Aurora, duplicating themselves during the voyage, were making MkLIXs and M437s now - but the would-have-been bureaucrats had poor aim, did not know how to reload quickly, and had been tackled and mauled with farming and woodcutting tools. Before that, seven colonists had been killed, nine wounded. The rest were cemented in their opposition to whatever Victor Bunn or his true followers had planned for them.
Bunn appeared to have intended segregation - people who came from this region over here, people who prayed to that god over there, a collection of tribes and states to satisfy Bunn's thirst for "diversity", while each itself would have been homogenous... and Bunn lording it over all of them, pieces on his game board, props and backdrops in the stage-play of his mind. Fortunately each of the factions' leaders - or at least, the leaders they had now, having had a few internal elections of their own since watching Bunn order their extermination - knew their history. They demanded instead secular law, restrained powers for government, guarantees of the natural rights of the individual. After more than a hundred Terran years of not slaughtering each other, of not watching their children die of plague or famine, they'd got used to the idea.
Gloria Goldschmidt turned out to be right, though - she was not welcome on this planet. She'd made the trip in suspension like the others, had been revived, then scooped up on Danner's orders and brought to Aurora to confront Bunn. She would be taken back to a Jeffersonian court as a witness, and possibly to face charges of her own, though Danner would recommend leniency. She was entering suspension again now, in a pod aboard Aurora, next to her would-have-been partner.
Now the Danforthers were looking for new leadership - not a single president, but a Jeffersonian-style planetary triumvirate. Danner's own name was put forth, which he quickly declined. Sarah Heusner was mentioned - she had by her own hands brought them all here alive - but she too had a home and a sister and no desire to leave either for desks and offices and meetings.
Johann Gormann was a little surprised to find his name nominated - and then he sat down to think, really hard. When first approached by Bunn, Gormann's own plan had been to claim citizenship on Danforth and retire here, changing his life from spacefaring to ranching. He had changed his mind after interacting with the would-have-been ruler, but now he might change it back. His crew were also invited to stay - they had demonstrated honorable conduct throughout the affair.
Sylvan's popular template Constitution was quickly edited, with little more than a search-and-replace function, and as quickly ratified. Johann Gormann accepted election as one of the planet's first three Councillors; the other two came from faction leaders, a Ukrainian woman and a man from one of the Australian aboriginal tribes. Both had earned Jeffersonian Citizenship in the past, as Gormann had. They formed a minimalist government, taking many pages from the figurative books written by Sylvan, Alpine, Adams' World, and other low-population colonies - and also from Solomon's birth-world, Alexandria, whose Six States had united after more than twenty Terran years of civil wars.
Gormann did not renounce, but "relinquished" his Jeffersonian Citizenship. That was an important legal fine point, which others had used before. Gormann, a lifelong sailor, had never married or sired children, so there was no immediate family to be affected by his decision.
Now that Danforth was going in a very different direction from what Bunn had intended, it was not unimaginable that the planet would someday fly the Star and Bars flag, adding the White Star canton to the Five Bars, black-white-red-blue-gold, that they chose now. These colors symbolized the German Empire of Gormann's ancestors, and Neues Deutschland of his birth, as well as his American, Jeffersonian, and New Texan ancestors; black, red and gold were colors in a flag used by Australian aborigines; blue and gold were from the third Councillor's native Ukraine. Most of the factions could find at least one of their historical colors in the flag.
Bunn's design had been red and green, divided diagonally.
With Danforth shaping up to be a rational republic instead of a doomed utopia, that left just one thing.
Continued in the next excerpt....