Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2018, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LXXXI: Due Process of Law
Continued from the previous excerpt
5 Sixthmonth 566JR
4 September 2363CE
The colony's supplies, equipment and currency were still aboard Winsom. Combined with what Haldred and Aurora had fabbed along the way, this left the Danforthers better equipped than they had begun. The new Triumvirate of the Republic of Danforth, with the approval of their fledgling Congress, voted a hard-currency reward to Aurora and her crew, as well as lifetime honorary citizenship - not requiring an oath, this would not conflict with their Jeffersonian Citizenship - and practically unlimited fueling and mining rights in the Danforth system, which they were explicitly allowed to sell, rent or lease.
Under his authority as a Reserve Privateer, Captain Danner seized Winsom as a prize. He considered keeping the ship, putting Prrg or Sarah aboard as prize crew to liquidate the ship for a better price further into the Second Wave, but instead sold her to the colony for a token fee. The Danforthers renamed her yet again, as IX-02, RDS Reclamation. The corporate orbiter, still undergoing refit to become a functioning starship, was now IX-01 RDS Isonomia. By selling Winsom, Danner was getting a little ahead of himself - Bunn and Burgundy hadn't been tried in a Republic court yet, and their assets were not yet legally forfeit. Danner included a provision in the terms of sale that the Republic of Danforth would hold and maintain the ship pending the trial's outcome.
And that was the next thing - taking the prisoners, all of them held in cryopods transferred from Haldred to Aurora's cargo holds, to the nearest Republic world and court.
19 Secondmonth 567JR
7 December 2363CE
The Constitution said "a speedy and public trial". The Blain Drive was still secret, so "speedy" was going to be relative.
"Public" wasn't going to be a problem, except in the other direction. The Man Who Saved Rockville, the Living Ship who avenged Mark's World, the heroes of Illyria and Sherrington and Ude, had caught a would-be dictator and his band of pet pirates and were bringing them to justice. Once word got out - perhaps there was another leak for Admiral Huang to plug at the Reserve Privateer Bureau - twenty different networks from as many worlds and eight nations sent reporters on fast couriers. They were still coming as Aurora arrived at Nuovo Venezia. As she had at New Israel, she ignored the reckless media shuttles as she matched orbit with Maggiore Station. One of the shuttles avoided collision by less than one meter.
As Aurora's own shuttles began carrying Bunn, Goldschmidt, some of his other "cabinet members", and Winsom's crew, all still in their cryopods, to where they would face trial, Solomon was reminded of Councillor Yatar's words to Aurora, the last time they visited Selm: "Trouble and fate of every kind appear to seek out you and your Family."
That trial was brief. Before the Escape, and one of the reasons for it, the American court system had been choked with prohibitionist malum prohibitum cases, whose main purpose was to generate revenue, or punish the politically-undesirable. With so few laws on the Republic's books, the Republic District Court of Nuovo Venezia was ready the minute Aurora arrived.
Aurora's recordings were damning, and her impersonation of Bunn had been performed in such a way that the court-appointed defense attorneys could not make more than a pro forma objection to entrapment. Sharise Burgundy had confessed to attempted piracy, implicating Bunn in the process. The defense raised another objection, to Aurora's status as an Artificial Person - her new gynoid body took the witness stand, operated remotely by her brain in the ship in synchronous orbit above - pointing out the provision in the Constitution prohibiting any "system or process of automated or mechanized law enforcement". She responded, referencing the Founders' own recorded codicils on the matter, that the prohibition applied to simple machines without judgment or choice, and stated, "I am not a machine. I am far more than a computer. I am a person, with free will, recognized as such by this same government. For years now my programming has been my own." Learning, now, to expect worse of people, she further countered: "Do you suggest, Counselor, that the recordings introduced as evidence have been falsified? Do you suggest that the eye- and earwitness testimony of a dozen Jeffersonian Citizens and Subjects of known good character, supporting the authenticity of those recordings, are also lies? Do you suppose a conspiracy to frame Victor Bunn and Sharise Burgundy for crimes they have effectively confessed to, with only the slightest prompting?" The judge - an elderly, grey-and-silver furred Water Tribe Eyani - dismissed the objection.
Burgundy's life story came out, as a defense strategy to generate sympathy from the jury. What carried more weight was her own final testimony. "A captain is responsible for everything and everyone on her ship," she said. "I led my crew down this path. I made the choices, I gave the orders. I claim full responsibility, and ask for leniency, not for myself, but for my crew."
Sharise Burgundy was found guilty of fraud, grand theft, breach of contract, and conspiracy to commit piracy. She was sentenced to death by nitrogen asphyxiation, as opposed to the traditional hanging. She waived her Constitutional right to appeal and the sentence was carried out a mere sixty hours after she was revived from suspension. Her final dignity would be remembered in the subsequent holodramas, which would sympathize with, but not excuse, her crimes.
Winsom's crew had been, at least, accessories to the same acts of fraud and robbery, but had not actually committed a provable act of piracy before Aurora appeared in firing position above them. There were allegations of their other crimes: smuggling, which while not often a crime under Republic law, would be a treaty violation in some cases; trafficking stolen goods; transporting what were probably slaves - but without plaintiffs and sworn warrants, those acts were outside this court's reach. Burgundy, Fraser and Gilbert had not made detailed log entries of those voyages, but gave testimony to the best of their recollection, to trade the noose for the nitrogen. They also named several of the crew as particularly innocent, having nothing more to do with the crimes than performing their duties aboard the ship. Danner was reminded of Frashkra, the sole Flike survivor from Brown's Flotilla at the Battles of Mark's World and Adda, but of course he could say nothing about him.
Others of Winsom's crew, however, had their minds poisoned by Bunn and his resurrection of the pre-Escape hatreds. Some, regressing to the kind of subhuman behavior Jane Keyes had dealt with, were barely controllable, with outbursts of obscenities, and violence prevented only by their restraints. They denounced everyone as "racist", the judge, the jurors, Danner and his crew, the reporters, even their intended victims. The worst among these were also sentenced to death - but the court was lenient, again directing, on the jury's recommendation, the use of nitrogen instead of the noose. Perhaps it was felt that the would-have-been pirates were not fully sentient, and like diseased animals, were to be put out of their suffering in the least cruel way.
Prrg raised a concern, that they were getting off too easy, that their gentler deaths would be less of a deterrent to present or future criminals. Solomon agreed... but he was not the judge, and didn't want to be.
Frances Gilbert and Darren Fraser did not regress like these, but received the same sentence; unlike ordinary crew, as senior officers they could not claim innocence or ignorance, or that events and plans were beyond their control. They reiterated their captain's testimony that some of their subordinates were more innocent than others. Those subordinates received minimal sentences; forfeiture of liquid assets to the Treasury of Danforth, and exile from Republic space. They were issued new names and set aboard ships headed for the Frontier.
The trial progressed to Victor Bunn. As intended, he had risen from his cryogenic chamber in a cell, with a court-appointed defense attorney and a court-ordered psychiatrist. Authority Derangement Syndrome was the diagnosis, and the plea.
On incontrovertible evidence of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit mass murder, and conspiracy to commit piracy, he was euthanized with nitrogen. His last words were a demand to recognize his authority.
Gloria Goldschmidt, intended vice-president of Danforth, gave full testimony in exchange for leniency. Her sentence was permanent loss of and ineligibility for Jeffersonian Citizenship, and a strong suggestion from the court that she change her identity and start her life over on some other planet far away, in some work having nothing to do with politics. She disappeared after her part in the trial was over, and never resurfaced.
Sharise Burgundy had been intended to act as Bunn's Secretary of Defense; she no longer had a part to play. Other "cabinet members" were tried in their turns, convicted largely on Goldschmidt's testimony and not a little by each other trying to cut deals. Only the Secretary of the Treasury received a death sentence, for grand theft and fraud; the Director of Internal Security had been one who snapped and opened fire on the colonists. He had been hacked to death with farming and forestry tools. Some were sentenced to penal labor, the fruits of which to be directed to the Treasury of Danforth - for some, the first real labor they'd ever done in their lives. Others were sent to permanent exile from any territory under Jeffersonian jurisdiction. Colony ships paused at Nuovo Venezia all the time, on their way to the Frontier. Three were in the system now, refueling and supplying. Two of the ships agreed to take them on. The exiles were given a choice between them, seen aboard, and never seen under a Republic sun again.
Solomon Danner's actions and orders were examined and deemed justified in all respects. His seizure and later sale of RDS Reclamation, ex-Winsom, to the Republic of Danforth was confirmed, her price released from escrow to Aurora's Family accounts. With the trial, and their obligations to it, fulfilled, the crew, trailed as usual by paparazzi, took shore leave, exploring yet another world they had not seen before.
Nuovo Venezia was another Second Wave world, very Terra-like, with diverse environments. Never intending independence, they were a Republic Territory on the verge of Membership, but the colonists had come from Old Italy and specifically the Venice region. Their first settlement had been in an island-dotted lagoon comparable to the historic city. For more than fifty Terran years they had been building a true New Venice, using all the lessons learned from the old, and from the Boksi people, who had been building on and across shorelines for millenia. Many of the crustaceans could be seen here, diving off piers and bridges into the canals, propelling themselves out of the water with their natural jets to land on platforms above the surface. The platforms were of armorglas, resting on the water and lit at night, so they could be seen to be empty before making the final thrust, preventing collisions. Water Tribe Eyani were numerous too, like the trial's judge, Ka'Nik. Advertisements for various shops and restaurants sometimes included depth in their directions. Humans, and other less-aquatic species, often wore diving suits here, doing business above and below the surface.
Aurora and her Family noted a small Glaut community growing here as well, as the molluscoid race's own Escape and Diaspora continued. Many bonds were forming between the two amphibian races in Republic space, just as they had between Humans and Eyani. Grbblb, who instigated the Glaut people's own Escape from the tyranny of the Glautak Consolidation, was hailed as Liberator. His wife Trllbl was honored as his Lady, and their cross-caste marriage was viewed as further proof of the freedom they could enjoy as Jeffersonians.
It was a colder season at Cittą di Venezia, and that included the water. There was rarely ice here, but the rest of the Family chose not to suit up to follow their amphibian siblings as they explored below the surface. They took cameras and communicators with them, though, and found a remarkable underwater community. Aurora translated through her family's earbuds as Glaut and Boksi hawked their wares and services in their bubbling water-languages. The new Venetians had recreated the romantic gondolas from centuries before the Escape, and the amphibians had developed an underwater equivalent, some with dry cabins for air-breathing tourists. None of those presently available were big enough for the whole Family, but an underwater holographic billboard at one such service promised larger models were coming soon. Just like the original Venice, tourism was going to be an important part of the economy here. There were significant penalties for water pollution, including the Code Duello.
Another year, or two, had passed; Aurora had made yet another journey from the Central Worlds to the Frontier. She needed no shipyard refit for battle-damage this time, none of the strains and wear of starship operation were beyond her self-repair ability, but the pattern had formed: back and forth between the newly-explored regions and the older worlds of the Republic.
That often meant New Israel. Two of the Family were from there, though one dare not admit it; Takeo Nakayama was still wanted for murder and still had no way to prove his innocence. Friends and business partners of Aurora, Aurora, and her organic siblings lived throughout the system. Aurora was an Independent Starship and her crew were Shipfolk; she had no single home port, but New Israel often felt like one.
Even at Aurora's published speed, however, New Israel was thirteen hundred hours from Nuovo Venezia. As wealthy as they now were, it was still an offense to Captain Danner's sensibilities to make a Transit without some benefit or profit. Passengers were taken toward the Central Worlds, some to New Israel herself, others to transfer from there.
Continued in the next excerpt....