Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2021, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LXXXVI: War
Continued from the previous excerpt
Galactic West - beyond the Frontier
Jimmu now had brothers: Suizei, Annei, Itoku, Kosho, Koan, with more building. Their cost was astounding, but stolen wealth, and labor from both robots and slaves, made their production feasible.
The mighty ships, all much of a size, four kilometers long by two in diameter, gathered at the Rose Garden. Each had an escort of no less than four heavy cruisers, a dozen or more frigates or destroyers, at least ten of the little gunships, a minimum of four battalion-capacity landers, and the troops to fill them.
Within the inside-out world of Jimmu, Tozama Daiki's hologram stood as a giant among fields and farms, addressing his assembled troops. The image was repeated in the brother-ships, in each escorting vessel, in the artificial habitats of the lifeless planet below.
"My followers!" his voice boomed, in nihongo, which all his people were required to learn. "My loyal vassals! My wolves of space!
"Long have you suffered under the constraints of civilization. Rules. Laws. Preventing you from claiming your right, to dominate! To prey!
"You have come to me from all nations, all worlds. You have sworn yourselves to my cause, to tear down the old order of the galaxy and replace it with our own!" Tozama paused as his followers cheered.
"Our struggle will be long and difficult. Our enemies are strong, and must not be underestimated. We must have patience. We must begin slowly, carefully. For years we have been gathering our strength toward that end.
"Now, at last, we can begin.
"Our allies have already begun, probing the defenses of our enemies, learning their strengths... and their weaknesses. Measuring their responses, and their resolve.
"Our greatest foe is the Jeffersonian Republic.
"They are dangerous to us because of their strength, their size, and above all, their unity. Even members of our allied races, the proud and mighty Nikar and Glaut, have succumbed to the lure of patriotism, swearing allegiance to their false notion of 'liberty'." At Tozama's side, but not visible in the hologram, Inagami scowled. Elsewhere, so did Sakami.
"Unity! The deadliest weapon in the universe! We must counter their terrible unity with a more unbreakable unity of our own!
"To forge such a weapon is why I have brought you all together, in the greatest pack of wolves the universe has ever known! I have ended your feuds, resolved your disputes, given you purpose above your petty desires! I have replaced your scrabbling, squabbling existence with prosperity and security!
"I have given you discipline. Not the blind obedience of our civilized enemies, but the wise, enlightened discipline of self-interest. Now the time has come to employ this deadly discipline toward achieving our mighty goal!
"Our first moves will be targeted to shake our enemies' unity, to undermine their patriotism, to break the Jeffersonians' faith in their nation and themselves. Once their republic is broken, no other force in the galaxy will have the strength or the will to oppose us!
"We shall embark on a reign of plunder and domination the like of which this galaxy has never seen!" Again Tozama paused, as thousands of men cheered. After some moments, he raised his gigantic holographic hands to quiet them, and continued:
"It will take years. We must conceal ourselves, let no enemy understand our true power until it is too late to resist us. Again I say, we must have patience. But those of you who stand with me, those with the courage to undertake this mighty work, will, at the end of this path, take your rightful places as masters!"
Across more than two hundred ships and habitats, thieves, rapists, murderers, slavers, pirates, thousands of them, chanted his name.
So began Tozama Daiki's war against civilization.
For years he and his wolves had hunted beyond the Frontier, feasting on small independent nations. Now he recrossed that invisible line, to attack worlds under the flags of larger, more powerful states.
The existence, organization and size of the Blood Rose was a tightly-held secret. Even most of the pirates conducting the raids knew not what greater thing they were a part of. Ship captains, leaders of assault troops, observers and advisors, were sworn to suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured and interrogated. To that end they accepted implanted suicide devices of various kinds. Few hesitated or objected. They had no desire to spend their last days in a cage, sneered at by beings who should be their prey.
All nations in civilized space took note of a sudden rise in pirate activity, but the petals and thorns of the Blood Rose took care to conceal their identities and connections. Some inevitably slipped, overlooking their unholy mark, on a weapon hilt, a clothing patch, a tattoo; but such mistakes were infrequent, widely separated in space, often dismissed as coincidence, or some pirate fashion trend.
Tozama's non-Human allies did their own parts, raiding outlying worlds, snapping up stray ships and disappearing with them into hyperspace. Throughout the many operations of the Blood Rose, there were successes... and failures.
In 552 on the Republic's calendar, at Dakota, a small Flike raiding party attempted to seize a freighter after it Transitioned to realspace. A lone Reserve Privateer came to the freighter's rescue, almost as an afterthought crippling the Flike ships. All aboard committed suicide before being boarded by the Dakota Planetary Militia. The two small gunships' carrier vessel, laying farther outsystem, escaped.
This brought no great notice among the Blood Rose at the time; attacks of all kinds and sizes were constant across the dozens of light-years of the Frontier, and the Republic's Reserve Privateer system was highly effective, when present. There were many such defeats among the victories. But the following year was a more substantial effort: a deep-penetration raid against a Jeffersonian world well within the Second Wave. Tozama Daiki had ordered such a test. Admiral John Copeland selected Brown's Flotilla - of which he had once been a part - and left the target selection to Roger Brown himself. Flike representatives requested to go along, which Tozama allowed. Their participation would strengthen the alliance, while their presence would muddy investigative waters.
The raid began perfectly. Pirate gunships, disguised as Shipfolk trampers, reconnoitered Mark's World, reporting back to Brown's battlecruiser. Formerly Cameron of the Republic of Caledonia Stellar Guard, years before the ship had been sold and resold to companies which disappeared, for scrapping which never happened. Days later Brown attacked, killing ships and stations in orbit, almost randomly dropping kinetic weapons and laser pulses as diversions and terror tactics. Assault shuttles, military surplus from a half-dozen nations, made their landings. Loot and victims were gathered, the raiders returned, the shuttles lifted.
Then, just as the last shuttle docked with Cameron, another ship Transitioned into the system. In minutes the two supporting gunships were destroyed, and Cameron was flayed by an alarmingly-good Gunner in a disturbingly-aggressive ship half the battlecruiser's mass. Cameron barely escaped, with a Close Transit out, causing further internal damage and injuries, through gravitational shear and Marsten Radiation.
Arriving at RAS1441, Brown reported to Copeland, who reported to Tozama. Images of the other ship were forwarded. When an analyst brought it to his attention, Tozama noted with interest that this was the same antique light cruiser which had disrupted the Flike raid at Dakota. Some of the Flike observers returned to their own ship, in the outer system, to report directly to their own superiors. Others stayed aboard for future actions.
Believing they had made their escape, dismissing the slim risk of being tracked through hyperspace, Brown ordered repairs, sending shuttles to nearby asteroids or the lifeless planet below to gather raw materials for his fabbers, sending his Flotilla's tanker to the comets and back for water-ice to process into hydrogen fuel. Then, he made ready to depart, to meet Itoku five light-years away in another system, for more extensive repairs.
Shockingly, the very same Reserve Privateer from Mark's World burst out of hyperspace at insanely-close range. The Transition EMP crippled Brown's support ships, and that same Gunner began shooting up his warships without a moment's hesitation. By Marsten Device, Brown's crew kept streaming live coverage until defeat was inevitable. Brown ordered the Flike to kill him before themselves. His last words, facing the video pickup, fist to chest, were "Tozama-Tenno - banzai!"
Tozama ordered his intelligence service to begin investigating Independent Starship and Reserve Privateer Aurora.
More attacks, and more. Smaller nations, allied with the Republic, were targeted. Through treaties they demanded assistance, and the ships of the Space Patrol were spread thin. Other worlds, independent, were also struck, some openly, some covertly. The Frontier planet Elysium, in another of Tozama's experiments, years long, was undermined from within. A bribe here, a scandal there, and Tozama's creatures found themselves elected to office. They followed their instructions - and their natural inclinations, as "governor" Thaddeus Webb had on New Texas centuries before - to fabricate or facilitate incidents, using those as cause to pass laws eroding individual liberties, expanding the power of government.
Dozens of light-years away, Tozama was sent regular reports, sending occasional instructions back - one of many irons in his many fires. When word came of a resistance group offering a reward to any mercenaries who would help them restore their constitution, Tozama sent a message dispatching Geoffrey's Greencoats to counter them.
The Greencoats arrived late, to see an Asgardian battlecruiser repairing minor damage, while only scraps remained of the two other ships who had commanded the orbitals. Fortunately Geoffrey had enough caution to make his first Transition deeper outsystem, and after gathering data, including Lorraine Harroldsdottir's looping message, slipped away unnoticed. The Kingdom of Asgard rose on Tozama's list of enemies, and he commanded a personal meeting with Ivar the Silver, leader of the Seven Axes.
If Geoffrey had stayed just a few hours longer, he would have recorded yet another appearance of a very particular antique light cruiser.
Ivar wore long silver hair, braided and ornamented with his namesake metal, and a long silver beard likewise. His weapons were inlaid or plated with silver, and his clothes too shone with metal-woven fabric- which also served as armor against projectiles and energy both.
There were far more than seven axes in Ivar's band, but he was first among them, founder of their movement, their quest to return their neo-Scandinavian culture to their true Viking ways. He believed, as did the ancient Norwegians and Swedes and Danes, that Odin had placed his people in the universe to rule and to prey upon any who proved themselves weaker. Gathering six officers of the Asgardian Royal Navy, of like mind, they swore a mighty oath to each other and stole Brunhild, a heavy cruiser modified along the lines of the villain-hunting battlecruisers, like Valkyrie, Gungnir and Sleipnir, being built at the time. Ivar and his followers set out as pirates, raiding settlements or taking unescorted ships along the Frontier, always staying a step or three ahead of their former comrades.
When approached by Tozama Daiki - himself; he showed respect - and offered alliance, Ivar accepted with enthusiasm. Tozama's ultimate goal mattered less to Ivar, nor was he very worried about being betrayed or discarded. The explored galaxy was vast, the unexplored vaster. There would be plunder and slaves and glory enough for many lifetimes, far more than his own, or Tozama's. Let their grandchildren stab each other in the back. For their own time, they were of a kind.
Ivar was leader of an affiliated band - a Commodore commanding five ships in Tozama's imperial navy. He did not make full prostration to his Emperor, but only a simple bow. "How may I serve you, Tozama-Tenno?"
Tozama nodded in return and said, "Your former comrades inconvenience me. How might they be disposed of?"
Ivar knew of the destruction of Genc. "Obliterate them as you did the Vire. What defense could there be against such weapons?"
"No," the Emperor replied, "not yet. My own scientists have been devising just such defenses, should such weapons be used against me. As the number of my Emperor-ships increases, the Blood Rose will be less tied to a planet's vulnerable surface, but relativistic strikes are not to be used until a simultaneous attack can be made on multiple worlds at once, lest the civilized nations take warning and do raise such defenses." Genc had been only an experiment to prove the concept, distant enough to not be noticed. The system was some hundred and sixty light-years from Terra, well beyond any nation's claimed border, and the Vire's First and only Contact had been with Tozama's Empire.
Ivar nodded in understanding. "Well then, I still have some contacts on Asgard. Many there share my belief, that our current path is too restricted, that Odin demands more of us. Still, we are a minority, while the priests preach that we should only hunt what we should instead be. Also, King Lars and Queen Gilda remain popular. Assassination would likely have the opposite effect we seek."
"They must be overthrown from within," Tozama stated. "The change must come from your own people."
Ivar nodded again. "And that, my Emperor, will take time. -And money."
"Money, my friend, we have. Begin your work, and report your progress." Ivar bowed again, backed two steps, turned, and left.
The man known only as Inagami, second only to Tozama in the ranks of the Empire, stepped out of a secret compartment in Tozama's throne room within Jimmu, where he had been listening. "My lord," he said with a bow.
Tozama nodded in return. "My friend."
"You know my thoughts, my lord." For years Inagami had been torn, between loyalty to his Emperor, and his prejudices against any beings other than Human - and any Humans other than of Japanese blood.
A moment of dissatisfaction crossed Tozama's face. "I know your impatience."
"We can strike at any time," Inagami stated with enthusiasm. "We have ships enough to smash every capitol city in Known Space, topple every government."
"We must gather more strength."
"We have strength enough! Even the Jeffersonian Navy is weak and scattered! The few Home Fleets are small and unsuspecting! We can launch our attacks now!"
"My friend, that would be a mistake. Remember the lessons of history. The Terran Empire, Hitler and Tojo before them, Napoleon too, all attempted to swallow more than they could digest. We are not ready."
"How much more, my lord? How much longer until we are ready?"
"That is for me to say, my oldest friend. The situation is fluid. I must watch many signs, track many movements. I require overwhelming force before I can strike. I will not repeat the mistakes of my predecessors. My victory must be complete, my rule secure."
"My lord...." Inagami paused. "There are others among your followers who begin to ask the same questions as I."
"I am aware." Naturally Tozama had a secret police organization, and widespread technological surveillance. "I am counting on you, my friend, to restrain them. Not least your own companion, Sakami, and any followers he may have accumulated."
"Restraint... may not be possible for much longer, my lord. Your wolves grow hungry." Unsaid, understood, was the truth: Tozama had brought wealth and security to pirates who had formerly scraped by, living their lives between starvation and execution. The wolves were at risk of becoming mere dogs. Some were content to be so. Others... had aching fangs.
"Then you shall feed them." Pressing controls on his throne, Tozama brought forth a hologram of a Common Life world, and the rest of its system. "Korei's fitting-out is nearing completion. Gather those most eager, most impatient. Lead them here, and feast. Sate their hunger, silence their growls... but keep them leashed. We are not ready for all-out war."
Inagami turned to examine the projected hologram. The system was labeled Sherrington.
Continued in the next excerpt....