Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2018, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LXXXIX: Bacon Needs No Excuse
Continued from the previous excerpt
Resumed from Part LXXXII of this story
For background material, see the Explorer story arc
A great decline in pirate activity had been noted, over the past few years, since the Sherrington Atrocity, the liberation of Ude, and the apparent destruction of "Group Twelve". No more relativistic attacks had been made, and instances of the Blood Rose symbol had nearly disappeared. So little was known about the organization that nothing about the Blood Rose was being publicly reported, lest it alert the enemy. Only Frashkra - and the man who used to be Takeo Nakayama - gave confirmation that it even was anything more than a pirate fashion statement.
Some analysts and commentators gave Solomon Danner credit for this restoration of the Long Peace, for proving the Reserve Privateer system was an effective deterrent and response; Danner refused to accept this praise, instead warning viewers of his interviews to not grow complacent, to keep expanding the ranks of Reserve Privateers, and to continue building automated weapon platforms against relativistic strikes. Fortunately, with automation, and copies of little pieces of Aurora for programming, the cost of these defenses was much less than it could have been. A few construction robots would have to be fabbed from scratch, but then they could duplicate themselves, then build and operate the platforms with little supervision.
9 Firstmonth 569JR
17 January 2365CE
Mars, Sol System, Jeffersonian Republic
MoreHAMmed's Restaurant was another centuries-old cultural icon, like The Hungry Kraken at High City, Lisa's Arms in Monticello's Central Terminal, or Gilson's Grog 'n' Grill in Miami's spaceport. Thousands of spacers and tourists passed through its hatches every year. Though the menu was diverse, the establishment focused on pork, and was deliberately insensitive toward Islam. Considering the history of the Second Holocaust, and the failed would-have-been caliphate of Waramid III, no one was much bothered by that.
MoreHAMmed's specialty was a bit of in-joke dating to before the founding of the Jeffersonian Republic. Long ago, aerospace industrialist Kurt Vetter, who would become the Founder of the Republic, watching the first space launch under his own name, raised a glass and drank to the future, promising that someday he would eat "Bacon-wrapped tater-tots... on Mars."
He finally did, once. Vetter Aerospace made the first manned landing on the red planet on the Fourth of July, Independence Day for the United States of America, in the year 1997CE. In 2002 he had made pilgrimage there, with his legendary wife, Lynna Bjolnir, the tigress with raven hair and emerald eyes. Even when concealing its true power, the fusion torch made interplanetary travel a matter of weeks or days, instead of months or years. Vetter brought with him supplies, machinery, tools, worker/colonists... and all the bacon the ship could lift. The first Martian pioneers had already been growing their own potatoes.
After the Battle of Forest Grove in 2009, Vetter and the other Founders Escaped Terra and Sol System, never to return. Mars was nearly abandoned, with only a handful of UN personnel punished by assignment there, to make sure the flag didn't fall over. As the UN grew into the Terran Empire the world took on more importance, its ice caps a source of water for life and fuel, its proximity to the asteroid mines convenient. By the time of the Republic-Empire War, Mars had become a significant Imperial naval base, its low escape velocity allowing some ships to land for repairs and service, its moderate gravity welcome for rest and recreation.
It was not until the Liberation of Sol in 2216 - or more accurately, some years later - that true civilian colonization began. The very first shipment of livestock included pigs. No one in Sol System remembered - had been allowed to remember - an obscure toast by the Founder of the Jeffersonian Republic... but Jeffersonians remembered.
One of them was named Alexander Mohammed, and despite his ancestral name was a practicing Catholic Christian. He had been a Staff Sergeant in the Third Mobile Infantry Regiment, assigned at the time to the Eleventh Legion, the catch-all composite unit for SEALs, Rangers, and every other practitioner of unconventional warfare the Republic had. His first action, and only combat drop, was on Mars, to neutralize ground-based defenses before larger, more conventional landings. He went to Terra later, being landed more gently as part of General Jane Keyes' Army of Occupation, took part in the brutal urban warfare of the American Campaign, the grinding, bloody pacification of the inner cities; he stayed on Terra for more than two local years, rising to Master Sergeant, teaching the fine points of Mobile Infantry power-armor to recruits, and the ugly points of city fighting to veterans of less-vicious campaigns.
Alexander Mohammed's many-great grandmother had been a scientist in that first manned expedition to Mars, sent by Vetter Aerospace. When that expedition had launched, Kurt Vetter had repeated his toast over the radio and all the crew had heard it. Each had passed it down to their descendants, through seven and eight and nine generations across more than two hundred Terran years. When Alexander Mohammed's entry pod was shot out of its launch tube above Mars, he wore beneath his armor the same Saint Christopher medal his ancestor had worn when she became the fourth Human to ever set foot on the same planet. When his armored boots touched that same red soil, he repeated Kurt Vetter's vow, silently, to himself: to create a world where people lived in freedom, and where luxuries became staples.
In 2223CE, with the Republic-Empire War finally over, Master Sergeant Mohammed was honorably discharged, bought land in what would become the center of the city of Helium, and opened a restaurant. He was on the very first ship of the Second Wave, and insisted on being fourth to plant his space-boot in the dry red dust.
This was years before Contact with the Chikaran race, and acquisition of their cryogenic suspension technology, but with the Marsten Drive, a ship full of livestock could travel between planets in the same system in hours instead of weeks or months - most of which hours were spent boosting out of and into the hyperspace limit. The pigs - and cows and chickens and sheep and so forth - were mildly sedated, strapped into their pens for periods of freefall, and made the trip with minimal losses.
Mars has little more than a third the gravity of Terra, and pigs eat nearly anything. The second generation started growing bigger. Selective breeding, and genetic manipulation developed for Humans, kept them healthy, increased their harvestable meat, improved its quality. The Second Wave of Martian colonists had few luxuries, but a good meal of real meat from real animals was one of them, and ranching domes had been a priority. Mohammed invested heavily in dome construction, recruiting engineers and construction workers from people he had served with during the War, knowing it would be years or decades before those investments paid off.
Mohammed kept MoreHAMmed's prices reasonable, and personally oversaw operations, often being his own head chef. He became wealthy and beloved at the same time, as the city of Helium grew, dome by dome, around the restaurant. 142 Terran years later he was remembered as a Founder of the Martian State. There were statues. The one at the entrance to his restaurant, owned and operated by his direct descendants, showed him smiling while offering customers a plate... full of bacon-wrapped tater-tots.
Aurora had brought her Family back to the Central Worlds yet again, and while her oldest body orbited above, her newest descended with her organic siblings. As usual, there were paparazzi following Solomon the pirate-slayer, Jenny the genius, Ralph the other genius, Sarah the dancer, Grbblb the rebel, and Aurora the living starship. Arriving at Bradbury Spaceport, named for a pre-Escape science-fiction author, they allowed themselves to be photographed, even waving to spectators.
There was tourism aplenty on Mars; the Viking landers, the various probes and rovers, the site of that first, pre-Escape landing, in the heart of Bradbury - scrubbed clean and paved over by the Empire, scrubbed clean again and monumentalized by the Republic. There were Imperial ruins too, some of the architecture broken - so read the titanium plaque - by Alexander Mohammed's own power-armored hand.
Mars was a Member World now, though his population was still small; the planet had two Senators, on the American Constitutional model, but only a single Representative. Still, there had been much growth since the War. On a previous visit to Sol System, Aurora's Family had witnessed the Terraforming still underway: a water-comet had been captured from the outer system and directed to impact, that time the south, pole. This was combined with widespread automated heaters, oxygen-producing algae, and other techniques first used even before the Escape, on what would become New Israel. Mars would take a lot longer - centuries, probably - before Common Life people could walk outside without respirators, or even before liquid water could stand on the surface without boiling in the low pressure; but the work continued.
The Terran Empire's naval base, captured with moderate damage by Alexander Mohammed and his fellow Troopers, had become the spaceport city of Bradbury. Towers thrust up and through the domes. The planet's capitol was here, administrative centers, industries; but colonization was spreading. A Terran century-and-a-half ago, the smaller town of Helium - named from pre-Escape fantasy fiction - had been naked red dust. Now it had a population of twenty thousand, and a rail line to it from Bradbury - one of the few in the Republic, where Jeffersonians preferred independence of travel - snaking through a low-altitude valley where the first open-air farms would, someday, shed their protective domes. There were already test crops, patches of faint but eye-catching green dotting the red desert. People couldn't breathe here yet, but some carefully-engineered plants could.
The train came to the very doors of MoreHAMmed's, and the proprietor, Louis James Alexander Adams-Mohammed the Second, personally greeted Aurora and her Family. There were more photos, before Mohammed guided them to a private room which Aurora had made reservation for. Like the restaurant/bar/lounge atop a ziggurat in the city of Arriod on Oskran, MoreHAMmed's was egalitarian, not excluding people; taxi drivers and pig farmers could rub elbows with starship captains and international military heroes. But privacy and quiet could be purchased. Wait-staff brought the place's signature appetizers, took more detailed orders, and left. MoreHAMmed's may have been deliberately offensive toward murderous, world-enslaving Islam, but had nothing against Jews. Jack Epstein had the chicken, lamb, and kosher beef instead, arranged to simulate bacon.
Aurora could mimic the act of eating - there was a storage compartment in her gynoid form - but she could not appreciate taste as organic beings could. She watched as her Captain, her Human and Nikar and Eyani brothers and sisters, popped into their mouths small cylinders of shredded and baked potatoes, wrapped in strips of salted pork fried in its own grease. Some were dipped in honey mustard or other sauces, some of which were concocted from things which grew on worlds very far away from Mars. The Glaut and Boksi members of her Family took longer to process the food, their mouths being smaller and their apparatus having to disassemble the item first, but they achieved the same result. Aurora noted their facial expressions and vocalizations, indicating great pleasure. She felt regret and frustration that she could not share these experiences.
Solomon Danner offered a bacon-wrapped tater-tot to the Humanoid avatar of his ship. "You've said you can't taste as we do," he observed, "but I'm betting you can analyze chemicals. For future reference. There should at least be some scientific explanation for why we love bacon."
"Yes, my Captain," she said; "I did design this body with analytic capabilities." Popping the tidbit into her artificial mouth and chewing convincingly, she went on, "I detect high levels of sodium, maple smoke residue, and various trace elements." She did not bother saying these were harmful in larger quantities. Jeffersonian standards of nutrition and healthcare were the best in recorded history, and Jeffersonians ate what they wanted, when they wanted it. Many kept dietary nanites in their bloodstreams full time... and their children, increasingly, were engineered to eliminate flaws like obesity and heart disease. "Researching the subject-" the gynoid was linked to the sentient starship, who was linked to the Net, and had vast libraries of her own- "I note how the taste of bacon releases endorphins in the Human brain, and in many other Common Life species. While I comprehend the biological process, I cannot claim to understand the effect."
She had an idea about that.
Beyond tourism for a semi-retired Shipfolk Family who were comfortably well-off, there was another reason to come to Mars. "The Chikarans want bacon," Danner told his crew across the table. "We've been offered a contract to gather a breeding population of pigs here and deliver them to Chikar. The money's good, not that we need it - and I think none of us have been there before." No one said they had.
For over a hundred forty Terran years - seventy Martian - MoreHAMmed's Restaurant had been ranching pork and refining its gene pool. The result was the White Mohammed, a healthy and vigorous breed which had been exported before; but it was a matter of weeks or months to travel between stars, even with a Blain Drive, which was only to be used in emergencies. So, like the supercow Aurora had carried from New Texas to Layden, the animals would be placed in Chikaran-designed cryogenic suspension for the trip, obviating their life-support needs and allowing far more to be carried with far less risk. Solomon nodded to Daisuke, Daisuke pressed a stud on his wrist-'puter, and Louie Mohammed appeared in their private room a few moments later.
Seating himself, popping one of his own bacon-wrapped tater-tots in his mouth and speaking around it, he said without preamble, "I can have up to a thousand head ready to go in a local day. If you have the storage for them. One quarter male, the rest female. I reckon the Chikarans can figure it out from there." Mohammed turned his attention to one other in the room, who was not part of Aurora's Family.
Tafik was a Chikaran female, not that most other races could tell by looking, and a Jeffersonian Citizen, her status earned in non-military government service. She was a medical technician, specializing in applications of the cryogenic technology Chikarans had developed generations before, for the sublight Bussard ramjet they had launched in their desperate bid to enlist alien help during their planetary war. She had earned her Citizenship in a VA hospital, learning, then teaching, methods for recovering casualties who might have been hastily stuffed into cryo fresh from a battlefield. In the Long Peace, most of this work was theoretical, but as Solomon Danner had once told the woman known as Anna Nowak, the Republic's Founders had been big on preparedness.
Since the breakthrough by Doctor Ralph Vatelius and Engineer Jenny Blain, showing how the Chikaran Fanouu and Human Marsten energies were related, Tafik had been very busy indeed, catching up to new developments. With her Citizenship secured for five Monticellan years at a time, after eight such years in government work, she hit the private sector, and found herself in demand for interstellar livestock transport. Now she was under contract to a Chikaran ranching consortium, who wanted to change bacon from an expensive import to a lucrative local commodity. There was a Chikaran community growing on Mars, with the red world's light gravity, but Tafik was from Chikar itself, with an acceleration of just a touch more than five meters.
Finishing her latest of several bacon-wrapped tater-tots and washing it down with American-style root beer, she said, "Local fabberies have already been hired, to produce the cryogenic cells." She'd been sent ahead to make such arrangements, and inspect the results. For well over a century, Terran or Monticellan, there had been cheap knockoffs of Chikaran cryo tech, not least from the Russian Star Empire. There had been... losses. And duels. "We should have the full thousand, and a few spares, by the time the animals are ready to load. The consortium I represent has invested heavily in this venture, and has sent with me a team of ten Chikaran technicians, all Institute graduates." That was the Institute of Chikaran Cryogenics, where the names of Aurora and her Family were known. "We believe we can process at least fifty animals per hour, more if we get local help to transport the loaded cells to your ship."
At this, Solomon nodded toward his cargomaster. That one said, "I know some guys." Jack Epstein "knew guys" in nearly every port in Known Space - or knew the guys who knew the guys. He may have been a skilled structural engineer without credentials, and married to the greatest living genius in the field of hyperspatial mechanics, but he was still a dockworker at heart... and a good one. "You fill 'em, we'll shove 'em."
"That should reduce the processing time," Tafik replied with a Human-style nod. "After the animals and cells are brought together, let's say fifteen hours, to leave some, as you Humans say, 'wiggle room.'"
Solomon smiled. It was so nice to work with competent people. "Sixty hours from now we'll be in hyperspace."
Solomon kept that promise... but there were moments when doubts arose. The pigs did not want to go. Louie Mohammed, thinking ahead and wanting the venture to succeed for his own profit, had sent a dozen of his top pig-wranglers along. That turned out to be a good thing, because an adult, Martian-bred White Mohammed outmassed an adult Chikaran by a factor of six, or sometimes ten. The pigs didn't like the alien smells from the Chikaran technicians, they sure didn't like the cryogenic cells, and they had no respect at all for the dignity of Institute graduates who'd rarely got their boots dirty in their lives.
It would have been funnier if there weren't as much money at stake, and on a schedule. Aurora's crew pitched in too, even Aurora's gynoid, displaying more-than-Human speed and strength against annoyed, mud-slick hogs and sows. Prrg slapped porcine rumps with his prehensile tail, more finely controlled than any bullwhip. Hlossh snapped pincer-claws in the pigs' faces. Grbblb, outmassed even more than a Chikaran, donned his miniature panzer battlesuit and dove into the herd at strategic points, giving well-placed electric zaps where needed. His wife Trllbl hovered above in a Flitter, buzzing the edges of the herd to keep them from scattering. The job got done, despite red Martian mud, and some other substances, getting just about everywhere.
Solomon Danner noted, far from the first time, how beautiful and graceful Aurora had made her gynoid face and body. Even while splattered with mud.
Aurora carried five shuttles: the Captain's Gig aircar was suitable for light cargo only, and at best, with all passenger seats removed, might get two of the cryo cells aboard. Two and Three Boats were medium shuttles; they could carry perhaps a dozen if similarly stripped. Four and Five Boats were Type 318 heavy shuttles and could carry forty-three each. There were one thousand four White Mohammed pigs in cryogenic suspension on the surface of Mars, with Aurora orbiting 400 kilometers above. It would take at least nine flights of every shuttle Aurora had to load the cargo, each flight taking at least an hour round-trip.
Louie Mohammed and Jack Epstein had arranged a steady stream of even heavier shuttles and a few actual ships, from throughout Sol System. As the Chikaran technicians began processing the pigs, longshoremen began loading them. When one shuttle or ship was full to capacity, it launched, the first load taking Jack and Prrg back aboard to supervise the transfer and to secure the cells in Aurora's holds, with the help of her robot extensions.
Fifty-three hours after their dinner in MoreHAMmed's Restaurant, Aurora Transitioned to hyperspace.
Continued in the next excerpt....