Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2018, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part XC: A Little of This, a Little of That
Continued from the previous excerpt
21 Secondmonth 569JR
11 March 2365CE
The cryogenic rigs weren't real Chikaran production, but they'd been fabbed from Chikaran plans under Chikaran supervision. After the little Flike raid over Dakota, and Aurora's high-acceleration response to it, the Institute had issued guidelines to improve durability. The fabbers, and their operators, were Jeffersonian. The results wouldn't give any trouble.
The decline in pirate activity was no excuse to get sloppy. Aurora was brought to full alert before Transitioning to realspace ten light-seconds from Yarrow. All weapons and engine systems were active, Prrg and Holly were in their power-armor in separate parts of the ship.
There was no need. Yarrow was a Republic Territory, if a colder one; it was not attractive to pirates. On the outer edge of its dimmer star's habitable zone, it was covered with glaciers, some of which could measure their age in eight or nine figures of orbits. Axial tilt was negligible, and there was a thin band of navigable water along the equator. Deep radar and the Marsten Detector revealed continents under the ice, kilometers down; but only a few islands and one isthmus ever saw sunlight. Most of the planet's half-million Jeffersonians clung grimly to these specks of land. Some thousands made settlements on the ice, others on floating or submerged habitats, and more orbiting in Niflheim Station, a torus whose rotation speed slowed as larger rings were added. Industry was focused on exports of seafood and ancient glacier-ice for snooty drinking water. Aurora was here for little more than fuel, but as long as she was, she picked up some processed seafood and luxury ice. They also loaded a batch of live Yarrowese fish, which had evolved to hibernate in solid ice. While Yarrow had little axial tilt, she did have an eccentric orbit, and the equatorial band of liquid water grew and shrank with the planet's distance from its sun.
There were two reasons to acquire the fish: first, their biochemical technique for hibernation, without ice crystals rupturing cells, was of great interest to cryologists, Chikaran or otherwise. Second, the fish were to be introduced to an inland lake on Chikar, as an experiment. Even more than a century after Jeffersonians had ended Chikar's generations-long world war, the planet was still recovering from its wounds. Many species had gone extinct under nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Since Chikar's environment had already been ruined by warring Chikarans, there was little moral objection to introducing an alien species. Previous research suggested compatibility between these fish and what remained of Chikar's biosphere. Perhaps the fish would refill an environmental niche. Perhaps they would die in Chikar's water. Perhaps they would explode in population, like the Giant Fauxhare accidentally introduced on New Israel; in which case the lake would be sterilized again, as it had already been in the war.
Hlossh declined to add this world's waters to his sea-tourist guidebook, and so did his Glaut crewmates. It was cold enough to be harmful, even to natural-born amphibians.
13 Thirdmonth 569JR
7 April 2365CE
Their next stop was, as often in their travels, a contrast. Long's World had a scorched desert for an equator, shading to tropical jungles in the middle latitudes and dense forests all the way to the poles. There were no icecaps, or even snow; water never froze in nature here. There were oceans, not as large as Terra's but large enough. Where they reached the equatorial zone, convection currents between there and the moderate zones kept life flowing, with schools of fish-like and whale-like things following each other south and north as seasons changed. Some of the life in these seas was amphibian, crawling ashore for breeding like Terran sea turtles. Hlossh, Grbblb and Trllbl did sample the waters of this world, escorted by the aquatic-combat extension of herself Aurora had built for the starcrab hunt on Gambori. The rest of the Family joined them, in these warm waters.
Exports from here were artisan glass, from the abundant sand; the sand itself, of certain qualities; and alien lumber for status symbols and fashion. These would sell to collectors and artisans on Chikar.
Solomon Danner, and every other Human in sight, noticed how flawlessly Aurora's gynoid filled her modest one-piece swimsuit - which was white, of course, subtly trimmed with pale gold and violet-blue.
30 Thirdmonth 569JR
29 April 2365CE
This independent world was more Terra-like, but had higher gravity, twelve and a half meters. There was a pre-sentient species here, just barely beginning to use sticks and stones for hunting or pack warfare. Colonization was being limited to a continent that species did not inhabit.
Prior had an above-average metal content, and exported some to its region, including fissionables. Chikarans had used most of their planet's radioactives on each other, over their century of slaughter. Aurora loaded all she had capacity for, well shielded in fabbed containers outside her armored hull. Payment for this had already been arranged. Several business concerns on Chikar were eagerly awaiting Aurora's arrival.
There had been pirate raids on Prior, during the last wave, but Reserve Privateers were often above this world and only one attack had successfully landed in the last decade. They got away with a few tons of loot, but left behind a third of their number. Priorans may not have been Jeffersonians, but they recognized a universal and natural right to keep and bear arms.
13 Fourthmonth 569JR
15 May 2365CE
Fiesler had a poison atmosphere and its people lived in domes, but the view outside them was seductive. An unsuited Human would asphyxiate in less than a minute, but there was plant life here, and even some animals of kinds which were still defying classification. This was only the second world yet discovered with life other than Common, carbon-based, nitrogen/oxygen-breathing - the other was far to Edgeward. Scientist passengers from Sol disembarked here, to study things that might give them handles on the ongoing change of Mars' atmosphere, or the Terraforming of other worlds. Fiesler was little more than a scientific outpost, and had no exports.
26 Fourthmonth 569JR
1 June 2365CE
The place discovered by Timothy Bromley had no worlds at all, but a system of four asteroid belts, each rich in resources, including metals, radioactives, and water-ice. These had been traded, over the last several decades, for construction materials and organics, to build six, so far, space habitats: two Cylinders, three Toruses, and a spherical Balloon World. Another Cylinder was under construction as Aurora stopped to refuel, and to load even more rare elements Chikar lacked. There were few attractions for tourists here; the place was mostly business, rockrats and icehounds, and shipwrights offering repairs and upgrades. The Bromley system was a vast interstellar truck stop.
Like pre-Escape truck stops, there were other businesses here, including brothels. The Sixth Generation Marsten Drive, Improved by Jenny Blain, greatly reduced Transit time, but people still had needs and other people could make money filling them. Aurora's crew did not partake, but one such establishment was within sight of the administrative offices they visited in the station they chose for docking. Apparently some people had a fetish for depilated Eyani. Sarah Heusner, with her fur intact, could not visibly blush... except for her ears, which turned a brighter red than Solomon Danner had ever seen.
There were sexbots here too. Built with the same technologies as Aurora's gynoid, they were indistinguishable, at first glance, from Human; but their behavior, their body language, despite the best efforts of programmers, seemed unnatural after a few moments' observation.
Aurora, walking past them beside her Captain, said, "I suppose those are my cousins."
"They're nothing like you," Solomon replied, almost snapping the words. "Those are stupid machines. You're a person." He blushed.
She tucked her arm into his. As he turned to look at her, she smiled.
He smiled back.
13 Fifthmonth 569JR
22 June 2365CE
Greece had suffered economic collapse in the time before and after the Escape. Runaway entitlement programs had doomed the ancient nation and people even more thoroughly than the United States of America - Americans, as a people, took lots of killing, even by their own government.
Greeks were resilient too, despite their socialist death-spiral. They found ways to keep food and energy flowing even when the United Nations said they shouldn't. Ancient Greek notions of government, after all, including having less of it, had been ingredients of America's. Once the parasites starved, the survivors... survived.
Like other Terran countries, Britain and Germany for example, a secret society arose to preserve Greek culture and history through generations of UN and Imperial oppression. When Liberation finally came, Jeffersonian troops - particularly the Twelfth Legion, from Alexandria, Solomon Danner's later birth-world, which had Greek cultural influences - were welcomed with jubilation. The Society for the Preservation of Hellenic Culture had been a small but active part of the Terran Resistance, doing their share of sniping and bombing and less-violent sabotage and subversion. As very precise kinetic slugs smashed the Terran Imperial Navy's base at Athens, and Legio XII's landers touched down around it, the SPHC rose up and struck down their oppressors, openly flying their own blue-and-white flag for the first time in half a century.
Once that had all settled down, the Second Wave of colonization began. Greeks were early participants, and Nea Hellas, some fifty light-years from Sol, had been their target. At the time it was too distant to attract less-determined colonists, when Fourth Generation Marsten Drives took most of a Terran year to go so far, but the SPHC filed their claim, scraped up funds to buy a ship, and began their journey. While they were en route the Fifth Generation Drive became available, and an unscrupulous outfit raced ahead at a hundred times lightspeed and tried to claim the world as their own. There was a little shooting, and an appeal to the Republic's federal courts, but the SPHC's claim was upheld.
The planet was worth the effort. It was a Terra-like jewel, 71% ocean, on average a bit warmer than Terra, full of life and beauty, gravity of about 9.6 meters, just enough less than Terra's 9.81 to be pleasant. The SPHC found a piece of geography very much like ancient Greece, started there, and had been spreading ever since.
Shipping had always been a leading industry of the Greek people, and it still was. NHFC, New Hellenic Freight Corporation, ships were likely to be seen at any port in the explored galaxy, as were many others which flew the flag of Nea Hellas: the same as the 20th Century CE Greek flag, but with the white cross on blue replaced with the Jeffersonian white star on black. Nea Hellas was a Member World. Her planetary militia was counted as the 33rd Legion of the JRMC Reserve, and nicknamed themselves Spartans. Nea Hellas built her own warships too, straight copies of the Maerca-class destroyers, some under federal contract; and a few light cruisers for themselves. Pirates left them alone. These Jeffersonian latter-day Greeks felt naked without weapons, personal or naval.
Emigrants from Old Greece, in cryogenic suspension of their own, had been part of Aurora's cargo from Sol System. They had been revived aboard by Ralph a day before the Transition to realspace, and now were greeted by family at Aegis Station - which was actually a Balloon World, a one-kilometer sphere, with fusion torches for emergency maneuvering and almost as many weapons as Monticello Station. Aegis orbited some 1,200km above Nea Hellas; plenty of shuttles were available to take goods and people between station and planet. A recently-completed sister station, Thyreos, was a small O'Neill Cylinder of conventional construction, in the same orbit but diametrically opposite. A third, Aspis, was planned as a torus, and the orbits of the other two would be shifted for equal spacing... equal defensive coverage. These people, at least, were not growing complacent as piracy dwindled.
Nea Hellas exported some rare elements, exotic woods, and petroleum products like bulk plastic pellets for fabbers. Using the space freed by the cryopassengers, Aurora was soon stuffed full of profitable goods from a half-dozen worlds, all bound for Chikar.
Continued in the next excerpt....