Professor Aleksandr Ivanovitch Lankov caught the waiter's attention as he glided gracefully by in Topsy's Restaurant's reduced gravity, only 6 mps2. The restaurant was situated near the spaceward end of Monticello Station, the shining stack of spinning wheels in synchronous orbit above the "capitol" world of the Jeffersonian Republic. An abundance of windows ensured the diners a rewarding view, and the gravity, slightly heavier than the new rival, Albert's at Wilson's Colony, made the mechanics of the meal no less pleasant and significantly more manageable than the competition - at least, that's what Topsy's advertising said.
As the waiter approached, Lankov's companions swung their attention to him. Franklin Penn, a construction worker for Marsten Incorporated - "been walking the high steel for eight generations, blue collar and proud, brother" - tore his dark brown, almost black eyes away from the view of Monticello Station's stack of 400-meter wheels. His mother had helped build this place; her welder's inspection marks could be found there, where that spoke joined the main body of Wheel Two, and again on some of the docking ports on the planetward end of the Axle. His grandfather had likewise worked on the recycling of the original, much smaller Station, whose material had gone into this one's, and family legend held that Penn's great-grandmother worked on JRS Independence, the first interstellar warship, shortly before the Escape, and that she even served in the crew when that vessel destroyed the UN's orbiting weapon platforms to clear the way for the fleeing Founders. Penn ran a hand over his tightly-curled, close-cropped black hair, shifting his 1.9- meter, 75-kilo frame easily in the restaurant's deceptively flimsy-looking chair, and smiled. Both his daughters were well on their way to earning their Citizenship and following in the Old Stick's footsteps; the oldest, Carol, already had an offer from SpaceHab Corporation at Wilson's Colony. Thirty years from now she'd probably own the company, if she applied herself as she usually did.
Richard Trent was a pup next to Penn and Lankov. 1.7 meters, slightly built at only 60 kilos, blond and blue-eyed, he was just twenty Terran years old, a recent immigrant from Australia, still reeling at times from the realization that he had in fact escaped that violent, crime-ridden culture with its oppressive police force and corrupt government; that the swirling blue-white world beyond the window was in fact fabled Monticello orbiting far Tau Ceti, 'capitol' of the Jeffersonian Republic, nation of freedom and opportunity. Though he felt quite young next to his companions he knew he was rather old to still be a Subject; Penn's daughter Carol, a year younger, was very near earning her full Citizenship with the completion of her current tour aboard the Space Patrol frigate Steadfast. Trent's specialty was in environmental systems, skills very much in demand with a society as dependent on space industry and travel as the Republic. He silently thanked his departed father for steering him toward higher education, for nearly bankrupting himself to put Richard into a private academy that quietly spread knowledge instead of government indoctrination.
Lankov himself simply looked Russian, the very image of a Russian bear, largely built with a thick mop of brown hair with gratifyingly little gray, sharp brown eyes beneath bushy brown brows. He had come to the Republic with his immigrant parents as a boy of seven Terran years, and though he was fluent in Jeffersonian English - as all Citizens were required to be - a not unpleasant Muscovite accent flavored his speech, more so when he was enthused. Fascinated with life itself at an early age, through decades of diligent study, hard work, and countless field projects, many quite hazardous, at one hundred thirty-two years (eighty-three Terran) Lankov was now considered the top xenobiologist in known space - as well as a respected pilot both in and out of atmosphere, a capable small-craft mechanic for vehicles from scooters to shuttles, and a two-time champion swordsman, once at Trent's age and again at Penn's.
The three had met in the lounge of the passenger liner Annie Oakley. Lankov was returning from a scientific symposium which left him enraged at the increasing oppression and censorship of the United Nations, while Penn was coming back from a similarly disappointing attempt to instruct Terran crews in Jeffersonian construction methods; both were disgusted by the Terrans' blind obedience to central authority, unquestioning acceptance of the status quo, and near-unthinking rejection of any concept not initiated and approved by their government. Penn in particular was shocked to encounter, of all things, racial prejudice among the Terrans. He'd spent more time thinking of the color of his skin in the past few months than he had in the previous seventy Monticellan years, and was very glad to be home.
As for Trent - his companions could think of a thousand reasons each why Trent would want to leave, and most of them would be correct.
The waiter glided smoothly to their table. "How may I help you, Professor?" Penn smiled in amusement, Trent in nervousness. He was hanging out with a real celebrity, Lankov's expert opinion on something being broadcast on two or three vid channels somewhere in the Republic at any moment.
Lankov pointed to a startlingly attractive young woman with an oddly-shaped gold pendant around her graceful neck, holding hands and talking softly with another woman who was less attractive only by comparison, and said, "If some other gentleman has not beaten me to the honor, I wish to pay that lady's check."
The waiter smiled and gave his head a little shake. "I'm afraid you're fourth in line tonight, sir, but I'm sure the lady would appreciate knowing Professor Lankov made the offer, if you don't mind me telling her?"
"Ah! I must be getting slow in my middle age," Lankov said in disappointment. "Yes, please be so kind as to pass my respects on to the lady."
"Of course, sir," said the waiter, and bounded gracefully off.
Trent considered the difference between the Terran and Monticellan years, and standards of living. Already near the end of his life by the standards of Trent's world, Lankov could expect another thirty to fifty Terran years of healthy, productive life in the Republic. Curiosity overcoming shyness, Trent gestured at the retreating waiter and asked, "What was all that?"
Penn and Lankov smiled. Penn asked, "See her pendant?" Trent nodded. "Can you make out the shape?"
Trent squinted, then raised his eyebrows in surprise and no small amount of confusion. Why would a woman be wearing a phallic symbol in public? Especially one in an... unexcited state? And especially when she and the other woman were obviously a couple?
Penn summed it up in a single sentence: "That's a special pendant which the Republic awards, like a medal, to those who defend themselves against a rapist."
Lankov, with patriotic pride, expounded, "There has not been a successful rape reported in the Republic for ten years."
"Twelve," Penn countered.
Lankov shook his head. "The DeMarco Case."
"I wouldn't call that 'successful'...."
"Ms. Francetti may disagree with you."
Penn winced. "Good point. Ten, then."
"The DeMarco Case?" asked Trent, unfamiliar as he was with recent events in the Republic.
Lankov explained, shifting into the precise, captivating mode of lecture that had made him the favorite science commentator of every news network on four worlds. "Very famous case in Cincinnati, on West Continent - there, you can see the city lights, just past the terminator - though not as tragic as it could have been. Eloise Francetti was a rarity in the Jeffersonian Republic: a Pacifist. She refused to participate in weapons and self-defense training as a schoolchild and was on an eight-year Citizenship track as a nursing assistant, as opposed to the usual five-year military method.
"A patient she worked with, Marc DeMarco, a recent immigrant from the Federal States of America, became infatuated with her, and when she did not return his affection, he became increasingly threatening and began stalking her. He was quite clever in this, never being caught in such acts without ready alibis; it was later revealed that he was the prime suspect in a series of rapes and rape-murders in California and Nevada, which indicates he had a great deal of predatory skill and experience. Meanwhile Ms. Francetti was urged by friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, everyone who knew her, to arm herself and prepare for her own defense, but she steadfastly refused, holding to her Pacifist ideals."
"Why didn't she just report him to the police?" Trent interrupted.
Penn and Lankov gave Trent a sharp look, which softened when they remembered that he was new to their nation. "Because we do not have a police force," Penn answered. "If we had such a monstrous collection of laws and law-enforcement organizations that DeMarco could have been arrested, without evidence, for something he hadn't yet done, then we would be a police state, and you would have no reason to leave your home and join us. We prefer to take care of ourselves, not have some gang of self-righteous bureaucrats and hired thugs 'protecting' us from ourselves."
Nodding agreement, Lankov continued. "Eventually DeMarco abducted Francetti, who of course offered no resistance, or at least none that was effective. Securing her in his aircar he flew to a remote area, where he did his foul deed at knifepoint. Apparently this precipitated some change in Ms. Francetti's disposition, for while DeMarco was zipping up his attention wandered, and Ms. Francetti relieved him of his knife and disemboweled him."
Lankov took a sip of his beer, smacked his lips appreciatively, and continued. "It was a very good knife, a New Damascus model, quite large, one of the first offered with the molecular-width cutting edge. Franklin there has one very much like it, though personally I prefer the old Lexington Armory midsword I carried in the Service.
"According to the forensics report, parts of which were made public as a deterrent to other would-be molesters, it took some twenty minutes for the late unlamented Mr. DeMarco to expire, during which time he crawled at least a hundred meters, leaving quite a trail of, ah, debris. Allegedly Ms. Francetti... watched, and, and, ah...." Lankov waved a hand in the air, atypically at a loss for words. "Well, this was not proven, nor would it have mattered to the jury if it were, I think. There was an investigation, of course, and Ms. Francetti was exonerated and awarded the Golden Phallus. The day after the jury returned the verdict of Justifiable Homicide, Ms. Francetti signed on with the Exploration and Colonization Service and has been on the Frontier ever since, where in her typical dealings with unruly frontierspeople and various native fauna, she has reportedly developed quite a reputation for marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat. In every respect, a model Citizen, an inspiration to youth and a valuable lesson to all.
"Needless to say, Pacifism movements throughout the Republic suffered significant setbacks as their putative members realized the potential costs of their beliefs and therefore abandoned them. Her parents, who had been responsible for her pacifist upbringing, allegedly changed their names and moved to another planet.
"It is generally believed that Ms. Francetti chose to join the ECS deliberately to escape hounding by the media. Reportedly no one in her current, remote environment gives her any trouble about the case - or at least, they do not do so twice, for she is never without that very same knife, and a service pistol such as Franklin and I, and most Citizens, have." Lankov gestured at the tastefully-engraved and -inlaid caseless 10mm Casetti Arms M169 holstered at his hip, while Franklin opened his jacket to reveal a plainer but otherwise identical pistol in a crossdraw holster. Lankov sipped his beer again, and as the lady with the pendant raised her glass in acknowledgment, he raised his in salute. "DeMarco's behavior was of course despicable, and Ms. Francetti's final response to it both morally and legally justified. In the Republic, any man who wishes to call himself a gentleman seeks to encourage the latter and discourage the former, most usually by paying small tokens of respect to such women."
Trent, his mind still vestigially infected with the cynicism of Terran society, asked, "What if a woman... you know, fakes it, wears a pendant like that when she hasn't, uh, earned it? She'd get a lot of free dinners!"
Penn answered, "There was a case like that, twenty years or so ago, right here at Monticello, down at Big Tee - er, Central Terminal, the big spaceport city on South Continent, your next stop. I guess she reckoned she could get lost in the crowd, but our definition of 'crowd' is rather different. Anyway, it was all very shameful. Some members of the Sisterhood got together and, ah, taught the woman in question some much-needed manners. Haven't heard of anything like that since."
"Our society," Lankov added, "is what would in ecological terms - or engineering terms," he expanded, with a nod to Penn- "be called 'self-correcting.'"
Trent sat silently, staring at his own beer while assimilating these facets of Jeffersonian society, and jumped in his seat when Penn asked enthusiastically, "So, Richard! Any thoughts on how you'll earn your Citizenship? Personally I recommend the Patrol. See the Universe! Without some newly-discovered critter trying to take a bite out of you every five minutes like in the ECS." Penn winked good-naturedly at Lankov.
"No, no!" objected Lankov, responding in kind and with interest. "The Service! 'See the Universe,' ha! You can see nothing from inside a metal can on the other side of the clouds. You must breathe the air, feel the strange new worlds beneath your feet, see fascinating new creatures with your own eyes and not on a video display. Experiences you will remember all your life!"