395 JR - 2256 CE
Her parents had finished the story, and Tr'Cre's eyes shone with wonder. Ri’Cho caressed the silky, golden-white fur of his daughter’s face, then walked purposefully toward the center of the park. Using all six limbs, he climbed easily onto the shoulder of Rachel Marsten’s statue. Gently, he planted his full-hands on its granite cheeks, and gravely kissed it full on its granite lips.
Tr’Cre, fascinated, watched.
Beta Station, Synchronous Orbit
Alexandria, Jeffersonian Republic
The vast, sleek expanse of E01 JRS Enterprise, first of her class of 85,000-ton Explorers, dwarfed Alexandria’s Beta Station. For three weeks the famous starship, otherwise fresh from refit at Wilson’s Colony’s High City, had docked at what had once been the pride of the Betan Confederacy, taking on supplies and crew in preparation for her next eight-year deep-space mission. Those eight years would cover vastly more territory than the last, for the main object of her refit had been the installation of a Fifth Generation Marsten Drive, more than doubling the sixty-year-old ship’s original hyperspace speed.
Nearly eleven hundred sapients had been chosen from twenty times as many volunteers, for their skills, their intellect, their physical prowess - and less tangible, and sometimes contradictory, attributes, such as teamwork and independence, discipline and initiative, education and imagination. The last shuttle had arrived at Beta Station just minutes ago, and the last group of crewpersons were coming aboard amidst preparations for departure.
The Captain and senior officers were actual combat veterans of the Republic-Empire War, nearly a hundred Monticellan years ago - but the Humans of the Jeffersonian Republic lived, on average, three times that long, healthy and hearty. As a second-generation Jeffersonian herself, born and raised with the Republic’s standards of nutrition and medicine, the young female knew that she, too, could expect to live at least twice as long, and many times as fully, as her ancestors had dreamed.
She tried to keep out of the way of the purposeful Operations Crew, the beings who ran the ship - career Space Patrol like her father, every one of them, most deeply experienced and all highly professional. The majority were Humans, of course, since Alexandria was one of their worlds, and they had built the ship; second in number were Eyani like herself, who had been enslaved, then liberated, generations ago by warring Tribes of Humans. But for the first time, an Explorer mission included races other than these two: the young Eyani saw a sampling of reptilian Nikar, and avian, tri-sexual Siv; a few tiny Chikarans in the powered exoskeletons which supported them against Human standards of gravity; and at least one scuttling Boksi, its pseudo-gills covered by hydration apparatus which seemed to blend seamlessly with its lustrous gray-green carapace.
Without exception, every member of Enterprise’s crew - and the crew of every Explorer mission before - was a Full Citizen of the Jeffersonian Republic. Selm, homeworld of the Siv, had become a Member World of the Republic barely a decade ago, and the avians on this ship were some of the first to have earned their coveted status under Jeffersonian law. Chikar was expected to follow suit soon; these few Chikarans were refugees from the dreadful planetary war which had been ended by their discovery during a previous Explorer mission. Having lost everything - everyone - they cared for, they had gravitated to the homes and ways of the people who had finally stopped the generations of slaughter. The Boksi’s watery home, Kshir, was being accepted into the Republic by provinces, as each so voted; while Gnop, home of the Nikar, had an arrangement more like Eyan’s: still sovereign, beings from that world could become Citizens of the Republic instead of whatever status they held at home - bearing in mind that the Republic’s Constitution allowed no dual citizenship or divided loyalties.
The training, education, and service required to earn the title of Citizen was rigorous, but was also its own reward - a reward so great that ninety percent of adult Jeffersonians willingly met those requirements, and always had. Jeffersonian Citizens, of whatever physiology, were respected throughout Known Space for their great and various abilities, in both peace and war. Not even a swift Nikar or hulking Zaggarish would knowingly offer insult to a being, even a frail Chikaran, who wore the Star and Bars flag on its shoulder or equivalent, for even a Chikaran, trained as a Citizen, was a match for any two other sapients who were not; and there were less tangible, yet perhaps even greater, advantages to Citizenship. As a female of what amounted to the ruling family of Eyan, the young crewperson could only have looked forward to an arranged marriage for her parents’ political gain (well, not her parents - they were Citizens, too) - but as a Citizen of these worlds instead of a native of that one, she could look forward to... anything. A seat on the Pentamvirate itself - or, more appealing, command of a ship like this one - awaited only her desire and ability, with utter disregard for the circumstances of her birth.
She herself was Mission Crew, one of the hundreds of scientists, doctors and other professionals and specialists from almost as many fields. Most, like herself, and her mother before her, had earned their Citizenship in the Exploration and Colonization Service. M-Crew department heads were veterans in their professions (some were Marine combat veterans of the War, counterparts to the senior members of the Op Crew; anything could be encountered on an Explorer mission, and experience was priceless), returning to the Service as another milestone in their long and prestigious civilian careers. The bulk of both crews, like herself, were just getting their careers started, and had competed fiercely for the opportunity. The M-Crew’s most important job was to help discover and evaluate new worlds for the eleven Known Races to colonize - and when possible, or necessary, establish friendly relations with any Unknown Races who happened to already live there instead.
For as long as she could remember, this was exactly what she wanted to do.
She stepped forward as it became her turn in line. As the ship’s Human personnel officer looked up, the young Eyani came to attention and said:
"Warrant Officer Fourth Class Tr’Cre, Mission Specialist Xenobiology, reporting for duty!"