Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2010-2017, Karl Leffler
SEAL, Part I: Retired
South Continent, Monticello, Jeffersonian Republic
It was a beautiful day in paradise. Specifically, South Continent’s southwest coast, all 3,000 kilometers of it, famous throughout Human Space as a tourist and resort destination. Tau Ceti had nearly reached the horizon and the sky and sea of Monticello had burst in a splendid array of color; the planet's 30-plus-hour day caused the spectacle to linger. Jacob Ternel sat at the beachfront restaurant table in one of hundreds of no-name little coastal villages – the Republic's minimal government was a manifold blessing – sipped his mildly-alcoholic drink, nibbled his seafood platter, gazed at the sunset a while, and flipped a page in the novel he was trying half-heartedly to read.
The sun sank lower and pages turned. The village residents, catering to low-key tourism for generations and with the Jeffersonian passion for quietude and elbow room in their very blood, silently and leisurely circulated, lighting torches filled with BugBane oil from the jungles of Grande on New Texas. The surf gently whispered along the golden beach, and the sunset, the torches, and reflection from Monticello's two small moons and the occasional solar power satellite shed enough light to continue reading. Ternel smiled, truly enjoying his retirement.
Gods knew he had earned it.
After a time, Ternel looked up to see a woman in class-A ECS uniform, with the single silver star of a Marine Corps Major. He examined the woman, and the uniform; from his own time in the service he took inventory of her decorations.
Foremost was the Combat Infantry Badge: a Gonzalez rifle on a blue rectangle in a silver wreath – only true combat veterans could earn that device, as he well knew. Below it were parachutist’s jump wings, and beside those, the stylized antique space capsule of the orbital drop badge; the stars denoting combat jumps numbered one over the former and two for the latter. In addition, this woman wore, as all Marines did, her marksmanship qualification medal – Expert with the Rifle and Pistol bars, and the oak cluster signifying she had also passed the Fast 40: forty consecutive rifle hits on human-silhouette targets between 100 and 500 meters, in four minutes.
The fruit salad below the CIB and jump badges was arranged in groups by type. In the left, combat-action, column, Ternel immediately picked out the wound badge, a black ribbon with a vertical red stripe, signifying that the woman had been wounded in combat. Three stripes – the same as Ternel had earned, back when – and they didn’t give out the Crimson Band for scraped knuckles. Next was an older decoration, brought along from the Republic’s mother-nation of fallen America, the red-white-and-blue of the Silver Star for valor. Just below that, the differently-proportioned ribbon of the same colors for the lesser Bronze Star – with two clusters. Those also were not earned for trivial actions. The center column, for offworld or outsystem campaigns, was topped by a sky-blue and white ribbon, indicating service against the United Nations; this woman would have earned the Band, and her jump stars, on Terra itself, with the JVG.
In the right column, for qualifications, was the black-and-white diagonal of freefall combat; yes, that blue-and-red slash in the second column was from one of the Jeffersonian Volunteer Groups, technically unofficial mercenaries but really live-fire training for the Marine Corps, the combat-ready heart of the ostensibly demilitarized Exploration and Colonization Service. On her shoulder she wore the Ranger, Airborne, and even-more-coveted Mobile Infantry tabs, over the bold blue-on-black diamond and Roman numerals of the Eleventh Legion, the catch-all composite unit for every practitioner of special or unconventional warfare in the Republic.
Ternel had worn the same number, XI, for most of his adult life.
Physically the woman was as striking as her uniform, over 180 centimeters and as fit as an anatomical chart, as she would have to be to even survive earning the MI tab. Something under, probably well under, 50 Monticellan years of age; the Corps, as did Ternel’s own Space Patrol, promoted those of proven ability and merit, and nearly half of all officers in either service were Mustangs, having risen through the enlisted ranks – even in her comparative youth it was possible for this woman to be one such, just as Ternel had been another. Her eyes were a brilliant and piercing blue, her battle-cut short hair red-gold, her complexion fair and flushed with perfect health. She was beautiful… by the Jeffersonian standards of strength, intelligence, and competence; a Valkyrie, a tigress, instant death to any but her own fellow handful of warriors. She stood perfectly still at Attention, eyes locked forward, waiting for Ternel to take official notice of her. As he stood to do so, he contemplated that he was out of the service but not ignorant of it – in certain circles, certain names were known. His own was one. And without looking at her name badge, he knew that this woman could only be-
“Major Marjorie Brevor,” she announced, “commanding First Ranger Battalion, Second Mobile Infantry Regiment, Eleventh Legion.”
“Jacob Ternel,” he replied, “Commodore, JRSP.” And he made a point of adding: “Retired.” Neither saluted, as Ternel was not in uniform. “–Please be seated, Major, I’m a civilian now. Some refreshment for you?” He gestured to a decanter of fruit juice. “No intoxicants.” He didn't bother to ask how she had found him - it didn't matter.
“Thank you, sir.” She took a chair as Ternel resumed his, poured herself a glass – only half – and took a pro forma sip. “Sir, I have been sent by Eleventh Legion Command under special authority of the Pentamvirate. Your commission is being reactivated by unanimous Executive Order. You have been retroactively promoted to Rear Admiral with full back pay. The Republic needs you, sir, for a mission of utmost secrecy and urgency.” The major placed a datapad on the table.
It was a specially secured model for Classified data, keyed to Ternel’s thumbprint, retina, and voice pattern. All three were required together, within twenty seconds of activation. If the access procedure failed, it would self-destruct, with the effect of a small incendiary grenade. Ternel hadn’t seen one in nearly two years. He detested them.
He made no move to pick up the ’pad. He said, very carefully and clearly, “I repeat, Major. I am retired.”
“Your response was anticipated, sir. Councillor Stonovich asked me to speak a certain word to you if you refused.”
Stone-Heart herself, he thought. While Ternel had been content to put in his years and take his pension, his old comrade had entered politics, climbing that ladder all the way to the Pentamvirate. A chill ran quickly up Ternel’s spine and he heard his own voice asking, “…What word?”
Now a jolt surged through him – but of what? Revulsion? Simple fear?
Councillor Yvette Stonovich had chosen her word with care. The trident was part of the symbol of the United States Navy SEALs, one of the most elite combat organizations in Human history. Ternel had single-handedly recreated them for the Jeffersonian Republic, a century after they and their nation ceased to exist.
The badge of an American SEAL featured an American eagle clutching the trident, anchor, and ancient flintlock pistol. In the Jeffersonian Republic’s organization, the trident, midsword, and the same Gonzales rifle in Brevor’s CIB were entwined by a diamondback rattlesnake, the national totem chosen by the Founder, Kurt Vetter himself. On the back of each Republic SEAL’s badge was struck a number, indicating the bearer’s place in the organization’s history. Number 1328 had been issued just two months ago.
Fifty-seven Monticellan years earlier, Ternel had claimed number 1. “Trident” had been his Team Name. In the same ceremony, “Stone-Heart” had been number 4. Only one other from those first ten still lived - maybe - somewhere in the deep forests of Adams' World. The rest had not died in bed.
He was out. Finally he could live his own life on his own terms, responsible to and for no one but himself.
Wasn't that what he wanted?
After a moment, he picked up the pad and switched it on.
Continued in the next excerpt....