Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2000 - 2012, Karl Leffler
"Captain to the bridge"
A recently-commissioned Republic Space Patrol cruiser returns to the capitol world after its first mission.
"Personal Log, Commander Alicia Fairing, commanding, CA08 JRS Masada. 15:43 hours, 22 Thirdmonth 319, Monticello Standard Time.
"We are returning from a combined mission consisting of both a shakedown cruise and a routine patrol of Barnard's System, currently making realspace transit from Jump Point Three to Monticello at one-half gravity. All is quiet, and I finally have time to catch up on this log, which I hope my grandchildren will someday find useful, or at least entertaining.
"The Pentamvirate has ordered a heightened state of readiness after the sighting of unidentified starships, the first nearly seven years ago near Wolf 359 and far too many and too often since then. The Republic Space Patrol has responded, first by increasing activity on all patrol routes, and second by increasing strength with the commissioning of these new Richmond class cruisers, the Kentucky class battleships, and the Constitution class carriers.
"The Pentamvirate fears that the unidentified ships are Terran in origin. It's been three centuries, or two of theirs - perhaps they've finally learned to build starships of their own, but I hope not. We've had no real contact with Sol system for over a hundred of our years, since the Europa Incident - 'Let the savages rot,' Councilor d'Agustino said - there's no telling how much they've changed since then. The Founders came to Monticello to Escape Terran ignorance, arrogance and prejudice; gods help us all if the Terries are loose.
"I've been thinking about this. The shipbuilding program has really been going on since just after the Europa Incident, all the way back to the Adamant class light cruisers, our first true warship design. For fifty years and more, we've been building real military strength.
"Some Citizens have objected to the new shipbuilding program, fearing - and I must say I sympathize - that the Patrol is beginning to resemble a standing navy and therefore a potential threat to liberty, but we continue to do good deeds and generally make an excellent reputation for ourselves. In any case, most Citizens understand that it's better to have warships and not need them than to need warships and not have them, and our ships are designed to do a lot of things besides fight. Jeffersonians are sensible folk - they realize that military power is sometimes necessary, however distasteful it may be.
"Now, what I think is, somebody has been keeping tabs on the Terries; the Terries are up to something; and we're building a navy for the Terries to bounce off of if they come charging at us.
"And if they don't, we'll end up with some lovely and useful ships. Judging by the specifications I've seen, just one of the Constitution class could evacuate the entire population of Adams' World in fourteen days. There's not a ship in the fleet that can't exceed c30, even the old Adamants after the latest round of upgrades. Even the cruisers - the newer ones like mine, anyway - have medical facilities to rival most planet-based hospitals in capabilities, and the battleships and carriers will challenge some of them in capacity. Our shipboard sensors are the envy of every astronomer in the Republic. The Patrol's weapons have already been used to save hundreds of thousands of Subjects and Citizens from asteroid collisions and meteor strikes. The science ship Jerry Pournelle came back from a survey last month with the locations of at least five more habitable worlds, and another two that might be suitable for terraforming. There is very little a ship of the Patrol cannot do.
"We, on the other hand, on our patrol of Barnard's, found nothing more exciting than a spacegoing orgy on a private yacht out of Crunch. We, politely declined invitations to join them," she chuckled.
"All systems are operating perfectly and crew morale is high. I must say that I love this ship and her crew. They're starting to come together as a team, and to identify with the ship and each other. I only hope my husband is doing as well with his command.
"The Richmond class is a masterwork of engineering; everything is in just the right place and does exactly what it's supposed to. Now, there's nothing really wrong with the Roper class destroyers - I have very fond memories of my time as XO on Iroquois - but on a Richmond, everything has that finished feel to it. It's, refined. All the little annoying things have been cleaned up, like sharp edges on a control console, not enough headroom in the head, not enough padding in the acceleration couches; the kind of trivial problems you barely notice until they've been fixed.
"And they've finally developed a really comfortable pressure suit! I want to give a big sloppy kiss to whoever made it safe for a woman to relieve herself in one of these things. I've never had to use one of the older models except in training, but mother told me plenty of horror stories from the old days.
"When I first learned the names of the ships my husband and I were going to be commanding, I must admit I was concerned about the Patrol naming them after famous last stands - but then I learned that other ships in the class had names like Bastogne and Sobibor, and realized that they were named after heroic resistance against impossible odds, or other turning points in history. I really must brush up on Terran history other than the Middle Ages. I wondered for a while why they didn't name one Agincourt, but now I'd bet some politically-correct snot on the naming committee objected to having a Republic ship named after a battle between two imperialist monarchies.
"Hmm... the more I think about it, the more I have to admit the hypothetical snot has a point. I still love Shakespeare, though.
"On our arrival insystem we received our routine mail packet. My younger daughter Yvette has been accepted to the Charles Yeager Academy as a pilot candidate. She's grinning from ear to ear and I don't blame her a bit - her entrance-exam scores shattered my mother's old record. Her twin, my son Thomas, has received scholarship offers from five different art schools scattered all over the Republic, and says he's having a terrible time deciding.
"My oldest, Laura, tells me that she's pregnant again; that twins appear to run in the family; that she's been promoted to deputy director of Constitution Shipyards' facility at Wilson's Colony; and that the keel has finally been laid for her other baby, BB14 JRS Republic, the first of our multirole super-battleships - and she can't tell which of all those things she's proudest of. Neither can I, they're all whoppers.
"She claims to have a genuine piece of the last American battleship, USS Wisconsin's, wooden deck to be enshrined in Republic's bridge; gods know how or where she got it-"
The intercom interrupted Commander Fairing's ramblings. "Captain to the bridge, sensor contact." Saving her log entry, she left her ready room and glided into the bridge, moving easily in the half-gravity acceleration, a leisurely pace that would minimize wear on the ship's engines while still taking them from their insystem jump point to the Republic's homeworld in less than two days.
"Report," she said as she slipped into her acceleration couch and strapped herself in.
"Unidentified vessels, bearing 141 mark 63, range thirty thousand kilometers. Intercept course, ETA seven minutes. Twelve- fourteen, fifteen contacts, estimated masses ten thousand to sixty thousand tons. Vectors suggest braking after hyperspace transit."
"Nothing, no transponders, no lights, nothing at all."
"Configurations unknown. -I think we all know who they are, Captain."
"Not now, Jimmy."
"Contacts using active sensors, we have been detected."
Fairing sighed, feeling the weight of command. "Alert Patrol Central, request backup. Live transmission to Central, I want a permanent record of whatever happens here. Upload all logs and flight recorders to the log bouy. Prepare to hail them." She took a moment to compose herself. The communications officer nodded back to her, and the captain spoke:
"This is Commander Alicia Fairing," she stated pleasantly, "JRS Masada, Jeffersonian Republic Space Patrol. You are entering Republic territory. Please identify yourselves and state your intentions."
Seconds ticked by, more than could be accounted for by lightspeed - and FTL communications were an almost-unavoidable byproduct of the development of FTL travel. "...No response, Captain."
The smile slipped from her face. "Approaching vessels, this is Republic cruiser Masada. You are trespassing in Republic territory. Please identify yourselves immediately." Releasing her transmit key, she turned to her communications officer. "General Quarters. Where's that backup?"
"Chosin and Alamo en route at best speed, ETA thirty and fifty minutes respectively. No other ships less than an hour away."
"Damn." Fairing retrieved her lightweight pressure suit's helmet, locked it in place and plugged in the retracting umbilical from her acceleration couch. Substances rushed through the precision fitting, topping off the nearly-full reserves of atmosphere, coolant, nutrients, water and other consumables in the various reservoirs of her fifth-generation environment suit. Barring damage or injury, it would support her for a hundred hours. She pressed another button, as the rest of her crew did, and the armored exoskeleton, of which the e-suit was merely the soft inner shell, popped up in segments from around and beneath her couch, snapping firmly together around her with a minimum of tugging and shrugging.
Another minute passed. She pressed the transmit key again. "Approaching vessels, identify yourselves at once or you will be presumed hostile."
"All stations manned and ready, all compartments sealed, all hands suited. ...Incoming signal, putting it on speaker."
"This is Admiral Gregor Demoit, Imperial Terran Navy. Cease your acceleration. Surrender your vessel and prepare to be boarded."
A moment of stunned silence swept across the bridge. "Like hell," Fairing whispered. "Helm, evasive. Jimmy, deploy countermeasures, release safeties."
"Countermeasures deployed - good spread." Canisters of compressed gas and refractive dust were ejected from Masada's hull, expanding to form a shield of particles to block or attenuate energy weapons and confuse enemy sensors. Masada's sensors, tuned to particular frequencies, could see through the carefully-composed cloud as though it wasn't there. "E-cannon and mass drivers charged and ready. All torpedo bays ready to fire."
"Admiral Demoit, this is Commander Fairing. Sir: you are trespassing in Jeffersonian territory. The Terran Empire has no authority here. Your words and actions may be interpreted as an act of war-"
"They're firing!" Sensors exclaimed. "Countermeasures effective. -Missiles inbound!"
"Point-defense online, tracking," said Tactical. "Firing- all missiles destroyed."
"They've launched another wave! And another! Particle weapons firing again, countermeasures dispersing!"
Masada lurched as the enemy weapons struck her hull. "Damage report!"
"Hull breach, decks four and nine. Hyperdrive offline. Damage control teams responding."
"Give 'em hell, Jimmy! Helm, continue evasive maneuvers while bringing weapons to bear." Masada lurched again under the acceleration of her realspace drive and reaction-control system, twisting through space as she spat righteous death at the invaders. Speared with the invisible beams of E-cannon, three of the smaller Terran ships vanished in flashes of light, expanding, dimming; one of the larger vessels began slowly tumbling as a storm of mass-driver pellets raked her side, burrowing through pressurized compartments at relative velocities of tens of kilometers per second. A spread of torpedoes cut another of the larger Terran vessels in half, the pieces corkscrewing gruesomely as atmosphere, and crew, vented from them.
A dozen lances of energy converged on Masada's hull and the thirty-seven-thousand-ton cruiser shrieked in agony.
"Missiles inbound, impact in forty seconds!"
"Point-defense offline! Countermeasures offline! Explosion in torpedo bay two, multiple hull breaches!"
"Main drive offline, targeting offline, mass-driver magazines not responding, E-cannon one, three and four destroyed!"
The bridge fell silent, without even the rush of the ventilation system. There was no time to reach the escape pods, or for the pods to reach a safe distance from Masada's inevitable funeral pyre.
Commander Alicia Fairing spoke for the last time. "Comm, send a message to Captain Bramowitz on Alamo. Tell him..." An invisible hand closed around her heart.
"Harry... tell my husband I love him. Tell him to remember Masada."
END OF PART THREE