Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2000-2017, Karl Leffler
Harvey, Part III: Monticello
Continued from the previous excerpt
Mr. Singer reaches his new home.
2110 CE/162 JR
Central Terminal ("Big Tee")
South Continent, Monticello
Singer looked around at the spaceport as he strode smoothly through the terminal's hundred-Terran-year-old A Section, heading for a bar.
The port was situated in South Continent's lifeless desert, far from any habitations or delicate ecosystems. Jeffersonians had striven to protect their worlds from themselves from the outset, mining almost all of their mineral resources from dead moons and asteroids; trees were harvested intelligently, the rate of collection never exceeding that of growth; farms were the result of years of experiments conducted in the secret time before the Escape, testing the planets' reactions to the intrusions of human agriculture; sophisticated, fully-automated recycling plants were standard equipment for 22nd-century homes, as electric refrigerators and flush toilets were for the 20th.
Shuttles whisked passengers to their final destinations all over Monticello, capitol world of the Republic. Robotic baggage carts followed travelers from ticket counter to gate to ship. People moved smoothly from one point to the next, never bunching or forming lines for more than a minute. Ships of every class were scattered as far as the eye could see, landing, launching, loading, emptying, being serviced. A Space Patrol cutter perched on legs the size of aircars, dwarfing everything in sight, taking on supplies for a long-range exploratory mission; beside it a shuttle, insect-sized by comparison, lifted off with passengers for one of the colossal liners that never had nor would know the touch of an atmosphere. Busses and carts, hovering on fans and inflated air skirts, scurried between them and the terminal, reaching speeds of 200 kph or more while streaking smoothly across the supremely flat surface of the ancient dry lake.
All the ships bore Republic registry. For over a century, Jeffersonians had kept their monopoly on starflight, the sacred secret of the Marsten Drive. Attempts to buy or even steal the secret had all failed; on the one hand, Terrans had little with which to tempt a Jeffersonian, and on the other, little with which to threaten one.
The terminal was a city unto itself, growing out of the desert like the reincarnation of Las Vegas, attracting people not for its natural attributes but for what others had decided to build there. The first three-hundred-meter-diameter building had climbed above and burrowed below the desert floor for a century, spawning two more like it connected by tunnels and tubes to handle the ever-increasing traffic. People of every description went to and fro, greeting loved ones, performing tasks, waiting for their flights, or just watching, like the five- and six-year-olds standing with their noses pressed against the windows, staring and pointing at the ships, a smiling teacher standing nearby.
Everything was so clean. He was shocked; Miami Spaceport had been choked with litter and vagrants, as were most public places on Terra. Hundreds of people moved through just this section of the terminal complex, but the epic scale of the structure smashed any feelings of claustrophobia; and try as he might, he could find not a single scrap of waste, not a ticket stub or candy wrapper or cigarette butt. Waste receptacles were discreetly yet obviously placed within a few meters of nearly any point in the terminal, as though they had been an integral component of the original design of the entire complex. Curious, he looked into one; it was not a can or basket but a chute, leading to conveyors which in turn led to a centralized processing and recycling plant in the bowels of the complex. As he watched, a robot janitor (the Jeffersonians were very carefully not making their artificial intelligences self-aware, except for a handful of carefully-contained experiments) the size of a German Shepherd rolled up to another receptacle and emptied itself, then rolled briskly away. A passer-by hurled a sandwich wrapper in its general direction and it swerved like a baseball outfielder, barely slowing as it scooped it off the floor. A half-dozen small children followed the machine, wadding up balls of paper, plastic and foil as they went. Besides the obvious cleanliness, there were none of the foul smells and sounds Singer had come to associate with any gathering of early-22nd-century Terrans - and there were more shocks to come.
Though prepared by his orientation, Singer was still surprised - even intimidated - to find that many of the adults, and even some that he would have considered children on Terra, were openly armed. Here an elderly woman carried a long-barreled reproduction of a two-century-old Luger pistol, its stainless steel construction contrasting with her dark skin; there a young Asian man in his teens, elegantly dressed, walked with a beautifully engraved reproduction of a six-century-old wheel-lock muzzle-loading pistol on a wide leather belt, arm in arm with a young Latin woman in coveralls, who wore a six-year-old caseless, automatic handshotgun on her hip.
Singer watched as the couple entered a clothing store; the door was held open for them by another customer as he exited. That man could only be a rancher from New Texas, with a Stetson on his head and microsaur-skin boots on his feet, despite the conservative business suit in between. He wore a Super LeMat combination sidearm on his right hip and a New Howdah heavy pistol crosswise in front of his left, for a right-handed draw, in an elaborately- but tastefully-tooled leather cartridge belt and holster rig. The New Howdah was a double-barrel, 13mm brute meant for dispatching supercattle at close range; its steel-cored projectile was designed to pierce the decimeter-thick skull of the Republic's primary source of meat. The Super LeMat was a single-shot, 15mm handshotgun with a ten-shot, 10mm revolver wrapped around it.
Next to the clothing store was a kind of establishment Singer had never seen before. He wasn't sure what it was at first, until he read the sign above the entrance:
A series of small, hand-lettered signs in the window proclaimed:
The weapon shop was against the outer wall of the terminal building, and through the windows along that wall Singer could see an employee helping customers with what he guessed to be a rented weapon. The customers were a small family; father, mother, teenage daughter and a boy of about ten. As Singer watched, the daughter raised a weapon to her shoulder, aimed, and fired; no noise penetrated the window, but Singer's eyes widened at the flame erupting from the muzzle as the girl loosed a long, automatic burst. She lowered the weapon and turned to her family with an enormous smile on her face. Her target, a mock-up of a UNPF patrol car, was shredded.
As if that were not enough to make the immigrant break his stride, a stunningly beautiful woman exited the weapon shop and swept by, in a white formal gown trimmed with sapphires that matched her eyes. Balanced on the other side by a holstered handgun of antique design, a sabre swung provocatively from her shapely hip, the polished brass - no, gold - of the guard and scabbard gleaming, matching her hair. Instead of opera gloves, she wore exquisitely-tailored white gauntlets, made of supple leather that matched the gold-equipped belt and baldric that supported her weapons. The slits down each side of the dress, Singer realized, were not so much to show off the woman's remarkable legs as to give her freedom of motion; she did not wear high-heeled dress shoes as a woman would on Terra, but elegant boots with low heels that gave ankle support and sure footing. The entire outfit seemed to go together naturally, as though designers here had been doing such things for decades.
A dozen students, male and female, came out of a pizza parlor, smiling and laughing; they wore the varsity jackets of the New Georgetown University Fencing Team, and were a walking dissertation on the evolution of edged weapons, their choices spanning continents and centuries from old Terra. None bore scars; protective equipment and reconstructive surgery had both improved by orders of magnitude since the Escape.
Many of these weapons were obviously carried more as fashion statements than as protection - but Singer knew that every one of them was real, and that anyone who chose to carry a weapon in the Jeffersonian Republic knew very well indeed how to use it. Firing ranges were built alongside the spaceport, where the noise would not disturb wildlife or residential neighborhoods and where nothing was in the line of fire for hundreds of kilometers - dozens of ranges, for every kind of shooting from five-meter pistol to twenty-kilometer field artillery. About a third of the ranges were in use, and at least two of those were hosting regular tournaments; Singer knew this because they were being televised in nearly every restaurant, bar and shop in the terminal, and the Citizens and Subjects watching them were betting vigorously on nearly every shot fired.
A cheer went up and currency flew between viewers like green snow and golden sleet - Jeffersonians preferred cash to the government-controlled, government-traceable electronic credits the UN used - as a three-way tie was announced in a thousand-meter rifle match, requiring extra sets to be fired. While the targets were being reset, the program cut to profiles of the finalists. One was a hundred-thirty-year-old (in local years; eighty-three on the Terran calendar) man and the others were young women of twenty-three (fifteen) and thirty (nineteen) years. The announcer pointed out that over two hundred competitors had started the tournament two days before.
Another teacher led another class through the terminal, smiling thirteen- (eight-) year-olds, each carrying a small-caliber, single-shot rifle slung over their shoulders, bright yellow plastic safety plugs visible in the open breeches. Even a hundred Terran years after what they called the Escape, Jeffersonians took their freedom seriously, and developed early the skills to defend it. They entered another part of the terminal building. There was a sign to one side of the entrance:
Singer noted that the teacher herself carried a full-size, full-power rifle slung from her own shoulder, and wore an equipment harness bearing a holstered handgun, a large knife, and several magazines of ammunition.
Finally, the real shock sank in:
He hadn't seen a single police officer since he boarded the shuttle at Geneva.
On one hand, the immigrant was intimidated by the sight of so many armed people, but on the other, exhilarated: for the first time in his life, he didn't have to worry about UNPF troops - the United Nations Police Force, faceless behind riot-armor masks - halting and searching him for no particular reason, or simply opening fire on someone they judged suspicious with their automatic shotguns.
The Republic had no police force as such; Jeffersonians had learned well, before the Escape, that power corrupts, and that police by definition have too much power. Nonetheless, criminals were an endangered species on the four worlds and various outposts of the Republic; most were apprehended, or even killed, in the act by attentive Citizens. Violent crime was such a rarity that a mere handful of Investigators, Counselors and Arbitrators sufficed to handle the cases actually brought to trial, and the practice of law in the Republic was considered more a hobby than a career.
Singer had difficulty telling the Subjects from the far more numerous Citizens. Obviously anyone bearing arms was a Citizen - well, probably; while the Citizen's right to keep and bear arms was guaranteed, the Subject's was rarely denied - but the few people he could positively identify as Subjects behaved not as though they were second-class, but simply working toward earning first-class status. No one in the Republic was born a Citizen; Citizenship could not be inherited, or bought, or arbitrarily assigned. Without exception, everyone had to earn their status, and the same set of rules applied to all.
As such, there was no tension or animosity between the two social classes; Subjects knew that full Citizenship - voting rights, the right to hold public office and more - was theirs anytime they wished to earn it, usually by working for the State for a few years, or serving in the Space Patrol for fewer.
The immigrant purposely walked slowly, eavesdropping on the conversations swirling around him, stopping frequently and pretending to look at informational kiosks while listening:
"-Janie, this is your great-great-grandmother, Rachel. She's two hundred years old tomorrow. She came all the way from Aldrin City just to have her birthday party with you!"
"Hello, Janie! You're such a pretty little girl! How old are you?"
"I'm this many-!"
"-You believe this? Some damn fool on Wilson's Colony proposed an income tax."
"What the hell for? The State makes more money than it needs, leasing mines and selling fusion plants and Marsten Drives. -Did he live?"
"Yeah, but it says here half the population is signing petitions to deport him."
"He's lucky he didn't try that on New Texas, there wouldn't be anything left to deport. Remember back, what was it, seventy, eighty years ago, that whole mess with 'Governor' Webb?"
"More like a hundred thirty years. That lesson hasn't needed a refresher course for a while, his head's still on a spike over the New Alamo. Here, look, the husband and I had our picture taken with it when we vacationed there last year-"
"Antoinette? Hi, this is Juan, I'm at Big Tee. Listen, you remember our old Patrol buddy Kenneth? ...Yeah, that's him. Well, he never could stay out of trouble - he bagged a purse snatcher in New Arlington. One shot with that old revolver of his, must have been thirty or forty meters. Yeah, right in broad daylight! ...Well whoever said crooks were smart? Anyway, you'll never guess who the mayor is there.... Ensign MacClannough. Yeah, Little Glasgow herself! Who'd'a figured? ...Naw, she's buried the hatchet with Kenny - after this she has to be nice to him, if she wants to get re-elected. So she's tracking down all the old crew from the Walker, we're planning a reunion, and we'll all throw a party for Kenny. Half the city'll probably be there, you know how people are when someone bags a crook.... Great! Annie, that's terrific. Let me give you my number-"
"Jeanette! The results came in on your latest asteroid."
"Well, the usual, of course, lots of nickel-iron, silicates, some gold-"
"Well, Matamori Electronics is buying, they still use it for circuits, and there's always the jewelry market."
"Hmm, yes, it's still pretty, at least-"
"Show's on, hey, barkeep, turn it up, it's on!"
"-the ultimate hunting challenge, wild supercow on the New Texas plains, tomorrow night on RSN!
"...Hunting the Universe will be shown in its entirety following game six of the Worlds Series.
"Republic Sports Network's coverage of the One Hundred Twenty-Third Annual All-Republic Combat Pistol Championship is brought to you by:
"Monticello Motors, featuring the Lancer series of orbit-capable sport-utility vehicles.
Made in the Republic!
"Confederate Passenger Lines, Giving You the Freedom to Explore!
"The Republic Space Patrol, More Than a Job, the Ultimate Adventure!
"New Damascus Cutlery, Because Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best!
"Casetti Arms, Forging a New Tradition!
"And by, Tiger Treats Cat Food, Make Your Predator Purr!
"I'm Jim Mazinsky, and here's my co-host, the only person to win this event three consecutive times, Gina Windonova!"
"Thanks, Jim. As you can see, it's another standing-room-only event for the Republic Arms Association. Out of an original seven thousand competitors from every world in the Republic and nine Terran nations, one hundred have scored high enough to reach this championship match, and over six thousand fans have assembled here at Big Tee to cheer them on in person."
"That's right, Gina, and I'm told that all of those figures are all-time records for this event, one of the oldest and most respected sporting traditions in the Republic. Combat Pistol has often been called our national pastime, and this is our crowning event! What should we be looking for this year?"
"Well, Jim, my spies in the control room tell me that the robot targets are smarter this year than they've ever been, and that they've slipped a few surprises into the course that they promise no one will expect. Also, after a brief flirtation with the fanciful world of IPSC, two-time champion Carolyn Mtubu of Cincinnati, Monticello, has returned in an attempt to reclaim her title from newcomer Moshe Fujimora of Steeltown, New Israel-"
"...sold, for seven thousand Jeffersonian dollars, lot number 47502, Steeltown Aerospace Model 811 utility aircars, quantity seventeen. Thank you, Citizen.
"Your attention please. General Accounting Office Surplus Auction number one six two dash two seven, Monticello, will now continue. Spectators, please vacate the bidding area... thank you.
"Our next item is lot number 47503, JRS Lucy Brewer, PL15, a Jackie Cochran class cutter. Please consult your displays.
"Keel laid by Cincinnati Manufacturing Corporation at Monticello Orbital Facility Nine on 6 Fourthmonth 74, launched 23 Secondmonth 75, commissioned 11 Sixthmonth 75, decommissioned 16 Fifthmonth 140, currently in storage, Central Terminal, Monticello, Pad 97-Baker. Though currently all primary and secondary systems are offline, this vessel is ninety-two percent intact including eighty-seven percent original armament, one Series Three space-only shuttle, and a mothballed Second Generation-Improved Marsten Drive rated for c24. Estimated cost to restore to spaceworthy certification, fourteen thousand Jeffersonian dollars.
"Fifteenth of its class of thousand-ton cutters, this agile and versatile vessel was named for the first female United States Marine, who disguised herself as a man, George Baker, and served aboard the United States Navy sailing frigate USS Constitution, seeing combat against the British Empire in the early 19th Century CE. JRS Lucy Brewer took part in the dramatic rescue of the crew of SS Maryanne II, an ore freighter stranded by hyperdrive failure four light-years from New Texas in 122 JR.
"Half of all proceeds from this auction will go to the Republic Veteran's Administration. Bidding will start at fifty thousand. Fifty thousand, thank you sir, do I hear fifty-five, fifty-five, thank you ma'am, fifty-five, do I hear sixty-"
"What'll it be, pal?"
"I'm going to be here a while, I'm meeting some friends here to watch the tournament-"
"Must be good friends. -Didn't you know? We've been gearing up for this all month! Every year for the past ten, the winner of the Daniel Morgan Cup comes here to celebrate. It's gonna be a terrific party!"
"So that's why I needed a reservation. This New-Texas-style barbecue sounds good, I'll have a quarter-rib, a baked superspud and a pitcher of supermilk-"
"You wanna take the Challenge? Anybody who can strip a whole rib in half an hour gets the whole meal free. No one's done it yet-!"
"-Hey buddy, is it true you can buy juice over the counter here?"
"Sure, the Republic's a free society. Remember, though, the State only cures addiction once; if you get hooked again after that, you have to pay for your own treatments. You want some? Standard five-milliliter ampules, all the major brands, I got Cartagena Gold, Tijuana Skyrocket, Crunchahol, Amsterdam Delight; I'm all out of Miami Miracle, the Federals finally shut them down last month, but word has it they made it to the Republic and they're trying to set up a new operation in the Beta Belt of the New Israel System-"
"Wait, wait a minute - cure? What cure?"
"...Whaddya mean, 'what cure'? There's been cures for most kinds of drug addiction for fifty or sixty years! ...Oh, man, I'm sorry, hey, somebody comes up to my shop here, I naturally assume they already know, and they're making an informed decision, right? Look, here's the number of the doctor who cured me. If you don't have CitizenCare, you tell him I sent you, he'll knock off ten percent. And hey, here, take some of these, this is my own recipe, it's milder, you know, to tide you over if you really need a fix, it'll take the edge off so you can function. Here, use my phone, here. ...Molly, dust off that boob cube and get me a Terran station. What the hell are those damn Terries saying about us these days, anyway? For gods' sake, a man walks up to my shop and he doesn't know-!"
"-So I told him, 'Look, friend, just because the book is banned in the backwards little country you came from doesn't give you the right to say I can't read it.' I don't know how someone that closed-minded got through the immigration screening process. And I'm really going to give my sister what-for, she's the one who set me up on that blind date!"
"Say, if he gives you any more trouble, tell him about the Hornbeck Expedition. It's a bunch of Luddites and book-burners and Puritans and Hyper-Greens and general trouble-makers - he sounds like he'll fit right in. The State's buying them a ship and pointing them at a habitable world just to get rid of them. Fourth time they've done that since the Escape."
"Really! What happened to the first three?"
"The last one disappeared, probably some damn fool shot his way onto the bridge and pushed the wrong button. The first one went back to Terra, almost got shot down, and ended up in a Lunar penal colony. Idiots. The second one turned into the Betan Confederacy."
"What? You mean the ones petitioning to rejoin the Republic?"
"I guess they snapped out of it. Hornbeck's group probably will too, in a generation or three, if they can keep from killing each other off in the meantime. Terrific safety valve - one ship every three or four decades is a lot cheaper and more pleasant than building some damn police force and passing a bunch of stupid laws. Look what happened to the United States after we left, or before, for that matter."
"But they didn't have anywhere to go; Terra was already full."
"We certainly don't have that problem anymore. There's at least a dozen worlds on the list, and these new third-generation Marsten Drives only take a few months to cross all of explored space, they're up above thirty c already-"
Singer stepped up to a bar and the bartender, easily identifying him as an immigrant, said, "Welcome to the Republic!"
"Thank you, young man," he answered. "I think I'm going to like it here."