Physicist Rachel Marsten has dinner with her fiancé, surgeon Samuel Nendel.
Nendel blinked, fork in hand. "Leaving? I don't understand."
Marsten set down her wineglass and touched her napkin to her lips. "There is something I must tell you, Samuel. Please... just listen.
"For over a decade I've belonged to a private research organization called the Long View Foundation. It's a collection of scientists, engineers, doctors, theorists of every kind. In only ten years we've secretly completed mapping over eighty percent of human genetic code, and created what you call the Hadley-Packard retrovirus to neutralize breast cancer. The Foundation is responsible for the fusion-power and materials-science breakthroughs that made the Delta Clipper single-stage-to-orbit ships practical, and for the new molecular-deposit data storage systems that are fifty times more efficient than any previous method, and the new microsurgery equipment that you helped us invent. The negotiators that helped create the government for the Union of Balkan States, ending nearly two decades of civil war in the former Yugoslavia, were actually Foundation sociologists. We've been behind every major breakthrough of the past generation.
"The Foundation is dedicated to the expansion and preservation of individual human liberty and to the long-term - the very long-term - survival of the human race. To that end, we have attempted to restructure political parties and media organizations throughout the United States and the world, trying to create and strengthen that liberty. These attempts have met with only limited success, and the Foundation's Pentamvirate - our leading council of five - has determined that such measures cannot change conditions here on Earth, but can only buy time.
"Governments all over the world are becoming more oppressive with each generation. Population growth and dwindling resources have created a Malthusian spiral which the Foundation believes cannot be reversed. The Foundation therefore took it upon itself to facilitate an, escape, if you will, from Earth; an escape from too many people, with too few resources, ruled by governments with too much power.
"The means of such an escape were beyond us - until recently.
"My specialty is particle physics, as you know. The Foundation recruited me the day I received my master's degree, and helped me earn my doctorate. For the past six years I've been working on what the Foundation called Project Three.
"The name of this project was chosen because the third letter of the English alphabet is ‘c'. That letter is used when referring to the speed of light in Einsteinian space. Project Three was dedicated to the discovery and development of any means to communicate and travel faster than light.
"I say 'was' because Project Three has been successfully concluded."
Nendel dropped his fork, staring silently at the woman he loved.
She continued. "The breakthroughs came years earlier, and I am proud to say that I was responsible for some of them; since then I have worked to refine and expand the technologies we have created, while other members of the Foundation have secretly built the means to implement them.
"We have built ships, Samuel. Starships.
"We have tested them. Secretly, we have explored over a dozen nearby star systems and have discovered not one but three habitable worlds, and resources that the human mind can only describe as unlimited. The most suitable of these worlds has already been colonized by an advance party. We call it Monticello.
"Secrecy has been vital to our success; nearly every government in the world would seek to stop us, for reasons ranging from outwardly noble to blatantly selfish. Four of the ten major space corporations are actually fronts for the Foundation, even competing against one another to make our disguises more convincing. Each of those four corporations owns at least one major space station or outpost; each uses its own large fleet of ships, composed primarily of its own version of the Delta Clipper. Most of those ships have been secretly equipped with the faster-than-light drive I helped create. Those space stations and outposts have been secretly filled with the twenty thousand chosen men, women and children who will comprise the founders of our new society. Thousands of people have worked for years to bring this about, Samuel, and now the time is right.
"Now, at last, we have enough ships to evacuate our Founders. Most of those people were selected years ago, and I am one of them.
"I am leaving, Samuel. I am leaving Earth to help build a new society on a new world - the Jeffersonian Republic, named after the ultimate lover of the liberty we crave.
"I am leaving in less than six hours."
Nendel stared, gaping. "Rachel, I... don't know what to say."
"Samuel -" Marsten stood and walked around the table to take the hand of the man she loved. "Say you love me.
"Say you'll come with me."
11 April 2009
As the Federal troops took up their positions outside the Vetter Aerospace compound, Kurt Vetter's employees watched through the windows.
"They can't do this!"
"They have a warrant-"
"That ‘warrant' isn't worth wiping my arse with-"
"We can't just surrender-"
"We can't fight them!"
"Can't we?" Kurt Vetter asked. "Can't we fight them?"
"But they're the government!"
"Yes. Yes, they are the government. And here they are, with an illegal warrant, invading private property, threatening private citizens with deadly force, intending to seize private property without compensation. What makes you think any such government is deserving of respect?"
Keeping an eye on the activity outside, Vetter picked up the pace. "Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to inform you of certain things of which a few of you are already aware. The most important fact is that Rachel Marsten's ‘theories' on superluminal particle physics have been proven."
Into the shocked silence, Vetter continued to speak. "Not only have these theories been proven, they have been implemented. A faster-than-light engine has been created, and manufactured, and installed in more than a hundred of our spacecraft." VA security personnel could be seen through the conference room windows, in full battle gear, heavily armed, taking up defensive positions around the main offices and Hangar Three. "Most of those craft are already in space, filled with people like us, course already plotted for other planets around other stars, discovered in secret some years ago. The full-scale mockup of Aldrin is not a mockup but a real ship, fully operational, fueled and ready to launch. Aldrin is equipped with a constant-boost fusion realspace drive and a Marsten Interstellar Drive." Shots began to ring out as the Federal troops began their assault, and the VA defenders returned fire. An obsolete Bradley fighting vehicle crashed through the front gates, machinegun and automatic cannon firing; a VA guard fired a bazooka-like device and it shuddered, halted, burned. "There is room aboard for everyone here, including those brave men and women you see buying us time to escape." The Federals could be heard by their own loudspeakers, giving and receiving the order to fall back. Vetter's wife, Lynna Bjolnir, could be seen with Vetter's own antique Thompson submachinegun, directing her troops into prepared, and previously camouflaged, fighting positions. From one of these, another VA rocket reached out and slammed into a wheeled armored car, throwing it on its side. A heavy machinegun fired from the airfield's control tower, lashing the retreating Federal infantry from half a mile away, half-inch tracers tumbling and arcing wildly as they ricocheted; another sprayed a long arc of glowing projectiles at a Federal helicopter. "I had hoped to give each of you more time to make your decisions, but that won't be possible now. Here is your choice:
"You can stay here and take your chances with the Federals - though I must say they don't seem to be in a negotiating mood. Or, you can leave, now, for the planet Monticello, which was secretly colonized three years ago. The trip will take several months. If you come with us, you may not be able to return in your lifetimes without being arrested or worse. Those of you with families not living here on the compound may have to abandon them; we can try to get them on another ship, but that may not be possible." The windows rattled with an explosion from inside the compound; the Federals had opened fire with mortars. "There's no time left," Vetter said as he drew his pistol. "I'm going. Anyone who wants to can follow me."
Without looking back, Vetter turned and walked briskly from the conference room toward Hangar Three. Federal troops began their second assault, supported by a flanking maneuver, breaking through the fence next to the resident family housing. Vetter raised his pistol and fired; he knew that if he aimed carefully he could hit a man-sized target at a hundred meters with his pistol, and he did. The big subsonic .45 rounds wouldn't penetrate their body armor, but they did transfer enough kinetic energy to knock them down, and perhaps break some bones if they weren't wearing trauma plates. A VA woman fell next to Vetter, blood spraying from a freak shot to the head; he holstered his pistol and snatched up her rifle, halted, kneeled, squeezed off several rounds the way Jeff Cooper taught in his book. Federal troops fell, really wounded this time - there weren't many kinds of wearable armor that could stop a 7.62mm jacketed round, and Kurt Vetter made sure his people had proper battle rifles, not "mouse guns" - that machine shop in Building 12 had violated a whole bucketful of local, state and Federal laws.
A mortar round struck some twenty meters from him. The blast rocked him; shrapnel tore at his clothes and body, but he could still move. He got to his feet, emptying the rifle from the hip into a dozen nearby Federals, popping the dead woman's ammunition pouch off its belt clips and reloading as he ran for the hangar. Out of the corner of his eye he saw most of the people he had spoken to in the conference room following him and he stopped again, raising the rifle to his shoulder and firing deliberately at the approaching Federals. Aim. Squeeze. Aim. Some of the others picked up weapons from the fallen guards and joined him. Over the din of battle Vetter could hear the high-speed pumps spin up, preparing to pour liquid hydrogen into Aldrin's air-breathing chemical engines, then the reverberating clankclankclankWHAM as the hangar roof retracted for the first and only time. He shouted at his people, "Get to the ship!"
Another mortar bomb struck, nearer this time, the shockwave tossing Vetter across the lawn toward the hangar, rifle flying from his fingers. Somehow he got to his feet and staggered toward the hangar again. A Federal bullet smashed through his right shoulder, spinning him to the ground again; he found himself being carried bodily by his employees into Hangar Three.
Fading in and out of consciousness, he caught flashes of sensation; the wetness of his blood- soaked clothes, the pain as his shoulder struck a bulkhead; light, dark, sounds, more pain as he was laid with all possible gentleness on the acceleration couch and strapped in.
His wife's voice, dismissing her own wounds while asking of his. She lives, he silently exulted in a moment of lucidity. That burden lifted, he relaxed.
As unconsciousness rose around him like a warm and gentle bath, pumps whined, then screamed; the engines ignited, rumbling, shaking, acceleration hauling him down against the couch as all went dark.
Outside, Aldrin's twenty engines roared for the first time, and Hangar Three came apart beneath them. The Federals stared in disbelief, then some tried to run. The closer ones burned; those farther away died from the overpressure, their very organs ruptured by the noise and vibration; up to a mile away they were deafened. The blue-white hydrogen-oxygen flame showed clearly against the overcast spring sky as Aldrin accelerated, rolling slightly, its flight path leaning southeastward, climbing against the planet's rotation, speeding toward escape velocity.
Quickly Aldrin had reached 20,000 meters and the chemical engines throttled back as the fusion drive lit with a blinding white light, hurling the ship out of the atmosphere. The chemical engines shut down as Aldrin leapt free of Terra's grasp and the fusion drive steadied at 10.8 meters per second squared acceleration - one Monticellan gravity.
Signals flashed between Aldrin and the other ships rising from around the globe as they took their positions in the convoy - Enterprise, the first starship, bearing the scars of half a decade of experimentation and exploration as she led the way once again; Independence, the first interstellar warship, taking its position as rear guard against whatever feeble pursuit the Terrans might mount; the other transports, dozens of them, with names that were to become sacred: Robert Heinlein, Christa McAuliffe, James Madison, Sam Houston, Charles Yeager.
Monticello lay "south" of Sol System's ecliptic plane, and as Aldrin whipped around Terra on its way to freedom it was aimed correctly. Five hours later the fusion drive redirected its output from thrust to energy and the ship coasted in free fall, charging the Marsten Drive.
Moments after that space twisted and inverted around the ship and it disappeared from the skies of Earth, never to return.
END OF PART ONE
- The Jeffersonian Republic Legion of Honor, Volume One: First Century
- National Historical Society Press, Central Terminal, Monticello, 101 JR