The BALKANS settled into a stable orbit around Actia and Captain Quinn granted shore leave privileges to the crew. Every group that took a Class-R Ship’s Boat to the surface was warned about the unsettled condition in the Duchy. Actia was not long in the Empire and there were elements on planet that still worked to remove themselves from Imperial control.
The senior officer in his boat of shore leave personnel, a Lieutenant that Elder did not know, spoke up as they were preparing to leave the boat. “Remember people, the weapon you’ve been issued are stunners. If you use anything else, you stand court-martial. These weapons are only for your protection; the Marines assigned to the Duchy are the only ones authorized to use lethal force. You are here to enjoy yourselves and make a good show for the Empire; not get involved in the local politics. A great many of the local shopkeepers, especially around the spaceport, speak Imperial, at least enough to be understood. Stay in small groups, large enough to deter attack but small enough to be friendly. Any questions? None? Very well, be back here ready for lift by 0800 tomorrow.”
Elder, Hartz and two others he knew from his Drenthar team, Yamaguchi and Heim, gathered in the shadow of the Class-R Ship’s Boat.
“OK Elder, since you have no idea where we’re going, you decide where to.” Heim was one of those people whose only decisiveness was in getting someone else to take command. He worked in Command Operations, Sensors.
“Vey funny. Did any of you see anything you wanted to visit in the ship’s computer database about this planet?” The three others shook their heads. “Then I suggest visiting the Caverns of Kreshtel. According to the database on the planet, the rock formations are unique and beautiful. It is nearby so it should cost us only a few Cens each to get there and get in. And after that we can try something someone else wants.”
Just outside the limits of the spaceport were several ground cars. People were entering them and getting out of them, they were the local taxis it seemed.
“Going where be ya?”
“Caverns of Kreshtel.”
“Not open until tomorrow afternoon they are. Where else?”
The four junior officers looked at each other. Elder said, “That wasn’t in the database. I don’t remember what the database said about operating hours.”
“New hours this is. Winter comes up, tourists less are. Hours reduce they do.”
Elder stood for a second, ransacking his memory of the data on the planet. “How about First Park?”
“Want to see the crash do you? Very well, seventy Cens I charge each.” The other junior officers nodded their acceptance and the four piled into the cab.
Once the taxi was underway, “Elder what’s this about a crash? I didn’t see that in the database.” Yamaguchi’s voice was barely loud to be heard by the three other officers even though the taxi driver, since he was in the sealed cab of the ground car, probably couldn’t hear the question.
“The historical section mentioned that the colony ship that founded this planet crashed after a Misjump and the sight has been a memorial ever since. It was the first thing that came to mind, unless you want to just go to the spaceport dives.”
There was no objection to visiting First Park. At least, there was no vocal objection.
First Park covered a huge area. In the exact center of the park, there was the remains of a colony ship. Perhaps half of the ship was visibly gone, the material and parts taken by the early settlers for their own needs, but the remainder of the ship was intact and well cared for. All around the ship were placards, booths and displays of one sort or another.
“Hey Elder, we got a problem. This is in the local language, can you read it?” Heim had stepped up to the first available placard while the other three stared at the ship in awe.
Elder stepped over to the placard and looked. The alphabet was very unfamiliar to him. Hartz and Yamaguchi followed close behind and also stared at it.
Heim continued, “Unless there is a translator or other way to understand this presentation, we are wasting our time here. A crashed ship isn’t the nicest thing to be looking at, but with the information presented here, it might be worthwhile.”
“Excuse me Imperial Officers, do you need a guide?”
The four young officers turned as one to the new voice. Standing there was a young man, almost a child by his looks, wearing a neat pale green uniform. Neat and trim, the only odd item about the uniform was the shoulders. Those were spread out past the edges on all sides, making an oversized epaulette out of the shoulder itself.
“Are you a guide?” Elder asked.
“Ranger is the title actually. My job is to help any visitor to First Park and help them understand what is represented here. I am more a teacher than a real Ranger, but I do have the training and authority that regular Rangers have. My name is Ranger First Class Evard Herschel Durell Tariq Patton.”
“Authority?” Yamaguchi looked around, Elder wondered if he was looking for the young man’s parents.
“Rangers are the wilderness police of the Duchy. We enforce the laws concerning the various open areas, the environmental laws, and so forth. Some of us are assigned to the various parks as instructors for the young and helpers for the elderly.” Ranger Patton put a little extra authority in his voice, perhaps to impress the Imperial officers.
“So you can teach us all about what First Park represents? Since none of us can read your language,” here the others nodded at Elder’s comment, “your help would be greatly appreciated.”
“No problem. You are at the start of the tour, the placard you cannot read is merely an introduction and welcome. Our Duchy language is a variant of Serbo-Croatian and it is written in Cyrillic. First Park is the site of the crash if the colony ship S.S. MIMI BENZELL. The ship experienced a Misjump on her second Jump, landing in this system. The Misjump destroyed the Jump Drive, at least past the ability of the ship’s engineers to repair it at the time. Unknown to them, it also damaged the maneuver drives and they failed as the MIMI BENZELL was entering the atmosphere during the attempt to regain control after the Misjump. Captain Linfred and Chief Pilot Maximillian were able to make a controlled crash. If you will follow me please.”
At a small booth just a few meters away, the Ranger stopped and opened a flap in the gaudy canvas. “Step inside for the next part of the tour please.”
With the ive of them it was slightly crowded, but not too much so. In front of tem was a very old holographic projector. Ranger Patton flipped a switch on a pole next to the entry flap and the machine hummed to life. In a moment, the holographic video flickered forth and the image of an older man stood in front of them. The image pleaded in the local language and then five other men came into view, all carrying improvised weapons. They graphically clubbed the first man to death.
“What you just saw was a re-enactment of the killing of Captain Linfred. While you may doubt that his speech is accurate, one of his supporters recorded it at the time and kept it for posterity. The five men who killed hi, blaming him for the crash that brought them here, formed the first government of the planet, the Directorate. The Directorate claimed that harsh measures were needed to survive and proceeded to institute a tyranny.”
“Excuse me, but didn’t the crew have weapons? Why didn’t they stop this?” Heim asked the question that the other three had not been fast enough to ask.
“The Directorate was formed from the crew. Captain Linfred had not been a popular captain with his crew. From what we learned after joining the Empire, this would have been Captain Linfred’s last voyage anyway, he was to be transferred to a support position. The only reason that he flew this mission was that there was a shortage of captains and he had to be used. This was early in the First Expansion. Any other questions?”
“Yes, I have one.” Elder knew something of the pertinent history and wanted a small point clarified. “Since this all happened before the War of Unification, how is it that you were able to learn this. Most government records of the Pre-Empire days were destroyed in the fighting.”
“Yes, most of the government records. But not all of them. In addition, actually, the S.S. MIMI BENZELL was not a government colony ship, which you might guess from the name. A private group fleeing an expected war sponsored our colony effort. When our ancestors left Earth, three were rumors of an impending attempt by the military to seize control of the world. I do not know if those rumors were true, but a large group of pacifists decided to flee rather than submit to a military run government. Their beliefs were another reason why the Directorate was able to take control so quickly after the crash.”
“Then how did the Directorate get overthrown? I know that this planet was a federal republic when the Empire discovered it.” Heim must have done some research on the history of the Duchy before starting shore leave.
“Passive resistance plus help from some of the crew that did not believe in the Directorate. Several of the colonists lost their lives, but they were able to overthrow the Directorate. That part of our history is later in the tour. Come with me please.”
A short walk took the group to a huge metal building. Several people in the park crowd glared at the Imperial uniforms as they passed.
Once inside the building Ranger First Class Patton stopped at a small placard just inside the door. “This placard merely mentions that this building was the first constructed on the planet. The building was used by the Directorate to house its supporters and for an administration center. Follow me please.”
Ranger First Class Patton led the Imperial officers past several local subjects. A couple of mothers pulled their children away from the passing group as if the air itself was contaminated. All hurried out of the building.
Once inside the building the group moved to a large room, with a raised platform containing an ornate chair at the other end. Ranger First Class Patton stopped and faced the group. “This was the throne room of the Directorate. We keep this room as it was when the Directorate was overthrown as a reminder that no citizen should be allowed the power that the Directorate took from us.” Patton paused, blushed a bit, and stammered out. “Of course, that was the original intent. I do not wish to imply that we are not loyal subjects of the Empire. It is just that our past has too many instances of small groups imposing a tyranny and we wish to avoid such in the resent and future.”