Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part XXXII: Salvation

This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
“I'm sorry, Anna,” Solomon said to her, back aboard Aurora, “but we've been here nearly two hundred hours. We were lucky the other passengers disembarked, but now I have new ones.”
There had been no messages from Illyria. The Illyrian regime had their native media well in hand, though Jeffersonian news commentators had begun speculating, despite staged appearances of doubles portraying members of Agnieszka's family she knew were dead.
“I understand, Solomon,” she answered. “I said I would continue as planned.”
“Our next stop is Salvation. Jenny's increased our speed again, c168. We'll be there in about four hundred hours. Perhaps messages will be waiting for you there.”

5 Secondmonth 553JR (2355CE)

Again, no messages waited for Agnieszka after Transit, while news reports revealed nothing more. Even more troubling, Blain's colleague Professor Symanski had not responded to the Engineer's latest messages. Agnieszka began to worry- and the crew, especially Sarah, whose family had also been murdered, worked to cheer and distract her.
It was beginning to look like Anna would never go home.

Salvation was a religious world, and another independent, not a Member of the Republic. Theocratic worlds had been tried before; New Israel had collapsed and begged Membership not due to religious failings or excesses, but the same collectivist government policies which almost doomed the American Pilgrims to starvation in the 1620s CE before those policies were abandoned.
Hornbeck, on the other hand, an outright theocratic monarchy, had oppressed its population to the point of rebellion. Hornbeckers were still religious, but like the Catholic Stellar Reformation, there were considerable differences from the original. Hornbeck had been a Member World for centuries, and for one of them, the Patrol had an aerospace carrier named for the world. If the Republic were still building Dreadnoughts the name would probably be on the list again, but with the Reserve Privateer system, and any ship allowed to be unofficially armed, there was little need for a Navy or its tax burden.
Waramid III had been the last attempt at an Islamic nation, and had been a disaster. Originally settled independently, they quickly descended to a system of castes and de facto slavery. They were far enough out on the Frontier, at the time, to have not even coincidental protection from the Patrol, and were unattractive enough that Reserve Privateers were seldom found there. Having no skilled labor force, and no technology or infrastructure of their own, only imports operated and maintained by foreign contractors who rarely renewed, they were wide open to the first would-be pirate king who decided to knock the place over. With two ships and less than six hundred mostly-Human troops, renegade Eyani Sen'Tar the Bold had toppled what government was there in two days, though it took three years for the rest of the planet to notice. Over the following decades he had loosened the reins, until his daughter, Sen'Xay the Wise, had petitioned for acceptance as a Republic Territory some twenty-five Monticellan years ago. The world's people sometimes practiced some parts of Islam... if they felt like it. Their version of Islam was not recognized by the Fourth Reformation present elsewhere in Republic space - but thanks to those same Reformations it wasn't condemned either.

Salvation was a mostly-Christian world, an otherwise-unremarkable blend of several Protestant sects. Secular travelers from the Central Worlds sometimes found the constant religious references annoying; but their evangelicism was of a mild sort, neither forcing nor damning nonbelievers. Their exports consisted of various handcrafted objets d'art in various mediums, not least gold, which their planet had formed with rather a lot of. These had been pre-sold by h-mail and securely packaged for transport on whatever ship happened to be going the right direction.
Aurora took twenty-seven such pieces, from the size of a wrist 'puter to a man-sized statue, bound for New Israel. There were armed guards from the art studios to deliver the crates to Four Boat, who were met by Prrg and Cates in their power armor, as a gesture to show how seriously Danner took the matter. The directors of the three studios expressed their appreciation with small gold-and-silver mementos for each of the crew.
There was little crime on Salvation; like a Republic planet, there was a general right to bear arms and affirmative defenses in law for the use of lethal force. It was the ships, and the worlds between studio and customer, that couldn't be trusted. But no one doubted Aurora's integrity, or her ability to defend herself and her cargo; she'd proven it recently and word had spread throughout the region.
Salvation was not entirely Christian. Like a Republic world, they also had freedom of religion, and their artisans came from many faiths; people from other worlds often visited to study comparative religion, or on pilgrimage for quality artifacts to decorate temples on their homeworlds. While others in the crew received more secular gifts, Hlossh's memento was a representation of the Boksi goddess Ksshrosha; Prrg's, the Nikar god Nrlm; Sarah Heusner, the Eyani legend Hr'Gen. Epstein received a finely-formed Magen David, while Taniyama was given an omamori amulet enclosed in silk, embroidered with the kanji for kanai-anzen, a traditional Shinto household-and-family safety-and-prosperity talisman.
Having visited Salvation before and being aware of the tradition, Danner presented Anna as a member of his crew. She received, from a Stellar Reformation Catholic artisan, an exquisitely-made miniature crucifix on a necklace whose links alternated silver and gold, which she immediately placed around her neck with profuse thanks.
The Glaut Diaspora, refugees from Rllbtl II, had already reached as far as Terra, and a handful had chosen Salvation on the way. One, a maimed Glauteb missing two of her six limbs and two of her four eyes, approached the party. “Ah, Trllbl!” announced her studio's director, one Calvin Dundee, an elderly Human of a much-evolved Nazarene sect. “One of our best. The detail of her work is amazing.”
The Glauteb female approached stiffly, in obvious pain. Ralph rushed to her side. “Doctor Ralph?” she asked.
“I sure am. Please, let me help you. Aurora has an excellent sickbay, I can treat your wounds. No charge,” he added, though money was rarely an object for this metal-rich world.
“She could also be your combine's representative,” Danner offered to the directors, “confirming your cargo is secured aboard.” That was standard practice for such shipments, on any world.
With the crates, and the power-armored First Officer and Gunner, Sarah piloting, loaded in Four Boat, Trllbl boarded Two Boat with the rest of the crew and they returned to Aurora.

The cargo secured and recordings of it made and sent planetside, Trllbl followed Vatelius to Aurora's sickbay. As he had done with Grbblb years before, he directed her into his Examiner. He'd treated many refugees' wounds on the Transit from Rllbtl, consulted frequently with Glaut communities via h-mail, and was probably the most knowledgeable and experienced Glaut surgeon in Known Space.
Or Aurora was. She'd had many opportunities to update her database, and could peform many procedures herself.
While a holograph of her injuries was forming, his patient asked, “Is it true Grbblb the Liberator is aboard this ship? I had hoped to meet him. I have a gift for him.” She produced an amulet, like most Salvation work in silver and gold. It portrayed The Kraken, the electronic avatar Grbblb and Sarah had created for subversion against the Consolidation.
“Ah,” Ralph answered. “He's actually on New Israel, where your cargo is heading.” Vatelius told the story of his brother's choice to stay behind, his election as militia colonel and mayor of Glautopolis, and his intent to return to Aurora. Outside the Glautak Consolidation, Grbblb was a hero, not a criminal, and made no secret of his activities. “'The Liberator', is it? I think he'd be embarrassed.”
“Oh! I meant no offense.”
Ralph chuckled. “Don't worry about it. He's not the sort to let such things go to his head.”
“...Is it true then, he is raising an army of free Glaut to overthrow the Consolidation?”
Ralph stopped his work with raised eyebrows at this. “Um. I think reports of Glub's prowess have expanded with the telling. Last I checked, it was barely a company of infantry, the command of which he intends to relinquish when he returns to this ship.” He added, “As an Engineer's Mate, an ordinary crewmember.”
“Then... he is not coming to free our people?”
“Hm.” Ralph paused to consider. “He would, were it in his power. Evidently that power has been greatly exaggerated. He would tell you that the Glaut people have the power to free themselves.” In years of travel with his Glaut brother, Vatelius had learned to read some Glaut body language. Trllbl seemed crestfallen.
“Here's a suggestion,” Ralph offered. “Come with us. It will be several months' travel, but you could meet him, deliver that gift yourself, discuss matters with him. Learn the truth of his circumstances, and perhaps spread more accurate reports to your fellow Glaut.”
Trllbl flexed her remaining tentacles. “I... must think on this. I... have work here. A life.”
“No,” she answered, with stiffness not due to her wounds.
Ralph nodded grimly. “I'll tell you this much,” he said. “When your revolution does come, we're figuring on being a part of it. This ship, this family. But it may be years.”

“Another passenger?” Solomon asked Ralph.
“Well. It's not like she can't pay her fare.” Salvationers could literally dig money out of the ground. The first time Danner had been to the world had been as crew on a freighter, years before he found Aurora, delivering a “breeding population” of high-end fabbers, which in the years since had turned out not only more of their own kind, but a large number of labor and maintenance robots. These were not legally sentient - none in Known Space were, yet - nor were they near Aurora's level, so it was not a matter of slavery. With these to serve and provide for them, and a low organic-sentient population, the Salvationers could devote themselves to worship and art, as they pleased.
But they hadn't become lotus-eaters, nor were their various faiths blind. They also had a considerable Navy, nearly matching the New Israel Home Fleet in capability. It was the fifth most powerful single-world force in explored space. Likewise, their militia system was very similar to the Republic's, including service as a requirement for citizenship. Warships and weapons were the very first things Salvation's government purchased with their wealth. In the world's 129-Monticellan-year history, there had been four pirate raids. The last had been nearly a century ago and all had been not only repelled, but annihilated.
Danner waved a hand in dismissal of Trllbl's fare; Daisuke had been keeping the family well in the black for years, Aurora's resources were in no danger of being strained by one more Glaut, and her captain was of a charitable bent where opposition to the Glautak regime was concerned. “Well, I've no objection, of course,” Danner continued. “And it probably won't hurt Dundee's feelings to have one of his own shepherding his cargo.”
“I am preparing quarters for Ms. Trllbl,” Aurora announced, “based on Grbblb's berth. Her compartment will be ready within the hour.” Unseen in the aft grav-ring, Aurora's robots were configuring a Second Class passenger cabin for Glaut use, filling part of it with water while shifting ballast to the opposite segment of the spinning ring for balance.

Vatelius had asked and received permission to take a sample of Trllbl's DNA-equivalent, for his research toward Glaut regeneration. He had many such samples already, from Aurora's load of refugees from Rllbtl, but one never knew where the missing piece of the puzzle would come from.
Meanwhile, Aurora returned to hyperspace on her way to the next port: Mark's World.

17 Secondmonth 553JR (2355CE)
Hyperspace Transit, Salvation to Mark's World

Jennifer Blain had continued her life as a starship's Engineer, as she had done for most of a Monticellan decade. Though never far from her thoughts, she rarely dwelled on her troubled past or the genetic anomaly that would kill her if she attempted to Cure her Juice addiction.
Until, one day, dozens of hours into Transit, she realized she had not felt the craving, the need, for quite some time.
Curious, both frightened and hopeful, she went to her ship-brother and doctor, Ralph Vatelius. “When was the last time you remember feeling... the addiction?” he asked her.
She had to think about that. “Hundreds of hours. More than a thousand, I'm sure. Maybe... the Close Transit over Dakota had something to do with it?”
Ralph sat, chin in hand, eyes unfocused, and Jenny recognized another specialist's mind in overdrive, like hers when she worked on the Marsten Drive. “Let's... find out,” he finally said.
He began with a DNA sample, which revealed the same genetic anomaly making the traditional Cure for drug addiction fatal. Digging deeper, he gave Jenny a brain scan, much evolved from the pre-Escape MRI system. He had taken one years ago, when Jenny first came to him, in doctor-patient confidence (among the crew, only he, Captain Danner, and her husband Jack Epstein shared knowledge of her condition), seeking some kind of solution. With Aurora's powerful computer, a comparison was made, also with baseline cases in the ship's database and examples of other addicted Humans.
The resulting images were as alien to Jenny, and familiar to Ralph, as the reverse was true of the Marsten Drive. After staring at them for quite some time, Vatelius finally told her, “I... think... you're cured.”
Now it was Jenny's turn to sit silently staring. “How?” she eventually asked.
“Wild guess? Something in the Close Transit hit the 'reset' button for the part of your brain where drug addictions reside. Normally the Cure does that, neurochemically and microelectrically, but with your Anomaly it would cause massive damage instead.
“Most people,” he continued, “haven't suffered Transition Effects for about two Republic centuries, since the Fifth Generation Drive came out. Most research on them is about as old, obsolete, no longer relevant. You... may have just opened a whole new field of medical research.”
“You mean...?”
Ralph nodded, enthusiasm increasing. “Using the Drive as a medical instrument, as a treatment. And I doubt anyone alive knows more about the Drive than you do.” Jenny stared at nothing, the implications racing through her mind. “Yep,” Ralph continued, “this next Paper, we write together, and it gets published in both our academic Journals.”
“But this is all speculation! On a single case!”
“Sure, we could be wrong - there'll have to be tests, experiments, reproducability - I bet some university hospital can find another addict with the Anomaly who'll sign enough waivers to go through a Close Transit, and a ship and captain daring enough to try. But if it does work, you may be responsible for killing the last stigma of substance dependancy. Thank the gods we never had Prohibition, that would've murdered more people than the drugs do.... And not just Humans, Eyani brains are so much like ours, at least that part of them, the Cure for them is nearly identical.”
“Y'Tre...!” Jenny remembered her Sponsor from Interstellar Charities, an Eyani suffering the equivalent of the same Anomaly which prevented the Cure from working. After all the years, and even at the Eyani's age, they still wrote to each other every thousand hours or so.
Suddenly Ralph made a wordless exclamation. “Y'Tre- you once told me her Anomaly also prevented Regen- gods!” He leapt from his seat, forgetting in his excitement that sickbay was in freefall during Transit, caroming off a corner of the Examiner. Uncharacteristically clumsy for a man who had spent years aboard ship, he fumbled his way across the compartment to a small cryo chamber and immediately attacked its controls.
“What is it?” Jenny asked.
“Another wild guessYYAAAAAAAHHH!!!!” Vatelius' shout became gleeful laughter, and he spun round to wrap his ship-sister in a joyful, back-pounding embrace. “HAAAAHAHAAHAA!!! Do you know what you've DONE?! Even through cryo, incredible! And another Paper for ICC!” -the Institute of Chikaran Cryogenics.
What? Ralph, what is it?”
Still hugging Jenny, spinning and tumbling in freefall, Ralph went on, “Maybe the interaction of the Marsten and Fanouu Fields, nothing's supposed to get through the Dlee Boundary but that was the closest Transit ever recorded, the Field intensity must have been tremendous, with the most perfectly tuned Drive- Hahahaaa!” Finally catching a foot on a counter to steady them, Ralph held Jenny by the shoulders and smooched her forehead. “I kiss your beautiful brain! I'm sure your husband will forgive me when he learns you've invented a cure for Anomalous Addiction and a way to initiate regeneration in Glaut!”

Now, Doctor and Engineer worked together to try to understand what had happened. “I do feel Cured,” Blain observed. “I used to get the shakes just looking at a picture of a Juice ampule. Now I had Aurora fab one-” she held it up- “a real one, with the real drug in it.” Aurora's fabbery included a chemistry lab, capable of synthesizing narcotics; and the ship's Chief Engineer had all the necessary codes and overrides. “And I don't want it.” She handed it, casually, to Vatelius.
He examined it for a moment, then set it in a drawer with other sedatives and painkillers. “You could have made more for yourself at any time?”
She nodded. “That was willpower - and Sol holding my soul in his hands a couple times over the years.” Jennifer Blain was not a warrior, but she would kill or die for her Captain-and-ship-brother. “This-” she gestured at the drawer- “this is a cure. What about your end?”
“Hmm.” He brought up some medical displays. “Another reason to hate the Glautak Consolidation is their almost-total lack and shunning of medical knowledge. But I'm getting some ideas. You know before they got modern Drives, before we Contacted them, they were about Second Generation?”
Blain nodded. “Two-Gee Improved, approximately. The fastest they had was c23, and the Transition Effects were even worse than ours - they were missing half the Interleaver Array and they were getting a lot of stuff leaking through the Field. They used drug-induced comas and timed autopilots, right?”
“That's right. I've got some ideas, but I need experiments. On the other hand I don't feel comfortable asking for more Close Transits. Or having anyone suffer them.”
“I've been getting ideas about that. The Marsten Drive, from the first one in Enterprise all the way to Aurora's Sixth-Gen, is an array of Marsten Devices - and we carry spares. We don't dare power them during Transit of course, but I can run sims.” Jenny brought up technical displays of her own. “Given a suitable location - outside traffic areas but inside a gravity well - I should be able to duplicate, on a compact scale and with fine focus, the effects of a Close Transit without actually performing one.”
“Now we're cooking,” Ralph responded. “I have samples from dozens of different Glaut, both castes. It was Glub's sample I checked first, but Aurora is now showing me most of the others have undergone the same change.” Trllbl's sample, brought aboard after the Close Transit, showed no sign of regeneration - which tended to support the hypothesis Ralph was forming. “It's... difficult to translate into Human biological terms, most of them haven't been coined yet, but I'm guessing there was more to Glaut Transition Effects than just a crappy Drive design. I think something in Glaut biology was reacting to a Marsten Field more than other known species.
“What I've done is applied the equivalents of what starts regeneration in the other species who are capable of it, but nothing happened. Until a few minutes ago I didn't know if I had the chemistry wrong, if I was just doing it wrong, or if I was going in completely the wrong direction. Now, though it's on a microscopic scale, cell growth has started - and stopped again as soon, I'm guessing, as the Transition was over and the respective Fields stabilized. But I'm bringing one of Glub's samples out of cryo and it's already showing signs of regen, just as I would expect of Human or Eyani tissue-equivalents.
“If this can be reproduced, we've just solved regeneration for the Glaut species.”
And given them cause for revolution,” Jenny observed. Unlike the ivory-tower gang at Illyria's Politechnika, Jenny kept abreast of galactic affairs, not least as one of her ship-brothers was a significant figure in them.
“What freaks me out about it is,” Ralph continued, “nothing is supposed to get through the Dlee Boundary created by the Fanouu Field in a Chikaran cryogenic chamber. See, Chikaran cryo isn't just a way to freeze things, the Field prevents external influences, radiation of all known kinds-”
“Oh! Aurora, please show me a schematic of a Fanouu Field generator!” The ship did so and Jenny exclaimed, “Of course! Ralph, the Chikarans, they almost developed the Marsten Drive themselves, the Fanouu Drive they would've called it, and they didn't even know it! Chikaran cryo is a variation of the Marsten Device! That's why the Close Transit affected your samples even through cryo - what you guessed a little while ago, the Fields were interacting because they were related!”
“Holy...! Nearly two centuries since Contact and nobody noticed?”
“Alien technology, in a different field! When does a Drive Technician talk shop with a surgeon? And, all this time, the Fields always worked as intended, never reaching a threshold where they could interact. You already said Dakota was the Closest Transit on record-” She stopped abruptly there, recalling her own Transition Effects. “What the hells was I thinking...?”
“You were thinking about a ship under attack by pirates and having a rare chance to do something about it. But this is getting... big. We need proof. We need....” Ralph's voice trailed off as he looked his ship-sister in the eye.
Blain nodded. She had never revealed her addiction to the rest of the crew, but if they were to perform the necessary experiments to prove their theories, they would have to explain why to their family. “I don't have to hide it anymore. My sister-” Jenny reached out to pat Aurora's deck- “has healed me. Aurora, please schedule a crew meeting.”

Transit routine left much time free, especially with Aurora and her many robot hands and eyes on duty. With the crew assembled in the bridge, the soothing pastels of hyperspace as backdrop and her husband's strong arms around her, Jennifer Blain told her family everything. Jack Epstein would have glared at them, daring them to comment or judge - but they were his family now too. He simply floated, eyes closed, holding his wife, his face gently buried in her hair.
“Naturally we want to perform experiments,” Ralph stated, “to confirm our theories as soon as possible.”
“But not if it puts Aurora at risk,” Jenny added, “or interferes with operations or contractual obligations.”
“I have the answer to that,” Danner replied. “But first, have you sent any messages about this yet? To Glub, to anyone? Discussed it with Trillbil-” Danner's Human tongue necessarily added vowels to their passenger's Glaut name- “or anyone outside the Family?” Both Doctor and Engineer shook their heads in the negative. “Then we simply wait until we reach New Israel.”
Ralph, on the trail of new knowledge, objected, “But that's months-”
New Israel,” Danner repeated, raising a hand to count points on fingers, “where we will find the medical establishment of a Central World, an established community of Jeffersonian Glaut who will be very sympathetic to your requests, and lots of suitable planetary bodies in the two Belts and the outer system to provide gravity wells no one else is using. Meanwhile you and Aurora can crunch numbers and run simulations and refine your theories and design your test apparatus so less time is lost when we arrive.”
Vatelius ducked his head and cleared his throat. “And that's why you're the Captain. I'd be really ticked at you if you weren't making so much sense. Should we message Glub now, so he can start preparing?”
“I suggest you wait until we reach Mark's World at least,” Danner answered. “Then you'll have more to tell him.” It was possible to send messages from a ship in Transit, especially one as finely-tuned as Aurora, to a planet-sized target, but waiting for a proper h-mail routing system made more sense. “Also, consider what you're going to tell him. What if it doesn't work? What if you're wrong? The universe has smacked our brother around enough, let's not give him false hope. And, let's not let word of this get out before we know it's true. Could cause- I don't know what, panic in the Consolidation, premature revolution before they're ready to topple the regime, backlash if the promise of regeneration isn't fulfilled.”
Vatelius' expression became more chagrined with every point Danner made. “Shutting up here, boss.”
“It should go without saying, that goes for the rest of us,” Solomon added. “No mention of any of this, any part of it. This is the kind of thing that could get statues built, or get us lynched.”
The family indicated their agreement.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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