Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part XXXVIII: Casus Belli

This page Copyright © 2016, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
554JR
New Israel

Like the Landing Day celebration on Monticello, Aurora's family could not decline an invitation to the Independence Day celebrations at New Israel. The ship herself attended by remote, being unable to leave dock while under such extensive repair. Media pressure had diminished quite a bit by then, but the crew still wore disguises in public when not attending a function.
Aurora's second rebuild was well underway, but like the first would take some time - there was much to do. Structural members of her spaceframe would for the first time in her life have to be altered and replaced, to make room for the enlarged fore and aft ring-turrets without losing strength. Much of her frame was being reinforced with the new Steeltown Aerospace product, Magen Alloy, and all her armor was being replaced with it, except some internal areas that were considered either safe enough, or indefensible if enemy fire reached that deep anyway. It was the second time she'd been completely re-clad. The new material was lighter and would actually reduce her total mass by a small amount, giving her that much more realspace acceleration and hyperspace speed. Jenny was expecting to break c170, very near the half-century-old record of 177.
The ship had not Human modesty and was not embarrassed to be so exposed. Indeed, she took over much of Jenny Blain's job, directing the shipwrights in her own modifications. Some knew her only as a voice in their ears or text on their screens and may not have realized they were taking instructions from the ship herself. Once someone figured it out, though, word spread quickly. The shipwrights were already professionals, caring about their work, but their actions took on a new reverence - they felt less like mechanics now and more like surgeons. Many were, like Solomon Danner, believers that ships had souls. Now more were joining their belief.
Aurora's newfound sentience freed Blain to begin the regeneration experiments, to discover whether they could initiate the process at will. She also would need time to set up, alter a Marsten Device or perhaps an array of them. Her husband Epstein oversaw the construction work when she frequently returned to Aurora's rebuild.
Meanwhile, the Sixth-Generation Improved Marsten Drive was rapidly spreading. Councillor of Defense Benjamin Loughley got wind of it before Aurora had reached New Israel. He requested a meeting with Blain and between them they negotiated a lump sum payment of about as much as Danner had paid for Aurora as scrap: 40% to Blain for doing the work, 40% to Aurora for, as a legally-recognized Person, risking her life to test it, and the rest to the Family fund. Blain could have made vastly more in royalties but, like John Browning before her, accepted far less than she could have for something that would aid the defense of her nation. In exchange, the Republic Space Patrol had first rights to the design, with a guarantee it would become public domain in no more than one Monticellan year. In practice it was mere weeks; once the data had been propagated to every Republic military ship, for their crews or yards to implement when they could, Loughley himself ordered the plans released to the Net. If the Republic was facing a new war, many Reserve Privateers would take part, and he wanted them to have every possible advantage.

Separately, the samples from Grbblb and Trllbl had grown properly and would be ready for attachment in another hundred hours or so. Trllbl still hadn't been told and even most of the Glautopolis Infantry guarding the experiments didn't know, only the Lieutenants in command at each site. Fanatically loyal to their new home, the Republic, and to their commander, the Liberator, they were sworn to secrecy until ordered otherwise.
On 7 Secondmonth by the Republic's calendar - obviously a different date on New Israel's - Ralph pronounced the first replacement limbs and organs ready. The second facility, in a more temperate zone far from the arctic test site, had by this time been completed with a full surgical theater the technical equal of New Mount Sinai or Monticello's Cincinatti General. Grbblb, of course, volunteered for the first operation.
The surgery itself was a mere mechanical thing by this point, some of it performed on a cellular level by nanites under Aurora's control. It took barely an hour to attach Grbblb's replacement tentacle and eye, using his surviving ones for templates. “Don't expect results right away,” Ralph warned him once he recovered from anesthesia. “Humans and Eyani require months of therapy to regain normal function.”
“I understand,” the Glaut replied, trembling with excitement and hope.
“Right now both replacements are nerve-blocked. I'll start with the eye.” Ralph made an adjustment to the equipment Grbblb was connected to. His Glaut brother exclaimed in pain and he quickly restored the block.
“No... please... again!”
Even more delicately, Vatelius reduced the effect of the block on Grbblb's optical nerve. “There! I... I can see... light!” Grbblb used his original tentacles to cover his unblinking original eyes. “Yes! I... cannot focus-”
“Give it time, brother,” Ralph said through his triumph. He was trying very hard to not howl like a sports fan whose team had won the championship. “I'll reduce the block some more.”
Ah- there is pain but... I begin to make out details.”
To Ralph's astonishment, in less than an hour Grbblb's eye, missing for years, had been restored to most of its original function. He had released the nerve block by stages until it was gone altogether. “There is still irritation,” Grbblb reported, “but it lessens constantly. My brother, thank you! This gift is priceless!” Grbblb took Ralph's hand in three tentacles.
Vatelius was weeping with joy himself. “Something in your invertebrate nature must be more welcoming to transplants. Vertebrate eyes change shape to some extent, but only within a certain range, contained and protected by the skull. Yours must be evolved for a much broader range, differing ocean pressures for example, and your brain is more prepared to compensate. Are you ready for the next step?”
“By all means!”
“Again, don't be disappointed if nothing happens right away. I'll reduce the nerve block to 95%.”
“I feel... a slight tingling....”
In only minutes the replaced limb was moving, if not yet under control, and Grbblb reported sensations through it. “Brother Ralph, this is a miracle!” The limb spasmed, still at 55% nerve block, and bounced off an equipment stand. “Oh-”
Vatelius smiled. “Don't worry about that,” he said. “Vertebrates usually take days, even weeks, to so much as raise a finger after such a replacement. Your results are- spectacular. At this rate you'll be recovering function before the wounds have regained enough strength to support it. Your eye should be secure enough, but be very gentle with that limb for the next couple hundred hours. The growth stimulation appears to have given it normal muscle tone but don't test it yet.”
“As you say, Doctor,” Grbblb answered, shuddering with emotion. “Anything you say. -What of Trllbl? Are her replacements ready as well?”
Ralph nodded. “Shall I send for her? I expect you want the pleasure of breaking the news to her yourself.”
“Yes, please! And while we wait for her, please ask Lieutenant Ygghn to come in. He deserves to see what he and his troops have been guarding.”
“The real prize will be if we can recreate the process,” Ralph pointed out. “It's working for you, and almost certainly for Trillbil, but can we start it again for Glaut whose samples didn't go through those Close Transits?”
“You and Jenny will solve that problem, brother. I am sure of it.” Ralph nodded with rising certainty. Unlike many scientists facing such problems, he and Jenny knew the solution existed. They would chase it down and break it to harness.

Months had passed since Aurora arrived on New Israel. Anna had already become a Steward's Mate, Purser's Mate and Engineer's Mate - her place in the Family was secure. Delilah's presence was welcome in the aftermath of the recent battles but she worried about what she would have to contribute to the ship in peacetime; Ralph, and Aurora and the rest of the crew, had quickly begun cross-training her in a variety of tasks. Most members of the Family could perform most jobs on the ship; only a few, like Ralph's surgery or Blain's work on the Marsten Drive, were out of reach of the others. Cates had long since made Gunner's Mates of them all and began the process anew with Delilah and Trllbl.
Trllbl was Glauteb, the lower caste in the Glautak Consolidation. In her previous life she had worked as a food-preparer. Grbblb was Glautak, though he'd never had real power over any Glauteb, being only the equivalent of an office worker, shuffling data to and fro. Though from the same world, they were from different continents and had never met before. Trllbl had reached Salvation on a different refugee ship.
Awestruck, hero-worshipping, she had finally presented the gift she had made. Grbblb had immediately fixed it to the front of his harness, proudly wearing it to public functions - and keeping it in a pocket of his uniform during militia exercises.
Whenever his duties as mayor and militia commander permitted, he rejoined his family, which now included Trllbl. The two Glaut from different worlds-within-a-world spent many hours talking, sharing with each other their fears and hopes.
Against all custom and law under which they had lived, they became close. Within the Consolidation, the penalty for this “crime” was a horrible death. Here...?

Aurora's shuttles had been replaced, again. Steeltown Aerospace - with calculated publicity - gifted her an Apogee aircar, equivalent to Danner's original Corona but newer and finer, and another pair of new Type 347 Patrol/Navy shuttles, fitted out as her old Type 208s had been for passengers and light cargo. The pair of 318s donated by Mark's World had survived the Battle of RAS1441 and had both been configured for heavy cargo. Epsilon Automotive, also native to New Israel, had donated a half-dozen of the latest-model FlyCycle, their most legendary product. The slim little two-seat transsonic aircraft slipped into sockets installed in the two pairs of twin shuttles and could be used by passengers for recreation or to reach final destinations or transfer points, Aurora recalling them remotely. The crew used them for their own business more often.
Trllbl had come down from the ship some time ago and had been in Glautopolis for weeks, discovering all that had changed for her people upon their escape - Escape from the Consolidation. It was an event as momentous to them as the Humans' own. On receiving the summons from Ralph, she quickly took one of the FlyCycles to the coordinates he had sent.
Trllbl was not a pilot yet, and this FlyCycle wasn't yet configured for Glaut control, but it was smart enough from the factory to not need an organic pilot. With a few tips from Grbblb and a hand from Hlossh, Sarah Heusner, skilled with computers in her own right as a necessity of her Shipfolk upbringing, had easily installed upgrades, each a little copied piece of Aurora.
The FlyCycle set Trllbl down in the landing area of the second secret facility. The platoon of Glautopolis Infantry guarding it were of both castes; the sergeant on duty was in fact Glauteb like her, and the Glautak enlisted obeyed his orders. That alone was still shocking to Trllbl, who had not been free of the Consolidation's bigotry for long. She was more surprised yet when they saluted her and escorted her inside with respect.
Grbblb met her just inside. The place wasn't designed for visitors but had a space which served as a lobby. She hailed him with what a Human would have called, but could not see as, a smile-
-and floundered in a tangle of limbs at the shock of seeing him Whole. He came forward to lift her back to her tentacles. “Yes, Trllbl, it is true,” he told her. “Regeneration has been found for us, and soon, for all our people. The Consolidation's vilest curse will soon be only a hated memory.”
She could hardly speak. “...A miracle!”
“Enough of one, surely.” He wiggled his replaced tentacle, carefully. Ralph had been correct; the eye was one thing but it would take hundreds of hours at least before he could trust his new limb. For now it was bound to his harness as a Human might sling an injured arm. “But Trllbl, I called you here not only to show you my own recovery. I have two more reasons.” He began leading her deeper into the facility.
“First, a gift to you, as payment for taking my place with our sister Aurora, whom I will soon rejoin. Our brother, Doctor Ralph, began growing your own replacements at the same time as mine. The eyes regain function very rapidly, though the limbs will take many days to recover. They are ready now. If you wish it, before this day is out, you shall be made Whole.”
At this, Trllbl fainted outright.

She had of course accepted, and Ralph made detailed notes of the process and her rate of recovery. Glaut physiology fascinated him. Though tremendously alien, he had perhaps learned as much about them as pre-Escape Humans had about their own bodies. Their capacity for recovering from injury was remarkable and clashed with their regime's prejudice against the Un-Whole. How had such injustice come to be so institutionalized? That was another mystery for the Family to solve, someday. To be compiled and edited, he was assembling a weapon of mass instruction with which to shatter the Consolidation who had tried so hard to destroy his ship-brother's life.
Days passed, Grbblb and Trllbl recovering with speed that would seem fantastic to pre-Escape Human doctors, in the ancient dawn of limb-replacement. Even now, a Human or Eyani recovering 80 to 90 percent of function in a replaced limb was considered an excellent result; 70% was all most doctors would promise. The first two Glaut to receive such treatment were approaching total recovery. By the four-hundredth hour after surgery, Grbblb was hanging his entire weight from the replaced tentacle; New Israel's gravity was near enough Rllbtl's, or Terra's. Trllbl was right behind him; not as physical a being as Grbblb, who went on frequent militia exercises and had been a working spacer for years, she was still regaining function at an amazing rate. The scars were also fading quickly, though of course Ralph's surgery had also been cosmetic. Soon now, a microscope would be needed to determine either had ever been maimed.
Presently news came from the arctic test site - total success. Samples from maimed refugees had been induced, on command, to begin regeneration. There might still be anomalies like Humans and Eyani, which were not capable of regen, but none had been found yet. The Glaut species could be made Whole again, and though few yet knew it, their Consolidation was doomed.

It was about the five-hundredth hour after her own surgery when Trllbl, overcome with the thrill of being healed, recalled what Grbblb had said to her that day. “You said you had two other reasons?” she asked him.
“Yes,” he answered. “I wanted you to be healed first, I needed to be sure the process would work, that you would not think I was offering... pity.”
In the Consolidation, such things were not always, but often, arranged by their totalitarian government. The Glaut people had been resigned to it for millenia and few were capable of imagining an alternative. Copying the traditions of the Humans who had restored everything to him, Grbblb “knelt” on his tentacles before Trllbl and took one of hers in his own.
“Dear Trllbl,” he asked, “friend and comrade, shipmate and equal... will you join your life to mine? Will you be my wife?”
Collapsing on tentacles suddenly too weak to support her, she answered, simply, “Yes.”
Continued in the next excerpt....
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