MS Mary Pickersgill
Terra to Monticello
The ship's rate of spin had been gradually increased during the first few days of the hyperspace transit, to simulate the surface gravity of Monticello, and while Singer appreciated the logic, his leg didn't. Finally the pain compelled him to seek out the ship's doctor.
The sign on the door to the compartment read "Dr. S. Attalba, M.D.(s)(ge)(gp)". Singer limped through, prepared for a long wait. A young, or young-seeming, woman of indeterminate ethnicity sat with her feet up on what Singer guessed to be the receptionist's desk. As he entered she looked up from the datapad she was reading, smiled, and asked, "Can I help you?"
Singer replied, "I'd like to make an appointment to see the doctor about my leg...?"
The young woman looked around at the compartment, empty except for her and Singer, and said with a grin, "I think we can find room for you in our busy schedule. I'm Dr. Attalba," she continued, swinging her legs down and rising from her chair, thrusting out a hand. As Singer grasped it, she looked down at his cane and said, "Call me Sally. Wow, you've actually got something wrong with you! C'mon in, let's see what we can do about it!" She turned and, gesturing for Singer to follow, passed through a door to the actual treatment room.
Singer followed, saying, "Uh, I was thinking perhaps some pain medication, I'm afraid I don't have insurance-"
"Hm? Oh! Payment, right, with that leg you must be new to the Republic. Subject, or Provo?"
"Ah, I'm a Provisional Citizen-" Singer fumbled for his provisional identification and handed it to the doctor.
"Great, it'll be covered under CitizenCare during your term of service - you might have to cough up ten bucks or so, but it shouldn't be more than that. Have a seat on the bench there, please?" Singer did so and Attalba picked up a medical scanner. "What happened, and when, and how?"
"It was about twelve years ago- ah, Terran years, that is- you see, I'm- I was, an auto mechanic, and I was under a car when the jack slipped, and my knee was hyperextended-"
"And those UN government doctors," Attalba supplied, "are illiterate butchers who know absolutely nothing about cellular surgery, cartilage regeneration, or nerve replacement, despite us telling them all about it, with pictures yet, for the last eighty or ninety years." Attalba began to run the scanner over Singer's uninjured left leg.
"Um, there's nothing wrong with my left leg-"
"Not exactly true," she replied, examining the scanner's screen, "but largely correct, and that's the point; I'll use the one that hasn't been vandalized as a template for repairing the one that has. Hm... mm-hm." She switched the scanner off and set it aside. "Here's what I have in mind," she said, turning to a row of cabinets, then consulting a handputer. "It's been at least a year since I've actually had to use one of these, though it's comforting to have them around - we don't get many old wounds, you know - now if I can just find the thing- ah!" Directed by the handputer, Attalba opened a cabinet and began taking out equipment. "Right where it's supposed to be." Opening "the thing's" container, she pecked at its controls and ran a diagnostic. "Perfect condition, of course. This is a guidance and control module for nanosurgeons - microscopic robots which we insert into your body, which carry out repairs on a cellular scale." She picked up the scanner she had used earlier. "Now, I just upload the scans to the control module, and the AI sees what your knee looks like now, and what it's supposed to look like, and figures out how to program the nannies to fix it- yup, they're already breeding." After a few seconds, she withdrew a small white capsule from the machine.
"This," she explained, "is a few thousand nanosurgeons in a digestible medium. When you go to bed tonight, swallow this pill with water, wait five minutes and push the big green button. The nannies will wake up and start making their way to your knee, and you won't feel a thing - except your knee should feel just a little bit better by morning. Switch off with the big red button when you get out of bed; tossing and turning in your sleep, the nannies can deal with; walking and sitting and standing tends to overtax them and extend the time needed for treatment. Keep using the module, switch on when you get in bed, off when you get out, for about a week. Check this little compartment here each day; if there's another capsule, swallow it like the first, with water as you go to bed - it'll be reinforcements. Don't worry about taking too many, the control module will kill off any excess, and the nannies automatically go dormant if you're more than four meters from the controller, and die off and are flushed if they're dormant more than two days. When you think your knee is as good as new, come see me; I'll make sure the nannies are done, then tell them to flush themselves out of your system." She handed the device, about the size of a liter drink container, to Singer. "Okay?"
Singer did as directed, and the next morning his knee felt no worse than it had in Terran gravity despite its current, heavier load. By the end of the week his knee did indeed feel as good as new, though Dr. Attalba instructed him to give the nanosurgeons two more days for good measure, which he did.
Feeling better than he had in years, Singer examined his recommended curriculum of Citizenship courses and decided to attempt one that had been out of the question previously. Making his way to the ship's gymnasium and following the computer's menus, he directed a seven- meter square area to be partitioned off from the rest for privacy, selected his program, and chose his skill level: Novice.
A holographic AI instructor appeared, followed by a humanoid robot. The instructor said, "Welcome! You have chosen ‘Introduction to Unarmed Combat.' This course is a prerequisite for ‘Intermediate Unarmed Combat,' which is a requirement for full Citizenship in the Jeffersonian Republic...."
Over the next weeks and months Singer continued to study toward his Citizenship, and availed himself of the ship's computer and library for instruction in a variety of fields. Confidence building, Singer began socializing, interacting with his fellow passengers in the ship's common areas, abandoning the comforting privacy of his martial-arts lessons for a group class in which he could test himself against real opponents.
The ship's library was vastly more complete and current than any he had used (or tried to use) on Terra, and as far as Singer could tell access to it was completely unrestricted. He commented on that to one of his sparring partners and she stared in amazement. "Who but a Terran," she said after overcoming her shock, "could think of restricting access to a library? No offense," she added. "After all, you're not Terran anymore, are you?"
Singer still spent a lot of time alone in his cabin, glued to the holotank or the reader, making great use of that library and it's AI instructors. But some courses couldn't be taught by computer, and the ship's school had three multi-talented Citizens to handle those. He found one course, "History and Moral Philosophy," particularly challenging - there didn't seem to be any rules; no tests, no grades, or at least none that he and a handful of fellow Provisional Citizens on the ship were told about - but a lot of assigned reading, or at least viewing of documentary programs, and a lot of discussion, some of it... not heated, exactly, but enthusiastic.
And that last detail was another thing Singer began to notice about Jeffersonians - they seldom got demonstrably angry. On Terra, a screaming match and an exchange of blows was a common occurrence, at work, on the bus, at the store, on the street, anywhere, anytime. Not so among these people; although he admitted that a starship in transit was too small and artificially- restrained a sample upon which to base such conclusions, the impression was nonetheless clear that Jeffersonians were far more polite, more courteous, more civilized than the people he had left behind.
Finally the day came when Mary Pickersgill made the transition back to Einsteinian space and maneuvered to dock with the enormous space station orbiting the planet Monticello. By this time Singer had emerged, to an extent which surprised him, from the shell he had been forced into by Terran life, and he watched the docking in the big holotank in the main lounge with many other passengers. The operation was incredibly gentle, considering the size and mass of the objects coming together; the docking pylon on the ship's bow spun relative to the ship, so that the passengers and crew could enjoy simulated gravity while in port.
The station itself was built the same way, with a central shaft that provided a stationary target for ships and shuttles to dock with while the living spaces spun around it to simulate gravity - except the station was six times wider and ten times longer than the starship.
Synchronous Orbit, Monticello
"Welcome to Monticello Station. Originally constructed in 2 BJR with a single rotating wheel section 100 meters in diameter, the first station was expanded to five wheels before being declared obsolete in 134 JR. The old station was dismantled and recycled, the materials being used in the construction of this station, which presently consists of four rotating wheel sections, each 320 meters in diameter, and a stationary central axle 1.3 kilometers in length. There are a total of fourteen docking points on Monticello Station, with plans to add six more by extending the axle another 250 meters. The station's current capacity is four thousand persons, and there are plans to increase this to six thousand with the expansion of wheel diameter to 400 meters."
A second screen on the information kiosk showed the docking status; it was a slow day, with only a half-dozen ships berthed at the station, though at least fifty were scheduled to arrive in the next three 30-hour Monticellan days. Leaving aside the issue of whether Republic passenger starships were armed, one of the ships currently docked was a true warship, according to its description: "Port 9: F17 JRS Chesapeake, a Constitution class frigate operated by the Jeffersonian Republic Space Patrol. This vessel is not open to visitors at this time."
Mary Pickersgill had docked at Port 7, and as Singer tugged himself across the weightless terminal area toward the shuttle bay he looked in the direction of Port 9. There were no windows in that part of the station, as one of many precautions against docking accidents, so he did not see the warship - but he saw men and women in military uniform floating about the large cargo airlock, supervising loading. A platoon of Marines in full kit - Singer knew they were a platoon from the commands their sergeant shouted - split into four squads of ten and moved through the personnel 'lock with a grace and experience matched only by the ship's crew. Singer would later learn that this was the security detachment for the Republic's Geneva embassy, on rotation.
The Washington City embassy rated a full company, and carefully leaked rumors that the self-destruct charge on the faster-than-light communications set housed there was nuclear.
Since the liner's centerline areas were in free-fall during the long hyperspace transit, Singer had plenty of time to develop his weightless skills, returning to the spin areas to prevent muscle or bone loss; thus he moved easily to the next leg of his journey, a shuttle to the surface of Monticello.
Naturally the trip down differed somewhat from Singer's first flight into space; instead of a steady, heavy acceleration followed by weightlessness, there were a series of small accelerations as the shuttle maneuvered to entry attitude, then vibration and mild buffeting as it entered the atmosphere, and a growing sensation of weight. Quickly the shuttle - an aerodynamic type similar, but much-evolved, from the '312' which carried him from Geneva to the starship - began behaving like an aircraft and swooped down for a smooth landing at the largest city in the Republic, and the largest spaceport in Human Space.