[Newer York, 523AS] And you know it don't come easy

Another crisis. Another meeting. But there are more surprises in the room than outside it. #amwriting

A direct follow-on to "I don't ask for much, I only want trust".

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Newer York, 523 After Starfall, Day 274 (5 Sivan), 08h00m

They met in The Conference Room. There were many conference rooms in Newer York and her daughter stations, but this was the definite article--where generations of Governors General (and before them, Mayors), Admirals, and Chief Rabbis had met to coordinate their separate spheres and discuss major events.

They met less frequently, these days. The City and its suburbs were in the ascendant, leaving more big decisions in the hands of the Governor General and the Council of Mayors. The Crew had come to accept the precept of civilian authority, which had always been a long-term goal of the Community. The rabbinate had been less accepting of the diminishing role of the Outbound Chabad, despite still being by far the dominant faith of the Community. Still, they could not argue that the original charter foresaw that, as well, even as they chafed at their diminished role.

But today needed all three of them.

The Governor General, as was traditional, began. "Thank you for coming, companions. We've had a...development that might interest you."

The Admiral, a middle-aged enby, who was self-admittedly more an engineer than anything else responded with a wry grin. "As it happens, Yehudit, I have some news of my own. I had planned to ask for a meeting today, anyway."

Interesting, the Governor General thought. And probably not a coincidence.

The Chief Rabbi was also middle-aged, and something of a fuss-pot. More administrator than inspirational leader, he seemed somewhat resentful of the fact that he was not revered, merely respected, and that more for his office than himself. Yehudit bat Moshe had given considerable thought to simply excluding him from this meeting, but for a host of reasons had allowed tradition to outweigh her distaste for the man. Now, he sat there, nursing a cup of coffee, looking imposed upon for the time this was taking out of his busy day, and she wondered if maybe he'd have preferred she exclude him, anyway. At any rate, he said nothing to acknowledge her welcome, merely nodded--not an unfriendly nod, but not exactly gracious.

She was used to him, by now, however, and she marched on. "Yesterday, the Ellis Ring received a new would-be immigrant, whom the immigration agent chose to pass. I happen to agree with his reasoning, on several grounds, but her presence here still has the potential to make our lives...complex."

The Admiral's face gave away that his news, while not the same, was related, that he guessed where she was going with this. The Rabbi, by contrast, looked peevishly confused. "New applicants come through the gates daily. Too many, I sometimes think, particularly with New Anaheim still not ready to begin building out in the Outer Belt. But that's a different argument. Why does this particular one concern us?"

The Governor General took a breath. "Her name is Anna 35 dor 27, and she claims--and we have reason to believe--to be seeking refuge from Revi'i." She continued on without giving the Rabbi an opportunity to expostulate...yet. "As you can see from this file," and here she swiped from her screen in the direction of their seats, sending the file to their tablets, "she is the very spitting image of--"

"--Cain herself! Anna bat Mordechai!" the Rabbi spat. The Governor General was actually pleased--she'd won that bet with herself, and owed herself another gin and tonic later. What came next, though surprised her. He actually got a smile on his face, an incredulous one, but a smile nonetheless. "So they actually did do it! They resorted to cloning!"

The Admiral took up the thread here. "It certainly looks that way, I agree. This immigration agent...David...I could wish he'd asked a few more questions about that, but I see from his super's endorsement that she believes he correctly stuck to his training. I don't know much about that training, but I do appreciate his commitment to treating her fairly."

The Governor General nodded, and took advantage of the fact that the Rabbi seemed engrossed in the report and not prone to further interjections just yet. "I agree, as I said. He did the right thing. She claimed refugee status and applied to Ellis, and her evaluation checks out perfectly adequately for the program. But you see what I mean about complexity."

The Rabbi asked a surprisingly pertinent question, albeit in his usual brusque manner. "Has anybody recognized her, do we know?"

"David did, of course, before she identified herself, according to his own notes and the recording, which is attached. She merely confirmed it. I've since received a message from her living unit supervisor relaying a question from one of the proctors. If anyone else has, so far, they haven't said."

He nodded again, and returned to his study of the file, sipping at his coffee.

The Admiral cleared his throat, making sure the Rabbi was re-engaged with his peers before he continued. "This seems a good time to mention my news, then, as well, which is either related, or  a stunning coincidence, and either way, also complex. I have received a message on the text channel we maintain between ourselves and the surface. It requests our assistance in engaging an investigator trained in analyzing disaster sites. It also requests...a meeting."

"What?!" this, unsurprisingly, from the Rabbi, who looked predictably outraged. "No doubt he's looking to demand the return of his defector!"

"I'm not really sure 'defector' is the right word, you know," the Governor General replied. "I mean, let's face it--we know absolutely nothing of their culture down there. We have a lot of guess-work and a lot of fiction we've written about them and most of it probably bears only passing resemblance to the truth."

Rabbi Menachem looked like he really wanted to argue, but the Admiral forestalled him. "Be that as it may, the point is, this is historic, and I really don't think it's a coincidence. First we have a visitor--immigrant, refugee, defector, whatever she is--from Revi'i who comes up on an ore carrier that claims to have rescued her from a disaster site. Then we have a request from Revi'i's leadership--who rarely initiates any conversation and never replies with two words when a syllable will do--for assistance hiring an investigator, and simultaneously a request for an actual meeting.

"Now, it's actually possible he doesn't even know about Anna 35 being up here, and if all he was asking for was help with the investigator, I'd be inclined to believe that. But the meeting? No. Somehow, they know she's here, or at least that someone from that site is here, and they want to talk to us about it. That's my bet, anyway."

Still looking pugnacious, the Rabbi nevertheless managed to concede the point. "All right. Maybe they aren't coming to demand her return or anything, but you're right. This can be coincidence."

Reluctantly the Governor General nodded. "Probably not, no. Even if it is...I don't really feel inclined to say no. We finally have a chance to thaw our relationship with them, beyond the limited third-party trade they've allowed. We've been ready to talk for ages, but they weren't. Now, they are, and whatever the reason, I think we have to grab the ring while it's in reach."

The Rabbi looked confused by that metaphor, as he often seemed to by metaphors, really. But he did what he always seemed to do--he took a note on his tablet. She wondered if he actually went back and looked up those references later. She hoped he did. She didn't really understand how the man's mind worked, at all, though.

"Well, then, that was easily settled," the Admiral responded. "I was concerned that would be a point of contention, honestly. But I agree entirely. It's time we got to know our cousins, at least, as much as they're willing to let us."

Almost stepping on the end of that sentence, the Rabbi asked, "What do we do about Anna 35? Hide her?"

"I'm not sure we need to do anything in particular, just yet. The meeting will happen here in the Manhattan Ring. If their emissaries ask for a tour, we give them one. Other than that, we play it by ear." The Governor General tried to hide her exasperation at his question, but she probably needn't have bothered. The Rabbi really didn't seem to read other people's emotional states well at all. Not for the first time, she wondered how such a person had become a spiritual leader.

At any rate, the answer seemed to satisfy him, and if he noticed a sharpness in her delivery, he took no issue with it. So hard to read the man. "Then I agree."

"What about the investigator?" the Admiral asked.

"I think," the Governor General replied, gazing a bit into the distance, "that I may have someone in mind..."