Set 32 years before Lewis and Clark arrives, a bit of a character study of two characters from that period in their younger days, because that's what I got inspired to do while I was on the road today. Also, please note the lower-case 'r' in reference to 'republican values'--as in values that promote the public good. The modern US GOP has abandoned these these values, despite their common misuse of the word with a capitalized R, and this story does not constitute an endorsement of any GOP candidate or platform, all of which are terrible. Yes, I have opinions, why do you ask?

Timeline of Newer York


The first time Donna Donato noticed the person that she would spend the rest of her life arguing with, it was in her Intro to Government class. The Community had opted for as much in-person education as possible from the earliest days of the Journey--the Outbound Chabad was, after all, not just about the physical, genetic preservation of the Human Race, but about people. So a lot of its traditions were throwbacks, even while they reached for the stars. Physical, in person education, in classrooms, was one of them.

So, there she was, 18 years old, in Newer York University's Government 101 class, the first lecture, as the professor was droning on the subject of different structures and purposes of government, intending to lead up to an overview of Newer York's hybrid model, with the intention that later classes would delve into specific models over the course of the semester. All in all, a pretty typical first-session syllabus overview.

Half-way through, a tall, slim enby with dark hair stood up and posed a question--except it wasn't really a question--regarding the superiority of republics, and republican virtues. Donna, who was grandchild of the then-current Captain of Engineering and hence, more of a Crew mindset, felt an urge to speak up for a slightly more chain-of-command model, and did so.

They didn't exactly spend the rest of that class period arguing with each other--the professor managed to retain control of his classroom. Barely. They also weren't the only ones to speak up once it turned into a discussion. But they were the most vocal.

The next class, two days later, was more on-track, but the next one after that turned into a fracas when someone opined, apparently without irony, that Newer York would be better off with a king. That person had barely finished speaking when the enby shot to their feet and all but shouted him down, and it just got more interesting from there.

The next two weeks were similar. Donna found herself sometimes arguing against, and sometimes alongside, this firebrand classmate who would...not...shut...up about the republican virtues, the Founders clear intention to emphasize republican ideals even in those aspects of the government that were not democratic. They were passionate, well spoken...and damned persistent.

At the end of those two weeks, Donna still did not know this person's name. Donna's friends all thought of her as outgoing and bubbly (at least, after the application of coffee in the morning), and she certainly was, a fair amount of the time. But she had not yet figured out how to introduce herself to this tornado of interesting opinions. She wanted to, though. She had an instinct that one-on-one conversation would be at least as interesting as their in-class arguments, even if they never agreed on one single thing.

At the end of the second week, Donna and a bunch of her neighbors in University Territory decided they were done with their books for a night and it was time for dancing. Dance clubs of all kinds could be found, all over Newer York. No less a personage as the First Rebbe of the Outbound Chabad had been a deep fan of techno, and more to the point had been adamant that, no matter how survival-focused the early Community had to be as they held Dream of Spring together and learned how to make it work for 300 years, people were people and needed outlets of enjoyment. History had proven time and again that all work and no play did not just make Jack and Jill dull, it made them angry.

So recreation areas throughout the Old Ship routinely included dance clubs, and Donna and her friends gravitated to one with an excellent reputation. Within five minutes of arriving, two things immediately established themselves in Donna's consciousness: firstly, that the beat was exactly what she felt she needed right now; and secondly, that the firebrand she'd been arguing with for the last two weeks was smack dab in her line of sight, lost in their own groove.

Before she was really conscious of doing so, Donna found that she was gravitating toward them; once she was conscious of it, she decided to see what would happen if she didn't stop. At almost that same moment, the other person's eyes finally opened after some time unfocused or closed, deep in the beat, and saw Donna drifting in their direction.

Donna almost hesitated, except that, after surprise, the look in the others' eyes was entirely that of invitation, tinged perhaps with challenge. Donna was not a boastful person, but there were two places where she yielded to no challenger: in the classroom, and on the dance floor. They had already met and drawn on one battlefield; now it was time for another.

If the enby had arrived with anyone else, they were nowhere in evidence. Donna's friends, similarly, kept a respectful distance as soon it was clear that there was a thing happening. It was just as well. Neither one of them had eyes for anyone else from that point forward. If their eyes were opened at all--and both of themselves lost themselves to the music plenty of times--they were on each other.

They danced like they argued. Sometimes they were complementary; sometimes they were almost challenging each other; occasionally they were each off in their own world, not quite in sync, but even as that single night wore on, that was increasingly uncommon.

Two hours in, and they were dancing much closer together. Three hours in, their dancing was just another kind of making out, even if they hadn't actually kissed yet. That part, by unspoken agreement--in fact, they had not yet said a word to each other the entire time--they saved until the music stopped for the night, and then, there they were, middle of the crowd, middle of the dance floor, lip-locked.

Entirely sober, yet also entirely drunk, they stumbled back to Jae's quarters, two halls down from Donna's. Donna could not have said afterward if her friends followed them back to their block or not, although she got enough gentle razzing about the entire incident afterward that there was no question they knew what had gone on.

They still said not a word. Their mouths were too busy, and they were having no real trouble communicating.

They woke late the next morning, sweaty, entangled, achy, and entirely pleased with themselves. No walk of shame here--for one thing, neither was ashamed, and for another, nobody was in a hurry to leave.

Donna spoke first, snorting to herself as she realized the simple thing they had both forgotten. She looked at her new friend with a wry grin and said, "I'm Donna, by the way. Nice to actually meet you!"

The other met her grin with a bark of open laughter, responding, "Jae. Jae Goldman. Thoroughly charmed to make your closer acquaintance!" That was accompanied by an arch look that earned them another kiss.

That kiss took a while, but they were both pretty tired despite sleeping in. Also, they rapidly agreed, hungry. They took ten minutes or so to make themselves slightly less obnoxious for public interaction, and then stepped out together to the nearest commissary, and a late breakfast.

Breakfast conversation was more like their classroom conversation than like their interactions since last night, but with a difference. Neither one was trying to "win". Instead, each was trying to understand where the other came from in truth, looking for where they might find common ground underneath and not infrequently finding it.

Donna was a descendant of a Crew dynasty, mostly engineers, going all the way back to the design of Dream of Spring. She grew up hearing stories out of the chain of command, of the Admiral, past and present. Until she'd come to university, nearly everyone she'd known had also been Crew-kids or their clans. To her, the City was made up of systems of machinery and systems of people. She acknowledged that the civilian leadership, with its messy electoral politics and multiple levels of councils and whatnot, was one of those systems, but it was one she felt could stand to be redesigned to be less messy.

Jae, on the other hand, had a more ordinary background, with no real dynasty of trade or assignment. Their mother had joined a laboring clan not long after reaching adulthood, choosing that over University after becoming pregnant young. The Community was not as hard as some past human societies had been on single mothers--there was never any question of food, or housing, or medical care. But even with a clan to help her, she was still primarily responsible for a child she was never quite certain she'd really wanted. In fact, in general, the defining characteristic of Jae's mother had been apathy.

Clan-dad Barry was probably the person Jae was closest with from their childhood, and he had been a grassroots organizer. He'd never risen up above the local block council, but he'd never wanted to. His role, he felt, was to keep people involved at the local level, knowing some of them would eventually get voted in to the next tier and so on. He was the kind of guy who would hold them accountable when they did, too. He was equally vocal at local education board meetings and other civic committees. And he'd done all of this while also working his shifts at one of the assembly facilities in Cyan C-13.

It was Barry who had pushed Jae academically, and pushed them to go to University. Jae had often accompanied him to meetings and then asked deep questions that made Barry himself go back and think about the whys and the wherefores. Barry said he saw Jae as one of those he would encourage to work their way up the concentric councils as far as possible...but that they needed to get out and see more of the city, and to get that education few of their clan had chosen. Even Barry himself was self-taught.

This was the perspective from which Jae pushed so hard on the republican virtues the Community had taken as part of their foundations. The Jewish conscience of the Outbound Chabad permeated everything, but still needed tending by those who believed. The Crew had before it an endless task of maintaining and building and planning for the physical future of the Old Ship and the various villages, but that task depended on having people in its hierarchy with vision and insight. The civilian government, Jae said, needed just as much the dedication of its citizens to the virtues that made that government work for everyone--something few governments back on Earth had ever managed.

They shut down the commissary where they'd gone for breakfast, and stayed for supper. Most commissaries closed early that day--Shabbat Aleph, the day most people had as their sabbath, began at 1800. Jae invited Donna to attend shul with them, and Donna, reluctant to leave this strange, intriguing person whose orbit she'd found herself in, agreed.

They'd gone first back to Jae's quarters to light the Shabbat candles. Here was a ritual which Crew, especially Engineers, found especially odd on a spaceship that was now a city. There was never any shortage of light, and fire, generally was bad. And yet, every week, most households in the city kindled two small fires at roughly the same time of day. It had actually been a significant part of the engineering of the life support systems, back at the beginning, to accommodate the extra consumption of oxygen and ensure few, if any, accidental conflagrations that might make emergency workers break their own Sabbath.

Anyway, they'd done that, Donna standing a bit awkwardly, uncertain exactly what to do while Jae lit the candles and said the prayer, with gestures that were clearly out of ritual but that Donna had rarely seen and never understood. And then, they'd gone to the block shul for services.

It was not Donna's first service, but again, it was not really her "thing". She found herself paying more attention to how Jae looked as the service progressed, what it made them feel, than to the service itself. Donna would have originally had Jae pegged as having been as agnostic as herself, but it was quickly apparent that they were not just going through the motions. They felt this as deeply as anything the two of them had talked about all day.

They were each thoughtful as they walked back to Jae's quarters--it had not apparently occurred to either one of them, yet, that they had spent almost an entire day together, and clearly intended to spend at least one more night thus as well. They had talked about many things, that day, but the things that had brought them together remained largely unverbalized. Donna briefly considered going home, or at least asking if she should, but the minute they were around a corner away from the post-shul crowd, Jae had leaned in for a kiss that contained several paragraphs of eloquent invitation that Donna was not ready to turn down.

Which is not to say there was not more talk, that day. After they were tangled up again in Jae's bed, they talked a bit more. Jae was curious about Donna's perspective, knowing she was not a believer; Donna was curious what Jae was really feeling at certain moments.

Then at last, there were more of the kisses, and other things, and finally another night of deep, well-earned rest between them.

In the morning, Donna made a reluctant farewell. If nothing else, it was time for a change of clothes, but there was also reading and other work to do ahead of classes the next day. They met for dinner, though, and study--and even managed mostly not to distract each other. The following day in class, they were seen by all sitting next to each other, no less prone to arguing, but the change in tone between them was obvious, and nobody was fooled.

Whatever the differences in how they thought, how they felt was perfectly clear.


This story began because "Brass in Pocket" came on the radio while I was coming back from a trip, and the line I used as the title went looking for something to attach to. Then Donna, the Mayor's partner from "Who are you when you're at home", started telling me how they met. It's a little weird to be far enough along that characters are telling me what to do, but it does solve the "what shall we write tonight, Brain?" problem....