A tale of Newer York, set some 523 years After Starfall.
Faces. So many faces. So many different faces.
That was the endless loop in Anna's head for probably the first fifteen minutes of her wait in the immigration queue.
Then the anxiety began to settle down a bit. It helped if she focused on the specifics of a particular face--this one brown with a long nose and wide eyes; this one pale with designs on the cheeks (she thought the word was "tattoo" but she wasn't sure), with close-set eyes and shockingly white hair; this one with a beard so full it obscured most of their features, except when he smiled.
Other than the ones with facial hair, she had no real idea about genders--even the small crew of Carry that Weight, the ship that had rescued her, had taught her that her ingrained assumptions were flawed. It didn't really matter. She was not yet calm enough to be bored enough to be speculating on who these people were. It was enough to catalog some of what was similar, and what was different, about all these faces.
After another fifteen minutes, she'd calmed down enough going through this exercise that it began to occur to her that her staring so openly might be rude. Thing was, nobody was really paying attention. About half the people in queue with her were staring into space, clearly immersed in something only they could see. Some of these wore glasses, but some probably just had implants--almost everyone aboard the Weight had. That had freaked Anna out almost as much as their faces, when she'd learned about it. She'd had just enough time to acclimate to the habits of such people that she knew what she was seeing.
The other half had physical devices they were looking at as well, which was more familiar to her. Hand terminals were ubiquitous on Revi'i. Her old one had not survived, and probably would not have worked here, anyway, but the Weight had spotted her a basic unit to help her get by. She thought of taking it out and starting to use it, just to look "normal", but she wouldn't have known where to start with the local network. She had a million million questions and no idea how to ask any of them, yet.
Forty minutes into her ordeal, however, she had entirely new things to be anxious about. The queue fanned out into five separate queues, each leading to a door. She'd been briefed on what to expect. These were the interview rooms. Very few people who were interviewed were rejected, but it was possible. Her luck, lately had been...odd. Hard to say good. Everyone she'd known had died. She'd been rescued. She was nearly positive she could never return "home". But she'd been brought to a place that accepted almost everyone.
Except...given that pattern, and the weight of ancient history...maybe not her?
Finally it was her turn, and she stepped through a door into what she hoped would be the start of her new life.
David ben Shlomo stood to meet the next applicant as she walked through the door, and hesitated. Force of habit carried him through the usual "Welcome to Newer York!" greeting, kept him from freezing up, made him take her identicard, but...
...it couldn't be. Could not.
He invited her to sit, trying to hide how rattled he was. He managed a couple of calming breaths as he settled himself, slotted the ID card, covered further with some keyboarding to pull up the new person's file, along with a search in another window. Only as he remembered he was keeping her waiting did he look up...and realize to his relief that she was too busy being nervous, herself, to notice that he was freaking out just a little bit.
"Just a moment, please. We're a bit old fashioned in here. It's deliberate. We know some people come here from cultures that forbid implants and the like, and we don't want them to feel uncomfortable while we stare into space to access data. I'm told kids who get implants young enough can actually carry on a full conversation in front of them while still reading data from their implants, but most people born here don't get implants until later in life, if at all." He was nattering a bit, although it wasn't all that different from his usual patter.
She just nodded. "It's fine. I'm just...well, I'm nervous. Also...is there a way to adjust this chair? It's a little softer than I'm used to."
Grateful for something mundane to focus on--perhaps she was as well--he took a moment to walk her through how to adjust the chair. While she played with that, he gathered his wits and decided how to proceed.
"So...Anna 35 dor 27, yes? I assume you prefer just 'Anna', or..."
"Anna is fine, yes."
"I've never seen a name quite like that, and your card is rather sketchy on details. Is it polite to ask...?"
Anna sighed. She'd learned how to explain it aboard Carry that Weight. Along the way, she learned that many people didn't know how to explain their names, but that hers was odd enough, her situation unique enough, that she probably had to.
"When I was...born? Produced? I'm still not sure what word to use, honestly, although amongst ourselves we do say 'born'...there were two hundred Annas in my generation, the 27th generation since we made landfall on Revi'i. I was designated number 35, as far as I know, arbitrarily, as we are all born at more or less the same time in any given generation."
Several things made sense all at once for David. "Forgive my lapse in professionalism. You see, when you first walked in, I had a feeling like I had seen a ghost. Now I know why. You're a clone, aren't you?"
Anna froze, but David's manner was not threatening at all. She'd known this moment would come eventually. She'd just hoped it would be later. There was too much history, and all of it from an age with perfectly adequate visual records.
So she answered him. "Yes, and yes, before you go on to the next obvious question, I am specifically a clone of Anna bat Mordechai, one of the thirty-one Exiles."
There was silence that stretched into the uncomfortable. David's mind was racing. This entire situation felt like it was above his head by several fathoms, like he ought to call someone, anyone else to deal with it.
But no. This was his job. His decision. That was impressed on the greenest recruits to this department. He would have to account for that decision, and higher-ups might modify or even reverse it, but it was still, at this moment, his to make: continue the interview, or send her back where she came from.
And...really, for what? For being the clone of the woman who stabbed the Rebbe, five hundred years ago?
So he took a breath, and resumed. "Well, then Anna, may I ask what brings you here, and what your expectations are?"
She relaxed, just a little. Now, at least, they were on to ground she had thought through. "I am hoping to join the Ellis program, to be permitted to live here in Newer York. As for what brings me here... it probably won't surprise you to learn that it's complicated..."
This is a complete rewrite of my very first Newer York story, written almost twelve years ago. The stories I've been writing set in Newer York's past--like the Rebbe and Admiral stories--have been me exploring more fully a context that would give Anna's point of view some more punch. Now, I think I've got enough established that I can revisit Anna herself, although I'll still also be visiting those earlier periods I've written about. You haven't seen the last of the Rebbe and the Admiral, yet.