I felt it was time to introduce a little peril in my paradise, so rather than dive right into a lot of talk--I do seem to like writing conversations--this follow-on from "Somebody's ringin' the bell, part 1" gets us out of Command Territory and deeper into the ship, where not everyone is happy about the visitors from Earth...
Dream of Spring, Red-B-5, 247 After Starfall, 3 Cheshvan
Perhaps a kilometer away lengthwise down the Cylinder of the old ship, almost diametrically opposite radially from the docking port where history was being made, a different historical event was taking shape. Afterward, everyone agreed that it was predictable to the point of being a trope. The Contingency Files even included an entry for it.
Despite which, everyone, including the Admiral---as avid a student of the Files as the Chief Rabbi was of the Torah---would be caught by surprise.
The leadership of the Community was used to being transparent with its membership. Open, honest communication was a deep-seated hallmark of their education. As such, no effort had been made to hide the arrival of Lewis and Clark in the system. From the first, speculation had been rampant about what they would be like, how the meeting would go, and what their intentions might be. The fact that nearly every communication was released to the public within hours did little to quell the fervor---every answer spurred new questions.
The most persistent questions, of course, were existential: What does the arrival of an Earth ship mean for the Community?
There were some, however, who took that a step further, asking, “Why should we even talk to these people? How dare they come here trespassing on what’s ours?!”
The government’s transparency about their intention to hold firm that the system belonged to the Community, and not to Earth or any Earth interest, had satisfied most people, but not all. A small, vocal group believed that any conversation with the people they had deliberately left behind was a contamination of their purpose.
Now, the most vocal of those people gathered in one of their quarters, where, by law, the ship could monitor only presence and health, not images or conversation.
“So, now they’re here. What do we do about it?” That was Fanny Margolis, the closest thing the group had to a chairperson. She was small by Newer York standards---low gravity led to a taller height than had once been average---but still almost two meters tall, with short, fiery red hair and bright green eyes. Stereotypes aside, she was generally seen as a level-headed woman, which was probably why she’d gravitated into a leadership role. She listened well, spoke firmly but not loudly, and did not behave like she had all the answers.
By contrast, Bob Stern was a hothead. “We can’t let that ship leave. Our best bet for keeping Earth out of this system is for that ship to never make it home!”
Felicia Adams rolled her eyes at this. “They’ll just send more ships, Bob.”
“No, they won’t!” Adams looked at him disbelievingly. “No, really. Think about it---we’ve all seen the downloads. They don’t have a lot of those ships. They’re expensive to build. The Skip has a maximum mass it can move cost-effectively, so none of them are very big. They only sent out six ships like Lewis and Clark and none of them will be getting back to Earth any sooner than another year. It’d probably two, three years before they could even send one of those ships back out to see what happened if one went missing, and they’d probably only send one, maybe two, figuring that they can’t afford the losses.”
There were nods around the table, even from Adams. Stern had a strong point, one that Margolis had thought of herself. They’d deliberately kept most of the talk at this level off the nets, though, so this was their first time really hashing it out as a group.
Faisal bin Ali had a brooding look to him much of the time, as if every small thought required deep consideration. Margolis didn’t think he was really all that deep, in truth, nor that it was a deliberate act. Some people, she thought, just looked like that. He spoke seldom, but when he did, people tended to listen. Now, he said, “Thing is, Bob...I really don’t want to kill anybody, yeah? That’s...I mean that’s really just beyond anything I think we want to do, here.”
Margolis decided this was a good time to chime in. “I’m with you on that one, Faisal. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that these people, per se, deserve violence from us. But I agree that keeping them from reporting in is probably the best way to keep Earth out.”
Stern looked like he wanted to argue, which Margolis found actually sort of funny. Stern really was a loud-mouth, but he was no more prone to violence than any of them. The Community was almost oppressively pacifist, which most people imbibed with their mother’s milk and rarely questioned. A space-borne civilization stuck inside a handful of tin cans could not afford to be violent with one another. There was, after all, nowhere else to go.
As in any civilization since the dawn of time, however, there were some who always questioned the norms. Everyone at this table, for example, had studied martial arts. Of the eight people present, three were Crew, which included defense and security training.
But training and questioning were one thing. Actually offering violence, another. Penalties for anything more than drunken brawling were incredibly severe---a comparison they could only make because the Community valued historical education so highly as well. The Community’s justice system simply eliminated people who were deemed to be threats, a chink in their utopian armor that everyone who thought about it recognized, but none had a really good answer for.
Which meant, even if they succeeded, there was a very real chance none of them would live to enjoy their success.
All of this, Margolis contemplated while the little group chewed on how to solve the problem. It was Adams who broke the silence.
“We have to get aboard their ship.”
There were blinks all around, as if this were a non sequitur. But Margolis knew where she was going, and so apparently did Stern. “If we knock out that Skip drive of theirs...”
“Yeah,” said Adams. “They’re definitely not about to take a 300 year ride home, are they? If we can find a way to disable the drive, we might be able to do what we need without doing more than knocking a few people over the head.”
Faisal replied, “That’s not going to save us, you know.”
Adams grimaced. “Of course not. That’s not the point, is it? We’re not doing this for us; we’re doing this for our clans, for our people. Earthers ruined their own home. They’re not coming here and ruining this one!”
There it was, the central premise which brought them all together. Let in Earth, and you let in everything Earth still got wrong---which, thanks to the generous exchange of library material that had already taken place, they knew was a lot. With the ruins of the Earth’s climate all around them, for example, the Appalachian Republic still relied on its coal reserves for much of its energy, defiantly burning carbon to power their domed cities. Arctic Union---the people who had sent Lewis and Clark--had a wicked homeless problem. Cascadia Congress was probably the most realistic about the necessities of long-term survival, but appeared to be subject to continual infighting.
Margolis was convinced that all of them, and more, would look to TRAPPIST-1, and Newer York, and maybe even Fourth, and see a way out, a way to export their problems instead of solving them.
Not if she could help it.
“Okay,” she said. “How do we do it?”