This story follows on directly from "Someone's knockin' on the door" and "Who are you when you're at home?". It's really only the first half, or possibly third, of the whole installment, but I wanted to get something up after a week of writing a lot but not posting much!
Newer York, 247 After Starfall, 3 Cheshvan
The Mayor could not quite recall a moment in their life when they had ever been more impatient. As they watched on the monitor, the nose of Lewis and Clark grew closer and larger on the screen, sliding smoothly into the mooring the engineers had cleverly adapted for her. They distracted themselves a little by admiring the steersperson's handiwork. No jittering, few corrections, just a smooth, careful coast, a gentle deceleration, and finally a bump, almost more of a tap. The moorings were louder clamping down on the outer ring of the ship-side port than that contact had been. They envied the skill displayed, the more so imagining the steersperson had to be as nervous as they were.
Worst of all, they couldn't pace, or fidget, or otherwise visibly display their nerves, as they were not alone at dockside. The Admiral and the Chief Rabbi were both their with them, along with a small side-party that were part honor-guard and part body-guard. There had been absolutely nothing in any communication received so far to suggest the latter might be necessary, but the Admiral, and avid student of the Contingency Files, had insisted on the admixture of prudence and ceremony. The Rabbi, understanding deeply the need for ceremony and a little bit of theatre, had agreed even while doubting the need for physical security. The Mayor had conceded with grace, even though the Contingency File they worried most about was Green Fifteen: Renewed contact brings an epidemic. They had great faith in the immunologists, who after all had kept the Community healthy despite the tendency of germs to evolve faster than their hosts, but they still fretted just a bit.
Banter being the time-honored anodyne to nerves, the Mayor said quietly to the Admiral, “Just so you know, Yevgeny, if anyone feels any need to pinch anyone’s cheeks, you’re the Designated Cheek. Donna says so.”
The Admiral was used to Mayor Goldman’s sense of humor by now, and more to the point, to the Mayor’s partner’s. “Well, of the three of us, mine are the most cherubic, by far!” he responded with a straight face.
The Mayor glanced sideways at Rabbi Chava, standing to the other side of them, her eyes wide and confused. Recognizing a moment later that there was a joke involved here, she shook her head and sighed, saying with remarkably controlled exasperation, “Do I have to put you two in time out?”
“A week spent sitting quietly in a corner would probably do me a world of good!” the Mayor responded, unfazed.
The Rabbi and the Admiral snorted in unison, and then all three schooled their faces to serious expressions as the light over the lock turned green. Their patience was rewarded, their fretting done. The inner lock, from their perspective, irised open, and the three officers presented themselves at the threshold.
The tall woman at the forefront asked, in a voice that was already familiar from weeks of messaging, "Permission to come aboard?"
This was the Admiral's province, and the Mayor visibly deferred to him, who completed the ritual smoothly. "Permission granted, captain!"
The three Earthers stepped carefully over the transom, one of them--young Lieutenant Carstairs--touching his fingers to his lips and touching the small mezuzah affixed to one side of the portal, a gesture the Mayor had not expected, even knowing Carstairs identified as Jewish.
The captain came forward and formally introduced herself. They had not discussed how to handle this moment, and so the captain had decided to fall back on naval protocol, which was as good as anything. "Captain Athalros Baldursdottir, master of the Lewis and Clark." She held her hand out, and, suppressing their qualms, the Mayor reached out to grasp it, responding, "Jae Goldman, Mayor of Newer York. May I present Admiral Yevgeny Petrov, and Chava bat Chayim, Chief Rabbi of the Outbound Chabad."
The captain shook each of their hands in turn, and countered, "Two of my officers, Commander Li Chaoxiang, and Lieutenant Stephen Carstairs." More hands were shaken all around.
There was a moment of awkwardness, after which the Mayor grasped the nettle to move things forward. "Do we think we need more ceremony, or shall we go talk. Even with everything we've already discussed over comms, I think we have a great deal to talk about, and of course, at some point, I want to show you around."
Baldursdottir smiled, startled but relieved. "I think this satisfies propriety. If we decide later it feels a bit thin, we can always agree to tell everyone later how we'd gone on for hours with flowery speeches about the historic moment and whatnot."
The Mayor grinned broadly. "We're going to get along just fine. Please, follow me."