Newer York, 247 After Starfall, 3 Cheshvan
The skipship Lewis and Clark had been nearly three months in transit since it arrived in TRAPPIST-1 and discovered they were not alone. Captain Baldursdottir was of two minds about the time it took to work their way downwell to the Inner Belt, and station that was starting to be built around the core of Dream of Spring. On the one hand, she was eager to get on with it. On the other hand, with almost 550 years having passed since the Outbound Chabad had left Earth, there was a lot of...call it reorientation...to accomplish.
Of necessity, her comms officer, Lieutenant Carstairs, had basically become an amateur sociologist. It could have been anyone, really, but he'd volunteered before she'd even thought to ask someone. He was already something of a history geek, and now, he had to figure out how to rapidly exchange a very great deal of news--and find contexts each side could understand that news in--in a fairly short amount of time. She was a little concerned at how excited he'd gotten over the project, but checking in with the Mayor, as she did every two days, now, it was clear that his counterparts in Newer York were just as hyper.
Carstairs had explained his excitement during a one-on-one meeting with his Captain a couple weeks after he took the assignment. "Think about it, Captain: when Dream of Spring left us, mankind had only even had space travel for, what, 250 years? They've been here, alone, more than twice as long! They figured out things we're still learning back home about actually living in space full time. They've had a stable culture here longer than the entire history of the old United States of America, longer than the Arctic Union!"
Privately, Baldursdottir was a little afraid the man would go AWOL when the time came to return home. Since they had not expected to find anyone here, they had not come equipped with authority to leave behind an ambassador, or even a liaison. Earth would know nothing of what had happened here until Lewis and Clark finally went home and told them. All of which meant she was on the hook for a lot of command decisions. The three months inbound had given her all too much time to dwell on the knowledge that, no matter what she did, someone was going to take political offense, and her career might be very short indeed.
And then she started thinking going AWOL wasn't such a bad idea.
There had also been more practical matters to deal with. Newer York had docking stations and bays for their own shuttles. Lewis and Clark was just large enough that it wouldn't fit in a bay, and its docking ports did not match shape or size of any of Newer York's. The station's engineers had come up with an adaptation that would allow a full docking, but of course, that took time to construct. There had been some question about whether it would be ready on time, but as of yesterday, it seemed to be.
The medical staffs had been busy, as well. There had been a brief consideration of simply conducting all discussions suited up as if for a hostile atmosphere, but nobody liked the idea, least of all Baldursdottir. She had no desire to unleash a plague on the station, nor on having one unleashed upon her own people, but neither she, nor the Mayor, could imagine conducting such an historic meeting under such...sterile circumstances. Fortunately, immunology had come a long way on both sides in the intervening centuries, and they put that knowledge to good use. Her arm ached, but they were pretty sure it would now be safe for she and the Mayor, and the other leaders of this Community, to shake hands.
As she strapped into her seat on the bridge, looking at her display, she saw the steersman's view of docking port they were approaching, and blinked. "These people do good work. That doesn't look very makeshift to me."
Commander Li, who had an engineering background, agreed. "They've been sending pics as it progressed. They build solid here, that's for sure. One of their engineers also admitted to me that his instructions were to build something that could be used again in the future. It's like they think we'll come back again some day or something."
"That seems likely," Baldursdottir replied, and she wondered idly if this almost incidental need to dock a ship with a different configuration would change how they built things going forward.
The station they were docking with was clearly a work in progress. The core was solid enough, and once they'd dredged up archival data on the Dream of Spring project, it was obvious that core was still the same ship. How much of the actual material was original, as opposed to piecemeal replacement, seemed irrelevant. The human body continually replaced old cells with new and nobody really questioned if it remained the same person, after all.
From out of that core, however, reached six spokes around a common meridian, a little way back from one end of the original spindle. Two of those spokes seemed complete, at least to a cursory glance, while the others were still somewhat skeletal, more an idea of spokes than an actual structure, yet. At the end of one of the completed spokes sprouted an expanding arc of further construction--the beginning of what would be a vast ring when it was completed.
She already knew, from Carstairs and from her own reading of material the Mayor had sent out to her, that the work she was seeing was not new. The refurbishing of the core, of the ship, after its long journey, had taken most of the last 250 years. In some ways it would never end--the one certain curse of space-borne living was constant maintenance, lest some marginal system left for later fail catastrophically. Almost any failure in such an environment could be fatal, a fact she herself, and all her crew, also lived with.
The work to finally begin expanding outward from the core was more recent, but also not truly new. The Community, she had already learned, was deliberate, patient, almost glacial in its progress. She found it hard to understand. Back home, new domes went up in a matter of weeks, with cities sprouting up within them almost before the dome was finished. This was a necessity on a world where climate and tectonic catastrophes might create hundreds of thousands of refugees at any instant; and where past haste might mean a flawed dome or building collapsed without warning!
She shook herself out of reverie as the docking procedure neared and end, the ship nosing into the newly modified mooring, a docking port not far from the head-end, what would have been command territory, of the Dream of Spring. The steersman's hands were already off the controls, a satisfied smirk visible on the side of his face, as the ship gently bumped into the docking buffers. Another few bumps, and the complete absence of further motion on the docking screen, told them that they were moored. The steersman pressed a button and called out the almost ritual, "Done with engines", and got the ritual acknowledgement back from the engineer.
Althalros Baldursdottir unstrapped herself and tapped her heels to magnetize her boots. Settling to the floor, she took a deep breath, smoothed her uniform and her hair, and looked to her exec--who was just completing a similar maneuver. So, she thought, Li's nervous, too. It was always so hard to tell with him.
Carstairs was another moment following suit, signing off with the control tower in slow, careful Hebrew. Then he, too, unstrapped, magged, and smoothed. Baldursdottir suppressed a chuckle at how nearly identical that mannerism was, and wondered if he'd gotten it from her.
Right. Time to go.
"Mr. MacPhail, you have command."
MacPhail had also unstrapped and magged, anticipating the moment, and moved toward the chair--smoothing his uniform nervously before sitting down and strapping in. "Yes, sir. I have command."
She allowed herself a smile, and then led her little delegation down to the lock.