This story is set just a few hours earlier than "Someone's knockin' at the door".
Newer York, 247 After Starfall, 3 Cheshvan, 0530
An alarm began to sound, waking Jae Goldman from an anxiety dream they were just as happy to leave behind. Even so, they cursed, knowing that being woken mid-dream like that would leave them groggy for hours.
Today, of all days, they did not wish to be groggy. But then, it was exactly because today was so portentous that they had suffered from short sleep and anxiety dreams.
They reached out to silence the alarm, then reached behind them to feel the skin of their partner Donna, the comforting curve of her hip in their hand. They squeezed, and Donna stirred, grunting. “It’s 0530, love,” Jae said quietly, to be rewarded with another grunt. Chances were good Donna was already fully awake, but she was rarely very verbal until she’d at least run her head through the shower and smelled some coffee.
Jae, of necessity, was more accustomed to being not merely awake, but ready to talk to people, even when waking up groggy like today. It was not uncommon for them to receive calls at any hour, and to have to deal with them coherently. So they smiled at the familiar routine, smacked Donna lightly on her ass, and said, “C’mon, starshine. Showertime.”
Donna heaved a sigh, which turned into a yawn and a stretch, which very briefly made Jae reconsider sticking to their plan of actually getting up and showering and getting their Very Important Day going. Donna in full stretch was a very appealing sight, even in the cabin’s dim lighting. The slightly wicked smile on Donna’s face after she closed her mouth let Jae know Donna had seen that thought cross their face. Nobody could read them like Donna could.
Jae shook their head slightly, and Donna sighed, successfully this time, and levered herself out of bed. They could at least enjoy a shower together.
Twenty minutes later, the two were out in the common room, along with five of their clanmates---Steven, Astrid, Kal, Angie, and Hersh, counting clockwise around the dining table---followed by the clan’s twin children, Raven and Rochl. The adults were, like Donna and unlike Jae, mostly nonverbal as yet, still letting the first sips of their morning coffee seep into their synapses while they stared at various tablets and hand terminals. The children, by contrast, were of an age where they were not merely awake but already perky, barely sitting still to eat their breakfasts. When they had been younger, the clan had adjusted their natural lack of morning manners by all taking turns being the “awake” one to feed the kids. Now 7, the kids were quite capable of feeding themselves, and really just needed someone to make sure they did it. As Jae and Donna walked over to the kitchen to get their own food and brain fuel, the main door to the clancabin opened, and Noriko came in, just starting her downshift.
“Good morning, everyone!” she said brightly, knowing it was obnoxious. But it was the ritual obnoxiousness of long family habit. The children leaped up and pounced her, “Morning, Nori!” She knelt down and swept them up in a hug, without which the kids would have considered their own morning rituals incomplete. She smooched them each in turn on the head, then got up again. “Is Kev back? We’re supposed to go to the commissary together this morning, and go see a show.”
Steven answered, “Not yet. I imagine he---” the sentence was interrupted by the door sliding open again, “---is right behind you!”
Kevin came in, sliding his arms around Nori from behind and kissing her cheek before kneeling to do his own reverence to the children. “Good morning, kids!”
Jae made it to the table with their bowl of porridge and coffee. Donna had chosen to hitch herself up on the counter, a habit none of them had ever broken her of, an apple in one hand and her mug in the other.
Looking at Kevin, Jae said, “What’s the news?”
Kevin was gamma shift in traffic control, which today, in particular, was significant. “Everything’s aces, boss.” The title was only half a joke. Kevin’s job was more in the Admiral’s purview than the Mayor’s, but in this context, he wasn’t wrong to treat it as a status update, as much as a clanmate talking over his day. “All the usual traffic is shifted out of the way, and we gave everyone enough notice that nobody’s kvetching. The Earther ship is right on course and schedule, ETA 1225 local.”
Jae allowed themself a wry smile, “Great. Just enough time to get really nervous!”
Rochl and Raven had come back to the table, and Rochl asked, “Nini, why are you nervous?”
A precept of the Community was that a child who was able to inquire was entitled to as much of an answer as you could give them, and Jae, of course, was supposed to be a pillar of the Community. At the moment, Jae was also short on time, the business of the day---and the time for the kids to go to school---both pressing fast upon them. But an answer was still necessary.
“You’ve heard me talk about the ship from Earth, Lewis and Clark?”
Both kids nodded, and Raven said, “We’ve been talking about it a lot at school, too!” Jae sighed to themself. They were not really surprised the schools were talking about the impending visit. It was rather an historic occasion. But Jae had had no time to sit and talk with the children much since Lewis and Clark first made its presence known some months back, so they really had no idea what perspective the school and imparted to the children.
Ah, well. Nothing for it but to plow ahead.
“Well, then you know this is the first contact we’ve had from Earth since we left. We’ve been talking to them since the ship popped into our system, of course, but this is still the first time we’ll be in the same room with Earth people in hundreds of years. Earth had mostly forgotten about us, so they don’t really know anything about us, and of course we have no idea beyond what we’ve been able to discuss with the ship what Earth is like.”
Raven nodded. “Are you worried they’re coming to take over?”
Jae blinked. It was a very good question, honestly, but Jae wondered where it had come from, and thus asked, “I’ll tell you, of course, but first, why did you ask that?”
“Mx Green at school is worried about it. They say a lot of adults are. Jonny Pollock says his clan’s been fighting about it for weeks---some are scared and some aren’t. I think a lot of the other kids are the same. I haven’t heard you guys fighting, though!”
Jae smiled. “Well, Raven, yes, we are worried about it, of course. We don’t really know what they’re going to do in the end. The people on this ship didn’t expect to find anyone here at all, so they’re coming to meet us, and talk to us, but we can’t really...agree on anything. Like...if I asked you right now if I could borrow Jonny’s baseball, could you say yes, here, on the spot?”
The kids looked at each other and looked back. Jonny was very fond of baseball in general, and his baseball---always spoken with emphasis on the possessive---in particular. “Of course not!” Rochl answered.
“Right. Well, because they came here without expecting us, they didn’t come here able to make agreements with us. We call that negotiating, and diplomacy, and, well, a lot of other long words that basically come down to whether we can use their baseball and what they might want from us in exchange.”
Raven asked, “It’s not really about baseballs, though, is it?”
Jae laughed, “Well, it could be---maybe Earth makes really good baseballs, better than ours. If they do, then we might want to import them---that is, have them ship them here, and we’d exchange something of ours for them. But it’s probably about bigger things, in the end, including who’s in charge. The Admiral, the Chief Rabbi, and I have all agreed that we’re in charge. We came here, we built our city here, and that’s all there is to it. But I’ll bet your teacher has taught you some old history about times when people decided they wanted what other people had, and fought over it.”
Both children nodded, and Jae swore silently. They really should have been paying more attention to that kind of thing. “Well, we don’t want to fight. We’re hoping they don’t want to fight. And one way or the other, this ship didn’t come here to fight. They came here to see what was here, and it turned out part of what was here, was us. So we’re going to have an awkward family reunion---like when we get together with some of your grands and greats for Starfall and Pesach seders.”
Raven smiled impishly, “Are they going to pinch your cheeks?” Raven hated having her cheeks pinched, but Grand Ida could not quite be dissuaded.
Donna rescued Jae, here, the coffee finally having soaked in enough to loosen her tongue. “They had a rock-paper-scissors contest and the Admiral lost. He’s the designated cheek.” That set the adults snorting and the children giggling.
Jae’s hand-terminal beeped, and they stood. The children jumped up again and wrapped around their legs. Twin faces looked up at Jae, who obediently bestowed kisses on their foreheads. “Be good for Astrid today!”
“We will, Nini!” they said in unison, but did not, as they usually would have, let go. Rochl said, seriously, “It’ll all be alright, won’t it, Nini?”
Jae made a decision, right then and there, and what they said was not a lie to comfort a child, but a determination. “It will be alright, Rochl. I’m going to make sure it’s all right.”
Satisfied, the children detached themselves and went back to finally finish their breakfasts. Jae delivered hugs and kisses all around, and then headed out the door to find their security detail waiting, right on schedule.
“Ready, your honor?”
Jae Goldman, Mayor of Newer York, took a deep breath, smoothed their outfit, and put on their professional out-in-public smile. “Ready, Captain. Get this day started!”
"Nini" is pronounced "nee-nee", by the way. As opposed to "Nini!", short for "Night-night!" or "Good night!", which would be pronounced "nigh-nigh". Because English.