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The Arc of Ascension, Interlude 1: The Concordat

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"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press, and thank you for coming."

The Oasis Press Secretary surveyed the audience from her spot on a small, slightly-elevated stage, facing a small auditorium crowd consisting largely of science and technology reporters, along with a few bored representatives from various political desks who may've had better things to do but certainly enjoyed an open buffet table. Behind her, in an arc of chairs at a curved table, sat several Ministers of Oasis and an assortment of other prominent research and technology leaders, including the most famous of the set, Angela Ziegler.

The Secretary listened to her earbud, getting her timing cues to remain coordinated with her counterpart in Numbani, who stood in a similar position, with a similar set of people behind her. Throughout, they spoke together, translators providing simultaneous translation in thirteen other languages, and automated translation covering still more.

"Oasis has stood as a beacon of research, learning, and education since its founding. Numbani, similarly, has stood as a beacon of progress and development since its founding. Today, as per the press release you have all received, we are jointly announcing - effective immediately - the formalisation of the scholarly and educational ties we have been building over the last year."

"Many of the political details are old news,” the secretaries admitted with a shared smile, “but our announcement today takes what had been a collection of informal understandings and refines it into a formal agreement. By creating this written structure, we explicitly intend to encourage other cities to join with us, adding their names to the agreement, as well. And we are proud to announce that a third city has already done so, become our first new signatory: the city of Utopaea, in India."

"This new concordat our cities are founding will be, effectively, a free-trade agreement of shared knowledge, research, education, and funding for related activities. All signatory cities will have special access to exchange of data, findings, and scholarly efforts, as well as access to the people who participate in any of these efforts. This will include common visas, and right of transit between all member cities."

"This first year, we will be hosting an expanded series of seminars, conferences, and other activities intended to spur both improvements in education, and the advancement of science and engineering across all disciplines. You will find that schedule included in the press release."

"We are also releasing several findings and advances made by our various member institutes, all of which were made possible at least in part by the previous version of this agreement. Most of these have already been presented in various academic journals, but not all."

"We have further invited several more cities to join with us in this endeavour. We have received positive initial responses from several invitees, some of whom we hope to be announcing over the next few weeks and months."

"Further details are in the information packets you have all received, but, as you can see, we have several people from our three cities who have been working on this project behind each of us, and they are ready to take questions. We will alternate between Numbani and Oasis, and questions may be asked of anyone in either city, or to both panels as a whole."

"Atlas News Numbani, I believe you are first?"

"Thank you, Ms. Secretary. My question is for Satya Vaswani."

"Please, go ahead."

"Given your Vahana subsidiary's involvement in supplying various South Asian armed forces, is this agreement going to involve specifically military technologies?"

The Vishkar CEO frowned. "Of course not. Our subsidary's interests are mostly support-related - we provide transportable housing and transport logistics, which is as useful to emergency aid efforts as it is to any military. We are not an arms dealer."

"Then military-applicable technologies would be involved?"

Vaswani's platinum eyes flashed at the reporter. "What interesting ways your mind works," she said, frowning again, considering her answer. "If technologies such as transport and hardlight construction are to be considered 'military-applicable,' then... perhaps you should be pressing steel and automobile makers on the subject. It is no more or less applicable than that."

"But..."

"That's already two questions," the press secretary said, intervening. "CBC News Oasis, I believe you are next?"

"My question is for Minister O'Deorain... this... list of medical conditions in Appendix B... is this a research priority list?"

The Minister smiled, the smallest amount. "I believe the table is clearly labelled."

"The label says these are diseases you're... offering to... eradicate."

"Conditions, dear," the minister corrected. "There's a difference. Most of these are genetic, a few others are autoimmune involving the nervous system, and all considered rare or orphan, without work being done elsewhere. We have cures, to all of them." She paused. "We'll be treating patients in Oasis and Numbani for the first year, then Utopaea, then, hopefully, elsewhere as well. In future, we will be partnering with Vishkar to construct rare and orphan disease facilities on other continents, as regulatory approval proceeds." She smirked, adding, "I hope that's not considered military," and a few of the reporters chuckled.

"This is... quite the list," the CBC reporter continued. "Scleroderma, Apert syndrome, Angelman syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, Klumpke paralysis, DiGeorge syndrome, Binswanger's disease, Cornelia de Lange syndrome, Familial dysautonomia..."

"That list - along with Adie syndrome and Alagille syndrome, I believe you left those out - comprises Stage One, yes."

"You're just..." The reporter blinked, being familiar with a few of the conditions, and a little dismayed. "You've just... cured these? All of them?"

"Yes. They're all specific applications of a more generalised process we are continuing to develop for genetic conditions. That process will remain in-house, for now, but..."

Dr. Ziegler broke in. "These are specific applications which we feel are safe and ready for larger application." She smiled, bronze eyes bright. "My Institute has been working closely with the Ministry over the last year on all of these procedures. They have already met regulatory acceptance here. It will take more time elsewhere, obviously - but we see no reason to make sufferers wait."

"And the costs?" asked the reporter.

"The costs, from us," the Minister said, picking back up on the economic end of the discussion, "will be weighted based upon ability to pay. Once regulatory approval has been attained elsewhere - well, that will be a matter for local governments and economies. We will not be charging a license fee - although we will be requiring quality standards be met."

"It is our way of insuring that the wrong sorts of shortcuts are not taken," Dr. Ziegler added.

"You've bloody cured familial dysautonomia?" broke in the reporter from BBC Technology. "You've bloody cured familial dysautonomia in adults?!"

"Yes," Mercy beamed. "We have." The goddess of life laughed, just a little, fighting the urge to spread her wings wide, knowing it was not quite time. "And that... will only be the start."