Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

It started, as these things always do, with a kiss.

Advice is useless to the young. That is their curse and their strength. They have no idea that some of the things that they attempt are impossible. That’s why an alarmingly high percentage of them succeed.

Like Jonas Brigand, sitting in a cheap metal chair in a prison cube waiting room, starting at his watch, currently waiting for his girlfriend to get out of prison.

“Times are tough in the colonies” goes the song. Young men and women were subject to the same set of laws as the adults. With the ability to breed came responsibility. It was too harsh a world to even consider doing it otherwise.

Once society had been set up, once the terraforming tents were a memory and the world was green, the new generations would be fat and slow on the world that the hardpack settlers like Jonas Brigand and his girlfriend had made for them.

The scars on his hands stared mutely back at him. He was fourteen. His girl, Jayley Cordsmith, was sixteen. Her body was just as strong and scarred as his.

She was pulling six days for drunk and disorderly. Six days of pay gone. She have to work a month of doubles to get that back. She’d do it, too.

Jonas had the beginnings of a manbeard. His flat nose was the result of beatings from the ones that reared him and a life of never backing down.

Jayley had the short dreads of a hullpatcher and was missing a pinky on her left hand. Jonas thought of her working with her hammer belt in the hot sun. She’d be seventeen in Quadrember but he’d be sixteen two months earlier. For two months, they’d be the same age.

For two months, their drinking, mating, and eating privileges would be equal. They’d both have one ‘drop the charges’ card each to use as they saw fit. They could do anything that didn’t result in a loss of life or the damage of company property.

Jonas usually punched a supervisor. It was a popular choice.

Now Jonas wasn’t sure there would be any more cards or privileges for Jayley at all.

Jayley had decided that she was unhappy with the system and stopped going to work. They’d thrown her in the clink almost immediately.

Strike was a forbidden action. It couldn’t be tolerated. There were always one or two people that started the talk once the project neared completion but that was a decade off. Besides, Jayley loved to work.

The door at the end of the hall clicked and hissed. The hatchratchet spun and the door creaked open.

Jayley ran through. Jonas stood up and caught her in his arms.

She was missing a tooth and she had a black eye but her eyes shimmered with the usual angry light.

“We have to take them down, Jonas. We have to make this place ours.” She said.

They hadn’t even come close to breaking her.

Then she kissed him.


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