Author : Kiel Finger

He stabbed his knife into the hardpack soil.

It didn’t go in very deep; in fact it barely stood upright. Maybe an inch or two into the ground, tilted to the left. Not as dramatic as he would have liked, but the meaning behind the act was clear.

It was an old symbol, developed aboard one of the many ships that brought them to this world. They’d meet in the agri-levels, the offended party planting a blade into the fertile soil, showing they wished to air their grievances peacefully.

His grandmother had shown him. She had been one of the last who remembered living aboard the fleet. She would tell him of the vastness of the habitat zones, the false sun and the gentle, recycled breeze.

He hoped she’d be proud of him now, confronting a woman who saw fit to take their land.

The representative was a head taller than him, garbed in the traditional loose fitting blouse and pants of the Admiralty.

The Admiralty Commission rarely tried to extend their reach out to the western plains, but here was a representative, starring Tull in the face, demanding he show her something called an “Official Land Claim Agreement” or else the Admiralty would claim the land itself and forcibly move him.

“Miss Kine, I don’t know what this document is you’re talking about, but my family has lived here since my grandmother’s folks stepped off the fleet. And no one has…”

Representative Kine cut him off.

“Tull, I know the old ways, but a knife in the dirt won’t stop us from taking your acreage. Either you prove to us you legally claimed this land at some point, or it is ours, by right, according to The Fleet Compact.”

There was a long silence. Tull could see his show of the old ways had completely failed. He’d hoped Miss Kine had been raised in some outlying area, where these sorts of things were still taught and practiced. But it was clear to him now she was indeed Capital woman. She knew only of knife talk through history lessons. He knew now he needed something flashier.

Tull casually squatted down and retrieved the old, dull knife from the ground. He moved it to his left hand, but did not sheath it. He hoped she noticed.

“Miss Kine, you said you’re familiar with the old ways, right?” Tull said neutrally.

“Yes Mr. Tull. I’ve studied much of the late Fleet to early post-Fleet cultures.”

“Then maybe you know one of the practices of the people from the ship Arata Akebono? It was a ritual used only when two parties could not agree on property ownership. After all other options had been exhausted, the first party to spill their own blood upon the disputed property would be instantly granted ownership.”

“Yes, well, I hope you don’t think that such an act….”

It was Tull’s turn to interrupt the representative. He raised the knife and quickly drew it across his right palm, horizontally. It cut nearly to the bone despite it’s dullness. Blood poured out of the wound, streaming down his arm and began falling to the ground in large droplets. Kine wasn’t able to hide the look of shock that spread across her face.

Tull smiled inwardly, despite the pain. This was what he had needed; enough of a show of bravado and fearlessness to horrify a Capital-dweller.

He hoped that when she now returned to the Admiralty, she’d tell of crazed western plainsmen, backwards and angry. Not worth the effort of displacing.

Please, he thought, let it be enough.


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