A taste of “An Emergent Universe”

Fifty-eight light-years [-4.4, -6.8, 16.0] from Sol, on the planet Gift (Tommy’s Gift)

Tillie, former slave of the Nesu, senior master of the hydroponics guild, and former master of the only hydroponics farm above the commons in the Nesu portion of the Nesu Tol, screamed in frustration and sat down in the mud at the edge of the field. “Why won’t anyone listen to me?”

One of the guild-less dirt farmers that he had talked to, Kenel, looked up from the furrow he was gently weeding. “Because, without your tanks and pumps, you’re a useless pile of crap, you are.” He leaned over and picked up a handful of the rich black dirt he had been hoeing, letting it trickle through his fingers. “Crap that we don’t need here. You know nothing about real farming.”

Tillie, jumped up and lunged toward Kenel. “You can’t talk to me like that!”

Kenel’s raised hoe stopped Tillie before he stepped onto the first furrow. “Walk on my seeds and I’ll do more than talk.”

Tillie whirled and stomped away, splattering more dirt on his once brightly colored pants. He hurried toward the group opening the crates and boxes the Nesu Tol had left on its second visit.

Tillie and his journeymen and apprentices had quickly identified and marked crates containing equipment and chemicals they would need to build a working hydroponics farm. The arguments had started when he asked the other guildmasters to give him priority in getting everything assembled. There had been no dispute about the fusion bottle. Everyone needed power. But he couldn’t get anyone to wire the pumps to the fusion bottle, or put together the prefab building he needed to cover the tanks, or to connect the plumbing and water supply. Didn’t they understand that, without his farm, they would starve when the food Tommy had left ran out? Yes, the dirt farmers might make crops in time, but on a strange planet in strange soil, how could they know for sure? His hydroponics was proven.

When the masters of the other guilds had refused to help, he had turned to the dirt farmers. On the ship, the dirt farmers had learned to be self-reliant and could have, at least, attached the plumbing.

One of the just-opened crates fell in front of Tillie as he approached the crowd, scattering rolls of electrical cable on the ground. From the crate’s markings, it was one of his.

“We need that,” someone shouted. He wasn’t a member of Tillie’s guild.

One of Tillie’s apprentices, Drak, and another man grabbed one the rolls, each trying to pull it out of the other’s hands. The roll stretched into a long oval, and Drak slipped, his legs sliding forward and his head lurching back and down. When Drak released the roll, the other man stumbled into Tillie, knocking him to the ground.

Drak regained his feet, one hand holding the back of his head. When the other man held up the distorted roll and screamed, “Ours,” Drak charged him, planting his skull into the man’s stomach and pushing him on top of Tillie.

Later, no one admitted throwing that next punch. The fight didn’t last long. None of the combatants weighed more than sixty kilograms and the ground was slippery. The warriors might have prevented the fight, but they were hunting meat. Other than a few bruises and scrapes there was only one casualty.

Selective breeding of humans by the Nesu had created two distinct body types: the warriors, who were muscular giants, and the farmers and artisans, who were short and slender, with bulbous heads balanced on a skinny, vulnerable neck. In the brawl, someone stepped on Tillie’s neck. His last thought was that they should have stayed on the ship.