Permanent Provisionals

Everyone assumed Karaka was from Karaka—somewhat understandably—but in fact she was not. All of her grandparents had emigrated from the Karaka system as young adults. Like her parents, Karaka was born in the light of Yed Prior, and technically that’s where her citizenship remained. In another month she would legally become a citizen of the Tejat system, which was why the topic of her name and birthplace were coming up more frequently. Everyone meant well—they wanted to throw her a party—but until it was official she’d prefer to keep the spotlight off it.

Sponsor corpos had a bad habit of sending provisional workers offworld just before their citizen status kicked in. It was shameful, but not illegal. The corpos had no shame.

Legal citizenship was granted automatically after five standard years on any single planetary body or self-governing structure. Technically any starship in interstellar space is sovereign, leading to uncountable so-called “rogue citizens” out in the darkness. But that was not Karaka’s situation. She’d been firmly planted on Tejat Prime, carefully tracking the passing of the seemingly arbitrary standard days that had no bearing on the celestial mechanics here.

The five-year system was clearly the brainchild of some group of asinine politicians who believed science was a watered-down mixture of scripture and magic. The pseudo-logic said that most of your body mass was muscle, and muscle cells replace themselves at an average rate of 6% annually. Skeletal cells regenerate at 10%. You have a new liver every two years. Your skin and blood are completely replaced several times annually. Some cells never got replaced, like the lenses of the eyes, the muscles of the heart, and most neurons. Some parliamentary intern somewhere did some calculations on a cocktail napkin and determined that after five standard years, the majority of the cells in your body—did the politicians love anything more than a majority?—were new. Because new cells were made from local materials, if you stayed in one place for five years you were mostly from there.

Idiotic.

But, as stupid as the laws were, Karaka made sure to live within them. She could smell the fresh scent of Tejat citizenship just around the corner like it was a fresh pie cooling on a window sill.

The big interplan corpos used the law as a carrot to move people around to fit their needs—namely profit margins. Provisional workers, as people like Karaka were called, could be paid provisional wages so long as the corpo acted on good faith to keep the worker on a citizen track wherever possible. Though, she wasn’t sure either good or faith were words in the corpo lexicon.

Karaka tossed fitfully in her bedsheets and tried to count the passing standard seconds as they turned into minutes. But the closer she got, the further away it felt.

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