The office is non-descript, but modern: a single desk of old institutional make, metal with the patina of wood on the surface, the chair a standard computer chair of the previous decade, and the computer more a terminal screen than anything else. A single large window backlights the chair and desk and the average looking man sitting in that chair, with slightly thinning hair is slowly signing his name to paperwork being moved by him from an INBOX to an OUTBOX and stamped right after the signing by him.
Two men walk in, one in regular, casual business attire of the day, the other in more relaxed outfit of 'any year' - black t-shirt and jeans.
Each of these men were followed by two others, both in casual wear, but one slightly better than the other. Each aligned themselves behind each of the two in front.
The men walk up to the desk.
The man in the chair looks up: "May I help you gentlemen?"
The one in business attire looks to the other, they both look forward, the latter says: "We were told to come here."
The man at the desk asks, "Are you here to register a duel?"
The men nod.
They each speak as the man types them in, and confirms addresses.
"You are both aware of the law and its necessities in this area?"
"Yes." says the man in the casual attire.
"Yes, I am." says the man in the business attire.
"You have attempted a reconciliation to solve this?"
"Yes, we have."
"Very well. I will read you the statement in the State Code covering this: 'As no individual in such a case where reconciliation has been attempted can be said to have found a peaceable means to end this conflict, the State gives no sanction to weapon of choice. Both participants who have their known capabilities duly registered by the State shall be given neutral weapons and circumstances in which to achieve an end to this conflict.' Do you both understand what this means?"
"Yes, sir, I do."
"Good. At this point in the registry it is necessary for you both to sign this Petition for Duel. You may mark preferences for Lethal or Non-Lethal. You are both aware that the more dangerous is *always* given precedence in these things?"
A slight hesitation.
"Yes, I understand."
"Yes, I do understand."
The man slides a clipboard with printed cardstock and pens across the table. "If you Gentlemen would please mark preferences, date and sign those we can move to the next stage."
Both men looked at the clipboard, the man in business attire picked it up and started writing while the other bent over and filled out the simple form. Then both gave that form back to the man at the desk. He looked over the forms. Then looked to the screen, and read from it...
"As the duly chosen Armed Citizen in the Office of Duels, I hereby swear that the following two men... " and he carefully pronounced each name..."... have signed Petition to Duel with random weapons of..." he looked at the two forms, "...lethal means and to first blood as acknowledged by one and not the other. That being the lawful affairs of this State do the individuals behind you stand as Seconds and Witness to this proceeding?"
Each man nodded and softly said, "Yes."
The man at the desk worked at his screen, punched in some things and attached a small label to another piece of cardstock. He handed the clipboard to the one of the Seconds.
"Please print your name and address, then sign in the space provided each of the Primaries."
Each man took his time and carefully wrote in the necessary information. Then the clipboard was handed back to the man at the desk. He carefully stapled the original forms to the back of that and affixed the tape of office over the testament and original complaints. He then took out two pieces of paper and took labels off of each, and affixed those under each of the Primaries names. He checked the screen and wrote in on each form. He then handed the sheets over to the men.
"This is a statement of Full Apology for Any and All Wrongs Given. You both have a period of 48 hours to think over this matter and sign and date that statement when you next appear here at the time Appointed. If either signs an apology the Other shall be given a final chance to reconsider this matter. If the Apology is not Duly Accepted and All Grudges Dropped, then the choice of weapon will then be given, by the State to the One offering Apology. Are you Gentlemen clear on that?"
Each looked down at the sheet... "Yes, I understand".... "Yeah..."
"Very well, at the time Appointed for continuation of this, if Either does not Appear a summary States Armed Citizen's Court shall be convened to address that. Cowardice in such things is addressed by a period of imprisonment at hard labor for no less than 10 years, loss of all Right to own, carry or use any lethal Arms even those that are of Unarmed form, and the loss of Right to Vote. The only acceptable excuse is that given by you or the signed Seconds as to Illness, Injury, Incapacitation or Death of Immediate Family Member. In each of those cases a postponement will be given, but only ONCE for this Duel. Is that clear to you both?"
The man in the business attire was folding the paper up and pocketing it, "Perfectly clear, yes."
The other man gave the paper a single fold and looked at the man at the desk. "Yeah, I got it."
"You both understand that with many weapons a 'First Blood' classification can be lethal?"
"Appearance in two days at the Appointed time of..." he checked the screen, "... 11:45am is Mandatory. A group of individuals with varying weapons will be chosen from the roster behind me on the Lethal category. You are both now required to look at that roster and ask any questions. If I cannot answer them, I will get someone on the phone who is the local Expert on that weapon either individually or as a Class."
Each man started to look at the list. It was lengthy and in large type. Each was mouthing some of them.
"Battle-Axe?" asked the man in the business suit.
The man at the desk nodded, "Yes, we have single head, head and hammer, dual head and Newly Fabricated and Registered Type Styles of three different forms. Typical with those are skull cap, round or target shield, and leather leggings and chest protection."
The other man looked and stopped, "You have got to be kidding!"
"About which, sir?"
The man at the desk nodded, "A late medieval, early Renaissance muzzle loaded weapon of dubious accuracy and rather large shot. Steadying pole included. No armor."
The other man read down..."Scythe? I mean a real...?"
"Both the large hand sickle and regular sickle along with various forms of reaping scythe and sickle are included in that category. As you may have guessed a Medieval Armor and Weapons Forger lives in this district."
"But what about pistols and like that, you know?" asked the man in the casual attire.
"They are covered under their category classifications for them. The Hand Cannon is an exception as the practitioners could not decide if it was truly a man-portable or high set-up arrangement, and thus it gains special recognition. Traditional dueling pistols are under the Firearms, Near Modern, Single Handed classification that covers a broad array of 18th through early 20th century weapons. Those are used only for the purposes of the Ceremonial Duel between Officers of the State as enacted by Law. Yours is the Common Duel. So they can show up by chance, but only if that major category classification shows up. This was chosen by all the Armed Citizens by Election some 10 years ago so as to not overly weigh the modern weapons over the Honorable Pre-Modern, Renaissance, Medieval and Ancient weapons."
"Sabers are different from Swords?" asked the man in casual attire.
"Yes sir, they are. They have two entirely different classifications although a proficient and skilled practitioner of one class is normally disallowed from using the other class without proficiency examination by Civilian Experts, which includes Mounted Use as a sub-categorical proficiency, as was traditional in the Middle East and other parts of the world. The non-stirrup mounted individual on horseback is an entirely different Affair than the unmounted Saber or Sword duel, depending upon period. So each of those classifications also cover Mounted and Unmounted use and period classification as known by local Experts."
"What are the chances of getting something like the Rapier?" asked the man in the business suit.
"The Rapier is a Traditional First Blood weapon which most individuals think of in that category. That said the current chance of any single weapon showing up, after removing your proficiencies are..." he typed some information in "... 1 in 36,000. The chance for a firearm of any sort is a mere 1 in 35, including the Hand Cannon. You are both familiar with the Randomization Process?"
The men looked at each other.
"Not really..." said the man in the business suit.
"Never really thought about it..." said the man in casual attire.
"Each day specialists in Arms stand ready at State Expense to provide Arms of their proficiency for a duel. That line-up is changed daily and each jurisdiction has its own particular line-up based upon size of that jurisdiction. As this one is more ex-urban and has a high number of families with older children, there is a heavy preponderance of such things as Exotic Weapons, Medieval Weapons and Ancient Weapons, due to the interest of those individuals who learn those things. Home protection firearms actually turned up small variation in the Expert Category, mostly relegated to retired Military Personnel who Volunteer for such duty, being exempted from it by their Service to the Nation, and by those who have spent time over years or decades learning the use of such weapons."
The man in the business suit blinked, "Kids get a say?"
The man at the desk nodded, "Yes sir, the State respects capability and cognizance as measured for each class of Arms by those who are Expert Practitioners in same. Minors who have shown ability and tested cognizance in the use and application of arms are given the full Majority Responsibilities for Protection of their Families and Property, although exempted from full State Protection until the Age of Majority. That said the Experts are the only ones capable of ensuring a Duel is properly given oversight for their Specialty. We have a handful of Minors who are Experts."
The man in the casual attire swallowed, looking a bit startled... "A kid could run this?"
The man at the desk smiled. "Yes, sir, and that has already happened five times in this jurisdiction within the past year. We have one Junior World Class Champion of the New Roman Legion here, along with his father who is only in the top 5 Worldwide. They and the Centurions of their Cohort have overseen 12 of the last 500 duels here. On the firearms side we have Two Marine Sharpshooters and one Army Ranger Sniper, all retired, and they oversee the Civilian equivalent models of their weapons at what they consider to be 'easy range' for the unskilled. They are the Certified Experts, so they should know. Beyond them we have one Junior Olympic Silver Medalist who would have gotten a Bronze in the Adult Games for the Biathlon. She makes the Marines blanch, but they acknowledge her skill, just the same. Her idea of a 'fair shoot' in winter conditions is something I do not think either of you would survive given your age and condition, but it is only a duplicate 1/10th Olympic course with set distance and one shot per station. Further we have a Forger and Expert in Nordic blades including the Viking Swords from mid to late periods, the aforementioned Battle Axes, Knives, throwing Axes, throwing Knives and various other oddments put into the Exotics under that. A creative fellow. Plus the local Roman Armorer and Weapon's smith, beyond the Cohort, who is skilled in a large variety of weapons both Roman and Gothic."
The two Primaries looked at each other, the Secondaries fidgeted.
The man at the desk smiled at them. "What did you expect with so many university students and high-school age students in this community. They ADORE those things. Plus that SCA group and the Legion. You really should see what that cohort did to a riot a few years ago. Truly interesting to see how a mob with a few guns reacts to a Legion Unit with Kevlar and dragonskin armor, and reinforced shields. All suited to shrug off a .45 caliber round and they shrugged a few off and, well, a toss of those Pilums into that crowd was really quite unexpected by those who thought to use guns against them. One really must be organized to go against the Legion. That is their 'Duty Equipment' as opposed to their 'Ceremonial'. You did see that report in the news?"
The man in the business suit nodded. "Didn't think much of it, thought it was a game. A distraction, you know? Not real."
"Tell that to the 15 who were impaled on the Pilums."
The man in the casual attire swallowed heavily. "But there is a... you know... war going on. What are they doing out there with that stuff if they could be fighting..."
"Sir, in that instance all of those men are overage for National Military Needs, and it should be pointed out that three members of a terrorist ring were brought to end and 10 more rounded up by police as this was made to be a major way to embroil them while a further plot went on. You did read about that didn't you?"
"Ummm.. no, actually..."
"And as to this not being 'fighting' what would you term it when three men had to undergo surgery for gunshot wounds, 25 for slashing and piercing wounds from Pilum and Gladius and the aforementioned 15 dead due to Pilums? That sounds like fighting to me. And I think the terrorists involved did not expect such a thing from a 'Civilized' Society."
The Primaries took a long, hard look at the listing.
"Are there any other questions about the procedure?"
The man in the business suit whispered, "I didn't think it would be anything like *this* when I voted on it... just a chance to put some armed crooks away for a long time... and..."
"In voting to Protect Their State in Times of danger or when No other Forces can Respond, the Citizens of this State took upon themselves the absolute burden of entrusting their Protection to those Citizens who know lethal armaments of all types. With that comes full authorization for concealed and open carrying of such arms if the individual wishes. Further the duelling code was brought back to finally give means to enact a non-partisan way to ensure that no rancor becomes a long term Blood Feud in this State. With ownership comes responsibilities and rights. As each of you men know for your regular classification of... " he checked the screen, "... Small Caliber Pistols, Modern, 9mm and .45 caliber, 30.06 dual action rifle and Throwing Knives, Modern, Exotic, Newly Fabricated, Special Class. As neither of you are Experts, but merely proficient, you have little interaction with the Office of Duels."
The men looked at the man at the desk.
"Who elected you?", the man in the business suit asked.
The man smiled. "I serve by Lot as do all Experts as enacted by Law. It is a burden of time, but understood and employers must give this time off for this service. On the appointed date someone else will be here to actually conduct the Duel for the State."
"How do you know so much?" the man in the casual attire asked.
The man at the desk smiled. "I am a Third Rank Expert Ninja, Ancient and Modern usage, with Pre-Modern specialization, plus having cross Expert Status in various other hand and thrown weapons in other categories. Further I was trained as a Civilian Marksman, my light stature and build not deemed fit for National Military service, but useful for some of the more Specialized Armed Forces. I also grew up loving westerns. My stock in trade is KNOWING how other weapons can be used so that I am difficult to kill. I have supervised 7 of the last 500 Duels in this jurisdiction. All came out to satisfactory conclusions. It seems that my normal rotation for running a Duel is about 6 weeks or so, given my multi-Expert status. That time is nearly due, even though it is random it does seem to have regularity."
The four men looked at him. "YOU could be running this Duel?" one of the Seconds asked.
"I am not prohibited by Law from doing so. Only in doing the full start to finish conduct, that requires other oversight and choice by lot. But I would say there is a good chance you might get me or one of the Nordic Specialists. They haven't run one in awhile, if memory serves."
"What would you be doing?" asked the man in the business suit.
"That is chosen by weapon and that is randomized. Normal rotation with each weapon happens so with me the ones I am in line for are the 1861 Winchester, the Katana solo use, Shuriken under the hand thrown, small, exotic, and my normal single specialties in my Ancient areas, such as the repeating Thai Crossbow. My choice of bolt type, but titanium alloy is best as it is hard to damage and it takes a long time to replace traditional ones with the proper materials."
"But that is chickenshit weaponry... "mumbled one of the Secondaries.
"Tell *that* to the Legion, if you dare. Or to those skewered two deep on Pilums. It is all Honorable Weaponry and Arms used to defend your State, your Family, your Home and yourself. And now the protectors of the Right to Bear Arms is... Legion, so to speak. Just because it does NOT go *bang* does not mean it is ineffective or lacks utility."
"With the duly handed out Apologies and Proper identification of place and time, with method explained, are there any more questions?"
Each of the men nodded 'no'.
"I wish you good day, then, and thank each of you for helping to Protect this State and the Nation in Honorably Carrying, Using and Adjudicating on the Use of Lawful Arms. You are highly valued Citizens who Protect us All. I wish you both well, no matter what the outcome of your Duel is."
Three of the men walked out. The last stood standing, looking at the list.
"Damn, that is a LOT of Experts!"
The man at the desk chuckled. "We have been fighting in ingenious ways on this planet for a long time. You should see what a more urban district has to deal with. This listing is quite short and has many lumping together of things I would not place together, but the local Citizens see otherwise. In cities you will see this list continue on and on as EVERY Expert want to be acknowledged. I am glad to live here as this is somewhat better than that, even with the lumping together. Less Hubris. More Honor."
Looking at the non-lethal list the man said, "I haven't even HEARD of some of these... like this Kosho? What is *that*?"
The man at the desk turned and looked at the list. "That is one I am not greatly familiar with. I believe it comes from a television program as most exotics do. Star Trek fans will be the death of us all, I believe, once the Phaser is invented.... but I have seen the Kosho contest place. It has padded walls, two trampolines and a large water tank between the trampolines. Contestants wear helmets and use boxing gloves. Frivolous, really, but there are a few of these Experts and have proven its lethality to suit my Expert Brothers and Sisters. It is almost entirely for non-lethal duels, but it is so strange that broken necks and drownings have been recorded. My martial Expert status would prevent me from being in that. And while I am good at many things, I cannot be proficient in all things. So even a duel with me, is fair."
The man nodded. "Thank you. I hadn't realized what I was signing up to."
The man at the desk nodded. "Most don't. And yet the pleasing sound of 20 years of hard labor to a gang member is always pleasing to the ears. Far better than that old 'civil code' that never properly addressed the misuse of weapons. Now we have Honorable Use. Much, much better."
"Thank you, again. I think you are right, crime has gone down... but the cost..."
"Minor, compared to letting criminals run free on technicalities. You pick up a weapon and use it unlawfully, you endanger everyone. That led to barbarism. This is civilized. And very few duels ever go to full end, even on the non-lethal side."
"I hope not... good-bye."
"Good day, sir."
And the man at the desk turned and put the finished paperwork in an envelope and sealed that. And then entered his remarks. Soon his paid holiday would be over.
The Office of Duels was rarely used. But ALWAYS sure.