Chapter 1: Skies
Silver rusts. Gold does not. Rulers rule, and followers follow. The way of the world is set into the sky, burned with birds and scratched into the sun. I stare at it as the things atop me move. Dirt blows away and stones erode into dust, water evaporates and seas churn, trees grow and wood is killed, but the sky and I remain.
But she and I are not the only movers. Millenias ago, my dirt and rocks and metals were taken by the two of us and formed into creatures with arms and minds that moved. They spent years with sticks, then stones, then found the metals with which they had been formed. With them, they built city and city and city, and each and everyone fell with armed wing. Yet one stands with the arm of justice hanging onto it, rooting it to my very heart and never allowing it to fall. Kallipolis lives.
Simin awoke with a start. Her cot was being shaken by the rumble of feet beside her jumping from their blanket onto the cold floor. She soon joined the quake, bringing her feet to the ground in all of the urgency around her. She opened her eyes after the soles of her feet felt the smooth floor and took less than a second to take in her surroundings; a true soldier.
Her bed was one of twenty in a large room made for the military population of Kallipolis. The walls were stone, lined with wood, and her bed sat in a corner—she was no stranger to splinters. Each bed had a white pillow, white sheets, and a blue blanket. In the warm conditions of Kallipolis, not much more was needed. Simin wore a standard issue night gown that flowed around her ankles as she joined the race to the bath house.
She arrived and grabbed her marked toothbrush after using the toilet. Personal hygiene effects were organized in front of a row of what must be around fifty sinks. Simin’s relatively early arrival ensured she was in front of the line that led to her specific sink. She stood in front of the mirror, using the brush to scrub each tooth for precisely five seconds. Around her, other girls were doing the same. Each looked slightly different—face shapes varied, as did hair and skin colors—but each had the standard buzz cut given to all soldiers regardless of gender. The girls brushed in silence.
Simin was with the second wave to make it out of the bath house. She stepped onto a the center of the round courtyard, still shoeless, where the living quarters were for the military, the majority of the Silver Auxiliary class. She walked with the group to a tall building directly in front of the bath house, and entered the cloth house, where all outfits were washed every night. She grabbed her size—short, mesomorth—from the rack near the entrance of the white building and hurried to a curtained area where she changed into the underwear, bra, pants, socks, shoes, and shirt. She lef the jacket in the stall, doubting she would need it in today’s wam fall weather. She was quick to leave the cloth house and began the short trek to the mess hall.
The day was unusually bright. The grass was especially green, and the sun’s radiation was brilliant despite having risen just minutes ago. The hills in the distance were covered in trees just beginning to turn yellow. Reigning above was the sky, turning bluer with each passing minute and promising a cloudless day. The pavement was the same color as it always was, a dark gray, because it did not belong to me in the same way the grass and trees did. Simin paced strongly, leaving the circular courtyard by following the rougher paved path, wide enough for two cars to comfortably pass, that led straight to a large but simple gate a mile or so in the distance. A few familiar faces tracked behind her as Simin walked down the road. Despite their friendliness, they all wore the same stoic face with pursed lips. Words remained glued in their mouths.
Before she reached the gate, Simin turned left off the road into the largest building in the base. The mess hall doors, having been opened minutes before, led Simin into the metal box of a building. The doors were the only visible entrances to the silver structure, and they themselves were a simple wood. The days of summer heat radiating throught the metal were passed, and Simin felt relieved as she walked into the still relatively-cool building. As she and her silent friends entered, they all immediately took a left to find a row of plates with ready-made food on them lined up on an outpost on the wall. Had they been on meal duty, they would have awaken two hours earlier to make their way to the market and get the necessary food and prepare it. Instead, they simply grabbed their oatmeal and fruits and turned around the open area to make their way to an open table.
Simin placed her food in front of her, but left her hands at her side. A few more faces sat down at the circular table until all of the seats were full. Still, no one spoke or looked at each other. Rather, they stared down at their cooling food or up to the small clearing at the front of the room. They sat close to it, where a simple wooden block, no larger than two feet by two feet, would soon boast one of the most important Auxilliary known to Kallipolis.
At precisely seven in the morning, the last soldiers paced into the hall and settled into their seats with their food. Simin turned to glance at them and noticed Cy, who wore a blank expression with a white tunic and brown pants. Yesterday, Simin and a group of others had given Cy a tour of the base. Hours before Simin met her, a Guardian had administered a test to find Cy, who had lived in the Iron sector of the larger city, part of the Silver class. Returning to look at her food, Simin hoped she learns the ropes today.
As the last stragglers sat down, a man in uniform emblazoned with dozens of metals stands up from the Teacher’s desk and makes his way to the small clearing. He was not old, but had shooting white hair and a pointed nose. Even from twenty feet away, Simin could make out his bright blue eyes that shone like the sky had this morning. He was one of the finest soldiers Kallipolis had known, and his strengthened body and the uncompromising aura with which he walked made that clear.
He took a microphone with him to the clearing. He made one deliberate step onto the wooden block, which let out the tiniest sqeak it could manage, and turned to face the room of soldiers. Upon his stillness in the center of the clearing, the entire room seemed to become even more silent, as if it was possible, as every soldier there turned their eyes and necks to look at him. The air held its breath, waiting for the man to release the smell of his words into his surroudings. Simin herself did not breathe.
“Welcome, soldiers.” His voice was smooth, like the manicured nails of the Iron or Bronze class, but edged with a charisma that convinced the world into following. With his permission, the flowers and airs relaxed into their usual rhythm. “Today, training will continue as normally scheduled. Unusually, however, there will be an envoy that will make their way to town and collect some weapons from the metallurgists. Your specific crew leaders will let you know if you are part of that envoy.
“Today, we honor the perfection of our nation, just like every other day. We have achieved justice, brother and sisters, and we live in a world with rulers that will never fall. The Guardians rule us with the careful hand of justice, weighing each ruling with the exact regard needed. Our philosopher kings are our rulers, we are our watchdogs, and the iron and bronze are our foundation.
“Developments continue in the iron sector with amazing efficiency. Two scientists, Dr. Jekyll and psychologist Mr. Hyde, discovered a cure for bipolar disorder yesterday. A technology that should allow computers to recognize human speech has been developed by Iron Cor, Inc and should be released within the next month. And a work by the head writer at Just Words, Ms. Shale, has been approved by the Rulers for printing and distribution. The work is called A Novella of Beatiful Things.
“In the bronze sector, professionals have been making great strides in their respective fields. The heads of K Manifacture have pioneered a machinery that automatically determines the sizing and necessary properties of the metal for any machine. We owe our thanks to Stratio Iron for the invention of that particular machine. Supervisors met with workers yesterday to inform them of the Guardian policy enacted yesterday that allows them to work no more than seven hours a day. Pay, of course, will continue to be given out based on the value of the work they produce.
“The Rulers have continued their study and creation of wisdom for Kallipolis. They have delivered by messenger a declaration to all areas of the city. I will read it to you now.”
This was unusual. Though Simin’s face remained perfectly emotionless, her mind immediately began searching for any idea about the contents of the declaration. The man pulled out a scroll from some unseen pocket and unfolded it, beginning to read it out loud as he did.
“’We, your humble Rulers, have decided to codify a law that will ensure the continued justice of our great city. From this date forward, all citizens may speak only if they know of what they are speaking, or they will not speak at all. This means the Auxiliaries will speak only of their soldiering and administering, the Iron and bronze class of their working, and the Rulers of philosophy and thought. All may speak of friendship and love if they know of those things.’
“Thank you, Brothers and Sisters. Long live Kallipolis!”
“Long live Kallipolis!” The entire world shook in unison.
Clattering of plates and silverware scratching against ceramic immediately began. Words floated into the air slowly; it was obvious many were still confused about the meaning of the Ruler’s new law. Soon, however, words poured out much faster and the hall quickly became noisy.
“I suppose….” Alekos, across the table, hesitantly began to speak. “How did everyone sleep?”
“I feel rested.”
“I no longer feel tired.”
“I slept well.”
The entire table turned to stare at the speaker of the latter sentence. It was Achilles, a fourteen-year-old who had just been promoted to the junior ranks. “I mean—“ He immediately knew something was wrong, “I am satisfied…with the sleep I got last night.”
The table breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“I am enjoying this meal.” It was Simin’s first words of the morning. She always tried to make them positive, in an attempt to make the world a more positive place. Today, however, she was doubting the positivity of the world. Though she dared not say it out loud—for it would violate the rule—she did not agree with this ruling. How should one know exactly what one knew? And joy came from talking about things, exploring things, that one did not know. It seemed counter-productive. But as soon as she had the thought, her mind reeled in on itself. Stop! To doubt the Guardians was to doubt justice. Simin directed her blasphemous thoughts down into the depths of her mind where she was sure not to find them, and took her attention to the table.
“What do you think we are going to do today?” Sandra, who sat two seats down from Simin, spoke from a blonded head that would have long flowing locks if it were not for the mandated cut. Simin knew this because Sandra, like her, had grown up in the gold class. When the two were children, she, Simin, and a third friend—Chrysos—would take care to brush their hair every day, and the girls would always remark on the beauty of Sandra’s especially. But when they were seven, Sandra was tested and found out to be silver. Five years later, Simin joined her and would have been appaled to see her shaved head if she had not known that any hair at all can interfere with precision on the battlefield. And Sandra was still beautiful, more beautiful than average, with perfect, doe-shaped eyes and full lips. Her hair was unnecessary.
“I assume training will be individual today.” Alekos replied. Simin could not help but watch as his eyes made their way to Sandra, gazing at her like many of the men did on the compound. She felt no amount of jealousy, or at least not in the way many women would have a millennium ago. She wondered, passively, how Sandra would do in the iron or bronze sectors, which allowed marriage—though children, of course, are born of the Earth. Simin spent no time wondering how she would do. She was a soldier, a soldier made of silver.
“I enjoyed General Fanis’ speech today.” Achilles piped up, returning from his shunning. “I found it super informative.”
“Agreed.” Alexio, an eighteen year old with the straightest posture of Kallipolis, replied to Achilles’ relative informality with the aura of an ostrich preparing for tea. “The Morning Declarations are a fine tradition, one which I hope will last as long as our citizenry does.”
“Kudos to that.” Alekos raised his glass and the table clinked their juices together in a settled caucophany.
At that moment, Simin’s eyes were drawn to a tall movement, out of place for the sitting soldiers. It took a moment for Simin to suppress her soldier instincts, which told her to stand and face her opposer, and recognize the face of Xena, the leader of Simin’s troop, approaching the table with her usuall determination and stride. As was customary, Simin, Sandra, and Alekos stood up to meet their superior.
“You will be part of the team that goes to town to retrieve the necessary supplies, Simin. Meet by the exit after lunch hour.” Xena was never one for eloquence and elaborate rhetoric. Her hoarse voice was concerned with communicating information, and only information that her thirty-year face with the largest scar in the camp could not. She followed orders before they were made, and this most recent one was one of them.
As Simin sat back down, rejoining the somewhat stilted—but mostly ordered—conversation, another unexpected movement caught her eye. From across the room, Simin was able to pick out the Majors’ table, where General Fanis and many other higher superiors sat when they did not sit in the Superior hall to eat. The movement that had caught her eye had been the banging of Fanis’ fist onto the table with great force; Simin saw the metal table rattle under his brute strength, though could not hear it over the sounds of the room. Simin could not guess the topic of discussion, and without being able to see his face, was unable to know if Fanis was angry or simply passionate about something. She deduced the latter. Being angry was a necessary consequence of being human—or rather, being non-gold—but the feeling was supressed the more one experienced it. It was a bad feeling, unproductive and unworthy of being dwelled on unless it provided fuel for some just action. Simin was young when she first learned the lesson. Though she would never say it out loud, being ripped from the gold class at twelve was a wound that still stung even eight years later. Still, Simin reminds herself just like she has every time she has thought about what could have been, she would have been miserable out of her rightful place. More than that, the citizens of Kallipolis would be disserved, ruled by someone not fit to rule. Yet even though she knew there was no other option, she went to the Silver Grounds that night to scream into a pillow. She was mad, mad at Talal and the Guardians, hating the—it was then that Simin always stopped thinking about that day. It was treasonous, and worse, evil, to act or think in defiance to the Rulers. They were perfect and just; to think against them is to be against goodness and justice. It was the second time in less than an hour Simin had to remind herself that is not against them and never will be.
Whatever Fanis’ feelings may have been, Simin interpreted his fist-hit to be passion-fueled. He was one of the most balanced and composed Auxiliaries Simin had ever met. She could not think of anything that wold make him act in any such way, and especially not in public Before she could think too deeply, however, she was called to attention by Alekos.
“And you, Simin?” Alekos asked her, looking at her blankly. “What do you think of this new policy?”
Simin, enraveled in other thoughts, made as quick a pivot as she could. “I—I do not have an opinion that is not our Rulers’. If they have come up with it, it is legitimate.”
The table around her nodded solemnly. The conversation lapsed into quietness as the crew ate their meals, some picking around until they found the right starting bite, some immediately eating, and still others sipping away on their juices, on liquid diets. The team acted well, and they finished their respective meals minutes before soldiers from the kitchen collected their plates.