Chapter 3: Wandering Light

            Five hundred yards from the truck that was dragging the Silvers away, two lone Golds stood in the midst of a battle of a different nature.

            “It doesn’t make sense, Zerrin. It just doesn’t!” Chrysos was walking with her friend down the simple hallway that took students from the library to work area. The skylights above them illuminated the wooden walls and the stone floor beneath their slippered feet that padded along to the large open room at the end of the hall.

            “How can you have such an issue with it? It’s a declaration, firstly—which should be enough—and if you have done your 20th century unit yet, it makes perfect sense! It’s one of the only philosophical works to never be satisfactorily refuted.” Zerrin, who stood a good six inches taller than Chrysos, was a woman with drooping black hair and long, spider-like fingers that were grasping three books of formidable lengths. Chrysos meanwhile, flanking her left and trying to keep up with the older woman’s strides, stood at a measly five feet and three inches, with a squat frame that could not be classified as overweight, but certainly on the heavier side. She too clutched three books, each easily over five hundred pages, but freed one hand to push her curly brown hair out of her eyes.

            “You know I’m not there yet. I have another five years of pre-Christ to go, and another ten after that before I get all the way to the twentieth.” Zerrin was fifty, while Chrysos was a meager twenty. The two were in very different places when it came to their progress in the fifty year program that would see them become Councilors. “But I should still be able to reason through it, no?”

            The two having completed the walk from the work space, they entered the largest room in the Gold Quarters: the library. It was the only space in the entire complex—maybe better understood as a collection of buildings—that was even somewhat ornate. The dome ceiling was made entirely glass and stood to nearly fifty feet at its apex. Book shelves seven feet high lined the rounded room while giant cascading shelves were set up in rows in front of the pair. Every fifteen feet, a shelf that extended to feet within the ceiling boasted a ladder that climbed all the way to the top. Each and every shelf visible to the two women was full with books pressed together as tightly as the Auxiliaries in their battle formations.

            “I need a copy of A Theory of Justice, please.” While Chrysos laid her books in front of the librarian’s desk that was to the immediate left of the entrance, Zerrin requested the old work of political philosophy from the young boy behind the desk. This was a common first job for children who had been selected to be raised in the Gold class; it taught them to read while keeping them from becoming indoctrinated into the fifty year regiment—they were allowed to read the covers, and nothing more. The boy, whose curly brown hair flopped up and down as he raced to fulfill the order, took off down the opening between two shelves and jumped onto the fifth ladder down the row. Instead of climbing, he entered in the name of the book requested into a small keypad, and the ladder took off for him, delivering him to the place on the shelf where about ten copies of varying wornness of Theory were scrunched together. The boy—with some difficulty—pulled out a leather-bound copy and the ladder delivered him to the carpeted ground, where he immediately took off running back. With a dazed smile and with all of his height, he handed the six-foot tall woman the book. “Thank you.”

            Chrysos pushed her books across the desk and made her way to one of the shorter shelves, where prints of older documents were kept. Peusing the shelves, she could sense the young boy lurking behind her, eager to help. She did her best to ignore him and luckily found the copies of Metaphysics quickly. She grabbed one and made her way back to Zerrin, who was paging through her new book.

            The two quickly left the room as another small group enterd through the hallway, some wincing at the light of day. Many of them likely had spent the night in the work room, skipping dinner and breakfast in favor of studying. It was common practice in the Gold Quarters, even when the pressure of exams was not present.

            “Can you believe the Person State actually tried to adopt this?” Zerrin muttered under her breath to herself.

            “What?” Chrysos knew very little about the surrounding states—as was normal for a Gold of her ranking—and jumped at the chance whenever her older friend mentioned something about them. “The Person State did what?”

            “Nothing, Chrysos! Nothing.” It was the same response as always, but having caught Zerrin’s glance to the book in her hand, Chrysos tried to piece together the thesis of it from just the title. She was wildly unsuccessful. It was much too vague a title. “But Chrysos—are you seriously having doubts about the validity of the newest Declaration?”

            It was a serious question. Any student was allowed to discuss the Declarations of the Council with any other student, but if one had a genuine issue with it, it had to be discussed with a Councillor so all confusion could be cleared up. It was part of their education—but Chrysos had some nervous jitters about approaching a Councillor. She knew Kohinoor, yes—but he was her much wiser teacher, and not someone to be challenged. “No,” Chrysos said, as declaratively as she could muster, “I don’t.”

            Before they could make their way back to the work room, the two made a right and entered onto a stone courtyard. The building behind them was the largest, containing the library and two work areas. To their right, a long block of rooms each sharing its walls with its neighbors curved from the windowed work room at the end of the hall to the bath house across from the two women. The bath house was a small stone building that contained showers, sinks, and toilets. It was also the only room where Chrysos had ever caught a glimpse of an adult Bronze class worker, who came years ago when the sewer system was experiencing a hiccup. Very little contact was entertained between the Gold and other classes, especially the younger members. Zerrin once told Chrysos about a time she listened to a lecture by General Fannis, the leading Silver Auxiliary, and Chrysos almost burst from jealous. It’ll be your turn soon, Chrysos. Those were Zerrin’s attempt at a comforting word, but they did little for Chrysos.

            As the two took a left to walk around the sprawling garden in the center of the courtyard, students of varying ages began to exit from the curving rooms, chattering amongst themselves and holding their books and notebooks. While some made their way down the cobblestone road to the sleeping quarters, the majority made their way to the building from which Chrysos had just exited. There were about five students per room, but thirty was half of the student Gold class alone. The other thirty—Chrysos and Zerrin included—entered their own classrooms after bidding each other goodbye.

            Chrysos’s classroom was the second one on the left, a recent upgrade from the first classroom. The room was a simple wooden structure, with two windows that dotted the opposite wall from the door and seven desks facing a whiteboard to the left of Chrysos. She turned right, making her way to the back of the room where cubbies held notebooks and writing utensils. She grabbed a pen and notebook out of her cubby—a spiral-bound college-ruled black one marked with a cursive ‘M’—and sat down in the chair directly in the middle of the room. She carefully placed her items on the desk, lining them up so they were parallel with each other. As other students entered, their robes swishing over their feet, Chrysos took care to keep her eyes down on her book and her book only. She didn’t open it.

            It was a few minutes before the last set of feet padded their way into the room and scraped their notebook from the cubby. The last thump of a sitting form was the end of all sound in the room, for not a single word had passed from anyone’s lips since they had entered. Instead, the silence that came with the scholar-free room infected their tongues and throats, piercing their ears with the deafening lack of sound. Each and every student held their tongue in their teeth and their breath in their mouth, waiting to hear the creak of the door.

            If there had been a clock in the room, it would have ticked a billion times before the door to the room flew open and slammed against the wall with a deafening crack. Eyes flew to the disrupting figure, and Chrysos’s vision was met with an intimidating man who stood at least six and a half feet high. The students’ eyes remained glued to him as he walked with perfect steps to the front of the room, his toga starched to perfection and the gold pieces in his white hair glinting in the daylight of the windows. He swished around to face his students, a giant grin decorating the face of Chrysos’s favorite Councilor.

            “Welcome, everyone!” Kohinoor’s voice boomed and shook loose the tongue-in-cheek and breath-in-throat. “On this glorious day, I will be your instructor in the ways of the philos. Does everyone have their book with them?”

            The class nodded solemnly at the smartly dressed man who was so passionate in his movements. Chrysos’s stare were as close to his as she could make them.

            “Wonderful! But today, my Gold students, we will not begin as we usually do.”

            Trying to be as subtle as possible, the class of five drew in their breaths again at the disruption.

            “Ah, do not worry your precious hearts about it. We will simply begin with a short discussion—a Socratic Seminar—about the newest Declaration.”

            Chrysos sucked in her own, private, breath, and prayed to Earth that Kohinoor had not heard it.

            “Now, gather your seats, young ones. Make yourself into the shape—a circle!” If he had, he gave no indication.

            Each student, still not daring to look at eachother, dragged their desks to the spot they always did when they were commanded to move into a circle. The scrape of metal against stone was painful and crude, but the bawling stopped quickly with each student knowing the precise destined location of their desk. Picking up her chair and putting it next to her desk, Chrysos sat in it without even catching a glimpse of a face. The red hair that sat next to her had swished by her head at some point, but the two students had taken care not to look at each other.

            “By Earth’s sake, that’s a heavy noise!” Kohinoor chuckled as his students sat with faces frozen on their desks. His smile fading, he shook his hands together in front of him, and dropped his face to the stone floor.

            The six humans in their various forms were frozen for a solid minute, their thoughts directed to me as five yearned for knowledge and for one, enlightenment. After the time had passed, each student looked to one another for the first time and each smiled.

            Chrysos looked around the circle to her class. Ranging in ages from twenty to twenty-five, the five students each were wearing an identitical version of the Younger Rank robe, a purple robe that stretched to their ankles. That, however, was where the similarities ended. The red hair next to Chrysos belonged Pyrrhus, the only other member of Chrysos’ exact age class. Chrysos remembered the day, at twelve, when the final rounds of transfers and tests had occurred. Pyrrhus had arrived then, having been part of the Bronze class, and the two had grown into the necessary camradarie that came with being of the identical age. Next to Pyrrhus sat Amarantha, known by all but the Councilors as Rana, whose slender figure complimented her brown hair. Beauty was not common in the Gold class—not in people—but Rana was a certain exception. Across and to Chrysos’s right was Zohar, a girl of twenty-five years and a complexion soured for eighty. Her square jaw was always twisted into some demeaning look, and her fists seemed to be perpetually clenched. Even her smile was more grimace-like than anything. On Chrysos’s other side was Aurora, a twenty-three year old with golden brown hair and a smile that shone out of her round face like a constellation of perfect, glowing stars. Her brightness was unmatched by the room and desk in front of her, the glazed ceramic an Iron invention of long ago and the thin wooden walls kindling in comparison to the trembling skyscrapers in the working sectors of the city.

            “Good morning!” The five students sang in perfect unison, Pyrrhus’s bass voice scraping the bottom of trenches as the birds from Aurora roared in the sky.

            “And good morning to you!” Kohinoor stood behind Rana, his smile back in full force across his wrinkled face. “Now, please. Discuss among yourselves.”

            The old Zohar began: “The topic of discussion is the Declaration of the Councillors given this day. On the six hundredth and ninth day of the year seven hundred and twenty-nine, the Council of the Kallipos declared the following: ’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.’”

            The commencement concluded, the students all allowed for a moment of silence before they opened their notebooks, paging through them viciously. Aurora cleared her throat and the other four looked up to her from their words.

            “What was the rationale for this specific piece of legislation?”

            Pyrrhus didn’t even bother to look down to his notes. “Efficiency. Words are sacred. In Kallipolis, the only good that exists is in the form of creation. The most efficient way to ensure creation is to ascertain that everyone thinks constantly about their next creation. The Council cannot create a law like that—not one that can be reliably followed—but this is the next best thing.”

            “Sure,” Rana shifted slightly in her seat, the sun shining in from the window reflecting briefly across her face, “but Kallipolis is not a city of creations. Kallipolis is just because of its separation of classes, and that is the ultimate consequence of this law. It keeps a group of Bronze friends from attempting to have this discussion, and us from trying to discuss the intracacies of medicine. Separation is key to Kallipolis’ continued prosperity, key to our justice. By codifying law that keeps citizens from the brazen fruit of other classes, the Guardians ensure the utter separation of them.”

            “But why is that what makes us just?” Kohinoor, who had been pacing around the circle, threw the question into the ring like a bone for starving dogs.”

            “Because it is in that way that we may be good. It is in the separation of classes that each individual can be their truest selves without the weights of duties for which they are not built.” Chrysos’s words spurted out of her mouth and splattered the walls around her. The students all nodded.

            “And yet,” Pyrrhus growled, “we find ourselves having to make a law to keep creation from turning in on itself. Athens fell because it was just as crude as Sparta in its singularity. To assume that all men are statesmen is to assume all men have the mental dexterity to think deeply, fully, and with all of the mind’s power—it is no better than to assume all men are contortionists. It takes training that is not in the grasp of all men, and we codify laws like this one to make it clear that no worker can do what it is we do, and that no Auxiliary can create factories like the Iron and Bronze.”

            The students nodded, and discussion dried up very quickly. Chrysos bit her lip, stopping herself from voicing her true opinion about the Declaration. She knew the answer must be obvious and to ask such a question was to make a fool of herself—she wouldn’t dare.

            With communal agreement from the table, the students realigned their chairs to face in a line the whiteboard, where Kohinoor began his lecture on the first book of Metaphysics. Rana and Chrysos scribbled down notes, while Aurora and Pyrrhus typed on laptops. Zohar simply listened and watched, her photographic memory recording the lecture in her mind. The minute they could, her fellow classmates would ask her to recite some part of the lecture they had missed in their frenzied note-taking. It’s too bad she would be graduating the class next year, thought Chrysos.

            Five hours later, and Kohinoor had just finished his final point when a gentle chime spiraled through the air of the classroom. Kohinoor bid them adieu and stilted his way out of the classroom. Their esteemed instructor gone, the five students stood up and put their stuff away, though many held onto the book and grabbed a different notebook. Chrysos held onto her book, but grabbed another notebook in which she wrote her homework notes. The five students exited with the rest of the masses, and headed down the cobblestone path to the dining hall.

            “Ah! I forgot a pen.” Chrysos, who was standing next to Rana, exclaimed. “I’ll be right back.” Without waiting for a response, Chrysos, who was standing just on the cusp of the straight path from the courtyard, turned around and dodged around the few students that were behind her. She headed slowly toward the classroom, but when a glance behind her confirmed that the rest of her fellow students were a fair bit away down the path, she diverted her own course and took a right. Running, she dashed around the work room and onto an open field, where she could see in the distance the Golden Ruins.

            It was three minutes of running before she made it, panting, to the first pile of rubble. She grimaced at a smell that was lingering in the air—A Brewer must have used ForceOut—but plugged her nose and, with her other hand, began overturning rocks until she found dirt. The piece of paper was just a few inches below the dirt. All of her other senses leaving her, Chrysos used both hands to dust off the remaining dirt. A familiar scrawl decorated the page, forming letters that said

 

EOG, nine.