Chapter 10: Medallions
Rumble, awake, blue blankets, cold pavement, dress. The morning routine fell into perfect unison with that of the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that. Though Simin was not entirely rested, she participated with the same vigor as the day before.
She stole a glance at Jodha, who awoke clearly confused and dazed at the activity before them. The girl walked at a snail’s pace, refusing to emulate the flurry of motion around her. That was all Simin dared to note before jumping off herself and obeying the custom law.
Arriving at her table with breakfast in hand, Simin realized—rather embarrassingly—that she was the last person to arrive. She sat between Sandra and Alekos with Kalan directly in front of her, the last remaing spot. Just as she sat, a set of falling footsteps made their way to the wooden pedestal behind her. She had barely sat down before her attention was called to the shining man.
“Welcome, soldiers.” The same smooth voice slid into Simin’s ears like icicles. “Today, training will continue as usually scheduled. Tomorrow, however, a set of chosen soldiers will once again go to the Iron sector. Details will be given by your troop leaders.”
“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.”
Truly, if it were not for the man’s aura and voice, the speech would become boring after hearing it every day for the last eight years. As General Fanis began to make the development announcements, Simin’s eyes drifted from his eyes to hs forehead, where she could not help but make out tiny beads of sweat. Now, why is he sweating? Has he not just woken up? It is not nearly warm enough outside to cause instantenous sweating.
Simin’s mind was drawn away from his words and to his involuntary bodily functions. Try as she might to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why the General was actively sweating, no rational idea came to mind. She was taken from her thoughts, however, when her ears reminded her of her next line.
“Thank you, Brothers and Sisters. Long live Kallipolis!”
“Long live Kallipolis!” There was no better line than that to shake Simin to her reality. It was there that she found the majority of her metal-mates beginning to eat their eggs, while Enyo drank a juice.
“Why do you live on such an oppressive diet, Enyo?” Alexio managed to make even cutting egg whites a sophisticated affair.
“My leader instructed me to do so. I am apparently allergic to may foods served, and before I can be given an allergy test, I must only drink. So to stay safe.” Enyo barely ever spoke—Alexio was the only one who ever drew answer from her, and he rarely made an effort to ask questions. Hearing her whispy voice made Simin cringe slightly, for all of the best soldiers had the strongest voices. Enyo will be an instructor at the theory school was Simin’s prediction. Yet she did not know enough about the selection at the school to speak aloud.
“Alekos!” Kalan, in his quiet booming voice, exclaimed. “Earth, what are you doing?”
The table’s attention was brought to Alekos, who was sitting with his hands deep in the small pile of egg whites he had gathered in the middle of his plate.
“Uh—” Caught red—or rather white—handed, he had no easy explanation to give as all of his table mates began cracking up. Kalan’s laughter boomed while Enyo let out slight wheezes.
“I can explain!” With a reluctant smile forming at his friend’s joy, Simin couldn’t help but laugh harder as Alekos attempted to explain himself. “I was looking for the yolk! I wanted to eat it first, because it’s the tastiest—”
His efforts to stop his friends’ churling were completely unsuccessful. It was only the approach of Xena that brought the laughter to an abrupt but effective end. Alekos, Sandra, and Simin immediately composed themselves and stood up. Xena gave each a curt nod.
“Simin, you will once again be traveling to the Iron sector. You will leave after breakfast tomorrow.” With the equally curt words, Xena left the table and went out through the doors, likely traveling back to the Superior’s meal hall a mere half mile across from the Junior’s.
As the three sat back down, the others already were furiously eating their food. Simin and Sandra began to do so as well, while Alekos just looked at his pile of food with a disgruntled sigh.
“Are you going to eat that?” Simin questioned in between bites. This triggered a few chuckles from the others.
“I think I have to. Earth, what was I thinking?” Alekos sighed as he used his fork as a spoon to scoop up the bits of white. “I assumed they would have left the yolk in there.”
As the table was finishing their food, Simin’s eyes unwilfully traveled to the Superior’s table. There, Fanis was sitting with a few professors Simin remembered from the theory school. The lot of them were dressed in warrior tunics—though lacking armor, the Superiors rarely wore robes—but as Simin glanced through the moving Silvers, she caught a glimpse of a pure white robe sitting with them. Is that--?
Before she could name a Councillor, the rest of her table stood up, causing her to do the same out of hait. Her view was once again obstructed by moving bodies, but she pulled on Alekos’s sleeve.
“Look over there, to the Superior’s table.” Alekos glanced to where Simin had subtly indicated. “Do you see a Councilor?”
Obviously trying to keep from being obvious, Alekos did his best to indiscretely rise to his toes and look to the table. “Yes!” he whispered excitedly. “I don’t know who—I don’t know any of the Councilors besides Nima, but it is a man.”
Satisfied with the information, Simin and Alekos followed behind Enyo and Sandra, who were heading out to the tents. Joining Sandra, the three walked to where Xena and Polydamas were already standing. As Thaddia and the rest of their troop arrived, Xena looked up from her notepad where she was furiously scribbling notes.
“Attention!” The small bit of chatter quickly fell away at Xena’s voice. “Get your tunics and meet back here. Do not get your armor, and do not get your weapons.” As her sentence came to a close, Xena’s mouth twitched into a smile as it formed the words for the next one. “It’s Medallion day.”
Though no bystander would know it, Simin sensed that she and her troop were nearly yelling in excitement—though they all kept perfectly straight faces. As they made their way in normal order to the Armory, Simin saw Thaddia’s feet just somewhat more excitedly driven the rest of her. She could even sense Alekos walkng at an excited pace as they made their way through the sun’s early golden rays.
Simin changed as quickly as she could, pulling on her tunic while making sure not to displace her pen. She stuffed her robes quickly into the satchel that had been left for her, and was pleased to see that almost everyone had finished changing at the same time. A notable exception, however, kept the six from making their way back to the tent.
“Where is Oddyseus?” Thaddia growled. “Earth, he couldn’t tell Medallions from breakfast, could he?” Polydamas shushed her, and she quickly took back her words. Their meaning remained in the air, however, and the group glared at Odysseus as he finally made his way back out from the Armory.
“What?” he asked, clearly bewildered at his group’s hostility.
“It’s Medallion day, Odysseus.” Simin spoke under her breath to the boy in front of her. “You may not know what that means, but be quicker next time.”
The group made their way back to the tent, where they found Xena holding a small velvet box. Simin noted that only one or two other troops were back at their tents as well.
“Sit, soldiers.” Xena commanded, and it was so. The seven Silvers dropped to their knees in a semicircle, and none dared to look at each other. Simin heard footsteps making their way across the pavement, but dared not to look up at them.
“Silvers. Stand.” The voice shook continents with its power, displacing even Xena. The seven soldiers stood into formation, their arms held to their sides and their backs perfectly straight as the century-old Councillor stood with outstanding vigor.
“Welcome, Councillor Talal.” Xena bent slightly at the waist—out of habit—and moved to the right so he could stand in the middle of the semicircle. She held onto the velvet box, whose majesty had diminished at the sight of the man.
“Thank you, Trainer Xena.” Talal stood without a hint of break in posture. Beginning with Marcelle on his right, he made eye contact with each and every soldier.
“Long live Kallipolis.” Simin, opposite of Marcelle, would have barely heard the words if she had spoken them any quieter.
“Long live Kallipolis!” Startled at the Councillor’s eyes meeting his, Odysseus’s statement was considerably less elegant.
“Long live Kallipolis.” Alekos’s voice had turned smooth as water. No tremor remained.
“Long live Kallipolis.” Sandra’s statement was strong, and Simin swore she flexed her impressive muscles ever so slightly as she said it.
“Long live Kallipolis.” Polydamas stood straight, but was clearly uncomfortable.
“Long live Kallipols.” Thaddia’s voice was viper-like as always; but this viper was humbled by a giant.
Doing everything she could to keep her voice from cracking, Simin could barely whisper the words. “Long live Kallipolis.”
Satisified, Talal’s eyes retreated to their own place, and his gaze became much less intense. “Welcome, soldiers of Kallipolis.” His voice was as deep as ever.
“It is my duty and joy to watch as you earn your medallions today. But it is also my sad duty to inform you that one week ago, Councillor Nima passed away and back into Earth. Let you continue her legacy in her strong words and purposeful actions.
“Today, my Silver class will be receiving their earned Medallions. Through a series of tests, I expect all of you to earn the awards that prove that you are not only Silver, but military. The police, executives, and Theory school teachers provide all of us with valuable support and order that only the Silver class can ensure; but it is our military that keeps us safe from the jealous attacks of surrounding nations. This power that you provide our city is that which will save it, come any attack on our values and us Council’s rulings.”
This last sentence was unfamiliar to Simin. Never, in Simin’s memory, had she heard of an attack on Kallipolis by surrounding states. Even the Ruins were from an internal attack—when the citizens of the long-ago city realized how unjust their system was and destroyed it. And to allude to an attack—speaking of it like it was happening—was oddly chilling. Talal, however, continued.
“And in that vein, we of course expect a number of characteristics. I, a Gold, only know of them—you know them. Allow me to name these characteristics as I name the medallions that you may win today. The medallion for courage is the most common, but the most precious. There is the medallion for skill in weapon, skill out of weapon, adaptability, necessary prudence, selflessness, and—”
The soldiers waited on baited breath to hear the last medallion spoken to word.
“Consecratio. As always, the winner—or winners—of the last medallion will be given special consideration in the appointment of the General.”
Though she was no where near her, Simin swore she could feel Sandra’s chest puff out, just a bit. She had been the youngest winner of the Consecratio medallion for fifty years, having won it just last year.
“Let the evaluations begin. Trainer Xena will be your commander on the ground; General Fanis and General Ansel will conduct the evaluations, and I will supervise. Be who you are: the military of the most just city of the Earth.”
With the final words, he stepped back to allow Xena into her center position.
“The evaluation will begin here. Throughout it, we will travel from spot to spot in Kallipolis, essentially circling the city. The final part of the evaluation will take place in the Complex.
“Go to field three. We will meet you there.” The soldiers needed no further excuse. In formation, they quickly marched in unison to the field a hundred yards behind the Armory. Upon their arrival, they could still see the dots of Xena and Talal in the distance. They were being joined by the other trainers, who had sent their troops off to parallel fields.
With their arrival at the field and knowing the superiors were too far off to hear them, the seven soldiers immediately broke into conversation.
“Alekos, you’re a shoo-in for technique in weapon!”
“You too, Polydamas! And Marcelle—I bet you’re getting adaptability—”
“You know who is? Sandra!”
“I think I will, but prudence is Simin’s, easily.”
“Maybe, but Thaddia, I’m almost a hundred percent certain that both techniques are yours—”
“I can’t do sword to save my life! Don’t shush me—I know of what I am speaking. I’m getting selflessness, but consecratio has got to be Sandra’s again, I mean—”
“What?” Odysseus’s voice was nearly a yell, and he immediately stopped the chatter that was circling around him. “What in Earth are you talking about?”
“Medallions, Odyssesus.” With a sigh, Thaddia appointed herself explainer for the youngest member. “There’s going to be an all-day test, in which we prove that we have the necessary virtues of a soldier. Were you not listening to Councillor Talal?”
“I—I was—but—what kind of all day test?” Bewildered and embarrassed by being talked down to, Odysseus stuttered his words as he tried to communicate.
“Some sort of battle for Kallipolis. We will either be defenders or offenders—not that we’re told.”
“What about weapons? What about armor?” The final thought must have just entered his mind, for Odysseus’s face quickly turned from confusion to terror.
“They’ll give us our weapons—though not necessarily the weapons with which we have trained. And—”
Sandra interrupted with an arrogant voice—one she likely deserved. “You don’t need armor. If you are a good enough warrior, your tunic and weapon is enough to protect you. The clothing you are wearing is bullet-proof—that’s all you should need.”
The young boy’s face dropped with clear terror. “Am I going to die?” he whispered.
Simin couldn’t help but laughing with the rest of the troop.
“Of course not! You always have the option to retreat. No one has died in these since Councillor Talal was still thought to be Silver.” Thaddia reclaimed her seat.
“But I’m a Brewer! What am I supposed to do if multiple gunmen approach me?”
“You’re the warrior—figure it out.”
This was not enough to calm Odysseus, who backed away from the group with his feet and eyes; his mouth moved rapidly as he reached for different places on his waist, clearly rehearsing potions.
The rest of the group collectively chuckled as they returned to conversation.
“I cannot believe the Generals placed it today—a day after the Gold arrived! I wonder if they are getting tested.” Polydamas speculated aloud.
“I doubt it.” Sandra responded. “Maybe next year.”
“It can’t be random. Fanis knew Jodha was coming—” the comment, which came under Alekos’s breath, was clearly meant for him; but the entire group heard the words. Simin and Sandra exchanged a knowing glance; Simin assumed they were the only two who knew of the Hésuchazó incident.
“Is Jodha one of the Golds?” Polydamas, ever polite, asked of Alekos, whose eyes were just as far away as Odysseus’s.
“Uh—yes.” Alekos crashed back into the green grass and sprawling hills. “She was Silver. She was good.”
Polydamas nodded considerately. “Thaddia, I really do think you’re going to get both technique.”
This statement refreshed the chatter from seconds before, and the conversation continued on for a few minutes past that. Even Odyssesus joined in meekly, having seemingly rehearsed every potion he knew. The debate touched on the consecratio medallion once or twice, with everyone agreeing that Sandra would likely receive it again. Alekos’s name was also brought up; Simin couldn’t help but notice his blush as she and Marcelle predicted he would get it, too.
“You are an excellent soldier, and an excellent leader. I truly believe you and Sandra would make outstanding Generals.” Marcelle’s comment had triggered the blush, and Simin’s enthusiastic nodding deepened the red.
The conversation had not taken five minutes before the group heard footsteps from behind them. They all quickly dropped whatever words they had held onto the ground and rearranged themselves into their line.
The footsteps belonged to Xena, Talal, and Fanis. The three of them were extraordinarily imposing to the seven junior soldiers, their authorities complimenting each other perfectly. Xena was pushing a closed metal cart which should, theoretically, contain their weapons. Her shortness only made her power more concentrated, and Simin heard Odysseus gulp as his eyes averted from her gaze. Fanis walked with his hands behind his back, but no humility was presented; his icy blue eyes and wry smile served only to be disappointed. But Talal was the most imposing of all; his hardened gaze drove the seven soldiers into my skin. He was only a few inches taller than Polydamas, but it may as well had been a few feet.
Xena stopped her cart in front of the soldiers, who made no movement toward it. The other two Superiors stopped as well.
“Take your weapons, soldiers. Stand at the ready.” Xena pressed a button on the cart to see it open. Each soldier, beginning with Thaddia, went to retrieve their weapon. But when it was Simin’s turn to look into the box she found not her comforting Argentum Auream; instead, two long daggers bound together at the hilts with leather met her. She grabbed them, not questioning the decision.
With Sandra holding her gun to her chest, Xena closed the cart and pushed it behind her. The other two backed up a few paces, leaving Xena alone with the defense machines.
“Now,” her voice, emotionless and stoic as ever, rang throughout the hills. “Fight.”
A gleam in Fanis’s eyes was barely detectable as I held my children close.