I have been away for a few months, but the time has come to start sharing again.
Here is an excerpt from a novel I am currently working on called "The World Below."
I hope you enjoy it.
Anger tainted Chief Elder Relt's face. As subtly as possible, Rise watched the oldest Elder stalk the length of the Gathering room. At 83 years old, Relt showed no signs of joining the Ancients, although the last few years, with declining cloud levels and chasm appearances, had allowed age to curve his frame and carve deep lines into his thin angular face.
After marching back to the top of the table, Relt faced the 32 Elders present. Rise knew the eight missing, from the top third, would have been instructed to stay away.
"So, what are we going to do?" Snarled the most powerful person below Captain Gleer, and possibly including the ships female captain.
At 27, Rise sat in the bottom third of the table. Nowhere near high enough to offer a comment, as much as he longed to. That privilege was reserved for those over 50, who occupied the top third. To even be asked a direct question required he live another 3 years, and be promoted to the centre third. However he could, and had been, reprimanded for failures to correctly carry out instructions.
Silence answered the question.
All, except Elder Fried who was absent, knew not to speak when Relt was in this mood, especially with the events of the morning, and Relt's subsequent embarrassment, being the reason for this unscheduled meeting. The chasm's appearance was badly timed, but uncontrollable. What should have been controlled was the people's response. They rushed wildly toward the windows and failed to return on Relt's command. Even when they eventually did so, they continued to speak among themselves, instead of silently listening to their Chief Elder.
"As none of you are willing to offer solutions," Relt stated, "Will I have to compensate for your incompetence again?"
Discipline, Rise thought, knowing the word must never leave his lips.
"I'm glad my eventual death will free me from seeing this ship fail due to your useless leadership," Relt continued, his tone growing harsher. "Discipline," he continued. "Without discipline we will collapse into anarchy. Perhaps you imbeciles need to return to basic training."
As a slightly crooked arm arced toward the hierarchy chart on the wall, Rise felt he knew what was coming. He had heard a similar speech almost yearly throughout his training until, at 20, he became eligible to sit at this table.
The speech continued in a familiar vein. Relt listed Elders, Crew, Skilled and Unskilled as the four Casts below Captain, explained why each Cast was lower than the one before and what would happen if the 300 Skilled and 100 Unskilled revolted against the 50 Crew and 50 Elders, which was relevant, since the two lowest casts were trained as foot soldiers.
"What we saw this morning," Relt, snarled, indicating the lesson was over, "was a complete lack of respect and discipline from the lower casts. If this was to ever be repeated, the lower classes will start to think they have the capacity to rule themselves. Which they don't. So, what must we do to make them realise they are no longer disciplined?"
Rise knew the answer and grew frustrated that none of his seniors were brave enough to answer. He wished Fried had been allowed to attend.
As Relt marched to the bottom of the table, Rise recalled a lesson outlining the outcome of rampaging, battle trained workers attacking the 50 male Elders, who maintained shipboard regulations, and the 50 female Crew, filling the roles of pilots, navigators, doctors and scientists. The upper classes would stand no chance.
Upon arrival at the bottom of the table, Relt stared at the youngest and most frightened and repeated his last question.
"Punishment," Rise stated, before realising the word actually escaped his mouth. As every face locked onto his, he knew his mistake was as real as the retribution would be. Even Relt was initially shocked but recovered quickly.
"I can see in your face, youngster, that you know your mistake. This once, I will suspend your punishment, for three reasons. Firstly, I asked the young ones directly, which was ... highly unusual. Secondly, you responded strongly, even though you knew suffering would follow. A good trait for an Elder. Lastly, you were right."
Rise nodded slightly in response, as protocol dictated, knowing punishment would occur regardless of the Chief Elder's words. He had embarrassed his elders, who would not forget, ever.
"As the youngster replied," Relt announced, glancing at stern faces as he strolled back to his place. "The answer to a lack of discipline is punishment."