Lag walks up to the table at which seven young Plataeans (4 male, 3 female) dressed in dark semi-uniform cloths somewhat similar in style and color to Lag’s, are sitting celebrating loudly; in his hand he carries a glass. He smoothly helps himself to the one empty seat at the table. It takes them a moment, but they all notice him, turning silent and eye him warily as they do so. Lag’s expression is cheerful, and demeanor friendly. He speaks quietly and sincerely.
Lag: I understand that congratulations are in order. To adulthood!
He raises his glass to them, sort of saluting around the table, and takes a sip. They return the salute with their glasses, some of them just sipping, some tossing back the rest of their drink, and make their reply.
All others at the table, loudly but raggedly: To Rights!
Lag: So! Who took the biggest risk?
A small, young lady at the table smiles shyly, and raises a timid hand.
Lag smiles in some surprise and nods to her, again raising his glass, but not drinking
Plataean 1: I tried a 4.5… but I only scored a-” she’s cut off cheerily by Lag.
Lag: Ah-ah-ah, don’t dwell on the mistakes; learn for them. Even trying for a 4.5 is a daunting task. Quite commendable to take on a serious challenge. You aimed high and passed; learn from it and move on. (looks around the table) High score?
A obviously tipsy young man of 19 or 20 leans forward to brag
Plataean2: I got a 63! With 3 extra points!
Lag: (sounding honestly impressed) Oh, outstanding! Well done! Three extra points are not easy. A score like that is an excellent way to start the resume!
Lag looks around the table, and sees one young man who looks slightly sullen, and not quite as celebratory as the others. There is also something weird about one sleeve of his shirt. He nods towards him.
Lag: (concernedly) And how did you do?
Plataean 3: (kind of downcast, slowly then faster as he explains what happened) Well… only an 8… I went for a star-drive apprenticeship, and would have earned a 4 on performance, but on my last shift a power conduit I should have checked blew and took this… (he holds up the stump of his arm, and it can be seen that it’s gone about halfway between shoulder and elbow) They docked it down to a 1… I’m good at math, so it was supposed to be an easy assignment for me – if I hadn’t got the conduit properly shut down, and a tourniquet on my arm in time, it would have been worse, though.
Plataean 1: (blurting out, sticking up for #3) He earned an extra two point by shutting it down correctly after he lost the arm, and saving another guy injured in the blow-up, and it really wasn’t his fault, he was just on duty at the time. (Plataean 3 looks at #1 appreciatively)
Plataean 3: (bitterly) Trying to get a drive-tech job scoring an 8 isn’t going to happen.
Lag: You followed procedure and got things shut down safely, after losing an arm, hmmm? That’s not nothing.
Plataean 4: (also sticking up for #3) And getting the senior drive tech out of the room – he was knocked out the blast. And he was really the one responsible.
Lag: Hmmm… Well, the situation isn’t always as bad as you might think. An 8 is passing, if only just. You still earned full rights of adulthood, and that’s worthy. But… (he leans conspiratorially forward and lowers his voice), I do have to tell you… (they all lean in to hear, as he speaks almost apologetically) now that you are adults, you are representing Plataea, and can be held fully accountable for your actions. There are some people at my table who have the ear of the Captain, and they don’t want to be bothered by your honestly deserved celebration. A more private place might be better. You should keep it down a bit… (he looks pointedly at one of the young men, Argo) if word gets back of any brig-time to your aunt Elen, Argo, she would NOT be amused. (he holds up his hands in mock surrender to forestall argument) I won’t tell – Komenagen deserves celebration… just a word to the wise.
The table group suddenly realize his point, and Argo sits back a little wide-eyed at the implications, while also wondering who Lag is and how he knows his name. They fall silent for a moment or two.
Lag pushes his chair back and gets up, raises his glass again, says “Again, congratulations!” and heads back for his table.
As he walks back, he passes a young lady in cloths similar to those worn by the Plataeans at the table. She sees him, and stops, a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face, as if she can’t believe who she’s seeing right in front of her. She watches him return to his seat, then hurries over to her table to join her friends. There is a rapid chatter of energetic whispers and gesturing, with some unclear louder voices, quickly dieing down in the background.
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