Lag returns to his table and sits. Looking around at them, he nods and smiles cheerily.
Lag: I think they will be quieting down soon. They did well, and deserve a good celebration, but I think they understand things now.
Senator: I should hope so, the rowdies. Kids today – no respect. What in a kid’s life is worth that kind of noise?
Lag: Komenagen. They are now legally adults. By the way, senator, did you know that the Plataean way to reply to an apology you accept is to say “proper”, meaning it was a proper apology, and no further action is needed?
Senator: (kind of densely) Huh? I don’t get your point.
Surgeon: (almost simultaneous with the Senator) Them? Adults? But they look like kids!
Surgeons wife: What’s komen-whatever?
Lag: Komenagen – Plataean coming-of-age trial. Legal adulthood and voting rights are earned there, and have no specific age. Some earn it by military service, some by earning a living on their own for a decade, but most go through a trial between the ages of 15 and 21 standard years to demonstrate adult capabilities.
Surgeons wife: How barbaric!
Lag: Not at all. “Things not earned are not valued.” The individual picks the challenge, with advice from adults close to them. It can be something relatively easy, like planning and catering a full dinner for 20 people, including child-care and entertainment, for someone with more limited abilities and modest aspirations, to apprenticeships like one of those young men went for, or even some very difficult, perhaps life-threatening, challenges, that may take a year or more to complete.
Penger Trask: (sounding unconvinced) So why doesn’t everyone just do something simple and be done with it?
Lag: (Shrugging, and putting food on his plate from a serving dish that was set in his place while he was at the other table) True, all who pass legally become adults, regardless of score… but that score becomes the first point on their resume – a high score can help one’s prospects a great deal.
Surgeon: So, how is it scored, if everyone is doing different things?
Lag: It is based on three simple scores from 1 to 5; overall difficulty, difficulty for the chosen challenge relative to each particular person’s abilities, and actual performance. Those three numbers are multiplied together, and any extra points they earn are added in.
Senator: They… hey, the big drunk one is coming over. I hope you didn’t just make him angry! (the Senator glares at Lag, who smiles and applies himself to his food while Plataean #3 is approaching.)
Plataean 3 walks unsteadily up to their table, and the dining room buzz quiets down to watch and see what happens when a drunk young man approaches an obviously wealthy table.
Plataean 3: (looking straight ahead, sort of at attention, but facing toward Lag) I apologize if we-
Lag: (quietly cutting him off with a sound, and then nodding toward the rest of the table, and speaking very quietly and pointedly) Ah. Not me. Them.
Plataean 3: (slightly slurred, seemingly thinking about it hard to make sure he said it right, turning towards the Senator) We are sorry if we disturbed you Sir, that was not our intent. It won’t happen again.
He then stands there, awaiting a reply from the surprised table.
Senator: (confirming with Lag) Uh, proper? (Lag nods) (then, to #3) Proper!
Plataean #3 nods assent, does an about-face, and return to his table briefly, then heads out the door with three others.