(Reed’s song of the day: High, by Sir Sly)
Just wanted to share some dialogue I just wrote and thought turned out pretty well for a first attempt. For context, Melira (the daughter) was caught talking to a member of a different race and social class during work, something Benn (the father) forbade her to do.
The Government Ordinance building was a long rectangle, forming one of the five sides of the pentagonal middle sector of Kalin. Both the external facade and the internal decor were constructed from Renewal oak and pine, lacquered to a dull shine under the light of massive Hilan crystal chandeliers. The majority of the building was an indoor atrium, open and echoing, but there were also thin corridors running the outer perimeter at each floor and connecting to small offices.
From where Melira stood on the third floor, she could see all the way across to the opposite side of the building where managers and higher-level government workers paced these corridors in quiet conversation. But she ignored them for the frenetic pace of the Ordinance ground floor, or just “the floor”, as the workers called it.
Here, in the bottom of the atrium, desks and cubicles were crammed into the space with hardly a thin dividing wall between them. Workers scribbled frantically on paper or parchment or vellum; peelees scurried in between hurrying operans, carrying notices and requests; and every once in a while, a person would stand triumphantly, clutching a paper, and hurry towards the nearest staircase to the upper corridors.
These lowest level workers mostly gathered data on the workings of the city. They collaborated with the Cityscaping Ordinance and to some extent with the other three Ordinances to collect information which they then passed on to employees at the analysis level to ultimately bring to the Head Governor. They were exclusively middle-tier operans with dreams of glory and putting their family’s name on the list for a barony. Their determination and dedication could be felt in the energy of the Ordinance floor.
“Orderly chaos, isn’t it?” Benn said, leaning against the rail next to her. He offered her a tired smile.
Melira nodded, still watching the workers below. “All those people pushing themselves to their utmost, just for a chance at being where we currently stand.”
Benn raised an eyebrow.
“Why can’t they have aspirations beyond this?” Melira swept her hand over the Ordinance floor. “Why does it all have to be so rank-and-file? They could be doing anything, achieving anything, with the kind of tenacity they have. Instead they sit here and wait for someone to notice them.”
“Maybe they don’t mind operating through an established path. Perhaps it gives them comfort. After all, it is jarring to everyone involved when someone suddenly stops doing what is expected of them.”
Melira finally looked at her father. He was watching her with one elbow leaning against the railing. “You mean what’s expected of me,” she said.
“I thought I told you to stop meeting with the other races in public.”
“You didn’t tell me anything, Dad. You made a request, which I took into consideration.”
“Look, how was I supposed to know Hugo would come in? No one saw her enter, no one would have seen her leave – ”
“He’s your supervisor, Melira. It would be folly not to check in on you every once in a while. And you’re ignoring the fact that you specifically disobeyed me after we spoke about this.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, it’s not disobedience. It’s open-mindedness!”
“It is both. And there are reasons rules have been established – ”
“Seriously, have you ever tried to consider that they might be due for a change? That perhaps your precious rules might be outdated, inapplicable, or just foolish?”
Melira’s shout echoed out into the open space of the atrium. One or two workers on the Ordinance floor glanced up at the two of them before hurrying on their way.
Benn let out a long sigh. His one hand went to the side of his face, scratching at his hairline. “Mel,” he said softly. “Why do you think everyone is trying to control you?”
“Sun, I don’t know, Dad. Perhaps it’s all this talk about blind obedience.”
“And is there ever a reason?”
“A reason to what?”
Benn turned back to her, and she was astonished to see tears glinting in his eyes. “A reason to obey. Even if it were absolutely the wrong thing to do, or if it were silly. Would there ever be a case in which you would just obey? If it were for the sake of your father’s peace of mind? For stability?”
Melira’s stomach turned inward. His every word was like a little barb in her skin, inevitably pulling her towards what he wanted for her. “Dad, you don’t get to say that,” she muttered.
“So now you’re telling me to obey you?”
“Look, can we not talk about this now? We were going to have a nice lunch in the Sprawl.”
“We never talk about this, Mel. At least not in a way where a conclusion is reached.”
“Well, I’m done talking.” Melira turned on her heel and started walking down the corridor towards the staircase.
Benn hurried to catch up. “Fine,” he said. “We don’t have to speak of this today. As a matter of fact, we’ll never speak of it again. Instead, here’s what I’ll do. The next time I find out you’ve been meeting with a tixan or kudran friend – in any capacity – I’ll have Orrie step in and have a chat with them.”
Melira spun around, feeling the guilt in her stomach twist into something else. “Is that a threat? Are you threatening me?”
“Not you, certainly. I couldn’t say the same for your friends.”
A bark of angry laughter came from her throat. “And you think Orrie is just going to respond to your beck and call like a bitch?”
“We have a preexisting arrangement that covers matters like this.”
Melira gripped the railing with one hand until her knuckles turned white. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see down below the workers writing and walking and pushing themselves. And in front of her stood Benn, his arms folded across his chest, his expression cold.
“You know, I suddenly don’t feel very hungry,” she said. “And I had a report that was supposed to be due before we left. So if you’ll excuse me, this obedient daughter is going to go back to her office.”
Benn said nothing, allowing her to brush past him. It was only when she was halfway down the hall that his voice came echoing after her: “It’s what’s best for you, Melira. Perhaps someday you’ll see that.”
Hope you liked it! And have a great Tuesday.
Yours, making slow improvements,