All stumbled to a stop when a taller boy stepped before the Overseers. “Who’s that they got there?” Said Zephyr as the Overseer ran his hand down one side of the boy and then up again. He did this with each person before they could leave.
“Jerome.” Mitzy whispered in reply.
Jerome was a tall boy. Nearly as tall as the men in the other line but not quite as square in the shoulders. Zephyr thought he could see the corners of the boy’s mouth lift in a smirk. The Overseer had obviously noticed as well and brought his hand up as if to slap him. A soft light pulsed from the man’s hand.
A murmur rippled through the crowd. The Overseer motioned to his associate’s. One man kicked the back of Jerome’s knees out whilst the other whacked him in the back of the head. Jerome buckled and spat out a small piece of the precious ore. The boys each stepped back and even the miners seemed to cast their eyes down at what happened next. Beckoned by the Overseer another guard joined the group and the four of them encircled the boy. Together they rained down pain, sturdy boots and hefty cudgels lay into the boy that moments ago had seemed so close to being a man. Those were not the cries of a man. Zephyr thought to himself as his nails dug into his palm. I doubt I would fare better. He chided himself.
“Let that be a lesson to you all.” The Overseer said waving his arm in front of the crowd as if he’d won some great victory. “Steal from us and you’ll be punished. Simple as that.” The man said as if he didn’t take joy in the enforcement of it. He emphasized the words with one last kick into the boy’s stomach. Evidently, with that, the man decided he was done for the day. He ordered one of his lackeys to drag what was left of Jerome and together they left, leaving the other lesser Overseers to guide the workers out.
Next in line Zephyr stepped forward. It was a different Overseer than earlier. The man held a perfectly smooth stone the colour of an eggshell. He ran the stone over Zephyr, the same way they had with Jerome. He tried not to make eye contact with the man. Instead they lingered on the pool of blood left by the beating. He felt a cold droplet run down his back but the inspection was done in no time. An ache settled into his bones as he stepped out of the mine and into Crater proper.
Zephyr had to shield his eyes. Light filtered down, reflected off the walkways and metal towers that made up the city. It wasn’t much but it was brighter still than that of the lanterns in the mine. Once his eyes had adapted he spotted Joulan and Mitzy who waited for him off to one side. They waved him over. “You’re lucky that wasn’t you”. Mitzy said pointing a finger at Zephyr.
He shrugged and said “Wasn’t me who was fool enough to steal a rock and try and take it out the front door” in reply.
“Mitz is right, Zep. That bastard Jayr already gave you one beating. If it wasn’t for Jerome he might have taken it out on you either way.” Joulan added.