Typical disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters or any rights to Anna Schubarth's "Solerna" or other publications. I just love the book and the characters and wanted to try my hand at filling in a little backstory. Reviews are always appreciated. - L.E.
Jarrod was getting pretty darned sick of being aboard ship. At first it seemed like an adventure, travelling through the stars to a new planet, but the sense of wonder wore off quickly. It took roughly two weeks to explore the limits of the ship. At least the part of the ship his group was permitted to use. Another week went to making friends with the calves and baby goats. The rabbits and chickens were interesting, but the noise and mess of their hutches made Jarrod give up on them rather quickly.
His mother, Karen, wanted Jarrod to mingle with the other kids, play nice, get to know them. Of course, Karen had little time for Jarrod herself, other than brief fussing when his hair wasn't neat enough or his clothes were rumpled. At 9 years old, Jarrod wasn't overly concerned with these things.
At night, when he curled up in his bunk, he missed home. He missed his dad. He still didn't understand why Dad had chosen to stay behind, and after his mother's reaction to his questions, he doubted he'd ever find out the reasons. So, Jarrod thought about home in the dark of night, but firmly pushed away those thoughts as soon as he heard the alert signaling morning.
Karen was already up, and Jarrod frowned as he realized she was paying extra attention to her clothes and hair today. Days when his mother fussed over herself were sure to be days when he would be miserable. It didn't take long for his fears to come true.
As soon as he folded his bed into the wall, his mother attacked him with a wet cloth, scrubbing at his face, behind his ears and the back of his neck. She handed him a suspiciously wrinkle-free shirt and pants before letting him escape to the bathroom.
The clothes were stiff and uncomfortable, but Jarrod knew better than to try to wear something else. Before he was half-ready, his mother called out.
"Hurry up, Jarrod. It's election day, remember?"
Jarrod let out a quiet groan. Oh, yeah. That.
His mother had been tirelessly campaigning for a council position among their group. There were seven positions available: Construction, Security, Science, Agriculture and Childcare made up the main divisions that were being voted on today. These council members would then propose candidates for the two remaining positions. The High Priest position roughly equated with the job of a mayor, taking care of all the details and making sure everything stayed organized. The High Priestess position, however, was both the final authority on governmental business as well as the spiritual leader of the colony. Karen had taken it upon herself to organize the elections, and today, everyone would see if all her hard work had been worthwhile.
As soon as Jarrod finished his breakfast, he and Karen strode through the still-deserted walkway to the meeting area. This central space was large enough to hold all of the colonists in their group, so long as none of the other groups on the ship were using it at the time. There were four groups in all, but each kept mainly to their own areas of the ship, only sharing the large meeting area, and that use was meticulously scheduled to prevent most interaction.
The meeting area was nearly empty. A dozen volunteers waited for the voting to begin. They were seated along one wall, behind a long table. Each volunteer had a workstation and an electronic workpad. Two of the volunteers were heatedly arguing. As soon as they noticed Karen, the two immediately rose and strode toward her.
"Karen! When are the volunteers going to cast their votes? Will it be before or after the rest of the colonists?"
"It should be after, we should complete our jobs before voting ourselves."
"No, it should be first, so we're not influenced by anything other voters say."
"But if we vote first, the voters might be influenced by what we say."
"Ok, you two," Karen quietly interrupted, "we already agreed that we would vote this morning, then open the doors to the colonists. Once anyone comes in, everyone knows not to say anything about any of the candidates, so there won't be any influence from either side."
After a bit of much quieter conversation, the two agreed that Karen's plan was for the best. Each of the volunteers cast their votes for the five council positions on the ballot, finishing just as the first colonists arrived. Karen was first in line to cast her vote on one of the workpads.
With all the preparation, everything ran smoothly as the election proceeded. All of the colonists had cast their votes by the noon deadline and Karen coordinated the computerized tally. Once the tally was complete and verified, the results scrolled across a large screen for all the colonists to see.
Agriculture, the council position responsible for all food supplies both onboard ship and as they began colonization, went to an energetic woman named Sandra. She hugged her son and her partner as the results were posted. Jarrod watched as she made her way through the crowd to the voting table to wait for the rest of the positions to be announced.
Construction went to Douglas, a tall, broad-shouldered man who towered over his slender wife and their small daughter. He swept both ladies into a crushing hug and gave out a booming laugh as those around him cheered his election.
The Security position went to Alex, an ex-military man, who nodded to well-wishers and shook hands with his partner and their son. The crowd parted for him to pass, allowing him to join the other council members gathered near the tables.
Science went to Dr. Marcus, which wasn't surprising at all. A brilliant biologist, Marcus had been instrumental in evaluating the scout ship reports about all the planets the ship would soon visit. Choosing Terran type planets with the best potential for colonist success had rested primarily upon his shoulders. Their group was thrilled to have him as a member, so electing him to the council position was a logical step.
The council position over Childcare appeared to have been closely contested. The results showed close percentages for the three candidates. The winner, Elizabeth, smiled at her husband and cradled her newborn daughter gently. She didn't have many children of her own yet, but came from a large family where she had helped raise several brothers and sisters. She had a gentle demeanor and a way of calming down tense situations.
Now that the five balloted positions were filled, the council members conferred briefly before Douglas' voice boomed out, quieting the restless crowd.
"We would like to present candidates for the position of High Priest at this time. First, we've selected Joshua. As you all know, Joshua is a skilled engineer by trade and quite good at organization and supervision."
A murmur of appreciation went through the crowd as Joshua stood up.
"The second candidate we've chosen is Derek. Derek ran several businesses back on Old Earth, working his way up from entry-level work to upper management. He knows logistics and is a good communicator."
A scattering of applause met Derek as he stood before the crowd.
Karen swiftly entered commands into the workstations, resetting the workpads for the new ballots, pausing to hear the suggestions for High Priestess from the newly elected council.
"For High Priestess, we have chosen Diane. Not only is she a first rate medical doctor, she has an extensive background in ritual work and has authored volumes of material regarding diverse Pagan religions."
Karen typed swiftly, pausing again to hear the name of the final candidate.
"And our last nominee is someone we're sure you all are familiar with, especially after witnessing her hard work over the last few weeks. Karen, put your name on that ballot, if you would please."
Before she could even react, Diane called out, "Sorry Douglas, council members, everyone, but I can't accept the nomination. Once we make landfall, even though that is a distant 3 years away, I am going to have my hands full with the medical facilities. Even with the other physicians we have, I just don't think it would be right to accept."
"As you wish, Diane," Douglas spoke after conferring again with the other council members, "we'll then nominate Jean. She led ritual for several years with her last coven, many of whom are among us now."
"Not a chance, Douglas." Jean called out from the middle of the crowd. "My days of leading are over. I signed on with the general laborers so I could get my hands good and dirty working with the Agriculture department, and I'd really rather not change my mindset now, please."
Shaking his head, but giving Jean a good-natured wave of understanding, Douglas turned back to the council. After a long moment of deliberation, Douglas turned back to the assembled colonists.
"So, does -anyone- want the job? And no, Karen, we're not letting you withdraw your nomination, so don't even ask."
His comments sparked laughter throughout the room, but no one volunteered.
"Anyone? No? Okay then, Karen, you're running unopposed, so it looks like you've got the job."
Karen sat in stunned silence for several moments before gathering her composure. Jarrod, tucked into an alcove along the wall, closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the cool metallic surface. He'd only thought life was rough before. Now things were truly going to go downhill. His mother. High Priestess for the colony.
Jarrod stealthily made his way toward the exit door nearest the walkway to the room that was his home for the next 3 years. The voting for High Priest was well underway before Jarrod finally made his escape.