Of Pachyderms and Predators
12-year old Cora had always enjoyed contemporary history. She knew almost everything there was to know about the three American Emperors, name every senator who voted for the Imperialization Act of 2022, and every province of the Empire. She listened intently to her history teacher, Mrs. Carrey.
“In 2016,” she began, “The same year that Donald Trump became 45th President in a landslide, the Imperialist Party was formed. They won almost every single seat in Congress in the next six years, and in 2022, senators Harvey Chase and Vincent Starr proposed the Imperialization Act.
“They felt that such a large legislative body like the Old Republic could debate and compromise endlessly, leading to no government progress. They fixed the problem by investing supreme power in one Emperor of America.
“Harvey Chase was elected first Emperor. The Siege of Mexico, his very first act, frightened Canada, who essentially sold themselves to him. By Chase’s death in 2024, only one year after taking office and two after the formation of the Empire, the Empire encompassed all of North America!
“Vincent Starr was chosen as the next Emperor, as Chase had no heirs. He attacked Brazil, and, when they surrendered, Argentina followed suit, and then the rest of the continent.
“Starr was assassinated by his son, Vincent II, who is the third and current Emperor. A very persuasive man, Vincent recruited Russia, China, and Japan without a fight. With most of the world’s military, the rest of the world was assimilated. The Empire was complete!
Cora knew all of this. First Caste students had access to almost everything on the Net, and she loved to read it.
“In 2045, the Caste Act was signed, officially creating the Castes. In the Old Republic, all different races were together, leading to extreme racism, prejudice, and sometimes terrorism. The Castes keep them separate, creating the happy society we know today.
Mrs. Carrey walked over to her small desk at the end of the room. “The notes should be projected onto your iDesks. Complete it to the best of your ability.
The surface of Cora’s iDesk glowed white for a moment, then a worksheet appeared. She removed her stylus from its sheath on the desk’s curved side and smiled. She knew this.
“Have you got your toothbrush?” A voice called from upstairs.
Cora sighed. “Yes, Mother.”
Cora looked through her suitcase. Clothes, toothbrush, tablet, $300 backup cash.
Cora thrust her head up. Where was her ID card?
She leaped away from her blue king-size bed over to her mahogany wardrobe. She inspected every article of clothing she had. Not there.
She stared out of the window of her family’s suite in New York, the capital of the world.
She remembered suddenly. She dug in the back pocket of her tight jeans – blue ID card, right where it should be. She sighed, this time for relief.
The sun was setting now. As she looked out the window, she could almost feel the sunlight.
Cora and her parents exited their plane. An attendant came with their luggage. The airport was nearly empty; this part of the world wasn’t often visited by the First Caste.
A hoovering billboard, usually plastered with advertisements, had a warning.
Cora read curiously. She hadn't heard of anything going on here. It said, "due to recent rebellions, some areas of the Kenya province were off limits"
Cora turned to her mother. "Will the safari still be open?"
Her mother looked at her. "I would have been notified if it had closed."
"I'm not sure -" Cora started to say, but she was interrupted by an unusally handsome man with brown hair and a blue suit.
"Welcome to Kenya" he said warmly. "I'm your tour guide."
They left the airport before Cora could finish her sentence.
The African elephants in the safari were in paradise. Troughs full of food were scattered all over their large enclosed territory. They had a large lake in the center, in which a couple were sitting. They all had an air of satisfaction.
Cora stared as the tour guide spoke about the elephants. They looked puny in their idyllic existence, unaware of anything else in the world.
Their small jeep moved forward. There was a smaller territory of zebras, then impala, then hyenas.
The penultimate habitat was small, containing two lions, both male. They had a small grassland with a water corner and a couple of steaks spread out.
To Cora's surprise, the tour guide didn't say anything about the lions. He just skipped over them like the king of the jungle was insignificant.
"That concludes our safari. Feel free to explore the - "
He was cut off by an explosion.
The four looked around wildly. Cora remembered the billboard and crossed her fingers that nothing bad had happened.
The tour guide took out his phone. Cora's family sat there staring, petrified. "The plane was bombed, I'm afraid you'll be stuck here for a while."
Cora took a walk. Her parents were stressed and wanted some quiet. The dry grass was stiff beneath her feet. The safari climate was controlled, so it wasn't hot, but Cora was sweating anyway.
She saw a wooden sign that read "Do Not Pass" in white painted letters. For no reason, she decided to go past it.
It wasn't any different on the other side. Same grass, same fake sun. She followed it, curiosity taking over.
She went on for five minutes. The farther she went, the more jumpy and nervous she became; a person could catch her at any time. She still had an urge to go forward.
After about seven more minutes, she came upon a hill. She saw a figure in the distance, at the bottom of the valley. She lay on the ground quickly.
The figure had a white robe with a hood, but was too short to be an adult. Cora stood back up and came a little closer.
The figure whipped around. To Cora's surprise, it was native, dark-skinned girl. She had never seen someone from another Caste, except on television.
Cora wanted to run away, but she was frozen to the spot. The same seemed to be true of the other girl.
Cora's nervousness slowly abated, resulting in a curious "Hi".
The stranger relaxed her shoulders but was not yet at ease. "Hi", she said reluctantly.
"What are you doing out here?" Cora said, trying to break the ice.
"Walking." the other said.
"What's your name?"
"Maoca. And you?"
"I'm Cora", finally relaxed. "Where are your parents?" Cora asked.
"Dead", Maoca said spitefully.
Cora was taken aback. Based on her age, Maoca's parents couldn't have been that old. "Didn't they take their medication?"
"What medication?' Maoca paused. "AH...another blissfully ignorant first Caste child." she laughed. "Boy, do I have news for you!"
Cora was confused and indignant. "Ignorant?" She had a high tech, first Caste education! But news?
Maoca took out a mangled notepad and scrawled something in cursive. She tore off a piece of yellowed paper and gave it to Cora without a word.
Looking at it, Cora read "noon tomorrow." She started to say "why?" but when she looked up, Maoca was gone.
"Tell me what you know about Castes."
Cora took a deep breath. "In 2045, the Caste Act was signed, dividing the Empire into seven Castes. To prevents racial tensions, races were kept separate, happily unaware - "
"That's the catch", Maoca said
They were back in the desolate field. Maoca wore an intricate cloak made of dusty, stained linen, while Cora had a silk shirt with a blue skirt. The difference between the two girls was obvious.
"Unaware. What proof do you have of the other Castes' lives?" Maoca said.
For once, Cora didn't have an answer. "TV?"
Maoca laughed. "The propaganda filled government regulated TV programming? The truth is, only the first Caste has the life you have. Sixth Caste: bad food, scraps of clothing, disease-causing drugs." She shuddered "I'd hate to see Caste seven."
It had been seven days since the plane was sabotaged. Cora and her parents went on a different safari, but she didn't pay attention. All she could think of was the first one - isolated, happy elephants and overlooked lions, waiting to pounce. This time, Maoca came to her in a snack room.
Cora looked around. "Aren't you worried about the cameras?"
Maoca smiled. "Taken care of.”
They sat at a clean white table. "Let's get down to business, shall we?"
Maoca started with Cora’s specialty. “Do you remember what the Empire was called at its creation?”
Cora said confidently, “The Second Rome.”
“And what happened to Rome?”
Cora began to see where this was going, and she didn’t like it. “It came apart from the inside.”
Maoca put her hands down on the table. “No further ado. I am the daughter of Confu Ceta, leader of the anti-Imperialist society." Cora gasped. Maoca continued, "I bombed the plane to keep you here".
There was a long pause
"I have a proposition for you. Having seen both sides of the story, will you join us?"
Cora stared at her blankly. "Your parents are close friends of Vincent II. You could get close enough to kill him."
Cora looked out towards the safari. Elephants and lions
She chose lions.
Vincent Starr II was poisoned on May 11, 2064, the same day Imperial facilities on every continent were sieged. They all surrendered. The world was restored to its former structure of countries, and the Imperial regime began to fade from memory.
The year was 2082. 30-year old Cora was sitting in her large house in New Minneapolis. She sat on her bed looking out of a window. The setting summer sun shone on the luxurious carpet. As she looked out, she could almost feel the sunlight.
But that wasn't enough. Cora stood up, walked over, and threw the window open exposing her room to the cool breeze.
Now, she could actually feel the sun.
And she was satisfied.