“The Righteous Stuff” – Chapter 4September 11, 2009
The Righteous Stuff
by Jeffrey D. Waggoner
based on characters and situations in the
“Domination of the Draka” novels written by S.M. Stirling
DELERY HIGH SCHOOL
DELERY’S LANDING, OHIO
Susan Louder paced back and forth across the front of her classroom. It was one of those warm, lazy, Indian-summer days, and the kids in her fourth-period American History class were just counting the minutes until lunchtime. Outside she could see the county courthouse, a squarish structure of native limestone with a red tile roof and a clock tower in the center. Ten minutes more, and she and the kids could, mercifully, go to lunch.
“So what can you tell me about the aftermath of the American Revolution, ladies and gentlemen? Anything at all?” She wasn’t really haughty, just frustrated. She took on this job because her husband, like so many, was in the Pacific fighting the Japanese, and his salary as a limestone quarry supervisor had dropped to that of a Marine Corps sergeant. It had made it extremely difficult for her and little Mikey. She had only two years of teacher training, an accelerated program begun to ease the teacher shortage, so while she knew her subject – it was always a hobby of hers, anyway – she was limited in experience with teenagers and how to respond to them.
The class wiggled in their seats, trying the ages-old teenager technique of avoiding eye contact. Alan Northfield was no better than those around him. It was always hard, trying to learn about ancient stuff and people who lived so long ago. Finally, one student made the mistake of looking up.
“Mister Bailey, what can you tell us? We’ve been trying to make sense of how our own Revolution brought us to our current state of affairs. Do you have anything to add?”
Mark Bailey squirmed a little more, then decided to risk an answer. “Ah…well, um, the British loyalists went to Africa, and now they’re the Draka, and we hate them, but they’re our allies, right?” He slid down in his seat, figuring he came up with as much as the teacher would require of him that day.
He was wrong about that, of course. “Well, Mister Bailey, you’re right, of course, but that was sort of an abbreviated version, don’t you think?” She fixed her gaze on him, not letting him get away with so little today. “How about this, instead: why do we ‘hate the Draka’ today?”
Bailey brightened. This was one he understood, and could answer. “Slavery! We hate slavery, and they keep slaves, er…serfs, whatever they call them.”
“That’s one reason, certainly. Once President Douglas freed the last of the slaves here on this continent, we became a mostly slave-free country. And of course the Draka is an entire economy, an entire philosophy, based on slavery. When were the last slaves freed in the United States, though? Does anyone know?” She looked around the room, but saw not only no raised hands, but not even a glimmer of recognition. Like students had for millennia, they sensed a trap, and they were unwilling to be led into it.
“Well, no reason you should know this, I suppose, “ she said with resignation. “You only know what’s in your books, and this little fact was somehow left out. The last of the slaves became free in Cuba, in 1901, almost ten years after it became the forty-sixth state.”
The students looked up, most looking more interested. She pressed onward. “That’s right. There were still plantations in Cuba, left from colonial days, which had slaves that had lived there for generations. Some of the plantation owners were very influential in the government, and managed to negotiate a sort of a compromise. By the end of the ten-year grace period, eighteen slaves remained, total, and were freed. It wasn’t widely known, and the government certainly didn’t make much of it…they were so happy to gain Cuba’s statehood, instead of making it a protectorate, like Haiti or Puerto Rico, that they went along with it.”
Mark Bailey raised his hand. “So the government was willing to ignore a constitutional amendment, just to add a state? Isn’t that illegal?”
“If not exactly illegal, it was at least at odds with what we were telling the world, for certain.” Louder gestured at a map of the western hemisphere pinned to the chalkboard. “Still, Cuba was a rich prize. It has a strategic location, and was already a well-developed resort location for the well-to-do…sort of a South Bass Island for the very rich.” That brought on a ripple of chuckles from the class. “Today, it’s called the ‘Marseilles of the Caribbean;’ I’m afraid in another generation no one will understand that reference, if the Draka solve the problems in Europe the way I expect they will.”
A boy in the back growled, “They’ll gobble it up, and enslave everyone. I know they will. They’ve been looking for a reason for years.”
The teacher nodded. “That’s the commonly-held belief. I wish I could tell you differently. But which is worse, the Archon or Hitler? No one seems to know for sure. We may have made a deal with the devil…we’ve done it before, but this time it could be that we’ve gone too far. Anyway, that’s the dirty little slavery scandal.”
A short dark-haired girl raised her hand. “But Mrs. Louder, how did you find out about all this?”
Susan Louder smiled. “Because I read, children. Because I read more than I’m required to. Sometimes you learn the most interesting things that way. And because of that…” – groans were heard throughout the room – “…you can begin working on the first draft of your papers on the Revolution. I’d like to see them tomorrow. Now let’s go to lunch.”