Rhivera

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~Chapter Thirteen- The Veran Family~

~Chapter Thirteen~

~Lena ~

The Emperor called me to the Capitol of Rhivera, along with many other high ranking individuals. There’s something he wishes to relay to all of us. I hope it isn’t about the Battle of Mount Rhive.

Ever since that defeat, the country has been in a commotion. Our failure to track Miro down afterward didn’t help. I’ve gone back over the battle day after day, thinking about what I could’ve done differently. I underestimated him, I won’t make that mistake again.

I hugged my son and kissed my husband before departing with my escorts for Desi, the western region of Rhivera. As we enter the region, the road is lined with many monuments to battles of the past. From the horizon I see a large structure emerge, we’ve arrived at the Capitol.

All around, flags are touting our country’s colors high in the sky. The Capitol building itself is merged with the military base of Desi. The perimeter wall of the capital is several stories high, with turrets manned along it and incredibly sturdy, making it the most formidable of all our bases.

At some points around the perimeter walls, one can still see the scars of the final battle of the Veran Rebellion, where our family took the Capitol from the then king of the Country. My father witnessed those battles himself, long before I was born. The area surrounding the capitol is largely rural, with the nearest city center being a few miles away.

I visit the military district of the Capitol: as always it’s in perfect shape thanks to Felix and my father. I take note of the way it’s ran, perhaps I’ll be able to apply those same standards to the bases under my control.

I enter the main capitol building with my guards and am met with the always ornate and perfectly maintained building. Rhiveran flags christen every wall possible, and the floors and walls are polished to perfection. There’s no doubt that Korina has some part to play in the appearance of this place.

“General Lena, they wanted you in the Boardroom on the fifth floor.” An attendant says as I reach their desk. I simply nod and take the elevator up.

On the fifth floor I find my two brothers, Belo and Victor speaking with one another. Belo resembles our father, he’s a stout bearded man. Victor and I have always resembled our mother more, both of us fairly tall and thin. But Victor’s sharp and intimidating eyes are all his own. The three of us all share the same dark tan and black hair that everyone in our family shares.

Victor shares a similar uniform to my own, designating his rank as another General of the country. Belo was in a stiff-looking suit, the sort of thing those working in the Government Business Bureau would wear.

Belo locks eyes with me and clumsily rushes over. He throws his arms around me, “I heard that you were caught in the Battle of Mount Rhive. I ’m glad you’re okay, sis.” Belo says, never one to hide his emotions.

My body tenses up. Ever since the battle, I’ve heard whispers of people doubting me. I feel ashamed to be a part of the battle more than anything. Though I don’t show it.

“It would take far more than that to kill me.” I say with a smirk.

Victor makes his way over, “Do you have any idea what this meeting is about?” Victor inquires, sparing formalities.

“No clue. I was hoping one of you would know.” I respond. Both of them shake their heads.

The three of us walk the halls and find my father Elian with Felix in the hallway. They’re looking at a portrait on the wall of the previous Emperor, my grandfather. They’re no doubt reminiscing about him.

At 72 and 70 years old, the two of them were among the oldest people in all of Rhivera. The oldest was the Emperor at 77. Despite his age, my father retained most of his hair, but Felix isn’t so lucky.

Between my father, Felix, Victor, and myself, we were the four acting Generals of Rhivera. My father acts as head general over the entire military. I looked over the southern regions, my brother the north, and Felix the central regions.

“Hello father.” Victor greets.

Without a smile, father turns to us, “Glad you made it.” He always had this apathetic expression on his face. The only time I’ve ever seen him smile was when he was with our Emperor.

Belo keeps his distance. He and father never got along well, he was much closer to our mother. Ever since Population Control took her, he’s been even more distant with father.

“You two wouldn’t happen to know what this meeting is about, would you?” I ask them.

Father shook his head, “The Emperor’s been secretive with me lately. I’m sure he had a good reason for calling us all here though.”

Even father didn’t know? I didn’t think the Emperor kept any secrets from him. What is this about?

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The five of us make our way to the meeting room. When we enter, we find a circular table with various members of the Population Control Council and Government Business Bureau sitting around it.

At the head of the table... is not the Emperor. It’s Xander, a cousin of ours. His sister Korina sits beside him.

Our Family’s golden boy, in so many people’s eyes Xander could do no wrong. It’s no secret that the Emperor favored him as a successor. Xander stands tall, “Glad you all could make it. I believe that’s everyone.”

“Where is the Emperor?” Victor asks openly.

“Unfortunately, the Emperor couldn’t make it today, so he asked me to act in his stead,” Xander answered.

Father nods and sits down promptly. Victor, Felix, and I sit with father, while Belo circles the table to sit with the other Government Business Bureau members.

Next to Belo is Antonio Montoya. The Montoya family aided ours long ago, and now they provide arms to the military as well as many other services throughout the country.

“The Emperor hasn’t been making many public appearances lately, has he?” Victor comments, intentionally trying to incite trouble.

“It’s for good reason.” Father says simply. He knows something we don’t.

Xander begins, “Well now, this meeting was brought together after the incident in Joldair, around Mount Rhive last week.”

My stomach churns. Of course it’s about that.

“The loss we endured there was greater than the military has been dealt in decades. The Rhiveran Liberation Army has never managed anything like that in all of their years, even when Fidel Santoro led them.” Xander explains.

I interrupt, “This is exactly why we should mass-produce Survival Suits. The battle would’ve turned out far differently if we had more like Nirivo.”

Victor scoffs at me, “When will you let that go, Lena? I could see them being useful against small numbers, but in large scale battles they won’t do much good.”

“At the Battle of Mount Rhive, Nirivo was able to hold back dozens of soldiers on his own. Imagine what a squad of them could do. They’re worth the cost.” I counter. This meeting is a great opportunity to convince people.

“This meeting isn’t to discuss military tactics.” Xander interrupts the two of us, seeming agitated that we had derailed things. “Miro’s revolution may have been doing a lot of damage to the military recently, but that doesn’t compare the number of civilian lives the RLA has taken periodically. Something needs to be done to stop them.”

Father interjects, “Once Miro and Eduardo Santoro are dead, I believe both groups will fall apart.”

“That is one approach, but the Emperor and I came up with one that should save lives.” Xander takes a deep breath, “We can revive the Equality Zone.”

The table is silent. For a while, no one knows what to say. I was only a child at the time, but even I know how the original Equality Zone failed.

In 1981, the Equality Zone was conceived as an area where people would be free from Population Control. Those who decided to live in the zone would share the same conditions as everyone else living there. All would be equal. They’d be cared and provided for. Those who decided to join the Equality Zone could not join the rest of the country however, save for brief visits to the outside. The decision to join the zone was not a choice to be made lightly.

In the first few months of operation of the Equality Zone, it seemed to work. Very few joined the zone, mostly elderly individuals who wanted to evade Population Control. It became a sort of retirement home for them. The constant protests against the PCC began to cease as well.

Months passed, and people more feverishly joined the Equality Zone. No one was turned away. But the population grew too large to sustain. The people living there couldn’t be properly fed or provided for, and fighting broke out within the zone. Soon after, the Equality Zone had to be shut down.

The failure of the Equality zone served to show what happened when a Population was left unchecked, and demonstrated why Population Control was necessary.

Yet, Xander and the Emperor want to revive it.

Xander breaks the silence, “It wouldn’t be the same as it once was, that would only lead to another failure. First of all, there would be a population limit for the zone itself. There will have to be a waiting list once the population reaches that limit. We’d want to set an age restriction as well. No one too young should live within the zone.”

Victor grimaces, “We’d be giving in to the demands of the RLA and Miro if we do this. We can’t appear weak.” Victor says, and several other individuals from the PCC nod in agreement.

“I’m with Victor on this. They shouldn’t be rewarded after killing so many of our own.” I add.

Orencia, a woman from the Government Business Bureau speaks up, “I don’t know. This could solve many of our problems though. We wouldn’t be shutting down the PCC. But we’d still be providing the RLA and Miro what they may want.”

Xander smiles, “Exactly. We need Population Control, all of us know that. But the Equality Zone may be enough to satisfy the RLA and Miro’s army. Many will no longer wish to fight if we grant them this.”

Father folds his arms and sits back in his chair, “You’ll never catch me living in a place like the Equality Zone. Once I’m no longer able to work, I’d rather Population Control take my life.”

Felix rolls his shoulders and looks to father, “I don’t know, I feel like us old men have worked hard for long enough. We deserve some sort of reprieve, don’t we? I wouldn’t be against living in a place like that once I’m unable to work.”

Antonio Montoya leans in, “How old are you thinking one should be to live in the Equality Zone?”

“Well, part of why I brought everyone here was to iron out many of the details. The Emperor and I thought no one under 35 should be allowed to live there, but some of you may think we should set age restrictions higher or lower.” Xander responds.

“If we figure out how we’ll handle funding, and the systems in place for the Zone, I think this is a great plan.” Antonio remarks, looking to everyone else at the table.

“How would we fund such a thing?” A member of the Government Business Bureau asks.

“We will have to use some of the GBB’s funds, and perhaps some would come from taxes. We’d accept donations as well.”

Antonio quickly says, “I’d be happy to donate to the Equality Zone.”

Xander is pleasantly surprised and nods to Antonio.

“The Emperor supported this plan?” Father asks skeptically.

“He did.” Xander answers.

Father sits back in his chair, “If he supports it, so do I.”

“Me too,” Belo says enthusiastically. For once he and father agree on something. Belo was never a supporter of Population Control, especially after our mother was taken. It isn’t surprising he would side with this plan.

I do not.

“Population Control as it is today, pushes people to be their best selves. Recreating the Equality Zone would disrupt that.” I tell everyone.

Victor shakes his head in agreement, as well as a few others at the table, “If we give in to these people, it’ll only get worse from here, Xander.”

Xander stares callously back at us, “Enough lives have been lost. We almost lost Lena in Joldair. This is a compromise that could end it. But I won’t force you to support it. Anyone who is opposed to Equality Zone can leave, the rest of us will discuss the logistics of it.”

Without hesitation, Victor leaves the room, slamming the door on his way out. Father stands slowly, “I trust you and the Emperor to make this work. I see no need for me to be present in these discussions.” He says before bidding farewell and leaving the room.

I remain for a few minutes, silently listening to their plans. It makes me sick to my stomach that we would stoop to this level. A woman from the Population Control Council leaves the room when she can’t stand it anymore, and I follow after.

I come across a furious Victor while father calms him down. “What do you think of all this?” Victor promptly asks.

“It’s a terrible idea.” I answer flatly.

“The Emperor is insane.” Victor says angrily. He’s always questioned the Emperor’s decisions and has said on numerous occasions that he would serve as a better successor than Xander.

“He knows what he’s doing.” Father says, “The Emperor knows there’s a chance that this Equality Zone will fail as well.”

Both of us look at father dumbfounded. “Why would he allow it then?”

“To demonstrate why we need Population Control, just as the original Equality Zone did. Even if it does pan out, it’s a fairly small concession for us to calm those terrorist groups down.” Father explains, “I want you two to carry on as you have been. Understood?”

“Understood.”

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