In breaking news, Global Command has today named former President of the United States, Ezeudo Ezenwa, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Highly regarded for his capability in overseeing the timely completion of Global Command's Alpha and Omega cities in 2048, and the selection and migration of its fifty million residents into its safe harbour, former President Ezenwa is deemed more than capable of ensuring the society we now inhabit continues to thrive and—
'Hey I was watching that!' I say, turning around, indignant, to see who turned off the wall screen. A view of the Canadian tundra replaces the news, layers of smooth undulating rock coats the furred, marshy flatlands. In the distance, a lake glistens in the pristine sunrise, from its shore several herons take flight. Orange-pink light filters through the window, bathing the living room in a soft, warm glow.
'You already know all this,' my father smiles as he moves around the sofa to join me. 'I told you last night at dinner.'
'Yes, but,' I shrug, and glance back at the wall screen longingly, 'I like to see it. It makes me proud, you know, to be your son. I mean,' I continue, racing to get the words out quick before my father stops me, 'you were our first real African-American president, the son of Nigerian immigrants, and were voted in twice, and now you get to be the Secretary-General of the UN. It just goes to show—'
'It goes to show what?' my father asks, soft, a hint of rebuke in his dark eyes. 'We are all the same, in here,' he touches his fingertips to his head, then over his heart, 'and here. It just happened to take a very long time for a certain group of people to understand what the rest of us have known all along.'
'Yeah,' I roll my eyes, 'and then they left you their mess to clean up.'
My father smiles again, placid, literally nothing fazes him. He's—what's the word I learned at school just the other day? Oh yeah. Indomitable. I wish I were more like him, but I'm not. According to my father, I take after my mother: full of ideals, powerful emotions, driven by a deep sense of justice. I wish for the billionth time I could have known her. She would have understood me, and not just smiled, like my father. She would have let me watch the news, I'm sure of it.
My father checks his watch. He's wearing his vintage Rolex, the Zephyr Oyster Perpetual 6582 that's going to be one hundred years old in four years' time. I eye it, admiring the creamy surface of the watch's face, with just gold dots to mark the hours. It's elegant, just like my father. Even the way he moves is graceful and relaxing to watch - like the water that flows along the pebbled brook in the school's cafeteria. I know I'm not elegant and probably never will be. I would rather play sports and run around outside than sit in school and learn stuff. But I try cause it makes Dad happy.
The Rolex was a wedding gift from my mother. It had belonged to her father, and then his father before him. Dad told me he intends to give it to me on my twenty-fifth birthday. I sigh, desolate. Fourteen more years to go. It feels like forever. Why does it have to take so long to grow up?
'Aren't you going to be late for school?' my father asks. 'It's just gone seven-thirty. The monorail won't wait for you.' He stands and holds out his hand. 'I have a little time before my first meeting, let's walk together and you can tell me all about your favorite subject.'
'The only thing that matters is soccer,' I say. I'm not kidding. It's true.
'Ah,' my fathers nods, 'that is without question an important pursuit, but tell me son, I'm curious what have you been taught about regarding recent history. You were too young to remember any of the things that led up to us living here, so what is your teacher telling you?' He opens the door. I follow him out into the warm February sunshine. Even this early in the morning, it's already warm. I decide to leave my jacket behind and follow my father down the pavement past the other homes towards the monorail stop.
'Well,' I begin, screwing up one eye, looking up, idly searching for the blue shimmers which occasionally ripple across the massive, clear dome over Alpha VI—the most I have seen in one day was five, I would love to break my record. 'Ms Banjupantham said something about how, a really long time ago, like, I dunno, twenty-five years ago?' I look up, feeling uncertain, realising way too late, distracted by trying to break my shimmer record I've swum into dangerous waters. But my father nods, soft, and urges me to continue.
'Well,' I go on, cautious, dropping my attention to my sneakers, where there are no distractions, 'there was this president, and he made bad choices which made the problems in the world worse, right? And somehow even though he was bad at his job—not like you—he still got to be the president twice . . . so things got even worse, like for the animals, and the trees, and like, even here,' I wave my arm around encompassing the neat cul-de-sac with its garden and lily pond, 'where it's supposed to be frozen, like totally, miles deep according to Ms Banjupantham. So like, the polar bears died cause the ice melted, and there were no rain forests left cause people wanted to make money, and anyway he said what the scientists said about the polar bears dying cause of what the people were doing to the trees was a lie. He said people could do whatever they wanted to the planet, and it would be ok, and—oh look!'
A pair of jewelled dragonflies no more than an arms' length away hover before me, just watching me with their big eyes. I can't help myself, I lift my hand, hoping one will land on it, but no luck. They dart off to the garden to hover over a tiger lily, then shoot away, quick as anything into the depths of the gardens surrounding the pond.
'Go on,' my father says not looking at the dragonflies. Apart from the muscles of his jaw clenching a couple of times, he looks calm. Indomitable. I wish I were indomitable. I decide not to say the name of the president, even though I know it. The guy who killed Mom had been a supporter of him and didn't like that she used her power as a Supreme Court Justice to punish politicians who stopped everyone from being equal. My heart hurts a little, so I let out a heavy breath, it helps, a bit. But then, at least none of the dead president's children or relatives were chosen to live in the restriction zone. Now they were with all the other people in the exclusion zone, exactly where they belonged—with the people who didn't care about Earth, or the animals; who had called the scientists liars, scientists who, it turned out, had been right all along.
'Well he was wrong about everything,' I say as we approach the stop, several other kids are waiting there, a couple wave at me. I wave back. 'Ms Banjupantham said he was probably one of the most dangerous people in history because right when he had the power to make things better, he didn't. He just wanted to make money for himself and his rich friends, and too bad for Earth and the people. And then,' I can hear myself starting to talk fast again. I try to slow down but I can't cause this part really annoys me, since it's just so unfair. Dad waits, patient and calm like always and lets me have my rant.
'And then—wait till you hear this—he goes to his rich friends and says, 'Oh maybe it seems like the world isn't going be so good to live in after all, at least not here in America. I say we should build a place where we can go when things get really bad, where we will be safe from the heat and storms, and we can eat baby dolphins.' So he gets together with a bunch of rich people and they start to build a place in Greenland where it's all melted and the polar bears are dead—you know a fancy place, just for them. And then, well, and then, because things were so bad all over, the US military went in and took over the building work, and the government seized the billionaires' money and used it to build all the Alpha and Omega cities in Nunavut and Greenland so it wouldn't just be for a few thousand rich people but for fifty million people from all over the world who are smart, and use science and stuff and want to fix this whole big mess guys like him made.' I lean over the barrier to see if the tram is coming yet. It's not. 'And then you became the president, took over the project, picked all the people, created one army from all the armies of the world called the Global Command Force, and then we moved here, and the bad people stayed behind, and now everything is going to get better. The end.'
My father bites back a smile. 'Baby dolphins?' He lifts a brow. 'Really?'
'Okay,' I admit, although I feel no shame as I look back down the tracks, 'Ms. Banjupantham never said that part. I might have added in a little. I just, you know, wanted to make a point. Anyway, there's no way we can know if he didn't say that.'
'Amadi,' my father says, quiet, 'not all the people who were left in the exclusion zone deserve to be there. Millions of worthy people were left behind, and it's a terrible thing to know I am the one responsible for their fate. You must not think it's as simple as the good guys being here and the bad guys being there. Do not do those people such an injustice. You are better than that.'
His rebuke cuts a swathe through my sass. I glance up at him. The haunted look in his eyes makes me feel terrible. Shame fills me. Me and my big mouth. 'I'm sorry. Really, I didn't mean it, sometimes I just talk without thinking. You're right, it's not that simple and I will do everything I can to learn stuff and make myself worthy of being here. I'll make you proud, I promise.
My father nods, his eyes going to the tram as it glides down the rail towards us, white and silent. 'I know you will, son,' he says, soft. 'I know you will.'
The doors open. I step in and turn around to face him. 'I mean it,' I say as he nods and backs away, having seen me off. A beep starts, warning me the doors will soon close. 'I wanna be a soldier when I grow up,' I call out to him. 'The best soldier ever, with medals all over the place.' The door slides shut. Through the glass window I salute my dad. As the tram pulls away he salutes me back. Crisp, perfect. Like a president. But he's not smiling. He just looks sad.