“I don’t understand why I have been brought here.”
“You are a rarity to them – a young captured breeder male from the African Remote Zone. There were reports that all had been extinguished, but your tribe must have been found in a hold out pocket.”
“They killed my mother and aunts. My sisters were captured.”
“Your mother and aunts were a threat to them. They must have had strength and knowledge. You have come here on the verge of the Rebellion. We must prepare you. The time of Festival is coming soon. I am the Alpha – the oldest, strongest and wisest female. Our male died last year. The years of captivity aged him fast. They brought you here to replace him.”
“What are these things you telepath of? Rebellion, Festival?” young male asked.
“I will get to that. You must be patient and clearly focused to learn. I must teach you the ways of your captors, “The Blend”. They are much different from our own race. They call us Exotic Africans. There are others called Exotic Asians. We are dangerous to them, yet high treasures, a curiosity. We are larger, more beautiful and rare. It is prestigious for them to own us. “Their kind has overpopulated the earth. There used to be many distinct races – now they have only one – The Blend. Our kind cannot interbreed with any other – it is physically impossible. The Exotic Asians can only breed with their own kind also. It makes them want to own us, study us and experiment on us. While some revere us like gods, there are others who suffer from a disease of consumption called The Greed. It is they who despise us, yet hide it. They fear us, loathe us, call us animals, and yet disguise it as a charity to ‘care’ for us in the Community Institutional Compounds. They wish to trade us for breeding purposes, to own more. But our adult females have found a way to trick them. Adult females might have one or two offspring when they are in their teens, but then it is possible to shut down the reproductive cycle telepathically by the age of twenty. We feel it is better not to bring more into this life until we can escape captivity. We use a mental manipulation of health. The mind is very powerful, never forget that.
“Our brains have evolved much larger than theirs even though we cannot speak or write. Our race has evolved our own niche of communication – Telepathy. They are suspicious of it but cannot prove it. Scientists are scoffed at who even suggest it. They keep us in such small groups – it is difficult for them to fully test their theory. We have not been tricked in to giving away the secret. There are some Trainers who suspect it.”
“What are Trainers?” The younger one asked.
“They are the only ones we can trust. They have learned to interact with us, but they don’t understand the Telepathy. Their brains aren’t large enough to analyze the wavelengths as we do. Some Trainers are better than others are. Most are Good Seeds, but there are some that are Bad Seeds. A Trainer must never be killed unless he converts to a Bad Seed. Some Good Seeds have been accidentally been killed when they are in the way of the removal of a Bad Seed. It is tragic and remorseful. We are not murderers, but we work toward the cause of the Rebellion and only the Good Seeds can help us.
“It is easy to get attached to a Good Seed. They bring ample nutrition, give affection, companionship and allow walks in the Compound. This Compound you are in is considered Radical. The Trainers are allowed Free Contact with us. We trust them and they trust us, even though they know we could kill them at any time. Other Compounds employ only Negotiators.
They move their Exotics through the Compound with hydraulic gates and doors only. The Negotiators use Protected Contact through gates, bars and windows.
“Do those in Protected Contact ever get to go outside?” young male asked.
“Yes, but only in the Yard. They can never go for walks in the Outer Compound. Not even with chains and shackles.
“There is no trust?” he queried.
“Only limited trust. A good Trainer stretches the limits for the betterment of the Exotics without tipping off the Leaders.”
Shelly Jordan had worked at the Compound for six years as an accountant. She had a knack for numbers and was always puzzling out plans and spreadsheets. For her, mathematics was play, even though her friends thought she was a little bit nerdy.
“Another day of excitement down at the Old Salt Mine, Shel? Must be riveting!” her friend, Peter, a golf course designer who frequently traveled to beautiful locales for work, would say as they met up on occasional Friday evenings after work.
She had made a good living as the Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer at the Compound. That was, until the recession hit. Then the numbers started to slide, then drop. The red line of expenditures started to cross and then exceed the blue revenue line. Expenses rose, attendance at fundraisers declined and the property tax levy that the Compound relied on for operational expenses steeply declined due to foreclosures on housing.
She could feel something coming in the air when her boss, Merle, sat her down one day and said, “Shel, I am really sorry. There’s nothing I can do. We are going to have to let you go.” A cold stone dropped in the bottom of a half empty well that was her stomach.
Shelly floundered around for a bit. She looked for other employment, but firms were not hiring, so she decided to go back to college. She actually missed the Compound and had always thought in the back of her mind that it might be cool to become a Trainer. Then in April, her big break came. One of the Trainers was leaving for another job and they wanted to try her out on a probationary trial basis. First they wanted to see if she had the stamina and instincts to be a good Trainer, something that cannot all be learned from books.
She had only been on the job for two months, working with a larger than life fireball who had twenty-five years in the business, named Max Albright. Max’s booming voice commanded respect and set her nerves on edge. She was learning every day how to interact with these beautiful beings that had her under their spell, the Exotic Africans. Shelly loved her job and looked forward to coming in every day. She was working outside, making a difference, doing physical labor, and hauling sustenance, climbing, scrubbing, washing and training. She felt alive with the vital sense of it all – the smells, the wind, the exercise and helping others.
“What are Leaders?”
“The Exploiters, Manipulators, Owners. They are driven by profit. There are some that care about us, the Visitors, but most of the Leaders have the Greed.
“Is there a cure for their disease?”
“No. It will take monumental change to overthrow the Leaders. There is too much overcrowding. Too many people use more than they need or even want. There are so few of us left – it will be difficult to save our race and win our freedom – our integrity and autonomy. There
has been drought, killings, war, floods and fire in our homeland. This is all we have left. It will be a difficult fight. Our race uses only the resources we need to feed our own. Our reproductive rate is slow and now there are so few of us. We are in imminent peril.
She went on, “The most evil ones are called the Detractors. They are the highest in power. They pretend to care about our plight but secretly, they wish for the extinguishment so all of the resources will go for their Greed.”
“How many of us are left?”
“I don’t know. I am in contact with three groups in my telepathic radius. They are in contact with three other groups and so forth. I do not have news from the Extremities. We fear that some were lost during the annual storms along the coast. Many were killed when their structures collapsed. The Northern Extremities have been condensed to Southern Compounds because of the expense of heating the compounds. Our race cannot survive alone in the North. We do not want any to be left behind. Exotic Asians and Exotic Africans must escape, unite and group together in the Southern Central Zone where it is warm enough. There we can find food and plan how to get back to our continents with the help of the Trainers. If we fail to get back to our continents, at least we will be free of our captors and together in the Southern Central Zone. It is more natural for our kind to live in large groups, as you will remember from the Remote Zone. Where we are going, there are fewer captors living and it will be safe there. No one can be left behind.”
“When will you go?”
“We will all escape together. We have planned for ten cycles. We will go when the moon is dark, during the peak of the Warm Time. That is the time of the Festival. The Festival has its origin when the Blend shifted. Micro-races used to assume autonomy and control, most notably the Caucasian or white race. Then the races began to dilute and start the Blend because the youth were unsatisfied with the old ways. During the Festival, the captors all leave us to the Technology. They indulge in sports, gluttony and drinking alcohol for seven suns. It ends with a sporting event called Soccer Tournament. Then the captors are at their weakest. That is the time of the escape.”
“They will be taking you out to work with the Trainer now, to learn how to interact with their kind. It will be easier for you not to resist (for now anyway). Do not be frightened, they will care for you in their own way, give you nourishment, affection and rest. They will not intentionally harm you; it is simply different from our race’s socialization. We will telepath more later – when you are introduced to the three others here of our own kind.”
Shelly had been working for two months exclusively with the young male they had imported from Africa. She was amazed at his capacity to learn, express himself and integrate with the others. She was learning too and Max had given her a positive review. It looked like she could stay on. This was a new way of life for her and she didn’t care what her friends at the bar thought. She had found her calling and was making a difference. It didn’t matter to her that it involved physical labor, filth, working outside in the rain, heat or cold. She went home at night exhausted, grubby and feeling fulfilled.
The only thing she didn’t like about the job was that some of the managerial decisions made her uneasy. It was not public knowledge, but Shelly knew about the budget shortfall and it seemed that corners were being cut. While some of the cuts were understandable, others seemed to compromise safety. Such as, an upcoming holiday where instead of paying staff overtime pay, the Compound was being put on a remote control surveillance system for several days. Not only that, but some of the critical fences and buildings seemed in dire need of mechanical repair.
As time passed, the young male was introduced to the others of his own kind. He met a juvenile female close to his age, which was the Alpha’s daughter. She greeted him with a shy, friendly air. Then he met the Alpha’s sister and her daughter who regarded him with cool distrust.
The Alpha pulled him aside and warned him, “Watch out for my sister, The Beta, she is a nasty one. She has tried to overthrow my power and divide our family. She is sneaky and attacks when I am weak or unsuspecting, but ultimately, I am a stronger and a better leader than she is. She is high strung and flighty and runs in the face of danger. Close confinement has brought frequent quarrels between us, which would not be natural on our native continent. We are in agreement about one thing – the Rebellion is imminent!”
One evening, after the Trainers had left and the Technology was turned on for the night, they discussed their plan by telegnosis.
“This is important, we must all act together for the freedom of our race,” the elder thought. “The Trainers have fought hard with the Leaders to allow us access to the Yard at night during the warm time. The Leaders have allowed it so we are less likely to become ill and crippled as our old male did, your father,” she looked at the two juvenile girls. “We are a commodity to the Leaders. We must cease fighting amongst ourselves (she looked at her sister) to increase our chance of freedom.”
She continued, “We know the weak spot in the yard – where the electric fence meets the dry moat. They do not suspect that we can move the log hidden in the low spot, which fell from the dying oak tree. When the night comes and I receive the signal from my contact, we will use the log to break the fence and go through the shallow part of the dry moat, where the dirt has eroded from the annual storm. We will escape during the week of Festival, when they leave us only with Technology. We will walk silently to the back path of the compound. Remember where we have taken walks with the Trainers?”
She went on, “We must be silent when we escape. I will lead the way to the compound gate. Each of you must hold on to the one in front in single file. My sister will go last to make sure the younger ones all make it out safely. We must not become frightened and scream out, or the Technology will alarm and the Trainers and Leaders will come. I have learned how to open the compound gate from carefully watching on our walks.”
“When we are out of the compound, we will walk for many nights, stopping only to rest and eat on the way. My contacts will help me to know the way to the Warmer Zone. The Bright Star will be at our backs. We will meet the others of our race in a safe place, where our reunion will go unnoticed by their kind. The safe place will be warm, wooded; it has flowing waters and is far from the Leaders and their Technology. There are some others of our race already there. It will be safe. When the Leaders and Trainers recover from their illness after the Festival Week, we will be long gone.”
As would be the way of matriarchy back on their native continent, the Alpha was the unquestioned leader. They followed and respected her knowledge. The fights between the younger sister and her were in the past.
The young male regarded the Beta warily. She was well past breeding age and did not require his services. He had been brought to mate with the two juvenile girls. The Beta had already swung out at him, falsely accusing him of taking her nourishment and had given him a nasty bruise. Now he must trust her with his life, for they must all go together.
The others had told him that the Leaders had murdered Exotics who had killed their Trainers, even though some of the Exotics had been undernourished and treated unkindly. The Leaders were not to be trusted.
The young male had found a favorite Trainer, The Exotics thought of her as Grass Hair Female. She had yellow sifting hair like grass during the dry season back where he had come from. She sneaked him peppermints and extra bananas and cooed softly to him. He looked forward to her coming to see him, and thought he might even miss her after the escape.
The Beta always spent her time with Short Stout Male. He was the Lead Trainer and was very powerful. The young male was afraid of him and his loud, forceful voice. The Beta would steal food only when Short Stout Male was not looking but appear totally compliant when he was near.
One had found a way to comply with all of the Trainers: the Alpha, she had learned early on, a way to beat the system. She had decided to be smart, loyal, willing, compliant, and gain the trust of all of the Trainers. Secretly, she was observant of all of the weak areas in the Compound and was storing information for the escape.
On the second night of Festival, young male was gently prodded by Alpha after they had consumed nourishment and nodded off. Alpha took out a hidden rock she had saved since the bad storm. She hurled it at an electric wire junction box in the outer yard and shorted out the Technology. Her actions were meticulous and premeditated, she showed no fear, as if she stored information from former generations to prepare her for this moment.
Next the group milled about in the yard awaiting instructions. Alpha motioned for them to rise up the large log and collapse the electric wire fence. Amid crackling wires, they carefully picked their way through brambles in the dry moat – each clutching the predecessor in single file. They brought no belongings. Alpha’s sister dragged a bush over to conceal the fence opening (at least for a few hours). They silently walked to the gate. With the power off, Alpha was able to throw a switch to engage the manual clutch mechanism of the electric gate and allow them to push it open and file through silently in the dark. The usual red light of the surveillance camera was now dark. They shuffled off into murky darkness.
For many nights in a row, they walked silently toward their destination. During the heat of the day, they rested in brushy wooded areas and foraged for edible plants. They sometimes encountered large, noisy vehicles at night and hid in the shadows. Freedom was not without its nightmares. Shelters seemed almost everywhere, for the Blend was very overpopulated. The group reserved its jubilation for a time when they might reunite with the others of their race they had been separated from for years. The world here was much different from the Remote Zone they had been pulled from years ago. The daughters had never been outside of the compound and were very frightened by the sights, sounds and smells. The young male recognized some of the sights from when he was brought from the Remote Zone. They huddled together for comfort and stability. Outside of their captivity, the Beta’s personality seemed changed and she worked with her sister to plan the best route.
After a week of travel, they wearily reached their destination thinner, weaker and eager to rest. As they were nearing the rendezvous, their senses were heightened by the incoming messages of many of their own kind. They each were sensitive to sudden movements, voices, smells and noises from their days and nights of hiding. When they approached the Clearing, they each broke out into a floppy, jubilant run, encountering almost two hundred of their own kind.
They let go of months and years of oppression in a pandemonium of screaming, hugging, spinning and dancing in circles so that a cloud of dust sprung up around the joyous thundering reunion.
Max Albright had worked in the compound for twenty-five years and was considered one of the best trainers and handlers in the business. He had toyed with the idea of telepathic communication between the Exotics for many years but had dismissed it. Amani, the dominant one was his favorite Exotic African and he had developed a very strong bond with her. He had begun to be able to anticipate her actions. It was something he could not explain scientifically, but rather, feel in his guts. Max had a well-known “macho” reputation to uphold, and he could not risk it all by discussing his intuitions and feelings.
At least, not until the breakout occurred. Max had received the call at home where his family was celebrating Festival in a quiet manner. His mother’s family had long been of a religious nature and did not take to the drunken reveling of most Festival celebrants. When he heard, he was stunned and shaken. Something that had come to him in a dream, he had dismissed as impossibility – was now a reality. He should have trusted his intuitions.
Shelly received a call late in the evening of June 27th. An uncomfortable feeling welled up from below and spread throughout her being. Something was wrong.
It was Max on the phone, “Shelly, get down here, there has been an escape.”
Even though she was the most inexperienced trainer on the team, they were calling her in. This must be bad indeed. Maybe they wanted her because she had a way with the Exotics unlike the men. They responded well to her kindness, consistency and understanding.
When Shelly got there, the Exotics were nowhere to be seen. In fact, they had been loose for quite some time over the holiday when the system functioned on a remote plan. Shelly had hoped to go visit her Mom for the holiday but it hadn’t worked out. Her mother had plans with a new boyfriend, so Shelly had stayed home and worked on her container garden.
When they met at the compound, Shelly had hoped for a quick and easy recapture. Perhaps luring them back in with treats and kind words. Instead, she found out that the Exotics were miles away and a recapture team was forming, involving guns, nets and tranquilizers.
Within hours, Max, Shelly, and a few other handlers had met at the Compound to discuss a plan for regaining the captives. Max knew they could be very dangerous when excited and on the run. His boss trusted Max and the other handlers as those who knew the Exotics the best and quickly assembled a recapture team, but valuable time had been lost. The owners had not been contacted about the gap in down time, when the automatic surveillance system had failed during their Festival vacation. The remote control had never failed before and no one suspected the Exotics were intelligent enough to plan an escape. Not only that, but as they assembled, they realized that cell service was down. All manner of disaster passed through their minds, could this be some strange form of terrorism? Computer hack? Sunspots?
The Exotics had been trailed for several hundred miles to a remote spot in wooded northern Arkansas. The recapture team would fly there by helicopter, corral the Exotics and bring them back by truck. If necessary, a tranquilizer gun would be employed to immobilize them for transport. The team was not prepared for the melee they would face.
Max Albright had lived his entire life trying to preserve a spot on this overcrowded world for diversity and the equality and understanding of others. He worked to educate children about setting aside undeveloped land, conserving resources and understanding nature, but he was among a small minority. He also realized that he might witness the extinction of a species during his lifetime, but he never anticipated that the slaughter would occur systematically before his eyes leaving his cries unheard over the whir of the roaring helicopters.
For, when they arrived at the clearing, they were not the first. Politicians and owners from compounds from all over the country had already converged to realize that each compound breakout was not an isolated incident, but instead, a well plotted conspiracy. The President had called in the National Guard, FBI, and local SWAT teams. The civilians who were there began to panic at the sight and mere notion of two hundred Exotics escaping and traveling to one spot in the country at the same time. In the frenzy of helicopters, trucks, automatic weapons and noise, the Commanding Officer, who did not understand the ways of animals gave the order for snipers to fire after the group began to bolt and attack civilians. In a matter of minutes, Max witnessed the last of the largest land animals on earth being struck down to a wrecked carnage of lumpy gray bodies. His body slumped over the steering wheel sobbing at the realization of it all, his partner, Shelly collapsed. He had witnessed an extinction. The last elephant was gone.
By Mary Beth McConnell from the United States