Vaughn and Vance
“The year is 2020,” Ethan starts “and life isn’t bad. None of you were alive then, and contrary to what my appearance may suggest, not even I am old enough to have been born then." He laughed good-naturedly while a few of our female members swooned.
"There is still much about the time that we do not know, but from what we've deduced so far, it was an amazing time to live in.” He began pacing again, showing us that he was thinking. “Who can tell me about 2020?” We were a little more eager to put up our hands. Ethan gestured to someone on the fifth row. She had red hair – a rarity. “In my class, when you answer a question you first state your name then answer the question.” The red head nodded.
“My name is Dreamer.” She had an incredibly low voice for a female. “The year 2020 is known as the second ‘Roaring Twenties.’ We believe that it is refers to a time exactly 100 years before that.”
“Yes!” Ethan said. “For the majority of the population, life was good back then. People laughed, drank and partied. People had money, and families to spend it on. Dreamer, do you know how many people there were back then?”
“My parents told me that there are estimates of there being just under seven and a half billion people on earth during the twenties.”
“Your parents are well informed.” Ethan walked right to the centre of the stage, looking at everyone with a smile and awe on his face. “Or course, those are only estimates. There's no way we can verify those numbers now, but... Isn’t that amazing?”
“That’s crazy,” someone said in the front row.
“Must’ve been crowd-”
“How’d they-?” The hall filled with murmurs and whispers. We were trying to comprehend what that would be like. To have seven and a half billion people on Earth. It was an alien concept to us.
Ethan watched impassively from the stage. He didn’t seem perturbed at all by the sudden outburst of silent conversations. He still had the smile. It was almost as if he wanted us to react this way. He waited a few more moments before he put a hand up. The whispering died as abruptly as it started, like a summer squall.
“I know. It’s a hard thing to imagine. But that’s how it was back then. That’s not the only thing either. The majority of the population had ready access to food, healthcare and a basic education. I like to call it The Privileged Generation. I call them that mainly because they had access to those three, but also because of the toys. They had fast, comfortable cars, thousands of planes flying everyday, mobile phone- MOBILE. PHONES.” Ethan burst out the last two words to emphasize his point. “They had themeverywhere. Long distance communication was abundant, convenient and largely taken for granted. Even information came to them quickly.” We were quickly scribbling everything down. “Essentially, life was great.
But people were concerned. They were afraid history was going to repeat itself and we were going to have another Great Depression. People were having doubts about how long this perceived prosperity could last. They were right of course – what comes up must come down. Does anyone know what happened in 2020?”
He looked around the room. None of us had a hand up. Only a hollow silence answered his question. He sighed.
“Has anyone ever heard of Alvaro Vaughn and Nathanial Vance? That sent an immediate reaction from us.
“Of course we have!” One of us shouted. A girl. And she was very angry. “They’re monsters!”
“They ruined everything!”
“They killed them. All of them!”
“How could we not know-” We broke off into whispers and murmurs again. Except this time it was angrier. Ethan stared hard at us before he put up his hand. It was the second time he silenced us with just a gesture.
“Of course you know them. I’m sure that all of you detest them. I understand your anger and your hate. We’re the ones that drilled it into you.”
Vaughn and Vance, they’re known all around the world. Or what’s left of it. Their names were said with loathing. We were almost like a religious cult, except instead of worshipping them we’ve dedicated our lives to despising them. Since we were kids, we heard stories of how their actions destroyed our world, stories of betrayal, murder and torture. But we also heard stories of Ethan, our professor. We heard stories of how he brought back order, how he reconciled The North and The South. They were almost like fairy tales, where Ethan was the hero and all the bad guys were somehow related to Vaughn and Vance and everything bad that happens was their fault.
“But one thing our generation failed to teach you,” Ethan continued, “is anything about them. You know what they’ve done, but do you know why? Or how? You don’t even know basic things about them!” Ethan pointed to someone near the back of the class. “You over there. Yes you, green shirt shaved head. Do you know when Vaughn and Vance died?”
Green-shirt-shaved-head looked bewildered. He was a big guy and his muscles bulged through his shirt, but his wide eyes and his open jaw failed to convey how tough he probably was. Ethan made a man who was probably twice his size freeze up. He looked around him, trying to find someone who could help him out. None of us would help him. Poor guy.
“Um, it was a few years ago? Right before the war ended?” It was a wild guess. We were thankful that Ethan choose any of the rest of us, because just like Green-Shirt, we actually had no idea. Ethan just grinned.
“Does anyone know when they were born?” He was met with silence again, but before it could engulf the room he continued. “Alvaro Vance was born on January 13, 1998, and Nathaniel Vance was born a few months later, on March 3.”
This time, Ethan let the silence fester. They were born that long ago? We couldn’t comprehend that. We were all going back to our childhood, remembering the stories of how Vaughn and Vance jumped from country to country, leaving destruction and dissent in their wake.
“Uh, excuse me sir.” It was the blonde girl on the third row who answered the first question. She thought creativity was important.
“Oh c’mon don’t go around ‘sir-ring’ me just because I’m your professor. Ethan’s fine.”
“Oh ok. Please… my parents told me about how Vaughn and Vance fought during Germany’s last stand. They were on the front lines, literally fighting. How could that be? The last stand was in 2083. They must’ve been…old. Too old to fight in something like that!” Ethan grinned.
“What’s your name sweetheart?” The girl blushed.
“Sorry I forgot to say. M-my name is Hope.”
“Well Hope, that was a good question.” He cleared his throat and took a few moments to think about what he was going to say. We sat poised, ready to start taking notes. “This class will revolve a lot around Alvaro Vaughn and Nathaniel Vance. I will attempt to make you understand what happened to them and what happened because of them. Needless to say their actions shaped our history in ways we never thought individuals could. I will explain how they were able to fight for as long as they could, but not today. Today, you will leave with more questions than you did when you entered.” He walked back to his desk and sat on its edge and folded his arms.
“I want you to remember that I’m telling you a story. This story is about war. THE war. It's about its beginning, its middle and its end. I warn you, this tale is not a beautiful one. Many believe that it was the greatest lesson, the one where we learned how far we as humans could go. But I tell this story in the hope that future generations can learn to change. But that is only hope, and in the end, what does it really do for us?"
“In 2020, Alvaro Vaughn and Nathaniel Vance graduated from university in the US. Which university? We don’t know. What did they study? We don’t know. Much of that information has been lost over time, and we suspect that they had a hand in making sure it was lost. What we do know is that they studied something related to biology. We know they took a very special interest in the brain.
After graduating the two of them traveled the world together. It was a custom that all recent graduates during that time followed. We know that during their travels, their names started to precede them. They were getting well known. Not by the public, but by other, more discreet channels. The people who ran the world behind the scenes knew them. They had meetings with big distributors of oil, radical terrorist groups, known rebels, CEOs of big obscure companies and, most importantly, governments the world over knew about them.
The queer thing was that the only thing they knew about them were their names and that they were meeting very important people from around the world, people who had power and influence. And whenever someone asked about them, no one would answer. They had covered themselves in a shroud of mystery that people couldn’t help but wonder what exactly it was they were up to and what they were capable of doing.” Ethan stopped talking and gave us a minute for our notes to catch up. “I wonder what they were like.”
That stopped us. It was an unexpected change in tone, informative to curious. It was like a nice cup of hot tea that you put down for a second, and then when you drink again it’s too cold.
“When you’re rising up in the world, when are you most powerful?” At this point, we had all caught up with our notes and were giving the question serious thought. “Many of us would think that we are the most powerful when we have reached the top. Who among you here believes that?” A large majority of us raised our hands. Ethan nodded. “It makes sense. When you’re on top, the only direction you have to look is down. But it seems to me that being on top means everyone knows who you are and everyone wants your spot. So you have to be wary, all the time. Whereas when you rise up just below the top, you have control. Not everyone knows you and no one wants to be number two. Except for you that is. That’s what Vaughn and Vance did. They rose up in the world, but not to the top. They had power, but still had room to be unknown. That’s what they were, a hidden force that could bring us to our knees. Which is exactly what they did. “
We have class everyday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. It was four long hours of Ethan lecturing and us trying to keep up and learning. But after we left the room that day, we could barely contain ourselves.
We learned how Vaughn and Vance travelled the world and created a strong network of allies. By the time they went back home, they had friends from Johannesburg to Shanghai. By the time the lesson ended, we were at 2030 and Ethan promised that we were “going to go over how these friendships were beneficial to Vaughn and Vance…but detrimental to everyone else. Next time, we go over the global economic collapse.”
While we were leaving the class though, a few of the stragglers noticed that a few people were staying behind. When the whole class was gone except for the few who remained seated. There were 5 of us. Ethan spoke up.
“So! What can I do for you?” Ethan had an amiable and charming smile, but we weren’t fooled. He was on his guard.
“Sir,” one of us started, the tall one with long black hair that went past his jaw line. “Ever since the commencement of this university, we’ve pledged our lives to recording as much of history as possible.”
“Ah,” Ethan replied. “I see. So that makes you Mckouen’s boys. And girl,” he said, tilting his head toward the brunette girl. He gave her a little smile and she blushed rather furiously.
“Yes,” the tall one said quickly, shooting the girl a look. He gestured toward her, “this is Faith.” Faith gave off the immediate impression of timidity. “Next to her is Brave.” Brave was short and skinny, and his blue eyes darted from one place to another. “And to my left are Cash and Colt.” Cash was stocky with sandy hair and Colt had very dark, very deep brown eyes. “And finally, I am Storm.”
“It’s very nice to meet you all,” Ethan said gracefully while he went to his desk and started gathering up his belongings.
“Sir-“ Storm began.
“Oh no, none of that sir business thank you.”
“Alright then…Ethan. We’re here bec-“
“I know why you’re here” Ethan interrupted. “Mckouen wants you to make me tell you everything, yes?” Cash jumped in to the fray.
“Not necessarily,” he said in a soft, deep voice. “We just-”
“Listen kid,” Ethan interrupted again, “let’s not waste my time more than we have to. I know why you’re here and what Mckouen wants, and the answer is no. Mckouen knows this, and he’s just using you to get to me. You can tell him no.” And with that, Ethan walked off and left the lecture hall.