Lydia Warren felt her back stiffen like a steel beam as the teacher called her to the front of the room. Damn--this is what I get for talking, she thought. History was one of her favorite subjects, but that was the whole problem with the class--she already knew most of everything. "Mrs. Clark, trust me. Whatever you were just rambling about is something I've studied a hundred times before." She gave her middle-aged, slightly soft-set teacher an exasperatedly arrogant glance. For the last three of Lydia's eighteen years, she had given the teachers in her elitist schools her frustratingly rebellious attitude. They would have expelled her from every institution in the Confederacy if her father were not a high-ranking ambassador to Europe. Lydia formed the perfect picture of a rebellious outcast as she stood, arms folded, legs in an aggressive stance, dressed from her corset top to her knee-length skirt in black leather. Her fine, frizzy auburn hair was braided into two, waist long plaits on either side of her head. This school did not mandate uniforms, but Lydia stood out starkly from the rest of her colleagues, dressed in their perfectly pressed shirts, jackets and skirts.

Mrs. Clark smiled thinly. "Alright then, Miss Warren. If you know so much, then perhaps you can give the class a little lesson for the next hour. How about this for a topic--the history of our glorious country since the War Between the States in the 1860s?"

If Lydia had been a lesser woman she might have gasped. She smiled just as thinly with her maroon lips. "Alright then, Mrs. Clark, whatever you wish." Lydia turned from her place just beneath the Stars and Bars to look at her class, studying their pale faces from her thickly outlined eyes. There were a few giggles. Despite Lydia's high rank; she had always been considered an oddity. In first and secondary school, she had been the geek, the nerd, the intellectual. But since she had entered preparatory school, she had become something else--something that no one could name, something that gave off the aura of danger. Some blamed it on her father and mother's almost continual absence. Lydia had been left, like an orphan, to the care of one of her aunts.

Lydia began without any sort of visible smirk, but with a characteristically crushing tone of sarcasm.

"After the Confederacy won the War Between the States, also known as the Civil War, there was a half-century of relative peace and prosperity on all parts of the North American continent. The Confederacy was fair enough to let the North keep all of New England, but as the victor, it kept the rest of the continent to itself. The slave trade did not begin again, as many Northerners had predicted, but slavery stayed as an important facet of our society. There were a few rebellions after the Civil War, but the slaves eventually recovered from their abolitionist-fed delusions that they deserved freedom. The Confederacy built several hundred factories after the war. The North would never again have its advantage as a manufacturer of war supplies.

The border between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America became heavily guarded on both sides. A few skirmishes broke out on both sides, but there was no widespread conflict until the First World War, when the Confederate States took the side of Germany. Some Confederate soldiers did go overseas to fight, but the majority stayed home to fight the United States, which was launching attacks on Oklahoma, Kansas, Virginia, Arizona and New Mexico. The Germans lost their war, but we defended our own, and took over the southern half of California while we were at it.

Hitler rose to power a decade after Germany's defeat. The Confederacy automatically allied itself with him, due to similar ideologies. A new slave trade arose--in return for our military manpower; Germany shipped thousands of Jews over the Atlantic as slaves before Hitler's Final Solution was put into effect. Confederate spies effectively stole the United States' nuclear technology. Before they could put it into effect, we had already bombed New York City and Boston, not to mention the cities of the United States' strongest allies--London, Paris, Lenin- and Stalingrad both. Needless to say, we won the war. Today, we are still strong allies with Germany--the Fuhrer's heirs have always extended their friendship to us. The United States is a weak, tiny nation--insignificant in foreign politics. They pose no threat--they have no superior technology, military or otherwise. Their population is a tiny fraction of ours. They are, in essence, a dictatorship, relying on a central power to govern the individual states. The Confederacy, on the other account, lets the states have stronger rights than the figurehead central government."

Lydia ignored the stares of classmates. She half-closed her eyes and went on.

"So, now, in the year 2003, we remain, in many ways, the same as we always were. Despite our manufacturing prowess, we are still very much of an agrarian society. We are the strongest power on this continent, and over the years, we have extended our friendly influences to South America and Australia. The Third Reich--Kingdom--is the strongest power in the world, as they directly rule all of Europe, Africa and all of Asia China. The Nazis are our strongest allies. The borders drawn on her the globes a century and a half ago have been redrawn in ways that, perhaps, no one could have predicted at the beginning of the Civil War."

Lydia smiled sourly at her teacher and the slightly agape class as she swaggered back to her seat. The bell rang. Class and the school day itself were over. However, all of the children were required to stay after school for at least one mandatory sport. Most children picked at least four. Due to the popularity of sports, the school day had been shortened from eight-o clock in the morning to noon. Sports practices took an hour each.

Lydia was the slowest runner on the cross-country team. She constantly laughed at the forced respect that her exasperated coach was forced to pay her, due to her father's high status. At one o' clock, Lydia was at home, lying asleep with her head on the wooden kitchen table. Her personal slave, Rebecca came to wake her up. Rebecca was Jewish, twenty and, for the most part, silent. Lydia shook her head as she awoke.

"School took a surprising lot out of me today. Stupid Mrs. Clark made me do a concise oral recitation of everything we are supposed to learn in the entire school year. Guess I surprised her, though." She yawned. "Oh damn, I have a party to go to this afternoon at Theo's house. Guess I forgot." Theo was her best friend, if he could be called that. He was a twenty-year old college student, typically fair-haired, cute without being handsome. He was intelligent, but his thoughts were mostly mechanical, tangible--not theoretical, not provoking further philosophical thoughts. Lydia sighed. "Get me ready, Becky."

The tall woman dipped her dark head. "Whatever you want, Mistress."