December 4th 2013
Over two hundred years had passed since Ivar Messer ascended to the role of Prime Citizen, the first phase in his evolution into the first Imperator. Over those centuries, the Messer family tightened their grip on the fountain of power, stripping the Senate of most of their authority and corrupting the Advocacy into their private police force. The fear of Xi’An and Vanduul, initially used by Messer to consolidate his power, had kept the populace in line and ultimately contributed to their submission.
Anthony Tanaka knew none of the history that led to this point in time. Born in the slums of Newcastle on Borea in Magnus, Anthony knew only a world of checkpoints and government brutality. At the time, Magnus had become a prime manufacturing site for the munitions of the UEE’s massive war machine, so the local populace was subjected to ever-increasing scrutiny and random searches to find the undesirables and traitors the propaganda dispatches were always warning against. Neighbors and friends would disappear in the middle of the night, and the only official answer to inquiries involved ‘seditious’ or ‘anarchist’ activity. Tanaka’s parents both worked in the factories and lived under the blanket of fear without question. At the age of seven, Anthony was called to work at the Airbol plant. His parents didn’t raise a word of protest. They sank their shoulders and lowered their heads further.
Tanaka worked at Airbol in their munitions division, his size allowing him to clean out scrubber systems more effectively than the adults. For four years, Anthony lived in a company barrack with fifty other child employees and worked six days a week, with the last day spent in the mandatory learning program studying Human History. His wages were virtually non-existent, absorbed by housing, education and food charges levied by Airbol.
In 2757, Lane Corpos, the Imperator’s distant cousin, was appointed to administer Magnus System after a noticeable decline in product quality. Corpos had a well-documented vicious streak. The Imperator believed that he could ‘entice’ the populace of the system back to their previous standards. His first order upon touring the facility was to cancel the Learning Program and force the underage workers to work all week.
The conditions around the factory diminished almost uniformly, especially when the Guard, a unit of Advocacy agents assigned as Corpos’ personal enforcers, took over security. Shifts were extended by two, then four, then six hours. Available food was skimmed to the barest of essentials that would prevent workers from collapsing on their machines. The depths of cruelty and indifference eventually managed to unlock something in the downtrodden and defeated workers. They found a limit where they couldn’t take any more.
On December 3, 2757, on the tail end of sixteen-hour shift, Anthony Tanaka’s foreman ordered him to pick up the shift of a co-worker who went into anaphylactic shock after exposure to a ruptured chemical canister.
Anthony refused. This boy of twelve years old, withered rail thin from exhaustion and malnutrition, stood his ground against the foreman. Again and again, the boy refused.
The foreman tried to silence the child, but the boy kept refusing. His voice eventually overcame the screech and din of the working factory, attracting the attention of the other workers, who watched in silence. The machines slowly stopped until there was just the defiant, sobbing voice of Anthony Tanaka repeatedly refusing to work anymore.
A Guardsman entered the factory floor. He calmly approached the young boy, took one look at his dirty face then drew his sidearm.
The whole time, the workers did nothing.
That was not the end of Anthony Tanaka. Footage of the feed were smuggled out of the factory and found their way throughout the Empire for those bold enough to defy the Imperator. A mood had been growing for quite some time — a desire to burn down the corrupt institution that dominated Humanity.
Anthony Tanaka became the symbol of that spirit, that Humanity’s willingness to put up with the cruelty of the Messers was coming to an end.
It would still take thirty-five years, but to some, the Messer Era began to fall when that shot ended the painfully short life of Anthony Tanaka.