Chapter 208: It’s Election Day!
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San Francisco, California, the United States of America
November 8th, 1836

A lone ship entered the glittering bay of San Francisco, its smokestacks bellowing thick clouds of steam as it chugged past 'Immigration Island' and docked in the easternmost pier of the bustling port city. As the ship's ramps were lowered to allow the ship's passengers to exit, a short Indian man glanced at the city with a bright smile. He blended in with the crowd of arrivals, many of them from the subcontinent of India, and looked around Pier 74 discreetly. The sun was rising in the east, and he was able to see a dozen workers moving around on the pier itself.

A light-skinned worker turned his head towards the arriving boat; he wore worn-out clothing with a flame logo on his left sleeve and a large straw hat covering his face. After planting his feet on the wooden decks of the dock, the Indian man walked up to the worker and silently nodded his head. The two were walking away when they were intercepted by a government official wearing a maroon-colored uniform, the standard clothing for immigration officers in the Department of Internal Affairs.

"Your papers, sir?" The uniformed government worker, whose name tag read 'HALL,' asked the Indian man with a pleasant smile. "If you don't have any papers, I'm afraid you'll need to be processed at Alcatraz Island."

"Of course," The Asian man answered with a thick accent. He pulled out some papers from his briefcase and handed them to the official.

The immigration officer scanned the documents and flipped through them with his gloved hands, his eyes occasionally flickering to the recent arrival. "Mr. Rashmi Korpal?"

Korpal nodded tiredly as he waited for the official to finish verifying his forms. Finally, the man seemed satisfied and handed the papers back to the Indian while tipping the brim of his cap. He glanced sideways at the dockyard worker but returned his gaze to Korpal after a few seconds. "Everything seems to be in order, Mr. Korpal. Welcome to San Francisco."

The duo briskly walked away and strolled down a narrow street just beside Pier 74. The buildings on 25th Street were constructed recently, and the street contained only a few civilians carrying out their daily lives in the busiest American city in the West. The smell of fishes and fresh buns seemed to reinvigorate Korpal as he smiled loosely, even as he ducked into an alleyway with his companion. Once they were out of sight, the dockyard worker removed his straw hat and revealed his old and weathered face. "How was your trip to India?"

"This should explain it," Korpal opened up his briefcase once again but was stopped by his counterpart.

"Not here.” The older man growled. “We can do it when we arrive back at my place. Remember the first rule."

"Be on guard at all times because places we think are safe may not be safe."

"Good, now just give me a brief rundown while we walk quietly."

As the Indian opened his mouth, a street vendor entered the alley in front of them and waved apologetically. Both of them flinched, but the middle-aged Chinese man behind the cart grinned brightly and held out a few buns, "Three buns for a nickel! They're still hot!"

Korpal stared at the hot buns intently and nearly dropped his briefcase as his stomach growled. His partner sighed and flipped a coin to the vendor. "We'll get three. Heading to Central Square?"

"Of course! Election today! Good sales and my son is voting first time today!" The Chinese man said as he accepted the coin graciously and handed them a bag with the buns. He quickly pushed his cart as he moved towards the center of the city, "Vote for Nathaniel! He's a good man!"

"Is today an American holiday, Eli?" Korpal asked as he eagerly took the bag from his 'friend' and sank his teeth into the meat bun.

"Well, of course. It's Election Day, and there's a large festival for people to socialize and vote. There's a bit of campaigning done by the parties as well."

"Ah yes, America's elections... I'll need to learn more about them. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that you choose your own leaders."

Eli smirked as they arrived in front of a small house on the edges of San Francisco and opened the door, "We'll probably head over there after I finish your debrief; you need some time to relax after your last mission."

The two of them made their way to a small study room in the back of the house. Eli cautiously closed all the curtains and lit a lamp on the desk before waving his hand towards a chair.

“How long did you wait for me?” Korpal asked as he sank into the comfortable leather chair.

“Two weeks. I arrived in San Francisco around then.”

“You just stood around the docks for two weeks?”

“No, I’ve been working,’” Eli answered as he pointed to his uniform. “Enough about me; how was your trip to India?”

Korpal opened his briefcase after glancing around the room and pulled out a thick packet. He handed it to the weathered ‘dockyard’ worker, who leaned back in his chair and flipped through the pages. A few minutes of comfortable silence passed before Eli looked up, “This is very detailed and comprehensive, well done.”

“I knew my way around, and I stayed there for half a year.”

“I was worried that you would leave us and remain in India; after all, we sent you without a handler.”

The Indian man shrugged, “There’s nothing left for me to return to. Not after I joined the Bengal Army.”

Eli frowned and stared at his counterpart’s blank face before slowly nodding, “Right. I’ll make sure that this report is prioritized. I’m sure Congress wants to see this report as soon as possible due to our… relationship with Britain. Hopefully, this will help the politicians see that we’re still useful and restore some of our former funding. It was bad enough that they sacked half of the leadership after that fiasco….”

“And help my countrymen, correct?”

“Most definitely. It will change the public’s perspective towards Asian Indians. After all, your people are still being oppressed by the British, and many of you were forced to fight against America.”

The former Indian soldier let out a relieved sigh and grasped his hands together, “I’m just glad to be back here; India is still being torn apart by the rebellion. Here? There is peace. An uneasy peace, but still peace.”

“Can’t say that for the South or Vancouver, but close enough.”

A comfortable silence passed between the two as Korpal vigorously munched his second bun while handing the last bun to his National Intelligence Service superior. “So about your nations’ elections… How do they work?”

“Well… Instead of me talking for hours about how our government functions, how about we head to Central Square for the election festival?” Eli asked as he munched on the bun and placed the intelligence report of the Indian Rebellion in a large envelope, “I have to vote and send these documents to Richmond anyways.”

The NIS duo left their safehouse and arrived in Central Square a few minutes later. Thousands of people were milling around the large plaza, filled with dozens of booths and stands. Several people were walking around waving pamphlets for political parties and various events within the festival.

“Honor boxing match between Mr. Reed and Mr. Abrams will be occurring in three hours! Seats will be first come, first serve!”

“Free drinks will be served at the County Inn to those that show proof of voting!”

“Burgers and Philly Fries at a discount price! Get 'em while they’re hot!”

Korpal widened his eyes and glanced around the bustling square while Eli expertly led his subordinate through the crowd. The Indian man stopped in his tracks several times to glance at the numerous stands, causing the older man to chuckle.

“You look like a kid who’s at a fair for the first time in their life.”

“Everything is just so different here.” Korpal pointed to one of the stands, showing off the newest revolvers for civilians to buy. “I mean, look at that! Is that even legal? They’re just selling guns out in the open!”

“It’s perfectly legal. As long as they show proof of citizenship, they can own a gun. I have one holstered as well.”

“But you and I are different.”

“Yes, but even still. You’ll get used to it; America is not like any other country on Earth, in a good way.”

“Isn’t that dangerous, though?”

“None of those guns out for sale are loaded, and plenty of us are armed,” Eli nudged his head towards a group of men in blue clothing stood next to one of the food stalls. “And those gents are police officers. If anyone steps out of line, they’ll take care of it.”

The seasoned NIS agent stopped his partner in front of a large stand labeled “The Liberal Party” and walked up to the people standing behind it. Korpal stood by as Eli chatted with one of the campaigners and received two pamphlets. He handed one to the veteran and smiled, “Take your time to read those. One of them is about the Liberal Party’s agenda and their candidates for this election; the other is about the Constitution and our government.”

“The Liberal Party?” Korpal wondered out loud as he flipped through the first pamphlet. “Is this what you’re voting for?”

“I’m voting for their presidential candidate, Nathaniel Bonapart. The Liberal Party is very… different compared to the other parties. However, they have many good ideas that I think will bring back pre-war America: a time of prosperity and stability.”

“What is this ‘national healthcare?’”

“A proposal to make the government pay a significant amount for people’s health and well-being. Many were injured during the War, and with the current economic situation, people are struggling to get the treatment they need. With this ‘national healthcare,’ the government will be able to provide more funding to hospitals and doctors while cutting treatment costs.”

“Wouldn’t this be incredibly expensive? America isn’t a small country.”

“Some risks need to be taken to achieve greatness and prosperity. If we need to shoulder debt for some time to help the country back on its feet, then so be it,” Eli mentioned with a shrug. “And if there is one man I believe can bring about this kind of change, it’s Nathaniel. I’ve seen our first president before, and Nathaniel is very similar to him. President Kim was the man that brought about sweeping changes across the United States when it was first formed. These radical reforms remind me of the first president’s great efforts to create an ideal country: healthcare, public housing, the ‘Government Issue’ Bill, and such. ”

“I’ll need to study a bit about America’s history because I have no clue who that is.”

“Well then, let me fill out my ballot at City Hall, and we can head over to the city library. I heard they recently imported a few more new books from the east, including that new book called ‘La Révolution’ from France by Victor Hugo….”