“You don’t have to come with me,” I told Kimball again.
“You’re still at war with the Tech Committee and now you are going to also face the Agriculture Committee, which only makes everything more complicated, since I don’t trust either group, I’ll go with you.” I could see he was concerned, and I didn’t want to tell him I was worried too, nor how relieved I was that he was coming with me, but as always, I was sure he suspected something.
I’ve been having a bad feeling about the reunion for days, and I knew better than to ignore my instincts, but every time I had tried to use my visions or take a walk in the fog to see what was triggering my instincts, all I could see was the past, I was thrown into memories of Agmong. I knew that couldn’t be right, Agmong was dead, I had killed him and there was no way he could come back and torment me like that.
“Everything will be ok,” I told Kimball, wondering if he could hear the doubt in my voice, “there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Why is the reunion taking place in the vineyards? It’s not the kind of place you usually like.”
“This was one of Emily’s favorite places, you know she thought herself a wine connoisseur, and she had a weird attachment to the place. When all the problems with the food supply started, she decided that this place was more important to keep afloat than the others. I want to see what was done here to keep the place producing a high quality harvest, I want to find something that will help others to be as successful. We need to work on the food supply asap, between the droughts, fires, war and Emily’s impossible requests, half the Dominion is our of food, and if we don’t do something fast, people will start dying.”
“I’m not sure if this is the right approach.”
“I saw some of the designs that Faakhir vetoed from the Tech Committee, and I think some of them could be adapted to help with this issue, if they work along the Agriculture Committee, I’m sure they will find a solution to our problem.”
“We’ll see,” Kimball said, not convinced. I knew that it wasn’t how things were usually done in the Dominion, but it was how things were done in the Empire, and the only way I knew. “How are we going to play it this time?”
“The same way we have been playing, we will be two people who can barely stand each other.”
“Of course, I guess I will pretend to be mad at you for almost letting our son die. You know that some of the people there were calling me on behalf of their children to ask about Ethan’s wellbeing.”
“I’m glad to know that Ethan has such good friends. I only hope that what happened won’t affect their friendship.”
Our talk was cut when we arrived at our destination. I got out of the vehicle without waiting for Kimball, but I heard him following me. Everyone was already there, mostly because I had asked them to be there an hour before my arrival. By the time we arrived some of them were already angry, but there was nothing they could do about it.
“Thank you for coming,” I greeted the people there.
“I didn’t know it was optional,” one of them said.
“It wasn’t,” I answered.
“Welcome to my humble vineyard,” the owner of the place greeted me. I knew he wasn’t a fan of my predecessors, they had practically taken over his life and his vineyard, but in a way he should be relieved that that attention had allowed him to prosper when others failed, saving his land while others had to fight droughts and lack of foundings. There were a few other places in the Dominion with a better reputation and with centuries of prestige, and they had also received some support, but this one was closer and that made it easier for it to gather Emily’s attention. “Would you like a tour of the place? We have everything ready if you want to know what we do here.”
“Of course, that’s why we are here,” I said, trying to appear a little bored, but dying to start the tour and learn what made that place different from others.
The start of the visit was a little chaotic, because the group was too large, but the place was interesting and soon everyone was focused on the tour, learning about the process and learning how they used a combination of classic and modern techniques to keep the harvest healthy and plentiful.
Once we were done with the tour and with a cup of wine in our hands, we were taken to the dinning hall where we were given a simple, but bountiful banquet. I knew that they were presenting us with was probably most of what they had, but I kept thinking that it was ok, if everything went according to plan, we would have more than enough food for everyone, not just for a few lucky ones.
“It was a very nice and interesting tour, but I would like to know why we were brought here, this is not exactly our area of expertise,” Representative Burgos said.
“You are here because I want you here, I wanted to get to know this place better, to see why it was so interesting for my predecessors. I also want you to tell me about the projects that Faakhir vetoed from you.”
“That is a long list,” Jeong said.
“Then, I would suggest you start with the first thing that comes to your mind,” I said, expecting them to bring up those that were related to the place we were at, I wanted sustainability projects.
While they discussed among themselves, trying to decide which project to expose first, a group of servers presented us with trays with cheeses and cold meat cuts, to go along with our wines. After a while I noticed something odd was going on, the air looked funny and I didn’t feel well. I put my psychic walls up, and started to search for the threat that I knew was lurking. I noticed that the others have finally noticed that something was going on, and Kimball got out of his seat, and tried to move, but his movements were too slow, when I tried to move, I noticed that my arms and legs were too heavy and I couldn’t move them.
A group of warriors wearing gas masks entered the room, Kimball tried to attack them, but one of them faced him and stopped him, using a taser. I used my powers to throw them against the wall, but my attack wasn’t as strong as it was supposed to be, and it failed to do much damage. I felt darkness trying to pull me down, but I fought it as I watched the rest of the people at the table falling down on the table. I was doing my best to stay conscious, and I felt someone approaching me from behind, I turned to face the threat, and found myself face to face with Agmong. I was frozen, thinking it had to be an illusion, but then he used his whip on me and it wrapped around me before blasting me with electricity, making me lose the battle and fall into unconsciousness.
I woke up when I was hit with a bucket of cold water, it took me just a second to realize that I couldn’t use my powers, and the weight on my neck let me know that they had used a powers suppressor on me. I looked around, and realized we were on one of the wine cellars, all of the guests were there, chained to the walls or the wine barrels. Kimball was wrapped in chains that were locked to the ground and walls, and looked unconscious.
“I’m glad you woke up already,” a man I recognized as Temur, one of Faakhir’s trusted guards, said to me. “Now that you are awake, we can start this party.”
“I’m surprised to find you here, since you ran away after I killed Faakhir, I thought you would stay hidden,” I stood up, surprised to find myself free. Temur was thinking that I wasn’t a threat just because I didn’t have my powers, I was determined to prove him wrong.
“I had to go away for a while, to look for some friends, but I hope you are not stupid enough to think you would get away with killing Faakhir and keeping the Dominion for yourself.”
“I already have control of the Dominion, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Whatever you are planning, it won’t work.”
“My plans are already working, everything is going according to plan,” he said, “your men are being hunted right now, and they will pay for betraying our boss, none of you will get away with it, I will make sure to have all of the survivors under my control.”
“You are crazy if you think that will work, I don’t follow anyone’s orders, you know that, and you know what happened to the last man that thought he had me under his control.”
“All you need is someone to remind you of your place,” he said with an unnerving smile. I knew that all I needed was to wait for Kimball’s necklace to do his job and disable the suppressor, I just needed to distract Temur for a few minutes.
“You are a dead man, I hope you know that. You will share your boss’ end.”
“Soon the Dominion will be mine, and you will give it to me yourself.”
“You are really crazy if you think I will do that,” I was ready to fight, I knew Temur and he was even worse than Faakhir, he was a sadist, and I was sure that the only reason he hadn’t killed me was because he wanted to make me suffer first.
“You will do whatever I want you to do, all you need is someone to remind you of your place… Sklave.” He knew that using that name was going to throw me off.
“My name is Kaiserin, you know that.”
Temur signaled his men and saw a few moving my way, I stood still, waiting for the right moment, and once they were close enough I attacked. I was able to get one of them by surprise, breaking his neck before he had a chance to react, but another kicked my legs from under me, throwing me to the floor. As soon as I hit the ground I rolled and tried to get up, but the ground under me moved, trapping my foot, my leg up to my knee, and both my hands. Another soldier started kicking my stomach, and even my head a couple of times while another stood still in front of me, manipulating the ground and keeping me trapped. I tried to break free, but the ground wasn’t giving me any space. When the guy got tired of kicking me, he grabbed one of my arms with a strength that almost broke it, then one of my hands was free, but the guy put a cuff around it before I could do anything to stop him, and then he did the same with the other, chaining them together behind my back. Once they were secured, they attacked a chain hanging from the ceiling to them and started to pull, when they couldn’t pull more, they finally freed my legs.
“You should know that there’s no point in trying to resist, Sklave,” Temur mocked me. “Doesn’t this situation reminds you of something?”
“I don’t know what your game is, but if you think you will win this easily, you are mistaken,” I felt my arms being raised, the chain being pulled even more, I felt the tension in my shoulders when my feet were no longer touching the ground, and I knew that my shoulders were about to pop out. Agmong used to love hanging me from the ceiling, most of the time with my arms behind my back, my weight eventually dislocating my shoulders, it was a slow and painful torture, but as time went by, the process was easier, my shoulders so damaged that they popped out very easily. Just as I expected, the sound of my shoulders getting out of their sockets echoed in the cellar. Waves of pain hit my body, caressing me like a forgotten memory. It was very hard, but I bit back the scream that tried to escape my throat, and looked defiantly at Temur, knowing he was expecting my pain, and refusing to giving it to him.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting, you are not doing your part,” he said, angry at me.
“Don’t worry, I will help her remember her role,” a familiar voice said from behind me. “Come on, Sklave, scream for me,” I felt a hand on the back of my neck, and then an electric charge hit me.
I felt like I was going to break my teeth with the force I used to shut my mouth and stop the screaming that wanted to escape, I refused to give in to them. My already hurting arms were on fire as my body shook with the electricity. I was exhausted by the time the attack stopped, but I knew things were about to get even worse. The man behind me moved to the front, and it took me a moment to understand what I was seeing.
“Did you miss me, Sklave?” asked a man that looked exactly like Agmong.
I had ignored the warning and the vision, thinking there was something wrong with them, because there was no way that what they were showing was accurate, Agmong couldn’t be back to torture me, he was dead, I had killed him, I have watched the life get out of him. I felt cold and scared, because if Agmong, or someone looking like him, was in front of me, then all the visions of torture were true, and I was about to get into a nightmare.
“You are not Agmong,” I said.
“I missed you,” he said. He moved closer to me, and as soon as he was in my reach, I put my legs around his neck, trying to choke him, but the pain in my arms and back, and the awkward position didn’t allow me to do much damage, and the impostor started hitting me, but it wasn’t until someone hit me in the head that I finally lost the battle and let him go. “You will regret this,” he said, taking a knife out of his belt and cutting my clothes off of me. I knew what was coming next, it was as if he was following a script straight out of my nightmares.
“This was Faakhir’s plan, wasn’t it? This impostor was his plan B, just in case he couldn’t break me himself,” I asked Temur. “But Faakhir was wrong, and you will fail, just like him, you will die for your mistake, like he did.”
“Brave words, but you will change your tune soon enough,” Temur said, confident he was going to break me.
Once I was completely naked, the impostor gave me a satisfied smile, I had to keep reminding myself he wasn’t Agmong. When he lifted the whip, a wave of fear washed over me, but there was nothing I could do. I relaxed my body, trying to minimize the pain, but I couldn’t avoid the damage, soon the blood was flowing from my wounds, and my whole body felt on fire. Despite the pain, I kept glaring defiantly at Temur, I knew he got excited by pain, and I knew he was only waiting for me to break to attack me.
“This is not working,” he complained. “According to Agmong she should be crying and begging by now.”
“If that’s what you want from me, you are wasting your time.”
The impostor went to talk to Temur. The respite only helped to highlight my wounds, since there were no distractions. The impostor had done a good job at hurting me, and all my body was hurting. I heard chains moving, and realized Kimball was awaking, he was staring at me, guilt and fury written in his eyes. I knew he was going to do something. I looked around and saw that everyone was awake, they were all staring at me with horror, and I knew I had to be looking very bad for them to show pity for me.
“I’m very disappointed in you,” the impostor told me, getting into Agmong’s role. It was getting harder to remind myself he wasn’t the same person, the pain and the situation pulling at my memories. “I only asked one thing of you, and you haven’t done it,” he moved closer and put his hand on my neck. I noticed his gloves and that helped break the illusion, the real Agmong didn’t use gloves, they affected his powers. “You need to scream for me.”
The electricity hit me, the pain was too much, but I wasn’t going to scream, but I was so overwhelmed that I had to leave my body and move to the astral plane, at least for a moment. As soon as I watched the impostor releasing me, I went back to my body to the pain. I could see that Temur was losing his patience, he wanted me broken, crying and begging. I suspected that Faakhir had seen more of my memories than I had first thought, and apparently he had shared what he had found with Temur, maybe even showed him the memories telepathically. I could imagine Temur jacking off to the thought of a broken, crying, Sklave.
“You are wasting your time, I won’t give you what you want,” I said, but my voice wasn’t as strong or secure as before, the pain affecting me more than I wanted to acknowledge.
“You were broken once, we can break you again, it will just take longer than I thought.” Temur signaled the impostor, and he turned his attention back to me.
I couldn’t help but flinch when he approached me, betraying my fear. The impostor rested the handle of the whip against my collarbone, and moved it down to one of my breasts, drawing circles around it. I knew what he was going to do, something Agmong liked to do, and I couldn’t help but being afraid, my heavy breathing betraying my fear. The electricity hit again, I had been expecting it, but that didn’t stop the pain or the memories that flowed. I could see Temur and the impostor smiling at my reaction, and I knew that they weren’t buying my act any more.
The impostor moved the handle even lower, and I knew what was going to happen. Agmong liked to electrocute me from inside, and I knew that the impostor didn’t have the same power, he was using his gloves to mimic Agmong’s power, but I was sure he was going to use the handle on me and I panicked. I fought the impostor, but my desperation only confirmed that he had found something that would really affect me. He grabbed one of my legs and used his hold to open my legs, but before he could put the handle on me, a loud sound distracted him.
Kimball had escaped his chains and was fighting the soldiers, trying to reach me. The sound of shooting echoed in the cellar, mixed with the screams of the representatives. Kimball fell to the ground, most of the shots had hit on his bullet proof clothes, but a few had hit on unprotected parts, and there was blood already flowing out of him. Kimball was on his knees, but was trying to get up, but another shot rang and he fell again. A heartbreaking cry filled the place, and it took me a second to realize it was me who was screaming.
Temur looked at me, satisfied, and then pulled a gun went to where two of his men were subduing Kimball. “You are not so indifferent as you pretend, you do care about him. The question is, how much? What would you do for him? Would you beg me for his life?” I shook my head, but I wasn’t sure if I was answering his questions, or trying to deny the whole situation we had landed in. “Beg me for his life. Promise you will do anything I ask of you in exchange for his life,” he ordered, putting the gun on Kimball’s head.
I felt out of control, but nothing proved how gone I was as the pair of tears running down my face. Kaiserin never cried, Sklave did. Temur was about to win the battle, and I was about to lose myself.