Chapter 17

I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but I had to go to the party, for the twins, for Joon Hwan, with whom I had created a bond of friendship, and for Ji Min, who I needed to make sure was ok, that she was getting used to family life.

The birthday party was at a location outside of the city, and I had to prepare myself, so I wouldn’t be reminded of the last time I had gone to a meeting outside the city, and how things had gone so bad at the vineyard.

When we arrived, we found the parking lot already full of cars, and a security detail was patrolling the area.  My own security force joined them, I wasn’t going to allow anything to interrupt their first party back together, not after all they have gone through.

We arrived at the party, and a heavy silence fell over the room as soon as I people noticed I had arrived, but then, a couple of war cries bloke the silence, and I realized a couple of kids were running my way.  I recognized little five year old, Halid, and little three year old, Emma.  Halid jumped at me, but I used my powers to stop him mid air, and then I turned him upside down.

“Hello little warrior, I see you haven’t changed a bit.  Surrender, and I promise I will let you go unharmed.”

“Never!” he yelled, voice full of conviction, while little Emma was initiating her own attack.

Halid’s parents had been with him at Aquarium, and they knew he was safe with me, but Emma’s father didn’t, her mother and her had been refugees because Faakhir had ordered their murder as a way to punish her father, who was running to save his daughter from me.  I saw Halid’s parents nearby, and after making eye contact and making sure they knew what I intended, I sent Halid flying to them.  Halid was laughing while his parents held him and reprimanded him for his attack, while Emma’s father was getting her away from me as fast as he could, despite the girl’s protests.

“You certainly know how to make an entrance,” Joon Hwan said, as he opened his arms so I could give him a hug.

“It wasn’t my fault, it was theirs.  Happy birthday.  How are you feeling on your first birthday after coming back?”

“I couldn’t be more grateful to you, having my sister with me is the biggest gift you could have given me,” right then Jin Min arrived, and her brother moved aside so I could hug her.

“How are you?”

“I’m good, still getting used to being back, but you were right, my family is not that bad,” she said, but her voice showed doubts, which was normal, after years of being in a bad situation, a person could get a lot of invisible injuries that took a lot of time to heal.

“I’m glad, but you must remember that I’m here if you even need anything.”

“You have done enough, you gave me what I wanted the most, you gave me my family back, and that’s something I never thought I would have,” she said, but I knew that by family she only meant her brother, she still couldn’t include her parents in the same category.

“Happy birthday,” Ethan said, and both of them turned to him so they could hug, then Kimball got his turn.

Representative Jeong also approached to welcome us, and I could tell that he wasn’t happy, he probably didn’t expect us to accept the invitation.  And he wasn’t the only one who looked uncomfortable by our presence, but I saw a few familiar faces, people from Aquarium that knew me, and that didn’t hate me.

I made my way to one of the tables, one where I found a lot of familiar faces, and sat with them.  They all offered me a warm welcome and I could see that people around us was looking at us with curiosity, and distrust.

“It seems that you don’t have that many fans in here,” said Teresa de Burgos, the representative’s mother.  “I told my daughter that she should offer you an apology, but I’m afraid it won’t be soon, she still needs to gather her courage and prepare to swallow her words, it’s not easy for her to admit she was wrong.

“You know that’s not necessary, as long as she stops messing with me, and trying to kill me, I’m fine.”

“I raised her better than that, I expect more from her, she has to do the right thing.”

“Your daughter is a strong woman, with strong ideas, but that’s what makes her good at her job.”

The evening was more enjoyable than I expected, I had the chance to see some of the old refugees, and the opportunity to see by myself that they were all well.  Some of the guests, those who were obviously Jeong’s friends, avoided me, and I could feel they didn’t trust me, I could even feel some fear from them.

The twins were teenagers, still the celebration felt a little childish.  As the evening progressed, some people started to leave, those still in attendance got together for the cake.  I could feel the tension between the guests, and I knew I was the reason for that.

The first ones to receive their slices of cake were the kids, by the time they started handing us our slices, the kids were done with them.  Just as the server was setting the cake in front of me, little Emma climbed into my lap and grabbed my cake.  I could feel how people froze around me, waiting for my response.

“What are you doing?” I calmly asked.

“I want more cake,” she said, full of innocence.

“But that’s my cake,” I said, my voice whining.  “Would you like if I took your cake?”  Emma shook her head.  “And how do you think I will feel if you take my cake?”

“I like cake, I don’t want anyone to take my cake,” she said.

“Well, I don’t want anyone to take my cake either.  Why don’t you ask for more if you already finished yours?”

“My daddy says it’s not polite to ask for more,” she explained.

“Well, it’s not polite to take other people’s cakes.”

“Can we share?” she asked, her eyes so big and her face so sweet I couldn’t say no.

“I guess so,” I said, and she immediately grabbed the fork and took a big bite out of it, then she proceeded to take a much smaller piece and offered it to me.  I couldn’t help but let her feed me, or I risked Emma letting the cake fall all over me.

I could see that Kimball was trying, very hard, not to laugh, but Ethan, who was nearby with his friends, was just laughing out loud.  Many of the guests were staring at me, most couldn’t believe what they were watching, but those who knew me only smiled, I wasn’t sure if they were smiling at me, or the people’s reaction to it.

“I told you you didn’t have to worry about her,” Michelle, Emma’s mother told her husband.  “Kaiserin would never do anything to harm me, much less to harm little Emma.”

“But she is a murderer,” her husband protested.

“You are living in the past, you haven’t even bothered to get to know Kaiserin, she is a good person and a good friend.  You have no idea how much the kids in Aquarium loved her, she is good with them.”

“Could you stop talking?” I asked her.  “You are ruining my image,” but she only laughed as if I was telling a joke, with they were, kind of.

Just as I was trying to seem tougher, little Halid attacked again, climbing the chair from behind and putting his arms around my neck.  The kid was heavy, and if it wasn’t for my powers, he could have hurt me, but with them, he wasn’t doing much damage.

“Halid!” his mother reprimanded, “leave Kaiserin alone.”

“After she surrenders,” the little guy replied.

“Aren’t you going to help me?” I asked Kimball, who couldn’t stop his laughter anymore.

“It seems you have everything under control,” he said.

“Don’t worry mother, I will rescue you,” Ethan said, approaching Halid and tickling him until he let go of me.

“Who would have thought that all we needed to defeat Kaiserin was a bunch of kid,” representative Burgos said.

“Don’t make a mistake, I cannot be defeated.  Some of my enemies already tried using kids against me, thinking that would stop me, it didn’t.  I love the little ones, and I wouldn’t hesitate to protect them, but if I find myself in a situation where my options are limited, I won’t doubt to take any action that allows me to succeed.  I’m a warrior, I serve a bigger purpose, I’m not like you, I was raised to make difficult decisions.  I’m willing to fight for a noble cause, and defend those important to me, but I’m merciless against those who attack me, I won’t stop before anything to destroy my enemies.”

“That’s what I like about you, my dear,” Teresa said, “you are a woman that is not afraid to get her hands dirty, and you certainly have the power to destroy her enemies, you already showed that many times, I don’t think people will forget anytime soon what you did to Emily.  You are who you are, and no one is perfect.  You remind me of a wild animal, calm and majestic, but lethal if attacked.”

“I’m not sure if you are insulting me, or complimenting me,” I told her.

“I’m pretty sure it was a compliment,” William said.  “I’m sorry for being late.”

“That’s ok, better late than never,” Joon Hwan greeted him.

“It’s an honor to have you with us,” representative Jeong greeted him, and I couldn’t help but feel insulted.

“I’m just going to be here a minute, I thought Kaiserin would leave early and I was waiting for her to be gone, but I should have known she wouldn’t be able to resist spending time with the younglings, the little ones always gravitate towards her.”

“Maybe they like her because she treats them as equals, that makes them feel important,” Kimball said.

“There is no need for you to go,” Jeong said, “if Kaiserin’s presence bothers you…”

“That’s not it, It’s an honor and a pleasure to be in her presence,” William interrupted him before he could offer to kick me out of there, “is Kaiserin who doesn’t want me here, and the last thing I want to do is make her uncomfortable.”

“This is Joon Hwan’s party, and I know you became good friends during your time in Aquarium, if he wants you here, then I can’t ask otherwise.”

“Thanks,” William said, moving to a place where I wouldn’t be forced to see him.

“I still don’t know what to think about you,” representative Burgos said, “but I guess that I have a lot to thank you for, and a few reasons to ask for your forgiveness.  I misjudged you, that’s more obvious every day, for the stories I’ve heard and the way you treat people, especially for the trust the most innocent place with you, I can see that you are a good, loyal person.  But I also get that you can be quite bad for your enemies.  You are both sides of the coin, you show both extremes, and I want to be on your good side.”

“Always looking for a way to survive, I couldn’t expect anything less from you,” I said with a smile.  I could tell that it had cost her a lot just to approach me admitting to being wrong, I would have liked to make her suffer a little bit, but I respected her mother and liked her son, I wasn’t going to humiliate her in front of them.

The representative went back to where the rest of the members of the committee were gathered.  I noticed the air felt different, lighter, and I realized that the perception of the people was changing, they weren’t as afraid, nor they felt that much distrust, some didn’t hate me as much.  They were opening their minds to the possibility that the image they had of me was mistaken.

I still wasn’t sure what to think about William’s actions, but I had to accept that it felt better to be able to present a different face to them, and not to constantly feel their negative thoughts.  I wasn’t sure if we would reach a point when we could all be friends, but at least I felt like the number of enemies I had was suddenly reduced.

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Chapter 16

The day following the earthquake had been very difficult, the psychic headache finally hit, waking me up from my sleep and forcing me to block my powers to avoid doing more damage, that had cut me off from the rescue efforts.  I had spent the day with Kimball, helping organize the help, only taking time off to meet with the Prime Minister.  That had been another difficult situation, because I had been unable to hide my anger at his dismissal of my warnings.  The number of deaths didn’t break the three digit numbers, but it had been thanks to the fast response and the rescue efforts, but I knew it could have been worst, I had seen it in my visions.

At the end, we stayed for four days, until we were sure that the local government would be able to take over.  Meanwhile, William’s trial had kept going, even with my refusal to participate, and all that was missing was my presence, and William’s verdict.  The problem is that I had no idea what he was planning to do, and I didn’t know if he was going to declare me guilty or not guilty.

When I finally returned to my office, I found William waiting for me.  I had made my best effort to avoid him, but he had taken me by surprise, and even if my first impulse was to throw him out, I was too tired for that.

“It’s good to have you back,” he greeted me, and his words felt sincere.

“I can’t say I’m glad to see you.  I thought it was clear that I want nothing to do with you after your betrayal,” I said, as I made my way to my desk.  I could see the my guards were ready to do whatever I asked them to do.

“I think it’s time to talk, and leave this silly fight behind us.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.  The moment you decided to betray me, everything changed.”

“You are making this a bigger deal than it is.  Do you need me to remind me that you changed our plans without even telling us about it?  You are a hypocrite, you are mad at me for doing the same thing you did.”

“It’s not the same, my hand was forced by Faakhir, I had no choice but to act once he found out about me, but you, you went behind my back for no reason.  My actions were out of necessity and desperation, you were moved by your need for revenge.  Things didn’t go your way, so you decided to punish me, and by doing that, you risked the lives of the people I sacrificed so much to save.”

“You are wrong,” he protested.

“Am I?  You are supposed to be the guardian of truth, but you are lying to yourself.  You may have managed to convince yourself that you were doing the right thing, but you did it the wrong way, and by doing that, you risked us all.”

“Kaiserin,” his voice was full of power, and I knew what he was trying to do.  “Why did you change the plan?”  his power was wrapping around me, but I was strong enough to resist it, at least for a while.

“I have my reasons, that’s all you need to know.  You should have trusted me, after all I did for you, you have no right to question me like this.”

“Kaiserin, I need you to tell me why you acted like that,” his voice had changed, and it was more a plea than an order.  “You are a very powerful woman, for years you managed to keep my sister and her husband at bay, but suddenly you forgot all our plans.  My mother says that it was because they found out your plans, but I don’t believe it, someone like you could have found another way.”

“I will tell you want you want to know, if you promise that after this you will leave and won’t question me again, you must promise not to even talk to me again.”

“I don’t know if that’s a promise I can keep, we need to work together after all.”

I knew he was telling the truth, for better or worse, we had to rule the Dominion together.  But he needed a lesson.  I didn’t feel like he had any right to my secrets, but on the other hand, he could use a few more nightmares, it would be a nice payback.

I stood up and walked around the desk to where he was sitting.  I sat in the chair next to his and looked directly into his eyes, before he could fight back, I pulled him inside my mind, throwing him at my darker memories, I let him feel the pain and desperation that I had felt with Agmong, and then I showed him the memories of the day Faakhir had told me he knew about my plans, and how he planned to make me into the same girl Agmong had turned me.  Using my double mind, I started to build locks around the memories he was taking, I couldn’t risk him sharing that information with anyone else.  By the time the memories had ended and I allowed him to get out of my mind, William was shaking, and I could see that what he had seen was too much for him.

“Now you get it?  I didn’t have a choice, I couldn’t allow my past to become my future, I couldn’t allow him to turn my nightmares into reality.  Did you expect me to think about you at that moment?  Not everything is about you, everyone has his own problems, and have to face them.”

“Kaiserin, I had no idea…”  William looked sick, but I couldn’t feel bad for him, he has asked for it.

“I promised you I would never mess with your mind, the same way you promised never to betray me, but since you couldn’t keep your promise, I won’t feel bad for not keeping mine.  I left some insurance in your mind, to make sure you won’t share the memories I just gave you, if you try to, you will wish that I had killed you when I had the chance.  Now, get out of my sight.”

“I never meant to betray you,” William said, finally snapping out of his shock, “after you changed the plans my mother said that there were new possibilities for the future, and we knew that we could clean your image and have you play a different role, but we also knew that you wouldn’t accept the change, that’s why we did it like that, we needed to force you to accept the change, but we did it because we thought it was the best for everyone, including you.”

“That wasn’t your choice.  The only truth here is that I trusted you, and you betrayed me.  It’s not easy for me to trust, but I trusted that we were on the same side, and were after the same goal, but you showed me that wasn’t enough.  I know that you didn’t like most of the choices I made, but at least you knew I made them thinking of what was best for your people.”

“Kaiserin, I really thought I was doing the right thing,” William insisted, but I had heard enough.

“That’s not true,” I knew that his intention had been to teach me a lesson, not just to help me like he claimed, and it had all been because I didn’t do what he wanted me to do, “you were so focused on what you wanted me to do, in your own needs, that you never stopped to think of me.  You never even considered the possibility that there was a good reason behind my actions, you assumed I just wanted to screw you over.  Your mother is convinced you are the right person to take over the role of King, she assured me that you wouldn’t make the same mistakes your sister did, and I also believed that, now I’m hoping I’m not wrong.  Now go away, I have a lot of work to do.”

I knew he wanted to keep talking, but he had realized that it wasn’t the right moment, so he left my office.  As soon as he got out, Kimball came in, looking me with curiosity and concern.

“I guess things didn’t go well, but at least he walked out by his own means, so it couldn’t have been that bad.”

“You were right, I needed to explain to him why I had acted the way I did, but it doesn’t really solve anything, I can’t trust him again after what he did.”

“What did you tell him?  He looked bad when he walked out.”

“I told him what he wanted to know, it’s just that he learned more than he bargained for.”

“I thought you didn’t want to share that part of your past.”

“You know that I don’t like people to know how weak, I was, but I made sure that he won’t be able to share what he learned.  I wanted him to understand what he had done and how much he hurt me.  I showed him that there’s no way I could trust him again after what he did.  In a way I’m grateful for what he did, he reminded me that you only can truly trust in yourself, but you need to be on your guard about others.  My work here is not done, but now that the plan has changed, I need to adapt.”

“What’s your plan?”

“First, I need to wait for William to end that stupid trial, after that I need to focus on enforcing the rules and get rid of the bad seeds.  Despite the support of the different rebellions, there are a few people that refuse to let go of their power seats, people that shouldn’t be there.  After we’re done with that, we will need to choose a new Prime Minister and President.”

“That won’t be easy.”

“I know, there’s still a lot of work to do, but once the moment arrives, that’s what we will have to do.  We’re only getting started.”

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” one of the guards said, he was holding an envelope in his hands, “I was asked to give you this, is from Representative Jeong.”

“Thanks,” Kimball said, taking the envelope and doing a quick check before giving it to me.  “Any idea what could it be?”

I opened the envelope and found an invitation inside, it was from the twins.  “It’s an invitation for the twins’ birthday party,” I said as I gave him the invitation so he could see it.

“Are you going?”

“We are going, the invitation includes you and Ethan.  I’m not sure it’s a good idea, but I don’t want to disappoint Joon Hwan or Ji Min, I’m sure that it wasn’t easy to convince their father to invite me, and I’m sure they had to talk him into it.”

“The younglings like you a lot, and I’m sure you’re right that they are the ones who want you there.”

“I guess that we could go for a few minutes, and if the situation is too heavy or uncomfortable, I can always say I have things to do and leave early.”

“I’ll let you alone so you can work, I know you have a lot to do.  I’ll ask Ethan about the party, I’m sure that Hye Ki already told him everything about it, and she may know more about who is going and what’s the plan.”

“Good idea,” I said, trying to smile, but I was sure it didn’t look right, I had a lot going on in my head and Kimball wasn’t an easy person to fool.

I had so many problems, so many responsibilities.  In a way I knew that it was important to have a good image, I had thought that fear was going to be my best weapon, but maybe trust could be better, if more people had trusted me, maybe they would have listened to my warnings.  I didn’t want to face another situation like the one with the earthquake, where I could have helped, but had failed to save people.

Things were changing, and I had to accept that.  It was time to start working on the future, no matter how the situation had changed, I still had a job to do. I wouldn’t stop until I had erased every trace of Faakhir and Emily from the Dominion, until I could allow the countries to choose their own paths.  Once I was finished with that, I would be able to finally consider my own future.

Chapter 15

Nothing had been cleared, and it had been way too long.  William and Dupont were still working on their absurd trial and even if they had managed to drop most of the charges, since the people she was supposedly killed were still alive, there were still some charges that they had to fix.  I was tired of that, and I was definitely done waiting for them, so I decided it was time to keep going with my plans, because of that, I had called a meeting with all the ambassadors and the rulers of the different countries in the Dominion.  It was going to be a video conference, with the ambassadors and me in a conference room, and the rest connected to us.

As soon as I arrived, we started the long task of introducing everyone.  I realized some of the people I had saved had already resumed their positions as heads of their countries.  I hoped that at least they would be on my side, because I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy meeting, as they proved when some leaders started to question my presence there, reminding me that I wasn’t supposed to be there as long as the trial wasn’t finished.

For a while it was entertaining watching the different leaders discuss if I should or shouldn’t be there, but after I while it lost the appeal and I decided it was time to take control.

“Enough!  We are only wasting time with this discussion,” I said, silencing the people there.  “This meeting was called so we could discuss the Dominion’s situation.  As you can see, things have changed, some old faces are back, some rebellions have taken control of their countries, with my support, of course, and it’s time to acknowledge that and put some order to the Dominion.”

There were some mutterings between the ambassadors in the room, and a noise coming from the monitors that sounded like static, and I could hear them voices the different opinions they had about what I had said.  I started to make a list, trying to see who were on my side, and who against, and was glad to see that the balance was in my favor, and at least for the moment I was safe, but still, I knew how fast things could change and I had to be careful.

I was still listening to them when the world around me shifted, I wasn’t in the conference room anymore, I was inside an old building, one that was shaking and falling apart around me.  I ran outside and froze in front of the image I found, all around me things were breaking and people were screaming for help.  I recognized the area thanks to the clothes they were wearing, but I wasn’t sure the exact place.

As soon as I got out of the vision I realized things were still the same, the leaders were too busy discussing to notice what had happened to me.  I took a moment to go into the fog so I could get a better read of the time table.  There was no way to stop an earthquake, the force of nature was just too strong, but there were ways to minimize the damage if we had enough time to prepare.  I didn’t like what I found, there was barely enough time to act, so I got out of the fog and started to reach to my people to issue orders.

“Silence!” I yelled, so everyone could hear me, even the people connected from the different countries in the Dominion.  “I just received important information.  A natural disaster is about to hit somewhere in the Indian Peninsula, and I need that all buildings start evacuation right now.”

“What cities should we start evacuation in?” the Prime Minister asked.

“I’m not sure which cities will be affected, but I think we need to move everyone in the area to open spaces until we have more information.”

“Do you have any idea of the number of people living in that area?  Without more information about this supposed threat, and not knowing the exact area it is supposedly going to affect, I don’t think it’s wise to start a mass evacuation,” the Prime Minister said.

“Believe me, it’s in your people’s best interest to follow my orders and take action now.  And just take into account that this is not a suggestion, it’s an order, if I say that you need to evacuate people and move them to open spaces, then that is exactly what you are going to do,” I warned, trying to make my point and show him I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.  “This meeting is going to be postponed until further notice.  For the moment, it’s more important to start working on the emergency services we are going to need to face the coming crisis.”

I left them at that and went to my office, I needed to start planning.  I didn’t want to contact Sofia or ask for her help, but in a situation like that her powers were needed, still, I wasn’t ready to face her, so I decided to send one of my assistants to talk to her, to get her to start working on going over the different scenarios, so we had a better idea of what we were going to be dealing with, so we could better prepare the rescue teams.

I had just sat at my desk when Kimball walked inside my office, with some of the warriors I had called telepathically following him.

“What’s going on?” Kimball asked, going directly to the issue at hand.

“A natural disaster, an earthquake, I think.  It’s going to be big, but I don’t know how big or exactly where is going to hit.  I already told Fatima to go over it, and someone is going to talk to Sofia, so both of them can work on finding the different scenarios we are likely to find.”

“That area hadn’t been hit by an earthquake in a long time.  The problem with that is that people forget how dangerous those can be and it’s not scared enough to act.  The best right now is that the earthquake hit fast, otherwise the people that is being evacuated will dismiss the threat and go back.”

“I want you to contact our military forces and our contacts in the area.  I have the feeling that the Prime Minister didn’t take my warning seriously and we need to move people to a safe place, no matter what they think it’s best.”

Once the orders were issued and the teams forced, Kimball and I took one of the planes going to the area.  We received news of an earthquake hitting the most of the southern area of the peninsula while we were still on the air.  We kept getting reports on the situation as we approached, and each report was grimmer than the last.

We changed our direction to go to the most affected area.  The view from the plane was desolate, what used to be a huge city was nothing but ruins.  It had been one thing to see the destruction as part of my vision, but it was another thing to get to see it first hand.  When the plane finally landed, we found that half the airport had collapsed.  One of my men walked pass me and went to talk to a man wearing military fatigues, and by the way they were talking, it was clear they knew each other.

“Let me introduce you to General Singh, he is in charge of the army and the rescue efforts.”

“Do you know how many victims there are?” I asked as soon as we were introduced.

“I’m sorry, but it’s too soon to have an official count of death and injured.  Unofficially, we think deaths are in the hundreds, maybe thousands once we finish.”

“Is there people trapped in the airport?” I pointed to the ruined half of it.

“The buildings under our control were empty, so we didn’t have loses there.  As soon as we received our orders, my people started evacuating all government buildings, airports, train station, bus stations and schools.  Unfortunately, malls, markets, offices, homes and hospitals are not under our direct control and not everyone left.”

“So we have working people, families and sick people as the main affected, not the situation I would like.”

“Believe me, we are not happy either, but there wasn’t much we could do at the moment.”

“We need a Command Center to organize the rescue efforts and keep track of everything that is going on.  Do you know what areas have the most victims?”

“So far we only have guesses and broad calculations, nothing official.  As soon as we have something better we’ll let you know.”

“I think you should head to the Command Center,” I told Kimball.  “You are better managing resources and with planning.  I would like to go visit some of the affected areas and see if I can use my powers to get a better read on the situation.”

“Something tells me it’s not a good idea to let you go alone,” Kimball said, “but as always, you will end up doing whatever you want.  I’ll go and try to organize things, but you have to promise to be careful and not to take unnecessary risks.”

“I promise,” I said without doubt, but his definition of unnecessary risks and mine were a little different, so even if I thought I was keeping my promise, he might not think the same.

“Yoweri, please take care of her, and if you think she is going too far, call me,” Kimball ordered.

“As you wish,” Yoweri respectfully promised, and I wasn’t sure if I should feel flattered or angry at the way they were talking about me.  For the moment I had more important things to take care of, so I just ignored them and focused on the task at hand.

First, I needed to get the right team, the people that could face the crisis.  I started choosing the people I thought could be more helpful, based on their powers and the kind of training they had.  Once I had the right people, I asked the general to take me to one of the most affected places.

Most of the rescue efforts were focused on a hospital, most of the people there was already sick, so they were more vulnerable than others and were a priority for many.  There was a group already working there, and some civilians were trying to help, but the damage was great, and their work was moving very slowly, the lack or organization wasn’t helping either.

As soon as my people started to get out of our vehicles the people around started to feel afraid.  Some of the local army started to move around, taking the people away from the building, leaving only the people with me to work on the rescue, that way we could be sure no one unprepared would be there and risk getting hurt.  Once they realized that we were sending everyone away, some of the locals started to protest, I knew that soon more people would know what was going on and start protesting.  No one trusted me to be there to help, so I needed to act soon before they could become a problem.

I went to my knees in front of the building and put my hands on the ground, using my powers to connect to the structure before me.

“Everyone is ready,” someone said next to me, “we are only waiting your orders.”

“I need you to bring a couple of terrakinetics to help me keep the building grounded,” I asked, I wasn’t sure who he was, but I was too busy to care.

“That must weight several tons, there is no way a few of you can hold that,” the same person protested.

“We don’t need to hold it, we just need to strenghten a few places.  I also need you to bring the telepaths so they can start working on finding survivors.  I want a group of kinetics and mutants ready to start digging out people as soon as we can guarantee that the structure is secure, and I need the telepaths to be ready to guide them.”

I was too busy focusing on the task ahead of me, so I didn’t bother to see if he was listening, but soon after I felt people approaching and I knew that he had followed my orders when they introduced themselves and told me they were terrakinetics and ferrokinetics.  It took us just a few minutes to find the places that needed to be supported.  After we worked on that, the order to move in was given, and the rescue teams started working.  They were fast, as they didn’t have to worry about the building falling on them.  There weren’t as many survivors as I hoped, and soon the telepaths reported that there were no more people left to rescue.  Once I could double check and make sure there was no one unconscious that had escaped their readings, I finally decided to stop our work and told the others to stop using their powers.  Without our help to strengthen the weak spots, the whole building collapsed, causing people to scream in terror, people thinking their loved ones were still alive and that the building falling was sealing their fates.

“We need to move to the next location,” I told my people, “they only have to work on rescuing the bodies, and that’s something the others can work on, even civilians could help.”

“There is an angry mob outside, the hospital collapsing only enraged them,” Yoweri said, moving closer to me, maybe even using his powers to hide me.  “I think we need to move out of here as soon as we can, the people we rescued is already being treated by the paramedics and the local groups are ready to take over the work here.”

“I agree, let’s go,” I started to stand up, but I lost my balance, Yoweri had to support me.

“Maybe you need to take some time off to rest, maybe go to the Command Center,” Ivan said, “besides, even if you could keep going, the other psychics are burned out, they can’t keep going or they will get a psychic headache, and you know not everyone can survive those like you.”

“Just get a fresh group before we reach the next stop.  We need to act fast if we want to find people still alive.  We can’t stop and rest.”

For the next few hours we used different groups and different power combinations to rescue people from the different collapsed buildings.  At one point Yoweri convinced me to use some of his energy to recharge, and when the soldiers noticed I could do that, they started offering their own energy, those whose powers weren’t useful for rescue, helped by giving me their energy.

After the hospital we went to a couple of malls and an apartment building, the places where more people were trapped.  I was ready to keep going, but it was late and Kimball had gone for me, not giving me a chance to stay, he had appeared at the last location and taken me back to the Command Center with him.

Even in the middle of everything, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t doing enough.  Everyone expected me to be tired, so I took advantage of that and pretended I needed to take a nap, instead I went to the astral planes.

The astral planes were unstable after so many spirits crossing through the planes, it had made the division between them thinner.  I did my best to ignore the warmth of the superior planes, and ignored the lower planes, focusing on staying firmly in the material plane.  I went to the places where I could feel more people gathered and arrived at what looked like an apartment building.  Despite the warnings, most people had been in their homes when the earthquake hit, and even if some had been prepared and had time to run out, there were still many still trapped.  I knew that some soldiers were capable of seeing astral projections, and that if I needed I could find someone to help me, so I took advantage of the intangibility of my projection to move inside the building.  Once inside I started looking, and found a group of children, they were hiding under a table and a cabinet.  Some of them had some cuts and bruises, but other than that they looked fine.

I was happy that they were alive, and my first instinct was to go look for help, but then I noticed one of the girls was looking at me, and it looked like she was talking to me.  I couldn’t hear her, and I tried to read her lips, but it appeared she was using a language I couldn’t understand.  Still, I was pretty sure she could see me, and then I saw her putting her hands to a piece of wall that was starting to move, and I saw it fuse with things around it, making it safe again.  I tried to smile at her, to make her feel better, and started making a plan, looking at the building around us.

I moved away for a moment to look at the building, and found a way to guide the little girl and the other children to a place where the soldiers could help them.  I wasn’t sure what powers the others had, but I was pretty sure that the little girl would be capable of getting them out.

I went back to where they were, and I saw the girl’s face lighten up at my return, using gestures I tried to explain to her what I needed her to do and pointed the places where she could use her powers to build a way out.  It was slow, and while we were moving I realized there was a woman an a baby near them and had to change the route so they could help them too.  Together, they managed to reach an open space the rescuers had already reached.  One of the soldiers noticed the group and went to help them.  I could see the little girl pointing my way and saying something, but the rest of them couldn’t see me.

Once I was sure they were going to be taken care of, I continued my search for survivors.  There was not much I could do, I had already worked on the most affected places, and I could tell that the search and rescue groups were doing a good job, most had adopted a method similar to the one I had used and the work was going well.  I knew that most of the good work was thanks to Kimball’s planning and guidance, he knew how to move people in a way that could help the most.  Since everything seemed to be under control, I decided to go back to my body and take a real rest.

Chapter 14

I was surprised by the forlorn sight that welcomed us when we arrived at our destination, but maybe in a way I should have expected it, Kimball had told me that that area was part of a military zone that had been used by the northern part of the country, back when they were still divided and fighting each other.  The place had been abandoned once both sides had become one country, like most military posts all over the country.

“Anything to report?” I asked Thalia, who was still working with Fatima, who was walking in the fog.

“It seems that nothing has changed and we are in the right time frame to do what we need to do.  We are approaching the point when your vision happened.”

We went to our vehicles and started to move, the idea was to go around the property and approach the place from a point we would be able to neutralize the threats and capture the kidnappers.  We arrived to a point from where we could observe the building I had seen in my vision, and we watched as the couple I had seen in my vision exited the place and went to a car that was parked near the door.  As soon as they got inside the car, I used my powers to trap them inside.  As soon as they realized what was going on, they started screaming and trying to get out.  I knew they had an arsenal of gadgets at their disposal, but I trusted my men to be able to stop them.

“Come with me,” I asked Kimball, at the time I started moving towards the building.  From my vision I knew that they have started a self-destruct sequence, and my priority was to stop it, I wasn’t sure what we were going to find inside and I wanted to have time to check it.

We heard the alarms as soon as we got close, but when we arrived at the door, we heard something worse, people screaming.  I knew that Jeong’s daughter was there, and I had suspicions that there were more, but until then I had no idea how many more people we would find.  Kimball was studying the lock, and even knowing he was a very smart person, there were some situation where he couldn’t compete with a tecnopath.

“There is no time to try and unlock this, we will have to break the door, move back,” he asked, but I let him know that I had it with a gesture, and proceeded to use my powers to open a hole in the wall, next to the door.  I was aware that most traps were designed to attack those crossing through the door.  “I suppose that works too,” Kimball said, smiling at me despite the situation.

I followed Kimball inside, hoping he had a good idea of where we needed to go.  I sent a telepathic message to my people to ask them to be ready to come help us as soon as we dealt with the self-destruct sequence.

It didn’t take long to reach a huge room of machines that I didn’t know or understood, but that looked out of place in a building that was supposed to be the most technologically advanced in the Dominion.

“This all looks old, which could work in our advantage,” Kimball said, as he started taking things out of his backpack.  “Could you help me cool down those tanks?” he asked, and even if I didn’t know why, I trusted him to know what to do.

“Consider it done,” I said, and started working on it.  I wasn’t sure what was going on, all I was sure of was that the place was going to explode if we couldn’t stop it, and that my action would help stop it.

Kimball finished what he was doing in what probably were a few minutes, but felt like an eternity.  He just got up and looked around suspiciously.

“This was too easy, something tells me that we are not done yet,” Kimball said, and I had to agree with him.  I decided not to call for backup yet, and take some time to look around.

We went back to the main area and started to walk to where the screaming was coming from, but when we were halfway there, Kimball pulled me to the floor and covered me just before I felt the heat and realized there were lasers around us.

“Defense system?” I asked.

“This is just the beginning, I have a feeling that a place like this must have some of the best defenses there are.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“Of course, Kimball said, and went back to his backpack.  As soon as he took the little machine out, I recognized the EMP.  Just a few seconds after that the EMP shock wave hit me.  I knew it had worked because of the sudden silence that followed it.  “We still have to be careful, I wouldn’t discount that the tecnopaths had some protection against the EMP built in some of their defenses.  Can you use your power to look for electrical signatures that could pinpoint working traps?”

“Give me a moment,” I said, extending my senses and trying to build a mental map of the place.  I didn’t find any dangers, but I could feel people approaching us, people I was sure was not a danger to us.  “We have company,” I told Kimball, just as the first faces started to show.  “Will the translator work?” I asked, not sure if the EMP had affected it.

“I don’t think so, didn’t even thought about it.  The EMP’s range is not that big, there should be a few working translators outside.”

I used my powers to contact my people and call some of them.  I have a few local soldiers, people who knew the language and would be able to communicate with them.  My main concern was to find Ji Min, I hadn’t even considered what I was going to do with the rest, but I knew I couldn’t leave them behind.  I found a familiar face among the crowd, it was like looking at a slightly sick version of Joon Hwan.

Ji Min watched the group moving our way, and then she looked at us, and moved to the side.  I knew she was trying to escape and I couldn’t allow her to get away.  I called my people and sent them instruction by telepathy, and then I signaled Kimball to let him know I was going after her.  It didn’t take long to reach her, because I was using my powers to track her.  We found ourselves outside and Ji Min ran into a group of my men that were patrolling the building.  She took a gadget out of her pocket, but when she tried to make it work, it didn’t, it had been affected by the EMP.

“Jeong Ji Min? I know your brother,” I said, using one of the languages I knew that Joon Hwan could speak fluently, and hoping she would know it too.  “He misses you and asked me to look for you.  Would you like to see him?”

“My brother?  He is dead, they told me so,” she said, using the same language I had used.

“And you believed them?  People told him you were dead, but he never believed it, he says he knows you are alive because he can feel you.  Can’t you feel him?”

“I do…” she admitted, her eyes going unfocused for a moment, as if she was trying to reach him.

“I came to help you, I promise I mean no harm, I’ll just take you back to your family.”

“My parents don’t care about me, they never came for me.”

“They looked for you for a long time, but they were convinced you were gone.  Your brother was also taken away from your parents, and that hurt them a lot.  I’m here because your brother Joon Hwan wants you back, he feels incomplete without you and misses you.”

“How can I know you are telling the truth?”

“You can’t, I know there is no reason for you to trust me, but I will give you the option to come with my by your own free will.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“I really don’t know, I can feel that whatever happened here hurt you a lot, and I don’t want to be part of your pain.  But I can’t leave you alone.  I would probably send someone to follow you to make sure you’re safe, and then I would go for your brother, it wouldn’t be easy or convenient, but if you won’t go to him, he would have to come for you,” the young lady’s face was impossible to read, but I could tell she was thinking about my words, trying to come up with something, wanting to trust me.  “I would prefer if you would come with me, I can take you to a villa near here where you can rest and eat, and of course, we could get rid of that uncomfortable suppressor for you.  I hate them, don’t you?”

“The only ones who can remove them are the bosses, they have the codes.  The EMP that you used didn’t affect the suppressors, and if you try to remove it by force it will explode and kill me.”

“The bosses?  You mean the couple that was trying to run away?”  I asked, thinking about my options.  I was pretty sure that Kimball could take the suppressor off, but I could feel her terror, and since I knew that it was very difficult to fool a technopath about how things worked, I had to believe that those were dangerous.  I used my powers to order my men to bring the couple.  “Do you think they would be able to remove them without danger?”

“I heard them discussing their plan of escape, they were going to destroy the place and leave us there to die.  If you ask them to take it off, they would probably just make it explode.”

“I don’t think so, I can be really convincing.”

The couple arrived a couple of minutes later, and I could tell by their expressions that they weren’t happy and would most likely be against cooperating with us.  I decided that I couldn’t take the easy approach with them.  As soon as they stopped I used my powers to force them down on their knees, then I took a translator that was still in working condition and my men had brought me, and activated it, so we could avoid any misunderstandings.

“I need you to help me,” I said, and could tell that they had no intention to hear me out, much less to help me.  “I will ask this once, and only once.  Will you help me?” None of them answered, and their silence was all the answer I needed.  I used my powers to invade their minds and used a mental attack that had them writhing in pain.

I knew how effective and painful that kind of attack was, and their blood-curdling screams only drove the point home.  I could see the people we have rescued from the building watching in horror from the distance, even some of my people seemed affected.  I stopped the attack and went into their weakened minds to look for the information I needed.  Deactivating the suppressors was easier than I expected, but still I decided to let someone who knew what he was doing take care of it.

“Kimball,” I called using the comm, “I need your help.”  I had just finished speaking when I saw Kimball walking out of the building and approaching us.  I went to the couple and took the control from them.  It had several biometric security measures, but with them there, it wouldn’t be any problem.

“What do you need me for?” Kimball asked, watching the control on my hands.

“I need you to disable the suppressors.  Ji Min said that they had some kind of security that makes it unsafe to remove them by force.  This is the suppressor’s control.  If you open your mind, I can show you how to use it.”

Kimball took the control and looked directly at my eyes, something we knew helped with the mental connection.  I showed him the images I had taken from their minds and Kimball started working on it right away.  A moment later I heard Ji Min’s suppressor unlocking and hitting the ground.  I watched as her eyes went unfocused as she looked around, and I knew she was using her powers.

“Any idea about what she is planning?”

“She is planning her escape, obviously,” I said.  “Ji Min, would you like to come with us to our home?  I think that you and the rest of the people could use some food and rest.”

“I still don’t know if I can trust you.”

“You have your powers back, we gave them to you as an act of good faith, now is your turn to give us some trust.  I just want you to give us a little bit of your time.”

It wasn’t easy to convince her to come with us, but we finally did it.  At first, all of our talks were difficult and full of mistrust, but soon I realized that despite her advance control of tecnopathy, she was lacking on the rest.  She had no idea how to shield her mind, and I was able to read her thoughts very easily.  I pointed that weakness to her and taught her how to hide her thoughts.  Kimball even shared with her some tech designs that could help her with that.

Between the information I had gathered from her mind and the information we had extracted from our prisoners I  finally had an idea of what had happened.  A group of businessmen, supported by one of Faakhir’s trusted men, had kidnapped several technopaths and forced them to work on their factory building some very advanced gadgets that only people with their powers could build, gadgets that they sold to the Dominion.  Faakhir had no idea of how the factory was using slave work to build them, not that he would have cared one way or another, but his ignorance had made things more difficult for me, since I would have been able to find her if he had known.  Ever since Joon Hwan had told me about his sister and how he could still feel her, and how he sometimes felt as if she was sending him messages, I had promised I would do everything I could to find her, and I had finally done it.

She wasn’t ready to face her family, but little by little I convinced her that she had at least to go to her brother, he was the only one who affected her in any way.  After a week I felt like she was ready to go to her family.  I knew that she had a lot of healing ahead of her, but I felt it would be easier if she was surrounded by people that loved her, at least around her brother that she still felt fondly about, and maybe her little sister, who she barely remembered.

Capital City was full of military presence, because of the situation that had caused some people from trying to leave, against my orders.  We arrived to the Yellow Tower and found a group of soldiers posted around it, which only made Ji Min even more nervous and made her doubt her decision to to to her brother.

We went to the floor where her parent’s apartment was located, each floor had four apartments, usually inhabited by people from the same country.  That floor only had three occupied apartments, and I was already thinking about using the spare one for Ji Min and her brother, in case she was too uncomfortable to be in the same one as her parents.

We haven’t even gotten to the door when Jeong opened it and stormed out.  I could see he wasn’t in a welcoming mood.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.  His angry attitude was not what I was expecting after giving him his son back.

“Is that all you have to say to me?” I challenged him.

“I guess I have to thank you for not killing my son,” he said, somewhat chastised.  “Thank you for giving him back.  But I don’t know what you did to him, I’m pretty sure you brainwashed him, because he is obviously on your side, and I don’t appreciate you trying to use him to manipulate me.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about, but I need to see him.”

“No.  I’m sorry, but I can’t allow you to.”

“Again, it’s not about what you want.”

Jeong started to scan the crowd, and I was pretty sure he was looking for Agata, the one I had used to blackmail him into obedience, but she wasn’t with us, his daughter was, and I watched the moment he found her.

“Daughter?” he asked, his voice breaking.  “Is this a trap?  Another trick to manipulate me?”

“Joon Hwan asked me to find his sister, and I finally did a few days ago.  I know his birthday is in a few days, and I thought he would like to have his sister with him for the celebration.”

“Ji Min?  Is really you?”

“You said my brother was going to be here,” Ji Min said, “he is the one I want to see, not that man,” she said with venom.

“What did you do to her?  What ideas did you put in her head?”

“Don’t blame me, I just found her.”

“My daughter…” he tried to talk, only to be interrupted.

“Don’t call me that, you lost the right when you abandoned me.  Don’t pretend to care about me, you never did.  You weren’t there when I needed you, and I don’t need you anymore,” Ji Min was angry again, the same anger I had felt in her when we had found her.

“It wasn’t like that,” Jeong tried to explain.

“I don’t want to talk to you, I hate you,” Ji Min yelled at him, and I could see she was just starting her verbal attack, so I slapped her to shut her up.

As soon as the palm of my hand made contact with her cheek, Jeong tried to attack me, instinctively reacting.  All my guards took their weapons out and pointed them to him, but he didn’t seem to notice them, or care about the danger he was in.

“Don’t you dare touch my daughter!” he yelled at me, before trying to get to me again, but my psychic wall was stopping him from reaching me.  Still, he kept trying to break it to get to me.  “Get away from my daughter, don’t you dare hurting her.”

“Does that sound like someone who doesn’t care about you?” I asked Ji Min, who was staring at me in confusion.

“But he never went for me.”

“Do you think he didn’t try?  I know things weren’t easy for you, but neither were for him, you should give him a chance.  Besides, your brother and sister are here, your mother too.  At least try to talk to him, give it some time, and if you can’t fix things between you, I will come for you and take you somewhere else.”

“Do you promise?” she asked, her hand covering the place where I hit her.  She was a very smart person, and by the way she was looking at her father, who was still fighting my barrier, I thought she understood why I had attacked her.

“I promise, but first, give them a chance.  You know how to contact me, so does your brother.”

“Ok, I will try.”  Ji Min moved closer and then bowed to me.  “Thank you for everything.”

As she was turning away from me to go to her father, Joon Hwan got out of the apartment and saw his sister, he stood frozen for a second, and then ran to her.  Ji Min mirrored him, and I pulled the psychic wall down just in time for them to avoid hitting it.  They hugged, staring at each other and having a silent conversation, and it felt as if the time between them hadn’t existed.  At the doorway, their mother and sister were watching, not knowing exactly what was happening, while Representative Jeong watched the scene, not knowing how to react, giving a few tentative steps toward them, but unwilling to interrupt them.

I turned away from them and signaled my people that it was time to go, but before I could leave, I heard someone coming my way and I looked back to see Joon Hwan approaching me.

“Thank you,” he told me, he knew he didn’t need to add anything, I could feel his gratitude, his happiness, and all the feelings running through him at that moment.

“Just fulfilling my promise to you, when I took you to Aquarium I told you I would find your sister, and I’m sorry it took me this long.”

“What matters is that you found her, and I will be forever grateful for this,” he said, bowing to me.

“Nothing to be grateful for.  I’ll go now, I’m sure you have a lot of catch up to do.  You know how to contact me if you need me.”  Before they could add anything else, I walked away, leaving the building quickly, and feeling satisfied about what I had accomplished.  I wasn’t ready to face William, and even if I wanted to avoid the confrontation that awaited me, I knew that sooner of later we would have to do something about the trial.

Chapter 13

As soon as I arrived at my apartment, I noticed we had guests.  I could hear the children talking in the living room and I moved closer, just to confirm my suspicion that Ethan’s friends were there.  I was happy they had visited him, especially because I could tell by their voices and the emotions getting out of the room, that Ethan had nothing to fear about his friends, none of them were blaming him for what had happened, maybe they were blaming me instead.

“Ethan?” I called, to let them know I was about to enter the room.

“Mother,” Ethan looked at me, a guilty look on his face, “we have visitors.”

“I see that,” as I looked around at the curious, but not scared faces of the kids, I realized they knew the truth.

“My friends came to visit, they are not mad at me for what happened, but still, I want you to allow me to explain the truth to them.”

“Why are you asking for my permission if you already told them everything?”

“I’m only covering my bases.”

“I see,” I went to Ethan, and I could feel his friends going on alert, staring at me, they were worried I would do something to Ethan, even if the fear I was expecting wasn’t there.  “You did good, I know how hard it was for you to hide the truth from them, and I’m grateful that you understood how important it was to keep the secret while there was the chance that Faakhir’s men or anyone else could intercept the information and endanger us.  Now things are different, and I’m glad you have friends you can trust with this.  I just want you to keep in mind that you have to be very careful who you trust, especially as some secrets are not only about you, and you never know who can get hurt if you trust the wrong person.”

“I’m sure none of them would betray my trust,” Ethan said confidently.

“We would never go against Ethan,” Hye Ki assured me, “we won’t betray his trust,” the rest of the group agreed on that.

“I know, that’s why I encouraged your friendship with my son, I know, thanks to my visions, that you will be his friends for a long time, and that you will support him.  I’m actually glad that my son has you as his friends, but I also know that things can change very easily and you never know what the future can bring, and even if my visions show me a good future right now, that only means nothing will happen short term, but things can change.”

“You say you encouraged our friendship? You were always against us,” Dmytro protested.

“And what better way to ensure that your parents wouldn’t intervene in your friendship that being publicly against it?”

“So you manipulated our parents?” Iñaki asked.

“You could say that, but I did it for a good reason.”

“That’s ok,” Dmytro said, “I get it, even after Ethan saved us from Jonas, twice, my father wouldn’t have accepted our friendship if he had suspected you had a good relationship.”

“My father already suspects that’s the case,” Hye Ki said, “he said it wasn’t a good idea for me to keep being Ethan’s friends, but he IS my friend and that won’t change, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, so I won’t either.”

“I appreciate it, and as I said, it’s good to see that he has such loyal friends.  Still,” I warned Ethan, “you need to keep in mind that even the people who could at one moment give their own lives for you, those who swear they would do anything for you, could change their mind and stab you in the back without warning.”

“Still mad at William?” Ethan asked.

“With him, and at myself, I should have known better, I should have already learned my lesson, one I hope you don’t get to experiment, at least not for a long time.”

“I know, even those you trusted the most could, and in your case, have betrayed you.”

“I wish you didn’t spend so much time inside my head, you are losing your innocence.”

“You know in my position is better to know so I can be prepared.”

“I don’t know what I was expecting, but this is not it,” Oliver said.  “Even after hearing my grandmother’s wonderful tales, I can’t help but think of you as a heartless assassin.”

“And still, you are not afraid,” I pointed out.

“Ethan said we had nothing to fear, and we trust him,” Iñaki said.

“I talked to my brother and he told me what had happened,” Hye Ki said shyly, “and I wanted to thank you for saving him and ask your forgiveness for all the bad things I thought about you.”

“Not sorry for trying to kill me?” I asked, taking the girl by surprise.

“Try to kill you?  When was that?” Ethan asked, and it was clear he was mad about it.  Hye Ki was blushing, feeling bad about the situation.

“You knew about that?”

“There’s little I don’t know.  Your parents also tried that, and they were almost successful, but I have to give it to you, you were the youngest one to try that, and not many people would have thought of something like what you did.  The small robot you used to carry the poison was, in my husband’s words, an engineering marvel, but I’m sure you could find better uses for it than trying to kill someone.  I suggest that next time you take some time to think about the consequences of your actions.  Think about it, what if you had succeeded?  Would you have felt better?  Or would guilt eat at you?  It’s not easy to take somebody’s life.”

“Even for you?” Dmytro asked.  “It’s clear now that you didn’t kill as many people as you were accused of, but you don’t seem to have a problem killing people, and I have seen the recordings of Emily’s death, and that wasn’t faked, she is definitely dead.”

“I grew up in a different place, where my options were to kill or be killed.  I don’t have a problem killing people who deserve it.  You could say I was forced to commit my first murder when I was about your age.  But things are different here, and you grew up with a different moral compass, one that says is not correct to kill, and puts a heavier burden on you when you do.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Hye Ki said.

“Of course, but I want you to be sure you want the answer.  I hope you already realized that I don’t know how to sugarcoat things, I say things as they are.”  She took a minute to think about it, and then asked her question.

“For a long time I have gone over that day, when you let my brother fall in my place.  I was sure I was going to die that day, and sometimes I think it would have been easier to let them kill me, to stop my brother before he acted, but you didn’t, why?”

“You are right, it would have been easier to stop him, but it wouldn’t have been easier on your father to lose you.  I didn’t know the whole story back then, but I knew your father had already lost a daughter, one your brother was a daily reminder of, and I knew how hard it would have been to lose another.  Any loss is painful, but I had the feeling that your father was going to be able to deal with your brother’s lost easier than yours.”

“So you did that for my father?  But…” Hye Ki didn’t finish her thought, but I could see that she was thinking about my words, they weren’t what she was expecting, and she was realizing that not everything they thought they knew about me was true, even if she couldn’t see that my motives were actually kind of selfish.  “You didn’t know us back then, there was no reason to do something like that.”

“Your father had already gone through a lot, he didn’t need to be tortured even more.”

“When my grandparents disappeared,” Oliver cut in, “when we thought you had killed the, there was a rumor, one my mother ignored, that said that Emily had ordered our deaths, and there was an incident when I thought we were going to die, just a few days before my grandparents’ death.  What’s the real story?”

“Your mother was too valuable to die, but since they didn’t assign her murder to me, I asked someone to stop the attempt from being successful, and then convinced Emily that her death wasn’t going to help anyone, and that it would be better to kill her parents, so she could see that the threat was real, and then used you and your brother to control your mother.  Since their deaths were assigned to me, I was able to take them to a safe place.  I’m sorry your grandfather didn’t survive, but I can assure you, there was nothing we could have done to stop his death, it was his time.”

“That’s what my grandma says.  I think that we have to thank you, not only for my grandparents’ lives, but also ours.  You don’t know much this means to us, thank you,” Oliver said, with all the formality the fifteen year old could use.

“Yes, thank you,” Iñaki added, copying his brother.

“I also have to thank you,” Dmytro said, “I didn’t know my grandparents as well as Oliver knew his, still I was very sad that they were gone.  Having them back and having a second chance at knowing them is a great gift.  And I know my father is very happy to have them back.”

“You don’t have anything to thank me for, I was just doing my job, what needed to be done.  You are making this a bigger deal than it is.”

“Maybe it’s nothing for you, but it’s everything to us,” Oliver said.

“Well, I know you didn’t come here to talk to me, you are here for Ethan, so I will leave you alone.”

I got up and prepared to leave when I heard a discussion from the direction of the entrance, and then I saw William and two guards walking towards me.

“We need to talk,” William said, his voice full of power.

“There’s nothing to talk about.  I already warned you not to look for me.”

One side of the room was made out of floor to ceiling windows, you could see the gardens, and farther away, part of the city.  I used my powers to open the windows and then I used them to grab William and throw him out.  Both guards ran to the windows and one of them jumped behind William.  Ethan’s friends were staring in horror at the scene.

“Did you kill him?” Hye Ki finally broke the silence.

“Your brother survived a fall from a plane and you are worried about a few stories?”

“It would be better for you if you could stop doing reckless acts like this,” the remaining guard warned me, “it wouldn’t be a good idea to keep pilling charges against you.”

“You do whatever you want, I don’t care about the stupid trial anyway.”

“You are lucky the King fell into the pond and wasn’t hurt, or you would be in real trouble.”

“Luck had nothing to do with that.  And tell your King that if he dares to show his face in front of me again, next time I won’t be so nice.  I can’t stand traitors, and that goes for you too.  I kind of respect your loyalty, I know you swore loyalty to the Royal House, but you work for me, and if you stand in my way again, you won’t like it.”

“Understood,” the guard said, walking out of the room.  It was obvious he was mad at me and wanted to yell back at me, but he wasn’t dumb and knew he would lose if he fought with me.

“I think that kind of confirms that you are still mad at William,” Ethan said.

“If he thinks he can walk into my home as if nothing happened, he has lost his mind,” just by seeing him my mood had turned sour again, and I wasn’t sure if the fact that Ethan’s friends were actually afraid was making things better or worse.  The plan was to be feared, wasn’t it?

“Maybe you should talk…” Ethan started to say, before being interrupted.

“I suggest you stop before you finish that sentence,” Kimball said, choosing that moment to walk into the living room.  He was wearing a brace on his leg, and using a cane, for a moment I worried I had been to harsh on him, but then I realized that William couldn’t have gotten inside without someone opening the door to him and got angry all over again.

“What happened to you?” Ethan asked, staring at Kimball’s broken leg.

“I finished that sentence and your mother didn’t appreciate it.”

“And as if that wasn’t enough, you go and invite that traitor into my home.”

“I didn’t invite him, I just arrived behind him.  I know you understand the concept of diplomacy, you did a great job using it with the Amazons, and even when dealing with Faakhir, so I don’t get why are you acting like this with William.”

“It’s not the same, I knew what I was getting into with them, I knew Faakhir wanted to take advantage of me, and with the Amazons, it was a mutual thing, both trying to get advantage over the other.  But William wasn’t supposed to be like that, he was supposed to be on my side.”

“He feels betrayed, maybe if you explained what happened with Faakhir.”

“He knows what happened with Faakhir, he found me out and attacked me, what else is there?”  I could feel the eyes on me, I knew the kids were listening and didn’t appreciate it, I didn’t want them to hear more than they were supposed to.

“All I’m saying is that you should talk to him and explain everything that happened, reach an agreement.  You are supposed to be trying to stop a war, not cause one.”

I looked out of the still open window, thinking of throwing Kimball out, maybe he would want to cool off in the pond with William.

“Please don’t throw my father out of the window,” Ethan asked.

“Yes, please don’t,” Kimball asked with a pout and a teasing tone, that instead of calming me down only made me angrier.

“I’m out of here, and I suggest you don’t follow me, for your own good,” I warned Kimball.

“Before you go, I just want to insist on how grateful I’m for what you did for my family.  You don’t know how much it means for us to have my brother back,” Hye Ki said, extending her hand for me to shake.  I decided to accept the gesture and took her hand, and as soon as I did the world around me faded, throwing me into a new one.

I saw a couple of people saying how they were running out of time, then I watched as they reached an agreement and reached a console, typing some commands into it before leaving the place.  The vision changed focus and I saw a young girl, her face extremely familiar, even if I had never seen her before.  She was locked in a room, and I saw how she started to work as soon as the alarm went off, going to the pile of blankets she used as a bed and retrieving a series of instruments.  The focus changed again and I watched the couple I had first seen walking out of a building, trying to get out of there in a hurry, it was then that I realized what was going on and what I needed to do.

When I got out of the vision I was surrounded by curious faces.

“A vision?” Kimball asked, even knowing the answer.

“We have to go,” I said immediately, I had finally got the information I needed to fulfill a promise I had done years before, thanks to the vision.

“You are under arrest, remember?  You can’t leave,” Kimball said.

“I don’t care about that.  When are you going to understand that I don’t care about William’s whims?  You have an hour to get ready if you want to go with me,” I warned Kimball, who only raised a brow and made a huge deal of looking at his leg, as if trying to remind me he was injured.  I ignored him and turned back to Hye Ki who was looking confused.  “I don’t know if it was because of you, but if you triggered that vision, then I’m very grateful to you. You can stay here as long as you want, don’t worry about anything and have fun.”

I left the room, and used my powers to reach Thalia.

I’m sorry,‘ she said as soon as I made contact.  ‘We were trying to stop Sofia from reaching you and William slipped by, we didn’t notice until it was too late.  Sofia managed to play us, again.  Fatima is not happy about it, and we failed you again.

Don’t worry about that, we have work to do.  I want you and Fatima to meet with me at the airport in an hour, we have a mission to complete.

“At least could you tell me what’s this about?” Kimball asked, from behind me.  He was moving really fast for someone with a broken leg.

“I don’t know, if I tell you, will you go to your new friend and tell him my plans?  I don’t want to risk him trying to stop me, I don’t want to have to kill him.”

“You must know I’m on your side, I really think that it would be a good thing to establish some form of communication.”

“I will deal with Sofia and William later, right now I have better things to do.”

Chapter 12

Just as I expected, the group helping William getting the people out of Aquarium was easy to identify, and not that large.  Most of the people in Aquarium had taken the first opportunity to get out of there, not even stopping to think about the danger of doing so.  I guessed that most, if not all, ignored that they were going against my orders when they left Aquarium.

“So far everything seems to be under control,” Kimball said.  “William still insists on getting ahead with the trial.  Right now, I think that’s for the best.  I spoke to Jean and he thinks that he will be able to get most of the charges dropped.”

“There are still a lot of crimes I’m guilty of,” I pointed out.

“Mother,” Ethan called from the living room, “I think you should see this.”

I went to the living room and saw he was watching an interview with one of the refugees that had gotten out of Aquarium, he was a famous reporter that I had been ordered to murder after he had attacked Emily by publishing some articles about her crimes, including her involvement in her own brother’s murder.  His death had been one of the most public ones, because he had been able to record and transmit part of my attack, one that ended with him apparently dying in a fire.  Everyone had agreed there was no way he would have been able to survive the inferno I caused, since all that was left once it extinguished were ashes.

“… and then I was pulled to the sewers, I wasn’t sure if they were friends or enemies,” Aziz was explaining, “but when I saw their uniforms and realized they were mzasiers, I thought they were enemies.  They did something and I passed out, next thing I knew I was in what looked like a prison, but it wasn’t like that, it was a refuge for people like me.”

“Are you trying to say you were ok with being kidnapped?” a woman’s voice asked from the other side of the camera.

“I had trouble with that at the beginning, especially because I couldn’t keep thinking of how this was going to affect my family and the people who depended on me, but as time went by, I realized just how lucky I really was that it was Kaiserin they had sent after me, and that she had been willing to save me.  I know some people think that the people coming back are metamorphs or people that had been brainwashed, wish I will admit could be possible, but some people were targeted because they couldn’t be brainwashed, that’s something people haven’t considered.  Let’s just say that after being away and watching things from afar, we have a different view of the situation.”

“So you think that Kaiserin’s actions are justified?”

“For a long time I couldn’t figure that woman out, and despite knowing I owed her my life, I couldn’t trust her, I kept thinking she had nefarious reasons for doing what she did, but let me tell you something I saw there.  Every month we got a visit from her, mostly she spent her time with Queen Sofia, but also with a few other inhabitants there, and I watched her training a few of them.  At first I thought she was doing that out of some sick desire to hurt others, because she often hurt them, and she didn’t even react to their pain, but you know I’m a good observer, I don’t see only with my eyes, but with my powers, and my empathy allows me to see the inside of people.  Once, during a training session between Kaiserin and our new King William, I witnessed one of her attacks that could have been very bad, but she stopped the attack before she could really hurt him.  If I had based my opinion in her insults and mocking, I would have thought that Kaiserin had no respect or interest in the boy, but, I was feeling the situation, and I could tell that she was worried about him, that she cared for him.  She was tough with him because she wanted him to be able to defend himself.  I started paying more attention to her and her actions, and found out that despite her harsh words and bad attitude, she worries about people and is always looking out for those who can’t defend themselves, she just has a different way of doing that.  I really think that it’s in the Dominion’s best interest to have someone like her looking out for us, because she really cares about everyone, not only her husband’s country, like some people believe, but for everyone in the Dominion.”

“After the new King revealed his plans to put Kaiserin on trial, she decided to put the whole Dominion under martial law and we have a military presence on the streets.  Don’t you think that this only shows that Kaiserin thinks herself above laws and rules?  It’s obvious that she is using scare tactics to try and force the King to ignore her criminal actions and scare people into obeying her wishes.”

“If I had learned something in my time with her is that there is always a reason behind her actions.  Maybe we think those are scare tactics, but maybe there is something else going on that is making her do that.  Maybe if we knew her reasoning for putting the military on the streets, we would support her decision.”

As I watched the interview I realized that Aziz was there to support me, but he didn’t know that his words were hurting my image.  Part of my power resided in my ability to seem detached and unaffected, what would happen if my enemies realized how much I cared, if they decided to go after me by hurting the people around me?  Aziz’s words could be putting people around me in danger.

“I’m surprised that Aziz is giving that interview,” Kimball said, “a person as intuitive as him should know that is not a good idea to give the public this kind of information, especially not without your approval.  He should have known better than going live without first clearing his declaration with you.”

“You are right,” as Kimball said that I started to see the interview from another point of view.  “Someone must have talked to him and tell him that it was ok to give the interview.  I think this must be part of William’s campaign to discredit me.”

“I’m not sure that’s what they are trying to do,” Ethan said, “if that was their objective, Aziz would have never agreed to it.  I think this is part of a campaign to clear your image, but I don’t know why now, it’s not the right moment.”

“That was never the plan,” I protested, “the idea was for me to be the bad guy, and for them to take power from me when the time was right.  The idea was to disappear once everything was ok.”

“Well, it seems they didn’t like your plan and decided to change it,” Kimball said, not looking worried at all.

“This is all wrong, their actions are just making a difficult situation even worse.  I don’t have time for this, I have to fix the situation as much as I can.  If you need anything, I will be in my office.”

I went out, not bothering to wait for their response, the whole situation was getting out of control and that only made me angrier.  I had that feeling back, the feeling that said that I couldn’t trust in anyone, and that was not a good mindset to have.  The few last months had affected me more than I was willing to accept, and I knew that even Kimball had noticed that I had been having trouble at night, that the nightmares I has thought I had outgrown were back.  It had gotten so bad I had considered putting some locks to my memories, but it was something I had already tried, and it wasn’t a good option.  All I could do was to keep going and face my demons, that included to put my trust back on the people I worked with, or at least pretend I was willing to trust on them as to not affect our relationships.

I found Thalia and Fatima waiting for me at my office.  They had become a good team and as soon as I saw them together, I knew they were planning something.  Once I noticed Fatima’s glazed eyes and Thalia’s hand on her shoulder, I knew they were using one of Fatima’s best tricks, one that allowed her to stay a couple of minutes in the future.

“What are you planning?” I asked once I reached my desk and sat down.

“Fatima is feeling awful about what happened, she feels she should have known what was going on, that she should have seen what Sofia was planning, so for the time being she is going to stay in protection mode and help avoid any other surprises, and I’m here to help.”

“I hope nothing else happens, but I appreciate your help.  Anything to report so far?”

“Fatima is sure that William will be trying to talk to you, that’s why she is doing this, she wants to make sure they don’t take us by surprise again.”

“I appreciate it, I don’t want to be taken by surprise again.”

“We will be standing guard outside, anything we will let you know immediately.”

“Thanks.”  As they went to take their place, Ivan walked inside.

“How are you?” he asked, and I could tell he was worried about me.

“As good as you could expect after finding out that your closest allies have betrayed you.  Is everything ready for the meetings?”

“Yes, all the groups agreed to the meetings, most of them were confused about what was going on, some seem to think this is all part of the plan, and I didn’t get the feeling that anyone knew what Sofia and William were planning.”

“We still need to be careful and work under the idea that everyone could be conspiring against us, I don’t want any more surprises.”

“I wouldn’t worry about a repeat of that, we didn’t think we needed to worry about Sofia, and therefore no one paid attention to her suspicious behavior, but after this, we will be more careful,” Ivan said, and I could tell he was confident in what he was saying, but experience had taught me again and again that anyone could turn on you.  Also, I needed to remind myself that Ivan’s loyalty was first to his country, and then to me.  “We have identified the people working with Sofia, and as we expected, they are part of the royal guard, those that are loyal to the crown above all.  They are not a real threat, since we have bigger numbers, and I took the liberty of putting some of our people with them so they can keep an eye on them.”

“Well thought, now all we have to do is work on damage control.  I would like to talk to those that got out of Aquarium and see what’s their position.  Even knowing that Sofia was behind this, I have to make sure who was with her willingly and who was tricked into following her.”

“We already started working on that, we’ve been trying to be discreet, but many of their relatives are making things difficult for us, trying to keep them away from us.”

“That’s understandable, for them we are still the enemy, even if they have them back, it’s not easy to forget that for years they saw us as the enemy.  Still, I want you to keep a protective detail around the refugees, we have to protect them in case someone targets them or tries to use them against us.”

“Understood.”

I spent most of the day going over the reports from all over the Dominion, and I was actually surprised there weren’t more problems.  I wasn’t sure when I had lost control of the situation, but I wasn’t happy about the way things were going, despite having the support of most of the groups, and having the army backing me up, the fact that two of my closest allies had betrayed me, risking all we have worked for, was making me doubt everyone around me.  I couldn’t help but feeling that someone else was going to stab me in the back as soon as I looked away.

I needed to clear my mind, and as a warrior the best way of doing that was to train.  As a psychic I could keep my body in optimal condition by using my powers, using my mind also helped train my body, but there were some things that I just had to do, I needed my traditional training.  After being injured and forced to rest, and then with the mess William and Sofia had made, I had neglected my training, and that was something I couldn’t afford.

I went to the gym and found Ethan and Kimball already there.  I stopped for a moment to watch them.  Ethan had become a great warrior, and even if he still had a long way to go to be at Kimball’s level, he was making it hard for him, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of him.  They eventually noticed me and stopped their training to greet me.

“Hello mother,” Ethan said, hugging me, I felt calm and knew that Ethan was using his powers on me, and I could only guess what he had felt that he had been inclined to do that.

“Is everything ok?” Kimball asked, stopping a few steps from me and studying me.

“Everything is fine,” I lied, “it’s just that I had been so busy that I had neglected my training and now that I have a few minutes I thought it would be a good time for that.”

“Ethan and I were just wrapping our training, so I can help you if you need a sparring partner.”

“That’s perfect,” Kimball was fast and I knew he would test my limits, especially if I decided not to use my powers and faced him in a melee fight.

“That sounds like fun, but if we are done, I think I will head to my room,” Ethan said.

“Of course, you did a good job,” Kimball said, smiling.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked once Ethan was gone, I could tell something was bothering him.

“You know that William’s and Sofia’s little trick caused him to leave the school before he could talk and explain to his friends what was going on, and since he haven’t heard from them, he thinks they are mad at him for not telling them what was going on.”

“That’s easy to solve, all he has to do is tell them that I forced him to stay silent, he can even say I put a lock on his mind so he couldn’t talk about it.”

“I don’t think he will be willing to lie to them, I think he really wants to come clean to them and tell them everything.”

“That’s also an option, whatever works best for him.  Ethan knows that we hid Aquarium and the refugees for their own protection, and that now that they are out, there is no need to keep lying.”

“How do you want to do this?” Kimball asked, talking about our training session.

“I will keep a skin tight barrier to protect myself from the worst of your hits, I was thinking that we can have a melee fight.”

“That’s perfect, I’m always up to a full body contact fight,” he said, his voice very suggestive.

I tried to ignore his innuendo, and prepared for the fight.  I couldn’t read his mind, so I had to rely on observation to try and block his attacks, but Kimball was very fast and he was able to change the attacks any moment.  To fight Kimball I needed my barrier, otherwise he would be able to defeat me in a couple of minutes, just one hit could have devastating consequences.  Even with my barrier I could feel the power of his hits, but after a while we fell into a rhythm and I was finally able to counterattack.  It wasn’t easy, but little by little I started to gain ground and the battle got more balanced.  Since I was using all my focus on trying to keep up with Kimball, I had no time to think about my problems, just what I needed, but then Kimball had to go and ruin that.

“Have you talked to William or Sofia?” he asked after taking a few steps back, looking for another attack angle.

“I don’t see why I would need to talk to those traitors, especially since they insist on that absurd trial,” Kimball used that moment of distraction to attack again, grabbing me and pulling me to the floor with him.

“After thinking about it, I decided that the trial is not such a bad idea after all, it will show the public another side of you, and maybe, it could help us long term,” Kimball’s hold was perfect, and my only option was to cheat and use my powers to break it.

“That will only make me look weak and give my enemies more weapons against me.  It took me a lot of effort to build my persona, to show myself as a strong woman without attachments, and now my enemies know how far I will go to protect people and they will start targeting innocents to hurt me.  Attacks like the one in the school will multiply,” I said, while he looked at me with disapproval, but I wasn’t sure if it was directed at my speech or if he was resenting the fact I had used my powers when I wasn’t supposed to.

“But this could also give you more allies, and give you the public’s approval.  I know that you wanted to be the villain in the story, but there are other options, some you haven’t considered yet.  I think that if you talked to them, maybe just to Sofia, who was with you from the beginning, they could explain why they acted that way,” Kimball attacked again, but I kept my distance, just outside his reach, while I tried to see what he was planning to do.

“I don’t agree, but even if I did, they had no right to act behind my back, the least they could have done was to talk to me first if they wanted to change the plans.  I have done a lot for them, and for the Dominion, and this is how they paid me?  I trusted them, I thought they were on my side, but they showed me otherwise.”

“You could fix this if you just talked to them.  At least listen to them,” Kimball insisted, attacking me again.  I was able to block him, but his attacks were getting more and more aggressive, and I couldn’t talk back to him, I was too busy fighting back.  “Both William and Sofia have tried to talk to you, and sooner or later you will have to meet with them.  And if not them, at least talk to your lawyer, you have to work on your defense.”  I finally could connect a kick and send Kimball back a couple of steps, giving me some breathing space.

“I won’t be part of that charade.  If William wants his trial, he can do that himself, but I won’t participate.”

“You need to be more mature about this, this is already done, and you can’t keep throwing tantrums about it, you need to face it and talk to them,” Kimball said, and I could feel his anger and frustration.

“I don’t have to do anything, and especially not for them.  I will keep doing my part, I will go ahead with my plan, I don’t care what they do,” I said, knowing I was being a little obstinated about it.

“Kaiserin, I already talked to William,” Kimball said, and I felt his words hit me like a physical blow.  “I agree with him, you need to meet and talk about this.  William wants to meet you today, and I told him I would try talking to you about it.”

“How could you!?” I felt betrayed.  “You know exactly how I feel about this.”

“I also know that you won’t solve anything by staying away, what you need is to talk to him, like a mature adult.  Do you think I agree with what he did?  That I approve of his actions?  Of course not, but even if I think he went too far, I know that you need to give him a chance to explain and work on resolving this.”

“No.  If I had to see him right now, I don’t know if I can stop myself from hurting him.  If it was up to me, he would be dead already.  I’m tired of people betraying me and I’m tired of giving second chances,” I turned around, ready to storm out of the gym, but Kimball grabbed me by the wrist.  “Let me go,” I warned him, but he only held me tighter.

“Not until you agree to listen to reason and meet with William.”  I could see he was serious, but I was furious.

I tried to break free again, but Kimball’s hold was tight and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to break it.  I focused my powers on a point on his leg and applied force until I heard the bone breaking.  Kimball let me go, more out of surprise than pain, but either way it was enough for me to escape.  I got out of the gym, still fuming, and decided to take the long way back to my room so I could have time to cool off.  Once I was calm, I was going to take a walk in the fog and try to see where this was going, I had a lot of planning to do.

Chapter 11

“Is everything ready?” I asked Fatima, who had been with me all morning.

“Everything it’s ok,” she said, but I could tell she was a little distracted.

“What’s wrong?”

“Something weird was going on in the fog, I couldn’t get a good reading as to what was going to happen today, and I couldn’t contact Sofia to see if she could see something different.”

“I haven’t had a chance to get into the fog, but I talked to Sofia yesterday and she told me that everything would be fine today.”

“I haven’t seen William yet, did you?”

“No, I’m afraid he is late, he decided to go to the old house outside the city where he used to live, he asked to spend the night there.  He should arrive soon, but that’s ok, in a way it will be better if he arrives and surprises everyone.”

“It’s time to go,” David announced, opening the door just far enough for us to hear him.

I just waved Fatima goodbye and stepped outside to head to the Congress room, where all the Representatives, Ambassadors and other government people was already waiting.  As we expected, the universal translators had arrived on time and everyone had one, Kimball had tested them and said they were working perfectly, with their help nothing would be lost in translation.

I could feel the weight of everyone’s stares as I walked inside the room, Kimball was already there, wearing his gala uniform, as general of Mzansi’s army, a look that only helped to keep the idea that he would be the next King of the Dominion.

“Thank you for being here,” I said in a tone just loud enough to be heard.  “I believe that most of you know why I called you here, but for those that don’t know, I want you to know that my mission from the start was to reestablish the old system.  Right now I have the titles of Queen, Prime Minister and President of the Dominion, but today I will relinquish one of those titles and I will return the title of King to its rightful owner.”

“Kimball is not the rightful heir,” someone yelled from the other side of the room.  I couldn’t see who said that, I could easily find out who had, but I wasn’t worried about it.

“Before, the King or Queen was also known as the High Judge, that person was also in charge of applying the law and giving justice.  Emily was not the right person for that position, and all she did with it was abuse the power it gave her and corrupt it.  The new King won’t be like that.”

“Kimball has been covering your crimes for years,” Kozak said, “that makes him an accomplice and the worst person to fill that position.”

“As you know, or should know, when Queen Sofia left her position, she left it to her son Charles, going over Emily.  As Charles died and no one ever found out what had happened to his son, the crown went to Emily, and after Emily’s death, who didn’t have any heirs, the next in line is her brother William.”

“It will take a long time to go over all the succession line until we reach Kimball,” Representative Arctander protested.

“It’s not necessary to go that far,” I said, acknowledging for the first time one of their comments.  I gave David the signal and he opened the door.  William walked in and the room fell into complete silence, only to erupt in noise a second later as people started screaming protests and accusations.  I hit the podium with my palm, using my powers to amplify the noise and with that the room went back to silence.  “Let me introduce to you your next King, the son of former Queen Sofia, and younger brother of Charles and Emily.  The rightful heir of the crown, King William III.”

“William is dead,” someone yelled, breaking the silence.

“Good afternoon everyone.  I know that you are probably surprised by my presence, and I know that most of you heard from my sister that I died in the same accident my brother did.  The truth, that most of you know or at least suspect, is that my sister killed my brother, but left me alive, not because she felt bad about killing a relative or because she liked me, but because she used me, for years, as a tool to control my mother and force her to help her with her nefarious plans.  Once my sister decided my mother was no longer useful, I lost my usefulness too.  I should have died years ago, but Kaiserin saved me, and now she is giving me back my rightful place as King of the Dominion.”

Again the noise went up as people talked and questions were asked all at the same time.  The translators were doing its best to work, but there were too many voices and most of what was being said was getting lost.  A question managed to rise above others.

“Are you willing to work with the woman who killed your mother?”

“I know that Kaiserin is accused of a lot of crimes, and I know that as the Judge it’s my job to go over the evidences and judge if a person is innocent or guilty based on the laws that as King I swear to follow.  Because of that, my first action as King of the Dominion will be to judge Kaiserin and decide if she is fit to keep her position.”

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked William, that was not what we had agreed on.  “This is not part of the plan,” my men looked confused and didn’t know how to act, but a few people weren’t surprised by the turn of events.

“I have a file with all the crimes you have been accused of.  According to the old laws of the Dominion, no person is fit to rule over us unless she is innocent of any crime.”

“I offer my services as a lawyer to defend Kaiserin,” Jean Dupont, Madelaine’s brother-in-law offered.

“Agreed,” William said, and another wave of furious yelling started.

“Are you going to defend the woman who destroyed your brother by killing his wife?” one of the Ambassadors asked.

“Why do you assume she was involved in the death of my sister-in-law?” Jean asked, his voice full of suspicion.

“Maybe because he was involved in my kidnapping,” Madelaine answered, her physical aspect changing in front of everyone, her skin and hair getting lighter, morphing in front of everyone to the aspect we all recognized.  “I’m sure he is still mad that Kaiserin ruined his plans with me when she saved me from Faakhir.”  Madelaine’s presence caused a bigger reaction than William’s.  “Some men can’t take no for an answer, and he helped Faakhir, hoping that once he was done with me he would get his turn.”

“Madelaine, what are you doing?” I asked, still feeling out of control and a little lost.

“I won’t let them blame you for something you didn’t do, you saved me, and I won’t let you try to punish you for my kidnapping, or my supposed death.”

“I will wait until the preliminary trial to present the motion to dismiss the charge for Madelaine’s murder,  and I will present another 54 motions to dismiss other murders.  Some of the murder charges, I will ask to be changed to self-defense,” Jean said.

“Enough!  This has gone too far.  Who do you think you are to do something like this?  I won the right to rule this place, and this game of you is unacceptable.”  I told William, trying to understand what was going on.

“You gave me the right to judge you when you named me the King.  This is the best for everyone.”

“This is not part of the plan, you can’t do this,” by then, most of my men were placed around me, and Kinball had moved to my side.

“It wasn’t part of the plan to kill my sister either, you were supposed to give me the chance to face her.”

“I won’t accept this.  Did you forget who is in control?  Did you forget who saved you from death?  Is this how you pay me?”

“You asked me to come here and do my job.  This is me doing my job, it’s my duty to make sure that no criminal is in charge.  You are not the only one who is going to be facing trial, I will clean this place.  It’s like with the man Madeleine just accused of wrongdoing, he will be charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and any other charges that my people can find.  But I’m going to start with you.”

“This is for the best,” Sofia said.  I realized that she was being escorted into the room by a very confused Yoweri.  In that moment I understood that Sofia and William had conspired to fool my people, and that only helped to fuel my anger.  “This is the best way to proceed,” she said, her voice so soft only I, and people close to us, would be able to hear her.

Sofia walked to the podium I had used a few minutes ago, and that her son was using, and put her hand on his shoulder, so he would give her space.  Sofia’s sudden appearance had rendered the room silent once again.  Most people in the room had attended her funeral, cried for her, heard the stories of how I had murdered her in her garden, with her daughter’s blessing.  Her death was one of the main reasons people hated me, because even if Sofia had been by her daughter’s side, they didn’t forget how good she had been to them as a Queen, and they all considered her another victim or her daughter, not an accomplice.

“Mother?” William asked, not just confirming her identity, but prompting her to speak.

“Things are not always what they look like,” Sofia said, breaking the silence.  “When my daughter started seeing me as a threat to her rule, she decided to get rid of me, but she sent the wrong assassin to do the job.  She asked Kaiserin to kill me, but instead, Kaisern offered me protection and a second chance.  She also gave me my son back.  I know you all expect this trial to show how unfit she is for the position she took from my daughter, but it will only show how right she is to rule the Dominion.  I’m grateful for the offer from Dupont to represent Kaiserin, and I offer my testimony to prove her innocence in most charges.  And I want to add, that I’m as guilty as her for those charges she is guilty of, because we worked together for years.”

“That’s not possible, she has to be controlling them,” a voice yelled from the back of the room, “they are trying to trick us.”

“No, we are here to try and fix what my sister broke,” William said.  “Kaiserin,” he said, turning to face me, his voice full of power.  “Could you tell me…” he started to say, but I used my powers to grab his neck and cut his words.

“How dare you use your power against me?  Did you forget who taught you to take advantage of your powers?”

“Kaiserin, calm down, we are together in this,” Sofia said, moving closer to me, but I was beyond mad at that point, mad at her betrayal.

“We were,” I said, and as soon as she was near me, I slapped her and sent her to the floor.  “We had a deal, and you broke it when you decided to go behind my back.  Remember that this alliance between us, it’s only valid as long as you are useful to me, when your usefulness runs out, so will our alliance.  I promised you would get to be King, so I will keep my word and let you play your games.  You have a week, in a week I will take control once more.  If this doesn’t work out in my favor, then I will just grab control by force once more, and I will make sure that no one will dare to get involved in my business again.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s not how things work.  I’m afraid that I will have to put you under arrest.  But I promise I will take care of this as soon as possible,” William explained.

“An who is going to arrest me?” I asked.  “The soldiers still loyal to the crown are not match to the ones loyal to me.  Are you going to start a war just a few minutes after assuming your new role as King?”

“Don’t make this more difficult.  You know you need me by your side.”

“That’s not true, I could do what I should have done years ago and kill you and your mother, and take the crown back, keep being a tyrant.”  I moved closer to William and whispered to him.  “Or I could go looking for your nephew, your brother’s son, the true heir to toe crown, I’m sure I can make sure he remains loyal.”

“What? But… What are you talking about?” William asked, confused, waiting for an answer I had no intention to give him.  “Come back here!” he ordered as he noticed I was moving out of the room.

I could feel him moving after me, but my men surrounded me, creating a barrier he couldn’t break, and making me feel better, knowing I still had people on my side.  I couldn’t get over the fact that I had been betrayed once again by people I trusted completely.  I stepped out of the room and found Reka and Konstantinos waiting for me, both of them looked worried and that only made me realize that there were more problems to deal with.  I could hear Kimball discussing back in the room, but I couldn’t focus on what he was saying, I needed to find what had them so worried.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure how it happened,” Konstantinos said, “but we were just informed that the people from Aquarium it’s arriving at the Towers, most going to their old homes or to their relatives.”

“This can’t be happening,” I said out loud, even as I realized that William’s and Sofia’s betrayal was even worse than I originally thought.  “The army is still under my power, that means that we can still act, we need to declare Martial Law immediately if we want to keep control of the situation.  I want the army on the streets, no one gets in or out of the city and I want increased security around the Towers, it’s possible that with the arrival of the refugees some our enemies decide to act, we can’t allow that.”

“Understood,” Reka said, “we will start working on that right away.”

Ivan,‘ I called with my mind, ‘I need you to go pick Ethan from school.  Things can become dangerous and I need to know he is safe.‘  I read an affirmative answer on his mind and I moved to the next step.

“Kaiserin?” Sofia called.

“No!” I yelled as I turned to face her.  “You don’t want to be near me right now, it’s hard enough to control myself right now, all I want right now is to break your neck.  For your own safety, stay away from me.”

“It’s for the best, Sofia, your action today did a lot of damage,” Fatima said.  “We trusted you and you fooled us, you hid your plans from us.  We are supposed to be a team, and you manipulated the situation to stop us from seeing what you were planning.”

“My son thinks this is the best way, the trial will show that all the action taken these years have been for the good of the Dominion, people will see you for who you really are,” Sofia said.

“That was never the plan and you know it.  We looked at all the options and decided that that was not the best way.”

“You said it yourself, plans change.”

I wasn’t in the mood to hear her excuses, so I signaled my people to follow and walked away, heading to my suite.  I knew that I was partly to blame, experience had already taught me that I should trust no one, that no matter how close people were to you, no matter who they were, people could betray you any time.  Even people you could swear would give their lives for you, could change their minds any moment and stab you in the back.