Fixed

Hello

I’m sorry for the lack of chapter last week, but I wasn’t happy with the chapter, and at the end I decided that it wasn’t working because it wasn’t complete, so I decided to combine what I had written for chapter 22 with chapter 21.  So if you read chapter 21 prior to feb 20, I ask you to go back and read it again, if you just read it, then go ahead and move to the next chapter.

 

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Bonus

“I think it’s time to make it official,” Dendro told his partner Ivy.  “I will announce Malkia as Antrax’s partner.”

“I don’t see why you have to do that, there are women born and raised in this clan that are a better match for our son.  Women we know that will be able to give him heirs, we don’t know what the procedure could have done to Malkia, for all we know she could be sterile.”

“You know that our son only has eyes for Malkia, and that’s important.  Maybe she wasn’t born here, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be Antrax’s partner, she has proven herself a fearsome warrior.  Besides, you know the lineage she comes from, and it’s far better than that of any other woman you could push our son to.  And in the eventuality that she is unable to have children, well, there is time, if they can’t have children, then we will find him another partner in a few years.”

“You are not seeing reason.  She is not her mother, your obsession with Kaiserin is clouding your judgement.”

“I think the one who’s getting blinded by her obsession is you, your hate for Kaiserin is affecting how you see Malkia, enough that you can’t see what’s best for your son.  It’s clear that he has been interested in her since the beginning, and if you think that the accident that almost cost Malkia her life was an accident, then you are truly blind.”  Dendro saw something passing through his partner’s face, it was just a second, but it told him enough.  “You did know how close they were getting and say nothing.  Were you expecting our son to kill her?”

“Don’t you dare blame me for that, you are the one who did nothing to keep them apart, you encouraged them.  The only thing that surprises me is that you didn’t try to take her for yourself once she became immune to the family venom.”

“I would never do that to our son, he really wants her, he has fought for that chance.  It’s clear they belong together.”

“Is that what’s stopping you?  That your son claimed her first?  I know you would prefer that cheap copy by your side than me.”

“Don’t start with that again, you are the one who made this relationship harder than it had to be.  None of us had a choice in this union, we did it for our clan and its future, but now, Antrax has a real chance to be happy, and I don’t understand why you want to force him into a miserable relationship like ours.  I have done my best to respect you and give you your place, and I’m sorry if that wasn’t enough for you, but you knew what the deal was.”

“You never gave me the same kind of respect you give that woman who abandoned her clan and betrayed the Empire.  She can’t do anything wrong in your eyes, and you are still looking out for her, you are even taking care of her daughters.”

“It’s the least I can do for her, because despite your delusions and jealousy, you can’t deny that my people and I wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for her.  I owe her a debt, and I won’t back out of it just because you can’t control yourself.  And I never planned or pushed for Antrax’s and Malkia’s relationship, that’s something that happened on its own.”

“I see that nothing I could say will change your mind, you are going to do whatever you want no matter how I feel or what I want,” Ivy knew that she didn’t stand a chance against Kaiserin’s daughters.  She had thought that Malkia’s poisoning was her chance to get rid of her, but she had survived, and even worse, thanks to the prisoner’s help, she was immune to Antrax’s venom, and that qualified her to be his partner.

“You are right about that, Antrax and Malkia will be official partners, and there’s nothing you can say to change my mind, and for your own good, and your son’s, I hope you can make your peace with that.  I will make the official announcement in a couple of hours during my meeting with the Generals.  It’s up to you if you want to stand by my side, or if you want to keep throwing your tantrum,” with those words, Dendro walked away, leaving a fuming Ivy behind.

Chapter 21

“Are you going to be there for the voting?” Ethan asked during breakfast.

It was one of those rare occasions when we could all sit together and have a long, quiet, breakfast together.  Ethan’s school was on vacations and Kimball had nothing important to run to, and I had cleared most of my day because the congress was voting for their new president that day.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea, if I’m there they will find a way to blame me if the vote doesn’t go their way.”

“Even if you’re not there, people will find a way to blame you if they don’t get their way,” Kimball said, and even if he was trying to make it sound like he was joking, I knew there was truth behind his words.

“Who’s your favorite to win?” Ethan asked, more interested in the process than me.

“The truth is that I have done my best to stay away from the process, I left everything to William and the representatives.  He told me that all the candidates met the requisites, and that none of them had ever sided with Emily’s or Faakhir’s ideals.”

“Do you want to go train for a while?” Kimball asked.  “I know most of your day is cleared, and if you go to your office or even if you just stay here, you will be thinking about what’s going on in the congress.”

“It will be the same if we go training,” I said.

“Let me assure you that I won’t give you a chance to think about anything but the fight in front of you.”

“If you are going to spar I want to go,” Ethan said, excited.  “I don’t have any plans until later.”

“I think that’s a good idea.”  I tried to train every day, but most of the time I had to limit my training to a psychic one, since I didn’t have time, and having the chance to test my physical abilities against Kimball was always a good choice.

Ethan kept surprising me, it was clear he had continued training both his mind and body.  It wasn’t as easy to fight him as before, and I had to force myself to pay attention to the fight to avoid him.  Kimball was right about me needing a distraction, and fighting both of them was a good one, for a couple of hours I didn’t have any chance to think of anything but the challenge they both presented.

When we finally cut the training, I decided to go to my office for a while, I was hoping I would have some news about the election, but they were still on it.

“Why are they taking so long?  They already had two months to think about who to choose, this should be a fairly quick process.”

“You know that they were supposed to give a last speech, then they were going to have an hour to vote, and then they have to count the, check them…”

“I know all that, but still, I want to know who I am going to have to face every time I need something from the representatives from now on.”

I still had to wait a couple more hours until William arrived at my door.  Since most people trusted William, unlike me, he had been in charge of most of the process, like vetting the candidates and supervising the counting of the votes.

“How was everything?” I asked, desperate for news.

“They elected their president, and let me tell you, I was really surprised to find who they had chosen.”

“If you are trying to drag things to build suspense, cut it, I have no patience left.  Who did they pick?”

“Dante.”

“Dante?  Who is Dante?” I didn’t recognize the name immediately, it took me a moment to go through my memories and remember that candidate, one I never expected them to elect, one I thought they had put there just to fill a quota.

“I’m not sure how he ended being the President, but he is just as capable as any of the others,” William said.

“Are you sure everything was clean?” Kimball said, clearly he was also surprised by the turn of events.

“As far as I can tell everything was by the book, and I couldn’t find any signs of cheating.  I already gave the name to the members of the congress, and next week there will be a ceremony to make it official.  Since you are the one who is currently holding the title of president, Dante will be following you during this week so he can take over.”

“Great,” I said, sarcastically.

“Once his position becomes official, you won’t have to worry about that part of the government, you will have more time for your projects,” William said.

“That sound good, I hope I will be able to move forward with some of my projects.  There’s a lot to do before we can repair all the damage your sister and her husband caused.”

“I know, but at least we are moving fast with the trials, I can say with confidence that most of their collaborators, or at least the worst of them, are already paying for their crimes.  And one of the advantages of the crazy laws my sister pushed, is that I have been able to seize their money and properties, since anyone who commits crimes against the Dominion has to pay for it.  Getting all that goods and properties will be a great help to rebuild everything they destroyed, and will give us enough budget to help all the countries that were ransacked by them.”

“What I like the most is that all that money falls into my side, and I can use that for my projects.  It’s great that we already found the means necessary to increase the production of food, and we also found what we needed to help decrease waste.  Soon we will have enough to feed everyone in the Dominion.”

“It seems that everything is going smoothly,” William sounded satisfied.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, and we can’t forget the threat of new rebellions or guerrillas emerging.”

“It’s a sad reality that humans are never satisfied with what they have, and once things start to stabilize, people will start complaining and trying to get more than their fair share,” Kimball said.  “Especially with your ideas of distributing goods and services equally among the Dominion, soon the countries that are producing the most will start complaining that their productions is being taken to other countries.”

“Then we will have to work harder on making all countries self sufficient, but that’s a problem for another day.  For now I’m most interested in what’s going on right now.  Did you talk to Dante already?  When am I going to meet him?”

“He will be coming to your office tomorrow morning, we will make the official introduction and you will start working together in the transition of responsabilities,” William explained.  “Do you want me to be here to introduce him?”

“I don’t know.  What do you think?  Will he need you to be here?  I know that despite everything that has happened, most of them are still uncomfortable around me.”

“I think it will be best if I’m here, for security reasons.”

“Great, then I will see you tomorrow morning,” I said, dismissing him.

“See you tomorrow,” he said, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about it, he wanted to stay and talk some more, but even if I had accepted the need to be civil with each other, that didn’t mean that I wanted him to be around me more than necessary.

When William exited the room, Ivan walked inside, and I could tell he had been waiting outside.

“Can I talk to you for a moment?” he asked formally, and I knew he had something important to discuss.

“Of course, what’s going on?” I asked, exchanging a look with Kimball.

“Everything is calm right now, and I think this is a good time to ask for a few days off, I need to go back to my country to deal with some issues.”

Since the day the refugees from Aquarium had gotten out, I had been expecting Ivan to leave me.  I knew that the only reason he had agreed to work for the Dominion, and then with me, was because that was the only way to fulfill his responsibilities towards his people.  I had always known that his first loyalty was to his country, and that as soon as his honor allowed him, he would go back to his old position there.

“Does that means you will go back to your own position?  Are you going to leave us?”

“That was the plan, wasn’t it?  Help you take control of the Dominion, and once it was safe for Natalia, go back to work as chief of security.  But, if you allow me, I would like to keep my position here, with you, I just have to tie some loose ends and find a replacement there, so I can focus on this job full time.”

“You will always be welcome here with me, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised to hear you want to stay.  I thought you were going to resign, and I felt relieved that was not the case.  It’s good to know that I have someone I can trust protecting my back,” I could feel the sincerity of his words, and I felt better, because I had been fearing his loyalty was divided, and that his weird attitude the last few days were because he was preparing to leave, it was good to know it was the contrary.  Ivan wanted to stay with me, and even if it was selfish of me, I was happy knowing one of the few men I still trusted was going to stay with me.  “Take as much time as you need, your position will be waiting for you when you come back.”

“Thank you.  When we started this alliance, I thought it would never be anything but a mutually beneficial relationship, I never expected that I would feel like this.  During the time I have known you, I have learned to trust you, respect you, I even admire you.  I’m still loyal to my country and my people, but I have found that I would serve a greater purpose by staying with you, I will do more good by staying by your side and making sure you can accomplish all your plans.”

“Thank you Ivan, I feel so much better knowing you are on my side, you are one of the few people I really trust.”

“It’s an honor,” Ivan said, leaving the room.

“Are you going to pretend to work for a while?  Or are you ready to go home?” Kimball asked once we were alone.  He knew how worried I had been about Ivan’s imminent departure.

“Pretending to work is a good description, I’m sure I won’t be able to focus on anything for the rest of the day.  Between knowing that Dante will be here tomorrow, and knowing that Ivan wants to stay with me, even if he has to go for a few days, I have a lot on my head.  It will be best to go back home and rest for a while, I have a feeling that tomorrow will be a long day and I need a clear mind to face it.”

“An afternoon of relaxation is what you need.  Let’s go,” Kimball said, putting his arm around my shoulders and lending me his strength and helping me.

I felt bad leaving the office so early, but the truth was that I haven’t been able to focus all day, and I wouldn’t be any good even if I stayed.  Everything was falling into place, and even if I should have been happy about it, I was feeling uneasy.  For so long I had lived in the middle of conflict, and now that things were calm, I couldn’t trust it, I was almost convinced that the next day was going to bring me nothing but trouble.

As soon as we arrived, Ethan came to greet us.

“Who was elected?” he asked when he saw us.

“You don’t know?” Kimball asked.  “Isn’t it public knowledge by now?  I thought you would be glued to the networks, waiting for any news about the election?”

“All they have said is that they already choose the new president, but not who,” Ethan complained.

“It was Dante,” I told him, “not the one we expected.”

“Is that a problem?  Why are you so worried?”

“I’m not worried he was chosen.  I don’t know why I’m worried, everything is going according to plan, even if Dante is an unknown character, that doesn’t mean he will be a problem.”

“Your mother is worried because she is losing control.  You know how much she worries about everything, and now she isn’t in charge, she thinks the other will cause trouble.”

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” Ethan said, “the system is designed to work by what the majority wants, and if this new person tries to do something to hurt your plans, you will have William to help you stop him.  Even if you don’t trust William, you can trust he will do what’s best for the Dominion.  He will never let them do anything that could harm us.”

“Your son sounds just like you,” I told Kimball, smiling.

“Well, he is my son, he is smart and has a good eye, you should listen to him, he knows what he is talking about,” Kimball said.

“Ok, then” I agreed, but none of them believed my words, and they were right, because I couldn’t trust the calm around us, I was still waiting for the storm to hit.

I arrived early to my office the next day.  I knew I didn’t have to, but it wasn’t the same as giving the title to William, I had never acted as judge, I had only taken the title of Queen, but it was different with the presidency, I had actually been involved with the Congress, it was a job a had done.

Kimball had offered to spend the day with me again, but I felt it was better if he stayed away, I had even asked the guards that usually stayed by my side if Kimball wasn’t with me to wait outside the door, the only one I had allowed inside was Yoweri, because most people didn’t even notice him, I was confident that they wouldn’t notice his presence.  It wasn’t as if I was going to use Yoweri to hurt William or Dante, but it made me feel better to know he had my back, I wanted them to feel safe, but I wanted to be safe as well.

Dante and William arrived mid morning, and for what I heard, they had already been together for a while.

“Good morning Kaiserin,” William greeted me.

“Good morning,” I greeted them both.

“Greetings,” Dante said, his tone reserved.

“Congratulations on getting elected as President,” I said as I studied Dante.  He was much older than me or William, even if he was still full of energy.  I could tell right away that his careless, even bored attitude was nothing but an act, I could see him studying the room, I even noticed his eyes stopped for a second on the corner were Yoweri was posted, before continuing through the room.  I could tell he was a capable man.  “I hope you understand the weight of the responsibility you acquired, as the first elected President in years, you have a tough job in front of you.”

“I know exactly what my position is, and I’m ready to do what’s required of me.”

“It’s good to know.  Since you were already part of the Congress you know what we have been working on and what’s our objective in the short term.  I have all the information of what I have been working on, I know that from now on it’s your job to decide the direction the Congress is going to take, but I would appreciate it if you continued working on some of my proposals.”

“Is this the point in which we start with veiled threats and hidden orders?”

“It’s not a threat,” William was quick to assure him, “is just a simple suggestion.  You know my sister made a lot of changes in the laws, everything she could do to give herself unlimited power, and put the rest of the Dominion at a disadvantage.  Some of those rules are already out, but there is still a lot of work to do to fix everything.”

“But even if we want to take the Dominion back to what it used to be, we understand we can’t turn time back, everything has changed, and we need to change accordingly,” I explained.  “In fact, there are a few things we need to preserve, at least for the time being.  Eventually we want to give independence back to the countries, give them the chance to leave the Dominion if that’s what they want, because I know not all the countries were part of the Dominion before Emily took control.”

“Are you really expecting me to believe you are willing to give them back their freedom?”

“We plan to do such a good job that no country will be willing to leave,” William explained.

“That’s why it’s not an option we are willing to give them right away, that option may not even present during your term as president, it may be something for your successor to consider.  So let’s not waste our time with the future, let’s focus on the present,” I said as I presented a few documents to Dante.  “These are the projects I have planned for the short term.  Right now we are using Emily’s property appropriation
law is financing the projects.”

“That’s one of the laws we want to preserve, at least until the trials for treason are finished, we need to take back the money my sister’s followers stole from the Dominion,” William interrupted.

“I guess you already know that budgets need to be approved by congress,” Dante said, taking the documents, but not bothering to check them.  “You are supposed to give us an estimation of how much you need to spend, and we decide if the expenses are right, and if we agree with them we give you the money.”

“Well, this year’s budget was already approved by me,” I said.  “I made an estimation taking into the account the money we will acquire from the trials, thinking we will be able to recover most of it.  If there is a difference between my calculations and reality, we will deal with that when the time arrives.”

“I’m not surprised you already have this year under control, I only hope you understand that next year we will be following protocol.”

“Of course,” I agreed, realizing that Dante was only looking for an excuse to fight, his attitude was defensive, but his demeanor combative.  “I guess the next step should be to review the initiatives on the congress’ table, and see how the work is advancing.”

“I’m up to date in all the discussion taking place in both chambers,” Dante said.  “But I guess we should review them, just to follow protocol.”

“You have no intention of making this easy, do you?  This would be so much easier if you just adjusted your attitude,” I warned.

“We have to work together for the next three years, it would be best if we start with a cordial relationship from the beginning,” William said.  “I know things are complicated, but we need to work together to fix them, not make them worse.  If Kaiserin and I can leave our differences on the side and work together, you can do the same.”

“It’s clear that you have been working together, there is no reason you can’t be working together.”

“That’s something we don’t need to discuss right now,” I said before William could bring our problem into the open.  “What’s important right now is that we need to be professionals.  If you are planning on making things difficult, then don’t expect me to bend over to make them easy, this would only result in a battle where no one will win, and the biggest losers will be the citizens of the Dominion.  I think that is better if you take the documents I gave you and study them.  We can meet again tomorrow and discuss them.  It’s clear we won’t get anywhere today.”

“It sounds like a good idea,” William said, “and if you need my help, just call me, I’m willing to do anything to make things easier for you.”

Dante just nodded his agreement, gathered his things and left the office.  I already suspected things wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t feel better having my suspicions confirmed, it was one of the few times I had wanted to be wrong.

“Dante will cause trouble,” I told William, who for some reason, was still in my office.

“It’s just the frist day, he is being careful, that doesn’t mean he will be a problem, let’s trust everything will be fine.”

“I hope so, there’s a lot of work to be done, and it will be very hard if we will have to fight every step of the way.”

“I think that once he starts working with us he will realize we are not the enemy, and we would be able to dig the Dominion out of the hole my sister left it in.”

“I hope so.  Thanks for bringing him over, I’m sure you have a lot of work to do, I’ll let you go back to it,” I dismissed him, trying to be tactful about it.

“You know that if you need me, I will be here.  If you keep having trouble with Dante and need a referee, you can call me, I’ll be here,” William offered before leaving.

That first reunion had been difficult, but the situation didn’t improve during the following meetings while we worked on the transition.  Dante suspected every one of my decisions, looked for hidden motives and traps in everything I did.  It didn’t take me more than a couple of days to realize that I wouldn’t change his mind with words, so I stopped trying to sway his way of thinking.  I trusted that eventually we would realize we didn’t have to be enemies, but even if he didn’t, I had no problem with him, as long as he did his work and looked out for the good of the Dominion.

I knew I couldn’t control Dante, I needed to let him do what he felt was necessary.  I knew that I couldn’t be in control of the Dominion forever, and it was important to let the people start making their own decisions, to make their own mistakes.  I knew that I couldn’t help but try to minimize his errors and keep them moving forward, but at the end of the day, my time at the front of the Dominion was numbered.  In three years the congress would be electing a different president, and it may not be Dante.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be gone by then, or if things would work well enough for me to give up the prime minister position before that, but I still had time before making that decision.

At the end of the week we had a celebration where Dante officially took possession of his new position, William and I were there to confirm him, and promise that we would work together for the Dominion’s best interest.  I knew that it was a promise that needed to be done, but I was aware that even as we said the words, Dante had no intention of collaborating with us, he had his own agenda to fulfil.

Chapter 20

“This is more complicated than I expected,” I complained to Kimall.  “I thought it was just a matter of telling them to choose a person to lead them, and they would take care of that.”

“You need to establish the process and…” he started to explain.

“I know!” I interrupted him.  “It’s just that I would like this to be more direct and quick, this whole vetting process and the action we need to do to prepare and everything that has to be done before we even give it to them…” Kimball looked at me as if he wanted to discuss, but he didn’t.

“It’s almost ready, soon it will be out of your hands, and you will be able to go back to your other concerns, and the congress will be another person’s problem.”

“If you think that having another person in charge of congress will ease my mind, then you don’t know me that well.  Even if the person they choose is someone I trust, I will still be worried.”

“There’s nothing to worry about, you still have veto power over laws that can affect us.”

“You said it yourself, that is a power I can only use in a few occasions, and William has to back me up, we need to overrule the vote.  Everything is much more simple in the Empire, you give an order and everyone follows, if they don’t, you kill them, end of story.”

“I really doubt things are that simple,” Kimball challenged my words, but I didn’t want to discuss that with him, especially because things weren’t really that simple, it was just that they were simpler than in the Dominion.  “Anyway, I think we already did everything we could, it’s time for rest, tomorrow you will need to face the congress and I know how much you hate that.”

“You’re right,” I closed the files in front of me and went to my room, not bothering to wait for Kimball, I knew he would be with me soon, and that he would help me forget all my worries.

Even in our most difficult times, I couldn’t help but recognize Kimball’s devotion to me.  I knew that things would have been very different for me if it wasn’t for Kimball, he was my reward for surviving the most difficult parts of my life.

Before falling asleep, I usually tried to spend a few times in the fog, or to take a walk through the astral planes, but not that day, I needed a clear mind and lots of rest.  I knew that it had always been part of the plan to give the power back to them, but I felt like I was losing control.  When we had first discussed the tripartite government, I had thought I would have William on my side, and that I would have him by my side, still in control, but I couldn’t count on that anymore.  I knew that it was the right step, but I couldn’t help but fear what a new player would do to our future plans.

I woke up well rested, but not less worried.  What would happen that day would start a complete change in the dynamics of the Dominion.  After eating a breakfast that I couldn’t even taste, and going to my office where I couldn’t do any work, the time for facing the congress finally arrived.

“Are you ready?” Kimball asked.

“As ready as I’m going to be.”

Kimball walked by my side to the congress hall, where I had scheduled a meeting half an hour before, I liked to ask them to be early, as a power play and to make sure everyone would already be there when I arrived.  Even if most of them had changed their minds about me, and I wasn’t hated by everyone, I still could feel the atmosphere in the room changing at my arrival.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I had killed Emily in that place.

I took my seat, the seat that the President of the Congress usually took, but I didn’t talk, they still needed to wait another fifteen minutes, until William was scheduled to arrive.  They were clearly uncomfortable with the waiting, but no one talked, which surprised me, they usually were more willing to confront me.  After only ten minutes, William arrived and took the seat to my left.

“Now that King William has arrived, we can start.  As I understand, most of the countries in the Dominion, and the Dominion itself, worked under a three power system.  Even if the Dominion was created to act a supervising entity, it still had the same system, until Emily took control of the Dominion and took all three powers for herself, then extended them to her husband, and together, they worked on taking the freedom and independence from the countries, taking all the power and control for the Dominion.  When I took Emily and Faakhir out, I assumed the same power they used to have, but I know that this is not how things are supposed to work.”

“The reason why Kaiserin called me today, is because she is ready to restore another of the old powers, and as an act of goodwill, she will let you elect a President of the Congress,” William explained, just as we had agreed.  “After all these years, I know that electing a new President will be a crucial and very important task, but I trust you will be able to do the right thing.  I want you to think of this announcement as the official call for elections, as the old statutes establish, you have two months to choose the candidates and vote one of them as your representative and President.”

“The old statutes establish that both William and I will have the power to veto the candidates that you choose.  William will interview each one to make sure there are no connections with my predecessors.  I want you to choose carefully and wisely.  You need to choose the person who will be better for the position, don’t try to choose whomever you think will please us, or worse, the person you think will be able to fight against us.  Remember that this new Dominion is a work in progress, and I’m prepared to change the rules if I see that the progress is not going well.”

“I think that is all I had to say.  You have a lot to think about, and I’ll let you to it,” William said, getting out of his seat and walking away, as the people in the room erupted in questions.

“Those who have questions or are not familiar with the old statutes, all the files will be sent to you this afternoon.  If you still have questions, those will be answered in another reunion here, in a week.”

“Are you really going to respect our choice?” one of the representatives asked.

“I need you to understand this.  I’m trying to do what’s right for the Dominion.  If you choose the person you think will be better for the people and for you, someone capable of helping us with this new project to restore the Dominion, then I will respect your decision, but if you take this opportunity and waste it trying to screw me over, then I will make sure you won’t have the chance again.  William and I have had our issues, but I know that his heart is in the right place, that’s why we have let our problems behind us.”

“I find it very hard to believe that after everything you did to take control of the Dominion, you would be willing to let go of it.”

“This has been the plan from the start, it’s something I talked about with the people who supported me.  As long as I have one of the positions of power, and I’ve been told that Prime Minister is the most important one, I’m satisfied.  Ruling is not an easy task, I don’t have a problem sharing the burden.  Any other question?”  I gave them a few seconds, when no question was asked, I left the room.

As soon as we crossed the door, I could hear the voices raising, and I knew they had already started the discussions to select their president.

“That went well,” Kimball, who had been by my side the whole time, pointed out.

“You think so?  I’m not so sure, I’m losing control of the situation, and about to lose even more.”

“I thought this is what you wanted, things with William are better than before, none of your plans had been affected lately.”

“I know that, and still… Maybe is because I’m reaching the end of my mission.  Soon I won’t be necessary, and I have dedicated years of my life to this project, and don’t know what to do anymore.”

“Everything will be fine, and no matter what happens, I will be here with you, to help you in any way you need.”

“I know I can count on you.  I’ve known since that day with the Amazons, when I woke up after being sick, and found out you had been taking care of me.  Before that I never thought I would be able to trust or depend on someone again.”

“We have come a long way since then,” Kimball said, putting his arm around my shoulders.  “What’s going on? What’s really bothering you?”

“I’m not really sure, I have a bad feeling, and I really hope it has nothing to do with what we have been doing today.”

“Everything is going according to plan, we have left Emily’s and Faakhir’s problems behind us.  Maybe it’s time for you to talk to Sofia and mend bridges with her.”

“Please, don’t even try, you know how I feel about that.  Did I tell you I had a vision about Malkia?” I said, trying to change the subject.

“No, you didn’t mention that,” Kimball said, interested.

The trip from the Congress to my side of the palace was fast, so I waited until we were there to talk to Kimball about my vision.

“It seems that Dendro is going to make Malkia’s and Antrax’s relationship official.  Once the announcement is made, Malkia will be the only recognized partner for Dendro, and her children will be the heirs to their clan.  It will be as if they were married.”

“But Malkia is too young,” Kimball protested.

“You know things are different there, most women in the Empire have their first child around that age.”

“You were much older when you had Malkia.”

“But that wasn’t my choice.  I wanted to have a child when I was Malkia’s age, but my partner at that time, Cervo, didn’t think he was the right person, and refused to make me pregnant.  After he taught me the importance of choosing the right person, it was hard for me to try again, mostly because I was afraid of being rejected again by one of my partners.  Did I mention that I got pregnant when I first arrived at Sector 32?  It wasn’t my choice, and I lost the baby not long after because of one of the beatings Agmong gave me, after that I thought I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again, I only could because of Ilum’s sacrifice, and I didn’t realize I could until I found out I was pregnant with Malkia.”

“Malkia arrived at the right time, when you were in the position to protect her, once you had healed enough to face the situation.”

“Ilum was the one who healed me.”

“I’m not talking about your physical scars, but the emotional ones.  But I get the point, things are different here, you aren’t even considered an adult until you turn twenty here, so forgive me for thinking of Malkia as a child.”

“At least she is where she wants to be, and with the person she wants to be.  That’s good for her.”

“If she is the partner of the clan’s heir, does that mean she will have to travel with them to the Empire’s reunions at the palace?”

“I don’t think Dendro will risk taking her there, not for the moment.  As soon as they see her, they will realize who she is, so I don’t think he will take that risk until he is sure she will be able to defend herself is she needs to.  Anyway, I will try to pay attention to the astral planes in case she needs to talk to me.”

“Kaiserin, are you happy?” Kimball asked, looking at me with concern.  “I know this is not what you expected when you agreed to come with me.”

“Everything is fine, I have you and I have Ethan, and everything else helps keep things interesting.  It’s just that now that we are at the end of our mission, we will have to make new plans for our future.  For a long time all our focus was on saving the Dominion, and getting things back to what they used to be, now that things are on its way, it won’t be long before I’m no longer needed to keep things on track.”

“The plan was to force people to chase you out of the Dominion and go back to Aquarium or return to the Empire.  Now that you can use your powers while you are having a vision we can go back without fear of your clairvoyance putting you at risk.”

“If we do that I will be able to see my daughter again,” he didn’t say it, but we both knew that was the only reason I would even consider going back.  “But there is another option.  Your people has been asking for you to go back to Mzansi and taking the position of King, and we need to think about that.  I know that’s something you want, even if you deny it,” Kimball didn’t say anything, the fact that he didn’t immediately dismissed my words was very telling.

“I think we need to see all our options and find the best one for everybody, not just for me, or you, but for our children as well.  You always say that there are multiple paths in front of us, we just have to find one where all our paths cross together.”

“And that’s what we will do,” I say, even if I didn’t have any interest in walking the fog at the moment, all I wanted was to live in the moment for a little while.

Chapter 19

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Kimball asked while a group of makeup artists worked on me.

“No, but you know that as long as that woman is free my people is in danger.”

Finally, after days of research, we had finally found out that the same person that was requesting an interview with me, was the one that had been walking into the palace.  With the help of a few walks in the fog, I also found out that she wasn’t only after an exclusive interview, she wanted to kill me, and that was something I wasn’t going to allow.  After a heated debate between my security, Aziz, Kimball and I, we eventually decided that we were going to play along with her so we could expose her plans.

“The risk is too big,” Kimball replied.

“Are you saying you won’t be able to do your part?” I challenged him.

“Of course not, if things are as you say, then I won’t have any problems.”

“It’s time,” Aziz said, he was looking uncomfortable and guilty, as he had been ever since he found out about Merce’s real plans.

“Don’t worry, everything will be fine, try not to look so nervous, we don’t want her to realize we are on to her.”

In a few minutes we were in one of the living rooms, with a group of cameras around it, all pointing at us.  We had agreed that she was going to film and then the interview was going to be reviewed before being aired, to make sure that nothing classified could be leaked to the general population, but I also knew that one of the cameras was on a live stream, transmitting to a clandestine channel, where some of the people who was still against me could view it, looking for anything they could use against me.

“Thanks for agreeing to this interview,” the woman in front of me greeted me.

It was hard to believe that Merce was using her own daughter for this mission.  Merce was a quadriplejic woman that could project her mind, not many people knew that the woman in front of me wasn’t the original, because she had been using her daughter as a vehicle for her mind for years.  When she needed, she could jump to other people’s minds and take control of their bodies, and that people got no recolection of the time she used their bodies.  That was how she had been able to get inside the palace, using visitors, innocent civilians from the lower floors to gain access to the palace and get to my employees.

“I was told this was a good idea,” I told her.

“First of all, let’s talk about your background, we all know that you don’t come from anywhere in the Dominion, you are one of those savages that live on the other side of the ocean, and you were raised in a very different way from the rest of us,” she started, and then paused, as if expecting something from me.

“Is there a question there?”

“My question is, how was your education in the Empire?”

“I was raised as a warrior, I learned to fight, and to survive.”

“You were taught to be a merciless killer, weren’t you?  How old were you when you had your first kill?”

“I was about to turn eleven,” I said immediately, but then I paused.  I hadn’t said a lie, or something I wished to hide, but the speed and confidence in my response made me realize that I was far too comfortable, was it her power affecting me?  “One of my superiors was in a bad mood and tried to kill me, so I fought back and was forced to kill him.”

“And I bet you did it again very soon, people like you feel no remorse taking lives.”

“Actually, it was years before I found myself in a similiar situation, but you are right, I didn’t feel remorse for Hoshi’s death, he attacked me.  I feel no pleasure killing people, but I don’t see anything bad in using lethal force to defend myself.”

“Since you became, I mean, since you killed the previous rulers and took control of the Dominion by force, you have claimed you are working for the good of the Dominio.  Do you really believe that the killings and army enforced control of the Dominion is in our best interest?”

“I do,” I said, without bothering to elaborate.

“As many of us realized a few months back, most of the killings that we thought you had made in the name of the old rulers, never happened, most of the people that was prosecuted by the them returned after years out of the spotlight, under your ‘protection’.  Do you really wants us to believe that during all those years you didn’t mess with their minds to ensure their loyalty?  That their minds weren’t tampered with in all that time away?”

“That’s what I want you to believe, because that was what happened.  The people under my protection was free to join my cause, or not, but there was never a threat to force their cooperation.  I think that William’s actions are a good example of that, since he became King, his actions haven’t been exactly aligned with my plans.  I must admit he has acted in the Dominion’s best interest, and that’s what I asked of him when I offered him the position.”

“All you have said sound lovely, but the truth is that it could be all an elaborated plan to make us believe that he is not under your control, to make it look as if he can go against you.”

“I think you just insulted your King by implying he is my puppet, isn’t there a law that punishes those who talk bad about the royalty?”

“Is that a threat?” Merce asked, and I could tell she would be happy if I said it was, that would give her ammunition against me.

“I’m just pointing it out, it’s not my job to observe or enforce that, it’s William’s.  Anyway, just let me tell you that I never liked controlling people’s minds, it’s a very invasive activity, and one that requires a lot of energy, it’s not really worth it.”

“Well, I will have to believe in your words, not that those are very trustworthy.”

“I always try to tell the truth.  If used correctly, truth could be one of the most lethal weapons.”

“Is everything a weapon to you?”

“Of course, that’s what my barbaric childhood taught me.”

“Many people changed their minds about you after the earthquake, is there some truth behind the idea that you caused the catastrophe to help clean your image?”

“I’m really flattered that you think I’m strong enough to do something like that, the power required to do something like that is beyond imagination.”

“It’s hard to imagine a single person could hold a building from collapsing, yet you claim you did it.”

“And still, there no comparison between one and the other.  The most important fact to consider is that during the rescue efforts, I wasn’t alone, I had a lot of people helping me.”

“And I supposed you did it all for the Dominion.”

“I did, but it’s obvious you don’t see it the same way.”

“I found it unbelievable that a merciless person like you could be fit to rule us.  We had enough of power hungry people, we don’t need someone who doesn’t care how many bodies she leaves on her path, as long as she gets what she wants.”

“Don’t you find that a little hypocritical?  Aren’t you planning on blowing this place in the off chance of killing me, no matter how many innocent people die in the process?”  For a moment Merce didn’t talk, she didn’t know what to say, but then her face transformed into a mask of fury.

“You went inside my mind?”

“It wasn’t necessary, besides, we both know that I wouldn’t be going into your mind, but your daughter’s, the one you use as a vehicle to move around,” I knew I had caught her by surprise, but she masked her expression fast enough.  “I know what you are planning, and let me tell you, you are mistaken.  Your bomb will not only damage his wing of the palace, it will weaken the structure and make it collapse over the lower floors, destroying the employees rooms and even affecting the offices further down.  Of course my power will allow me to survive, but I’m afraid that my employees and many innocent civilians won’t be so lucky.”

“You are lying.  There is no way you can know what’s going to happen, you are only trying to stop me from doing what I need to do,” her voice had a touch of insanity creeping into it, and I knew that there was no way I could make her change her mind.  “If other people gets hurts in the process, is still a worthy sacrifice to rid the Dominion of you.”

“And what about your daughter?  Is it worth it to sacrifice her in the name of this insanity?”

“She knew the risks,” she didn’t even bother to deny my words.  “I’m doing what needs to be done, what no one else dares to do.  I will be remembered by future generations as a martyr.”

“You will be remembered as the stupid woman who killed her daughter, and I told you, I won’t die.  It wouldn’t be the first time a building collapses on top of me, I know how to use my powers to protect myself, and even a few of my guards.  But the rest of the deaths will be on your conscience, if you even have one.”

“Stay away!” she yelled when she noticed some of my guards getting closer to her.  “If you try to touch me, I will detonate the bomb.”

“Give her some space,” I told my men.  “We don’t want her to do anything she will regret.”

“You and I will die here,” Merce repeated, and I had to stop myself from pointing out that her mind would survive, only innocent people would be affected.

“You still have a chance to change your mind, you don’t need to kill anyone.  You could give me a chance to prove that I’m not trying to make things worse, I want to bring the Dominion back to its former glory, to take it back to what it was before Emily took control, you just need to accept me.”

“Everyone believed that Emily was a good person, and at the first chance she got she became a monster.  You are a demon, and all you know how to do is destroy everything,” by the conviction behind her words I knew there was no chance of getting her to see things my way, she would keep thinking the same no matter what I did.  “This is your end, I won’t let you harm anyone else,” she pulled up her sleeve and I would see a gadget embedded in her arm.  “Goodbye, Kaiserin.”

I could hear the people around us holding their breaths, waiting for the explosion.  Even after telling the people around us that everything was under control, they were still worried about it.  But as the seconds went by and nothing happened, Merce started fidgeting with the gadget, trying desperately to make it work, pushing different buttons, but it was obvious by then it wasn’t going to work.

“I have to give it to you,” Kimball said, entering the room with a bunch of circuits in his hand, “the bomb was really sophisticated and hard to disarm.  If I hadn’t been aware of what I was looking for, I wouldn’t be able to do it in time.”

“No, that’s not possible, they told me there was no way they could mess with it without causing it to explode,” Merce still refused to acknowledge what was happening.

“Maybe you were willing to sacrifice innocent lives for your purposes, but I wasn’t, I couldn’t stand by knowing people was going to die, not if I could help.  I knew what your plan was before agreeing to this interview, and I thought that maybe we could talk and resolve this like civilized people, but I realized that there is no way to do that, you are so convinced of your own beliefs that nothing I could do or say will change your mind.”

“This can’t be happening,” she was murmuring, not even listening to my words.

“Right at this moment a group of policemen should be arriving at your house, and your physical body will be taken into custody, your powers sealed.  You will be charged with kidnapping, because of all that people you took control of without permission, and for trying to blow this place up.  If it was in my hands, I would kill you, but William says there is a protocol to follow before executing someone, so now you are in the hands of the judicial system.

“This is not over,” Merce threatened, and a moment later I felt her mind invading mine, I didn’t try to fight her off, I opened the doors into my mind, because I knew it would be much easier to contain her like that, and stop her from hurting someone else.

Her power was different from Agata, even if both of them could jump from mind to mind, Merce’s power expanded inside the mind, covering everything in her path, and freezing it.  Like I usually did in cases like that, I pushed Merce’s psychic body to the dark part of my mind, and then I locked her in there, so she wouldn’t be able to move outside.  The advantage of having a double mind was that I was able to fight her and deny her the control she was looking for.

“Are you ok?” I asked the other Merce, the one left behind.

“Mother?” she asked, looking around.

“She is contained for the moment,” I explained.

“That’s not possible, I felt her jump to your mind, there’s no way you could fight her off and still function.”

“You can look into my eyes and confirm for yourself, she is not here.  You are certainly not the first ones to underestimate me.  I need to ask, where you aware of your mother’s plans?”

“I think the more pertinent question is if she agreed with them,” William interrupted, he had come to make sure that everything went according to plan, also to present a unified front against Merce.  “Tell me, were you complicit in your mother’s activities?” William’s voice was full of power, and I knew she would be forced to answer him.

“At first I agreed with her goals, but as time went by, I wasn’t sure anymore if she was doing the right thing.  There are a few things that made me question if Kaiserin was really the monster my mother was painting her to be, especially after she used me to interview that little girl that said that an angel that looked like Kaiserin helped her get out safely.  I want to think that at least, she cares about her people.”

“Like I have said before, I have no interest in ruling over a bunch of corpses, what’s the point of being the queen if there is no one there to follow my orders?  I plan to bring the Dominion back to its old glory, and I don’t need the same useless luxuries Emily did, nor I care about power the same way Faakhir did.  I’m a simple person, as long as people recognize me as their ruler and obeys my orders, I will do my best to make sure they are happy.”

“I think I believe you, and I’m sorry about the problems my mother caused.”

“I hope that you understand that your words don’t change the fact you will go to trial as your mother’s accomplice,” William said, “we need to prove in court that you weren’t following her on your own free will.”

“I get, and I accept, I won’t resist.”

I watched as William took Merce outside, while Kimball and Aziz came closer to me, Kimball taking a seat next to me, Aziz taking the seat Merce had just left.

“So you have Merce locked up inside your mind?” Kimball asked.

“It’s ok, it’s not that hard to keep her there.  Once they have their body I will give her the chance to go back to it, with a suppressor on hand to keep her contained.”  I could see that Kimball wasn’t that happy with the situation, but he accepted it, so I turned to Aziz.  “What do you think?  Is there anything we can use from the interview?”  I knew that everything that had happened had already been transmitted, but pretending we didn’t know was part of the game.

“I’m not sure, the truth is that there is very little that can be used without it looking as if we are trying to manipulate the situation.  Maybe we could use some of it as evidence for Merce’s trial, and use her daughter to confirm the information, and only let it out as part of the trial process, it will make it more credible.”

“I would prepare something, to be on the safe side,” Kimball suggested.  “Once people learns about Merce’s arrest, they will make their own conclusions and think that Kaiserin is just trying to get rid of the people speaking against her, they will say she is just like Emily, eliminating anyone who opposes her.”

“Someone knows Merce’s daughter’s name?” Aziz asked.

“Merce, just like her mother,” I said.

“That will only complicate things,” Aziz said.  “Anyway, I will collect the cameras…”

“Don’t,” Kimball cut him off, “let’s wait for William’s people to do that, we need to make sure everything is done according to protocol, that way they won’t be able to accuse us of tampering with the equipment.”

“Well, if that’s all, I will go and check on Merce’s arrest, I need to go to where her body is so I can return her mind to it.”

“I’ll go with you,” Kimball said, “I want to make sure they have everything they need to contain her.”

We both walked outside, leaving just a couple guards to keep an eye on the room.  I knew that the cameras were still recording, and at least one transmitting everything.  I wasn’t sure if what would happen with that, it was a risk to let it, there were a lot of people who could be able to record the transmission and then edit it in a way that made me the villain in the story, but at the same time I was hoping that at least a few of those watching it would change their minds and be convinced there was no need to fight.  Things were just calming down, and I wanted peace to finally arrive to the Dominion, we all needed that.

Chapter 18

“We have a problem,” Thalia told me the next day.

“What kind of problem?” I asked, not even lifting my eyes from the reports in front of me.  Being in charge of the Dominion was very different from being an empress, but there were a few things that were the same, the reports in front of me a clear example.

“Someone has been messing with the minds of some of your domestic employees.  We don’t know how, but someone has managed to get pass the guards and get into the palace.  I was able to confirm that several of them, Alondra included, had altered memories.  I don’t know how extensive the damage is, I didn’t want to go too deep for fear of hurting them even more.”

“Maybe I can take another look,” I said, wondering, my mind going back to when a telepath had messed with some of my mother’s guards, myself included.  My mother almost died that time, and I had been the only survivor among the guards under mind control.  “Our priority is to identify and stop this person.”

“It won’t be easy,” Thalia said, clearly uncomfortable.  “The problem is that each person remember a different face, we don’t even know for sure if that last clear memory they have had something to do with the person behind the attacks, or if we are facing a group working together.”

“There is another possibility, that we are facing someone like Agata.”

“That’s not possible, she is a unique case,” Thalia protested, thinking about the unique power that the ex-assassin possessed.

“I would like to think the same, but there is always the possibility.  I’ll call Agata, maybe she would be able to tell us if there is someone like her out here.”

Finding Agata’s mind was easy, her psychic fingerprint was easy to identify, and she was close by.  As usual, she accepted my orders without question, and a couple of minutes later she was walking into the room.

“Greetings, how can I be of service?”

“We have a problem, and maybe you can help us, it seems that someone has been messing with my employees’ minds, and Thalia and I came up with a few theories of what could my happening, mine is that we are facing someone with the same kind of abilities as you.”

“What makes you think that?” she asked, surprised.

“That almost all of the people affected has been suffering from blackouts, and the last memory before them shows a different person each time.  If they were all thinking of the same person, it would be easy, the problem is that each employee remembers a different person.”

“You think someone is taking over their minds, do you think it’s me?” Agata replied.

“Of course not, but we want to know if you know of anyone else with the same powers as you,” Thalia said, but Agata was still mad.

“Agata, you know that I trust you, you wouldn’t be here otherwise.  We have a security issue we have to resolve as soon as possible, and we need your help for that.  Now tell me, do you know of anyone else with the same power as you?  Someone who can go into a person and take over her body?” I asked, trying to calm her down.

“I have heard rumors of people who can move between minds, but no one with the exact same power.  I could try to stay alert in case I can find a person with the same power.”

“Thanks, that is enough.  Just keep your eyes open for any suspicious activity.”

“What do you think we should do?” Thalia asked.

“So far the only people affected are employees, no guard.  We need to make sure that’s the case, check the guards and make sure they are ok, and if that’s the case, we will have to pair them so they can protect those who can’t.”

“I don’t think either group will like that,” Thalia said.

“I don’t care, it’s for their own safety and they will have to adapt.”

Once Thalia and Agata were gone, I tried to go back to work, but it was near impossible, Thalia’s news kept distracting me.  How could someone infiltrate my territory like that without being identified?  We were supposed to be better than that, and I was worried about Alondra, if they had gotten to her, who had developed such strong defenses while dealing with Faakhir, then it was bad.

Later, I got a visit from Aziz, the last person I expected.  I wasn’t sure if his arrival was good or bad, after all, his interview had seriously affected how people thought of me, and I wasn’t sure if that had been for my benefit.

“Greetings, my dear Kaiserin.”

“Greetings, Aziz.  How can I help you?”

“Actually, it’s me who wants to help you.  I want to offer my services as your spokesperson, I want to be in charge of your press releases, and basically, help with the public perception of you.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I said, trying to sound nice.

“I know you are not happy with me, but let me assure you it wasn’t my intention to act behind your back, William told me to give that interview, and that it was what you wanted, that’s why I did it, I never imagined he could be lying.  Still, I think that really helped your image, and I would like to keep working on that.  If the people stop thinking of you as the enemy, things would be easier for you.”

“I’m not used to think about that kind of things, I just need for a few people to know the truth and follow my orders, other than that, I don’t really care what people think about me.  And my predecessors didn’t care about that either, so…”

“On the contrary, they cared, that’s why they were doing their best to get rid of people like me, they hated anyone who said anything negative about them, as if filling the news with positive things would make any difference.  Still they tried to repeat over and over how perfect things were with them, and it kind of worked at the beginning, but it’s hard to keep believing the fantasy when you don’t even have food to eat.”

“And what are your plans?”

“First of all, I would like you to give an interview, let people get to know you.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.  Couldn’t you just work in a way I wouldn’t have to be involved?”

“There is a person who is very eager to interview you, it’s a person that haven’t been quiet about her hate to you, and if you manage to face her and turn her, then the rest of the people will follow her, people who still think you are just an assassin.”

“If she is so convinced I’m bad, a little talk won’t change her mind, and if I do manage to convince her I’m not that bad, then her followers will just assume I’m messing with her brain.”

“I’m afraid that people still think of Faakhir as the strongest telepath of this generation, and he wasn’t able to control her.  She is a very powerful telepath, and very respected because of that, she can make people be open with her.  Her power is similar to William’s, but it works in a different way.”

“How?”

“Well, William can command you to tell him the truth, he can influence you, but you know what’s going on, you feel his dominance over you, but her, on the other side, makes you feel so comfortable that you end up telling her anything, her power is more like hypnotism.”

“And you want me to talk to her? I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I really doubt she would be able to control you, and still I think it would be worth it, we could even ask for a delay in the transmission of the interview, that way, if things get out of control, we can cut it.”

“That’s something I will have to think about.  But if you want the position as a spokesperson, I think that can be arranged, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  I’ll confirm after I have some time to consider the implications.”

“I appreciate your trust, you won’t regret it,” Aziz said, and I could tell he really mean it.  He had been one of my most vocal opponents, but once he got to know me, he had changed his mind.  Still, I needed to be careful, I couldn’t trust blindly again, not after what had happened with William.  I couldn’t allow anyone else to betray me like that.

When I finally ended my working day and went back to my suite, I found Kimball and Ethan ready for dinner.  As soon as Ethan saw me, his face showed concern.

“What’s wrong mother?”

“Nothing you have to worry about,” I said, trying to smile, but I couldn’t hide what I was feeling in time, and since Ethan was a natural Empath, he could feel my worries.

“Don’t even try it,” Kimball said, “I don’t need my powers to tell that something is bothering you.”

“Don’t you know?  I thought they would run to tell you, after all you named yourself my chief of security.”

“Are you talking about the person who infiltrated the palace?  We are working on that, but I don’t think that’s the only thing on your mind.”

“I got a visit from Aziz, he wants to be my spokesperson, or something like that.”

“That’s a good idea,” Ethan said, “now that the game changed, you need someone to keep the information flowing, and who can paint you in a good light.”

“I don’t see the point,” I complained.

“Things are managed differently here, if we want things to remain calm, and to avoid more rebellions, then we need more people to trust you, like you said yourself, if more people trusted you, maybe they would have listened to your warnings about the earthquake.”

“True, but the idea was to stay away from the spotlight, just do my job and go back to the shadows, this won’t let me do that.  The truth is that I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, I was so focused on getting control of the Dominion and get it back to its old glory, and now that it got out of my control, I don’t know what to do.”

“You just have to keep doing the same thing you have been doing.  The plan changed, but the goal is the same, we just have to focus on consolidating our power.  You already established the King, now we will have to think about electing a new Prime Minister or a new President.”

“Remind me what’s the difference.”

“Well, the President is the head of the Congress, and he is in charge of the Legislative power.  That’s a key position, and it would be good for you to keep that one, since they are the ones who will make the new laws that we need.  The Prime Minister used to be elected by the people, well, it was elected by the leaders of the different nations to guide them, but since there are many countries that are still trying to define who is in charge, electing one could be complicated.”

“So first we need to bring stability to the countries in the Dominion, and then call for an election.”

“If anyone cares about my opinion,” Ethan, who had been listening to us, said, “the best option is to call for the election of a new President.  There haven’t been significative changes in the representatives, and most of them are the same that were here during Emily’s rule, and most of them are indebted to you.  Even if someone else becomes the President, they will still listen to your “suggestions” if you need them to move in a specific direction.  That way you could take Prime Minister and keep working on restoring the order to the countries, until they are ready to choose a different leader.”

“That’s actually a pretty good analysis,” Kimball offered, “I agree with Ethan, you could influence the Congress without having to be there.  Also, we need to trust them to be able to do their work without having to be guided.”

“It’s a risk we will have to take, I hope that will give us more credibility in our efforts to restore the Dominion.  After all, the end goal is that the countries will be able to choose if they want to stay with us or go independent.”

“Most will want to take that opportunity, especially if you keep taking the resources of the rich countries to give the poor ones.”

“You think they will leave the poor countries on their own?”

“It’s always been like that,” Ethan said, “most people is selfish.  But it’s part of being free, each person can decide if they want to be good or a jerk.”

“But there’s still a long way to go before reaching that point, we will worry about that once the moment arrives.  For now, I will have to search for the procedure for calling for elections,” I also needed to decide if I was going to agree to the interview Aziz wanted, or if I wanted to remain in the shadows.

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.