I felt weird, out of place. This new infirmary was so different it felt alien to me. But it was a good place, with better care and better treatment, from the first day the pain had been controlled and my injuries were recovering fast. The doctor that was attending me was shocked to see my x-rays, not because my broken arm was so badly treated that he had to open my cast and fix it again, he wasn’t surprised at my broken ribs that had miraculously not pierced any organ, he was startled to see on my bones the testimony of years of abuse, of bones broken over and over again, never given an opportunity to correctly heal. They fixed everything they could and the doctor told me that my arm would heal completely, as well as my ribs as long as I rested, so they kept me there under observation, taking care of me. It was so strange that after two years of no one caring if I healed or not they were taking such steps to keep me safe. They didn’t know everything I had to endure before, a few broken bones were nothing for me now, I had kept going with worse injuries. But I obeyed them, I let them treat me, I was taking advantage of my time there. I had a lot to think of.
Modra was the one who took me to the infirmary, she had checked on me to see how I was doing. Zounkla too had gone to me, he asked me to give him back his rank, I had Isen’s rank so I could give Zounkla his back. Zounkla had informed the rest of the majors that I had taken over Isen’s duties. He also had been taking care of most of my tasks. He had become my confidant, my second in command.
“Good morning,” said Zounkla, “here’s yesterday’s report.” He handed me a folder with some papers with everything relevant about those under my command.
“Thanks Zounkla.” I took the papers, but I wasn’t in the mood to read them. “I’m tired of being here, I want out, I need to go to my office.”
“Have they discharged you?” He asked.
“I’m discharging myself, I tired of being here, it’s been almost a week.”
“Unless the doctor says it’s ok, I don’t think you should leave.” Zounkla was searching for someone outside my room, maybe the doctor to tell on me.
“The doctors from the other infirmary would have let me go long ago.”
“The other doctors don’t care if their patients die once they leave.” Zounkla was watching me, studying me. “How many visits did you make to the other infirmary?”
“Too many to count. You are not from here, right? What sector are you from?” I wanted to change the topic.
“I’m from sector 12, I met Isen a few years ago when we worked together in an ambush against some rebels that were attacking the Empire. I had no chance of improvement there so Isen asked for me and offered me a better rank.”
“Are you mad at me for killing him?” Maybe that was why he was being so nice, he was just waiting for me to feel confident with him before he could have his revenge.
“I’m grateful that you didn’t kill me,” he said. “I underestimated you, I never thought that someone without a double mind could be able to break through my illusions.” He didn’t know I had a double mind, my Maxima’s eyes gave him that idea.
“Am I interrupting?” asked Modra. “I came to see how you were feeling.”
“I’m fine, in fact, I was telling Zounkla that I’m ready to get out of here.”
“That’s good, the general is going to arrive today, tomorrow he will name a new colonel, and as a lieutenant colonel you have to be there, just a formality.” Modra smiled at me.
“What do you mean by that, is my presence not really required?” I asked. “It sounds like a good opportunity to raise another rank without killing anyone.”
“Is nothing enough for you? Just a few days ago you were just a lieutenant, now you are a lieutenant colonel, isn’t that enough?” Modra was amused.
“Colonel will be enough for a while, general would be better.” Zounkla was stunned by my words, Modra just laugh.
“You don’t know general Vasuman, none of your tricks will be enough for him, he is the Son of the Four Families, the most powerful among the mutants and hybrids of the Empire, the best you can do is stay out of his way and don’t provoke him.” Modra was serious, but so was I.
But I didn’t want to wait anymore, it had been months since my friends visit and it was now obvious that no one was coming to rescue me despite their optimism. I was the only one who could save myself and after Joshes and Isen I knew that I wouldn’t be safe until I was on the top.
“I think I will stay here one more day,” I needed to be as healed as possible before facing the general, “but don’t worry, I will be there tomorrow.”
“I would ask you to stay out of trouble, but I don’t think it would make any difference,” said Modra as she left the room.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Zounkla also left.
I decided I needed to do something in the meantime, so I tried to recover more memories. I tried to imagine different battle situations until I felt the familiar pain in my head and then let myself take the path in my head that lead me to my hidden memory. I needed everything I could if I was to convince him that I was the best option to fill the colonel position.
The next day I woke up early, I was nervous. I had seen the general a couple of times when I was a captain in the Palace, but I haven’t seen him since I was in sector 32.
After convincing the doctor to discharge me, I went to Headquarters. Zounkla was waiting for me outside my office with a folder in his hands.
“Good morning major Zounkla.” I greet him as I entered my office.
“Good morning, lieutenant colonel” he answered, entering behind me and closing the door. I didn’t like that he closed it.
“Thanks for the report.” I took it from his hands and started reading it. He was silent, standing in front of me. “Do you need something?”
“Are you really planning on asking to become colonel? You haven’t been a lieutenant colonel for two weeks and you are already asking for more. I don’t think the general is going to like it.”
“If it makes you feel better I can give you my current position once I become a colonel.” I didn’t know who I could trust, but at least Zounkla was useful.
“That’s not what I was thinking about, but I won’t oppose to it.” He smiled for a second. “I’m just worried that maybe you are trying to do the impossible.”
“We’ll see if it’s impossible in a few hours.” That being said I returned my attention to the papers in Isen’s old desk. Zounkla walked out and left me alone.
It wasn’t long before Modra came for me to take me to the room where the other officials were already waiting for the general to make the new appointment. Vasuman was really the Son of the Four Families. He was tall and filled with muscles, with a body that would only be possible for a mutant from the Cohorte Family, his bronze skin had an almost metallic feel to it, giving him an anti-natural look that only the Brigada Family had, his black eyes shone with an inner fire, his whole demeanor spoke of confidence and power that only the psyquics and psyquic-oriented hybrids from the Comando Family could claim, he was the best of both worlds, a hybrid that had the best qualities from both psychic and mutants, a feat that only those of the Coventry family could achieve. Unlike most generals that liked long hair, he shaved his hair off, his uniform was made out of a metallic fabric, he didn’t wear the normal uniform. He looked just like the last time I had seen him on my mother’s court, but I knew that he was even more dangerous now than he was then.
“I seem that in my absence the Rebels Clans felt brave and intensified their attacks,” started Vasuman, “I don’t have to remind you that we lost some valuable warriors as a result. Most of the positions have already been filled, I can see a couple of new faces here,” for a moment his eyes lingered on me and I wondered if he had recognized me, but he continued without a sign or recognition. “You, what’s your name?” he asked another lieutenant colonel. The man took a step forward and then put one knee on the ground before Vasuman as a sign of respect.
“My name is Lagu, at your service.” He answered with a melodious voice.
“Your case is far more intriguing” said Vasuman, this time addressing me, “you killed your superior, that’s why you are here.” Since he wasn’t asking, just stating the facts I remained silent. “But what’s more interesting is how your records are full of inconsistencies, until a few months ago we had a soldier named Sklave and then we had a lieutenant Kaiserin. Why did you change your name? Why did you kill your superiors?”
“Kaiserin has always been my name,” I said from where I was standing, I didn’t bow to him. I could see how my attitude bothered him, but I kept explaining. “When I arrived here your people changed my name, I just recovered my true name.”
“There was a captain Kaiserin in the Palace, she died a few years ago. Usurping her identity won’t make you a better warrior.” I was feeling uncomfortable under his gaze, but I tried not to let it show. “I think is disrespectful of you to use that name. I will let you keep your rank because you earned it, but I want you to go back to your real name.”
“Kaiserin IS my real name and is the only name I answer to.” My voice was clear and strong, I wasn’t going to let him intimidate me. “As for my rank, I was hoping to take the rank that I really deserve, that of colonel.”
I heard various gasps of surprise, but above all other noises was the laughter of Vasuman. He walked to me. He didn’t look worried or in a hurry, but I could see in his eyes the anger burning.
“I would think that after being under Agmong’s command you would have better manners.” I was surprised that he knew about a simple sergeant, but Agmong had been infamous for his cruelty, even the general must have heard about him.
“Isen said something like that just before I killed him.” I said. “In fact Agmong also tried to remind me what he thought was the proper behavior before I killed him.”
“Be careful Sklave, that sounds like a threat,” warned Vasuman.
“I’m sorry general, I think you misheard me… My name is not Sklave, is Kaiserin.”
I didn’t see Vasuman moving, I dodged out of instinct, I blocked the first blow with my arm and dodged the second one, but the third hit sent me to the floor.
“I’m not a patient man Sklave,” Vasuman was standing next to me, towering me in a menacing way, “I won’t stand for my subordinates to talk to me like that, you should remember that Sklave.”
“My name is KAISERIN!” I yelled as I used my mind to hit the general.
My attack sent Vasuman against the wall, but he looked unaffected by the hit. He just started walking towards me. I could see the others backing away from us. I could see how mad Vasuman was at me, but I wasn’t expecting his reaction. When he was just a few steps away from me he ignited in flames. All around us the fire extended. At first I thought it was an illusion, but the heat felt real.
I tried to push him away again, but I only pushed him a few steps. I was concentrating on keeping him away, but he grabbed something out of his belt and a moment later the fire was leaping at me as if he had a flamethrower. I tried to dodge, I tried to escape, but I was distracted by the fire and by the time I noticed Vasuman was beside me. He attacked again, but the fire surrounding him made it very difficult for me to fight him, I tried using my mind, but he was too fast and too strong, the smoke was making my eyes water and I couldn’t see. I tried raising some stone spikes, but that didn’t slow him down.
I tried to punch him, but my fist never reached him, he grabbed my wrist and I felt the heat burning my clothes and reaching my skin. He pulled me to him and with his other hand grabbed my arm, I felt the burning heat and saw my uniform burst into flames. I have been burned before, during my time with Agmong, but only small, localized burns, now it was as if my whole body was in flames.
Vasuman punched me in the stomach, leaving me breathless, I struggled to get some oxygen into my lungs, but the available air was being consumed by the fire and there was nothing left for me. As I struggled for breath I tried to rip the burning clothes off of me, but with horror, I saw the skin coming along with the jacket of my uniform. Pain and burning sensation filled me, I was at my limits and the image of raw flesh was too much. Vasuman was still standing next to me, still burning, not allowing me a moment of respite.
The pain was unbearable and even as I tried to absorb it and ignore it, like I had done before, the pain just kept getting worse every second. I fought against the darkness that invaded my eyes, I wanted to keep fighting, I needed to find a way to defend myself, I couldn’t stop, but Vasuman was just there, standing next to me, looking at me as if I was just a bug he could crush any time he wanted, suddenly darkness surrounded me and I passed out.
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