The nightmares that I had left behind were back, but the situation I was in was a reminder of my old days. I was weak, powerless and the party that received us when we came back from leaving Malkia at the Fortress, was a scary reminder of the parties that Agmong used to organize. At least I wasn’t the main attraction at the party as I was in Agmong’s, but as the people got louder my fear kept climbing. Luckily I didn’t have to stay at the party for long, but still it was enough to bring the nightmares back. I was trapped inside a nightmare, the pain and the humiliation were driving me crazy, I was so terrified that I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. I was fighting to get some air into my lungs, as I fought, I noticed that it wasn’t a dream, someone was sitting on top of me and had his hand over my nose and mouth.
“We don’t have time for this,” a woman said, “we have to go before Kimball and the others notice what we are doing.”
“It will be quick,” said the man on top of me; Dowe. I tried to push him away, but I didn’t have enough space to move. “You didn’t take what we gave you, did you? Saden? Did you bring an extra?”
“Of course I did, we can take any risks with someone like her.” Saden took a syringe out of her jacket and moved closer to me. While Dowe held me down, Saden injected me with the unknown liquid.
Between the panic I still had lingering from my nightmare and the rude awakening I hadn’t been able to react, but my mind was getting clearer and I knew that I had to do something about the substance they had injected me with. I had to do something, I was no longer a victim, I was a warrior and I wasn’t going to let them harm me. I concentrated my powers in feeling my body, the blood running through my veins, especially the area where they had injected me. I gathered all the contaminated blood and isolated it, then I threw it out of my body. The action let an open wound on my arm, but I didn’t care. Saden made a surprise gasp, but she couldn’t react in time when I molded my blood into a dart and threw it at her, attacking her with the same drug she had intended on using on me.
Dowe didn’t notice what I was doing with Saden, but while I was focused on cleaning the contaminated blood and attacking Saden, he had torn my shirt open, leaving me naked from the waist up. His free hand was groping my breasts. A drop of milk was running down my breast, he licked his lips and I saw him preparing to take what he wanted since the first time he saw me. Dowe moved and I used my powers to throw him away, he hit the walls with a force that shook the entire tent. I moved out of the bed while I tried to pull the remains of my shirt together to cover myself. I felt someone moving behind me and I moved just in time to avoid a hit to my head, but I couldn’t avoid a hit to my shoulder that made me lose my footing. Dowe and Alu moved at the same time, each taking one of my arms. They were strong, stronger than me, but my mind had healed enough and I wasn’t going to let them take me down. Throwing my body weight to the front I threw them out of balance, and using my mind I made them hit their head together, hard enough for them to let me go.
I was so eager to escape them that when they let go I stumbled and fell, Dowe was over me before I could stand up. I could feel his erection pressing into my thigh and I felt sick and dizzy, but I recovered fast, I wasn’t going to let him win. I knew what he wanted, and I was going to make him wish that he had never laid eyes on me. He moved a little and I started to unbuckle his belt, at first he was surprised, but lust clouded his judgment and he helped me with his pants. I took him in my hand and he growled his pleasure, but soon he was screaming his pain when I used my hand and my powers to break his member. I pushed him off me and watched him writhing in pain as a pool of blood started forming under him. I smiled, I knew that even if he survived there was a good chance that he wouldn’t been able to abuse another woman. Alu and another man went to try and help Dowe, both were pale and looked at me with fear.
“What did you do?” I turned to see Sei standing at the other side of the room, it was then that I noticed that they had cut the outside wall of the tent.
I saw Sei lifting her weapon and preparing to fire, everything was happening in slow motion, I could almost see the moment when Sei decided that trying to capture me wasn’t worth it. I saw her finger squeezing the trigger, I used my mind to push her hand, diverting the shot, at the same time strong hands grabbed me by the waist and pulled me out of the room. While I tried to regain my footing after being dragged out I saw Kimball entering the room and go directly to Sei, his hand closed over her arm and I saw the gun dropping as Sei’s bones were shattered.
“I warned you Sei!” Kimball’s voice was frightening, I had never heard such fury in it. “You should have listened to me.”
Sei’s screams joined Dowe’s drowning any other noise. Maybe because of that I didn’t hear or notice Alu moving closer to me until he grabbed me from behind, putting one of his arms around my neck and holding a gun to my temple. The movement or maybe a sound alerted Kimball and he turned to us, dropping Sei to the ground and walking back to us. He was impressive, I knew many warriors that would have surrendered just seeing the aggressivity and the power coming out of him.
“Don’t move.” Alu whispered in my ear. “Stop!” He told Kimball as he pushed the gun into my head. To my surprise Kimball stopped moving.
I tried to speak, but the pressure in my neck kept me from it. I put my hand over Alu’s arm and did something that I hadn’t done in a long time, not since I had lost control during the Succession Battle. I opened my senses and looked for the energy around me, when I found his energy flow I grabbed at it and pulled, stealing his energy.
“What are you doing?!” I could hear him panicking, despite his great energy reserve I was weakening him fast. “Stop!” He tried to let me go, but I was the one that wouldn’t let him go, because just like last time I couldn’t stop pulling at his energy.
Strong arms grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me while someone else took Alu away. Once our physical connection was severed I was able to cut my compulsion to steal his energy.
“Are you ok?” Kimball’s soft and concerned voice was such a contrast to the tone he had used before. “Did they hurt you?”
I wasn’t sure what to think, it appeared as if Kimball was not aware of Sei’s plans, but it could be a trap, maybe he knew, maybe it was all a plan to get me to trust him. As the adrenaline was running out I felt tired and the headache that had been gone was trying to return.
“Kimball?” One of his men said. “I think you should check Dowe, his losing a lot of blood, and Alu is not responding, he might be dead.”
“If Alu is dead is his fault for attacking Kaiserin. And Dowe, I’m sure he got what he deserved, right now I don’t care about him, I have more important things to do right now.” Kimball let me go and noticed the blood running down my arm, his own hand was wet with my blood. “You’re hurt.” He looked at me again up and down and I felt the need to cover myself, I forced myself to remain quiet, but it wasn’t easy, especially when his eyes got darker as he reached my chest. He finally looked at my face and I saw his lust evaporate, he took his own shirt off and put it on me. I wasn’t sure why he did that, was he getting rid of temptation? Was he afraid he was going to follow Sei’s men steps? Or had he noticed how uncomfortable I was with my nakedness? “Come, let me look at your arm, I have to clean it before it gets a chance of infection.” I felt the impulse of rebelling at his order, but I needed time and for the moment it was better to follow his lead. Besides, he was right, I had been too busy trying to get rid of whatever they had injected in me that I wasn’t paying attention to the damage I was doing, I needed my arm taken care of.
He took me to the fire, or what was left of it, I sat down and then I don’t know what happened, one moment I was looking at him, and then I was looking into the future. The vision wasn’t about me, it was about them and their reunion with the Scavengers. When I left the vision I found a worried Kimball in front of me.
“Sei had one of the trucks prepared for escape,” Mbali informed Kimball. I noticed blood on her clothes and I wondered what had happened outside. “Some of the others are drugged, I suspect that some of the drinks last night were drugged.” That made sense, Dowe had kept giving me drinks, I suspected he was trying to get me drunk, but his words in the morning showed a different intent.”
“I’m so sorry about what happened,” Kimball apologized, “I knew Sei was angry and that she wanted to take you to the Empire, but I never thought she would go so far, I never imagined that she would be willing to attack her own people. I should have been more alert, I should have keep you protected.”
“I don’t need protection,” I had spent most of my life taking care of myself, I didn’t need him to protect me, I didn’t want to depend on him. “I’m grateful for your help, especially for helping me with my daughter, but I don’t need you or your protection, I’m capable of protecting myself.”
“I know, but just because you can do it yourself it doesn’t mean that you can’t have someone helping you. Let me help you, let me be your friend.” He had finished cleaning my wound and was dressing it. “Stay with me and I promise that no one else is going to hurt you, not while I’m here. I don’t know what you are running from, but I can keep you safe.”
“And what do you want in return for your ‘protection’.”
“I won’t ask you for anything.”
“You think that I haven’t noticed the way you look at me? I recognize that you are not like your men, you have treated with respect, but you want the same thing they want. If I stay with you, how long will it take for you to demand payment from me? No one does what you do and don’t expect something in return.”
“No!” I interrupted. “If all you really want is to finish the fight we started four months ago, then fine, let’s finish it, and then I’ll go.”
“You are not alright, you just had a difficult time. Your arm is hurt, your neck too, Alu did more damage than you think, your eyes are red from suffocation.” He didn’t know that my red eyes were the result of stealing Alu’s energy, not because of his attack. “I bet that your headache is back. It wouldn’t be fair for me to fight you now, you would be at a disadvantage.”
“I think you are underestimating me.” I had the advantage, I had Alu’s energy in me and it needed to be released.
“Last time our fight was long and difficult, it wouldn’t be fair to fight again when you are not at your best.”
“Last time I was five months pregnant and half of my energy was focused on protecting my unborn baby. From the beginning I realized that if I let you hit me, I would be in danger, I had already lost a baby because of a beating, I wasn’t going to let it happen again.” Last time it had been a blessing to lose the baby, I wasn’t happy to carry the seed of a monster, even later when they told me that I wasn’t going to get pregnant ever again I was happy, it wasn’t until Agmong was dead that I realized how much I wanted a child. It was thanks to Ilum that I had the opportunity, and I wasn’t going to do anything to risk it. “Last time I spared energy to protect my baby, energy that I could have used to fight you. I don’t have that problem now, I can fight you with all I have.”
“Still, if I win, it wouldn’t feel right.”
“Who says you will win?”
“Kaiserin…” his condescending tone and arrogant attitude was making me angry.
“Right now Kimball, just promise me you will let me go after that, I can’t go with you, I can’t go where you are going.”
“We don’t have to do this right now, just calm down, you still have time to recover, we can do this later.”
The energy inside me was making me uncomfortable and the situation was making me feel claustrophobic. I needed to take control of my destiny as soon as possible, I couldn’t let someone else take decisions for me. Any mistake, any hardship had to be my decision, I couldn’t stay with them, especially after what had happened. I couldn’t stay with them, I couldn’t risk going with them to meet the Scavengers, if they recognized me, I would be in trouble, it would complicate everything. I got up and walked out, Kimball followed me.
“I can’t stay here any longer, I have responsibilities, I need to go back to the Amazons.” I was walking away from the camp, Kimball and a few of his men were following me. “You don’t need to worry about me, show me respect and fight with me with all you have, because I will do the same.”
I took a deep breath, letting the air fill my lungs and connect with everything around me. I followed with several quick breaths, I needed to take oxygen into my body.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” Kimball asked. I could see the change, he was preparing himself for the fight, he was taking me seriously.
I didn’t answer with words, but with actions. I created an airstream and then put it to circulate around us. The air started at ground level and started to rise little by little, taking dirt and leaves with it as it climbed up forming a column of air around us. It was a trick I had used to fight Vasuman, it helped to control his fire. Kimball was quiet for a moment, but as soon as he realized what I was trying to do he tried to get closer to me. Using my mind, I lifted him in the air, away from me. I no longer needed to protect someone else, I could take risks, so I left my body unprotected to take full advantage of my double mind. I thought it would be easy, with Kimball in the air he would be unable to fight me, but something hit my forehead and I lost my concentration for a moment, enough for Kimball to get free and ran to me. The vortex around us kept going despite my slip in focus. The vortex was sucking all the air and it was getting harder to breathe. Kimball was getting affected by the lack of oxygen, but I had prepared and I had a lot of experience with asphyxiation, to survive Agmong and his games I had to learn how to make the most of every breath of air, so I knew I had time. When Kimball tried to hit me I moved out of his way, then I used my mind to punch him in the stomach, he was out of air.
Kimball was trying to get air to his lungs, without success, there was no air to get. I was impressed by him, he didn’t let panic take hold of him, he kept fighting until the last moment. He took something like a marble out of his belt, he tried to toss it, maybe that was what he had done when I had him up in the air, but his aim wasn’t as good as the first time. It took another couple of minutes before Kimball passed out, just as I was reaching my limit. When I let the air vortex around us disperse I saw that I was surrounded by Kimball’s men. Mbali looked surprised to see Kimball on the ground and ran towards him.
“He will be alright, he just needs a moment to recover,” I told Mbali, trying to ease her worry.
“What happened this morning was not his fault,” she said. I was expecting her to be angry at me for fighting with Kimball after everything he had done for me, but she wasn’t, she sounded sad. “Kimball was just trying to help you, really, that was all.” Mbali signaled one of the men and he approached me with my jacket and my backpack.
“Mbali? I know there is no reason why you should trust me, but I need to warn you. Don’t go to the Scavengers, it’s a trap, they are going to betray you.”
“What do you mean? How do you know?”
“I can’t explain, but I know that you will be in danger if you go to them.”
“We are in the middle of negotiations with them, there’s no reason for them to attack us.”
“They are always looking for that that will give them the most gain, they traffic weapons and other goods, but they know that information is the biggest commodity. They know that if they capture you they will be able to torture you for information, and that way they will make more money. There are many that would pay for information of the Clan that most believe is just a legend.” Mbali stared at me, she started to say something, but then stopped. “Do you think that you are the only ones that can read the clues? I suspected of you since I first saw you with the Militaries, the time I spent with you only confirmed my suspicions.”
“Now I get why Kimball is so interested in you, you are really an amazing woman Kaiserin,” one of the warriors said. “Have a safe trip Kaiserin, I hope you arrive safe to your destination.”
I saw Kimball stirring and decided to go before he had a chance to recover. I hoped they listened to my warning, I didn’t want anything to happen to the Shadows.