“Pitonisa is the name that Alkaia gave me when I joined the Amazons,” I explained to him. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here, I thought you would end as a slave to the Scavengers, not the Amazons.” I walked to where he was and took a seat on the pillows across from him, on the other side of the table.
“I wanted to thank you for your warning, you were right, the meeting with the Scavengers was a trap, it was thanks to your warning that we were able to fight them off.”
“Is everyone ok?” I remembered the vision, it was one of pain and blood.
“We sent Sei and some of her men to the meeting in my place, they were captured and some of them received some injuries, but they were still alive when we arrived to rescue them. I think that after being the Scavenger’s prisoners for a few hours they have a better understanding of how to treat their guests. They are now in our territory, they will face a trial for their disobedience and receive a proper punishment for it.”
“Why are you here then? Why aren’t you with them?”
“I told you, I came to see you.”
“Are you alone?” I didn’t want to think of his men being in one of the Amazon’s prisons, or in one of their beds.
“Yes, is easier to travel alone, I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s security.” Kimball was calm, relaxed in my room. I couldn’t help but watch his body. He was strong, but his body wasn’t too muscular like with other mutants, he was thin, but I could see that there was not a gram of fat, he was pure muscle under his dark skin, pure strength.
“And you don’t worry about yourself? Look what happened to you, you ended up as a slave.” He just smiled and shrugged, as if being captured was nothing to worry about.
“They didn’t capture me, I let myself be captured. It was the easiest way to get here and find you.”
“Don’t you understand the concept of slavery? You should be worried.”
“I’m not, I’m sure you won’t harm me, and if it was anyone else’s house I had ended up in, they I would simply leave.” He gestured to my bed, where the broken chains where. “Chains, locks, prisons, none of that can stop me. I know how to free myself if necessary.”
“You should worry. In case you don’t remember I’m the one who won our last fight. Chains and locks you may be able to break, but you can’t get past me.”
“I remember, but I also remember you, and you are not the kind of woman that takes advantage of others,” his eyes were making me uncomfortable, it was like he was reading me, again, seeing things that I didn’t want him to see. “I trust you not to take advantage of the situation. Well, not too much anyway.”
“You are playing with your freedom.” I tried to read his mind, but his thoughts were too fast and too complex, just like when I had tried to read them during our first fight. Entering his mind would only cause me a headache, it wasn’t worth it, so I tried to read his feelings instead. He wasn’t afraid of me, he was confident. There was something else, something that I couldn’t identify.
“You are taking this too seriously, just stop worrying about it.” He shrugged again, and smiled, an arrogant and carefree smile.
“You may think you are powerful, you may think that nothing will happen to you, but there’s always someone stronger, or you will find yourself in a situation outside of your control.” I was getting angry with his attitude, he was playing with his freedom! I took control of the bed sheet he was using to cover himself and used it to pin him to the ground. “You are nothing but a toy to the Amazons, not better than a pet. Do you think they care about you? They will use you and play with you and if you are really lucky they will discard you afterwards.” I was getting angrier by the minute, and with my anger, the pressure I was putting on him was growing too. I knew that the pressure I was using was enough to break a normal person’s bones, and despite the fact that he was ok, I could feel that he was starting to feel afraid.
I moved to him, over him, I put my hands around his neck and started to squeeze, enough to make it hard for him to breathe, but not enough to harm him. “A slave has no will of his own, his life depends of other people’s whims. It will be a time that the only kind of freedom you will see is death, and you will crave it, but even that will be denied to you.” Our eyes locked and I felt the shift in his feelings, the fear was gone, instead there was something like… pity?
“I’m sorry.” His lips moved, but no sound got out, but the words were loud as if he had spoken them. It was as if he had seen inside my mind to the memories that were driving my words and he was sorry for having awaken them.
“Stupid,” I said as I let go of his neck, “you’re an idiot.” I had the horrible feeling that he was reading my mind. I was feeling vulnerable under his gaze and I felt the need to get away from him before he could see all of my past. I moved away and sat on the bed as I let my power go and free him.
“I always end up making you mad at me,” he sounded sad, remorseful, “it wasn’t my intention,” he said as he moved closer to me. “Since the first time I saw you I was intrigued by you,” he confessed, “and all I want is to get to know you, be close to you, talk to you. But if that is not what you want just tell me, I will do whatever you want.”
“I just want you to leave me alone!” I cried as I took the pieces of chain and threw them at him. “Just leave me alone.”
He said nothing, he just stood there, not even dodging the chains. I couldn’t understand the man, and I couldn’t keep looking at him. I got up and went to the bathroom, closing the door behind me. I saw the bathtub full of water and decided that a bath was just what I needed to help me calm down. I put my hand in the water and raised the temperature so it was hot, then I put some herbs in the water to help me relax. I tried to ignore what was going on the other side of the door, but I could hear the footsteps getting away, then I heard the door closing. Kimball had left, he was no longer my problem, but still, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I tried to think of something else, tried to focus my thoughts on Alkaia’s daughter, her training, something, but my mind kept getting back to Kimball. I stayed there until the water was cold and my body was wrinkled. I went out and put on a bathrobe.
As soon as I got out of the bathroom, I heard noise in the ground floor. I heard the door of the kitchen and guessed that someone had come to leave me my dinner, but the noise didn’t stop, they were still moving there, it wasn’t normal, the Amazons normally got in and out of my house as fast as they could, but now someone was climbing up the stairs. I moved to the door and saw in the dark the figure moving, it didn’t look like an Amazon, it was a man, he had something on his back and a plate of food in his hands.
The idiot was back. I was confused, because I wasn’t sure if it was relief or disappointment was I was feeling. I got back into my room and then heard him knocking on my door. He didn’t wait for me to answer, he opened the door and got in. He was dressed in one of his uniforms.
“They left this plate of food downstairs, I took the liberty of bringing it to you,” he said when he entered the room. I was sitting on the pillows again and Kimball put the plate on the table in front of me.
“I thought you were gone.” I tried not to show any emotion, I was afraid of what he could see. “I didn’t think you would be so stupid to come back again after being able to escape.”
“I couldn’t leave knowing you were mad at me, I had at least to apologize.” He took his backpack off and put it where I could reach it. I felt it was some kind of offering, like he was trying to show me he meant no harm. “You needed time to calm down, and I needed to get my things back, I didn’t feel comfortable not knowing where they were. Besides, I thought we both would feel better if I was clothed.” He smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back.
“How did you manage to get out without being seen?” I knew that there was at least one soldier keeping an eye on my house, and I knew there had to be more in the place where his stuff was. “How did you get your things back?”
“Professional secrets,” he said. “I’m an expert in infiltration, is not that difficult, you just need to be a good observer and be patient.”
“It took you just one hour to get there and back,” I took the plate in front of me and started eating, I didn’t even think about checking if he had put something in my food, if he hadn’t done that when we were with his people he wouldn’t try it in the Amazon’s territory. “Is a short time to find your things, get in, get them and come back. I thought that by now you would be on your way back to your own people, I wasn’t expecting you to come back.”
“Does it bother you that I came back?” his emotions were all over the place, uncertainty, fear, doubt, shame, curiosity, regret… and then, everything went out but a strong determination. If you want me to go, I’ll go, but I needed to ask you for forgiveness, it wasn’t my intention to bother you. Believe me, the last thing I want is to make you angry.”
“And what did you want then?” I could see and feel that my question was making him uncomfortable. “Sit down,” I ordered him, “I’m tired of seeing you there standing there.”
“Ok,” he said, “you didn’t want to talk to me when we were with my people. I could see that you weren’t comfortable with the situation and that you were on the defensive,” he laid down on the pillows, in a very vulnerable position, “I just thought that if I could see you in a different setting, with me at your mercy, then you would be more comfortable and would talk to me.”
“So you let them capture you because you wanted me to get my guard down.” I had a bad feeling and suddenly I realized that I was only wearing a small bathrobe. I pulled it tighter around me and got my defenses up, preparing to anything he could try to do.”
“If I wanted to take advantage of you I would have done it already,” I shivered, it was like he had read my mind, again, and that scared me. But then, he was right, he had had the opportunity, I had been in no position to fight him back and he hadn’t taken advantage of that. “What can I do to convince you that my intentions are good? I don’t want to hurt you I just want to know you.”
“I just don’t understand you,” he was exasperating, I couldn’t understand why he acted like that. “Is everyone in your Clan as weird as you?”
“Well, there’s different kinds of weirdness, mine is unique.” He smiled and I could feel his good humor, memories that made him shine with happiness. “You are very beautiful when you smile.”
“And you are an idiot.” I hadn’t even realized that I was smiling too, I tried to change my expression back and made my voice hard, but I’m sure I failed, his smile didn’t falter. “Tell me about your Clan. Where is it? How is it?”
“That information is classified, I’m afraid that I can’t tell you.” His words sounded like a challenge and that only made me more curious.
“You haven’t understood the concept of slave, have you?” I could see that he was finding the situation amusing and so did I, I wasn’t sure what was happening. “I’m afraid you don’t have a choice, you are mine now and you have to do what I tell you to do.” My words didn’t have the bite they were supposed to have, maybe because both of us knew that it was totally false, he wasn’t under my control, he could do whatever he wanted to do.
“Ok, your wish is my command.” He moved to a more comfortable position, he put his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling for a moment, then he started to talk. “The Shadows Clan is just a part of my nation, it’s located on an island in the gulf, but the place I come from is farther away in a place called Mzansi. Is a wonderful territory on the other side of the ocean. Is a territory in the south of the continent, it has large deserts, vast savannas, rich meadows, green forests… Each corner of the country has its own beauty, its own charm.”
“Really?” I doubted him for a moment, but he looked serious enough. “I thought that all the territories on the other side of the ocean had disappeared after the Great War.”
“It is better for us that you believe that,” he said, still looking at the ceiling. “After the Great War everything was chaos, the people there didn’t have time to worry about people in this continent. By the time things had calmed down no one wanted to interfere with what was happening here, the Dark Empire and the Kingdom of Light were already established and there was no point in trying to contact you and make ourselves known.”
“Mzansi must be a big place.” I remembered the stories about how things used to be before the Great War, before the tragedy that made us what we were now. One thing I remembered was that the territories there were bigger than the Empire and the Kingdom together.
“It is. Before he Great War the world was divided into countries, there were more than two hundred of them. It had been a lot of changes since then, and from those original countries just a few survive, Mzansi is one of them, and one of the most important. But this is something I shouldn’t be telling you, your people had forgotten about us and is better if it stays that way. I just wanted you to see that we come from different worlds.”
“If you really are from across the ocean and your people are not supposed to have contact with mine, how is that the Shadows Clan exists here?”
“Well, my people had been warriors since always, and despite our times of peace, their spirit remains the same. We have one of the biggest armies, most of the people who enjoy fighting ends up in what we call the Shadows Clan, that is just an extension of our military force. Is a way of keeping them sharp and out of trouble.”
“How does that works?” I was curious. “Those who like to fight come to the Empire to prove themselves? Is that why you are here? Are you trying to prove something?”
“No, not really,” he moved, I could feel he was uncomfortable with the question. “As part of the Royal Family I was trained in personal defense since I was a child, but I was always more interested in healing than hurting. I learned to fight, but science was my passion. I studied to be a doctor, and I was a good one, applying my knowledge and with the help of some inventions of my own I saved a lot of lives.” I could feel guilt and pain, a great pain, in him. “I shouldn’t be talking, speaking about Mzansi with an Imperialist could be considered treason.”
“And yet you are talking.” I could feel that there was a painful memory in his mind, but I wanted to know more, there was something I felt he wanted to tell me. “What happened? Why did you stop being a doctor and became a warrior?”
“Mzansi is part of what we call the NeoRepublic, along with most of the countries there,” he explained. “A couple of centuries ago Capital City was created, each country elected a someone to represent them and live in this city. It was a neutral place where we could discuss our problems and differences in a civilized and pacific way. This city acted as supervisor over the countries, it had its own monarchy and democratic government. A few years ago one of the princess decided that she didn’t want to keep being a supervisor, she wanted to be a ruler, so she killed all the members of her family who could fight her for the throne, took Capital City as a hostage and declared herself queen of the NeoRepublic. She declared war to anyone who didn’t recognize her as absolute ruler, Mzansi is one of the few countries that is not under her rule, we are still fighting for our independence.”
“So it was this war that made you a warrior.” There was more to the story, I could feel it, but I wasn’t sure how to ask.
“When Emily decided to become Queen and take control of Capital City she asked for all the ruling houses of the NeoRepublic to meet with her. She started her putsch then, and declared herself the absolute ruler over all monarchies. She gave us a choice, recognize her as our ruler or face the consequences. Most of us didn’t recognize her. I left there not believing she would succeed, not caring about the consequences, we didn’t know what she was capable of. I tried to go back to my family,” his voice broke and it took him a while to continue. “When I arrived at our home, I found the place destroyed, I needed a forensic team to identify the bodies we found… My wife and daughter were so torn apart that I wasn’t capable of recognizing them.” I understood the pain of losing someone you loved, I understood his pain. “It was then that I decided to fight, I didn’t stop until I found the people responsible for the attack, and when I did I kill them all with my own hands. I should have been there with them, I failed them. But killing them didn’t bring them back. Nothing will.”
“You think that revenge will help,” I said after a moment of silence, “and at first it feels good, but then you realize that the emptiness inside remains and the pains still lingers.”
“That’s right,” he sat, he was in front of me, but I couldn’t see his eyes, I could see that he was barely keeping the tears away and I felt a lump in my throat. “I’m sorry, I think I said more than I should.” Kimball was silent for a while, he was just staring at his hands. His feelings were raw and I gave him a moment to collect himself.
“How did you end up in here?” I asked when I felt he was calm, I thought it would be a good idea to distract him.
“Without my wife and my daughter I felt like I had no reason to live so I decided to join the fight for freedom, I started to take missions that were very difficult, the more dangerous the better. It was a win-win situation for me, if I was successful then I was helping my people and saving life, but if I had died, it would have been also a victory in my book, but no matter the dangers I’m still here. I don’t know if it was luck or destiny, what kept me alive.”
“Is that why you let the Amazons capture you? Why you decided to become a slave?” I could understand the wish to be dead, I had felt like that many times when I was with Agmong, but I was looking for freedom back then, I didn’t understand his motivation. “Is all of this because you want to be dead?”
“No, things have changed,” he lifted his head and looked at me, I was caught in his stare, it was intense and I could feel his feelings were getting stronger. “For a long time, for months, years, I have been moving by inertia, not caring for what happens to me. But then I met you, and after that fight we had, for the first time in a long time, I felt alive. Suddenly the world had color and music again, and just the hope that I may see you again was enough to make me wake up every day. When I found you and your daughter in that battlefield I was so afraid that I was late again and you were dead, I felt like I could die right there. I moved closer to you, then I saw you were still breathing and I felt hope again and I swore that you would live.” I was having a hard time processing what he was telling me. “I’m here, with the Amazons, with you, because since the first time I saw you I hadn’t been able to take you out of my mind, you have become my reason to live and I can’t think of being anywhere but at your side.” The sincerity of his words left speechless and for a long time, I didn’t know what to say.