Training was going well, sometimes I felt like it wasn’t necessary anymore for me to supervise it, but I liked it, I enjoyed the time spent with Molpadia and her cousins. The fact that the group kept growing made me happy, they trusted me to help them improve. We were just finishing when one of Alkaia’s guards arrived.
“Greeting Pitonisa,” the young warrior looked tired, whatever had happened for her to have rushed to me had to be important. “Queen Alkaia sent me to let you know that the last mission was successful, they have him.”
“Thanks. That’s all for today,” I told my students, “I’ll see you tomorrow. Let’s go, we have to go to Alkaia.” I called Kimball, Molpadia also joined us as we went to the slave quarters.
With Kimball’s help we had been able to know the order of the Militaries’ attacks, and thanks to my visions we knew exactly what their plans were for each location. We didn’t want them to know we knew what they were planning, so I convinced the Amazons to let them attack as if we knew nothing about it. We lost a few places and a few warriors and slaves, but we also acquired the pieces we needed to win the war.
Not everyone liked my strategy, Polemusa was the most vocal against it, but she wasn’t the only one against it. Alkaia understood that sacrifices needed to be made and because of that and her promise she backed me up on every decision. I still did my best to minimize our losses, but I knew that each life we lost was saving dozens.
When we arrived to the slave quarters I tried to read Kimball’s feelings, I was worried that he would feel bad returning to a place that had caused him so much pain, but he seemed calm as we entered the place, he still was when we reached the basement where Alkaia and her relatives were waiting with our newest acquisition. We heard the screams before reaching them, he was very angry and was trashing, trying to free himself, but the heavy cuffs and chains that held him to the wall weren’t going to break any time soon. Alkaia was standing just out of his reach, calmly listening to his demands to be released.
“I see that the mission was a success,” I said once they noticed me. “How are we doing?”
“With him we have seven of Ace’s sons, just one more and we will have all of the ones he sent out with his troops.” Alkaia said. At her words the young man stopped fighting and looked around him, noticing for the first time since waking up that he wasn’t alone, and who his companions were.
“My daughter told me his capture was pretty easy, they were able to save all the Amazons in the place, although it still looks as if they were buried in the mine, the one we had to blow up.” Polemusa said, still angry about losing the mine.
“You know that the mine wasn’t important, by losing it, we make our enemies believe that they are winning, but we know that the one who lost the most was Ace, he keeps losing his sons in these attacks. He must be thinking that Tango was killed in that explosion, but soon he would find out the truth and he will be furious.”
“I don’t know what you are planning,” Tango interrupted, “but it won’t work. My father will never let himself be blackmailed by you.”
“We know that,” I told him. “He has so many children he doesn’t know what to do with them, he won’t exchange his possible win for your lives, he will just use your deaths as another excuse to justify the war. We will use you in a different way.”
“If we had Spike we could use him,” Alkaia said, “he would exchange anything for him, but I think that because of that he always protects him by keeping him by his side.” I got a glimpse of Alkaia’s thoughts and I was surprised, what I saw there required some thinking, but I didn’t have time for that so I concentrated on the situation at hand and not what she had just revealed.
“We can’t waste our time with the things we don’t have, we need to think of what we can do with what we have. Derinoe, how is your people doing?”
“We have been able to break and control most of them, Foxtrot is still resisting and we have to start with Tango, but I’m sure we will have them in a few days, even if we have to starve them to weaken their minds. If that’s not enough, we have other means of breaking them.”
I was feeling uneasy at her words, I had been worried that the place and the situation would affect Kimball, but the fact was that I was the one being affected. The place and the situation reminded me of the first time I had been captured, how they had tortured me to break inside my mind to steal information about my mother. The memories of that time were affecting me more than I had believed possible.
I couldn’t believe how weak I was, after everything I had accomplished and everything I had survived I still felt suffocated by the memories. Even if I had created the situation I was in, even if it was my plan, it still affected me more than I wanted to.
“That’s perfect, keep working, we don’t have much time before we have to move.” It was time to move the war to enemy territory, we would need Ace’s sons for that. All our plans were working perfectly, but we still needed to be careful, overconfidence was what was going to end up being the Militaries perdition, we couldn’t make the same mistake. “I’ll go then, I had a long day and I need to rest, I’ll come by tomorrow to review the progress.”
“That sounds good,” Alkaia started to walk out with me. “Derinoe, you’re in charge, I trust you to make it work.”
“Have you decided who is going to be in the group that’s going for the Militaries capital?” I asked Alkaia as we walked out.
“I’m going, if someone is going to take Ace out is going to be me. I want to look at his eyes when he finally realizes that the Amazons had won. I want to see his face when he realizes that a woman defeated him.”
“That’s the main issue here, this war is too personal for both of you,” I wanted to see more, I needed to see her thoughts, I needed to understand. I couldn’t help but admire Alkaia’s strength, she had worked with a Clan she hated because she knew it was the best for her people, she really was a good leader.
“Don’t worry, I know what needs to be done, I won’t jeopardize the mission.” She said.
After we got out of the place, we took different paths, Kimball and I headed back to our house. As soon as we were out of range he started his questions.
“What’s Alkaia’s problem?” As always, he knew more than he should.
“I’m not sure I can explain, I need to explore more to understand what the problem is.”
“And what’s your problem?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I noticed how uncomfortable you were getting back there. What happened?”
“Bad memories.” Sometimes I really hated Kimball’s ability to read me. “I’m not as strong as you are, I still get trapped by the memories of what has happened to me.”
“You really think I wasn’t affected by going back down there? It was hard for me, but I know that there are worse things than what happened there, my nightmares are not based on physical traumas, the people I have been unable to save is what really tears me apart. I’m more afraid of something happening to you than being trapped by Polemusa again.”
“I don’t really understand it, but in some way I get what you are saying. I am afraid of being vulnerable again, I hate the idea of being a victim again, but none of that compares to the terror I felt when I thought Polemusa had really killed you. I don’t know what I would do if something happened to you, being away from you was harder that I thought was possible.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t go anywhere and nothing will happen to me, or you. I promise that.”
“It was weird what happened back there, I don’t really get what I was thinking. I know that if our roles were reversed, none of those young men would hesitate in hurting us, but I feel like I’m doing something wrong by using them. I have been where they are, and it wasn’t easy. It’s irrational to think this way, this is war, and what I’m doing will save hundred, if not thousand of lives, not only ours, but theirs too. I just think that it would be easier if they had done something to me, if I had revenge to justify my actions, but at the end they were just following orders, it’s not their fault what happened.”
“I never thought that I would have to come to his place to find someone with a heart as noble as yours.”
“I think you misunderstood what I just said. I’m not a good person. I’ve done terrible things, my enemies have suffered unimaginable tortures. One advantage of my past is that I know exactly what to do to make my enemies suffer, I have firsthand experience of some of the worst tortures there are.”
“And I guess that is precisely that firsthand experience that makes you so hesitant to use them. You know how much pain you can cause, and you don’t want to make people suffer without cause.”
“Some people deserve it, with some there is not a torture painful enough to make them pay for their sins. I don’t know. Don’t listen to me, I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore.”
“You are human, that’s what I like about you. You are the strongest woman I know. Just don’t mistake having a conscience with being weak. I know that you always do the best that you can, the best way you know. You have nothing to regret.”
“You can’t know that. You don’t know me that well.”
“I know enough. I know that you always do your best, you’re doing this because you are convinced that with your actions you are going to save many people, not only Amazons, but Imperialists and even Militaries. You do what you think will be best for everyone. And even if you are wrong, you are doing it with the best of intentions. That’s all you can do. That’s more than enough.”
“But if it isn’t enough?”
“You can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. None of this is your responsibility, you are doing this because you believe is the right thing to do. No one can ask for more.”
“I was taught that it’s the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak. It’s my responsibility as a seer to make sure that only the best visions become reality.”
“No, it’s not. You have an advantage over others, you know what is going to happen, but you don’t have to do anything with the knowledge you have. You chose to do something because you want to.” By then we had arrived to the house, as we crossed the door Kimball hugged me. “You need to relax. Rest little bit.” He took me to the sofa and left me there while he went to the kitchen to prepare dinner.
“You don’t have to do that. We can ask someone to bring something from the Palace’s kitchen.” I feel bad that he kept doing things for me as if he was my slave.
“You prefer their food to mine?” He said in mock anger.
“Of course not, it’s just that you don’t have to work for me anymore, you are not a slave.”
“I don’t have to, I want to. I enjoy cooking, I find it relaxing. And I enjoy taking care of you. I know that you don’t need me to protect you, you do a good job yourself, but I can take care of you in other ways, and you have to admit it, you are a terrible cook.” I couldn’t help but laugh, he was right, for me cooking was just a necessity. As long as I had enough to make my body keep going I was ok. Kimball on the other hand could take a few ingredients and turn them into a whole experience. So I sat back and let him cook.