The atmosphere in the Militaries’ fortress was tense. Everyone was waiting for Ace to return and fall in our trap, there were watchmen keeping constant vigilance in the routes, waiting for Ace’s army. We knew that Polemusa had managed to break down their defenses. Once Ace realized that his backup wasn’t going to show up it was too late, his army had received a hard blow and now Ace was running back to his fortress, with a decimated army and injured men. His only hope was to reach what he thought was safety so he could heal and find out what had gone wrong, why none of his reinforcements had reached the battlefield. Ace was going to be disappointed once he realized that it wasn’t safety, what was waiting for him.
Kimball and I went into the dining room together, and found the Clan leaders already there.
“I don’t see why we have to wait, we should have freed all the slaves as soon as we arrived, is not right to keep the women locked up.” Alkaia was saying.
“If you free them now, they will do everything they can to help the Militaries, the rest of the women in the harem are nothing but brainless animals who think that Ace is some kind of god that you can’t disobey. They all hated me because I dared reject him, they all live to please him and couldn’t understand that I wouldn’t go to him willingly.” Thona, the Nomad was complaining.
“But they are women, they should take the place they deserve. I’m sure that once we explain that they are free and they no longer have to obey the men they will be on our side.” Molpadia said.
“It’s not that easy,” I interrupted their conversation, taking my place at the table, “think about the slaves that the Militaries have been freed, some of them don’t know where to go and end up returning to the Amazons’ camps. Some slaves are so used to their lives and so afraid of what could happen if they go that they prefer to go back. Most human beings want to be free, but some learn to fear it. I’m pretty sure that Ace taught his slaves to do whatever he wanted or fear the consequences, they have been under his control for so long that they no longer have free will. I guess that some of the slaves will appreciate the opportunity to be free, but some of them are so broken that we will be hurting them more by giving them choices, they will go mad trying to find the option that will bring them less pain, they’re used to obey or else. They won’t do anything that they think could anger the Militaries, they will be too afraid of punishment.”
“If they are so afraid of him, there’s more reason for them to help us stop him.”
“Molpadia, don’t judge, don’t pretend to understand. You have lived a life of privileges, protected and spoiled, you can’t know what they have gone through. For now I agree that we should keep them locked up, for their safety as much as ours. Once we have Ace under our control, we can evaluate them and see which are too broken for us to help and which ones could be fixed.”
Once that discussion was put to rest, more mundane topics were discussed. I took the opportunity to study the people on the table. I could see that the advantage that the Amazons had over the Militaries was that Alkaia was smart enough to keep her feelings inside and treat the male leaders with some kind of respect. She considered men lesser beings, and most of the time ignored those she didn’t know or considered useless to her, she tended to ignore any men when there was a woman present, but still she recognized strong leaders and acknowledged them. I could feel her aversion to Qanik, still she treated him with respect, she still acted a little arrogant, but she talked to him. With the Nomads it was more complicated, while negotiating with Jondal she had no trouble talking to him, but now that Thona was in the picture she preferred to talk to her, almost ignoring Jondal. Ace on the other hand never made distinctions, he considered women nothing more than toys to use and abuse. That was his problem, he had underestimated the Amazons, and that was going to be his downfall.
I watched Qanik as he played with his tea, he was freezing and then boiling the water. That showed how strong he was, most telekinetics could only do cold or hot, not both, and going from one to the other required a lot of energy. And he wasn’t just strong, I could see he was a very smart person, he rarely spoke, but he saw it all. He reminded me a little of Kimball.
“Do you have any idea of when is Ace going to arrive?” Alkaia asked me.
“His army was decimated and his men are injured, he is not moving fast, especially since Polemusa is not after him. He thinks he is safe for now.” I said.
“Maybe we should have let Polemusa finish him. She had the upper hand, she could have done it.”
“Maybe, but we would have lost many lives in the process. Besides, this way we get to humiliate Ace in his own house. When he arrives and finds out that his fortress is under our control he will lose his mind, this will drive him mad. When we decided what to do, I searched for the option that would get us the least loses and bring him the most humiliation. We have already lost too many lives, lets stick to the plan.” I could feel Qanik’s eyes on me, while Kimball was watching him.
“Who are you?” He asked me, and I knew that he had seen more than he should.
“She is my advisor Pitonisa, I already told you that.” Alkaia answered for me.
“She is no Amazon, even if her eyes didn’t brand her as an Imperialist, her actions would. I want to get rid of Ace as much as you do Alkaia, but I won’t have anything to do with the Empire.”
“I’m an Amazon, the Clan where I was born has nothing to do with this, I left them behind me a long time ago.” I couldn’t deny his words, eyes like mine were not common. Jondal and Thona were staring at me, despite being strong, they were young, none of them had realized the significance of my eyes.
“Who are you?” He repeated the question. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m Pitonisa. I’m a seer. I came to Alkaia because I knew that she could use someone like me, and I knew that she would appreciate me. I gave her my knowledge and in return he gave me a place in her inner circle. I knew that I could have a good position with the Amazons, they were what I needed. My former Clan has nothing to do with me, my decisions, or this war.”
“Qanik, I appreciate your help in this war, but don’t forget your place. You are here to help us destroy Ace, but I’m in charge. I will keep using Pitonisa’s help and advice, and you won’t interfere. Thanks to her powers we have obtained several victories, is thanks to her visions that we have been one step ahead of Ace all this time. I won’t have you questioning my decisions or my people.” Alkaia was doing a good job of keeping calm, I could feel her anger and contempt, she wanted him out of her sight, she didn’t want to speak to him or explain anything to him.
We were interrupted by one of the Nomads before we could continue the discussion.
“We just saw the Militaries’ army, they should be reaching the fortress in an hour.” He informed us.
We all got up, we needed to get ready for what was coming next. Qanik and the Nomads went to the watchtower to see with their own eyes the approaching army. Molpadia, Alkaia, Kimball and I went to the room where Colt, Ace’s son, was being held. There were two Amazons outside the room, one of them was the telepath that had been controlling him for the past few days.
“It’s time, get ready.” Alkaia ordered.
“As you wish, my queen.” The warrior went into the room to implant the new orders into Colt’s mind and we followed her.
“Leave me alone! I won’t help you anymore.” Colt said when we entered his room. He was tied to a chair, trying without success to get free.
“You speak as if you had a choice kid,” Alkaia said. “But don’t worry, this is the last we ask from you. You will go and get your father for me and take him to the throne room, and after that we’re done with you.”
“No!” Colt was struggling against the ropes with all his strength while the telepath took her seat in front of him, he was avoiding her eyes, but she already had a backdoor into his mind, all she needed was proximity. In a few minutes the struggles died and the warrior slumped in her seat. The other warrior got him free as the mind controlled Colt obeyed his new orders.
“Do you need me to go with him?” Kimball asked.
“No, is not necessary, I prefer for you to remain by side.” Alkaia didn’t look happy with my answer, but I didn’t see the point of sending him with Colt, there was no chance of him breaking out of the mind control, everything was going to be ok.
“Everything will be finished soon.” Alkaia was feeling nervous, she was anxious and even a little bit scared.
“It will be, everything will go according to plan, we haven’t failed yet there’s no reason for us to fail now.”
“I will go to change, I prefer to receive them with my full fighting attire, just in case.” Alkaia went away, Molpadia doubted for a moment if following her mother or staying with me.
“You should change too,” I told her, “this will be a very important gathering, you need to look your best.” She just nodded and went away.
“Are you ready for this?” Kimball asked me.
“I think so. This can go many ways, I just hope that the end result is what we expect it to be.”
Kimball and I arrived first to the throne room, we took our places, each on either side of the door, from there I could see everything and make sure that no one escaped. I wasn’t going to let Ace get away, it was going to end that day.
Soon after the others started to arrive. The Nomads leaders went to one side of the throne, Qanik and a woman took the other. I was surprised to see Qanik with the woman, even more watching their interaction, they were equals. I realized then that he had kept her away to force Alkaia to talk to him. I wasn’t sure if that was a challenge or an insult to Alkaia, but I had to respect him for that. Seeing the two couples I realized how the Amazon and Military Clan had affected the dynamics on the Rebels Clans, they have been forced to maintain both a woman and a man in a position of power so they could interact with the Clans and take decisions as needed when dealing with the Amazons or Militaries. Not all the Clans did that, and it was a clear signal of which leading Clan they favored. The Nomads had been loyal to the Militaries and their customs, but Jondal’s love for his sister had changed that, the new generation of Nomads would be very different from the old one. How would things change without the Militaries? Would the balance be broken? Would the new generations be affected by the Amazon’s philosophy?
The last to arrive was Alkaia with her daughter, she went in and took her place in Ace’s throne. I could feel her inner conflict, but she was prepared to face her enemy. Molpadia took her place next to her mother, not knowing or really understanding what was about to happen. We didn’t have to wait long before we heard the noise in the hallway, they were almost here. Qanik and Jondal moved to stand in front of Alkaia so Ace wouldn’t see her right away.
“I just hope you have a good excuse for your behavior!” Ace was yelling in the hallway, Colt most likely his victim. “Who do you think you are to call a meeting so soon after we arrive?” The doors were opened and Ace stormed inside, followed by his generals and two of his sons: Colt and Spike. “What are you doing here?” He asked when he saw the two leaders in front of him. I had to recognize that he had good instincts, despite the tantrum that he was throwing just a moment before he immediately changed gears and got in a defensive posture, ready to face any threat coming his way.
“They are here because I asked them to join me.” Alkaia said as both leaders moved away to let Ace get a clear image of his enemy.
“You!” Ace yelled as he reached for his gun, the others were a little slower to react. I used my powers to take the gun away from him.
Warriors from the three Clans in the room moved to contain the Militaries, a few others arrived, closing their escape and the sound of guns being cocked filled the room. Some ignored the warning and charged, and for the first time I had the opportunity to see Alkaia’s power being used at its best. All the Militaries slowed down, and even those using psychic powers were too slow to stop the warriors from attacking them. In just a few seconds our warriors had them on their knees, gagged and tied, those with powers had also power suppressors on them.
“Your pride was your downfall Ace, you fell right into our trap.” Alkaia smiled at him while getting out of the throne and walking to him, taking her gun out. “You knew that we were justified to take your son away, it was part of the agreement we had when we forged our alliance, he committed a crime against our people and we could punish him for it, but as always, you decided to ignore the agreement, you think you can choose what parts to enforce and which to ignore. You started this war, but I’m going to end it. You broke our alliance, and you must know what it means.” Alkaia was standing in front of Spike, he put her gun against his temple. “Say goodbye to your favorite son.”
“Alkaia!” I called her, hoping to stop her. Ace was fighting to get free, the Amazons and Ice man holding him were having problems trying to contain him.
“Don’t. This is not your business, stay out of it.” Alkaia warned me. I was surprised by the intensity of her hate, but I could see that it wasn’t aimed at me or the kid, her hate was all for Ace. She wanted to hurt Ace, and she knew how to do it.
“I know that our philosophies are different, but I can’t let this go, you need to think about what you are trying to do.”
“I know exactly what I’m doing.”
“I know that you want to hurt him, but there are other ways to do it.”
“What better than killing his favorite son? There’s no reason for me to stop.”
“There is a reason and you know it Alkaia, you can’t kill your own son.”