“It was all my work that granted us this victory,” Ivan said. “It’s not fair that she gets to claim the credit of this victory.”
“If it wasn’t for me,” I said, my tone angry, “you would have gone without checking the forest, you wouldn’t have found the house, and wouldn’t have located the Princess that was hiding under your nose.”
“Sooner or later we would have found her,” Ivan said, his voice not as strong, but still plenty of menace lacing his words.
“It was me who kill her, so none of that really matters.”
“You threw her through the window, you just caused us to lose her body.
“She fell because of your interruption, you gave her the time to open the window and try to escape. But it was my knife that cut through her heart, and I used a bigger one this time, there was no way she could survive that,” I added, looking directly to Faakhir. “I learn from my errors. Besides, between the fall and the rapids, there’s no way she survived, not even if she survived the knife.”
“You didn’t kill her, I shot her when I saw her in the water. I’m sure I didn’t miss, I filled her body with bullets. I didn’t recover her body, but there’s no way she survived,” Ivan said.
“That was totally unnecessary, I had already done the job, just like they asked me. Maybe you are right, and you would have found her eventually, but you had already wasted weeks, and months would have gone by with you still looking for her. The fact is that I did the job better and faster than you. If it wasn’t for me, you would be still running around, trying to find her.”
“Enough!” Faakhir screamed before Ivan could answer. “Kaiserin is right, we gave you a job and you couldn’t do it fast enough, that’s why we asked her to help you. The point is that the moment she joined the team, the job got done, and you can’t deny that. Kaiserin, once again, you did a great job, and I have to thank you for that. I knew that you would be a great addition to my forces, and you have proven me right.”
“Let’s not make this something bigger than it is,” Emily said, “she have managed to get rid of the trash faster than others, that doesn’t mean much, that doesn’t make her better.”
“I disagree, she has managed to get rid of those the other couldn’t. She got rid of your mother in a day, while the killers you sent spent weeks failing. Ivan had been looking for weeks, Kaiserin found her target in a couple of days. She is remarkable and we can’t pretend her help hasn’t been great so far.”
“If our own people start fighting among them, how are we going to keep the outside fights controlled?” Emily asked, and I was surprised by her insight. She was right, for her forces to be useful, they had to work together, it was one of the reasons I was always trying to make trouble with the rest of their people.
“There won’t be more problems,” Faakhir said. “Right, Ivan?”
“I have been loyal to you and I have done a good job for you,” Ivan said. “I don’t want trouble, but I won’t let anyone take what’s mine, especially not someone who hasn’t earned her place here. It’s not fair that she takes the credit, when I have been your loyal warrior for so long.”
“Ivan, no one thinks less of you. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us, and we know how much we owe you. You are one of our best warriors and no one will take your place,” Emily said, looking at her husband as if she was daring him to contradict her.
“Kaiserin, I know you just arrived, but we need your help with some other jobs.”
“I don’t have a problem with that, I like hunting, and I wouldn’t mind a new prey.”
“For this new mission you will be going with a few of my most trusted men. I hope you will get along better with them, I don’t want any trouble among my forces,” Emily said.
“I said exactly what my position was since the beginning. I obey orders from both of you, but from no one else. If the people you send with me can’t understand that, that’s their problem.”
“Some of them had been with us since the beginning, they had already proved their loyalty and they had earned their place with us.”
“Just because they had been with you since the beginning, that doesn’t mean they are better than me. I’m stronger, and I refuse to obey someone that’s not even on my level.”
“Everything is fine as long as you follow our orders, just don’t forget who is in charge here.”
“I won’t forget that.”
“Perfect. Go rest, you will have your new mission and new team ready tomorrow morning.”
Early next morning, one of Emily’s maids arrived with a packet. From the information there, it seemed as if they had decided to give me the rest of their targets to me. I suspected that it was also an excuse from Emily, to keep me away from the Palace. I didn’t have any doubts that she had used her husband’s words against him, insisting that I was the right person to take care of the rest of the murders they had planned.
What Emily didn’t realize was that she was doing me a favor. She was giving me the chance to save more people, and also allowing me to stay away from the Palace. I knew that I could fight off Faakhir, that I was safe, but I didn’t want any confrontations, so it was safer to stay away. For my plan to work, I needed to stay close to the King, but if I could stay in their trust, without having to be near him, it was even better.
I spent the next few weeks traveling all around the Dominion, looking for and eliminating the people they feared could threaten their rule. It wasn’t easy, but with the mzansier’s help, I managed to help most of them. I lost a few because I was too late to save them, and a few I realized I couldn’t take to Aquarium or they would put in danger the people already there, so I had to do what the King and Queen wanted me to do. At the end, I managed to produce enough bodies that they never questioned my kills, they believed I had finished my missions.
During that time I also got to know most of Emily’s and Faakhir’s men. Not all of them were on the same page, I soon realized that most of them identified with the King or Queen. There were a few that weren’t all loyal to one or another, but to the one they thought would benefit them more at the moment. I still had to know a few of them, the Dominion elite forces had more than a hundred men, and not all of them were at the Palace all the time, each one had their own tasks to work with.
My task was to find and neutralize possible threats to the crown. Others were assigned to find and neutralize rebellious groups, or to find people with abilities that could be of interest to the King and Queen. After finding Ivan I was hopeful to find more people like him, hiding in plain sight within the Dominion forces, waiting for the right opportunity to strike out and take them out, not because they wanted their power, but because they wanted justice. But time passed and I couldn’t find anyone else like him.
There were so many groups and divisions. I knew how hard my task was going to be, but being surrounded by the enemy I felt as if my task was impossible. So many secrets and intrigues were going on in those groups. I could feel their minds constantly testing my defenses, looking for anything I would let out that could help them to take me out of Faakhir’s good graces. In just a few weeks most of the people had noticed Faakhir’s interest in me, and most of them took that as an advantage to create problems for me.
While I was working on my missions my time in the Palace was short and sporadically, but I took advantage of each minute I was there to study how the Palace’s forces worked and what was the goal of the different members of the elite forces. I was assigned different people each mission, a member of the elite forces always present, to help, or more likely to keep an eye on me. I took the opportunity during the missions to try and learn where their loyalties were, but it was a difficult task because I couldn’t invade their minds, that would be perceived as an attack and would just make things even more complicated to me. I did find out that some of them were psychopaths, hiding their nature under their uniforms, and I was sure they were the ones I wouldn’t be able to trust under any circumstance.
Once my missions were over, I had rescued a significative number of people, but I hadn’t found any more allies among the royal troops. Ivan seemed more and more like a fortunate accident, a person who didn’t only shared my view and goals, but that was ready to support me in my fight. He could have used my actions to advance his own agenda, but he had put his trust in me. When in public we still acted as if we hated each other, his antagonism was even worse than before, and he didn’t let any chance go, without talking trash about me, and that worked in my benefit most of the time.
I knew that my task wouldn’t be easy, but they had started so good, that I was getting frustrated that I had no further advancement months later. And on top of everything, I was feeling awful about leaving my family alone. After each mission I did my best to visit Kimball and see Ethan, but I was aware that if I showed too much concern for them, I would make them targets again. The best way for me to protect them was to stay away from them, but I missed Kimball, his love and support, and I missed my son, his innocence and strength. I needed to find a way to be with them, but I knew that staying away was best for them.
It wouldn’t have been so difficult if the distance and the continued exposition to the injustice of the Dominion wasn’t making the nightmares reappear. At first I wasn’t aware why I felt restless and as if I wasn’t sleeping, until I woke up in the middle of a nightmare, the memory too fresh to forget or ignore. Every day was harder, and I needed to strengthen my defenses or I would be lost.