“I’m afraid that before going back home, we have another mission,” Faakhir warned me when we got into the plane.
Jonas didn’t react, so I guessed he knew what it was about, but Ivan looked as surprised as I.
“In that case I need more rest, I’m still tired after yesterday’s fight. It’s not easy to have a building fall and not get hurt in the process.”
“You did a great job Kaiserin. Once again you have shown me that I made the right decision when I recruited you. There is nothing better to crush a rebellion that to kill their hope. No one thought it possible to defeat master Ueshiba, they thought that as long as he was alive they could do anything.”
“I don’t get it, why did you let them bury him?” Jonas asked. “I would have been better to destroy his body and give them nothing to bury. It would have been a better revenge, total humiliation.”
“I think that, as always, the King made the right decision,” Ivan said. “A funeral and a burial will give them the chance to watch Ueshiba’s dead body, it will help them see that he is truly dead, that no one can fight the Dominion. It will also show them that as long as they follow the rules and honor their true leader, things could be good for them.”
“Exactly. That’s what I wanted. Someday those peasants will understand that their healthy choice is to forget all about rebellions and freedom. As long as I have people like you on my side, nothing will stop me.”
While I faked sleep, and listened to the discussion between Faakhir and the others, a vision arrived. It had been a while since I had experienced something so clear, so absolute. It was a vision that couldn’t be changed, not without terrible consequences. I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen, and I couldn’t identify the people involved, but I felt uneasy about it.
A couple of hours later we arrived at our destination. When I got out of the plane, I noticed a lot of activity, many people moving around. Faakhir’s men got out of the plane and took attack positions, while another group did the same from the ground, surrounding a group of people that was about to board a plane.
“Greetings my dear Representative Jeong, I guess you are heading to Capital City, right? Why don’t you fly with us? I would gladly take you and your family with me,” Faakhir said, with excessive sweetness.
I noticed that the man he was talking to was part of the Technological Gabinet, he was one of the few I could actually recognize due to Kimball’s involvement with them. I had never paid much attention to the government, and I didn’t understand quite how it worked, but Kimball had told me that before Faakhir and Emily had taken control of the Dominion, most decisions were taken by people from either the Popular Parlament, the Representative Parlament or the International Council. That those institutions still existed was a joke, a humiliation to everyone’s rights, and also another show of power from the King and Queen, who enjoyed to show their power over them, and didn’t let them disappear because of that.
“Your Majesty, what an honor to have you here. We weren’t expecting a visit from you,” the man called Jeong said.
“I heard some terrible rumors, and I wanted to check if there was some truth to them. Luckily we were close, we just visited your neighbors on the other side of the sea, but we had to leave them, they had a funeral to prepare. And while I was flying here I got the tip that you and your family was trying to escape, to go to a place where you could hide from us. And that just didn’t make any sense. Why would you need to hide from us?” I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the threat in Faakhir’s voice was easy to see.
“My family is not hiding from anyone, we just came here for a vacation and were on our way back.”
“Then we are just in time to give you a lift there. You are welcome to fly with me to Capital City.”
“We don’t want to be a bother. Our transport is ready to depart, there’s no need to bother you and your people.”
“Is not a bother. I insist, come with us,” Faakhir said, and his tone made it clear it was not a suggestion.”
When I looked at the rest of the family I was surprised to recognize the faces in front of me, those were the faces I had just seen in my vision earlier that day. I realized that I wouldn’t have much time to act and that bothered me, because, even if I knew the vision was a strong one, I didn’t want any of them to die.
I opened my empathy to study the family’s emotions. Representative Jeong was angry, but also afraid, while his wife was just afraid, very afraid. She feared for her family, her husband and her children. The oldest one, a teenager, was really mad, but I could feel under her anger fear and doubt. The little one, a girl around Ethan’s age, was confused, she didn’t understand what was going on, and was more curious than afraid.
Faakhir’s men guided them to the airplane. They walked in, like sacrificial lambs, taking their place on the plane, Jeong taking a seat across Faakhir. I heard them discussing as soon as the plane went up, but I couldn’t understand all they were saying. All I got was that Faakhir was accusing Jeong of hiding some new technology from him, something that could be useful for him. What I could piece together was that Jeong and the rest of the Gabinet had decided that some inventions were safer away from Faakhir, convinced that it would be very dangerous for someone like him, that didn’t deserve it and didn’t need it to have it. At first he denied everything, but he wasn’t strong enough to face Faakhir and his powers for long.
Soon I got the whole picture and finally understood what the man had tried to do. I have to admire his actions, he had tried to help and protect his people, but Faakhir had many allies and spies, and no one in the Dominion was safe and Jeong’s actions had been discovered. I was sure someone in the Gabinet had betrayed them.
They discussed for a while, but I knew who would win, Faakhir didn’t know how to lose, he always had an ace up his sleeve. I tried to get a better idea of who the rest of his family were. Other than what I had seen in my vision, I knew nothing about them. Maybe I had walked past them in the Palace, but I haven’t talked to them. I wanted to ask Ivan about it, to learn what he knew, but I was afraid that Faakhir would detect the communication and find about our relationship, finding out that we weren’t the enemies we make everyone believe we were.
“I find it really sad that after all this time you haven’t learned who the boss is,” Faakhir said, raising his voice, and getting my attention back to him. I focused my attention on what he was saying. “What you did is unacceptable. All technical inventions and discoveries had to be notified to me, I’m the only one able to decide if common people should have access to it, or if the government is the only one allowed to have it.”
“That kind of decisions are supposed to be taken by the Technological Gabinet. That’s the reason it exists after all.”
“Things have changed, after all this years I shouldn’t have to remind you that I’m the only one in charge. But maybe you really need me to refresh your memory.”
Faakhir stood up and made a signal, Jonas also stood up and headed to the airplane’s emergency door. I haven’t noticed before, but we had descended and lost speed during the last few minutes. When Jonas opened the door we were hit with the strong wind coming from outside and swirling in the interior of the airplane.
“What’s going on?” Asked Jeong’s wife, clearly scared.
“I’m trying to teach you a lesson about actions and consequences,” Faakhir said, and with another signal from him, Jonas took the little girl and holding her by the neck he moved her next to the open door.
“Daddy! Mommy!” The little girl was yelling and asking for help.
“Stop it!” Jeong asked. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Like I said, teaching a lesson. If you try to fool me, if you try to play me, then you have to face the consequences. You tried to take something that belonged to me, so now I’m going to do the same to you.”
“Please, leave my daughter alone,” the arrogant and confident tone that Jeong had gotten during their discussion was gone in the face of the situation. I could feel his fear and desperation now that he knew what Faakhir was planning, and I understood him, I had been in the same situation, I could almost see Ethan in place of the little girl, he had been in that place before. “I promise I won’t hold anything back again, I will follow the rules, no more hiding anything.”
“What kind of leader would I be if I don’t follow with my promises?” Faakhir asked, and I felt them rejecting his words. Faakhir wasn’t a good leader, he was a tyrant, and a person who never kept his promises, unless it was for his own good.
Ivan, Jonas, Faakhir, Jeong’s family and I were the only ones in that part of the plane. There was no one there who could help them, and they knew it. The little girl’s screams were getting to me, they reminded me of Ethan and how I had been forced to hurt him. The vision I had was still fresh, and I knew that I was about to see it become real, I would be forced, again, to hurt an innocent. I kept trying to find another way, but I hadn’t had time to plan, or to communicate with someone who could help.
“Please! Leave my daughter alone. Do whatever you want to me. Hurt me, but don’t hurt her, she is an innocent, she has nothing to do with this.”
“But it is you I’m hurting. I know how much you care about your family, what better way of teaching you a lesson?”
I could see Representative Jeong’s mind working, making plans, looking at options, working on a solution, and coming empty. I knew he was trying to use his powers, but I knew that the copilot was a very strong technopath, and he was going to make sure no one could hack into the plane. As his options disappeared, his desperations grew, and Faakhir’s satisfaction was growing as well.
Before any of us could react, Jeong’s teenage son attacked Jonas, trying to save his sister. Jonas was too busy enjoying the parent’s pain so he was taken by surprise and let go of the girl, but he reacted fast enough to slap the boy. The girl ran to her mother’s arm, but before she could get there Ivan took her and moved her away from the door and closer to Faakhir. I was concentrated on Jeong’s son. Jonas slap, the wind and the airplane movement contributed to throw him off balance and make him fall out of the plane. I used my powers to hold him, extending my arms to let them know what I was doing. I knew what was coming, but holding him was my way of buying some time to see if I could come up with something to save him.
“Please! Don’t let him fall,” his mother begged me, going to her knees and putting her hands on my feet. “I can’t lose him, I can’t lose another child.” In her mind, I saw the image of another girl, the female version of the one I was holding, and I knew I was seeing his twin sister. At that moment I realized that losing a child was going to be hard on them, but losing another daughter would be even worse. Both options were difficult, but losing him, a reminder of the one they had already lost, was something they could survive. I was still going to make my best effort to make their loss a temporary one.
“Please!” Jeong was begging Faakhir. “Tell her not to let my son go, ask her to bring him back to the plane. I will do whatever you want, I will give you whatever you ask, just don’t let her drop him.”
For most people, holding a person with their mind was an effort that would take all their focus. Most mind couldn’t deal with more than one task at the time, so when I extended my mind to talk to Ivan, no one there suspected, no one noticed, not even Faakhir.
‘I’ll have to let him fall sooner or later,’ I told Ivan, ‘I need to know where is safe to let him down. I need you to find a safe place for him to survive long enough for me to send someone to find him.’
‘There’s not a safe place for him to fall, he will die just by that. If you let him fall, we will lose him.’ I could read in Ivan’s mind.
‘I’ll let him down gently, we will land without mayor injuries. But no one will be waiting for him like with Natasha or the others, he will have to be able to survive by himself of at least a day.’ I knew we were flying over land, so I would have to be very careful while I let him down, but I didn’t know the place we were flying over, I trusted Ivan to know more than me.
‘If you can let him down in a safe way, I could move some of my people, they are closer and they could keep him safe until your people can find a way to take him to that place you hide all refugees.’
‘Thank you, I knew I could count on you. I will let him down in a few minutes, I will try to get him down in the exact spot we are flying over at that moment, so you have to mark the exact spot so you know where to send your people.’ Ivan’s suggestion was a good one and took a weight off my shoulders, I hated not having a plan ready. Kimball was busy with his master and no one else was ready for the task.
“Kaiserin,” Faakhir said, making sure he got my attention. “Let’s give him a lesson.”
Without a word I let my arms drop, at the same time that the boy got out of sight. From his parents and sister’s point of view, he was falling to his death, but I was using my powers to slow down his fall so he could land safely.
His parents and sister’s screams of pain were heartbreaking, the smiles on Faakhir and Jonas’ faces sickly. I knew that I couldn’t let them know how much I hated what was going on, so I faked boredom and returned to my seat, taking a magazine and going through it, trying to block the pain around me.