I got a message from Kimball saying that Ethan was safe, but that he was injured. I knew that was going to happen, Jonas was a psycho that liked to hurt people and make them suffer, and I knew that he was going to get a taste of his own medicine, he wouldn’t get away with hurting my son without facing the consequences.
“I’m sure this is the route he took,” Fatima said. She had been traveling to the past to reconstruct Jonas’ actions after taking Ethan. So far she had guided us outside the city, and I knew we were getting closer to the place he had taken Ethan.
“I think it will be better to stop for a moment, I would like to take an astral walk and explore the place. If we are getting closer to where Jonas is hiding, I want to be prepared. We need to be ready to take him by surprise.
“That’s a good idea,” Kulap said, “but make it fast, so many stops are wasting our limited time, I don’t think Faakhir will like that, he likes when we take care of things fast. He likes us being efficient.”
“Do you have any experience in astral projecting? Have you walked the fog of the future? If you don’t know what you are talking about, then stay silent. These things take time, and I’m sure Faakhir would prefer a job well done over a fast one.” Kulap didn’t talk back, but I could see she was angry at my answer.
Our car stopped so I could go into the astral planes. That was something I could do even while moving, thanks to my double mind, but it was easier and safer if my body was immobile. I got out of my body and traveled the material plane. We were close to our destination, I recognized the place. I saw a group of helicopters moving closer, they were on route to the bodega. Kimball had told me he had called the kids’ parents, so I was confident that the Representatives were on those helicopters.
“Did you hear the helicopters?” I asked when I got back to my body.
“Yes, and we saw them moving northwest from here,” Yoweri said. I had forgotten he was in the car with us, but that was to be expected, it was his power, he could go unnoticed in any setting thanks to his empathy and emotional mimetism.
“I think those were the Representatives, and that could affect our mission, we need to be careful, we can’t let them ruin this for us, but we can’t attack them either, we need to make things better between them and the King, it needs to look like we are on the same side. We need to move. Go ahead and drive a couple more miles, then take the road on your right,” I told the driver, “keep going for another three miles and stop in the first clearing you find. We will walk the rest of the way, I don’t want them knowing we are there until is too late.”
No one spoke for the rest of the trip, but it was obvious everyone had questions, even as they prepared for the mission. We arrived at the clearing and got out of the car. Another car stopped behind us, and the rest of the team joined us. Without any questions, everyone started following me, with just one person staying behind to take care of the cars.
I took the direct route, I knew where the bodega was and how to arrive there faster, and I needed to take the short route, I had to get to where my son was. Once we were close to the bodega, and could actually see it and the group of people standing outside, I used my powers to bring their conversations to us, so we could listen to them from the protection of the trees.
“Your children are safe, that’s all you need to know,” Kimball was saying.
“I think we deserve a better explanation,” Representative Burgos replied. “How did you find them? What happened to the people who took them? “What happened to our children?”
“Do I have to remind you that my son was also taken by them?” Kimball’s voice hardened, and it was clear that the Representatives were on thin ice. “I was just as worried as you were, so I decided to look for my son, and I found him.”
“And how did you do that?” Representative Jeong asked. “None of our trackers were working, we couldn’t find them, I don’t get how someone like you could do what we couldn’t.”
“What do you mean by ‘someone like me’?”
“Let’s be honest, what we think is that you and your wife are involved in this. It’s just too suspicious that you were able to find the kids so easily after we failed to find them, is even more suspicious that you refuse to let us see or speak with the people responsible for the kidnappings. As far as I know you and your corrupt family could be behind this, maybe ‘saving’ them is just a way for you to try and look good in front of us,” Representative Kozak said.
“That’s enough father!” The voice sounded like Dmytro’s, but there was something weird about it. “You don’t know what you are talking about, this is Jonas’ fault, not Kaiserin’s. Jonas wanted to use Ethan to make Kasierin look bad, and we are safe only because the Mzansiers rescued us. None of them hurt us, but if they hadn’t arrived when they did, the others would have hurt us, badly.”
“Please, stay out of this, this is an adult discussion,” his father tried to calm him down.
“But he is telling the truth,” Hye Ki said, “Ethan helped us while we were there, and his father rescued us, if he hadn’t arrived when he did, Carmina would have hurt me. They saved us!”
“Daughter, please, let us deal with this, there are things you don’t understand yet. We can’t trust these people, remember what happened with your brother.”
“I called and told you where to find your children as a favor, but if you think I will just stay here and let you question me and my motives, that I will let you insult me, then you are mistaken,” Kimball’s voice was cold and threatening, and I wasn’t sure if it was part of the act or if he was truly angered by their attack.
“Dad,” a pathetic voice interrupted the discussion, and the silence that followed that simple word was absolute, the shock was clear in the middle of the silence. “Can we go?”
“Of course, give me a minute. Just go back inside and rest,” Kimball’s voice changed to warm and calm while talking to Ethan.
“Time to move,” I tell my men, cutting the power that allowed us to hear them, and moving to where the group is gathered at the front of the bodega.
As soon as my group steps out of the cover of the trees all the eyes move to us, a few of the Representatives’ guards get their weapons out and point them to us, but using my power I take them out of their hands, leaving them weaponless. At the same time my group takes their own weapons out and point them to the people there, warning them not to try something like that again.
“It seems I wasn’t invited to the party,” I said to the people there.
“You just sounded like a villain in a fairy tale,” Kimball said, and I had no idea what he was talking about.
“What are you doing here?” His comment managed to cut the tension, but his words confused me, and even if I was grateful for helping ease the atmosphere, I don’t like not understanding. “I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I find you here, in the place our investigation of Jonas’ actions has taken us.”
“You are late, just like I thought you would be,” he said. “I knew that your priorities were different than mine, so I decided to put my energy on finding Ethan. And it was a good thing I did that, if I had waited for you to find you, you would have been too late,” as he said the last word, he moved to the side, giving me a clear view of the van behind him, next to which Ethan was standing.
From the moment I realized that Jonas had Ethan, I had been worried about the things he could do to my son, but watching the damage I felt sick and angry, and I knew that I would have a hard time controlling my anger once I had my hands on Jonas. Ethan’s face was a collection of colors, from red to black and blue. He was full of bruises, one of his eyes was swollen shut, and a cut on his lips was still bleeding. By the way he was standing I could tell his torso was also full of bruises, maybe a few broken ribs by how hard it was for him to breathe. One of his arms and his wrists were bandaged, and from the blood that was showing in the bandages I could tell that his arm had a cut, and his wrists had been hurt, most likely rubbed raw by the rope used to bind him. I felt my anger boiling, I had hoped that Kimball could arrive before Ethan could suffer that much damage, and I was furious that I had been unable to save him from that pain, furious that I had failed him again, and furious that Jonas had dared to hurt my son. But despite the emotions burning inside me, I kept my face cold and detached, making sure no one could see how I really felt.
“He’s alive, I don’t see what the problem is,” just as I spoke I could hear the surprise and disapproval coming from the Representatives and their guards, they were getting angry at me for not caring about my son like a mother should. I turned to where Ethan was standing, and I saw a tear falling from his good eye. For a moment I thought my words had affected him, but when I expanded my powers to explore his feelings I realized that it was just part of the act. But I could see his pain wasn’t fake, and I did my best to connect with him so I could ease his pain.
“I don’t know why I’m still surprised by your attitude,” Kimball said. “If you are unable to see the problem, then I don’t know what to say. You won could have died today, and you just don’t care.”
“I can see he’s alive, that’s what matters. And I expect Jonas and the others to be alive as well, I need to question them.”
“Is that all you can think about? You know what? I don’t care, Jonas and the others are inside the bodega, go and do your work. I will take Ethan to Mzansi so he can recover in peace.”
“I’m sorry, but you know the rules, you can’t take Ethan outside of the city without the King’s permission,” Kulap said.
“That’s right, the hostage system. Don’t worry, I’m taking my son, but I’m leaving my wife, that should be enough,” Kimball answered.
“Still, you need his authorization…” Kulap kept going.
“And who is going to try and stop me?” Kimball interrupted her. “You?”
Kulap turned to me, waiting for me to continue the discussion. All the attention was focused on me, so most people didn’t realize that Yoweri was moving towards Kimball. For a moment I thought that Kimball wasn’t aware of him and was trying to find a way to warn him, but then I saw Kimball’s hand move to his gun and I knew that I didn’t have to worry about him.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Kimball warns, pointing the gun directly into Yoweri’s face, that is just a couple of steps away from him. I hear a few surprised gasps, no one had realized that Yoweri was moving.
“Kaiserin, do something!” Kulap demands.
“Kimball, you know the rules as well as I do, don’t make this more difficult that it has to be.”
“I want you to think about what you are about to do,” Kimball warns, “you can try to stop me, and things will get ugly really fast, or you can let us go, so you can finish your mission and find out why Jonas took your son and the other kids.”
“I think you know what will happen if you try to stop him,” Fatima said, in a voice that pretended to be just between the two of us, but that I was sure everyone could hear, “we will only lose valuable time, and your victory will come at a high price.”
“Listen to your friend,” Kimball suggested with a smile.
“Please don’t tell me you are afraid of him,” Kulap tried to goad me into fighting.
“Kimball is right, I can defeat him, but it won’t be easy and won’t be fast. Our mission is to find Jonas and questions him, then take him to Faakhir. If he wants to go against the rules, then he will have to face the consequences. Think about your actions, because if you leave and Faakhir sends me to bring you back, you won’t like what I will do.”
I wasn’t sure why Kimball was forcing the confrontation, he could have gone without alerting us of his plans, but by declaring his intentions in front of the others he had put me in a difficult situation, but I trusted he knew what he was doing. With a last look at Ethan, I went inside the bodega, followed by the rest of the group, even if they weren’t happy with the way things had gone.
Once we were inside, it was easy to find Jonas and the rest of his people, they were locked in cages, and they seemed to be drugged. I guessed that Kimball had used the drugs to subdue them and avoid a fight, and I was glad, because the drugs would make my job easier, their minds wouldn’t be able to repel my attack and it would be easier to get what I wanted.
“Now you are in serious trouble,” I told Jonas. He was awake, but seemed confused. “The Representatives were furious because of your actions, and that caused trouble for Faakhir. You made him look like a liar, you made it seem like he didn’t have control over his own people, you made him look weak. As you can imagine, he is not happy with you at the moment. Now, tell me, why did you do something so stupid?”
“You have been lying to us, and I will prove it, then you won’t be is favorite any more, and you and your family will be punished, like you deserve.” Jonas explained, he sounded like he was drunk, but I knew it was because of the drug in his system.
“I will go inside your mind, and I will see the truth behind your actions. I would recommend not to resist, resistance will only make it painful for you,” I warned, but in reality he was going to feel pain one way or another, he was going to pay for causing Ethan’s pain.
“Shouldn’t we take him to Faakhir? He can question him himself,” I heard someone saying.
“Kimball caught five of them, but we need to make sure there’s no more people involved, and we have to find out why they were involved, if they were willing participants or if Jonas somehow fooled them into helping him with his plans. We need to see who is a traitor and who is a fool. We can’t go to Faakhir without the whole story.”
No one said anything else, they stayed in silence as I moved closer to the cage in which Jonas was trapped. I used one of my mind to get inside his mind and look for the information that I wanted. I needed to know who was on his side, who his allies were, who I needed to worry about. With my other mind I connected to his nervous system, attacking his nerves so they would get irritated and cause him to be in pain, in just a few seconds he was drowning in pain. With me inside his mind, there was nothing he could do, but feel, he experienced an agony like never before.
Between the pain and the drugs, he couldn’t stop my search, and I was able to get the information that I needed in a short time. I knew that Faakhir would look into his mind, just like me, so I went even deeper and made sure that there was nothing there that could affect me. That exploration took me longer, about a couple of hours, and by the time I finished with him, he was barely conscious, he was exhausted by the pain.
Moving even closer to him, I made a complete connection to his system, and instead of just irritating his nerves to cause him pain, I attacked them, damaging just enough for him to be unable to move without feeling pain. Damaged nerve terminations would mistake sensations, sending pain signals with any stimulation.
By the time I finish with him I’m exhausted, and even if the effort is not enough to cause me a psychic headache, it drained my energy and I knew I was reaching my limit and since I still had things to do I needed to be very careful with what I did.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” Fatima asked.
“Yes, it seems like besides Fidel and Carmina, the others had no idea what was going on, they were just following orders, they thought that Jonas was acting under Faakhir’s orders. The problem we have is that Faakhir tried to recruit a few others, so there is more people who knew about his plans, and even if they refused to help him, they failed to alert Faakhir of Jonas’ plans. Yoweri, I will give you a list with these people’s names so you can go pick them up and take them to Faakhir, I’m sure he will want to question them. Kulap, take the two soldiers that helped Faakhir to the hospital so they can be checked, I’m sure Faakhir will want to deal with them, even if they were acting in good faith, I’m sure they will be punished for their involvement. The other three, I will take care of them personally.