“She should be awake by now,” I said, yet again. Greca had been out of it since the moment I had taken her away from the mine. She was shivering, her temperature was still high and I could see that our preparations weren’t enough to help her.
“Her fever is already going down, she will be fine, don’t worry,” Mbali said, trying to calm me down, but her words didn’t even register. I felt guilty, it was my fault she was sick, I should have been more careful, I should have kept an eye on her life.
“A fever can be very dangerous to psychics.”
“A fever can be dangerous to anyone, especially kids, but I don’t think Greca is in danger,” Mbali tried to reassure me.
“I hope you’re right.”
“Are you sure we can stop without danger?” She asked again. We had stopped and had set camp in the middle of the forest, a few miles from the mine.
“Like I said, most of the groups will walk right past us during the night, and tomorrow we will be able to head in the opposite direction and avoid detection. There’s still a chance one of the groups will be able to find us, but I’m sure we can get out of here without too much trouble.”
“If you think that, I will trust you. I will try to get some rest, tomorrow will be a long day.”
“Go ahead, I will use my astral projection to get some rest and keep watch.”
I spent a few hours in the astral planes, keeping watch over the territory around us, while giving Mbali time to rest and Greca to recuperate. I watched as the groups searched the place, but no one got close to where we were hiding. I had used some of the energy I had stolen during our escape to create some false tracks, and taking advantage of mzansier technology and Mbali’s abilities, we were able to hide our own tracks and move without detection. I was sure we were safe, and would be able to resume our journey without trouble. I didn’t have time to check all paths to the future, but I could see in one of the intersections in her future, that most paths took her to the same place, and none of them was halted before that point. I was convinced that one way or another, we would be able to take her to the place we needed her to be.
Mbali helped prepare Greca’s medicine when she woke up, and then we took her back to the vehicle. I got in the back seat with Greca, leaving all the driving and navigation to Mbali. I knew that the terrain was hard and the driving was difficult, but I trusted Mbali to do her job, and I focused my energy on Greca. She was sleeping, sometimes she was delirious, and I needed to make sure she was ok, so I needed to go to a place I knew I would find her, her mind.
I went into her mind and found myself in one of the most beautiful mental landscapes I had encountered. The place was a huge garden. I started to walk, and discovered that the beautiful flowers that covered most of the space, were representations of her memories, each petal a small window to one of her memories. Getting closer I realized that the few trees that offered shadows in the place, had more memories instead of leaves. It was a beautiful and calm place.
‘What are you doing here?’ Greca’s mental representation asked.
‘I wanted to see if you were ok. You know you are sick, right? I needed to make sure your mind was intact and that the fever hadn’t caused any damage,’ I said, still looking around me, looking for any sign of damage.
‘Sick?’ Greca’s mental representation looked confused, but then she picked up one of the flowers, it was as if she was reviewing what had happened to her the last hours, or maybe the last few days. ‘You helped me to get out of the mine. You are not Malkia, but you look like her.’
‘I’ve heard that before, we look alike, but our hair and eyes have different colors.’
‘That’s right, her hair is red, yours is black. She has black eyes, yours are red. Who are you?’
‘Who do you think I am?’
‘One of our teachers said that Malkia’s mother was dead, and if we were sisters it was because we had the same father, but another teacher said that Malkia’s father was also dead. And you two look a lot like each other.’
‘It’s true that Malkia’s biological father is dead, since before she was born actually, that part is true.’
‘Then you are her mother.’
‘Yes, I am.’
‘Mine too?’ She asked, and I could see fear and hope behind her question.
‘Yours too.’ Her face changed, I could feel her happiness, and I felt it too, because Greca knew who I was and she accepted me, and that made me happier than I expected.
There were a lot of things I wanted to talk about with Greca, but when an explosion hit the car, I had to leave her mind and focus on what was going on outside of it. I knew Mbali was an excellent driver, but not even she could control the car, and we ended up on our side. I knew we were sitting ducks inside the car, and that I needed to buy time so Mbali could check the car and we could continue our travel. Mbali and I managed to get out, I still had Greca in my arms.
“Can you feel something? Are there enemies around? I think someone threw a grenade at us,” Mbali said.
“Maybe it was a land mine,” I suggested, even if I believed that Mbali was right and someone had attacked us.
“No, it wasn’t that.”
We managed to right the car between the two of us, and I mostly with my mind. Greca was getting restless and waking up, a coughing fit making her shake.
“What happened?” Greca asked, trying to understand why we had stopped in the middle of nowhere. “Are they coming for me? Please, don’t let them take me, I don’t want to go back.”
“Don’t worry, no one will take you back there,” I promised.
“Kai? I think we have company,” when Mbali spoke, I realized that we were surrounded, but it wasn’t by the kind of enemy that threw grenades, it was more the four legged kind. We were surrounded by a pack of wolves.
I moved slowly, careful not to more too fast and attract their attention, and I put Greca back inside the car.
“Stay here,” I said, before I locked her inside the car, where I knew she was going to be safe. Greca tried to say something, but her voice was muffled, and the growling coming from the wolves drowned her words.
“I don’t think the wolves are responsible for the grenade,” Mbali said, as she searched for human enemies.
“Neither do I,” while Mbali was using her sight and hearing, I was using my mind to search for our enemies. I extended my senses and was able to find out that there were at least 25 wolves surrounding us, more than the ones we could see. I could also feel human minds, at least two that were trying to resist my scanning.
“At least 25 wolves and two humans,” I told Mbali.
“If that’s all, we can handle them, if they have backup, we may be in danger,” Mbali took her guns out of the holsters and kept looking for our enemies.
Using my powers, I drew a line in the snow, creating a circle around us, with a radius of five yards. That would be my territory, the area I was going to defend.
“We don’t want trouble,” I said, raising my voice so all of them could hear me. “If you let us go, I promise we won’t cause any trouble.”
My answer was that five wolves moved towards us. Without having to think about it, Mbali took care of the three wolves on her side, and I took care of the other two. Mbali shoot her three, killing them instantly, but I used other methods with the ones on my side. As soon as they crossed the line, I light them up in flames. I knew it was a painful and cruel way to kill them, but I also knew that if they were being controlled by a zoopata, then he would feel the same pain, as long as the connection was up. A pain like that could be enough to knock the guy controlling them out. I didn’t have to wait much to hear the agonizing scream of the zoopata, and I knew that I had been right, the connection had been up, and the pain had affected him.
“What was that?” Mbali asked, surprised by the screams.
“Someone just found out how dangerous a psychic connection can become,” I said, as Mbali watched the dying animals and came up with her own conclusions. I felt more minds getting closer. “Prepare yourself, our enemies are approaching.”
The wolves were out of control, between the fire and the lack of connection with their master, they didn’t know what to do and were wandering away. Our enemies on the other hand, had no trouble at all, the group was moving without even trying to hide their approach. Then I recognized the man in the front of the group and understood why they weren’t afraid.
“Mbali, we have problems,” I whispered, just loud enough for her to hear me, as I adjusted my hood to cover my face completely. “The warriors moving our way are General Kozlak and his guards.”
“Do you know them? Do you know how to stop them?” She asked, as she pointed her guns to them.
“We are looking for a slave that escaped yesterday from one of our mines,” Kozlak said. “Do you know something about it?”
“We come from a neutral Clan, we don’t want any trouble with you,” Mbali said.
“If you don’t want trouble, then you shouldn’t take what’s not yours,” one of Kozlak’s guards said, “I’m pretty sure that the girl in the car is the one we are looking for.”
“That kid is my family,” Mbali said. Two of the guards were already moving our way, I had no doubt they intended to take Greca. “I don’t recommend you cross that line,” Mbali told the guards when they were just a couple of steps away from the line I had drawn.
None of the guards were worried about it, and I knew their confidence had a good reason. I saw one of them focusing his eyes at Mbali’s feet, and I realized that it wasn’t a grenade what had caused the explosion before, he was using fragokinesis to make things explode from a distance. I knew that Mbali and the vehicle couldn’t survive an explosion so close to them, so I used my mind to contain and focus the explosion, redirecting the effects in the direction of our attackers.
It happened too fast, Mbali was preparing for the attack when the explosion happened, the new direction of the attack taking them by surprise and throwing our enemies away. They didn’t expect us to be able to defend ourselves, so they weren’t prepared.
“Are you ok?” I asked Mbali.
“Yes, thanks, all alright,” she said, still looking around, ready to take anyone who crossed the line.
“Take care of Greca and make sure they can’t get near the car, I will take care of them.
“That was impressive,” Kozlak said, he had moved closer, he was just at the other side of the line. “It’s been a while since I came across a power like yours. What else can you do?”
I couldn’t answer him, I was sure that if I talk, he would know who I was, I had been trying to disguise my voice, and my face was partially covered, but we had spent so much time together in our youth that I was sure the smallest clue would be enough for him to recognize me.
I was still trying to decide how to act, when I felt a stabbing pain in my head, and I knew it was a telepathic attack from one of Kozlak’s guards, one that would have taken out a lesser warrior. I decided I had to take care of the telepath fast, to avoid further damage, so I opened my mind to her, and let her in. Once she was inside, I used my best weapon, I opened the chest in front of her mental representation, and the pain it caused was so strong that I knew she wouldn’t be able to withstand it without passing out. The problem was that the attack had also affected me, her attack had been stronger than I realized and my weakened mind had suffered. After I threw her out of my mind, I lost my balance, and I fell to my knees.
My enemies were expecting that, and took advantage of that moment of weakness to attack, only they thought that I was under their partner’s control, and that I was an easy target. I knew that I needed to give my mind a moment to rest, my head was pounding and I knew that if I used my powers the chance of getting a psychic headache was too big, I didn’t need that, so I had to be careful for the time being.
I was still kneeling on the snow when the first warrior arrived, I waited until the last moment, and when he was about to kick me, I moved to the side and extended my leg, hitting him on the knee and then moving out of his reach, then getting up, just in time to face the other guard. My kick had managed to send the first guard to the ground, but he got back up in no time and joined his partner. Just when I wondered why they weren’t using their powers, I felt something changing in the air, I got a bad feeling and jumped away, just as the ground under me exploded.
I had been too worried about getting away from the explosion and didn’t notice the other warrior had moved at the same time I did, and he took advantage of my distraction to punch me in the stomach and then tried to hit my face. I was able to dodge the fist to my face, but not the kick to my side that followed and sent me back to the ground. Before he could go and finish what he had started, I saw a dart hit his neck, he tried to take it off, but all he could do before the tranquilizer took effect and knocked him out, was touching it. The other warrior had noticed Mbali and knew she was a threat, he was preparing to make something near her explode, and I moved to attack him before he had the chance. At the last minute he noticed me and managed to block my attack, but I didn’t stop, I kept going at him, he was good, but after a while I found his rhythm and managed to get the upper hand, getting to connect a few punches.
When I felt my mind clearing and the pain gone, I used my powers to take control of the battle, using them to steal my attacker’s energy each time he touched me, at first, he didn’t notice what I was doing, but then he realized he was getting tired fast, and that it had something to so with me, so he tried to keep his distance. I couldn’t let him, I closed the distance between us and grabbed his neck, taking his energy until he passed out. When I stood up, ready to face the same challenge, I saw that Kozlak had moved closer, with the rest of his guards at his side.
“Congratulation,” he said, in a tone that made me doubt if he was being sincere, or he was mocking me, “I have to recognize that you did an amazing job, not anyone can take one of my men out, they are elite warriors after all, and that makes me curious. Who are you?”
“Just let us go, and we won’t have to hurt any of your men,” Mbali said.
“Sorry, but I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Kozlak said, then he signaled his men to move.
The wolf pack was back in the battle, and that could only mean that the one controlling them was back, I even suspected that it was one of the guards that moved my way. My other opponent seemed to be an empath, I knew because of the things I was feeling. For a moment, when I thought about facing the wolves, fear paralyzed me, but I soon recognized how unnatural that fear was, and since it was something I didn’t usually feel, I knew it was part of an empathic attack. I knew that using my powers to block the attack and clear my feelings would limit my options, so my best bet was to use my powers to create a whirlwind and trap both the pack and the guards. At first it worked, and I was able to pull most of the wolves into the whirlwind, but one of the guards managed to escape it and closed the distance between us, hitting me and breaking my concentration. I had to let go of the whirlwind, and used my mind to grab the guard attacking me and threw him in the air, then I used my mind to speed his fall and pushed him to fall on top of the other guard.
I knew that they weren’t out of combat, but the fall would buy me some time. I took advantage of the respite to check on Mbali. She had been fighting a woman that appeared to use vitrokinesis, moving her weapons with her mind. Her other opponent was Kozlak. I ran towards them, I knew she needed help, and I watched her dodging the guard’s weapons, only to fall into Kozlak’s hands, who started to drain her energy. As a mutant, her energy storage was bigger, and I knew it would buy her some time. She couldn’t use her rifle against Kozlak, he was too close to her, but she was able to grab one of her guns and pointed it to Kozlak’s face.
Despite my fears, and even my insecurities, I couldn’t let anything happen to my cousin, so before Mbali could fire her gun, I used my mind to take the weapon away from her, but at the same time, I moved closer and attacked Kozlak to force him to let Mbali go. Both of them were aware that it had been me who stopped Mbali from shooting him, and they were surprised and confused by my actions, for different reasons. I had not much time to think about my actions because the other guard had reached Greca while we were fighting and was trying to take her out of the car.
The moment I saw Greca’s fear, I lost control. I used my powers to call a strong air current that hit the guard with the force of a hurricane, and I pushed her away, until she hit the other guards I had already taken out of combat, and that were trying to recover enough to rejoin the battle. Once they were together, I used my powers to lift some rock spears out the ground, and a the same time, I used the snow around their feet to freeze them to the ground, making sure they were going to stay trapped for a while.
I didn’t notice my hood falling down during my actions, but my face was uncovered. I realized that when I turned to face Kozlak and saw him staring at me with surprise and incredulity on his face.
“Kaiserin?” He asked, and took a step closer to me, but I took a step back, keeping the distance between us.
“I’m sorry Kozlak, but I can’t let you take me back to the Palace.”
“Why? What happened to you? Where have you been?” Mbali took advantage of his distraction to shoot him a tranquilizer dart. Kozlak felt the dart and glanced at Mbali before turning his accusing eyes at me. “Why?” He asked again, angry and hurt and what he saw as my betrayal, but I couldn’t answer him, I had to get out of there as fast as possible.