It was hard to open my eyes, I felt like I had been in the middle of a battle, one that I had lost. The situation reminded me so much of my time under Agmong’s rule, that in any other occasion I would have gone into a panic attack, but I felt calm, because I could recognize the hands that were holding my hand, Kimball was with me, and as long as he was there, I knew I was safe.
“I’m glad to see that you are finally awake. How are you feeling?” Kimball asked. I could feel his relief at knowing I was waking up, and I wondered what had happened to me, I couldn’t remember any fights or anything that explained why I felt like crap.
“I felt like I was beaten, everything hurts. What happened to me?”
“I’m afraid we made a mistake, we underestimated our enemies. At some point, while we were investigating about the virus, one of them infected you.” When he said that, I remembered feeling tired, and realized it was one of the symptoms, one I didn’t pay enough attention. “You passed out last week while you were watching one of the parades Emily likes so much. Fatima knew it was something bad, so she called me to help. I managed to arrive just in time, the virus had already caused some damage, but nothing we couldn’t fix. I’m afraid you will have to rest for a while, your body still need to recover. I told the King and Queen that you won’t be able to join them in their tour, and that you will stay here as long as you need to fully recover.”
“And where is here?”
“I moved you to Mzani. I thought it would be better for you to be here as long as you were sick. Some of your allies stayed with you until I arrived, Soriya used her powers to keep you alive, and even Kgalefa helped a little bit, but it’s hard to explain, since both of them are supposed to be your enemies. I know it’s not a good idea for any of them to stay paying you attention, Fatima managed to explain the situation, but still, we decided that it was best if I took you away from them.”
“Good thinking. I will have to talk to them later and thank them for their help. For the moment, I’m still not feeling well, I know I won’t be able to do much. I hate to feel this weak and powerless, but at least here no one will see me like this,” I tried not to think about my collapse during the parade, I needed to focus on getting better. “How long do you think it will take for me to get better?”
“Well, it depends, I think you need at least a week of rest before you even think about getting back. Since both of them are still in their celebration tour, they won’t be back at Capital City for a long time, and that should buy you even more time if you need it.”
“He had to stay behind, I couldn’t find a good excuse to take him out of school again. It seems that the headmaster is not happy with Ethan’s absences, and to be truthful, I was more worried about getting you out of enemy territory than of getting Ethan a few days off. Mbali and Tau stayed behind with him, so I’m not worried about him.”
“I’m hungry, and sleepy,” I wanted to make an inventory of my body, but even something so basic was proving to be hard to do, I was too tired, and I was sure that my body was full of drugs that weren’t helping to my feeling of tiredness.
“I will go and grab something for you to eat, you can sleep for a while, I can wake you up once I return with food,” Kimball said, getting out of the room before I could protest.
I didn’t like feeling so vulnerable. I knew that I was in a safe place, but I hated feeling helpless, and not being able to defend myself in case I needed. I closed my eyes, but not because I was planning on sleeping, but because I needed to focus my powers so I could use them to check my body and try to get a reading of the damage the virus had caused. As soon as I started, I realized the bigger problem was in my mind, not my body. I called a mental representation to go deep into my mind to look for the damage, and I was surprised by what I found. While I had been unconscious, fighting the virus, Faakhir’s presence in my mind had extended at an alarming rate. Almost every part of mind focused on my time under Agmong’s rule was covered by Faakhir’s presence.
The damage was extensive, and I knew I had to take care of it before I could even think about getting close to Faakhir. I wasn’t sure where he was, but I was pretty confident that he was far enough for me to be safe of his influence, most of the growth I was watching had to have happened after Faakhir left to continue his travel, which meant that he didn’t have knowledge of what I was hiding in that part of my mind, that would change if he got close enough to make contact with my mind.
I started working on getting rid of Faakhir’s presence in my mind, I knew it was a risk, he would notice I had found his influence and that I had freed myself of it, but I preferred that, to him getting so much access into my memories. I knew he was going to get his influence back into my mind as soon as he could, and that he was going to get suspicious of me and my powers just knowing I had been able to push him out of my mind. It was a risk, to show him my strength, but it wasn’t as bad as letting him in.
After a while I noticed that Kimball was trying to wake me up, but I was using both my mind to make sure I could get rid of every trace of Faakhir, so I couldn’t answer to Kimball’s call. By the time I finished and broke my trance, Kimball was very worried thinking I was sick again. I had to explain to him what had happened, what I had done, and why.
“You say that Faakhir was gone by the time you arrived, that he had to move to keep with the schedule that Emily had established for the celebrations,” I reminded him, I was trying to ease his mind, but also mine.
“That’s right, but we don’t know what he was able to see before leaving.”
“I don’t think he had a chance, an invasion like the one I found takes times, and it’s possible it even happened after you arrived. I will be careful around him, when I finally see him again, and I will see how he reacts to knowing his presence is no longer in my mind. There’s not much we can do right now, so there’s no point in worrying about it.”
“You need to be very careful, if you feel, even for a moment, that your mission was compromised, then we will change the plans, we can’t take any risks.”
I took a couple of weeks to get better, but it felt like much longer, I felt like I was never going to recover my strength. It was thanks to Kimball that I was able to get better so fast, his energy regeneration was faster than mine, and he let me take his energy to feed mine after we had our training sessions. Kimball said that a normal, non mutant person would take at least twice as long to recover, and I was happy I was able to get better faster, but still, it had been too long for me.
When I went back to Capital City, the King and Queen were still out, traveling, and that was fine with me, I had a lot of things to do that would be easier to do with them gone, like contacting my allies in the elite forces and getting information on what had happened while I was recovering. The only problem was that as soon as I arrived at the palace, I had a feeling that something very bad was going to happen, a feeling that only got worse as time passed. I wasn’t sure if the feeling was getting worse because of the imminent arrival or the King and Queen, or if it was something to do with time.
I tried to go into the fog of the future to see what was going to happen, but for the first time, I wasn’t able to find any answers, the fog was hard to read and I couldn’t travel any road in front of me, I could see them in front of me, but I couldn’t step into them. I wasn’t sure if it was because of my sickness, or if something else was affecting me, but I knew I needed help to understand what was going on. Melchizedek was, as always, my first thought, but he was too far away to help me, the next best choice was Sofia, but she was at Aquarium and establishing a safe communication was very complicated, and just not possible at that moment. My other choice was Fatima, she was part of a family with a long tradition of seers, one that passed their knowledge from generation to generation. Fatima was traveling with Emily, and I had to wait for her to arrive before I could ask her what was wrong with me.
One of the disadvantages of my powers was that I depended on them too much. I was getting stressed by not knowing what was going to happen, and I couldn’t allow that, I needed to focus, I was just getting my strength back and I couldn’t waste it, but the feeling of unease was very taxing, and was making me feel out of control. I knew that all I could do was to be careful and try to avoid dangerous situations.
The day Faakhir got back, I was immediately called to his presence. I knew that early that day, or at least early for her, Emily had gone to the Congress to discuss new taxes and budgets, or how to steal more money from her people. After the money she spent during the celebrations, the royal coffers were empty, and Emily didn’t care if the people was broke too, she wanted more and she was going to find a way to get it.
For the first time since I knew them, Faakhir wasn’t with her while she tried to squeeze more money from her people, he was usually by her side to keep her in check, not because he cared about the people they were taking money from, but because he was more aware of how much they could push without crossing the line. But instead of being by her wife’s side, he had called me to his room with an urgent mission, he said that a problem had arisen during their trip and he needed me to take care of it immediately. I had no idea what he needed, but I knew it couldn’t be anything good, and the whole situation had me worried. The fact that he was rushing it, had me on edge, especially since I couldn’t go into the fog to try and see what was going on, I had to work blindly, and I didn’t like that.
“How are you?” Faakhir asked me as soon as I entered his room. He was on the balcony having breakfast, and he looked very relaxed, not what I expected after he called for the emergency meeting.
“I’m much better, Kimball said we caught it just in time for the treatment to work. A little later and I wouldn’t be here.”
“Then it was a good thing that you passed out when you did, that helped find the virus on time.”
“You could say that.”
“Are you sure you are feeling well?” Faakhir insisted, and I noticed that I wasn’t feeling well, I felt tired and slow, almost as if I had been drugged, but no one had touched me and I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since I arrived. I watched Faakhir and I noticed his cold, satisfied smirk and I knew something was really wrong. “Maybe you should take a seat,” he suggested, but there was a double edge in his words that I couldn’t comprehend.
I thought about refusing the seat, but before I could speak something pinched my arm, in the part that wasn’t covered by my cape, followed by the familiar feeling of electricity coursing through my body. The electricity caused me to lose control of my body and I started falling, but before I hit the floor, Einar moved in front of me and caught me, moving me to the chair that Faakhir had told me to take. I hadn’t even noticed that Einar was in the room, but that explained why I felt like I had been drugged, I was under the influence of his power. Maybe it was because of that that I wasn’t thinking clearly, I knew that I could have used my powers to stop them, even after being paralyzed, but I didn’t, and that gave them time to put a power suppressor on me.
“All set, Your Majesty,” said another voice, one I recognized as Jacob’s.
“After your unfortunate accident, I realized you been lying to me. How do you think it made me feel to discover that all our hot encounters were nothing but illusions you set for me?” Faakhir asked, and I realized that he had managed to get inside my mind after all. I was afraid to find out what else he had found out, and if my plans were already compromised. “It made me feel like a fool, and that’s something I won’t allow. Don’t worry, we will make reality all those illusions you made for me, but first, we have to find out what else you have been hiding from me.”
I managed to overcome some of the paralysis and moved my hand to my necklace, I needed to try and activate the device Kimball had made for me so I could deactivate the suppressor, but before I could reach it, one of Faakhir’s guards took my hand and stopped me.
“Don’t even try, there is no way you will be able to take off the collar blocking your powers. There is nothing you can do to escape,” Jacob whispered in my ear, and I knew he was right, at that moment I was at their mercy, there was nothing I could do but wait and hope that they wouldn’t have a chance to hurt me.