Chapter 13

As soon as I arrived at my apartment, I noticed we had guests.  I could hear the children talking in the living room and I moved closer, just to confirm my suspicion that Ethan’s friends were there.  I was happy they had visited him, especially because I could tell by their voices and the emotions getting out of the room, that Ethan had nothing to fear about his friends, none of them were blaming him for what had happened, maybe they were blaming me instead.

“Ethan?” I called, to let them know I was about to enter the room.

“Mother,” Ethan looked at me, a guilty look on his face, “we have visitors.”

“I see that,” as I looked around at the curious, but not scared faces of the kids, I realized they knew the truth.

“My friends came to visit, they are not mad at me for what happened, but still, I want you to allow me to explain the truth to them.”

“Why are you asking for my permission if you already told them everything?”

“I’m only covering my bases.”

“I see,” I went to Ethan, and I could feel his friends going on alert, staring at me, they were worried I would do something to Ethan, even if the fear I was expecting wasn’t there.  “You did good, I know how hard it was for you to hide the truth from them, and I’m grateful that you understood how important it was to keep the secret while there was the chance that Faakhir’s men or anyone else could intercept the information and endanger us.  Now things are different, and I’m glad you have friends you can trust with this.  I just want you to keep in mind that you have to be very careful who you trust, especially as some secrets are not only about you, and you never know who can get hurt if you trust the wrong person.”

“I’m sure none of them would betray my trust,” Ethan said confidently.

“We would never go against Ethan,” Hye Ki assured me, “we won’t betray his trust,” the rest of the group agreed on that.

“I know, that’s why I encouraged your friendship with my son, I know, thanks to my visions, that you will be his friends for a long time, and that you will support him.  I’m actually glad that my son has you as his friends, but I also know that things can change very easily and you never know what the future can bring, and even if my visions show me a good future right now, that only means nothing will happen short term, but things can change.”

“You say you encouraged our friendship? You were always against us,” Dmytro protested.

“And what better way to ensure that your parents wouldn’t intervene in your friendship that being publicly against it?”

“So you manipulated our parents?” Iñaki asked.

“You could say that, but I did it for a good reason.”

“That’s ok,” Dmytro said, “I get it, even after Ethan saved us from Jonas, twice, my father wouldn’t have accepted our friendship if he had suspected you had a good relationship.”

“My father already suspects that’s the case,” Hye Ki said, “he said it wasn’t a good idea for me to keep being Ethan’s friends, but he IS my friend and that won’t change, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, so I won’t either.”

“I appreciate it, and as I said, it’s good to see that he has such loyal friends.  Still,” I warned Ethan, “you need to keep in mind that even the people who could at one moment give their own lives for you, those who swear they would do anything for you, could change their mind and stab you in the back without warning.”

“Still mad at William?” Ethan asked.

“With him, and at myself, I should have known better, I should have already learned my lesson, one I hope you don’t get to experiment, at least not for a long time.”

“I know, even those you trusted the most could, and in your case, have betrayed you.”

“I wish you didn’t spend so much time inside my head, you are losing your innocence.”

“You know in my position is better to know so I can be prepared.”

“I don’t know what I was expecting, but this is not it,” Oliver said.  “Even after hearing my grandmother’s wonderful tales, I can’t help but think of you as a heartless assassin.”

“And still, you are not afraid,” I pointed out.

“Ethan said we had nothing to fear, and we trust him,” Iñaki said.

“I talked to my brother and he told me what had happened,” Hye Ki said shyly, “and I wanted to thank you for saving him and ask your forgiveness for all the bad things I thought about you.”

“Not sorry for trying to kill me?” I asked, taking the girl by surprise.

“Try to kill you?  When was that?” Ethan asked, and it was clear he was mad about it.  Hye Ki was blushing, feeling bad about the situation.

“You knew about that?”

“There’s little I don’t know.  Your parents also tried that, and they were almost successful, but I have to give it to you, you were the youngest one to try that, and not many people would have thought of something like what you did.  The small robot you used to carry the poison was, in my husband’s words, an engineering marvel, but I’m sure you could find better uses for it than trying to kill someone.  I suggest that next time you take some time to think about the consequences of your actions.  Think about it, what if you had succeeded?  Would you have felt better?  Or would guilt eat at you?  It’s not easy to take somebody’s life.”

“Even for you?” Dmytro asked.  “It’s clear now that you didn’t kill as many people as you were accused of, but you don’t seem to have a problem killing people, and I have seen the recordings of Emily’s death, and that wasn’t faked, she is definitely dead.”

“I grew up in a different place, where my options were to kill or be killed.  I don’t have a problem killing people who deserve it.  You could say I was forced to commit my first murder when I was about your age.  But things are different here, and you grew up with a different moral compass, one that says is not correct to kill, and puts a heavier burden on you when you do.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Hye Ki said.

“Of course, but I want you to be sure you want the answer.  I hope you already realized that I don’t know how to sugarcoat things, I say things as they are.”  She took a minute to think about it, and then asked her question.

“For a long time I have gone over that day, when you let my brother fall in my place.  I was sure I was going to die that day, and sometimes I think it would have been easier to let them kill me, to stop my brother before he acted, but you didn’t, why?”

“You are right, it would have been easier to stop him, but it wouldn’t have been easier on your father to lose you.  I didn’t know the whole story back then, but I knew your father had already lost a daughter, one your brother was a daily reminder of, and I knew how hard it would have been to lose another.  Any loss is painful, but I had the feeling that your father was going to be able to deal with your brother’s lost easier than yours.”

“So you did that for my father?  But…” Hye Ki didn’t finish her thought, but I could see that she was thinking about my words, they weren’t what she was expecting, and she was realizing that not everything they thought they knew about me was true, even if she couldn’t see that my motives were actually kind of selfish.  “You didn’t know us back then, there was no reason to do something like that.”

“Your father had already gone through a lot, he didn’t need to be tortured even more.”

“When my grandparents disappeared,” Oliver cut in, “when we thought you had killed the, there was a rumor, one my mother ignored, that said that Emily had ordered our deaths, and there was an incident when I thought we were going to die, just a few days before my grandparents’ death.  What’s the real story?”

“Your mother was too valuable to die, but since they didn’t assign her murder to me, I asked someone to stop the attempt from being successful, and then convinced Emily that her death wasn’t going to help anyone, and that it would be better to kill her parents, so she could see that the threat was real, and then used you and your brother to control your mother.  Since their deaths were assigned to me, I was able to take them to a safe place.  I’m sorry your grandfather didn’t survive, but I can assure you, there was nothing we could have done to stop his death, it was his time.”

“That’s what my grandma says.  I think that we have to thank you, not only for my grandparents’ lives, but also ours.  You don’t know much this means to us, thank you,” Oliver said, with all the formality the fifteen year old could use.

“Yes, thank you,” Iñaki added, copying his brother.

“I also have to thank you,” Dmytro said, “I didn’t know my grandparents as well as Oliver knew his, still I was very sad that they were gone.  Having them back and having a second chance at knowing them is a great gift.  And I know my father is very happy to have them back.”

“You don’t have anything to thank me for, I was just doing my job, what needed to be done.  You are making this a bigger deal than it is.”

“Maybe it’s nothing for you, but it’s everything to us,” Oliver said.

“Well, I know you didn’t come here to talk to me, you are here for Ethan, so I will leave you alone.”

I got up and prepared to leave when I heard a discussion from the direction of the entrance, and then I saw William and two guards walking towards me.

“We need to talk,” William said, his voice full of power.

“There’s nothing to talk about.  I already warned you not to look for me.”

One side of the room was made out of floor to ceiling windows, you could see the gardens, and farther away, part of the city.  I used my powers to open the windows and then I used them to grab William and throw him out.  Both guards ran to the windows and one of them jumped behind William.  Ethan’s friends were staring in horror at the scene.

“Did you kill him?” Hye Ki finally broke the silence.

“Your brother survived a fall from a plane and you are worried about a few stories?”

“It would be better for you if you could stop doing reckless acts like this,” the remaining guard warned me, “it wouldn’t be a good idea to keep pilling charges against you.”

“You do whatever you want, I don’t care about the stupid trial anyway.”

“You are lucky the King fell into the pond and wasn’t hurt, or you would be in real trouble.”

“Luck had nothing to do with that.  And tell your King that if he dares to show his face in front of me again, next time I won’t be so nice.  I can’t stand traitors, and that goes for you too.  I kind of respect your loyalty, I know you swore loyalty to the Royal House, but you work for me, and if you stand in my way again, you won’t like it.”

“Understood,” the guard said, walking out of the room.  It was obvious he was mad at me and wanted to yell back at me, but he wasn’t dumb and knew he would lose if he fought with me.

“I think that kind of confirms that you are still mad at William,” Ethan said.

“If he thinks he can walk into my home as if nothing happened, he has lost his mind,” just by seeing him my mood had turned sour again, and I wasn’t sure if the fact that Ethan’s friends were actually afraid was making things better or worse.  The plan was to be feared, wasn’t it?

“Maybe you should talk…” Ethan started to say, before being interrupted.

“I suggest you stop before you finish that sentence,” Kimball said, choosing that moment to walk into the living room.  He was wearing a brace on his leg, and using a cane, for a moment I worried I had been to harsh on him, but then I realized that William couldn’t have gotten inside without someone opening the door to him and got angry all over again.

“What happened to you?” Ethan asked, staring at Kimball’s broken leg.

“I finished that sentence and your mother didn’t appreciate it.”

“And as if that wasn’t enough, you go and invite that traitor into my home.”

“I didn’t invite him, I just arrived behind him.  I know you understand the concept of diplomacy, you did a great job using it with the Amazons, and even when dealing with Faakhir, so I don’t get why are you acting like this with William.”

“It’s not the same, I knew what I was getting into with them, I knew Faakhir wanted to take advantage of me, and with the Amazons, it was a mutual thing, both trying to get advantage over the other.  But William wasn’t supposed to be like that, he was supposed to be on my side.”

“He feels betrayed, maybe if you explained what happened with Faakhir.”

“He knows what happened with Faakhir, he found me out and attacked me, what else is there?”  I could feel the eyes on me, I knew the kids were listening and didn’t appreciate it, I didn’t want them to hear more than they were supposed to.

“All I’m saying is that you should talk to him and explain everything that happened, reach an agreement.  You are supposed to be trying to stop a war, not cause one.”

I looked out of the still open window, thinking of throwing Kimball out, maybe he would want to cool off in the pond with William.

“Please don’t throw my father out of the window,” Ethan asked.

“Yes, please don’t,” Kimball asked with a pout and a teasing tone, that instead of calming me down only made me angrier.

“I’m out of here, and I suggest you don’t follow me, for your own good,” I warned Kimball.

“Before you go, I just want to insist on how grateful I’m for what you did for my family.  You don’t know how much it means for us to have my brother back,” Hye Ki said, extending her hand for me to shake.  I decided to accept the gesture and took her hand, and as soon as I did the world around me faded, throwing me into a new one.

I saw a couple of people saying how they were running out of time, then I watched as they reached an agreement and reached a console, typing some commands into it before leaving the place.  The vision changed focus and I saw a young girl, her face extremely familiar, even if I had never seen her before.  She was locked in a room, and I saw how she started to work as soon as the alarm went off, going to the pile of blankets she used as a bed and retrieving a series of instruments.  The focus changed again and I watched the couple I had first seen walking out of a building, trying to get out of there in a hurry, it was then that I realized what was going on and what I needed to do.

When I got out of the vision I was surrounded by curious faces.

“A vision?” Kimball asked, even knowing the answer.

“We have to go,” I said immediately, I had finally got the information I needed to fulfill a promise I had done years before, thanks to the vision.

“You are under arrest, remember?  You can’t leave,” Kimball said.

“I don’t care about that.  When are you going to understand that I don’t care about William’s whims?  You have an hour to get ready if you want to go with me,” I warned Kimball, who only raised a brow and made a huge deal of looking at his leg, as if trying to remind me he was injured.  I ignored him and turned back to Hye Ki who was looking confused.  “I don’t know if it was because of you, but if you triggered that vision, then I’m very grateful to you. You can stay here as long as you want, don’t worry about anything and have fun.”

I left the room, and used my powers to reach Thalia.

I’m sorry,‘ she said as soon as I made contact.  ‘We were trying to stop Sofia from reaching you and William slipped by, we didn’t notice until it was too late.  Sofia managed to play us, again.  Fatima is not happy about it, and we failed you again.

Don’t worry about that, we have work to do.  I want you and Fatima to meet with me at the airport in an hour, we have a mission to complete.

“At least could you tell me what’s this about?” Kimball asked, from behind me.  He was moving really fast for someone with a broken leg.

“I don’t know, if I tell you, will you go to your new friend and tell him my plans?  I don’t want to risk him trying to stop me, I don’t want to have to kill him.”

“You must know I’m on your side, I really think that it would be a good thing to establish some form of communication.”

“I will deal with Sofia and William later, right now I have better things to do.”

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Chapter 12

Just as I expected, the group helping William getting the people out of Aquarium was easy to identify, and not that large.  Most of the people in Aquarium had taken the first opportunity to get out of there, not even stopping to think about the danger of doing so.  I guessed that most, if not all, ignored that they were going against my orders when they left Aquarium.

“So far everything seems to be under control,” Kimball said.  “William still insists on getting ahead with the trial.  Right now, I think that’s for the best.  I spoke to Jean and he thinks that he will be able to get most of the charges dropped.”

“There are still a lot of crimes I’m guilty of,” I pointed out.

“Mother,” Ethan called from the living room, “I think you should see this.”

I went to the living room and saw he was watching an interview with one of the refugees that had gotten out of Aquarium, he was a famous reporter that I had been ordered to murder after he had attacked Emily by publishing some articles about her crimes, including her involvement in her own brother’s murder.  His death had been one of the most public ones, because he had been able to record and transmit part of my attack, one that ended with him apparently dying in a fire.  Everyone had agreed there was no way he would have been able to survive the inferno I caused, since all that was left once it extinguished were ashes.

“… and then I was pulled to the sewers, I wasn’t sure if they were friends or enemies,” Aziz was explaining, “but when I saw their uniforms and realized they were mzasiers, I thought they were enemies.  They did something and I passed out, next thing I knew I was in what looked like a prison, but it wasn’t like that, it was a refuge for people like me.”

“Are you trying to say you were ok with being kidnapped?” a woman’s voice asked from the other side of the camera.

“I had trouble with that at the beginning, especially because I couldn’t keep thinking of how this was going to affect my family and the people who depended on me, but as time went by, I realized just how lucky I really was that it was Kaiserin they had sent after me, and that she had been willing to save me.  I know some people think that the people coming back are metamorphs or people that had been brainwashed, wish I will admit could be possible, but some people were targeted because they couldn’t be brainwashed, that’s something people haven’t considered.  Let’s just say that after being away and watching things from afar, we have a different view of the situation.”

“So you think that Kaiserin’s actions are justified?”

“For a long time I couldn’t figure that woman out, and despite knowing I owed her my life, I couldn’t trust her, I kept thinking she had nefarious reasons for doing what she did, but let me tell you something I saw there.  Every month we got a visit from her, mostly she spent her time with Queen Sofia, but also with a few other inhabitants there, and I watched her training a few of them.  At first I thought she was doing that out of some sick desire to hurt others, because she often hurt them, and she didn’t even react to their pain, but you know I’m a good observer, I don’t see only with my eyes, but with my powers, and my empathy allows me to see the inside of people.  Once, during a training session between Kaiserin and our new King William, I witnessed one of her attacks that could have been very bad, but she stopped the attack before she could really hurt him.  If I had based my opinion in her insults and mocking, I would have thought that Kaiserin had no respect or interest in the boy, but, I was feeling the situation, and I could tell that she was worried about him, that she cared for him.  She was tough with him because she wanted him to be able to defend himself.  I started paying more attention to her and her actions, and found out that despite her harsh words and bad attitude, she worries about people and is always looking out for those who can’t defend themselves, she just has a different way of doing that.  I really think that it’s in the Dominion’s best interest to have someone like her looking out for us, because she really cares about everyone, not only her husband’s country, like some people believe, but for everyone in the Dominion.”

“After the new King revealed his plans to put Kaiserin on trial, she decided to put the whole Dominion under martial law and we have a military presence on the streets.  Don’t you think that this only shows that Kaiserin thinks herself above laws and rules?  It’s obvious that she is using scare tactics to try and force the King to ignore her criminal actions and scare people into obeying her wishes.”

“If I had learned something in my time with her is that there is always a reason behind her actions.  Maybe we think those are scare tactics, but maybe there is something else going on that is making her do that.  Maybe if we knew her reasoning for putting the military on the streets, we would support her decision.”

As I watched the interview I realized that Aziz was there to support me, but he didn’t know that his words were hurting my image.  Part of my power resided in my ability to seem detached and unaffected, what would happen if my enemies realized how much I cared, if they decided to go after me by hurting the people around me?  Aziz’s words could be putting people around me in danger.

“I’m surprised that Aziz is giving that interview,” Kimball said, “a person as intuitive as him should know that is not a good idea to give the public this kind of information, especially not without your approval.  He should have known better than going live without first clearing his declaration with you.”

“You are right,” as Kimball said that I started to see the interview from another point of view.  “Someone must have talked to him and tell him that it was ok to give the interview.  I think this must be part of William’s campaign to discredit me.”

“I’m not sure that’s what they are trying to do,” Ethan said, “if that was their objective, Aziz would have never agreed to it.  I think this is part of a campaign to clear your image, but I don’t know why now, it’s not the right moment.”

“That was never the plan,” I protested, “the idea was for me to be the bad guy, and for them to take power from me when the time was right.  The idea was to disappear once everything was ok.”

“Well, it seems they didn’t like your plan and decided to change it,” Kimball said, not looking worried at all.

“This is all wrong, their actions are just making a difficult situation even worse.  I don’t have time for this, I have to fix the situation as much as I can.  If you need anything, I will be in my office.”

I went out, not bothering to wait for their response, the whole situation was getting out of control and that only made me angrier.  I had that feeling back, the feeling that said that I couldn’t trust in anyone, and that was not a good mindset to have.  The few last months had affected me more than I was willing to accept, and I knew that even Kimball had noticed that I had been having trouble at night, that the nightmares I has thought I had outgrown were back.  It had gotten so bad I had considered putting some locks to my memories, but it was something I had already tried, and it wasn’t a good option.  All I could do was to keep going and face my demons, that included to put my trust back on the people I worked with, or at least pretend I was willing to trust on them as to not affect our relationships.

I found Thalia and Fatima waiting for me at my office.  They had become a good team and as soon as I saw them together, I knew they were planning something.  Once I noticed Fatima’s glazed eyes and Thalia’s hand on her shoulder, I knew they were using one of Fatima’s best tricks, one that allowed her to stay a couple of minutes in the future.

“What are you planning?” I asked once I reached my desk and sat down.

“Fatima is feeling awful about what happened, she feels she should have known what was going on, that she should have seen what Sofia was planning, so for the time being she is going to stay in protection mode and help avoid any other surprises, and I’m here to help.”

“I hope nothing else happens, but I appreciate your help.  Anything to report so far?”

“Fatima is sure that William will be trying to talk to you, that’s why she is doing this, she wants to make sure they don’t take us by surprise again.”

“I appreciate it, I don’t want to be taken by surprise again.”

“We will be standing guard outside, anything we will let you know immediately.”

“Thanks.”  As they went to take their place, Ivan walked inside.

“How are you?” he asked, and I could tell he was worried about me.

“As good as you could expect after finding out that your closest allies have betrayed you.  Is everything ready for the meetings?”

“Yes, all the groups agreed to the meetings, most of them were confused about what was going on, some seem to think this is all part of the plan, and I didn’t get the feeling that anyone knew what Sofia and William were planning.”

“We still need to be careful and work under the idea that everyone could be conspiring against us, I don’t want any more surprises.”

“I wouldn’t worry about a repeat of that, we didn’t think we needed to worry about Sofia, and therefore no one paid attention to her suspicious behavior, but after this, we will be more careful,” Ivan said, and I could tell he was confident in what he was saying, but experience had taught me again and again that anyone could turn on you.  Also, I needed to remind myself that Ivan’s loyalty was first to his country, and then to me.  “We have identified the people working with Sofia, and as we expected, they are part of the royal guard, those that are loyal to the crown above all.  They are not a real threat, since we have bigger numbers, and I took the liberty of putting some of our people with them so they can keep an eye on them.”

“Well thought, now all we have to do is work on damage control.  I would like to talk to those that got out of Aquarium and see what’s their position.  Even knowing that Sofia was behind this, I have to make sure who was with her willingly and who was tricked into following her.”

“We already started working on that, we’ve been trying to be discreet, but many of their relatives are making things difficult for us, trying to keep them away from us.”

“That’s understandable, for them we are still the enemy, even if they have them back, it’s not easy to forget that for years they saw us as the enemy.  Still, I want you to keep a protective detail around the refugees, we have to protect them in case someone targets them or tries to use them against us.”

“Understood.”

I spent most of the day going over the reports from all over the Dominion, and I was actually surprised there weren’t more problems.  I wasn’t sure when I had lost control of the situation, but I wasn’t happy about the way things were going, despite having the support of most of the groups, and having the army backing me up, the fact that two of my closest allies had betrayed me, risking all we have worked for, was making me doubt everyone around me.  I couldn’t help but feeling that someone else was going to stab me in the back as soon as I looked away.

I needed to clear my mind, and as a warrior the best way of doing that was to train.  As a psychic I could keep my body in optimal condition by using my powers, using my mind also helped train my body, but there were some things that I just had to do, I needed my traditional training.  After being injured and forced to rest, and then with the mess William and Sofia had made, I had neglected my training, and that was something I couldn’t afford.

I went to the gym and found Ethan and Kimball already there.  I stopped for a moment to watch them.  Ethan had become a great warrior, and even if he still had a long way to go to be at Kimball’s level, he was making it hard for him, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of him.  They eventually noticed me and stopped their training to greet me.

“Hello mother,” Ethan said, hugging me, I felt calm and knew that Ethan was using his powers on me, and I could only guess what he had felt that he had been inclined to do that.

“Is everything ok?” Kimball asked, stopping a few steps from me and studying me.

“Everything is fine,” I lied, “it’s just that I had been so busy that I had neglected my training and now that I have a few minutes I thought it would be a good time for that.”

“Ethan and I were just wrapping our training, so I can help you if you need a sparring partner.”

“That’s perfect,” Kimball was fast and I knew he would test my limits, especially if I decided not to use my powers and faced him in a melee fight.

“That sounds like fun, but if we are done, I think I will head to my room,” Ethan said.

“Of course, you did a good job,” Kimball said, smiling.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked once Ethan was gone, I could tell something was bothering him.

“You know that William’s and Sofia’s little trick caused him to leave the school before he could talk and explain to his friends what was going on, and since he haven’t heard from them, he thinks they are mad at him for not telling them what was going on.”

“That’s easy to solve, all he has to do is tell them that I forced him to stay silent, he can even say I put a lock on his mind so he couldn’t talk about it.”

“I don’t think he will be willing to lie to them, I think he really wants to come clean to them and tell them everything.”

“That’s also an option, whatever works best for him.  Ethan knows that we hid Aquarium and the refugees for their own protection, and that now that they are out, there is no need to keep lying.”

“How do you want to do this?” Kimball asked, talking about our training session.

“I will keep a skin tight barrier to protect myself from the worst of your hits, I was thinking that we can have a melee fight.”

“That’s perfect, I’m always up to a full body contact fight,” he said, his voice very suggestive.

I tried to ignore his innuendo, and prepared for the fight.  I couldn’t read his mind, so I had to rely on observation to try and block his attacks, but Kimball was very fast and he was able to change the attacks any moment.  To fight Kimball I needed my barrier, otherwise he would be able to defeat me in a couple of minutes, just one hit could have devastating consequences.  Even with my barrier I could feel the power of his hits, but after a while we fell into a rhythm and I was finally able to counterattack.  It wasn’t easy, but little by little I started to gain ground and the battle got more balanced.  Since I was using all my focus on trying to keep up with Kimball, I had no time to think about my problems, just what I needed, but then Kimball had to go and ruin that.

“Have you talked to William or Sofia?” he asked after taking a few steps back, looking for another attack angle.

“I don’t see why I would need to talk to those traitors, especially since they insist on that absurd trial,” Kimball used that moment of distraction to attack again, grabbing me and pulling me to the floor with him.

“After thinking about it, I decided that the trial is not such a bad idea after all, it will show the public another side of you, and maybe, it could help us long term,” Kimball’s hold was perfect, and my only option was to cheat and use my powers to break it.

“That will only make me look weak and give my enemies more weapons against me.  It took me a lot of effort to build my persona, to show myself as a strong woman without attachments, and now my enemies know how far I will go to protect people and they will start targeting innocents to hurt me.  Attacks like the one in the school will multiply,” I said, while he looked at me with disapproval, but I wasn’t sure if it was directed at my speech or if he was resenting the fact I had used my powers when I wasn’t supposed to.

“But this could also give you more allies, and give you the public’s approval.  I know that you wanted to be the villain in the story, but there are other options, some you haven’t considered yet.  I think that if you talked to them, maybe just to Sofia, who was with you from the beginning, they could explain why they acted that way,” Kimball attacked again, but I kept my distance, just outside his reach, while I tried to see what he was planning to do.

“I don’t agree, but even if I did, they had no right to act behind my back, the least they could have done was to talk to me first if they wanted to change the plans.  I have done a lot for them, and for the Dominion, and this is how they paid me?  I trusted them, I thought they were on my side, but they showed me otherwise.”

“You could fix this if you just talked to them.  At least listen to them,” Kimball insisted, attacking me again.  I was able to block him, but his attacks were getting more and more aggressive, and I couldn’t talk back to him, I was too busy fighting back.  “Both William and Sofia have tried to talk to you, and sooner or later you will have to meet with them.  And if not them, at least talk to your lawyer, you have to work on your defense.”  I finally could connect a kick and send Kimball back a couple of steps, giving me some breathing space.

“I won’t be part of that charade.  If William wants his trial, he can do that himself, but I won’t participate.”

“You need to be more mature about this, this is already done, and you can’t keep throwing tantrums about it, you need to face it and talk to them,” Kimball said, and I could feel his anger and frustration.

“I don’t have to do anything, and especially not for them.  I will keep doing my part, I will go ahead with my plan, I don’t care what they do,” I said, knowing I was being a little obstinated about it.

“Kaiserin, I already talked to William,” Kimball said, and I felt his words hit me like a physical blow.  “I agree with him, you need to meet and talk about this.  William wants to meet you today, and I told him I would try talking to you about it.”

“How could you!?” I felt betrayed.  “You know exactly how I feel about this.”

“I also know that you won’t solve anything by staying away, what you need is to talk to him, like a mature adult.  Do you think I agree with what he did?  That I approve of his actions?  Of course not, but even if I think he went too far, I know that you need to give him a chance to explain and work on resolving this.”

“No.  If I had to see him right now, I don’t know if I can stop myself from hurting him.  If it was up to me, he would be dead already.  I’m tired of people betraying me and I’m tired of giving second chances,” I turned around, ready to storm out of the gym, but Kimball grabbed me by the wrist.  “Let me go,” I warned him, but he only held me tighter.

“Not until you agree to listen to reason and meet with William.”  I could see he was serious, but I was furious.

I tried to break free again, but Kimball’s hold was tight and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to break it.  I focused my powers on a point on his leg and applied force until I heard the bone breaking.  Kimball let me go, more out of surprise than pain, but either way it was enough for me to escape.  I got out of the gym, still fuming, and decided to take the long way back to my room so I could have time to cool off.  Once I was calm, I was going to take a walk in the fog and try to see where this was going, I had a lot of planning to do.

Chapter 8

We were walking through the fog, we had already taken a walk to the past, looking for the moment Faakhir had found out about my secrets, and trying to identify the people he had shared those secrets with.  After that we had moved forward, looking for new threats.  It was easy to walk the different paths because I had Fatima’s and Sofia’s help.  I was aware that I had made a mistake by dismissing the visions just because they didn’t make sense, thanks to Agmong’s presence, but it was an error I wouldn’t make again, I had to move forward after that.

We found out about a new attack, and we managed to get enough information about it to stop it, and a group of my men was already moving to stop it, and another group of my most trusted men were hunting the few of Faakhir’s loyalists that had escaped us during out first cleaning.  Everything was going according to plan, but it wasn’t enough, I had to make sure that the Dominion was safe and that nothing important was going to happen if I wanted to move forward with the rest of my plans.

I was walking one of the paths, going through the attack that we were trying to stop, making sure we had everything under control, but I suddenly found myself in another place, I walked into a sterile looking room.

I saw a bed, surrounded by machines, the setup was very similar to something I would likely find in a hospital, but it wasn’t exactly the same.  I moved closer, and noticed a person lying on the bed, it was a familiar face, even if it had been years since I had seen her.

“Malkia!” someone yelled, and I turned to see Greca running into the room, going straight to her sister, while Dendro and his son entered the room behind her.

“We are doing everything we can to help her, but for the moment all we can do is keep her stable,” Antrax, Dendro’s son explained.  Pain was showing in his face, despite his efforts to hide it. 

“How could this happen?” Greca asked. 

“We were working on a new project and something happened, she got poisoned, we are working with some serums, trying to counter the venom, but we haven’t found the right one,” he explained. 

“We have to start thinking in the possibility that she may not make it,” Dendro said, “according to Antrax, she had been like this for a while, and the damage on her body is already extensive.”

“No!  Don’t say that, my sister has to recover, you can’t let her die,” Greca was fighting to stay strong, but it was clear it was a battle she was losing. 

The scene changed and I found myself back in the fog.  I felt a familiar presence with me, but it wasn’t Fatima nor Sofia.

Melchizedek, what are you doing here?

I had a vision, and I knew I needed to help you,‘ Melchizedek explained.

Did you see the same thing I did?  It’s my Malkia…?‘ I couldn’t believe that was I had seen was real.  ‘That can’t be true, I have seen visions of my daughter as an adult, she can end like that.

You don’t have much time, if you want to save her, you need to move right now.

I will leave immediately,‘ I said.  I was still recovering from my injuries and I had been trying to rest, but my first priority, always, were my children.  I wouldn’t let Malkia down, no matter what it cost me.

It’s not you who needs to leave, you can’t help your daughter, but there is someone who can,‘  Melchizedek smiled.  ‘I’m sorry I don’t have more time, I just needed to let you know about this.  Good luck.

Melchizedek’s presence disappeared, and I realized I couldn’t feel Fatima nor Sofia near me.  I knew that I couldn’t waste time, so I left the fog.  I was alone when I got out of my trance, Fatima was in another room, and Sofia was back at Aquarium, so I had no idea if they were still in the fog or had gotten out, but that didn’t matter at the time, I needed to find Kimball.

I drank the glass of water someone had left beside the bed, and took one of the cookies there before going looking for Kimball.  I was trying to contact him with my comm while I ran through the halls.  He didn’t answer at first, but the call finally connected.

“Kaiserin?  What’s going on?” he asked.

“Where are you?”

“Right here,” he called from the other side of the hall, Ethan and Kimball were getting out of the gym, where they had been training until my call.

“Malkia is in danger,” I went straight to the point.  “I just had a vision, I don’t know the details, but she has been poisoned and the Assassins can’t help her.  Melchizedek said that I couldn’t help her either, but that you can save her.”

“Melchizedek?” Ethan asked.

“He was with me in the fog, he talked to me after I had the vision, he says we don’t have much time…”

“Don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to her,” Kimball promised.

Ethan hugged me, and I realized I was shaking.  “Everything is going to be ok, don’t worry,” he said, trying to calm me down, with words, but also using his powers.

Kimball started to give orders through his comm, asking for his people to prepare one of the planes and making sure some of his trusted men were ready to go with him.

“Did you eat?” Kimball asked.

“A cookie,” I said.

“That’s not enough.  I will ask them to take a tray to your room, you can tell me all about your vision and anything else that we may need to know while we wait for it.  We need to make the most of the time we have.”

While we waited for our food, I told them everything I had seen, and everything Melchizedek had told me.  I knew that it wasn’t much, but I promised I would go into the fog again, and get more information.  My idea was to get into the fog as soon as the airplane took off, that way I would have something for them as soon as we landed.  The main thing was to get moving, Kimball was eager to leave while Ethan was uneasy about the whole situation.  He didn’t know his sisters, and I knew he had conflicting feelings about them, but he didn’t want them dead.

After eating, we starting packing our things.  I knew it wasn’t the right time for a trip, our enemies were planning an attack and I wasn’t completely recovered, and apparently Kimball was thinking the same.

“I think you should stay.  Melchizedek said that I was the one who needed to help Malkia, and you are in condition to be doing a trip like this.”

“And I think you need me to go with you, at least as support, it would be easier to get into Assassin’s territory with me by your side.”

“Not really, first of all, you are not completely recovered, and I don’t want you in a situation where you could be forced to fight and get hurt again, and second, I know you trust Dendro, but it only takes one of his men to call the Empire about you,” Kimball said, and I knew he was right, still I couldn’t stay and do nothing.

“Maybe I can stay out of the way, I only need to be close, and I could contact Dendro and let him know about you.”

“I would feel better knowing that you are safely behind,”  Kimball stopped working on his packing and moved in front of me.  “I don’t want to tell you what to do, if you really need to do this, all I can do is to ask you to stay out of the way, where you are safe.  You know what I’m capable of, and I will do all I can possibly do to save Malkia.  You can trust me, you can put her life in my hands and I will do my best not to let you down.  I love her as if she was mine, and you know that I would do anything for the people I love.”

“I trust you, I trusted you with Ethan’s life, and this is no different, but you have to understand, I left my daughters behind thinking I was doing what was best for them, but Greca was turned into a slave and almost died in that mine, and Dendro had to save Malkia, I wasn’t even there to help her.  And now is in trouble again and I can’t save her.  I failed them, my errors have hurt them, put them at risk.”

“You did what you thought was best, that’s all we can do.  I know that I had never been a fan of your decisions, because I would have loved to have them here with us, but I have to admit that that didn’t warranty that they would be fine.  Just look at Ethan, we have done our best, and still he had been forced into some bad situations.  There’s no way to know if things would have been better if they were with us, and there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

“Do you really think I should stay here?” I hated how weak my voice sounded, but one of my children was in danger, and knowing there was nothing I could do about it was pulling me apart.  Once again, I would have to stay behind and trust Kimball to save the day.

“I would feel better.  But maybe you could come with me to the Island, that way you would be closer, just in case.”

“I would like that,” he was making a compromise, and I would feel better going at least part of the way.

Time flew by, and soon everything was ready, I noticed that Mbali and Tau were part of the group that Kimball had selected, and that made me feel better about the whole thing, they would be able to help him with whatever he needed.

As soon as the plane was in the air, I went into trance.  I knew what I was looking for, and where to find it, I went directly for Malkia’s timeline and was glad to realize she wasn’t hurt yet, there was even a tiny chance she wouldn’t be poisoned, but looking at the different paths in front of her I realized that it was something that was going to happen sooner or later, because her problem was hormonal.  The attraction between Antrax and Malkia had grown stronger, and that made them throw caution to the air.  Antrax was poisonous, and he couldn’t be with her, but they both seemed to forget that fact.  I wanted to be angry at Antrax for putting her at risk, but it was clear that they both had their share of the blame.  It would have been easier to put the blame on him if it wasn’t for the way he cared about her, and the guilt that I saw in his face.

I saw the different scenarios playing, many paths had died after we had decided to help her, and I could see Kimball in all the futures.  I found the paths that looked longer, knowing that in those he had been able to save her, and started to look for clues of what could help bring those futures to reality.  I had to find just enough hints for him to make his own plan, I had to give him room to move, or it wouldn’t work.

By the time we arrived to the Island so they could take another plane, one easier to keep hidden from the Imperialists, I had enough information for Kimball to be able to save her.

“Everything is going to be ok, you have to trust me,” Kimball said before kissing me.  I could feel he was worried, but he also was confident he would be successful, and I did trust him.  Melchizedek was right, Kimball really was the right person for the job, and I knew he would do anything to save my daughter.

“I trust you, that’s not the issue.  Just be careful, your plan is very risky.  Now that you decided how to act, the paths had to have changed again, so I will go into the fog and look for more clues.  I will let you know about anything important.  I know that Ivy’s presence is going to complicate things,” my visions had shown me that we couldn’t let them know who Kimball really was, Ivy’s jealousy could put him and Malkia at risk, “but if I see that you are at risk at any moment, I will contact Dendro and find a way to help.”

“I expect nothing less from you,” he said, giving me another kiss, on the back of my hand.  “Everything is going to be ok,” he said again, but I wasn’t sure if the words were meant for me, or him.

I saw Kimball’s group getting into the plane, but I knew he was going to be by himself for most of the mission, he would get into enemy territory alone and would have to convince Dendro that he could help Malkia by himself.  I trusted that Dendro would do what was best, but I couldn’t help but worry.

The best thing I could do was to keep busy, so as soon as I had something to eat I went back into the fog.  I was wishing I could see Melchizedek, it was always better to have a guide, but even if he wasn’t there, I had a job to do, because no matter what, this was a mission we couldn’t fail.

Chapter 7

I was disoriented and my body was hurting when I woke up.  It took me a while to find my bearings, I couldn’t recognize the place I was at and my powers were blocked.  I was free, so I immediately activated the necklace so I could get my powers back, before starting to get the IV off of me, I wasn’t sure what they were giving me, but I knew that whatever it was it was affecting my mind.  I had no idea how I had ended in that place, but while I was trying to piece it together the door opened and a couple of nurses, followed by two guards, entered the room.  I immediately got into a defensive position, I couldn’t let them get to me, not while I was vulnerable.

“Kaiserin?  What are you doing?” a familiar voice asked.  I had been so focused on the nurses and guards that I didn’t notice Mbali as part of the group.

“Mbali?  What’s going on?”

“It’s alright Kaiserin, we are here to help you, you are hurt,” she explained.  I looked to the group and realized that the nurses had stopped moving, they looked uncertain, and a little afraid, then I realized the other two were part of my guard, and they were confused by my attitude.

“My powers…” I whined, my voice weak and a little afraid.

“You had a psychic headache, you were bleeding, so we had to put a suppressor on you to keep you from getting worse.  You do remember what happened, right?”

It took me a minute to remember, the memory of the impostor wearing Agmong’s face made me shiver, and then I remembered Kimball being hurt and I fell to the floor.  “Kimball, what happened to him?  Is he…?”

“My cousin is fine,” Mbali said, getting closer to me, while the others kept their distance, still unsure of how to act around me.  “Do you want to go see him?”

“Yes, please.”  I said immediately.

“I don’t know if it’s a good idea to move her,” one of the nurses said, “she needs to rest, her injuries are not healed yet.  We need to put the IV back before the pain returns.”

“I don’t want drugs,” I said, “they make me feel bad.”

“You will feel worse without them, the pain…”

“I don’t care!” I yelled, angry.  “I can deal with a little pain, I can’t deal with a clouded mind.”  I felt as if I was moving in slow motion, my thought were cloudy.

“Don’t worry, everything will be fine,” Mbali told them, going to where I was and helping me up.

“At least let us bring a wheelchair.”

“No…” I started to say.

“It’s not necessary,” Mbali interrupted, “I will help her.”

Yoweri and Rasmus hadn’t moved since they first entered the room, but I could feel their anger, the aura they were emitting was oppressive and I knew how much damage they were capable of.  I couldn’t help but move away from them, I knew they wouldn’t hurt me, they were supposed to keep me safe.

With Mbali’s help I got out of the room, and was met with a group of people, Ivan moved towards me as soon as he saw me, and I couldn’t help but take a step back to keep away from him.  I saw his surprise and confusion at my reaction, and I didn’t miss the look he gave Mbali, as if he was asking for an explanation.  Soriya also moved forward, but slower, her attitude less menacing.

“How are you feeling?” Soriya respectfully asked.

“My mind is cloudy, I can’t think straight,” I confessed.

“It’s normal with the medicine they were giving you.  We did all we could to help, but some injuries take time, no matter what we do, and your body must be depleted, tired and most likely hurting.  You shouldn’t be out of your bed, and you shouldn’t stop the medicine.”

“I don’t want the medicine!  I want a clear mind!” I said strongly, and then I flinched, convinced that something bad was going to happen after I spoke my mind, but at the same time telling myself that it was my right to do just that, wasn’t I supposed to be in charge?  “Mbali, I want to see Kimball,” I asked, thinking that once I was by his side everything would be fine.

The guards standing along the hallway moved to the side, giving us a wide berth so we could walk by.  The aura around them was oppressive, and it was hard for me to hide my fear.  Kimball’s room was very close, and we finally moved inside, Mbali closing the door behind us, and leaving the others outside.  I felt my chest constrict when I saw Kimball lying still on a bed, surrounded by cables and dressings covering most of his body.  I left Mbali’s support so I could go to Kimball.  He didn’t look like the Kimball I knew, he didn’t look strong and powerful as usual, he looked vulnerable.

“One of the bullets broke his collarbone, another got into his bloodstream and caused an obstruction.  The bullets that were stopped by his uniform managed to cause many bruises and broke a few ribs, one of them punctured his lung.  He had surgery and all of that was fixed, doctors are confident he will have a full recovery, but for the moment he is under anesthesia,” Mbali explained.  “I’ll leave you alone.”

I pulled a chair closer to the bed and sat next to Kimball, I put my forehead next to his hand.  The necklace chose that moment to disable the suppressor, and despite the lingering headache I decided not to activate the suppressor again, I was confident enough that I would be able to keep my powers under control, besides, having access to them made me feel better.

I fell asleep, and the next time I woke up I realized that I was lying on the bed next to Kimball, and he was caressing my hair, while he spoke with someone else.  I lifted my head and found that Ethan was standing next to the bed, on the other side of Kimball.

“How are you feeling?” my son asked when he realized I was awake.

“Better than the first time I woke up,” I sincerely said, my mind was clear and even if my whole body was aching, it wasn’t something I hadn’t felt before.  “And how are you?” I asked Kimball, moving away from him, scared of hurting him.

“Much better, I will be as good as new in a couple of days,” he said, with a smile that made me believe in his words.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “it was all my fault.  If I hadn’t ignored the warnings, the visions…  I never thought something like that was possible.  I was careless, and that put you both in danger,” I felt sick just thinking about Ethan and Kimball near death’s door.

“We are not the only ones that had been in danger,” Kimball said, taking my hand and stroking the skin just under the marks on my wrists from the chains.

“I promise I won’t let something like this happen again, I won’t be taken by surprise again,” I wasn’t sure how I would keep that promise, but I would, I wasn’t going to go through the same pain again.  But first I needed to find who else Faakhir had shared my past with, I knew I wouldn’t be alright until all of them were gone, I wouldn’t be able to keep my sanity if someone else used the same tricks as Faakhir and Temur had used against me.  “How long has it been?” I asked.  “Do people know what happened at the vineyard?  We can’t let our enemies attack while we are vulnerable,” I panicked for a moment just thinking about it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to defend myself or my family.

“Don’t worry about that,” Ethan said.  “The official version is that you were attacked and you killed all your adversaries, also that my father was hurt, but only because his injuries couldn’t be hidden.  The rest of the people that were captured with you reported that they woke up surrounded by dead bodies.  The tree of pain caused quite an impression.”

“So they don’t know that they defeated me, they don’t know that those men…” for a moment I had trouble separating the memories of the real Agmong with those from the impostor.

“You killed them Kaiserin, I wouldn’t count that as a defeat.  You like to remind me that you have gone through worse, so you can’t let this affect you.”

“It’s just that I don’t know what I would do if they decide to attack now.  I can’t stand to go through that again, and I can’s stand to see you hurt again.”

“I know what you mean, watching them hurting you was more painful than the shots they fired at me.”

“No one is going to let something like that to happen to you again,” Ethan said.  “You have an army just outside the door that would give their life for you.  I had to close my empathy just to get to here, the people outside are so angry that it was difficult to even breathe.  They feel bad that they weren’t there for you, that they didn’t have a chance to avenge you, I’m sure that if they could, they would bring those men back from death and kill them all over again.”

My mind no longer clouded, I was able to remember and analyze what had happened when I had gotten out of my room, the atmosphere had been heavy and they had been furious, but what I hadn’t realized was that that fury wasn’t directed at me, they had been angry that I had been hurt.  It was still hard for me to understand that they could be worried about me.  I had accepted that Kimball cared about me, just like I cared about him, but experience had taught me that most people would take advantage of my weakness, not feel protective about it.  I knew that Ethan was right, those people outside had come together for a common goal, but along the way I had earned their trust, respect and even their affection, I wasn’t blind, I knew some of them even loved me, and not the dangerous kind that wanted to hurt and possess, but the platonic, pure kind of love.

“It’s time to get back to work, I need to be prepared to avoid our enemies to surprise us again.  I’ll find the way to get ahead of them.”

“First, you need to recover.  I’m sure that Soriya and her team of healers are desperate to keep working on your injuries,” Kimball said.  “I asked for them to bring another bed so you can stay with me.  Why don’t you go look for Soriya?”  Kimball asked Ethan.  “I’m sure that even if your mother won’t admit it, she could use the help.”

“Of course, I’ll be right back,” Ethan said, running out of the room before I could say anything.

“Ethan shouldn’t have to see this, it can’t be easy for him to see both his parents hurt.  And I have to say, you look terrible, even with all the help you had to accelerate your recovery.”

“Now that my mind is clear and my powers under control, I don’t feel so bad,” I could still feel every mark on my bod, and I didn’t want to even imagine how my back looked, most of the damage was there, but I knew that wasn’t important, I had learned how to deal with pain a long time ago.  I hated the idea of looking at that kind of scars on the mirror, again, but I trusted that the doctors and healers would be able to help me to minimize them, even make them completely disappear.  “Right now I’m more worried about the people outside, I don’t know how I will be able to face them again.  Ethan is right about them caring about me, but they just saw me at my worst, how can I expect them to respect me after that?”

“You are the only one that thinks like that.  You see someone that have been bested by her enemies, you see yourself defeated, but they see a woman that got through something that would have broken most people and managed to kill her enemies.  You are letting your fear blind you from what’s in front of you.”

“I’m afraid that what happened will change their opinion of me, I’m afraid they won’t respect me anymore, that they won’t follow me or they will think they can control me.”

“How’s your headache?” Kimball asked, changing the topic so suddenly that I was confused at first.

“It’s not completely gone, it still hurts a little, but is manageable enough so I can use my powers.  For the moment is better if I don’t use them unless it’s an emergency, so I won’t make it worse again.”

“It’s not an emergency, but you should use a little of empathy or maybe a bit of telepathy to see what’s on the other side of the door.  Maybe once you can see for yourself that they don’t see you any different, at least now different as you expect, you will be more at ease.”

I knew that most of the problem were my own insecurities, awakened by the trauma I had just gone through.  I was trapped by my own fears, and I was afraid to listen to Kimball and find something I didn’t want.  Just as I was thinking about it the door opened and I saw most of my men outside the door, guarding my room, making sure I was safe.  I extended my senses, like Kimball had suggested, and couldn’t believe what I found, I expected pity, but found admiration, I expected disgust, but found respect.  I made a signal to Ivan so he would come closer, and I could feel how they all relaxed, as if that simple act proved that I was ok.

Ivan came into the room just behind Ethan, Soriya, and a couple of healers, behind Ivan were another couple of people pushing another hospital bed that they started setting just beside Kimball’s.  Soriya and her healers went to my side, but Ivan kept his distance, I could see weariness on his face, and my powers let me know that he was worried and doing his best not to make me uncomfortable.

“How are you feeling?”  Soriya asked me.

“I’m sore, but much better overall,” I said sincerely, but from her frown and the look she exchanged with the other healers, I guessed she didn’t believe me.

“We would like to take a look if that’s ok with you, we want to speed up the healing and try to get rid of the scars.  We would like to start with your back.”

“That’s ok,” I said.

I got out of bed and went to a stool that was there, knowing that it would give them better access to my injuries.  The gown I was using was tied at the back, so it would be easy for them to have access to my back.  Soriya was the one who untied it, and then she put her hands on my shoulder, I could feel how affected she was by the trembling in her hands.  Another hand touched the base of my neck and the other healer put his hands on my other shoulder.  As soon as they started working, I felt heat and tickling on my back, and I knew the healing process was going well.  I could see that Ivan was trying to avoid looking at me, and I saw his hands curled into fists.

“You can see it, don’t you?”  Ethan asked, he was sitting on the floor next to me, resting gently against my legs, but being careful not to hurt me.  ‘Watching you hurt is hurting him,‘ he said to my mind.  ‘We all worry about you, we all want you to be ok.’  I knew what he was talking about, I could feel how affected Soriya was, how angry Ivan was, and not at me, but at himself for not being able to spare me the hurt.

“Ivan,” I called him, and he looked at me for the first time, letting me see the guilt in his eyes, “I missed a lot, I need you to tell me what happened.  How is everyone?”  I had forgotten about Temur’s threats with all that had happened, but I suddenly remembered how he had said he would kill everyone who had helped me seize control of the Dominion.

“We lost many people in the initial attack, no one from our group,” he quickly assured me, “mostly soldiers that we had taken along for protection.  Franz was the one who was injured worst, but Soriya was there and was able to help him, there won’t be any permanent damage for him.”  I put my hand over Soriya’s in a silent thank you for her help, hoping she would understand the gesture.  “Our men, Franz, Lukas, Tatyana, Nasim, Soriya, Kebe and Yoweri were able to fight back and stop the rest of the mercenaries at the vineyard.  By the time they broke into the cellar you had already taken care of the enemies inside, and Temur was in one of your constructions, he didn’t survive long after their arrival.”

“He should have lasted longer, he didn’t suffer enough,” Kimball said, and I could tell that Ivan agreed with him.

“So there were no survivors from my attack.  What about the rest of the people there?”

“Well, the rest of us arrived as fast as we could.  Thalia and her group of telepaths worked on the other captives in the cellar, making sure none of them were involved with the attack, and as per Kimball’s instructions, making sure none of them remembered what had happened inside the room.  As far as we could find, none of them knew about the attack, and we managed to capture the rest of Temur’s people.  Thalia and Fatima were in charge of questioning the rest of the mercenaries, and they kept them alive and isolated, in case you wanted to conduct your own interrogation.”

“That’s perfect, you seem to have everything under control,” I made a signal to the healers and stood up.  “I will need at least another day of rest, but I want you to have everything ready for me to go meet with the mercenaries tomorrow, I want to see if I can find more information on Temur and his partners.”  I went and opened the door, letting Ivan know it was time for him to leave.  “I will need Fatima, we have a lot of work to do, we need to start working on getting ahead of our enemies, we can’t allow what happened at the vineyard, or the school, to happen again.”

“We won’t let them hurt you again,” Rasmus assured me from outside the door, he roared his promise.  The rest of the people outside let me know they agreed with the sentiment.  Almost all of the guards that had helped me take over the Dominion were outside the door.

“I’m ok, I swear, I’ll be just fine.  I’m grateful for your support and I assure you I will be as good as new in no time, and this will only be a bad memory.”

“I don’t think I will be able to forget what happened,” Yoweri said, falling to his knees in front of me.  “I failed you, I’m supposed to keep you safe and I couldn’t do it.  You have no idea how bad I feel about it.”

“I don’t blame you for what happened, so you don’t have to, either.  You did a great job staying alive and fighting back, getting help and stopping our enemies, you even got me out of that place.  What happened is already in the past, we only have to worry about the future and about making sure our enemies don’t take us by surprise again.”

I extended my senses, and was able to confirm yet again that Kimball’s and Ethan’s words were true, I could feel that the people there cared about me.  They were willing to risk their own lives for me, and yet, part of my mind couldn’t let me forget that I had met people like that before, and that hadn’t stopped them from betraying me.  I liked to know that I could trust those people, that they were willing to keep me safe, but I couldn’t forget that I had to stay alert, because people could change in a second.

I left my guards outside and went back to the room, to where my family was waiting for me, and the healers were ready to keep working.  For the time being my first priority was to recover, I could worry about everything else later.

Chapter 4

It took forever to get to the hospital, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to find once I got there.  I trusted Kimball to save our son, but part of me still felt afraid that something could have gone wrong.  I felt like I was failing them again, I felt like I should have used my powers to see the future and assess the risks, or even gone with them and used my powers to keep Ethan stable, but I haven’t, and all I could do was trust that Kimball would keep our son alive.

The psychic headache had finally arrived and I had a constant and painful ache that had forced me activate my suppressor, not because it took the pain away, but because it helped keep my powers from trying to make it worse.  The downside was that, even surrounded by loyal people, people I trusted, I was feeling insecure and fearful, scared that something could happen to me and I would be unable to fight it back.  After a battle like the one I had endured, I preferred to go and hide in a safe place to recover, but I couldn’t do that, I had different priorities, and the main one was Ethan, I had to make sure he was ok.

As soon as we arrived at the hospital, I noticed that something was going on in there, the tension was so strong that I could feel it, even without my powers.  I noticed some of my men there, even a few that I haven’t realized that had already left the school, but had obviously left before me.  I watched the hospital workers running around, looking with fear at my men and just the soldiers in the place.

“I think you still have a few patients waiting for you in that area,” Khalid told a young nurse when she tried to get to the area he was guarding.

“We usually attend people depending on how bad their injuries are, not by the order they arrive, and the men that just arrived…” she was trying to explain.

“Their injuries are not important, the scratches and bruises on the teachers and students are a bigger priority that the injuries of those who hurt them,” Khalid said, his cold voice making it clear he wasn’t going to discuss it, but the nurse was not ready to let it go.

“If those men are not treated right away, they could die because of their injuries,” the nurse said, trying to get around Khalid.  I had to recognize her bravery, she really cared about her patients an her job, no matter what kind of people her patients were, or maybe she just didn’t see those men as the bad guys.

“If your wish of saving the warriors that had no problem hurting innocents is keeping you from helping those innocents, maybe I should just get rid of them so you could focus on your job,” I said, getting closer to where they were talking.

“That won’t be necessary,” the nurse said, her voice betraying her fear.  “I will go back to the students.”

“Do you know where Ethan is?” I asked Khalid.  Trying to ignore the nurse that was getting away from us as fast as she could.

“I think he is in the OR,” he said, “but the one who knows is Mbali, I can take you to where she is,” Khalid offered, and I nodded my agreement.  As we walked away, I saw the nurse beside the door to the student’s room, and I knew she was going to try and get to the injured guards as soon as she had a chance, ignoring our warnings.

“Ivan gave me a list of the people you wanted to keep alive for interrogation, and they are already stabilized, a few other guards are still holding, but I assure you, none of them is going to be able to get away.  Our people is inside and around the hospital, keeping it safe and making sure no one can get in or out without our saying,” Khalid informed me.

“It doesn’t seem fair that while Ethan is fighting for his life, the people who helped put him there is ok,” I said, angry ant the unfairness of it all.

“Let’s be truly fair, and recognize that no one involved with hurting him is alive, the only ones still breathing are the ones you chose to keep alive, the rest didn’t even make it outside the auditorium.”

“That’s how it should be,” I said, without an ounce of remorse for my actions, just remembering Ethan in a pool of his own blood was enough to make my own blood boil.

We turned around a corner and found Mbali coming our way.

“I’m glad I found you, they were moved to a private room, and everything is supposed to be fine,” she said as soon as she realized it was me.

“They?” I asked.

“Kimball gave his blood to Ethan, and the doctors put him on bed rest until he recovers from it, it was a lot of blood.”

“He will be fine in a few minutes, I have witnessed him recovering from worse, I’m not worried,” I said, earning a look from Mbali that I couldn’t decipher.  Was she mad at me for not being worried about Kimball?  Or was she agreeing that he would be fine in no time?

“Here we are,” she said, pointing to a door.  I got in and the first thing I saw was Ethan in a middle of a bed.  I felt conflicted, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel relief that he was alive, or guilt that it had been my actions that had put him there in the first place.  I kept failing him.

“Kaiserin?  Is that you?”  Kimball asked from another bed, he sounded like he wasn’t sure I could be there.  Unlike Ethan, he was sitting on the bed, and looked well.  I knew there was nothing to worry about him.

“How are you?  I heard you gave your blood to Ethan?”

“He needed blood, and we couldn’t waste time.  I knew I was a match and I couldn’t risk anyone else giving him blood and him having a reaction to it.  Kaiserin, you did a good job,” he said, sincerely, and I couldn’t understand why he would say something like that.  “You know that my family’s regeneration can be a great aid or a curse, he could have started healing the wrong way, closing his vein shut, but because of your actions, because his blood kept flowing, the vein was already repairing itself as it should.  The surgery was a success, they repaired what was left of the damage easily.  With the help of the doctors and my blood, he will be just fine.”

I wasn’t sure that what I had done had helped that much, but he was already convinced that I had, and nothing I said would make him change his mind.  I just let the knowledge that Ethan was safe reach me and make me feel better.  I went to his side and took his hand between mine, he kept sleeping, and I knew he would stay asleep for a while longer, thanks to the anesthesia.

“There are a few of my men cleaning up the school, and Thalia is there to make sure that the guards that we post there are only loyal to us, so this won’t happen again,” I told Kimball.

“I’m sure everything will be fine.  We knew that after Faakhir’s death, something like this could happen, there’s many people interested in his position.  Things like this just happen,” Kimball said, and I knew he was just trying to ease my guilt, but knowing that something like this could happen, and still letting it happen made me feel even worse.

“I made a lot of mistakes, and those mistakes could have taken Ethan’s life.”

“You were doing your best, that’s all you can do.  You can’t blame yourself for what other people did.”

“I could have done a better job at preventing them.  I was sure I had it under control, I have no idea how I managed to let things get so out of hand.  I allowed Ethan to take unnecessary risks, you know that,” I was waiting for him to berate me, to recriminate me for my actions or lack of them.  It wouldn’t be the first time I had been accused of being a bad mother, and part of me wanted someone to tell me that and confirm what I was thinking.

“I think part of this was my fault,” Kimball surprised me by saying.  “I know what happened in there.  I think I pushed Ethan too far by denying him his freedom to fight, he acted like that because he was trying to prove himself, and I know that you supported him in that, that’s why you allowed him to act like that, to prove something to me.”

“And all I managed to do was put him at risk.  I know Ethan needs more freedom to act, and I know he’s strong and capable and maybe that’s why it was so difficult for us to see how much it was costing him to act like that.”

“You mean, how difficult it was for me to see it, you have already told me that Ethan needed more freedom, but once he found his friends I thought he would be ok.”

“I agreed that he needed to hide his abilities,” I didn’t like Kimball blaming himself, even if I agreed with part of what he was saying, “it was the role he had to play to stay safe.  When I took control of the Dominion, the last thing on my mind was how Ethan could stop pretending to be weak, it never occurred to me to change his role, he had to take control of his own life and change his role by himself.  Now, all we can do is see what is going to happen to him and how the new dynamics play out.”

“None of us thought about Ethan and how his circumstances had changed, we both failed him.”

“I feel guilty that he had to take things into his own hands.  I never wanted Ethan’s life to be like mine, I wanted things to be better, and I failed him, he has suffered just by being my child.”

“Ethan is eleven years old, same age as you when you had to fight and kill your way out of the Burrows, isn’t it?”

“Ethan was only five when Faakhir tried to use him against me, and eight when Jonas kidnapped and tortured him.  I should have done something to spare him, and I didn’t, I failed him.  Just like I failed him today.”

“What happened today couldn’t be avoided, but maybe it could be a good thing.  After what happened today, people will think twice before trying to hurt him to get to you.  Most of the guards died, and those who survived won’t talk again or will have other sequels from the fight for the rest of their lives.”

“How do you know all that if you stayed with Ethan?”

“Mbali kept me up to date, telling me what the reports were saying.”

“I’m scared that this is only the beginning, that there will be more attacks.  My men are working on preventing something like this from happening again, but I’m afraid it won’t be possible, like it wasn’t possible to prevent what happened today.  There are so many dangers, so many things that could go wrong.”

“Today was bad, but we will learn from our mistakes and won’t make them again, soon everything will be back in its place.  Before the year is over, we will bring Sophia back, with everything that implies.  There won’t be more fear or tyranny, we will be free, and happy.”

“I don’t think it will be that easy.  There’s a lot of work to do, a lot to rebuild.”

“It won’t be easy, I know, but we will make it.  It will be ok,” Kimball got out of the bed and took my hand, dragging me back with him.  “How’s your head?  You have the suppressor on, right?”

“The pain is under control.  You know it’s normal to have a headache after a fight like the one I had, but it will pass.”

“You should take the chance to rest for a while, I will wake you up as soon as Ethan does.”

“There’s still a lot to do,” I protested.

“Maybe, but you have capable people working for you, and you can spare a couple of hours to rest.  I can see that you are in pain, it’s not only the headache, your body also hurts.  So take a few minutes to rest, and give your body a chance to get better.”

“Just for a moment,” I accepted, but as always happened with Kimball, a sense of wellbeing surrounded me, making me feel so safe and relaxed that I fell asleep.

I woke up a few hours later, when Kimball got out of bed.  When I opened my eyes, I saw that Ethan was awake, and Kimball was with him.

“Are you in pain?” Kimball asked, and Ethan made a gesture, so, so.  “The damage was extensive, but you will be fine.  It’s one of the advantages of being a hybrid, right?”  Ethan tried to smile, but his face contorted in pain.  “Try not to talk or move too much, at least for today.  We had to put a suppressor on you, I wasn’t sure how much you had used your powers, but I was pretty sure that you abused your powers and didn’t want you to have a psychic headache making everything worse and working against your recovery.”

“With the way he fought the guards and everything else he did, I’m pretty sure he must be feeling a headache,” I told Kimball.  Ethan looked at me, as if he was just realizing I was in the room.  He tried to smile again, and he moved his lips, mouthing the words: Thank you for helping me.  “I should have done more…” I started to say, but Ethan was already shaking his head and hurting himself in the process.

“I think that Ethan doesn’t blame you for what happened, same as I don’t.  Now that Ethan is awake, I will start working on getting him moved to the Palace.  I will feel better if he is in a more controlled environment,” Kimball said.

“I think that’s a great idea.  I will go and walk around the hospital, I have to check on our prisoners.  I will catch up with you later.”

“That’s a good idea, is best if you are not seen with Ethan, that they don’t see your interest in him,” Kimball agreed.

“Ethan,” I said, getting closer to his bed, “I’m proud of you and what you did today.  I want you to know that you are a great warrior and I couldn’t ask more from you, you were perfect.”  Ethan threw his arms around my neck and hugged me, surprising me with his speed, I was expecting him to be too hurt to move like that, but I should have known better than to underestimate my son, he was strong, and he would recover from his injuries in no time.

Chapter 3

The vision I had that morning returned to me with incredible clarity, and I was afraid that if I didn’t act fast, Ethan would die.  I knew that his injury was bad enough to cause his death in a few minutes.

“It’s a pity you’re still on the other side of the barrier and can’t stop me,” the man mockingly said, as he finally let Ethan go and he fell on top of the machine.

I was moving before I realized what I was doing, all I cared was getting to the other side and the damage I could receive didn’t even bothered me.  I was already working on something to minimize the damage, when I noticed something missing, the low key buzz of the machine was gone, and realized that despite having his throat cut, Ethan had kept working on disabling the power blocker, and only once he had completed his task he took his hand off and moved them to try to stop the blood.

I jumped from the stage and as soon as my feet touched the floor, I let a strong energy wave loose, pushing the people standing up to the floor and getting doors and windows out of their hinges, creating several exit points.

“Get out of here!” I yelled to the hostages, I needed them gone or I would have trouble fighting without hurting them.  Luckily Ethan’s friends had been working on freeing the hostages and most of them were able to move to the exits.  A few were still tied up to their chairs, mostly the teachers that had been at the front, but Oliver and his brother were already working on them.  Most haven’t even noticed what had happened to Ethan, but after my order they were paying attention, and I could see Ethan’s friends looking for him with their eyes, it wouldn’t be long before they realized what had happened to him and things would only get more complicated.

“Queen Kaiserin,” the man who had attacked Ethan said, the bloody knife still in his hand, “good thinking, trying to get the hostages out, but I’m afraid I can’t allow it,” he said, just as doors and windows started moving back to their places, blocking the exits again and creating chaos at the back.  Some of the guards that Ethan had freed had moved to block the exists and were working on recapturing the hostages, while the others were working on getting the guards that Ethan’s friend had tied up, free, one of them had moved behind me and was trying to wake the ones I had attacked.

“You can’t tell me what to do, you are no one,” I said, while I used my powers to hold him and throw him to the ceiling, trying to harm him, but also trying to buy some time.  ‘Ethan, can you hear me?‘ I asked, using telepathy to communicate with him.  I was just a few steps away, and I wanted to run to him and take him into my arms, but I restrained myself, knowing that I needed a cold mind if I wanted to help him.

Mother…‘ I could hear his voice in my mind.

I need you to pay attention to me,‘ I said, bending over him and letting my hand rest over the hand he was using to try and stop the blood, ‘I know that you are afraid, but I need you to calm down‘, I explained, as I used my powers to connect with him and try to take control over the flow of his blood.  On many occasions I had used that trick to stop hemorrhages on myself, but I had never tried it on someone else, not that I had any options, I needed to make it work.  ‘Can you feel what I’m doing?  I need you to copy my actions, I need you to feel the blood flowing inside of you, and make it remember where it should go, you need to keep the blood inside your veins.’

I don’t know how,‘ Ethan said, but my power was making the blood flow like it was supposed to, and I could feel Ethan’s power around me, trying to replicate my actions, his Vlad heritage helping him copy my actions and learn.

You do know how, you just have to do the same thing I’m doing,‘ I opened my mind and senses to him, so he could understand better what I was doing, so it would be easier for him.

I felt Ethan’s power taking control, and could see that the hemorrhage had already stopped, but Ethan had already lost a lot of blood and I knew that he needed medical attention as soon as possible if he was to survive.  I had been so focused on Ethan that I didn’t notice what was going on around me, and the only warning I got that I was being attacked was the hit on my back.  There were still fire guns on play, I had missed one, but the bullet had hit me, and the only thing that had saved me was my cape, the shot had hurt, but haven’t penetrated, still, the hit had thrown me away from Ethan.  I got up as fast as I could, and faced my attacker, the same man that had almost killed Ethan.

“Worried about your son?  I knew your speech was nothing but words,” said the man that had pretended to be a captive.  “Faakhir had his faults, but he was right about moving all the kids of the Dominion more important people to the same place.  The parents of these kids are going to do exactly what I say as long as that keep their children safe.  For years I have been in charge of the security of this place, and even when you tried to take my job away, I was able to fool your people, I only convinced them that all I cared about was the safety of little brats and they believed me.  The truth is that I wanted access to them, so I can use them in this game.”

“You should have run away while you had your chance, not that it would have helped you much, but it would have bought you a little more time to live.  I hope you understand that you forfeited your life the moment you decided to go against me, I can’t have something like you opposing me and threatening my control over the Dominion,”  I said, trying to focus my attention on my enemy, even as I still had my connection to Ethan and was working on keeping his blood flowing.

“I thought it would be better to get rid of you once and for all.  I know you Kaiserin, I know your limits,” he lifted his gun, letting me see it, it was a design I didn’t know, one that I couldn’t connect to or disable.  “I got this gun specially for you, I’m sure this is a design you have never seen before,” he pointed the gun to me and I knew he was about to fire, so I used my mind to move the barrel up, diverting the bullet, but at the same time I was doing that, the floor under me moved, making me lose my footing, while another guard attacked me.  Since one of my mind was still connected to Ethan, and my focus had been on the gun, I was defenseless.

The new attack sent me back to the floor, but I was able to move in time to dodge a new bullet and another hit by my new opponent.  Another attack hit me, a mental one, going after my mind and breaking my concentration.

I’m ok mother,’ Ethan said to my mind, ‘I think I get it now, I can keep my blood flowing on my own, you don’t have to keep helping me, I can do it on my own, focus on your fight.‘  Ethan was right, I needed to focus on my fight, but I was afraid of what could happen to him if I let go.  ‘I will be fine, I promise,‘ he added, maybe feeling my worry and my fear.

I needed to trust him, or I would be in danger too, and I knew that I wouldn’t be of any use to Ethan if I got hurt too, the best I could do was to take care of them as fast as I could so that I could help Ethan.  I sent another expansion wave to stop my enemies and buy some time.  I returned the mental attack and saw one of the guards that Ethan had freed falling to the ground.  I took the knives Kimball had given me a few years before out of a pocket on my cape.  The knives were as sharp as a scalpel, and I knew they were going to be useful in the fight.

I remembered that only five guards had been tied up in front of the stage, I looked around and saw that one of them was helping Draco, while another was still trying to wake the guards that had taken me there, with the one I had taken out with my psychic attack, that left only two, because the guards that had fought Ethan and had been already freed again, were focused on trying to capture the hostages that Ethan’s friends had freed.

Connecting to my knives I prepared my attack.  They were familiar to me, like an extension of myself, and it was easy making the connection.  I looked at the number of enemies and prepared an equal number of knives, then I sent them after my enemies.  Most of them were distracted, but even those that had seen them coming were too slow to dodge them.  The knives went through their necks, cutting their jugulars and causing them to bleed.  The only one who was able to get out of my attack was the man that had attacked Ethan.

“You really take an eye for an eye seriously, don’t you?  I’m sure you would love to be able to do that to me.”

“I will,” I said, but no matter how fast I moved the knives, he was able to dodge it.  I added a few more knives, but I wasn’t able to touch him.

Draco was one of the few that had been only grazed by my attack, and even if he was panicked by the cut on his neck, the injury wasn’t lethal.  I knew that he wasn’t the mastermind behind the attack to the school, the man I was fighting was, but he was a key piece and I knew he would have information I would need, so I couldn’t let him get away.  With a little effort, I sent another wave out, taking the doors out of their hinges once again, but then using them to make a cage around Draco, to make sure he would stay in place until I could get to him.

My opponent was moving closer and closer to me, and his attitude showed that he wasn’t afraid of me, he really thought he would be able to win, and I didn’t trust that attitude, he was hiding something.  Before he could use his gun again, I used my mind to try and pluck it out of his hand, but he took advantage of my actions to move even closer to me.  I managed to lift my psychic wall in time to stop his attack, but I knew that having him so close to me was dangerous.  I saw him drop something around me, and I thought they were stunt grenades, and they kind of were.  With a movement he activated them, and energy arcs started to run between them.  My psychic wall was acting as an insulator, but I knew that the protection would stop as soon as my wall fell.

My enemy seemed to know me well, even if I couldn’t place him among Faakhir’s or Emily’s forces, but he still was missing a key element of my power.  He was trusting that once he activated his trap I would have to keep my wall up and would be unable to move, or would be forced to let it drop and would be hit by the electricity, what he didn’t know was that I had a double mind.  Letting one of my mind focus on maintaining the psychic wall up, I used the other to grab my enemy and pulled him to his own trap, using the energy to stop him.  Once he fell to the floor, I connected to the floor under me and used the carpet to wrap him up, so he wouldn’t be able to move, even if he regained consciousness.

The guards on the stage had escaped my knives attack, but they were stirring, and I knew there wouldn’t be long before they got back into the fight, so I went back to the stage, and putting my hands on the ground I connected to it and used the floor boards to trap them, so even if they came back, they wouldn’t be able to attack me, at least not immediately, and it would buy me the time I needed for my backup to arrive.  I saw that Yoweri was also starting to move, and I felt better knowing he would be ok.

The scene around me was pure chaos, the hostages were running, doing their best to escape, all but Ethan’s friends who were moving closer to him, I heard the blood curling scream escaping from Hye Ki’s throat when she saw Ethan lying on a pool of his own blood, and another one of his friends moved to the side so he could throw up, the image of Ethan too much for his sensibility.  The other were a little stronger, and were already moving to Ethan’s side to help him, but I needed to stop them, knowing that Ethan needed to focus on his blood flow, and couldn’t be distracted, and whatever help they wanted to give could distract him and affect him.  So I used my mind to move a section of the seats to their path, blocking them from getting closer.

“There’s nothing you can do for him,” I told them, “it would be best for you to leave.  I will take care of my son.”

For a moment I thought they wouldn’t obey me, but then Ethan managed to turn enough so he could face them, and let them know that it was ok for them to leave.

Some of the enemy guards had already passed out from blood loss, other were stumbling around, trying to get to the exits and look for help, but I knew they wouldn’t get far before my men or Kimball’s could stop them.

I went to Ethan’s side and noticed how pale he was, it was more evident because of the dark blood around him.  I felt sick, and even knowing that there was a good chance of him being ok, I couldn’t help but think that everything was my fault.

Stop worrying mother, I’m fine,‘ Ethan said, but as soon as his mind touched mine to deliver his message, I noticed some blood getting out of his wound and remembered that Ethan wasn’t like me, he had a double mind, but for him it was almost impossible to maintain two psychic tasks at the same time.

“Stop worrying about me and focus on yourself,” I scolded him, while I took notice of all the blood he had already lost.

“What happened here?” I head Kimball’s voice asking from behind me.  I looked over my shoulder and noticed that the scene before his eyes had frozen him.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, ‘don’t say anything Ethan, save your strength,’ I added to my son, knowing he would try to defend me.  “I tried to help as soon as I could, but he lost a lot of blood, his jugular is severed,” I got up and went to Kimball, touching him and getting him out of his trance, “he needs your help, you need to fix him.”

Kimball looked at me for a couple of second, and I wasn’t sure what I saw on his eyes, if he was blaming me too or not.  Kimball went to Ethan’s side and took him in his arms.  Without a word he stormed out of the place, I knew he was taking him to the hospital or somewhere where he could save our son.

There was nothing I could do for him, so I just stayed on the same place, waiting for the rest of my men to arrive so we could take care of the mess that the fight had left behind.

Chapter 2

I felt everyone’s eyes on me, the soldiers posted on the sides of the auditorium, the students, teachers and other hostages focused their eyes on me, waiting for my reaction.  None of them had their eyes on Ethan, none of them noticed his smile or saw him wink at me.  His attitude made me feel better, and gave me the calmness I needed to go ahead.

“Why would I do something so stupid?” I asked, trying to sound bored and at ease.  “If he got himself in this situation, that’s not my problem, he shouldn’t have let himself be captured in the first place.  For six years I had to be under Faakhir’s control, waiting, planning, preparing for the perfect opportunity to take control of the Dominion, and you expect me to throw away all my efforts?”

“I told you it wouldn’t work,” Ethan said, his smile was gone and he sounded defeated, when people looked at him they found a broken kid, one that didn’t want to fight anymore, and if it wasn’t for the memory of his smile, even I would have believed his act.  “You are just wasting your time.”

“No,” Draco denied, “I know you are heartless, but even people like you need an heir, someone to continue your work, to keep your legacy, and I don’t believe you are the kind of woman that would start again, you don’t have a spare, you need him.”

“Do you really think he is my heir?” I asked, forcing a mocking smile on my lips.

“He is your only child,” Draco replied.

“Malkia is my heir, Greca is my spare, Ethan is… he is only a disappointment.”  Ethan’s shoulders dropped, and he moved as if my words were a physical blow, anyone watching would believe he was hurt by my attitude, even I had to remind myself that Ethan knew I was lying, he knew how much I loved him and how proud I was of him.  “My daughters are true warriors, in the same situation they would have already killed all of you.”

“What are you talking about?” Draco said, my response was something he wasn’t expecting.  “Ethan is your only child,” he repeated, not as sure as before.

“I have two older sisters, but they live in the Dark Empire,” Ethan explained, his voice so full of resentment that I wondered if there was some truth behind them, or if he was still acting.  “They are these perfect, deadly warriors that don’t think twice before killing their enemies in cold blood.  They are perfect copies of my mother.”

“But, you still wouldn’t let your son die without doing something about it,” Dracon insisted.

“Of course I wouldn’t, there will be consequences if you kill him, but I won’t lose what I have worked so hard for because of him, I will make you pay for hurting or killing him do.  And you are forgetting the other half of the equation, Kimball won’t let you hurt his son without paying dearly for that, believe me, you don’t want to know what happened to the people who murdered his first family, you would have nightmares for the rest of your life.  I prefer an eye for an eye, you take something from me, I take something from you.”

“I don’t have kids, so it would be a little difficult for you to do that,” Draco mocked.

“I could just take your lover, and your unborn child,” I threatened.  As soon as I spoke, the woman next to me took a step back and moved her hands to her belly, as if that act could protect her child.  Draco also lowered his gun, staring at the woman, confirming not only the woman’s pregnancy, but my guess that he didn’t know about it.

“Brave words, but do you really think I would let you hurt me?” the woman asked.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

“Enough!”  Draco ordered.  “You are not in a position to make threats, we have the upper hand here, we are more than you and you don’t have your powers to help you.  Besides, there are other ways of getting what we want, if you don’t care about your son, and won’t negotiate with us, then there is no reason to keep you alive.”

The woman pointed her gun at me, again, and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened, I had already taken care of the guns, disabling them as soon as I got my powers back.  I could feel the fear and desperation in the woman, as she pulled the trigger again and again without luck.

“Don’t stand there, shoot her!” the woman yelled at the guards, and they tried, but they soon found that their weapons weren’t working either, but they didn’t let that stop them, they attacked.  I could feel one of them probing my mind, trying to get inside, while others was already charging in my direction.

Using my powers, I pushed the guards towards the invisible wall dividing us and the rest of the auditorium, as the guards hit it, a strong electrical current rendered all of them, but one, unconscious.  They bounced back into the stage, the invisible wall, unfurtainly, still working.  The woman tried to run away, but I used the heavy curtains to trap her, wrapping it around her until she couldn’t move anymore, covering everything, even her mouth, but letting enough space so she could breathe.  After approaching the last standing soldier and knocking him out, I went back to where the woman was, putting my foot on her neck.

“How does it feel to know you are your enemy’s mercy?”  I asked, throwing her own words back at her.

“Stop!” Draco yelled, I’m sure he wanted the word to sound like an order, but it ended up sounding like a pleading.

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt her unless you give me a reason to.  You can surrender right now, and I will show you mercy, maybe, but the longer it takes you to surrender, the worse it will be for you and your men.”

“Your powers, they were supposed to be suppressed, you shouldn’t be able to fight back,” Draco accused.

“Even without my powers I’m perfectly capable of squashing leeches like you, but unfortunately for you, this suppressor is too weak to contain me for long.”  I took the suppressor out of my neck and broke it, letting the pieces fall at my feet,   There is no way for you to win this battle, you can’t defeat me, you lost the moment you decided to face me, no one can stop me, my power goes beyond what your puny imagination can come up with.”

“You are still on the other side, there’s no way you can hurt me,” he was clearly losing control, I could hear the fear in his voice as he realized that the predator had become the prey.

“Do you really think something like that will stop me?”

“I warned you,” Ethan said, “you can’t stop her.  And it wouldn’t be the first time she crosses one of those blockers.”

“Don’t be a fool, you saw what happened to my guards.”

“They’re weak,” Ethan said.  “I had seen her crossing barriers like that, she may end up twitching a little and she may even be rendered immobile for a few seconds, but her mind will still be strong enough to take care of you and your people.”

“It’s not an experience I care to repeat, it’s not a pleasant feeling, but my son is right, it wouldn’t be the first time, you are not safe.”

“If you try anything, I will kill your son and then every student on this side, before you have the chance to cross to this side,” Draco threatened.

“And we’re back to the beginning, I thought we had already established that threats don’t work on me.  If I’m not willing to compromise for my son, what makes you think I will for other people’s children?”

I could see Draco losing control, his guards, still posted on the sides of the auditorium, were also getting nervous, not sure if my words were true or empty threats.  I knew that I had to so something fast before things got out of control, but I wasn’t sure what.  I knew that Ethan was safe, he was acting as if everything was ok, so I had to trust him, but I couldn’t get out of my head the vision that had guided me to that place.  I had to act, do something, and no matter how much I dreaded crossing the barrier and getting electrocuted, I had no choices, I needed to get to the other side and face Draco and his people before they had the chance to hurt the students.

“You should surrender, this will not end well for you,” Ethan suggested.

“Shut up,” Draco ordered, emphasizing his order with a hit to Ethan’s head, using his gun’s butt, but he only hit Ethan’s barrier.

“Ouch,” Ethan said, his response exaggerated, he moved his head in response to the hit, but his action was delayed, making it clear it was an act, and the hit hadn’t hurt him at all.

“What the hell…?”  Draco was losing his mind, he couldn’t understand what was going on, and for the first time he paid attention to Ethan and noticed that he wasn’t actually touching him, his hand was resting an inch above Ethan’s shoulder.  “What is this?  You have no powers, you can’t be doing this,”  he accused.  “I’ve heard your mother going on and on about what a disappointment you are, there’s no way you can do this.”

“Don’t worry, you’re not the only one to get it wrong, most people assume that my mother means that I’m weak or powerless, but actually, I have almost the same powers that my mother has,” Ethan explained, his posture and attitude changing once again, he was acting sure of himself, a little haughty, a little cocky.

“Ethan is my son, there’s no way he can be weak, he comes from a great heritage, that’s what makes his attitude so disappointing,” I said, hoping I was reading Ethan’s intentions correctly, and willing to follow his lead and see where he was going.  “What I can’t stand is that he has the power to kill all of you, and yet he chooses not to, I hate that he refuses to use his power.  It’s disappointing that he has so much potential that he refuses to explore, he could be the deadliest warrior in the Dominion and yet he refuses to train.  Ethan could be a monster, but he refuses to come under my wing and train by my side.”

“My father forbade me to fight, not because I couldn’t fight or didn’t know how to, but because I’m so strong he was afraid I would kill someone, like it almost happened a few years ago.  I used to train with my mother, along with some of her guards, but after I almost killed my cousins by accident, my father took me away from my mother and told me not to use my powers against those weaker than me, under any circumstances.  My mother doesn’t like that.”

“You’re lying,” Draco said, “if that was true, you wouldn’t have let us capture you.”

“I don’t care if you believe me or not, I just wanted to warn you that your plan is not going to work, not only because my mother doesn’t care what happens to me, but because you can’t hurt me.  The only thing stopping me from taking action is that I have to follow my father’s rules, rules that I don’t care about anymore, I think I’m capable of controlling my powers and myself quite well, I’m capable of making my own decisions and knowing when and how to use my powers.”  I wasn’t sure what was Ethan’s plan, but I could see he already had a plan in place.

“If you want control, all you have to do is agree to come back to me, and train under me, following my rules,” I offered, trying to open more options for him, wanting to know where he was heading with his words.

“I’m sorry mother, but I don’t want to go back to training with you, you are too much for me.  Even if I complain about my father’s rules, yours are not better, I know what you want of me, and I don’t want to have to kill anyone, but, I think we can reach an agreement.  If you help me with my father and make him agree not to enforce his rules, I will help you get rid of the power blocker, so you can move to this side without problem,” I finally understood what Ethan wanted to do, and I had to recognize it was a good plan, he was playing a good game.  He was making a public declaration, showing his powers, but at the same time he was putting distance between him and both his parents, that distance should be enough to keep him protected from my enemies, but also from his father’s enemies, by rejecting his rules and apparently his protection.  I knew that he also had other motives, he had been asking his father to loosen up his rules for a while, but Kimball was still afraid of what could happen if Ethan lost control of his powers, like what had happened with his cousins, but those rules had made him a victim of his schoolmates.  Even if none of them had been able to hurt him physically, the psychological damage was still there, taking its toll.  When I thought about everything Ethan had considered and how he had acted, I couldn’t help but smile pridely at him.

“You know?  Maybe there’s still hope for you, but you must know that every action has consequences.  I can keep your father off your back about using your powers, but he will be mad, and he won’t be there to help you anymore, and as long as you don’t agree to train with me, I won’t be there to help you with anything else.  You will be without our protection.”

“My father won’t let you hurt me, no matter how mad or disappointed he is at me,” Ethan answered, following my lead.  “And I don’t think he would hurt me either,” he added, adding just the right amount of doubt to his tone.

“If you are willing to take the risk, then we have a deal.  You will take care of them, and neutralize the blocker, and I will make sure your father doesn’t enforce his rules about not using your powers.”

“Enough!” Draco finally said.  “If you think I will let an eleven year old brat to scare me, you are mistaken.

“Are you sure of that?” Ethan asked, looking at Draco over his shoulder.  Draco let him go immediately, as he scrambled away from him, while trying to shoot him.  The gun wasn’t working either, and Draco threw it at Ethan, looking for any way of hurting him he could find.

“Fear?  Wouldn’t terror be better?” I asked, pointing out the fact that Ethan had used his empathy against Draco, in case someone hadn’t made the connection yet.

“Terror can lead to a heart attack, and I think I already said I don’t want to kill anyone,” Ethan pointed the gun to Draco, taking a shooting stance.  “Tell your men to disable to blocker.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, the gun isn’t working, kid,” Draco answered, mockingly, forgetting the fear he had felt just a few seconds before.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Ethan said, shooting Draco in the leg.  His screams echoed in the auditorium, and soon the screams of a few others joined him, some because of fear, most because of surprise.  “Now, I don’t need to kill you to convince you that it would be in your best interest to do what I ask of you.”

“Guards!  Stop him!”  Draco yelled, and the guards, that had kept calm until that moment, moved to attack.

Ethan was standing in the center of the auditorium, one foot slightly back, one arm extended and the other supporting it, both eyes on the target.  He started shooting, hitting the guards on the knees when he could, on the shoulders when not, careful that his shots wouldn’t accidentally the other hostages, knowing the price of mistakes after his experience with his cousins.  Each shot was precise and on target, but one of the guards was too fast for Ethan and was able to reach him, and hit his hands, sending the gun sailing through the air.

Despite Ethan’s words, we still trained together once in a while, and he definitely trained with his father all the time, so despite the fact that the guard was taller, heavier and older than Ethan, he was able to fight at his same level, blocking and attacking, using his size and weight against him.  Another guard had managed to reach them while they were fighting, and tried to take Ethan by surprise, but he already knew he was there, and using his mind he pushed the first guard against the new one, sending them tumbling down the stairs that were behind them.  By then, another guard, one he had shot on the shoulder had already recovered and tried to attack Ethan, but he anticipated the attack and moved out of his range, when his new opponent tried to reach him again, Ethan froze for a second, but then, another guard, one that had been hit on his leg, started screaming, and I knew he had tried to attack Ethan’s mind, only to find the mzansier’s poisonous mind.  Ethan recovered just in time to avoid a punch to the face, but he took advantage of the closeness to use of his father’s techniques and with a perfectly placed hit, and aided with his powers, he knocked him down.

The fight had taken no more than a couple of minutes, but it was perfectly obvious who had the advantage.  Draco had dragged himself away from Ethan, and then he had managed to take one of the hostages as shield.

“If you don’t stop right now, I will kill your classmate,” Draco threatened, putting a knife to the student’s neck.

“If you want me to cooperate, you should have chosen a guy that hadn’t spent the last few years making my life a living hell.  Do you think I care what happens to him?”  To drive his point home, Ethan recovered his gun and pointed it to Draco, not bothering to even acknowledge the fact he was using a kid as human shield, and pulling the trigger.

The echo of the shot was loud, even as the hostages screamed.  Ethan had shot Draco on the arm that was holding the knife, forcing him to drop it without hurting the student, but the scared student didn’t know about Ethan’s plans and he had pissed himself out of fear, as the stain rapidly growing on the front of his pants showed.

His humiliation was short lived, at least, for everyone turned their attention elsewhere soon after the shot.  While Ethan had been focused on Draco, another guard had grabbed Oliver, one of Ethan’s friends.

“Game over, kid,” the guard said, “stop right now or your friend will suffer the consequences.”  The guard had one of his arms around the kid’s neck, cutting his air, Oliver was red and already starting to suffer from the lack of oxygen.  Oliver was a strong boy, but the guard was stronger, and older.  The fact that Oliver’s hands were tied up only made things more difficult for him and limited his options.

I started to clap, cutting the tension and grabbing their attention.  “Well done,” I told him, “if there’s something that could send Ethan over the edge and get me what I want, is threatening his friends,” the guard, and most of the people returned their attention to Ethan, his demeanor had changed once again, like I knew it would.  I could see he was about to lose control, and I also knew he would regret it if he killed the guy, so I needed to break him out of his rage and force him to see the consequences of his actions before he could do something he would regret.  “You have no options Ethan,” I told him, “it’s him or your friend.  What are you going to do?  You have a clear shot to his head, you will have to shoot him and kill him, or your friend will die.  Do it, or you will regret it.”

Ethan didn’t answer, but he turned to look at me and I could tell he had heard me and knew what I wasn’t saying, he knew he had options, and I could see when he made his mind, soon after that the guard’s arms started moving on their own.  Ethan was using his powers to take control of the guard and free Oliver.  As soon as he had a chance, Oliver got away from the guard, and once he was out of his reach, Ethan let the guard go, but turned his attention and powers to the guard’s neck, the guy was scratching at his neck, trying to loosen up something that wasn’t even there, his face turning the same shade of red Oliver had only moments before.

“Ethan, I’m ok,” Oliver said, and that broke the trance Ethan seemed to be in.  He let the guard fall, and he started dragging air back into his lungs.  Oliver’s bindings fell to the floor, and he took the opportunity to go to the guard and take something from him, he then used his own Taser on him, putting him out of combat.

“It would have been easier…” I started to say.

“Shut up!”  Ethan yelled at me, holding his head with his hands and shaking a little, I could tell he had abused his powers and was fighting the early stages of a psychic headache.

“That’s no way of talking to your Queen,” I said, trying to sound menacing, “if you think I won’t make you pay for that insolence, you are mistaken young man.”

“Are you ok?” Oliver asked, going to Ethan’s side and offering him support.

“I think I went too far,” Ethan said, taking a look around and making sure there were no more threats.

“Now, you have to turn the blocker off, and I will take care of the rest,” I said to Ethan, trying to make my words sound like a threat.

“Hold on a minute,” he said, turning his back to me and going to where the rest of his friends were, and then he proceeded to untie them.

“Ethan…” I said, my voice a warning, “stop wasting time.”

“Hold on a minute,” he repeated, dismissing my warning, but I didn’t really care about his attitude.

“How are things going on outside?” I asked, noticing that Yoweri had arrived.

“We took care of the soldiers that were holding us, and General Kimball arrived with another squad, they are sweeping the installations, taking care of the rest of the enemy.  The General is looking for his son, but we had no idea where he was.”

“It would have been perfect if he had arrived here five minutes ago,” I said, turning my attention back to Ethan and watching him freeing the guards that were in the front of the auditorium.

“Ethan, what are you doing?  I told you to stop wasting your time.”

“You managed to recruit the young boss?”  Yoweri asked.

“Not exactly, but soon,” I said.

I turned my back to Ethan, I needed to question Yoweri about what was happening outside, and I needed it to use telepathy so no one else could listen into our conversation.

How are things going on outside?‘ I asked again telepathically.

The enemy had explosive devices outside the gym, and a few snipers posted on the roof of half the buildings, but Kimball’s group took care of them,’ Yoweri thought, allowing me to read his mind.

I was focused on Yoweri, but he was focusing on something going on behind me, his face let me know that something was going on behind me, something bad.  My fears were confirmed when Yoweri ran around me and headed to where Ethan was.  I turned in time to see Yoweri hit the invisible barrier and fall to the floor, but it was the scene that presented itself once Yoweri fell that froze my blood.

On the other side, one of the guards that had just been released was holding Ethan by the hair, his other hand holding a blade to Ethan’s neck, even as he had his hands over the power blocker, using his technopathy to disable it, his defenses down because of the use of his powers.  In slow motion, I watched as the guard cut Ethan’s throat, his blood flowing out in an arc, splattering the space in front of him.  I realized that my actions so far hadn’t avoided the fate I had seen in my vision, but helped it become a reality.