Chapter 52

It was a long day, followed by an even longer night.  I hadn’t been able to sleep, in part because I was afraid that as soon as lowered my guard and fell asleep, the nightmares would attack, after everything I had gone through during the day, I knew I couldn’t let myself vulnerable to my own mind.  But I also stayed awake because there was a lot of work to be done, I needed to supervise all the activities that my men were doing all around the Dominion.  The army, working under my command, thanks to a few well positioned contacts, was in control of all the important government locations around the Dominion, and in some parts, they had also taken some of the most important streets, making sure there were no one able to protest or fight me.  The rebellions we had contacted during the last years had agreed to stay quiet, and let us take control, they would only act if we did something to affect their people of if the situation got out of control.  So far, people had been either too surprised or too afraid to do anything against me.

I had an important meeting early next morning.  I had chosen that time to give the other two time to rest, but as soon as I saw Fatima and then Sofia through the video conference, I knew neither of them had been able to sleep.

“Good morning Sofia,” I greeted the old Queen, once we established communication with Aquarium.  Without Emily and Faakhir we had felt comfortable enough to relax some of the security protocols around Aquarium, and Kimball had agreed to open all communications between us.

“Good morning Kaiserin, it’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you again,” Sofia said, but I couldn’t be sure if she was as sincere as she seemed.  It was the first chance I had to directly talk to her since I had killed her daughter.  I had been able to send her a message telling her what had happened and asking her to have a meeting with me, but I haven’t been able to explain.

“I’m so sorry about everything, I know this is not how things were supposed to happen,” I sincerely told her, “I feel guilty for not being able to keep my promise, you were supposed to be with me when I faced Emily, and I couldn’t wait for you, I had to act before you were able to arrive.”

“Don’t worry Kaiserin, I understand.  I know you wouldn’t have done it if there was another way.  A part of me regrets not having a last chance to talk to my daughter and try to make her understand, to change her mind, but another part of me knows just how pointless it would have been, and that maybe it was better this way.  I even prefer it, maybe I’m being a coward, but I’m glad my daughter didn’t have another chance to hurt me like she did so many times before.”

“Even so, I’m sorry for your loss, I know this is not how you wanted it to end.  I would like to tell you that you lost your daughter to Faakhir’s manipulations, and that it was his mind control that changed her, but I know that you wouldn’t believe me.  He did give help her become the woman she was, but it was something that would have happened with or without him.”

“I know that, and that’s why I don’t want you to feel guilty about what happened.  I always knew she would end like this, no matter how much I wished for a different ending,” she said, and I felt a weight I didn’t realize I was carrying, lifting from my shoulders.

“Now that we cleared things up, I think it’s time to discuss our next steps.”  I still was having trouble with the fog of the future, that’s why I needed them.  I did my best not to let them know how worried I was, but I knew that if anyone would be able to help, it was them.  They were both experienced Seeress, and they had proper training behind them.  “First of all, I need to confess that the reason I was taken by surprise by Emily and Faakhir was that my powers are not working properly, I haven’t been able to read the future in a while.  The last few times I even tried the paths were changing so fast that I couldn’t see a thing, and it was almost impossible to move in there.”

“We are approaching a critical moment in our history.  It’s not the first time something like this happens, every time the world is reaching a turning point, the future becomes hard to read.  Right now you can’t go into the fog alone, you need a guide or a helper if you want any chance of walking the paths,” Sofia explained.  Her words reminded me of another time I had been unable to read the future on my own, only that time I had assumed it was because I was inexperienced, and since Melchizedek had been there for me, I hadn’t realized the two situations were the same.

“I can still see the near future,” Fatima said, “but it’s not as clear as usual.  I think that for now, we should just let Kaiserin to keep going, to take over the Dominion and act as always.  I think we should keep Sofia and William out of the spotlight for a little longer.  They are safe, as long as they stay in Aquarium.  Once Kaiserin takes control, officially, a lot of things can go wrong, it’s better if we keep best cards hidden.

Fatima’s words made sense, I knew we still had a lot of enemies hidden in the shadows, and it was the perfect chance to bring them out in the open.  It was in our best interest to keep their targets contained, so when they decided to attack, their focus would be on me.  It would be also good to not let them know just how many allies I really had.

“I agree with Fatima,” Sofia said.  “I think that for the moment we should wait.  I know I’m asking too much of you, but if you could keep pretending to be that person, and take over my daughter’s position, I would be grateful.  I hope you can start working on healing all the damage Emily did, I know you are the only one who can do it.”

“I will do my best to keep things in order, and to get rid of our enemies, but remember, the plan has always been for you to take back the power, you are supposed to be the savior, not me.  Sooner or later you and William will have to take back your rightful positions.”

“Kaiserin, you were born to rule, just like me, maybe even more.  Your place is at the top, you are supposed to rule, either the Empire, or the Dominion, and you are here right now.”

We kept talking for a while, we still had some things to define, actions that would have to be taken the next days, but there was something very important that I had to do that day, and soon the time to officially take control of the Dominion was approaching.

My meeting with the Representatives and Ambassadors was approaching fast, I had to see them at noon, that meant that I didn’t have much time to prepare before I had to face them.  I didn’t want to go to war with any of them, and I hoped that all of them would recognize me.  I knew that their words that day wouldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t fight me in the future, but it would give me time to try and fix things before they had the chance to attack.

Before facing them, there was something else I had to do.  I called Connor, the guard in charge of the school.  I had been able to communicate with Ethan using my powers, so I knew he was ok, but I needed to know how the rest of the kids were before I spoke to their parents.

“Connor, report.” I asked, as soon as he answered my call.

“Some of the parents of the kids tried to get them out of the school yesterday, but as you asked me, I made sure no one left the building.”

“Good job.  How are the kids?” I asked, I needed to know if the situation had affected them and how.

“All of them are ok, some of them are scared and most of them are worried, but in good health.  Most of them are familiar with the hostage procedure and know what is expected of them.  They are more worried about their parents than their own well being.”

“That’s the problem with war kids, they lose their innocence too soon, and learn to face the cruel side of life,” Kimball said, I hadn’t noticed he was there and that he was listening to my call, but I was glad to have him there, I always appreciated his support.  “Those kids are smart enough to know that if they are being held it’s because something is required of their parents, and they are being used as to force their parents to do something they don’t want to do, and they feel guilty because of that.”

“It’s a necessary evil,” I said, “if we can convince their parents of accepting me as the new leader of the Dominion and swear their loyalty to me, we will be saving a lot of lives that would be lost in a war.  They all think I’m a monster, a demon incapable of showing mercy.  They think I could kill their kids without a second thought about it, and that will help me keep control, at least for now.  Soon their parents will recognize me, and then we will be able to let the kids go back to their lives.  In the meantime, I trust you to keep them under control, Connor.”

“I won’t fail you, you have nothing to worry about,” Connor said.  “I will be waiting your new orders.”

I left the room, and Kimball followed me as I made my way to the Congress.  Once we arrived at the public part of the palace, Kimball moved away from me so he could pretend that we were enemies and that he didn’t want to be by my side.  I knew that it was just part of the act and that it was in our best interest to pretend we weren’t in good terms.  The idea behind the act was that Kimball could become the bridge between me and the rest of the Dominion, a friendly face they could trust.

I took the same path I had taken the previous day, and I arrived at the same place where I had faced Emily, and was glad to see that it was full, it looked like they were all there.  In a monitor I could see the faces of some of the leaders of different countries around the Dominion.  For the next few hours I heard the Representatives and Leaders of the different countries pledge their loyalty to me and my new government.  They were all there, and I was glad to see that things were going according to plan.

I was reminded of previous occasions when I had been in the same or similar situation, it reminded me especially for the day I had taken my place as Empress of the Dark Empire.  That had been a day that had filled me with pride and satisfaction.  Having the Dominion under my command didn’t feel as good as that, for some reason I didn’t feel as happy.  I was glad I had been able to do my part, and I couldn’t deny that I was glad to be back at the top, but I felt like I still had a long way to go.

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Chapter 50

As soon as Yoweri left, I went to take a quick shower, I knew it wouldn’t erase the memory of their hands on me, no one but Kimball could help with that, he was the only one capable of replacing bad memories with good ones, but until I could go to him, a shower would have to be enough.

When I went back to the room where Faakhir was, I felt the group coming my way, I wasn’t worried about it, I could feel their minds and I recognized Mbali’s among them, what surprised me was the anger I felt from her when she entered the room, I didn’t understand why she could be mad.  I turned my attention to the rest of the group and I saw they were just a few of my men, I quickly realized that they had decided to arrive in small groups, so they could move without attracting attention.

“Are you alright?” Mbali asked, but I knew she didn’t really care about the answer.  ¿What happened here?  How did you manage to kill all of these people?  Forget the how, why?  Months of planning gone down the drain because you couldn’t control your temper,” she said, angry at me as if my actions had actually hurt her.

“Why?  Because he found out I wasn’t under his control, and he found some memories that I didn’t want him to see.  He was angry and wanted to make me pay for lying to him.”

“And you thought only about yourself and your anger ant attacked him without thinking of the consequences,” she accused.

“I attacked him because he gave me no other choice, he went inside my mind and he wanted to find what else I was hiding from him, all he knew about was that I was faking being under his control, but if he had found out about the rest of my plans, no one would be safe, not our allies or our cause.”

“Don’t pretend, you are too strong for that, if you really wanted to, you could have kept that information from him, just like you have been doing for the last few years,” she said, she was clearly angry but I couldn’t understand why, and by the reaction of the others with her, I wasn’t the only one surprised by her attack.

“I’m sorry Mbali, but I my loyalty to the cause is not so big that I would allow him to bring Sklave back and abuse me just so others wouldn’t be inconvenienced,” I said, taking the clothes out of her arms and marching to the bathroom where I could dress without them watching me.

“What does Sklave has to do with this?” Mbali asked.

“Faakhir found out about Sklave, and liked what he saw, so he decided to bring her back.”

“Who’s Sklave?” Ivan asked.  Mbali and I had been using one of the least known languages of Mzansi, but Ivan knew enough to understand what we were talking about.

“She is my worst nightmare, and someone I don’t want to have to deal ever again,” I said, switching back to the common language used in Capital City, so everyone could understand.

“Are you ok?” Soriya asked once I got out of the bathroom, fully clothed and feeling so much better for it.

“Yes, I am.  Faakhir focused on attacking me mentally, and as you can see, I was able to fight back just fine.”

“You did all of this alone?” Onyesha asked.  “It seems impossible for a single person to do this much damage,” she said, moving closer to where the bodies of the guards were and examining the wounds.

“You do amazing things at desperate moments,” I said.  I haven’t been easy, but she was right, stoping that particular group of elite warriors wasn’t something easy to do, and all I could think was that the energy I had stolen had helped me, that and the fear and adrenaline running through my body, there was no other explanation of how I had managed that particular feat.

While they were trying to understand how I had managed to do the impossible, and Mbali was trying to control her anger, a new group arrived, their focus turning immediately to Faakhir, who had passed out while we were talking.  Some of them looked horrified, but others enjoyed what they were seeing.

“Is he dead?” Gina asked.

“No, not yet, but the pain must have been more than he could deal with, so he passed out,” I said.  Gina nodded and then crossed the room, she took a water pitch and proceeded to throw the water to Faakhir, waking him up.  A sound that must have been a scream, but sounded weird thanks to the branch in his neck, filled the room, his body started shaking, until he could control it enough to stop it, doing his best to minimize the pain he was feeling.

“What are you doing?” Mbali asked.  “Do you have any idea of how much he is suffering right now in that thing?”

“No,” Gina said, “but I’m sure he is in a lot of pain, and that’s the least that monster deserves, so the least he can do is suffer every second of it.  People like him don’t deserve an easy or calm death.”

Mbali was getting out of control, but I finally understood what her problem was, when she saw the tree of pain, it wasn’t Faakhir who she saw there, it was her cousin.  Kimball had almost died in one of those, and it was clear that it still bothered her.

“I get it, you see the tree and it reminds you of your cousin, but look at it, it’s Faakhir who’s there, and he deserves every bit of pain he is feeling.  And don’t you dare fight with Gina about this, if someone deserves to see him suffer is her, she deserves this after everything he did to her.” Mbali didn’t say anything more, she was quiet, thinking about what I said.

“I think that if someone deserves a death like that, it’s Faakhir.  After all the pain he inflicted, I think he is actually having it easy,” Konstantinos said.  “You can’t judge others if you never experienced the horrors of being under his control, we can’t just ignore all the damage he caused.”

Mbali was speechless, because she knew they were right.  Some of Faakhir’s guards were with him because they wanted, but if Faakhir really wanted someone, he didn’t give a choice.  He had kidnaped Gina when she was a teenager, and the only reason he let her go after years of abuse, was because in a fight, while she was protecting him, she got injured, and the scars she got in the fight made her unattractive in Faakhir’s eyes.  He had sent her to protect Nysa when she didn’t want her anymore, and it wasn’t until after her death that I found her and was able to clear the programing that Faakhir had put in her mind.  Konstantinos had also suffered because of Faakhir, he had taken his lands, his position, his family and even his freedom.  He had brainwashed him and made him into one of his elite guards, just like he had tried to do with me.

They were not the only ones that were loyal to me because I had given them their freedom, almost 20 of the 45 elite guards that had joined me, had done so because I had freed their minds.  They were people like Konstantinos, who had every reason to hate Faakhir, but that were forced to obey him because of his powers.  They were people who would follow me without question because I had given them their lives back.

Mbali stayed silent while more people arrived, most of them glad to be able to have front row seats to Faakhir’s death.  A few were affected by his pain, but most of then enjoyed his punishment.

“Is everything ready?  Did you notify our contacts in the army?” I asked my men.  I could feel that Faakhir’s end was close, and once he was dead, we would need to act.

“Everything is ready, we are just waiting for your orders,” Thalia said, she had arrived with the last group.

“Connor, I need you to take some men with you and take control of the school, we need to keep the Representative’s children under control.  That worked for Faakhir and with my reputation it would be an effective threat, they all will believe me capable of killing their children if they don’t obey me,” I said, “but your main mission is to make sure that Ethan is safe.  Make sure no one notices that you are there for him, but make sure no one hurts him.”

“As you wish,” he said.

“Ivan, Lim, Onyesha and Gina, you will go with me to face Emily,” they were supposed to be my enemies, and I knew that the impact it would have on them to realize they were my allies would be big.  “I think that Zhou, Weza, Youseff and Sefina are guarding her, right?”

“That’s right,” Thalia said, “I already contacted them and told them that they had to be prepared.”

“That’s perfect, with those four and the four that will go with me, would be more than enough to control the other guards with Emily and take control of the Congress.  For the rest of us, I need you to move and go take control of the army, and contain anyone you think could cause of trouble, any way you need to.  You all know your roles, you know who to contact and who you can trust.  This will work, only if we work together.  We are doing here not just to take Emily down, we need to take control of the Dominion with as few casualties as we can.  At first, they won’t know what’s going on, and that will give us time to act, but things will change once our enemies realize that Faakhir and Emily are no longer in control, they will believe they can move in and take over.  If we don’t want that to happen, we need to take control as soon as possible and establish our rule.”

“What about Sofia?” Ivan asked.  “Shouldn’t she be here? She could help us take control.”

“There is no time to bring her here, besides, plans had changed.  We can’t bring Sofia out and risk one of her enemies attacking her, we need to identify and neutralize all the people that is loyal to the current power.  And the risk is not only with those that truly believe in this government, but those who are still under Faakhir’s control, we don’t know what kind of programing he could have prepared against something like this.”

“Everything is going to be alright,” Fatima said.  “It’s true that things got complicated, but we have been working towards this for a long time.  We are ready.  Everything is going to be alright,” she said again, I wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince us or herself.  The fog of the future was still closed to me, so I had no choice but to face things as they came my way.

“What are we going to do about Emily?  It’s lunch time, she will be getting out any moment now,” Ivana said.

“No, she won’t.  The representatives are still discussing her new demands, and she won’t let them get out until she gets her way.  You know how she likes to play with them, let them think they still have some control, just to see them crack and fall to her demands.  I’m pretty sure that right now she is getting something to eat while the rest of the people just watch her and try to work on something she can accept,” Mbali said.

“It wouldn’t be the first time she keeps them there, starving, as if they were kids being punished for not doing their homework,” Ivan agreed.  “The only problem is that Faakhir is usually by her side, trying to find a middle ground between her demands and what the countries can give her, trying to bring some balance to her demands.  Sooner or later she will want him there and she will send someone for him.”

“We still have time before that happens,” Fatima said, with the certainty that only her powers could give her.  That reminded me that I needed to talk to her about my problems, maybe she could help me understand what was going on with my powers.

There were a lot of things that had to be done, but I couldn’t send them away, I knew some of them needed to see Faakhir’s death.  It was a grim spectacle, I knew that, it was one of the reasons I used that particular technique.  Watching Faakhir like that wouldn’t change the years of abuse and oppression they had experienced under his rule, but it would make them feel better.  Even some of the people that wasn’t directly affected by him were enjoying his suffering, and I knew that more than one wished that Emily was right beside him.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with Emily, Sofia and William were supposed to be there for that moment, they were supposed to handle her, but the situation had changed and I wasn’t sure what to do.  Emily was unstable, and I was sure she was going to explode once she knew what had happened.  I was afraid I would have to kill her too, because, even if I offered her a deal to spare her life, I was sure she was going to fight back, and it was very likely that I would be forced to kill her too.

It took hours for Faakhir to die, and even if some people feel better knowing he was dead and wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone else, ever again, some people were disappointed that his pain was over.  It was over, and time to finally act.  The groups I had previously prepared were ready to act and take over the Dominion, all I had to do was give them the order to act.

The four guards I had selected went with me to face Emily.  As soon as we left the residential area, we found a couple of guards that I knew were loyal to Emily and that were heading our way.

“Is Faakhir already done with her?” One of them asked, thinking that they were there to contain me, not to protect me.  “Where are you taking her?”

“Are you looking for Faakhir?” Ivan asked, ignoring their questions.

“Yes, Emily wants to talk to him, and she asked us to tell him that she needed his help with the Representatives.  Their excuses are bothering her, and she thinks that the King can help them see things her way.”

“I’m afraid the King can’t go meet her,” Ivan said, looking at me, a silent question for support or maybe guidance.

“Their loyalty is for Emily, but I don’t know if it’s because of her, or what she represents, I don’t know if they follow the position or the person.  Remember, we are supposed to minimize casualties,” I reminded them, hoping they would get the message.

Neither guard suspected us, from where they were standing I was surrounded by my worst enemies, so when Onyesha and Ivan moved to attack, they didn’t react fast enough, and that few seconds were enough for my people to contain them.  By the time they tried to react, they were already under Onyesha and Ivan’s control, with Lim and Gina pointing their guns at them, in case they needed further proof that they were defeated.  Once Onyesha was sure they wouldn’t try anything, she took a couple of syringes and injected them with a sedative that was supposed to take them out of combat for the rest of the day.

“Mbali gave me the sedatives, so I’m pretty sure they will work just fine.  I will send a message to the other so someone can come and take them to the cells,” Onyesha said.

“We can’t leave them here, if someone finds them, they could alert others of our attack,” Gina said.

“They were looking for Faakhir, and we all know how he was, he did things on his own time, we still have time before someone misses them.  Right now we have to get to Emily and finish this, that’s our priority,” I said.

After sending a message to inform the others of the two guards, we kept going.  I knew that at that moment, all over the city, those loyal to me were fighting the people loyal to them, those who could cause trouble for us later on.  We were constantly receiving reports of what was happening in other places as my men took control of the city.  The best news was when Connor informed me that he had taken control of the school where Ethan was, and that he was safe and under supervision.  Knowing he was safe helped me feel better about the situation.

By the time we arrived at the doors of the Congress, I was sure that everything was going to be fine.  Things were going my way, and soon, everything would be over and the Dominion would be under my control.

Chapter 30

I got a message from Kimball saying that Ethan was safe, but that he was injured.  I knew that was going to happen, Jonas was a psycho that liked to hurt people and make them suffer, and I knew that he was going to get a taste of his own medicine, he wouldn’t get away with hurting my son without facing the consequences.

“I’m sure this is the route he took,” Fatima said.  She had been traveling to the past to reconstruct Jonas’ actions after taking Ethan.  So far she had guided us outside the city, and I knew we were getting closer to the place he had taken Ethan.

“I think it will be better to stop for a moment, I would like to take an astral walk and explore the place.  If we are getting closer to where Jonas is hiding, I want to be prepared.  We need to be ready to take him by surprise.

“That’s a good idea,” Kulap said, “but make it fast, so many stops are wasting our limited time, I don’t think Faakhir will like that, he likes when we take care of things fast.  He likes us being efficient.”

“Do you have any experience in astral projecting? Have you walked the fog of the future? If you don’t know what you are talking about, then stay silent.  These things take time, and I’m sure Faakhir would prefer a job well done over a fast one.”  Kulap didn’t talk back, but I could see she was angry at my answer.

Our car stopped so I could go into the astral planes.  That was something I could do even while moving, thanks to my double mind, but it was easier and safer if my body was immobile.  I got out of my body and traveled the material plane.  We were close to our destination, I recognized the place.  I saw a group of helicopters moving closer, they were on route to the bodega.  Kimball had told me he had called the kids’ parents, so I was confident that the Representatives were on those helicopters.

“Did you hear the helicopters?” I asked when I got back to my body.

“Yes, and we saw them moving northwest from here,” Yoweri said.  I had forgotten he was in the car with us, but that was to be expected, it was his power, he could go unnoticed in any setting thanks to his empathy and emotional mimetism.

“I think those were the Representatives, and that could affect our mission, we need to be careful, we can’t let them ruin this for us, but we can’t attack them either, we need to make things better between them and the King, it needs to look like we are on the same side.  We need to move.  Go ahead and drive a couple more miles, then take the road on your right,” I told the driver, “keep going for another three miles and stop in the first clearing you find.  We will walk the rest of the way, I don’t want them knowing we are there until is too late.”

No one spoke for the rest of the trip, but it was obvious everyone had questions, even as they prepared for the mission.  We arrived at the clearing and got out of the car.  Another car stopped behind us, and the rest of the team joined us.  Without any questions, everyone started following me, with just one person staying behind to take care of the cars.

I took the direct route, I knew where the bodega was and how to arrive there faster, and I needed to take the short route, I had to get to where my son was.  Once we were close to the bodega, and could actually see it and the group of people standing outside, I used my powers to bring their conversations to us, so we could listen to them from the protection of the trees.

“Your children are safe, that’s all you need to know,” Kimball was saying.

“I think we deserve a better explanation,” Representative Burgos replied.  “How did you find them?  What happened to the people who took them?  “What happened to our children?”

“Do I have to remind you that my son was also taken by them?” Kimball’s voice hardened, and it was clear that the Representatives were on thin ice.  “I was just as worried as you were, so I decided to look for my son, and I found him.”

“And how did you do that?” Representative Jeong asked.  “None of our trackers were working, we couldn’t find them, I don’t get how someone like you could do what we couldn’t.”

“What do you mean by ‘someone like me’?”

“Let’s be honest, what we think is that you and your wife are involved in this.  It’s just too suspicious that you were able to find the kids so easily after we failed to find them, is even more suspicious that you refuse to let us see or speak with the people responsible for the kidnappings.  As far as I know you and your corrupt family could be behind this, maybe ‘saving’ them is just a way for you to try and look good in front of us,” Representative Kozak said.

“That’s enough father!” The voice sounded like Dmytro’s, but there was something weird about it.  “You don’t know what you are talking about, this is Jonas’ fault, not Kaiserin’s.  Jonas wanted to use Ethan to make Kasierin look bad, and we are safe only because the Mzansiers rescued us.  None of them hurt us, but if they hadn’t arrived when they did, the others would have hurt us, badly.”

“Please, stay out of this, this is an adult discussion,” his father tried to calm him down.

“But he is telling the truth,” Hye Ki said, “Ethan helped us while we were there, and his father rescued us, if he hadn’t arrived when he did, Carmina would have hurt me.  They saved us!”

“Daughter, please, let us deal with this, there are things you don’t understand yet.  We can’t trust these people, remember what happened with your brother.”

“I called and told you where to find your children as a favor, but if you think I will just stay here and let you question me and my motives, that I will let you insult me, then you are mistaken,” Kimball’s voice was cold and threatening, and I wasn’t sure if it was part of the act or if he was truly angered by their attack.

“Dad,” a pathetic voice interrupted the discussion, and the silence that followed that simple word was absolute, the shock was clear in the middle of the silence.  “Can we go?”

“Of course, give me a minute.  Just go back inside and rest,” Kimball’s voice changed to warm and calm while talking to Ethan.

“Time to move,” I tell my men, cutting the power that allowed us to hear them, and moving to where the group is gathered at the front of the bodega.

As soon as my group steps out of the cover of the trees all the eyes move to us, a few of the Representatives’ guards get their weapons out and point them to us, but using my power I take them out of their hands, leaving them weaponless.  At the same time my group takes their own weapons out and point them to the people there, warning them not to try something like that again.

“It seems I wasn’t invited to the party,” I said to the people there.

“You just sounded like a villain in a fairy tale,” Kimball said, and I had no idea what he was talking about.

“What are you doing here?” His comment managed to cut the tension, but his words confused me, and even if I was grateful for helping ease the atmosphere, I don’t like not understanding.  “I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I find you here, in the place our investigation of Jonas’ actions has taken us.”

“You are late, just like I thought you would be,” he said.  “I knew that your priorities were different than mine, so I decided to put my energy on finding Ethan.  And it was a good thing I did that, if I had waited for you to find you, you would have been too late,” as he said the last word, he moved to the side, giving me a clear view of the van behind him, next to which Ethan was standing.

From the moment I realized that Jonas had Ethan, I had been worried about the things he could do to my son, but watching the damage I felt sick and angry, and I knew that I would have a hard time controlling my anger once I had my hands on Jonas.  Ethan’s face was a collection of colors, from red to black and blue.  He was full of bruises, one of his eyes was swollen shut, and a cut on his lips was still bleeding.  By the way he was standing I could tell his torso was also full of bruises, maybe a few broken ribs by how hard it was for him to breathe.  One of his arms and his wrists were bandaged, and from the blood that was showing in the bandages I could tell that his arm had a cut, and his wrists had been hurt, most likely rubbed raw by the rope used to bind him.  I felt my anger boiling, I had hoped that Kimball could arrive before Ethan could suffer that much damage, and I was furious that I had been unable to save him from that pain, furious that I had failed him again, and furious that Jonas had dared to hurt my son.  But despite the emotions burning inside me, I kept my face cold and detached, making sure no one could see how I really felt.

“He’s alive, I don’t see what the problem is,” just as I spoke I could hear the surprise and disapproval coming from the Representatives and their guards, they were getting angry at me for not caring about my son like a mother should.  I turned to where Ethan was standing, and I saw a tear falling from his good eye.  For a moment I thought my words had affected him, but when I expanded my powers to explore his feelings I realized that it was just part of the act.  But I could see his pain wasn’t fake, and I did my best to connect with him so I could ease his pain.

“I don’t know why I’m still surprised by your attitude,” Kimball said.  “If you are unable to see the problem, then I don’t know what to say.  You won could have died today, and you just don’t care.”

“I can see he’s alive, that’s what matters.  And I expect Jonas and the others to be alive as well, I need to question them.”

“Is that all you can think about?  You know what? I don’t care, Jonas and the others are inside the bodega, go and do your work.  I will take Ethan to Mzansi so he can recover in peace.”

“I’m sorry, but you know the rules, you can’t take Ethan outside of the city without the King’s permission,” Kulap said.

“That’s right, the hostage system.  Don’t worry, I’m taking my son, but I’m leaving my wife, that should be enough,” Kimball answered.

“Still, you need his authorization…” Kulap kept going.

“And who is going to try and stop me?” Kimball interrupted her.  “You?”

Kulap turned to me, waiting for me to continue the discussion.  All the attention was focused on me, so most people didn’t realize that Yoweri was moving towards Kimball.  For a moment I thought that Kimball wasn’t aware of him and was trying to find a way to warn him, but then I saw Kimball’s hand move to his gun and I knew that I didn’t have to worry about him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Kimball warns, pointing the gun directly into Yoweri’s face, that is just a couple of steps away from him.  I hear a few surprised gasps, no one had realized that Yoweri was moving.

“Kaiserin, do something!” Kulap demands.

“Kimball, you know the rules as well as I do, don’t make this more difficult that it has to be.”

“I want you to think about what you are about to do,” Kimball warns, “you can try to stop me, and things will get ugly really fast, or you can let us go, so you can finish your mission and find out why Jonas took your son and the other kids.”

“I think you know what will happen if you try to stop him,” Fatima said, in a voice that pretended to be just between the two of us, but that I was sure everyone could hear, “we will only lose valuable time, and your victory will come at a high price.”

“Listen to your friend,” Kimball suggested with a smile.

“Please don’t tell me you are afraid of him,” Kulap tried to goad me into fighting.

“Kimball is right, I can defeat him, but it won’t be easy and won’t be fast.  Our mission is to find Jonas and questions him, then take him to Faakhir.  If he wants to go against the rules, then he will have to face the consequences.  Think about your actions, because if you leave and Faakhir sends me to bring you back, you won’t like what I will do.”

I wasn’t sure why Kimball was forcing the confrontation, he could have gone without alerting us of his plans, but by declaring his intentions in front of the others he had put me in a difficult situation, but I trusted he knew what he was doing.  With a last look at Ethan, I went inside the bodega, followed by the rest of the group, even if they weren’t happy with the way things had gone.

Once we were inside, it was easy to find Jonas and the rest of his people, they were locked in cages, and they seemed to be drugged.  I guessed that Kimball had used the drugs to subdue them and avoid a fight, and I was glad, because the drugs would make my job easier, their minds wouldn’t be able to repel my attack and it would be easier to get what I wanted.

“Now you are in serious trouble,” I told Jonas.  He was awake, but seemed confused.  “The Representatives were furious because of your actions, and that caused trouble for Faakhir.  You made him look like a liar, you made it seem like he didn’t have control over his own people, you made him look weak.  As you can imagine, he is not happy with you at the moment.  Now, tell me, why did you do something so stupid?”

“You have been lying to us, and I will prove it, then you won’t be is favorite any more, and you and your family will be punished, like you deserve.” Jonas explained, he sounded like he was drunk, but I knew it was because of the drug in his system.

“I will go inside your mind, and I will see the truth behind your actions.  I would recommend not to resist, resistance will only make it painful for you,” I warned, but in reality he was going to feel pain one way or another, he was going to pay for causing Ethan’s pain.

“Shouldn’t we take him to Faakhir?  He can question him himself,” I heard someone saying.

“Kimball caught five of them, but we need to make sure there’s no more people involved, and we have to find out why they were involved, if they were willing participants or if Jonas somehow fooled them into helping him with his plans.  We need to see who is a traitor and who is a fool.  We can’t go to Faakhir without the whole story.”

No one said anything else, they stayed in silence as I moved closer to the cage in which Jonas was trapped.  I used one of my mind to get inside his mind and look for the information that I wanted.  I needed to know who was on his side, who his allies were, who I needed to worry about.  With my other mind I connected to his nervous system, attacking his nerves so they would get irritated and cause him to be in pain, in just a few seconds he was drowning in pain.  With me inside his mind, there was nothing he could do, but feel, he experienced an agony like never before.

Between the pain and the drugs, he couldn’t stop my search, and I was able to get the information that I needed in a short time.  I knew that Faakhir would look into his mind, just like me, so I went even deeper and made sure that there was nothing there that could affect me.  That exploration took me longer, about a couple of hours, and by the time I finished with him, he was barely conscious, he was exhausted by the pain.

Moving even closer to him, I made a complete connection to his system, and instead of just irritating his nerves to cause him pain, I attacked them, damaging just enough for him to be unable to move without feeling pain.  Damaged nerve terminations would mistake sensations, sending pain signals with any stimulation.

By the time I finish with him I’m exhausted, and even if the effort is not enough to cause me a psychic headache, it drained my energy and I knew I was reaching my limit and since I still had things to do I needed to be very careful with what I did.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Fatima asked.

“Yes, it seems like besides Fidel and Carmina, the others had no idea what was going on, they were just following orders, they thought that Jonas was acting under Faakhir’s orders.  The problem we have is that Faakhir tried to recruit a few others, so there is more people who knew about his plans, and even if they refused to help him, they failed to alert Faakhir of Jonas’ plans.  Yoweri, I will give you a list with these people’s names so you can go pick them up and take them to Faakhir, I’m sure he will want to question them.  Kulap, take the two soldiers that helped Faakhir to the hospital so they can be checked, I’m sure Faakhir will want to deal with them, even if they were acting in good faith, I’m sure they will be punished for their involvement.  The other three, I will take care of them personally.

Chapter 29

The feeling that something bad was about to happen hadn’t left me in weeks, the first days after the incident with Jonas I had spent a short time visiting the future to make sure we were safe, but I hadn’t found what was making me feel unease, so I eventually stopped, but the fear still continued.  Jonas was still mad about what had happened, and the fact that Fatima said that none of the children were involved only helped fuel his anger, he still insisted that it was Ethan, Dmytro and Hye Ki the ones he had seen.  I was grateful that it was Fatima who was in charge of the investigation, because she had managed to keep the children safe.

Faakhir was calling me to be by his side more often, and Jonas less, so I was once again with Faakhir and Jonas was nowhere to be seen.  We were back from our lunch, ready to start the afternoon meetings when a group stormed into the room, I recognized the people as the Committee of Technology.  They were all talking at the same time, clearly upset about something, some of them yelling, even speaking in different languages.

“Enough!” Faakhir screamed over their voices once he realized they weren’t going to calm down any time soon.  “If you all speak at the same time, I can’t understand what you are saying.”

“What we want,” Representative Jeong said, “is our children back, immediately.  We have done nothing but obey you, there’s no reason for you to do this.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Faakhir said, but I had a feeling that I knew what they were talking about, and I needed to stay calm, even if I wanted to run away and go look for Ethan.

“The car where our children were traveling was attacked,” Representative Burgos said, she sounded calmer, but I could still feel her anger below the surface, “our security cameras showed two of your men attacking the transport and taking the kids.  If Carmina and Fidel are involved, it’s logical to think that you are behind this attack.  Since we have fulfilled our part of the bargain, the least you could do is to fulfill yours and leave our children alone.”

“I haven’t ordered any attacks.  Are you sure it was my people?”

“We have evidence,” Representative Kozak said, “and we won’t go away until you give us our kids back.”

“I haven’t ordered any attacks, and if I say I haven’t, you need to believe me, I can’t believe that my people is involved in any of this.”

From the moment they have entered the room, the bad feeling got worse, I knew that whatever happened was related to Jonas, and I was afraid that Ethan could be also in danger, I needed to find out if he was missing or if he was safe.

“Carmina and Fidel are really close to Jonas,” I told Faakhir in a whisper, as if I was trying to hide my words, even if I knew they were capable of hearing me, “this could be related to what happened a couple of months ago.”

“Are you referring to the incident where Jonas said your son was involved?” Faakhir didn’t bother to lower his voice.

“Just a few days ago, he said that he was sure that he was right, and that he would prove my son was involved.  One would think that someone who uses illusions every day would be more receptive to the idea of someone seeing something that is not there.  I think that maybe he sent Carmina and Fidel after their kids and told them the order was coming from you,” I said in a respectful tone, trying to sell him the idea that they could have done what they were saying, but at the same time not making him think they hadn’t gone against his orders.  It was easier to think that one person had gone against him that to think a bunch of them had.

“It could be, but as I remember, Jonas’ problem was mainly with your son, the other two were just an afterthought.”

“If you allow me,” that was what I needed to sell him the idea that we needed to check on Ethan, “I can speak with Mbali and see if something happened to Ethan.  If he is also gone, then we can see into the possibility that Jonas is behind this attack.”

I knew that Faakhir wouldn’t let me walk away to have some privacy, so I didn’t even try to move away as I made the call.  Mbali answered immediately, as if she was waiting by the side of the phone.  That was enough to let me know something was going on, but I tried to stay calm as I asked the question.  Mbali was still talking when the doors opened and another person stormed inside the room.  Kimball walked and the aura of hostility and anger surrounding him was all I needed to confirm my fears.

“I think you owe me an explanation,” Kimball said, his voice strong and controlled, but with an undertone of fury.

“I guess that answers our question and Ethan is also missing,” Faakhir said.

“According to the reports, Jonas kidnapped him,” I added from what Mbali was telling me on the phone.  I tried to sound as if the news didn’t bother me.  “I think is safe to assume that this and the incident two months ago are related.”

“Then we need to find Jonas and have him explain his actions.  My orders were to forget what happened, the investigations clearly said that the kids had nothing to do with it.”

“Do you really want us to believe that you had nothing to do with this?” Jeong asked.

“It seems he is losing control of his own people,” Kimball said.  “If he can’t control his close followers, how can he control the Dominion?” His words had the intended effect, and I knew that Faakhir would take immediate action to stop Jonas.

“I have no problem controlling my people.  If Jonas is behind this, he will regret his actions, no one disobeys me without consequences.  The same way most nations learn not to cross me, Jonas will face the consequences of his actions.  Kaiserin, go find Fatima and take her to the last place Jonas was seen, work together to find him.  Take as many people as you need, and bring me Jonas and anyone working with him.”

“As you wish,” I said, acting respectfully and submissive, and then walked away.  When I was walking next to the Representatives, with the Representatives moving away from me as if I had a contagious sickness, Kimball grabbed me by the arm and moved me closer to him.

“That animal has Ethan,” his face was hard, but I could feel his softness under the surface.  “You have to find him before something bad happens to him.”

“I’m sure I will find Ethan when I find Jonas.”

“Go for Ethan, and you will find Jonas,” Kimball said in a deadly tone.

“My orders are to find Jonas,” I walked away and Kimball had to let me go, but I felt him moving behind me.

“Do you have any idea what happened?” His tone was still angry, but I knew he wasn’t angry at me, he was just maintaining the illusion that we weren’t exactly on the same side.

“No, I have a lot of work to do, I need to find Fatima and then go by the apartment to interview Ethan’s guards, they should have information I can use to find Jonas.  I need to find Jonas as soon as possible.”

“If you are too busy to search for our son, then maybe I will have to do it myself,” his words were so harsh that for a moment I thought he was angry at me, but I knew he wasn’t angry at me, his fury was directed to Jonas.

As Kimball walked away, I tried to convince myself that everything was going to be alright, we still had time, the kidnappings were recent and I was sure they were fine, Jonas needed them alive, we still had time.

Finding Fatima didn’t take long, to decide who to take was harder, I tried to avoid taking Ivan or Thalia on missions with me, still trying to act as if I didn’t like them, so taking both of them would be suspicious.  I needed to avoid taking people that could be Jonas’ allies, I couldn’t rule out that more people were involved.

It took me about an hour to be ready to go to the apartment, when I arrived Kimball and a group of Mzansiers were ready to go looking for Ethan.  I wanted to be the one to go after him, but I knew that I needed to keep acting as if I didn’t care about him and going looking for him would be suspicious.  Kimball was the one who was all about family, he was the right person to rescue Ethan.

“Mbali,” I said as soon as I walked inside the apartment, “I need you to send Fatima all the information you have on the ambush and whatever you think would help find Jonas.”

“Do you know anything about Ethan?” Kimball asked.

“I can’t contact him, he must be too far away, outside the city, I have a pretty good reach, but I can’t feel him,” not that I had much chance to try and find him while I was working, to really look for him I needed some peace and quiet, and a safe place.

“Do you think he…?” Mbali didn’t finish, but I knew what she was trying to say, and I wouldn’t even consider the possibility.

“Ethan is alive.  The fact that I can’t reach him is most likely due to him being outside the city, maybe even the country.  But if Jonas took him, it was for a reason, and it wouldn’t be to kill him, not yet anyway.”

“What’s the plan?”

“I need a moment to look for Ehtan, once I find him, you can go for him.  Meanwhile, I will go with Fatima and the rest of Faakhir’s people to retrace Jonas’ steps.”

“That sounds good,” Kimball started shouting orders to his people while I went to the living room so I could go into the astral planes.

Ethan, being my son, shared a few characteristics with me that made it easier for me to find his essence.  Even if Ethan wasn’t able to go into the astral planes, he had a presence in the material plane that I could follow.  The material plane was the harder to move in, but once I was there I was able to feel Ethan in a way that I wouldn’t be able without my astral form.  I felt better once I felt his essence, even if I had refused to think of his death, knowing he was alive was a relief.

I finally found him, he was in a place further away than I expected.  The place was hard to find if you didn’t know where you were going.  I moved as close as I could, hoping than no one there could see astral projections.  The scene that I found wasn’t as bad as I expected, but I knew that we didn’t have much time before the situation escalated, we needed to move as fast as possible.

I went back to my body as saw that Kimball and his people were ready to go.  I went to Kimball and I used the trick we have been working on to go inside his mind and share the memories of my trip, so he could find his way to Ethan.

“Did you see it all?  Can you get there?” I asked once I left his mind.

“Yes, I think so, I have an idea where is the place you showed me and how to arrive, I think I will find it without much trouble.”

“Be careful…” I didn’t like the idea of Kimball going without me, not because I thought he couldn’t do it, but because he could walk into a difficult situation.  “Please, go and find Ethan before something bad happens to him.  I wouldn’t forgive myself if he is hurt again because of me.”

“This is not your fault,” Kimball said, grabbing me by the arms, “this is Jonas’ fault.”

“But I should have seen it coming!  I should have known that Ethan was in danger,” the most I thought about it, the most I was convinced that I had failed my son, yet again.

“I know that you think you should see it all, but no one can, not even a Seer.  Don’t worry, I will find Ethan and bring him back.  You worry about distracting Faakhir’s men long enough for me to get to Ethan, I will let you know once I secure him.  We will worry about the consequences once he is safe.”

I saw Kimball walking out with the rest of his men following, and then I called the driver to pick me up.  By the time I went outside the building the driver and the rest of the group I had called, were already waiting for me.  I got inside and told the driver where to take us.

“I have the address where Jonas took Ethan, I think that’s the best place to start our search.”

“All I need is a starting point, and I will be able to see what happened and where they went.  It won’t be fast, but it will be accurate,” Fatima said.  “Don’t worry, Jonas will pay for disobeying Faakhir,”  I knew that she chose those words because of the people around us, but I knew that her real meaning was that Jonas would regret crossing me.

 

Chapter 27

I was at the Palace’s training facility, surrounded by Dominion warriors, most of them loyal to the King and Queen, a few loyal only to themselves.  I was isolated, in a meditation posture, but I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings, I was paying attention to the people around me.  In the center, in the arena, some people were in a mini tournament that was supposed to help them train, but it was just a competition to prove who was better.  On the other side of the gym, Carmina was practicing her knife throwing, hitting the wooden target in a rhythmic pattern.  But my attention was on Thalia, she was talking to Ivan, something I was sure haven’t happened before.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to her since Madelaine, and I wasn’t sure what she knew of what she thought she knew about what had happened that day.  I was worried because I wasn’t sure if she was an enemy or a possible ally, and watching her with Ivan was making me worry.  Then she moved, directly to Fatima, and I was even more worried, but Fatima received her with a smile and I decided to take that as a good sign.

I moved my attention from Fatima and Thalia to the other groups in the place.  After a while I felt a mind trying to enter mine.  There were just a few telepaths in the place, and it was easy to identify the mind as Thalia’s.  She was still with Fatima, and it was easy to see her in trance, and I knew she was focusing only on me, her full focus on communicating with me. I opened my mind to her, I was sure I would be able to fight her off if I needed, after all, my father had given me a powerful weapon that no one could resist.

‘Thanks for letting me in,’ Thalia said, ‘Fatima doesn’t want to go to you, she doesn’t want to attract attention, but she saw something that will happen in a couple of hours that you need to know, it has to do with your son.’

‘What’s going to happen?’  Even if Fatima had declared herself my ally, the fact that it was Thalia talking to me made me suspicious.  Was she trying to threaten me using my son?

‘Fatima says that if you walk the fog of the future, and move just a couple of hours ahead, you will see what you need to see.  Or you can go inside her mind and see what she saw, but you may miss something if you limit yourself to what she saw.’  I wasn’t sure about her, was she trying to get me to go into trance so I would be vulnerable to an attack?  ‘You don’t have much time, you need to decide if you are going to see the future first hand or trust in Fatima’s memories, but you have to do it now before it’s too late.’

I didn’t waste my time answering, I just cut the connection between us.  I needed to find a quiet, safe place, so I could go into the fog.  I was going through my alternatives when I noticed something changed, the background noise changed, the thump I was expecting never came and my instincts made me lift and strenghten my psychic wall, just in time.  I felt Carmina’s knife hitting the wall in front of me.

“I’m sorry,” she said, with faked concern, “I didn’t mean to hurt you, I think the throw went a little bit wide.”

“More than a little.  It’s good you spend so much time practicing, it’s obvious you need all the help you can get.”

I wasn’t sure what Carmina was expecting from me, but my words made her angry, and in just a few steps she closed the distance between us.  In the time she took to get to me, I got on my feet, ready to face her.

“I know you think you’re untouchable just because you’re Faakhir’s favorite, but you should start showing the proper respect to me or I will show you how things really work here.”

“I only have to be respectful to Faakhir and Emily.  You are nothing, and if you don’t want me to prove to you just how insignificant you are, you will go away and leave me alone.  Just your presence is offensive to me, go.”

Carmina didn’t bother to respond with words, she moved faster that I could follow and grabbed one of the daggers in her belt and tried to stab me, but all she hit was my psychic wall.  Over and over she tried to break the wall and hurt me, while I just stared at her, faking concentration as I made sure the wall didn’t crumble and let her in.  I took advantage of a second of hesitation on Carmina’s part to hit her in the stomach, making her bend over, gasping for air.  She fell to her knees and tried to get her breath back as I walked away, leaving her behind.

“I have more important things to do than wasting my time with you.  Once you are able to hit more than air, look for me again,” were my parting words, as Carmina tried to get on her feet to follow, but I was long gone before she was able to do that.

During Carmina’s tantrum, people had stopped their training to watch us, so I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I walked out of the place, but no one followed me.  I wasn’t sure where I should go for my trip into the fog, but before I realized it, I was walking towards Sofia’s garden, and I thought it would be the perfect spot.  It didn’t take long before I found what Fatima wanted me to see, and I understood why I had to go there myself, because there were many decisions that could be made, and it was best if I could be there making them and watching how it affected the flow of time.

I had no idea how a couple of kids had managed to get inside the Palace undetected, but I had to do something to stop them before it was too late.  I went inside the Palace, and moved to the area where the help had their living space.  There were just a few ways to get access to the area where the King and Queen lived, one of them was from the guards quarters where I had been training earlier, the other was from the help’s quarters, where I needed to go.  The area was like a labyrinth, with long corridors with doors that looked all the same.  I was lucky I had my powers to guide me, I just needed to focus on who I wanted to find and let my power guide my feet.

I made a turn, knowing that any moment he would turn the hallway on the other side, I didn’t know if he knew he was coming my way, or if he even knew I was in that area, but I didn’t want to warn him, I wanted his surprise to be as genuine as it could.  It only took a few seconds for him to turn into the hallway I was standing in, he was running my way, but when he saw me he tried to go back.

“Run away, get out of here,” he said to the couple behind him, but I couldn’t let them go, so I used my powers to conjure a strong wind that pushed him and them against the wall, with enough force to make them fall and give me time to get near them.

“I just had the most interesting vision, any idea what it was about?” Ethan had managed to get up and was standing between me and the other two, as if he could protect them from me.

“Not really, but if you want we could go to another place and you can tell me all about it,” Ethan tried to use his empathy to calm me down, I hadn’t even realized how angry I was at the situation until I felt his power reaching me.  Ethan was doing what he thought was best, but I wasn’t going to allow him to manipulate me, he had made a mistake, he had crossed a line he shouldn’t crossed and he needed to face the consequences.

“Do you think this is a game?”  Ethan had gone against my orders, and especially his father’s orders, he had endangered not only himself, but all of us.  But the real guilt laid with the kids behind him.  Ethan had been at the wrong place at the wrong time, he had been there when the two kids had been discovered by Jonas while trying to get into the Palace, he had been eager to torture and kill them, just for fun, to set an example.  The problem was that Ethan had been there, he had stopped him, somehow he had managed to knock him out and rescue the other two, but Jonas would wake up any moment and go directly to Faakhir, he would expose Ethan and then Faakhir would suspect me.  “Do you have any idea of what you did?” Without giving it time for second thoughts, without giving it time for regrets, I used my anger and fears and lashed out to Ethan, cleanly breaking his leg.  The sound of bone breaking echoed in the empty hall, and the scream that followed, as Ethan fell to the ground, was even worse.

“Mother!” Ethan complained from the floor.  ‘Was that really necessary?’ he asked telepathically, to avoid the other two from hearing his complain.

“Do you have any idea of the size of the trouble you caused?  Did you stop to think how this would affect me?  What will Faakhir think that my own son attacked one of his men?”  I did nothing to hide my anger from him.  ‘Ethan, our cover could be blown, you could be in danger, and I don’t know how much I can do to protect you.’

“Mother…” I felt Ethan’s change in demeanor when he realized what he had done, when he finally understood how bad he had messed up.

“Jonas is going to the King, he will tell him what you and those kids did, and Faakhir don’t care about age, the punishment for attacking his people is the same for kids or adults.  And what do you think will happen to your father?  With their parents?  It’s not only you who could lose their lives, this could affect your whole families.  I don’t care what your reasons for being here are, I’m sure that Jonas will have some interesting theories that will paint you worse than you can imagine.”  Jonas had been looking for an excuse to make me look bad in front of Faakhir since I arrived, Ethan’s actions had given him the perfect weapon for that.  He would go after my credibility, and then after my son’s life, he would find a way to force me to act.

“Jonas was going to kill Dmytro, I had to do something!” Ethan said, desperately trying to make me understand him.  “I couldn’t let Jonas kill him.”  Ethan opened his mind, he let me see what had happened from his point of view.  It had been an accident that Ethan was there, but it was Jonas’ dark thoughts that had called to him.  Jonas wanted to kill Dmytro, he wanted to make him suffer, and Ethan knew that, but he had gone to battle without taking precautions, he had exposed himself and his powers, not only to Jonas, but to Dmytro and Hye Ki, the children of my enemies.

“Maybe they deserved to die.  They came here with ill intentions.  If not Jonas, then somebody else would have to stop them.” They had been naïve, they thought they could do what others couldn’t.  They intended to install some gadgets that would have allowed them to spy on the King, they wanted to find something that could help their parents stop him.  Maybe even a way to kill the King and Queen.  “It wasn’t your place to interfere, but it’s my place to take care of them.”

“No!”  Ethan tried to get up, forgetting his broken leg, but the pain was a good reminder, and he folded as he tried to put weight on it.  “Please mother, don’t do it!  Just let them go.” He said.  ‘They are innocent, you can’t kill them or let them in Faakhir’s hands.  Let them go.’

‘Do you have any idea of what you did?’ I asked Ethan again.  ‘Jonas has been looking for a way to stop me from the beginning, you have him what he needs to do it.  You know how much it cost me to keep Faakhir’s attention off of you, you just put a target back on your back.  What do you want me to do when Jonas asks for your head?  I will have to throw years of work to protect you!’  I needed him to understand.  “Give me one good reason not to kill them right now.”  I could feel their fear, even Ethan was taking me seriously, and that was a good thing, they needed to fear me, they needed to have me even.

“I know that you are worried that Jonas will make you look bad in front of Faakhir, but what if you could make Jonas look bad?” Ethan asked.  He didn’t have a plan, but he was brainstorming, looking for alternatives, for solutions.  “Hye Ki hacked the cameras, there is no footage of us being inside the Palace.  Just let us go and make it look as if Jonas is lying about us.”  I didn’t say anything, but I was surprised by the fact that it was Hye Ki had hacked the cameras, it was something I had to confirm.  ‘C’mon mother, you know you don’t want to hurt them, there’s got to be other options, you must already have a plan or something.’  From anyone else I would have suspected flattery, but from Ethan I knew it was blind trust, he really expected me to save him.

‘You can’t expect me to solve all your problems.  You made a big mistake this time,’ I scolded him.  Both of us knew that there was no way I would leave him in Jonas’ or Faakhir’s hands, but I needed him to understand the problem he was in.  We couldn’t let it happen again.

‘I’m sorry mother, I know I should have taken better precautions, I should have come up with a plan before rushing in to the rescue, but you and I are wired the same way, you would have done the same, you wouldn’t be able to stand aside while Jonas tortured and murdered a kid, especially not the son of one of the Representatives.’

‘Maybe, but at least I think before acting,’ even if he was right, I couldn’t let Ethan off the hook.

“Mother, please, just let us go,” he pleaded in a pathetic voice, so different from the tone he was using in our telepathic conversation, I felt like laughing at his act.

“Alright,” I could feel the relief on the kids and Ethan’s sense of victory.  “I will give you a chance, but you will have to earn it.  I have a meeting with Faakhir in 10 minutes, I’m sure Jonas will go to him as soon as he wakes up, in about 15 to 20 minutes.  So that’s the time you have to get out of here, if you manage to get out by that time, I think I will be able to convince Faakhir that you were never here.”  Ethan’s mind immediately started to search for possibilities, his brain going so fast that I couldn’t follow him without risking a headache.  ‘I already talked to your aunt Mbali, she will be waiting for you at the service exit in the basement.  Can you get there in time?’

‘I think I can, I will do my best.’  “What about them?”  Ethan asked out loud, looking back at the other two that had not been included in our chat.

“They are not my problem, if they manage to get out, I think my argument against you being here, could be applied to them too.  It all depends on how fast you move.”

“Are you sure you can’t buy us more time?  I can’t exactly walk fast right now,” Ethan pointed to his broken leg.

“That’s also not my problem, if you could stay out of trouble, then I wouldn’t be forced to do stuff like this,”  I hoped he understood that the broken leg wasn’t punishment, but part of the plan.  I needed something to guarantee that Faakhir would buy my lies, I needed something that would help my words have more weight than Jonas’.  “The clock is ticking, I wouldn’t keep wasting time, you have to move, now.”  Without another word I turned around and walked away.  I needed to get to Faakhir before Jonas could reach him, I couldn’t give him the advantage and let him talk to him first.

‘Thank you mother, I’m sorry I caused you trouble,’ Ethan’s words reached me as I turned around the hallway and walked out of his sight.  I felt like I had failed him again, I haven’t even known about his problems until Fatima and Thalia told me about the vision and pointed me in the right direction, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been there in time to help him.

Chapter 15

As soon as I entered the throne room my attention went to the woman next to Faakhir. There was something in her that made me feel unease. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, I just knew that I wanted to stay away from her.

“Welcome Kaiserin. If you are back, I assume that your last mission is done, right?” Emily asked.

“Right. I took the liberty of letting the body of my last victim hanging from the government plaza, I wanted everyone in that country to know what happens to those who try to take you down.”

“Splendid!” Faakhir exclaimed. “That was a great idea. Didn’t I tell you how brilliant she is?” He asked the woman next to him. “By the way Kaiserin, let me introduce you to my dear sister Nysa. Your next mission will be to help her capture an elusive young lady that my sister thinks will be another great addition to our forces.”

“After all the problems she had caused, and how she had managed to stay a step ahead of our people, yes, I think that with the proper training she will be a good addition to our forces.”

“Nysa is the one who knows her better, and she knows everything you will need to know about her whereabouts and her usual hiding spots. She will go with you to this mission,” Emily said.

“I’ve been working without stop to find and eliminate all the people you assigned to me, I was expecting to take some time off and go to Mzansi now that my missions are done. I haven’t been able to check on the country since I gave the control back to those guys, and I need to check on them. I don’t want them alone for so long, they could forget who owns them, who they owe their lives to. I need to remind them who is really in charge.”

“I hope you are not forgetting who is in charge here,” Emily said, clearly upset. “If we say you need to go with Nysa, then you go with her, no matter what your plans were.”

“As you have already made your minds, I will go. Just let me remind you that I have plans of my own, and after this I will take some time off to go to Mzansi. I think I deserve some time for myself, and I expect to stay in Mzansi for a while.”

“You have done an excellent job so far Kaiserin, and you are right, you deserve some time off,” Faakhir agreed, although it was clear he didn’t like the idea.

“Thanks for being so understanding. When are we starting our next mission?” I asked Nysa.

“Tomorrow, I guess. Be prepared to leave in the morning. I will call for you as soon as I’m ready.” There was something in the way Nysa talked, that let me know that she was playing games, and that would let me waiting most of the day.

After spending all day waiting for Nysa I wasn’t sure if I should be glad I had read her right, or mad because she thought she could play me. I wasn’t willing to let her waste my time with her games. I waited the first day, I had other things to keep me occupied, like training in my room, and organizing the information I had gathered during my missions.

The next day, however, I left my room early and went to the kitchen. I knew Nysa was having breakfast in the dining room, but I walked past it and went directly to the kitchen. People there didn’t appreciate others invading their domain, but they were too afraid of me to ask me leave.

I knew that it would have been cruel to stay there to eat, they would have been too afraid to move, so I took the food and left the kitchen, thinking that it was the perfect morning to eat in the gardens. When I was walking past the dining room Nysa left the room and blocked my way.

“I thought I told you to wait in your room”

“I really hope you understand that this is not a game. I have a deal with your brother, and it doesn’t include letting you waste my time. I was able to get some rest yesterday, but I don’t have anything else to do here now, I have better things to do elsewhere. I will see you at the airport in two hours. ”

“You don’t get to decide when to do things,” she was getting angry.

“And you don’t get to decide what I do. I will be leaving in two hours. If I see you in two hours we can do what you need me to do and go after that person you’re looking for, but if you’re not there, then I will go to Mzansi and get in contact with you once I finish my business there, but I don’t know how long it will be. It could take a long time.”

“If I didn’t know better I would think you were trying to threaten me, or tell me what to do.”

“Then maybe I wasn’t clear enough. My agreement is with your brother, not you. I don’t follow your orders and I don’t have to play whatever games you want me to play. If you want my help, you will have to start treating me with respect.”

I was suddenly overcome with terror, the need to run away was almost too strong to control, but I managed to suppress it. My empathy allowed me better control over my emotions, and allowed me to know when someone was pushing foreign emotions to me. Nysa was an Empath, and she was trying to use her powers to force me into obedience. But she had no idea who she was dealing with, no one would push me.

“It would be so much easier for you if you just do what you’re told to do,” Nysa said, convinced that the fear she was pushing to me wouldn’t allow me to contradict her.

“It would be so much easier if you stopped trying to manipulate me. You are lucky I have so much control over my instincts, or you would be dead by now. I don’t respond to fear by cowering, I respond by destroying whatever I fear. I know that killing Faakhir’s sister wouldn’t be a good idea, but I know other ways of dealing with my enemies, and none of them would be pleasant to you.”

“I think you don’t understand. I’m the King’s sister, a Queen of her own territory. If you mess with me, you mess with my family and my kingdom.”

“And if you mess with me, you mess with someone who won’t hesitate to kill you to stop you from bothering me. I’m only giving you a chance our of respect for your brother. Two hours. Either you meet me at the airport, or you look for someone else to do your dirty job.” I didn’t give her a chance to respond, I left her and went to the garden to enjoy my breakfast and some clean air before going back to grab my things and head for the airport.

Just as I expected, Nysa was already at the airport waiting for me when I arrived. I could feel her anger, but I knew that she has already talked to Faakhir, and he had warned her not to push me. I knew that he didn’t want to abuse his mind control over me by forcing me to obey his sister, and there was no way he could convince me to play along with only words, since there was nothing he could use to convince me to obey Nysa, they had to show more respect so I wouldn’t fight them.

During the travel, Nysa got me up to date with our new target. It had started when she had heard some rumors of a girl that was reading the future. People from all over her country was traveling to the capital looking for her, trying to get her to let them know what their future was. For some it was harmless information, things like how long the drought was going to last, or when they were going to meet the love of their lives. But Nysa had gotten interested in her when people started to go to her looking for information that could help them plan a rebellion. From what she told me I could see that the problem in her country wasn’t just the Dominion, but Nysa as well. It wasn’t hard to imagine how bad things could get with someone like her, so similar to Faakhir, ruling the country. I was sure it was a reign of terror, with people too afraid to raise their voices against the injustice thrown their way.

I was able to see how she surrounded herself with an aura that made people around her feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Her powers made people around her to be afraid of her. I could feel it too, the need to stay away from her, to keep her happy, it was strong and hard to resist, the longer we were together, but I was determined not to let her see it could affect me. As the feeling grew stronger, I decided to use my own powers to teach her a lesson. Knowing she enjoyed using fear as her tool, I sent her a double dose of pain and insecurity. After she realized what I was doing, we reached an unspoken truce. She dialed back her powers, and I stopped using mine. Something I was sure of, was that I would never get along with her. It was hard enough for me to follow Faakhir’s and Emily’s orders, I knew that it would be impossible to extend my fake obedience to Nysa, who was even worse than her brother.

Once we arrived, Nysa introduced me to a group of warriors that had been trying to get a hold on the young Seeress, without success. She wanted me to go to look for her right away, but I told her that I was tired and that I would take the rest of the day off to rest, before demanding her to give me a room.

The room I was given was very plain, no doubt she intended the place to be an insult, but it was nothing new to me, I didn’t care about luxury the way Nysa cared, I was perfectly fine with my surroundings, and I wasn’t bothered by them, if I only had to stay there for a couple of days.

I asked for all the information they had gathered on our target, and once I was sure no one was spying on me, by using some of the gadgets Kimball had given me, I took a walk into the fog. I needed to have an idea of what I would be facing, but since there was another Seer involved, the paths before me were not defined and the paths kept changing, so I knew it would be a waste of time to stay there and went back to the present to prepare for my mission.

I knew it would be very dangerous to give the Dominion another Seeress, someone who could see what I planned to do and make my job harder. For a while I wondered if I would have to kill the girl once I found her, but I knew that before making a decision like that I needed to meet her and see where her loyalties were. If the Seeress was against the Dominion, which was a good possibility, then I couldn’t kill her, she was just a victim of Nysa’s greed, and I couldn’t condemn her just because she could be a nuisance to me. If Nysa was as good as her brother at recruiting, then she would have no choice, she would be part of the Dominion even if she didn’t want to. I felt bad for her, her powers had made her a target, and her life was about to change drastically because of that.

Just like I expected, Nysa had no intention of going with me and getting her hands dirty. She told her men to take me to the last place our target had been seen.

“This is the building she was last working from. She changes her location constantly, and she is always gone by the time we arrive,” the man who was in charge of the search told me.

“We have to go and investigate anyway, maybe she left some clues as to where to find her.”

“Do you really think we haven’t tried that before? You’re not doing anything we haven’t done before.”

“And yet I will succeed where all of you have failed. This is the way it works, if you don’t want to come with me, I can go by myself, I don’t need anyone else to help me.”

Without waiting for them, I got out of the vehicle, Nysa’s men got out of the car and moved after me. I wasn’t sure if they were there to protect me or spy on me, I was betting it was the second choice.

It was an old building, but it was clear that it had been a great one in the old days.  I was sure that it had been lost because of the greed of their rulers.  The place was empty, but I could see light from a room the other side of the building.  It was candle light, creating dancing shadows in the place.  As I walked closer I had a feeling something was odd, so I let my instincts guide me.  I moved with care, listening to my hunches, until I arrived to the room.  I started to hear screams and shouts, people hurt or protesting, the rest of the group falling for traps around the room.  I knew that those traps would delay the rest of my group, but I was confident no one would get seriously hurt.  They were designed to give the girl enough time to run, but she wasn’t running, she was there, waiting for me, seated on a bunch of pillows.

“Welcome,” she greeted me with a smile.  Her unfocused eyes a clear sign that she wasn’t with me, she was in a trance.  For a moment a thought of asking her what she was seeing, even if I knew that she wouldn’t be able to hear me, but she surprised me by speaking.  “I’m in the future, I needed to make sure that no one would arrive here, no one but you,” her eyes changed, focusing on me.  “For I long time I have known they were after me, but I couldn’t let them find me.  Now that you’re here everything is different.  You are the key for my freedom, and the freedom of my people.  My name is Fatima, and it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“I guess you have already seen what the future has to offer to us.”

“As have you.  We both share the gift of precognition.  I usually see things that are going to happen short term, but I have seen the future, years ahead of us, and I know you will be an important piece of the future.  It’s my duty, my job, to be by your side and help you in whatever way I can, because if you succeed, I too will achieve my goals.”

“What are you talking about?  You want an alliance? You help me if I help you?”

“Helping you guaranties that my future becomes a reality.  An alliance with you will give me a life and eventually my freedom.  I have been waiting for you for a long time.  Your arrival is the beginning of my new life.”

“I must confess this is not what I was expecting when I came here.  For a long time you have been running away from these people, and now you are offering to come with me without resistance.”

“You know how this works.  I have seen my future, I know that if I had let them get me before this, I would have been in Nysa’s hands.  But now that you are involved in this, Faakhir and Emily know about me, and they won’t let Nysa hurt me or use me for her gain.  They don’t trust you, and they will need me to confirm whatever you tell them.  But don’t worry, my words will always confirm yours.”

“If you are sure about this, it’s time to go.  Unfortunatelywe will have to go to Nysa first, but I won’t try not to let you in her hands for long.  As soon as I can, I will convince the King and Queen to call you to their court.”

“I know you will.  I’m not worried.”

My image was only improved by the way Fatima came with me so easily, it also helped to make the rest of their forces hate me even more.  Nysa’s people had been after her for a long time, and Fatima had made fools of them over and over again.  All I had to do was walk inside the building and I had completed my mission.  Every day I gained more enemies, but also, I was gaining allies, not as fast, but at least they were there.