Bonus 2

“Can you believe it?  That woman is about to become the new Queen and head of the Dominion,” Representative Jeong said, incredulity and anger lacing his words.

“We should have seen it coming,” Representative Burgos said, “we should have expected her to want even more power.  I don’t know what it took her so long to kill them, but even they should have known that someone like her wouldn’t be second to anyone for long.”

“The problem is that there is nothing we can do against her now,” Representative Kozak said.  “She has control of the army, and she is extremely powerful on her own, not to mention the fact that she is a Seer and have other like her under her command.  Our best chance is to accept her and recognize her as our new leader.  We should also talk to our governments and push them to do the same.  She already did a lot of damage as Faakhir’s right hand and personal assassin, just imagine what she will be able to do now if we try to oppose her.”

“I know exactly what she is capable of, I still remember the day she killer my kid in cold blood, he just let him fall to his dead, didn’t even blink, we were never able to even recover his body.  She is a monster, and she should pay for her crimes, but not now, we have to wait for the right moment.  For the moment, we need to do what she says, and buy more time, we will have our justice, just now right now.”

“So, are we all in agreement?  Is this Commitee going to recognize Kaiserin as new Queen?”  Kozak asked.

“We will,” they all agreed.

They all agreed that they needed to follow her lead in order to survive, they would have to obey Kaiserin and hide their true feelings and intentions from her.  To go against her would be suicide, and they all had experimented her power in one way or another, they knew not to antagonize her.  Some of them have even tried to have her killed, but that had failed as well.  They haven’t been able to touch her while she was Faakhir’s protege, and now that she was the one in control it would be even more difficult to make her pay for her crimes, but they were willing to try.  None of them was willing to let her crimes go unpunished, they all knew it would be difficult, but they were willing to work harder in order to get rid of her.  It didn’t matter how long it took them, sooner or later Kaiserin would pay for killing their loved ones.

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 19

“I’m afraid that before going back home, we have another mission,” Faakhir warned me when we got into the plane.

Jonas didn’t react, so I guessed he knew what it was about, but Ivan looked as surprised as I.

“In that case I need more rest, I’m still tired after yesterday’s fight.  It’s not easy to have a building fall and not get hurt in the process.”

“You did a great job Kaiserin.  Once again you have shown me that I made the right decision when I recruited you.  There is nothing better to crush a rebellion that to kill their hope.  No one thought it possible to defeat master Ueshiba, they thought that as long as he was alive they could do anything.”

“I don’t get it, why did you let them bury him?” Jonas asked.  “I would have been better to destroy his body and give them nothing to bury.  It would have been a better revenge, total humiliation.”

“I think that, as always, the King made the right decision,” Ivan said.  “A funeral and a burial will give them the chance to watch Ueshiba’s dead body, it will help them see that he is truly dead, that no one can fight the Dominion.  It will also show them that as long as they follow the rules and honor their true leader, things could be good for them.”

“Exactly.  That’s what I wanted.  Someday those peasants will understand that their healthy choice is to forget all about rebellions and freedom.  As long as I have people like you on my side, nothing will stop me.”

While I faked sleep, and listened to the discussion between Faakhir and the others, a vision arrived.  It had been a while since I had experienced something so clear, so absolute.  It was a vision that couldn’t be changed, not without terrible consequences.  I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen, and I couldn’t identify the people involved, but I felt uneasy about it.

A couple of hours later we arrived at our destination.  When I got out of the plane, I noticed a lot of activity, many people moving around.  Faakhir’s men got out of the plane and took attack positions, while another group did the same from the ground, surrounding a group of people that was about to board a plane.

“Greetings my dear Representative Jeong, I guess you are heading to Capital City, right?  Why don’t you fly with us?  I would gladly take you and your family with me,” Faakhir said, with excessive sweetness.

I noticed that the man he was talking to was part of the Technological Gabinet, he was one of the few I could actually recognize due to Kimball’s involvement with them.  I had never paid much attention to the government, and I didn’t understand quite how it worked, but Kimball had told me that before Faakhir and Emily had taken control of the Dominion, most decisions were taken by people from either the Popular Parlament, the Representative Parlament or the International Council.  That those institutions still existed was a joke, a humiliation to everyone’s rights, and also another show of power from the King and Queen, who enjoyed to show their power over them, and didn’t let them disappear because of that.

“Your Majesty, what an honor to have you here.  We weren’t expecting  a visit from you,” the man called Jeong said.

“I heard some terrible rumors, and I wanted to check if there was some truth to them.  Luckily we were close, we just visited your neighbors on the other side of the sea, but we had to leave them, they had a funeral to prepare.  And while I was flying here I got the tip that you and your family was trying to escape, to go to a place where you could hide from us.  And that just didn’t make any sense.  Why would you need to hide from us?”  I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the threat in Faakhir’s voice was easy to see.

“My family is not hiding from anyone, we just came here for a vacation and were on our way back.”

“Then we are just in time to give you a lift there.  You are welcome to fly with me to Capital City.”

“We don’t want to be a bother.  Our transport is ready to depart, there’s no need to bother you and your people.”

“Is not a bother.  I insist, come with us,” Faakhir said, and his tone made it clear it was not a suggestion.”

When I looked at the rest of the family I was surprised to recognize the faces in front of me, those were the faces I had just seen in my vision earlier that day.  I realized that I wouldn’t have much time to act and that bothered me, because, even if I knew the vision was a strong one, I didn’t want any of them to die.

I opened my empathy to study the family’s emotions.  Representative Jeong was angry, but also afraid, while his wife was just afraid, very afraid.  She feared for her family, her husband and her children.  The oldest one, a teenager, was really mad, but I could feel under her anger fear and doubt.  The little one, a girl around Ethan’s age, was confused, she didn’t understand what was going on, and was more curious than afraid.

Faakhir’s men guided them to the airplane.  They walked in, like sacrificial lambs, taking their place on the plane, Jeong taking a seat across Faakhir.  I heard them discussing as soon as the plane went up, but I couldn’t understand all they were saying.  All I got was that Faakhir was accusing Jeong of hiding some new technology from him, something that could be useful for him.  What I could piece together was that Jeong and the rest of the Gabinet had decided that some inventions were safer away from Faakhir, convinced that it would be very dangerous for someone like him, that didn’t deserve it and didn’t need it to have it.  At first he denied everything, but he wasn’t strong enough to face Faakhir and his powers for long.

Soon I got the whole picture and finally understood what the man had tried to do.  I have to admire his actions, he had tried to help and protect his people, but Faakhir had many allies and spies, and no one in the Dominion was safe and Jeong’s actions had been discovered.  I was sure someone in the Gabinet had betrayed them.

They discussed for a while, but I knew who would win, Faakhir didn’t know how to lose, he always had an ace up his sleeve.  I tried to get a better idea of who the rest of his family were.  Other than what I had seen in my vision, I knew nothing about them.  Maybe I had walked past them in the Palace, but I haven’t talked to them.  I wanted to ask Ivan about it, to learn what he knew, but I was afraid that Faakhir would detect the communication and find about our relationship, finding out that we weren’t the enemies we make everyone believe we were.

“I find it really sad that after all this time you haven’t learned who the boss is,” Faakhir said, raising his voice, and getting my attention back to him.  I focused my attention on what he was saying.  “What you did is unacceptable.  All technical inventions and discoveries had to be notified to me, I’m the only one able to decide if common people should have access to it, or if the government is the only one allowed to have it.”

“That kind of decisions are supposed to be taken by the Technological Gabinet.  That’s the reason it exists after all.”

“Things have changed, after all this years I shouldn’t have to remind you that I’m the only one in charge.  But maybe you really need me to refresh your memory.”

Faakhir stood up and made a signal, Jonas also stood up and headed to the airplane’s emergency door.  I haven’t noticed before, but we had descended and lost speed during the last few minutes.  When Jonas opened the door we were hit with the strong wind coming from outside and swirling in the interior of the airplane.

“What’s going on?” Asked Jeong’s wife, clearly scared.

“I’m trying to teach you a lesson about actions and consequences,” Faakhir said, and with another signal from him, Jonas took the little girl and holding her by the neck he moved her next to the open door.

“Daddy!  Mommy!” The little girl was yelling and asking for help.

“Stop it!” Jeong asked.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Like I said, teaching a lesson.  If you try to fool me, if you try to play me, then you have to face the consequences.  You tried to take something that belonged to me, so now I’m going to do the same to you.”

“Please, leave my daughter alone,” the arrogant and confident tone that Jeong had gotten during their discussion was gone in the face of the situation.  I could feel his fear and desperation now that he knew what Faakhir was planning, and I understood him, I had been in the same situation, I could almost see Ethan in place of the little girl, he had been in that place before.  “I promise I won’t hold anything back again, I will follow the rules, no more hiding anything.”

“What kind of leader would I be if I don’t follow with my promises?” Faakhir asked, and I felt them rejecting his words.  Faakhir wasn’t a good leader, he was a tyrant, and a person who never kept his promises, unless it was for his own good.

Ivan, Jonas, Faakhir, Jeong’s family and I were the only ones in that part of the plane.  There was no one there who could help them, and they knew it.  The little girl’s screams were getting to me, they reminded me of Ethan and how I had been forced to hurt him.  The vision I had was still fresh, and I knew that I was about to see it become real, I would be forced, again, to hurt an innocent.  I kept trying to find another way, but I hadn’t had time to plan, or to communicate with someone who could help.

“Please! Leave my daughter alone.  Do whatever you want to me.  Hurt me, but don’t hurt her, she is an innocent, she has nothing to do with this.”

“But it is you I’m hurting.  I know how much you care about your family, what better way of teaching you a lesson?”

I could see Representative Jeong’s mind working, making plans, looking at options, working on a solution, and coming empty.  I knew he was trying to use his powers, but I knew that the copilot was a very strong technopath, and he was going to make sure no one could hack into the plane.  As his options disappeared, his desperations grew, and Faakhir’s satisfaction was growing as well.

Before any of us could react, Jeong’s teenage son attacked Jonas, trying to save his sister.  Jonas was too busy enjoying the parent’s pain so he was taken by surprise and let go of the girl, but he reacted fast enough to slap the boy.  The girl ran to her mother’s arm, but before she could get there Ivan took her and moved her away from the door and closer to Faakhir.  I was concentrated on Jeong’s son.  Jonas slap, the wind and the airplane movement contributed to throw him off balance and make him fall out of the plane.  I used my powers to hold him, extending my arms to let them know what I was doing.  I knew what was coming, but holding him was my way of buying some time to see if I could come up with something to save him.

“Please! Don’t let him fall,” his mother begged me, going to her knees and putting her hands on my feet.  “I can’t lose him, I can’t lose another child.”  In her mind, I saw the image of another girl, the female version of the one I was holding, and I knew I was seeing his twin sister.  At that moment I realized that losing a child was going to be hard on them, but losing another daughter would be even worse.  Both options were difficult, but losing him, a reminder of the one they had already lost, was something they could survive.  I was still going to make my best effort to make their loss a temporary one.

“Please!” Jeong was begging Faakhir.  “Tell her not to let my son go, ask her to bring him back to the plane.  I will do whatever you want, I will give you whatever you ask, just don’t let her drop him.”

For most people, holding a person with their mind was an effort that would take all their focus.  Most mind couldn’t deal with more than one task at the time, so when I extended my mind to talk to Ivan, no one there suspected, no one noticed, not even Faakhir.

‘I’ll have to let him fall sooner or later,’ I told Ivan, ‘I need to know where is safe to let him down.  I need you to find a safe place for him to survive long enough for me to send someone to find him.’

‘There’s not a safe place for him to fall, he will die just by that.  If you let him fall, we will lose him.’ I could read in Ivan’s mind.

‘I’ll let him down gently, we will land without mayor injuries.  But no one will be waiting for him like with Natasha or the others, he will have to be able to survive by himself of at least a day.’ I knew we were flying over land, so I would have to be very careful while I let him down, but I didn’t know the place we were flying over, I trusted Ivan to know more than me.

‘If you can let him down in a safe way, I could move some of my people, they are closer and they could keep him safe until your people can find a way to take him to that place you hide all refugees.’

‘Thank you, I knew I could count on you.  I will let him down in a few minutes, I will try to get him down in the exact spot we are flying over at that moment, so you have to mark the exact spot so you know where to send your people.’  Ivan’s suggestion was a good one and took a weight off my shoulders, I hated not having a plan ready.  Kimball was busy with his master and no one else was ready for the task.

“Kaiserin,” Faakhir said, making sure he got my attention.  “Let’s give him a lesson.”

Without a word I let my arms drop, at the same time that the boy got out of sight.  From his parents and sister’s point of view, he was falling to his death, but I was using my powers to slow down his fall so he could land safely.

His parents and sister’s screams of pain were heartbreaking, the smiles on Faakhir and Jonas’ faces sickly.  I knew that I couldn’t let them know how much I hated what was going on, so I faked boredom and returned to my seat, taking a magazine and going through it, trying to block the pain around me.