Chapter 17

I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but I had to go to the party, for the twins, for Joon Hwan, with whom I had created a bond of friendship, and for Ji Min, who I needed to make sure was ok, that she was getting used to family life.

The birthday party was at a location outside of the city, and I had to prepare myself, so I wouldn’t be reminded of the last time I had gone to a meeting outside the city, and how things had gone so bad at the vineyard.

When we arrived, we found the parking lot already full of cars, and a security detail was patrolling the area.  My own security force joined them, I wasn’t going to allow anything to interrupt their first party back together, not after all they have gone through.

We arrived at the party, and a heavy silence fell over the room as soon as I people noticed I had arrived, but then, a couple of war cries bloke the silence, and I realized a couple of kids were running my way.  I recognized little five year old, Halid, and little three year old, Emma.  Halid jumped at me, but I used my powers to stop him mid air, and then I turned him upside down.

“Hello little warrior, I see you haven’t changed a bit.  Surrender, and I promise I will let you go unharmed.”

“Never!” he yelled, voice full of conviction, while little Emma was initiating her own attack.

Halid’s parents had been with him at Aquarium, and they knew he was safe with me, but Emma’s father didn’t, her mother and her had been refugees because Faakhir had ordered their murder as a way to punish her father, who was running to save his daughter from me.  I saw Halid’s parents nearby, and after making eye contact and making sure they knew what I intended, I sent Halid flying to them.  Halid was laughing while his parents held him and reprimanded him for his attack, while Emma’s father was getting her away from me as fast as he could, despite the girl’s protests.

“You certainly know how to make an entrance,” Joon Hwan said, as he opened his arms so I could give him a hug.

“It wasn’t my fault, it was theirs.  Happy birthday.  How are you feeling on your first birthday after coming back?”

“I couldn’t be more grateful to you, having my sister with me is the biggest gift you could have given me,” right then Jin Min arrived, and her brother moved aside so I could hug her.

“How are you?”

“I’m good, still getting used to being back, but you were right, my family is not that bad,” she said, but her voice showed doubts, which was normal, after years of being in a bad situation, a person could get a lot of invisible injuries that took a lot of time to heal.

“I’m glad, but you must remember that I’m here if you even need anything.”

“You have done enough, you gave me what I wanted the most, you gave me my family back, and that’s something I never thought I would have,” she said, but I knew that by family she only meant her brother, she still couldn’t include her parents in the same category.

“Happy birthday,” Ethan said, and both of them turned to him so they could hug, then Kimball got his turn.

Representative Jeong also approached to welcome us, and I could tell that he wasn’t happy, he probably didn’t expect us to accept the invitation.  And he wasn’t the only one who looked uncomfortable by our presence, but I saw a few familiar faces, people from Aquarium that knew me, and that didn’t hate me.

I made my way to one of the tables, one where I found a lot of familiar faces, and sat with them.  They all offered me a warm welcome and I could see that people around us was looking at us with curiosity, and distrust.

“It seems that you don’t have that many fans in here,” said Teresa de Burgos, the representative’s mother.  “I told my daughter that she should offer you an apology, but I’m afraid it won’t be soon, she still needs to gather her courage and prepare to swallow her words, it’s not easy for her to admit she was wrong.

“You know that’s not necessary, as long as she stops messing with me, and trying to kill me, I’m fine.”

“I raised her better than that, I expect more from her, she has to do the right thing.”

“Your daughter is a strong woman, with strong ideas, but that’s what makes her good at her job.”

The evening was more enjoyable than I expected, I had the chance to see some of the old refugees, and the opportunity to see by myself that they were all well.  Some of the guests, those who were obviously Jeong’s friends, avoided me, and I could feel they didn’t trust me, I could even feel some fear from them.

The twins were teenagers, still the celebration felt a little childish.  As the evening progressed, some people started to leave, those still in attendance got together for the cake.  I could feel the tension between the guests, and I knew I was the reason for that.

The first ones to receive their slices of cake were the kids, by the time they started handing us our slices, the kids were done with them.  Just as the server was setting the cake in front of me, little Emma climbed into my lap and grabbed my cake.  I could feel how people froze around me, waiting for my response.

“What are you doing?” I calmly asked.

“I want more cake,” she said, full of innocence.

“But that’s my cake,” I said, my voice whining.  “Would you like if I took your cake?”  Emma shook her head.  “And how do you think I will feel if you take my cake?”

“I like cake, I don’t want anyone to take my cake,” she said.

“Well, I don’t want anyone to take my cake either.  Why don’t you ask for more if you already finished yours?”

“My daddy says it’s not polite to ask for more,” she explained.

“Well, it’s not polite to take other people’s cakes.”

“Can we share?” she asked, her eyes so big and her face so sweet I couldn’t say no.

“I guess so,” I said, and she immediately grabbed the fork and took a big bite out of it, then she proceeded to take a much smaller piece and offered it to me.  I couldn’t help but let her feed me, or I risked Emma letting the cake fall all over me.

I could see that Kimball was trying, very hard, not to laugh, but Ethan, who was nearby with his friends, was just laughing out loud.  Many of the guests were staring at me, most couldn’t believe what they were watching, but those who knew me only smiled, I wasn’t sure if they were smiling at me, or the people’s reaction to it.

“I told you you didn’t have to worry about her,” Michelle, Emma’s mother told her husband.  “Kaiserin would never do anything to harm me, much less to harm little Emma.”

“But she is a murderer,” her husband protested.

“You are living in the past, you haven’t even bothered to get to know Kaiserin, she is a good person and a good friend.  You have no idea how much the kids in Aquarium loved her, she is good with them.”

“Could you stop talking?” I asked her.  “You are ruining my image,” but she only laughed as if I was telling a joke, with they were, kind of.

Just as I was trying to seem tougher, little Halid attacked again, climbing the chair from behind and putting his arms around my neck.  The kid was heavy, and if it wasn’t for my powers, he could have hurt me, but with them, he wasn’t doing much damage.

“Halid!” his mother reprimanded, “leave Kaiserin alone.”

“After she surrenders,” the little guy replied.

“Aren’t you going to help me?” I asked Kimball, who couldn’t stop his laughter anymore.

“It seems you have everything under control,” he said.

“Don’t worry mother, I will rescue you,” Ethan said, approaching Halid and tickling him until he let go of me.

“Who would have thought that all we needed to defeat Kaiserin was a bunch of kid,” representative Burgos said.

“Don’t make a mistake, I cannot be defeated.  Some of my enemies already tried using kids against me, thinking that would stop me, it didn’t.  I love the little ones, and I wouldn’t hesitate to protect them, but if I find myself in a situation where my options are limited, I won’t doubt to take any action that allows me to succeed.  I’m a warrior, I serve a bigger purpose, I’m not like you, I was raised to make difficult decisions.  I’m willing to fight for a noble cause, and defend those important to me, but I’m merciless against those who attack me, I won’t stop before anything to destroy my enemies.”

“That’s what I like about you, my dear,” Teresa said, “you are a woman that is not afraid to get her hands dirty, and you certainly have the power to destroy her enemies, you already showed that many times, I don’t think people will forget anytime soon what you did to Emily.  You are who you are, and no one is perfect.  You remind me of a wild animal, calm and majestic, but lethal if attacked.”

“I’m not sure if you are insulting me, or complimenting me,” I told her.

“I’m pretty sure it was a compliment,” William said.  “I’m sorry for being late.”

“That’s ok, better late than never,” Joon Hwan greeted him.

“It’s an honor to have you with us,” representative Jeong greeted him, and I couldn’t help but feel insulted.

“I’m just going to be here a minute, I thought Kaiserin would leave early and I was waiting for her to be gone, but I should have known she wouldn’t be able to resist spending time with the younglings, the little ones always gravitate towards her.”

“Maybe they like her because she treats them as equals, that makes them feel important,” Kimball said.

“There is no need for you to go,” Jeong said, “if Kaiserin’s presence bothers you…”

“That’s not it, It’s an honor and a pleasure to be in her presence,” William interrupted him before he could offer to kick me out of there, “is Kaiserin who doesn’t want me here, and the last thing I want to do is make her uncomfortable.”

“This is Joon Hwan’s party, and I know you became good friends during your time in Aquarium, if he wants you here, then I can’t ask otherwise.”

“Thanks,” William said, moving to a place where I wouldn’t be forced to see him.

“I still don’t know what to think about you,” representative Burgos said, “but I guess that I have a lot to thank you for, and a few reasons to ask for your forgiveness.  I misjudged you, that’s more obvious every day, for the stories I’ve heard and the way you treat people, especially for the trust the most innocent place with you, I can see that you are a good, loyal person.  But I also get that you can be quite bad for your enemies.  You are both sides of the coin, you show both extremes, and I want to be on your good side.”

“Always looking for a way to survive, I couldn’t expect anything less from you,” I said with a smile.  I could tell that it had cost her a lot just to approach me admitting to being wrong, I would have liked to make her suffer a little bit, but I respected her mother and liked her son, I wasn’t going to humiliate her in front of them.

The representative went back to where the rest of the members of the committee were gathered.  I noticed the air felt different, lighter, and I realized that the perception of the people was changing, they weren’t as afraid, nor they felt that much distrust, some didn’t hate me as much.  They were opening their minds to the possibility that the image they had of me was mistaken.

I still wasn’t sure what to think about William’s actions, but I had to accept that it felt better to be able to present a different face to them, and not to constantly feel their negative thoughts.  I wasn’t sure if we would reach a point when we could all be friends, but at least I felt like the number of enemies I had was suddenly reduced.


Chapter 14

I was surprised by the forlorn sight that welcomed us when we arrived at our destination, but maybe in a way I should have expected it, Kimball had told me that that area was part of a military zone that had been used by the northern part of the country, back when they were still divided and fighting each other.  The place had been abandoned once both sides had become one country, like most military posts all over the country.

“Anything to report?” I asked Thalia, who was still working with Fatima, who was walking in the fog.

“It seems that nothing has changed and we are in the right time frame to do what we need to do.  We are approaching the point when your vision happened.”

We went to our vehicles and started to move, the idea was to go around the property and approach the place from a point we would be able to neutralize the threats and capture the kidnappers.  We arrived to a point from where we could observe the building I had seen in my vision, and we watched as the couple I had seen in my vision exited the place and went to a car that was parked near the door.  As soon as they got inside the car, I used my powers to trap them inside.  As soon as they realized what was going on, they started screaming and trying to get out.  I knew they had an arsenal of gadgets at their disposal, but I trusted my men to be able to stop them.

“Come with me,” I asked Kimball, at the time I started moving towards the building.  From my vision I knew that they have started a self-destruct sequence, and my priority was to stop it, I wasn’t sure what we were going to find inside and I wanted to have time to check it.

We heard the alarms as soon as we got close, but when we arrived at the door, we heard something worse, people screaming.  I knew that Jeong’s daughter was there, and I had suspicions that there were more, but until then I had no idea how many more people we would find.  Kimball was studying the lock, and even knowing he was a very smart person, there were some situation where he couldn’t compete with a tecnopath.

“There is no time to try and unlock this, we will have to break the door, move back,” he asked, but I let him know that I had it with a gesture, and proceeded to use my powers to open a hole in the wall, next to the door.  I was aware that most traps were designed to attack those crossing through the door.  “I suppose that works too,” Kimball said, smiling at me despite the situation.

I followed Kimball inside, hoping he had a good idea of where we needed to go.  I sent a telepathic message to my people to ask them to be ready to come help us as soon as we dealt with the self-destruct sequence.

It didn’t take long to reach a huge room of machines that I didn’t know or understood, but that looked out of place in a building that was supposed to be the most technologically advanced in the Dominion.

“This all looks old, which could work in our advantage,” Kimball said, as he started taking things out of his backpack.  “Could you help me cool down those tanks?” he asked, and even if I didn’t know why, I trusted him to know what to do.

“Consider it done,” I said, and started working on it.  I wasn’t sure what was going on, all I was sure of was that the place was going to explode if we couldn’t stop it, and that my action would help stop it.

Kimball finished what he was doing in what probably were a few minutes, but felt like an eternity.  He just got up and looked around suspiciously.

“This was too easy, something tells me that we are not done yet,” Kimball said, and I had to agree with him.  I decided not to call for backup yet, and take some time to look around.

We went back to the main area and started to walk to where the screaming was coming from, but when we were halfway there, Kimball pulled me to the floor and covered me just before I felt the heat and realized there were lasers around us.

“Defense system?” I asked.

“This is just the beginning, I have a feeling that a place like this must have some of the best defenses there are.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“Of course, Kimball said, and went back to his backpack.  As soon as he took the little machine out, I recognized the EMP.  Just a few seconds after that the EMP shock wave hit me.  I knew it had worked because of the sudden silence that followed it.  “We still have to be careful, I wouldn’t discount that the tecnopaths had some protection against the EMP built in some of their defenses.  Can you use your power to look for electrical signatures that could pinpoint working traps?”

“Give me a moment,” I said, extending my senses and trying to build a mental map of the place.  I didn’t find any dangers, but I could feel people approaching us, people I was sure was not a danger to us.  “We have company,” I told Kimball, just as the first faces started to show.  “Will the translator work?” I asked, not sure if the EMP had affected it.

“I don’t think so, didn’t even thought about it.  The EMP’s range is not that big, there should be a few working translators outside.”

I used my powers to contact my people and call some of them.  I have a few local soldiers, people who knew the language and would be able to communicate with them.  My main concern was to find Ji Min, I hadn’t even considered what I was going to do with the rest, but I knew I couldn’t leave them behind.  I found a familiar face among the crowd, it was like looking at a slightly sick version of Joon Hwan.

Ji Min watched the group moving our way, and then she looked at us, and moved to the side.  I knew she was trying to escape and I couldn’t allow her to get away.  I called my people and sent them instruction by telepathy, and then I signaled Kimball to let him know I was going after her.  It didn’t take long to reach her, because I was using my powers to track her.  We found ourselves outside and Ji Min ran into a group of my men that were patrolling the building.  She took a gadget out of her pocket, but when she tried to make it work, it didn’t, it had been affected by the EMP.

“Jeong Ji Min? I know your brother,” I said, using one of the languages I knew that Joon Hwan could speak fluently, and hoping she would know it too.  “He misses you and asked me to look for you.  Would you like to see him?”

“My brother?  He is dead, they told me so,” she said, using the same language I had used.

“And you believed them?  People told him you were dead, but he never believed it, he says he knows you are alive because he can feel you.  Can’t you feel him?”

“I do…” she admitted, her eyes going unfocused for a moment, as if she was trying to reach him.

“I came to help you, I promise I mean no harm, I’ll just take you back to your family.”

“My parents don’t care about me, they never came for me.”

“They looked for you for a long time, but they were convinced you were gone.  Your brother was also taken away from your parents, and that hurt them a lot.  I’m here because your brother Joon Hwan wants you back, he feels incomplete without you and misses you.”

“How can I know you are telling the truth?”

“You can’t, I know there is no reason for you to trust me, but I will give you the option to come with my by your own free will.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“I really don’t know, I can feel that whatever happened here hurt you a lot, and I don’t want to be part of your pain.  But I can’t leave you alone.  I would probably send someone to follow you to make sure you’re safe, and then I would go for your brother, it wouldn’t be easy or convenient, but if you won’t go to him, he would have to come for you,” the young lady’s face was impossible to read, but I could tell she was thinking about my words, trying to come up with something, wanting to trust me.  “I would prefer if you would come with me, I can take you to a villa near here where you can rest and eat, and of course, we could get rid of that uncomfortable suppressor for you.  I hate them, don’t you?”

“The only ones who can remove them are the bosses, they have the codes.  The EMP that you used didn’t affect the suppressors, and if you try to remove it by force it will explode and kill me.”

“The bosses?  You mean the couple that was trying to run away?”  I asked, thinking about my options.  I was pretty sure that Kimball could take the suppressor off, but I could feel her terror, and since I knew that it was very difficult to fool a technopath about how things worked, I had to believe that those were dangerous.  I used my powers to order my men to bring the couple.  “Do you think they would be able to remove them without danger?”

“I heard them discussing their plan of escape, they were going to destroy the place and leave us there to die.  If you ask them to take it off, they would probably just make it explode.”

“I don’t think so, I can be really convincing.”

The couple arrived a couple of minutes later, and I could tell by their expressions that they weren’t happy and would most likely be against cooperating with us.  I decided that I couldn’t take the easy approach with them.  As soon as they stopped I used my powers to force them down on their knees, then I took a translator that was still in working condition and my men had brought me, and activated it, so we could avoid any misunderstandings.

“I need you to help me,” I said, and could tell that they had no intention to hear me out, much less to help me.  “I will ask this once, and only once.  Will you help me?” None of them answered, and their silence was all the answer I needed.  I used my powers to invade their minds and used a mental attack that had them writhing in pain.

I knew how effective and painful that kind of attack was, and their blood-curdling screams only drove the point home.  I could see the people we have rescued from the building watching in horror from the distance, even some of my people seemed affected.  I stopped the attack and went into their weakened minds to look for the information I needed.  Deactivating the suppressors was easier than I expected, but still I decided to let someone who knew what he was doing take care of it.

“Kimball,” I called using the comm, “I need your help.”  I had just finished speaking when I saw Kimball walking out of the building and approaching us.  I went to the couple and took the control from them.  It had several biometric security measures, but with them there, it wouldn’t be any problem.

“What do you need me for?” Kimball asked, watching the control on my hands.

“I need you to disable the suppressors.  Ji Min said that they had some kind of security that makes it unsafe to remove them by force.  This is the suppressor’s control.  If you open your mind, I can show you how to use it.”

Kimball took the control and looked directly at my eyes, something we knew helped with the mental connection.  I showed him the images I had taken from their minds and Kimball started working on it right away.  A moment later I heard Ji Min’s suppressor unlocking and hitting the ground.  I watched as her eyes went unfocused as she looked around, and I knew she was using her powers.

“Any idea about what she is planning?”

“She is planning her escape, obviously,” I said.  “Ji Min, would you like to come with us to our home?  I think that you and the rest of the people could use some food and rest.”

“I still don’t know if I can trust you.”

“You have your powers back, we gave them to you as an act of good faith, now is your turn to give us some trust.  I just want you to give us a little bit of your time.”

It wasn’t easy to convince her to come with us, but we finally did it.  At first, all of our talks were difficult and full of mistrust, but soon I realized that despite her advance control of tecnopathy, she was lacking on the rest.  She had no idea how to shield her mind, and I was able to read her thoughts very easily.  I pointed that weakness to her and taught her how to hide her thoughts.  Kimball even shared with her some tech designs that could help her with that.

Between the information I had gathered from her mind and the information we had extracted from our prisoners I  finally had an idea of what had happened.  A group of businessmen, supported by one of Faakhir’s trusted men, had kidnapped several technopaths and forced them to work on their factory building some very advanced gadgets that only people with their powers could build, gadgets that they sold to the Dominion.  Faakhir had no idea of how the factory was using slave work to build them, not that he would have cared one way or another, but his ignorance had made things more difficult for me, since I would have been able to find her if he had known.  Ever since Joon Hwan had told me about his sister and how he could still feel her, and how he sometimes felt as if she was sending him messages, I had promised I would do everything I could to find her, and I had finally done it.

She wasn’t ready to face her family, but little by little I convinced her that she had at least to go to her brother, he was the only one who affected her in any way.  After a week I felt like she was ready to go to her family.  I knew that she had a lot of healing ahead of her, but I felt it would be easier if she was surrounded by people that loved her, at least around her brother that she still felt fondly about, and maybe her little sister, who she barely remembered.

Capital City was full of military presence, because of the situation that had caused some people from trying to leave, against my orders.  We arrived to the Yellow Tower and found a group of soldiers posted around it, which only made Ji Min even more nervous and made her doubt her decision to to to her brother.

We went to the floor where her parent’s apartment was located, each floor had four apartments, usually inhabited by people from the same country.  That floor only had three occupied apartments, and I was already thinking about using the spare one for Ji Min and her brother, in case she was too uncomfortable to be in the same one as her parents.

We haven’t even gotten to the door when Jeong opened it and stormed out.  I could see he wasn’t in a welcoming mood.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.  His angry attitude was not what I was expecting after giving him his son back.

“Is that all you have to say to me?” I challenged him.

“I guess I have to thank you for not killing my son,” he said, somewhat chastised.  “Thank you for giving him back.  But I don’t know what you did to him, I’m pretty sure you brainwashed him, because he is obviously on your side, and I don’t appreciate you trying to use him to manipulate me.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about, but I need to see him.”

“No.  I’m sorry, but I can’t allow you to.”

“Again, it’s not about what you want.”

Jeong started to scan the crowd, and I was pretty sure he was looking for Agata, the one I had used to blackmail him into obedience, but she wasn’t with us, his daughter was, and I watched the moment he found her.

“Daughter?” he asked, his voice breaking.  “Is this a trap?  Another trick to manipulate me?”

“Joon Hwan asked me to find his sister, and I finally did a few days ago.  I know his birthday is in a few days, and I thought he would like to have his sister with him for the celebration.”

“Ji Min?  Is really you?”

“You said my brother was going to be here,” Ji Min said, “he is the one I want to see, not that man,” she said with venom.

“What did you do to her?  What ideas did you put in her head?”

“Don’t blame me, I just found her.”

“My daughter…” he tried to talk, only to be interrupted.

“Don’t call me that, you lost the right when you abandoned me.  Don’t pretend to care about me, you never did.  You weren’t there when I needed you, and I don’t need you anymore,” Ji Min was angry again, the same anger I had felt in her when we had found her.

“It wasn’t like that,” Jeong tried to explain.

“I don’t want to talk to you, I hate you,” Ji Min yelled at him, and I could see she was just starting her verbal attack, so I slapped her to shut her up.

As soon as the palm of my hand made contact with her cheek, Jeong tried to attack me, instinctively reacting.  All my guards took their weapons out and pointed them to him, but he didn’t seem to notice them, or care about the danger he was in.

“Don’t you dare touch my daughter!” he yelled at me, before trying to get to me again, but my psychic wall was stopping him from reaching me.  Still, he kept trying to break it to get to me.  “Get away from my daughter, don’t you dare hurting her.”

“Does that sound like someone who doesn’t care about you?” I asked Ji Min, who was staring at me in confusion.

“But he never went for me.”

“Do you think he didn’t try?  I know things weren’t easy for you, but neither were for him, you should give him a chance.  Besides, your brother and sister are here, your mother too.  At least try to talk to him, give it some time, and if you can’t fix things between you, I will come for you and take you somewhere else.”

“Do you promise?” she asked, her hand covering the place where I hit her.  She was a very smart person, and by the way she was looking at her father, who was still fighting my barrier, I thought she understood why I had attacked her.

“I promise, but first, give them a chance.  You know how to contact me, so does your brother.”

“Ok, I will try.”  Ji Min moved closer and then bowed to me.  “Thank you for everything.”

As she was turning away from me to go to her father, Joon Hwan got out of the apartment and saw his sister, he stood frozen for a second, and then ran to her.  Ji Min mirrored him, and I pulled the psychic wall down just in time for them to avoid hitting it.  They hugged, staring at each other and having a silent conversation, and it felt as if the time between them hadn’t existed.  At the doorway, their mother and sister were watching, not knowing exactly what was happening, while Representative Jeong watched the scene, not knowing how to react, giving a few tentative steps toward them, but unwilling to interrupt them.

I turned away from them and signaled my people that it was time to go, but before I could leave, I heard someone coming my way and I looked back to see Joon Hwan approaching me.

“Thank you,” he told me, he knew he didn’t need to add anything, I could feel his gratitude, his happiness, and all the feelings running through him at that moment.

“Just fulfilling my promise to you, when I took you to Aquarium I told you I would find your sister, and I’m sorry it took me this long.”

“What matters is that you found her, and I will be forever grateful for this,” he said, bowing to me.

“Nothing to be grateful for.  I’ll go now, I’m sure you have a lot of catch up to do.  You know how to contact me if you need me.”  Before they could add anything else, I walked away, leaving the building quickly, and feeling satisfied about what I had accomplished.  I wasn’t ready to face William, and even if I wanted to avoid the confrontation that awaited me, I knew that sooner of later we would have to do something about the trial.

Chapter 10

“The Committe is ready for you,” one of my assistants told me.

“I will be there in a minute.”

I had been more careful, the reunion was going to be in the Palace, in one or the meeting rooms, and I had my people all around me.  I knew that the attack my enemies had planned had been successfully stopped even before they had the chance to act, and the people involved had been arrested, but there were a few of Faakhir’s loyal followers still at large.  We hadn’t been able to find another big attack during our walks through the fog, but still, most people had warned me to be careful.  Sofia had even suggested that I needed Agata with me, and Kimball had agreed that it was a good idea to make her part of my bodyguards.

Agata was a very infamous assassin that the Tech Committe had hired to get rid of me, she had been one of the few persons that had been close to killing me, but despite her grim power, she was a good person at heart, one that only wanted justice.  It had taken me a while to convince her to let go of her need for vengeance against those who had asked her to kill me, and I had sent her to Aquarium for a while to keep her away, but she was, after all, a very powerful weapon they wanted me to use to be safe.  Agata was a great and loyal ally, but I wanted to keep her away from those she perceived as evil, from those she wanted to punish, so I left her behind while I went to my meeting, taking Ivan and Yoweri with me instead.

“Thank you for coming,” I greeted the members of the committee.

“Again, it’s not like we had a choice,” representative Burgos replied.

“Unfortunately, our last meeting was cut short because of a few issues, but I trust that you have been working with the Agriculture Committee in the thinks I asked you to.”

“I think that there are more important things than working on finding a better way to produce wine…” representative Kozak started to protest.

“You should know you can farm other things.  I think you know that we need more food sources, I have no interest of ruling over a bunch of dead bodies.  Corpses can’t work, can they?  We need to find a way to feed people, don’t you think?”  They all looked surprised at my request, but I knew they had to agree that what I was asking for was something we needed.  “I want you to keep working on that, I know there are places where they can grow things naturally, but there are places that need some help.  I will have another meeting with the Agriculture Committee to talk about the best places and methods to farm, but I want you to work with them and offer whatever help you can.  But first, I need you to work on some universal translators.  I know that my predecessors forbade the use of them, they preferred everyone to talk their language, but I think it’s better to have the translators and have everyone talk in whatever language they feel comfortable, that would avoid misunderstandings.”

“Emily forbade those translators…”

“Because she wanted everything her say,” I interrupted, “she wanted everyone to talk like her, to do and like the same things she did.  She wanted to change everyone’s culture to match hers and impose her will on the Dominion.  I don’t care about those things, I don’t care what they do or how they do it.  Instead of threatening and punishing those who talk different, I want to be able to understand them.  There are too many languages in the Dominion to learn them all, that’s why I need the translator, and I want everyone working with the government to have on.”

“That doesn’t seem to be a bad idea,” Jeong said, cutting off the discussion that was about to start.  “That’s one of the things we actually wanted to reintroduce.  We can start working on that immediately, we should be able to have enough of them in a few days.”

“You have until Friday,” I said.

“But that only gives us three days,” Representative Burgos protested.

“I’m sure you should have a few stored somewhere, ready to be used as soon as you need them.”

“Can’t you give us a little more time?”

“I want to reintroduce a few old customs, things from before Emily and Faakhir took control, starting with the separation of powers.  I will start by introducing a new King, and I want the universal translator by then.”

“So Kimball will finally make it to King?” Jeong asked.  I decided to ignore the comment, I knew most people were going to assume that he was the one I had chosen to take the position, and that I was going to continue the tradition of keeping everything in the family.

“That’s all I had to tell you, I don’t care how, but I want you to have the translators ready by this Friday.”

I walked out of the room while they were still protesting, but Kimball had said that it was possible to have them ready, so I ignored the protests.  As I walked away, I was aware I was being followed.  I didn’t worry about it, not with Ivan and Yoweri walking by my side, but once I realized that Jeong was the one behind me and that we were getting closer to where Agata was waiting, and I started to get worried about what could happen if they saw each other.

“If you allow me, I want a word with you,” Jeong said.

“I’m busy and already said all I needed to say.”

“This is about Agmong and Sklave,” he said, and I felt cold.

“How do you know those names?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“I know what happened in the vineyard,” Jeong said.  “And I have recordings.  If you mess with my memory again or something happens to me, those recordings will go public and everyone in the Dominion will know what happened there.”

“Let’s talk in my office,” I said, I didn’t want to have that discussion in the hallway.  I could feel that Ivan and Yoweri were mad, but I made a signal so they knew not to act, I couldn’t risk them making Jeong mad until I found out what he knew and what he wanted.

When we arrived at my office Ivan opened the door and Yoweri went inside before Jeong noticed, but when Ivan tried to get in Jeong stopped him.  Ivan looked at me for confirmation and I just shook my head, we needed to play his game for the moment.  I needed to know exactly what he knew and what he wanted before acting.  I knew that Yoweri was already inside, even if I was stressed enough not to be able to see him.

“Explain,” I asked Jeong, trying to sound confident and calm, but the knowledge that he had recordings of what had happened had affected me more than I cared to admit.  “How do you managed to know what happened?”

“As you know, Faakhir liked to mess with people’s minds, and I created a recording device that allowed me to record everything happening around me, so if that ever happened to me I could realize it.  I just wanted to make sure that if Faakhir messed with my mind, I knew it, with a recording I could at least know if he went into trance.  I don’t trust you, so I decided to keep using the device.  That day in the vineyard, I knew something had happened, so as soon as I went back home, I went over the recordings and I was able to learn everything, including your true name, Sklave.”

“That’s not my name!” I yelled, unable to stop myself.  After all that time, I couldn’t believe that my enemies were aware of my past and my weak points.  I knew that people like Jeong could easily transmit the information to his friends.  I could see his superficial thoughts, he wasn’t even trying to mask them, and I could see the torture I had suffered through his eyes, and the feeling of vulnerability was coming back to me.  “You saw the recordings, but you don’t understand them,” Jeong tried to speak, but I stopped him with a gesture.  “Who has seen these recordings?”

“My wife, obviously,” he said with a shrug, “it’s only fair since that was also part of the memories you took from us.  You have gone through a lot of work to keep your past hidden, so I guess you don’t want those recordings to become public knowledge.  So, it all depends on you, if you want me to keep them secret.”

“I never thought that our little war would end with blackmail.  Tell me, what do you want?”

“What I want, you can’t give me,” Jeong said, angry, “but I can settle for a little justice.  I want you to listen and listen well, Sklave…”

“I.  Am.  Not.  Sklave.” I repeated.  I knew that I shouldn’t make him angry, I needed time to come up with a plan, with a way to destroy or contain the recordings.  I didn’t know how to do something like that, but maybe Kimball knew.  I closed my eyes and tried to calm down, but that only made things worst, since as soon as I closed my eyes the memories of my torture from Jeong’s point of view came to me, I saw myself like he had seen me, I saw Sklave, a weak, defeated woman.

“Going with your reaction that day, I know you would be willing to do a lot just to keep that knowledge secret,” I didn’t confirm that, but Jeong wasn’t a fool, he knew what he was doing.  “Do you know what else I realized watching those recordings?  I noticed how you faced the torture just giving glimpses of vulnerability, and I watched you break the moment they hurt your husband.  You are not as indifferent to him as you pretend to be.  You have an Aquiles heel.”  I tried to convince myself that I had nothing to fear, that even if he was threatening me, it was not a threat he could fulfill.  “I wonder if your attitude towards Ethan is also an act.”

“Before you try something against him, should I remind you how your daughter was crying when he was hurt during the battle at the school?  Just stop stalling and tell me what you want.”

“I already told you, I want justice!” Jeong yelled, hitting my desk with his open palm and standing up in front of me.  “I want everyone to know that the woman that pretends to be a powerful warrior was nothing more than a slave in her own land.”

I could understand Jeong and his need for vengeance, he had seen me throw his son out of a plane after all, but at the same time I couldn’t let him destroy everything I had been working on, I only needed to find a way to stop him.  What price would I have to pay for him to be satisfied?  I was still trying to come up with something when I noticed that Agata was moving closer to Jeong.  I knew immediately what she wanted to do, but I couldn’t allow her to harm him, I still didn’t know what security measures he had taken to protect himself from me.

“Stop!” I ordered Agata, but she ignored me.

“Agata?” Jeong asked, confused by her presence.  I didn’t think he would be able to recognize the assassin he had hired to kill me, but apparently he knew exactly who she was.  “But… you should be dead.  You never came back, and you never leave a job unfinished.”

“Kaiserin was judged and found innocent,” Agata said, her sweet, angelic voice a macabre contrast to her intensity and the meaning of her words.  “You and your people were judged and found guilty of trying to trick me into harming an innocent.”

“Agata, stop right now,” I said, trying to sound firm, but I already knew she wouldn’t be easily convinced of changing her mind.

“This wouldn’t be happening if you had allowed me to finish my work,” Agata said.  “They deserve to be punished.”

“Agata, I already told you, they were justified to try and seek vengeance, he saw me pushing his son out of a plane, he doesn’t know the reasons behind my actions.”

“They sent me to kill an innocent,” Agata repeated, and I could see in her eyes that there was nothing I could do to stop her, “they knew the price they would have to pay for that.”

Agata’s body started to fall down, and I knew her mind was already moving to attack Jeong.  I also knew that most people couldn’t survive her attacks.  I used my double mind to pull Agata into my mind, where I knew I could contain her long enough to calm her down.  I knew she was acting out of guilt, and that she wouldn’t do anything to harm me, or so I hoped.

“What did you do?  You brainwashed her, didn’t you?”

“Or maybe Agata found something in her that made her change her mind,” Yoweri, who even I had forgotten was in the room, said.  I was sure that it was thanks to him that neither of us had realized Agata was there.  “You should let Agata finish what she started,” Yoweri said, and I could see how angry he was at Jeong for threatening me.

“Agata still sees things in black and white, she doesn’t understand their reasoning to act.  If I let her go after Jeong, she won’t stop until she kills every member of the Committee.”

“You knew we had sent her after you?”

“Of course I knew, I know more than you think.  But like I tried to explain Agata, I don’t blame you for trying, in your place I would had done the same.  Of course, I would have done it in person, and I wouldn’t have failed, but I get it.  There are a lot of things I am willing to forgive, but what you want to do with those recordings, I don’t think I would be able to forgive that.”

“That’s right,” Kimball said from the door, I could see Ivan and most of my trusted men behind him, I guessed Ivan had gone for him and let him know what was happening.  “You should be grateful for Kaiserin’s mercy and stop trying to mess with her.  Just think what would happen if she wasn’t here to stop Agata from going after you.  You and your friends know exactly what she is capable of, after all she had never failed a mission until she found Kaiserin.  If you publish the recordings you have from the vineyard, you won’t have to worry about Kaiserin going after you, Agata will be there first.”

“You have fooled us all along, it was all an act, right?”  Jeong accused Kimball.

“Things are not how they look like,” Kimball said.  “And if I were you, I would try to be more open minded, and would start working on having everything ready for this Friday’s coronation.  And I would especially avoid doing anything to harm Kaiserin.  I will be going over all communications, and if I, or my people, hear any rumors about what happened in that vineyard or Kaiserin’s past, I promise you, you won’t be able to hide from us.”

“I’m very disappointed in you,” Jeong told Kimball, “I always thought your only crime was to turn a blind eye to your wife’s crimes, but what you’ve done is way worse.  You are just like her.”

“You may think that’s insulting Jeong, but you couldn’t have paid me a better compliment.  Kaiserin is a great woman, and she has a lot of people behind her, willing to kill for her.”

“That’s enough,” I interrupted their discussion.  “Jeong, I know you want justice, but I can assure you, publishing the recordings won’t bring it to you.  You know what kind of people have tried to take the Dominion from me, you saw what my enemies are capable of.  You have to realize things could be way worse with them than they are with me.  Forget for a moment your vengeance and let me do my work.”

“Right now you are a valuable member of the Dominion,” Fatima’s voice reached us from behind Kimball, “but if you hurt Kaiserin you will have a lot of people after you.  All you have to do is wait a little longer, and you will see that things will get better, just don’t do something you will regret.”

“Worse men than you have tried to take her down and have lost, I think you should accept defeat and leave her alone,” Ivan added.

“This is not the end,” Jeong threatened, walking to the door, but despite his words I could feel his fear.

“On the contrary, your quest for vengeance will end right now,” Kimball said.

My people moved to give Jeong space to exit the room.  I could feel his desperation to leave the room, and I realized how much Agata’s presence had affected him.  One of the reasons they had chosen her was because of her terrible reputation, and I was sure he didn’t want her to go after him.

“Are you ok?” Kimball asked.

“No, I’m not ok.  I’m supposed to be stronger than this.  I shouldn’t be afraid of Jeong’s threats, I should be able to just ignore him.”

“I’m sorry,” Thalia said, stepping closer to us.  “This is all my fault.  When I talked to him I knew he was hiding something, but I believed him when he said he didn’t remember anything, I never thought he could have recordings.”

“No, it’s not your fault, this is something no one saw coming.  Luckily, with William here, we will be able to start cleaning this mess and make this a safe place so we can finally get the refugees out of Aquarium.  I’m sure once he gets his son back, he will forget all about his vengeance.”  I wasn’t sure if Thalia had read Jeong’s plans from his mind or if someone had told them what had happened, and I couldn’t help but feel humiliated than they had been reminded of my weakness during the battle in the vineyard, and that they had witnessed, once again, how easily affected I was by mere memories.  I knew that that kind of information in the wrong hands could be very harmful for me, because no matter how strong I tried to be, the experience of facing Agmong’s double had proved how easily I could revert to that person that I hated so much.

“I think you should take the rest of the day off,” Kimball suggested.

“For the moment, I need to deal with Agata and convince her not to act.”

“Do you need help?” Thalia asked, but even if I could feel her offer was sincere, I could also tell how scared she was of Agata’s power.

“No, it’s ok, I have it.”

After making sure that everything was ok, most of the group left, but a few stayed behind with me.  Yoweri and Thalia stayed inside, and I could feel at least a couple waiting outside the door.  As I was talking to Jeong, and then my people, I had been working on calming Agata, and after an hour of negotiations, I could finally convince her not to go after them.  At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder, had Sofia known what was going to happen?  Had she sent Agata to deal with that particular situation?

Chapter 5

“You don’t have to come with me,” I told Kimball again.

“You’re still at war with the Tech Committee and now you are going to also face the Agriculture Committee, which only makes everything more complicated, since I don’t trust either group, I’ll go with you.”  I could see he was concerned, and I didn’t want to tell him I was worried too, nor how relieved I was that he was coming with me, but as always, I was sure he suspected something.

I’ve been having a bad feeling about the reunion for days, and I knew better than to ignore my instincts, but every time I had tried to use my visions or take a walk in the fog to see what was triggering my instincts, all I could see was the past, I was thrown into memories of Agmong.  I knew that couldn’t be right, Agmong was dead, I had killed him and there was no way he could come back and torment me like that.

“Everything will be ok,” I told Kimball, wondering if he could hear the doubt in my voice, “there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Why is the reunion taking place in the vineyards?  It’s not the kind of place you usually like.”

“This was one of Emily’s favorite places, you know she thought herself a wine connoisseur, and she had a weird attachment to the place.  When all the problems with the food supply started, she decided that this place was more important to keep afloat than the others.  I want to see what was done here to keep the place producing a high quality harvest, I want to find something that will help others to be as successful.  We need to work on the food supply asap, between the droughts, fires, war and Emily’s impossible requests, half the Dominion is our of food, and if we don’t do something fast, people will start dying.”

“I’m not sure if this is the right approach.”

“I saw some of the designs that Faakhir vetoed from the Tech Committee, and I think some of them could be adapted to help with this issue, if they work along the Agriculture Committee, I’m sure they will find a solution to our problem.”

“We’ll see,” Kimball said, not convinced.  I knew that it wasn’t how things were usually done in the Dominion, but it was how things were done in the Empire, and the only way I knew.  “How are we going to play it this time?”

“The same way we have been playing, we will be two people who can barely stand each other.”

“Of course, I guess I will pretend to be mad at you for almost letting our son die.  You know that some of the people there were calling me on behalf of their children to ask about Ethan’s wellbeing.”

“I’m glad to know that Ethan has such good friends.  I only hope that what happened won’t affect their friendship.”

Our talk was cut when we arrived at our destination.  I got out of the vehicle without waiting for Kimball, but I heard him following me.  Everyone was already there, mostly because I had asked them to be there an hour before my arrival.  By the time we arrived some of them were already angry, but there was nothing they could do about it.

“Thank you for coming,” I greeted the people there.

“I didn’t know it was optional,” one of them said.

“It wasn’t,” I answered.

“Welcome to my humble vineyard,” the owner of the place greeted me.  I knew he wasn’t a fan of my predecessors, they had practically taken over his life and his vineyard, but in a way he should be relieved that that attention had allowed him to prosper when others failed, saving his land while others had to fight droughts and lack of foundings.  There were a few other places in the Dominion with a better reputation and with centuries of prestige, and they had also received some support, but this one was closer and that made it easier for it to gather Emily’s attention.  “Would you like a tour of the place?  We have everything ready if you want to know what we do here.”

“Of course, that’s why we are here,” I said, trying to appear a little bored, but dying to start the tour and learn what made that place different from others.

The start of the visit was a little chaotic, because the group was too large, but the place was interesting and soon everyone was focused on the tour, learning about the process and learning how they used a combination of classic and modern techniques to keep the harvest healthy and plentiful.

Once we were done with the tour and with a cup of wine in our hands, we were taken to the dinning hall where we were given a simple, but bountiful banquet.  I knew that they were presenting us with was probably most of what they had, but I kept thinking that it was ok, if everything went according to plan, we would have more than enough food for everyone, not just for a few lucky ones.

“It was a very nice and interesting tour, but I would like to know why we were brought here, this is not exactly our area of expertise,” Representative Burgos said.

“You are here because I want you here, I wanted to get to know this place better, to see why it was so interesting for my predecessors.  I also want you to tell me about the projects that Faakhir vetoed from you.”

“That is a long list,” Jeong said.

“Then, I would suggest you start with the first thing that comes to your mind,” I said, expecting them to bring up those that were related to the place we were at, I wanted sustainability projects.

While they discussed among themselves, trying to decide which project to expose first, a group of servers presented us with trays with cheeses and cold meat cuts, to go along with our wines.  After a while I noticed something odd was going on, the air looked funny and I didn’t feel well.  I put my psychic walls up, and started to search for the threat that I knew was lurking.  I noticed that the others have finally noticed that something was going on, and Kimball got out of his seat, and tried to move, but his movements were too slow, when I tried to move, I noticed that my arms and legs were too heavy and I couldn’t move them.

A group of warriors wearing gas masks entered the room, Kimball tried to attack them, but one of them faced him and stopped him, using a taser.  I used my powers to throw them against the wall, but my attack wasn’t as strong as it was supposed to be, and it failed to do much damage.  I felt darkness trying to pull me down, but I fought it as I watched the rest of the people at the table falling down on the table.  I was doing my best to stay conscious, and I felt someone approaching me from behind, I turned to face the threat, and found myself face to face with Agmong.  I was frozen, thinking it had to be an illusion, but then he used his whip on me and it wrapped around me before blasting me with electricity, making me lose the battle and fall into unconsciousness.

I woke up when I was hit with a bucket of cold water, it took me just a second to realize that I couldn’t use my powers, and the weight on my neck let me know that they had used a powers suppressor on me.  I looked around, and realized we were on one of the wine cellars, all of the guests were there, chained to the walls or the wine barrels.  Kimball was wrapped in chains that were locked to the ground and walls, and looked unconscious.

“I’m glad you woke up already,” a man I recognized as Temur, one of Faakhir’s trusted guards, said to me.  “Now that you are awake, we can start this party.”

“I’m surprised to find you here, since you ran away after I killed Faakhir, I thought you would stay hidden,” I stood up, surprised to find myself free.  Temur was thinking that I wasn’t a threat just because I didn’t have my powers, I was determined to prove him wrong.

“I had to go away for a while, to look for some friends, but I hope you are not stupid enough to think you would get away with killing Faakhir and keeping the Dominion for yourself.”

“I already have control of the Dominion, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Whatever you are planning, it won’t work.”

“My plans are already working, everything is going according to plan,” he said, “your men are being hunted right now, and they will pay for betraying our boss, none of you will get away with it, I will make sure to have all of the survivors under my control.”

“You are crazy if you think that will work, I don’t follow anyone’s orders, you know that, and you know what happened to the last man that thought he had me under his control.”

“All you need is someone to remind you of your place,” he said with an unnerving smile.  I knew that all I needed was to wait for Kimball’s necklace to do his job and disable the suppressor, I just needed to distract Temur for a few minutes.

“You are a dead man, I hope you know that.  You will share your boss’ end.”

“Soon the Dominion will be mine, and you will give it to me yourself.”

“You are really crazy if you think I will do that,” I was ready to fight, I knew Temur and he was even worse than Faakhir, he was a sadist, and I was sure that the only reason he hadn’t killed me was because he wanted to make me suffer first.

“You will do whatever I want you to do, all you need is someone to remind you of your place… Sklave.”  He knew that using that name was going to throw me off.

“My name is Kaiserin, you know that.”

Temur signaled his men and saw a few moving my way, I stood still, waiting for the right moment, and once they were close enough I attacked.  I was able to get one of them by surprise, breaking his neck before he had a chance to react, but another kicked my legs from under me, throwing me to the floor.  As soon as I hit the ground I rolled and tried to get up, but the ground under me moved, trapping my foot, my leg up to my knee, and both my hands.  Another soldier started kicking my stomach, and even my head a couple of times while another stood still in front of me, manipulating the ground and keeping me trapped.  I tried to break free, but the ground wasn’t giving me any space.  When the guy got tired of kicking me, he grabbed one of my arms with a strength that almost broke it, then one of my hands was free, but the guy put a cuff around it before I could do anything to stop him, and then he did the same with the other, chaining them together behind my back.  Once they were secured, they attacked a chain hanging from the ceiling to them and started to pull, when they couldn’t pull more, they finally freed my legs.

“You should know that there’s no point in trying to resist, Sklave,” Temur mocked me.  “Doesn’t this situation reminds you of something?”

“I don’t know what your game is, but if you think you will win this easily, you are mistaken,” I felt my arms being raised, the chain being pulled even more, I felt the tension in my shoulders when my feet were no longer touching the ground, and I knew that my shoulders were about to pop out.  Agmong used to love hanging me from the ceiling, most of the time with my arms behind my back, my weight eventually dislocating my shoulders, it was a slow and painful torture, but as time went by, the process was easier, my shoulders so damaged that they popped out very easily.  Just as I expected, the sound of my shoulders getting out of their sockets echoed in the cellar.  Waves of pain hit my body, caressing me like a forgotten memory.  It was very hard, but I bit back the scream that tried to escape my throat, and looked defiantly at Temur, knowing he was expecting my pain, and refusing to giving it to him.

“It wasn’t what I was expecting, you are not doing your part,” he said, angry at me.

“Don’t worry, I will help her remember her role,” a familiar voice said from behind me.  “Come on, Sklave, scream for me,” I felt a hand on the back of my neck, and then an electric charge hit me.

I felt like I was going to break my teeth with the force I used to shut my mouth and stop the screaming that wanted to escape, I refused to give in to them.  My already hurting arms were on fire as my body shook with the electricity.  I was exhausted by the time the attack stopped, but I knew things were about to get even worse.  The man behind me moved to the front, and it took me a moment to understand what I was seeing.

“Did you miss me, Sklave?” asked a man that looked exactly like Agmong.

I had ignored the warning and the vision, thinking there was something wrong with them, because there was no way that what they were showing was accurate, Agmong couldn’t be back to torture me, he was dead, I had killed him, I have watched the life get out of him.  I felt cold and scared, because if Agmong, or someone looking like him, was in front of me, then all the visions of torture were true, and I was about to get into a nightmare.

“You are not Agmong,” I said.

“I missed you,” he said.  He moved closer to me, and as soon as he was in my reach, I put my legs around his neck, trying to choke him, but the pain in my arms and back, and the awkward position didn’t allow me to do much damage, and the impostor started hitting me, but it wasn’t until someone hit me in the head that I finally lost the battle and let him go.  “You will regret this,” he said, taking a knife out of his belt and cutting my clothes off of me.  I knew what was coming next, it was as if he was following a script straight out of my nightmares.

“This was Faakhir’s plan, wasn’t it?  This impostor was his plan B, just in case he couldn’t break me himself,” I asked Temur.  “But Faakhir was wrong, and you will fail, just like him, you will die for your mistake, like he did.”

“Brave words, but you will change your tune soon enough,” Temur said, confident he was going to break me.

Once I was completely naked, the impostor gave me a satisfied smile, I had to keep reminding myself he wasn’t Agmong.  When he lifted the whip, a wave of fear washed over me, but there was nothing I could do.  I relaxed my body, trying to minimize the pain, but I couldn’t avoid the damage, soon the blood was flowing from my wounds, and my whole body felt on fire.  Despite the pain, I kept glaring defiantly at Temur, I knew he got excited by pain, and I knew he was only waiting for me to break to attack me.

“This is not working,” he complained.  “According to Agmong she should be crying and begging by now.”

“If that’s what you want from me, you are wasting your time.”

The impostor went to talk to Temur.  The respite only helped to highlight my wounds, since there were no distractions.  The impostor had done a good job at hurting me, and all my body was hurting.  I heard chains moving, and realized Kimball was awaking, he was staring at me, guilt and fury written in his eyes.  I knew he was going to do something.  I looked around and saw that everyone was awake, they were all staring at me with horror, and I knew I had to be looking very bad for them to show pity for me.

“I’m very disappointed in you,” the impostor told me, getting into Agmong’s role.  It was getting harder to remind myself he wasn’t the same person, the pain and the situation pulling at my memories.  “I only asked one thing of you, and you haven’t done it,” he moved closer and put his hand on my neck.  I noticed his gloves and that helped break the illusion, the real Agmong didn’t use gloves, they affected his powers.  “You need to scream for me.”

The electricity hit me, the pain was too much, but I wasn’t going to scream, but I was so overwhelmed that I had to leave my body and move to the astral plane, at least for a moment.  As soon as I watched the impostor releasing me, I went back to my body to the pain.  I could see that Temur was losing his patience, he wanted me broken, crying and begging.  I suspected that Faakhir had seen more of my memories than I had first thought, and apparently he had shared what he had found with Temur, maybe even showed him the memories telepathically.  I could imagine Temur jacking off to the thought of a broken, crying, Sklave.

“You are wasting your time, I won’t give you what you want,” I said, but my voice wasn’t as strong or secure as before, the pain affecting me more than I wanted to acknowledge.

“You were broken once, we can break you again, it will just take longer than I thought.”  Temur signaled the impostor, and he turned his attention back to me.

I couldn’t help but flinch when he approached me, betraying my fear.  The impostor rested the handle of the whip against my collarbone, and moved it down to one of my breasts, drawing circles around it.  I knew what he was going to do, something Agmong liked to do, and I couldn’t help but being afraid, my heavy breathing betraying my fear.  The electricity hit again, I had been expecting it, but that didn’t stop the pain or the memories that flowed.  I could see Temur and the impostor smiling at my reaction, and I knew that they weren’t buying my act any more.

The impostor moved the handle even lower, and I knew what was going to happen.  Agmong liked to electrocute me from inside, and I knew that the impostor didn’t have the same power, he was using his gloves to mimic Agmong’s power, but I was sure he was going to use the handle on me and I panicked.  I fought the impostor, but my desperation only confirmed that he had found something that would really affect me.  He grabbed one of my legs and used his hold to open my legs, but before he could put the handle on me, a loud sound distracted him.

Kimball had escaped his chains and was fighting the soldiers, trying to reach me.  The sound of shooting echoed in the cellar, mixed with the screams of the representatives.  Kimball fell to the ground, most of the shots had hit on his bullet proof clothes, but a few had hit on unprotected parts, and there was blood already flowing out of him.  Kimball was on his knees, but was trying to get up, but another shot rang and he fell again.  A heartbreaking cry filled the place, and it took me a second to realize it was me who was screaming.

Temur looked at me, satisfied, and then pulled a gun went to where two of his men were subduing Kimball.  “You are not so indifferent as you pretend, you do care about him.  The question is, how much?  What would you do for him?  Would you beg me for his life?”  I shook my head, but I wasn’t sure if I was answering his questions, or trying to deny the whole situation we had landed in.  “Beg me for his life.  Promise you will do anything I ask of you in exchange for his life,” he ordered, putting the gun on Kimball’s head.

I felt out of control, but nothing proved how gone I was as the pair of tears running down my face.  Kaiserin never cried, Sklave did.  Temur was about to win the battle, and I was about to lose myself.

Chapter 1

Of all the challenges I had faced in my life, taking over the Dominion had to be the biggest one.  I had grown in the Empire, I had been raised as a warrior of the Imperial Clan and my world had consisted first of a cavern and then the Palace and surrounding grounds.  When I grew up, I had expanded my world to the Rebel Clan’s territories and then the Shadow Kingdom, and even if I had never been there, I knew that the Light Kingdom existed.  But nothing compared to knowing about the Dominion and being there, the size of it was beyond what I could imagine and the territories that formed it were bigger than everything I already know.  Taking control of such a big place had been an incredible challenge, and even if I had managed to do it without much complications, after years of planning, I was still waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Everything had been fine so far, but it was mostly because most people were still afraid after I had taken over, and I was in contact and had agreements with most of the rebel groups.  I knew that I had to act and start to make changes if I wanted to keep my advantages and to keep my allies loyal to me, and I needed to be very careful.  I knew that there were many people interested in retaining their power no matter what, and some people that even wanted to increase the power they already had.  I had already had to stop some attacks that I had been able to stop thanks in part to my visions that were slowly returning, but I still needed to be careful and keep watch so I could be prepared in case someone else tried to attack.

I was in my office, going over reports and making plans for my day, when I was interrupted by the Representative Jeong, that had entered my offices without announcing his presence first.

“I’m sorry,” my receptionists said from the door, “I couldn’t stop him.”

“Don’t worry, it’s ok,” I told her, trying to assure her everything was fine, as I turned my attention to the Representative.  “To what do I owe this visit?”  I wasn’t worried about him arriving like that, I was more than capable of taking care of him, that was without taking into account the two bodyguards standing inside the room, one that was practically invisible, thanks to his power, and another capable of disabling any opponent without trouble.

“I received an invitation for a reunion for the Committee, and I wanted to ask you what did you need from us, just so we could be prepared.  I don’t think it would be in the Dominion’s best interest to keep hiding and controlling all the technology that we have developed, it’s time to set it free and go to the next step.”

“That’s something to discuss during he reunion, now it’s not the time.” I said.

“If you want everything to go smoothly, then you should follow my advice,” Jeong warned.

“I don’t think you are in a position to tell me what to do, remember your place.  Have you already forgotten what I’m capable of?”

“How could I forget how you murdered my son in cold blood?  It’s only that things won’t go well if we keep stopping progress, it would be better to allow people to move forward and do what’s best for the Dominio.  It would be in everyone’s best interest.”  I agreed with him, and I knew he was speaking the truth, but I had a role to play and an image to maintain, at least for a little bit longer.

“The reunion will stay as planned, and I expect you and the other Representatives to be ready to hear me out and follow my wishes, or you will be in trouble.”

I was still talking to Jeong when I was hit by the vision, it was a weird one, it came to me with a weird clarity, and that was even more odd after weeks of hard to understand visions, and confusing images.

I knew exactly what was about to happen and who it would affect, for what I could see in my vision, it was something that was going to happen soon, because the clothes I could see Ethan wearing were the same ones he had been wearing that same morning.  I knew that I had time, but I wasn’t sure how much, I needed to move, fast, because there was no way I could let my vision come true.  I knew that I would be haunted by the sight of Ethan in a pool of his own blood for days, but that wasn’t something for me to worry about at the time, what I needed to do was to move fast, so I could keep the vision from becoming reality.  I needed to act.

When the vision ended, the Representative was staring at me, I was sure he knew what had happened to me.  I used my powers to call my guards and get them moving, I had to act fast, there was no time to waste.

“I’m sorry, Representative, but this meeting is over, anything else you need will have to be discussed during out reunion.”

“What’s going on?  Was that a vision?”  I couldn’t stop and answer him, so I signaled one of my guards to take him out of the room.  I knew he didn’t want to leave, he still had questions and things to discuss, but I had work to do and people to save and couldn’t deal with him.

I tried to contact Kimball using my mind, but that was a difficult task, his mind was naturally armored against mental intrusions.  I tried his technology next, but he didn’t answer my call, and I had to send him a text message, with just a few key words to tell him something was going on at Ethan’s school, I would have one of my people go to him and fill the rest.

“What’s going on?” Ivan asked, appearing in the middle of the room, answering my call.

“Ethan is in danger, there is going to be an attack at his school and I think he will be harmed, he could even…”  I couldn’t even finish the thought, that would make it real and the idea of losing my son was too much for me.

“What do you need?”  Ivan asked.  I knew I could trust in him, he was one of my oldest allies in the Dominion and someone I could trust.

“A small group of warriors, prepared to face anything, the group we will face won’t be easy to subdue, not if they were able to take care of the guards posted at the school.”

“Your best men?  I will be there guiding them, I won’t let anything happen to Ethan.

“I will go with you.  I won’t stay here while my son is in danger.”

“I thought your plan was to act as if you didn’t care about him.”

“And that is still the plan, but there are different ways of handling the situation and still accomplishing my goals.  I can’t allow Ethan become a target for my enemies, but I can’t allow him to be harmed either.”  I still remembered my first encounter with Faakhir and how I had been forced to harm Ethan in order to protect him.  I was afraid I was going to face a similar situation, but I had to believe everything was going to work out, I couldn’t let my fears to cloud my mind or affect my decisions.  “I trust you to find the right people for this, five guards is all we need for now, a bigger group will follow us and take care of the enemy while we distract them.”

“With all due respect, I think I should be part of your group,” Yoweri said, speaking for the first time, and I could see that Ivan agreed that he would be an asset to us.

“I agree, and I think I have the right people to fill the other spots for this mission,” Ivan said before vanishing from the room, just as Thalia was walking in.

“Did you call?” She asked.

“I need your help,” with Thalia I didn’t even need to talk, I just opened my mind and let her take a look at my vision and allowed her to see my plans, trusting that she would do whatever necessary to help me with them.

Trusting Thalia to do what she needed, and to find Kimball and fill him in on what was happening, I left the room, with Yoweri and Zhou following me without a sound, ready to face any danger.  I went straight to my room, the ones that I had taken after killing the former King and Queen of the Dominion, and started selecting the weapons I would need.  I was used to wearing the cape Kimball had made for me every day, but there were other weapons he had given me that I would need and that I usually left in the room, so I went there to retrieve them, there were a lot to choose from, and I found exactly what I needed in no time.

In less than an hour everything was ready, and I followed Ivan to a limousine that he had prepared for us, to take us to our destination.  Faakhir had built the school close to the building that had the Palace and the government offices, and near the Towers where the Representatives and Embassadors from the different corners of the Dominion lived.  It was all part of his need for control, the school was mandatory for the children of the people living in the Towers, it was a place where they could be controlled and watched.  The trip was a short one, and as soon as we arrived, we could see something was going on, there were more soldiers than usual, and the uniforms they were using were different from the uniforms of my army.  As soon as we stopped at the gate, a small group of soldiers surrounded us and started yelling for us to get out of the vehicle.  Ivan complied, teleporting outside and demanding to talk to the person in charge, while my other four guards waited for my orders.

I got out of the vehicle and started moving towards the school without a word, the soldiers around us lifted their weapons and pointed them at me, one of them made the mistake of pointing his gun at my face.  I was able to confirm that I was familiar with his weapon, and I expanded my senses, with a thought I connected to their weapons and disabled them.  At the same time I pushed the soldier out of my way and resumed my walk.  I kept moving, confident in my guards’ ability to protect me.  I heard yelling and threats around us, but I ignored them as I crossed the gardens and the parking lot and headed for the main administrative building.  Before reaching it the doors opened and a woman that looked familiar got out, followed by another group of soldiers.

“Greeting Kaiserin,” the woman said, “it’s so kind of you to come visit us.  Before you try anything else, let me tell you that we have taken the students hostage and we have them in two different locations inside, if you try anything against us, we will start killing them, starting with your son.”

I looked over my shoulder and saw my guards approaching me, and I knew that at least Ivan had heard the threat.

“What do you pretend with this?”  I asked, waving my hand around, “What’s your plan?”

“It’s not me who you need to talk to, I will take you to my boss, and your son, he will explain to you how things are going to be, but your guards have to stay here, we need to make sure neither one of you will cause trouble for us.”

I watched as she retrieved a powers suppressor and I tried to convince myself that everything was going to be ok, I had the necklace that Kimball had given me, and I was sure it would disable the suppressor and I would be free in just a few minutes.

“Do you want me to wear that?”  I said, trying to keep my tone neutral, I could feel that my lack of reaction was making her unease.

“You will, unless you want us to kill your son,” the image of Ethan in a pool of his own blood came to me, but I did my best to keep my fears from showing on my face.

“I think you are over estimating my love for my son, but I’m willing to play your game, for now.  Don’t do anything that could put the students at risk,” I ordered my men out loud, but I gave Ivan some further instructions directly to his mind.  ‘Wait for us to be gone, and out of sight and fight back, neutralize as many soldiers as you can, as long as you don’t put yourself or the students at risk.  Kimball is on his way with reinforcements, if you need to wait for them, that’s ok, if not, start working on securing the place.’

Are you going to be ok?‘  I could see the question on his mind before I broke the connection.

Don’t worry about me, worry about them if they dared to hurt my son.‘  I left Ivan’s mind and moved closer to the woman, she was happy, thinking that I was at her mercy and that once I had the suppressor on me they would be safe.

As soon as the suppressor was activated I felt the void inside me that indicated my powers were no longer working.  I tried to act normal as I touched the suppressor and then moved my hand to my necklace and discretely activated it.  I knew that it was programmed to look for any signal of suppression every few minutes, but by activating it, I was buying myself some time, and I knew by experience that in some situations every second counted.

“Satisfied?” I asked the woman.

“Very, what does it feel to be powerless?  How does it feel to know you are at your enemies’ mercy?”

“I think you are seriously underestimating me if you think something like this troubles me.  Now, take me to your boss, I don’t want to waste my time with you, I need to talk to the person in charge,” I was actually feeling rather vulnerable and a little afraid, but I had to be confident that everything would be fine.

I could see that the woman wanted to do something, but neither she, nor her soldiers dared to get near me, they were keeping their distance make sure I would be able to hurt them.  I was glad to see that they were still afraid of me, even when they thought they had me in their hands.

I had been to Ethan’s school a couple of times, and I had a vague idea of how it was laid out.  The school was actually a campus that included a few buildings and other installations.  It had an elementary, middle and high school.  Ethan was still in elementary school, but we weren’t moving in that direction, it was obvious they had the kids in another place.  It didn’t take me long to guess we were heading towards the auditorium, which made sense, it was a place big enough to house most students, but not all.  The woman had already told me that they had the kids in two different locations, and I knew that the other two likely spots were the cafeteria or the stadium.

It had been barely five minutes when I felt the rush of my powers coming back at me, and it had been just in time, as we were already reaching the auditorium.  The woman and the soldiers guided me through a side door and we walked through a series of back hallways.  When we finally reached our destination, I realized we were at the stage, we were behind thick curtains, and I knew that Ethan and the others had to be on the other side.  Trying to act natural, I put my hand on the curtains, connecting with them, keeping the sensation of the fabric locked so I could recall it later if I needed it.

The woman guided me to the center of the stage and only then the curtains started moving, opening.  Strong lights were turned on, all of them focused on me, blinding me momentarily and keeping the scene on the other side from me.  I wanted to break the lights or at least turn them away, but I couldn’t, that would have let them know that I had my powers back.  Eventually the lights moved, allowing me to see the other side.

In the area in front of me, between the stage and the first line of seats, where a group of guards, tied up and gagged, and I guessed they were part of the school’s guard.  In front of them, resting against the stage’s base, was a machine that I recognized as an area suppressor, the kind that they used on sport events to keep the viewers from affecting the results of the game.  I tried to push my powers beyond the stage and I realized that I couldn’t, the invisible wall at the edge of the stage was keeping me from using my powers, which made things more difficult for me.  Behind the guards, on the first few rows of seats were some older people that could only be teachers, there were not all the teachers, and I could only guess they were important, since they were with that particular group of hostages. At the back, in the other section of seats were some students, from different age groups, and whom I could identify as the children of the most influential persons on the Dominion.  In the access hallway, between the two seating areas, just in the middle, directly in front of me, was a man that I recognized as Draco, one of Faakhir’s followers, one that had fallen from grace a couple of years before, because he was too greedy for Faakhir’s tastes.  He had a gun in one of his hands, and the other hand was resting on Ethan’s shoulder.

“Welcome Kaiserin, you saved me a lot of trouble by coming here, it would be easier to talk in person,” he greeted me.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“I want you to give me the control of the Dominion, or I will kill your son,” he threatened me, moving the gun until the gun’s barrel was resting on Ethan’s temple.

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.