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.

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Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 51

I felt all eyes turn to me as soon as I walked in.  Emily had been expecting Faakhir and by her face turning from surprise to anger, I could tell she didn’t welcome me.

“What are you doing here?  Faakhir was supposed to take care of you,” Emily said, and I realized that she knew exactly what had been happening, she knew that Faakhir was going to get rid of me, even if she didn’t realize how he was going to do it.

“Are you saying he was supposed to kill me?  After everything I did for you, that’s how you repay me?” I asked, my voice controlled and leveled, but threatening at the same time.  I was playing a role, showing them the person they needed to see.

“Where is Faakhir?” Emily asked, finally noticing that he wasn’t there.

“Where do you think?  Did you really believe that he could attack me and not suffer the consequences?  You made a big mistake the moment you decided you could play me.  The rules have changed, and I’m in charge now, you are no longer the Queen, I will take over your functions,” a roar of whispers started from the Representatives at my words, the volume growing as time passed.

“I am the one in charge, I am the Queen, my word is the law.  Now tell me, where is Faakhir?” She asked again, I could see how she was losing control as she started to understand the situation.

“Faakhir thought he could take advantage of me,” I said, refusing to confirm her fears, playing with her.

“Where is he?” She asked again, she was trembling and I could see she already knew the answer, even if she refused to acknowledge the truth.

“I’m afraid you won’t see him again,” I said.

“You are lying, there no way… You couldn’t… Where is my husband?” She asked, but not to me, she was addressing her question to the guards behind me.

“I’m sorry Your Majesty, but the King is dead,” Lim finally answered her.

Once her fears were confirmed by Lim, Emily lost control, a blood-curdling scream tore out of her throat, and she started falling apart right before my eyes, but I knew that was only the beginning, the battle was about to start.  People around us stopped whispering and started talking and screaming, some of the Representatives tried to leave the room, but the guards posted on the doors weren’t moving, they were following their instruction of not letting anyone leave, until told otherwise.  When they realized they were still trapped, some of them went back to their seats, others moved to the back of the room.  Meanwhile, Emily was calming down, but her face was a mask of hate and anger, and I could taste her need for revenge.

“Your time is over,” I said, “I am now in control of the Dominion.  You can accept that and recognize my claim to the throne, and I will let you live, you will be comfortable for the rest of your life, or you can oppose me and forfeit that life.  Make the right decision Emily, there’s no need for you to die.”

“How can you even suggest something like that?  I am the rightful Queen, I am the one in charge, and you will pay for your crimes.  What the hell are you waiting for?!” She asked her guards.  “Kill her!”

I heard the sound of guns being drawn, a sound so familiar that I could hear it over the sound of the Representatives.  But I didn’t hear any shooting, I only heard the voice of my men letting Emily’s know that they were outnumbered.

“You are wasting your time, I have more men than you,” I explained the situation to her, in case she missed it.

“They are mine, my guards, my people.  What are you waiting for?  I told you to kill her.  Don’t just stand there!  Do something!”

“I’m afraid you don’t understand.  You seem to know that I was never truly under Faakhir’s control, I just faked it so I could get close to you and be in a better position to take over.  You are no the first ones to think that you could control me and then regret it,” I turned my head and looked straight to Kimball, letting people think I was talking about him.  “You were so sure you had everything under control, you never noticed that I had been freeing some of your guards from Faakhir’s control, you didn’t realize that their loyalties were switching to me.  You may think you have control, but right now, my men are taking over all the key points in the Dominion.  You already lost Emily, there’s nothing you can do about it, all you can do is accept your destiny and accept me as your new Queen.”

For a moment nothing happened, but then Emily reacted, taking a dagger and running towards me.  One of his men tried to help, I could see, from the corner of my eye, I could see darkness gathering around him as he prepared his attack, but he never had the chance, Zhou shot him in the head, killing him instantly.  Emily reached me and tried to stab me, but the dagger hit my psychic wall.  Emily screamed her frustration and him my wall again, then he pushed her hands to it, and I felt her power, I could feel my wall barely holding her out, and I knew she was capable of breaking through my defenses.  I had never before experienced Emily’s power, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

“You still have a chance, all you have to do is surrender,” I tried to reason with her.  I knew that Sofia wanted another chance with her, but as time went by, I knew that the fight would end with one of us dead, most likely her.

Emily just kept screaming and I felt the place was starting to get affected.  I focused on keeping my defenses up, but I could feel her power building up, and I knew that soon I wouldn’t be able to keep my wall up, her powers was getting too strong.  The people around us was getting scared, some of them were using their own powers to keep Emily’s powers at bay, and I noticed that my men had also moved between us and the Representatives to help keep them safe if Emily’s powers got out of control.  I focused on her again, and noticed that her nose was bleeding, as her powers grew more and more out of control, the furniture around us was breaking.  She had crossed a line of no return, I knew what was happening, she had pushed too far and was having a psychic headache.  I felt my defenses crumbling and I knew that Emily was going to get her chance to reach me, but I couldn’t allow that, so I let my wall collapse and reformed my power as a sphere around Emily, to keep her contained.

I had just witnessed a person getting a headache a few times in my life, most people didn’t push her powers so far unless they were Maximas.  The main problem with getting a psychic headache was losing control, there was a point where they just couldn’t stop, their powers kept growing in strength reaching unbelievable highs, but there was a price to pay, the highest price of all: death.  I knew she was close, the first sight that she was gone was that her brain was bleeding, and it was so bad that I could see blood getting out of her nose, ears, and even eyes.  I needed to use all my power to contain hers, and for a moment I thought that wouldn’t be enough, I knew I needed to stop her before she could hurt all of us.  I pushed against her power, shrinking the sphere around her until it started to press against her body.  Our powers fighting each other were so strong that it pushed her up in the air, and I heard the screams and cries and knew everyone was able to see her.  Her body was contorting in impossible, unnatural ways.  Suddenly, the screaming and yelling stopped, everyone was just staring at Emily.  I kept pushing until I heard her bones breaking and knew she was gone.

As soon as I let my powers go, the energy that was holding her up disappeared and her body fell, she hit the ground as is she was a broken doll, her limbs twisted in unnatural angles. She was still bleeding, and I could see a small blood pool forming around her head.  The short, but intense fight had left me feeling drained, but I pretended I was ok, moving towards the platform Emily had been using before and taking her place at the front of the room.

“The King and the Queen are dead,” I told them.  “From now on, I am your new Queen.  Right now my men are taking control of the Dominion, the army is under my control.  It’s in your best interest to accept that I am in charge now.  Anyone who even thinks of opposing me will share Emily’s fate.”

“Kaiserin, you can’t do this,” Kimball interrupted me.  “It’s not right.”

“Since the first time you dragged me to your country, all you could talk about was how horrible they were, and now that they are gone you are complaining?” I faced him, still pretending that we weren’t on the same side.

“I don’t know if things would be better with you in charge,” Kimball said, he moved out of his seat and started walking towards me, his attitude was aggressive, and his advance was cut by two of my guards.

“Things don’t have to be worse with me in charge.  If you want, you can help me, it would be easier with you by my side.  You once said that things couldn’t get worse, maybe together we could make things better,” I said, coaxing him to my side.

“Are you really willing to listen to me?  Would you accept my suggestions?” He asked, his tone clearly showing skepticism, his acting perfect.

“You know what I want.  I am not vain like Emily, I don’t need luxury, I just need power.  Faakhir thought he could control me, Emily thought she could humiliate me, and now I will show everyone who is really in control.  If you want to help, if you think you could do a better job than Faakhir, you are welcome to try, all you have to do is remember who is in charge,” I signaled my men and they let Kimball move closer to me.

“I won’t let you make things worse for everyone, of that, you can be sure,” he warned me, in a tone low enough to pretend to be private, but low enough that some people could hear and repeat what he had said.

“You will be here to help and suggest, but I am the one who will have the last word,” I warned.  He had his back to the rest of the room, and no one saw his smile.  I did my best not to smile back, controlling my face, keeping it cold and threatening.  “Things don’t have to get complicated,” I signaled Onyesha and she activated the monitors behind me, showing images of the army walking through the streets of the most important cities in the Dominion.  “Right now my army is taking control of the dominion.  Your options are limited, you can either join me, or share the Queen’s fate.  No one can stop me now.”

I could hear the protests, but I couldn’t understand the words as the volume increased and the people got angrier, but I wasn’t going to let them take control of the situation.  I used my powers to send a wave of energy that pushed them away, just enough to show them my intentions, but enough to drain my energy reserves.  I felt Kimball grabbing my arm, the action could seem like a threat to others, but as he pulled me towards him, I knew he was only showing his support and giving me a chance to gather myself.

“Are you ok?  If you need energy, you can use mine, I’m here for you,” he whispered in my ear.  I knew that for the rest of the people the action would seem like a fight, not a show of support.

“I know that the actions today have taken all of you by surprise.  I will give you time to calm down, and go talk to your leaders.  Tomorrow we will gather again and make this official,” I signaled my men and a couple of them took Emily’s body and dragged it away.  “I hope that by tomorrow you will be ready to accept me as your new Queen.  I expect all of you tomorrow at noon, Representatives and Embassadors.  Those who don’t show up, will be assumed to be against my rule and will be hunted down, your guilds or countries will also face the consequences of your actions.”  I didn’t wait to see if they understood and agreed with my directions, I walked our of the place, with Kimball following me.

“We did it,” Kimball said once we were away from their ears.  “Emily and Faakhir are finally gone.”

“We already took the first step, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” I said back.

Chapter 47

It was hard to open my eyes, I felt like I had been in the middle of a battle, one that I had lost.  The situation reminded me so much of my time under Agmong’s rule, that in any other occasion I would have gone into a panic attack, but I felt calm, because I could recognize the hands that were holding my hand, Kimball was with me, and as long as he was there, I knew I was safe.

“I’m glad to see that you are finally awake.  How are you feeling?” Kimball asked.  I could feel his relief at knowing I was waking up, and I wondered what had happened to me, I couldn’t remember any fights or anything that explained why I felt like crap.

“I felt like I was beaten, everything hurts.  What happened to me?”

“I’m afraid we made a mistake, we underestimated our enemies.  At some point, while we were investigating about the virus, one of them infected you.”  When he said that, I remembered feeling tired, and realized it was one of the symptoms, one I didn’t pay enough attention.  “You passed out last week while you were watching one of the parades Emily likes so much.  Fatima knew it was something bad, so she called me to help.  I managed to arrive just in time, the virus had already caused some damage, but nothing we couldn’t fix.  I’m afraid you will have to rest for a while, your body still need to recover.  I told the King and Queen that you won’t be able to join them in their tour, and that you will stay here as long as you need to fully recover.”

“And where is here?”

“I moved you to Mzani.  I thought it would be better for you to be here as long as you were sick.  Some of your allies stayed with you until I arrived, Soriya used her powers to keep you alive, and even Kgalefa helped a little bit, but it’s hard to explain, since both of them are supposed to be your enemies.  I know it’s not a good idea for any of them to stay paying you attention, Fatima managed to explain the situation, but still, we decided that it was best if I took you away from them.”

“Good thinking.  I will have to talk to them later and thank them for their help.  For the moment, I’m still not feeling well, I know I won’t be able to do much.  I hate to feel this weak and powerless, but at least here no one will see me like this,” I tried not to think about my collapse during the parade, I needed to focus on getting better.  “How long do you think it will take for me to get better?”

“Well, it depends, I think you need at least a week of rest before you even think about getting back.  Since both of them are still in their celebration tour, they won’t be back at Capital City for a long time, and that should buy you even more time if you need it.”

“Where’s Ethan?”

“He had to stay behind, I couldn’t find a good excuse to take him out of school again.  It seems that the headmaster is not happy with Ethan’s absences, and to be truthful, I was more worried about getting you out of enemy territory than of getting Ethan a few days off.  Mbali and Tau stayed behind with him, so I’m not worried about him.”

“I’m hungry, and sleepy,” I wanted to make an inventory of my body, but even something so basic was proving to be hard to do, I was too tired, and I was sure that my body was full of drugs that weren’t helping to my feeling of tiredness.

“I will go and grab something for you to eat, you can sleep for a while, I can wake you up once I return with food,” Kimball said, getting out of the room before I could protest.

I didn’t like feeling so vulnerable.  I knew that I was in a safe place, but I hated feeling helpless, and not being able to defend myself in case I needed.  I closed my eyes, but not because I was planning on sleeping, but because I needed to focus my powers so I could use them to check my body and try to get a reading of the damage the virus had caused.  As soon as I started, I realized the bigger problem was in my mind, not my body.  I called a mental representation to go deep into my mind to look for the damage, and I was surprised by what I found.  While I had been unconscious, fighting the virus, Faakhir’s presence in my mind had extended at an alarming rate.  Almost every part of mind focused on my time under Agmong’s rule was covered by Faakhir’s presence.

The damage was extensive, and I knew I had to take care of it before I could even think about getting close to Faakhir.  I wasn’t sure where he was, but I was pretty confident that he was far enough for me to be safe of his influence, most of the growth I was watching had to have happened after Faakhir left to continue his travel, which meant that he didn’t have knowledge of what I was hiding in that part of my mind, that would change if he got close enough to make contact with my mind.

I started working on getting rid of Faakhir’s presence in my mind, I knew it was a risk, he would notice I had found his influence and that I had freed myself of it, but I preferred that, to him getting so much access into my memories.  I knew he was going to get his influence back into my mind as soon as he could, and that he was going to get suspicious of me and my powers just knowing I had been able to push him out of my mind.  It was a risk, to show him my strength, but it wasn’t as bad as letting him in.

After a while I noticed that Kimball was trying to wake me up, but I was using both my mind to make sure I could get rid of every trace of Faakhir, so I couldn’t answer to Kimball’s call.  By the time I finished and broke my trance, Kimball was very worried thinking I was sick again.  I had to explain to him what had happened, what I had done, and why.

“You say that Faakhir was gone by the time you arrived, that he had to move to keep with the schedule that Emily had established for the celebrations,” I reminded him, I was trying to ease his mind, but also mine.

“That’s right, but we don’t know what he was able to see before leaving.”

“I don’t think he had a chance, an invasion like the one I found takes times, and it’s possible it even happened after you arrived.  I will be careful around him, when I finally see him again, and I will see how he reacts to knowing his presence is no longer in my mind.  There’s not much we can do right now, so there’s no point in worrying about it.”

“You need to be very careful, if you feel, even for a moment, that your mission was compromised, then we will change the plans, we can’t take any risks.”

I took a couple of weeks to get better, but it felt like much longer, I felt like I was never going to recover my strength.  It was thanks to Kimball that I was able to get better so fast, his energy regeneration was faster than mine, and he let me take his energy to feed mine after we had our training sessions.  Kimball said that a normal, non mutant person would take at least twice as long to recover, and I was happy I was able to get better faster, but still, it had been too long for me.

When I went back to Capital City, the King and Queen were still out, traveling, and that was fine with me, I had a lot of things to do that would be easier to do with them gone, like contacting my allies in the elite forces and getting information on what had happened while I was recovering.  The only problem was that as soon as I arrived at the palace, I had a feeling that something very bad was going to happen, a feeling that only got worse as time passed.  I wasn’t sure if the feeling was getting worse because of the imminent arrival or the King and Queen, or if it was something to do with time.

I tried to go into the fog of the future to see what was going to happen, but for the first time, I wasn’t able to find any answers, the fog was hard to read and I couldn’t travel any road in front of me, I could see them in front of me, but I couldn’t step into them.  I wasn’t sure if it was because of my sickness, or if something else was affecting me, but I knew I needed help to understand what was going on.  Melchizedek was, as always, my first thought, but he was too far away to help me, the next best choice was Sofia, but she was at Aquarium and establishing a safe communication was very complicated, and just not possible at that moment.  My other choice was Fatima, she was part of a family with a long tradition of seers, one that passed their knowledge from generation to generation.  Fatima was traveling with Emily, and I had to wait for her to arrive before I could ask her what was wrong with me.

One of the disadvantages of my powers was that I depended on them too much.  I was getting stressed by not knowing what was going to happen, and I couldn’t allow that, I needed to focus, I was just getting my strength back and I couldn’t waste it, but the feeling of unease was very taxing, and was making me feel out of control.  I knew that all I could do was to be careful and try to avoid dangerous situations.

The day Faakhir got back, I was immediately called to his presence.  I knew that early that day, or at least early for her, Emily had gone to the Congress to discuss new taxes and budgets, or how to steal more money from her people.  After the money she spent during the celebrations, the royal coffers were empty, and Emily didn’t care if the people was broke too, she wanted more and she was going to find a way to get it.

For the first time since I knew them, Faakhir wasn’t with her while she tried to squeeze more money from her people, he was usually by her side to keep her in check, not because he cared about the people they were taking money from, but because he was more aware of how much they could push without crossing the line.  But instead of being by her wife’s side, he had called me to his room with an urgent mission, he said that a problem had arisen during their trip and he needed me to take care of it immediately.  I had no idea what he needed, but I knew it couldn’t be anything good, and the whole situation had me worried.  The fact that he was rushing it, had me on edge, especially since I couldn’t go into the fog to try and see what was going on, I had to work blindly, and I didn’t like that.

“How are you?” Faakhir asked me as soon as I entered his room.  He was on the balcony having breakfast, and he looked very relaxed, not what I expected after he called for the emergency meeting.

“I’m much better, Kimball said we caught it just in time for the treatment to work.  A little later and I wouldn’t be here.”

“Then it was a good thing that you passed out when you did, that helped find the virus on time.”

“You could say that.”

“Are you sure you are feeling well?” Faakhir insisted, and I noticed that I wasn’t feeling well, I felt tired and slow, almost as if I had been drugged, but no one had touched me and I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since I arrived.  I watched Faakhir and I noticed his cold, satisfied smirk and I knew something was really wrong.  “Maybe you should take a seat,” he suggested, but there was a double edge in his words that I couldn’t comprehend.

I thought about refusing the seat, but before I could speak something pinched my arm, in the part that wasn’t covered by my cape, followed by the familiar feeling of electricity coursing through my body.  The electricity caused me to lose control of my body and I started falling, but before I hit the floor, Einar moved in front of me and caught me, moving me to the chair that Faakhir had told me to take.  I hadn’t even noticed that Einar was in the room, but that explained why I felt like I had been drugged, I was under the influence of his power.  Maybe it was because of that that I wasn’t thinking clearly, I knew that I could have used my powers to stop them, even after being paralyzed, but I didn’t, and that gave them time to put a power suppressor on me.

“All set, Your Majesty,” said another voice, one I recognized as Jacob’s.

“After your unfortunate accident, I realized you been lying to me.  How do you think it made me feel to discover that all our hot encounters were nothing but illusions you set for me?” Faakhir asked, and I realized that he had managed to get inside my mind after all.  I was afraid to find out what else he had found out, and if my plans were already compromised.  “It made me feel like a fool, and that’s something I won’t allow.  Don’t worry, we will make reality all those illusions you made for me, but first, we have to find out what else you have been hiding from me.”

I managed to overcome some of the paralysis and moved my hand to my necklace, I needed to try and activate the device Kimball had made for me so I could deactivate the suppressor, but before I could reach it, one of Faakhir’s guards took my hand and stopped me.

“Don’t even try, there is no way you will be able to take off the collar blocking your powers.  There is nothing you can do to escape,” Jacob whispered in my ear, and I knew he was right, at that moment I was at their mercy, there was nothing I could do but wait and hope that they wouldn’t have a chance to hurt me.

Chapter 46

My assignment had been an easy one, I had just gone to talk to Sofia’s loyal guard in his prison cell, then faked his death, taken him to a safe place, and then talked to Sofia to ask where she had sent the jewels that Emily wanted, and she had given me all the information I needed.  Most of the jewelry that I found was hundred of years old, and Sofia had thought that someone like Emily didn’t deserve them, she had taken them away, thinking of using them to pay for the rebelion efforts against her daughter, but she never had the chance.  Talking to her, we both concluded that it would be less dangerous to people, if we just gave Emily what she wanted, or she would keep going after people loyal to Sofia, trying to get the information she wanted.

I had arrived back with the treasure one day before the celebrations started.  All the city was getting ready for it, it was such a waste of power and resources.  I could see people working from dawn to dusk making sure everything was ready for the celebrations, and I could already see that it was going to be spectacular.  It looked like all Emily could think about was how to make parties and celebrations, and each one I attended was bigger than the last, even if every time it was harder to find the resources needed to make Emily designs come true, people was running out of thinks, soon they wouldn’t be able to produce what she wanted.  Trucks loaded with exotic food were arriving at the Palace, even as people were dying of starvation on the streets, thousands of yards of fabrics and precious furs were being used to upholster the city, even as people were walking around in clothes so old they were falling apart, expensive and aromatic wood was being shipped there to prepare bonfires, in a city where most of the inhabitants were dying of cold, statues and monuments were being built by the same people that didn’t have a roof over their heads.  I knew things were getting worse day by day, and I knew people was not far from reaching their tipping point, they wouldn’t be able to stand their treatment for much longer.

For the first time in months, all of the elite forces were together in the same place.  The Dominion’s army was huge, but the elite part of it was just short of two hundred members.  Most of them were loyal to Faakhir, a few of them were only truly loyal to Emily, but another part was loyal to me.  It had started with Ivan, but little by little I had found more warriors that had the same goals as me.  About a fourth of them were on my side, not much, but they were the most powerful of the bunch, and they represented some of the key territories in the Dominion.

The celebrations were going to last for several days, and, as usual, it was going to start with a parade in honor of the King and Queen, and it was going to include people from all over the Dominion.  Just twenty of the elite warriors were with them, the others were all around the place, making sure there weren’t going to be any issues.  Half of the warriors on the box with us, were loyal to me, and that made me feel safer.  For a long time I had been surrounded only by enemies, but having allies around made me feel like I could accomplish my goals.  I had followers on all levels of the army, but I knew that it was important to have the leaders on my side, when the moment arrived, I needed the commanders to take my side, because they would be the ones that would move the people in the right direction.

“Isn’t this awesome?” Emily asked, to no one in particular.  “People from all over the Dominion is here to celebrate with us.”

“Is what you deserve, it is your right to rule over them, and they know it,” Faakhir said.

I knew that most of the people in the parade didn’t want to be there.  Emily lived under the illusion that only because she was the daughter of the Queen, she deserved everything she wanted, and that the people had to love her for that.  She really believed that the Dominio’s people’s only goal should be to make her happy and fulfill her every whim.  I was getting sick just by listening to her talking, and feeling superior to everyone around her.  People in the Dominion usually referred to people in the Empire as uncivilized and barbarians, but the truth was that we weren’t much different.  I knew that if Caracalla had managed to win the throne, he would have been as bad as Emily, but my brother Trajan was a good ruler, he was tough and unforgiving, but fair and he actually cared for his people.  He was loved by his people, and respected by everyone, not because he was feared for his powers or the damage he could do with them, but because of the way he acted, and for the way he acted.

After hours watching what appeared to be an endless parade, we finally moved back inside for the rest of the celebration.  As soon as we entered, the rich aroma of the different dishes greeted us.  The quantity of food available was impressive, several of the regional rulers were there for the celebration, and all the Representatives and embassadors, but still, I knew that most of the food wouldn’t be eaten, and I suspected that the same waste was going to happen the next day.

“Will you have to stay here until night?”  Kimball asked, when we crossed paths in our way inside.

“I think so, you know how they are, they want to show everyone how powerful they are, and a room full of warriors will do that, that’s the kind of display they like.”

“This is all very impressive,” Kimball said, admiring the place, “and also an insult to all the rulers and the people who had to sacrifice their resources so they could have their party.”  I felt a few other warriors walking close to us, and knowing they were loyal to Faakhir, I decided to play a little and give them something they could take to Faakhir and would make me look good to him.

“This is just another example of the King’s and Queen’s power.  This is to show off how powerful and rich they really are.  This is another sign that Faakhir is superior to any other man in the Dominion.”

“Do you want me to stay here until this is over?  Or do you prefer that I go early?” Kimball asked me, he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me close to him so he could whisper the questions in my ear, I knew that to the others, it would look like we were fighting.  It was all part of the act.

“I would feel better if you go early.  You know how Faakhir is when you are close by, he will feel like he needs to prove something, and he will become more possessive.  It’s better if we don’t attract more attention to ourselves,” I answered, also whispering, before pushing him away and storming to my place behind Faakhir.

I saw Kimball moving away, pretending to be angry, and I saw a satisfied smirk on Faakhir’s face, that luckily, Emily didn’t notice, the last thing I needed was for Emily to turn her attention to me and her good mood to end. I took my place among the rest of the elite warriors.  I had to accept that the image that we presented, all dressed in combat gear, was pretty impressive, and scary.  I could see that we were an intimidating sight, and most people were uneasy by the display.

For a long time, the rulers of the different countries of the Dominion went to present their respect to the King and Queen, it was the perfect occasion to see who was really loyal to them, and who was just going because they had no other option.  Most of them had a pretty good mind defense, and it was near impossible to read their minds, and they were very good at controlling their faces not to betray their emotions, but I could read their emotions, it was something they couldn’t fake or hide. I couldn’t feel some of them approaching them with fear, others with awe, some with envy, some with admiration.  As they paraded in front of them, I read their emotions and recorded them for later, when I could use the information to look for more allies for my cause.

The celebrations went on till midnight, and it was late when the King and Queen finally retired to their room, leaving us free to do the same.  Some of us were going to stay to guard the place, but I was able to retire, which was good since I was exhausted by the end of the day.  It was very late when I finally arrived, but I found Kimball waiting for me.

“How are you?” He asked, as soon as he saw me, and he offered a cup of tea to me, something I usually didn’t like, but that I was grateful for, at that moment.

“I’m exhausted, for some reason.  I think that finally everything I have done is catching up with me, you know, going for Greca, looking for the virus people, then the treasure.  I haven’t been able to stop for a long time and for some reason this time it affected me.”

“I think it must be how stressful this all is.  I know that you are getting tired of waiting, of having everything in its place, but soon we will be able to move and take control of the Dominion.  I think you won’t be able to really rest until this is done.”

“I talked to Sofia and William, and both of them are desperate to move Emily out of the throne and claim their rightful places.”

“Soon.  But for now, you need your rest, you can’t keep going like this without a proper rest.  And tomorrow will be another long day.”

“A long week.  It’s incredible the amount of activities they have planed for this celebration.  There are so many things to do, and they are wasting their time in this frivolous party.  I was expecting some uprisings on the Dominion, since most of the leaders are here, but so far everything is calm.  I even talked to Fatima and she hadn’t noticed anything going on this week, but she says there is a crossroad approaching, one we haven’t noticed, but that was highlighted after we took care of the people working with the virus.  I feel like we are forgetting something important, or maybe we caused some rift with our actions, I don’t know, but I’m too tired to investigate the fog of the future.”

“You once told me that if it’s something big, that’s going to affect us directly, then one of your visions is going to warn you with enough time to take action.  I think that for now, all you need to worry about is getting as much sleep as you can before going back.”

For a moment I thought of protesting, but I was tired, so I finished my tea and went to bed.  I felt like no time had passed between the moment I fell asleep and when Kimball woke me up to prepare for the day.  At least the day’s activities were going to start late in the day, but we needed to go and prepare for the day hours before they woke up.

By the time the week had ended, I was beyond exhausted.  As the week progressed, I was getting more and more tired, but I thought it was just a consequence of all the things I had done, and of having to endure the festivities required by their greed and boredom.  Once the celebrations ended, Emily decided to accept the invitations of many of the regional leaders and local rulers around the Dominion that wanted to make celebrations in their honor, and decided to organize new visits to those places so she could enjoy more celebrations in her honor.  The new schedule wasn’t as bad, since we were going to visit places where the people wasn’t as active against them, mostly because the local rulers being better as suppressing any rebellions.

I wanted to stay behind, because not all of us would be able to travel with Emily and her husband, but they decided that I needed to go, and I couldn’t say no, I guessed that I could take the opportunity to investigate more about the different rulers and try to decide who could be converted, controlled, and who needed to be neutralized.  I was feeling more and more desperate to finish my plans, time was moving too fast, and I was reaching a point where I was going to make do with whatever resources I had at that moment, instead of keep trying to get more.

During the next days we traveled from city to city, attending more parades and banquets, until I had to recognize that I wasn’t well, I was too tired, and that could only mean that I was sick, and getting worse.  I felt like even my powers were getting weaker, and that was something I couldn’t allow, it would put me at risk.  I was looking for a good excuse so I could go back to Capital City and get Kimball to help me, but I never had the chance, during one of the endless parades, I couldn’t endure the heat, and I passed out, but I never woke up, I just went into a coma, unable to recover.