Chapter 51

A heavy silence fell over the room, Kimball’s words had certainly caused a big impression. Then Vultur’s laugh broke the silence, getting everyone back to the moment.

“Good joke,” Vultur said, “but what you say it’s impossible, especially in that time frame. Do you really believe that if it was that easy to get rid of us we would still be here? We are mostly nomads, and you can’t destroy what you can’t find.”

“I know I can do that, in fact, I’m certain that your clan will no longer exist in 48 hours. And I can prove it,” he added, and I could see the smile on his face, but even knowing how mad he was and his desire to make Vultur pay, I also knew it was hard for him to even think about committing genocide. “Ethan? Can you show Vultur the Intel we have?”

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to show our cards?” Ethan asked, but I got what Kimball was trying to do, and I knew it was a good idea.

“Just do as I ask,” he said, his tone of voice making it clear there was no room for questions.

For a moment the image on my screen went black, and when it returned I realized that the camera’s angle had changed, I understood that Ethan had used his technopathy and the components on his gabardine to create a projector. On the wall behind the throne, was a map of the Empire and the northern territories, occupied by the Rebel Clans. One by one, little points started to show on the map.

“Those are the twelve known camps of the Scavengers,” Kimball said, “and those are the ones no one knows,” he added as eight more points appeared on the map, causing another round of whispers and murmurs, even a few protests from those that recognized some of those points to be inside their territories. “I think that there are a few you forgot to mention to your new friend, the Emperor.”

“If you think you are going to blindside me with that information, you’re wrong,” Pompeyo said, “I’m aware of all the territories the Scavengers occupy, and the fact that you got your hands on some classified information won’t change anything.”

“Then you knew about the camp they set on part of your territory?” Kimball asked, pointing to a point on the map a few miles from the Palace, one that should have been considered Imperial territory.

“They have my permission to be there, you could say I allowed them the use of that territory in exchange of access to all the territories they control in the North.”

“It is pretty impressive that you have that information,” Vultur said, trying to seem calm, but I could see that he was rattled by the situation, some of those points were well guarded secrets, and even some people in their own clan shouldn’t know about it, “but knowing that information won’t help us defeat us, even if you managed to attack one or two of those camps, the others will have enough time to leave or set a counter attack. Not to mention that some are so far from each other that your people won’t have time to move from one to the other in time.”

“Ethan, connect to the attack satellites, I think it’s time to show our new enemies what we are capable of.”

“What target do you have in mind?” Ethan asked, and I knew that much depended on Kimball’s answer, in the remote case he choose a different target than the one I had in mind, the situation would become very complicated.

“What do you suggest? The closest one would be a good choice to show them what we can do, don’t you think?”

“I think that is the location that will have the biggest impact,” Ethan said, and I felt better knowing everything was going according to plan. “Everything is ready, just tell me when to push the button.”

“I haven’t given you the codes,” Kimball said, looking over his shoulder at Ethan, a question in his look.

“Getting those codes was child’s play,” Ethan said, and both his father and I stopped for a moment to think about his statement, the launching codes were a extremely dangerous thing if they fell into the wrong hands. “Just waiting for your signal.”

“I want you to understand something,” Kimball told Vultur, “we didn’t need to get this far, you asked for this, and the extinction of your clans rests only on your shoulders.”

“I’m not intimidated by your empty threats, I know there is nothing you can do against us.”

At Kimball’s signal, the image on the wall started to zoom into one of the points in the map, the one closer to their location, the one they had said used to be Imperial territory, soon, they had eagle eyes of the camp. There was no movement in the area, but it was, without a doubt, a camp that had been recently settled.

“Do you recognize the place?” Kimball asked, as everyone watched the image with curiosity. “That’s the camp you left this morning,” he kept going, not waiting for him to answer, “in which, I understand, an important part of your followers, including those you were willing to protect, are waiting for you.”

“I have no idea how you got this, but that doesn’t matter, my people knows how to protect themselves, and they won’t fall even if you attack them.”

“This is an attack they won’t see coming,” with a signal, Kimball let Ethan know it was time to give him the control, I knew that Kimball would never put on Ethan’s shoulders the weight of all the killings an attack like that was going to cause. With a gesture on his computer, Kimball launched the attack.

The people in the room was watching the projected image on the wall, waiting to see what would happen, but not knowing what they were expecting. The image was lost for a moment, replaced by a strong light that blocked visibility, when it came back, all you could see were the remains of the camp in the middle of a crater, behind a thick smoke.

“What the hell did just happen?” Maddan was the first to break the silence, asking what everyone was wondering.

“You just witnessed the destructions of the Scavenger’s camp,” Kimball made another signal to Ethan and the original map appeared again, the point that moment before had been green changing to a dark red. “In an hour and a half, the next camp will disappear, and then the next one and the next one, until all camps have been destroyed. My soldiers will go there to ensure no one escapes and no one survives. So even if you manage to warn your people of what’s happening, my people will contain them and eliminate them.”

“This is a trick,” Vultur said, he clearly didn’t believe what was going on.

I could see Maddan and Pompeyo having a heated discussion through the camera, it was clear something was bothering them. Vultur didn’t notice what was going on next to him, focused on Kimball and what he still believed to be empty threats. A new point in the map flashed and a new camp was zoomed in, next to it was a countdown.

“That’s one of our Nurseries!” one of Vultur’s companions said. “My children are there.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Gyps, they are just trying to scare us, there is no way they could manage an attack like the one they claim, there’s no way they can destroy a territory that big.”

“My people just let me know that there was a huge flash of light followed by a column of smoke rising from the direction of the Scavenger’s camp,” Pompeyo said. “Some of our sentries are already moving closer to investigate the place, but it is a real possibility that they have attacked your camp.

“You have to do something,” Gyps insisted, “if their threats are real, we could be facing the extinction of our people.”

“They have to be lying,” Vultur insisted, “no one can make an attack like that, and even if he did, then that would be a war declaration, and we could call on our allies to help. They will help us destroy him and his clan before he has a chance to destroy us.”

“Vultur is right about something, an attack on one of our allies is an attack on the Empire. You have not only recognized the attack in front of all of us, there is nothing that will stop us from going after you for this.”

“My son and I walked in here with the promise of free pass, that means we get to walk outside without harm,” Kimball said, his even tone showing he wasn’t intimidated by Pompeyo’s threat. “As you know, our actions does not represent a direct attack against the Imperialists, just the Scavengers, so there is no conflict between our clans right now. Once the Scavengers are no longer, any issue between our clans should also disappear.”

“You will stop whatever is going on right now,” Pompeyo threatened, “or you will be facing the whole Empire.”

“Technically, it wouldn’t be all the Empire, since my clan has alliances with some of the clans that form the Empire, including your most powerful allies and most of the coastal clans that are closer to our territory. By the time you can move enough troops to attacks our territory, this war will be already over.”

“I think you don’t understand the situation,” Pompeyo said, getting our of his seat, “I’m Emperor Pompeyo, son of Emperor Trajan, grandson of Emperor Kamose. Maybe being isolated has given you a wrong impression of how things are here, but let me be clear, I’m not the kind of person you want as your enemy.”

“I’m sorry, you seem to be under the misconception that you are the first Emperor I have met,” Kimball casually commented, and I didn’t need my powers to see what was about to happen.”

“And that’s not right?”

“Kid, if you keep pushing for a fight, you won’t even be the first one I defeat,” Kimball’s words weren’t received with surprised whispers, but with outraged screams, what he was saying was impossible for most of them, and I knew things were about to get worse.

“That’s nonsense,” Pompeyo said, angry, “there is no way a simple mutant like you could face an Emperor, even less defeat one.”

“17 years, 7 months and 5 days ago, your father went to a mission in Naturalist’s territory, his convoy was attacked on the way and he was found by the Naturalists a few hours later, on the bottom of a small ravine,” Pompeyo was staring incredusly at Kimball, but Maddan put his hand on his shoulder and a silent exchange took place between them, one that made Pompeyo pay more attention to what Kimball was saying, “that’s the only time I met your father, and the victory was mine.”

“How do I know you are telling the truth?” Pompeyo asked. “Even if it’s impressive you made up such a detailed story, even remembering the exact day.

“I remember so well that day, because it was the day my son was born. Which takes me to my other victory, since your father is not the only Emperor I have defeated.

“That’s not true,” Flora from the Naturalists said, moving closer to the throne. “She was only five months pregnant when she stopped at our clan’s.”

“What are you talking about?” Pompeyo was losing control, and it was showing by the way he was getting angrier.

“I think that in the middle of all this I forgot to introduce myself,” Ethan interrupted, “I have a lot of names and titles, I’m heir to two old dynasties, well, technically three, but I’m only going to mention the relevant part: my name is Ethan, grandson of Empress Sultana and Emperor Kamose and son of Empress Kaiserin.”

“Kaiserin?” several voices asked. Some because they didn’t know about me, others because mine was a name they haven’t heard in a long time.

“You were the one after Kaiserin when she went looking for refuge in our clan,” Flora accused, her words barely audible under the people’s chatter. “You were the person she was running from.”

“That’s right,” Kimball said, “Ethan is our son. And as I said, I’m only trying to do what’s best for everyone. You should be grateful I’m only going for an alliance, because if I wanted, I could take control of this territory. I’m not afraid of you, because I have defeated others like you, and even if your aunt proved to be a hard opponent to defeat, your father was an easy target. Now, the Scavenger’s Clan has signed their death sentence, we can keep this charade going and wait until it is done to continue this discussion, or you could accept an alliance with us right now. Believe me, it’s far better for you to have us as allies than as enemies.”

“Be careful, Kimball, that sounds like a threat, and I don’t care who you say you are of who you claim to have defeated, I won’t allow you to come into my clan and talk to me like that.”

In the middle of the fighting and discussions that were going on, Vultur had started to move closer, intending on attacking Kimball, I could see him moving, but even if his back was to me, I knew that Kimball was aware of the danger, even so, before Vultur could reach Kimball, Gyps moved in and without hesitation grabbed Vultur’s head and twisted, breaking his neck. Vultur’s body fell limp to the floor and another silence fell over the room.

“There is no need for this drama,” Gyps said, “if you promise to stop the attacks on the Scavenger’s Clan, I will recognize our alliance so the Shadows can become part of the Empire.”

“I think it’s a little late for that,” Kimball said.

“You can’t continue this attack,” Gyps repeated, and edge of desperation to her tone.

“What’s your name?” Ethan asked.

“I’m Gyps, Vultur’s sister and new leader of the Scavengers.

“I think we should listen to her,” Ethan said.

“No, we can’t trust them, they have already proven that we can’t trust their word, an alliance between us wouldn’t work.”

“But we can trust her,” Ethan said.

“And how do you know that?”

“Because mother said that if Gyps took control of the Scavengers, then we could renegotiate our alliance.”

“At this moment I don’t feel like giving them a chance, I think that the way to go is total destruction of the clan that has been nothing but a pain for most clans. If your mother wanted me to tell me something, she should have done that herself,” he added in a lower voice, low enough for Ethan’s mic to caught it, but not loud enough for other to catch that.

The message was clear, and I knew it was time for me to get involved. I was a little nervous for what was about to happen, I knew that at the end what I was doing wasn’t only for me, but for Kimball’s best interest, and for our future in the Empire. The masks had already fallen and the secrets had been exposed anyway, and I couldn’t let Kimball keep playing with my reputation. I initiated the call, and a moment later the map behind the throne disappeared to be replaced by me. I could see myself on the screen, hiding in the shadows, just my figure and part of my face visible, I wanted to keep playing the mysterious game as long as possible.

“What do you think you are doing?” Kimball asked, not even bothering to try and hide his anger at my call.

“I think you need help with this situation, and even if I’m not happy with your behaviour up until now, I have decided to help,” I said. Most of the people present were from a younger generation and didn’t have a clue of what was going on, but those who had been there at the same time as me, that were trying to accept the fact that it was me on the wall. I couldn’t see everyone’s reaction from my point of view, but I knew that what was going on at that moment would change everything.

“Help? You said this would be easy, but the Scavengers betrayed us once again.”

“And you are the only one to blame for this, if you hadn’t arrived with that rotten attitude, it wouldn’t have been so obvious the Imperialist’s contempt and the Scavenger’s wouldn’t have been brave enough to challenge you like that. This is your fault, and now you have to fix this.”

“The Scavengers chose their own destiny,” his tone final.

“The Scavengers had made a lot of mistakes, most of them don’t even understand the concept of honor, but that’s not a reason to start a genocide if you can conquer them and use them for your benefit. There is still hope for that clan, and only one person who can help them, Gyps. Vultur’s death at the hands of his sister have changed everything. It’s not necessary to end their clan if she is the one leading them.”

“I don’t need your help, I can handle this, so go get some rest.”

“Kimball, don’t pretend that winning a few battles makes you the winner of the war.”

“So now it’s a war what we have?”

“I don’t know exactly what we have going on,” I said, gesturing between us,” What I know is that I’m winning, no matter what lies you have told them.”

“You know that I never lie, and you said it yourself, I have won a few battles, we just have to see who has the final victory. In the meanwhile, why don’t you stop getting into my clan’s bussiness and go handle your own problems?”

“You and I know that I’m not good at following orders, what I’m good at, is giving them, so this is your first order: take control of the situation and take the Scavengers under your control. I know that you can’t let them go without consequences, but this could be your first lesson at how to treat your defeated enemies.”

“We don’t have the time to supervise another clan, we can’t be always worrying about keeping them under control. You know that’s one of the reasons Mzansi, and therefore the Shadow’s Clan, never tried to conquer territory in the Empire.”

“That’s what you have allies for,” I sent Ethan a message, and my face disappeared to show the map again, “one of the problems everyone always had with the Scavengers is that they take territories that are on the edge or even inside other’s clan’s territories, luckily for the Shadows, most of those territories are from your allies, so there won’t be an issue if the Scavenger’s territory is divided between your allies and the people on those camps go under those clans’ control.”

“You said this was a chance for my clan to redeem itself, but it seems you are trying to take our territory and make our people other clan’s slaves,” Gyps protested.

“You said it yourselves, you are nomads, if you weren’t such a pest for other clans, there wouldn’t be a problem with your allies allowing free transit for your people or allowing you to set camp in their territories, but for the others to allow you that freedom, you need to gain their confidence first. Your path won’t be easy, but first of all you need to learn to be more humble and learn how to work with others, and to keep your word. If you manage to do that, you will be able to recover your status.”

“I don’t know who you are,” Pompeyo interrupted, “but you can’t come here and decide the destiny of a clan, especially not an ally of the Empire.”

“I was participating in the creation and destructions of clans before you were even born, and I know the rules better than you. If you had accepted the Shadows into the Empire, they would fall under your rules, but you didn’t, so they are out of your control. Right now, the Scavengers are at the mercy of the Shadows, and they have to decide if they want to submit to them, or face their destruction. Now, what’s left,” I told Kimball, “is that the Emperor decides if he is finally going to recognize the Shadows as part of the Empire, or if he will keep trying to avoid it.”

“You are Kaiserin, the coward that abandoned her clan and her family,” Pompeyo said, finally getting the picture and trying to regain control. “You are crazy if you think that after everything you have done, you can come and tell me what to do, you lost that chance a long time ago.”

“I’m trying to give you advice, a chance,” I said, trying not to let his words affect me, “I’m trying to save you from trouble. You know if you want to follow my words, or if you are going to let your pride get over the wellbeing of your clan. Kimball, I know you will take the right decision with the Scavengers, but I know that even if you are capable of terrible things, you are a pacifist at heart, and you don’t want the blood of an entire clan in your hands, that’s why my people and I have your back.”

I knew that after my intervention everything would change, but I trusted that my words would be heard and that Kimball would find the way to fix things and secure the alliance. There was still a chance he would end up in the dungeon, but I was confident he would get out of there without much damage, so I ended the call, trusting Kimball to do his best.

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Chapter 50

It had been a long and difficult day, like in previous occasions the leaders, or representatives, of the different nations that were part of the Dominion had traveled to Capital City to attend the vote.  Just one of the candidates seemed unfit to the position, but since he didn’t have a lot of support I decided not to worry about him. I was worried about the sector where he was from, and I was afraid that if things didn’t change, those people would decide to separate from the Dominion and form their own separate group.  But that was something I wasn’t going to worry about, all I needed to worry about was who was going to take my place.

Before the vote took place, some groups had their private meetings, some of those groups called me to talk to their candidates, and even some asked my opinion, but I did my best to stay out of it, not wanting to influence their decisions, like they had told me I was supposed to do.

The vote took place in the afternoon.  Even if I had never talked to the person they elected, I had a good feeling about her, and that made me feel better, because I was aware that no matter what my opinion was, she was going to be taking my place.  I couldn’t help but worry about it, but at the same time I was aware that it was how things were supposed to be, and I had to get used to the fact that I was no longer going to be leading the Dominion, I needed to start thinking about what my life would be once I was gone and someone else had my position.  Luckily Ethan was about to finish school and ready to start a new chapter in his life, so there was nothing keeping us in that city, a place where I had been living for a good part of my adulthood.

But not only what had happened that afternoon was going to affect my life permanently, there was something going on in the other side of the world that would affect my life even more.  I went over my messages again, and I found one from Ethan from a couple of hours earlier that day. They were already in Imperial territory, and had gotten inside the Palace, he also told me they had ran into his sisters and the Assassins, as well as a few Imperialists.  I was sure he wasn’t telling me the whole story, by the few glimpses I had caught during my walk in the fog I knew it was very likely that meeting could take place, and I also knew that in most paths with that encounter, Kimball had caused trouble.

Soon Kimball and Ethan were going to meet Pompeyo and ask for the Shadow’s Clan to be part of the Empire, and I knew how important that meeting was for all of us.  A lot depended on that meeting, and even if I knew everything was going to end well, I also knew that they could face a lot of problems, and that depending on the actions taken that day, we could start the alliance in a good or a very bad way.  I also knew that there was a slight chance that the acceptance of the Shadows into the Empire could be delayed, it all depended on Kimball’s and the Scavenger’s actions.

I arrived at my suite, that felt especially empty without Kimball and Ethan.  I went to one of the monitors and called Ivan. He, and all the others on the list, had been part of my personal army for a couple of days, and without Kimball noticing, I had sent them on a mission, the first one directly under my command.

“How’s everything there?” I asked Ivan, once his face appeared on the screen.

“Everything is exactly as you predicted, the group is quite big, and we could find a few families among them.”

“Remember that each and every one of them is a warrior, they may not seem that dangerous, but you need to remember not to underestimate them.”

“Of course, we are aware of the risks and are following your indications, we are ready for whatever we need to do.  So far, no one has noticed our presence, and we are just waiting orders.”

“Perfect,” I said, ending the call, but keeping a communication line ready.

Most of the plan depended on Ethan, and I was sure I had him on my side.  Just as I was starting to get nervous, a message appeared on my screen, then I saw the text: everything is ready, followed by a link.  Ethan hadn’t failed me.

I followed the link and the image being transmitted from Ethan’s camera filled the screen.  I could see the throne room, and around it groups formed by the different clans in the Empire and the high commanders of the Imperial Clan.  It was weird to see Pompeyo sitting on the throne, and even weirder to see Maddan standing at his right, and Alukah, Kozlak’s and Lamia’s daughter on his left.  It was a clear example of past and future.

“Who are you?” Pompeyo asked.  “And what brings you to my humble Palace?”

“My name is Kimball, and I’m here in representation of my clan, the Shadow’s Clan.” His words were being transmitted loud and clear, I could even hear the whispering of the crowd caused by Kimball’s revelation.

“I thought that clan was just a story told to scare young soldiers on their first mission.  Are you using that name in an effort to appear though? If you think a cheap trick like that is going to work in here, you are clearly mistaken,” Pompeyo said.

“My clan has been around for a few generations, but we mostly prefered to go unnoticed.  That has changed, and we want, for the first time, be recognized by the clans in the Empire.  Most of all, we want to be part of the Empire.”

“If it’s true that you clan has been around that long, how is it possible that we have never come across your territory?” Pompeyo asked, and I had to give it to him, he was handling the situation very well, doing a good job of showing everyone in the room who was in charge, but I knew Kimball wasn’t going to make things easy to him.

“We come from one of the caribbean islands.  Even if it’s something that is not usually shared, some of the costal clans know about us.”

Pompeyo took his time to consider his explanation, and then started to look around, going over the clans in attendance, until he found the costal clans and, most likely, used his powers to see into their mind before asking out loud.  “Does any of you recognize the existence of this clan?”

A couple of clans stepped forward and recognized their alliances with the Shadows, a few others said they knew about their existence, but mostly because of stories and rumors, but all the clans that had spoken were minor clans, mostly under the control of the Imperial Clan.  The only clan of importance that could confirm their existence was the Buccaneers’ Clan, the group that controlled the bigger island in the caribbean.

“We have heard about them, in fact, they have caused us trouble for many generations,” Fidel, the leader of the Buccanners explained.  As you know, not every island in the caribbean is under control of the Empire, a couple of near islands are under Imperial control, our island is under ours, but there is another big island we have never been able to control, it’s mostly inhabited by fishermen and farmers, but there is another group that protects them and is always causing trouble, and even if I can’t assure you it’s them, they are the most likely group.”

“That only confirms that you in fact own a territory, but that’s not enough to be part of the Empire.  Before you can be accepted, and recognized by us, you need to have alliances with at least three clans, and you have to prove that an alliance with you can be of benefit to us.”

“As you see, we have a couple of alliances already recognized, and we can produce a few more, that’s not an issue,” Kimball said.  Ethan was standing next to him, and I couldn’t see his face, but I didn’t need to see Kimball to guess that both his posture and expressions were challenging Pompeyo.

“Alliances with minor clans is almost the same as no alliance,” Pompeyo said dismissively, and I knew that his words, even if true, wouldn’t be well received by some of the leaders under his control.  I knew that words like those could be the start of an uprising or at least cause trouble. “If you want an alliance with us because you are in need of protection…”

“That’s not something you have to worry about, we don’t need anyone to protect us.  It’s just that we want a better relation with people in the continent and we believe this is the easier way to do it.  In fact, our offer to be part of the Empire is for both our benefit, the other option is to be enemies, and that’s not something you want.”

“Brave words from a clan with such weak alliances,” Alukah said.

“What kind of alliances would we need to join the Empire with all the rights and privileges available for an ally?” Kimball asked calmly.

“You would need to have alliances with the most powerful clans in the Empire, most powerful after us, of course,” Pompeyo answered, and by his smile and confident demeanor I could tell that he didn’t believe they would be able to fulfill his request.

“You name the clans you think we need alliances with, and we will get them.”

“First of all, you will need an alliance with the Assassins’ Clan, one of the most important and recognized clans in the Empire.  You would need an alliance with the Merchant’s Clan, one of the best known and respected clans in the Empire. And lastly, you would need an alliance with our most recent acquisition, the Scavenger’s Clan, a clan with presence in almost every occupied territory.”

“That’s all?” Kimball asked, and I could almost see the smile on his face, for a moment I considered asking Ethan to turn, but by the look on Pompeyo’s face and the almost imperceptible change in his demeanor, I thought it was better to keep the image on him so I could try and read his reactions.

“No, that’s not all, you will need to do it during the week this reunion lasts, if by the end of the week you haven’t secured the alliances, then you will forfeit your chance of being part of the Empire,” Pompeyo’s face didn’t change much, but I could tell he was satisfied by his demands, thinking it was in impossible task, and under different circumstances it would be, it wasn’t an easy task, but I had forseen his demands and we were ready for them, we had also secured a couple more alliances, because I had seen different versions of his demands.

“That’s not a problem,” Kimball said.  “You asked for an alliance with the Assassins first, right?  Dendro? Could you confirm our alliance for Emperor Pompeyo?”

“Our clan has, in fact, formed an alliance with the Shadow’s Clan,” Dendro confirmed, and the surprised whispers raised on the room.  I could see Pompeyo’s eyes betray his surprise after hearing Dendro confirm the alliance.

“How is it possible that a clan as known as yours could accept an alliance with nobodies like them?” Pompeyo asked.

“Do you remember the story I told you about the warrior that saved my partner’s life?” Antrax asked.  “He is that man. We not only have a personal debt wit that man for that help, he has also proven the strength of his clan and his warriors, that’s why we accepted the alliance.”

“Thanks for that,” Kimball said, “but you know there was no debt to pay, I gave you my help freely and without expecting anything in return,” Kimball’s words sounded sincere, even if a few could understood the truth behind his words, he had acted, not thinking of the Assassins, but for me and my daughters.  “Now is your turn Fugger, do you confirm the alliance between us in front of the Emperor?”

“A while ago the Shadow’s Clan approached us, and after a long negotiation,” Fugger started explaining, trying not to attract Pompeyo’s anger, “we decided to offer the Shadows an alliance.  So yes, I confirm that there is an alliance between us and their clan.”

Pompeyo was staring at Fugger through narrowed eyes, and even if it was clear he was doing his best to control himself, it was also clear he didn’t like the turn the situation was taking.

“So that only leaves the Scavengers,” Kimball said, and that was the moment of truth, the Scavenger’s answer would decide what would happen, and if the Shadows would become part of the Empire.  “Vultur, you are the only one left to confirm our alliance.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t confirm that,” Vultur had moved closer to the throne and his eyes were focused on Pompeyo, for a moment his eyes lost focus, making it clear to everyone that he was having a very deep telepathic conversation with Pompeyo.

“Think very well about what you are doing, you are not only breaking your word and going back on our deal, you are gaining a very powerful enemy, and if you don’t fix this right now, you will regret it.”

“Our deal was made before we decided to join the Empire, things have changed, and we no longer need you, because of that, I see no reason to respect our deal.  Right now, you need us more than we need you. There is nothing you can offer us that can make us change our minds, our alliance with the Imperialists is much better than anything you can offer us.”

“This is the third time you have broken your word to us, and this time there is no going back,” Kimball said, he had finally moved and I could see him, his posture was very aggressive, and I had to admit, very impressive.

“I thougth this was the fourth time,” Ethan commented.

“I’m not counting the time his brother betrayed us, because we killed everyone involved in that one,” Kimball said, his words, thrown so casually, made an impression in the people around them, one of Vultur’s companions, who hadn’t moved until then, reacted to Kimball’s revelation moving closer to Vultur and whispering something to him.

“You did me a favor,” Vultur said,” by killing my big brother you saved me the time of doing it myself, but still, I can’t help you, there is nothing you can say to make me change my mind, your clan won’t be part of the Empire.”

“You can’t say I didn’t give you a chance,” Pompeyo said, “it’s a pity this won’t work for you.”

“This is not finished.  All I need is a couple of days.  In two days I will come back and we will discuss this again.”

“I told you, there is nothing you can say to change my mind,” Vultur repeated.

“And I won’t change my conditions.”

“In two days that won’t matter, you will have to pick another clan for us to form an alliance with, and with all due respect, you will do it, because in two days, the Scavenger’s Clan won’t exist anymore.”

Ch 49-b

Malkia was starting to think that all the warning and horror stories she had been listening to the last few years were nothing but lies.  Dendro had been nervous from the moment they arrived at the Palace’s territory, he couldn’t stop looking around, as if he was expecting an ambush at any moment, but so far they hadn’t found any problems, and Malkia was starting to relax.  When they arrived at the area they would be staying in, one that they had been warned was private and not many were allowed inside, Dendro’s attitude had become even more cautious.  Greca was the first to notice the change, but Malkia noticed not long after, and then she noticed a pair of imperial warriors coming their way.

“Dendro, it’s nice to see you again,” one of them greeted him, with a familiarity that Malkia was sure wasn’t well received.

“It’s a pleasure to have you again with us,” the other warrior said, his attitude a lot more respectful, “it’s an honor to hav…” the warrior’s eyes had been looking over them, and when his eyes made contact with Malkia his words died out and his attitude shifted completely.  The warrior next to him noticed the chance and looked over to see what had caught his attention, and when he found it, his attitude also changed.  “You have a lot to explain,” the warrior told Dendro, all his respect gone and his attitude turning aggressive.

“Nothing to explain, Maddan,” Dendro said.  “Agis, I’m sorry I can’t say the same to you.”

“She looks like a very close copy of Kaiserin,” Agis, the other warrior said, “and for years you told us you had no idea where she was.”

“I don’t know where Kaiserin is, just that she trusted me with the care of her daughters.  If she wanted you to know about this, she would have told you herself.”

“Daughters?  Plural?” Maddan asked, his eyes going again over the group and stopping on Greca.

Greca felt his mind trying to read her thoughts, but with just a little effort she managed to avoid the invasion, mostly because Maddan didn’t press on with his attack.

Several hurried steps could be heard in the hallways, and soon another three warriors were with the group, two men and a woman.  The three were looking at the group with open curiosity, all three of them staring at Malkia.

“Dendro?  Is there something you would want to share with the group?” one of the warriors asked.

“I asked the same question,” Maddan said.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked Malkia.  “And who is the young lady with you?”

“My name is Malkia, I’m Antrax’s partner and this is my sister Greca,” Malkia knew why the group looked so interested in her, but she didn’t try to offer more information.

“Your son’s partner?” Agis asked.  “After the unfortunate accident of your own partner, I would expect you to take her as your partner.”

“I respect both Kaiserin and my son too much to do something like that,” Dendro said.

A heated discussion started between Dendro and the Imperial warriors, especially the first two they found, and after a while nor Malkia nor Greca fully understood what they were talking about, but they knew that the fight was about their mother and what they thought they deserved from her.  After a few minutes they heard laughter from the other side of the hallway, and Malkia was surprised to see Kimball walking their way.

“What are you laughing about?” Agis asked.

“It’s fun watching you fight over something you already lost, especially since I have it.”

“You don’t even know what we are talking about,” another of the warriors pointed out.

“The correct term would be to say someone they lost, not something,” Ethan corrected at the same time the other talked, and that caught the attention of a couple of the warriors, the ones that haven’t been part of the discussion and therefore were more focused on what was going on around them.”

“Who do you think you are to interrupt our discussion'” Maddan challenged him.

“Father?” Greca chose that moment to ask, “What are you doing here?” Her words left the group in silence, some making the connection faster than others.  Since Greca was Malkia’s sister, and Malkia was so obviously Kaiserin’s daughter, then that meant that Greca was also her daughter, and if Kimball was her father, that would make him Kaiserin’s partner.

“You shouldn’t have said that?” Ethan complained, “you are only encouraging him, encouraging his bad attitude.”

“I think you forgot a few things the last time we saw each other,” Malkia told Ethan.

“Do you think so?  I believe everything has its time and place, that wasn’t the right moment.”

“I don’t appreciate you being here, especially since our mother insisted I had to stay away from the Palace for so long.  What makes you so especial?”  Malkia complained, her frustration so bad she forgot to think about the consequences of her words before speaking.

“Well, for starters, I’m not a copy of her, and if no one had said anything about me being her son, no one would have found out, I would have been able to enter and leave without anyone knowing about it, that gives me an advantage, one you can’t have while looking so much like her,” after his words Malkia looked around and realized everyone was watching them and listening to their conversation.

“There is no way this could be true.  Kaiserin would never stoop so low as to have relations with a mutant,” Agis complained, using the word mutant as an insult.

“I don’t see how it would be bad for the most powerful psychic in the world to be with the most powerful mutant in the world,” Ethan said, speaking out for his father.

“I think our mother was being way too protective asking me to hide with the Assassins for so long,” Malkia said, still bothered with the situation and Ethan’s presence.

“Do you want to know why she insisted you needed to be away from this clan?  Take a look at General Agis’ mind,” Ethan told Malkia, but it was Greca who took the initiative, and she didn’t like what found on his superficial thoughts.

“Ethan is right, you should see what he is planning,” Greca said, “he is thinking of going to the Emperor and request for you to be taken from the Assassins and put under his supervision, he will claim you belong to the Imperial Clan, but his intentions are…” Greca didn’t go on, she simply let Malkia borrow her powers so she could see the same things she was seeing.

Agis wasn’t going to stay still, as soon as he felt the sister’s minds, he started building barriers in his mind, but their curiosity and combined power was enough to tear them apart, still, Agis had an advantage over them, one that fell apart when a third mind joined them.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Agis complained.  “Get out of my mind immediately.”

“Who do you think you are to try and take my partner?” Antrax, who had been quiet until then, asked.  “I don’t care who Malkia’s mother was, she is my partner and she stays with me.”

“I said, out of my mind!” Agis repeated, attacking Ethan, who was the closest to him, but before he could connect, Kimball shook off the cuffs and grabbed Agis by his jacket, throwing him against a wall.

“I was waiting for you to give me a chance to do this,” Kimball said with a smirk, as he hit Agis against the wall again and again, but then his movements started to get slower, several threads of hair started wrapping around him, holding him still.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate someone knocking some sense into Agis,” the woman said, “but I can’t let someone just attack an Imperialist in our own stronghold.”

“How is it possible for him to free himself?” Maddan questioned the warrior that had been escorting Kimball and Ethan.  “And the kid is supposed to have his powers blocked before being allowed to enter this part of the Palace.”

“And we did,” the warrior answered, picking up the cuffs, “we even tried with a few other kinds, this are the strongest ones, and he said he wouldn’t be able to break this ones.”

“And I didn’t, I opened them,” Kimball said, he had been forced to let Agis go, his movements growing slower and more difficult.

“And I checked that the blocker was working myself,” the warrior said, “besides, he was classified as an empath, there was no reason to think he could do something like this.”

“I’m sorry,” Ethan said, but it was obvious he didn’t mean that, “but blockers make me feel weird, so I disabled it.  And even if empathy is my main ability, I’m actually classified as a hybrid.”

Before they could continue the discussion, a flare enveloped Kimball, burning all the hair wrapped around him, freeing him from the bondage and returning him his freedom of movement.  His dark skin showed a few burns that were healing before the eyes of the other warriors.

“I will take care of them,” Maddan said, and by the way his subordinate was acting, it was clear that more had been added telepathically.

“You feel dangerous,” one of the men told Ethan, “I can’t figure out why, yet.”

“I think, uncle Kozlak, that is because you can feel my confidence, and there’s only two kind of people that would be this confident in the middle or enemy territory, those that are incredibly stupid, and those who are very strong, and since you know who my mother is, you should know I’m not stupid.  Knowledge is power, and I’m carrying quite the arsenal.”

“And what do you know?” another of the warriors challenged him.

“I know your name is Geb, and that you served under my mother’s command, and I also know you were with the group who found her and helped her get her memory back.”

“This is not the moment to be talking about that,” Agis said, he had managed to get Kaiserin’s children’s minds out of his, and had moved to where Malkia was standing.  “Why don’t you come with me to a private space where we can discuss the situation more calmly?”

“She is going nowhere with you,” Antrax quickly answered, stepping between him and Malkia.

“You are wasting your time, Agis, Malkia won’t fall into your hands,” Kimball said.

“You think you can stop me?” Agis challenged him.

“I made sure, a long time ago, that if you dared put your hand on her, it would be the last thing you did,” Kimball said, with a menacing smile, while Maddan was checking the cuffs, probably looking for a way to put them back on Kimball, but he eventually decided it would be a waste of time.

“What do you mean by that?” Agis asked.

“If you were paying attention, Agis, you would have already noticed that she is Antrax’s partner, and he is the heir to the Assassins, there is a very particular characteristic that they must have so their union can be possible.  I agree, we have a lot to talk about, and this is not the place for that,” the woman looked around, they were still in the hallway and sound could carry in that place.

“I have no problem with that,” Malkia said, “I too have a lot of questions.  But I don’t want him to be with us,” she said, pointing to Agis, who still looked a little out of control.

“Don’t worry, we will make this first meeting a family affair.”

“And what about me?” Geb protested.

“You can come as my partner,” she said, and noticed Maddan’s stare.  “We could include those two in the reunion, and you could come with the excuse of guarding them,” she suggested, pointing Kimball and Ethan.

“No matter how attractive the idea sounds, I have my orders with regards to these two, and now that I’ve seen what they are capable of, I think it would be best if I take care of them personally.”

Both Kimball and Ethan smiled at that, the similarities between the two becoming even more clear thanks to the identical expressions on their faces.

Will we see each other soon?‘ Greca asked Ethan using telepathy.

It depends, if everything goes well, it’s probable that we will make a lot of enemies and will be forced to leave the territory fast to avoid problems, the other option is that we will end in the dungeons.

Take care, there is a lot you still have to explain,‘ Greca warned.

You too sister, remember that you are in a greater danger than I.’

Greca had seen Agis mind and his hidden desires, she knew that Malkia was the one in the greatest risk, but she also knew that the attention could easily shift to her once they found out she was also Kaiserin’s daughter.

Chapter 49

I woke up knowing I was going to be facing a very difficult day.  Kimball didn’t say a thing, something I was grateful for, because I was about to face a harsh reality that I knew was coming for a long time, but that was difficult for me anyway.  It wasn’t the first time I had to face a change of government, and I had already let go of two of my positions, but it was harder because I knew it was no turning back from it, I was about to leave my position as Prime Minister, my time was ending and there was nothing I could do to change that.

I knew that it was inevitable, and in a way it was something I was looking forward to, it had never been in my plans to be in front of the Dominion for so long, it was just the way things had happened.  When they first called for Prime Minister elections, I had thought I had run out of time, but they had surprised me by electing me again, and the second time I had arrived to the meeting feeling confident I would get elected again, but not again, my time had run out and there was nothing that could be done about it.  The situation was complicated, but I had known for a long time that that moment was going to arrive sooner or later.

The holograms of the leaders of the different leaders of the countries in the Dominion started appearing around me.  In just a few seconds every country in the Dominion was virtually represented in that room.

“Greetings to all of you,” I said, as soon as the last hologram showed.  “Today we don’t have much to discuss, our most important issue is the next elections that are fast approaching.  We have been through this a couple of times, and most of you were already at the front of your own countries on at least one occasion, you all know the procedure, and the first step is to choose the candidates you think will best represent all of you.”

“Are you aware that this year you can’t be considered a candidate?” someone asked.

“I’m aware of the rules,” I simply said.

“And you won’t do anything to change them?”

“I will follow the rules, the same way I did it the first time.  All I ask if for you to think carefully about your picks.  From the time the Dominion was liberated from their previous rulers, I have been the only Prime Minister, now is your chance to get a new vision, a new way of doing things.  Don’t waste it, don’t give your vote to someone that won’t be able to face the different challenges we often face, or that will put his or her personal interest over the Dominion’s.  Whatever decision you take now, will follow you for the next few years.”

Several of the leaders started a discussion, and a while later the first nominees were named, after that a few other less important issues were discussed, but it was obvious that no one was focused on anything else after the subject of the incoming elections.  Finally the session ended, after setting a date for the vote.

Once I was back in my office, several of my most loyal guards entered the room.  I would have been very worried by watching them all walk inside if it wasn’t for the fact that I had absolute trust in them, and that the feelings I felt from them were anything but threatening.

“What’s going on?” I asked Ivan, who was clearly leading the group.

“A new Prime Minister is going to be chosen very soon,” he said, “and we know you will have to leave your position, this time there’s no alternative.”

“That’s right,” I wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, but I knew that whatever it was, it was very important to them.

“Our positions depend on the Prime Minister, we are in the employ of the Dominion,” I knew he was right, even if it was something I hadn’t thought about, or more accurately, something I had refused to consider.  Most of the warriors that were part of my guard were more than employees to me, they were my allies, maybe even my friends, not having them with me would be a very strange experience, it would be a change that would leave me with a big hole inside, “once the change to a new Prime Minister is done, most of us will be reassigned.”

“But once you leave the position a small guard will be given to protect you and your family, it’s one of the benefits you will be given after serving the Dominion for so long,” Tatyana said.

“It would be only twelve members, the advantage is that you will get to select those you prefer to keep working as part of your guard,” Thalia added.

“The problem is that those that want to stay with you are more than twelve,” Yoweri said.

“We know that choosing among us won’t be easy, so we hope this would help you,” Ivan gave me two lists of names.

The first had names I was very familiar with: Ivan, Thalia, Fatima, Yoweri, Soriya, Zhou, Youssef, Lukas, Tatyana and Sefina.  The second had the rest of the names of those I had come to consider my most loyal guards: Franz, Morgane, Rasmus, Konstantinos, Reka, Connor, Alea, Zoran, Marco, Mihaela, Ivana, Huriye, Khalid, Azhlei, Karthik, Nasim, David, Yusra, Erkebulan, Haziq, Menkhu, Lim, Uktam, Weza, Kgalefa, Ludomir, Tarik, Onyesha, Leabva, Razak, Kebe, Mamadou, Thandi, Gina, Matthew and Fetu.

“The first list has the names of those of us that are willing to leave our position in the Dominion to follow you and stay under your command in any way we can,” Yoweri said, and I wasn’t surprised by it, but I was surprised by some of the other names in the list.

“The second has those of us that would like to keep working for you, but would prefer to keep our positions in the Dominion,” Thandi explained.  “Any of us would be happy to be chosen to keep being part of your guard, if you want to, but we have no problem moving to the service of the new Prime Minister and his family if needed.”

I noticed two names I was expecting, missing: Sensei Ueshiba and Agata, but then I remembered that they were already under my direct command, even if they somehow worked for the Dominion.  Even if Ueshiba was part of my guard, and also one of the main trainers of my guard, he worked under temporary contracts, and some of them were signed directly for me, not my position.  Agata, on the other hand, couldn’t work for the Dominion because of her past as a hired assassin, because of that she was directly under my command, even if sometimes she worked with Ivan, and with other members of my guard, I always tried to keep her apart from the others to avoid problems or scandals.  I didn’t know what would happen to Ueshiba, I was almost sure he wouldn’t renew his contracts, he would most likely go back to his school and his other responsibilities, because his responsibilities with me were already done, but I was sure that Agata would stay with me, as much for her own sake as for everyone’s, it was important to keep her focused and out of trouble, because her powers were extremely dangerous if left without the proper supervision.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” I said sincerely, going over the first list again, “but this will certainly make my work easier.  I understand why not everyone is ready to drop everything and follow me, I’m actually surprised to see so many that are willing to follow me, and I will do my best to do right by you.  The work we have done here has been very important, and the truth is that most of it wouldn’t have been possible without your help.  I’m very grateful for your loyalty and I will talk to Kimball this afternoon to try and come up with a just arrangement for those of you willing to follow me.”

“Then you will accept to keep us with you?” Yoweri asked, and even if his voice was even, I could feel his vulnerability showing with his emotions.

“I feel honored that you want to stay with me, and much more calm till a certain point, but before you take a definitive decision, I would like to make sure I can offer you what you deserve, and I will also like to talk to you, just so you know what you are getting into.  If you think that once I leave this place I will go back to a quiet and simple life, then you will be disappointed.”

“It’s precisely because we know the new challenges you will be facing that we are willing to stay under your command,” Fatima said, “your work is not done yet, you still have a lot to do.”

“Have you had a new vision?” I asked immediately, my curiosity getting the best of me, she hadn’t said anything about knowing my plans of having information about what was going to happen.

“I just know that there will be a lot of changes in the future, and that you will need our support.  The mzansiers will be with you, but it would be best if you have your own people at your back,” Fatima said, and I had to agree with her, the Shadows were my ticket in, but I had to have something that was just mine, or I would lose some of the recognition I already had.  “Now, if we are finished with this little intervention, I would like to ask when are we going into the fog and start working on the next steps to take.”

I took a moment to check my schedule, looking for an empty space, one big enough to give our investigation the time it needed.  “I will be busy most of the day, but if it’s ok with you, I will try to be free by 6 o’clock, that would give us a few hours before we have to stop.”

“I will be ready and waiting.  Do you want me to ask Sofia to join us?”

“No, not at this time, if we need her, I will ask her to join us at a later date.”

Once they had stated their case, the rest of the guards left the place, only those who were assigned to guard me at that time remained.  Their words and the two lists had given me a lot to think about.  Not only I had to think about the warriors that would stay with me, Fatima had reminded me that we needed to think about what was going on in the Empire.  I knew the reunion would be soon, but I needed a specific date so I could program Kimball’s and Ethan’s trip.  It was also important to make sure nothing would happen to them.  I knew that if something happened to either of them, I would feel too much guilt, I needed to do my best to minimize risks.  Despite all the tasks I still needed to finish before meeting with Fatima, my mind kept going to her and our task.

“Why are you so pensive?” Kimball asked when he arrived with some food for me and I didn’t even notice him.

“You knew about the offer some of my guards made to stay under my command?” I asked, as I showed him the two lists.

“I didn’t know, but I was expecting something like this.  I didn’t know when you would realize what stepping down would mean, relative to your guards.  I’m not surprised some of them are willing to quit and follow you, in fact, I was expecting more names in this list.”

“Can we hire them?”  Kimball smiled at me in a way that made me hesitate between feeling flattered or insulted.

“You never took advantage of your position, but you still managed to gather an important sum of money during your time as Prime Minister, besides, as leader of Aquarium you get a part of everything generated there, from goods and research both.  Just with that you would have enough to hire them, but we still can add the money I get from my patents, and even from Ethan’s, to cover any expenses we have.”

“I would never take Ethan’s money,” I protested automatically.

“But you can take mine?” Kimball said, trying to appear angry, but I knew he was just playing, ever since we had left the Empire behind, he had insisted that everything he had was mine, and he never had been angry at me for taking advantage of that, maybe because everything I owned was also his, and because he was the one that was mostly in charge of taking care of those things.

“Of course,” I answered.  “So, if there is no problem with hiring them, could you take care of it?”

“Sure, I will start working on that as soon as possible.  But about the guards that will stay under the Dominion’s contract, I would recommend for you to wait to chose them until after the new Prime Minister is chosen, that way you will be able to see how compatible they are with the new person, and take those you think would have the most problem adapting to the new regime.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea.”

After Kimball left, time started to move slower, but eventually the time to meet Fatima and start walking the fog to find what I needed, arrived.  I knew that a reunion with all the clan leaders was about to happen, not because of a vision, but because it was traditional, and even a necessity.  I also knew that Malkia was going to be there, and that Greca would be with her, mostly because I was aware I couldn’t keep her away from the Empire anymore and that her sister would be with her.  I also knew, mostly because of my knowledge of how the Empire worked, that the reunion was the perfect opportunity for the Clan of Shadows to claim his place in the Empire.  What I didn’t know was when the reunion was going to take place, or what risks my loved ones would find during it.  Time was a difficult concept to grasp in the fog, but it was very important to have the exact time line so Kimball could arrive at the right moment.  It was also important to walk several paths so I could get a better idea of the situation they would find.

Having Fatima with me helped with some of those tasks, she was giving me the anchoring I needed to have a better grasp of what was going on in the fog, and because of that I was able to find the date I needed relatively fast, the problem was that the timing couldn’t be worse for me.  The next reunion of the clans of the Dark Empire, the time when Kimball and Ethan would be risking their lives facing Pompeyo and demanding a spot in the Empire, was the same day that the next Prime Minister was going to be elected.

Chapter 48

For a long time I had let my other activities take precedent over my training time, I had stopped training with my guards to keep in shape, but if I was planning on getting back to my clan, I needed to be at my best.  Even without my powers I was able to fight one on one with most of my guards, but when fighting two to one it became very hard and I was forced to use my powers at least for defense.  Against three guards I needed the full use of my abilities if I wanted a chance at winning, but I had found that three on one was the best combination to keep the battle interesting without forcing myself or risking injury.

There were some combinations that were harder to fight than others, and I was starting to realize that any combination with Ethan in it was one of those.  Even if he was young and had less experience than most of my guards, his nature made others listen to him, and even if Ethan was smart enough to know when to listen to his elders, he also knew when to point opportunities, and since he had been training with me since he was a toddler, he knew my tricks and how to counteract most of my strategies.  Facing him was becoming more and more like fighting his father, and I was aware than in a few years, he would be able to face me by himself, and maybe in a few more, he would be able to score a few wins.

I was ready to stop Zhou’s attack, keeping Lukas and Ethan in my eyesight, but a hit on my side broke my concentration.  Somehow Lukas had managed to lure me into one of his illusions, luckily, I had kept my psychic wall up and the hit had not made contact, but Ethan was hitting again, using his telekinesis to increase his strength, dividing my attention and allowing Zhou to reach my side and start his own attack.  I threw an expansive wave of energy that threw all three of them away from me, and taking advantage of the fact that two of them had fallen, I used my powers to morph the ground and trap them.  Lukas tried to attack again, but I was focused on him and was able to see passed his illusions, I pretended I hadn’t seen him and let him get close, and then with a strong punch sent him to the ground, knocking him out.

“I think this round goes to Kaiserin,” Tatyana announced, she was in a better mood since she wasn’t the only one that had lost.

“I think this will be all for today,” I said, “you did an excellent work, but Kimball should be about to arrive and I want to go meet him at the airport.”

“I’m going with you!” Ethan announced, as if I was going to leave him behind.  I realized he had already broken his ties and was back on his feet.  With a quick thought I freed Zhou before he also decided to break the ground.

“Of course you are, go get ready, we are leaving in fifteen.”

After thanking them for helping me train, I went out, surrounded by a few of the guards that hadn’t been part of the training session and were still on optimum conditions.

Even if we had kept in touch since his departure, I couldn’t wait to see Kimball.  It was a little silly how much I had missed him, since it had been just a couple of weeks since I had seen him.  His absence had made me realize just how much I had grown used to his presence.  I knew that all his negotiations had been successful, but I also knew he had some trouble with the Scavengers, as usual, they had ignored their promises and tried to take advantage of the situation.

Kimball arrived and went straight to where we were waiting for him, but even if most of my attention was on him and my happiness at seeing him again, I couldn’t ignore the fact that he wasn’t alone, Mthunzi was with him, and I didn’t like her attitude.

As Ethan questioned his father, I was watching the leader of the Shadows, I had to recognize that she at least had the decency to give us some time to welcome Kimball before interrupting our reunion, but I could see her patience running out.

“Good morning,” she finally said, interrupting Ethan, who didn’t appreciate that fact.

“Greetings,” I said, acknowledging her presence.  Kimball’s arm around me tightened with her voice, a clear signal that he wasn’t happy with the situation.

“Hello,” Ethan said, not even bothering to look at her.  It was clear he was mad at her presence, and he was letting her know with his lack of respect while addressing her.

“Mthunzi, I wasn’t expecting a visit from you, what brings you here?” I asked, trying my best to act civil with her.

“I needed to talk to you about what’s going on in the Empire, and since you decided to leave me out of the discussion last time, I decided to come here and talk to you personally to avoid confusion or misunderstandings.  I think we need to talk about what happened during our mission.”

“You didn’t have to come here, I’m sure Kimball could have given me the report of your mission, in fact, I have been talking to him and I know most of what happened, like the trouble you found, as well as the success of your mission.”

“If you can call that a success, I’m not entirely happy with the way things were done, and since the Elders Council seems to think you are the expert, just because you were born there, I thought it was best to cut the middle men and come talk to you directly.”

“I’m sure you must be tired, why don’t you go rest for a while and we talk about this tomorrow?”

“I would prefer to talk today, I’m a busy woman, I have a lot of responsibilities to get back to, and the faster we talk, the sooner I can go back to the Island and to taking care of my clan.”

“As the busy woman you are, I guess you should understand that I’m a busy woman as well, after all, I’m in charge of all the Dominion, that keeps me busy.  My time is very valuable and right now my schedule is full, even the time I’m taking to see my husband, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, has been already scheduled.  I will do my best to free some time for you, tomorrow, I’ll let you know when I can see you, until then, enjoy the Towers,” once I said that, I turned around and me and my family went to our waiting car, that was ready to take us to back to the Palace, while one of my guards stayed behind to take Mthunzi to the Towers, where I was sure they would find some place for her.

I could feel Mthunzi’s fury reaching me in waves, I could also feel the effort both Kimball and Ethan were doing not to burst into laughter, but as soon as our vehicle’s doors closed and Mthunzi wasn’t able to see or hear us anymore, they both started laughing, but I was too mad because of her attitude to join them.

“That was fun,” Ethan finally said, “I’m sure that Mthunzi is not used to be spoken to like that.”

“She definitely isn’t,” Kimball confirmed, “during all our trip she couldn’t stop complaining about how her authority was being minimized and questioned because of my involvement, and I’m pretty sure she thought she could come here and take control back, and that no one would question her.  She even doubted that Kgosi had really given me the authority to act in their name.  I’m pretty sure she thinks of herself as Kgosi’s successor, and since some people says I should take over him, she might see me as her enemy.”

“It’s more than that,” I said, the pieces falling into place, “I think that she is not only thinking of you as her enemy, but as someone that doesn’t deserve to get the position she wants for herself.  Because of her words and her attitude, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a good opinion of us.”

“What are you going to do?  That was a good starting point, but you will need to do something more drastic if you want her to accept that she is not the one in control, or she will cause trouble down the road,” Kimball said.  “Even if she accepted that I was in charge during the negotiations, she never let pass an opportunity to remind me who was the leader of the clan.  I’m worried that she won’t accept my lead or will cause trouble for me when we finally contact the Empire.  Do you have any idea when that’s going to happen?”

“Soon.  Because of my walks in the fog, I think the moment when the Scavengers and Pompeyo meet will be soon, and once their alliance finalizes, the new Emperor will cause of his subjects to their first annual reunion, and will take the opportunity to present their new allies to the Empire. Most people won’t be happy about that, by the way.  I think that will be the perfect moment for you to go there, especially since Malkia will be there, and it will be a good chance to do a show of power, and let them know we will have her back if something happens.  To know she was one more clan supporting her will be helpful in the future.”

“If Malkia goes, then Greca is going to be there.  There is no way Mthunzi will be able to keep me away.”

“I agree, if she is against you, then she will cause trouble.  I think it would be better if it’s you who talks to the Imperialists.  Maybe it would be better to take someone else with you, maybe even Ethan.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Ethan said, “I’m willing to go, I can even talk to the Elders Council myself and with the King to convince them that letting me go is a good idea.”

“I think I will talk to them myself.  But before accepting this mission, before agreeing to it, you need to understand the dangers you will be facing,” I warned Ethan, “it’s not as easy to recognize you as my son as it is with Malkia, but the moment they discover who you are, the rest the of the heirs will see you as an enemy.”

“Then what we need to do is letting them know who I am from the beginning, that way I will be able to identify who are my allies and who my enemies.  Telling them who I am up front will cause them to react, and that reaction will let me know how they really feel about me.  If I know who to trust and who to be careful about, then I will be at an advantage.”

“That’s a huge risk,” Kimball said, thinking, “you can be right about how taking them by surprise will allow us to get some real readings.  Still, you should consider hiding who you are for a while, we can’t deny you are strong, but we also have to consider that they have more experience than them.”

“S show of power, from the start, would be a better way of facing them, if I start by hiding, then I’m at a disadvantage.  Besides, if we establish from the beginning that I’m the Shadow’s heir, and show them just how strong we are, then they will have less reasons to fight me, they won’t see me as such a threat if we show them that I have no interest in being part of their clan.”

“I can’t say that I like the idea, but I will take some time to consider it.  I just want you to promise me that if I see anything in the fog that suggests that’s not the best option, then you won’t tell them who you are.”

“Of course mom, if you think it’s not a good idea, then I won’t do it.  But I really think that’s a good option.”

I had to recognize that Ethan had been paying attention to my stories and my words.  I also knew that if he was considering that plan, it was because he believed himself capable of facing the consequences he could find, but he was young, without real experience in the Empire, he could be underestimating the dangers of that place.  It also could be that was being overprotective, I had just accepted that with the new Emperor the threat to Malkia was lessened, and Ethan was right that as the heir of another clan he could be seen as less of a threat.  Still, the bigger risk wasn’t them being seen as possible opponents to the other heirs, the risk was that my enemies could try to use them against me.  But Ethan already knew that, he had been used by my enemies to hurt me, it wasn’t as if he didn’t know the risks, he had lived with them all his life.

“You are thinking about it too hard,” Kimball said, as we got out of the vehicle and went to our side of the Palace, “you will get a headache like that,” he added, teasing.  “There’s still time to think about it, and at the end, we will do what you think best for everyone.  We have time to decide what we are going to tell your family.  Until then, we have to focus on other things.”

“Right now all I want is to be with you,” I said, hugging Kimball and letting him hug me back, “let’s take the rest of the day and pretend we are a normal family, we can go back to the real world tomorrow.”

“Are you going to need some privacy?” Ethan asked once we arrived at our destination.  “Because if you want that, let me know now so I can run away,” he joked.

“I missed both of you,” Kimball said, “but if you disappear for a couple of hours I would be grateful,” he accepted, as he put me over his shoulder.

“Kimball!” I yelled, even if I found the situation a little funny, especially with Ethan’s mock horror face before he ran away.

“I really missed you a lot,” Kimball said, and his tone of voice didn’t leave any room for doubt.

“It wasn’t that long,” I said, even if I felt exactly the same.

“We spent way too much time apart already, right now, every moment without you feels like an eternity.”

“This won’t be the last time we will need to be apart.”

“I know that, and because of that we need to take advantage of our time together.”

And we did just that, taking advantage of the time Ethan had given us, so Kimball could remind me of how perfectly we fit each other.  But we got out of our room eventually, Kimball needed some time with his son.  He told us about his time with Malkia and Greca, and assured me that neither of them was angry at me, and that the lack of communication wasn’t because they were mad at me.  Time flew by, and before I realized, we were in a new day and my time to face Mthunzi had come.

Since she had arrived at the Towers she had called my assistant and asked for a meeting, and even if he had stood his ground and didn’t allow her to dictate the time, scheduling her in the afternoon, the time for the meeting arrived faster than I would have liked.  Kimball was with me when Mthunzi arrived, and it was clear she didn’t expect him to be there, and that she didn’t appreaciate his presence.

“Good afternoon,” I greeted her, trying to be polite.

“In a few minutes it will be good night,” she said, already in a bad mood.

“I already talked to Kimball and he told me all about your time in the Empire.  It seems everything went according to plan, except for the small issue you had with the Scavengers.”

“Our mission is not the issue I want to discuss with you,” Mthunzi said, “it’s the lack of respect you’ve shown while dealing with this situation.  Either you like it or not, I am the leader of the Shadows, and the clan is my responsibility, I don’t appreciate how you make decisions without my input, and that you sent someone with no direct relation with my clan to act out of place during the negotiations.”

“I know exactly what your posture is, and I understand your anger, but this is bigger than you, and my knowledge, and Kimball’s experience are key for the exit of the mission.”

“You sent your son to present the proposals for the alliances, you can’t tell me you chose him because of his experience.”

“No, he was chosen because of who he is.  In some of the places he went, the fact that he is my son gave his an edge, it also improved his chance of success.  Besides, our connection makes it easier for me to see his future, and that way I can make sure he is not in danger.  Seeing the future of people I don’t know that well is difficult, and there a greater chance of error.  It’s the same with Kimball, it’s easier for me to see into his future and make sure he survives, not so much with a strange person.  Not to mention that if some of those negotiations, his connection to me was important.  I know that you only had to tell the Assassins about your connection to me, but if you had needed to, you could have used it in other negotiations.”

“We are supposed to be doing this for the good of our clan, for our people, by our people, but you keep getting in our way, in our business.”

“This is bigger than you, and I’m afraid that it’s better if you don’t get involved in the next step.  You will have to face the Emperor next, he is young and inexperienced, and very willing to show his worth, if we want to reach our goal, we need to have someone strong, capable of facing him, and I’m sorry, but you don’t have what is needed to face him.”

“I’m a Mzansi’s warrior, of course I have what it takes to face him, you are underestimating me because you don’t want to lose control of the negotiations.”

“Maybe, but it’s not a risk I’m willing to take, and I need to, then I will go to your superiors, but the fact is that Kimball and Ethan are the ones who will go to the Empire and deal with the alliance with the Imperial Clan.  And before you say anything,” I added before she could talk, “Kimball has years of experience dealing with the clans in the Empire, and there no one in all the Dominion who knows more about them than I do.”

“I know you grew up there, but…”

“Not only I grew up there,” I said, interrupting her again, “I helped create and destroyed clans, even before I won my place as the Empress, and I know exactly what has to be done if we want to reach a position of power.  Most of the clans that join the Empire, do so under the control of the Imperial Clan, but that’s not what we want, we want to join them as equals, not as subordinates.”

“And because of that we will be using our most powerful weapon,” Kimball said, breaking his silence, “and that’s my connection to Kaiserin and the power our relationship represents.  You know well that what they respect most of all is strength, and the fact that Kaiserin was the Empress, even for a short while, it’s a proof of her strength, and as her partner, I will be recognized by those who knew her.  Besides, if for any reason we need to face them in battle, I know I can win, but I cannot say the same about you.”

“Kimball is right, it can end up in a show of strength, and Kimball has the experience to face that kind of challenges.”

“I have faced my own battles, you are not the only ones with experience fighting, either here or in the Empire.”

“That’s easy then, you only have to show what you are capable of, before the time to go to the Empire comes, we will have a small tournament, you versus Ethan, if you manage to defeat him, then you can go in his place and also will have the option of facing Kimball, and if you manage to defeat him, then you will be able to decide who will go with you.”

“Ethan is just a kid, it wouldn’t be fair to fight him.”

“It wouldn’t be fair, for you, because I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to defeat him, still I’m offering you a chance.”

“Mthunzi, I get that have your pride, and that the way we have been acting can be a little disrespectful to you and your position in the clan, but you have to understand that this is important to us,” Kimball tried to explain.  “You know that what we are saying is true, and this discussion is not taking us anywhere.  There are many ways to deal with this, and as long as you let us keep dealing with this and making the decisions, we won’t be forced to affect the status quo, you will be able to keep calling yourself the leader of the Shadows, and Kgosi will be able to keep calling himself the King, and we will get the access we need to the Empire.  And everyone is happy.”

“That could be interpreted as a threat,” Mthunzi said, a little tense.

“If you knew me at all, you would know I’m not the kind of person that makes threats, I make promises,” Kimball said, and I could see that his words had affected Mthunzi, even if she was trying to act strong, as if she wasn’t affected by the situation.

“I know that you think you can get away with this, but it’s not finished,” she said, before walking out of the room.

“Things are about to get complicated, right?”  Kimball said.

“It seems so,” I agreed.  For a moment I thought he was thinking about taking a step back, but when I looked at him I could see he was smiling, and then I felt his satisfaction, he, for some reason, was happy with the way things were going.

Bonus: Alliance

Kimball, Mthunzi and a small group of warriors arrived at the edge of the Assassin’s territory and were soon intercepted by a group of sentries patrolling the border.  Once they explained who they were, Kimball and Mthunzi were escorted to the city.  As soon as they arrived, they were taken to a room where Dendro was already waiting for them, sitting at the head of the table that took most of the room.

“Greetings,” Mthunzi said, respectfully, but still managing to sound haughty.  “Thank you for receiving us.  My name is Mthunzi and I’m the leader of the Shadows, and this is General Kimball.”

“We know each other,” Kimball said, “it’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“The last time I didn’t get a chance to thank you for your help,” Dendro said, “so I want to do it now.  Thanks you for helping us save Malkia’s life.”

“I have to say the pleasure was mine, as you can imagine, after talking to my son, my actions weren’t for your benefit, I was acting on my own best interest.”

“Even so, you did my son and I a great favor.  Please, take a seat,” Dendro added, pointing to the seats in front of him.

They were just sitting down when the door opened and a couple of Generals, followed by Antrax, Malkia and a group of guards that included Greca, entered the room.  As soon as Malkia saw Kimball her face filled with surprise and happiness, she was fast to hide her reaction, but most of the people there was able to catch her reaction.

“Kimball?” she asked, not taking her eyes off of him.  “What are you doing here?”

“Do you know him?” Dendro asked, doing a better job of hiding his surprise.

“He was a frequent visitor at the Fortress.  I had the chance of speaking with him on several occasions during his visits.  But I wasn’t expecting to see him again, especially not here.”

“These two are the representatives from the Shadow’s Clan,” Dendro explained, “and General Kimball is the man who visited us previously.”

“He is the one that helped us save you,” Greca said, “the man that managed to escape our cells.”  Malkia didn’t react to the new information, lost in her thought for a moment, she watched Kimball and then her eyes turned to her sister.

Do you remember that I told you about Kimball when we were in the Fortress?‘ Malkia asked her sister telepathically.

The warrior that used to go visit his daughter every year,‘ Greca said, and as soon as she said that, it was like the pieces of a puzzle she didn’t even know she had, fell into place.  Greca stared at Kimball, as if she could read the truth on his face.  “Are you my father?” she asked directly, and a huge smile broke on Kimball’s face.

“I knew that you would be able to figure it out, but I have to admit that even I’m impressed by how fast you reached that conclusion.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Greca said, not knowing exactly how else to react.

“It wasn’t a coincidence that you happened to be near our clan when I needed help, was it?”  Malkia asked.  “You knew what was going to happen, somehow.”

“Your mother was the one who told me you were in danger.  She wanted to come herself to fix the problem, but because of my abilities, we thought I was a better choice to come here.  Besides, I had a promise to fulfill.”

A memory that Malkia had forgotten resurfaced.  She remembered one of her talks with Kimball.  She had been still a little girl then, jealous of Kimball’s daughter because he visited her every year.  At the time the only relative she knew was her sister, but she wanted a connection like the one Kimball had with his daughter.  She had even asked one of the trainers what a father was, and he had told her that father was the one who gave you life, whose blood ran through your veins.  During his next visit, she had even told Kimball she wished she was his daughter, and he had told her that he would be honored to call her his daughter, but Malkia insisted that was impossible since they didn’t share the same blood, he had tried to explain there were different kinds of fathers, other than the biological one, but said he understood if she didn’t share the same way of thinking.  He also told her that if it had been in his power, then she would have been like to be her father.

“So you helped me live, by giving me your blood,” Malkia said.  Thinking again of her old description of what a father was.

You know our laws prohibit interfering in the life of the dark ones,” Mthunzi said, using the most common language between the Mzansiers, the one that resembled the one used by the Rebel Clans.  “You know the punishment that kind of actions have, just wait until our King hears about this,” Mthunzi continued, almost happy, just thinking about it.

What makes you think he doesn’t know?” Kimball asked, not looking concerned with Mthunzi’s veiled threats.

If he knew…” she started, but then thought about it.  “When was the last time you went to Mzansi?”  Kimball only stared at her as his answer.  “So you were exiled!  The mighty Kimball has fallen from grace.

That’s relative, we all know perfectly that Kgosi didn’t exile me because I broke the rules, but because he thinks he will be able to stop the inevitable by keeping me away.  But don’t you worry about it, this is between the King and me, it has nothing to do with you.

“You got into trouble because of me?” Malkia asked, she had understood enough of the conversation to know what helping her had costed him.

“Nothing for you to worry about, besides, this is only a temporary setback, nothing that really affected me.  But that’s not why we are here, we have some business to do, and maybe, later, we could have a private talk,” Kimball said, looking between Malkia and Greca.  Both sisters looked at each other and quickly reached a decision.

“Once the meeting is over, we can stay and talk for a while, I’m sure there is a lot to talk about.  And some things that have to be explained,” Malkia said.

Kimball only smiled, happy, because for the first time, after so many years, he would be able to talk to his daughters, face to face, without lies or barriers between them.  Mthunzi didn’t worry him, after all they were equals, both of them Generals of Mzansi, even if they were from different divisions and Mthunzi was the leader of the biggest one, Kimball was sure about his situation and saw no need to get involved in posturing or pointless discussions.  Everything was going according to his plans, and soon his family would be united, if not physically, at least in essence.

Chapter 45

Kgosi’s hologram appeared just at the scheduled time, I knew that he was usually very punctual, but even so, I had been prepared for him to make us wait, as a sign of protest for calling the meeting.  Even if things had started well, I was ready for them to become difficult once we started thinking about what actions to take.

“Good evening,” I greeted him, “thanks for accepting the reunion in such a short time.  I think it’s important that we continue Ethan’s work and finalize the alliances as soon as possible.”

“That’s right, I think it’s important to finish this so we can have a bigger presence in the Empire,” Kgosi agreed, “that’s something we should have done a long time ago, but that we avoided because of the no interference rules we had, at least something positive came out of your arrival.”

“It’s good to see we agree on that.  I think it’s important that we secure our alliance with the Assassins first, they are the ones we have better ties with, and once we have that alliance, the others will be easier to convince.  The Assassins have a lot of influence over other clans and we can take advantage of that fact.”

“I think we should have included Mthunzi in this meeting, after all, she is the one in charge of the Shadow’s Clan,” Kgosi pointed out.

“Of course, we will talk to her, but I think that because of his experience, relationships and position, the one who must be involved at this stage, is Kimball.”

“I’m still not convinced that we need him to be involved,” Kgosi said, “and I’m sure that Mthunzi can deal with the negotiations, after all, she has been in contact with some of the costal clans for years.”

“But we all know that we can’t compare the strength or importance of the clans she normally deals with, with the ones you are going to be visiting.  I have a better understanding of clan politics and dynamics because of all my time doing missions in the Empire.  Not to mention that it was my son who did the first part of the negotiation and that I can even use my wife to strengthen my position,” Kimball said.

“I get that you got a dark one to accept you as her husband, but that doesn’t make you an expert,” Kgosi said.

“Actually, it does,” I interrupted, “my relationship with Kimball does in fact makes him an expert, and the best person for the job.  You must leave your issues and prejudices and think about what’s best for everyone.  Of course Mthunzi will have to be there, because of all she represents, but I think that it’s Kimball who should be in charge of negotiations.”

“But none of you have the authority to make this kind of decision,” Kgosi said, “and I think that he shouldn’t even be there.”

“That part is not negotiable, Kgosi, if I need to call the Elder’s Council and the President and involve them in this chat, then I will, but we won’t let our best element out of this just because of your fears and jealousy,” I said, and as expected, my words weren’t well received.

“You may think you have them on your side, but I’m the King, and as long as I sit on the throne, I am the one who makes the decisions.  Kimball is not, nor will he be, the leader of the Shadows, therefore, he doesn’t have the authority to negotiate in our name.”

“That’s why Mthunzi will be with him, so she can give any agreement the validity it needs.”

“If the issue is the legitimacy of my authority, there is more than one way to fix that,” Kimball said.

“Are you threatening me?”

“No, I’m just saying there are option.  I don’t intend to go there and show myself as someone I’m not, and I’m willing to work with Mthunzi, but we both know that my connections and experience working with the clans is better than General Mthuzi’s, even if she is the leader of the clan.  Our goal is to make sure there is no question about the autonomy and the position of our clan, but still, you have to know that the knowledge of my relationship with Kaiserin will be an important part of the negotiations with some of these clans.  Now, we can stay here and discuss this all afternoon, even involve more of the political players in our country, but, do you really want that?  It will be better to accept that at the end, we will do as Kaiserin suggests.”

Kgosi normally didn’t respond to threats easily, but he knew we were right, and the Elders were getting tired of his posturing, especially Zola.  I could see the fight on his face as he debated between keeping his pride or admitting we were right, and, to everyone’s surprise, he accepted.

“All right, I know that you have everyone in the Council convinced that you can’t do anything wrong, and that you will find a way to get away with it, so I will accept that Kimball will go with Mthunzi and that he will take point on the issues he considers it necessary, but I expect, at the very least, that you give Mthunzi the respect she deserves.”

“Of course, I will,” Kimball said, but his lack of sincerity was obvious, not only in his words, but his demeanor.

Many thought of Kimball as Kgosi’s successor, some even believed he should have taken his place some time before.  My position in the Dominion made it difficult, because of the conflict of interests that would appear out of having the husband of the Prime Minister being the King of one of the countries under her command, and the fact that Kimball had a blood relationship with many monarchs and even alliances or friendship relationships with others, made it even more difficult.

I had already considered the possibility of Kimball becoming the King, and what it would mean for me, but with the changes that were coming to the Dark Empire and the Kingdom of Light I hadn’t stopped to think about the very real possibility that once my time at the front of the Dominion ended, the people asking for Kimball to become the next King would only increase.  He insisted he wasn’t interested in the position, but I knew it was his destiny, I wasn’t sure how it would affect our plans, because Kgosi obviously was feeling his end near, and it would only make him more convinced to do whatever he could to keep Kimball away and delay the end of his time as King.

It took us a while to reach the necessary agreements that we needed, but by the end of the day we had already finished with the first part of the plans we needed to move forward with the alliances.  We knew that Ethan had done a good job convincing the clans that it was in their best interest to have an alliance with us, but only Mthunzi could finish the talks and make it official.

“How did it go?” Ethan asked when we arrived home.

“Everything went according to plan, the next few weeks your father will travel to the Empire to finalize the alliances,” I told him.

“Don’t I need to be there? I was the one who started the talks, after all, maybe you need me to finish things off.”

“Not this time,” Kimball said, “you did your part, now we need to do ours.  Besides, the trip will take a long time, and you can’t lose that many days of classes.”

“It’s my last year, I don’t think it will affect me if I miss a few days.”

“It’s precisely because it’s your last year that you can’t miss classes, it’s important for your future that you finish well and with a good score.  That will be key in your future, once you decide what you want to do with it,” Kimball said.

“But I do know what I want to do, I thought I had already talked to you about it,” Ethan said, and I could tell he has nervous, which made me nervous, what was he planning?  “I was talking to Zola, and she said that the best way to be prepared to take her place one day, was by doing an internship under the current President, she already started the paperwork so I can be accepted once I graduate, and grandma Victoria, thinking it was a great idea, said she could talk to some of her relatives to for the chance of including some internships with some of his relatives in Europe.”

“It seems you have been thinking about it, but wouldn’t it be best to have some formal education?  I thought the next step was to to go the university,” I said, still not sure of how things worked in that place.

“That would be the traditional route,” Kimball said, “but many universities offer the option of allowing students with professional experience to present exams that allow them to prove they have the knowledge they need.  Sometimes you learn more through experience, than in a classroom.”

“Or you can do a little of both, start working and get some experience, and then take classes to complement what you learned in the field,” Ethan said, “which may be the best option for me, after all I like school and I’m not afraid of studying, it’s just that I like first hand experience, and I always find my visits to the Elder’s Counsil sessions or the times I had gone with you to work to be very interesting.  Besides, it would also give me the flexibility I need in case I have the chance to go the Empire again, or any other activity.”

“You haven’t even started and you are already planning on leaving your internship?” Kimball asked, part in jest, part in seriousness.

“I’m only looking at my options.”

“There are so many things you could be doing,” I said, “and you have a great potential to do whatever you want, I only expect that you aren’t so focused on one thing that you are letting other possibilities go.”

“I don’t think so, I know what I want and I know what I’m capable of.  My intership won’t affect my studies of engineering or technology.  And you know how much I like literature and history, and most of that it’s just reading and investigation, something I can do on my own free time.”

“Things are so complicated here,” I complained, “we only need to make sure to be the strongest one.”

“It’s also important your leadership and strategic thinking.  Things you can learn as you go, or training under a mentor,” Kimball said.  “You can say that the training you gave the Amazons was something like leadership and strategic thinking classes.  It’s the most similar to our education I had seen in a clan.”

“I haven’t thought about it like that, but you may be right.”

“Of course, I’m always right,” Kimball said, smirking.  “But, from what you have told me, everything you know about being a great leader, you learned from watching your mother, and that’s basically what Ethan will be doing, watching others do their job, with the advantage he will be involved in the process.”

“What do you need to become the leader of a clan?” Ethan asked, doing his best to sound casual, but nor Kimball nor I thought for a moment that it wasn’t something he had been thinking for a long time, his question had a reason, and the answer would be very important for him.

“Depends on the path you want to take.  Basically, the normal or easy way is to be the son or the previous clan leader, since in most clans the position is hereditary, in others, like the Imperial Clan, you need to be the strongest of them all, same if you want to take the position by force by getting rid of the previous leaders.  Another way is to marry, or the equivalent in the Empire, the current leader and then kill or wait for the leader to die and keep the position for yourself, of course, if at the end it turns out you weren’t a good leader, you may be killed by the people of the clan, not that it often occurs.  People in the Empire tend to endure a lot, as long as their leader proves that he is stronger than everyone else.”

“Of course, there is also our way, in the Shadows Clan the leader is chosen by the King among his best Generals,” Kimball added.  “You can petition the King and ask for the position, but you have to consider that he has the last word.  It’s also important to point out that the person chosen for that position is often people that has a career working on the Island, for the clan.”

I knew Ethan’s possible futures, and I knew he was destined for big things, the paths he could take varied a lot, but being the leader of a clan was in the realm of possibility, only I wasn’t so sure it was something I should let him know, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to influence his decision or push him in a direction.

“Have you ever considered being the leader of the Shadows?” Ethan asked his father.

“I have, but, it’s not something that has been on my mind in a while.  There are certain responsibilities in that position that don’t match my current goals.  In a few words, if I was the leader of the clan I would need to live on the Island, besides having other responsibilities that would keep me from being with your mother.”

“And once you no longer have those responsibilities?  It would be much easier to be in contact with people from the Empire as leader of the clan.  And my mother would have direct contact being your partner.”

“Your mother has more experience as a leader, maybe she would prefer to take that position for herself,” Kimball said, and Ethan turned to see me, looking deep in thought, as if that was a possibility that had never crossed his mind.

“My mother said she wanted some time off, she already spent most of her life with the weight of other people’s needs on her shoulders, she deserves some time off to do whatever she wants, not having to worry about others.”

“There is some truth in that, besides, if I wanted a position, I would go for Queen, no for clan leader.  I decided a long time ago I wouldn’t be under anyone’s command again, and even if technically I would be under other people’s control once I stop being the Prime MInister, the reality is that I won’t have to answer to anyone.”

I could see Kimball smiling in an enigmatic way, but I didn’t know what was going through his mind, and again I wondered what he really wanted, he had always followed my plans, and most of the time it was as if all he wanted was to support me and be there for me, but I was starting to think he had his own aspiration.  For a long time we had focused on what we would do once I was no longer the Prime Minister, but I had never thought of the possibility he would want to take on a position in his own government.