Chapter 52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 51

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 47

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

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

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

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

“And where is here?”

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

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

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

“Where’s Ethan?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You could say that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 45

I didn’t understand how they could summon me to the Palace while I was taking care of such an important mission, but Emily had called and I had to go there and take care of another of her tantrums.  I knew that I couldn’t disobey them again, not after taking off without permission, I couldn’t afford to make them angry.  I was too close to getting what I needed to stop them, I couldn’t let something like that stop me.

Nysa’s death had affected Faakhir, but he had just taken a couple of days to celebrate her sister’s life and take care of her remains, and after that, he had gone back to Capital City where he had locked himself in his room, not letting anyone get close to him.  It was clear that he was depressed, but I was hoping that Emily wasn’t calling me to take care of him, I had better things to do than to try and console a sad Faakhir.

I arrived at the Palace and went to the room where Emily usually received me, but I didn’t find her.  Knowing her, I thought it was best to go looking for her, instead of making her wait.  It just took me a moment to find her mind, and I used it to guide me to her, she was in her room, and for a moment I rethought my idea of going to her, but then I realized that I had to go and stop wasting time.  While I approached her, I started feeling as if something wasn’t right, and I knew that I needed to go fast and deal with whatever was happening.  When I was near her room, I could hear her yelling and I knew that I was in the right place.

“How dare you do this to me!?” Emily was crying out.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Faakhir was defending himself, “she is the one that came on to me, and I was feeling sad and in need of comfort.”

I went into the room, and in the living room next to her bedroom, I found a couple of soldiers guarding a woman badly beaten, while in the other room Emily was still yelling at her husband.  There was something about the woman that I didn’t like, and as I brushed her mind, I could see that she had very strong defenses around it.  That made me curious, and I pushed more to see what she was trying to hide.

I finally broke her defenses and my effort was rewarded when I realized that she was part of the group I was after.  She was there to infect Faakhir, something she would have already done if Emily hadn’t found she was trying to have sex with Faakhir, and had gone crazy with jealousy, stopping her from even reaching Faakhir.

“This better be the last time you do something like this,” Emily threatened, “next time I won’t be so understanding.”  Emily got out of the room where Faakhir was and headed directly to the woman.

“If you allow me,” I interrupted Emily, “I would like to take the woman away for interrogation.  She is one of the agents that has been infecting and killing people, she was here to infect Faakhir, and she could help us find more of the people working with her.”

“What?” Emily asked, I wasn’t sure if she was surprised by my words or my presence.

“Did you say she was here to infect me with that deadly virus?  Did she have something to do with my sister’s death?” Faakhir asked, and I could feel his anger and pain at the memory of his sister.

“Not directly, but she is part of the same group.  We have been able to locate some of the her colleagues, but we haven’t been able to find their leader, if you allow me, I will take her to a place where I can interrogate her, and hopefully find the information we need to stop them.”

“Go ahead, do whatever you need to do to stop them,” Emily said, “but as soon as you finish with her, I want you to make her pay for trying to seduce and kill my husband.  I won’t allow anyone to fool me or take my husband from me.”

“I told you, nothing happened, she was the one coming at me, I did nothing to encourage her advances,” Faakhir defended himself, and even if the situation made him look like the victim, but I knew that it had been him who had called the woman, it was lucky that he had been interrupted before she had the chance to infect him.

“I’m so sorry I doubted you,” Emily apologized, forgetting her anger and the accusations she had been throwing at him just a few minutes before.

“Bring the woman,” I asked the soldiers, “I will handle the interrogatory in a more appropriate place.”

I left Emily and Faakhir still discussing, or maybe making up, and took our prisoner to one of the cells in the lower level, then I locked myself in with the woman.

“I won’t tell you anything,” she said.

“I don’t need you to tell me anything, I will find everything I need to know in your mind.  Maybe you think you can hide information from me, but I will find what I need, the same way I found what I needed from the agent in Mzansi.”

“Her mind was weak, but mine isn’t.”

“You shouldn’t be so sure about that, I could see what you had planned with Faakhir, and I didn’t even have to search hard, if I push a little, I will be able to find all your secrets.”

I extended my senses and sent my mind to invade hers, without mercy.  I heard her crying out in pain before she went into trance, incapable of moving or defending herself.

Her thoughts were well hidden, but I knew how to find what I needed, and since she was my enemy, I didn’t even have to be careful about the damage I could cause.  She was part of the group that had attacked my son, that hurt my husband’s father, after something like that, mercy was the last thing in my mind, and if I needed to destroy her mind to find the information I needed, then it was her fault for attacking me and my family and then being stupid enough to try and fight me.

Finding what I needed wasn’t as easy as I expected, but after a couple of hours I had the information I needed, the location of the lab and the identity of the person responsible for the virus, for recruiting the people and planning the attacks.

The group that I had gathered to investigate the attacks was all over the Dominion, but with a few calls I was able to direct all of them to where their lab was located.  It didn’t take long to organize the attack and it took even less to find and storm the place.  I wasn’t sure what I was expecting once I arrived, maybe a fight, at least some resistance, but certainly not the dead body of our enemy and a trashed lab.  Our enemy, must have realized we were on to him, and decided to destroy all his files and computers before killing himself to avoid capture.  Kimball, who had come with me, was checking the place, but our enemy had done a good job to protect his work and investigation, and there was nothing we could recover, he had done a great job making sure that his investigation and even his knowledge couldn’t be used to replicate the virus and use it against the people in the Dominion.  I also considered that he had done it to protect the rest of his agents, but if he did, it was a waste, since we already had most of them, at least the ones that had been targeting powerful people in the Dominion.  I knew that with time and a quick travel to the fog of the future, I could make sure we were safe, and if not, I couldn’t find anyone who had escaped our attention so far.

I felt a little let down by the scientist’s suicide, I was expecting a confrontation after all the work he had made me do, but on the other side, I felt better knowing that we were safe from a biological weapon.  I also had to be grateful to him because his actions had helped my own mission, removing some very powerful pieces off the board, and allowing me to glimpse at the power structure underneath the Dominion.  The better I could understand the power structure, the better prepared I would be to stop those that would try to take over once I removed the current rulers of the Dominion.  The idea was to take completely over the Dominion and try to fix some of the damage done by Faakhir and Emily, and once everything was under control, I would give the power back to their rightful owners, Sofia and William.

It took us just a little time to check the place and make sure there was nothing useful there, finding and capturing the remaining agents was an easy task that we could finish quickly.  After finishing the detentions and making sure we were all out of danger, I went back to Capital City to meet again with Emily and Faakhir and discuss new assignments.

“You did a great job Kaiserin,” Faakhir complimented me.  “If it wasn’t for your help, we would have been clueless about our enemies plans and we wouldn’t have been able to stop them.”

“Are you sure we are out of danger?” Emily asked.  “I don’t want to be worried about getting sick.”

“I can assure you that if you get sick, it will have nothing to do with this virus, this group haven’t even manufactured the virus they needed to infect you, they just had the version they tried to use with the King.”

“That’s ok, if you say we are safe, then I believe you,” Faakhir said.

“Now that you took care of that, I need you to do something for me,” Emily said.  “I found out a few days ago that there’s a group of people hiding the some jewels that could be part of the Crown Treasure.  I thought it was lost, but now I know that it’s another thing my mother took from me, it seems that in another of her selfish acts, she told some of her people to hide the treasure from me.  I want you to find if it’s true that she hid it and then bring it to me, its rightful owner.”

“If you want me to look for something like that, then you need to give me a better idea of what I’m looking for.”

“There is an old soldier, one of my mother’s men, currently locked in one of the cells.  Faakhir said that he has the information you will need to find the treasure.”

“I just confirmed that he knew about the treasure and the orders to take it away, you will have to find the rest of the people involved and find it,” Faakhir said.  “It shouldn’t be hard for you to find it.  As always, you can choose whomever you want to take with you, but we have a few suggestions as to who you should take with you,” Faakhir made a signal and one of his men gave me a folder with information of some of his trusted men.  “As this is a relatively easy task, I’m confident you will be able to finish quickly.  In a couple of weeks we will be celebrating the anniversary of our coronation with a great party, and Emily would like to be able to wear some of the jewels in the treasure.”

“For a long time my mother denied me my inheritance, and I won’t accept that anymore.  Our anniversary is going to be one of the biggest events the Dominion has ever seen, and the only thing that can make it better is if I’m wearing the jewels that have been in my family for centuries.  It will be one more proof that this is my destiny and my right,” Emily said, excited about the idea, even if I couldn’t understand how a few jewels could mean so much for her.  Again, Emily was only proving that her mother had made the right decision by not giving her the crown in the first place.

“I will do my best, but I’m not sure if I can do it in the time you are giving me.”

“Blame those rebels for the time problem, you could have been taking care of this for a while if it hadn’t been for your father in law getting sick and they you going after those people,” Emily said, as if going after a guy that could probably start an epidemic and kill thousands of people and saving her husband from being infected wasn’t as important of a few jewels.

“I will go immediately to deal with this mission, but after that I will need some time off, I need some vacation time,” I got out of the room before they could say anything to me.

Chapter 44

I walked to where the King and Queen were waiting for me, I could see they weren’t happy with me, but Emily wasn’t even trying to disguise her anger at the disappearing act I had done for the last week.

“I’m glad you finally decided to allow us the pleasure of your presence.  Did you enjoy your vacations?” Emily asked, sarcastically.

“I wish I had gone on vacations, but I have to say I was pretty busy, at least I’m glad to say that my time away was really productive.”

“For a woman that claims to have no interest in her family, you seemed really worried about your father in law and your son,” Faakhir accused me.

“I’m not worried about them getting hurt, what bothers me is that someone attacked them trying to get to me, I don’t like that kind of disrespect.  His sickness wasn’t natural, someone infected them on purpose, and I can’t ignore that kind of attack.”

“I don’t care if someone is going around killing mzansiers,” Emily said, “I just care about my people being available to do their jobs, and I had a job for you and you weren’t here to fulfill it.”

“Believe me, the time I was away, I was working.  What happened to Makgatho and then Ethan weren’t isolated issues, I found that a group of people is working to eliminate us, using a virus to do it.  They use genetic markers to infect a person, and then modify it for the next person, getting closer and closer to their true target.  Infecting Makgatho was just a step to their real objective, Kimball.  He managed to gain immunity before he could be infected.  Ethan was the next step, and their purpose was to use his relationship with me to find a way of creating a virus for me.”

“Did you capture the person responsible for the attacks?” Faakhir asked.

“We captured one of the persons responsible, and we are working on finding the rest.  If you give me time and resources I will be able to stop the whole group in a matter of days.”

“You already wasted too much time with that, you better forget about it and start paying attention to your other assignments,”  Emily said.

“I’m afraid that I have to agree with my wife.  You need to let the mzansiers deal with this issue.”

“The group I’m talking about is not only working on Mzansi, their influence extends to many countries and their objectives cover many important people in the Dominion,” I could see they weren’t interested in the problem, they weren’t taking it seriously.

“Let others take care of that, I have another job for you,” Emily said, ignoring the warning I was trying to give them.

“You were very clever, getting rid of all your family, with the way these people work, it will be very hard for them to find a way to get to you, since there is no one close to you to test the virus.  Faakhir on the other side is not so lucky,” I could see they weren’t getting what I was trying to say, I needed to speak clearly if I wanted them to take the situation seriously.  “When was the last time you spoke to your sister?” I asked Faakhir, and I could see that I finally had his attention.

“I haven’t heard from Nysa in a long time.  Why do you ask?”

“I have reasons to believe that the same people who attacked Makgatho to get to Kimball and eventually me, will go after Nysa as a way to target you.  For all I know they could already have infected her and getting ready to target you.”

“Nonsense, no one would be so stupid to attack Nysa or to try something against us,” Emily said, her arrogance making her believe her words, but Faakhir wasn’t buying it, he was getting worried.

“I also think is not very likely someone would attack us, but we can’t just dismiss her concern, not when it’s something easy to confirm.  I will just call Nysa and make sure she is ok.  I’ll be back in a moment.”

Faakhir walked out of the room, looking for some privacy before calling his sister.  I knew he wouldn’t find her, and even if he did, it was already too late.  A part of me was glad that Nysa was as good as dead, with her out of the way it would be easier to take control of the Dominion once we stopped Faakhir and Emily.  As Faakhir’s sister, Nysa could have tried to take control, but with her out of the picture and no one from Emily’s side, it would be easier to fill the power void.  It was in part because I wanted her gone that I didn’t press the issue and treated her infection like a possibility, if I had alerted them earlier, it was possible that they would have found a way to force Kimball to save her like he saved his father.

“Tell me, do you really think Nysa is in danger?” Emily asked.

“I don’t know for sure, but since Faakhir is one of their targets, is logical to assume that they are going after Nysa first.  I also got the impression that the people behind the attacks are trying to kill people in power, and Nysa certainly is one of those.”  Nysa was trying to appear affected by the knowledge that Nysa was in danger, but I could feel her happiness at getting rid of her.

As always Emily started to complain about everything and I pretended to pay attention, while we both waited for Faakhir to return to the room, which luckily didn’t take long.

“I couldn’t get a hold of my sister.  They say that she was tired and decided to take a vacation to deal with the stress, the place she went to it’s not easy to reach.  As soon as they can, they will call me back,” Faakhir said, but unlike Emily he was worried about the situation while trying to appear unaffected.

“Being tired is one of the symptoms of the virus, but maybe she is just overwhelmed by her responsibilities and it’s just stress, but we shouldn’t ignore the possibility that she is infected, and if she is sick, then the virus worked and they are going to move to the next target, you,” I told Faakhir, who was getting more worried by the minute.

“What do you suggest?” Emily asked me.

“It would be a good idea if you let me pick a group of warriors so we can start looking for the people behind the attacks.  I’m sure that with the proper resources and people we can stop them before they have the chance to attack again.”

“If that’s what you need, choose whomever you need, but first, you need to go and check on Nysa.  I will order my people to start preparing the plane, in the meanwhile, get some of the medicine the mzansiers used in case my sister is infected.”

“I will do my best, but from what I heard, the medicine needs to be prepared for each patient, because there are modifications on each virus, they haven’t found something that works on everyone.”

“If you need to, take your husband with you, if my sister is infected, I want him to do everything in his power to help her.  Understood?” Faakhir asked.

“Understood.  If you allow me, I will go now and prepare for the trip.”

I knew what was waiting for us once we arrived, Nysa would be too sick to be saved, if not already dead.  But that was perfect for my plans, Nysa was as bad as her brother, and even if she had been ok with playing to be the absolute ruler of her small piece of land, I knew that her hunger of power would have caused her to fill the void I was going to create once I got rid of Emily and Faakhir.  I was expecting Kimball not to accept the order of going with me, but he accepted immediately, he needed more samples of the virus for his investigation, but still, we pretended he didn’t want to go to burn some more time.  Kimball had already accepted that he wasn’t an expert in viruses, and most of his job had been done with the help of a group of scientists, he had even asked some people from Aquarium to help.  In my short trip to the fog of the future to investigate about it, I had seen that the danger of an epidemic was very low, but no one wanted to risk it, and they were working on a way to fix or contain the problem.  So far the virus wasn’t easy to transmit, but Kimball knew that it only took a few modifications for that to change.

During the flight Kimball and I spent most of the time fighting, those who knew my real relationship with Kimball knew it was just an act, part of the image we needed to show the rest of the world, but to the others, it was an interesting show.  I was sure that the warriors would go directly to Faakhir and tell him all about our fights and my loyalty to the cause.  The fact that Kimball was not happy about his part in the mission was an important part of his act.  Everyone knew that Kimball liked to challenge Faakhir, and that I acted as an intermediary between the two of them most of the time.  Most believed that part of the issue between them was because I was one of Faakhir’s lovers, they thought they were fighting over me.

For some reason Nysa had decided to leave the capital and was in one of her summer palaces, so we had to take a helicopter there from the capital.  Not all of us could get into the helicopter, and since I wanted Kimball to go in the first flight in case Nysa needed his help, we had another discussion while we wasted more time.  Finally, we got into the first flight and arrived at the palace in a short time.  It was clear, as soon as we landed, that something was going on.  When Nysa’s chief of security went to greet us, we found out that Faakhir had already warned them about our arrival, which made things easier for us, we were taken to Nysa’s room as soon as we arrived.

“Her Majesty is resting.  She had been exhausted lately, but a doctor already came to check on her and said that it was just stress, nothing to worry about,” her chief of security said, as he opened the door so we could see her for ourselves.

I knew that the doctor that had misdiagnosed Nysa was going to be in trouble after her death, I hoped that he was smart and managed to escape in time, it wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t identify the virus, but I couldn’t worry about him, I needed to check Nysa first.  When I checked her, I could still feel her pulse, but it was weak.

“Kimball?  I can’t barely feel her pulse,” Kimball entered the room and started to work, checking Nysa’s vital signs.

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t know yet, give me a moment, so I can find out,” Kimball said, from his position next to Nysa.

“We think that Nysa was infected with a dangerous virus that can be lethal if it’s not detected on time,” I explained to Nysa’s man.

“But she is fine, just tired,” he said, not willing to believe Nysa was sick.

“That’s how it starts,” Kimball said.  “We need to take her to the hospital to confirm her status, but I think we are too late.  From what I can see, her body is already shutting down, her internal organs are failing.  I need to say, it’s not a bad way to go, she went to sleep, and won’t even know what happened.”

“Faakhir won’t like this,” Rashida said, she was one of the warriors I had chosen to come with us, and she was extremely loyal to Faakhir.  “I expect you to find a way to help her,” she told Kimball, and I could see she was threatening him.

“If the virus already destroyed her body, then there’s nothing that can be done.  Truth is, I’m not even sure she will make it to the hospital,” Kimball said.

“You better make sure she does,” she threatened again.

“Enough,” I said.  “Kimball will do everything in his power to help her, but he can’t work miracles.  This isn’t his fault, or mine.  Nysa should have called for help if she wasn’t feeling well.”

“She did,” the chief of security protested, “we called many doctors and healers, all of them said she just needed some rest.”

“Well, then it’s their fault.  I will go with Kimball and Nysa to the hospital, and make sure they do everything they can to help her.  We will try to establish when the infection happened and then we will go after the people behind this attack.  Later, once I know what’s going to happen to Nysa, I will talk to Faakhir and wait for his orders.”

The Palace was bursting with activity as they found out what was going on.  We took Nysa to the hospital, but as soon as we arrived she went into cardiac arrest.  They tried to save her, working on her for a long time, but as Kimball had said, most of his organs were already damaged and they started to fail too.  All of the healers in the city were called to work on her, but at the end there was nothing they could do to save her.  Before the day ended, Nysa was dead.

Chapter 43

When we arrived back in Mzansi, it was late, so I wasn’t expecting to find Ethan running towards me as soon as we got out of the plane, with Kimball not far behind him.

“How are you? How was the Empire?” Ethan asked.  “Did you know my grandfather is awake?  Dad found a way to make him better, grandma said that dad saved his life.”

“I’m glad to hear he is better,” I said, happy to know that Makgatho was getting better, I knew how important he was to both Kimball and Ethan.  And I had to admit that, even if I never doubted Kimball’s ability to help him, I felt relieved to know he was out of danger.

“How was your trip?” Kimball asked, finally reaching us and kissing me tenderly.  “Is everything ok with Greca?  How was your other stop?”

“Greca is in good hands, and I guess by now she is out of danger.  And my last stop went well, my visit to the Empire had a small problem, but overall it was ok.  I got what I needed out of it, I hadn’t realized how much it bothered me to be away from my family, and having the chance to talk to them, no matter how briefly, was nice.  How about you? How are things here?  I hope everything is ok, I need to go back to Capital City as soon as possible, Faakhir is getting angry because I haven’t gone back to him.”

“There is no problem if you want to go back, but before we go, there’s a couple of things I want to show you and talk about with you.”

I knew that there were a lot of things we had to discuss, but my first priority was to get some rest.  I wanted to visit Kimball’s parents before going back to my job, and also, I knew there was something bothering Kimball, something we needed to talk about, but in another place, somewhere not as public.

It was late by the time we arrived to the house, and still, I spent some more time talking to Ethan and telling him about my time in the Empire.  By the time Ethan finally fell asleep, I was exhausted, but I still needed to talk to Kimball.  As soon as we were alone, I noticed Kimball’s demeanor changing, and I knew that whatever we needed to discuss was serious.

“What happened to my father was no accident, he was infected on purpose.  If it wasn’t for the stroke, we wouldn’t have noticed the virus until it was too late and his body was beyond help.  After we found out that my father had been infected, they started an investigation and found out that he wasn’t the first mutant to get admitted to the hospital in suspicious conditions, the only difference was that the other mutants were dead.  From the investigation we found out that the virus is only contagious in very specific conditions, but we are worried about the existence of the virus.  Most think that it’s part of biological attack with very specific targets, but we don’t know who is behind the attacks.”

“What’s the risk?  You say that the virus is not highly contagious, so I guess we are safe from an epidemic, right?”

“After getting some samples, the people from the Health Department found that the virus that infected them was basically the same, but that there were small mutations that looked like they have been improving the virus from patient to patient.  The government is afraid that this is just the test stage, and that once the virus is ready, they are going to start an even bigger attack.”

“But why attack you?  It doesn’t make sense.”

“Our biology is very particular.  Our people come from various genetic backgrounds, but still most of our people share some very specific traits that you don’t find in other people.  My theory is that they are using us to perfect the virus because they want to be able to target specific traits and we are the best candidates for that.  The other theory is that is someone that is angry at our people and what they perceive as unfair advantages that are given to us by the Dominion.  It could be revenge or experimentation, I’m not sure which one is better or worse.”

“I think there could be other possibilities, but the best way to find answers is in the fog of the future, I think I will have to travel there and find out what’s going on.”

“Yes, but not now.  First, you need to rest, then talk to Faakhir.  We can’t risk to make him angry at you right now.  You said it yourself, you are close to finding the last pieces of information you need to set your take over in motion.”

I knew Kimball was right, and I needed to recognize that I needed some rest after everything I had to face the previous days.  First, Greca’s rescue, the fight with Kozlak, the talk with my cousins and friends, all of that had left me exhausted, physically and emotionally.  Besides, I needed some time with Kimball so I could find my balance again, my center.

As it happened every time I was near Kimball, I had no trouble sleeping, and even overslept in the morning, taking advantage of the calm and security that Kimball gave me, with him my defenses dropped, making me relax and calm down.  But my rest was interrupted in the morning by a vision that left me tense and afraid.  I had seen Ethan in a hospital room, and he looked sick.  As soon as I woke up and went looking for him, but as I ran towards his room, I realized I couldn’t feel him anywhere near me, and that could only mean that he wasn’t there.

“Kaiserin, what’s wrong?”  Kimball asked when he found me running through the hallways.

“Where’s Ethan?”

“He left a while ago with my mother, they went to the hospital.  My father is much better and he may be released today, my mother wanted to go and help him get ready to get out of there and Ethan wanted to go with her.”

“We have to go, I had a vision about him getting sick, and I have a very bad feeling about this.”

“Do you think this is something that’s going to happen soon?”  Kimball asked, but he was already moving.

“I’m not sure, but I want him close to me until I know what it is about, it would make me feel better,” I explained.

“Ethan’s biology is different from mine, his genetic map has so many elements that I don’t think he would be targeted, the previous attacks were on people with strong mzansier genetics.”

“You said that they were after something that all mzansiers shared, and Ethan is so different that she should be safe,” I said, trying to convince myself as the feeling that something bad was about to happen only got stronger, and my need to make sure I had nothing to fear grew.

We arrived at the hospital and I immediately used my powers to locate Ethan.  He wasn’t near Makgatho and Victoria, and that only made more afraid.  Without waiting for Kimball, I started heading in the direction I was sure Ethan was, it didn’t take long to realize that I was heading to the cafeteria, and that made me feel better, if he had gone to buy something to eat, then he was safe, there wasn’t a reason to fear he was in trouble.

When I arrived at the cafeteria, I saw Ethan walking out of it from the other side, and I went after him, but at a more relaxed pace, since I could see him and make sure he was safe.  He was just a few yards ahead of me when a nurse approached him.  The woman looked out of place, and not because she was light skinned when most mzansiers had dark skin, there was a small percentage of light skinned mzansiers, but there was something else about her that made me unease.  When she tried to grab Ethan, I put a psychic barrier between them.  I saw her surprise and anger at being unable to grab him.  It was then that Ethan noticed I was there, because of my powers.

“Mother?  What are you doing here?  Father said that you were probably going to sleep all day.  Are you here to visit my granpa?”

“Who are you?” I asked the woman, ignoring Ethan’s questions.  “What do you want with my son?”

“Good morning, I was just trying to see if he was lost, I wanted to take him to his parents,” she explained, but I knew there was something wrong with her.

“What’s going on here?” Kimball asked, he had been following me, but had kept his distance until that moment.

“Do you know her?  I have a feeling that that woman doesn’t belong here,” as soon as I spoke the woman tried to escape, but I grabbed her using my powers before she had a chance to get away.  If I was suspicious before, her escape attempt only made it worse.

“Kaiserin?” I could tell Kimball didn’t understand the situation, and I was aware that some of my actions could seem a little over the top, and I couldn’t deny that her escape attempt could have been just because she was afraid of me and not because she was hiding something.

“I’m telling you, there’s something wrong with her, you need to see if she is really an employee here and who she is,” I told Kimball, starting to get angry at his lack of action.  At least Ethan had moved away from her and closer to me.  I put my arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer to me, I wasn’t going to let him out of my sight until I was sure what was going on.

“Alright, I will take care of this, you take Ethan back to my parents,” Kimball said, getting closer to the woman, but that felt wrong, I didn’t want him anywhere near her.

My telepathy usually didn’t work on mzansiers, and because of that I had forgotten that there was a small percentage of the population that didn’t share the immunity most of them had, and that woman was part of that minority, that was if she was really a mzansier and not a foreigner.  I pushed my mind to hers and I could read her mind, she was waiting for Kimball to get closer to her so she could use her powers on him.

“Stop, don’t get closer to her.  I think she has something to do with the virus attack,” I kept looking into her mind and discovered that she was a biokinetic, and that her power allowed her to transport and transmit the virus, after modifying it to target specific victims.  I couldn’t let her near anyone.  The worst part was that she wasn’t working alone, I could tell she was part of a bigger group that was using the virus to target and eliminate people they considered traitors to their people.  “I will take her to a safe place, somewhere we can keep her isolated so she can’t hurt anyone else.”

“I could ask for the hospital to prepare one of the isolation rooms they use for people with infectious diseases, and lock her up there.  She will be at a place where she can’t spread the virus and would be unable to get out,” Kimball suggested.

“Do it,” I said immediately.  The woman was watching me with a mixture of fear and hate.  I didn’t give her a chance to talk, I just went inside her mind again and started to look for more information on what her plans were.”

I wasn’t able to see the whole plan, I knew her actions were part of a bigger plan, but she was just a small piece of the puzzle and didn’t have much information.  From what I could see I knew that she felt incredible hate for the people ruling the country, especially people from my family, because she felt we were betraying her and her people and only caring about our interests.  As I looked into her mind, I could see Kimball issuing orders and preparing everything so we could transport the woman to the isolation room, where they would be able to study her powers and the virus she was working with.  It was then that I noticed that she was confident she had managed to infect Ethan, and maybe even me.

“What’s wrong?” Kimball asked, noticing the change in me at finding about the possible infection.

“She is part of a bigger group, he has been taking orders from someone else, someone who gathered a bunch of biokinetics and taught them how to use and manipulate the virus to infect people.  She was given the chance to go after the people she hated, and she took it, she has been attacking people in the government and people close to them, waiting for the chance to go after her main targets.  But that’s not the worst part,” I said, staring at Kimball’s eyes, “she doesn’t need to actually touch people to infect them, just to be near them.  She is pretty confident she managed to infect Ethan, and maybe even me.”

“No…” Kimball whispered, trying to process my words, but despite the impact of my words, he never lost his control, he took a deep breath and started yelling orders, before turning his attention back to me.  “Don’t worry, this time we have the advantage, I know the virus, and if I was able to save my father, I will be able to help you.  Nothing will happen to you or Ethan.”