Chapter 41

I was standing in front of the living room’s windows.  The vision I had earlier that night had me worried.  I had gotten up from bed without waking Kimball up, something that didn’t usually happen, but something I was grateful for, since I needed a moment alone.

When my mother had died, I had been in charge of her protection, and had failed.  When my father had died, I had seen his death, but had failed to stop it from happening, even if I had since learned that some deaths were inevitable, I still considered that as my failure.  Now I had knowledge that my brother was going to die, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I knew that what was to come couldn’t be changed, but still it hurt me.  His time was running out and I had lost years hiding from him, thinking that I would have time later, always later, to be with him again and recover our relationship.

The color in the sky was changing, it was almost dawn.  I felt someone next to me, and I turned, expecting to see Kimball, but it was Ethan who I found, moving closer to hug me.  A wave of serenity descended over me, and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how affected I was by the vision.

“What happened?  I could feel your pain and sadness all the way to my room.”

“I had a vision, something very bad is going to happen.  My brother…” Ethan didn’t say a word, but I felt the peaceful sensation vanish and the brush of his mind against mine.  I didn’t want to talk, I wasn’t prepared to talk about my vision out loud, so I let Ethan get into my mind and see the vision that had affected me so much.  His arms wrapped around me tighter and the peacefulness returned.  “Thank you, but you shouldn’t worry about me.”

“I know you like to pretend you are untouchable, but I know you, mom, and I know that this situation is hurting you for more than one reason.  If you are here sitting in the dark, instead of gathering your forces, then you must know there is nothing you can do to prevent what is going to happen, am I right?”  He didn’t wait for my answer, he must have seen the answer in my face, or my attitude.  “What can you do?”

“I think I can go to the Empire, I want to see my brother one last time, at least have a proper goodbye.”

“I’m sure that won’t be a problem.”

“I have taken a lot of time off, we just returned from the Light Kingdom a couple of months ago.”

“After your help with Camil, I’m sure they won’t say no to you leaving to see your brother.”

“I don’t know,” but even as I said that, I knew that I would find a way to go, even if there wasn’t much time left.  “First, I need to go into the fog, take a look, make sure that what I saw was accurate, and see how much time we have left.”

“I’ll go wake up my father, and then I will help him cook breakfast, don’t take long.”

Ethan left, but even if his power was going with him, I was already feeling better.  In part it was because I had a plan of action, and the feeling that I was actually doing something kept me calm.  I had made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I had a lot of regrets, leaving my brother behind was one of them, and I knew that I needed to be with him one more time, no matter what happened after, no matter if I couldn’t change his future, just being able to talk to him, to see him face to face one last time, would help me deal with his death.

Kimball didn’t come to talk to me right away, I heard him talking to Ethan and then the noise from the kitchen as they cooked.  When I went into the kitchen there was a feast already waiting for me.

“Do you want me to start arrangement to travel to the Empire?” Kimball asked.

“Frist I need to go talk to Fatima, maybe even Sofia, to have a better read on the situation, and depending on the time frame we get, I will have to work on some plans.”

“As you wish, but you know I’m here for whatever you need.”

“I know.”

Breakfast was delicious, and both Kimball and Ethan gave me the space I needed to think and let my worries go, at least for the moment.  Since I couldn’t just ignore my responsibilities, even less if I planned to go away for a while, I went to my office and started working.  I asked for Fatima to be go see me in the first available space in my schedule, and then I asked her to join me on the walk through the fog, to help me keep track of time and direction.

From what I could see in my short walk, I just had a couple of weeks, it was longer than the time frame I had gotten from other visions.  I also confirmed that there was nothing I could do to avoid that outcome, any try would only make things worse.  While I was in the fog, and before I had a chance to exit it, I was hit with a flurry of visions that gave me a glimpse into what would happen in the next few years.  I could avoid being trapped by the visions, thanks to Fatima’s help, but in the meantime I got some useful information.

I worked alone for the rest of the day, not even going to eat, instead asking for my meal to be taken to my office.  During the afternoon William arrived, at first I got worried that there was a problem that could affect my plans, but I should have already guessed that Sofia knew about it, and she had warned William what was going to happen.

“How long will you be gone?” he asked, right to the point.

“I don’t know.  A few days, maybe a week.”

“Take as long as you need, I’m sure that everything would be fine here, we can handle the Dominion without you for a few days.”

“How is Camil?”

“It’s a little difficult for him to assimilate everything, but other than that, he is fine.  He knows a lot about how to rule and care for people, and his moral compass is very good.  Even if he is a little young, I’m sure he could take the throne without issues.”

“And how do you feel about it?  Won’t it be hard to leave your position?”

“I don’t know.  Truth is, I’ve grown used to the position and I like what I do, at the same time, I know Camil is the true heir.  You could say that I’m happy with the work I have done, but if people decide it’s time for me to let go, then that’s what I’m going to do.  I won’t cling to the throne knowing it’s not mine, that’s what my sister did and I won’t be like her, I won’t do something that could harm my country or my family.”

“That’s good to know, but I don’t think you will have to worry about that for a while yet.”

“That’s right, but anyway, it’s not something you should worry about, just focus on your family that I will take care of things here.”

“Thanks, William,” despite our difficulties, or maybe because of that, I knew I could trust William to do his best to help me, but that didn’t help me feel better about leaving for an extended period of time.

I stayed in my office, going over all my current projects, trying to do as much as possible before having to leave, at least until Kimball arrived and dragged me away.

“We have to prepare to leave in three days,” I asked Kimball once we arrived at our home.

“Ok, I will start working on it tomorrow.  Is there someone you would like to take with us?”

“I was thinking… we have talked about what could happen once I stop being the Prime Minister, and after my vision last night, I think we need to start working on having a representation in the Empire.  I haven’t talked to the Mzansi’s rulers, but I think we should make the Shadow Clan part of the Empire.”

“Is that even possible?  We keep away from them as much as possible, most of them don’t even know or believe we exist.”

“We can make it possible.  First step is to get at least three allies that are already part of the Empire.”

“We have a few alliances with people on the coast.”

“Yes, but for what I’m planning, we need better ones, I was thinking maybe we could send Ethan…”

“What?”  Kimball interrupted.

“Ethan is the closest you have to a Shadow’s heir, at least you want to take the position yourself, so I was thinking of sending him to talk to Dendro, and maybe another few clans, about the possibility of an alliance.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Dendro would never hurt him, not if he knows he is my son.”

“And what about the others?  Who are you thinking about?  No, it would be better if I go myself.”

“I think this is a great opportunity for Ethan, a way for him to connect to his imperialist’s roots.  Besides, he wouldn’t be alone, we would send a group of people capable of protecting him.  I think Ethan is ready, and it would be good for him.”

“I don’t want him at risk.”

“He needs to test himself, and we need to show him we believe in him.  I have a few ideas of who could be potential allies for the Shadow Clan, but you know that if I go myself it would only cause more trouble, not just for me, but for you.  I know it won’t be easy to convince Kgosi of this, but if I can, it will help us a lot in the future.  This way I wouldn’t have to go back to the Imperial Clan, we could go as the Shadow’s representatives.  I’m not sure why, but I feel that this is something we have to do.”

“And as always, it’s better to listen to your instincts than to suffer the consequences later.  If you think that’s best, then you should talk to the King and the Elders Council, and talk to Ethan, after you make sure it’s a good idea.”

Luckily, everyone liked the idea.  Kgosi resisted at first, but then the idea of having some kind of representation in the Empire ended up winning him.  The Elders not only liked the idea, but they fully supported me sending Ethan, and despite Kgosi resistance, they accepted, and even expanded my list of reasons for why it was a good idea to have Ethan represent them.  I knew that Zola already considered Ethan one of the future leaders of Mzansi, she had invited him to Council’s sessions a few times, and I knew she liked to spend time with him when he visited.

Once they had accepted, I only had to talk to Ethan.  I was aware that he knew I was planning something, but I was sure he thought it was all related to what was going on with my brother, and didn’t suspect he was involved in my plans.  When I finally decided to talk to him, I had him sent to my office, so Kgosi, who was connected via conference call, and I could talk to him officially.  He was absolutely surprised by this, and I could see how he thought he was in trouble, and was going over everything he had done the last few weeks looking for something that could have landed him in trouble.

“Did you call me?” he asked, and I had to recognize his strength, even if I could feel his fear, his voice and attitude didn’t betray any of it.

“That’s right,” I said, “we have something we want to discuss with you.  As you know, tomorrow I will go to the Empire to speak to my brother,” Ethan nodded, letting us know he was aware of that part of my plans, “what’s happening with my brother, among other things, had made me realize that we need to have a presence in the Empire, but not one that depends on me, but one that has more to do with Mzansi and the Shadow Clan.”

“Your mother convinced us that it was a good idea, and since she knows the procedure we need to follow to become recognized by the Empire, we need to follow her suggestions.  The first step is to be recognized by other clans and form alliances with them,” Kgosi explained.

“I don’t think is a good idea for me to forge those alliances, if we want a true and lasting relationship between them and the mzansiers, or the Shadows, then it can’t be me who goes there.  That’s why we decided that the first contact should be done by someone they can recognize as an heir,” I had been feeling Ethan’s confusion, but at those words, I felt his hope, not that he let it show in his face.  “That’s why we called you.  I think you are the right person to take that first step, you represent something they will recognize and you have the strength to represent your clan appropriately.”

“Of course I would like to do that, it would be an honor,” Ethan said, “but what about school?”

“You will lose only a few days, and we all know you will have no problem making up for lost time.  Of course, we can’t force you to do this, so you have to decide if you want to do it or not.  I’m pretty sure that you won’t have any trouble, and this could even be a good opportunity for you to test your powers and how far you can stretch them, even so, you have to decide if you want to take that risk.”

“Then yes, I will be ready to leave as soon as possible.”

“Not so fast.  As you will be representing our clan, there are a few things I would like to discuss with you first,” Kgosi said, “privately if possible,” I knew there were some things they needed to discuss, and I wasn’t offended that he wanted me gone, not coming from Kgosi.

“I will give you some privacy then.  Ethan, you know how all of this works, so I leave it in your hands, and I’ll see you later.”

I left Ethan to his meeting and went looking for Kimball, who was working on getting everything ready for our trip.  As time went by I was getting more nervous, and also madder.  I had told myself that all I needed was to talk to my brother one more time, but as I was preparing everything to go to the Empire, I wondered if that would really be enough.  I had let many years go by, and even if I couldn’t regret all I had done in that time, I could feel bad for everything I had turned my back to.  Trajan had always been good to me, he had supported me and been by my side to the end.  How would it be to see him again?

I didn’t have time to think about that, I had a trip to prepare for, and that included going to Fatima and Sofia and having another walk through the fog, not only because I needed to find a safe way to reach Trajan, but because I needed to make sure that the mission I was sending Ethan to, was safe, I couldn’t allow something I was asking him to do to cause him harm.

I had known for a while that Ethan felt less than his sisters, that he felt he needed to prove himself, and that mission was going to help him show what he was capable of, and it would also be a way for as to recognize how far he had gotten.  But no matter how much I trusted him or how much I respected his power, I knew that even the strongest of warriors could have problems, and I wasn’t going to allow my decisions or actions to cause him harm, no matter how minimum it was.

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Chapter 40

It took us a week to write the laws, agreements and procedures we needed for a country to be able to leave if they didn’t want to be part of the Dominion anymore.  In that time, the country that wanted to leave had escalated  in ways that made me uncomfortable.  As Yu and Kimball had feared, the border of the country was now fully militarized, and their neighbors had already suffered some minor attacks.  When we had asked them to go to Capital City to sign the papers that would grant them their independence, they had thought we were trying to trap them, and had refused.  As their Ambassadors and Representatives had already left days before, there was no one else to sign in their name.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Kimball asked again.

“Of course, it will be fine, and it will set a good precedent.  They think they are safe and that they can do whatever they want from their capital, it will be good for them to learn they are wrong.”  I couldn’t stand the situation and I didn’t have enough patience to wait for them to decide what to do, so I had decided to invade them and face their king in person.  “Are you all ready?”

“Yoweri and I will go ahead, to make sure the way is clear, once we reach the point marked for the camp, we will signal you to follow,” Ivan said.

“Be careful,” I asked, even if I was pretty sure everything would be just fine.

We didn’t wait long before receiving the signal to go.  We had found a weak point in the border and used some of Kimball’s and Jeong’s gadgets to jam the different radars and trackers set at the border.   The first part of our trip was by foot, but once we got away from the area secured by the army we would be able to use other means of transportation.

It took us half a day to reach the place that Kimball had marked as safe to set camp.  Once there he set a tent just like the one that had housed us the first time I had stayed with him.  I knew it would be impossible to spot us from outside, the tech used on it made it invisible and also made sure that no other tracking technologies like infrared,  radar or even thermal could be used to find it.

“This bring back memories,” Mbali said, most likely thinking about the same thing as me.

“Certainly,” Kimball said, “I just hope this trip goes better than that time.”

“From what I remember it was quite a successful trip,” I said, because, even if they had had some difficulties with the Scavengers after I left, I had managed to do everything I needed to do.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow,” Ivan asked, focused on the mission, as usual.

“We will take a couple of vehicles from a place near here, and use them the rest of our way.  I really doubt we will find any blockage on our way, but if that happens, Kaiserin will use her powers to convince them to let us go, or if things get complicated, we will use Agata to take over the body of the person in charge so we can continue,” Kimball explained.

“Members of the local resistance, from the time Emily and Faakhir were still in control of the Dominion, told us about a tunnel system running from the castle where the Royal Family lives to safe places.  Those were designed to help them in case they needed to escape, but we will use them to get inside.  It won’t be easy, but I think I will be able to deal with any astral sentries, and Kimball and Fatima will take over any electronic surveillance system.  Between Franz and I will set some illusions that will keep us hidden until we reach the place where I hope we will find them.

“Any doubts?  Questions?” Kimball asked.

“None,” they all responded.

We had already gone over the plan several times before going there, but I knew that during a mission it was important to go over the plan as many times as it was necessary.  I had chosen the people with me personally, and each one of them had the abilities I needed for the plan to go smoothly.  In a way it was a fun mission, it had been a while since I had the chance to do something like that, at least in a situation as relaxed as that, because even if the results were important for the wellbeing of the Dominion, I wasn’t running against the clock to save someone important to me.

I tried to get some sleep, but it was hard, so I decided to go into the astral planes instead, that way I would be doing something productive, I ended up going as far as the city where our target was.  I was surprised when I didn’t find any signs of astral activity around there.  I knew that many people were afraid of using the astral planes, even if it was easy going into them, it was also easy to get lost in them and lose the connection to your body, a risk that increased with distance, I assumed they had thought there was no risk of someone going that far just to scout the place.  I took advantage of that situation to go and get a read of the place, to make sure that the tunnels and secret passages they had talked us about where there, and still working, I didn’t want any surprises.  I was glad to see the tunnels were still there, and also to find a few other things that would help us in our mission.

By the time I went back to my body, the rest of the group was awake and ready to continue.  Even if I hadn’t slept, the astral projection had allowed my body some rest, enough that I could function without problems.  Our journey was slow, but we didn’t have any problems reaching the capital, everything was going according to plan.  In other circumstances the lack of trouble would have me worried, but it was becoming more and more obvious that the people in charge didn’t worry about any attacks coming from the inside.  They had posted all their defense in the border, thinking the threats were outside.

We finally arrived at the capital and went to a building near the castle.  We knew that the tunnels ran underneath it, and instead of going to the exit, that might be under surveillance, we decided to create our own entry point.

“Are we sure this is going to work?” Thalia asked.  “One would expect a tunnel like this to be reinforced to avoid people trying what we are going to try.”

“First of all, these tunnels were constructed a long time ago, when there were no building above them, I don’t think they ever considered the possibility of a building being constructed over them.  Second, the fact that these are supposed to be a secret and that no one should know about them makes them confident no one will think of using them.”

“When they told us about the tunnels, they never said where exactly they were located,” Kimball explained, “we decided to find out everything about them and map them out on our own, it was very difficult, since we didn’t ask the locals for help, and I doubt they even suspect we have this information.”

“Anyway,” I continued, “I think we are ready to move forward, and I’m pretty sure we have nothing to worry about with this part of our mission.”

I went back to the astral planes to do some recon while others took care of excavating to reach the tunnel and others kept guard around us.  Once they reached the tunnel, making the hole to get access proved to be more difficult than we originally thought, but Kimball was prepared for that, and had the tools we needed to break the walls of the tunnel and gain access to it.  I got back to my body just in time to be one of the first to descend into the tunnel.  Despite its age, and the time it had been abandoned, there were still a few security measures we had to deal with as we advanced.  We got a nasty surprise once we made it to the end of the tunnel, the door we were supposed to use to get inside the castle and that we thought was just locked, seemed to have been sealed some time in the last few years, and that was going to make our task even harder.

I went to the door and used my powers to connect to it, I needed to understand exactly what had been done if I wanted to know how to undo it.  For what I could see, it had been welded to the frame, they must have decided they no longer needed the tunnels, or maybe it was just this one tunnel and we just had bad luck.  Either way, looking for another entry was going to take too much time, what we needed was to find a way to get to the other side.  Luckily I had already learned that there were more than one way of getting to the other side.  I extended my powers to connect to the wall around the door and found the weaknesses in it, finding it would be much easier to break the wall, than the door.

“If I can find the weak points, can you open a hole in the wall?” I asked Kimball.  “I could use my powers to control the opening and make sure we don’t affect the integrity of the wall, or make too much noise.”

“I sure can, this is one of the scenarios we prepared for,” Kimball said.

It only took a few minutes of working together to get a hole big enough for all of us to get through.  From that point on the risk of being found out would increase dramatically.  Mbali set a hologram to disguise our entry point, while Franz used his powers to create an illusion to mask us.  I knew that Kimball and Fatima had already found and disabled all electronic security measures.

While we had been working on the entry point, Fatima had already seen to the next step, and she guided us to the place where she was sure we would find the leaders of the country.  We had gone over different ways of doing what was next, but we eventually agreed that it was best to wait for them to find us and take them by surprise.  We arrived to a room that looked like a conference room, and I immediately knew that important conversations took place in there.

“They should arrive in a few minutes,” Fatima announced, before going to the corner of the room to go back into the fog.  I knew she would be able to warn us in time if anything happened.

“Most of these security measures are not active unless the room is in use, and it seems to be pretty standard security, mostly gadgets to avoid other listening in, to protect from intruders or spies,” Kimball said after going over the room.

“Perfect, most of those will be useful once or meeting begins.  How’s the security of the room is?” I asked.

“Once we turn it on, it will be very hard to get access to the room.  From what I can see, it would have been very difficult to get inside if they had been already been in here.  It’s really sad that they don’t have a defense protocol for when the room is empty, it would have been very helpful for them.  How good can your protection be if its useless if your enemy arrives first?”  I didn’t say anything, but I agreed with Kimball, one would expect that a country that was getting ready to fight for its freedom would be better prepared to fight off an attack.  So far, all their efforts were focused on protecting the border, and the inside had been neglected.

I took the papers we had prepared for the reunion and started setting them on the table, choosing the seats everyone would take.  Once everything was prepared, I took a seat and prepared to wait.  All around the room my people also went to their positions.

“Incoming,” Thalia said, and from the focus on Franz’s face I knew he had an illusion around us.

“You worry too much,” King Phou was saying as he opened the door, ignoring one of his guards that was trying to get inside first to check the room.

“In this case a lack of news could be bad news.  I don’t trust this calm, I think we are in danger, you should never have given them an ultimatum, not like this, brother” Souvanna said.

“Our borders are protected, there is no way they can get to us.”

Just as Phou and the rest of his people stepped inside the room I used my powers to push their guards out of the room.  Kimball was waiting just next to the door and moved to make sure the door was closed and secure, so they wouldn’t be able to follow inside.

The others were looking around in panic, but when Franz left the illusion drop and they realized who was there, the color left their faces.  I could feel the fear pouring out of their bodies, even as the woman tried to compose herself and face me.

“What are you doing here?  I thought it was clear you weren’t welcome here anymore, we are no longer part of the Dominion, and no matter what you do today, our people won’t allow you to control them that easily,” I had to recognize that her bravery was admirable, I knew she wasn’t one hundred percent on board with how things were going, at least not with how her brother was managing the situation, but still she stood by his side.

“Why don’t you take a seat so we can talk about this like civilized people?” without waiting for their agreement, I used my powers to force them to the seats I had already selected for them.  “Since you refused my invitation to visit the Dominion, I was forced to come in person to deal with this situation.”

“There is no going back,” Phou said, “we already made our minds, and we won’t be part of the Dominion again.”

“Do you really think it would be as easy as to say you wanted to leave?”

“There is nothing you could do or say…” Phou started to protest, but I could feel his fear, and even if I knew that wasn’t my intention, I was sure that with a little pressure I would be able to force him to do what I wanted.  Luckily for the, I had already decided to let them go.

“In front of you is a folder with documents, all I need from you is to sign them.”

“Do you really expect us to sign whatever you throw at us just because you say so?”

“That’s exactly what I expect.  You can take your time, but let me warn you that you won’t be leaving this room unless those documents are signed.”

While Phou was busy protesting and throwing threats we all knew he wouldn’t be able to fulfil, his sister was going over the documents and reading them.  At first she was reading with mistrust, then with surprise as she found out what they were about.

“Brother,” she eventually called, “you need to see this.”

“What?”

“These documents are agreements that recognize our independence.”

“What are you talking about?  How can that be possible?” Phou said, before grabbing his own copy and reading it.  “But…”

“If you had accepted my invitation, you would have seen that we have no problem letting you go from the Dominion,” I could feel his eyes on me, trying to read if I was saying the truth.  “Of course, there will be some economic sanctions and from now on Laos habitants won’t be able to go travel into the Dominion without an especial permission, that’s why you will have to accept a Dominion embassy in your land.  Also, you need to know that it’s not acceptable to militarize the border, your neighbors are getting nervous and we won’t stand for that kind of aggression.”

“The army is there for our protection,” Phou protested.

“You don’t need protection, unless you decide it’s a good idea to attack us, then I strongly suggest you seek protection, not that it will help you in any way, but at least you will feel better about yourselves.”

“Are you saying our army is not capable of  protecting us?” he asked, incensed.

“It didn’t help to keep us out, did it?  If my goal was different, I would have killed you by now, and would be ready to put someone in your place, just like Emily and Faakhir used to do.  You are lucky that’s not my goal.”

“You were lucky getting inside, but that doesn’t mean you would be able to leave here unscathed after attacking us,” the threat was clear in his unspoken words, he still thought he had the advantage, thinking we would be in trouble as soon as we opened the doors.

“It seems that in the last few years you forgot what I’m capable of.  That’s without taking into account what my people can accomplish.”

“I have to give you some credit, leaving the Dominion required a lot of bravery, but you aren’t thinking this through,” Kimball said, “a few soldiers posted at the border won’t be enough to keep you safe from the Dominion.  Our forces can face you a hundred to one, that’s not taking into account bombing and other methods.  You are not taking into account what could happen to your people and the damage your country would suffer.  If we wanted to, we could kill all of you and leave this place without receiving a scratch.  Unlike you, we thought things through before coming here, we considered all the possibilities and prepared for them.  There is no scenario where we wouldn’t obtain what we came for.”

“But if it makes you feel better, you will also get what you wanted, after all, we will give you the independence you want,” I said.

“The restrictions outlined in theses documents are a little drastic,” Souvanna complained.

“Those are the consequences of leaving the Dominion, your independence has a price, one you will have to pay.”

“If that’s what we need to do to get rid of you, then that’s what we will do,” Phou said, “I don’t see another option.”

“It’s good to see you finally get it,” I said, as I made a signal to Kimball.

Kimball moved and put a disc in the middle of the table, a moment later a hologram of President Yu and King William appeared on my sides, and I knew that in Capital City, they would be able to see what was going on in the room.

“Greetings,” William’s voice reached us.  “I hope everything has been settled, we are going to act as witnesses to the signing, since it will give you the independence you asked for.”

“You can proceed,” I said, “the sooner you finish, the sooner we can leave this place.”

For a moment I thought they would complain again, but instead Phou grabbed a pen and started signing the documents.  Once he was finished, I took my copy of the documents and gave it to Ivan, he had orders to make sure the documents were safe, and that they made it out of there, in the unlike case we were forced to run away from there.

We went out of the room, and as we expected, there was an armed group waiting outside the door.  Neither Fatima or Thalia had given any sign that we were in danger, so I assumed everything was going according to plan.  Using my powers I disabled all their firearms, and once they realized they couldn’t use them, many prepared to attack, but they found that my people was ready to fight back and they managed to neutralize the enemy.  As we started to retreat, we heard the noise of soldiers getting near to our position, but by then we were already hiding behind Franz’s illusions.  One of the soldiers managed, somehow, to see beyond the illusion and kept approaching us, ready to attack, but Agata managed to subdue, even without using her full powers.

Getting out was much easier and faster, especially since we didn’t bother to clean up the mess we had caused in the tunnel, even knowing that would betray our access point and force them to be more careful about it.  Everything had gone according to plan, like with the last few missions we had planned since getting control of the Dominion.  Only in a couple of occasions that we had been taken by surprise, most missions had been easy, maybe because of all the work we did in preparation for them, but sometimes I wasn’t sure if our victories were really thanks to us, or just the result of facing weak enemies.

Anyway, we had succeeded, other than keeping an eye on them to make sure they didn’t try anything against the Dominion, I could be glad that we had taken the first step to getting real progress.  Other countries would be able to see what we had done there and decide if that was something they wanted for themselves, if the advantages of leaving the Dominion were worth it, or if it was better to stay with us.

Chapter 39

The trip back to the Dominion was very different, we all could feel Sofia’s happiness, but Camil emotions were harder to read.  One moment he was happy, then worried, then angry or even scared.  His face didn’t betray any emotion, and because of that Sofia didn’t see them, or chose not to, anyway.

“Do you want me to use my powers to calm him down?” Ethan asked mid trip.

“No, he is too used to Melchizedek’s influence, it will be good for him to be able to experience his emotions freely.”

“Your friends are very nice,” Kimball said.  “I’m glad to know you had them to help you through your hard times.”

“You have no idea how grateful I am for having Melchizedek and his family in my life.  Some of the best memories I have, are from the time I spent with them.  I have no idea what I would have done if Melch hadn’t been there to teach me how to use my clairvoyance powers.”

We spent the rest of the journey sharing memories, even Sofia and Camil joined us at some point.  Even if the chat was light and happy, Camil was getting more nervous as we approached our destination.  We knew it wasn’t a good idea to take him directly to the Dominion, so we were taking him to one of his family’s castles, Sofia was going to be with him, teaching him about our society and giving him time to get used to the Dominion.  At first we had considered taking him to Aquarium, but he didn’t need a secure place like that, there were no longer any threats against him.

We stayed at the castle one night, in part to make sure Camil felt at easy, in part to make sure everything was ok, but at the next day we continued our way to Capital City.  As soon as we landed, a car approached the plane, and William came out to greet us.

“Black lady, it’s good to have you back.”

“William, what a surprise, I didn’t expect you to come welcome us.”

“You know I didn’t want to leave the Dominion with just one of us here, but now that you arrived, I think there won’t be a problem if I go visit my mother and nephew.”

“No, I don’t think it will be, take as long as you need.”

“Thanks, Kaiserin,” I could tell he had a lot of questions, but instead of asking, he turned around and went into his car, without even bothering to greet Kimball or Ethan.

“I’m surprised he wasn’t at the castle to greet his family,” Ethan said, coming to where I was standing.

“Someone had to be here, one of us gone is no problem, but two of us is another matter,” I said.

“It’s not like your work intercedes that often, you all have different tasks to do.”

“Still, we always have to be prepared in case something unexpected happens, the Dominion is a huge place, and there are many scenarios that need the attention of all of the Dominion’s leaders,” Kimball explained.

“We have been lucky, there haven’t been any crisis lately, but that’s not a reason to neglect our responsibilities,” I said, but I couldn’t help but recall all the occasions I had left the Dominion to take care of personal problems, or just because I needed some rest.

We didn’t wait to see William leave, we went directly to the Palace, back to real life.  Even if I wasn’t officially back until the next day, I couldn’t help but go to my office to check my messages and make sure nothing had happened while I was gone.  Even if it had been just a few days, I couldn’t help but feel unease, I wasn’t sure if I was just feeling guilty about leaving, or if it was something else, but I knew that it was better to make sure everything was fine, instead of taking unnecessary risks.

Ethan had been more and more interested in my work, and anything related to the government, so it didn’t surprise me when he asked to go with me, and I didn’t bother trying to tell him no, I knew that any training he could get by my side would be useful for him in the future, no matter what path he decided to take.

Everything was just as I expected, the reports and files were what I would normally find on my desk, nothing out of place, mostly just routine work, but still, that didn’t make me feel better.

“What are you worried about?” Ethan asked.

“Nothing specific, I just had a feeling something was wrong, but maybe I’m just feeling guilty for all the time I was away, leaving my people unattended.”

“Isn’t the Dominion’s advantage the fact that it is just a regulatory body?  Once all the rules are set and the programs are running, most of the work is done by the different countries, you only have to make sure everything is going as planned, just supervising work.”

“That’s a rather simplistic way of explaining it, but you are right, if our work is done well, then sooner or later we reach an equilibrium where everything is fine.  Of course, we still have to be on our guard in case something unexpected happens, like a conflict between nations or a natural disaster, that’s when we really need to work.”

“But right now, everything is fine, right?”

“That’s right.  I think I just needed to make sure by myself to be calm, we only were away for a few days, still the trip was not something planned, and we had only returned from Aquarium, so I feel like I’m not doing my job, that I’m leaving my responsibilities.”

“Have it ever occurred to you that you take on too many responsibilities?” Ethan said, and I could tell he was serious, and even if his words were sincere and his worry was real, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“If you want to rule one day, you can’t think like that.”

“You know I’m not talking about that, I know your main responsibility comes from being the Prime Minister, but still, you worry about things going on in other places, first it was only the Empire, but sometimes is what’s going on with the Allied Clans, and not what happens in the Light Kingdom.”

“I’m a Seeress, Ethan, if I have a vision about something going on in any of those places, then I’m going to worry, but you know that most of the time I don’t even have to interfere.”

“I really admire everything you do, still I think you could take it a little easier.”

“I’ll try,” I said, mostly just to calm him, but in part I knew he was right.

We went back to our side of the Palace and I went to rest, but the next morning I was still feeling uneasy and I knew that it wasn’t my imagination, I couldn’t keep telling myself it was just guilt, what I was feeling was a premonition, and that meant something bad was about to happen.

While we were having breakfast the feeling got worse, and then I noticed that Kimball was receiving messages.  My fears were confirmed when one of my assistants arrived, followed by a couple of my guards.

“I’m so sorry for interrupting your breakfast,” Keith apologized, “but there is a situation that requires your attention.”

“No need to apologize,” I said, as I took one last bite, and got up from my seat, I looked at Kimball, waiting to see his reaction, he didn’t hesitate, he said goodbye to Ethan and got up after me.  “Can this wait until we are in the office?  Or do you want to explain what’s going on right now?”

“I think it would be better if I can explain at the office,” he said.

It didn’t take long to get to the office, and as soon as we arrived, I took my place at the desk, with my guards, who had followed us from the moment we left the Suite, taking their places around the room and outside of the door, while Kimball took his position behind me.

“I think that you can tell me what’s going one now.”

“We got some reports that one country is not paying taxes, when we asked about them, the King said that they are tired of the Dominion taking everything from them, and decided to declare their independence, and war to us.  Everything is here,” he added, giving me a stack of reports with a detailed explanation of everything that had happened.

“Just when William decides to take a few days, this happens,” I said.  “I suppose we will need to call the President, she will want to discuss about what to do, and we can’t agree on a course of action, then we will have to interrupt William’s family reunion, but not until it’s necessary.”

“Do you want me to call the President?” my assistant asked.

“Please, as soon as she can come,” he left the room right away and I was sure that it wouldn’t be long before the President arrived.

“We knew something like that would happen sooner or later,” Kimball said.

“But I didn’t think it would be in such an aggressive way.”

“What are you going to do about this?”

“You know that I had already been thinking about giving them the choice to leave the Dominion if they wanted, so I think I will give them what they want,” I said.

“Something tells me it won’t be that easy” Kimball said, his voice suspicious.

Not long after someone knocked on the door, and a moment later, President Yu walked into the office.

“Good morning,” she greeted me formally.

“Good morning.  I guess you already know what’s going on.”

“Of course, I was informed about it early this morning, in fact, I already programed this issue to be discussed in the Congress.  I know it’s your job to deal with this directly, but we also need to go over the situation and see alternatives.”

“We had already talked about this, when you took over Dante, even if it was superficially.  I think it’s time to change the law to open the possibility of countries leaving the Dominion if they want.”

“Do you really think that’s a good idea?  The Dominion’s power resides in our union.”

“Before Emily took charge, not every country was part of the Dominion, and even those who were, had more freedom than they have now, as far as I know.”

“You’re right, but despite all the problems Emily caused, there were a few good things, and one is that as long as everyone is under the Dominion, they have to follow the same rules as everyone else.  If a country gets outside of the Dominion, then they will be able to do whatever they want and we won’t be able to do anything about it.  All they want right now is independence, but, what would happen if they decide they need more territory?  Or if they start taking what is not theirs?”

“If they do, then they will get exactly what it means to fight the Dominion.  Any aggression against their neighbors will be dealt with all of our force.  Besides, after a while they will realize just how hard it is to be without our support.”

“You might be right, but I don’t like this situation.”

“You said you are going to discuss this on the session today, tell them about my plans, lets see what they say about this.  Give me some time, and I will go and present my point of view directly to them, and if they decide to support me, I will present a series of proposals on how to proceed.  Obviously we can’t use the same rules that were used before Emily, because we are no longer in the same situation, and we need to make sure what the advantages and disadvantages of being part of the Dominion are.”

“That seems fair enough.  I will leave you to your work, I will tell you at what time you can address the Congress.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you talked to William?”

“Not yet, but I will, soon, for the moment he is with Sofia, dealing with some family issues.”

“We don’t need him right now, but we need to keep him updated.”

Yu walked left the room, and Kimball moved to the other side of the desk, to the place that Yu had just left.

“While we work on the situation, we should move our troops to the border, to keep the situation under control,” Kimball suggested.

“That could be taken as an aggression and cause things to escalate.”

“Maybe, but they already declared war, and just the act of leaving the Dominion could be taken as an act of aggression.”

“Not necessarily.  But you are right, we need to take precautions.  Sent some people to make sure they have no surprises waiting for us, they shouldn’t have any weapons, but it’s better if we check on that.  If they want to leave the Dominion, then we will make an example out of them, they will help us show that we won’t force anyone to be part of us, but they will also help us highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the Dominion.”

Chapter 34

Mihaela let me know the moment they started preparations to get out of the bunker, but I still wasn’t sure how many were coming out or what they were expecting to find, all I knew was that I was angry and motivated enough to make them pay for what they had done.  I heard the noise of the bunker’s door opening and steps getting closer.  As soon as they saw me sitting in the same place they had left Ethan tied up, they stopped and stared at me.

“What are you doing here?” one of them demanded.

“Didn’t you see my video?  Your time has come to an end, it’s time to pay for what you did.”

“Do you think you have already won?  We are ready for you,” one of them said, with total confidence in his success.

“As I see it, I did win.  My son is safe with his father, this place is under our control, and there’s nothing you can do against me.”

“Are you sure about that?” he asked, and as soon as he spoke I felt weird, I noticed that the headache that was starting to bother me was going away, and my powers with it.  The emptiness inside me made me want to panic, but I did my best to recover, I wasn’t alone, and I was still in control.

“I will give you just one chance, leave your games and give up right now, or you will face consequences.”

Just a couple of them seemed to consider it, but the man that was acting as the leader, talking to me, moved his hand and took something from his back.  As soon as I realized he was moving, I got my gun out and shoot at the shoulder of the arm he was moving.  Ivan, who apparently had also lost his powers, had his own gun out and was pointing it to the group.

“I advise you not to try something like that again,” Ivan told them

“In fact, better do it, give me a reason to justify killing you.  We could arrest you, but I have no trouble just killing you all right now.  In fact, I prefer that option, especially the longer I’m out of powers,” I wasn’t sure how they were doing it, but the feeling of vulnerability that usually came with having my powers removed was affecting me.  At least I knew that whatever they were doing was affecting everyone in the same way.

“I know you think you won, but you haven’t,” the man said, holding his injured arm.  “Your reign of hate and fear has come to an end.”

“My reign of fear?  People are living peacefully under my reign, unlike before.  People are having better lives, they are progressing faster than before.  You are the ones who are trying to start a reign of terror with your tactics.  What would have happened if your bombs had blown up as you planned?  Innocent people, people who had nothing to do with your fight or agendas would have been injured, could even have died.  I’m not the monster in this room, you are.”

“We are working for the good of our people, for the freedom or the Dominion,” a woman said from the back of the room.

“You are working for your own good.  Now, you can stop blocking my powers, or face the consequences,” I asked again, hoping that the desperation wasn’t showing in my voice.

“You won’t win so easily,” the leader repeated, and I could see some of his followers getting ready to act.  I didn’t think twice before shooting him, but as I pressed the trigger, the man moved, and instead of hitting him on a safe spot, the bullet went through his neck.

A blanket of silence fell over the group as the man hit the floor and a pool of blood started to grow under him, and then, chaos erupted.  They all started moving at the same time.  There was some distance between me and the group, but Ivan was closer to them, and most decided to attack him first.  I started to shoot them, making sure the injuries weren’t life threatening, just bad enough to stop them.  Ivan was doing the same, but he was focusing on those ignoring him and moving to where I was, protecting me first.

Despite all their plans, the group wasn’t as ready to face us as they pretended, their actions were impulsive and clearly weren’t working.  I noticed the exact moment their leader realized that their plans were ruined and that they were losing, something he couldn’t accept yet.  Unlike Merce, from whom the leader had copied their ideas, he was willing to sacrifice himself, not just others, for what they thought was the greater good, something that became clear when he got a grenade out of his coat and threw it to where we had left the explosives we had taken from Ethan.  I didn’t need a walk in the fog to know what would happen if the grenade exploded in the middle of all those explosives.

For a moment my mind went blank, and then I started to go over all the options we had, I needed to stop the explosion or all the people in the building, and probably even those outside like Ethan and Kimball could die.  My options were limited, at least at the beginning, because after watching their leader willing to kill them all, the person blocking my powers stopped, and I got my powers back, which allowed me to use my mind to grab the grenade and throw it through the open door to the bunker, where it would cause less damage, the only problem was that some of our enemies ran back inside the bunker trying to protect themselves from the explosion.

The wave caused by the explosion was strong enough to throw those who hadn’t ran away to the floor.  Before they could go back to their feet I used my powers to shift the floor and trap them in it, but not in the case of the leader, for him I used stakes that went through his extremities and pin him to the floor.  I hoped that the person who had blocked my powers was dead, but if he wasn’t, I was going to make him wish he had been in the bunker when the grenade went off.  As for the leader, once I finished interrogating him, he was going to wish he was dead.

“Are you ok?” Kimball asked, as he ran into the room, closely followed by Uktam and Mihaela.

“Everything is ok,” I said, pointing to my captives.  “They all have bullet woulds and a few bruises, possibly a few contusions, still, I need you to make sure they’re not a danger before transporting the.  As for him,” I said, pointing to the leader, who was screaming in pain, “don’t take him to the police, I want to interrogate him first.”

“William won’t like that,” Kimball said, but from the intensity in his eyes and he stared at the person responsible for kidnaping his son, I knew he had his own plans as to what to do to him.

“He will understand,” I said, knowing that even if William got angry, at the end he would help me, he knew all the legal loopholes that I needed to justify my action, and he knew how important it was for me to stop people like that man.  “How is Ethan?”

“He is stable, but I’m not sure what kind of agent they used to knock him out, I’m still working on that.  I took one of their tanks so I could study the substance later.”

I left my people to clean up the disaster, while I went back to the Palace.  Ethan was with us, laying down on the seat, with his head on my lap.  He was still out, but I could feel his mind active and I could feel his life force, and I knew he would be able to survive the adventure with no significant damage.  After the extensive use of my powers I needed my suppressor to keep the psychic headache under control, so after making sure Ethan was ok, I activated it, but as soon as my powers went away I started feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable.  I knew that we still had a lot to deal with, there were more people involved, and those people could still cause trouble.  My own men were already working on finding them, but I knew that to make sure that all the information we got was correct, I needed to conduct my own interrogations, and for that I needed my powers, something I didn’t have at the moment.

Once back at the Palace Ethan reacted, and that helped me confirm that he was alright, I confirmed that he had suffered some electric attacks, but not enough to cause lasting damage, and he insisted he was ok, even if I could see he was embarrassed for falling on enemy hands, as if being captured had been his fault.  I remembered my own fears and feelings of guilt when I was his age.  I remembered when I had been captured by enemy forces and my mother had to rescue me, how bad I had felt about the situation and the lives that had been lost in that mission, even as people congratulated me for my actions.  I knew that simple words wouldn’t help him feel better, so all I could do was to let my emotions free and allow him to realize for himself how proud I was of him, and how much I loved him.

At the same time I had been busy rescuing Ethan, my people had been working on their own missions.  Two of the bombs our enemies had set had exploded, the enemy had set sentries around them, and some had realized that my people had been trying to deactivate them and to stop them they had blown them.  Agata had already realized about the sentries and was working on finding them and neutralizing them, but sadly she wasn’t fast enough to stop those two bombs from going off, and that cost us the life of an innocent man that had refused to stay in his house, and had caused some of my men to be injured, but all of them would be able to have a full recovery.  At least we had been able to capture more people involved after interrogating our captives, and that included some State leaders that had actively collaborated, or that at least had turned a blind eye to what his people was doing.

I had taken my time doing my own interrogations, and I could confirm that they were followers of Merce, and that some people insisted on hating me, and weren’t willing to accept me and my place in the Dominion.  I knew that originally that had been the plan, for people to hate me, but I also had planned for them to be so afraid of me that they wouldn’t be willing to fight me, and the new situation made that part very difficult.  I also realized that my actions against the kidnappers had affected my image again, in ways I couldn’t understand yet.

A couple of days after the incident, I was ready to face the world and present my findings, and Aziz was there ready to help me with my message.

“Everything is ready for the broadcast,” Aziz told me, and I could see that that included William and Dante, they had agreed, once again, to support me.  I knew that their support would influence a lot in how people received the announcement.

I stepped in front of the camera, ready to say the words that I needed to say.  It wasn’t easy, I knew that with everything that had happened people’s perception of me had changed, as well as the political scene in the Dominion.  Even if the attack had been very public and everyone in the Dominion had witnessed how they had used my son to try and get me to resign, the fact that some leaders, and those of countries that hadn’t voted for me, were involved, only complicated things, for some could see my actions as revenge.  At least I had William, and even Dante, supporting me, even if some leaders were afraid after my actions following Ethan’s kidnapping.  Despite having won the fight, I knew that some consequences of my actions would follow me for a while.  Kimball said that I was taking the situation in a very negative way, and that people would show me once again how much they loved and trusted me, but I couldn’t be as positive as he wanted me to be.

“Good afternoon,” I said to the cameras, knowing that most of the Dominion’s population was watching from the other side, “today I come here to give you another announcement.  All of you witnessed the demands and actions of a criminal group that intended to take control of the Dominion without any care of who they hurt in the process.  Thanks to the actions of a lot of people who worked together to protect the city and stop the threats to the Dominion, what could have become a great tragedy, was controlled.  Unfortunately, an innocent civilian lost his life and many of my soldiers were wounded, but at the end, they managed not only to save my son, but to stop everyone involved in the attack.  During the interrogations that followed the capture of the people responsible, we were able to discover that very important, and influential people were also involved.”

“Using that information, that my people made sure was true and accurate, we were able to give issue arrest warrants for a couple of presidents and a queen,” William explained.  “We also were able to clear other leaders that had been fooled or whose trusted people had acted in their name, but without their knowledge.”

“As I told you before, we are not going to punish the people of the countries for the crimes of their leaders, but there could be some problems while we fill the positions that were left open.  We are already working on that, and we hope that everyone is satisfied with the results once we finish.”

“I know that many of you are wondering what this will mean for you, and I want to assure you that, at least I, will work to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again and will take every precaution to avoid another incident like this,” Dante said.  “All of us who have positions of power have the duty and the responsibility to make sure that everyone who works with us is capable of following and honoring our laws and the principles that rule the Dominion.”

“We will keep working for you, for the people of the Dominion, for your well being.  And I, personally, will work on opening better communication lines between the people and your governments, I want people to realize they don’t have to do things like this to get our attention, we will hear you, but I also ask you to hear other people.  I know some of you don’t want me here, but as long as the majority wants me here, I will stay here, doing my best to be worthy of your trust.”

“The three of us will keep working on everyone’s well being, working for our people, today and always,” William said.

“Perfect!” Aziz exclaimed with his usual enthusiasm.  “All of you did a great job.  I will be monitoring the different communication channels to see how people respond to this broadcast, and I’m sure we will have good news soon.”

“I hope so,” I said, knowing that things were going to change and that I needed to be prepared for what was coming.  I needed to do a better job, I couldn’t allow more people to get hurt because of me.

Chapter 32

The problem with having the message broadcasted to the whole Dominion was that everyone knew what was going on with Ethan, and soon I started to get calls from people who had mostly good intentions, but that were making my efforts to find and rescue him more complicated.  Most I could just ignore or at least have Karl, my assistant, take care of, but when the leaders that had yet to leave Capital City requested a meeting, it was harder to ignore, and I ended up receiving them.

“Thanks for seeing us,” Natasha said.

“Where’s Kimball?” Kgosi asked.  “What are you doing to find Ethan?”

“I’m glad to see you care,” I said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm in my voice.

For a couple of minutes I heard their questions and good wishes, but then a voice started to intrude on the conversation, a mind that seemed to be screaming and that I chose to listen carefully.  I could tell that the person was worried about someone, the image of that person kept showing in his thoughts, it was an image that seemed familiar, and it didn’t take me long to recognize that person, since he was part of an image that would take a long time to disappear from my own mind.

“I hope it all goes well and that you can find your son in good health,” the man whose mind I had been listening said.  I noticed that it was the same president that had started the whole election debacle.

“I’m sure I will find him soon, and when I do, I’ll do my best to get you your advisor back, but I don’t promise he will be in good health.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked nervously, letting me know he knew or suspected something.

“Did you know what he was planning?” I asked, moving menacingly closer to him.  “Were you his accomplice?”

“I think the situation has affected your mind,” he said, but his mind was open and I could see things that only condemned him further.

“You will tell me all you know,” I said as I used my telekinesis form a psychic wall around us, in case someone tried to interfere, and used my telepathy to invade his mind and see what information he had on what was going on.

It didn’t take long to realize that the man, the one who was supposed to represent his country and its people was only a coward that had been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right moment.  He was so worthless that he hadn’t been able to realize he was being used.  The idea of calling for an election wasn’t even his idea, he had let fear blind him to reality, allowing other people to manipulate him and tell him what to do.  He had realized that his advisor has other plans that didn’t include him a while ago, but he had believed he could handle the situation, right until the moment he recognized one of the masked men as his advisor.

Once I got all the information I could out of him, I got out of his mind and let the psychic wall drop.  I hadn’t been careful while invading his mind, and the president fell to the floor in a catatonic state once I was out and my powers were no longer holding him.  I heard the screaming and could feel the fear around me, my actions, which they didn’t understand, had only made them recall their fear of me, and worked on supporting what the man on the ground in front of me had said all along, I was nothing but a savage.

“Guards!” I called, getting the attention of the guards that were working on containing the situation.  “Call William, and let him know that I need a warrant for the president for helping and protecting the terrorists that kidnapped my son.”

“He was working with the kidnappers?” Kgosi asked, his voice equal parts incredulity and anger.

“He knows at least one of them, it’s one of his advisors,” I said as I turned around and went back to my office, while I gave my guards a telepathic command to get those people out of my meeting room, I suspected I would need it for another reason soon enough.

“What have you found?” I asked Fatima when I felt her entering the office behind me, followed by Thalia and a few other of my personal guards.

“I’m afraid nothing good,” she said.

“What you just did in there is going to cause you trouble,” Morgana said, she sounded worried.

“I don’t care, that man had important information that he decided to hide out of fear, well, now I’m going to make sure all his fears become reality.”

“That’s another reason to stay in your good graces,” Razak said, but his joke fell flat.

“Does anyone knows where Kimball is?” I asked, desperate to share with him my findings.  I wasn’t sure how long it had been since the attack on the president, but I knew that my men must have sent a message to him as soon as the attack started, I had been almost expecting him to be in my office when I got there.

“He must be on his way,” Yoweri said, confirming my suspicion.

I let myself drop on my chair and started to go over the information I had found.  Knowing that my enemies had been hiding under the protection of the government of one of the countries under the control of the Dominion had me worried, the fact they had managed to move under the radar and get that kind of resources had me worried.

“What happened?” Kimball asked, entering the room and ignoring everyone but me.

“One of the kidnappers is the advisor of one of the presidents.  I think that he was behind the plan to get me out of the government.  I don’t know if their only goal was to get me out, but I suspect they were planning on ending me once I was out of here.

“I have reason to think they are Merce’s followers,” Fatima said.

“Are you sure?” I asked, my mind going back to the woman that had tried to get rid of me already, and that I had forgotten until that moment.

“Everything points to that,” she answered.

Once the name was mentioned my mind started to go over everything that had happened with her.  There was a thought that was stronger than others.  I dropped back to my chair and concentrated, thinking about the bombs Merce had set in the Palace while trying to get rid of me, no matter who else got hurt.  I extended my senses as far as I could, going through hallways and rooms looking for the same feeling I got from those bombs, and soon my fears got confirmed.

“There are five bombs in the levels under the Palace,” I told them.  “Kimball?  Other than you, who could take care of the bombs?”

“I could go…” he started.

“I want you to stay here,” I interrupted.  “I need you to help me plan Ethan’s rescue mission,” I added, trying to justify my need to keep him close, but the smirk that got over his lips for a second let me know he knew exactly what I was feeling, even if I didn’t say that out loud.

“Besides, those are not the only bombs we have to worry about,” Fatima said, “the attack here is not the only one taking place.  I tried to look at all the possibilities, but I’m pretty sure there are a few I missed.  So far I know that there are going to be several attacks all over the city, all in public places, at different times.  This is all part of a very elaborated plan.”

While Fatima was talking, I noticed that one of the guards went to one of the monitors and turned it on, the screen showing a countdown.

“That’s the time until sundown,” Kimball said, he likely had his own countdown running.

“Do we know where the signal is coming from?” I asked.

“Yes, it was incredibly easy to follow it to the origin, and it matches the information you gave me.”

“Too easy?” I asked.

“That only proves that it is a trap.  But it seems we are not the only ones they are targeting.”

“Why I don’t get is why so much.  If there are bombs under the Palace, someone has to take care of those, by the way, then why take Ethan?  Why give me an ultimatum?  Why don’t use the bombs to blackmail me instead of Ethan?”

“Maybe they want to pin the bombs on you,” Kimball suggested.  “It seems they are as interested in ruining your reputation, than on getting rid of you.”

“This is one of those instances when a good defense is a good offense,” Aziz said from the corner of the room.  I guessed that after my attack on the president he had come here to try and fix my public image, but I wasn’t sure how long he had been listening.  “If you allow me a suggestion, a video explaining what is going on to the general population could allow us to be one step ahead and avoid them lying about you.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Fatima agreed.

“The problem is that our enemies are watching the transmission waiting for my resignation, and any other kind of announcements I make could put Ethan at risk.”

“It doesn’t need to be a live transmission,” Kimball said, “we could record it and get them to transmit it as we arrive to where they are holding him, that way it could double as a distraction tactic.”

“That’s not a bad idea, it may just work,” I said as I looked at Fatima, trying to get a read on her.  Her face betrayed nothing, but the calmness in her emotions was as good as confirmation.

“Perfect!” Aziz said.  “I’ll start working on something.”

“Kimball, do you have something ready for Ethan’s rescue?”

“I’ve already selected the team that’s going with us.  Are you sure you want to go instead of staying?  You know the trap is set for you.”

“That never stopped me before.”

While Aziz was working on getting everything ready to record the message, Kimball and I started to discuss our plan to rescue Ethan, and then we started to plan on how to find and deactivate all the bombs our enemies had planted in the city.  The planning took longer than I felt comfortable with, but Kimball insisted it was important to cover every contingency with our plan, and have a few backup plans just in case.

Once the meeting was done, Kimball went with a few warriors to work on the bombs under the Palace, he wanted to train them, and Fatima, in how to disarm them so they could take care of the rest of the bombs in the city.  I was worried about Ethan, and only felt worse as the minutes ticked by, we were wasting time and I felt guilty about it.

“Everything is ready,” Aziz called, taking me to a room where he had already prepared everything for the recording.  A few camera drones were floating in the air, while a few other cameras were embedded in the walls.

“How are you?” William asked, he had been waiting in the room, along with Dante, when we stepped in.

“As good as I could be under the circumstance.”

“I heard about your little fight,” Dante said, and I prepared for his reprimand.  “Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if he is a president, covering up a crime its a felony and he must be punished.”

“Thanks,” I said, surprised by his support.  “And thanks for agreeing to be part of this video.”

“I guess that our presence will help the criminals think you are following their orders,” William said.

“That’s the plan,” Aziz said, with too much enthusiasm considering the situation.

Once we were all in our places, Aziz gave the order to start, and turned the cameras on.  At first I wanted to stay with a neutral expression, but I decided to try to go for pissed off and resigned, mostly to fool my enemies into thinking I was complying.

“Good afternoon,” I said, talking not only to my enemies, but to the people of the Dominion who would be listening, “I’m sure that by now all of you should have seen the video that was broadcasted this morning.  In that video I was asked to give up the position in which I was confirmed by the leaders of the different countries in the Dominion in exchange for my son’s life.  Some of you may remember this is not the first time my son’s life has been threatened by my enemies, and even if I can’t change the past, I can do my best to try and protect him from harm in the future.  All morning my people and I have been working on a way to stop those terrorists, and we were able to identify a few of them.  I also found out that my enemies are not only threatening Ethan, but other innocents, as we found and deactivated a few explosive devices in the public space under the Palace.  Unfortunately, these people have been working under the protection of some of the leaders that came to the election.  Some of them took advantage of the good will of their employees to hide, other are working with their approval, for the moment we are working on identifying all the people involved.  The other targets of these men are the citizens of Capital City, and as some of you should have already noticed, the public spaces have been closed, and that’s because we have reason to believe that the Palace wasn’t the only place they set bombs in, and right now, my people are going around the city looking for other explosives.  At the same time another group with my best warriors is looking for my son and ready to rescue him.  We are working on finding the rest of the people involved and any government involved.”

“Before anything else, let me assure you that no country will be punished for the actions of their leaders,” William said, as he put his hand on my shoulder, a sign of unity and support, “but we won’t let anyone involved to get away with it, we won’t forgive anyone willing to hurt innocent people in order to promote their own agendas.”

“Those terrorists already proved that, no matter what they pretend, they don’t have our people’s best interest in mind.  No matter what they say, they already proved they are despicable,” Dante said, his disapproval was clear in his voice.  He also put his hand on my other shoulder, an action we haven’t agreed on, but that gesture spoke more than words.

“So you have been warned.  Your plans won’t work, I’m sure that before sunset my men would be able to find and detain everyone involved with the kidnapping.  The best you can do right now is surrender.  If you let my son go and present yourselves to the police, then your punishment won’t be as severe.  To avoid danger, I ask the citizens of Capital City to stay in your homes, I’ll let you know as soon as we have secured the city.  Thanks.”

Aziz smiled and gave us two thumbs up to let us know everything had turned up as planned.  “That was perfect,” he said, “and the best part is that I won’t need to edit anything, and that will make it seem more real.”

“I didn’t know you were considering editing the video,” Dante said, and his voice made it clear he didn’t like the idea.

“Not the content,” Aziz made sure to clarify, “Just the timing and things like that, not the content, but I won’t have to now.”

“Do you need help with anything else?” William asked.

“No, I’ll go with Kimball, he must have the team ready, we will go to where Ethan is being held, and will do everything in our power to come back with him safe and sane.”

“Good luck,” Dante said.

“Be careful,” William asked.

“Thanks.”

I trusted they would be able to take care of what was going on in the city, I had to take care of Ethan and the people who had dared to kidnap him.  I arrived at the basement and headed to the garage, the team was ready and Kimball was waiting for me with the vehicle’s door open, but before I could head in his direction, Konstantinos stepped in my way.

“Can I have a minute?”

“I really don’t have time, can it wait?” I asked, trying not to let him see how much his interruption bothered me.

“I have no task assigned,” he said, and it made me angry that he was holding me for something like that, “in this mission my abilities were not required, but I know you will face many challenges, and if my work and abilities have no use, then I want to offer my energy.” That was not what I was expecting.

“Do you understand what you are offering?”

“I know that some of your most amazing feats were done thanks to your ability of taking other people’s energy.  You have already taken a little bit of mine in a couple of occasions, because of that, if that’s all I can do, that’s what I want to do.  I don’t have any missions, so you can take as much energy as you want.”

“I don’t think you understand what that implies or how it could affect you.”

“I have thought a lot about it, so please, let me help you this way if that’s all I can do.  I don’t care if I end up in the hospital for a few days after this.”

I knew that the challenges waiting for me were big, and he was right, more energy would help me a lot and could allow me to even surpass my limits while minimizing the risks.

“I thank you for your sacrifice,” I said, before putting my hands on his chest and establishing a connection that allowed me to see the energy around him.  I started to pull his energy into me, being careful with how much I pulled.  When I cut the connection Konstantinos could barely stay on his feet, but other than that he seemed fine.

“Good luck,” he said.

I smiled, thanking him for his help, while I moved again to the vehicle, from where my people was watching with curiosity, even if I could feel some impatience in them.  As soon as I got inside the vehicle Kimball closed the door and went around the car to get to his seat, as soon as he closed his door, the vehicle started moving.  Kimball looked at me, but didn’t question me, I knew he understood what had happened, and since he wasn’t commenting about it, he approved, knowing that I was better prepared to face the fight.

“I will go into the astral planes,” I told my people.  “I’ll be making sure that we don’t find any surprises in our way, and as soon as we arrive I will try to explore the place, so wait for me to return to my body before you make any movement.”

“Understood,” Kimball said.  “Be careful.”

“Always.”

Moving in the astral planes was much easier, so I had no problem staying with the car, even ahead of it, making sure there were no ambushes or other surprises waiting for us.  The streets were deserted and for a moment I considered the fact that our enemies could notice that something was going on and warn the kidnappers.  But there were no reasons to worry, we arrived at our destination without trouble.  The vehicle stopped a few blocks from the building, and my astral projection was able to explore freely, since there were no other projections around I was able to identify a few of the traps.  I trusted that with Lukas’ powers we would be able to move closer without being seen, and that Kimball would be able to take care of most of the traps, both mechanical and electronic.  Whatever he couldn’t control, I hoped I would be able to neutralize.  When I went back to my body everyone was ready to move.

“I think I will use one of Fatima’s techniques and will go into the fog to keep an eye on the near future.”

“If that’s the case, you will need someone to transport you,” Uktam said, “I know that I’m not your first choice, but it would be my honor to move you.”

“You are right, you are not my first choice, but that way I can stay in the fog longer and don’t worry about how to move, we will advance faster.”

I let Uktam take me in his arms, and we started moving towards the first obstacle.  I knew that inside the building, Ethan was waiting, and I couldn’t wait to be with him and make sure that he was alright.

Chapter 30

For a couple of days the leaders of the Dominion had been arriving to Capital City.  I didn’t try to hide the fact that they were trying to replace me, but neither had I made it public, but the arrivals had gotten the attention of the people, and those curious had decided to investigate why they were there, and it didn’t take long for them to find out the reason for their visit.

“Kaiserin!  It’s a pleasure to see you again,” Natasha greeted me.  The young woman had grown a lot since the first time I had seen her, and she had become a great leader for her people.  Like many others, she was taking advantage of the office space below the Palace, using it to stay up to day with her work.

“The pleasure it’s all mine,” I said, accepting her hug.  “How have you been?”

“I’m great, how are you?  Ready for today’s meeting?”

“As ready as I could be,” I said, trying to sound upbeat.

“Don’t worry about anything,” she said with a smile, “this is how things were supposed to be, this will help to confirm your position in history.”

“Thanks,” I said, not really sure what she was talking about, but I respected her too much to try to pick her mind, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask for clarification out loud.

“I will be meeting some other leaders for lunch, if you see Kgosi, could you remind him that his attendance it’s not optional?”

“Kgosi doesn’t respond well to threats,” I said.

“I will take care of him, just pass along my message if you see him.”

“I will,” I said, a little curious about the reason for their meeting, but again unwilling to ask about it.

I couldn’t get out of my mind my encounter with Natasha for the rest of the day, and beside that, I couldn’t help but think about what was about to happen, even if I had promised myself not to think about it, I was sad knowing a chapter of my life was about to end.

Because of the number of people involved, we had to ask for one of the Congress’ rooms to fit everyone in.  It was weird to see them in that room.  Despite my expectations, most leaders had decided to assist in person to the vote, instead of just sending their Ambassadors to represent them.

“Greetings,” I said, starting the meeting.  “First of all, I want to thank you taking time out of your busy schedules to be here, and to thank those that are here in representation of your leaders.  Today is a very important day, that’s why President Dante and King William are joining us.”

“Good evening,” Dante said.

“Welcome everyone,” William said, happily.  “Today is certainly a very important day, a historically relevant, and you all get to be part of it.  I know that for some of you the whole process must seem a little rushed, but I trust that you all had enough time to go over your options and chose the right candidate.”

“We will be using the Congress’ voting system,” Dante said.  “It’s the easiest, quickest way to do it, besides, this way you can choose if you want to keep your vote anonymous.”

“Before we start, could the candidates step forward and take your place beside Kaiserin?” William asked.

One by one the candidates took their places around me.  I tried not to feel angry at them for trying to take my place, I kept reminding myself that it was inevitable, and that it was always part of the plan to leave my position at the front of the Dominion.

“Does any of you want to say a few words before we start this?” Dante asked, and all the candidates took the chance to give one last speech, one in which they talked a lot, but said nothing.

“Do you want to add anything?” William asked me.

“I think that all the important things have been already said.  I just hope that whomever gets elected, keeps working to rebuild the Dominion, we have achieved a lot, but there’s still a lot to be done, we can’t get complacent and start thinking we are done.  I trust you and believe you will make the right choice, and I also trust that no matter what happens today, you all will keep working for the good of the Dominion and your own countries.”

“Thank you,” William said.  “Now that all the candidates had their chance to speak, we will proceed with the election.  On the screen in front of you, you will see the names of the candidates…”

“This is wrong,” one of the Presidents said, the one that had started the whole thing, if I wasn’t mistaken, “we only have five candidates, Kaiserin isn’t supposed to be here.”

His words surprised me, but I did my best to seem unaffected.

“According to the old rules, the Prime Minister is a candidate in every election, unless he or she is already on their third consecutive term or fifth non-consecutive term,” Dante explained.

“We were never informed about that,” the same President complained.

“If you don’t know the game rules, that’s not their fault,” Kgosi said.  “You were the one who suggested this in the first place, one would expect you to at least know the rules beforehand.”

“I agree with King Kgosi,” Natasha said, and I finally understood her cryptic words that morning, “most of us knew about the rule, it’s kind of illogical that the one who suggested this, by using the old rules, it’s the only one who doesn’t know about this particular rule.”

“I think he knew about it, it’s just that he wants to pretend he didn’t to dismiss Kaiserin’s place in this election,” William said.  “But finding the truth is as easy as me asking him about it.  Or we could just continue with the process.”

“I don’t remember reading about this rule in my studies, but it’s clear you all agree with it, so I don’t see the point in trying to fight all of you, we can just keep going,” he agreed.

The situation was kind of weird, and I realized that I had made a mistake in the fog, I had assumed that all the futures where I remained as the Prime Minister were those where the election never took place, but there was another scenario I hadn’t taken into account, and more options for me.

“Ok, if no one else has any objection, we’ll continue with the process,” William said, taking control of the situation once again.  “As I was trying to explain, in front of you, you will find a screen with the names of the candidates.  The vote is very easy, all you have to do is choose the name of the candidate you want to represent you for the next three years.”

“It’s important to point out that when you vote, you can choose if you want an open or closed vote,” Dante added.  “If you choose an open vote, that doesn’t mean your vote will automatically show, not unless everyone makes the same choice, it only means that in case someone challenges the results, your names will show to support the results.”

“If no one has any questions, then we will move forward to the vote,” William said, and when no one asked anything, the screen behind us turned on, showing our names.

I started to hear electronic noises, and after each one the numbers beside our names on the screen started to change.  At first the numbers next to the other candidates’ names were the ones changing, but soon the numbers next to mine started increasing at a fast pace, and soon it became clear that I had the advantage, and soon the advantage was so great that it became clear no one would be able to defeat me.  I looked at the screen not really believing what I was seeing, I couldn’t believe that so many people were voting for me, not after they had all chosen to call for the election, something that I had interpreted as a move to get rid of me.

“Some of you still need to vote,” Dante’s voice broke the silence.  “Let me remind you that you need to vote, you need to choose any of the candidates, but you need to vote for someone,” after his reminder a few more votes were cast and soon the process was over.

“I think we have a clear winner,” William said, and I could see that I had gotten over 60% of the votes.

“That can’t be true,” the same President that had been protesting raised his voice once again.  “I demand to open the votes, I can’t believe that so many people voted for her when she wasn’t even an option before the process started.”

“I think we have already established that she was considered an option from the beginning by many, even if you didn’t,” Dante reminded him, “but as I said before, I will show the open votes of everyone who voted for Kaiserin, since you challenged the results.”

Almost everyone in the room turned to the big screen as the list of those who had voted for me started to show.  Only five of the names remained hidden, the rest were open for everyone to see, and since no one in the list was protesting their name appearing on the list, it was clear that they had in fact, voted for me.

“Do we have any other questions?” William asked.  “Someone else has a problem?  No?  Then allow me to be the first to congratulate Kaiserin for her victory.”  William moved closer to me and hugged me, a familiar gesture that for a moment I couldn’t decide if I wanted to return or not.

“Thank you,” I said, “I hope that after this we can get together for a chat, now that I know I will stay in my position.”

“Of course, there is a lot to discuss, but it’s good to know that I will be working with you for a few years longer.”

“I guess I should congratulate you,” Dante said, not looking very happy at the prospect, “it’s good to know that your position has been legitimated.  I feel better knowing you are the Prime Minister because the people want you in that position, and not because you killed the previous one.  Of course, I’m assuming they actually want you there, and not that you brainwashed them into electing you.”

“It’s good to know I have your support,” I told Dante.  But his words made sense, maybe I had been looking at the situation from the wrong angle, maybe it wasn’t about getting rid of me, maybe it was about making my position a legal one.  I would no longer be the usurper that had killed Faakhir and Emily and taken over the Dominion, I was now the elected Prime Minister, chosen by the leaders of the Dominion.  It was a huge difference.  I could see William’s smile, and I knew he guessed where my mind had gone.  “And I want to thank everyone who voted for me and trusted me to keep working with you for the good of the Dominion.”

“We didn’t have another choice but to recognize the good work you have been doing as the Prime Minister,” Kgosi said, and it was plain to see it wasn’t easy for him to say that.  Still, I felt like he had voted for me, not because of my good work, but because he feared I would go after his position, or maybe not me, but Kimball.  “But let me remind you this will be your second term, you only will have one more chance to be elected for the position, at least immediately.”

“We prepared a banquet to celebrate the winner of the election, and you are all invited,” William said.  “Once there you will have the chance to speak to her and offer your congratulations.  Please, come with me,” William said, offering his arm, but I didn’t accept, because Kimball had moved from the back of the room, where he had been working security, and was coming to me.

“Congratulations,” he said as soon as he came close to me, hugging me and kissing me, not even caring that we were in front of the leaders of the Dominion.

“Did you know about this?” I asked, curious about his answer, even if I believed he didn’t know, because he wouldn’t have made me suffer thinking I was being dismissed if he had known.

“I had no idea about that rule, but I have to admit it was a master move from those who support you.  If they had ignored the petition to call for an election, your position would have been questioned again, but this way your opponents can’t keep attacking the legality of your position.”

“That’s true, still I would have liked to know what was going on,” I complained, but the truth was that it had been my fault for not thinking about all the alternatives.  I had seen the future, seen what could happen, but I had neglected to see the paths that would have taken me there, that had been a mistake, one that I had to remember not to make again.”

We went to the hall where the banquet was going to take place, we were the first ones in there, but soon the others followed us in, most of them coming directly at me to offer their congratulations.  Those who had been refugees in Aquarium were among the first one in there, all of them offering their support and telling me they had always been on my side.  Natasha was with them.

“I guess that the lunch meeting you mentioned had something to do with my win,” I said.

“Of course not, you had everything to do with your win, that meeting was only to remind a few Presidents and Royalty about the rules that someone conveniently forgot to mention.  It was mostly to make sure I would have support in case we needed to insist for your name to be included with the other candidates, but not because you needed my help to get you votes.  The votes were divided between all the candidates, and I was sure that all you needed was about thirty percent of the votes, with the refugees from Aquarium you almost had enough votes for that.”

“Still, I’m grateful for your help.”

“I didn’t do anything, really.  I think that as soon as they realized you were an option, many changed their minds and decided to vote for you.  Even if some don’t like the what you did to get to power, no one can deny you did a great job once there.  Besides, we owe you big time just for the fact that you freed us from Emily and Faakhir, not to mention how you saved the lives of many of us.”

“I was just doing what was best for me and my people, the rest were just the consequence of that.”

“It doesn’t matter why you did it,” another of the refugees said, “what matters is that you did it.  You have been a great leader, and we want you to keep being one for us.”

“I think that one of the reasons that motivated so many to vote for you, was your willingness to leave your position.  If you had denied us the chance, or showed at any point in the process that you were going to stop us, maybe the outcome had been different,” said one of the Queens that had approached me to congratulate me.

“I think that trying to stop you if you had already decided you didn’t want me anymore, would have only caused new uprisings and unnecessary fighting.”

“And that’s why so many people decided to vote for you, not everyone would put other’s wellbeing over hers.”

More people came forward to congratulate me, even some that I knew hadn’t voted for me, and from what they were saying, I could tell that my decision not to stop the election had been the right one, the doubts they still had about me and my government had evaporated when I had accepted to leave my position and let them choose someone else.

Chapter 29

We had already had a couple of meetings, which had allowed us to get to work on new and different problems around the Dominion.  It was easy to see that Emily and Faakhir had managed to rule the Dominion without these meetings, only because she didn’t care about the people in the Dominion.  With such a vast population, with so many different needs, it was impossible for a single person to take care of everything, you needed to delegate and even if I had done my best, and I had managed to fulfill the basic needs of the population, I had realized that every region and every country had different needs that I had dismissed.  Thanks to the meetings we had managed to identify some problems that I didn’t realize existed, also, we had better communication, and with that, and the ability to delegate, we had managed to attack those problems.

At the beginning, it was hard to give up control, but soon I realized that it was not only a good idea, but a necessity.  Only time would say if I had done the right thing, but at the moment it looked that way.  My work was to set goals, and organize the resources the Dominion had in order to allow them to meet those goals.  I also had to make sure they were doing the job they were supposed to do.  I couldn’t help but think that some of them were going to take advantage of the situation for their own benefit.

Kimball had been with me in some of the meetings, but he stayed out of the way, so the others wouldn’t be able to see him.  So far I haven’t had a reason to worry.  Of course, everyone was after what was best for their countries, and themselves, but most were willing to work with the others to make it possible, very few still held to the idea that one had to suffer so others could get on top.

“As always, I thank you for being at this meeting,” I greeted the leaders once all the virtual projections were in place.  “During our meeting we will address the plans we were discussing the last meeting to see what you think about them.  I think you and your people had enough time to go over them and find anything that you think requires more work.”

We spent the next couple of hours going over the plans and fine tuning them, as we had planned.  Even if there were a few disagreements, we were able to fix them without much trouble.

“I think that’s everything we needed to go over.  Is there anything else you would wish to discuss?”

“If you allow me, I would like to put an important issue on the table.  We are approaching President Dante’s midterm.  I don’t know if you realize it, but this is usually the time when we choose a new Prime Minister,” one of the presidents said.  A wave of danger surrounded me, and I realized I needed to be very careful with how I proceeded.

“I don’t remember anything about agreeing to have Prime Minister elections, that’s something I decided to leave until later.”

“During the last meetings you talked about how you want to return to how things used to be, restore the status quo, and this is part of it, for our political system is very important to be able to alternate our rulers,” another leader said.  The new speaker was from a different region, and that only left a couple of possibilities, either people agreed it was time to get rid of me, or a few had gotten together and decided to move me out of the way so they could follow their own interests.

“So, you are trying to tell me you are already tired of me and want me gone?” I said, trying for a joking tone, but being totally sincere in my question.

A few leaders started to agree with me, while others denied that was true, but no matter what they thought, it was clear that the seed had been planted, and more people would start thinking about it.

Once the situation calmed down a little bit, another leader spoke up.  “I think it’s important for the Dominion’s progress to decide if we are going to honor old customs or if we are going to keep working under this tyranny…”

“Are you calling my rule a tyranny?  I suppose that depends on what your definition of tyranny is.  Anyway, I promised that I was working toward moving things to how they used to be, but I also said that I wouldn’t move forward until I had solved the Dominion’s main problems.  So, I guess it’s valid to ask, do you think we have already reached that point?  Has the Dominion already reached its equilibrium?  I believe those are questions we have to ask before making a decision, and that is something we all have to work together to do.  Right now I don’t think there’s enough time to discuss something like this, so I propose that we move this issue for the next meeting, once we all had the chance to think about it, so we are all on the same wavelength.”

“And how can we be sure that you’re not staling to avoid discussing this?” asked the President that had first raised the issue.

“For the simple reason that I don’t need to do that, if I really wanted to stop this, I could just veto it, I don’t need to play games or hide what I want to do.  I will put this issue in the list of subject for our next meeting.”

Once the meeting ended, Kimball moved from the corner where he hid from the cameras.  I was still thinking about what had happened.  My first thought had been that there was no way I could allow something like that to happen, but then I had realized that my time had passed, my goals had been reached, and maybe it was time for me to leave my place in the Dominion and allow others to continue my work.  Maybe it was time for me to go back to Aquarium, or even to the Empire and reclaim my place as head of my Clan, or maybe to become my brother’s right hand.

“Did you suspect that was going to happen?” Kimball asked, worried about me.

“To be truthful, no, I didn’t, but even if I had a bad feeling about it at the beginning, I’m starting to think it may not be a bad idea.  Maybe my part in this is over, and it’s time for me to move on.  Of course we need to think about the consequences in case my successor is not the right person.  Maybe we will need to get William involved so he can interview the candidates, that way we can make sure that whomever they choose won’t damage the Dominion’s progress.”

“You are taking this much better than I expected.  I know how much this means to you, and how much you had to sacrifice to reach this moment, I don’t think it’s fair that they get to decide that you can’t be here anymore.”

“I’m not sure what to think yet, I may change my mind tomorrow, but for now, all I can do is think about my options.”

“Maybe going into the fog would help you make a decision.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

The fog didn’t help much to clear my future, there were many versions of the future where I remained as head of the Dominion, some where I was forced to leave, and a few in which we were unable to control the outcome and the person they put in my place ended up being a bad election, one that undid all the work I had done and drove the Dominion back to its worst version.

By the time the new meeting arrived, I had no idea what was going to happen, but what I was sure of, was that I needed to accept their decision, even if I didn’t like it.

“Greetings.  As I promised during our last meeting, today our first order of the day will be discussing the possibility of having an election for Prime Minister.  I think that it would be best if the people that suggested it in the first place defend it, and whomever wants can add if they are in favor or against the idea before voting on it.  Just let me remind you that in case you end up in a tie, I will be the one deciding what is going to happen.”

For a while, many leaders moved forward to give their opinion, and soon I realized that most were in favor of getting rid of me.  I didn’t need to wait to know what way the vote would go.  When the time arrived, it wasn’t a surprise to see that they had decided to vote whether they would have a new election or not.  I couldn’t help but feel bad about it, that decision meant that they were going to decide if I was going to go, and end a time of my life that had cost me a lot, and it wasn’t because I wanted it to end, but because other people wanted me to go.

“As I promised, I will respect your vote and any decision you choose to make.  I asked my people to adapt the system so you could have an anonymous vote, because, as I understand, that could encourage people to really go with the decision they want and not fear for repercussions, of course, there is also the option of an open vote, in case you don’t trust the system.”

“How can we be sure that you won’t use your tecnopaths to see how we voted, even with the system?”  one of the Queens asked.

“That’s a matter of trust, you can either believe me or not.  There is not much I could do or say if you don’t trust me or my people.”

“I think an open vote it’s better,” someone else suggested.  “It’s as easy as to have those in favor of electing a new Prime Minister raising their hands, those against it don’t have to do anything.”

“That’s a good suggestion, if everyone agrees…” before I finished talking, many leaders started raising their hands, more than I originally expected.  It wasn’t even necessary to count them to realize that they were the majority, but still I did it, for protocol.  One by one I called the names of those in favor, while Kimball helped, making the count appear next to my virtual image on their side.  At the end more than 80% of the leaders voted in favor, leaving no doubt about their decision.

“Now what?” an impatient voice asked.

“Now, you have to choose the candidates.  Just a warning before you move on to that.  Even if I believe that the time for Emily’s and Faakhir’s ideals are behind us, William asked, and I agree, to interview the candidates you choose, so he can make sure there is no relationship with his aunt and uncle, or any other problematic ideology that could represent a danger to the Dominion.”

“And how can we be sure that you won’t use that as an excuse to try and control the candidates, or to remove those who could be problematic to your way of thinking.”

“Again, that is a trust issue.  If you believe that William doesn’t have the Dominion’s best interest at heart, or like many conspiracy theorists you believe that he is under some sort of mind control or some bullshit like that, then there is not much that I can do to change your minds.  You have to trust in your King, if you don’t, then what can I do?”

“That really sounds great, but there is not much that can assure us that we can really trust you, or the King.  Still, we don’t really have a choice, and the only thing we can do is to give you the benefit of the doubt and go ahead with the election,” one of the Presidents said.  “I think that the next step is to choose possible candidates and work on getting them approved, that way they can start working on a proposal for their government, and give us a chance to get to know then and study who could be the better choice.”

As they started talking about it, I decided to stay quiet, just watching them talk, and in some cases fight over how to proceed.  The process was way more chaotic than I expected, but there was not much I could do, any intervention on my part would be interpreted as a try to control them or the proceedings.

I couldn’t help but look at Kimball once in a while, he was also watching the discussion.  I was still not sure how to feel about everything.  It hurt to see how easily they discarded me after everything I had done for them, but at the same time I knew that it was a part of my life that sooner or later had to end, but that wasn’t exactly how I expected to leave, without it being my decision.  I knew that I could fight them and stay in power, but that would only hurt me and my credibility, and the Dominion.

William arrived after a while, and I guessed that Kimball had sent him a message.  We had already talked about the possibility having new elections and he was most likely there to set the game rules, the same way he had done so for the Congress when they elected their President.  When I saw him there, I decided to interrupt the leaders.

“I think that is enough time to discuss your options, but before you move forward, William wants to talk to you.”

“Greetings, leaders of the Dominion,” William said, taking my place so the rest of the leaders could see him.  “I have been told that you have decided it’s time to elect a new Prime Minister.  I have to admit the decision surprises me, since Kaiserin has been doing such a good job so far, but I have to admit this is a necessary step if we want to keep moving forward.  Still, there are a few concerns that we have to address and that come from the time my sister used to rule the Dominion, and because of that, I would like to interview the candidates you have chosen,” there were a few complaints and for a moment William was unable to continue talking.

“Silence!” Kgosi demanded in a voice so full of authority, causing a deep silence to fall.  “Allow me to remind all of you protesting, that the King or Queen of the Dominion, in their capacity of Supreme Judge used to interview and had the final say in who could become President or Prime Minister.  What William is asking for right now is not that different to what used to happen, and after all we have been through, I don’t see any problem in making sure that our candidates haven’t been corrupted by the old regime.”

“That’s right,” William agreed, “the fact that I’m interviewing the candidates and not the person elected is just a way to save one step, that way we can take out of the race those that doesn’t deserve to be there.  You know the kind of power my family has, we can force people to talk only the truth in our presence, because of that you shouldn’t be so surprised that I am the right person to interview the candidates.  Besides, you didn’t let me finish, I won’t be the only one there, President Dante will be with me, to make sure that the right questions are being asked and that the candidates are giving the right answers.  This is all for the good of the Dominion.”

“Then, what’s next?”

“I suppose you already have your candidates chosen?  Or at least you have an idea of who you want?  The first step is to nominate your candidate, and if that person agrees, then we ask who else supports him or her, that person has to have at least another three persons supporting their candidacy, only then will that person be accepted as a candidate.  Any questions?”

No one questioned William, so they proceeded to nominate their candidates.  Some didn’t have the support they required and William didn’t take into account those who nominated themselves, even so the process was quick.  Part of me expected my name to be called, but soon it was clear no one was going to nominate me, and I did my best to hide my disappointment, I convinced myself that it was time to turn the page and start a new chapter in my life.  At the end there were five candidates, three of which came from the same region and represented countries that were both stable and prosperous.

“How are you feeling?” Kimball asked me, while William was going over the next steps with the leaders.

“I’m still not sure,” I said, sincerely.  “I’m sure that once I have to step down, this whole business will finally register, but for the moment it doesn’t feel real.  But this is a good thing, right?  We have options, this is not the end, but a new beginning.”

“That’s right,” Kimball said, but I could see he had his doubts, or at least I thought he did, maybe I was just projecting myself.

“I think that’s the best option,” William was saying, “Capital City is prepared to host all the leaders, we already have the accommodations and the security needed in place, and I think that it’s best to vote in person.  If one of you cannot make it for any reason, you can always send your Ambassador in your place,” William waited for someone to protest, when no one did, he ended his part of the meeting, and gave me back my place.

“Since we solved that issue, can we move on with our schedule?  Or do you prefer if we postpone the rest of the issues until after the vote?  I guess you still have a lot to think about or discuss, and some of you need to prepare if you are going to travel to Capital City or make arrangements with your Ambassadors if you aren’t.”

“I think it would be a good idea to postpone until after the election, there’s nothing urgent in the schedule anyway,” one of the Presidents said, and her words were followed with a series of agreements.

“Ok.  I guess most of you will be staying in the Towers during your visits, but if one of you need help arranging something different, please let me know so I can help you.  I still have a lot of work to do, so I will try to make the most of the time I still have, but you can stay connected if you want to discuss something further.”

I walked out of the room, feeling weird by leaving them there, but there was still a lot of work to do before my time ran out.  I knew that some of my plans and proposals would be left on the side, still, I felt like I needed to make sure they were ready in case my successor decided to keep working on them.  The situation was different than when Dante had been elected, and it would be harder for me to move forward.

Once we left the room, Kimball put his arm around my shoulders, giving me a one armed hug, offering me his support.  I haven’t realized how much I needed his support until he gave it to me, as always, Kimball knew exactly what I needed, and once again I had to be thankful that I had him by my side.