[2740 AD; President’s Palace – Outer Courtyard West]
“He’s here,” Gavin said. “Show yourself, Victor Wihll!”
Gavin was the first one to reach the outer courtyard, with Eva right behind him. Sorin and Mina arrived last as Sorin saw the gate to the inner courtyard had been opened. On the other side stood the man they were looking for, as Wihll anticipated their arrival.
“It’s too late,” Wihll said. “A massacre has taken place.”
“No,” Eva said, “This can’t be true…”
Wihll grinned. “I’ve checked all over,” he said, “So many guards dead, as well as some of my fellow men. What an unfortunate ending!”
“Where’s Lokke?” Eva asked.
“Oh, funny you should ask that,” Wihll said. “I found him bathing in a pool of blood and water amongst some of the other True Thekohnians. A rather gruesome misfortune, I’d say.”
“He’s dead,” Sorin said. “Now the only one left is you.”
“What a fool you are, kid,” Wihll replied. “I’ve already won. Lokke is dead and soon Rhodes will be as well!”
“And then what?” Eva asked. “You will get what you want, but at what cost? Your head is going to be what they’re after, and you can’t keep running forever.”
“Lokke thinks that it was because of him that the True Thekohnians became powerful, but he was wrong,” Wihll said. “I’m a man with a vision, and that vision will be shared all across this worthless land!”
“Your vision is tainted, Victor Wihll,” Gavin said. “A man with blood in his eyes only sees red.”
“Don’t make me into a blind fool,” Wihll responded. “I can see full and clear now that those who betrayed me are dead. Lokke, Rhodes… even that worthless Ghillard stood no chance against my knife.”
Eva reached for the handle of her sword. “It was you!?”
“You bastard!” Sorin exclaimed.
Wihll laughed out loud. “Ah, so you’re the woman that was taking care of Belkley Ghillard,” he said. “It’s such a shame that he turned out to be a mere rat, isn’t it?”
“What you did was unforgivable,” Eva muttered.
“Oh, he put up a resistance, that much was certain,” Wihll said. “But I was way too quick for him, and my knife was quicker. Only fitting that a backstabber gets stabbed in the back, right?”
Eva did not respond. Instead, she drew her blade and rushed at Wihll. The swift steel went through Wihll’s abdomen, emerging out of the back as Wihll was taken by surprise. His eyes widened and he let out a wicked wail as he eyed the woman standing below him.
Sorin’s hands shook. “Holy shit…”
“Eva!” Mina said.
Wihll gasped, coughing as blood spilled from his mouth. “You bitch!”
He delivered a backhand to Eva’s face, but she still hung onto her blade. Eva turned the blade, making Wihll tremble on his feet and cough up even more blood.
“You… you think… that this makes you better than me?” Wihll asked. “You’re no different than me!”
Eva looked up at Wihll. “Maybe that’s true,” she said, “But there is a big difference between us.”
Wihll coughed again. “What do you mean?”
“You will die!” Eva replied.
She pulled her sword out of Wihll. The quick removal caused him to emit a terrorizing scream as he dropped to the ground. His apparent wound showed up on his uniform with a large bloodstain in the middle. Wihll lay there with his eyes open and mouth agape as Eva withdrew her sword.
“Are you hurt, Eva?” Sorin asked.
“Not physically,” she replied.
“I’m really sorry, Eva,” Mina said. “If it were me in your shoes, I don’t know what I would have done.”
“Mina, it’s okay,” Eva replied. “Let’s just keep moving.”
They walked past Wihll’s body and into the courtyard. It was as Victor said: multiple corpses were lying around the area. Mina looked away as Gavin just shook his head.
“Unbelievable,” he said.
“The doors are just ahead,” Eva said. “Gavin, Sorin, I want you behind me when we enter. Mina?”
“Yes?” Mina asked.
“I’m sorry that you had to see that,” Eva replied. “All of this, actually. This has all been so senseless.”
“It’s… it’s okay, Eva,” Mina said. “All of us need to be strong now. I… I can cry later when this is all over.”
“And I’ll be there for you,” Eva said. “Anyway, this is the only place left.”
“If they’re not here, then what?” Sorin asked.
“We won’t know until we find out,” Eva answered. “Let’s waste no more time here and go inside.”
She opened the doors and headed in. Mina walked after her and so did Sorin. Gavin headed in, but took one last look at the courtyard behind him. It was a bloody battle, indeed, but he noticed one thing missing. Rather, it was one person. It did not make sense, though, because Gavin saw it happen right before his eyes. That’s when it hit him.
“You can’t be serious!” Gavin exclaimed. “Go on ahead, I’m going to catch up with you later!”
He ran off in the direction of the gate to where Wihll once lay and found that his body was not there anymore. Gavin looked around, trying to find out where Wihll’s body went. On the ground, Gavin saw a small trail of blood off to his right. He followed the trail until he ended up at the other entrance to the President’s Palace and found that the doors had been opened.
“Shit,” Gavin said. “This can’t be happening.”
He ran up the stairs, pulling out his pistol as he went inside. It was a familiar, yet gruesome scene with the amount of dead guards inside. Gavin kept his head up and saw Wihll standing at the other end of the hall. Wihll did not appear to notice Gavin as he was facing another pair of doors, closed shut as Wihll banged his fist upon them.
“Open these doors, damn you!” Wihll shouted.
He rested his hand on the door, with his other clutching his bleeding abdomen. As Wihll did, Gavin took a look around the room: the bloody walls led up to the ceiling where a large chandelier hung. The portraits of President Rhodes laid at the floor as Gavin moved further past the columns.
Wihll banged on the door again. “I will break this fucking door down and kill you myself if it’s the last thing I do, Rhodes!”
“If anyone’s going to die here, it’s going to be you,” Gavin said. “Prepare to die you piece of shit!”
Gavin shot at Wihll, who turned around to see the bullet coming at him. Within less than a second, Wihll moved over to the side and missed the bullet meant for his head. The two men stared at one another with silence hanging in the air, Wihll’s understated breathing notwithstanding. A mere yard separated them as Gavin kept his aim on Wihll.
“This next shot won’t miss,” Gavin said. “If you have any prayers, it’s best to say them now.”
“The only one who’s going to be praying is you,” Wihll said.
He thrust his hand forward, shoving Gavin backwards. Wihll proceeded to make a break for it as Gavin tried to find his footing. It was too late for Gavin, though, as Wihll rushed up to one of the bodies and took a gun for himself.
“After all, it’s not fair if only one man has a gun, right?” Wihll asked. “I’m going to kill you, and then I’m going to kill the rest of them… And after that, I’m burning this whole palace to the fucking ground!”
Wihll cackled, with the frequent cough stopping him before he went on again. Gavin took a deep breath and aimed once more.
“I don’t care how you’ve managed to survive being stabbed,” Gavin said, “Nor do I even care about what you plan to do. What I care about is destroying you and proving once and for all that I, Gavin Power, am the best marksman to walk this earth!”
The west wing of the palace was empty as Eva looked ahead at a single golden door. It was much more dim than anyone had expected, as Sorin tried not to bump into anything.
“It’s too quiet,” Mina said.
A lone, muffled gunshot came from the distance. Everybody looked around to see where it came from, but there was no one else inside the wing. Sorin sighed as he and Mina caught up with Eva at the golden door.
“That gunshot,” Sorin said, “I have an extremely bad feeling about this.”
“We have no choice but to go on ahead,” Eva said.
“I’m worried, too,” Mina said. “Especially with Gavin. I don’t want to have another person die here today!”
Eva sighed. “Neither do I,” she said, “But it happens. We just have to hope things turn out well.”
She reached for the doorknob and turned it. The knob creaked in the quiet hall as Eva pulled the door open. What awaited the three was another empty hallway that led deeper into the palace.
“How big is this place?” Mina asked.
“Seems like we’ll have to keep going to find out,” Eva replied.
Sorin took a deep breath and exhaled. “Please, father, just be okay,” he said. “Henry and Gavin, too…”
As they continued further down the hall, passing by an occasional portrait of President Llywelyn Rhodes, Eva drew her sword. Sorin did the same as Mina hurried behind him. With the door close by, Eva used her free hand to open it but found that the door was locked.
Eva placed her hand on the door. “Damn it!”
“Is this a dead end?” Sorin asked.
“Hold on,” Eva said as she placed her ear on the door, “I can hear people talking. It might be Kirk and Henry.”
Sorin put away his sword and moved closer. “Really?”
“There’s another voice,” Eva said. “An older man… Most likely Rhodes at this point.”
She pressed her ear against the painted wood. The muffled voices of Kirk, Henry, and Rhodes were all she could hear.
“What are they talking about?” Mina asked.
“I can’t really tell,” Eva replied. “I’m hearing another voice on the other side, too, but I don’t know who it might belong to.”
“We can’t really find out right here, can we?” Sorin asked. “This door is locked; it’s practically a dead end!”
“I suppose we’ll have to turn back,” Eva said. “There should be another entrance.”
“Eva, wait,” Mina said. “That won’t be necessary at all!”
“What are you talking about, Mina?” Eva asked.
Mina pumped her fist. “Have you never heard the old saying? When one door closes, you just have to bust it open!”
Eva shook her head. “You can’t be serious…”
“Stand back, you two!” Mina exclaimed. “Watch as Mighty Mina performs a heroic act of heroism!”
She charged at the door as Eva stepped aside. With a fist thrust forward, Mina connected with the door. She struck the door as hard as she could with her fist, creating a hole in the middle of the door. Mina reached for the doorknob and unlocked it.
“That door looked sturdy, too,” Sorin said. “How is that possible?”
“It’s possible because I made it happen!” Mina replied. “There is no door or person that can withstand one of my punches!”
“We don’t have time to think about it,” Eva said, “Just open the damn door already!”
Mina blushed. “Oh, sorry!”
She opened the door wide and rushed into the hallway, with Eva and Sorin following after her. They were that much closer to reuniting with Kirk and Henry as they moved down the final hall to the president’s room.
[2740 AD; Outside of Bel, Maeitakohn – Ayanna’s troop]
“What’s the situation, Dierk?” Ayanna asked.
“Looks like a clear road ahead,” the bespectacled soldier answered.
The soldier drove the rest of the troop to Bel, with several other troops following behind them. Ayanna, ready for whatever happened next, armed herself with two guns and a sword. The other soldiers did the same. They were only a little over 50 kilometers from the city limits, prepared for the next step to be taken.
“Major Ansa, our mission seems tough,” Dierk said. “Even for us, the True Thekohnians snuck in when we least expected.”
“Soldier, regardless of what has happened, we will succeed,” Ayanna said. “They’re cornered, with nowhere else to go now. The True Thekohnians might have struck us first, but they will not win because they are outnumbered.”
“Well, I hope you’re right,” Dierk said.
Ayanna looked out the window. “I hope I am, too.”
She thought about what Gavin and the rest of his group were doing, and if they managed to survive. Ayanna assumed that they would have found a way to survive, but until she made it into Bel, there was no way for her to know. All she had to do was have faith in them to try and stop Wihll before it was too late.
“Gavin, I really hope you and the others are okay,” Ayanna said to herself, “Just please survive, that’s all I ask of you.”
To be continued…