[5th of December, 2740 AD; Cupressaceae Markets, Bel, Maeitakohn – Cupressaceae District]
The clouds in the sky gathered as Johan looked up. He had finally made it to Maeitakohn. It was only a matter of time until he made it all the way to the President’s Palace, Johan thought. For now, however, he had time to think about what he had to do once he was finished with his business. Johan looked down and to the marketplace, where various people roamed throughout. He smiled and took a large cookie out of his bag.
“These people truly have no idea,” Johan said, “But they will understand when this is all over. I know that they will.”
He was not in disguise only because Johan knew that there was little, if any, Ameci presence down in Bel. The plan to oust President Mahrk seemed to be an easy one at this point but Johan understood that there was a chance that the security would be abundant, even during a time of peace. As Johan chomped into the cookie, an idea appeared in his mind. There was one way for him to enter the President’s Palace, but it required Johan using his abilities to their maximum potential. After all, using those skills was how Johan got to where he is and it was with those skills that Johan would be able to execute his plan to oust President Mahrk without a hassle.
Taking down Rodik Mahrk would be easy but getting in was the hard part, Johan thought. However, as he watched a couple of Maeita soldiers walk by, his idea came to light. If there was a way for him to secure a soldier’s uniform, then Johan would have an easy time entering the palace. However, there was but one question he had: how would he go about obtaining a uniform? Johan did not wish to take one from the passing soldiers, but he soon thought about where else he would go to get one. Yes, that was it, he concluded to himself.
“Time to make my move,” Johan said, standing up. He scanned around the immediate area and found what he was looking for. “I see. Looks like this will be easier than I thought.”
Off in the distance, a lone bus sat idling by the curb. Johan had read up on the city’s bus system before he had arrived, but had no map of his own. If Johan’s hunch was correct, however, then the bus would take him to his destination at the military base. He rushed towards the bus and got on, with several other people occupying the bus as well. Johan could see some soldiers sitting as well, furthering his conclusion that there was a connection to the base. Once the bus began to move, Johan gazed out of the window towards the market.
“Looks like it’s all moving along well,” he said. “Jelka, I know that you’re thinking the same thing, too.”
[5th of December, 2740 AD; Kunigunde Industries Headquarters, Admorse, Ameci – Atlas District]
The cold air of the cloudy, early morning only served to make Gale’s visit to Kunigunde Industries more foreboding. She had to be here but a small part of her mind was telling her to turn back. To run away. Gale found it difficult to ignore those thoughts, but she continued to remain strong. With Dia Kuu and Lowell going along with her, Gale knew that she had to move ahead with her intentions, even if that meant facing her father.
“Feeling nervous?” Lowell asked.
“A little,” Gale replied.
“That’s understandable,” Lowell said. “I guess we should be fortunate that he wanted to meet us so soon after what happened to the president.”
Dia stared at the building before her. “It feels wrong,” she said. “I don’t know why, but something about this whole meeting puts me at unease.”
“I feel the same way, too,” Gale said, “But we’ve got no choice.”
Gale spoke with Dia at Kirk’s suggestion. To hear that Dia wanted to help her was a surprise, but Gale welcomed it all the same. If Kirk was the one to suggest Dia, then Gale felt like she could trust the other woman.
“What else are we going to do?” Lowell asked. “Besides, this is the perfect opportunity, right?”
Gale nodded. “Right.”
She looked at her bag and held it close to her. Inside were her blueprints, as well as the recorder that she had asked Lowell to get. It was switched off for now, but Gale would have it ready once the meeting started. Though the chance was slim, Gale had hope that there would be some sort of slip-up from her father and that would give her something that Sorin and the others could use in taking down Foundation. Still, anxiety was difficult to subside and Gale could feel it in the bottom of her stomach.
“Even if it’s a trap, you’ll still walk into it?” Dia asked. “I suppose that this would be the only way to find out what it is you need to find out.”
“If we go running around like our asses are on fire, then we’ll never get anything done,” Lowell said. “I already know what Isaac’s thinking: he’s thinking that he’ll be able to intimidate Gale. Intimidation is his modus operandi, which isn’t surprising at all.”
It was rare for Gale to speak with her father growing up, but when she did, it was always the same. He had always resented her. Gale had thought it was due to the fact that her mother had died when she was born, but as the years went on with no change in Isaac’s behavior, she questioned that belief she held. A mother she never knew, yet Gale felt sympathetic towards her. Isaac was always a cold, distant man, who prided himself on his legacy, Gale thought. That alone was reason enough for Gale to think the Isaac always considered her as nothing more than a mere afterthought.
“He’s obsessed with himself,” Gale said. “He doesn’t care what others think of him, which is why he thinks he can get away with his crimes.”
“Seems to be the case with most of these men,” Dia said.
“No one is invulnerable to justice,” Lowell replied. “Even those who wield power that feel like they will never falter, they will eventually lose out.”
“You seem certain that it will be the case,” Dia said.
“Believe me, when you’ve lived as long as I have, you learn plenty of things,” Lowell said, “And one of those things happens to be the fact that a man like Isaac can hold his head up high, unaware of what fate awaits him from below. It has happened before and it will happen again.”
“I guess we’ll see whether or not your assumption is right,” Dia replied.
“Anyway, we should go inside, right?” Gale asked. “We’ve been standing out in the cold for a while now…”
“You’re right,” Lowell said. “Let’s not waste any more time here.”
Inside the headquarters of Kunigunde Industries, Gale did not feel cold but the oppressive presence was still there. Knowing that Isaac was only a few rooms away from her made her tense up as she gripped the bag on her lap. She tried to figure out what she needed to say in order to move along the conversation. But Gale found it difficult to find the right words and that was what frightened her: not the fact that she had to meet Isaac, but the worry that she would not be able to even speak in his presence, which would she knew would confirm to him all that he believed. She hated that most of all.
Lowell glanced over at Gale. “Are you doing alright there?”
Gale nodded. That was all she could do at this point, because now it felt impossible to even speak.
“She’s nervous,” Dia said. “Even from here, it’s blatantly obvious that she’s feeling the pressure that’s been put upon her.”
“Look, we’re all nervous here,” Lowell said. “If she’s shaking in her boots, it’s only because of how close all of us are to the truth.”
“Did you not forget why Gale is here in the first place?” Dia asked. “I’ve talked with her beforehand and she’s made it clear to me what she wants out of this meeting.”
“I’m well aware, Mrs. Kuu,” Lowell replied. “I’m not diminishing Gale’s intentions in the slightest. There’s just a more important goal for us that we all have to accomplish, that’s all.”
Dia turned her head away from Lowell. “There was a voice in the back of my head before I got here,” she said, “Seems like it was right: coming here was an absolute mistake.”
Lowell groaned. “I’m trying my best to keep morale high here,” he replied. “What a pain in the ass… I’ll be sure to let Isaac know exactly how I feel once he shows his face.”
As if it were almost on cue, Isaac walked into the meeting room. Casper and Fercewend followed after him and both dressed well for the meeting. It was now or never, Gale thought, because otherwise she would end up second guessing herself on the way back to Rezar. It did not matter to her how daunting it was, she had to speak up. She got up to her feet, placed her bag aside, and decided to speak without hesitation.
“Hello, Isaac,” Gale said, “And to you too, Mr. President.”
Isaac raised his eyebrow as he glared at the bag on the chair. “That’s odd,” he said. “I was under the assumption that there were to be no bags of any kind at this meeting.”
“It’s an easy mistake to make,” Fercewend said.
“Yet, it stands out like moldy strawberries on a cake,” Casper said. “It’s much too much a risk to have here in this room.”
“Sorry, Gale,” Fercewend said, “But you’ll have to hand that bag over to me for the time being.”
Gale looked over at the bag. It would be difficult without the recording device, but what would make it worse is if the recording device was discovered. She felt hesitant to give it up to Rohan, but she felt like she had no choice in the matter.
“General, I believe we have more important issues at hand,” Lowell said. “It would be best if we didn’t sidetrack ourselves with trivial matters.”
“Trivial?” Isaac asked. “You know my policy, Lowell. You should consider it an honor to even be in the same room with me right now.”
“Let’s do as he says, Isaac,” Casper said. “Our friend’s got a good point, so maybe we should entertain his request for now.”
Isaac scowled, crossing his arms as he appeared to think it over. Gale, despite having confidence, worried about whether or not she would falter. She took a deep breath and eyed Lowell, who still sat in his chair.
“Very well,” Isaac said. “If you say it’s okay, Mr. President, then I’m okay with it. Let’s go.”
He turned away and headed back the way he came in. Casper left with him, while Fercewend met with Gale. She picked up the bag from the chair and held it close to her as Lowell and Dia stood up. It was official: there was no turning back from what was going to happen next.
“I guess we should go, too,” Gale said.
“It should be fine, Gale,” Fercewend said. “It’ll only be for a few minutes… I’ll make sure that Isaac understands.”
She wanted to thank him, but even if she did so, it still would not change the fact that Isaac had his sights set on her. It would be hard to convince him of her ideas, even with an open mind like Rohan in the room. Getting Isaac to slip up would be harder, but at this point, Gale had to try.
“I’ll be okay,” Gale replied. “I know I will.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” Fercewend said. “Let’s not waste any more time, shall we?”
Fercewend went on ahead, leaving Gale to think about what she would say next. Regardless, she could not stay in the same place.
“He’s right, whether we like it or not,” Lowell said. “I don’t like Isaac at all, but I’d rather not leave him alone with Casper for too long.”
“Then we should move,” Dia replied. “It’s now or never, Gale.”
“I got it,” Gale said.
The time for thinking was over, Gale thought. Now Gale had to act, and she was going to try and give her best performance in front of a tough crowd. Though she was nowhere near the level of someone like Law, Gale knew that she had to put on a brave face and face her fears. At the very least, she would not let Isaac bring her down to his level.
[5th of December, 2740 AD; location unknown, Hurst, Iiayikohn]
Rysol jarred himself awake with a sudden cough. The darkness surrounded him once again and he had no way to move. His arms remained restrained as the cold chains around his body made him shiver. There was no doubt about it in his mind that Harold needed him, however, Rysol was certain that he could continue his resistance. That was when the door opened inside his cell.
“I was wondering when you would awaken,” Harold said. “It seems that your resolve is strong, after all.”
“What do you even want with me?” Rysol asked.
“That useless idiot is running around right now in Rezar,” Harold said. “I can only imagine what he’s doing right now… It is tempting to do something about his recklessness, but I must stay my hand for now lest I repeat the same mistake.”
“Answer… Answer my question!” Rysol demanded.
“Ah yes, I was commenting on your resolve,” Harold replied. “I got so wrapped up in what Korbin was doing that I almost forgot about you. A simple, yet justifiable mistake.”
Harold walked closer to Rysol, who tried to move his hands but was restrained by the cuffs.
“Struggle as you will, those cuffs will not break,” Harold said. “You could say that my resolve is much stronger than yours.”
“You… You’re a lucky man that I’m in this state,” Rysol replied. “If it were not for that, I…”
Harold interrupted. “You would what? Kill me? Please, tell me that you would kill me,” he said. “Tell me that you’d take your blade and slash me across my throat, because I would welcome the challenge!”
He took out Rysol’s sword and pointed it at the other man. Rysol growled as Harold put the sword back into the sheath.
“You wonder why I haven’t killed yet?” Harold asked. “It’s because I want to know how much you’ll take before you succumb to the hopelessness of your situation!”
“You’re mad,” Rysol said.
Harold grinned. “Perhaps I am indeed mad,” he replied. “Perhaps I’m the one that’s mad and you’re the one who’s right. Of course, we both know that isn’t the case.”
“What are you talking about?” Rysol asked.
“Don’t you remember?” Harold asked. “Who was it all those years ago that saved you? The man that had taken you in after you witnessed that grisly tragedy so many years back… You remember, don’t you Rysol?”
Rysol gritted his teeth. This man had to be lying, he thought.
“I can see it in your eyes that you don’t believe me,” Harold said. “You wish to believe in your heart the man you call your father is a noble man with noble intentions, but we both know that that’s far from the truth.”
“Shut up,” Rysol said. “Shut up!”
“There is only so much on can go through until they realize how hopeless their situation is,” Harold said, “And once you’ve learned the truth… Well, I worry that your hopes will be dashed once I’ve told you everything that you need to know. What will happen once I do that, I wonder?”
Rysol did not want to hear it. Harold had a devious smile on his face that confirmed Rysol’s suspicions, but with no way to turn back, Rysol had no choice. He had to withstand it. For the sake of Johan and Jelka, Rysol had to remain strong. For the sake of his father, Rysol had to dismiss those lies. For the sake of Sorin, he had to believe in himself. That was the only way that he could remain sane against Harold’s despair.
To be continued…