[2nd of January, 2741 AD; Helmut Hospital – Patient Ward, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Giga District]
Sorin watched Isaac open his eyes. He stood near the entrance to the room while the others looked on as Fercewend took a seat next to the hospital bed. The entire room was silent, save for Johan. He cleared his throat as he walked over to the bed and stared down Isaac. The injured man could only groan as Johan took a deep breath. Sorin felt as if everyone except for Fercewend had been waiting for this moment to come, with Johan ready to start.
“Johan Kuu,” Fercewend said. “So you’ve decided to show your face. Have you come to gloat in our faces?”
“I’m here for one reason, general,” Johan replied. “Isaac Kunigunde knows a lot about Harold Mars and I intend to draw the truth out of him.”
Isaac looked up at Johan. “You… Do you expect me to cooperate with you? A traitor that thinks of himself before his own country?”
“Funny that you’d accuse me of your wrongdoings,” Johan said. “After all, you were the one who tried to get Piere Hasker out of the way. A man that cares more for his own status before his country… That would certainly describe you, Isaac Kunigunde.”
Isaac laughed, which then broke with a cough. “Do you forget the position you’re in? Rohan, waste no time in arresting this treasonous vermin.”
“I can’t do that,” Fercewend said.
“This is an order,” Isaac said. “Don’t think that you can deny my requests just because I’m injured!”
“I’m saying I can’t do that because the moment President Hasker arrives in Rezar, I will no longer be general,” Fercewend said. “I intend to tell him all about what I know and I will make sure that Casper Bradley testifies as well.”
“You’re going to betray me, too?” Isaac asked. “You’d betray Ameci?”
“This is not betrayal,” Fercewend said. “This is for the good of everyone, even if it comes at the cost of my reputation.”
“It’s no use, Isaac,” Henry said. “Your Foundation is falling apart, so I would suggest that you start talking.”
“Why would I listen to you of all people?” Isaac asked. “You were never fit to be general of the Ameci military, much less share the same glory as Rohan and I. That’s why I made sure you never had a chance.”
“That’s interesting,” Johan said. “Henry, perhaps you like to ask him about what he means?”
“I think I already have an idea,” Henry said.
“Isaac, what did you do?” Fercewend asked.
“Any threat to you is a threat to me,” Isaac said. “That’s why I had to make sure that Henry Randolph could never become general. Connections are pretty easy to make, which was how I got the rumors to float around in the first place. Ameci’s officials needed a nudge and I gave it to them by way of having Henry accused of treason, but that was all I did!”
“With how you’re confessing now, you’re trying to take the easy way out,” Johan said. “Of course you’d admit to such a crime because you would effectively walk away with nothing more than a mere reprimand.”
“Bullshit,” Gavin said. “With what he just said, this asshole deserves to be locked away for the rest of his life!”
“And yet, without proof, we stand with no ground beneath our feet,” Johan said. “Sorin, you didn’t forget, did you?”
Sorin reached into his pocket. “I’ve got what you need right here,” he said as he pulled out the two documents. “I don’t know how you’re going to use these, but I’ll let you have them.”
He went over to Johan and handed the papers over to him. Isaac tried to lift up his arms, but lacked the strength to do so as Johan began to read out loud. The whole room was silent except for Johan, his soft-spoken commentary describing in detail the connection between Isaac and Harring.
“That’s everything on here,” Johan said, stuffing the folded up papers in his pants pocket. “I’m sure there’s a lot more we can access with General Fercewend’s assistance, but for now we can talk about your connection with Harold Mars.”
Isaac groaned a light chuckle. “So you’ve got a piece of paper with some ink on it. So what? That signature doesn’t belong to me!”
“I’m sure if we ask Rohan, he’d tell us,” Gale replied.
“I don’t need to see the papers to know that it came from Isaac,” Fercewend said. “Please, for my sake, it would be better if you talked.”
“Yeah, otherwise, who knows what will happen next?” Law asked.
“All of you are traitors,” Isaac said. “Every last one of you… I suggest that all of you begin praying, because I will inform Hasker about all of this! Even you, Rohan, will be dealt with for trying to stab me in the back!”
“Guess you’re going to fight us to the end, then,” Law said. “Well, then you shouldn’t blame anyone but yourself when Harold finds out you’re still alive and kicking.”
“Harold?” Isaac asked. “He’s here?”
“Oh, well, none of us know that,” Law replied. “We just know that he’s still roaming around the city and once he learns about you, I’m sure he’ll want to pay you a visit.”
“He would come and finish me off, would he?” Isaac said. “That he would go against our contract… The man is beyond comprehension! Why would he go and put trust in his son over me now, of all times!?”
“I don’t think he really trusts Korbin,” Johan said. “If you really want to know what I think, it’s that Harold deems Korbin much more useful than you ever could be.”
“That is immensely ludicrous,” Isaac scoffed. “Harold is the one who should know his place in the world, not me!”
“What makes you say that?” Johan asked. “Remember, Harold left you for dead not too long ago.”
“I was the one who saved him from his watery demise,” Isaac said. He set his sights over to Sorin. “When your father mercilessly decided to chase after him on that boat, I knew that I could not afford to lose a man like him.”
“My family is dead because of that man,” Sorin said. “All of this pain is due to Harold Mars and you want to say that my father is the bloodthirsty one?”
“I don’t care what you think,” Isaac replied. “Men like Kirk only got in the way of my goals and I needed a way to deal with him. If it weren’t for Harold’s own ruthlessness, Kirk would’ve been the one to die in his house!”
“Tell me, then,” Sorin said. “Why did you want my father dead? What was the reason? Answer me!”
“I didn’t want the war to end,” Isaac replied. “The Swords of Eight worked hard to make sure that the Ameci and Thekohnian regions operated in peace, but for me, it was akin to an incoming drought. After all, there’s a lot of money to be made when militaries need firepower.”
“Was that why you had Alan killed as well?” Henry asked.
“I think you should already know that answer,” Johan said. “Isaac sees each person as expendable. He did not care at all whether or not they fell so long as he continued to remain untouched. If it came to the worst, Isaac would have had no trouble begging for help so long as it benefitted him.”
“So it seems,” Fercewend said.
“And so what if that’s the case?” Isaac asked. “I… I’m not about to lose to a nobody like you!”
“Yet you’re telling us nearly everything that you know,” Gale said. “I don’t know if you’ve realized or not, but you’ve already lost.”
“I-Impossible,” Isaac replied. “To have you tell me that… To be shown up by my daughter, an idiotic woman with absolutely no life experience of her own… You’re the one that’s making a fool of me?”
“It’s over, Isaac,” Henry said.
“I’m going to ask you one important question and you’re going to answer me,” Johan said to Isaac. “What is Harold’s plan? What does he want now that he has you out of the way?”
“His plan?” Fercewend asked. “Was his plan not to betray Isaac?”
“That is one part of it, yes,” Johan replied. “However, I’m asking about his ambitions outside of that. Harold Mars has a lot of secrets he’d rather not be out in the open, which is why he’s been mostly operating behind the scenes.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t betray you sooner,” Sorin said to Isaac.
“You speak as if you know the man yourself,” Isaac said.
“Well, I think I know enough to realize how much of a threat he truly is,” Sorin said. “That’s why Johan is asking you. Harold’s plan… does it involve profiteering from the tragedies of war as well?”
Isaac turned his head away, facing Fercewend. “There is a reason why we were in a contract,” he said. “Foundation was built as a way to rule this world without needlessly getting our hands dirty. Only when it was necessary would we go out and take care of things ourselves.”
“That’s why you killed Harring, then?” Sorin asked. “Because you couldn’t trust anybody to do it yourself?”
“What a fool you are, Sorin Wilk,” Isaac replied. “I only killed him because I wanted to, of course.”
“He could have had anyone do it, really,” Johan said. “But he wanted to see for himself what it was like to kill another man.”
“All this time, he was the one who took the chancellor’s life,” Fercewend said. “And for what? You wanted even more money?”
“That’s exactly why I did it,” Isaac said.
“You’ve lost me, then,” Fercewend said. “That blood will remain on your hands forever.”
“Even if I had regrets, it would change nothing,” Isaac said. “Harring was as much in this as Dezine and Bradley. It just so happened that he got the shortest stick of them all.”
“Which means you would’ve killed one of them, too, if you wanted to,” Gale said. “Because your only reason was because you felt like it.”
“It does seem that way,” Law said. “It’s a frightening thought for sure, not knowing if you’re the next one with a target on your back just because Isaac felt like he needed a fix.”
“But if you were so desperate to have a war so bad, why did you not go after Rain?” Henry asked. “She was the one who organized the summit, so would it not be logical for you to target her instead?”
“It would’ve been obvious,” Johan said. “If it had gone differently, it would have been bad for Isaac. That’s why Harring had to die, in Isaac’s mind.”
“So we know that Isaac had to have Ahnlikohn’s chancellor killed,” Gavin said. “What about Harold’s plan, damn it?”
“Yes, I do believe we’re getting off track,” Johan said. “I’m sure Isaac is all but willing to let this tangent go on further, but it’s time to start answering the real question.”
“That means right now,” Fercewend said. “No more excuses, no more of you trying to divert away from Harold. As long as he’s around, then we cannot afford to ignore him.”
“Like I said, I was using Foundation to rule this world,” Isaac said. “Harold and his ambitions—his plan—involved using his immense ruthlessness in order to help me accomplish that goal. By thrusting these regions into war, it would’ve been easy to have everyone working to our benefit.”
“And by having you out of the way, Harold wants to claim it all to himself,” Henry said. “Is this what you’re suggesting?”
“Make of it what you want,” Isaac said. “I’ve no desire to continue further down this path with you.”
“Then it’s a shame,” Johan said. “If you’re so sworn to spewing venom until the very end, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you rot away in prison all by yourself.”
Isaac chuckled. “If I had any regrets, I know none of you would buy it,” he replied. “I lost this battle, plain and simple.”
“This battle?” Gavin asked. “You’re going to lose a lot more than that, you know. Just give it the fuck up already.”
“Giving up is a loser’s move,” Isaac said. “Even if I am sent away to prison for life, I wouldn’t even begin to think about giving you all the satisfaction of my surrender.”
“Bro, he’s known the situation ever since he got here,” Law said. “That he would continue to act all high and mighty is only a show. Not that it’s a very good one to begin with, but it is a show meant only to boost his damaged ego.”
“I already know that, Lawrence,” Gavin replied.
“He’s already told us what we need to know,” Gale said. “Isaac put his trust in someone he thought he could control, but it ended up backfiring on him.”
“When you deal with a man known as ‘The Ruthless,’ it shouldn’t be any surprise if he sets his sights on you,” Henry said to Isaac. “Even Kirk was well aware of the risks of going up against him, but he was a lot more courageous than you would ever hope to be.”
Isaac had no response, only a scowl upon his face.
“Of course, Harold was more than happy to do your dirty work as long as it benefitted him,” Henry said. “As long as it meant he got to deliver his own wicked brand of pain, Mr. Mars was happy to work alongside you.”
Henry walked away from the hospital bed and headed for the door. Isaac continued to lay as he had no way of getting out on his own power.
“But even someone as tactical as you should’ve seen it coming,” Henry said. “This day had been coming because Harold’s ruthlessness doesn’t hold itself back against men like you. If someone like Harring could fall, then so could you.”
“And that’s why Harold wants to rule all by himself,” Johan said. “With you out of the way, he wants to create that sort of world where he sits at the top.”
“That’s the goal of Foundation,” Sorin said. “It just so happened that Harold was the one in charge the whole time.”
“Indeed,” Johan replied. “But I think we’ve got all we needed from Isaac, so I don’t see the point in remaining here for much longer. General, I take it that you will be the one to watch over him for the time being?”
“That’s my intention, yes,” Fercewend answered.
“Are you truly going to listen to him?” Isaac asked. “This man has tried time and time again to undermine us and you want to listen to him?”
“I believe that there is truth to what he says,” Fercewend said. “Mr. Kuu, if you are really going after Harold Mars… If that’s what you’re going to do now, the only thing I will suggest is for you to be careful.”
“I already know what the risk is,” Johan said. “Besides, I’ve got a good idea where to find Harold. Let’s get moving.”
With that said, everyone except Fercewend and Isaac left the room. Sorin felt the urgency rising with each step he took down the hall. Meanwhile, Johan led the way out to the lobby where everyone reconvened with what they were going to do next. If Johan knew where Harold was hiding, then the best time to say it was right now.
“Tell us where you think Harold is,” Gavin said to Johan.
“Before I do that, I think it’d be good to let everyone know what’s going on,” Johan said. “We should hurry up and meet the others at the new prime minister’s office as we don’t have much time.”
“You mean Harold won’t stay in Rezar for too long,” Gale said. “I’m not sure what he’s going to do now, but do you believe he’s really going to come back so he can kill Isaac?”
“I don’t know about that,” Johan answered. “What I know is that Harold is going to be on the move soon. He’s not going to stay here for too long, which is why we’re gonna have to think fast.”
“It’s a frightening thought,” Sorin said. “He could be just around the corner, waiting for us. He’s going to want us all dead, that’s for sure.”
“He’s only one man,” Henry said. “Even with his son, that is only two while we have a larger count. Besides, it’s not as if he can keep running away.”
“That’s true,” Gavin said. “I’m sure that with Ayanna and Reiss’ help, we’ll be able to track down those two before they can even think about fleeing.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Johan said.
“What do you mean?” Gavin asked. “Wouldn’t it be easier for us if we had the Iiayikohnian military on our side?”
“If we had that many people after him, Harold would know easily,” Johan replied. “His recent operation had to involve just him and Korbin, so I’m not so sure that he would have any lackeys available to help him.”
“The Blood Ravens, you mean,” Sorin said.
“I’m sure Harold would have no trouble recruiting some goons to fight for him,” Henry said. “But I believe that Johan is correct: we cannot pursue Harold with a great number of soldiers roaming the streets of Rezar.”
“Which is why we need a plan in place,” Johan said. “Gale, I’m going to go and put my trust in you to speak with Ayanna and Reiss about that matter.”
“Okay,” Gale replied. “Wait, does that mean you’re going to find him all by yourself? That’s dangerous!”
“You’re exactly right,” Johan said. “Sorin, buddy, this is going to be our final job together. You ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Sorin said.
“You guys are really going together, huh,” Law said. “You really do want all the glory for yourself, don’t you?”
Johan grinned. “I’m not afraid to share, if you want.”
“If I go, then bro’s gonna want to come, too,” Law replied. “And if he comes, then I’m sure that Mina would like to go with, then Eva would go and then who knows what will happen next? The number would only go up and up from there, so it would be better if you two led first.”
“If we can’t get him ourselves, then it’s up to you guys,” Sorin said.
“Just run if it gets tough,” Gale said. “I don’t want you to die.”
“We’re not going to plan on dying any time soon,” Johan said. “Not as long as I’m around.”
“We’ll be fine,” Sorin said to Gale.
“I hope so,” she said.
“I promise you that if things look bad, I’ll run,” Sorin said. “I’ll run as fast as I can, Gale.”
“He’d have to, anyway,” Law said. “You don’t want to be stationary when you’re going up against an oncoming truck, do you?”
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” Gavin asked.
“I’m saying that Harold’s the truck,” Law replied. “Did you not get that one, bro?”
“I got it,” Gavin said.
“Good, then we’ve got no time to waste,” Law said. “To the prime minister’s office we go.”
“Well, if that’s the case, then I’m going to see Rohan,” Henry said.
“You are?” Gale asked.
“There’s one thing I forgot to ask him about,” Henry said. “It’ll only be for a minute at most.”
Henry turned around and headed back into the patient ward. Sorin and the others, though, began to head outside the hospital. Once outside, everyone saw an old green motorcycle parked over by the curb. Sorin watched as Johan walked to the motorcycle and started it up.
“Is that your entrance?” Gavin asked. “Just where in the hell did you get that ride?”
“Oh, well, it actually belongs to one of my allies,” Johan replied. “I know it looks a little beat up, but it actually carried me to and from Hurst.”
“Hurst?” Law asked. “You were there?”
“Only for a moment,” Johan replied. “I had something I needed to do, that’s all, really.”
“Of course,” Gavin said. “I’m not going to question it.”
“If you won’t, then I guess I won’t, either,” Law said. “So you’re going to use that to find Harold?”
“We’ll cover a lot more ground this way,” Johan said as he hopped onto the motorcycle’s seat. “I’m sorry, Sorin, but it looks as if you’re going to have to sit behind me for the time being.”
“I’ve got no problem with that,” Sorin replied.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Law said. “Surely you must be a little jealous of this, Gale.”
“You shouldn’t assume things,” Gale replied. “Just get going. I’ll catch up with you two soon once Henry gets back.”
Law shrugged. “Let’s do what she says, bro.”
Gavin and Law went off in the direction of the prime minister’s office as Sorin turned to Gale. He looked in her eyes as she did the same. He knew he was going to come back to her, but Sorin could not help but feel like this was as good a time as any to show his affection for her. As he closed in on her, Sorin knew that Gale felt the same as he did. The two met as they shared a brief kiss. It was only for a few seconds, but Sorin felt like it went on for much longer than that. When they were done, Gale pushed up her glasses as Sorin stood and waited for her to respond.
“You’ll be back soon,” she said. “I know you will.”
“And I’ll make sure that you’re the first to know,” Sorin said. “I… I love you, Gale.”
“I love you, too,” Gale said. “Please take care of him, Johan.”
It was then that Sorin went over and joined Johan on the back. He placed himself behind Johan, making sure that he stayed secure on the motorcycle as Johan revved up the engine. Finally, the two began to move as the motorcycle took them down the streets of Rezar. The pursuit for Harold was on and Sorin was ready to confront him. He was going to make sure that this time, neither Harold nor Korbin could get away with what they had done.
To be continued…