[10th of September, 2740 AD; Royal President’s House, Admorse, Ameci – Atlas District]
People crowded around the entrance to the interior library inside the royal president’s house as Kirk Wilk waited for President Hasker to arrive. While he waited, Kirk spotted Lowell Page and Tre Hendricks over by one of the book shelves. Deciding not to stand around and do nothing, Kirk walked up to the two men who were already in conversation.
“If what I’m hearing is true, then it ain’t good,” Lowell said. “Things are changing pretty fast around here, Tre.”
“No doubt about that,” Tre replied. “I’m just wondering when the hammer drops and all this hard work goes to waste.”
Lowell sighed. “Fucking shame is what it is,” he said. “That president’s got a lot to explain, I’ll say.”
“Ah, but we ought to just wait for him to arrive first, don’t we?” Tre asked. He then noticed Kirk standing by his side. “So you decided to come and see Piere, haven’t you Kirk?”
“Well, it was more like he invited me,” Kirk answered. “Special access and all, you know.”
Tre grinned. “I take it you saw the ruckus outside?”
“It’s interesting,” Kirk said. “Apparently something happened last night in Iiayikohn, according to the president.”
“Between not going to the meeting in Rezar and this, something stinks,” Lowell said. “Only way to find out is to hear it from the man himself.”
“Perhaps he had a bad meal the night before?” Tre asked. “Nah, seems too likely to be true. What do you think, Kirk?”
“Only General Fercewend knows,” Kirk replied.
“Rohan isn’t one to share the secrets, especially if they’d be detrimental to Ameci,” Tre said. “Though, if you ask me, the guy you really oughta look for is Kunigunde. Wonder if he’s going to show his face here.”
“I hope he does,” Lowell said. “That way I can tell that bastard to his face that I have no interest in giving up my shipyard to his company.”
The door at the other side of the library opened and revealed President Piere Hasker and Isaac Kunigunde. Hasker wore a black suit as he walked over to the desk and took a seat behind it while Isaac, in a gray suit, took a seat next to him. No one else entered, so the other three men decided to take their seats to the opposite of the president and Isaac.
“There was a little fire in my ear just now,” Isaac said. “Seems to me that you were just talking about me right now, Lowell. Something about calling me a ‘bastard’ of some sorts?”
“I’m not afraid to say it,” Lowell replied. “You are truly a fucking bastard.”
Isaac clapped his hands. “Oh, that’s what I expected out of you, Mr. Page,” he said. “Brash as ever! It takes some serious nerve to say what you just said.”
“Let me just apologize for my friend’s words here,” Tre said. “Clearly we’re here for something more important, aren’t we? After all, it was the president himself that called us over here.”
“And thank you for bringing that up,” Hasker said. “You two can talk about your problems afterwards. Now, though, is a time in which I must deliver some difficult news.”
“What is that?” Kirk asked.
“I’ve received a call earlier from the vice prime minister, Wilson Dezine,” Hasker began. “That call happened because the prime minister, Alan Berry, was assassinated early this morning. Since you were all connected to him, I felt it important to inform you.”
Lowell grumbled. “And you have no idea who is responsible?”
“The Iiayikohnian government doesn’t know yet, either,” Hasker answered. “Clearly, though, with this news we are entering uncertain times.”
“I knew there were some people who didn’t like Alan, but to think that someone would go out of their way to kill him… I can’t believe it,” Tre said. “It feels like I’ve just lost my brother.”
Isaac smirked. “Don’t let the fact that he’s dead distract you from the reality,” he said. “This was an inevitability based upon Berry’s own lack of rigidity regarding the True Thekohnians. Opponents saw that and figured that they could take advantage of a foolishly idealistic man.”
“You want to say that again?” Lowell asked. “It might just be my old age, but I could’ve sworn you were trying to besmirch Alan’s good name!”
“Feel free to think what you want, Mr. Page,” Isaac replied. “Just so you know, this is not what I think but rather it’s what the masses believe. That’s right, the man you call your ‘brother’ is nothing more than an afterthought in the eyes of the world.”
“There’s no reason to drop this low, Isaac,” Kirk said. “We all know why you’re here, anyway.”
“Dezine’s already set to make an announcement,” Hasker said, “And with that, there’s still a funeral to attend. My main reason for asking you here was to attend with me to said funeral.”
“That’s not something you needed to ask us,” Kirk replied. “Of course we’ll go. Why would we not?”
“It’s only a formality,” Hasker answered. “I knew that you all wouldn’t say no once you’ve heard the details. Besides, it would be a good chance for me to make up for not appearing in Rezar earlier.”
“Time is passing by with each day, I’d say,” Isaac said. “It would be a good idea for me to stretch my legs once more and personally see through that we set things right with our allies in Iiayikohn.”
“Anyway, Hasker, I assume that we’ll be moving soon,” Kirk said. “I would guess that you’ll have a ship ready later today.”
“That’s correct, Mr. Wilk,” Hasker said. “Of course, I will give you three some time to gather whatever you wish to take. Two hours from now, meet us at the Official Dock.”
“Don’t need to tell me twice,” Lowell said.
“Besides, us three had a vow in case something happened to one of us,” Tre said. “There’s no way we’re missing out on seeing Alan one last time.”
Hasker smiled. “Great, then everything is set,” he said. “I will await your arrival.”
He stood up and walked out the same back door in which he entered, while Isaac stayed behind. Kirk got up to his feet, as did Lowell and Tre, and proceeded to leave.
“You know, it’s really a shame for you three,” Isaac said.
Kirk turned around and looked at Isaac. “Pardon me?”
“Alan Berry was the leader of the Swords of Eight, was he not?” Isaac asked. He stepped out of his chair and approached the three men. “There were people who believed in what he said so deeply, that this news is only going to bring them pain as they realize that their hero wasn’t so invincible after all.”
“Are you looking for trouble?” Lowell asked. “Because if you want, I can give you some trouble.”
“Go ahead, Mr. Page,” Isaac said, “But you should know that what happens in this room stays in this room and if you choose to make a stink about later, I can assure you that you will experience humiliation on my behalf.”
“Mr. Kunigunde, while I respect you, I can’t respect your attacks on my good friend,” Tre replied. “We’ve only just gotten the news and you only wish to antagonize Alan despite all the good he accomplished.”
“You keep thinking that this is what I think,” Isaac said. “Like I’ve stated before, it’s not my belief but rather those of the public. I suppose that I could excuse your simple mindedness based on your relation to Alan, though that train of thought is exactly the same one that Alan had and we all know what happened to him.”
Kirk took a deep breath and exhaled. “Isaac, perhaps it’s best if you followed President Hasker’s example and took your leave,” he said. “We’re all busy men here, after all.”
“Please, none of you are as busy as I am,” Isaac replied. “In fact, I had to cancel an entire week’s worth of meetings just so I could take this little excursion overseas.”
He quickly turned around and saw himself to the exit in the back as Kirk looked back at Lowell and Tre. Lowell had his eyes closed and his arms crossed as Tre just laughed.
“That man certainly is a joker,” Tre said.
“Only he doesn’t make me laugh,” Lowell replied. “I’d like to see exactly how he’d react if one of his closest friends bit it, but I’m not even sure if that man has friends.”
“Best not to think about it too much,” Kirk said. “Isaac’s clearly trying to get a rise out of us for his own amusement.”
“Hard not to when he’s trying to join himself at the hip with Hasker,” Tre said. “Really wonder if those rumors are true.”
Kirk’s eyes lit up. “Rumors?”
“You and I both know that Hasker ain’t exactly the most liked guy around the neighborhood,” Tre replied. “Nothing against him, because I think he’s a nice fellow, but when he’s turning to Isaac Kunigunde of all people, you know it’s not good.”
“I was worried about that,” Kirk said. “I can only wonder what will happen if Hasker is ousted.”
“You want my opinion?” Tre asked. “Take a look at Fercewend; he’s setting himself up for a potential shot at president. Even now, people are looking at him to take the reins once Hasker’s done.”
“The only question is when will Rohan make that announcement,” Lowell said, “But I’m already getting tired of being here. You two are free to stay, but I have to get ready.”
Lowell left Tre and Kirk as the two decided to follow suit and head out themselves. Kirk had to prepare for the trip, which was something he did not expect to happen. There was also the fact that Eva was travelling to Iiayikohn, Alan’s death unbeknownst to her. Kirk tried to get things in order before he had to make his departure as a cloud of uncertainty hanged above him.
[10th of September, 2740 AD; Helm – Outer Area, Ahnlikohn]
It was only a hunch that he would appear, but Johan spotted Victor Wihll running through the forest as he made his way to approach the escaped inmate. Wihll took a stop to catch his breath while Johan clapped his hands.
“I had a feeling that you’d be here,” Johan said. “Something told me that you would never risk going back to Rezar.”
Wihll spoke between breaths. “Who the hell are you?”
“Come on, Victor, don’t you recognize a friend when you see one?” Johan asked. “After our little conversation the other night, I was sure you’d greet me with a much more friendly gesture.”
“Sorry, but I’ve no time to chat with someone I don’t know,” Wihll said. “Not when I’ve got these Neu Thekohnians chasing my ass.”
Johan looked around. “Doesn’t seem like they’re close,” he said. “I think you might have actually shaken them off.”
“You’re not pulling my leg, are you?” Wihll asked.
“I wouldn’t lie,” Johan replied.
Wihll awkwardly straightened himself up and cleared his throat. “It was all because of that damned man,” he said. “The son of a bitch appeared out of nowhere and helped me without a care in the world.”
“Perhaps it’s a sign,” Johan said.
“My ass it is!” Wihll retorted. “Death still sticks on me like a rotten odor. Is that truly a sign from god?”
“It just means that your potential will only get better from here on out,” Johan answered. “God or no god, that potential is inside you and I’m sure that you’ll put it to good use.”
“You say that, yet I don’t believe you,” Wihll said. “You must be an Ameci for sure. If I had a weapon, I’d kill you right about now.”
Johan laughed. “I’m not here to play sides,” he said. “My nationality means very little in regards to my plans.”
“Only an idiot would believe something as stupid as what you just said,” Wihll replied. “A bunch of lies!”
“That’s what you want to think?” Johan asked. “Either way, I know for a fact that you’ve got nothing right now. That’s why I’m here.”
“What could you possibly want with me?”
“I personally don’t need you by my side,” Johan said, “But there is someone who you will want to run into. Someone who can help you take down the Neu Thekohnian Order.”
Wihll growled. “You think I want to take them down?”
“They’re not very fond of the True Thekohnians, from what I’ve gathered,” Johan replied. “What they want is an all out war for their own desires. My goal is to prevent such a thing from happening.”
“And that’s why you came to me…”
Johan shrugged. “I’m going to repeat what I told you that night,” he said, “Right now, your opponent has you in check. The purpose of your next move is not only to get out of check, but to also avoid a possible checkmate.”
There was the faint sound of wind rustling through the trees as the leaves and branches moved. Wihll had no response, but Johan took a step closer to him.
“If you want to kill me right now, then I invite you to do it,” Johan said. “What’s another corpse to you, after all?”
“You’re screwing with me, aren’t you?” Wihll asked. “The moment I lay my hands on you, an entire troop is going to capture me… isn’t that right?”
“I’m by myself right now, Victor,” Johan answered as he walked away from Wihll. “That’s when I do my best work, by the way. Besides, I don’t think you want to kill me, anyway.”
“You seem so sure of yourself,” Wihll said.
“Only because I can tell what would happen next,” Johan said. “You want to capture the pawn but your opponent has already anticipated that move. Instead of taking the easy kill, you should work several more steps ahead so you can put your opponent in check.”
“Get to the point.”
“The person you will want to run into will certainly be passing through Helm,” Johan replied. “I suppose you will have some problems going into town dressed as you are, so I’m going to leave you with a little gift. The bushes behind me has a small brown bag stuffed inside.”
With no choice but to listen, Wihll staggered over to the bushes and put his hand inside. Past the green he found the bag exactly as Johan described and picked it up. Victor unzipped it and pulled out a green cloak.
“It should look familiar to you,” Johan said as Wihll quickly put the cloak on. “There’s no guarantee that you’ll go unspotted but to meet with this person, you do not want to draw any more attention to yourself. I’m surprised that you put that on without much question, though.”
“What you say is true, as much as I don’t want to admit it,” Wihll replied. “Don’t take this as me thanking you, however, because I’m only in this for myself.”
“Then I’ll make my exit,” Johan said. “I really wish that we could have these conversations under different circumstances, but we’ll have to take what we can get.”
Wihll chose not to respond and instead ran off for Helm as Johan chuckled and took a seat by the tree nearby. Everything was starting to move in the right direction, Johan thought. All he had to do now was make sure that his plan would stay on course before someone tried to interfere with it. Johan knew that there was little time before he had to move again and with the Neu Thekohnian Order fast approaching his location, he had to act fast.
To be continued…