“It’s been six months Iz. She’s gone.” Amy said carefully.
“I know, but she’s alive, out there somewhere. And I can’t help the feeling that unless she’s dead, she’s going to come back for me. For us.” Izzy said. She looked out at James, Lucas and the men, as they kicked a ball around in the garden of the Palace. Silian was getting good at football, and even though Mikhlas liked to let the kids win, he still played a strong game.
“Look, Iz, if she is stupid enough to come back, and try something, she won’t get far. You have every inch of this Realm covered. The moment she shows her face, we will have her. She can’t hide forever.”
“I know. It’s just tough to focus sometimes.”
“Yeah, I can get that, but there are a lot of things that need your attention, here. The Dock clean-up is going well, but there are a few issues you need to decide on. Silian’s handling it, but some of the merchants aren’t happy. You need to start thinking about the problems here. If she comes back, which I doubt she will, we will deal with it then. You can’t turn your back on the Realm.” Amy said.
“You’re right. I can’t keep letting her win. First, it was the nightmares, then it was the panic attacks and fear. I don’t want to live like that anymore. Moving on. Right now. No more dreading the thought of her.” Izzy smiled at Amy and her friend put her hand on her leg.
“Hey mom, come on!” James shouted at her. She waved him off and smiled.
“Have you thought about what Ali asked you?” Amy asked.
“Yeah, I have. I really want her to be able to go but getting the Nobles to be ok with a rebel girl at the Academy is a lot harder than I thought. They all agreed, but the chatter on the street is that if she does go, they will have her killed. I can’t risk her life like that.”
“Did you tell her father?”
“Yes, I did, he thinks she can handle herself.”
“Maybe she can. Besides, there are guards at the Academy. If you order them to protect her like they do the boys, she should be fine.”
“I was thinking of doing a trial run. Let her go for the six weeks away trip they have coming up. See how that goes.”
“Yeah, that could work. James will be happy. I think he has a little crush on her.” Amy joked. Izzy laughed at that. She knew he did, it was as obvious as the sun in the sky.
“He’s growing up Ams. Where did my baby boy go?” Izzy asked, looking at James playing. The last six months at the palace have done him good. He trained every day with Mikhlas and Silian, and his body had begun to fill out, not a skinny twig anymore. He was growing up to be a handsome young man.
“He’s still there, kicking a ball around. You just need to look closer.” Amy said. Izzy bumped her gently with her shoulder and smiled.
“Are you ready for tonight?” Amy asked.
“Not even close. But it’s part of the rules here, so I guess it needs to be done.” Izzy said, her smile falling.
“Come on, it’s not so bad. What girl wouldn’t want to be showered with gifts of wonder and beauty.” Amy mocked one of the advisor’s tone. Izzy let out a giggle.
“It will be an evening of jewels and gifts like you have never seen before!” Izzy copied the tone. They both laughed and didn’t realize the men had stopped playing. Only when Amy was abruptly picked up by Silian, and then Izzy by Mikhlas, did they know the game was over.
“No! Silian, don’t you dare! Put me down!” Amy shouted as he walked up to the edge of the large blue pool Izzy had put in a few months ago. Mikhlas came to stand next to him as Izzy tried to wriggle out of his grip.
“Do you think we will be in trouble for this, brother?” Silian asked Mikhlas.
“Yes! Big, big trouble!” Amy answered and when Izzy looked up she knew it was over. James and Lucas were sneaking up behind them, ready to push them all in. She braced herself and waited for the water to hit her. James shoved hard onto Mikhlas back and Lucas did the same to Silian. The men didn’t put up much of a fight, and they all ended up in the pool, fully clothed, and laughing.
“Ahh! I’m gonna kill you, you little brat! Come here!” Amy shouted at Lucas and began chasing him in the water.
“And how fairs my Queen today?” Mikhlas asked her. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her up to him, her feet dangled in the water.
“Good. Better than yesterday.” She said quietly.
“Will you tell me what happened that day?” He asked. Izzy’s smile was gone, and she turned her face away.
“I lost it. I couldn’t control the anger and it slipped out. I feel like a monster.” She said.
“You are anything but a monster. You are a fair and just Queen. What you did was a little unexpected, but not undeserving. The man was cruel to his children and to his woman, and the way he spoke to you... I would have done it myself, but you were quicker.”
“Thanks, but still, beating a man to death, in front of everyone like that, with a stone statue… I save lives, Mikhlas, not take them away.”
“Sometimes it is necessary to take a life, in order to save others. You saved Tilaria and her mother, Ameret. They are alive because of what you did.”
“I know. I’ve just never killed anyone. Not like that anyway.” She said.
“From now on, let me do the killing if it needs to be done.”
“I don’t want there to be death. Not unless it's unavoidable, or justified. I’m supposed to be fixing the Realm, not ruining it.”
“Isabelle, my sweet, sweet Isabelle. You have saved this Realm so much already. People are happy for the first time in a long time. There are still many issues that need to be dealt with, but just the changes you have made so far have brought the spirits of everyone up. Your people adore you, even if you do not.” He said.
“Forgive me, My Queen, My King. It is time to get ready.” A small female voice said to them. Izzy looked at Ameret and smiled.
“Duty calls,” Izzy said and fell back into the water.
They climbed out the pool and made their way to the Palace. Silian and Amy went off in the direction of the smallest tower, James and Lucas to the middle tower and Izzy and Mikhlas went to the top of the tallest one. They had decided that everyone needed their own space, and this worked best.
“Prime, update,” Mikhlas said as they walked into their mansion in the sky.
“All border monitors are clear. Nothing unusual has come in. There has been a rise in trade at the docks. More and more vendors are coming to the Home World. The Dock Cough is almost completely eradicated. There are a few people that still refuse the help of the Fleet, but they will either come around or be dead soon...”
“Prime!” Izzy said.
“Forgive me. I will send a command out for the Fleet to find them, and begin healing. The farm lands are growing well. Food production is reaching an optimal level. There is still a large housing issue for all the displaced dockers. There is also no sign of Kasana and Zaftar.” Prime finished.
“Increase security at the docks. Make sure all the vendors and locals are safe. We need to find the last of the dockers with the cough, this sickness must be eradicated quickly, or it will spread again. How many still need a home?” Mikhlas asked.
“There are over five million homes still needed. I cannot build that many. Not unless I repurpose my nanites. However, that will take them away from other function, like water purification, food and regeneration functions.”
“How many still need work?” He asked.
“There are over forty million without any source of income.”
“Oh God. So many?” Izzy asked.
“That is just the Home World. The rest of the Realm there is more.”
“How are we going to find jobs for so many people?” She asked. Mikhlas came over to her, and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Do not think about how far you still need to go, but focus on how far you have come. Billions of people now have clean water, food, and basic medical assistance. The schools you erected have ensured that millions of children will have an education. The law to have everyone fit and able join the Army once they finish school is far more appealing to the population than the Taking.” He said.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s enough. There are still so many people that need help.”
“Izzy, you cannot help everyone. There will be people that still chose to live like they have.”
“I know. But there must be something we can do for the millions that are willing to work.”
“You are already doing everything you can. These things take time. There is no instant solution.”
“What about the Fleet? There was an issue with them a few days ago. You dealt with it, but I never fully understood what happened.”
“Yes. The Fleet was concerned. The commanders all on edge as to how you will be punishing anyone that followed Kasana’s orders. I assured them that you will look kindly on them, as long as they swore their loyalty to you. If it is broken again, then you will punish them severely.”
“Ok. Yeah, good. Thank you.”
“Now…” He said, getting real close. “You are dripping water all over the floor. Let me take these wet clothes off you…” He said with a naughty look in his eyes. She saw Ameret quickly scurry out the room from the corner of her eye.
“We don’t have time for that Mikhlas. We need to get ready. Everyone’s waiting for us.” She said with a smile.
“You are the Queen, and I your King. Everyone… can wait.” He said, pulling off her wet shirt…