A Glitch in Humanity

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Chapter 26

They had planned to march from the Desert Region through the High and Low districts to the capital. Along the way, Imani, Bahati, Stella and Akil, along with the other two hundred people in the underground room, would have picked up hundreds of other supporters. Once at the capital, they would have overthrown Ekon. It is a brilliant plan, an honorable one. They would have left yesterday, but it has been raining since earlier last evening and has not stopped, and today is the day of the UJC vote.

The underground room is one large space, having one restroom, one kitchen and barely any furniture. Piles of old clothes are the closest things the group has to beds. Making the problem worse is the dated, poorly working ventilation system which leaves the air muggy and hard to breathe.

Imani sits beside Bahati in a corner that allows them to see everyone in the room. Bahati prefers to sit here and denies being paranoid when Imani calls her out. “Creo should have taught you to keep your guard up” has become Bahati’s regular warning. Imani agrees but believes she is amongst friends. The people here have been tormented by Ekon as well, and they want to take him out the picture as badly as she and Bahati want to.

Outside, the rain rages. It sounds like a gigantic water hose set on full blast. In her mind’s eyes, Imani sees the rain as a solid pour without breaks. Imani looks at all the unmoving people and silent kids, thinking the constant rain has washed away all their hope. It has robbed them of optimism and drowned them in depression.

Across the room, Stella and Akil mingle in the kitchen. Their voices are low, their gestures restrained, but Imani can see the disagreement. Stella says something. Akil shakes his head. Stella throws her hands up in frustration, walks away and turns back to him. Imani can only guess what they are arguing about this time.

Her head in Bahati’s lap, she looks up at her friend, her lover. Bahati is here physically, but her eyes stare unblinkingly into another world only she sees. Imani does not like to see her this way. She can tell that Bahati’s mood swings will start again and evolve into useless rage. So, she strokes the her face until her scales loosen.

“What are you thinking about?” Imani asks sincerely.

Bahati’s pupils are black diamonds set in the golden discs. There is so much thought in them, but she offers a simple question. “Do you remember when we were in jail?”

“Of course I remember. We got out only a few days ago.”

“This place is nothing but another jail.”

“It’s not. No one has to be here. They can leave whenever they want.”

“It’s de facto prison,” she says, waving a hand. “Look around.”

“Explain,” Imani says, sitting up.

“These people are here because they have no choice. They’re running from Ekon. They’re afraid for their lives. Aren’t you tired of being in prison?”

“Honestly, I’m tired of running. We’ve been running from Ekon forever just like the rest of these people. I’m ready to fight or die,” Imani says, her leg bouncing on the floor.

“Me too. That’s why we have to leave the rest of them behind. We have to go,” Bahati says desperately.

“How can we do that? We no longer have a pod because Akil felt it was too risky to have it around. It’s pouring down out there. Where are we going to go?”

“To the capital to interrupt the vote and stop Ekon.”

“We don’t have the journal, so it would be our word against his. I say we wait until noon like Akil says. If the rain doesn’t stop, we still march to the capital.”.

“With these people? Most of them are too young or too old. They won’t do anything but hold us back. We’d be better off without them,” says Bahati, tucking her hair behind her ear.

Imani reels at the harshness of Bahati’s words. It is as if Bahati has lost all empathy. Her tone is absent any care or understanding. All that is there is cold calculation and selfishness. Imani sets her jaw and comes to her feet, looking down first at her friend and then the rest of the room.

“Everybody, give me your attention,” Imani says, her voice harder than she thought it would be.

The others slowly sit up and look at Imani. Some of them are so old, they use canes and sticks to walk with. A bunch are hatchlings, no bigger than a fist. Still, there are some youth and older people who look like they can fight. Their curious eyes are upon Imani, as she calls for them to quiet down. She sees Akil staring at her, and when he nods, she continues.

“How many of you are tired of running from Ekon? Sick of being refugees when you had a perfect life in Grot?” Imani says, glancing at the faces.

“I am,” says an older boy.

“We have been here for days planning and plotting how we are going to take down Ekon. Afterwards, we eat, go to sleep and wake up discussing the same or a different plan. You know what that means?”

“We are good planners,” a small child says. She is little and cute with a bow on her head. Her scales have not fully formed, leaving her with a lighter green shade of skin.

“Good answer,” Imani says, then continues. “We have to put our plans into action. Today, Ekon will push to have my home planet invaded and my people enslaved. If this happens, I will have no home.”

Letting that settle in, Imani holds her tongue. If anyone can empathize with her, these people can. They have lost homes and businesses and are basically exiles. These people have suffered great losses and will suffer even more if Ekon’s plans blossom into reality.

“When the three of us came here,” Imani says, referencing herself, Bahati and Stella, “we came with information we shared with Akil, but not all of it was shared with you. Ekon tore down the Low District and part of the High District to have space to build his Kingdom. Today, Ekon plans on becoming a king.”

“The Universal Justice Consortium would never let that happen,” says an old toothless man.

“They would and she’s right,” says Bahati, standing beside Imani. “Ekon has people on his side inside the Consortium, and they will vote to make him king. After they do that, your lives will be his to do with as he pleases.”

The voices in the room reach a frantic height. Imani hears the fear and confusion in them. Women gather their children closer to their chests. Some pick up the makeshift weapons they brought with them. They all know what is at risk now.

Imani speaks over the chaos. “I know not all of you are in shape to fight, but we have to get to the capital to stop Ekon,” she says, tucking a braid behind her ear.

“There are hundreds of miles between here and the capital. It’s pouring rain out there. We can’t walk that far,” an old lady says.

“If I could get us transportation, how many of you would come?” Akil asks, his voice low as always.

First three or four hands go up. Then, there are dozens. Just under fifty people volunteer. Imani is elated, until she considers those who did not volunteer. They are mothers and elderly. Alone, these people can hardly defend themselves.

“Then, we will head out,” Akil says.

“I know it may be frightening, but today, we take back Yabisi from the tyrant Ekon,” Imani says, fists balled.

The people in the room cheer, but Imani does not. She is concerned about the ones who will be left behind being discovered. Although they have had no problems thus far, it does not guarantee they will not. She does not feel comfortable leaving them behind to fend for themselves. After telling Bahati this, they go to the kitchen area to explain their fears to Akil.

“They’ll be fine. No one knows about this place,” Akil assures Imani.

“What if Ekon’s henchmen find them? They won’t have a chance,” says Bahati.

“That’s what I was telling Akil earlier. We leave the weak behind, they become easy prey,” Stella says, eyebrows knitted.

Looking around the room, Imani shakes her head, an epiphany taking her. Many of the mothers had been beaten and bloodied by enforcers. Still, they had come with their spouses as well as children. After all the women have gone through, they are not broken. Here they were, feeding their children, cleaning them, taking care of them. These women are strong. Imani feels inspired by them and their will.

“They are not easy prey,” Imani says, smiling.

“What are you talking about? Just two seconds ago, you were concerned about leaving them,” Stella says, her accent thickened by her confusion.

“The women can take care of themselves. Being mothers doesn’t make them weak. They are strong enough.”

“Imani’s right. They all made the journey here safely,” Akil says thoughtfully. “That was the hard part.”

“They at least need weapons to protect themselves,” Bahati says.

Akil nods, running his fingers through his beard. “Leave that to me.”

***

After exiting the airbus, the group of fifty begin walking from the southern part of the High District north. Their presence instantly calls attention. As they march in the street, children and adults stand in the rain and whisper to each other or point in their direction of the marchers. A few business owners close and lock their doors while others cheer on the marching crowd.

It is an intimidating but moving sight. She knows she can either inspire the people and their children or dishearten them. So, she keeps her head high and does not cover her face, even though the rain is pouring relentlessly. She is proud of herself.

“Overthrow the tyrant,” the group chants. “Overthrow the tyrant.”

Imani and Bahati are behind Stella and Akil at the front of the group. Even being soaked to the bone in cold rain, Imani keeps up the chant and stays in step. Her gait is less militant than Akil’s but filled with vigor. She looks in every direction, encouraged further as their group swells with more protestors.

“I told you this would work. They love us,” Imani says, shouting over the crowd.

“Not everyone does,” Bahati says, signaling to a woman shaking her head in disgust.

“We can’t win them all. As long as the non supporters stay out the way, we’re good.”

An hour into the march, Imani’s legs begin to hurt. Taking a break is not an option, regardless of how bad she wants to. Their group has swelled into the hundreds, and she is at the front. Maybe no one will notice her taking a seat. Maybe no one will care. The risk is not worth it, though. She wants to inspire, not look weak.

Most of the support from the sidewalks is good. Old women and men scream their approval or offer things like fruit and water. There are some who heckle them and throw things. Imani has ducked a few sticks and rocks but not all. She is bleeding above the eye from a stone that connected with her forehead. The pain is agonizing, yet she does not stop.

“Oh my god,” Imani says when they reach the boundary between the districts.

The whole crowd comes to a halt. This is the first time most of them are seeing the remnants of the Low District up close. There is nothing for miles but dust and debris. Every home and business have been destroyed. This place which once held so much history is now just an eyesore. A man who came with them from the Desert Region wails. Everything he loves is gone.

“Do you see this?” Imani says, scooping up a handful of rocks and turning to the protestors. “This is what Ekon is going to do to my world, to your world. This is what we’re fighting against.”

The crowd responds by waving their sticks or attempting to make torches quickly put out by the rain. Their angry growls mixed with the loud sound of pouring rain is fierce. These people want blood. Imani hopes they get the blood they are going after.

They continue on, fueled by rage. It is hard to navigate the debris of the Low District. The ground has been broken and churned into mud. Imani struggles to pull her feet free with every step. Soon, each step sinks half her shinbones into the mud. The people behind her are not slowing down, so her primary goal is to avoid being trampled.

“Bahati, help,” Imani says, unable to free her legs from the mud.

Bahati yanks her free, grunting. “You want to drop back?” Bahati asks, wiping water from her face.

“I don’t think so. I want to be at the front when we get to the capital.”

“It’s not that important. You’re going to get smashed up here.”

She kisses Bahati on the lips. “You’re not going to let that happen.”

Bahati grasps Imani’s hand, and Imani is comforted when only a couple of people stare at them. She is aware their display of affection is more than odd. It is offensive to some. The ill feelings of others mean nothing to her. By taking her hand in front of all these people, Bahati has publicly claimed acknowledged their love. Imani grins, looking her girlfriend in the eye and ignoring the rain and the chills it causes.

If she could, Imani would spend the rest of her life with Bahati, but she has a feeling that will not happen. The capital is not far away, maybe another twenty minutes, but Imani fears it will be where she and the only friend she has will separate forever. One or both could die there, or Imani could realize she does not truly love Imani. The very thought is heartbreaking.

Suddenly, Imani does not want to go to the capital. Terror sizzles inside of her. She wants to be back in the underground room in the Desert Region or in the apartment in the tunnels. Anywhere that is not the capital would do. It takes an enormous amount of energy to will away the terror, but she does.

The rain seems to pour down harder, and this brings Imani to the here and now. She glances behind her, seeing hard faces and makeshift weapons. There are more reptilians than she can count, a green sea of rage. They look beyond her, their attention focused on what is ahead. Her adrenaline kicks up a notch, sensing danger and unpredictable events. It is both frightening and exciting.

“We’re here. We’re in the capital,” Akil says. It is the first time he has spoken since leaving the Desert Region. His beard is dripping, and the eyepatch makes him look ready for war. Ekon took Akil’s father and his eye. All he has left to lose is his life.

Imani expects to see important men and women on their way in the capital. But no one is outside, not one pod or airbus in the sky. Even with rain, the capital should not be this empty. She looks around at the tall buildings hoping for faces staring out the windows. Nothing. It terrifies her.

“Where is everyone?” Imani asks, the rain washing out her squeaky voice.

“Maybe they’re afraid of the rain,” Bahati says, laughing.

Within ten minutes, they are in the center of the capital, just a few hundred feet away from the embassy. Imani is shocked by the sheer number of enforcers outside. Thousands of them armed with electric steel batons. Her group does not equal a quarter of the enforcers clad in armor from head to toe. They also have thick plastic shields. “Riot gear,” Imani thinks. Then, she sees him.

The throng of enforcers step aside, making room for Tau Bot. He is neither armed nor armored. He wears nothing more than pants and a shirt that reveals the cords of his wide muscles. His expression is unreadable as ever. Meeting them within fifty feet of the enforcers, he scans Imani’s group.

“Any attack on the embassy is treason and will be met with deadly force. Retreat now,” Tau Bot says, voice booming over the heavy rain. His bald head is wet and shiny.

“This isn’t your fight. Call the enforcers off. We’re here for Ekon. He’s the traitor,” Imani says, coming to the front of the group. She hates this man who is a shame to all humans.

“That isn’t going to happen, Imani Bot.”

“Charge,” Akil screams.

There are hundreds of people running in Tau’s direction, but Imani notes his calm demeanor. He does not budge a step. Witnessing the speed and coordination of the enforcers, she sees why. They stride in step, somehow moving faster than Imani’s group. Though she knows her group is outnumbered and inexperienced, Imani charges at full speed.

The two groups collide, one fighting for order, the other fighting for freedom. The enforcers use their shields to form a protective wall while clubbing their opponents with the electric batons. All around Imani, men and women on her side fall, ignored by both their enemies and friends. Their gurgled screams are stamped out by the fighting throng.

Akil directs them to break past the barrier of shields. It is a command and nothing more. Imani presses her small frame along with the others against the shields, but her group gains no footing. It is a futile attempt. With no breaks in the shield wall, Imani’s group is hopeless.

A baton smacks Imani on her forehead and opens a cut on contact. The blow is electrifying and debilitating. She tries to steady herself and collapses. There are boots around her, on her, stomping her, taking her breath away, not caring that her diaphragm is being crushed. A bare foot steps on her face, temporarily pinning her skull to the ground. It is frightening. She is dying.

No more fight is left in Imani. Hers arms will not lift. She says something, but the angry shouts of desperation smother her words. Another three or four boots squash her face and abdomen. At least the rain can not reach her here. The bodies above are too close together for the rain to get her. This is how she will die. A strange peace replaces the horror, as she comes to terms with what is happening.

“Move. You’re killing her. Get out the way.” In her haze, Imani recognizes Bahati’s voice. “Get up. Imani, get up.”

Imani welcomes the sudden rain, as the people make room. Bahati grips her by the arm, drags her upright. Bruises will form on Imani’s arms and face later. It does not matter. She is wet and cold and hurting, but she is alive. Looking at her friend with the eye that is not swollen, Imani hugs her and sobs.

“I thought I was going to die,” Imani says, crying.

“We all will if the enforcers have their way. Take this,” Bahati says, handing over a knife.

“Where did you get this?” she says, turning over the blade. “And where are Stella and Akil?”

“None of that matters now.”

Chaos. It is the only way Imani can describe the scene around her. Singed flesh and rain tingle her sinuses while people scream in both rage and agony. Sticks and clubs bang like drumsticks on the enforcers’ shields. She knows the wet lumps on the ground are bodies. She does not know how they died but cringes when thinking they may have been murdered the way she almost was. It saddens her to see the world this way.

There are not many familiar faces. The heavy rain blinds Imani. She can see just two feet ahead of her. Everything else is a blur, yet the shield wall is unmistakable. It has moved back a little. The rebels have gained some ground, keeping the enforcers’ advancement at a minimum. It is not enough though.

Imani follows Bahati through the crowd of rebels. The two are just a few feet from the enforcers, but the bodies between them and the enforcers act as a protective barrier. Imani navigates through the angry people with minimum effort. Bahati is bigger and has to elbow, push and shove her way through.

“Where are we going?” Imani says, shouting as loudly as she can.

“I don’t know. I’m trying to find an opening in the enforcers’ line of defense,” Bahati says.

“You won’t. We’ll never get to the embassy like this.”

Bahati stops, turns around. “Unless you have a better idea, this is the best we can do.”

Eyes taking in everything, Imani wipes her face and searches the scene. Nothing. Not one break in the line of enforcers. If she and Bahati try and force their way through, they will be beaten to death. Then, she sees something.

“The enforcers are huge,” Imani says over the yelling women beside her.

“So what?” says Bahati.

“What if we crawled between their legs?”

Imani knows it is a great plan. The enforcers are not looking down. All she and Bahati have to do is be careful. She is giddy with excitement, until she hears the hum of the Interstellar War Fleet airships. Imani mouth drops, as she blinks at the sky. There are so many warships, they turn the sky black. Their weapons are visible and preparing to wipe out Imani and the other rebels.

***

“It sounds really bad out there,” Lutow says. Ekon hates all humanoids, but their way of stating the obvious is what really makes him hate them more. Lutow has mastered this.

The Universal Justice Consortium is in their conference room in the embassy. At first, they mostly ignored the screaming and shouts outside. Ekon is the only one who knows how serious things have gotten. But this is his time, and he will not allow the weaklings outside ruin it for it. So, he once again assures everyone everything is fine.

Sitting at the head of the table with Cimicidae to his left and Rattus to his right, Ekon has a perfect view of everyone in the room, including Khalia. He can smell her rotten flesh from here. She sits at the other end of the table, sadly shaking her head at Ekon. The way she chastises him irks him. He tries not to look at her, but his eyes land on her each time he glances in another direction.

“There is blood in the rain,” Khalia says, repeating the phrase she has been muttering for two days.

“Why don’t you get out?” Ekon says angrily.

“That’s not how you talk to your fellow Consortium members. If you want us to leave, you’ll have to wait until the meeting has been officially brought to an end,” Maoka says, her feathers bristling.

“He wasn’t talking to us. It’s that pesky spider that refuses to leave,” Cimicidae says, jowls shaking as he lies.

“What spider?” Ekon says, confused.

“The one you’ve been complaining about.”

Silence. “Oh, yes. That one.”

“You realize there’s blood on your face?” Lutow asks.

Ekon touches his face where Khalia’s bloody handprint remains. “It’s not blood. It’s a tattoo,” he says, wanting to kill the two remaining humanoids on the Consortium. “Moving on, does anyone else have anything they wish to bring to the floor?” Stillness. “Anyone at all?”

“I do,” Rattus says quietly, wriggling his nose. He strokes his long whiskers and fixes his tunic. “The Universal Justice Consortium has been around for thousands of years in its current council form. I believe it would function better as a monarchy.”

Maoka laughs. “You mean like with a king or queen? Whoever has that position would have absolute power. That defeats the purpose of the Consortium which is having power evenly distributed so no one person has too much of it,” she says.

“Maoka is right. I don’t see why giving any person singular control over the galaxy would make any sense,” the humanoid who is not Lutow adds. He does not speak much, but when he does, his baritone adds an element of authority.

“None of us have to like it, but it has been brought up. We have to vote on it,” Cimicidae says.

“We haven’t even had time to properly discuss it. Also, Stella isn’t here to cast her vote. I say we shelve this for a later meeting,” says Maoka.

“For whatever reason Stella isn’t here, we can’t allow it to slow down the process of the UJC. Rattus suggested a monarchy, and we have to vote on it today,” Ekon says, grinning.

“Who would be the king or queen of this monarchy?”

“The High Speaker. It only makes sense that way,” Rattus says.

Ekon hears the shots outside. The Fleet has just emptied its ammunition into the crowd of angry people. Closing his eyes, Ekon marinades his mind in the thought of blood and gore. He imagines people running wild and being gunned down even as they beg for their lives. He sees himself in an airship pressing buttons and taking lives. He exhales, opening his eyes while pushing away his therapeutic thoughts.

“What is going on out there?” Maoka asks, concerned now.

“Outside is not our business,” Ekon says, glaring at her.

“Your business is death, and yours will soon be coming,” Khalia says, laughing while tipping her head back.

Ekon blood boils too a peak. He wants to strangle Khalia and murder her for a second time. His nails dig into his palms, drawing blood while he watches her laugh hysterically. When he is about to stand, Cimicidae places a hand on his wrist as if anticipating Ekon’s next move. One swift shake of Cimicidae’s head stops Ekon.

“We had enough conversation about this. All in favor of a monarchy where I, High Speaker Ekon, am king, lift a finger.” Five fingers go up. “Those against?” Another five fingers go up. One person does not raise a finger at all.

“It’s a tie. I still think it’s best we wait for Stella,” Maoka says.

“As high speaker, I have the right to break a tie, even if that means voting twice. By the power vested in me by this Consortium, I assert myself king of the Milky Way Galaxy,” Ekon says, the words sweet as dart blood on his lips.

While his supporters clap and nod their support, the rest gasp. Maoka calls it an outrage, throwing about her feathery hands. She looks to the others to back her, but Ekon sees the fear in them. They know it is over. There is nothing they can do. Ekon feels something strange. Happiness maybe? He smiles.

“You are no king. You are a fool,” Khalia says spitefully. “You’ll die a fool.”

Ekon boils over, screaming as he scrambles over the table on all fours. He tackles the chair Khalia sits in, letting loose every profanity in his vocabulary. The others watch in confusion, as he beats the empty chair. Cimicidae tries to pull him off, but he backhands the man. Ekon is determined to kill Khalia.

“You can’t even tame your guilt. How can you be king?” Khalia says from the other side of the room.

Ekon dashes her way, slamming into the wall when he fails to put hands on her. She is in the corner across from him, pacing back and forth and looking down on him. Her face is all disdain now. He comes to his feet, chest lifting and falling rapidly.

“I’m glad I killed you,” Ekon says, showing every tooth in his mouth. “You deserved to die.”

The others in the room have also come to their feet, standing as far away from Ekon as possible. They are the last thing on his mind, though. Roaring, he wants Khalia. He needs Khalia. His hands twitch to be around her throat.

“You can’t vote in favor of Experiment G-Three,” Imani says, pushing her way into the room.

Bahati and Imani’s presence breaks his concentration. The girls are bloody and wet. They are desperate as hungry animals, eyes searching for anyone who will listen to them. Khalia says something, but Ekon knows what she is doing. He can not touch her, but he can tear the two girls to shreds.

“They’ve already voted. I’m king and everyone on your pathetic planet will be slaves,” Ekon says, slowly rounding the table. Khalia steps in front of him, but he walks right through her.

“Don’t come any closer or I will kill you,” says Bahati, arching back the arm with the hand that holds a knife.

“It’s over. You’ve lost. Bow to your king, and I will let you live.”

“Please, someone,” Imani says, begging. “You can’t let Ekon be king. He killed hundreds of innocent people. He killed his own mother.”

The last accusation sends a chill through the room. Every eye in the room is upon Ekon. The weight of those gazes are traitorous. They have no business treating a king this way. Ekon spreads his arms, as though inviting anyone of them to challenge him. He becomes indignant.

“Is this true Ekon?” asks Lutow.

“I poisoned, Khalia,” he says, laughing when the others gasp. “I should have done it years ago. She was weak.”

“How could you do something like that to your mother? Why?” says Maoka, voice shrill.

“Because I felt like it.”

No one but Ekon sees Tau Bot. He is quick as lighting, rushing through the door and tossing Imani by her neck across the room. As she hits the table and rolls off it, she squeals. Bahati’s disbelief makes her a second too slow. Tau is bending her arm, preventing her from stabbing him.

“This has gone too far. Stop this madness,” Maoka says, raising her voice.

Bahati is no match for Tau. He is about the same size as her and healthier. Although she does not look as bad as she had in the embassy jail, she is still thin and emaciated. The knife she holds clatters to the floor. Tau is winning, and Ekon cheers him on.

“Let her go,” Imani screams, scurrying from underneath the table.

“Watch out,” Ekon says, too stunned to move.

The knife catches Tau where the spine meets the brain. He is done, but Imani is not. With a savagery, she twists the knife, ripping flesh and cracking bone. Mouth wide, Tau turns and crumples. His weighty body thuds like rock on the floor.

“You killed him,” Maoka says, feathered hand to mouth.

“He should have died long ago,” Imani says, teeth gritted.

Ekon’s failing confidence sparks when he sees Stella and Akil being escorted in by War Fleet soldiers. They should have bound the two, but Ekon will deal with that later. The four Fleet members come into the conference room, standing near Bahati and Imani. The only one Ekon knows is Velga, former commander Ugi’s second in command.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Ekon says to the soldiers. Pointing at Imani, Bahati, Akil and Stella, he says, “I want those four jailed now.”

“Actually, they came to jail you,” Stella says smugly.

The words stun him. They are so foolish and absurd, he can barely comprehend them. He looks at the soldiers and laughs. It can not be true. The humanoid is lying.

“I’m king. I can’t be arrested. The Milky Way belongs to me,” Ekon says.

“Former High Speaker Ekon, according to the Articles of Yabisi, you are being arrested for treason and murder,” Velga says, stepping forward.

“Don’t take it easy on him. Kill him if you have to,” Bahati says.

“Take them too. They must have conspired with him,” says Maoka, pointing at Cimicidae and Rattus.

“It was Rattus and Ekon. They forced me. I wanted nothing to do with it,” Cimicidae says. “I’ll testify against them for immunity.”

“You fat coward,” Ekon says, charging at Cimicidae.

“Stop,” Velga says, taking Ekon down. He struggles, but the weight of the four Fleet soldiers is too much. After they have him under control, they arrest his conspirators, Rattus and Cimicidae.

Ekon spits and yells, unable to control his anger. He blames Khalia who has taken his seat at the head of the table. He is king, and he will have his kingdom. Bahati’s laughter enrages him even more, but the two soldiers holding him will not let him go.

Outside the embassy, the rain has stopped, and the moon is shinning. Ekon basks in the sight of destruction. Hundreds of bodies, Fleet soldiers, enforcers and civilians, pad the ground. Death and gore are on the air. He inhales it deeply. The small group of protestors who survived the mayhem cheers when they see him. The soldiers march him through the crowd. The people hit him with sticks, fruit and anything available.

“Die you coward,” a woman says.

“Ekon the Great isn’t so great, now is he?” a laughing man says.

Ekon hears the hum of airships and assumes it is the War Fleet. When the ships get closer, Ekon knows it is a foreign force. Then, apes are launched from the ships. They rain down like balls of fur, legs tucked for landing. The Fleet soldiers call for backup, but it will not arrive soon enough. They have only the sparse soldiers on the ground.

“He’s coming with us,” the ape says, landing before Ekon. It is Fateen.

Velga can not draw her weapon fast enough. Fateen snaps her neck and the other holding Ekon. The other apes deal with the Fleet as it comes in. Though the apes have come with great numbers, the Fleet will outnumber them soon.

“What took you so long?” Rattus says.

“I would have gotten here quicker if you would have broken me out sooner,” Fateen replies.

Ekon smiles. “How’d you do it, Rattus.”

“I have my ways,” the rodent says.

“We have to go now,” Ekon says. When Fateen tries to take him away, Ekon stops. “Bring Cimicidae with us. I have to talk to him.”

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