Hannah settled down in the seat next to Charles and buckled up. Charles leaned forward and tapped the mute driver on the shoulder with a baton. The driver, a female, turned to him with a questioning look. “Court of Scarlet,” Charles instructed. She nodded and began reversing out of Hannah’s driveway.
Hannah glanced at Charles, who was looking tightly wound and was staring straight ahead. “Nervous, are we?” Hannah teased. She was able to get away with it as they were closely related.
Charles smiled and chuckled. “A little,” he admitted.
“This is a historic day for us,” Hannah commented. Brring! Brring! Hannah watched as Charles lifted his arm and spoke into a communicator embedded in his cuff link.
“Hello?” Charles answered.
“Sir, we have hacked into Zion’s system,” Petrus Romanus reported over the communicator.
Hannah shifted slightly away from Charles as guilt pricked at her conscience. Shut up!!! They won’t recognize me if they see me, she wrestled with her conscience. She became aware that Charles was speaking again. “Will I be able to contact the bastards now?” Charles asked
“Hang on…Just connecting you’re phone…” there was the sound of Petrus typing on a keyboard. “You are now connected.”
“Thank you, Romanus,” and Charles turned off the communicator. “Henderson, I would suggest making yourself as inconspicuous as possible.”
Zipporah shook Alexei. “Alex! Alexei, wake up!” She sighed. Trying to wake him was next to impossible. He was extremely worn out from the extensive search for his mother, so was in a deep sleep. Zipporah put her hands on her hips and prayed. “Father, please show me how to wake him up,” she prayed. Something urgent was happening, and Alexei could not be woken up. The pitcher of water by his bedside caught her eye. She picked it up and upended it on his head.
Alexei sat up with a jerk. He looked at the empty pitcher in Zipporah’s hands and opened his mouth to retort. “I am sorry, Alexei,” Zipporah apologised, cutting him off. “But it’s urgent! The League of Nations somehow hacked into our system, called in and now wants to talk with all of us about something to do with Anne!” She put the pitcher back on the drawer and hurried out after Alexei, and they walked into the Control Core. David, W.J. Einstein, John, Fergus and Veronica were already in there, gathered around a big screen. On the screen showed an older, ugly man, who was wearing a suit and an unimpressive white wig.
“Who is he?” Alexei whispered to Zipporah.
“He says he is Charles E. Ville, head of the Court of Scarlet and wants to tell us something about Anne,” Zipporah whispered back. Alexei’s face paled and he looked back at the screen. Zipporah noted that Charles seemed to be riding in a car.
“Ah. The Geheimnis has arrived,” Charles said with a smile that suggested he knew a big secret. “How are you, Alexei?”
How did he know Alexei’s name and that he was the Geheimnis? Zipporah wondered, a terrible feeling growing in her gut.
“I’m fine,” Alexei replied in a guarded tone. “You’re not wearing your scarlet robe like we see on TV.”
“Well, being such a momentous occasion, I decided it would be more becoming to wear a suit,” Charles replied.
“Why didn’t you wear that scaly outfit? It matches your personality,” Alexei snubbed. Everyone stifled a smile as Charles’ face turned bright red. Zipporah was surprised that this imbecile was able to calm himself down. “Now, what about Anne?”
“Your mother is going to be tried at 11:00 a.m.”
“Hang on…it’s 11:05 a.m. where you are,” David corrected.
“Yes, well,” Charles fumbled. “I slept in this morning. Anyway, I have a simple proposition for you Zionists. Very, very simple.”
“Hmm. We wouldn’t want you to strain your brain,” John quipped sarcastically.
Charles’ face turned slightly purple. “Watch your tongue, you little brat! We had Alexei’s father killed and at a snap of my fingers, we can do the same to his mother!”
“But you won’t as you want her as a bargaining chip,” David noted.
“Here’s what will happen to Anne: She will be tried and convicted of founding Zion, aiding our enemies and working to destroy us, then, as punishment, we will gruesomely torture her UNLESS Zion admits that I am the undefeatable and glorious world ruler, surrenders to the League it’s weapons and technology and help us keep control of the masses,” Charles offered.
“And if we don’t?” David enquired.
“Then, Anne will be horrendously tortured and then executed. I’ll call you back when the session begins.” Charles severed the link.
“He can’t be doing something as low as this, can he?” Fergus commented.
“Unless he’s becoming desperate,” Veronica replied.
“Why? He obviously knows where we live, so why isn’t he just directly fighting us,” Zipporah pointed out.
“Maybe because he thinks they can’t beat us in a battle,” Veronica countered.
“Not likely,” Zipporah said. “Never underestimate your enemy. There must be some bigger play that we don’t know about.”
COURT OF SCARLET
Charles, Hannah and Petrus entered the Chamber. While Charles and Hannah went to their respective places, Petrus went over to the TV crew and began talking to the cameraman. “Octavius, the session is about to start. Sorry we’re late. Now, when Charles nods at you, I want you to start filming,” Petrus ordered.
“Yo, that’s cool, Romanus, but, um…who’s gonna’ see the footage?” Octavius questioned.
“Don’t worry about that,” Petrus told him, “I have linked your camera to Zion, so once you start filming, it’ll automatically live-stream it to the receiver.”
“Oh, good,” Petrus nodded in response and turned to head to the Bench. He happened to glanced to his left and then froze. It couldn’t have been! He quickly looked more closely around but did not see anything, so walked to his seat on the Bench. Did I just see Ivanka?
Ivanka was thinking. Who sent me the e-mail talking about this? She was wondering. It’s not Petrus. Who could it be? Just then, she saw Petrus glance her way, before stopping in his tracks. So, she quickly ducked her head. Don’t notice me! This is too dangerous! She carefully looked after a few minutes. Ivanka breathed a sigh of relief. He was sitting at the Bench and did not look her way again. What does the mysterious sender want me to find out about Hannah Henderson? Hang on. I only thought about the name Hannah Henderson, so it couldn’t be to find out something to do with Henderson. What else could it be about? Why would it be important for me to see the founder of Zion on trial?
Her thoughts were interrupted just then as Anne was half-led, half-dragged into the Chamber.
They all looked at the screen as it suddenly turned on again. It showed a big room full of people and the doors to the room opened. Alexei and David both gasped when they saw Anne being led/dragged into the Chamber by two rather large and mechanical looking men. Cyborgs, Alexei realized. “Mum,” he whispered. They watched, helpless, as Anne was forced into a chair in the middle of the room and her hands and legs were chained to the chair.
Charles leaned sideways. “What’s your name?” he asked the super soldier next to him. The super soldier glanced at Charles.
“K-9,” he answered, his voice a deep rumble.
“K-9, have they been giving Anne food or water? Or a bed?” Charles enquired.
“No, sir. The Super Cyborgs have placed her in the most filthy prison, with no bed and have not given her any sustenance, as you ordered,” K-9 informed Charles.
“But, that can’t be right. She looks healthy, happy. Like she just spent some time in the Plaza Hotel or the Taj Mahal,” Charles pointed out. K-9 shrugged. Neither of them had any clue as to why Anne looked so radiant and healthy. Charles grabbed his gavel and banged it on the Bench to grab everyone’s attention. “Order. This Chamber will come to order,” Charles ordered. He pointed the gravel at Anne. “Anything you say and do will be used against you. Silence will definitely be used against you. Now, are you Anne Goodwin, widow of the late King Edward Ivanov X of Biovea, and are you the founder of Zion?”
They know, so why should I answer? Anne reasoned. Plus, my surname is Smith, Dave’s surname.
“ANSWER ME!!!” Charles shouted.
“You all know who I am,” Anne replied. “And you know what I’ve done, so why should I answer you?”
“It is merely a requirement for you to admit your identity,” Charles explained. “To continue, you created Zion, a sanctuary in Africa. You chose the off-limits zone for your hide-out,” Charles said, reading out a list of charges he was holding in his hands. “People – enemies of the League – have escaped from their Regions and have taken refuge in Zion. Your son, Alexei Ivanov, who is also the Geheimnis, has striked again and again at the League – rescuing people from execution and he and his friends are also guilty of compromising crucial buildings and places.”
“I thought I was on trial,” Anne said cheekily.
“But, you helped co-ordinate those strikes, didn’t you?” Charles pointed out.
Well, not just me, Anne thought but she was not about to mention that. “What proof do you have that my son is the Geheimnis?” Anne challenged.
They all waited, holding their breath as Charles just eyed Anne. John looked at David, then Alexei. They both met his eyes. They were all praying. “Please don’t have any proof,” John was desperately praying.
“Bring Julius Caesar to the Stand!” Charles ordered.
“Oh,” Alexei said. John turned to Alexei with a confused expression. “I know him. Remember? Region 64?”
“I remember,” Zipporah said quietly, shifting position slightly at the mention of Region 64. John understood her reaction. He hated the memory of that terrible day. But, he knew Zipporah had more reasons for shiding away from that memory.
“But, how is Julius Caesar able to prove anything?” he heard Alexei mutter.
Ivanka tapped her fingers on her backpack. She tuned out Caesar as she already knew what he was going to say. She had heard his story before. I wonder what other proof they have? she wondered. She kept looking at Anne. She had never seen her before, yet this Zionist seemed familiar. I’ve seen her before, but where? It was itching at the back of her mind, but she could not make it come out. Where have I seen her before!?!
#BEGINNING OF FLASHBACK#
Ivanka lay in a cot, giggling. A hand appeared and began stroking her head. “You are so cute,” cooed a voice. Ivanka looked up and smiled at the woman stroking her. Ivanka began sucking on her thumb.
#END OF FLASHBACK#
That was ME!!! Ivanka realised. And that’s where I’ve seen Anne before, Ivanka also realised. But where was my mother? She was jerked back to the trial when a deep voice echoed through the Chamber. Ivanka saw that someone in the Light Force, who was next to Charles, was speaking. “This is a picture that a Petrus Romanus drew based on Caesar’s description,” and the super soldier pressed a button on the Bench and, from a projector on the Bench infront of Charles, a holographic photograph of the drawing came up. Ivanka raised her eyebrows. I didn’t realise that Petrus was such a good artist, she thought. It was also coloured in based on what Julius remembered.
“This is the Geheimnis,” the super soldier announced. “Now, here is a still from a video of Zion,” and the still was projected from the projector. It was of Alexei and Anne on a porch. The super soldier zoomed in on Alexei’s face. It was slightly distorted, but Ivanka could still see the resemblance between Alexei and the drawing. “Is this your son?” he asked Anne.
Ivanka looked at Anne. She seemed to be debating whether or not to answer. After a few minutes, she still had not answered, but Ivanka noted that Anne’s face gave it away. “There’s your answer,” the super soldier said. Then he produced the holo-pics of Alexei and the drawing of the Geheimnis and projected them side-by-side. The still of Alexei was slightly distorted, so the soldier typed in some instructions on a virtual keyboard infront of him and the still became crystal clear. “As you can see, they match exactly.”
Ivanka was stumped. Alexei Ivanov – the Geheimnis and a rebel – looked exactly like her.