Chapter 44

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Terra smiled broadly as she leaned back against Will. Her eyes were closed and two sets of hands lay on her extended belly.

Will asked with excitement in his voice, "Did you see her in the aura?"

"Oh Will, our daughter is so beautiful!"

Terra jumped in surprise at the kick.

Will beamed. "Even I felt that!"

"And she is strong too."

Will patted Terra's belly. "Be patient little one. Only a few months to go."

********

Emperor Sage V waved his hand to the crowds below on this day, his birthday, a public holiday in the Dynasty. Public appearances like this were vexing, but the people needed to see the one who brings order and meaning to their existence. It was part of his duty.

A few of his ministers stood behind him in the ceremonial masks and robes befitting their rank and Talent. The Emperor needed no such symbols of power, for he was the power personified. He became bored with the flowery speeches and the proclamations of praise but put on a practiced regal face. Later women selected for their superior genetics and Talent would offer themselves to him in hopes that they might produce the next Emperor in the line of the Sage Dynasty. While he did enjoy this part of his duty, he would rather just get back to the pleasure of his concubines.

The Emperor stomped into the advisory meeting with a frown on his face. His ministers and advisors stood around the room, having waited nervously for his arrival.

A younger advisor spoke up with a smile on his face. "Happy birthday, your Reverence!" The Emperor's scowl shut down his smile and he slunk into the back of the room.

The Emperor yelled as he sat down. "Reports!"

Everyone else sat down around the table, but one minister remained standing.

"Sir, we have more information on the upheaval in the Blue Uprising leadership. Something happened that disrupted their Talent. Some of the council have not yet recovered. We captured one of the council governors and questioned him. He was delirious, but said Agent Lorr and an unnamed man were there at the time."

The Emperor cocked an eyebrow. "How could someone disable their entire council?"

"He described it as the Day of Darkness returned."

All motion in the room ceased and the emperor felt a chill run down his spine. The Day of Darkness was traumatic for him and anyone of powerful Talent. Had not he been safely in the palace behind armed guards he might have been assassinated by the mobs like some of his officials.

"Could their Agent Lorr have done this?"

Another minister stood up. "Sir, records indicate she is a T3 Talent with skills in psi-surgery, but nothing to indicate that kind of ability."

"And what of this other man?"

A third minister stood up as the previous one sat. "We believe that he is this Hooded Man, sir. There are so many tales and legends of him so that it is difficult to tell what is truth. What is common in almost all of them is that he easily defeats a powerful Talent and rescues people of the lower classes. He always wears a hood to hide his face, which would be the basis of the name. The latest event happened in Blue Uprising controlled land east of Eureka and just prior to the event in their council."

The Emperor challenged the speaker. "So do you believe this Hooded Man has such a power of Darkness?"

The minister gulped. "That would not be possible, sir. No such ability has ever been recorded."

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