Eva’s toes hung over the ledge as she stared at the crowd twenty floors below. The people clustered around the gates and paced along the street, and appeared as though they were bugs she could squash under her heel. Tininess aside, she could still hear the roar of their fright. They’d gathered around the palace because of the riots. They wanted her sympathy, her reassurance things would continue on as usual, that the towers they’d built for themselves would not crumble.
The Europian Commander of Joint Forces, General Michael Axis, stood beside her on the deck, clutching the rail, not daring to get any closer than the ten feet that separated them. His knuckles were as white as his face, and for the first time since she'd known him, he truly looked frightened. As he should be. All he’d worked for, threatened to die with her. His soldiers, collared for the moment, were about to be released and there was nothing he could do about it.
The wind whipped loose tendrils of her coif, beating the strands against her face in an angry assault. The fine silk of her suit snapped around her like a banner in a hurricane. For the first time in her life she knew her purpose, had no fears. Concede. Die. Fight. Live.
“Madam President, you need to come down off the edge.” The soft words were trimmed with a threat no one else could hear. Sharp like a razor, cold like forged metal, he used his coercive blade like he always did, but this time, it had no effect. She was beyond caring. “Ana.” Angrier, a little harder, more pronounced. He might as well scream, “heel, heel”.
Not today. He knew her name, and it wasn’t Ana. He’d put her here, given her this power. When his plan failed, and he realized he’d lost control, Michael stooped to begging. Pathetic as it was, she savored every moment. No, you heel. The smile came easier than it ever had. Oh, she planned to come down, but not as he intended. “They’re free.”
“You must come down. Your country needs you. The people are frightened. I don’t know what to tell them. They’re afraid we’ve lost control. There have been murders, clones that have somehow broken free of their girdles.” His pretty speech was for the benefit of witnesses only, those council members he’d manipulated to bring a means to a end, who’d come with him to talk her down. The device in his hand, well that was different. It was designed to control her, but he’d found it to now be useless. She didn’t care if he killed her. It was her time. He could not win this standoff.
“Not somehow,” she said. Hundreds of thousands were free of their bonds and tasting liberty for the first time. In a few minutes, the soldier clones would follow, their collars falling from their necks, their hands filled with weapons he’d put there. It was what he feared most. Michael was a general with no control of his army, and they were about to turn on him.
The people of Europia would suffer for the pain they’d heaped upon the clones. He would suffer for what he’d done, and when the sun set and his body lay broken in the street, no one would take pity on his corpse—or his human soul. If he had one.
“I know you’ve lost your husband and friend. It’s a tragedy, but the people need you, your daughter needs you. You must come down.”
Her wrist monitor beeped as the last code locked into place and the satellite transmitted the order to the soldier clone’s collars, releasing every last one. Michael glanced at the blinking band and brought his gaze back to hers. His face grew paler and he swallowed, as though he choked on his own bile.
Boom. Loud blasts begin to sound around the city, coming from every direction. “No,” he muttered. His thumb slid over a button on the device in his palm and he pressed.
Eva grit her teeth. This was it. He looked down and back up. Jab, jab, jab, Michael poked the button over and over, before he lifted his chin and looked into her eyes. “How did you...?”
For several seconds she held his gaze, waiting for the pain in her head, the ending he’d promised if she didn’t do as told. Nothing. Dante. My love.
His eyes popped wide and his mouth fell open. “You can’t do this. The people need you. What do I tell them to reassure them of their safety?”
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” Let them eat cake. She spread her arms and greeted the open air, falling forward into the storm, and the arms of the man she loved.
As twenty floors rushed by, a young woman in the same tower began her tale about the clone who freed the world, treason, lies, and forbidden love.