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Long Live the King

Long Live the King: Episode 16 – An Exchange

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Written by Nada Hemida

Previously: Long Live the King: Episode 15 – THE RUBBLE

Photo by Obsidain Photography

They’ve been training for two weeks now. Ever since the initial meeting, Fadel has been going to them every day to instruct them on what to do and how we’ll do it. They increase in number every day, and Faris has told me that we’ve reached four thousand. We had been a full 1,500 that night at The Rubble, and after riling them up, I do believe that they have faith in us, in the plan. My army was done being neglected, hated, and scorned.

“Teach them to shoot at the guards’ dominant hands to disarm them, and to take their weapons, if they can,” I had instructed Fadel, “Teach them how to knock them out. You outnumber them, so this should be easy. Has Faris collected the vests?”

We had ambushed an arms deal where both guns and bulletproof vests were being transported. We needed those vests, for it was more than obvious that the army would get shot at. We were taking no risks, except one that might doom us all.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working with Seif and Shehab back home – Seif on the hacking and Shehab on the attack.

Seif had explained, “I can only get past the firewall and disarm the security system for as long as five minutes –“

“That’s all we need,” I had said.

At some point within those two weeks, I had gone in the dead of night and set up microscopically small cameras in the tunnels connecting the Royal Palace and ‘Science and Tech’. Since we didn’t know the exact spot where Karim Saleh meets with the others, the cameras were spread all over the place. Before that, I had Shehab and Fadel develop a replica of the liquid within the vial, making an exact copy of its appearance.

“I have what you want,” I had spoken through the phone a couple of days ago.

Karim Saleh had had the audacity to voice a vicious laugh and say, “Good girl.” I had barely reminded myself that I couldn’t kill him yet. “I’ll have Sarwat come to collect it.”

With that, Sarwat came. Even though he looked like a hulking brute, he held the cursed vial gingerly, as though he was afraid of it, and quickly tucked it into his case. “Your price,” he had said as he handed me a suitcase.

Taking it from him, I paused at the weight of it. “Your client is generous,” I remarked with a smirk.

“Indeed,” he said. “Two billion.”

That – that would be enough to feed the entirety of the country’s poor. That could turn my old neighborhood from slums to castles, I had thought.

I couldn’t help but grit my teeth as I said, “Pleasure doing business with you.”

The money had felt so foul to touch, and so I had given it to Fadel. I told him to divide it equally among the people who were risking their lives for this mission, who needed it much more than I did.

Fear eats at my flesh as I watch the surveillance cameras, aware that this is the most dangerous gamble we could have done. I had told everyone that the real Vial of Immortality had been spilled into the river, which would make it useless for it wouldn’t be nearly concentrated enough to have an effect. Our plan isn’t foolproof, and although we have multiple other contingency plans, claws keep gnawing at my brain with ‘what-ifs’.

I start hearing footsteps and sit up straight; Shehab is paying closer attention to the screen now. “If anything goes wrong, Nour, I will have your head on a spike,” he says.

“If anything goes wrong, we’ll all be dead before we decide to move,” I reply, eyes not turning away from the screen.

There he is; Karim Saleh walking through the tunnel, Sarwat behind him.

My heart is doing somersaults as my mind sounds an alarm, until I could no longer take it. I stand up, pacing as I watch, waiting for whatever goon the King sends to take the vial. The view isn’t very clear, since they are at a distance – the camera at their backs.

After what feels like decades, three men approach Karim. “Hello –“ Karim begins to say, but is cut off by the other man.

“Show us the vial,” he says.

Karim is shaking. I notice as he nods. “Certainly,” he says, taking the case from Sarwat. He unlocks it, and I don’t know if I’m breathing still. Shehab looks like he isn’t.

The other man is handed the vial. He unwraps it, and looks at it for a while before he deems it credible. “Yes,” he says, “that is the one you’ve told us of.”

“Of course! I’d never trick His Grace,” Karim says and I sneer. That pompous bastard who used to stand in front of me with pride is a wretched excuse of a man.

“You wouldn’t be able to,” the other man says in a threatening tone. He starts to turn away, but Karim is brave enough to speak up.

“What about my reward, Sir?” he calls.

The other man turns slowly. “Your reward? Fifteen billion and plane tickets out of this country for you and your family, isn’t that so?”

Shit,” Shehab says, as incredulous as I am at the price. Of course it was almost seven times the price I was paid. At least Karim had enough sense to want to run away after what he had done.

“Yes, Sir,” Karim replies, his voice shaking nervously.

The other man sighs. “His Majesty has decided that you were too much of a fool to lose the vial in the first place, and had taken too long to retrieve it. Sarwat, isn’t that true?”

Sarwat nods from behind Karim. There was only time for my breath to catch before Sarwat pulls out a gun and shoots Karim in the head.

Oh my God,” I say under my breath. I hadn’t expected Karim to survive this meeting, but I didn’t know that he would die at the hands of the man who had been protecting him for the past few months. It seemed so easy, so simple to him.

At least he crossed the man off my kill-list.

Before Shehab moved to turn the screen off, we both hear, “Good job, Salem. You’ve done well.” Shehab and I freeze, staring as the man who had been speaking, Salem, bows to a man behind him, who was still walking towards them.

I’d know that voice anywhere.

The King.

“Your Grace,” Salem says, still bowing low, as he hands over the Vial of Immortality.

My heart is speeding so fast it could crash, and my nails are digging into my palms as I have no other urge but to gauge his eyes out and skin him alive.

He takes it; no gratitude on his despicable face. He marvels at the drink in his hand, and before I could realize, he uncaps it and swallows it down.

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