- SIMaS: Chapter 20 – The Raid
- SIMAS Chapter 1 – Link Moss and the Magic Hippo
- SIMAS Chapter 2 – In-Flight Memories
- SIMAS Chapter 3 – Link Moss: Devious Mastermind
- SIMaS Chapter 4 – Curiouser and Curiouser
- SIMaS Chapter 5 – Welcome to Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 6 – So I Married a Supervillain
- SIMaS Chapter 7 – Little Talks
- SIMaS Chapter 8 – His Excellence, King Link
- SIMaS Chapter 9 – The Megardian Royal Family
- SIMaS Chapter 10 – How Double Lives Start
- SIMaS Chapter 11 – The Morning Report
- SIMaS Chapter 12 – Paradigms Shifting Without a Clutch
- SIMaS: Chapter 13 – Thunderstruck, Enlightening
- SIMaS Chapter 14 – Eris Lives
- SIMaS Chapter 15 – The Guardian Spirit of Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 16 – Midnight Council
SIMaS Chapter 11 – The Morning Report
When he was awakened by knocking, Link was tempted to believe that the previous few days had been one long, incredibly surreal dream.
It wouldn’t have been the first time he’d dreamt of days passing in a single night. And it also wouldn’t have been the first time his strange and misfiring subconscious had put Amanda in a strange role either. Except those dreams usually involved sex, and he was thus far disappointed in his mind for not at least compensating for the hallucination of being drugged, knocked out, and scared out of his mind with some of the good stuff. Especially after it went to the trouble of putting his gorgeous wife in form fitting powered armor.
No, what little he remembered from the night before was a quiet dinner in the Royal Suite where everyone had their favorite dishes, and then when the kids were gone talking with Amanda until they both fell asleep.
The knocking was still going on. He hoped it was housekeeping at the hotel back in Hawaii. That would be nice.
And as his mind rewound the previous night’s events, now becoming more self aware than it was when first waking up, he realized it was not a dream.
Something warm and soft moved under his arm, then snuggled closer to him, groaning. “This better be important.”
Amanda’s voice cut through all the other delusions he might have been having, and Link cracked an eye open to see beside him Her Most Gracious and Wise Majesty, Queen Mageddo of Megardia, who also happened to share a body with Amanda Moss nee Gorgias (At least he thought that part was still true. Maybe her last name was ‘of Megardia’, he didn’t know), orphan at the age of seventeen, wife of Thomas Lincoln, mother of Nathan and Chloe, mistress of deception.
Relevant to nothing, a tiny, pedantic part of him realized that his wife’s rogue nation had in its possession an air marshal’s badge because he’d actually seen her flash it and gain access to places in the past. That probably wasn’t good for national security.
The knocking came again and Amanda growled cutely. It was the same noise she made when Link got her stalemated in chess, or she switched lines at the grocery check out, only to see the line she just left pick up speed. Sliding away from Link, she sat up, one hand pushing a waterfall of dark hair out of her eyes while the other went to secure the thin strap of her black nightgown, which was sliding off her shoulder.
“Who is it?” She demanded in her Queen Mageddo voice. It made Link’s feel suddenly very guilty for hoping that strap made it down.
“It is Mr. Cross, Majesty.” Came the voice from the other side of the door. “Here for your morning briefing and to get your breakfast order for the kitchens.”
“Did he bring coffee?” Link asked muzzily.
Before the words were out of his mouth, however, Mr. Cross said, “And I have brought a hottle of coffee—your personal blend for you and His Excellence if he is awake.”
Link quirked an eyebrow and Amanda suppressed a laugh. “He is a very good secretary.” Louder, she said. “One minute, Mr. Cross. There was a great deal of excitement last night and I slept later than I might have.” The shift between her normal voice (Link assumed it was her normal one at any rate), and Queen Mageddo was bafflingly smooth, as if she’d practiced it often.
Leaning down, the kissed Link good morning and got out of bed, and to his surprise, let the nightgown fall from her body. The silk fabric cascaded down, over the swell of her modest bosom, cross her flat and ton stomach, and over her generous hips before flowing down her legs to land in a pool at her feet.
It never occurred to Link to wonder how, at forty-two and after two kids, neither of whom had been particularly small babies, his lovely wife was still in such magnificent shape. He just assumed the Air Marshals had one hell of a gym regimen, but now it was clear that fighting the defenders of truth, justice, and the way of whichever country they were protecting was a good all around exercise plan.
“God you’re beautiful.” he said, feeling hypnotized by the sight of her.
Amanda smiled at him seductively as she walked around to the foot of the bed. “Maybe I should have some armor made for you so you can parade around naked in front of me.”
“So you’re actually naked under all that armor?” He asked with a small laugh, thinking back to how often Queen Mageddo had been on the news. If only Broadcast Standards and Practices knew.
“You thought I wore the nightgown underneath?” asked, Amanda, who had divested herself of the armor of her office in the absurdly spacious royal bathroom the night before.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Never really thought of it. It’s all metallic and I figured that Mageddo—before I knew she was you—wore thermals or something underneath. I’m guessing this it another one of those ‘Megardian superior engineering’ things?”
A cocky smile slitted on her face before she turned away from him, feet together at the very center of a large version of the Megardian Royal Family ‘M’ crest painted on the marble floor at the very edge of the elevated alcove the bed and nightstand stood in, separate from the rest of the Royal Suite’s main room. “Let me show you how I put it on.” She said over her shoulder.
Then she stretched her arms out to the side, fingers splayed, and said in Queen Mageddo’s voice, “I am of the lineage of the Philosopher Kings, Queen of Megardia, defender of her people and she who is deemed worthy to wield the source of our greatest power. Open, O eye of the Guardian Spirit and bestow upon me the means to rule, the means to protect, the means to bring hope and prosperity to all Megardia before all others. Clothe me in adamantine and send me forth into the light of day, arrayed against all enemies.”
There was a tone, as if someone blew a low note on a bassoon, except it wasn’t so much a sound as a noiseless vibration that filled the room. The floor opened beneath Amanda’s feet and yet she stubbornly refused the call of gravity, hanging in air.
Curious and concerned, Link scrambled out from under the covers, once more in only his boxers (now the Royal Boxer-Briefs, which were black, silky and form fitting, apparently on Amanda’s orders), and crawled to the foot of the large bed.
Amanda was hanging over a boiling mass of liquid silver, which, as he watched, extended tendrils up to her that moved like poured paint, only against gravity. It pooled on her stomach, the small of her back, her calves and forearms, and it spread out, infinitely thin until it covered her entire body save her head, hands and feet.
And when it was done, something rose from the still seething mass of silver; a polished teardrop of amber that gave off a brilliant inner light. It was the same amber gem that formed the closure of her cape, only now it was showing it’s true nature. No mere decoration this, but the legendary power source of the Philosopher Kings of Megardia. It rose to where the silver bodysuit ended, just at her collarbone, and settled there, the light from it reflecting off both the metal on Amanda’s body, and that which still swirled and boiled below.
The silver covering Amanda rippled and the change began. It started with the material just around the amber stone itself, which puckered around it and became the tarnished backing Link had seen closing the cape. Then colors began to spread; patterns that looked like a child’s drawing of Queen Mageddo’s costume; the metallic orange suit, the black vest with the ‘M’ Crest on it, and along her back, the black shape of a cape, drawn in miniature.
In the blink of an eye, another ripple went through the costume and those things became real, gaining texture and depth and leaving no sign of the liquid silver that it formed from. As the great black, yellow lined mantle settled over her shoulders, the amber stopped glowing, now looking to be nothing more than a flourish on an already garish uniform.
The floor closed up and Amanda was once again standing on marble. Her feet and hands remained bare, and the utility belt was conspicuously missing, by it there was no denying that she was indeed the woman called Queen Mageddo.
Brushing a stray hair out of her eyes, Amanda smiled at Link. “Enjoy the show?”
“That… was pretty amazing.” he said, only just managing to keep his jaw from lolling open almost to the floor. “I thought when they said you wore powered armor that it was, well scientific armor. Like the kind King Machine wears.”
Amanda came back over to the head of the bed and ran her hand along the headboard. The massive thing was carved with the likeness of an olive tree with birds and small animals playing among the branches.
“There’s no reason not to use both magic and science if you have access to both. My suit is a blend: a colony of nanomachines that is strengthened and given complex programming you normally can’t give to nanomachines by sorcery. It doesn’t just enhance my strength, but my reflexes, balance, and it speeds my healing—without it, I would have had to explain a lot of scars to you.
Link had no choice but to nod. That actually answered a question he’d had stuck in his head. It seemed that Mageddo had taken a lot of battle damage over the years that never translated over to Amanda in their home life besides a few now-suspect twisted ankles and bruises supposedly from tussles with drunks on planes.
Amanda twisted one particular branch, and the entire headboard, and indeed the entire wall it was situated against, moved upward, maneuvering a small nook up and into view. Inside were Queen Mageddo’s gauntlets, boots and most importantly the utility belt. She immediately put the belt on, then sat on the edge of the bed to pull on the boots.
“Before I let Mr. Cross in,” She said quietly, eyes fixed on her boots and their complex system of buckles, “I wanted to know if you’re feeling any better this morning… you know, about everything.”
Stomach rolling with discomfort, Link repositioned himself so he was sitting cross-legged on the bed, facing her. “To be honest, it’s still too soon. It feels like I sleep-walked through most of the day yesterday. I’m not sure it’s all had time to sink in.” He watched her shoulders hunch and added, “I do love you, Amanda. You know that. You… well you knew that wouldn’t have changed didn’t you?”
When she didn’t reply, he realized that’s exactly what she’d been afraid of. He coughed nervously. Regardless of what she’d done and what secrets she’d hidden, she was still his wife, the woman he loved on levels he’d never even fully tested or explored. She’d been hiding the truth for a reason; because she was afraid of exactly the running conversation they were having now.
He ran a hand through his hair. “I-it would just be easier, I think… if you were just a thief, a swindler, or something. And I know now that you’re not so much a criminal as… I don’t know, an agent of your nation? Something like that? But you’ve killed people. I know there’s reasons and caveats, but I don’t know where to start sorting that out morally.
Still not looking at him, Amanda finished buckling on her boots and stood with a swish of her cape. The gauntlets, she affixed to her belt, and once they were secure, she nodded. “I know. I never wanted to put all this weight on you, Link. I wanted you to be happy; our family to be happy.” She turned and faced the room, throwing herself in profile to him.
“Take all the time you want to figure things out. I understand what you must be going through.” She gestured to the door. “Do you want to stay for the briefing? Fair warning: you might hear things you don’t want to hear about me and Megardia. If you don’t want to, I’m sure they’ve assigned a King’s Guard and they’ll go with you wherever you want.”
The thought of meeting whoever would become his new security detail appealed to Link in the same way getting his finger caught in an electric pencil sharpener did, so he shook his head. “I’ll stay.”
Apparently that was the correct answer to get the result her hoped for, and she smiled at him. “I’ll draw the curtains so you can get dressed then.”
It was at that moment that Link remembered that he was clad only in his new, incredibly revealing underwear. His face darkened with embarrassment. “Um… right.” Are my clothes in here now?” He looked back to see that there were great, oaken wardrobes flanking the bed and its twin nightstands.
“The left one’s yours.” Amanda explained before stepping off the raised platform the bed was on and out of the alcove that separated it from the rest of the living space. She touched a panel on the wall that caused a silky, orange and black curtain, of course bearing the ‘M’ crest, to slide out of the wall and block the alcove off entirely.
While he dressed, he heard Amanda bid Mr. Cross to enter, followed by the sounds of the door opening and the rapid tap, tap, tap of the man’s dress shoes on the marble floor until they hit the rug and fell silent.
“I hope the morning finds you well, Majesty.” said Mr. Cross, who spoke the greeting with all the care and inflection of an answering machine recording. Either Amanda replied with a gesture or nod, or both of them were so well aware that he didn’t actually give a damn about the answer that they’d given up on all but the most bare formalities, because he started talking again after a beat.
“You fortunately have a very light slate of pressing matters this morning.” There was the sound of a cap being unscrewed, followed by the unmistakable sound of coffee being poured and the equally unmistakable scent of good quality coffee filling the suite.
“One for my husband too.” said Amanda. More pouring followed her request. “Thank you, Mr. Cross. What’s the first piece of business that requires my attention.”
There was a quiet beep, and thought the curtain, Link saw the light in the room change suddenly and flicker as if a large television had been turned on in the main room, then Mr. Cross was off and talking again.
“The most urgent would be the orbital defense grid, Majesty. As you know, we intended to put the first component into orbit the day before last to coincide with the return of your most powerful and troublesome enemy, The Philanthropist, to Earth. Due to the,” and here, Mr. Cross cleared his throat, “Complications that similarly required your attention then, and your resulting preoccupation with the King and Heirs, the launch was postponed to the back-up date.”
Amanda made a small, nasal noise of consideration. “Sounds like that dealt with itself.”
“I was actually just getting to the problem, Majesty. You see, the United Nations were in negotiations with our ambassador over the implementation of our defense grid. I fear that our failure to launch may have presented weakness to the international community.”
Fully dressed (and without a tie, as per his private, Kingly decree, Link pushed the curtain aside to step down into the main room.
And what a room. The main room of the suite was a massive open space with black marble floors and granite pillars the colors of fire placed in strategic places to lend an air of separation between different areas such as the parlor featuring armchairs and couches with a sideboard, all arranged around a hearth, to the entertainment center with its massive television, leather sectional couch with reclining sections, and surround sound. Despite being in the same room, the proto-rooms that filled the space all occupied their own little areas so well they really seemed to be individual rooms.
The same wall the alcove/bedroom was set in was curved, and on either side of the alcove, gave way to floor to ceiling windows with planters filled with exotic plants set out. Keeping with the symmetry of the outer wall, the windows were interrupted at the very end on either side by a glass door leading out to a set of stairs down to a high walled deck with a pool and hot tub, one story below.
And the reason for the deck being sunken was instantly obvious: allowing an unimpeded view through the windows out at Megardia City.
Amanda was meeting with Mr. Cross in what, for lack of a better word or description, was her office. It consisted of a large cherry wood table with an indentation on the end that she sat at, surrounded by expensive, high backed, executive office chairs. There was a hub on the desk for speaker calls, and a black half-dome from which a holographic image of a newspaper’s web page was being projected.
Link had never seen a real hologram in real life before and he was so surprised to see it that it took him a moment to notice the banner headline of ‘Megardia Stays Its Hand: Is The Island Nation Ready To Bargain?’.
In that same moment, he did completely notice Mr. Cross noticing him in turn. The man started to move, then looked to Amanda as if for permission. Whether it was permission to acknowledge or ignore Link was in question, but a look from her had him rising respectfully. “Your Excellence. I trust that you slept well?”
“Well enough.” Link said, refusing to play to Cross’s was of doing things. Amanda pushed a steaming cup of coffee to a place beside her and he picked it up and drank from it before sinking into the chair. It felt like he’d been somehow sitting wrong all those other times before when he’d put his ass down on a surface and that this time was the first time he’d ever gotten it right. He couldn’t control a contented groan that made Amanda smirk and Mr. Cross frown.
Amanda recovered first, returning to all-business Queen Mageddo mode. “Do we have intelligence on what The Philanthropist has been doing since she got back? Especially her reaction to me not antagonizing her?”
The frown evaporated as if it had just been carelessly inked there in the first place and Mr. Cross dutifully checked his tablet computer. “She gave a speech to her old high school, had a dinner of a ‘double burger basket’ with a side of toast at a diner called ‘Shakes ‘n Stuff’, then disappeared.”
“And Crystal Clark?” Amanda asked.
Link looked at her, torn away from studying the hologram. “Isn’t that the blogger who always gives The Philanthropist a hard time?”
“Yes, that and in her free time, she’s also The Philanthropist.” said Amanda, who almost laughed at his reaction.
“So she’s…” He started, then shook his head. “Wow, that’s…”
“Clever, right? I know!” Amanda laughed, “She’s come a long way with her explanations. Once, she had me almost dead to rights and she started complaining that she was running out of fake, temporary diseases she could fake to get out of trouble for cutting classes to fight me.”
At some point in the proceedings, the frown reappeared on Mr. Cross. “Miss Clark has taken to her blog, claiming that she has proof that crime rates on Earth went down corresponding to The Philanthropist’s departure for her mission of peace and then cheekily suggested The Philanthropist be designated an Ambassador of Earth and stationed off-world for the foreseeable future. As usually, her comments section is full of angry dissenters.”
“She loves to be loved.” said Amanda, rolling her eyes. “If she’s crying for attention that hard, she’s probably in a bad mood from whatever really happened out there in space. Inform the international press corps that Megardia scrubbed our launch of the defensive grid only because the technology involved is of such great future importance to human advancement that we didn’t want it overshadowed by the return of The Philanthropist. Exactly those words, Mr. Cross. I want her to think she tweaked our nose here, not the other way around. Has she had any contact with Extraordinary Response International Services?”
“Not that we can tell.” said Mr. Cross.
“Good. Maybe they won’t tell her what they know.” sighed Amanda before taking a sip of her coffee. “Is… there any good news on the agenda today, Mr. Cross? I need it with little Crystal back on my planet and my secret in the wind.”
Mr. Cross cleared his throat and skipped an item the say, “Ah yes, Majesty. Miss Pruitt was here when you got the news about your secret. She is most excited to meet your family and requested permission to visit today…” He suddenly looked sick, “…with her boyfriend.”
Seeing Amanda almost dropped her cup was enough for get Link’s attention. “What?” He asked, “What’s wrong with… wait, Pruitt… Linda Pruitt? That woman who called the house and said she worked with you? What’s so scary about her boyfriend?”
Before he could panic though, Amanda started laughing. “Oh, it’s nothing scary, it’s just… Link how would you like to meet someone from the other side of my world?”
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