SIMaS: Chapter 13 – Thunderstruck, Enlightening

This entry is part 13 of 17 in the series So I Married a Supervillain
Link pulled his hand back and kissed her hand in turn before letting go. Standing, he stretched a bit and looked toward the open door to what he assumed to be the Royal Bathing Chambers. “I’m sure he’ll come around—or go postal. One or the other. Now if you’ll excuse me, honey, I haven’t had a shower since the kidnapping and probably smell like a sewer. Let me know when the food comes?”
 
“Sure. I’ll just go over some of the news reports about our scrubbed launch in the meantime.” said Amanda, also rising. She took a remote out of her utility belt and used it to turn on the television. “There’s clean towels in the first cabinet, and body wash on the sink.”
 
Partway across the room, Link paused and looked back at her, stricken. “Not the same kind you use at home? Please no.”
 
“This is home.” she pointed out. “And of course it’s the same kind. I don’t see what the problem is: you like the smell of honey and pomegranate on me.”
 
“On you.” He frowned, but underneath, he was thankful for that tiny, unimportant domestic argument to take his mind off larger things. “But on me, not so much. That’s… you know, not a man’s smell. Maybe just the pomegranate, but honey?”
 
Amanda rolled her eyes and strolled over to the leather sectional in front of the giant-sized television. “Too bad; it’s the only body wash in there because it was just me living her for the last few decades. All the more reason to go shopping this evening before Linda and Thunderstruck get here.”
 
A peek into the bathroom, revealed to Link a large, well appointed, but almost disappointingly tasteful bathroom.
 
Yes, the floor was marble, and yes, there were paintings on the wall that probably cost more than the family car, but given the prison cells and the rest of the Royal Suites, he had expected solid gold fixtures, an Olympic sized bathtub, and an in-toilet masseuse for the Queen.
 
But then, he supposed that no one but the Queen and whoever cleaned the Queen’s bathroom was ever meant to see it, so why bother?
 
“Are we calling him that?” He asked from the doorway. “Thunderstruck, I mean? Doesn’t he have a real name?”
 
“Honey,” Amanda turned and rested her elbows on the back of the sectional, “If you were a superhero of some renown above your average street-leveler, like Thunderstruck, and your girlfriend, who is a super villain, wanted to show you off to the Most Dangerous Mortal on Earth, would you show up in your civvies and using your real name?”
 
Link shrugged. “If the roles were reversed and you weren’t you and all I knew about Queen Mageddo was what I heard from the news?” She nodded. “I’d fake the flu that night.”
 
With Amanda laughing at his joke, he started into the bathroom and stopped, turning as an epiphany struck him. “I don’t mean to bring down your mood, sweetheart, but why didn’t The Philanthropist bring her adoptive parents back if she’s on the warpath against you over it?”
 
The question was so strange that Amanda stopped laughing, but was too confused to be upset by it. “What are you talking about?”
 
He shrugged. “I mean on the news, you hear about superheroes and villains dying and coming back all the time. The people around them too, sometimes. Like Zeus brought Bellerophon‘s son back to life last year.”
 
Amanda shook her head sadly. “That’s usually not what it looks like, Link. Most of the time, what the media thinks is a resurrection is really a case of someone having their death faked, being lost off-world or in another dimension, falling comatose and being hidden away while they recover, the dead version of them having actually been a clone, the ‘returned’ version of them being a clone, or in my case, many, many robot duplicates.”
 
The robot duplicate thing was fairly common knowledge, even to lay people like Link after it happened so often over the years, but every once in a while, a brash, young hero without a code against killing would hold a press release to declare that they had saved to world from Queen Mageddo once in for all. Such press conferences were usually interrupted minutes later by a live broadcast from Megardia by the deceased and those who called them could then look forward to many, many years of being a laughingstock.
 
“I would have offered to clone then for her once I realized what I’d done,” She sighed, “But the house, their bodies—there wasn’t a trace left. The only way to get them back would be time travel, and that’s so fraught with risks to everyone and everything that no one I know—or at least associate with would even think of sending someone back, even for something like that. One false move and very important events get erased and you might come back to a different world—or a different you entirely.”
 
Link nodded. “Sorry I asked.”
 
“No, it was sweet of you to try and think of a solution. Unfortunately, this problem’s existed for almost the same amount of time as we’ve been married.”
 
He nodded and once more started to turn before looking back at her and raising a questioning eyebrow. “You never sent a robot duplicate to the house did you?”
 
Seeing exactly what he was trying to do, Amanda gave him an enigmatic smile. “Take your shower, honey.” she said, resuming her original posture on the sectional.
 
“No seriously.” He egged her on. “I never, you know kissed a robot goodbye on the way out the door have I? Or… or… just how close to human is a duplicate?”
 
***
Eight hours and a whirlwind tours of the finest (where ‘finest’ was defined as most outstanding in the field of impressing whatever body handed out citizenship awards) shops in Megardia found Link in yet another room he’d never seen before.
 
Evidently, the Royal Guard and the Palace Guard had both objected to the Queen entertaining a known superhero in her suite and beseeched her to consider the room they were now in instead. It was a smallish parlor situated just off the large be-tapestry’d room they had passed to reach the Royal Suites the day before.
 
There was a large, granite hearth there and high quality, padded mahogany arm chairs situated in front of it with a fully stocked bar on one side and a billiards table on the other. Amanda told him that her father had it installed and used to play with, of all people, Mr. Cross and a pre-‘promotion to Royal Guard’ Ari.
 
Fresh from a second shower, this time with his new soap and aftershave, Link was back to smelling how a man should smell (like unnamed spices of indeterminate age), and dressed in a chocolate brown suit with a royal purple shirt and of course, no tie. He’d related his intention to some of the business owners they’d met and they responded with the expected amount of ass kissing, and vehement agreement that he was setting what would no doubt be an international trend.
 
Because all it took to get rid of an accessory absolutely no one liked by wore anyway because they were expected to was the king of one of the most hated nations on Earth doing away with it.
 
He shifted around in his seat, fighting against a phantom discomfort that had nothing to do with the chair. Instead, it had everything to do with the fact that he was the only one sitting down. With Amanda off to greet her friends on the palace’s landing pad, and presumably warn the Night Queen not to say or do anything to freak Link out too much, he was left to wait with only the King’s Guard for company.
 
Oh yes, the King’s Guard, who had been assigned by decree of the Queen at some point while he was in the shower. The pair on duty at the moment, standing guard at the doors, were Ivanika and Giovanni.
 
Ivanika was the woman, or possibly a descendant of the woman about whom the Commodores song Brick House was written. She was indeed mighty mighty, being six-foot-three and made primarily of muscle and a game face that said she would and would kill a man with his own liver if he steppe out of line with her. She did not, however, let it all hang out; instead wearing her dress uniform and medals immaculately with her dirty blonde hair neatly braided and coiled beneath her beret. In addition to her standard issue rifle, she had a brace of daggers strapped around her left wrist and a set of knuckle dusters on at all times, just in case something needed punching. She was also Dekembe’s wife, which made Link imagine a baby that could dropkick the doctor upon delivery.
 
Giovanni by comparison, didn’t look that impressive. He had been part of the Queen’s Guard for the previous Queen and part of the junior officers in the Sovereign Elite under the previous ruler before her. Pushing eighty, he looked like a Halloween decoration; all popped eyes and wispy, gray hair with a frame that might well have been wood and wire. Bad ass wood and wire, Link reminded himself, if the old man knew how to use half the gear he carried.
 
Indeed, Giovanni seemed to subscribe to the ‘be prepared’ school of thinking when it came to making sure you could kill just about anyone at any given time. He wore tactical webbing over his dress uniform, from which hung two brutal looking hunting knives, at least three kinds of grenades, extra magazines for the rifle in his hands, plus the machine pistol on his hip and the nine millimeter handgun in his armpit holster. Another, smaller knife was tucked into his shiny, black boots, and his stance told even someone who knew nothing about fighting like Link that he didn’t actually need any of it to bring down broken bones, concussions and worse to anyone on the wrong side of him.
 
All in all, Link decided they were pretty solid choices for guards. Except like the other members of the Royal Guard (besides Arisa, whose orders countermanded it), they were too professional to succumb to small talk. And being European, Link assumed they wouldn’t want to talk (American) football anyway.
 
And so Link suffered in silence while occasionally fidgeting and constantly hoping Amanda would hurry up.
 
His prayers were answered after some fifteen minutes when the doors opened to reveal Dekembe and Ari preceding Amanda and her guests. The Queen’s Guard took the place of the King’s, who moved to stand outside the door, which in turn relieved pair of Palace Guards stationed there. Like the crazy, smitten kids in love they were, Dekembe and Ivanika greeted each other with the traditional Curt Nod of True Wuv.
 
Link’s second thought upon seeing the Night Queen (my but there seemed to be a lot of Queens in the world of villainy) was how utterly and distressingly cliché his first thought was. And his first thought was that he thought she’d be taller.
 
The Tri-State area’s greatest cat burglar was all of five-foot-nothing with a slight, athletic built on top of it. In keeping with the ‘cat burglar’ rule of thumb, she wore a form-fitting bodysuit made of some velvety material in midnight blue. More than midnight blue in fact, because the only way to tell it was blue was to look at it where the light glanced showed past her instead of directly on her. She wore soft pixie boots with not so soft heavy duty treads on the heel and balls of her feet made of some kind of foam that deformed when she walked on the flat surface of the floor, and a true midnight blue masquerade mask that covered the top half of her face, then extended in a series of spikes and flourishes to resemble a crown where it pushed up against her mass of curly, black hair. Beneath the mask, her skin was light in color but not pale, and she wore blue lipstick.
 
She came in, chatting and laughing non-nonchalantly while towing her boyfriend behind her like a mother with a stubborn child in a grocery store.
 
Thunderstruck looked uncomfortable. Link had thought that he himself looked and felt uncomfortable in Megardia, but compared to Thunderstruck, he was as content as a basketful of kittens after a cream and ball of yarn bender.
 
Standing a shade under six feet, he was dressed in a long sleeved, padded shirt that looked like spandex buy probably wasn’t. It was a darkish sort of yellow, like someone had tried to make the color gold without the glimmer, with a black ‘T’ symbol on the front that trialed off into forks of lighting at every extremity and had the odd effect of making it look like his chest was cracking open. He also wore black, close fitting cargo pants and soft boots the color of the shirt.
 
Additionally, he wore a mask, one like the ones Zorro wore in the television series, that wrapped all to cover the entire top of his head like a bandanna while also leaving eye holes up front. It was black, because that type of mask had to be if the wearer didn’t want to look like a discount luchador.
 
The source of his discomfort, apart from meeting one of his girlfriend’s friends and the judging that was to come, and of course the armed guards, was Amanda, who in accordance with both Thunderstruck and Night Queen wearing masks, had raised her own mechanical faceplate, the one she’d had on when she first visited Link in the dungeon. All by itself it did a wonderful job of advertising that the wearer was a person whose daily routines included plotting to steal the world’s supply of something, and battling do-gooders.
 
Her anecdote, however…
 
“…and the maids had set up an actual tea for her with china cups and everything. And she was so happy, you should have seen her, Lin.”
 
Link smirked, forgetting his nerves for a moment. Hero beware, she’ll be showing baby pictures next.
 
Linda, which didn’t have the same edge to it as ‘Night Queen’, laughed along with Amanda and smiled broadly. “She sounds so adorable! I can’t wait to see her—and Nate too. You’ve told me so much about them.”
 
“We’ll see them a bit later. Nate is being introduced to some kids his age, and Chloe is having a nap just now.” She smiled, a strange expression coming from beneath the shadow of her mask. “But I’d like both of you to meet Lincoln Moss, my husband. Link, these are Linda, who you’ve spoken too,”
 
“Though I’m betting the context is making one hell of a difference.” Linda chuckled and offered her hand. Link rose from his seat and shook it before offering his hand to Thunderstruck.
 
“And,” Amanda continued, “Thunderstruck, her boyfriend of… how long has it been, Linda?”
 
“Sixteen months.” Linda supplied proudly.
 
Both Link and Thunderstruck exchanged grips and a low, manful ‘Hi, you ya doin’?’, but then the latter saw fit to add, “Your Majesty.”
 
Unable to resist, Link pointed to Amanda. “Actually, she’s ‘Your Majesty’. They tell me I’m ‘Your Excellence’. But just call me Link, because that’s what I’m used to. I’ve… heh… I’ve only been King for like a day.”
 
“So I heard. Um, Linda,” He said her name with the air of still not believing that she was using her real name there. “She told me all about that on the flight here.” And with that, they had both used up their prepared remarks, lapsing into the silent nodding stupor of men who only knew each other through their wives and girlfriends. Now all that was left was awkward small talk.
 
Link cleared his throat. “Um, everyone have a seat… yeah.” He suspected that there were things a king should be doing in times like those, but he couldn’t for the life of him think of what. A sultan would clap and summon serving and/or dancing girls, he supposed, but Amanda would not be happy with that, and anyway, there were no dancing girls and the kitchen would be sending up food in a little while with no clapping needed.
 
“So,” He said, settling on chit-chat. “Thunderstruck. You’re a superhero.” Inwardly, he winced and mocked himself for that one. Really? What gave it away? The costume, the secret identity?
 
Thunderstruck took a seat, conspicuously the one that put Linda between him and Amanda, and nodded amiably. “Yeah, I am.”
 
“Been at it long?”
 
He shrugged. “Five years. Had my powers for seven, but I tried not to get sucked into the whole thing.”
 
Now that was interesting. Link sat down too, but now he was attentive.”Oh really? I’m kind of surprised to hear that. I mean if I suddenly got powers, the first thing I’d probably do was fly off to try and fight evil with them.”
 
When he said ‘evil’, Thunderstruck’s eyes flicked to Linda and then settled on Amanda.
 
Link followed the look and promptly cleared his throat. “Not that… I mean why did you try to stay out of it?”
 
The hero visibly relaxed at the change of subject and the lack of outrage from the two villainesses. “I had a friend with powers before I go mine, and I saw how much of a wreck it made the guy’s life. I mean he couldn’t keep a steady job or a girlfriend because he was always off and running after some super-powered badness, he got laid up in the hospital at least once a month, and he was constantly feeling guilty about things he missed because he ran off to be the hero, or times he didn’t do his hero thing in time… I didn’t want that.”
 
“But you still did it.” said Amanda, thankfully foregoing the creepy voice changing function of her mask. “What happened to make you change your mind?”
 
He looked at her for a moment with suspicion and disbelief in his eyes.
 
Linda reached over and patted his hand. “T, now you promised you’d give Mageddo a chance. She’s my friend and I trust her—she did save my life, after all.”
 
“When did this happen?” Link blurted out.
 
Amanda shrugged. “About ten years ago. It’s how Linda and I met.”
 
“Yeah,” Added Linda. “About ten years ago, not long after I first made a name for myself by stealing the Eye of Tenzraiel for Occulus, the Thousand Eyes Man. The Torusian Empire decided to invade Earth, starting by kidnapping all of our world leaders.”
 
Like any old friends relating a story, they bounced it back and forth between them. Amanda picked it up from there. “Unfortunately, The Torusians don’t have the words of concepts for Prime Minister, President, Premier, and whatnot, so they pretty much relied on news broadcasts to locate all of the Kings, Queen, Empresses, Emperors and other people that had royalty in their titles if not in their blood. So naturally, they got me—they managed to be correct there—but also Night Queen, King Ruckus, Queen-of-Hives (who isn’t even from Earth, or even an earthly dimension), The Emperor of the Wastes, Prince Charmless, and Lord Bastion; not to mention the musicians they captured.”
 
“While we were breaking out, we overheard an argument over emperor penguins.” said Linda. The Torusians are pretty stupid, really. They didn’t even develop their own faster than light drives, they just murdered a race of explorers that tried to colonize Torus IV.”
 
Amanda nodded. “They couldn’t catch a case of flees and hold on to them very long without being outsmarted, but they made up for it by being psychotically vicious and good meat shields for the Darsh Alliance, so I’ve heard.
 
“But anyway, it turned out that Night Queen and I were locked up in the same cell, and while I was reconfiguring my gauntlets’ particle beam to cut through the cell doors, we got to talking and we have a lot in common, and not just our penchant for extra- legal activities.” She laughed at her little joke and noticed Thunderstruck getting uncomfortable again. “But that story’s fairly boring: Thunderstruck, I was wondering how you and Linda met.”
 
“Curious as to why her friend was skipping the best parts, Linda looked over and saw her beau’s distress and sighed. “I shouldn’t have told him that you disapproved of our relationship on the flight over.”
 
Amanda sighed and looked at Thunderstruck, dropping the last of the Queen Mageddo act entirely. “Is that really it? What did you expect me to do, er, Thunderstruck, attack you because I don’t like you dating my friend?” He didn’t reply, but his posture shifted to something slightly more defensive.
 
“God, it’s like my reputation is hammering me at every turn this week.” Amanda groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Look, I know that Queen Mageddo is a terrorist of massive infamy, the nemesis of the most beloved superhero on the planet, and all that, but have you ever seen anything on the news or elsewhere that made you think I was the same kind of bad guy as Vicious Cur or Protherian? I’m not a psychopath… as far as I can tell. The closest they normally come to calling me crazy is megalomania, isn’t it?”
 
When the only reply to this was Thunderstruck continuing to weight the situation in his thoughts, she switched tactics. “Look, can you at least tell me this, straight out: do you think Linda is a monster for what she does?”
 
He looked at Linda, shame in his eyes. “No, I guess not. She has a job—one that I wish she didn’t have, but outside of it…” His tension melted as he looked Night Queen in the eye, “I know she’s a wonderful, loving person; someone I’m really happy I got to know.” Linda blushed at this, clashing badly with her costume.
 
Amanda looked at them for a long minute and Link knew she was seeing what he was seeing: themselves, minus two kids and two decades of experience. He wondered if they still looked at each other like that, because he knew he still felt that way—only more so.
 
Finally, she reached up and hit the hidden switch that caused the mask over her face to fold up and collapse around her head until her real face was visible to the world. “In that case, Thunderstruck, instead of Queen Mageddo, and since Extraordinary Response International Services already know my identity, I want to introduce you to Amanda Moss.”
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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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