- 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 14 – Eris Lives
Thunderstruck appeared, well, thunderstruck as Amanda extended her hand to him in a friendly manner and said, “I’m one of Linda’s friends and thought I have some reservations of my own, I’d really like to know who she’s dating before I give her the official seal of approval.”
As if in a trance, he reached up and shook her hand, swallowing visibly. “Pleased to meet you.” He said quietly. “I hope you don’t mind if I don’t unmask—i probably would still be hiding who I was from Linda if it wasn’t for how we got together in the first place.” As an afterthought, he added, “And don’t worry about Extraordinary Response International Services—even a lot of people on my side of the community dislike how they do things.”
“Oh?” Link prompted, finding that over the last few days, his curiosity about super-powered politics had grown significantly.
Thunderstruck nodded as Amanda returned to her seat and gave him a look of curiosity as well. It seemed that antipathy for Extraordinary Response International Services among the heroes wasn’t well known to the villains. “They’re less superhero police and more like powered soldiers without a country at best—mercenaries and private military contractors at worst. They’re the ones filling the newest crop of heroes’ minds with ideas against things like the code against killing, and secret identities.”
He scowled. “And one feeds the other. If you don’t have a secret identity, you’re a hell of a lot likely to get attacked by petty crooks and full-on nuts like the Cur. When that happens, or you watch that happen, suddenly the idea of not killing everyone that might turn around and come after you later is pretty appealing, damn the morality and the legality.
“But most people hate them because they don’t think of themselves as superhero level police, but as police for the superheroes. Not a terrible idea, but there’s no law book they follow. If they think you’re out of line, they bring the hammer down on you until you do things their way.”
“Nice bunch.” said Linda. “That’s why we would never tolerate a governing body on our side.”
“I’m just glad that some people who the public might listen to has their reservations about them too.” said Amanda. “Linda told you how my identity was revealed to my family?” It was a rhetorical question because he’d said as much, but he nodded anyway. “Extraordinary Response International Services did that—by kidnapping Link and sending squads to do the same with my kids.”
That snapped Thunderstruck out of his discomfited funk, striking up the heroic drive within him. He sat up and leaned forward toward her, hands braced on his knees. “What? They can’t do that—you have to do something about that. Notify the United Nations or something.”
Sitting back, Amanda shook her head sadly. “As we’ve already discussed, Thunderstruck, we’re not on the same side of the community. No one cares if someone kills one of us. In fact, they cheer. If I tell people that Extraordinary Response International Services tried to kidnap my kids, everyone will just assume that it was for the best, because as the ‘evil’,” And there, she used air quotes again, “Queen Mageddo obviously isn’t fit to raise children. And whatever they did to Link would be fine too because he would be an accomplice.”
“But the United Nations…”
“The last time someone from my family made a trip to speak peaceably at the United Nations, their plane was disintegrated by a pre-teen from the future being shot through it.” she said bluntly.
Blinking several times rapidly seemed to allow Thunderstruck to catch up to what had just been said. “From the future—you mean that’s why you and The Philanthropist hate—“
“Can… we change the subject?” Amanda asked politely. “The kitchen should be sending something to eat up in a bit and I really and honestly would like to hear how you met Linda.”
Something not unlike guilt played in Thunderstruck’s eyes and he nodded. “Um… well, it was the internet. We met, initially on an internet dating site.”
Amanda looked at Night Queen and the shock and amusement were only slightly force. “Linda, you didn’t?”
Linda, who seemed to be extremely prone to it for someone who dressed in a costume so tight that it might have actually been paint in Link’s view, blushed. “I did. Mostly for a laugh, but really, I was in a drought and I got a few dates off it, so it was worth it. Then I met… er… Thunderstruck, and…”
“We had a horrible date.” continued Thunderstruck, the nervousness missing from his voice. “Seriously, just terrible. The movie we tried to go to was sold out and we had to go see one of those creepy vampire love stories where even the actors are clearly getting a case of the skin crawls from the dialogue, then the restaurant…”
“God, the restaurant,” said Linda with a laugh. “They lost our reservations, we had to wait an hour, and then the waiter was a guy I knew in high school, who, as it turns out, had a huge crush on me. He spent the whole night hitting on m right in front of my date.”
Thunderstruck laughed. “Considering all the awkwardness and everything here, it’s probably not a surprise that I’m actually a pretty shy guy with the cowl off. So I ended up sitting there and taking it as he’s like, all over her. I almost felt like he was going to ask me to move so he could sit down and finish the date in my place.” He shrugged, “Needless to say, there was no goodnight kiss. It was pretty clear we were never going to see each other again.”
“Until a week later,” Linda leaned over and rested her hand on Thunderstruck’s leg, “I’m on a job for Sam Sinister, getting this energy converter invention out of Dr. Sevarius’s lab when who do I find strapped to a gurney with wires hooked up to him? Mr. Worst Date Ever.”
A very unladylike and even less royal snort came from Amanda. “You mean you saved him?”
Thunderstruck held up his hands as if surrendering. “Servarius was trying to siphon my electrical powers to charge up some robot of his or something. Whatever it was, it took him a full minute to say its name—electro-, mech-, omni- porta-potty—whatever. We all know Servarius’s thing with names, right?”
Everyone but Link, who hadn’t even heard of anyone by that name, laughed. Even Ari looked a bit amused.
“So yeah, I rescued him.” Linda had to wipe a tear from her eyes from the laugh. “Thief or not, it would be kind of terrible to abandon the guy there. Of course, I had no idea who he was and visa-versa until Servarius sicced a swarm of his omni-drone bee-bots on us and Thunderstruck powered up in front of me.”
“I was woozy from being drained and forgot she was there.” Thunderstruck defended to much amusement.
Linda patted his leg consolingly but continued to giggle at his expense. “Of course karma evened our debts on that, because my mask caught fire and I had to take it off. That was an awkward evening, let me tell you. But, hey, the good news:” and she gave Thunderstruck a loving look that quickly turned to a devilish grin. “I still got the converter back to Sam Sinister and got paid six figures.”
“I feel so loved right now.” said Thunderstruck, completely deadpan.
And just like that, the ice was broken and if Link could ignore the masks and the fancy setting and the guards, it was almost like being on a double date. Amanda told cute stories about the kids, Linda regaled them with rollicking tales of being an adventurer and thief that made Indiana Jones look like a kid in a sandbox, and Thunderstruck span stories about his own exploits protecting the Tri-State area from what he was very careful not to call evil.
Link joined in too of course, adding his own stories about the kids that Amanda hadn’t been there for, and also balancing things with the other couple by telling them about that night in the computer lab when he and Amanda first met.
Back when Link had been a nervous kid in high school, he’d dreaded parties because he never thought it was possible for someone like him to have a good time. He wasn’t friendless, but he was never in any danger of winning the award for most social either. But then he actually went to a party and found people to talk to, and before long, he was shocked to discover that hours had gone by and that he’d enjoyed himself.
That was the same feeling he had there in the parlor, or whatever it was. He hadn’t expected to enjoy any of it; foreseeing awkwardness and stilted conversation, but in the end, he was that same kid again, surprised at just how much he could relate with people if he just tried.
Then the refreshments arrived. Two servers in kitchen staff uniforms: white shirts, black pants and dark orange aprons bearing the ‘M’ logo of Megardia, which was slightly stylistically different from the ‘M’ crest of the royal family, rolled trolleys into the room.
One was arranged with coffee and pots of two kinds of tea (chai and the Queen’s blend, which tasted suspiciously like the plain old Earl Grey they had back at home), butter cookies, and oblong pastries filled with blueberry jam. The servers poured and prepared the hot drinks to everyone’s preference and fixed them up with sweet before bringing forth the second cart.
In honor as the Night Queen’s love of seafood, and given that Megardia was an island, a seafood medley was an obvious choice. There was shrimp cocktail with the shrimp arranged around the lips of martini glasses filled with sauce, miniature crab cakes, a selection of fresh sushi and, seemingly added just to prompt some suggestive remarks from Linda to Thunderstruck, oysters on the half shell.
One of the servants, a tall, pale man with his dark hairline in full retreat even though he was in his twenties, was handing Link a shrimp cocktail and a dragon roll when Link spotted the glint of something in his sleeve. Not metallic, but plastic and, if he wasn’t mistaken, it had a barrel.
The man noticed him noticing and immediately decided that it was now or never. Even as Link opened his mouth to shout, the servant snapped his wrist and a what looked like science fiction’s answer to the derringer was launched into his waiting hand by a hidden spring. The tiny gun was plastic, but its inner working glowed with a green inner light that made clear that it was no toy.
His motion knocked the cocktail glass out of Link’s hand and while it started to fall in slow motion, he was turning just as slowly.
As long as Link lived, he knew he could go back to that moment and recall everything that happened in the next instant.
The sudden movement caught Dekembe and Ari’s eyes and the Queen’s Guard started forward, rifles coming up, ready to put down the threat. Meanwhile, that same movement had alerted Amanda, who rose so quickly that she knocked over her cup of chai tea. Her arm came up and the palm of her gauntlet opened, the interior glowing green like the miniature pistol the assassin carried. Link couldn’t see Night Queen or Thunderstruck through the assassin’s body.
In the slow motion world Link was inhabiting, he felt the adrenaline being dumped into his veins and realized he had no idea what to do with it. He wasn’t a fighter. In fact, he hadn’t even taken karate lessons as a kid. But his wife was in danger. Yes, she was the Most Dangerous Mortal on Earth, and in hindsight, he realized that there was little chance that some piddling little laser-derringer had little chance against her magical powered armor, but adrenaline is the opposite of clear thinking.
So he did what he could and headbutted the guy’s arm while he was in the middle of aiming, which worked surprisingly well. The derringer had been deposited into the hopeful assassin’s palm via spring and he didn’t have a good grip on it yet. The headbutt made him almost drop it entirely.
Then something hit the man. At first Link thought it was bullets, or energy bursts, or some strange attack from Amanda’s armor, but instead electricity started arcing around the unlucky hit-man. Around, but not through. The white, crackling energy crawled over him like a nightmarish octopus instead of grounding like normal lightning. It sent him into a spasmic jig across the floor, but somehow didn’t let him fall for a good five seconds before it winked out and he collapsed, smoking, to the ground.
While Dekembe and Ari rushed to cover the still twitching assailant, everyone else looked to where Thunderstruck was standing, looking sheepish. He smiled awkwardly. “I’m not sure that helps my hero cred or not.”
“It does with me.” Amanda said before going over to her assassin. She reached down and grabbed him by his shirt, lifting him with zero effort into the air. “Are you alright?” She asked Link looking past the man’s arm.
Link could only nod weakly and then rub his head where it had hit elbow.
Satisfied, she looked coldly into the man’s eyes. Some hidden mechanism, or perhaps magic made her mask unfold and reassemble around her face. The eyes glowed orange. “Who are you.” She demanded with her voice altered by the mask.
Still rattled by his recent electrocution, the assassin breathed haltingly and looked around, wild eyed. His eyes fell on his gun, lying on the floor. A moment later, Amanda’s heel landed on it too. There was a surge of energy, only somewhat visible as a ripple in the air around her, that rolled though her body and concentrated in that heel just as it made contact. The gun and a three inch circle of stone beneath it were turned to powder. Such was the wrath of Queen Mageddo.
His hope literally crushed beneath the heel of his enemy, the man gibbered a moment before remembering what he was supposed to do. “I may die!” he cried out, “But Eris lives!” He opened his mouth as wide as he could and chomped down…
On the metal gauntleted fingers of Amanda’s free hand. “The first one is demonstrably untrue. You will enjoy the palace dungeon as the guest of Megardia.” She said, never looking away from his eyes, she rooted around in his mouth before pulling out a tooth, which she handed to Ari. “Suicide capsule.” She explained.
Her orange glowing eyes scanned him up and down before she reached down and grabbed his belt buckle. When she pulled it off, the man in her hands suddenly grew at least ten years older, a good deal more bald, and all around into an entirely different person.
“Chameleon Circuit.”This was also handed to Ari. Amanda checked the name badge on the apron. “This man was masquerading as Marcus Demico. Trace Demico’s every step over backward until your find him. And order all palace staff to report immediately—give everyone DNA scans. Rouse the entire Sovereign Elite and move the Royal Family to fallback location Gamma until we’ve made sure there was only one.”
She foisted the assassin over on Dekembe and turned to Linda and Thunderstruck. “I’m terribly sorry about this, but we have to go into lockdown. I can set you up in a room if it goes all night though.”
“We’re… not prisoners are we?” Thunderstruck asked as alarms began to sound out in the hall, courtesy of a call from Air.
Amanda’s forced smile was visible where her mask left her mouth clear. “Only in the sense that you can’t leave and need and armed escort to go anywhere. Again, I’m terribly sorry, but there might be more around.”
He nodded. “Right just… checking. You understand.”
And she did, which was the odd part. She just nodded and went to Link. “Honey,” she said, managing to be apologetic even though someone just tried to kill her. “Your guards are going to be here soon and they’re going to take you to a safe room until this is over.”
Maybe it was the left over adrenaline talking, but he looked up into her eyes and asked, “But you’re not coming, are you?”
“I can’t.” She said. “I have to help hunt any more infiltrators down. Plus, the people are going to hear about this and they need to know their Queen isn’t afraid.”
“And their King?”
She blinked. It hadn’t occurred to her, and anyway, most Megardians probably didn’t even know they had and new King yet. “I… Link, I have the suit. If there are more infiltrators in the palace, you don’t have any protection against them.”
A fair and, frankly, obvious point. But Link’s mind was on something else. “What did that guy say about ‘Eris lives?”
“This century’s sic semper tyrannis, I guess.”
“No…” Link shook his head, then came back to himself. “Look, anyone here now is probably not after me, right? And they’ll be here in the palace in any event, right?”
“I suppose… Link, what are you getting at.”
He scrubbed his hand through his hair. “I’m not sure yet. But I’ll go down to the safe room and make sure the kids get there safe, but can you have the King’s Guard take me somewhere else? Somewhere outside the palace?”
Amanda looked at him, confused. “I’d feel much better if…”
Leaning forward, he kissed her. It had been on his mind since the moment it became a possibility that she might be killed and grew now that he needed to make it clear to her that he wasn’t leaving the palace because of her. The kiss went on some time, both of them reveling in feeling the other, hot and alive and there with them, but finally they parted and rested their foreheads against each other; flesh to metal.
“I just need to think about something. To figure something out.” he said. “It’s like its on the tip of my brain and its important, but I need to verify it, understand?” Link asked quietly.
She raised her hands up to his shoulders and gave a gentle squeeze. “You’re the King. You don’t need to ask permission.”
Slowly, painfully slowly, she pulled away from him and stood up to her full height. Once more, she was Queen Mageddo and assassin or no assassin, she was in charge.
Watching her starting once more to give orders, Link hoped that he could help her with the wild idea burning in his head.
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