- 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 5 – Welcome to Megardia
His first thoughts upon waking was that he hoped he wouldn’t get brain damage from being knocked unconscious over and over, as had become his routine of late. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to coughing his lungs out this time. Nor did he seem to be restrained either.
In fact, he was on a bed. A very nice bed; the mattress wasn’t too stiff, but it also wasn’t so soft that he felt like he was being absorbed by the blob. The sheets were softer than any he’d ever felt, and the comforter laid over him was wonderfully warm.
His hopes rose that maybe, just maybe he’d been dreaming all the violence and confusion and being drugged. Maybe he’d just eaten something that didn’t agree with him and climbed into bed. And when he opened his eyes, he’d be in his hotel room, safe and sound, and with his children sleeping in the next room.
Thus comfortably armed with delusion, he opened his eyes.
Okay, he thought, now he was dreaming.
Being married to Amanda, he’d slept in more than his fair share of hotel rooms all over the world. Sometimes, there would be a booking error in their favor and they would stay in nicer rooms than they could otherwise afford. Absolutely none of those rooms held a candle to the one he was in now.
From the king sized bed, he had a view of a room twice as large as the one he’d gotten at the hotel. The ceiling was an intricate mosaic of the night sky, the walls painted with a Renaissance-era cityscape by the hand of a master. One either side of the bed, was a golden statue of Venus, resplendent in her beauty and perfect female form.
Rather a lot of her female form, Link noted.
Almost all the furniture was clearly antique and just as clearly crafted by hand, from the dark cherry wood nightstand and armoire, mahogany writing desk, to the oaken doors and wainscoting. Newer additions included a glass coffee table set before a big, comfortable looking sofa, and a big screen, plasma television.
A set of double doors opened into an equally huge bathroom which Link was certain would have all the amenities.
The only obvious omission was that the room had no windows, being lit only by lamps and an overhead light.
He took it all in with suspicion. Maybe he had been drugged twice, and hadn’t been given any straight answers about what was going on, but he was fairly sure he’d been taken captive. And captives didn’t get luxury suites unless they were international super-spies drawn into the belly of the villain’s lair.
An icy chill ran down his spine. Queen Mageddo of Megardia. She was the one that sent that squad to take him out of Extraordinary Response International Services’ custody.
The Services were ostensibly the good guys, though after lying to him about his kids and kidnapping him, Link was having his doubts. And if they thought he was some kind of supervillain, what did Queen Mageddo think of him? That he was competition? A threat? Maybe she thought that he really was some sort of international super-spy, which would explain the opulent room.
Hadn’t the agent mentioned Megardia using some of his patents?
There was a sort of giddy thrill in that. Not much was known about Megardia beyond the fact that the people were horribly oppressed by the Queen, who spent an inordinate amount of time trying to kill, discredit or otherwise harm The Philanthropist instead of actually ruling. Somehow his designs, commercial failures in the United States, had reached the tiny, backward nation and were hopefully making life a little bit better for them.
It filled him with a bit of pride that this might be the case. At least his ideas were getting some use, and doing some good, even if they weren’t making him money. He decided to be content with that, because he wasn’t about to try and sue a supervillain over intellectual property rights.
Maybe Mageddo ordered him captured to hire him on to come up with more ideas?
He imagined how that would go down with Amanda. ‘So honey, this weekend I got a job offer. It’s got a good salary, full health and dental, three weeks of vacation time a year. The only teensy problem is that my boss is the most wanted human being on Earth. But hey, you should see the company car.’
It was rare for Amanda to get really angry at him, but he could see she losing it there. And when she got made, her accent came back, full force.
Something clicked in his head, but before he could analyze it, the door opened.
On some level, he was just happy it didn’t explode.
That sliver of optimism died as two dour faced men in black military dress uniforms with orange and yellow stripes at the shoulders, marched in, carrying snub nosed rifles, each with a pair of strange, foot-long protrusions of matte-gray metal extending from the end of their barrels. These wore no helmets, but did have dark orange berets. They surveyed the room, taking special note of Link before stepping aside to reveal the third and fourth members of Megardia’s welcoming committee.
The fourth was a thin man with a ramrod straight posture, pallid skin, and an accountant’s haircut. The glasses on his face were almost comically large, but on him they looked natural, like an owl’s eyes. His expression was one of perfect neutrality even as he walked behind the third visitor; the woman some called the most dangerous mortal being on Earth.
Queen Mageddo, ruler of Megardia, nemesis of The Philanthropist, scientist, sorceress, dictator, and supervillain extraordinaire breezed into the room with a grace all her own, her black, high-heeled boots clicking. She was dressed as she usually did when she appeared on the news, or on state television; a suit of close fitting, dark orange material that was like metallic cloth with a black vest of the same bearing the red and orange ‘M’ on her chest. A great, black mantle with yellow lining was set about her shoulders, draping down her left side, but tossed back and away from her left, and was closed with a large, amber clasp.
Her gloves were mechanical marvels in copper and black, polished iron, as was her helm, which was a great, winged thing with horns that came down along her cheeks and ended in points just past her chin. A mechanical visor came down over her face, hiding her eyes, nose and top lip, leaving only a glimpse of a delicate, but firmly set chin and olive tinged flesh.
The infamous utility belt was secured to her waist. The defeat of many would-be heroes and the means of many of Mageddo’s escapes lay hidden in that belt sealed inside copper and aluminum cylinders.
She moved past the two military men and threw back her cape fully, planting her fists on her hips in a dramatic pose that was only slightly spoiled by a lack of dramatic wind.
“Lincoln Moss.” Despite her mouth being open to the air, some sort of technology added an echo and slight rattle to her voice that Link remembered from many video clips. “You daughter has a stuffed animal with her. I wish to know its name.”
Link didn’t have any preconceived notions of what might happen to him in the clutches of Queen Mageddo of Megardia, but that was probably the last question he expected. He also couldn’t really get past the absurdity of hearing the voice of legion saying ‘stuffed animal’.
“What?” He blurted out, sitting up in the bed. “I mean… why? Is Chloe here? Where is she?”
“In due time.” said Queen Mageddo. “Answer the question first.”
Dumbfounded, Link shook his head. “I… it doesn’t have a name. She makes up a new one whenever she feels like it.”
Queen Mageddo immediately looked to the right and left and nodded to the uniformed men there. “Leave us.” She turned to the strange little man that had followed her in. “You as well, Mr. Cross. But don’t go far: see to it that the children are comfortable.”
All three men saluted, fist to chest, and left without a work.
“I’m not lying.” Link said. “It doesn’t have a name, so torturing me isn’t going to work, okay?”
Mageddo waited until the door was closed before surprising Link by going over to the sofa and sitting primly with her mantle billowing out around her. “You will not be tortured, Mr. Moss. In fact no harm will come to you or your children in Megardia. You have my word on that. I swear on my life.”
“O…kay?” Link pushed off the covers and scooted over to sit on the edge of the bed. “Can I please ask what’s going on here, your worshipfullness?”
“Worshipfulness?” The electronic noise in Queen Mageddo’s voice made it hard to tell, but Link thought she might have laughed.
“I’ve never addressed royalty.” He said, trying to be respectful, but uncomfortable with how casual the encounter seemed.
“You are not one of my subjects.” She waved him off. “I do not need your humility. But I do need to ask what you were doing aboard an Extraordinary Response International Services floating fortress.”
Link blinked. “Floating… I didn’t even know that much. I was hoping you’d tell me, because I was in this bar…”
“Bar?!” Queen Mageddo suddenly cut in. “Where were the kids? You shouldn’t have been getting drunk while you were responsible for them!”
Something in him suddenly kicked in to defend him, making him forget who he was talking to. “I wasn’t getting drunk, I was… well trying to figure out what to do with my day. My little girl wanted to go to this day camp, and the boy, well he wanted nothing to do with me, so I was giving him some space. You might not know this, but as a parent, it’s a rare, rare thing to be staring down the barrel of a couple of hours with nothing to do. It’s almost intimidating.”
Queen Mageddo seemed to deflate and sounded almost morose. “I suppose so. Especially not with your wife away all the time.”
Link shook his head. “She does what she can for us. More than her fair share, what with my businesses and all…”
Hesitating a moment, Queen Mageddo cut him off. “Your interrogation: what did they ask you?”
“I don’t know—nothing that made sense. They thought I was…” He trailed off. Was ‘supervillain’ considered an insult to supervillains? A slur? Did Queen Mageddo even consider herself one? It didn’t make sense that she would though; who would willingly be evil if they knew it was evil?
“They thought you were…” Queen Mageddo coaxed, which also sounded strange with the voice alteration.
Link looked down, studying the white pile carpet. “Don’t mean any offense; this is the word they used, not me, alright? They thought I was, you know… a supervillain.” He said the last part as quietly as he could without being inaudible.
“What?” Where Link expected an angry outburst, Queen Mageddo sounded more shocked than anything. “Why would they think that?”
Again, Link shook his head. “I have no idea. They said that you country was using inventions I patented, and that some firms from here invested in my businesses. It seems kind of flimsy, but…”
“You don’t need to say more.” Queen Mageddo held up a hand to stop him. “It seems that I am the cause for your problems. You have my apology and that of the entire sovereign nation of Megardia.”
Not knowing how to take getting an official apology from a world leader, no matter how evil, Link demurred. “Uh… don’t mention it.”
“No, you deserve this, Link. More than this. You’re a good father, an amazing husband and friend, and you didn’t deserve the grief you’ve been put through. Your wife doesn’t deserve you.”
Link’s mind went on red alert, just like when the agent sat down next to him at the bar. The use of his nickname, the ‘your wife doesn’t deserve you’ line. Was… was the most dangerous human on Earth coming on to him?
Trying to hide that he’d noticed to avoid sounding like he was rejecting her, he shook his head again. “No. That’s not true. If anything, I’m not worthy of Amanda. She works at a dangerous job that takes her away from home all the time and is beneath her skills, honestly. I know it has to kill her to do it, but she wants to support us and actually believes that one of my ideas is going to get us into the big time. Really, she should have kicked me to the curb a long time ago and found a winner like herself.”
Sudden movement caught him off guard and he looked up to find Queen Mageddo striding toward him. Just as suddenly, he became aware that he was sitting on a bed, and dressed—oh yes, how had he missed this before—in a tee shirt and boxers. He started running through all the ways he might repel her advances and none of them ended up with him alive.
Luckily, she came to stand in front of him instead, looking down on him with her expression hidden by her visor. After a moment’s scrutiny of his own expression, she crouched down so that they were even. “You love your wife very much, don’t you?” Even through the electronic garbage that disguised her voice, there was something soulful and genuine in the question.
Link found himself looking for the eyes behind the visor as he went to reply. “More than anything, except the kids.” Once he started, he couldn’t stop himself. “Amanda was the best thing to happen to me before they were born. I might not have a lot, but we’ve still got one of those marriages you only see on television: seventeen years and we are still completely in love with each other.”
Queen Mageddo was still for a moment, and Link’s imagination started to run while with visions of her doing terrible things to him in retribution for not returning her attraction. Then logic stepped in and wondered why she wanted him anyway? He wasn’t bad looking for his age, but he wasn’t the kind of person a person of power kept around as a sex toy either. He was getting kind of doughy, now that he thought of it, and he didn’t exactly have big, square shoulders, and his elbows were getting pretty ashy and in need of lotion…
The dictator standing in a flare of her mantle cut off his moment of self-critique. She turned and walked a short distance from him. “This… I didn’t want things to happen like they have. Please believe me.”
Back to old, familiar confusion, Link shrugged, hoping to draw out a more complete reasoning. “Okay…?”
Megardia’s sovereign leader straightened herself out and squared her shoulders. “Mr. Moss. I have a request of you.”
“I don’t really have much of a choice.” he pointed out carefully.
“In fact you do.” she replied. “There are no consequences for rejecting this request. No matter what happens next, you and your children will be released completely unharmed. There is not threat, implied or otherwise. You have my word and my pledge before the whole of Megardia on that.”
Link eyed her cautiously, but nodded after some thought. “Okay, that sounds fair.”
Queen Mageddo nodded. “Excellent. Then I would like to ask you to dine with me.”
Failing to heed common sense, he blurted out, “Just dine, right?”
There was once again laughter in the Queen’s response. “You are, after all, a married man, Mr. Moss.”
Link breathed a sigh of relief. “Then I accept. I guess you’ll be sending some guards for me?”
“We’ll see.” she said. “By the way, you will be having a sixteen ounce steak, no bone, medium rare with white rice and thinly sliced, roasted bell peppers and a dash of medium salsa.”
Again Link was flabbergasted. “How did you know that?”
“Your second favorite meal? I have my sources. As for your first favorite, I didn’t choose that because you’ve never told anyone the recipe for your mushroom sauce.” Queen Mageddo turned back toward him, slowly. “As for myself, I will be having Fettuccine Alfredo with sliced chicken and baby shrimp—with a side of shrimp toast.”
Link froze, staring at her. That wasn’t something that could be researched, he didn’t think. Where would anyone go to learn about him running down to the Chinese place at the end of the street to pick up an order of shrimp toast whenever the family had fettuccine because Nathan and Amanda had made a mother-son tradition of it.
And then the pieces came together. The accent, why she was flirting with him, how Megardia even knew he existed, and now the strange dinner combination. In a day (had it only been a day?) of utterly insane happenings and confusion, and fear, this was the capper, the one instance of utter unreality he wasn’t sure he’d be able to take.
But even as he contemplated not going any farther, his mouth was acting on its own, as it formed a single word, a word that would break down the floodgates and let out a torrent of questions whose answers he wasn’t sure he wanted to know:
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