- 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
Even though Link expected it, hearing the confirmation was still a shock to him. “The Philanthropist.” He parroted. “The most powerful superhero on Earth, she…”
“Hails from a war-torn future and every tissue in her body is enhanced by futuristic bio-technology from the year 3024. Yes, I know. She is my nemesis after all.” Amanda reached up to take hold of the hand Link was using to stroke her hair and brought it around in front of her to lay a gentle kiss on the back of it.
Link turned the hand around to caress her cheek. It had only been a few days (he had no idea how long he’d been unconscious the second time), but somehow, he’d expected the feel of her to have changed with the revelation. It hadn’t. There was the same softness and warmth he’d found every other time.
Except now that warmth didn’t thaw the icy fear growing in him. “This is bad.” He murmured. “She invincible.”
Amanda kissed his palm and set up, looking him in the eye. She wore a small, determined smile, full of false bravado. “Not entirely. And that’s why I bought you all here, Link. I can protect you here. And I will. I swear to God I will, Link; you and the kids, even if it kills me.”
Staring into her eyes, he saw the truth of that. She didn’t know if she could win, but it didn’t matter to her, just like it wouldn’t matter to him if it meant protecting his family. Except, as Queen Mageddo, she had plenty of power to back it up.
He nodded slowly and let out a long breath. “I can’t believe The Philanthropist might actually come gunning for us though. She’s always so sweet and genial on the news. Of all the heroes, I always figured I could count on her to be Good with a capital ‘G’, you know?”
Once again, Amanda had to shrug. Then she scooted up, moving him along with herself so that they were sitting alongside each other, backs against the headboard and pillows bunched haphazardly beneath them. “I think she is most of the time. I have friends, other villains,” She ignored the look he gave her for this, “And hen they fight her, she pulls her punches so she doesn’t kill or cripple them, and as far as they can tell, she’s till just a kid playing hero a little older, a little wiser, but still he same.”
She folded her hands in front of her and studied them. “But with me, she’s a different person. It’s not Good vs Evil for us, it’s personal… on both sides. We genuinely try and kill each other and she has never, eve pulled her punches with me. It is wasn’t for my tech and sorcery…”
Link took her hands in his if only to keep her from completing that thought. “So what keep her from coming to Megardia and laying waste to the place in revenge?” He hated suggesting that something like that could happen, but it was a real possibility, and with Chloe and Nathan there, he needed to be reassured.
Amanda shook her head. “It’ll never happen. You see, I know her secret: you have to remember hat although she looks like your average young woman, she’s really basically a time traveling, bio-engineered monster dumped on our world at the age of ten as a living weapon against evil.”
He raised an eyebrow and she gave a sheepish smile. “Some of that might be colored by our feud. But the point remains that she’s from outside our time stream. By projecting a field of chrono-baric, high-energy particles, that have no effect on living things that are part of our time stream, but react violently to those who aren’t, I’ve made it so The Philanthropist is in constant physical pain while inside Megardia air space. And seeing as how she’s normally immune to pain in general, Megardia is her own, personal circle of Hell.”
“You sound entirely to pleased when you say that.” Link shook his head, not knowing what to make of that.
“I’ve hated her or a long time.” said Amanda. “I’ll try and curb it.”
“I’d appreciate that.” he slipped his arm over her shoulder and drew her close like he’d doe hundreds of times while on their bed at home. It was different now, if only because her armor was jabbing him in the ribs.
After long moments just lying there together, Amanda looked over at him, eyes clearly tracing the arm around her shoulder. “So where do we stand?”
“To be honest?” Link sighed, “I still love you. I mean, it’s not a switch I can turn on or off. Now, I don’t know how I feel about Queen Mageddo the things she’s done, or the thing she’s going to do, but I’ll listen to your side of the story before I lose my head.”
Amanda leaned over and kissed his cheek. “That’s all I’m asking for. Just let me show you Megardia and what all those tings I’ve done have been going to protect. I think you’ll understand, even if you still think it’s wrong.”
“I am still going to be mad about some things though.” he said matter-of-factly.
There was a lightness in his tone that made her relax. “Like?”
“Well,” he leisurely removed his arm from her neck and sat up. “For example, we have had approximately two billion fights over the mortgage and the credit cards, and whether or not certain gifts for the kids were too expensive—and this entire time, you owned your own country.”
She rolled her eyes and lightly thumped his chest with her palm. “It’s a secret identity, honey. You don’t think someone might have noticed that Amanda Moss paid her mortgage using a Megardian royal account?”
“You could have set yourself up with a higher paid job.” He captured that gauntlet covered hand. “Can you… take these off?”
As answer, she crooked her fingers in a specific manner and sequence, causing the housing of the gauntlet to flower open, freeing her hand. After repeating the process with the other glove, she placed the heavy and dangerous things on the nightstand.
“It’s not as simple as you make it out to be. If you tell everyone you’re a billionaire playgirl, people are going to check to see where your money came from and where it goes. No one checks on the finances of a working mom who is forever in the hole on debt. Besides, I did try and nudge our fortunes for the better.”
Understanding dawned on Link. “Back when the Extraordinary Response International Services had me, the agent mentioned Megardian companies secretly backing the venture capitalists I lined up.” Then his stomach rolled. “Oh god, that poor woman…”
Amanda gave him a concerned look that slowly dissolved into bemusement. “Was it Moccasin?”
“Huh? Yeah, that sort of rings a bell, what does it matter—“
“She’ll be fine.”
Link gave her a bewildered look, “How can you say that? I watched her get shot in the eye! She was lying in a pool of blood!”
Amanda, however, looked unmoved, “Was her brain stem destroyed?”
“Probably not, but—“
“She’ll be fine, Link. Moccasin is a diva Extraordinary Response International Services dug up somewhere and pressed into service with mental conditioning. Whenever she dies, she’s reborn in a new body down in a tank somewhere at their headquarters. I’ve killed her at least half a dozen times; it never takes.”
An awkward silence followed her once again alluding to murders, so she decided to change the subject back to their finances. “But yes, I did direct some my financial people to support your businesses, because I felt that all you needed was something to kick-start one of your ideas. I wasn’t lying when I said they were great ideas.”
“So good that you had your people here n Megardia actually engineer them.” he observed.
Amanda blushed darkly. “Actually, I engineered them personally. Then I had them rolled out into mass production. As of right now, I think eight of your patents are in heavy use all over the country, plus your medical scanner will be in production by the end of the month.” She offered him a warm smile. “It’s a proof of concept, Link: without idiot marketing executives or the consumer market in the way, your inventions are benefiting people greatly.”
For a moment, Link as speechless, thinking about all the meetings with companies where he’d been told that his products weren’t marketable enough, or that they eliminated a problem other products they carried treated and thus would be bad for business. Failing because he couldn’t play the game.
Except on Megardia, the game was different, and his wife made the rules.
“It’s… my dream come true.” He said at length, “But is that such a good thing? I mean, you are forcing them to use my inventions, right?”
To his surprise, Amanda actually laughed at that. It was disconcerting to say the least, seeing the love of his life laughing at oppression.
After a bit, she caught her breath, shaking her head. “Honey, I think you need to see the real Megardia before you get the idea that I’m a tyrant ruling over gray-faced peasants toiling in mud, afraid of summary execution for talking out of line.”
“But you don’t have democracy.” he said.
“We didn’t in the United states either; representative democracy with the way gerrymandering works is a cruel joke at best.” said Amanda. Link almost laughed then, as that was an argument the had engaged in before, only now there was a wholly new context to her argument. “W might not have democracy, or a free press on Megardia, but the lack of a First Amendment does not oppression make.”
Suddenly energetic, she sat up and held out her hand to him. “Come on. Let’s go out and see my world. We’ll bring the kids along too.”
With clear hesitation, Link took the offered hand and let Amanda pull him to his feet from the bed using the prodigious strength granted to her by her armor. Only when he was standing did her remember that he was in his underthings.
“Honey, I don’t think I can take a tour of the country I think I’m the King of by marriage of in my boxers.”
Amanda smiled playfully as she put her gauntlets back on. “Technically, you’re the Queen’s Consort.”
His eye twitched for what felt like the thousandth time that day. “Oh some on! I have to be better than just a consort! I’ve held your hair when you were drunk-vomiting, I’ve played nurse while you had the flu—I think you can at least make me a knight.”
She laughed. “This isn’t England, Link; we don’t have knights. We have Praetors, but it’s more like a judge’s seat.” His expression made her laugh again, and she came over to throw her arms around her neck. “Don’t look at me like that; I was only joking. Of course I want you to be my king.”
They kissed and his expression softened. “Do I get a lot of extra titles like Wise and Gracious?”
“Believe me when I tell you that you do not want them. My full title is a whole paragraph. Every time I score a big win for Megardia out there, I get another one.”
Showing that he was both gracious and wise, Link didn’t ask what constituted a ‘win’ for Megardia. “Then I at least get some pants?”
Again, Amanda laughed, and it felt for a moment like they were back at home in their bedroom instead of a guest suite in a nation Link had never been to and had hoped he never would have to be. She released him and went to the handsome, antique armoire that took up a large space against the wall opposite the bed.
That same, mischievous part of Link that had been bombarding him with weird imagery since his strange Odyssey began expected it to be filled with togas and robes, or maybe a set of powered armor like Amanda was sporting. But when she threw open the doors, there were only suits. Expensive, tailor-made suits to be certain, and they were in a variety of colors beyond the usual black and gray and tan, but they were all quite ordinary.
“Nice.” He said in spite of himself. One of the suits there cost more than every suit he owned. “But… will they fit me?”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “Who are you talking to here? I’ve ordered every suit you own; I know your measurements. Plus, remember that echolocation-based mapping system you came up with about six years ago?”
“Yeah…?” He said, unsteadily.
There was pride in her eyes as she stepped aside for him to pick out some clothes. “With the correct software, it can take extremely precise measurements of a human body. I just had a tailor scan you when the Sovereign Elite brought you in.”
Link paused with an extremely dark maroon suit coat in hand. “And they made all these? How long was I out?”
“Not long.” She said, leaning against the wall. “The better part of a day, but with the time difference, you haven’t lost that much time. Actually, your recovery from the Extraordinary Response International Services paralytics is kind of impressive in and of itself. Are you feeling sick at all? Dizzy?”
“I think all of that is just my reaction to everything that’s gone on.” He said, choosing a black suit with accents that made it glint with gold in the light, and tossing it on the bed. “Plus, I think I got all my being sick out of the way the first time I was drugged today.”
“Well your days of being drugged are over.” she assured him.
“I hope so.” With his clothes now laid out for him, Link started changing. “I think I might have a psychotic break if I pass out and wake up in a strange room again.” He spared the room another look around. “By the way: why aren’t there any windows in here?”
Amanda suddenly found every part of the room but his face very interesting. “Oh, that might be because—“ She coughed loudly over her answer.
With only one leg in his pants, Link paused to look up at his wife. “Because this is… what?” He couldn’t have heard what he thought he’d heard, could he? That would just be the perfect capper to a cavalcade of little indignities.
Clearing her throat, Amanda looked extremely embarrassed. “I said that there’s no window in here because it’s one of the palace’s prison cells.”
For a second, Link as speechless. He took that time to pull up and fasten his pants because there was no position more vulnerable that a man could find himself in than literally bent over with his pants down. As he did so, he looked around at the room, half expecting to suddenly see signs that he was in prison, like concrete walls, or steel bars. None became evident.
“This is a prison cell?” He finally managed.
“Even to political prisoners and intruders, Megardia strives to be a good host, concerned about our guests’ comfort.” said Amanda with a smirk. “But don’t be fooled, honey: under the plaster, this room is sealed in a cube of force powered constantly by the geothermal power of our local volcano and reinforced by my own sorcery.”
Link looked around, now trying to find evidence of that, but came up empty again. “Okay, but that doesn’t explain why you tossed my unconscious ass in a jail cell when I got brought here.”
In response, she just gestured at the blank windows. “Just like you noticed: no windows. I suspected you might get freaked out if you woke up and found the Megardia City cityscape outside—it takes some getting used to after suburbia.”
While buttoning his shirt, Link wondered at what that could entail and decided to take one of his more fanciful guesses. “So are we talking obsidian towers with your picture hanging off them, twenty stories tall, or is the entire city situated in the center of a nice, tasteful volcano?”
Amanda chuckled at that and sat down on the bed. “Nothing so dramatic. Although we do have a power station and tectonic control center in the volcano. You’ll see soon enough though. For what it’s worth, I think you’ll love it; it’s all very modern.”
“Well see. I’m still very iffy on this entire situation.” He sighed and picked up the tie. He hated ties. And then it hit him that he was married to the Queen, so who the hell was he sucking up to by wearing a tie. In a fit of royal abuse of power, he tossed the thing back down on the bed, deciding then and there that if he was going to be the equivalent of Megardia’s First Husband, he was going to start a fashion trend.
“By the way,” he asked, defiantly donning his suit jacket without a tie. “How did you get all these suits done so quickly?”
Amanda shook her head and grinned. “Let’s just say that the royal family jumps to the top of a lot of queues in Megardia.”
Link frowned. “Even though that’s the least morally wrong thing we’ve talked about so far, I feel bad about that.”
“Don’t.” Amanda reassured him, “After all, altering some suits isn’t that bad. Of course, then Chloe demanded a real princess dress.”
“You didn’t.” he said, giving her a pleading look.
She shrugged, looking unashamed. “For the first time, I get to spoil my kids to the fullest extent of my power. I am not going to pass that up.”