As the dictator of my own nation, it’s nice having people who listen to me and do what I say. The world would be a better place if more people did that. Alas, they just weren’t ready. But that doesn’t mean large swathes of the world won’t listen. The ones that do are just plain nice, though.
Starting with the Directors. They were exceedingly grateful to be rescued by me. Really reaffirmed their loyalty, but I did have a few things to discuss with them. I’d have had a few of them over, but they didn’t really have a hierarchy now that the last one made such a bad impression and I had to kill them. Instead of inviting a few of them over to discuss some issues, I had to go to the Directory. Keeping with my casual attitude, though, I dragged along my armor for a little cleaning and maintenance.
I carried my armor in there and sat on the stage previously reserved for the High Directorate. Pulling out a gauntlet, I turned it around so I could inspect its nozzle. The Directors were in the middle of some sort of roll call procedure, so I had time enough to spray on solvent and let it work on the gunk. The stuff I use is great for dissolving all sorts of crap, especially stuff I’ve neglected to clean off. The stealth aspect has generally been more important for my use of the armor, so I’ve let the rockets sit uncleaned for way too long. Plus, this stuff has a strong smell shortly after use.
“Emperor… Empress… I must apologize, my lord or lady. Our first concern appears to be your form of address?” asked the secretary pro-tem.
I raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me, my form of address? First thing on your minds after an attempted coup is what to call me? Am I correct in assuming this is about whether to treat me as male or female?”
“That… is correct, your Imperial Eminence,” said the secretary. “Do you prefer to be called ‘Emperor’ or ‘Empress’?”
I waved my hand. “Whatever.” If they weren’t going to focus on the serious stuff right away, why should I help them jack around? I had some important stuff to clean. Scrub, scrub, scrubbing with the copper brush took precedence over helping these guys waste time. That’s why I brought it, and it’s important to really get in there with a little muscle. And just because I went from handsome to pretty doesn’t mean I stripped out the enhanced muscles I’ve given myself. Hell, I can compact muscle like y’all wouldn’t believe. I could snap a man’s neck with my kegels. Like a pair of steely, sexy nutcrackers, except used on a guy’s neck instead of nuts. Would not want to actually fit the head up in there, though.
Another Director stood up. “To reflect our sovereign’s current state, I propose we use the word ‘Empress’.”
Another stood up, “We have Empress Elda. We would need to rename her as well.”
That gave me pause before I remembered Elda. Red-headed, tanned chick. Nice body, crooked teeth. She was the Princess of an important bronze-age nation state on the recently resurfaced continent of Mu. I married her, then betrayed her and almost killed her. Citra, my former servant girl-turned consort, insisted that we keep Elda alive and comatose. It was a wedding gift to her, as Citra’s my de facto wife. She even took on the appearance of Elda to make it look good and everything.
She was a bit shocked to see me back as a woman, while I was suddenly reminded I told her she could look normal. And so she did indeed look like her normal self, but with Elda’s red hair and tan skin. She took it well, all things considered. Awkwardly trying out a kiss, then realizing she didn’t mind it so much. Plus, we can do each other’s nails now, get our hair done together. I’m actually a better fit for a lot of her old clothes since she kept some of Elda’s dimensions, too. No sex yet, and she doesn’t want to be seen with me in public. It’s been an adjustment for her.
As this inane debate in the Directory attests, it’s been an adjustment for many, like when one skinny Director with an impressive pair of shoulder pads in his suit stood up and declared. “We can’t have an Empress married to another Empress? They’re both women!”
Heads looked at him, then at me. “Gay marriage, people. Legalize it. Equal rights for them. Oh, and transgender people.” I wouldn’t say I’m trans mentally. I’ve changed so much of my body around I could have easily lost track of it but for the Psychopomp program only picking boys and making damn sure the training reflected that. Spending awhile as a woman is just a thing I do sometimes. I’m secure enough in my masculinity to wear dresses and boobs and just the CUTEST sandals. Hell, I think every guy should give it a try at some point or another if they can.
But enough about my super manly love of skirts. I stared down the Directors, who must not have thought of that so much. Unlike them, I don’t need to blink. I actually don’t. It’s the cybernetic eyes. And even if I did need to, they can hold liquids. I could just fill them full of saline and expel it in small enough doses so I wouldn’t have to blink. The wonders of cybernetics. I’m actually thinking about putting in some new teeth, like a new row of them. Or a couple more arms might be nice. I’ve been considering that one off and on since I made the Whirlygig arms, and it came to mind again when I only had enough limbs to throw three knives at the High Directorate.
The Directors relented. The Secretary Pro-tem turned to the others. “All in favor?” Everyone said “Aye.” He turned back to me, “The ayes have it.” Damn straight they do. Cyber-eyes. Because when you stare into the void, the void loses the staring contest. “We will work out the specifics later. More importantly, we have decided to declare Psycho Gecko Empress Regnant. For brevity’s sake, this may be shortened to Empress. Empress Elda is officially the Empress Consort, to be shortened to Consort.”
A small cheer went up from the assembled Directors as if they accomplished something. “Alright, you bunch of old ladies, now that you’ve figured out what you’d like to call me, we need to get back to figuring out some shit. We have some work to do here, people. We’re gonna need more submarine pens, bigger docks, larger airports. I’ve got a scientist I kidnapped eager to turn Mu into the breadbasket of the empire. Possibly the hash capital of the world, too, he started asking questions about poppies. I still see it as a win. We’re not just finding our feet again after a stumble; we’re hitting the ground running and then launching into a spinning roundhouse kick that’ll knock the rest of the world on its collective ass.”
I spent the day taking a tour of the island all over again. The Farm cult’s still working along, organizing a mission trip. Old Man Hoodless didn’t seem to enjoy my company so much now that I come with my own door knockers, but he mentioned he’d been speaking with our mutual friends at Cape Diem. Cape Diem were looking for volunteers to go to countries experiencing famine. The Cult intends to head over there, hand out food, and invite people to join them on their multi-story farm compound where they have no shortage of food. Sounds like a winning strategy.
As a welcome-back present, Old Man Hoodless officially presented me with several jars of moonshine that could serve as drink, improvised explosive device, and engine degreaser. I thanked him and told him it would take a prominent spot in the Imperial liquor cabinet.
Then it was off to the military base to hand out medals. The men were a little off their game saluting a commander in chief in a kimono with her hair up. We worked out a way to do medals for the Deep Ones, who hadn’t entirely grasped the concept of modesty. Probably because their penises were retractable. “In thanks for your actions putting down the attempted coup, I award you the Order of Loyalty.” And then I stuck it on the drone operator’s slimy scales. It’s based on some sort of old explosives technology, something called a Lamprey mine.
After the ceremony ended, I ordered a few kegs of beer to be delivered to the base. Even threw in some of that new “seabrew” crap. I understand Ricca’s the first nation with its very own seabrew distillery, which is made from kelp somehow. I had a bottle brought to me for tasting once. More like the makers dropped off a bottle as a gesture of goodwill. I smelled it coming from outside the door and the jar had a warning label to avoid opening in rooms with too many lights on in case it started a fire. I awoke the next morning with a dry mouth and a surprising amount of wood furniture missing its varnish. Decent stuff. It’ll go well with the moonshine Old Man Hoodless gave me.
That said, I stumbled downstairs and found myself caught in the squeeing hug of a giant bee woman.
“I’m so happy to have you back Gecko, I love you, love you, love you!” Beetrice, Queen Bee of the Buzzkills said as she picked me up and spun me around several times.
“Please don’t do that, Beetrice, or you may end up quite dirty,” I said. She stopped, nearly giving me ass-whiplash, and hugged me tight. “I thought you preferred me with a penis. What are you doing here?”
“You called me!” she said. Oh, for fuck’s sake, I drunk dialed my ex. But then, I like to think that this world as a whole is my ex, and I’m just waiting for it to fall in the dumps and want to hook back up with me again.
“I believe I was drunk, so what did I invite you here for, exactly?” I asked. I looked up into some of her eyes, being unable to properly look her in all of them at once.
She flexed one of her large, exoskeleton-clad arms. Unlike my power armor, hers is a natural part of her body. She’s better about clothes than the Deep Ones, though. “You wanted my body. You said something about making arms.”
That sounds like me, so I nodded. “Right. I’ve been thinking about extra arms. I don’t suppose there’s anything else I did last night?”
“Um, you said something about calling a bunch of other people,” she said. She set me down and stepped back to a notepad half-embedded in the wall of the hallway. “These people.”
“Odd, I don’t use paper that much.” I took it from her and found it filled with names and numbers. Men, women, and the technicolor rainbow in between filled up one side; the other had phone numbers and email addresses. Every single one was checked off. Every single one also hit in my recognition software as supervillains. I dropped it on the floor. “Well crap, looks like we’re moving faster than intended.”
“We are?” Beetrice asked, bending down to pick up the list. “You only called them last night. What are we doing?”
I reached out and took Beetrice’s hand, running my fingers over the shiny but firm natural armor where it grew out of her body. “I’m going to host a conference. It’s high time we set up a new system. The heroes have academies and social networks. We need a network of our own. A formal network. A union of sorts. The Mafia once had The Commission to govern all of organized crime within the United States, with their own problem solvers for anything that threatened the greater group. I think we need something similar.”
“You think all the bad guys will join forces?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No, just come to an agreement. Something to help us set boundaries, make sure people aren’t stepping on each other’s toes. Help people find like-minded individuals for heists. If the heroes want to come at us with huge super groups, we have to be able to call on something similar with a lot less hassle. Maybe we’ll even solve that problem of he rest of us kicking the crap out of anyone to do a good job of taking over the world. On top of that, set up a few rules of conduct we can get the heroes to agree for both sides. Murder, rape, that kinda stuff.”
Beetrice giggled as I traced a finger around a particular armor plate on her palm. That hand brushed at my elbow. “Mmm. But you like killing people. Oh, and how will you get criminals to agree to rules like that?”
I smiled up at her and raised her arm and the hand up to nuzzle. “My dear, no matter what form governance takes, there is one thing human nature requires of all of them: an enforcer. If crook or crimefighter steps out of line, I’ll be the one to make sure they don’t do anything wrong ever again. Something tells me I’ll have no shortage of supers to murder. Just disappointed I probably won’t get a shot at Venus.”