There are many challenges to being a leader. One daunting challenge is boredom. It had been awhile since I could just relax, but I expected something more substantial than a giant bunny to interrupt that. Nope. Nothing really needed my attention. There were various problems popping up and being handled by the people I put in place to see to those things. I had time to spend with my daughter, but she has school and playing with her friends. And Medusa wouldn’t want to spend all her time with me, especially not when she’s busting concentration camps in the States and helping people avoid ICE troopers.
It sucks that I have problems sitting and vegetating. I did a lot of stuff, like working on armor designs, and just couldn’t get over the itch to go out and hurt someone. Even the news was relatively boring, even with me in it. According to the New York Time’s foreign correspondent, I murdered an endangered shark and publicly executed a bunny. That shark started it, and it was a giant rabbit. I needed help with the rabbit, which is why I’ve been looking over my armor. I need something to help me fight giant things, so I’m reviewing my options there. They don’t seem workable, so I found something else to do instead.
I am visited my colonies. We have a few spots on the lost and found continent of Mu that we populated with people who wanted to try their hand at frontier living and I should get around to them. First, I decided to go see a group that’s been asking for a visit. I’ve mostly left the Bronze City to its own devices since kinda-sorta marrying into their royal family and claiming it as part of my empire. There’s an ambassador, but not so much a king. Or queen, in this case.
I landed without much fanfare. The Psycho Flyer made a pass over the city before heading to the palace, blasting out the song “Hail To The King” by Avenged Sevenfold. It hovered low to the ground outside the stone palace and I stepped off in my armor, a cape draped around my shoulders and a jagged crown of gold upon my brow. Toyotomi walked out to greet me in an indigo-colored tunic with gold fringe. “Empress! It is a delight to look upon your radiance again.”
No wonder the guy got along with the Bronze City’s elders. He slings grade-A bullshit. “Toyotomi! How are you doing? You ever get that medal I told the Directors to award you?”
Ambassador Toyotomi laughed. “I’m well and I did receive my award, thank you. Whoever designed it felt it should be able to serve as a shield if needed, so it is difficult to wear in public.”
I just shook my head. “I’ve gotten much better people than that, so we won’t make that mistake again. Now, as my expert here, let’s chat. I should try to actually learn about these people.”
Toyotomi swept his arm out before me. “I’ve had them prepare a meal for us. No grand feast or anything, if that’s fine with your majesty.”
I nodded. “I’m a little clueless to be holding big dinners with all the people who expect me to know stuff.” I waved to one of my guards to bring my clothes along so I could switch out of my armor.
They could have done a little better with some of the spices, but it looked like a pretty good meal. Toyotomi had a big wheel of cheese waiting for me, along with fresh bread, a pot of some thin vegetable soup, cabbage, and steaming hot venison. Toyotomi wrapped a slice of the venison in cabbage to pull it onto his plate. “A local custom,” he said.
We didn’t get to enjoy much of the meal before we heard a ruckus outside the dining hall. With a squint, I focused on my guards’ cameras and saw they were holding back a group of tunic-clad older men who were demanding in the Bronze City’s dialect to be let in as Elders of the city. “We’ve got Elders incoming,” I warned Ambassador Toyotomi, then notified my guards to let them in.
Toyotomi stood up to greet them, a smile quickly coming to his face. “Good Elders, welcome!”
“We heard our King had returned, at long last remembering his throne and his duties, and no one sends for us?!” said the one in front who appeared to be in charge. He was old, balding, with white hair and a long, groomed beard that was still black at the bottom. “Who is this?” he said, gesturing to me.
I stood up. “I am Psycho Gecko, your King,” I said. “You may wish to amend the title.”
Toyotomi gestured between us. “The Empress has just arrived and required refreshment and my thoughts on the current state of the Bronze City. We meant no disrespect to your esteemed Council.”
“A woman! This is a mockery!” said the spokesman.
“This is who I am,” I said. “And I am your ruler.”
“The Council will not agree,” said the Elder statesman. He and his fellows stormed right out again, which made me wonder why they even bothered showing up. They could have been just as pissed off in their own damn homes without trying to ruin my dinner.
“Please wait, Empress. I will dispatch an aide to watch them and see if they plan something,” Toyotomi said before hustling after them. He returned five minutes later to resume briefing me over dinner.
He was in the middle of a story about him and some of the Elders getting drunk and tying a city guard to a bear when his runner returned. It looked like one of the native Bronze City people, but Ricca is a melting pot. He ran up to the door, slowed, and walked in. “Ambassador. And Empress,” he took a moment to nod to Toyotomi and bow low to me.
“Rise and tell us what’s going on,” I said. I like ruling, but the bowing is a bit ridiculous. It’s enough to know I have power; I don’t have to go around showing it off all the time unless someone’s being an ass about it.
“Thank you, Empress. As you asked, Ambassador, I followed the Elders. They called a meeting of the Council. They are agitating for a new ruler. They do not believe the Empress may be their King as she is a woman, and incapable of continuing the royal line.”
“I should go nip this in the bud,” I said to Toyotomi.
He sighed. “I was worried this might happen. I have made allies on the Council, but this is considered a big problem for them.”
I slipped into my armor. “You put our guards on alert around the palace and the Flyer. I’ll address the Council, if you can tell me where to find them.”
He turned to the runner. “Show the Empress to the Council.” To me, he added, “Good luck. They think of themselves as civilized, but they’re stubborn about their sexism.”
“I think I have a way to see to that,” I said.
I made it clear what that way was when I stepped into the lovely place they’d set up as a column. It was a round building with columns spaced close all around to form walls, except for two entrances on opposite sides of the circle. The city Elders were still rabble rousing in the place when I stepped out of the shadows of the night. “Greetings, Elders of the Bronze City. Your Empress and King is here.”
“You are no King, but a woman who has corrupted our princess in unnatural love,” said the same spokesman from back at the palace.
“I am your ruler, as you have all affirmed. Should you wish to turn to treason now, I’ll make it easy on you.” I spread my arms. “There is but one of me, and so many of you. Whoever wishes to dissolve the bonds of loyalty between us, come and do so with blood. I promise, it will not be mine.”
“It’s a trick!” yelled an Elder who looked barely old enough to qualify. “She wears outsider armor. She flies and jumps no more than any other man, but uses their science to pretend to be our better.”
It looked to them like my armor opened up and I stepped out, but that was an illusion. I could take any of these guys in a “fair” fight thanks to the enhancements I’ve made to my own body, but that doesn’t mean I had to give them anything like a fair fight.
“We are civilized men,” said the spokesman. He gathered a group around him in a huddle and they spoke briefly. “We shall find a champion to represent our honor…” he looked to the others, who held up various fingers. “The day after the morrow, if you will fight without your armor then.”
“Fine, fine, wimps. Civilization made you weaker than the woman you think is unable to lead you, it seems.” Hologram-Me turnd around to get back into her armor when a nearby Elder pulled a dagger and tried to plunge it into her back. She turned in time to grab his wrist, flip him to the ground, pull the dagger out, and shove it through the middle of his head. It was all the armor putting on a show as I dispatched my would-be assassin. I was able to drop the illusion when the hologram stepped into the holographic armor.
I gave the Elders a mocking bow. “Day after tomorrow, we settle this matter of leadership.” Then I kicked at the corpse on the ground. “Sic semper asswipes. Do try to find someone better than a woman next time.”
They certainly tried. I came down the next morning, a bit itchy from the inferior bedding they have over here, to find a group of my guards were pulling a rope up one side of the wall and tying one end around posts they’d planted in the ground. There were three other posts with ropes around them next to that one. I turned to the nearest one. “What’s this?”
He bowed. “Assassins, Empress. Caught sneaking in, armed, making for your bedchamber.”
I patted him on the head. “Excellent.” I hopped up to the walls around the palace to look out over it. Sure enough, there were four bodies dangling from nooses on the other side. They hadn’t bothered to tie the hands of the two who were already dead, likely from before they’d been hung. The other two brushed against the wall, but it wasn’t enough to take the weight off their necks.
Some Bronze Citizens had gathered to watch the spectacle, so I raised all four of my arms and my voice to address them, “People of the Bronze City, your Empress-King has but one question for all who would try to kill me in my sleep: How’s it hangin’?”
They didn’t get the joke, but it killed with my soldiers.