Written by castor :: [Saturday, 08 June 2013 21:21] Last updated by :: [Wednesday, 24 July 2013 08:32]
(With special thanks to Dru1076 for proofreading and editing)
"Drop your weapon," ordered the leader as they flanked around them, forming a circle of about 10 men with really excellent beards. I mean amazing beards.
Steven dropped Armada in a panic, and she fell on the floor.
Steve raised his hand … and in an instant he was in a tackle being grabbed by a large and very burly man.
"Don't … I am not doing anything," Steven cried.
"Stay quiet" said the man.
Then Armada got up. She had been confused for a second. But only for a second. She looked at the man holding Steven, and the men with guns.
And they did. Dozens of rounds of the most powerful guns made by man. Nothing.
She grabbed one of there rifles and stuck it in her mouth. She pulled the trigger. Nothing.
"Let him go."
The seal team member who was holding him put the gun to Steven's head."Come with us quietly. And he won't be hurt."
"You are threatening the man I love, you fucking bastard."
"How fast are you?" said the man …
Very fast as it turned out, as she grabbed the gun from his hand and dropped him to the floor.
"I should kill you, fucker." She was punching him. Hard. Very, very hard.
"I have never ever wanted to hurt someone as much as you before."
"Armada … please don't," Steven said.
Armada looked at the intruder."You're a navy man?"
"Yes" said the beaten man.
"Typical marine reject," said Armada.
Just then 20 policemen came into the room with guns of their own.
Armada got up."Arrest these men as prisoners of war. I want them taken to the deepest dungeon we have … i want them … ah, give them food … and water. But in dirty glasses."
Armada paused and shook her head. She turned to Steven who was sitting at his desk.
"Get this guy a ride home."
"You're not going to get away with this," said a Seal member as he ran away."We're going to get you."
Armada just looked out the window for a second. And said nothing more to anyone.
Steven went home and spent the night sleeping. He called in sick the next day, though because he owned the company that was less of a request then a heads-up. He felt puffy from the night. He ate fairly bad fatty food. Casey occasionally called.
The story had hit the international news, as a great disaster for America. No SEAL had ever been captured before or left a body. He was less worried about America's status in the world then the fact that he was left out of it.
It was around five o'clock the next day that he heard a doorbell.
It was Armada. He knew it was serious because she was wearing normal clothing.
"Can I come in?" she said.
"You're my Queen"
"Just let's ignore that for a moment. Can I come in?" she was wearing a white tank-top, a jacket, and jeans. She looked surprisingly normal without her crazy get-up.
They walked to his living room.
"Do you want some water?" Steven offered.
"Sure." said Armada.
He walked to the kitchen."Ice?"
"Sure. That sounds great …"
He walked back in and sat down across from her.
"About last night," she said."That … that … I am not mad at you. We kissed. It wasn't unpleasant as such … but it was well …"
"You said that you loved me," said Steven, opening up.
"Well, I love the city. She is my mistress. She is my lover. And I am her Queen. 'Didn't mean that to sound lesbo," said Armada"not that there's anything wrong with that."
Steven shook his head."That's bullshit."
"Are you saying that I don't …" she shook her head."Steve … I just don't feel it's appropriate for me to have anything more then friends. Lots of friends. It's just with you … I may have said some things- felt some things, yes I admit that … but its not befitting me as a Queen."
" I know your not an alien monster. Who are you armada?" said Steven."And don't bullshit me"
"You know who I am. Why do you care who I was?"
"You know … let's go out tonight," said Steven."let's get together and just have some fun. We can do that as friends. No talk of castles, or kingdoms or any of that crap."
"Well we did kind of have a crappy night last night," admitted the Queen"So sure."
"You know I never cared for the Smiths." said Queen Armada ruler of Portland"I mean, I could see the 'kind-of rock' appeal, but just never did much. Too formal. They try for real emotions, but nothing's there."
Steven nodded. They were sitting in a 50s style diner, that was a lot of fun. He had a large burger in front of him, she had a similar one across the way. They were sharing French fries. He thought about getting one of those milkshakes with two straws but felt it was too romantic. They where just friends after-all.
So instead they sat."Always had soft spot for rap. Easy E, Tupac … stuff like that," she told him.
"That's valid," he nodded."That's very valid."
He chewed on a French fry."So you don't want to talk about the past. We don't want to talk about the future …"
"Tell me about you?" Armada suggested."Your ex-wife."
"We were never married," Steven said."We were together about two years, met in college. We were engaged, but one day we went to a wrestling event. I thought it was just something fun. She was accompanying a couple of my pals. Somehow or another … I think I was somewhere else, maybe getting a beer. She met one of the wrestlers. Ted Diabase, Jr … and they just kind of, well, they're together now. And that's the end of that."
"Do you want me to beat him up?" she said."Challenge him to a match at Wrestlemania?"
"He suffers enough in the ring," said Steven.
Armada chuckled."I would you know. I would do lot for my friends."
A strange man came up to them."You know, I usually don't do this, but …"
"It's my night off. Go about your business," Armada commanded.
"Wow! That's what you look without your costume," said the guy.
"Yeah. Now buzz-off."
"Are you two together?"
There was a loud noise as the air got sucked out of the room and into her mouth.
"I SAID LEAVE US ALONE!!!"
The room went silent.
"Um … sorry about that."
Steven said that.
Armada got up."I should go."
Armada quickly walked out of the room.
"Armada, you can stay!"
Steven rushed to the exit as she raced out. By the time he got to the door however, she had disappeared … a streak in the night.
Steven waited for a second at the door and paused, shaking his head as he looked into the sky.
And then she came back flying in front of him
"You where chasing me?" she said. She had the look that one saw in romantic comedies when Katherine Heigel reveled the fool really did love her.
"Yes" he admitted."No chance in hell of ever catching you … but …"
And she looked at him. And he looked at her. And they kissed.
They made love that night in his bed. He had thought about it been worried about. Incredible strength … amazing power. But what struck him was how gentle she was. Gentle in her movements … her touches. She looked at him often with delight, and just amazement. She didn't fly. She didn't use heat vision. She was in all respects a normal woman. She just was.
As they lay in bed afterward he turns a bit to look at her. Nestled in his arms, cradled there so gently. She was remarkably peaceful looking almost helpless.
Then she started to talk … to whisper slightly."No, no … what? Horando. Horando … what … ?"
She said nothing more. Just slept again. He tried to comfort her some, to make the bad thoughts go away in his arms … and she moved a bit as if he was doing okay."You want to travel halfway around the world, go all of this and play a game about shooting people …"
The words where odd. But he smiled at her. His …
When she woke around six he looked at her raise her arms slightly."I don't usually sleep very much. A couple hours every couple of days … it's okay, I don't need to. But that … that felt almost as good as you."
She nuzzled his chest."And you, you where spectacular."
He smiled slightly."Want me to make you breakfast?"
"We can have caterers come," she said"It would be a cinch. Caterers with French maid outfits … bring those little trays full of delicious waffles, and Belgium waffles, and … .well, I feel like waffles. But fruit and omelettes too. A breakfast fit for a king."
She nuzzled"I need to get my cell. It's in my purse. A king"
Armada looked in in his eyes."Yes. You will be my king. I didn't want to do anything so ostentatious as start a dynasty, but it sounds so wonderful. You will be my royal consort. You don't have to wear a crown if you don't want to. But I want you at my side."
Steven chuckled. A little nervously.
"You will be a good King. Like Philip in England. He does a lot of work with historic houses if I remember." She tickled his stomach then bit it."My King. Better then all the other Kings in the world. Because your mine. All mine."
"So you don't have any harems or anything like that?" Steven played. He wasn't precisely sure if she was joking. That 'precisely' was saving a bit of his sanity.
"Of course not. Just … you."
Armada then climbed under the sheets for a second. He felt the inkling of a blowjob. It felt nice for about a minute.
Then she got up.
"Just heard over the … well, I have super hearing … I just heard. There's a bank robbery downtown. Better stop it. Hostages …"
She kissed him quickly and got of bed. By the time he looked over she was dressed."I will be back. I promise you. Oh God … more then anything."
And she was gone, flying out a window.
And Steven pretty much realized that this wasn't a joke.
Steven spent his morning, not at home or at work but simply walking the streets, looking into shop windows. Portland was a beautiful city. There were numerous jokes about hippies and liberals ruling the area, but it was a surprisingly industrial city. It had a huge port in the middle, and lots of transport came there. It was funny for an architect based around building things how much time he spent in his home his office or the car. How often did he really just look at the buildings … the people?
Did they know?
He wondered if it was obvious. Probably not. He was a just a man walking down the street, maybe a handsome one, but just a man in a shirt bought at JC Penny. When he was a kid he used to watch"I have a secret" where some ordinary looking man in it turned out was an astronaut, or an opera singer, or had the worlds largest collection of marmalade. The marmalade would be tasty, but the point was how normal they actually were.
He had a secret identity.
He was now the lover of the most powerful being in the world. The thought was startling to him. Yet they still wanted his credit card at Starbucks.
Being an architect was in some ways a form of celebrity … albeit it an incredibly minor one. He had been interviewed in magazines. Talked about. He had no trouble with that kind of fame, but this …
He looked at the buildings that moved from art-deco to ultra-modern. He remembered reading that the wife of the dictator of Romania for many years had been an architect, and that some of the largest buildings in Eastern Europe, and the world in fact, had been designed by her as her husband crushed the country into the ground. Large expanses of concrete and fake Roman columns, that reportedly had the bones of their enemies as mortar. It was pretty bad actually. But she did really love palm trees though, that was something.
He tried to put together his feelings. She wasn't evil. Not really. She was weirdly sweet in a way … innocent. And she could be surpassingly funny. She was beautiful of course, and powerful both in the physical and temporal sense and he admitted that attracted him.
Yet at the same time he knew that they had lost something. Freedom, the right to self-rule. She meant well, and was trying to impose her will fairly. But it was her will. He knew that without that all other freedoms and rights where hollow.
And he was collaborating.
As the old bachelor party rhyme went … in bed.
The thought rankled him. He needed to think about his future.
And realized to do that he needed to figure out the past.
And that, he had an idea about.
Meanwhile Armada went about her morning.
The bank robbery was simple enough. Three robbers had snuck in when the bank was setting and took some of the tellers hostage when they tripped a silent alarm. Nothing major. She just broke through a window and grabbed the three men before they even had time to raise their guns.
However, as she did so one of the hostages, an older man, collapsed. She grabbed a metal bar and put it around the robbers' arms before flying the old man to the hospital."You better hope stays alive."
At the county hospital she talked to Doctor Jim David."It's nothing to do with the robbery. This man has advanced stages leukemia. The shock must have got to him. Really this guy has only a couple weeks to live."
"Oh," Armada said looking down at the man on his hospital bed."Let me see …"
She put her hand on his stomach and felt about, closing her eyes."Ahh! I see now. Those cells must be cancerous. Lot's of em."
"We do are best," said the doctor, when Armadas hand started to glow. It did so for about 30 seconds.
Armada opened her eyes."He's all better now. I fixed all the cancer in him. He's going to be weak for a while but …"
"Do you mind if we do some tests?" the doctor asked incredulously.
"Go right ahead," said the Queen.
She waited in a lobby reading a wedding magazine. Appetizers were important, she learned. That made sense.
Then the doctor came."It's amazing! It's … I've never seen anything …"
The Queen shushed him."I get that a lot. Hey, are there more people like that in here?"
"We have like 35 patients in bed in advanced stages of …"
"As the Queen, I shall attend to them."
And so the Queen spent an hour or so going bed to bed putting her hands on them and healing them.
"This one is tricky," said the Queen
"Advanced fibrosis is one of the most incurable of all forms …"
"He's all better now," said the Queen."But I would give some time to heal before you sit him up."
She whispered to a nurse"the cancer was in his ass"
Soon all the patients were healed."What about other hospitals?"
"There are hundreds of patients in the city. And most cancer treatment is outpatient. There are thousands of people like this in the city who come in for …"
"Have them come in each … Thursday, to this hospital. I shall treat them in the morning. In the meantime, I shall go visit the other city hospitals," decreed the Queen.
"I don't know what to say," said the doctor.
"Your thanks are not needed. Your fealty is."
"She cured fucking cancer," said Obama."What the fuck? I wanted to do that!"
Obama was meeting at the Pentagon to discuss final plans with his advisors when the memo was coming in. This would be on the front page of every newspaper in the world, and he knew how many people would come for her magic touch. He would have to act now.
Doctor Rayorn spoke. He referred to a TV."We have not seen any limits on her power. However, she can't be in two places at the same time. We have seen her travel at many times the speed of sound before. But when in the city, she only seems to travel at around 600 miles per hour. A sense of nobility prevents her …"
"Fuck nobility," said Obama."200 years ago we had a war to end that shit."
The military was not a subtle thing to move. But they had slowly been moving dozens of divisions of artillery, tanks, infantry, and airplanes to bases in the Pacific Northwest, and no one seemed aware. Least of all her. They could move on Portland in hours.
"She has some police loyal to her. Doubtless more will be loyal to her soon," said one of the generals."But its primarily her. If we attack at different places at once, she can't handle it. We theorize if enough places at once are attacked, she will grow weak. And that's when we bring out a little something we like to call 'Mr Thingy'."
"NOT MR THINGY!" said five aides.
"Good use of unison," said Obama"But in its time it has its place."
Doctor Rayorn spoke up."What you are talking about is a massive attack on a civilian area. We will have 10s of thousands of civilian causalities. The city will be burned to the ground with that much artillery."
"Sometimes to protect the city," Obama said,"We will need to destroy it."
Steve walked briskly into his office.
"Hey Emperor Norton" said Casey.
Steve walked smoothly"What's that?"
"Private joke." said Micka"How's your girlfriend?"
Steve ignored them and walked into his office.
Despite what one might think, architecture was often a profession of research and investigation, of labouring over details no one would ever notice except the him.
Harando. That was a name. Travel half-way around the world. Game where you shoot people. Those last two clues seemed kind of weird together. Plenty of people travelled half way around the world and there were plenty of games where you shoot people. But Harando was a fairly rare sounding name. He checked. There where around a 100 Harando's, most of whom where Japanese immigrants, living in Central California. Something to look for.
When Mika called on the intercom
"I'm busy," Steve replied.
"But sir, don't you remember? You have an interview today about the building with the Oregonian."
Steve didn't remember. But …
This would be tricky.
Gordon Blonan sat in his office listening to the Queen.
"And I want a big announcement this evening about the cancer program. That's a pretty big thing, apparently."
Gordon nodded."My guess is we're going to get a lot of people from out of town come here for it …"
Armada nodded."I will have to work on speeding up the process then. With practice. But there was something else. I have decided to get married."
Blonan pause. The balding middle aged executive knew that in stories like this there were always two handsome suitors, rivals for the ladies affection. He smiled in such a way that his large bald spot was very visible. He hadn't met his rival but vaguely knew he existed. Still, how could she resist his middle management charms?
"It's Steven Norton, the architect." She giggled.
Well … Blonan privately wished his romantic rival success.
"I think I am going to go to his office now talk to him. We'll work out the details about all of it latter. But it's going to be a big wedding. Appetizers are important …"
"So the structure we have settled on will be located downtown. It's 52 stories high. The first 40 are for new government departments, health services, Revenue, veterans affairs, etcetera. We have been partnering with them for the last several weeks to meet there new needs and focus. Meanwhile the structure will a playful deconstructivitist take on the form of a medieval castle … um, however … constructed out of plastic materials."
"So it's going to be made out of plastic?" Sally Hathings chimed in. Steve looked at her and was afraid. She didn't seem like someone who wrote about architecture. Architectural writers were never really nice. Very sollen lot them.
"It's an expression. Plastic materials in the sense that they can be shaped. Actually its going to be steel construction of course with granite and stone siding to imitate a pattern of an classic castle … in, um … pure black. With diamond shape windows at the edge of each office going two stories to imitate the lite stye."
"Light style? Are you doing something with …" said Sally.
"No: lite. It's the spaces between window panes. The design will take from classic elements mixed with 21st century."
"What's she like?" asked Sally."I mean the Queen. We have heard that she has spent a lot of time here."
"Well, she has been closely working with this office on this design and has offered a lot of personal input into the process."
Sally nodded."There are reports that you and her were seen in Paris last week."
"Yes," said Steven."We went on fact-finding trip over there to look at, um … linens and furniture for her personal apartments on the top 12 floors. The um, living quarters, kitchens … the, um … the throne room."
"Wow. That sounds exciting," said Sally.
"It certainly is," chimed in Queen Armada as she flew through the window."And I wanted to tell you the first thing we're going to do there is have my wedding. Wait a second … honey do you think the skull and crushing bones motif would work well with pastels? I want to have a white wedding."
"Oh my god. Um … Sally Hathings, The Daily Oregonian …"
"Your paper can get the scoop!!!" offered the Queen."And have pictures of the ceremony. Hell, we can probably get it televised. All the networks! Except Fox. There not getting anything from me. They know why."
"So whose the lucky guy?" Sally asked."Or girl? I mean … that didn't used to be legal, but …"
"You know what?" Armada said,"Gay marriages for everyone!!! Well not everyone … but you know what I'm talking about. Its only fair. Hey honey! Remind me to tell Gordon. I think he's gay."
Steve looked down.
"But the lucky guy is Stevey over there. Future Emperor Norton of the Portland Metropolitan Area."
Well, there goes the secret identity. Armada went up and hugged him possessively.
"Well really, congratulations to you guys. You seem happy with each other."
"Hey Sally … can we talk in private for a minute?"
And Sally, sensing her exit, left.
As she closed the door Armada countered."You're right. Maybe we shouldn't give the scoop to the Oregonian. They print such nasty lies about me. How I want to destroy the world, have a harem … or how I plan to build a giant gold plated statue of myself …"
"Its just I'm worried. You're invulnerable. I am not. People … I mean the SEALS's already tried to take advantage of that."
"Don't worry, I'll protect you," said Armada as she sat on Steve's desk.
"Maybe … we should just, I don't know, move. Leave the city. Start a new life together somewhere."
"What are you talking about? This city needs me. I am it's Queen. That's the point. I get to have it all. All of it. I deserve it. I'm stupendous."
"This is just a lot to take in Amanda."
"DON'T YOU EVER CALL ME THAT!" Armada said. She grabbed Steve in an instant and pushed him against the wall, picking him. He had scene it done in the movies. It hurt more in real life.
"AMANDA WAS PATHETIC! AND WEAK! AMANDA ALMOST DIED FOR NOTHING!! SHE WAS A LOSER AND …"
Armada suddenly released him.
"I'm sorry … I am sorry. I didn't mean it … I mean … I mean … I love you! And you love me. I don't need superpowers to know that. Come on, we will be happy together. That's the dream. I mean I am a successful powerful woman. I need a man to make it all worthwhile."
"No you don't. You have the city. I am just not sure I can make that commitment to the …"
Amanda turned once more
"Pretty please with sugar on top""
Steve closed his eyes shaking his head. then felt an heat on his heart. He looked to see two red lights glowing very brightly.
"Steven. I'll be honest with you. More then anything I ever wanted, at this point in my life, I want to burn you to cinders … yet that's wrong isn't it? I could blow up the city and flay all of them alive. But that would be wrong wouldn't it? I could hurt and murder everyone, take all the jewels and diamonds … but that would be wrong wouldn't it? To hurt a single hair on your head …"
Armada turned and walked over to the window."I should go."
She dropped out of the window. Not flew. Dropped. He looked to see the ground, but she wasn't there.
At least he knew a little bit more.
Staff Sergeant Eric Harando didn't know if he had ever technically been to Portland before. He had lunch there once on a road trip to Seattle, when he was 12. He remembered it was nice looking place. Kind of grey perhaps, whether with the clouds or the architecture. Not bad. He certainly didn't dislike it. He remembered that one of the girls once under his command was from there. It was a city. Part of America.
Now he was going to conqueror it again. For America. Just like Lewis and Clark.
Harando was part of a nursing squad that was moving slowly down the interstate from Boise towards the ocean. It was slow. Despite the fact that interstate had been designed to carry tanks it still wasn't all that fast. But they moved. Inside he and his men where playing cards in a troops transport. He hoped his specialty medical squad … well … he hoped it wouldn't be needed, to be honest. But this was war, he had been told, and this was what the world was like.
He remembered Portland had a clock that told whether it was going to rain or not. That was cool.
There target was oblivious. Armada climbed on the famous Pegasus Theatre rooftop and pulled herself into a little ball to think. She thought about wanting to talk to someone about what had happened, but couldn't think of anybody. People downtown liked her. People, as the Queen, admired and respected her now. But a friend? Did she have any? All her powers and abilities, and what was the good of it if she didn't have anyone to confide in. Power had isolated her.
Maybe Steve was right. Maybe they should just go somewhere else. Maybe there was something to that.
But no. She couldn't give up the power. She couldn't give up the ring … well she didn't actually get her power from a ring, but the point stood. She needed, it was a drug.
But what good was a drug like that now?
The connections were beginning to make sense. Amanda. Travel. Serve.
Sgt Eric Harando was a member of the army medical corp. The only Harando in the armed forces. More checking revealed more data. He had served in Iraq. With Corporal Amanda … Queen. Who was … who was …
And Steven turned off his monitor and went out the door.
Steven drove that night to the small VA hospital in the northwest of the city. It was a small plain place that despite being part of the army wasn't very secure.
"We're thinking of leaving town, though the mayor's office is giving us money," said a helpful looking clerk. Fat yes, but helpful.
"I'm here to see Amanda Queen"
Steven walked with the clerk towards her."At first her parents came often. Are you like a friend? She grew up near here I guess, but now … now we don't get many people for her."
And they opened a door to a large grey room with 30 beds. Some attempt had been made to put in flowers to make it cheery, but as they entered that aesthetic seemed wasted. Then they came to the bed of Amanda Queen.
She was splayed out on a bed she would almost certainly never leave. Her body was covered with burns, and her head was shaven. Numerous tubes connected various and horrible looking holes Steve realized, looking a second more, that she didn't have a right leg. Yet here she was. The face, the evil grin. This was Queen Armada.
"She looks a lot like her," the clerk commented."we get that sometimes. It's just coincidence probably. She doesn't go out and fly and stuff."
Steve knew what happened. Cpl Amanda Queen had been serving outside of Baghdad at a military base in 2004. She was a corporal in the medical corp. A nurses aid, basically an orderly, at the hospital there. One night she and some friends were playing the game Call of Duty when insurgents had managed to launch an old scud missile into the base. No one had died in the blast. Many where wounded. and amanda was …
"Her parents are mighty religious," said the clerk."They don't want to pull the plug. If we did anyway, it would mean an extra causality, so we don't push it. Cheap enough to keep her here. She's not brain dead. She actually has a lot going up there according to scanners. But she's not conscious. It's like the purest form of a coma. She can breathe by herself kind but there's shrapnel in her lungs. It's … well, it's hard to look at it ain't it?"
"Can we get a minute by ourselves?"
The clerk left him. Steve put his hand on her chest. He looked up at her eyes. What was going on? This was the woman he loved. He knew it. But …
"I got a theory," said a janitor in the background. Steve looked at the onerous owner of the voice."But no-one pays attention to old Scruffy."
"Just tell me," said Steven, incredibly wary. In the distance he heard the sound of thunder.
As did Queen Armada. She looked up. But it wasn't thunder. It was airplanes. Dozens of them. Stealth bombers. And missiles. Invaders. And they were coming for her city.
And it was her job as Queen to protect it.
"The human mind," said Scruffy as he scratched himself, "Is a complicated thing. Ever heard of astral projection? Out-of-body experiences?"
Steven nodded. He knew his Leonard Nimoy."It's one of those things where people are sleeping … they seem to leave their bodies and drift around elsewhere."
"It's related to dreaming, really," said Scruffy, twiddling his white mustache."The human mind goes beyond the brain, a kind of collective place of archetypes and ideas. We can look out of it and around."
The first plane was relatively close by, so it was easy enough to get. She picked it out of the sky, broke off its wing, and put it on the ground.
The second was across town now, and starting to drop old fashioned bombs.
She raced towards it. She tried always to stay under the speed of sound. The shockwave could damage buildings. Now she realized that probably wouldn't be an option … the first bomb was 100 feet off the ground. She raced down and grabbed it. Then going upwards grabbed more, as almost all the windows in the city cracked.
She looked up. There where 17 bombers. 26 rockets. She would have to go a lot faster.
"But I never heard of them touching things, touching anything. Or lifting navy aircraft carriers," Steve observed, listening to the beep of the machines that keep Amanda alive.
Scruffy chuckled."Some stories exist of people being visible like ghosts. Now we think of ghosts as just being phantoms, but some ghosts can walk and talk like anyone else, move around and do things. It just depends on how powerful they are. What there potential was, or is."
The planes kept coming. More and more of them. She started to throw them down, hoping the pilots had parachutes. They kept coming and coming.
And then the artillery started. Aiming for and hitting the eastern edge of the city, moving in a pincer formation.
And she extended vision. There where 50, 250 … 400, no, 500 troops outside the city. Ready to attack.
She needed to stop them.
But them bombs and the rockets kept coming and she had little answers for them.
Steven had been so wrong … but then she realized guiltily:They weren't here for the city. They were here for her.
"So" Steve looked down. Numerous tubes went to numerous orifices."She's …"
"She's in there. But dreaming. We're her dream. She probably had incredible physic powers or something, to make Edgar Cayce jealous, but she never used them. Now she's created a fantasy version of herself to get everything she wanted in life but could never get. To be all that she could be. Poor fucker. That's my theory at least. Super strong, flight. It would explain why you can't hurt her, as she's just ectoplasm … but the real her can't lift a finger."
She flew towards the edge of the weapons, sweeping out tank formations, moving through bombs, when the first shell hit her. It was powerful and loud. She had been hit by bombs before and it was less the bomb then the terrible noise that got to her. How could anyone think in such a thing? It was overwhelming, the hugeness of this.
She picked up a tank and through it out to sea at the navy ship that had aimed it. The tank exploded across its bow as she looked down at the mass of people.
They would pay for this.
Or maybe she should pay.
Steve looked at Corporal Queen on the bed, lying among tubes and wires."Oh, Amanda."
"But what does Scruffy knows? Scruffy just listen to Art Bell a lot." And with that, Scruffy left.
Steve looked at her for a long moment, stroking her hair. As he contemplated. her his head down and he closed his eyes on Amanda's chest. Which was just as well, as that helped him avoid the gun shot that was aimed at his head but missed …
Armada flew, making a bubble of energy around her for maximum protection, she flew faster then 10 times the speed of sound through artillery shell after artillery shell, moving down the lines of the southern troops, smashing them to bits, as they went.
She moved faster then the eye could follow, more then any troop could counter, though many would brag about this, tell their children, few actually saw her. She was faster then the eye could see.
She saw airfields. Most of the planes were in the air, and she sent out ray beams that knocked them out one by one, like something out of Call of Duty … had she ever played that?
She saw something and for a quarter-second paused. One of the nurses running through the field to attend to people who where injured. She looked at his face. Did she know him? Asian guy … 5'6. She could swear she did … but paid it no mind. He was a nurse anyway, and those were not to be molested in war.
And this was war. A war she had to win.
But then, dimly in her sensations, she realized that there were more shootings happening. More bombing. And then she realized that there was another entire army across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington.
"Damm it!!!" She should have taken that over when she had the chance!!!
It was Casey with a handgun. It was small, actually. Maybe a .22, nothing too big for a gun, but …
"What are you doing?" asked Steven.
"You left your computer on boss," said Casey."I figured it out. Figured you would be here. So this is what it was. The deluded dream of crazy woman in a coma."
"What are you doing … ?" And then Steve ducked behind a bed as bullet grazed his ear.
"Well, if she's out there, but she's in here … I bet if she in here dies, she out there dies. That make any sense? It does in my head, but I'm curious," said Casey.
"Casey, you don't have to do this," said Steve, who was actually hopping he would waste another bullet or two now that he was in cover.
"You wouldn't stop her. You're fucking her. You're her damned puppet."
"It's not like that," said Steve. We can convince her to leave peacefully we don't have to …"
Casey walked over and shot past him trapping him a couple beds away from Amanda.
"There is no other option. This is the only way," Casey said. He yanked out the breathing tube from Amanda's throat. Steve heard the bleeps timed to heartbeat grow erratic, and slow down.
"I could put a bullet in her brain … but after what she'd done … let her suffer a bit. Breath easy, Queen Armada
Queen Armada was half way across the city over downtown when she felt it … she couldn't breath.
Her heartbeat was erratic.
She was getting weaker. She felt fear panic.
And she was no longer a Queen.
She fell down from the sky in a panicky daze, having no idea what was happening. She was loosing. Maybe her powers had run out …
As she hit the ground her mind fell into unconsciousness. Maybe it was for the best.
Obama was in Washington watching the news. He looked at the TV reports. Things had been going … well, terribly. But then …
"She's down, Mr. President. She fell down on 4th street and has apparently made a large crater in the middle of the road. She looks unconscious."
"About fucking time," said the President."Let's introduce her to Mr. Thingy."
The briefcase was already open and he turned the handle of a key.
"Maybe we should get her over water," an aide suggested."Get her out over the Pacific Ocean."
"No time," said the President."We need to make sure she's out for good. And if we have to burn the fucking traitors down to do it, so be it."
"There are two million people!"
And with that the President launched his Mr. Thingy missile with a 200 ton nuclear warhead.
"You're mad!!" Steven declared to Casey as he looked up.
"You're the one who's mad. You're betraying everything America's ever stood for!"
And Steven stood up, no longer hiding behind a bed."Come on man. Your my friend."
"You're the boss who never respected me," said Casey."Or my talents."
"You were a model builder. Scortchboard, MDX … great with. But I mean design. You just always seemed to love it so much."
"You never let me grow … let me expand!" Casey walked back a little bit towards the edge of the room."I don't want to kill you. I want to stand trial with the other traitors who …"
With that a large artillery shell hit the side of the building trapping Casey under a ton of rubble. He dropped the gun, as he was covered in stones from the shattered wall.
And Steven ran over towards Amanda who was at the edge of the blast, but not hurt … at least, not hurt further. The machines looked like they had been knocked offline.
Steve started to press buttons. He put her oxygen tube back in … but … nothing.
"How does this work?"
He looked down at her."I love you, you know. I really do. I love even like this. I guess I never loved your body … well okay, I loved your body. But your mind, your soul … your dreams. What better love is there than that? Sure you wanted to take over the city, but what crazy mind doesn't? But you never wanted to hurt anybody. I hurt you … and I am sorry. It was good. And it was … pure. And … wait a second … is that a green button?"
Steve reached in and pushed the button.
And Amanda started to breath again.
Armada eyes opened. She looked up.
Which was good timing, because 2000 feet over the city a large nuclear missile was bearing down. She moved to get up … but then it exploded.
Her mind could process things 1 million times the speed required. She looked out. She had the power to make shields to protect things around her. It was what she used to make sure her costume didn't burn up and expose her naughty bits all the time. It was good … but could she her ability stretch that far? The bomb could blow up 20 square miles … with 200 megatons (it said so on the side).
Armada knew the truth. There are no such things as heroes in this world, just greed and self righteousness. But by the same there where no true villains either. She had been incredibly selfish. She had taken the city by no right save power and power was a poor motivation for anything. She herself could flee but Portland would be destroyed for her desires. But she didn't.
And that somehow made her the hero.
But this … this force this incredible explosion …
She was invincible. She was all-powerful. But was she really that powerful?
Steve leaned down and kissed Amanda on her lips. Her eyes fluttered slightly.
And a giant energy shield moved from around Armada to cover the entire city. In a quarter of a second it expanded 200 miles to cover the entire area, just as the bomb exploded.
It pounded with might never before seen by humanity, a thousand times stronger and more powerful; it could break the continental plates. The Energy shield rippled slightly in the blast, but it held.
A mushroom cloud blew away harmlessly into the dust.
"It didn't work, Mr President" said the Chief of Staff."The city wasn't in any way damaged. It just kind of hit a giant radius of energy."
Despite everything, there was cheering in the war room …
"You can't fight a god," said the Vice President.
"Quiet fuckhead," said the President."I didn't need to win fucking Delaware that bad anyway."
Obama lowered his head and glowered for a second."This is a cluster-fuck."
"You bet it is" said Armada.
She had flown across the country in under a second and was in Obama's war room more powerful then ever.
"We are so, so, not amused," she added
"Um," the President floundered."It was his idea!" he declared, pointing at the Vice President.
"I should do something really naughty," said Armada."But …"
She flew out the room. Obama caught his breath … only for her to fly in a second later with a man holding a camera and a news card. She hadn't bothered reading it until now."Fox News! Jesus, I should get someone else. But no. Mr. President of the United States I want your unilateral surrender before I destroy every weapon in America and level your entire country to the ground!"
"Yeah, yeah," said the President."I give up! You can have your damn city."
"He was going to blow up the city … and it would have actually taken out Salem too, the bastard. I saved it, even though I didn't have to. Destroying your own country. That's low."
"Yeah, yeah," said the President."You got me."
Armada turned to the camera"Hear this, America. Even though I am from Oregon, I want to say: Kids … don't do drugs!!"
And with that Armada flew out of Washington. The District of Columbia … not the state … or the apple.
Steven was walking home in a daze. He was dimly aware that there had been a battle, but the full scope was lost on him. The city was damaged. Not many fatalities but much had been burnt. Still, they could easily rebuild. Still there was hope. He smiled.
There was room for an architect like him in situations like this. Even one who had forgotten where he had parked his car.
Steve had gotten to the rivers edge. He looked across the bridge at the river. The site where she had tried to build her tower. He chuckled. And he laughed. A bit at her, a bit at himself. If he never saw her again, he was glad that he had known her. Glad that she was here.
But then he turned around and she was there. She was wearing normal clothing, which was a bad sign. She was even wearing glasses. Which did nothing really.
"Hey" she said"Maybe you were right. Maybe I should just be Amanda Queen again."
"No" he said."You could never be her again. You have dreamt too big."
He didn't know if she knew about the VA hospital. Maybe she didn't. Maybe she couldn't. Armada was perhaps kind of naive, but
if she did know she would surely have put more protection around it. It must be some deep psychological break. He wasn't going to tell her anyway. That was his secret.
She turned away and started to walk."So your not going to …"
However Steve was fast enough this time to catch her."You really care about this city."
"Yeah. But I really love you." She looked up at him
"Then I guess I will have to do my best to care for both of you."
And they kissed. And there were fireworks in the sky.
Actually, it was a little bit of unexploded ordinance, but what the hell.
And so they rebuilt the city. And it thrived like nothing else. A shinning beacon on a hill. Well, actually it was built on the mud bank of a river, not a hill.
The cancer treatment centre let them really save a lot of money in expenses. And tax rates dropped further. Many jobs where created in building the giant gold statue of her with the living wages it entailed. It was a new economic boom for all involved.
The state of Oregon voted to join its largest city. There was some talk of the rest of the nation accepting her dominion, but Armada wasn't greedy. She created a constitutional board, like a senate, to help her make decisions … however, its actual power was minimal. As she ruled by decree.
There was still plenty of kneeling.
But people were genuinely happy.
And within the city a 50 storey tower was built to her eminence, with a mighty throne room for her and her lover … who was never named in the press.
And deep in the tower Steven constructed a special room with a view of the river bank through the window, where a hospital bed lay in secret. And Amanda Queen lay there always watching the river. Sometimes late at night, he would go in and kiss his wife goodnight.
And whenever he did, somehow Queen Armada felt his lips on hers. And she smiled. In her own crazy way.
And then, Armada planned to take over the universe …