Her cold face didn’t change. “So, you heard the truth that Adam had to impart.”
Emily walked forward. “So, it is true! You are Eleanor Fox! So why?! Why are you doing this?! Was your whole plan so that YOU could take the throne? Was it all just a ruse to get us to trust you?!” There was no response. “Answer me!”
“I’m not Eleanor,” she whispered coldly. The blade on her neck broke a little skin as it went in tighter.
“Don’t lie to me! You can’t lie anymore.”
Quinn looked her right in the eye. “I wear her skin, as penance for killing her, but I am not her. What my original name was, I don’t remember. The first name I remember them giving me was ‘Subject Zero.’ THAT is who I am.” Her arm relaxed, with the knife going away from her neck.
“Why should I believe you? Why should I believe anything you say?”
She focused her mind. The shift began. In a few moments, she was Doppelganger once more. “My talent is the talent in which ALL others are made. From my blood, or rather, what replaced it, I was born. If you wish to learn my story, the story that got us all here, I will tell it to you.”
Emily was in shock. “You’re…”
“Yes, from the beginning, I was always Doppelganger. It was part of an operation to divide the Empire’s forces. One that, I might add, was a great success.” He shifted back to her normal form. “But this skin, the skin of Eleanor Fox, is the skin that I promised to wear. A promise I made to someone who I have been working with from the beginning. You all know him as Oracle. His actual name is Simon Leopold Fox, or Peter, as most knew him. He was this little girl’s brother.”
The girl’s anger had exhausted itself as she crashed onto a chair. “I think I will listen to your story. What happened? Who are you?”
She motioned toward the TV, bringing up the files on Subject Zero. “Fifty years ago, High Orbital Station One was established. It was the first space colony of its kind. They were conducting tests on Nova Particles and their application. The fuel you use today came from those experiments.” She changed the image to show some of the experiments on subjects. “Forty years ago, they were testing on human subjects. The tests are nightmarish. Unlike today, when they have a formula that is safe for humans to use, back then, they were just injecting a formula made of Nova Particles into subjects. The results were…” The image showed some of the horrific end-products. “Less than satisfactory. To put it mildly. However, there was one subject who was not like the others. This subject could handle the formula. There were no limits to how much it could take into itself. Eventually, the body of the subject changed to become one with it. It made the subject infinitely smarter, able to take damage in a way no normal person could and even make its DNA malleable. The limits of this were unknown.” The screen changed to show some of the experiments run on Subject Zero. “To find them out, they stress-tested the subject. In every possible extreme they could think of.” Her voice cracked as she looked at what was done to her. “The Subject cried and begged for it to end. For five long, unimaginably hellish years, they did this.”
“Oh god, Quinn…”
The image changed to show video of the escape. “However, one day, the Subject got loose. It killed everyone in the lab they were keeping it in, then got out, killing everyone that got in its way.” It showed the camera footage of it coming upon Eleanor. “This was the daughter of an Aristocrat who was visiting the facility that day. The Subject…no, I found her. So filled with anger, driven by rage and hate, I strangled the life out of her. While I did this, I learned something. I could take in the DNA of other people and then change forms. I took on her form, going to where the Aristocrat was evacuating and taking the shuttle to Earth.” The footage stopped. “And that is the story of my life. The person who was directly in charge of this project reported to this piece of shit.” She motioned to the corpse of the Emperor. “His plan was to have what was called the Final Infusion of Nova Particles into me, then he would have a perfected formula that could allow him to become like me. From there, he could infuse as much of the Nova Particle as he wished. He would have, in effect, become God. As you can see, he didn’t get that far.” Her face got darker. “I am not Eleanor Fox. I wear her skin because, despite her father being a monster, and he paid for that in full, she was an innocent victim. It was my sin, and I pay for it. Now you know who I am. The question becomes, what do you want to do next?”
There was a long pause as Emily sat there. She felt so ashamed. She had come here believing that she would have to kill the only person she had ever truly loved. That alone had hurt her in every way possible. Now, she was faced with the fact that she had been ready to do that, when Quinn had told her that she never would have killed her. Ever. If it had come down to it, she would have imprisoned her, rather than kill her. Emily started to cry.
“I’m sorry, Quinn. I’m sorry! I’m a horrible person. I was going to kill you.” Then the memory of what she had said so long ago came back.
“Please, believe me. I would never, ever hurt you. If it came down to it, I would kill myself before killing the woman I love.”
The tears came even faster. “Please, please forgive me! I don’t know what I would do without you! I’m sorry…”
Her lover walked over, picking her up from the chair and holding her tight. “Emily, I love you. Everything is so fucked-up right now. But I still love you. I will always love you.” They shared that moment for a long time.
Finally, Emily pulled back, still holding Quinn’s hand. “So, what happens now?”
The cold face was back. “I’m not done! While the Emperor is dead, his Empire still stands. Prince Adam is the obvious one to be next in line, and he is every bit the genius his father was. The experiments that made me are surely going to be repeated. I can’t allow that to happen. So long as the Empire stands, history will repeat itself.”
“So what are you going to do?”
She looked back at the Emperor’s fallen body. “I’m going to ascend the throne in his place.”
Emily was critical. “There’s no way that ‘ll work! The Aristocracy would oppose you! Hell, the noble family would likely oppose you!”
Quinn looked back at her and winked. “Have faith, love. I mean for there to be infighting. I will have Winter’s Shadow come in and aid my efforts. They will be put at the head of my military. Adam has likely withdrawn to Europe, to gather his forces in an attempt to seize the throne. So my ascension will not have any direct conflict. Not yet.” She reached over and put her arm around Emily’s waist, pulling her close. “But I can’t do this on my own! I need you, Emily! I need my Knight to stand with me! Will you do that?!”
She had no response. She just grabbed her lover and pulled her lips to her. They shared the kiss for what felt like an eternity.
“That’s what I like to hear! I will have Oracle set up a call to the Aristocracy, to get all the Houses here. Then I’ll make my move. Be ready.”
“Anything for you, Quinn. Anything.” They kissed again, holding each other tight.
Just outside the room, the Empress heard every word. She was crying. William, what have you done?! What’s happened here, it’s all your fault! This girl, I must help her. In any way I can.
A news broadcast came on. “We interrupt your regular program to bring you a live broadcast for the White Palace! We are told that His Imperial Majesty is going to be making a live declaration. A gathering of all the Noble Houses has been called as well.”
Inside, everyone was buzzing. Of the Emperor’s children, Juliet, Audra and Thomas were there. Every head of the Houses were there. Oracle was as well, dressed in Imperial garb. This was not an accident. Eloise was there as well. Since her husband was listed as MIA, she was now the head of the Bequette house. Sebastian was there as well, as her attendant.
“So, do you know what this is about?” Audra asked.
“I haven’t heard a word out of Father since last night! The staff is terrified. Nobody has checked in on the man all day.”
“That man isn’t our father. And where is mother?” Juliet asked.
“She wasn’t in her bed this morning. No one has seen her all day.”
“So, are Adam and the others still in London?”
Thomas nodded. “Yeah, word is that the fleets are gathering. They’re readying for battle. It looks like there will be a war between Adam and Father.” That got everyone quieter.
Far away, over the city of London, Adam, Mary, Elizabeth and the remaining Knights were gathered, watching the broadcast.
“Well, Father, let’s see what you have to say now,” Adam snarled. There was no way that he didn’t know that the fleet was gathering. They were preparing for war.
The room got quieter as a door to the audience hall opened.
“Presenting, Her Imperial Majesty!” an attendant announced. That got everyone confused.
“Mother is the one giving this address?!” Juliet whispered.
There was the sound of footsteps getting ever closer. It echoed through the vast room, with everyone feeling nervous. Into the light walked a woman dressed in white pants and a white jacket with gold trim entered the room. She walked to the throne and sat there. Everyone was looking into the eyes of Eleanor Fox, with a look of victory on her face.
In the debriefing room of the Odysseus, everyone was in shock. Far away, in the corporate offices of Matsumoto Industries, everyone was also in shock.
“Greetings to you all! I am Eleanor Ann Fox, illegitimate child of William Beckett. I am the 10th Empress of the Imperial Nation of America.”
Oracle ran forward. “Sister, you’re alive!” He played his part perfectly. Sebastian was in awe. He ran over, leaving Eloise confused and reaching for him.
She smiled down at him. “I am, brother. I have returned from the depths of Hell intact.”
Thomas stepped forward. “Eleanor, it’s you! But…”
Audra also stepped forward. “That’s the throne of our father you’re sitting on, Eleanor! What gives you the right to-?”
“Willem Beckett, 9th Emperor of America is dead, and I am the one who took his life. Therefore, I am ascending the throne, as the rightful heir to it.”
The entire room was in shock. Audra looked back at the soldiers in the room. “Guards, take that fool and execute her! She’s guilty of murdering our Emperor!”
They drew swords, running at her. They were nearly on her when all of them stopped. Their bodies suddenly became contorted into ugly shapes. They all whipped their blades around, running themselves through. Their dead bodies were flung out a nearby window. Everyone was in terror as Emily jumped down. She landed with perfect grace, standing and taking Eleanor’s side.
“May I introduce Emily Bequette, my Knight! A Knight of Crown above all others! I grant her the title, Knight of the Wolf!”
Sebastian ran to the floor, bowing on one knee. “Empress, I come to you now. Sebastian Descartes, head of the Red Guard, an elite force who served the Fox family! Now that you have returned, I humbly offer my services to you, my lady!”
The room got incredibly confused and agitated.
“Of course, Sebastian. I remember you as a child. A loyal servant to my house indeed. You and the Red Guard will be established once again.”
He stood, as she motioned for him to come to her side. “Thank you, your highness. I am honored to be by your side.”
“You can’t think that will stand for this!” one of the Aristocrat’s yelled.
Just then, something else happened. In walked the Empress. Eleanor’s face got dark. Of all times, why now?! Damn it all, it can’t end here!
“My people, you must listen to me now. Everything that Eleanor has said is true. She took the Emperor’s life. However, while decree has it that I am to be the one who ascends the throne in his place, I am relinquishing my claim to the throne and bequeathing the title and privileges to Eleanor Ann Fox. Let it be know, she is to be your new Empress.”
The darkness on her face turned to victory. Yes! She gave me everything I could have wanted! Now it’s official, and no one can call this false! She turned to the former Empress. “My thanks to you, Eve Beckett. Your faith in us will not be in vain!” She then turned to the rest. “As my first act, I am abolishing the Aristocracy! All of your fortunes and property are now forfeit, a claim of the Imperial throne! We shall begin the process of your deconstruction tomorrow morning. Any Houses who resist will be destroyed, without mercy!”
The Aristocrat’s in the room looked enraged and terrified.
“Furthermore, I am adding a new force to my Imperial Guard. The former guard is to be dismissed, returning to the regular military. My new force shall consist of the Red Guard and the Canadian resistance force, Winter’s Shadow!”
In that moment, everyone in the room understood what had just happened. Their Empire was now completely owned by the Wolf. Juliet was in awe. So, it WAS one of us! All this time, it was right under our noses! Unbelievable!
“That is my proclamation. Now, return to your homes and prepare for what is to come.” She stood, looking right at the Aristocrat’s. “But know this – ANY who oppose me shall feel the wrath of the new Empress! So it is written, so it shall be done. All hail America!” The chant was picked up by Oracle, Sebastian, and the Aristocrat’s who were too scared not to. Soon enough, all of them were.
Captain Matthias came to the bridge of the Odysseus. “Prepare to move out! Signal all of our airships to follow. We’re headed for the White Palace. The Wolf has just given us instructions.” Everyone looked nervous, but trusted their captain.
Adam sat back in his seat. “Unbelievable! She kills father, then takes his throne in one night!”
“Who is this woman?!” Mary demanded. She never remembered Eleanor having this kind of cunning. Ever. She was always the sweetest kid. Whatever happened to her between her childhood and now, it had to have been ugly. Everyone there felt uneasy. Something big was coming, and they couldn’t stop it.
As the Aristocrat’s exited, Eleanor approached Sebastian.
“It’s good to see you again, Sebastian.”
He bowed to her, smiling brightly. “To you as well, Lady Eleanor!” He looked over saw Emily. “I am glad to see you are here as well, young miss! When we heard about your incarceration, we feared the worst. But you are now one of the Knights of the Crown. Your father would be proud.”
Her face got ugly. “Father is dead! Or at least, he should be. Last I checked, he was dancing himself to death deep in the woods.”
The man saw the anger, deciding not to press it further. “In any case, Your Majesty, I will reach out to the rest of the Red Guard. We are still loyal to your family, and I can assure you, they will come when called.”
She nodded. “Excellent, Sebastian! Make it happen.”
Emily turned to her. “So, how much of Winter’s Shadow do you think will come here?”
There was a pause as she looked out the window. “We shall see tonight, won’t we?”
The children of the Emperor stood in the room, looking up at her.
Finally, it was Juliet who approached. “Empress, what is to happen to us? Are we to be cast down, with the rest of the Aristocrats?”
Eleanor thought for a moment. “I am unsure what to do with you at this point. I suppose we shall have to wait and see.”
Thomas ran forward. “Empress, I beseech you – I can help you! I don’t give a damn about Father’s ambitions. I get the feeling that you are not the dictator that you are making yourself out to be. Since you will be taking over the banking families, allow me to run your finances for you! I am sure that you know my reputation in these regards. I can also work as your diplomatic adviser. We have a golden opportunity to allow the Areas to secede and make treaties with them! A conquered nation is only as powerful as their conqueror wishes them to be! Think of what could happen if we opened up dialogues! But now, bad blood can be disposed of in a second! You have already shown your desire to change this country. The other nations will listen!” The teenager got on one knee. “I ask you, Empress, to let me guide diplomatic efforts, so that we can be stronger than we ever were before! Instead of a nation with subjects, we can be one with allies, joined with us by strong treaties. It can be the best of both worlds. All the power, but none of the oppression!”
Eleanor smiled. He truly is a man of the people, and he speaks sense. “Very well, Thomas Beckett. You shall be named as my financial and foreign adviser. You shall have direct control over the banks and freedom to work with other nations as you see fit.”
Juliet smiled as well. She is the Wolf, and every bit as smart as I believed. She has an endgame to all this. “Empress, might I aid Thomas? He is a better financier than diplomat.” She smirked at his indignant face. “Between the two of us, we can do more than you ever thought possible! I promise you, we will make this nation strong.”
She nodded. “Alright then, you are to be his second in command.” I’m not going to treat her like she’s a porcelain doll, like the rest. Speaking of… She looked to Audra. “You have been treated like you are a worthless failure by your father, your mother and the better part of your siblings. How would you like to be given the chance to prove them wrong?”
The girl beamed with pride. “Whatever you command of me, Empress! I’ll get it done!”
“That’s what I like to hear!” she replied. “You are to be under Sebastian’s command. I know his history. He is an excellent commander, and I have a feeling that you will make a good protege.” She looked to him. “Will that be an issue.”
The man shook his head. “Not at all, Your Majesty. I will teach her all I can. I have faith in your decision.” He turned to her. “Be ready at 0600 tomorrow, understood?”
She stood at attention. “Yes sir!”
Eleanor turned to the door. “Alright then, you all have your orders. We shall discuss this more in the morning.”
The rest departed, save the former Empress. Eleanor looked over at her.
“Why did you help me? Why on Earth would you do that?”
The woman looked over at her, smiling. “I heard you, last night. Every word. I know who and what you are. My husband did this to you. For that, he deserved to be punished! Now, I can give my family a real life. Not just being residents here. I have faith in you. Though, since I know your name isn’t really Eleanor, what should I call you?”
Empress comes to mind. She shook her head. No need to be harsh about it. “I go by the name Quinn. Thank you.” She started to walk away, heading toward the library.
A man from the military came rushing in, interrupting her reading. “Your Majesty, we’ve tracked several airships heading toward the Palace! They’re flagged as Winter’s Shadow! What should we do?”
She gave him a cold look. “I believe I said in my declaration that I was having Winter’s Shadow replace the guard here. Were you not listening?”
“But Your Majesty! They oppose the Empire!”
“Must I repeat myself?!”
The man felt very small. “No, Empress. We shall let them through at once.”
She got up, walking past him. “Good. Don’t ever question my authority again. Tell ALL of your commanding officers that as well.”
The Odysseus docked above the Palace. It was a sight to behold. A ground deployment craft came down, with the rest of her Knights and the commanding officers. Everyone was excited to see her.
Deathstroke ran over, grabbing her in a warm hug. “Oh man, that was something else, ma’am! I swear, when we saw you on that TV, in that throne, it amazed us all!”
Inferno nodded, clapping her on the shoulder. “You’re something else, boss! That was fucking awesome!”
She smiled at them. “Thank you all for coming. I’m glad that I could be deemed worthy of your trust. It has been a long road, and I mean to end this soon. Know that your faith in me was not misplaced. There is a plan at work here. One which I will let you all in on in due time.” She looked around. “I don’t see Black Mask or Azrael with you. Catwoman too, for that matter.”
Bane looked ashamed. “They left us, ma’am. They went over to Prince Adam’s side. At least, Black Mask and Azrael did. Catwoman decided to quit. Said that she had done enough. So did Copperhead.”
Wolf looked down, nodding. “I see. Well, no matter.”
Enigma let out a laugh. “Oh yeah, and Riddler also decided to ditch! Coward.”
She shrugged. “It’s of no concern. I have you and Brainiac. That is more than enough. As for the others, it is also an acceptable loss. We’ve gained new allies. This Sebastian has a reputation of being quite the leader.”
Deadshot looked up at the palace. “So boss, we got a room here? Looks mighty cozy…”
The other laughed at that.
“I will keep you in the Odysseus for now. But I mean to re-purpose some of the rooms here for my Knights and commanders.” She looked at Matthias. “I’d ask you, but I already know the answer.” That’s when a thought came to her. “Oh, and the people in the Inlet!”
He nodded. “They’re safe. The Empire’s forces never got that far. We’ve beefed up security, but with how things are now…”
“Yeah, we don’t have to worry. I’m having Thomas and Juliet, children of the former Emperor, work out an arrangement to allow Canada to regain its sovereignty. It’s part of a larger objective to shrink the Empire, while creating strong bonds with the other nations. We have already reached out to the AU as well. Plans are in the works to create a global nation, divided among blocks. But enough of that. The people there should be safe, for now.” She turned to the rest. “Alright, everybody. Get some rest. We have a LOT of work ahead of us. Things will get worse before they get better.”
The all stood at attention. “Yes ma’am!”
Until next time, a quote,
“Every epoch dreams its successor.” -Jules Michelet