I used to be around other Elas all the time. For a few years after we escaped from the facility a couple of us stuck together. As far as I know I’m the only one left from that batch. It had been years since I saw another Ela until she showed up.
There’s something different about her. I don’t just mean that she’s the same age we were when we escaped from the facility so she’s younger. I can’t out my finger exactly on what it is about her that makes her different. It’s like she’s from another planet maybe. She doesn’t act like us, doesn’t talk like us, doesn’t think like us. Face to face with her, just talking, makes me feel like something is very very wrong with the world. Like she shouldn’t be here. Or I shouldn’t.
None of us should I guess. Hack Ears Off Ela had a theory that whoever the original woman was that we were cloned from, we are lessor versions of her. She called us half-Elas. She said that if you take a clipping from a Shaggy Tar Bush and plant it somewhere else a new Shaggy Tar Bush will grow there but it will never be as good as the original. She said that was us.
I don’t know about that. I think I’ve had quite a remarkable life myself. I escaped. I survived. I took over my own kingdom. Those seem like deeds worthy of song and story to me. But this other Ela, she really shook things up. It’s like we were all waiting here for her and she was a catalyst that got us going. The stone that started the avalanche.
She waltzed in and upset our entire civilization, possibly sending it to its doom, and we just did it. I’ve known a lot of killers over the years, brutal and vicious people, but I think she is the most dangerous person I’ve ever met. Her lies are going to kill more people than anyone ever could hope to take out with a blade or a gun.
She said that hers was the face that launched a thousand ships. I feel like I should know what that means but I can’t remember. In truth it’s not even two hundred ships. It’s been years since I’ve assembled the fleet. I have craft out patrolling for pirates and the like, but when was our last real battle on the water? Fifteen years ago? I wonder if any of the captains sailing today are still out there from those days, if any of them remember when we finally crushed the Blood Gars at Battle of the Dammed Waters. I should know that. I’ve lost touch with my captains, with my fleet, my important asset. I’ve gotten lazy. I’ll fix that if any of us survive.
The Council wanted to send the attack craft ahead and have the transports lag behind, but I was worried about the Invincible sending their vehicles downriver and catching them troop carriers unsupported. Everyone was under the impression that the Invincible would abandon the city and run away when our ships who up but from what I’ve seen they’re too cruel and clever to make things so easy.
I arranged our ships with the strongest ships on the flanks with the transport interspersed. The Council is worried that this will expose the troop carriers to fire unnecessarily but I think it’s what we need to do. That’s the good thing about being Queen. I can do what I want.
Kurtzman came to stand with me by the rail and gaze at the fleet “It’s quite a sight Your Majesty.”
I sighed “I probably shouldn’t be here. I should probably be safe at home while others go and do my fighting for me.”
He couldn’t help but half-grin “I seem to recall pretty much everyone saying the same thing to you yesterday. Your royal personage is far too important to be sent into battle.”
“If the Queen doesn’t lead, how can she expect her subjects to follow? You’re too young to remember this but after your father died I led the Murderhawks upriver to attack Vistula myself. I captured the Cottonmouth single handedly with a sword and a pistol. I still hear the sound her captain’s chest made when I caved it in with a kick.”
He glanced down “You do have the strongest shapeliest legs in the world My Queen.”
I snorted “I believe it’s treason to comment on the Royal legs.”
He rubbed his chin “Are you sure, I thought it was treason not to compliment the Royal legs.”
“You’re thinking of the Royal ass.”
“Ah” he nodded.
I looked down at the holster on my hip “I haven’t fired a shot in earnest in a long time. I wonder if I remember how.”
“Hopefully it won’t come to that My Queen.”
I shook my head “I have a feeling that it will come to that K, I just have a feeling. The Kingdom will be okay without me right? My daughter, she’s a sharp one isn’t she? She’s ready to lead right? I’ve gone a good job preparing her for what’s to come haven’t it?”
He flinched in surprise “I wouldn’t . . . it’s not . . . everything’s going to fine. Holly isn’t going to become Queen for a long time.”
“We shall see” I brooded broodily.