Back in the palace throne room... MY palace throne room (something that still strikes me as very odd indeed)...
We—Abby Faulkner (the former King Bodhi), Delta Rafati, and myself, King Solbourne, watch a large TV panel where a familiar, yet not overly familiar blonde-haired, blue eyed, tan-skinned man points at the camera and smiles jeeringly.
“Without Francis Bacall, your 5-year plan is nothing!” the man shouts. “And I should know, too. Like, bruh.”
“You bastard,” Abby growls.
“Who is this again?” Delta asks. Thank you, Delta, for not forcing me to ask myself and look dumber than I already realize I must seem at most times.
“This is Brett, Santa Barbara’s financial advisor. Or, was. I’ve most certainly fired him now.”
I give her a side-glance. “Um, Abby—“
“Right. Um, King Solbourne, will you fire Brett?”
“Right away, ma’am.” I point my finger at the camera. “Brett, you’re fired.”
“Baller!” he shouts. “Now I have probable cause for my coup!”
“A coup? What kind of backstabbing cur would try to perform a coup against a duly installed monarchy?”
“A cur like Brett,” she answers.
Brett laughs maniacally, but less like a necromancer and more like, well, a Santa Barbaran surfer. “I’ve taken all our pirate ships. The entire fleet has gone with me in defiance of your illegitimate rule, King Bodhi.”
“I’m King now,” I correct.
“King, um, Pink Man?”
“Whatever, bruh. I’ll coup you too.”
“I must say, that is the least ‘gnarly’ thing I have heard in quite a long time. If you truly have my dear friend Francis Bacall captive, I will be forced to end your life to protect his.”
“Yeah, you hella sure aren’t getting Francis back. He’s the most valuable asset we’ll ever get,” says Brett. “Economy’s about to skyrocket. Especially when we raid a bunch of islands and loot the hell out of them.”
“San Miguel first, obviously, since—Wait a minute!”
I laugh. “You fool. All of you are always fools.”
“Well, you better not come after our streamer boy,” Brett says. “Trust me. He’s not gonna look pretty when you see him if you do.”
The TV monitor cuts to black.
Abby Faulkner and Delta both growl loudly.
“What an asshole!” they shout in unison.
“Indeed, an asshole. I concur. But what can we do?”
“Go after them, of course,” Abby says. “It’s the only way we can get revenge for this utter humiliation.”
“He knew the risks when he signed up,” Delta says.
“No, he didn’t.”
“Don’t worry about Francis,” says Abby. “They won’t treat him badly. We’ve needed our own national streamer for Santa Barbara so badly that they’d never do anything to harm him except maybe force him to play Among Us all day or something.”
“Do people still play Among Us?” Delta asks.
“I’m a teenager who ruled an entire nation-state,” she tells her. “I have absolutely no idea what’s cool and what’s lame.”
“So then we must attack. Please, Abby Faulkner, tell me you have a plan for a coup attempt already installed.”
“Sort of,” she says. Her posture shifts, and immediately I see the small girl transform into the mighty, fearsome revolutionary who won independence for her country not so long ago. “Brett’s taken over half my army and my entire navy with him, so we’re down heavily in staff. But I’ll gather as many troops as we can and stock up a cruiser. Delta, you’ll lead those forces.”
“I’ve never even gotten in a fight before.”
“No worries. You’ll be fine.” Abby turns to me and looks as sternly as she can. “While the cruiser gets ready to launch, we’ll be losing valuable time. So you and I will go in advance. We’ll buy some time for the cruiser, and maybe take a few enemy shipsdown with us. Our surfboards, our bodies, and your bow. That’s all we’ll need.”
I smile. “I could do this with one hand tied behind my back.”
“Then I hope you can do even better with both hands.”
A sudden thought.
“Actually... You don’t happen to have any high-quality bows lying around the palace, do you?”
Her look confirms they do.
And my greatest moment is soon to come.