Someone was saying her name. “Almighty Z....wake up...Almighty Z!” She stirred. “Almighty Z?”
“Not very ‘Almighty’ at the moment, am I?” She said bitterly through her teeth as she dragged herself into a sitting position against a nearby wall of rock, which Jake was also leaning against. For some reason, their shoes were across the cell.
“Should I call you ‘Z’ then?”
She laughed, shooting sparks of pain through her lungs. “If you’d asked ZOK that he would have said it’s not advised.”
Jake looked just as pained as she was, sweat beading in the crease between his eyebrows. “Why?”
“Apparently, careful analysis of the past reactions of the Almighty Z to being called anything but her given title indicates that the perpetrator has a fifty-three point eight four six one five four percent chance of being maimed, ruptured, insulted, dismantled, or turned to stone,” Z said. “Or at least, that’s what he always said.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, but I’d rather know what you say.”
Zee looked at him, the movement of her neck sending sparks flying down her spine. “Yeah, you can call me Z. Any ideas on how to get out of here?”
“Can you summon a drone to let us out?” he asked.
“Why not?” This time, he looked at her, then winced, apparently undergoing the same painful sensation of someone using your vertebrae as fuel for a fire. “Damn it, Z, why are your weapons so painful?”
“They aren’t, he must have modified them somehow.”
“Do I want to know what would have happened if he didn’t?” Jake asked tentatively.
“I don’t know, you you want to know that you’d be dead?” She replied.
Jake gave the tiniest shrug he could. They were both discovering that the less they moved the less it hurt. “I actually think I would take that right now.”
“Me too. But anyway, I can’t summon a drone because one, these walls are soundproof, two, I’m not telepathic, and three, even if I could, it might be under his control.”
“That’s not good,” Jake said. “But I think I have a different idea.”
“I’m all ears,” Z said.
“Do you still have that paper clip in your pocket?”
“Yes, we can use it to pick the locks, so at least we can get out of this room. Once we can move, that is. Good thinking.”
Jake bobbed his head in a sort of bow. “At your service, Almighty Z.”
They fell into silence for an indeterminate amount of time broken only by the occasional “Can you move yet?”. The answer was always “Nope”, which was followed by a “Me neither” until Z broke the theme by sighing.
“I’m really bad at this, aren’t I?”
“Bad at what?”
“This whole ‘defeat the Great Alliance’ thing. I mean, I’m obviously losing, and I’m not even sure if it’s worth it anymore,” she said dispassionately.
Jake didn’t agree, but he didn’t disagree either. “How did it all start, anyway?”
She sighed again and rolled her eyes. “The Great Teal. She always thought she was better than me. Her army superior, her training more sophisticated, it got to the point where she was actively putting me down. So I attacked her. So she attacked me. So I attacked her again, and so forth until she got these allies and, well,” Z laughed, then winced at the pain it caused. “look at me now, locked in my own cell while who knows what is happening up in my castle. My friends, my robots... and why? What has this accomplished?”
“You stood up for yourself,” Jake said. “That’s important.”
“Maybe,” the Queen replied, “Or maybe I should have just dealt with it. Not fought back, just let her run her course. I don’t know.
“Yeah, but if you’d done that, you’d probably still be in a bad situation now,” Jake pointed out.
“She probably would have blown me up by now.”
“She did try,” he said unhelpfully.
“Yes, well,” the Almighty Z pushed herself up against the stone walls of the cell. The pricks of pain were still there, but they were starting to fade. “Good thing I have a plan, then.”
Jake forced himself up too. “You do?”
“Yeah. Get out, kill Creep, deal with his hijacked drones, deal with the drones in the Tealian’s custody, and win the war. Should be easy enough,” she said, trying to stand up and falling back down instantly.
“Easier said than done,” Jake said.