Anna And The Would-Be King

by Robert Morris

THE SUNKEN REMAINS OF A FOILED CONSPIRACY, THE 2000'S, OFF THE COAST OF KAMAKURA, JAPAN

She was a survivor, and when she needed to be, a killer. By that same token, she was only a killer when she chose to be. Ordered by her true superiors in the Japanese government at Saseba to keep all scientists under the thumb of Hideki Kakuzawa alive, she protected the dandy-ish Doctor Nousou from the enraged boy who held him at gunpoint by shooting him. She could have easily killed the boy. She could also have just pistol-whipped him, but shot instead - non-lethally - to be certain the wild card was removed from the fight.

"Anna, what are you doing now?"

But then again, had this been a real operation, she would have done extensive recon on the small Inn and found out the facts first. Like that there were two Diclonii living there. Like that this bunch had turned back and killed Chief Kakuzawa's pedophilic maniac of a cousin, the one who made himself up to look like a Stephen King villain named Randall Flagg. Like that the boy she shot was the great love of Lucy's life, and simply securing him would have likely obtained her surrender without incident. Like that this small household which they thought lifted from an episode of '24' was instead mostly lifted from episodes of 'Three's Company'. The worst thing was, had these people been actual terrorists, they likely would have surrendered and kept still, their training telling them all was done. But they were very much civilians, and civilians, she knew, panicked when threatened and shouted at.

"Unless you're going to bury them, I would leave them under the ice sheets."

But it wasn't a real operation. Kakuzawa was as much showman as he was arch-fiend, and the idea of obtaining Lucy without a struggle worthy of The Book Of Revelations or Nostradamus was next to unthinkable. The clones could have kept the doors shut, and then they could have gassed the place. But Nousou and Kakuzawa wanted soldiers aplenty. Idiots, she thought. Why not just dress the fools in Star Trek redshirts and Star Wars Storm trooper gear? When had soldiers meant anything to Lucy except the makings of red mist?

"Anna-for God's sake, eat some of your monster body and give it a rest."

While wishing to conserve energy and air, the agent finally got up and walked over to Kakuzawa's only surviving heir, pulling her away from the bodiless head of her father and the severed head and body of her little half-brother.

"Let me go! I have to contemplate my vengeance on Lucy! I can't let this pass."

The agent replaced the preservative ice sheets over the corpses, then sat the pouting young woman down.

"Hear that groaning noise? Feel the extra pressure building? Likely, that's the ocean getting ready to reclaim this little hidey-hole of ours. Or maybe it's a group of surviving Diclonius who want to repay your family for the room and board. You know those girls? Born without faces, kept from birth in the cold and dark? Me, they'd just kill. They find out you're the host of this soiree? Tell me, have you seen any women in prison films?"

Anna, who at first had been accepting of the ruins her legacy now stood in, had in the passing days grown more defiant and defensive of her late father and his works.

"My family was targeted by the peoples of this land for generations, till we had to flee here, to this underground hell! All we were trying to do, bad information or no, was get rid of the fools who have made this world a Hell without any aid from us, thank you very much!"

"As one of those fools, may I offer a praise to Heaven that you failed! As a wise man once said, kid, those who try to rule the world usually end up off it."

Anna searched her still-quite good memory for such a quote with no success.

"Who said that? A ruler? A philosopher? A poet?"

The Agent shook her head.

"Nope. It was Fred Flintstone, in A Man Called Flintstone."

"You're mocking me."

"Only partway. Fred Flintstone lives in a fiction about a history no one ever heard of, where the things science teaches us never were, like man living with dinosaurs and primitive science being capable of nearly-modern miracles, all took place. In that, it's a bit like Creationism-or maybe the beliefs of a man who detonates bacilli-carrying missiles in order to create children who will be either killed at birth or kill their families right out of the terrible twos?"

The words seemed to be getting to Anna, and so the Agent pressed on.

"I was raised in Hawaii, but I am Japanese and I get the culture. He is your father, and that's that. But Anna-your father was the bad guy in all this. A very bad guy. You will never be able to live your own life if you fail to accept that harsh but simple fact."

Anna fought back with the only positive information at her disposal.

"Then why am I alive? Hmm? If he was such a bad man, then why did he blunt the sacrifice I was fully prepared to make, so that the thing I became was only a shell for my real body?"

The Agent had heard this argument for days. She had been prepared to blunt it from the first time Anna said it, even as her late brother's tunic was secured to cover her nakedness.

"It could be because he loved you. It could be because it was actually more efficient to have you inside that shell to keep the whole godforsaken process stable. My guess?"

The Agent shrugged.

"He wanted control, even over his Goddess. So long as you had a vulnerable core, he could shut you down, should you ever turn on him, like your older brother did. Your father was about control, Anna. You are alive and you are Human because in this form, you could be stopped or killed, if need be."

Bitterly, the younger woman turned away.

"I will still have Lucy's head, and the heads of those in her hideaway who gave her shelter!"

The hunter inside the Agent now had her target. It would live, but it would not avoid the blow. Honor would no longer permit it.

"Oh really? We invaded a small home, Anna-not a terror cell. Let's go through those residents, huh? I bothered to check their histories, learned their names-talked with associates. One newly resident girl-a music student who knew nothing of Diclonius and who may be Japan's next great operatic Diva-if the assault your Dad ordered lets her keep anything of her voice. Youngest Human girl - a probable runaway due to sexual assault, almost killed by Lucy to shut her up when she learned her secrets. Oldest Human girl - college student who took a lower-grade school to be near her cousin and crush. Diclonius Silpelit Number Seven - do I need to tell you that she does not love Lucy, and likely lived there to keep an eye on her in her dormant state? Four limbs, Anna. Even racial loyalty ends when you lose everything but your head to a taunting psycho. Finally, there's the oldest-and only-male. Human. Named Kouta. Hospitalized for a year in a psychiatric hospital when he was ten. Seems a girlfriend of his got jealous and used her vectors to kill his father and sister in front of him. Report said he had amnesia. Because that jealous girlfriend's name was..."

"I-WILL-STILL-HAVE-LUCY'S HEAD! SHE KILLED MY FAMILY WHEN THEY OFFERED HER THE WORLD!"

The urge to throttle Anna was kept back, in favor of the coup de grace.

"Fine. Though she's probably dead already, given what your Dad said about her power usage. But let's say she's alive. What would you tell her, given the chance?"

"That-that I have to avenge her killing of my father, and of the boy who was my half-brother-as well as hers. She even killed a member of her own line."

The agent was calm but absolutely savage.

"Tell me-just when did your father marry Lucy's mother?"

The question was stated so matter-of-factly, Anna was taken aback.

"They never married."

"Okay. How long did they go out? How long were they seeing each other before your brother was conceived?"

"They-didn't go out-they didn't know each other."

"So Lucy's Mom was a convert to your Dad's cause? She wanted to be the start of the new world's Master Race?"

"No."

"She worked here, and they made the connection about Lucy?"

"Stop."

"How did Lucy's mother end up here, Anna?"

"Stop, please."

"How did Lucy's mother end up giving birth to your half-brother?"

"You-have to-stop."

"No-because you asked for this. Lucy's mother, who by your father's words never stopped searching for her daughter, was found, kidnapped, held here, raped likely more than once by your father, and dissected after her suicide following what was likely months of being held immobile so that she couldn't stop your brother's birth. Knowing your father, is it likely she was told why all this was happening?"

"It-would-be like him to do so."

Anna was near toppling, but this could no longer be helped.

"I hold no sympathy for Lucy in most things. If she is not dead and I get out of here, I will not rest until she is. I only brought her here at Saseba's orders, so that they could take her and your father out in one stroke, after he revealed all his plans. Yet by that same token, I will not allow you to kill her or any of those people, Anna. Not when she was ending a genocidal delusion and avenging her mother's complete destruction, just as would you or I or anyone else, for their mother's sake."

The wall began to burst, and the Agent held and moved the weeping Anna to avoid being struck. The tunneling tube, once used for work on the island when Kakuzawa first built his institute, poked through and men in pressure-adjusting suits emerged. As the air pocket shifted, the two women fell unconscious and the grotto was scoured for every last scrap of information and evidence before they allowed the ocean to claim it.

The Agent awoke on the surface, the pressure change leaving her a horrible headache. She and Anna were on a ship.

"I've had better hangovers."

A man she knew, sporting one less arm than he once did, gave her a small cup of liquid.

"You have some light radiation poisoning from the grotto. The girl is resistant to it."

She downed the liquid, and then some water.

"Kurama-San. Status of mission?"

Kurama nodded.

"Queen captured and removed. Lucy is dead. For real this time."

She found it hard to focus, but smiled lightly.

"Good. Who made the kill? You?"

He smiled.

"The world still has both poetry and irony, it seems. Kouta, the boy who had every reason to hate her, but never stopped loving her, ended her misery as her body melted. My Nana was there. At my direction, her remains was burned in an especially hot oven, well above temperatures used in most crematoriums, and what ashes there were bleached and then burned yet again. Same for the boy we found with the two of you, after analysis. My poor Mariko was cloned, but I will spare Lucy and her brother that indignity."

The Agent had recruited Kurama quietly after his defection from Kakuzawa, though more face to face meetings were out of the question, due to Kakuzawa's paranoia after discovering Shirakawa's spying.

"Then the kid got better from my gunshot wound?"

Kurama patted his sidearm.

"And mine. We actually joked about it. I-will be staying in that small home, close to my Nana, very soon. So odd how things end up. I have to make sure that place is listed off limits. Nana has agreed to aid the government, but I will not have her a lab rat again."

The Agent saw the recovered specialized crossbow in a nearby storage box. She thought immediately of a central figure in her life.

"Bando-San?"

"For a man who no longer has much of a diaphragm anymore, he bellowed out deep and hearty laughter when I told him the news about Lucy. We later argued over his demand for a pepperoni pizza and some Hummingbird soup. The man no longer has a digestive tract!"

The Agent smiled at her mentor's consistency.

"But he'll always have balls. What about Anna?"

Kurama looked over at the sleeping girl.

"She refused to leave your side. She's already offered to help us in a large and dramatic way."

"What-way?"

A week later, that way was revealed.

"You dare betray us in this-"

Anna cocked the gun aimed at her grandmother's head.

"This is not Kanto anymore, grandmother. This is Sicily. And by Sicilian rules of negotiation-in one minute either your signature or your brains will be on that document, naming me as sole heir to all family holdings."

"You are-"

"I AM-The daughter of the bad guy. I am Kakuzawa, raised to do what we must in seeking our goals. I have no horns, but old woman? Are you willing to bet your few remaining years against me lacking every other family trait? Ask yourself-would your son hesitate to pull this trigger?"

As the swooning old woman was taken away, Anna did not hesitate to sign a new document.

"The governments of Japan, America, the European Union and the authorities of Interpol now have unrestricted rights to seize any and all assets my family holds, or is suspected of holding, and to dispose of said assets in the ways directed below. My relatives?"

The agent was impressed.

"Those who will listen will be pensioned off. Those who won't-well, you brought up Sicily. Anna-why?"

She looked around at treasured possessions that would soon be sold off to finance a war against girls she once believed to be her sisters.

"My family's power is broken, and most of its fortune would be seized whether I signed anything or not. I can only regain its honor, and to rebuild that means starting fresh with nothing. But I will need a place to live."

"Kid-that's already been arranged."

A trip into Kamakura led to a meeting with a woman the Agent had made those arrangements with.

"Emiko-San is the owner of a small restaurant and inn now lived in by her college-age daughter and nephew. It's out of the way, and another vital asset in this war is also kept there. You will be safe, given a pension, and those there will help tend to your needs-but they're not your servants. These are very accepting folk. Take your time, mourn your losses-and you will mourn-and prep for dealing with the real world. And understand-the things I do in this are not meant to hurt you-but to remind you that you don't have to make him a failed king or thwarted god in your memory-just a father who did love you, and who did some things you'll have to live down and live with."

Anna rushed forward and embraced her only companion since her new life started.

"Will I see you again?"

"You can't get rid of me that easily. Now go and live, young Goddess."

Anna sniffed and wiped her eye.

"Former goddess. I'm just a girl, now. But that's not such a bad thing, is it?"

Once at the residence, Emiko bid Anna wait outside, till she explained things to her family. Emi finally brought in the young woman, who bowed and was bowed to.

"This is Anna. Like Kouta, she also lost her family to the other person Nyu could become, and has some trouble remembering as a result. She's also a whiz at math."

The girl blushed a little. A little of the computer she once was had bled through.

"I'm not as good at it as I used to be. I will try my best to be a positive part of this household, and obey the rules that Kouta-San and Yuka-San direct me to."

Kouta looked at the new tenant.

"Do you hate her?"

She understood who he meant.

"My father, while he will always have my love, gravely wronged someone Lucy-San loved. He was a great man, but he set the fire that burned our house down. If Lucy is dead, then so is my business with her memory."

The younger girls greeted their new housemate.

"Hi, Anna! I'm Mayu—I sometimes get a little jumpy. Is that okay?"

"I feel like I'm new to the world myself, Mayu—so it's okay with me."

"Nana is very happy to meet you as well. Ummm—is it okay that I have horns? Nana is not like those girls in the news who hurt people."

Anna, once Anna Kakuzawa, smiled.

"I don't mind at all, Nana."

This new place was small and cramped, and she would not be waited on. But, she reasoned, this was a small price to pay for unconditional acceptance and not having to become a living computer.

"In fact, where I come from—horns are considered a sign of good breeding."

While all wondered at that statement, Kouta showed Anna her new room. Her few possessions, including an advanced electronic signature capture device with location ID scrambler, would be fetched later.

"It's-the only room we had all set up. It once belonged to Nyu. Is that all right?"

Anna considered the irony. In a way, the surviving Kakuzawa heir had retaken the realm of the Diclonius Queen. That-and she would be sleeping in the same room as her father's killer.

"Tell me, please, Kouta-San-did you hate her?"

Kouta's face froze, and then he shook his head.

"I don't know. I would like to know, just for certain-whether we two were ever really friends in her mind. Anna-San-you'll eat your meals in here. But you are always welcome to eat at our table-ohhh-"

Kouta nearly tripped, then leaned down and grabbed something small.

"I forgot-you have to meet our official door greeter."

Wanta bounded over to the new resident, assaulting her with licks and face pokes, before Kouta grabbed him up.

"I better get your stuff out of Auntie's car. Wanta-you can play with your new friend later."

Anna lay down to rest, still giggling from the pup's 'attack'. She looked around, and outside her door heard the sounds or argument, agreement, surprise and simply living. In a house whose invasion she had helped plan, in a room once slept in by her mortal enemy, she began to peacefully drift off, with one last thought before sleep took her.

*Father-this small place and the happiness she must have found here-this is why Lucy could not accept your offer. I weep that you were incapable of understanding this. I love and miss you. Goddess or girl, I am always yours.*

A girl who had once desperately wanted horns slept long and hard in the bed of one who had desperately wanted to not have them, and lived to see the world suffer the long-term plans of the man who would be God-King, but in her heart was simply Papa.