The next day, everyone flocked to hear Cherie speak, and see NT sign her in as the new ruler.
But Cherie's speech was not the sort of thing most rulers made.
She began by thanking those who helped her get where she was, and then went on, talking about how she had been abused by the previous ruler, and by practically everyone under the sun. Her speech was punctuated by dramatic shudders, sudden palid expressions which were done with the help of her magic, tears, gulps, sniffles, and lots of "And then...And then they...And then he..." as she blubbed and gulped her way through the speech.
There were moans, sniffles and tears from her subjects.
There were none from NT, who stood stoicly in back of her, suppressing a strong urge to knock her flying off that stupid pedestal.
Cherie ended her long, dreary speech by saying she had to visit another world during the afternoon, but would return to her realm later that day. She also dismissed NT, saying she could go back to her own world.
NT gave her a confrontational stare. "I can leave whenever I please, don't forget you couldn't have done this without me."
Cherie almost said something defensive, but remembered she really had to play it cool with NT, who was already showing signs of turning on her if she wasn't careful. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this."
"No you're not."
"I just - "
"How long are you going to hang this over my head?" Cherie turned on the pitiful facade again.
NT turned and walked away. She made herself magically invisible, but tricked Cherie's own magic sense into thinking she had disappeared out of the empire.
Cherie sighed. "Thank goodness she's never coming back here."
Next, Cherie began addressing the crowd. "Now, first order of business, the pledge of undying loyalty!"
There was a murmur among the crowd as Cherie glanced impatiently at one of her attendants, who darted away, and returned with what looked like some sort of large pamphlet but made from pure gold, with precious gems adorning its cover.
"Tacky!" Bez said, amidst a fit of fake coughing.
The attendant handed it to Cherie, who took it without even a thank you.
"Silence!" she demanded, giving those assembled a stern look.
The crowd fell silent.
Cherie opened the pamphlet, and then looked at another servant. "Scan it to that screen." She pointed at what looked like a movie screen.
The servant came over with a device and scanned the contents of the pamphlet so that it appeared on the screen.
"This is your pledge of undying loyalty to me, your new and rightful ruler." Cherie began. "I will read it, and you will respond with "Yes, Your Majesty o' Greatest Empress Cherie!" each time I pause to raise my right hand. You will raise your right hand along with me as you take the pledge! It is being recorded by the scribes, and on film, so no one can deny it and claim ignorance if found to breach this pledge! If you understand, say "Yes, Your Magesty!"
"Yes, Your Majesty." said the crowd.
"Yes, your Majesty." Bez repeated in a mocking tone, sneering.
"This is appalling." Sigma added. Her expression was pinched, like she had just stepped in something rotten.
"I need you to value me above justice!"
"Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie." the crowd chanted.
"WHAT!?" Bez exclaimed, leaning forward.
Sigma's expression had quickly become one of confused shock. Matrix frowned, studying Cherie intently. Even Thande reacted noticeably, grinding his claws into his palms and growling softly.
"What the freakin...?" thought Capri.
"What!?" exclaimed NT at home, as she, Pippi and Indy sat around Pippi's monitor.
"I need you to adore me above freedom!"
Bez scowled, gripping at her Burner. "Someone shoot her or I will."
"She..." Sigma trailed off, shaking her head.
Thande had dug his claws so deeply into his palms that a steady drip of orange blood was falling to the floor.
"What!" Pippi, Indy and NT all exclaimed.
"Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie." the crowd chanted.
"Hey, wait a minute, that's " Indy fell silent as Cherie continued.
"I need you to cherish me more than logic and rational thinking!"
Matrix baulked at this. "Time to name her neurosis..." He muttered, observing her carefully.
Again, the crowd chanted, "Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie."
"Fat chance." Pippi snickered. "Ugh."
"I need you to love me because of me!"
Bez smiled and snickered. "Oh, and there's so much to love, right?" Sigma smiled.
Still, the crowd chanted, "Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie."
"What a pile of rotten narcisistic - she is unbelievable!" Ameh squealed in disbelief at her own monitor.
I need you to love me more than your love for sensibility!"
The crowd only did as they were commanded, saying, "Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie."
"Oh, you gotta let me help you take her down!" said Indy, excitedly.
"If you raise your voice at me, you need to apologise for that!"
"Too late for that, princess." Bez spat. "Don't hold your breath."
"Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie." chanted the crowd.
"In your dreams!" shouted NT.
"If you ignore me or are cold to me for any duration longer than 30 seconds, you need to apologise for that!"
"I'll show you 'ignore and cold'..." Sigma muttered menacingly. She shook her head. "What a sissy."
Matrix smiled and chuckled. "You have no idea...she's certifiable."
If Cherie's subjects were having any misgivings, they didn't dare to express them. "Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie."
Capri nearly gave herself a stomach ache from trying to suppress laughter by this time. "Cherie, you are gonna be the one who's sorry by the time I'm through with you!" she thought.
"If you didn’t raise your voice at me, nor did you ignore me – you need to apologise for not saying sorry earlier!"
Bez burst out laughing at this. "When did she break out of the Wacky Shack? Coo-coo! Coo-coo!" She twirled her finger at her temple.
Sigma smiled and giggled.
Again, the subjects chanted, "Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie."
"Huh? Sorry for what, breathing?" NT sneered at the monitor.
"No kidding, that's how it goes!" Indy tittered.
"Shhh!" Pippi silenced them.
"I may take advantage of your expected subservience in the face of total indignation but that is merely temporal. Chances are - but I’m not promising anything here – that a couple of years down the road when I have cooled down sufficiently, I may accept some responsibility for what happened. Or I may not. It really depends!"
Bez scoffed. "Expected subservience? Expected subserviance my foot!"
Still, Cherie's subjects only said, "Yes, Your Majesty, o' Greatest Empress Cherie."
"I don't know whether to laugh or get sick." Capri thought, gritting her teeth.
"Now, everyone stand up and wish me a long reign!"
Everyone who was visible, did.
"Next order of business," Cherie commanded firmly, "I want all the previous ruler's loyal subjects punished! Take them to the dungeons!"
There was an uproar as some people got ready to carry out Cherie's orders, and others began to panic. One former servant was heard crying out "I thought this new ruler said she was against violence!"
"You killed my mother, no mercy for you!" Cherie shouted back.
"I didn't kill anyone!"
Other new prisoners were heard making similar protests, some of them even going as far as to say "I thought that dungeon was closed down!"
"They are in full operation now!" Cherie yelled back. Turning to a female subject, she said, "I'd like something cool to drink."
Capri was torn at this point, between watching Cherie, and going to dismantle the dungeons. She decided to go for the dungeons first. If Cherie was going to sit pretty and sip on a cool drink, she probably wouldn't be going anywhere for the next little while.
However, Cherie just made things a bit easier. "You are all dismissed, and you will all go to the dungeons to watch and learn! You will see first hand what the sort of abuses I went through, does to people, and you will learn from these prisoners and their families that it is best you never abuse me or question my judgment. If anyone of you is related to those about to be punished, it's tough luck for you, but remember, they decided their own fates when they committed these acts on me, acts they will now get and deserve for themselves!"
Capri wasted no time poofing into the dungeon area, where she had intended on putting a stop to this before anyone got hurt. "Just you wait, Cherie, as soon as it all comes together, you're going down." she muttered venomously to herself.
"This is sick!" Bez snapped, back at the Nautilus. "When are we going to bust this parasite?" Matrix shook his head.
"I imagine when we have all the evidence and all the people we need."
Bez fumed silently for a moment. "It's taking too long." She pounded her fist onto the control consol, frustrated.
"Bez?" She started, looking around. The voice had come from the Unicom..
"Yes?" She said.
"This a bad time?"
"No, you just surprised me. How's the universe on your end, Sin?"
"Rather similar to the universe on your end. Excuse my curiosity, but I couldn't help over-hear your Unicom transmissions in the recent past, and I was wondering...if there was anything I could do." Bez cocked her head, looking around the room. Matrix and Sigma liked Sin, but Thande's view of Sin was, at best, acridly indifferent.
"Sorry about the transmission bleed-out. Unicoms are complicated. Most of us are fine with your help, but it's not really my call. Hang on a sec." Bez changed the frequency to communicate with Pippi and the others. "Hey, everyone. How would you guys feel about the help of a telepath?"
"I've never had experience with one before, but if it'll help, I should give Capri a buzz, hang on, and I'll get back to you in a second."
NT's phone vibrated. Capri picked up. "Hello?"
"Hello NT - I mean Capri."
"We've just been offered some more help by way of a telepath, someone Bez knows."
"Hmm," said Capri, hang on, I'm just gonna do something here - " It was suddenly quiet. "There. I just put a big kibosh into all this torturing crap so that none of it'll work. If Cherie has her people try to do any of these *cough* punishments, things are going to go awry in some very funny ways. Now...Can you get some more info about this telepath and their ideas and get back to me?"
"Certainly. By the way, Misery has warned Bonnie about Cherie's agenda, and Ariel has gone to stay with her and help her elude Cherie. Ameh is processing the tapes you sent over from Cherie's world, and Heidi says she has found more new and very disturbing information, some relating to one of those tapes."
"I'll bet. So, should I just freeze everything over here to prevent Cherie from doing anything and running off to who knows where until we're all ready to confront her?"
"You're asking me this, Capri?" Pippi said, chuckling.
Capri laughed. "I mean, enchanting this place wouldn't mess up anything telepathically, would it?"
"I'll ask, hold on." Pippi went back to the com. "Capri wants to know if freezing Cherie and her world into an enchantment until we can get there to confront her, would put a wrench into the telepathy."
Bez smiled. "Oh no, not at all. It might even make things easier.. I'll let Sin know he's okay to join up. Keep me posted on any new developments on your end."
"Will do." said Pippi.
Bez changed frequencies to reach Sin.
"You're in." Her smile turned wicked suddenly. "I just got an evil idea. Sin, you wouldn't happen to have any more of those Total Empathy devices on you, would you?"
"...Yes." She could hear the hesitation in his voice.
"Don't worry-they'll be put to good use, I promise. I have an idea that'll make Cherie realize just how crappy she's been acting."
"...All right. I'll be over shortly. I'll contact you when I land."
"10-4, good buddy. Over and out."
"Sin?" The distaste in Thande's voice was plainly evident.
Bez shook her head. "Yes, Sin. You don't like him, and with good reason. But he can help, and we all want Cherie taken down." She smiled. "For the greater good, Scaly?"
Thande did not respond immediatly. At length, he spoke.
"For the greater good."
So Capri froze Cherie and her world in an enchantment as soon as Cherie and all her subjects had arrived at the dungeons and set up various places where people could view it. Cherie was frozen just as she opened her mouth about to give an order.
"Yeah, you look real cute, Cherie, your majesty." Capri snickered, then turned to walk away.
Then she got to work dismantling the magic ward around the place. She had only been able to get in because Cherie had taken her in, believing she was NT. Otherwise, if Capri had wanted to get in, she would've had to get NT's help. Now that she was inside, she could get rid of the magic barrier so she could come and go as she pleased.
She returned home.
"You're kidding!" she heard her own likeness exclaiming from somewhere inside.
"No kidding!" Indy answered back, laughing, "I can even pull up the site to prove it!"
Some more muffled conversation, and then more exclamations and incredulous laughter from Pippi and Capri's likeness from Pippi's room.
Capri joined them, and pulled NT aside so the two could get back to being their normal selves again.
"Indy wants to come along with us when we bring Cherie down." NT explained.
"Sure, I don't see why not." Capri agreed.
The rest of the day was spent going through videos and trying to locate anyone on them, even via use of magic to verify or disprove the images on some of them. Other videos of Cherie's were just sick cgi images. Pippi had also gone through NT's deleted folder in her computer, and discovered Cherie had been sending hundreds of emails with stories about, and pictures and video clips of torture, all begging NT to look at them. The ones with attachments even had subjects such as "LOL HILARIOUS!" to which Pippi said Cherie was going to have some serious explaining to do.
Pippi copied NT's deleted email folder onto her own laptop, which she planned to take to Cherie's empire as evidence.
The next few days were spent getting in touch with as many people as they could whom Cherie had been conning, tormenting or both.
When they could finally get everyone together, Capri suddenly remembered the former empress, who she had turned into a stone.
She had put that stone on her dresser, and now she picked it up and turned it back into its rightful form.
The empress stood before Capri in a strange house and a strange world.
"What? Where am I? What happened?"
"You were enchanted to keep you safe until it was time to bring down the person who took over your empire."
"Her name is Cherie. She was always such a sweet but hopelessly sad little girl until the day she brought her friend, we had all been so sure that would never happen."
"Can you think of why Cherie would want you overthrown?"
"No, she didn't seem like the type with that sort of ambition," the empress shrugged, "Until right before it happened. But I ran a democratic system. I outlawed slavery and anything associated with it."
"But you didn't get rid of the dungeons."
"The ones that were around the back of your dwelling."
The ex-empress cocked her brow. "Those were nothing but gutted, run-down buildings the last time I looked. I was told that they were fixing them up, but - not as dungeons."
"That's what they are now." said Capri. "Cherie accused you and your regime of murder and abuse against her and a member of her family - "
"When!? I didn't do anything of the sort!" the empress cried.
"I believe you." said Capri. "But we're going to take her down."
"If I go with you, she'll say I put you up to it." the empress said.
"By the time we get to you, no one will believe a thing she says, because every other lie and terrible fraud of hers will have been exposed."
"I can't believe she actually did this!"
"Yeah, you're not the first with that reaction. Cherie used her sweet-natured damsel in distress act to fool a lot of people."
"What about the girl who she brought in to help her? overthrow me?"
"NT doesn't believe her either. Cherie won't make her do anything more to you. And by the way, what's your name? When we reinstall you, we don't want to look as if we don't know what we're doing up there."
The empress giggled. "My name is Skye."
"Ah, that's easy enough to remember."
"Now, it's time to take her down!"
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