He whipped his right foot up and around toward the chest, where the nanites glowed. His leg rocketed through the air and when it made contact with the vibranium, it rocketed back in the other direction.
So did he. T’Challa flew backward and crashed onto the floor. Shuri wailed with laughter. She’d made him a good suit, one that not only protected but also caused harm to its aggressors.
“Delete that footage!” T’Challa said, stunned, but not really angry. Of course she could have chosen a more mature way to show him the new tech, but she had to keep her brother down to earth now that he was king….
She hadn’t deleted the footage. She was alone in the lab, replaying that video, as she often did, a vacant expression shrouding her face, a flood of memories and happiness and pain drowning her soul. SNAP. The click-clack of her mother’s footsteps snapped her out of it.
Ramonda strode through the lab entrance and bowed. Shuri flinched, “Must you?” “I must remind you.” “You requested my presence?”
“In the throne room,” her mother answered sternly. “You need to stop holding court here.” Here – the lab – was home to her. Well, it was the closest thing to it. Shuri didn’t feel at home anywhere anymore. “Perhaps I shouldn’t hold court at all.”
“You’re the Queen.” On her brother’s death, Shuri had inherited the crown. She’d been given something she never wanted, as a sorry replacement for someone she’d never wanted to lose. “Acting Queen. Interim.” “No,” her mother said resolutely, and peered into her daughter’s eyes, “They need you. You are the Queen.”
Shuri had done everything she could to change that. For several days and then weeks in a row she’d offered standing challenges to anyone who willed to take her regency. She even went against the elders and offered to fight contenders not of royal blood.
But the tribes were in mourning and disarray, half of them made dust and blown away with the wind on that fateful day that Thanos came.
After Thanos won and left, the five tribes had lost any want to fight each other, even ceremoniously. Shuri’s heirship was rightful. More importantly, there was a quiet agreement among most that though young and unrefined, she was ultimately suited to be the Black Panther and head of Wakanda. They – the elders and Queen Mother – were still trying to convince Shuri of it.
“What do they need me for now?” the Queen said. “Raiders are coming again. They have two battalions this time, from the north and the sea.”
Since Wakanda’s advanced society had become public, so many had tried to exploit it, as was initially feared. T’Challa had planned for and handled it though. Now that T’Challa was gone, that half of everyone was gone, the attacks were increasing, and Wakanda’s defenses were down by 50% at least.
The Raiders were a group of relentless mercenaries who just wouldn’t stop coming back. Several times already, Shuri and her forces would repel The Raiders, and capture or kill a large number of them, but they would keep regrouping, recruiting, and returning. They were like parasites, feeding on whatever loot they could get their hands on, again and again.
This obligation would slowly wear her to dust, nevertheless she begrudgingly fulfilled it. She had refused to fight against the first raid, initially. The Wakandan army, reduced in number, was still the best in the world.
But even the best suffered casualties, and it only took minutes for Shuri to see during that first raid that her troops’ death toll was rising more quickly without her at the front. This was for two reasons:
One, the greatest of the Wakandan warriors were the Dora Milaje, Shuri’s royal guards, and they were only allowed to enter a battlefield if they were following their sovereign into it. This duty was stipulated in a verse of the Dora Milaje’s unbreakable oath.
It was written generations ago specifically to pressure the Wakandan sovereign to participate in any battle fought in his or her name.
Two, the army fought well with their traditional methods, but there were less casualties with the help of Shuri’s new inventions. They were advanced artifacts of war, and so technologically complex.
T’Challa had been an expert at wielding, teaching, distributing, and leading with them. Now that he was gone, Shuri herself had to make sure her science was used correctly in battle.
So she fought. She rallied the troops. She made sure they used her weapons correctly and with the best coordination in combat. She protected Wakanda as its ruler. She fulfilled her duty. She was miserable.
She understood that aiming her misery toward her recently inherited title was mostly a redirection. She was actually miserable for the reason that virtually everyone else was; she yearned for those who’d vanished. T’Challa was her best friend.
She lifted her panther suit by the necklace. The suit disappeared. She put the necklace on and the suit reformed snuggly around her. “Good,” her mother said. “Thank you. The troops await your order.”
She examined the vibranium claws at the end of her fingers, “I need to tell them something different. These raids can’t go on forever. I don’t know how to end it.” She’d not looked up from her gloves.
“I heard you went to the hermit shaman today, and visited the Ancestral Plane. Use what you learned there. Whatever the spirit of T’Challa told you, it was surely wise.” Shuri was at the edge of her composure. She lowered her head into the black gloves….
****** Zawavari lived in a cave. He was anti-technology, which drove him to a self-imposed quasi-isolation. He’d always had a good rapport with T’Challa. He’d never had a good rapport with Shuri, her machines and programs antithetical to his way of life.
She called out to him, from the entrance of the cave. She did not particularly like him or his ways either. He came only slightly into the morning light, “Queen, what brings you to my wilderness?” She hesitated to answer, unsure still of her strength to go through with this.
She’d been putting it of for a while. She’d never be comfortable doing it, and she wasn’t technically required to, though all of the kings before her had. Zuri had been the best at helping with this and she’d gotten along so well with old Zuri. But Zuri was dead.
“Zawavari, send me to the spirit realm.” “Don’t you have some gadget that can do it?”
Usually Shuri restrained these types of statements, but she wanted to push through with this before she could back out again like she had several times before, so she said curtly, “I am not requesting your help; I am ordering it.” “So be it, Your Majesty.”....
Zawavari fed her tea of the now super-rare heart shaped herb, and covered her in dirt, and closed her eyes. She opened them in a different place. She took stock of her surroundings. The sky was a vivid dark purple, a haunting twilight. The stars seemed close. Ahead of her, a panther rested in a tree. “T’Challa!” she shouted.
The black cat hopped down and treaded to her. She ran her hands through the fur. The animal gently rubbed her head against Shuri’s hip. “No,” said the Panther, a woman’s voice coming from behind the sharp teeth. “I am sorry.”
“No,” said the Panther, a woman’s voice coming from behind the sharp teeth. “I am sorry.” “Who are you?” “An ancient queen, happy to see a young queen, sad to see you under these circumstances.” “Where is my brother?” “Oh, well. We prepared a tree, especially for him. I will take you to it.”
She followed the panther a long way, over soft fertile earth and through many fields of grass. She’d lost track of the time, and the distance. It seemed to be getting darker. They arrived at a clearing, a leafless tree sprawled high and wide at its far edge. The panther, the soul of the old ancient queen said, “This was for him.”
“Where is he?” Shuri peered through the branches. “Oh,” the panther pawed at the ground, nervous and perhaps ashamed, “We were hoping you could tell us that.”
Shuri searched every branch and twig desperately, her horror increasing as she understood. When Thano’s snapped, and made T’Challa cease to exist, he really ceased to exist. Even here, her brother was gone.
Shuri came to. Her face was drenched in tears. Zawavari looked irritated. She saw why. Her chief royal bodyguard was there in the cave. “Glad to have found you, my Queen,” Okoye said. “Your mother requests an audience. It is urgent. I believe she’s been told of incoming Raiders. She waits at your throne.”
Shuri wiped her face of the saltwater, embarrassed to be seen this way. “I’ll meet her in the lab.”