The certificate is modestly framed, polished dark wood around an off-white matte. Penny taps at a corner, steps back, and studies the wall. If she had a level (or Sheldon) (or Leonard), this would be so much easier, but she's just gonna have to eyeball it.
Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska, the certificate reads, with her name printed underneath. Awarded for Services to Humanity. It's an honorary title—Nebraska has no navy, ha ha—but it's the highest award her home state offers.
Beneath the certificate is a plaque bearing a title that is decidedly not honorary.
People will probably say that a Nebraskan Admiralty should hang below Presidency of the Earth. People, as far as Penny is concerned, can suck it.
The thing everyone forgets about Penny is that she wasn't the prom queen.
Cheerleader, sure. Cheerleading at fourteen was nothing compared to throwing down with a hog at the age of eight. She already had the strength and flexibility for splits and backflips and pyramids, and also the uniforms were super cute. And maybe she wanted to be the prom queen, but wanting isn't the same as having, and anyway, there was a rodeo in Wyoming the weekend of her senior prom. Whatever. That's ancient history.
It bothers her, though, when the guys forget. So she doesn't have eighty-six degrees; at least she can navigate Wal-Mart without being defeated by the sanitation of the shopping carts or the femaleness of the cashier. Like right now, they're all watching some reality show, and Howard keeps making dumb blonde jokes. Hello, she's sitting right here? If her mouth weren't shoved full of Phad Thai they'd be having choice words right now.
What happens at that point is that a Dalek flies through the window.
Penny doesn't know it as a Dalek, at least not yet, because she doesn't spend all her free time watching, you know, Star Trek. Everyone else in the room, though, hits the floor. Raj shrieks. Howard tries to crawl under the couch.
"Contingency plan nineteen!" Sheldon screeches from between his knees. "NINETEEN, THIS IS NOT A DRILL."
"Oh," Penny says, "you have got to be kidding me."
2012 (a daring escape later)
They get her taking out the next Dalek on tape. It's really a joint effort, although in the hundreds of thousands of times the footage is later replayed, only a handful of mentions are made of Sheldon's work with the laser. By then they're slinking through the streets, everyone carrying an emergency dufflebag. (All five of which, by the way, were packed by Sheldon for Sheldon; apparently he can't travel light even for the end of the world or a domebot invasion or whatever the crap this is.)
There are less Daleks as they work their way inland, but they turn the corner and there, in the middle of the street, is a rolling scrapheap advancing on a little kid. The little kid whimpers and snot runs down his (hers, its) chin. (Reason three on the list of why Penny does not what children, no, Mom, not ever, not even one, will you just drop it already?) Sheldon drops his bag and goes for the laser; by that point Penny is already charging away, baseball bat in hand.
"EX-TER-MI-NATE!" Robot Bob says, and then it makes a noise that sounds like a junkyard in a tornado. Penny winds up and lets fly; her bat sings, sings through the air and meets Robot Bob with a satisfying crunch. Wham bang crash! adds her bat, and after the sixth hit Robot Bob's head starts to spark and then he starts to burn.
Penny stumbles back and spits. When she turns around, four of Caltech's finest are staring at her like she's the Second Coming of Christ (or Einstein, or something).
"What?" Penny says. "Oh God, is my hair on fire?"
This alien is not a robot. Actually, she looks kind of like Penny's great-aunt would look if her great-aunt were dipped in a vat of whitewash.
"Who is the leader of this planet?" Great-Aunt Whitewash says, in an inexplicably British accent.
"Um," Penny says, and looks around. She looks at the weary, scared-shitless people around her. She looks at the great pillar of smoke rising from Los Angeles. She looks at the scorched remains of a Dalek scattered at her feet. (Okay, maybe she doesn't so much look at the Dalek as kick it. Alien goo smears on her shoe. Yuck.)
"Uh," she says, "I guess that's me. Who are you, exactly?"
"I represent the Shadow Proclamation," Auntie Whitewash answers.
And all Penny can think it, Really? Shadow Proclamation? Really?
Her finger is on the button and Head Robot Honcho knows it.
"Hey," she says. "Dalek Hitler."
"Penny!" Sheldon hisses. "Don't aggravate it!" He raises his voice. "We demand you let us speak to the Doctor!"
"DOC-TOR?" Dalek Hitler repeats. "DOC-TOR WHO?"
(Somewhere, distantly, comes a sound that might be Leonard crossing the total mental collapse horizon.)
"Sheldon, shut up. You, Robo-Hitler? You're talking to me." The head-eyepiece-thingy swivels in Penny's direction. "You know what happens if I press this button? I'm no beautiful mind, but I think the gist of it is that all those big spaceships and all your little Martian buddies go boom."
The Dalek considers. "YOU ARE BLUFF-ING," it finally concludes. "YOU WOULD BE IN E-QUAL DAN-GER."
Oh, she knew it would say that. She's been waiting for this moment her whole life. The grin that curls across her lips is entirely involuntary.
"Actually," she says. "Actually, I'm a horrible actress."
She presses the button.
The world burns—
Penny leans back in her handmade leather chair and props her Jimmy Choos on the desk. One of her heels clips a signed picture of Hillary Clinton, which sits next to her solid-platinum inbox.
Prom queen got nothing on this gig.