Sunday, April 15, 2018

Magical March 28: Dark Forces

Magical March 28
Dark Forces
Mark A Davis
339


Parasol held aloft, Gothic Angel Galinda floated down from the sky and landed on cobblestone streets slick with rain.  It was near midnight in London, and a waxing moon was partially obscured by clouds.  Up ahead shadows moved and flowed across an alley, independent of any moving lights.  Galinda wore an elaborate Gothic Lolita dress with tiered ruffles, long sleeves, lacing up the front that ended in a bow, and black tights decorated with tiny skull and crossbone designs and black leather platform boots, also decorated with silver skulls.  Her hair was straight and brown, with straight bangs across the forehead.  Her face was pale, her lipstick and nail polish black.

"So tell me something," Galinda said as she closed her parasol carefully.  "These enemies are not created by you?"

"Oh my goodness, no," Sita said.  The magical girl adviser was once again in her animal form -- which was not an animal, but a floating ball of white fur with large brown eyes and  rabbit ears.  "We never provide enemies for our agents.  Our goal is to create more good in the world, not to simply look good."

"Which is why I am not really a Dark Magical Girl, but a magical girl who looks dark?" Galinda asked.  She watched the shadows carefully.  They rippled and bubbled.  This disturbance grew closer.

"What we were provided with as a template are really prompts for internet artists," Sita said.  "I have no idea how the corporate bigwigs back in Nibiru expected us to interpret Dark Magical Girl, but obviously we are not about to set up a girl who uses negativity to sow chaos and sorrow and mistrust... watch that wall to the right," she added.

"Which is what an actual Dark Magical Girl, sponsored by the Dark Magical Girl Division of Hell, would do?" asked Galinda.

"Right," said Sita.  "If we did that, it would be a failure of Nibiru’s goals.  So I chose to interpret this as a Gothic magical girl…."

"Basically," said Galinda, "a magical girl with black lipstick and a bad attitude?"

Three shadows detached from the wall and charged forward.  Gothic Angel Galinda twirled her folded parasol and then aimed it like a gun.  "Bang," she said.  "Bang!  Bang!  Bang!"

The shadows were ripped to shreds, as if they'd been pierced by invisible bullets.  They splashed onto the sidewalk like spilled ink and then drained away to nothing.

More shadows were moving from across the street to Galinda's left.  She turned to face them.

"You can think of yourself in that manner if you wish," said Sita.  "So long as you're battling the dark forces with your magic, you are doing good."

"That's another thing that confuses me," Galinda said.  "You're from a place called Nibiru, which is not heaven, I take it?"

"No, it most certainly is not," Sita replied.  "Heaven has their own magical girl program — the Angelic Council.  Until recently I worked for them, but they can be very rule bound and hidebound to the point of impracticality.  At some point you must stop worrying about the rules and ask:  how can I help this magical girl In what way can I do the most good?  Obviously that should be the goal of a heavenly entity, but far too often they can’t see forest for the trees.  When I had enough, I left for Nibiru."

Galinda aimed her gun again.  "Bang!" she exclaimed.  "Bang!  Bang!  Bang!"

"There are a lot of them," said Sita.  "Might I suggest the Gatling gun?"

"Right," said Galinda.  "Ratta tatta tatta tatta tat!"

Shadow creatures burst apart in a wide swath before them.

"But not all of your enemies are sent from Hell, either?" asked Galinda.  "You mentioned dark forces...."

"The truth," said Sita, "is that Hell's Dark Magical Girl Division is even smaller than the Angelic Council's magical girl operations.  Both are dwarfed by the number of magical girls that Nibiru sponsors.  That's really our entire focus, after all.  So while our magical girls sometimes face agents from Hell, most of what they face are what you might call independent actors — evil spirits, vengeful ghosts, humans who desire mischief, monsters and the like…

"And dark forces?" Galinda asked again.

The Gothic magical girl imagined Sita biting her lip -- although of course in this form she had no mouth.  After several moments she said, "We do not speak of this often, but... just as Nibiru is a collective of former angels and others who wish to support magical girls and promote good, there are collectives with their own largely nefarious goals.  Some claim to aid magical girls, but do not have the best interests of you girls in mind.  Others are purely malevolent.  These are often staffed by demons exiled from hell, or by vile spirits such as evil gods and fairies.  Some of the larger ones are known as Arcticus Nox, the Samharrow Collective, and Shadowloche, but there are many of them, all much smaller than Nibiru itself.  As a rule, such dark forces have problems working together and getting along.  Despite this they cause a lot of mischief, taken as a whole.  Hell does not collaborate with them directly, just as we do not collaborate with the Angelic Council -- but Hell and these other dark forces often have the same goals in mind."

The last of the shadows rushed forward.  Gothic Angel Galinda swung her parasol like a sword, slicing through the creatures.  Some slipped past her guard and attached themselves to her.  They were sticky as if made of tar.  Realizing she could not shoot or slice all of them, Galinda raised her parasol overhead and called out, "Gothic Angel Galinda, Final Attack:  Purifying Gloom!"

A mist rolled in, like fog from the Thames.  The shadow creatures writhed as if bathed in holy water.  Within moments, the last of them had faded away.

"That really shouldn't work," said Sita.  If she had a mouth she would be frowning.  "Gloom is not a thing which purifies...."

Galinda said, "You've been creating magical girls all month, haven't you?   From what you've told me, sinister forces are acting against them -- sending shadow creatures against me, giant stuffed animals against the girl in Brazil, dark fairy creatures against your fairy team in Oregon, a dark galactic queen and her minions against the sailor team in Denver, and even an evil dwarf against that fairy tale duo.

"What you need to do," Galinda said, "is figure out which of these dark force collectives is behind all of this, and invade them with an army of magical girls.  If they're all as small as you say, you can win with overwhelming odds...."

"That," said Sita, "would be quite imprac...."

A bell chimed.  A holographic screen appeared before Sita.  Appearing on the screen was a robed woman with white wings and long, lavender hair.

"Ysolde?" asked Sita.

"Sita," said Ysolde.  "I just wanted to let you know directly from me that Nephele looked into those dark force rumors that Icarus brought forth, and nothing came of it.  They were completely unfounded -- which, given that the information came from a demon, is perfectly understandable.  In any case, there is no need to pursue that lead any further."

Sita raised an eyebrow.  "I see," she said.  "And is there a reason why Nephele is not reporting this information herself?"

"She is unable to," said Ysolde.  "She has been reassigned."

"Understood," said Sita.  The holo screen winked out.

"What's that about?" asked Galinda.

"I'm not sure," Sita said, looking thoughtful.  "Icarus had a very good lead on our mysterious dark forces, but he was working directly with Nephele of Nibiru's Counterintelligence Agency.  They would never share information with Ysolde, and Icarus had told no one who his source of information was....

"I think," said Sita, "that you and I will take a trip to see Icarus and the others...."

FINI

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Magical March 26: Steel Drivin' Boy

Magical March 26
Steel Drivin' Boy
Mark A Davis
338


"Nephele won't have an answer for a few days," said Icarus.  "In the meantime Anath is working with Magical Cadet Kelly, so that's school uniform taken care of, and I  guess you've already set up a dark magical girl...."

"Dark in appearance only," said Sita.   "I'm still working with her."

"Then next is male."  Icarus frowned.  "Really?  Some of these themes...."

"I'll remind you again," said Sita, "this was an internet art challenge.  We just have to do the best we can with whatever topic we're handed, and it's not like creating a magical boy is hard."

Icarus, Lakshmi and Sita were once again gathered in a Denny's, this time in Atlanta, GA.  Icarus wore a System of a Down tee with jeans and his usual leather jacket and dark glasses.  Sita had for once been convinced to wear something other than the toga-like dress, but she instead wore white jeans and a white silk blouse with a ruffled front.  Lakshmi -- the one with pink hair -- wore jeans and a Disney Princess tee.

"Haven’t we already produced several magical boys?" asked Icarus, as he splattered Tabasco all over his southwestern skillet.

Sita frowned.  "Technically we’ve done four," she said.  "But by my count, we’ve only done one properly, and that’s my Unicorn Knight Sterling."

"What does that mean?" asked Icarus.  "I supposed Fairy Knight Hollyhock doesn't count?"

"His costume is too girly," said Sita.  "You took a dress meant for a flower-themed fairy girl and slightly altered it."

"Which does not disqualify him as a magical boy," Icarus pointed out.

"No, it doesn't," said Sita, "which is why I said that technically we've had four -- but only one that's properly male...."

"Now, wait a second," said Icarus, gesturing with the Tabasco bottle.  "Where does it say that magical boys have to dress a certain way?  Lots of magical boys have feminine outfits; it comes with the territory!"

"Yes, and I’m not arguing against that," said Sita, "I’m just saying that a proper magical male ought to be a little more manly…."

"So you are arguing that they don’t count," said Icarus, "just because of the outfit.  That's dumb.  That is not a valid argument.  Hollyhock should count, and so should  Magical Bunny Boy Austin and Circus Princess Alex."

Sita rolled her eyes.  "A boy in a playboy bunny suit, and a boy with princess in his name?  Really, Icarus?"

"Yes, really!" Icarus exclaimed, slamming the Tabasco bottle onto the table.  "They’re still boys.  That’s the point.  They're not magical girls, are they?"

"Of course they're not girls," said Sita.  "What they are is very girlish magical boys.  My point is that I want to create a magical boy who looks like a boy.  Is that too much to ask?"

"Austin looks..." Icarus began.

"Like a boy in drag," Sita said.  "Hollyhock might as well be wearing a dress, and Circus Princess Alex does wear a dress.  One designed to expose his panties, I might add."

"Yes, well, it was a magical girl design..." said Icarus.  "One designed by you.  But if you remove those panties, you'll see...."

"Let's not talk about stripping magical boys or girls, shall we?" Lakshmi interrupted.  "You two are overboard here.  Sita, Icarus has a point — technically we’ve produced four magical boys out of twenty-seven magical young people total.  We also have one transgender magical girl, two boys who turn into magical girls, and one non-gender specific magical boi who accepts female pronouns...."

Icarus stuck his tongue out at Sita.  She pretended to ignore him.

"But Icarus," Lakshmi continued," Sita also has a point — only one of our magical boys actually dresses like a guy.   That seems a bit disparate, don't you think?"

"Like I said, a lot of magical boys..." Icarus began.

"Dress like girls?  Perhaps, but surely not seventy-five percent of them," said Lakshmi.  "Now, here's my proposal:  we let Sita design the look and name of our magical boy, while Icarus and I will locate a suitable candidate."

"That... sounds reasonable," said Sita.

"Yeah, I’m good with that," said Icarus.


***


Muscles gleamed on the bare-chested Magical Drille Terrier Sam as he swung his steel-driving hammer.  It crashed into what was ostensibly the face of a twenty-foot iron monster.  The creature belched steam and oil.  It was part steam locomotive and part transformer robot, and had been tearing up the streets of Atlanta before the magical boy's arrival.

As the three guides watched -- now in their animal forms -- Lakshmi, in her white cat form, said, "Still with the appropriately-themed enemies popping up.  It's worrying."

Icarus the winged tabby said,"I'll just bet you think you're being really clever with that name, Sita."

The floating ball of white fur with eyes and rabbit ears which was Sita said, "Maybe I do, maybe I don't."

"Well, someone's been listening to too much old Irish folk music," said Icarus.  "Was it the Weavers, perhaps?  They did this song, and I think Makem and Clancey covered it as well."

"You are quite well informed on folk music for someone who dresses like a has-been rock star," Sita said.  "It was the Walkabouts, actually -- a folk-rock group from Seattle."

"Ah," said Icarus.  "Drill is not spelled with an E, you know."

"It is in the Walkabouts song," Sita replied.

"Also tarrier is spelled with an A," Icarus added.

"Not in the Walkabouts song..." Sita said.

"Also, a Drill Tarrier is not, as you seem to think, a job description," said Icarus.  "The actual song is Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill.  A tarrier is someone who is a lazy roustabout -- someone who tarrys.  See, that's what the foreman is calling them.  You seem to think they're small dogs, or something,"

In this form Sita had no mouth, but you sensed she was frowning.  "You probably should have gone with a name like Magical Steel Driver Sam," Icarus said.

Lakshmi sighed.  "If," said Sita, "you are trying to ruin this moment for me, then you have failed."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Icarus replied.

"With your petty little criticisms," said Sita, "and with the candidate that you chose.  The only thing that matters is the results. I still like the name, and Magical Drille Terrier Sam is a fine magical boy.  He's very manly."

At that moment came a loud crack, as Sam finally split open the head of the steam-powered transformer robot.  The creature stumbled and fell sideways.

"Only," said Icarus, "when he’s not transformed into a boy named Sam, she’s a girl named Samantha…."

But Sita wasn't listening.  Her eyes were closed, and she was singing La la la at the top of her voice.

FINI

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Magical March 27: Spy Games

Magical March 27
(which comes before 26 for reasons)
Spy Games
Mark A Davis
337

The robotic magical girl known as Parodi Platinum spun through the air, almost too fast to see.  She was a blur of white plastic and silver chrome.  Her pigtails -- two long fins that hung from her head, which seemed more decorative than functional -- whipped about as she turned her head, massive glowing green eyes tracking her enemy.  Heat-seeking missiles shot across the warehouse, exploding harmlessly in confetti firework bursts.

Her counterpart was Ultima Platinum, a nearly identical robot in black and red.  The two bounced back and forth, launching rubber bullets and more confetti firework bombs, then attacking each other with light saber swords.  Neither appeared to have an advantage.

"Are they fighting for real," asked Grandpa Anarchy, "or only sparring?"

"Mostly sparring," said Icarus, "I think."

The two and a host of others were gathered in the Anarchy Cave -- the large underground warehouse located beneath the Anarchy Mansion in Frosthaven NJ.  Most were seated while the two robots fought in an open area.  Grandpa was an old man in a rumpled gray suit with a silver anarchy symbol stitched over the chest.  Icarus appeared as a boy of maybe 18, wearing a tee shirt, jeans, dark glasses, leather boots and a leather jacket.  Here also was Lakshmi, with long pink hair, wearing a jeans skirt, knee-high leather boots and a Ramones tee shirt.  There were three other magical girl guides present -- Octava and Daesdamona, and  Xena who was a dark magical girl guide from Hell.  Grandpa's sidekick Ex Habitu was here, and a former sidekick, F8Wasp, and a former companion, Amelia Anne Bloodraven.  Of course, Annie Two was also present, depicted on a large video screen -- she was the computer that ran the place, after all.

"I can see that they're using non-lethal attacks," said Grandpa.  "But they move so fast!"

"All of their attacks are non-lethal," said Icarus.  "I specified that -- they're magical girls, after all.  As for combat, they most likely derive no benefit from practice, and are nearly identical in ability.  The good one -- that's Parodi, in white -- has a few advantages, and should always win, in theory.  I think direct combat between the two is a highly ritualized affair, with the outcome predetermined."

"Huh," said Grandpa.  "Coulda fooled me.  They're really going at it."

"So," said Octava, "that's sci fi covered, and Ex Habitu has agreed to work with one of our guides.  That'll be Tanit, I think.  So that's casual outfit covered...."

"Next is male, and then school uniform," said Icarus.  "Well, those are easy!  We've already done several magical boys, and several girls in uniforms, haven't we?"

"Don't do another girl in a sailor uniform," said Lakshmi.  "In fact, why not do a boy's uniform?"

"Another magical boy?" said Octava.  "Okay then.  Maybe we could kill two birds with one stone."

"No," said Lakshmi.  "Do a magical boy, and do a girl in a boy's uniform.  We've done several boys dressed as girls, why not the opposite?"

Icarus shrugged.  "We can do that," he said.  "Who doesn't love Ouran Host Club, after all?"

A holographic screen appeared before Icarus, depicting a floating ball of fur with large brown eyes and rabbit ears.  "Icarus," said Sita.  "I'm in London, working with Gothic Angel Galinda...."

Icarus frowned.  "Which one is she, again?"

"That is not important," Sita said.  "We are under attack.  Tell me what you make of this."

The screen was filled with video of a goth magical girl with a parasol fighting creatures of living shadow.  They flowed through the air like oil, and when they died they pooled on the ground before soaking into it and disappearing.  Grandpa Anarchy watched over Icarus's shoulder.

"They appeared as soon as I'd set her up with powers," said Sita.  "They seem tailor-made to the skills I assigned for her...."

"Again, huh?" Icarus said.  "Someone on the dark side seems to know everything we do...."

"Evil shadow creatures in London?" he asked.  "Now that one sounds like a demon I once fought.  What was her name?  Ilhaa Blindstone, that's it."

"Mr. Anarchy," said Icarus dismissively, "we've been under attack from dark forces for a while now.  We have our best Nibiru agents looking into this -- angels who once worked with Heaven's Office of Counterintelligence.  I hardly think that some random human hero is going to solve a problem that our best spies haven't been able to crack...."

Grandpa Anarchy shrugged.  "Suit yourself," he said.  "Only I ain't just any random hero, I'm  the oldest active hero on earth, with more experience than any other hero you could name.  I remember Ilhaa very well -- she's big on shadow creature minions, had the same sort of inky, greasy feel to them."

Icarus looked a Grandpa dubiously, then pulled up another video.  This one depicted girls in sailor uniforms fighting shadowy insects, directed by a handsome boy with shadowy armor.  Grandpa listened as the two groups exchanged threats.  His sidekick leaned over to also watch.

"Prince Ebony of Enceladus, eh?  Minion of a Queen Sable of Titan?" he asked.

"And Sailor Scouts of the major moons of Jupiter," Ex Habitu added.  "That's basically a Sailor Moon riff."

"Yep," said Grandpa.  "That's got Eternia the Watcher's fingerprints all over it."

Octava blinked in surprise.  "You've heard of her?" he asked.

"Heard of her?" Grandpa said.  "Of course I've heard of her!  She doesn't crop up as often as that other idiot the Reality Bender, but I've tangled with her at least a half dozen times.  She's got a thing for magical girls.  I'd know her work anywhere."

Icarus raised an eyebrow.  He played another video.

"Dark Adversary from a fairy realm?" said Grandpa.  "Sounds like her work there, too."

Icarus played another video.  "Hmm," said Grandpa.  "Evil fairy tale dwarf?  That's a tough one to place.  Lemme think about it."

Icarus played another.  "Okay," said Grandpa, "I heard about this one.  Giant stuffed animals terrorizing Rio de Janiero.  Well, terrorizing in a manner of speaking, since they hardly do any damage.  But they're possessed by evil spirits, are they?  Hmmm...."  He rubbed his chin.

"Okay I'm going to go out on a limb here," he said, "but this reminds me of a demon known as Xiglem -- aka the Shining One.  He's big on evil stuffed animals; it's kind of his thing.  But to be honest I haven't run across him in about fifty years.  No idea what he's been up to."

Icarus jotted down some notes.  "Thanks," he said.  "I'll just feed this to our spy network and see if they can come up with anything...."

"Don't bother," said Grandpa.  "I got better sources than your failed angelic secret agents...."  He turned to the woman depicted on the giant computer screen -- that of a nineteenth-century librarian with wire rim glasses and her hair in a bun.  "Annie, get me Hell Wasp on the phone...."

Moments later a female demon appeared on the screen.  She had red skin and horns and cartoonish proportions, and wore a leather bodysuit that laced up the front and sides in such a manner as to expose more skin than it covered.  She was chewing bubblegum.  "Hey Grandpa, what's up?" she asked.  "Oh hey, Xena!  And is that Daesdamona with you?  Man it's been centuries...."

"Oh hey, Deva," Xena called out.

"This," said Grandpa Anarchy, "is the latest member of the Dark Moon Maidens.  Her name is Devastation Brimstone, but you can call her Miss Deva.  She happens to be the niece of my demonic lawyer Malevolent P. Brimstone, but she's also a registered hero, and I don't mind owing her a favor."  Grandpa  turned back to the young demoness and said, "Miss Deva, you know just about everyone in Hell, yes?"

Miss Deva blew a large bubble, then sucked it back into her mouth and snapped the gum loudly.  She said, "Well, a lot of people anyways."

"Specifically, you'd know anyone who's been involved with mortal heroes as either an ally or an enemy, yes?" asked Grandpa.

"Oh yeah, totally," she said.  "You know heroes are my favorite subject!  Ask me anything!"


***


Nibiru Counterintelligence Agent Nephele stared through the screen at Icarus.

"Xiglem the Shining One, and Ilhaa Blindstone?" she asked, skepticism dripping from every word.  "Members of a new dark forces conglomerate known as IMI -- Industrial Monophobia Inc?  Run by an ancient demon named Hamorai?  Are you sure about this?"

"As sure as I can be," Icarus said.  "That's why I'm bringing it to you, so you can confirm it."

"As it happens," said the agent, "I can confirm that Xigem and Ilhaa were cast out of hell some time ago for repeatedly not following rules... and I'm familiar with Hamorai, but no one's heard from him in nearly a hundred years... where did this information come from?"

Icarus shrugged.  "Would you believe a friendly wasp told me?"

FINI

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Magical March 25: Tidal Wave

Magical March 25
Tidal Wave
Mark A Davis
336

"You’re a what now?" Grandpa Anarchy asked.

"We’re angels," said Octava.  "Well, former angels, technically...."

Grandpa pointed at Daesdamona, who had red skin, bat wings, and horns.  "That one don't look like no angel," he said.

Octava and Daesdamona had appeared a minute earlier in Grandpa Anarchy's basement.  The so-called Anarchy cave was a vast warehouse beneath the Anarchy mansion, filled with an extensive collection of obsolete crime-fighting equipment -- including, but not limited to:  a broken jet bike, an exo-skeleton which might very well harm the user, a flying saucer which worked but was no longer top-of-the-line, a rusting 1958 AMD Ambassador Station Wagon which didn't work, several crime-fighting robots from various eras dating back to the early 1960's, and a crime submarine in a special pool dock.

As usual Grandpa wore a rumpled gray suit with an Anarchy symbol stitched in silver over the left breast.  His current sidekick was here too -- a young girl with dark skin wearing an elaborate pinafore dress of pink and lavender.  The lower hem of the dress depicted scenes of cute bunnies murdering each other with all manner of weapons.  Her name was Ex Habitu.

"I am a reformed demon, of course," Daesdamona replied.  Her body shimmered, and suddenly she was just a normal girl of about sixteen.  She had dark skin, black hair, and wore jeans and a crop tee shirt.

"Don't believe in reformed demons," Grandpa muttered.  "Always claiming to be reformed as a ruse...."

"Isn't your lawyer Malevolent P. Brimstone, of  the Maxwell, Screwtape, Brimstone and Wormwood demonic law firm?" Daesdamona asked.

"That's right," Grandpa said, "and he's a good lawyer precisely because he's not reformed.  I wouldn't touch a reformed demon lawyer with a ten foot pole -- them types are as crooked as a Dow performance chart.  fallen angels are almost as bad -- can't trust the lot of them."

"But I'm a fallen..." Octava began, but Daesdamona shook her head violently.  "Moving on," he said, "we work for a pro-magical girl conglomerate called Nibiru.…"

"Oh," Grandpa said.  "You guys."

"You’ve heard of us before?" Daesdamona asked.

"Heard of you?" Grandpa repeated.  "Of course I have!  I’ve been to your fancy schmancy city in the clouds a half dozen times!  I’ve saved the place from invasion twice, and I've worked with your agents more times than I can count…."

"World's oldest active hero..." Octava said, sotto voce.

Daesdamona rolled her eyes.  "Of course.  I should have guessed."

"This is about all the magical girls, right?" Grandpa asked.

"Um... one magical girl," said Octava.  "Your sidekick actually.  We'd really like to sponsor her.  See, we have a quota to meet, on a variety of themes, and today's theme is casual outfit.  I know the Lolita dress is not exactly casual, but I say that casual is in the eye of the beholder.  She doesn't transform, so it probably counts, and it would help us immensely if we didn't have to create another magical girl...."

"Yeah, yeah," said Grandpa.  "There's a tidal wave of magical girls coming.  I already got the full spiel from the other guys."

Octava blinked in surprise.  "Other guys?"

"A tidal wave of magical girls?" asked Daesdamona.

"There's a whole convention of you guys here," Grandpa said.  He lead them around a stack of boxes and into a sort of lounge area, with a series of couches and chairs and a large computer monitor on the cavern wall to one side.  There were a number of people here, most of whom Octava and Daesdamona knew.  Here was Icarus, an teenage boy in a leather jacket, boots, jeans and dark glasses.  Lakshmi was beside him, with long pink hair and in a jeans skirt and a Ramones tee shirt, with knee-high leather boots.  A third woman they also recognized -- the heroine F8Wasp, in a form-fitting outfit of silver and black with long black hair.

Xenagalmok was here as well -- the demoness who went by Xena and worked for the Dark Magical Division of Hell.  She was, on a purely technical level, the enemy.  She had pale white skin, curved horns, and long red hair in two braids, and wore a black Lolita dress with striped tights, black boots with metal spikes, black lipstick and black nail polish.

The last three they didn't know -- a woman in her twenties with shoulder-length brown hair in jeans, a red shirt and a brown bomber jacket, and two nearly identical girl robots -- one in white and grey, the other in red and black, with small demonic horns.  They also noticed the woman depicted on the computer monitor, who resembled a 19th-century librarian.

"Octava!  Daesdamona!  Darlings!" Xena exclaimed.

"Uh..." Octava began, "what are you all doing here?"

"I just provided the robots," said F8Wasp.

"Xena was just leaving," said Lakshmi.

"Now don't be like that, Lakshmi," Xena said.  "We're having a lovely time here...."

"Do I get an animal guide?" asked Ex Habitu.

"Eventually," Octava replied.

"Like I said, a tidal wave of magical girls," said Grandpa.  "See, I know how this works.  All your new magical girls will register with Jay's Temporary Superfriends, and I'll have nothing but magical girl sidekicks for the next six months...."

"I don't think...." Octava began, but just then the elevator doors slid open, and Jay Medberry -- the face of Temporary Superfriends, the sidekick temp agency -- stepped out, followed by several magical girls.  Here was Magical Soldier Savitha -- who resembled Sayaka Miki of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and here also was Stella Maris and Sailor Sunburst.

"Now," Jay said, "this is the famous Anarchy Cave.  I'll introduce you to Annie Two, the computer that runs this place, and... oh look, here's Grandpa Anarchy now, along with...." he paused, then added, "multiple magical girls and their guides?"

"Oh!" Sailor Sunburst said.  "It's Octava and Daesdamona!  Hello again!"

"Case in point," said Grandpa.

FINI

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Magical March 24: Deluxe Model

Magical March 24
Deluxe Model
Mark A Davis
335


The room was dark and vast, populated by dusty machinery, vehicles, and strange mounds that on closer inspection proved to be even dustier cloth-covered machines.  Here was an ancient exoskeleton, there a large circular metal gateway; there was a rusting 1958 AMD Ambassador Station Wagon, and back in one corner of the cavernous space was a disused flying saucer.  Nearby were two human-sized objects covered in drop cloth which was not yet dusty, signalling they were new. The place was quiet, but it was the sort of quiet you got in giantic spaces.  All that could be heard was the hum of some well-maintained computer servers and the lap of water where a submarine was docked.

Two humans appeared.  One second they were not there, the next second, there they were -- young, perhaps in their late teens.  One was a man in a leather biker's jacket, leather boots and jeans, who wore dark glasses; the other was a woman with long pink hair, who wore a jeans mini skirt and a Ramones tee shirt.

The woman looked about the room.  "Is this where we pick up your robotic magical girl?" she asked.  "For the sci fi assignment."

"This is the location I was given," the man replied.  "F8Wasp says that the work is done.  I guess with all of the weird crap happening lately, at least one thing has gone right."

The woman sang, "Science fiction double feature, Dr. X will build a creature...."

Nearby a large wall-mounted computer screen came to life. An image of a woman appeared there -- a young Victorian woman with wire-rimmed glasses, her hair pulled back into a bun.  "Good evening," the woman on the screen said.  "My name is Annie Two, short for Anarchy Computer Mark II.  F8Wasp should be here soon.  I take it you are Icarus and Lakshmi, the two magical girl guides?"

"That's correct," Icarus said.  "Anarchy Computer -- as in Grandpa Anarchy?"

"Indeed," the woman replied.  "This is the Anarchy cave beneath the Anarchy mansion."

Icarus raised an eyebrow, but before he could say more, the dimensional gateway flared to life.  He knew this was what it was, for it was identical to other gateways he had seen -- a circle of some unknown metal, with strange symbols carved into the outer ring, and with a center that was like liquid water, a pool on its side.  There was one like it in Happy Jack's bar in the interdimensional city of Intersect, where they'd first met the heroine and computer genius F8Wasp.

Moments later, F8Wasp stepped through the gateway.  She was a young woman with long black hair, who wore a form-fitted outfit of silver and black.  Right behind her was her companion, Amelia Anne Bloodraven -- an older woman with shoulder-length brown hair in jeans, a red shirt, and a brown leather bomber jacket.

After introductions, F8Wasp said, "Now before I reveal her to you, I just want to make one thing clear.  She's not really female.  She's a robot.  You asked for a robot girl, so I designed her to be streamlined and girlish.  Her hips are wider than her shoulders, but she doesn't have breasts because what are those for on a robot anyway?  She'll answer to feminine pronouns because god knows we all have to use gendered pronouns, at least in certain languages such as English, but it's important to remember that she's a robot.  Robots have no gender, unless we're talking about a sexbot which we most definitely aren't.

"In that way whe's like WALL-E or EVE from Pixar's movie.  People assume that WALL-E is male and EVE is female -- and of course you're meant to do that, it was the intention of the Pixar staff -- but there's literally nothing to suggest that this is actually the case.  WALL-E is more rugged and has an electronic voice pitched slightly lower, EVE is more rounded and smooth and has a slightly higher voice.  That's literally it -- even their names are anagrams of their job descriptions, so it's only coincidence that they resemble names for a boy and a girl. You can describe them as butch and femme, with no gender assigned to either, and it works just as well."

"That's... nice, I guess," said Icarus.  "I just want our magical girl to look like a girl...."

"Yes," said F8Wasp, "and she does of course -- I already said.  It's what you asked for, and as they say the customer is always right."

She pulled the drop cloth from one of the nearby human-sized objects, revealing a beautiful robot, all silver metal and smooth white plastic, with dark gray plastic at the joints.  As F8Wasp had said, there were no breasts, but she was slender and with enough curves in the right places to make her appear feminine.  The face somewhat resembled that of a young girl, though there was no mouth nor nose; the cybernetic eyes were large and glowed green.  Hanging from the head were two long fins that resembled anime twin tails.  There was nothing else to suggest hair, and yet she really did look like a pig-tailed girl.

"Greetings," the robot said.  "My name is Parodi Platinum."

"I named her in honor of the unnamed Maschinenmensch from the movie Metropolis," said F8Wasp.  "That's one of the very first depictions of a gynoid or female robot.  She's been given many names over the years -- Parody, Ultima, Machina, Futura, Robotrix, False Maria, Robot Maria, Roboria, Hel.  Parodi seemed a good name."

"I like it," Icarus said.  "And how are you today, Parodi?"

The girl inclined her head.  "I am well, thank you," she replied.  "You are the one called Icarus?"

"Yes," he replied.  "I'm the one that commissioned you.  Lakshmi and I are magical girl guides, and we were hoping you will assume the role of a magical girl."

"I will certainly do my best," the girl replied.

"Have you considered where Parodi will live, or who will look after her?" asked F8Wasp.  Icarus glanced at Lakshmi.  It was obvious the thought hadn't crossed their minds.

"I... that is... we've been a bit busy," said Lakshmi.

"I thought not," F8Wasp replied.  "A robotic magical girl surely needs a base of operations -- a home, if you will.  She does not have a mother or father per se, so she will need the help of someone who understands who she is and what problems she might face, and who to contact should she need to be repaired.  A simple magical girl guide will not do.  I am no longer based on earth, of course, so I cannot perform this role.

"Therefore I thought to make Grandpa Anarchy's home her base of operations.  He need not be bothered by her presence -- his mansion is large, and she will probably not need a room in any case.  Annie Two, who I created, will serve as an excellent intermediary between me and her.  She should be able to answer most questions that Parodi might have, and can contact me if I am needed.  Although I suspect that most problems that Annie Two has no answer for will involve repair to Parodi's body, and that can be handled by Geothermal Jenny of the League of Two-Fisted Justice, who in fact is the one who built her body."

Icarus and Lakshmi were silent for a moment.  "It Seems," said Icarus, "that you've thought of just about everything...."

Fire flashed.  Smoke rolled across the room, bringing with it the stench of brimstone.  A newcomer had appeared -- a woman with pale skin, curved horns, and long red hair in two braids.  She wore a black Lolita dress with striped tights, black boots with metal spikes, black lipstick and black nail polish.

"Why, Icarus and Lakshmi!" the newcomer exclaimed.  "We meet again, My Darlings!"

Lakshmi sighed.  "Xenagalmok," she said.

"Just Xena will do nicely, Dear," the demoness replied.

"You know I'm not supposed to be around you," said Icarus.

"Certainly, Dear Icarus," Xena said, "But it's hardly my problem.  I have business with F8Wasp, and this is where I was told to meet her!  I had no idea you would be here too, I swear!"  She turned to F8Wasp.  "Is my robot ready, Dear?" she asked.

In answer, F8Wasp removed the drop cloth from the second humanoid shape, revealing a robot nearly identical to Parodi, save that she was black and red, and had small demon's horns on her forehead.

"Her name," said F8Wasp, "is Ultima Platinum."

Xena clapped her hands together.  "She's beautiful, F8Wasp!  Perfect!  My own Dark Robotic Magical Girl!"

 Icarus glared at F8Wasp. "Don't look at me like that, Angel Boy," the heroine said. "Xena contacted me and offered quadruple what you did. It was strictly a business decision."

"And who warned Demon Girl that we were making a gynoid?" asked Icarus.

"Let's just say a little bat told me," said Xena.

"Only Lakshmi, Sita, Octava and Daesdamona knew," said Icarus.

"Ysolde as well," said Lakshmi, "and F8Wasp and Lady Bloodraven of course, and I guess Geothermal Jenny...."

F8Wasp shrugged. "In any case, they're nearly identical. I haven't had the time to develop two different robots! But I warned Xena that the good one was meant to win, so Parodi got all the extras...."


FINI

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Magical March 23: Bunny Blues

Magical March 23
Bunny Blues
Mark A Davis
334


A thirty-foot-tall fluffy stuffed bunny was threatening downtown Rio de Janeiro.  It was pink.  Anger flashed in its button eyes, and it grinned maniacally.  Its plushie arms bounced harmlessly off a glass and steel tower, having no effect.  In the distance atop a mountain, Christ the Redeemer welcomed the invader with open arms.

"Wow," said Rhode, a magical girl guide who appeared as a coal black terrier, "That's incredibly cute.  Do we really have to banish it?"

"It may seem cute and harmless," said Sita, "but it is an incursion from a dark dimension and intends to cause harm.  If we don't act, it might find a way to inconvenience the poor people of this city...."  Sita was in her animal guide form -- which was not so much that of an animal, but a floating ball of fur with eyes and bunny ears.

"Well then," said Rhode, "I guess this situation calls for a magical girl."

Iria Castelo was a brown-skinned girl and a native of Rio de Janiero.  The two guides had this morning given her a magic wand of white and lavender, which more than most resembled an over-sized  plastic baby's rattle.  They'd told her that she could become a magical girl, and that her name would be Mahou Shoujo Dreamtime Dorothy.  She was mostly okay with this.  Gaining powers and fighting a giant stuffed bunny sounded like fun.

"You know, there's real crime in Rio de Janeiro.  Gangsters have gun battles in the streets.  Hundreds of people die each year.  So why are we fighting giant stuffed animals again?"

"Can you think of a better enemy for a pijama-themed magical girl to fight?" asked Sita.

"I get that," said Rhode.  "But where are they coming from, exactly?"

"We're not sure," Sita said.  "Possibly arranged by a powerful goddess named Eternia the Watcher, or possibly by the Dark Magical Girl Division of Hell, or possibly dark forces in general conspiring to counter us at every turn.  We've attempted to get more information, but...."

"Our informant network seem woefully inadequate," said Rhode.

"Yes," said Sita.  "Almost as if they're being interfered with...."

"What?" asked Rhode.

"Nothing," Sita said.  "I'm perhaps suspicious by nature.  Although it doesn't help that a lot of our information specialists have been reassigned as magical girl guides, since we've got so many new girls and we're so short-handed...."

Rhode said, "Hey, I was transferred from information gathering... oh."

Iria held the wand before her.  "Okay," she said, "I'm ready.  What do I do?  Guide me!"

"Just hold the wand out like you're doing now," said Sita, "and say Mahou Shoujo Dreamtime Dorothy Wake Up."

"Wake up?" she asked.

"Well, you are a bedtime magical girl," said Sita.

"You know," said Rhode, as Iria was lifted into the air and spun about, "you could do an entire super team based on people who are primarily associated with sleep.  You'd have Sleeping Beauty, the Sandman, Rip Van Winkle, Little Nemo... um... someone else who sleeps a lot...."

"Absolutely no more team ups," said Sita.  "Lakshmi will back me up on this."

"But...." Rhode began.

"No."

Mahou Shoujo Dreamtime Dorothy landed, now dressed in her magical girl outfit.  This consisted of a lavender babydoll nightie with white lace trim, and matching bloomers. There were no boots, but she did have bunny slippers with floppy ears.

The girl stared down at herself.  "Dios Mio!" she exclaimed.  "What is this?"

"That's your outfit," said Rhode.  "Sita did most of the design, but I helped...."

"I look like a baby in this!" she exclaimed.  "Who in Hades dresses like this?  Nobody over three years old..."

"Oh," said Rhode, "I think you're underestimating people.  There are grown adults who enjoy dressing like little kids, for whatever reason...."

The girl glared at him.  "You are not disproving my point," she said.

"Well, it's your magical girl costume," said Rhode.  "We already designed it so it's too late to turn back now."

"We can always alter..." Sita began.

"Nope!" Rhode announced.  "Already decided!  No chance to change it!"

A massive pink stuffed arm crashed down, knocking them all back in different directions.  Dreamtime Dorothy scrambled to her feet.  The stuffed bunny towered over her.

"We'll talk about this later," she said.  "At the moment, I've got plushie butt to kick...."

The girl scaled the bunny's leg and body.  She launched herself into the air before it and called out, "Mahou Shoujo Dreamtime Dorothy Dispossess!"  Lavender light flashed from her wand, enveloping the giant stuffie.  The giant bunny shook and shivered for several seconds, and then something like oily black smoke seeped out of it.  For half a second this inky cloud hovered in the air, and there was a face there, glaring malevolently.  Then it dissipated.

The bunny collapsed backward.  It landed against a building, its legs sprawled across the street.  There was no life left in its massive button eyes.  Nothing was smashed, but the thirty-foot tall plushie remained.

"Well," Rhode said after a moment, "that's... still an incredibly cute over-sized bunny...."

Dreamtime Dorothy landed beside them.  "Doesn't it go away?" she asked.

"Apparently not," said Sita.  "But I suggest we do, before the authorities arrive...."

FINI

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Magical March 22: Bedroom Confessions

Magical March 22
Bedroom Confessions
Mark A Davis
333

Ysolde was a beautiful angel -- well, technically former angel, having been excommunicated from the Angelic Council -- with long, straight lavender hair, large white wings, and who wore a flowing white gown.  You couldn't look at her and not think 'angel'.  At the moment she was standing on a street in Denver, CO, with Octava, another former angel who appeared in human form as a young boy of maybe fourteen years with long blonde hair.  He was wearing a tee-shirt and jeans.

Sunlight glinted off glass towers high overhead.  Here in the valley between buildings, out of direct sunlight, the air was cool.  It was a busy afternoon in downtown Denver.  Cars honked and rolled past.  Shoppers and office workers mingled on the street.  Nearby a delivery driver unloaded boxes from a double-parked truck.  A McDonald's burger box lay in the gutter, along with the usual city street grime.

People stared.  "Pssst!" Octava hissed.  "You wings...."

Ysolde raised an eyebrow.  There was a quick flash of light, and she was just a normal woman with brown hair, dressed in a business suit and skirt.

"My apologies.  It has been some time since I was out on assignment," she said.  "Now, I want you to go about your business while I observe.  There have been several reports of irregularities, and I wish to get to the bottom of the problem."

Octava looked like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  "Right," he said after a moment.  "Well, Daesdamona and I have been working on a magical girl group...."

"Indeed," said Ysolde.  "The Europa Sailor Senshi, I believe you call them?"

"Yes, right," Octava said.

"And they are combating a dark magical girl group?"

"Not a group sent from the Dark Magical Girl Division of Hell, that I know of," said Octava.  "Not magical girls at all, really.  There's a Queen Sable of Titan, and her minions are all men -- princes named after other moons of Saturn."

"I see," said Ysolde.  "Magical girls who are reincarnated from an ancient Kingdom on Europa and the other moons of Jupiter, whose enemies come from the moons of Saturn?"

"That seems to be it," he said.

"And where did these enemies come from?" asked Ysolde.

"Um..." Octava said.  "They're... in the back story that we created for the group?"

"You made them up, and then they just appeared?" asked Ysolde.  "That's most irregular."

Octava turned and headed into an apartment high rise.  Ysolde followed.

"Well," he said, "Icarus has a theory about that.  It kind of happened to him too... this evil dwarf appeared after he created a magical girl based on Rose Red, from the fairy tale of Snow White and Rose Red.  There's a dwarf in the tale as well.  He thinks that dark forces are conspiring to provide enemies for our girls specifically because we're flooding the world with magical girls at the moment.  Sort of a desperate attempt to keep the scales balanced.  That's his theory, at least."

"A credible theory, actually," Ysolde said.  "I shall have to look into it.  This was not unanticipated by management...."

"Really?" Octava asked.  "Upper management knew this was likely to happen?"

Ysolde pursed her lips.  "I did not say upper management anticipated it," she replied.  "Still, it is not a surprise to me or other division heads...."

They rode an elevator to the 12th floor.  "I understand that your magical girls have had dreams of their past lives?  Dreams of this back story that you wove for them?"

"I..." Octava began, again caught off guard.  "That is... I'd call them alleged dreams.  I mean, they've talked a lot, but these are junior high school girls.  I can't control the hyperactive imaginations of teenagers, you know."

"Ah yes, I suppose that's a fair point," said Ysolde.  "So, you've created a Princess Gloria of Europa -- that was the royal assignment.  You created Princess Creda of Callisto, and that was your sailor assignment...."

"They all wear sailor seifuku, of course," said Octava.

"And then there was Princess Valentina of Io, and she was the warrior magical girl," said Ysolde.  "But your back story speaks of a Princess Verity of Ganymede, so you have one girl left to add.  Please explain how this girl qualifies as a bedroom magical girl."

"She... dreams of her past life?" Octava suggested.  "When she's asleep?  In her bed?"

Ysolde frowned.  "I really don't think that works," she said.

"Look," said Octava, "obviously the original plan here was to draw a picture of a magical girl in her bedroom.  Think of all those scenes of Sakura Kinomoto and Kero-chan up in her bedroom in the anime.  But how do you go from that to a bedroom-themed magical girl?"

"Well, you could..." Ysolde began, then paused.  "No, strike that.  That would not be appropriate for a young magical girl."  She sighed.  "Yes, okay, I'll allow it this time -- but it does seem to me that you're not really following the spirit of the challenge...."

Octava sighed.  The two of them arrived outside an apartment door.  "Are we ready?" he asked.

"Are you sure you've selected the right girl?" asked Ysolde.

"Yes," Octava replied.  "She's a friend to Tiffany Whitherspoon -- that's Princess Gloria of Europa, the head of the group -- and she attends the same private school as the other girls...."

"That being Eternia Private Academy for Girls," said Ysolde.  Octava nearly winced at the name.

"Uh... yes," he said.  "We've already planted... that is, April Mae Rice here has dreamed of being the princess from Io.  I mean, we sort of suggested it to her... subliminally, I guess...."

"Interesting," said Ysolde.  "I'm unfamiliar with that technique.  You'll have to demonstrate it for me some time."

"Sure," said Octava.  He shrank down and became a white bunny.  Ysolde shrank and became a large white cockatoo.

"You know," said Ysolde, "a lot of what you're doing here could be done so much better with the aid of an outside force... a god or goddess willing to help, for example.  There are several who might qualify."

"I... what?" Octava asked, stunned.

"There was one such goddess," said Ysolde.  "I've forgotten her name, but she was a being of immense power who helped us found Nibiru, but chose not to participate in our mission.  Someone like her can be useful at times.  She could, for example, establish ruins on Europa that would fool any scientist, since she would actually place them there 5,000 years ago.  She could provide dreams for your magical girls too -- so they wouldn't simply working from stories you told them.

"Mind you, you'd have to do it without informing me," she added.  "Upper management would not condone such interaction with outside forces.  But it might have made this magical girl team setup of yours much easier...."

"I'll... keep that in mind," Octava said.

In a flash, the two appeared in a girl's bedroom.  She was seated at a desk before a computer.  She had brown hair and glasses.  Octava coughed, and the girl turned about.  Her eyes went wide.

"Good afternoon, April Mae," said Octava.  "My name is Octava, and I'm here to help you become a magical girl...."

FINI