Sunday, June 28, 2020

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat 
Mark A Davis
382

Sweet scents of sugar, cinnamon and licorice drifted on the breeze.  Overhead silver leaves of thistle trees tinkled like wind chimes.  Yellow cotton candy bunnies hopped amid lemon-lime grass.  Candy bees buzzed amid delicate candy forget-me-nots in all the colors of a confectioner's shop.  A gumdrop path which led into a forest of periwinkle thistles towering thirty feet into a rose pink sky.

The candy forget-me-nots were an especially nice touch, I thought as I waited just inside the woods which were not there.

With a puff of candy smoke, Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero and my hated enemy, appeared on the path, followed by his current sidekick.  I could see them clearly -- the young woman in a spandex suit of red with yellow highlights and the words OMG in large white Impact letters on her chest, within a stylized lightning bolt, and the old man in that stupid gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  You would think a famous hero would dress better than that.  Show some style.  What you wear is your calling card -- such as my wide-brimmed pointed hat of green, with the clock on the front.  Grandpa always knows me when he sees the hat.

He did not appear to have any strawberries.  I smiled.  My illusion was perfect.  He would never know.

The two glanced about.  "Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "Where are we?  We were in the Grand Vizer's palace...."

"He has sent us after our quarry," Grandpa Anarchy replied.  This was, of course, true -- the Grand Vizer was a wizard and had teleported them to this desolate place.  Well, I say desolate, but it did not look so to them.

"Ah!" Grandpa said, "if it isn't the Enchanted Thistle Forrest of Lavenderlandia, in the land of Hopsibayrne, near Eiderdown Town  on the shores of Crystalcola Sea.  If I've been here once, I've been here a million times."

"You have?" asked OMG Girl in surprise.

"Generally speaking," Grandpa replied, waving his hand vaguely.  "I may not have been to this specific place before, but all these fantasy fairyland realms kind of blend together after a while.  You've been to one, you've been to them all."

I almost laughed at that.  Yes, I thought.  This is why you believe the illusion, because it is so exactly like things you have seen before....

"If you've never been here," said OMG Girl, "then how did...."

"I read that sign over there," Grandpa said.  "The You Are Here sign?  By the way it says to be wary of bubblegum spiders and insurance salesmen.  Sound advice if you ask me."  Grandpa frowned.  "Although where Miss Mixelthpthpthpthp has disappeared to, I got no idea.  See, this is why I like fighting mad scientists, psychopathic masterminds and super thugs.  With criminals like that you know where you stand.  It's often atop a deadly dirigible or an abandoned roller coaster, mind you, but still.  Magical villains like Miss Mixelthpthpthpthp are a problem for me -- chasing bad guys like that through magical realms is more the domain of Dark Dr. Dark or Black Dahlia."

It's just like that idiot, I thought, to notice the sign but fail to notice the Forbidden Fountain at the center of the map.  Isn't he supposed to be an investigator?

"She stole the Ear of Mumblestilken," said OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "We promised  Grand Vizer Zel Gotti we'd get it back."

Ah!  The Ear of Mumblestilken!  I felt for the bronze artifact in my pocket.  You will never get it back, I thought.  It is now mine!  I had gone to great lengths to snatch this thing -- a wonderful little item of magic which allowed the wearer to understand any spoken words, no matter the language or how poorly they were spoken.  I had a shelf in my home where I planned to place this thing, next to Eisenheimer's Amazing Eyeglasses and the False Nose of Ashurbanipal.

My home is its own dimension -- a pocket dimension, full of all of the trinkets and magical items that I've acquired over the years.  It is a place that fills me with joy.

"That's another thing!" Grandpa muttered.  "Why are we helping a Grand Vizer?  Those guys are always up to no good!  Fantasy and fairylands, they're all bad news.  Next thing you know we'll be expected to slay a dragon!"

"She can't have gotten far," said OMG Girl.  "We need to hurry!"

"Okay, but we can't just run about randomly," Grandpa replied.

This was my cue!  I imagined myself as some sort of gnome creature -- a short man, bent, with lavender lederhosen, shoes with large brass buckles, a white shirt with blousey sleeves, and a feathered cap.  Just like you'd expect in a candy fairyland!  Perhaps I could even sing and dance to a tune about candy, like the Munchkins from the Lollipop Guild?  No, that would be far too obvious -- and there was only me.

Mr. Anarchy's eyes alighted on me as I came walking down the path.  "Excuse me, Mr. Gnome Person Sir," he said.  "Or elf, or citizen of Lavenderlandia...."

"I am a Tekilander," I replied indignantly.  "I come from Teki Town.  Can you not tell by my distinctive Tekilander cap?"

"Ah, yes," Grandpa replied.  "My mistake.   Tell me, have you seen a strange woman pass by here?  Someone who was obviously not a... Tekilander, was it?"

I pointed at OMG Girl.  "Besides her," Grandpa added.

I placed my hands in my suspenders.  It was too bad I hadn't thought to include a pipe -- puffing on a pipe seemed like the thing to do.  What kind of pipe would a Tekilander from the candy fairyland of Lavenderlandia smoke, I wonder?  One that produced candy bubbles?

"This strange woman," I asked, "was she about my height, but with strange yellow skin and blue hair?"

"Yes,  that's her," Grandpa replied.

"Was she wearing a long green dress," I asked, "and a tall pointed hat with a broad brim, with silver charms dangling from that brim?"

"Yes," exactly," replied Grandpa.

"Was there a large brass clock on her hat?"

"Yes!" said Grandpa.  "Which way did she go?"

"Oh, I'd have no idea," I said.  "I haven't seen anyone like that."

I delighted in the frustration on the man's face, although of course I didn't show it.  But this was the foe who had prevented me from obtaining the Ring of Hanubatum, the Undying Sapphire Vase (which could keep flowers alive indefinitely), the Silver Lamp of Eternal Flame, and even the fabled Crystal Weenie -- a maguffin of immense power.  I loathed the man and would never forgive him for these slights.  And now he wished to deprive me of the Ear of Mumblestilken as well?  The nerve!

Well, fun was fun, but I could not stall him forever or he might become suspicious.  "Wait, now I remember," I added.  I think she was headed directly for the Forbidden Fountain...."

Grandpa Anarchy pounded one fist into his palm.  "Of course!" he exclaimed.  "In many fairylands, you can not be held culpable for crimes which you've magically forgotten!"

Well, I thought, at least he remembers why the fountain is important....  Not, of course, that I would go to such lengths to avoid prosecution for theft; what good is stealing a magical trinket if you don't remember what it is or that you've stolen it?  But the threat that I might do so would send Grandpa Anarchy chasing after me, and right into my trap -- for there was no Enchanted Thistle Forrest of Lavenderlandia, no Land of Hopsibayrne, no Eiderdown Town and no Crystalcola Sea.  It was all part of my illusion.  In truth, there was just a desolate flat plain and then a cliff, the edge of which Grandpa Anarchy and his ridiculous sidekick would soon walk off.  I would be rid of him forever.

Abyssus abyssum invocat, thought I.  Abyss calls to abyss; one false step leads to the next -- literally.

"It's easy to get there," I said.  "Just go down this path past the phantom tollbooth and take a right at the second wardrobe you see.  Then it's first star on the right and straight on until morning... no I tell a lie, just a little gnome humor there; I meant to say you go through the first looking glass on the right and Oz is your wizard."

"What's that?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "The Wizard of Oz is involved?  I didn't think we were in Oz...."

"No, Sir," I said patiently, "it's just a phrase.  It means and there you are."

"Ah," said Grandpa.  "Similar to the phrase Bob's your uncle then."

"Bob is not my uncle," I exclaimed severely.  "My uncle is Candleblast the Unsteady.  He's the milner over in Eiderdown Town, where I've lived all my life."

I realized my mistake immediately.  Was I a Tekilander from Teki Town, or a gnome from Eiderdown Town?  Or was I Miss Mixelthpthpthpthp, a magical alien from the planet Rah S'bahrii?

Grandpa Anarchy drew and fired.  "Ahmguh!" his sidekick exclaimed, as my brains splattered the suddenly barren landscape.



A bullet in the brain gives me such a headache -- but it's one sure way to be rid of me, at least temporarily.  When I awoke in my home, hale and whole again but without the Ear of Mumblestilken, I cursed the name of Grandpa Anarchy.  This marked the fifth time he'd thwarted me!

Abyssus abussum invocat, thought I. But next time, Mr. Anarchy!  Next time  I will get you for sure!

FINI

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Punch 'Em All

Punch 'Em All
Mark A Davis
381

Grandpa Anarchy stared at the smartphone screen.  A small figure in a gray suit and fedora hat stood on a simplified map depicting streets occasionally dotted by small cartoon police stations.

"So," said the world's oldest hero, "this is one of them computer games?  Like Pacman, only on your phone?"

Grandpa sat in a conference room in a downtown building in Frosthaven NJ, flanked by his lawyer Malevolent P. Brimstone and his current sidekick, a girl in a full-body spandex suit of red with yellow highlights.  On her chest, in large white Impact font letters within a styled lightning bolt, was written OMG, which she insisted was pronounced Ahmguh.  Three young people in business suits sat across from them -- representatives from a company called Jailbreak Electronic Games, or JEC Inc.

A box of donuts and a carafe of coffee sat on the table.  The air conditioner hummed.  "It's what they call an Augmented Reality game," said Hidoshi Morioka.  "it's like Pokémon Go, or Jurassic World Alive.  The map you see on the screen corresponds to the real world around you."

The red-haired woman beside him nodded vigorously.  "That's right," she said.  "Or like Harry Potter:  Wizards Unite."  This was Amanda Luka.

Grandpa frowned.  "Wizards?  Pokémon?  What's all this got to do with me?  I fight crime!"

"Yes, exactly!" exclaimed the third member of the trio, a young man named David Singh.  "The player in our game Anarchy Punch! takes on the role of a crime fighter -- either you, Grandpa Anarchy, or one of your fellow heroes, which we'll add as we negotiate rights."

"You capture villains by punching them," said Hidoshi.  "Then you lock them up in jails that you can find on various street corners.  The longer they stay in jail, the more points you earn."

"This ain't a game," Grandpa muttered.  "This is my life!"

Hidoshi laughed, but Grandpa didn't join him.  "Look," Hidoshi said, "it's a game based on your life.  You're a well-known hero.  People will enjoy playing you and capturing villains that they hear about in the news. We could make generic heroes and villains, but anyone can do that.  Getting endorsements from you and other heroes gives us our advantage -- it's what will make our game stand out."

Grandpa frowned.  Mal, the demonic lawyer, said, "I see that you are using the name of real adversaries of Grandpa Anarchy as villains in your game.  Have you sought endorsement deals with them as well?"

HIdoshi coughed.  "As it turns out," he said, "very few supervillains have copyrighted their name...."

Mal smiled.  "Very good," he said.  "You have done your homework, then."

"Do I get an endorsement deal?" asked OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "Can I play myself?"

"There will be a robust character creator," said Hidoshi, "eventually.  You will be able to create your own hero if you like, with your own name.  But no, we are not looking to place any sidekicks in the game at this time.  We will speak to members of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice, the Archons of Excellence, and the Black Moon Maidens among others...."

Grandpa Anarchy glanced to his lawyer.  "Well okay," he said, "as long as you work out the details with Mal you can use my name.  I guess kids will buy just about anything, and I know games on your phone are popular."

"Oh," said Amanda, "but we'd also like you to try it out first.  Feedback from the real Grandpa Anarchy would be invaluable."

"I don't play games, Kid," replied Grandpa.  "I live the adventure."

"Assuming we reach an agreement," said Mal, "I will guarantee that Mr. Anarchy will test your game and provide his feedback."  Grandpa opened his mouth to object, and Mal added, "For your information, Mr. Anarchy, Pokémon Go had about $1.8 billion revenue in its first two years.  This could be a very lucrative market for you."

Grandpa's eyes widened.  "One point eight...."

"One point eight billion in revenue," the demon repeated.

"Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG Girl.

"That's... for a game about catching cute little monsters?" asked Grandpa.

"Yes."

Grandpa Anarchy sat up straighter.  "Very well.  You want me to test out your little game?  I'll see if I can make heads or tails of it."


*** 


"Have I not warned you," said Annie Two, Grandpa's computer system, "about downloading suspicious programs to your phone?"

An image of Annie appeared on a screen on the wall of the Anarchy Cave -- that of a 19th century librarian with black hair wound in a bun and with reading glasses.  Of course, Annie was just a program, or series of programs -- the Anarchy Computer Mark II.  She was, however, possibly the world's foremost computer artificial intelligence.  Grandpa's life as a crimefighter had become much easier ever since she had been installed.

"It's just a test version of a new game that I'm endorsing," Grandpa Anarchy replied.  "It's  all hunky-dory -- or as the kids say these days, it's legit.  Mal gave his approval for it, and we signed the contract."

"Malevolent P. Brimstone is a remarkable lawyer," replied Annie, "and I have no doubt that your contract with this company is designed to give you every advantage legally allowed.  However, he is not an expert on computer programs.  All such matters should be brought to me first.  Do I make myself clear?  This applies to you as well, Miss OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl."

Grandpa's sidekick was staring at her phone.  "What?  Oh, yeah."

"Sure, sure," Grandpa said, also staring at his phone.  "Anyway it's just a stupid game.  I don't even have the time to be playing... oh, hey, lookie there!  There's Holy Terror robbing a bank!  That's only two blocks away!  Well, we can't have that.  Guess I'd better stop him!"

"Ahmguh!  I need him too!" OMG Girl exclaimed.  "He's not in my Rogue's Gallery yet!"

Annie Two's eyes narrowed.  "We are talking about a fictional version of the villain, then?  I believe the real Holy Terror is serving a sentence in Attica Correctional Facility, Supermaximum Supervillain Division...."

"Yeah, not the real one," Grandpa said.  "Come on, OMG Girl!  We'll take the Aston Martin DB5!"


***


Grandpa Anarchy and OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) GIrl stood in the lobby of the Third National Bank of Frosthaven.  There were bullet holes in the walls; two windows were shattered, along with several tables and chairs.  Uniformed police officers were everywhere.  In the center of the room, several thugs in pink bunny suits sat handcuffed on the carpet.

"Nice work, Grandpa!" exclaimed Police Chief Copernicus.  "You sucked all the energy out of the Energizer Gang!  They won't be going anywhere fast after this caper -- they're facing hard time in the Hoosegow!"

"All in a day's work," Grandpa Anarchy replied with a nod.  He glanced down at his phone.  "Aw, Hades!  Baron Climate Change escaped again!  And all of his Zoot Soot Monster minions!"

The Chief of Police looked alarmed.  "He has?  Isn't he held in Attica Correctional Facility, Supermax...."

"No, I don't mean the real Baron Climate Change," Grandpa replied irritably.  "It's this game.  See?"  He held up his phone.  "I locked them up in the Dunkin Donuts Jail on the corner, but now they've escaped.  I need to track them down again."

"Ahmguh!  Me too!" exclaimed OMG Girl.

Sargent Shakespeare glanced over Grandpa's shoulder.  "Hey, that looks like fun!  Where did you download that?"

"Sorry, Sarge," Grandpa replied.  "It's just a beta test version.  You know, to see how I like it and to get some feedback.  But maybe in a few months...."  Grandpa paused to glance at his phone again.

"I love games like that," said the Sargent.  "I bet that's addictive."

"Nah, it ain't addictive," Grandpa said.  "Don't be silly.  It's just a game."  His eyes lit up.  "Hey, that's Doctor Unipus down the street, OMG Girl!   We don't have him yet!  If we hurry, we can destroy his base and capture both him and the Baron...."


***


In the downtown Frosthaven offices of Jailbreak Electronic Games, JEC Inc., three young people in business casual dress sat around a computer screen.  Hidoshi Morioka and David Singh watched as Amanda Luka worked.

"There," she finally said.  "One hundred thousand transferred into our accounts.  He won't even miss it."

"Nice!" Hidoshi exclaimed.

"Mind you," said Amanda, "this is just a test run.  Once we're all set up and running we'll be able to fleece a lot more from Mr. Anarchy and all of his super friends.  I'm telling you, the man is loaded.  The licensing money from just the most recent movie and from that Girls of Two-Fisted Justice cartoon is multiple millions...."

"And that old fool doesn't suspect a thing!" David crowed.

The doors burst open.  Grandpa Anarchy and his sidekick OMG Girl charged in, followed by a dozen cops with guns drawn.

"Now see, that's where you're wrong," Grandpa Anarchy exclaimed.  "You're all under arrest for illegal wiretapping and surveillance and tryin' to take my money by using computer trickery... I'm sure there's a term for that... anyway, we caught you in the act!"

As the cops handcuffed the three, Amanda said, "How did you know?"

"Ahmguh!" OMG Girl exclaimed.  "Annie Two, of course!"

"Annie Two is the world's foremost computer A.I.," said Grandpa.  "That's short for Anarchy Computer Mark II.  You ain't going to outsmart her.  That was your first mistake, thinking that I wouldn't notice you tracking my every move -- or rather, that Annie Two wouldn't notice.  She was on to you from the start.

"Your second mistake," Grandpa continued, "was making such an addictive game!  Seriously, I can't stop playing it!"  He held up his phone to demonstrate.  "I'm telling you, this game of yours is more than a way to spy on me and a few other heroes -- this thing will sell like hotcakes!  And I've sold hotcakes in my time, lemme tell you!"

"Do you really think so?" Amanda Luka asked.  "Then, even if we're convicted, we'll benefit...."

"Oh, but you won't," Grandpa said.  "I will.  See, you signed a contract written by Malevolent P. Brimstone, my lawyer.  Never sign a deal with a demonic lawyer before you read the fine print.  That was your third mistake!  I now own a quarter of your company, and Mal is the fourth member on your board, representing me -- and per the rules of the contract, you forfeit your board position and ownership if convicted of a federal crime.  When that happens, ownership of the entire company will revert to me."

Grandpa Anarchy grinned.  "I'm going to make a ton of money on this game," he said, glancing down at his phone.  "Oh!  Death Medal is stealing an ancient tome at the library three blocks away!  If I rush over there I can catch him in the act!"

Sargent Shakespeare gripped his gun, then released it.  He laughed.  "You almost got me again, Grandpa!" he said.

"I ain't talking about no game!" Grandpa snarled.  "Let's go, OMG Girl!"

Sargent Shakespeare said, "But the real Death Medal is locked up in...."

"Sarge?" said a young officer.  "We're getting reports that Death Medal has escaped from Paradoria Supervillain Maximum Security...."

The Sargent sighed.  "Right!" he said.  "Half of you secure this group, the rest of you, come with me...."

FINI

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Die Eier von Satan

Die Eier von Satan
Mark A Davis
380

A blue-tinged sun rose over an alien city, where a forrest of thin white spires like fingers reached skyward.  A small red croissant-shaped ship darted between spires.  Inside were two humans and one alien.

"Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG Girl.  "What's this guy's deal, again?"

"He is a thief of valuable tomes," replied Qwaiia, the alien.  "This is surely his greatest sin and the singular feature which most defines his character."

OMG Girl wore a full-body suit of red with yellow highlights.  On her chest, within a styled lightning bolt, was written OMG in large white Impact font.  Qwaiia was a librarian of the Kanningmitt, a race of large-headed, nine-foot-tall aliens from the planet Aiin, where great libraries housed the literature of a thousand worlds.  Among other things, they have preserved human books, scrolls, and tomes of knowledge for millennia.  A visit to their planet could reveal what was once held in the great library at Alexandria.

And, if your name was Death Medal, you could steal something.

"Death Medal is a lot more than just a book thief." said Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  As usual he wore a gray suit with a silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  He glanced sideways at his new sidekick.  "And... ahmguh?" he asked.  The ship sailed out from the spires and over a forest of blue and violet.  In the distance an azure sea sparkled.

"Oh Em Gee," replied OMG Girl.  "Ahmguh!  Like my name."

"So," said Grandpa Anarchy, "Your name isn't Oh Em Gee Girl, or...."

"It's pronounced Ahmguh," the girl replied haughtily.  "Obviously."

"No, see," said Grandpa, "OMG is an acronym.  It means...."

"Yes, I know," said the girl.  "But when I write a word, it's pronounced just how I choose it to be -- neither more nor less.  The question is which is to be the master, that is all."

"Ah," said Qwaiia the librarian, "you quote lines of dialog from the popular Terran tome Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, composed and published by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson writing under his pen name Lewis Carroll...."

"Okay, I've read Lewis Carroll too," said Grandpa, frowning.  "I can see you've had to defend this pronunciation to a lot of people....  anyway as I was saying, Death Medal is a lot more than just a book thief.  He's a grade-A villain and a demon into the bargain."

"Surely theft of a valuable tome is crime enough to condemn him," replied Qwaiia.  "One need not bring race into the discussion...."

"Look Doc," said Grandpa, "I'm less concerned about the book theft, and more concerned about what he plans to do with said book.  Death Medal's whole shtick is destruction via spells or magical artifacts.  He wants the world to burn -- and the whole universe, if possible.  Part of that's down to him being a demon."

"If he destroys the universe," asked OMG Girl, "Won't he die too?"

"Maybe?" said Grandpa.  "He's a demon, so who knows?  Does destruction of the universe include hell?  Hard to say."

"This is an interesting conundrum," said Quaiia, "which touches on the Terran philosophy of Annihilationism, the belief that existence in an eternal lake of fire is a false doctrine of pagan origin...."

"Yes, I'm sure," Grandpa interrupted.

"Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG Girl.  "We've got to stop him!"

"What I do not understand," said Qwaiia, "is why he would steal the tome at all?  Library registration is free to all sentient beings, and takes but a few minutes...."

"Well he's a villain," said Grandpa, "so he's not one to do things by the book."

"Ah!  Ha!" the alien barked.  Ha!  Ha!  A Terran joke!  Doing things by the book.  Both a known Terran colloquialism and one of your famous lowbrow puns, the wordplay for which your heroes are famous!  Excellent!"

"Yeah, that's me," Grandpa Anarchy muttered.  "Always joking."

Their ship alighted in a sea of violet grass on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  In the distance, the flaming skull of Death Medal stood out amid a small collection of humanoids.  The sky overhead was streaked with neon blue.  The ship's door opened, and Grandpa stepped outside.

"I implore you," said Qwaiia, "whatever you do, please protect the Atlantean Kodex!  No copy of it exists on earth!"

Grandpa Anarchy grimaced.  "Of course," he said.  "Just the sort of book that Death Medal likes to steal."

Grandpa and OMG Girl strode forward.  "That's far enough!" Death Medal called out.  Aside from the flaming skull, the villain was a muscular man in a Nazi SS Officer uniform, with silver skull buttons and a raft of medals covering the left side of his suit.  To his right stood Miss Kid Gloves, his girlfriend and second-in-command, also in a black SS uniform and with bright white gloves.  To his right towered a uniformed, misshapen Chewbacca with a serious case of chrome spikes.  This was Private Growley Monster, another of Death Medal's lackeys.

In front of these three were arranged a dozen stormtroopers with rifles.  These were pointed at Grandpa and OMG Girl, who froze.

"Nice chase, Mr. Anarchy but you are too late!" Death Medal exclaimed.  "One more step and my stormtroopers will gun you down."  Death Medal waved the tome overhead.  "Did you know that the Atlantean Kodex is not only an ancient earth book, allegedly from the lost city of Atlantis itself, but also a truly epic kick-ass metal band from Germany?  Kind of a mix of old-school Bathory and Manowar and doomy Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, with lyrics based on H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Bavarian culture.  I mean, how could I not steal this book, I ask you?  I'd treat you to some of their phenomenal music while I unleash the end times, but you know, their music is a bit too positive for this sort of thing, and anyway someone accidentally ate the boombox...."

He glared at Private Growley Monster, who, like a guilty dog, avoided his gaze.

"Mind you, some While Heaven Wept would be just about perfect," Death Medal added, "but I supposed we'll have to unleash Armageddon without musical accompaniment this one time...."

Death Medal opened the book.  "Let's see... this version has a German translation.  Die Eier von Satan.  Yes, I think this spell should do the trick."

Death Medal raised a hand to the heavens and read out in a booming voice, "Die Eier von Satan!  Zutaten!  Sechs Eier!  Ein Viertel Tasse Mayonnaise!  Ein Teelöffel weißer Essig!  Ein Teelöffel gelber Senf!  Frisch gemahlener schwarzer Pfeffer...."

Death Medal paused.  "What the Hades?" he muttered.  "This isn't a spell -- it's a recipe!  For deviled eggs, I think."  He flipped to the front of the book.  "Hey, this isn't a spell book at all...."

"Oh.  Em.  Gee!" exclaimed OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "It's not an ancient tome of magic at all!  It's a cookbook!"

She paused dramatically.  Death Medal said, "Well, frack!  I think you're right."

"IT'S A COOKBOOK!" OMG Girl said again.  "You know -- a cookbook!  Like that old Twilight Zone episode...."  Her voice trailed off.  She stared at Qwaiia.  "And you're... a nine-foot-tall alien... just like that episode...."  Her eyes grew big.

"Episode 89, based on the short story by Damon Knight, in fact," said Qwaiia.  He stepped forward and snatched the book from Death Medal's grasp.  "It's a cookbook, and it has not been properly checked out.  Therefore I am confiscating it."  He glanced back and added, "I am a librarian, Miss OMG Girl -- a connoisseur of words, not of human flesh."

FINI

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Oulipo Blues

Oulipo Blues
Mark A Davis
344

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, crashed through the front window of the Sinister Doomhollow Memorial Library of Frosthaven NJ.  He landed in a crouch as shards of glass skittered across the marble floor.  A boy in a brown tweed suit and bow tie leaped through the window to land beside him.  Grandpa was dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with a silver Anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  He wore black leather gloves.

In the center of the library stood a dumpy man in a costume of black and white with a long, striped tail.  The face was masked in black, with reflective goggles.  He gripped a dictionary like a holy book.

"Give it up!" Grandpa Anarchy exclaimed.  "Your reign of terror is at an end, Literate Lemur!  I'm gonna toss you in the hoosegow!"

"Hoosegow," said Grandpa's sidekick, known as the Etymological Kid.  "From 1911, Western United States, most likely a mispronunciation of the Mexican Spanish juzgao, meaning tribunal or court."

"So, Mr. Anarchy," the villain exclaimed.  "Not unlike the French soldier Pierre-François Bouchard discovering that famous granodiorite stele known as the Rosetta Stone, you have once again pierced the veil of my clues and discerned the meaning hidden within.  You are ever the astute and worthy foe!  I salute you!  Yes, it is true that I employed Oulipo as a method to obsfucate the clues to my crime... I refer of course to the famous French literary movement Ouvroir de littérature potentielle which translates roughly as workshop of potential literature, in which constrained writing techniques are employed as a means of creating new means of expression...."

"Express this!" Grandpa Anarchy shouted.  He launched himself forward, smashing his fist into the villain's jaw.


Local Hero Grandpa Anarchy Arrests Literate Lemur


Grandpa Anarchy, well-known hero and resident of Frosthaven NJ, confronted superthief the Literate Lemur in the Sinister Doomhollow Memorial Library on 6th and Union last evening.  Mr. Anarchy apprehended the villain after a brief battle in which a front window was broken.  The Literate Lemur was charged with theft and resisting arrest.

"I was reading a book on snails, when there was a huge crash!" exclaimed library patron Nancy McDermott-Hernandez.  "Grandpa Anarchy smashed through the front window, scattering broken glass everywhere!

"Why he doesn't just use the front door, I've got no idea," she added.

Police Chief Capernicus confirmed that the Literate Lemur was wanted for the theft of several books from the city's rare book vault.  The villain will be held in the city's supervillain detention center pending trial.

Mayor Doomhollow issued a statement thanking Grandpa Anarchy once again for his service, and noting that he would not be charged with destruction of public property, granted that he paid for the broken window within two weeks as stipulated in the city's hero and vigilante regulations.

Grandpa Anarchy has operated as a legal hero in Frosthaven since at least 1910.  The Sinister Doomhollow Memorial Library was constructed in 1985 from a generous grant bestowed by Mayor Doomhollow, after his retirement from a career as one of the world's foremost supervillains.



  Grandpa Anarchy narrowed his eyes.  "Hang on," he said.  "What was that just now?  A newspaper recap?"

"Just so," replied the Literate Lemur.  "It is, of course, the same events told in a completely different style."

"Now, there's no need for any of that..." Grandpa Anarchy began.



My heart leapt in my chest as Grandpa Anarchy smashed the window pane, his burly muscles taut beneath the thin, faded fabric of his threadbare suit, his gloved hand thrusting forward not unlike the thrust of a spear from a primitive hunter.  Glass shattered like my heart had one week earlier, when first I learned that he could never be mine.  But he turned and looked deep into my eyes, gave me that rakish grin that always warmed me inside, and said, "Come, Etymological Kid.  Our foe the Literate Lemur awaits!"

And there he was, standing within the library like a wizard within is inner sanctum.  Well I knew that here stood a supervillain most foul, a prince of thieves, a brilliant but tortured man whose love for books and the words within equaled my own.  Such a brilliant man, yet so misguided!  Light glinted from his lemurlike goggles, and I recalled that night we spent together in Superfox's Diner six months ago, when he opened up and shared with me the story of his love of lemurs, of his bond with them and how they guided him -- a secret he had told no one else.

No! I told myself.  I had pledged myself to do good -- to do right!  Yet I knew deep in my heart that no prison could cure the Literate Lemur -- only love could calm the stormy seas of emotion that raged within his soul.  Love that I could provide.  Did I dare grant him that love?  The one I truly loved was Grandpa, but the one who needed me was....

Grandpa sprung forward to punch the Lemur in the face.  I felt my hand move of its own volition, reaching out to stop him....



The Etymological Kid raised his hand.  "Point of order," he said.  "I am neither in love with Grandpa nor yourself."

"Literary license," replied the Literate Lemur.  "Surely you understand?"

"Wait," said Grandpa.  "What's going on here?"

"Are you familiar with Exercices De Style by Raymond Queneau?" asked the Literate Lemur.  "Ninety-nine retellings of the same episode, each in a unique literary style and tone.  It is a fine example of Oulipo...."

"Ninety-Nine!" Grandpa Anarchy yelled.  "Not if I have anything to say about it!"



When I recount these feats of Anarchy,
Confronting lemur vile yet literate,
Solving every riddle he hath wrot,
Mental tricks of great complexity
Strode forth the hero with his mighty fists
Unto the hallowed halls of knowledge free,
Smashing glass like Christ of Galilee
Did temple moneychangers to resist
"Villain!  Halt!" the hero did exclaim
"Your reign of terror ended is today!"
With eloquence, the villain had his say,
"Oulipo be your doom," I heard him name
Trapped within each endless variation
Our hero faces ultimate damnation.


***


"Let me get this straight," said Grandpa Anarchy.  "I'm trapped repeating the same encounter over and over, each time expressed in a different literary style...."

"Ninety-nine scenes in total," replied Annie Two, the Anarchy Computer Mark II A.I.  "A complete tribute to the Raymond Queneau publication.  Such styles include Dream Sequence, Word Game, Anagrams, Onomatopoeia, Spoonerisms, Visual, Auditory, Ode, Hellenisms, Haiku, Free Verse, Mathematical, and one written in Cockney slang... all with commentary from you two in between each scene."

"The Sonnet is a nice touch," noted Grandpa's sidekick.  "Well done, that villain."

Grandpa Anarchy and his sidekick the Etymological Kid were seated in the Anarchy Cave before a wall-mounted video screen, upon which was displayed the text from the Literate Lemur.  A second screen displayed a young woman dressed like a 19th century librarian -- the visual representation of Annie Two.  Grandpa said, "And he never once explains how he's supposed to have trapped me in this mess?"

"It is a literary device, Mister Anarchy," the computer replied.  "I think he wrote it as a creative exercise."

"Well, no literary device can hold down Grandpa Anarchy, that's for dang sure," Grandpa snarled.  "The strange thing is that I normally can't make heads or tails of the Lemur's clues... but here he not only says we'll find him at the town library, he repeats it ninety-nine times...."

"Indeed," the computer A.I. replied.

"The version which I prefer," said Grandpa, "is the one where I don't show up at all, but sit here in my Anarchy Cave while the Frosthaven police arrest this literary fool."

"I alerted them an hour ago," said Annie Two.  "They have him in custody."

Grandpa punched the air in triumph.  "Good!" he exclaimed.  "I've had enough literary shenanigans for one night."

"Shenanigans," said the Etymological Kid.  "Of uncertain origin, earliest records are from 1855 in San Francisco and Sacramento in California, possibly from the Spanish chanada...."

Grandpa glared.  "Oh," the kid said.  "Right."


FINI

Monday, March 2, 2020

Dressed To Kill

Dressed to Kill
Mark A Davis
311


"You have an amazing collection of dresses!" Amaryllis said.  "I'm jealous!"

Eve Jaskulski, space babe agent, watched as her girlfriend looked through a colorful rack of outfits.  They were aboard S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra, in orbit around earth.  The room was largely undecorated, just bright white walls and smooth surfaces with a textured, rubberlike floor, but Amaryllis had discovered the storage closets, flush with the wall on one side of the room, and especially the large closet stuffed with dresses.

Eve lay on her bunk dressed as usual in a silver space babes bikini with go-go boots and a belt for her holstered weapon.  She had green hair, eyes that were completely blue, and a deep tan thanks to many days spent in the sun on her girlfriend's fairyland farm in Amethyst.

Eve made a sour face.  "I know," she said.

"I've literally never seen you wear one," Amaryllis pouted.  The fairy girl was tall and lithe, with lavender hair and violet eyes.  Today she wore the outfit that shed worn when they met -- a white blouse with a peter pan collar, and a lavender corduroy jumper dress with a very short skirt.  It was the kind of mini dress once popular on earth in the 1960's.

"I don't like dresses," Eve said.  "They look fine on other girls, but I wouldn't have any myself if it weren't for this froglike alien known as the King of Throga.  We saved his life, and now he sends us three outfits a month, including a ball gown.  Muriel gets them too -- there were four space babes who got that reward."  She made another face.  "So far, even the non-ballgowns have been dresses of some sort...."

Amaryllis pulled out a short black cocktail dress.  "Oh, but this is so cute!" she said.  "I'd love to see you in it!"

"I can show you a 3-D video if you like," said Eve.  "I wear each outfit once, so that we can send back images, that's part of the deal.  That's more than enough, if you ask me."

"Aw, you won't even dress up for me?  You're no fun at all!" Amaryllis said.

"I'm just not that a dress wearing girl, I guess," Eve said.  "They hamper your movements, and they leave you exposed.  Anyone who looks up your skirt can see your underwear."

Amaryllis glared at Eve through narrowed eyes.  "Eve, Dear," she said, "you spend 99% of your time parading about in nothing but glorified underwear...."

"This is different!" Eve exclaimed.  "It's my uniform!"

Amaryllis sighed.  She looked at the cocktail dress again.  "I think," she said, "that we absolutely must visit a fancy restaurant one night, and you will wear this cocktail dress."

"Why?" asked Eve.

"Because you're my girlfriend, and you'll look very cute in it, and that will make me happy," she said.  "I shall probably be prepared to ravish you afterwards...."

Eve sighed.  "Okay," she said.  "I'll do it.  But not  today,  If you want any of those other dresses, you can have them."

"A tempting offer," Amaryllis said, replacing the cocktail dress, "but not all of them will fit me.  You're a good deal shorter than me, Eve, and far more curvy.  If there are ones that can be easily altered... oh, what's this?"  She pulled out a floor-length ballgown of pale blue.   "It has moving pictures!" she exclaimed in delight.  Indeed, the skirt played scenes as if from a movie -- all in sepia blue tones.

"That dress," said Eve, "was the first.  I wore it the night we saved the Throgan king's life, and he gave it to me as a reward.  I mean really, a reward?  I never want to wear that thing again!"

"But -- it's amazing!" Amaryllis said, fascinated.  She stared as scenes of life on an alien world flashed by.  "How does it work?"

"It's just visual fabric," Eve said.  "It's a common technology in the interstellar empire.  There's a chip hidden within that contains thousands of old flat screen movies from the empire's past -- really old technology that's in the public domain.  I've tried watching some of them, but everything's blue, there's no sound, and a skirt does not really make a good movie screen in any case.  I'm not even sure if it plays full movies, or just random imaged from the library."

"But this is amazing!" Amaryllis repeated.  "I wonder, does the  technology work on Amethyst?  If so, I know someone who would kill to own this gown!"


***


Sharp fabric shot across the clearing.  Eve dodged as pink silk -- apparently as sharp and hard as a steel blade -- sliced past.  In the woods ahead, dresses floated in the air like ghostly apparitions.  There was a princess dress -- the one in pink silk -- a black sheath dress, and a bouffant dress in pineapple with raspberry trim.  The dresses did not appear as if they were inhabited per se -- no ghostly form filled them out -- but they were apparently sentient and prepared to attack.

Eve gripped a brass-and-wood steampunk blaster.  "When you said he would kill to own this," said Eve, "I thought you were joking!"

"The Magician of Dressmaking doesn't like visitors," said Amaryllis.  "He's a very reclusive genius.  That's why he dwells out on the heart of the Foreboding Forest, and surrounds himself with magically-created guardians...."

The black sheath dress flew forward.  Its sleeve shot out, becoming a sharp-edged blur.  Eve almost failed to move in time -- the dress grazed her cheek, slicing it with a shallow cut.  Cursing, Eve leveled her weapon and fired.  Energy struck the dress, which disintegrated.

The other dresses moved swiftly.  Eve fired again, but missed.  The hem of the bouffant dress became a malformed fist which struck Eve squarely in the face.

As Eve stumbled back, dazed, she heard Amaryllis cry out.  Distracted, Eve was enveloped by the bouffant dress.  It constricted her until she could not move.

Amaryllis slashed with a kitchen knife, but she was hampered by the garment bag she carried containing the moving picture dress.  She was also a farm girl, not a trained fighter.  The pink princess dress avoided her blade and struck her, then flowed around her.  In moments both girls were wearing the animated dresses.  They were unable to move on their own; the dresses controlled them.  They turned and marched deeper into the woods.

"This doesn't look good," Eve said.

"I don't think the wizard would kill us..." Amaryllis replied.

They came to an open clearing where sat a small stone castle.   An old man waited, tall and thin, dressed impeccably in a pink silk suit with silver buttons and a stovepipe hat.  He had wild white hair down to his shoulders, and wire-rimmed glasses that perched on a hooked nose.

The dresses marched the two girls up to this man and paused.  They were still unable to move.

"Well," he said, "two girls travel deep into the Foreboding Forest, intent on bothering the Sartorial Sorcerer, do they?  What business do you two have with the Warlock of Weave?"

"Hail, great wizard known as Cocoa Champu..." Amaryllis began.

"Wait," said Eve.  "His name is Cocoa Shampoo?"

"No," Amaryllis said irritably, "it's Cocoa Champu.  It's spelled with a C.  You can always recognize a Cocoa Champu design by the double CC initials.  That's his trademark, his brand.  Now don't interrupt!"

She turned back to the wizard.  "Greetings, mighty Frockmancer," she said.  "My friend and I have come to bargain."

The wizard's eyes narrowed.  "I see that you have brought something with you.  A dress?  It had better be fabulous, for I have little interest in ordinary raiment.

A portion of the princess dress lifted the garment bag from the girl's unresisting fingers and held it out for the wizard to inspect.  He unzipped it and pulled the bag back, revealing the pale blue ballgown with the moving images on the skirt.  The wizard's eyes grew wide.

"What is this?" he asked.  "Never have I seen it's like!"

"My friend," said Amaryllis, "comes from another universe, where people travel between the stars.  This is a common fabric in a place called the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire.  It shows images from what are called movies -- moving pictures that tell stories.  This dress apparently has access to thousands of such images."

The wizard stared at the dress as the images moved past.  Several minutes went by before he finally spoke.

"I will trade for this," he said.  "One dress from my collection, or other item of clothing -- any item that you would like."

He snapped his fingers, and the two dresses that Eve and Amaryllis wore -- or did the dresses wear them? -- slid away.  Both girls stumbled, surprised to be under their own power once again.  Still entranced by the moving picture gown, the wizard spared a sidelong glance at Eve, dressed in her usual silver bikini.  "Certainly one of you has need of my creations," he commented.

"Hey!  I like my uniform just fine!" Eve retorted.

They made their introductions.  The wizard, it appeared, had a great many titles -- the Thaumatailor, the Mage of Smocks, the Costume Conjurer, the Ensemble Enchanter, the Shift Summoner -- but he told them that Cocoa the wizard would do just fine.

"Allow me to guess that which you've come for," he said.  "Perhaps it is the Ball Gown of Beauty?  When worn, it will make any girl twice as attractive, and will transform men into passably cute women...."

Amaryllis shook her head.  The dressmaker pursed his lips.  "No?  Well, you two are both quite pretty already, so perhaps not.  I do have a dress that will make one ugly, and one that will transform the wearer into a crone, and one that will make one look obese...."

"I don't know why any girl would want those," said Amaryllis.

Eve said, "Oh, but those would be very useful as disguises."

"Yes, exactly!" the wizard exclaimed.  "I have a full line of dresses useful for disguises!  Do you wish to look like a preteen peasant girl?  I have a dress for that!  Or how about my matronly housewife dress?  You can be a wicked witch with a simple change of clothing, or a beautiful princess -- that gown comes in multiple hair colors!  Or how about a dress that makes you look like a man?"

"A man... in a dress?" Eve asked, dubiously.

"Well, yes, obviously," said the wizard.

"Those are not what I've come for," said Amaryllis.  "What I'm looking for has more... utilitarian applications...."

"Ah, then perhaps the dress of flying?" the wizard suggested.  "The Dress of speed?  I have a mermaid gown that really does turn you into a mermaid in water -- and it's made of water resistant fabric of course...."

"Is everything you make a dress?" asked Eve.

"Not at all!" the wizard replied.  "I have quite a few skirts as well!  There's a beautiful a-line stealth skirt in black, for example, or a wraparound skirt of wisdom, or my miniskirt of strength... I also have several aprons that aid one in becoming a better cook...."

"Now we're getting warmer," said Amaryllis.

"You have a surprisingly large catalog of items," said Eve, "for someone who hides in the woods and surrounds himself with guardians meant to drive people away."

"Yes, well," said the wizard, "while I love designing magical clothing for women -- I don't like people that much."

"Have you considered mail order?" Eve asked.  "Selling online?"

"That's so impersonal," said the wizard.  "I like to know who I'm dealing with."

"Except that you don't like people," said Eve.

"Exactly!" he exclaimed.  "But it's nice to know what a customer is like before you refuse to do business with them."  He studied the two girls for a moment.  "Is this item of clothing for you," he asked Amaryllis, "or a friend?"

"A friend," she replied.

The wizard looked Eve up and down.  "I sense that you are something of an adventurer," he said.

"I am an agent for the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes," Eve replied.  "My code name is Eve the Explorer."

"I see.  Then perhaps it is the Dress of Spontaneous Weapon Creation that you seek...."

"Yes," said Amaryllis.  "That is exactly it."

The wizard clapped his hands together.  "Wonderful!  I happen to have a lovely lavender Lolita pinafore dress with a mid-knee skirt that pairs with a very nice blouse of white silk with Peter Pan collar and Juliet sleeves.  It's extremely cute, and can summon any weapon you need at a moment's notice!"  He looked Amaryllis over and added, "I'll even throw in a peasant dress for you as a bonus -- one that grants additional strength and endurance...."

"That," said Amaryllis, "would be more than fair."  She glanced sidelong at her friend.  "But will it fit?"

"All of my dresses resize magically to fit whoever wears them," the wizard said.  "Allow me to retrieve the dresses in question...."

Several minutes later, the wizard returned with two hangers containing a yellow peasant dress with a brown corset, and an elaborate pinafore dress in pink and lavender.  The lower hem of the dress depicted a scene of cute bunny characters stabbing and shooting each other with all manner of weapons.

Amaryllis held up the pinafore.  She grinned, and handed it to Eve.

"Well?" she said.  "Put it on!"

"Me?" Eve said, staring at the dress.

"Yes, of course you, Dear Eve," Amaryllis said.

"No thanks," said Eve.  "It's far too cute -- not my style at all."

"Dear Eve," said Amaryllis, "This dress is my gift to you."

"Well I appreciate the thought," said Eve, "But Amaryllis, I told you I don't do dresses.  Thank you, but... I mean, I don't want to sound ungrateful, but... the last thing I need is another dress...."

Amaryllis grinned.  Violet eyes sparkled.  "Indeed, Dear Eve, but you also told me that you wear each gift once.  I want to see you in this for the rest of the day.  We'll have dinner in Amethyst, and then go back to my farm, and once we're in my bedroom, then you can remove it.  Do I make myself clear?  After tonight, you may do with the dress as you wish."

Eve knew she was trapped.  She glanced at the wizard, who said, "You will want the proper undergarments for that -- your bikini, as beautiful as it is, will not do...."

Several minutes later Eve wore the Lolita dress, while Amaryllis had changed into the yellow peasant dress.  "I feel like a fool," Eve muttered.

"But you look so cute!" Amaryllis said.  She glanced back at the wizard.  "How does it work, exactly?"

"Simply think of the type of weapon you desire," the wizard said, "and then lift your skirt up.  The weapons will then appear."

Eve frowned.  "Seriously?" she asked.  She concentrated a moment, then lifted her skirt.  Something struck the ground with a thump.  She retrieved a long-barreled steampunk rifle with a polished wooden stock, copper fittings and blue steel shaft.  There was, however, no barrel -- just a strange collection of coiled copper tubing, and what looked like something meant to conduct electricity.

"Ah!" the wizard said, as Eve cradled the weapon.  "A subsonic immolation assault rifle!  Very nice!"

Eve sighted along the barrel.  "And this works?" she asked.

"Yes, of course," replied the wizard.

"This dress," said Eve, "has practical uses.  If only it weren't a dress...."


***


Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, stared at his new sidekick -- a young girl with dark skin in an elaborate pink and lavender dress.  There were murderous bunnies decorating the hem.  "You call yourself Ex Habitu?" he asked.  "What does that mean, exactly?"

"Out of the skirt!" the girl replied.  "Like so!"  She lifted her skirt, and six Bowie knives dropped from it.

"So you keep knives under your skirt?" Grandpa said.  "I don't see how that's very practical... I mean, you'd have to be very careful when you sit...."

"No, silly!" the girl said.  "It's a magical dress -- it can produce any weapon I think of!"

Grandpa's eyes widened.  "Really?  Give me a Walther PPK- 7.65mm," he said.

The girl lifted her skirt.  The weapon dropped out.  Grandpa retrieved it and inspected it.

"That's the real deal, all right," he said.  "Where did you get that dress?"

Ex Habitu said, "Would you believe I bought it off of Ebay?"


FINI

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Sally Stardust Is Dead

Sally Stardust Is Dead
Mark A Davis
310

"In human procreation," said Muriel, an alien space babe with green skin and blue hair, "interest in, I have none."

Eve Jaskulski lay on her bed and stared up at the underside of the top bunk.  Muriel lay above her, but all she saw were the deep, solid blue eyes, green hair, and antenna of Sally Stardust.  She'd pinned a large poster of the girl above where she slept.  Since puberty Eve had been in lust with this fictional girl, who appeared human in every way save the eyes and antenna.  She'd made it her goal to sleep with an alien babe, and since she was partnered with an alien babe.....

"Casual sex is not procreation," Eve said.  "It's just... casual."

It had been a simple, straightforward question, after all.  Not at all how she would approach a human girl, but Eve had learned that with her alien partner, simple and straightforward was best.

Eve and Muriel were the crew of S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra, the small space babes station that orbited earth.  It had proven to be a rather boring job, interspersed with brief moments of exciting battle with invading aliens.  The lack of interaction with sexy alien girls, other than the stoic Muriel, was beginning to drive Eve crazy.  Why couldn't she have been stationed at Space Babe Headquarters at Prokone 4, where you saw sexy girls everywhere you looked?

Confusingly, Eve was by now nearly identical to the object of her lust.  She wasn't an alien girl, but she had the green hair and the same proportions.  Space Babes were sculpted to match a template -- humanoid girl, sixteen to nineteen years old, 165 to 175 centimeters tall, hourglass figure -- they were engineered to be cute and sexy.  Eve had been male before joining, and would be male again once she left the corps, but for now she looked very much like Sally Stardust, sans antenna and alien eyes.

"Oola, Eve.  To procreate, the manner in which for humans, sex is not?" asked Muriel.

Eve had to parse this one carefully.  "Well yes, sex is for procreation, sometimes," she said.  "But -- we're both girls...."

"A human girl, alike to you I may look," said Muriel.  "Body sculpting, space babes template to match, the thanks for is.  Assure you can I that I am not.  Not human.  Not female.  Asexual my people are.  Gender we have not.  Participating in acts of sex, interest have I none, with you or anyone.   To what purpose serve would this?  Same species we are not.  Human mating rituals, required participation, bad enough is...."

"I'd hardly call ballroom dancing a mating ritual..." Eve said.

"On subject very explicit your human literature is!" Muriel stated forcefully.  "A mate for breeding, to select, dancing and socializing the manner is!  For sex, horizontal dancing an euphemism is!"

Eve frowned.  "You've... read quite a bit about human mating rituals?"

"Mating practices of the alien race, the understanding of, drives and motivations key to understanding is," said Muriel.  "Obsessed with finding a mate, trait of humans, example is.  Behavior of partner Eve, pattern of behavior I recognize.  To be impregnated, very strong your desire is."

"My desire... to be impregnated?" Eve asked, incredulously.  "No, no... I don't want to become pregnant...."

"Oola.  For female to become impregnated, act of sex, end goal is this not?" asked Muriel.

"Well, yes," said Eve. "Broadly speaking that's true, normally...."

"Female of the species are you?" Muriel asked.

"At the moment..." Eve said.

"Oola.  Then a misunderstanding perhaps there is," said Muriel.

"Yes," Eve said.  "A misunderstanding.  I apologize for bringing it up."  She hugged her pillow and turned to face the wall.  If only... she thought.  Where else am I going to find an alien girl in orbit around earth?


***


Eve ran her fingers along thin, fleshy antennas that stood up from her brow.  She stared at her reflection, looking deep into eyes of a solid blue.  There was no white to be seen.

She was naked, having just emerged from a rebirth chamber.  It had occurred to her only a couple of days ago that she could request alterations in her look to more fully resemble the girl of her dreams.  Her partner Muriel watched  to one side with a bemused expression.

She hugged herself and danced about.  "I look just like Sally Stardust!" she exclaimed happily.

"If your life's goal is to resemble a cartoon character," said Valerie 9000, the space station's ever-present A.I., "then congratulations.  But once again I object to giving you antenna that serve no functional purpose."

"Never mind that," Eve replied.  "Lots of species have features that no longer serve a useful purpose."

"Features that no longer serve a useful purpose, perhaps," said the A.I.  "Features that never served any purpose?  Other than to scream the word alien to prepubescent boys, of course...."

"Oola, Eve," said Muriel.  "Object of desire for you this girl is.  Become like her, to be your desire, why?"

"I... don't know," Eve said, still staring at her reflection.  "She doesn't exist so I can never meet her or sleep with her.  It just feels like becoming her was the next best thing."

"Alike to a human still your scent is," said Muriel.  "Musk have you considered?"

"Perfume, you mean?"  Eve made a face.  "That's not really my thing, and... I have no idea what Sally Stardust should smell like...."

Muriel smelled faintly of cinnamon and bananas.  It wasn't a perfume, it was the natural musk that her species gave off.  It tended to make Eve hungry.

"Not a real girl, reason is," Muriel replied.  "As image only she exists."

"Yes, I know," Eve said.  "Still, I'm satisfied, for now.  But my desire to bed an alien girl hasn't changed."

"I would suggest an Arellian girlfriend from the Trifid Nebula, Kootah Delphi Seven then," said Valerie 9000.  "Similar to Jennie Nova's friend Llahna.  For an alien species, they look remarkably like young human females.  It would seem to me that an Arellian would fit what you are looking for nearly perfectly.  Mind you, it is the male Arellian that resemble an earth girl...."


***


Eve's antenna perked up.  "Wait," she said.  "Run that by me again?"

It was morning.  Eve and Muriel were eating breakfast -- prepared by Valerie 9000.  Everything on the station was controlled by the A.I..  Breakfast wasn't exactly high cuisine -- consisting of vegetable nutrient paste pressed into flavored blocks and cooked -- but it was edible at least.

"As I've told you several times," Val 9000 said, "the Amethyst gateway is directly linked to S.I.S.B. Space Station Amethyst, in orbit around the fairyland planet of Amethyst.  This is in another universe...."

"You mean I can visit another world any time I want?" Eve said.  "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Oola," Muriel said, a pained look on her face.  "Three weeks ago the Archons of Excellence transfer to Amethyst we did...."

"Well I know we sent them somewhere," Eve said, "but I wasn't paying attention to where, exactly...."

"It becomes increasingly apparent," said Val 9000, "that when your younger sibling described you as a space bimbo, she knew whereof she spoke."

"I want to go!" Eve exclaimed.  She stuffed the rest of her meal -- two blocks optimistically described as bacon and hash browns -- into her mouth and chewed quickly.  "I've been dying for some girl-on-girl action for months, ever since I got here!  Interactive holovids only accomplish so much, and I've already experienced the lesbian ones, and none of them have an alien girl as a partner!"

"Oola, Eve," said Muriel.  "Alien women in a fairyland you will not find I think."

"There's fairy women, aren't there?" Eve asked.  "That's good enough, isn't it?"

"The large majority of the residents of the land of Amethyst are of fairy blood to some degree, yes," said Val.  "You may visit on your next scheduled leave, in lieu of visiting earth, which is...."

"That's right now!" Eve exclaimed happily.  She leaped to her feet.  "I'm going, then!"

"I would suggest you wear something more in keeping with the local customs..." Val said, but Eve was already in the hallway, headed to the Amethyst gateway.


***


That she found a disco in a fairy kingdom surprised Eve a little.  The music had more in common with sixties soul and James Brown-era funk than disco, with brass horns, a large drum section, upright bass and stringed instruments that only vaguely resembled guitars.  There was also a large organ which made up for the lack of electronic instruments.  But the idea of a disco was certainly there -- the floor even sported flashing lights in multiple colors, provided via magic, with lights on the walls and even magical holograms floating through the crowds -- colorful insects, flying snakes, sparklers and fireworks, all created by light-based magic.

The room smelled of incense, alcohol, and sweat.  She sat at the bar and nursed a drink, watching the crowd.  She certainly stood out in her silver bikini, and had been approached by more than a dozen men asking to buy her a drink, but she had no interest in merchant boys and soldiers.  She was looking for a girl with looks exotic enough to trigger a switch in her head that said alien.

Exotic dancers performed on a raised platform along one wall.  They were lifelike, but clearly made of wood.  They resembled puppets, but Eve could see no strings.  But then, it was a fairy kingdom, so perhaps they were alive.

This idea was reinforced when a plastic doll, about four feet tall, sat on a stool near her.  She wore a black a-line dress, but otherwise looked identical to a Sailor Venus doll that Eve's sister had once owned.

"Boys bothering you?" the doll asked.  "Must be nice."

Eve raised an eyebrow.  "It is?"

"Sure," the doll replied.  "They won't give me the time of day.  I'm just a doll after all -- nothing but smooth plastic down below."

Eve noticed that the girl had a glass, but wasn't actually drinking.  Could she drink?  She had limited facial movement, but surely the only dolls that could drink were the kind that wet themselves afterwards?

Eve glanced away quickly, hoping that her face had not revealed her thoughts.  "Do you really wish you were anatomically correct, then?" she asked.  "I'd think in a magical world, that would be possible...."

The girl made a face.  "My gods, no!" she said.  "I'd be nothing but a sex doll then!  What I want is for people to treat me like a normal girl."

"To hit on you," Eve said, "like they were hitting on me."

"Yes!  No.  I don't know," the girl said.  "People just suck.  That's all."  She brought her cup to her lips as if to drink.  Eve could see now that there was nothing in it -- it was one of those plastic cups designed to look like it contained something, with liquid trapped between two layers of plastic around the outside of the cup.

"Can I ask you a question?" the doll asked.

"Sure," Eve said.

The plastic girl smiled.  "What are those antenna for?"

"Princess Pistachio!" a newcomer exclaimed.  "Who's your very beautiful friend?"

Eve looked into violet eyes framed by lavender hair, and was instantly smitten.  This was a young woman, maybe a year or two older than her.  She was tall and lithe and very good looking, with a freckled face and a pleasant smile.  She wore a white blouse with a peter pan collar and a lavender corduroy jumper dress over it.  The skirt was very short.  If you looked closely, you noticed ears that were slightly pointed.  Fairy blood? Eve wondered.  Either way, this girl was as close to a beautiful alien as Eve had seen in weeks.

The girl sat down and stuck out her hand.  "My name is Amaryllis," she said.  "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Y-yes?" Eve replied.  "I mean... sure.  I'd like that.  My name is Eve."



***

Warm sunlight slanted through a nearby window.  Eve lay naked on straw in a barn loft in the arms of Amaryllis.  This was her farm, located several miles outside the capital city of Amethyst.

Eve had heard of taking a roll in the hay before, but the literal experience was something new.

"So that's what sex between girls is like," Eve said.

The other giggled.  "You have never before been with a woman?" she asked.

"Well," said Eve, "technically I have... but not when I was also female.  But I've done a lot of holovids...."

Amaryllis rolled over on top of her.  She kissed Eve and said, "Then perhaps I should show you again, lest you forget?"


Later, as they lay arm in arm, Amaryllis said, "I will tell you a story, Eve.  More than a year ago our country was invaded from space.  After the war, I stood on the streets of Amethyst city and watched the heroes of the Space Thrall Invasion pass by.  Such beautiful girls the space babes were!  Girls from space!  Sunlight flashed bright off their silver bikinis, and I said to myself, I will bed a space babe.  That was my goal.

"When I saw you today, I knew that day had come!"

The statement confused Eve.  Surely she was the one seeking sex with an alien girl?  What did it mean if she was the alien girl that someone else dreamed of?

Amaryllis traced the line of Eve's antenna.  "These are so beautiful," she said.  "What purpose do they serve?"

"They..."  Eve was at a loss for words.  "They... prove that I'm an alien?"

She lay with one hand on her lower abdomen, considering what it meant to be the pursued instead of pursuer.  Amaryllis stared into her eyes.  "I don't mean that as a slight.  You are a very beautiful girl, Eve.  With your deep blue alien eyes -- I was charmed when I saw you.  But we've only known each other a few hours.  I felt the need to say why I so readily laid down with you."

"It's fine," Eve said.

"I would like to know you better," the other added.  Her eye twinkled.  "Perhaps even one day I could be nurse-mother to our children...."

Eve frowned.  "Do you mean... once I've become male again?"

"No, silly!"  Amaryllis kissed her on the breasts and said, "I have no attraction to men.  I love you as you are, here and now."

Eve smiled.  "How then would two women have a child together?"

"It is quite easy in Amethyst," Amaryllis replied, "with the aid of the wombflower..."


***


Eve stepped through the gateway, and found herself once again on S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra.   The past day had been a blur.  It had felt like a dream.

"Well, princess?" Valerie 9000 asked.  "How was your trip to fairyland?  Did you kiss any frogs?  Were you captured by a dragon?  Did you meet the prince of your dreams?"

Eve laughed lightly.  "There is no prince in my dreams, Val," she said.  "Only Sally Stardust.  But I did meet someone... a lovely farm girl who spent the afternoon with me in the hay loft, and fed me an amazing dinner before I returned.  I mean real food!  The first I've had in weeks!

"Also, I learned many interesting things."

"Such as?" the A.I. asked.

Eve wandered down the hallway to her dorm room.  "Such as... Amaryllis would like to have my babies, and in fairyland two girls can have a child, and neither need become pregnant."

"Ah, yes," Val 9000 said.  "Such interesting plant life they have in that fairyland...."

Eve frowned.  "I guess," she said, "they would grow in her garden?"

"And do you wish to have children with this girl?" Val 9000 asked.

"I..."  Eve's voice faltered.  "I mean, she's a very nice girl, I really enjoyed being with her, but...."

"She is no Sally Stardust?" Val asked.

Eve flopped down in her bunk.  Muriel appeared to be asleep.  "She... is a very pretty fairy girl," Eve said.  "She has pointed ears, violet eyes, and lavender hair.  That's not enough to make her my Sally Stardust, I guess -- she didn't flip that switch in my head.  I rather think I was some kind of Sally Stardust to her, in fact...."


***


The girl had blue skin and dark blue hair.  Her hand traced the lines of Eve's face.  "I am called Llahna.  I am an Arellian from Kootah Delphi Sven in the Trifid Nebula.  You are called Jennie Nova, of the famous Nova family of spacefarers?  You are of a race called human, from the planet Terra in orbit around the star Sol?  How strange it is to meet an alien, and he is a boy who likes so much like me!"

"I am sorry, but I am not a boy," Eve replied.  "I am a human of the female gender -- a girl, just like you."

"A girl?" the blue-skinned one said.  "But I am not a girl!  I am an Arellian of the male gender!"

Eve rolled her eyes.  These educational interactive holovids could be so stilted.  She'd met Jennie Nova and Llahna the Arellian, and neither of them talked like this -- in fact Jennie spoke so much space surfer slang that Llahna frequently had to translate for her.

She had been recalled to S.I.S.B. Space Station Prokone 4 -- Space Babe Headquarters -- for some interviews and tests.  These included an interactive holovid that detailed the founding of the Space Babes -- something most normal recruits would have already seen.  Eve had joined via a loophole -- sidekicks to Grandpa Anarchy were allowed to join without taking all of the tests -- so she'd missed this little lecture vid the first time around.

Eve sighed.  The vid was boring, but being back on station Prokone 4 was very exciting.  There were alien girls everywhere she looked!  She still had more tests to take, and then dinner with her family, but then her flight back wasn't until early in the morning.  She'd have the rest of the night to get laid!

"In the beginning," the voice-over said, "the Society of International Space Babes was little more than a club for Destiny Nova, her daughter Jennie Nova, and friends such as Jennie's companion Llahna."  The voice was smooth, calming, and feminine, very much like the voice of Valerie 9000.  For that matter, this entire station was also run by Valerie 9000, or a version of her, so the voice probably was that of the A.I.

Eve nearly fell asleep at this part.  She was still nominally in the role of Jennie Nova, but after a few quick scenes of her and Llahna in battle, she stood to the side and watched things take place before her.  They explained how the workload of the 5E -- a government division of the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire -- grew to the point that they proposed absorbing the Space Babes as an organization, and greatly expanding their ranks, their role, and their funding.

Here is where the story got slightly more interesting.  Eve had wondered about the famed space babe template.  While it seemed reasonable to want members of the space babes to be -- well, babes, i.e. young, attractive females -- where had the notion that the must all fit such a rigid template come from?  It seemed perverse to force human girls into a standard height, weight, and body shape, never mind aliens who might not resemble humans at all.

The answer, of course -- as with everything -- came down to bureaucracy.  If you didn't have standards, then who was to say what constituted beauty?  How did you define a space babe in government terms?  If Jennie Nova, a human girl, was a space babe, and Llahna -- a male Arellian -- was also a space babe, then what was it that they had in common?

The answer, it seemed, was that they were young in appearance, and of a certain height and build.  Beauty was more difficult to define, but it was agreed that a human-like face and body, within given parameters based on those who were already members -- Jennie, her mother Destiny, Llahna, and a handful of others -- was the starting point.  Human standards of beauty could follow.

Governments, Eve thought.  She'd been transformed into a girl before joining but was now an inch shorter, with breasts a half cup larger, thanks to some bureaucrat who understood nothing about human sexism in beauty standards, but could easily quantify the physical attributes of the first two space babes.

The video did not cover the beefcake division -- another group known as the Interstellar Fraternity of Bunny Boys, located at a separate planet.  Eve could guess that they were just as messed up when it came to beauty standards.  Perhaps, Eve thought, she should have joined them.  Of course, her chance to meet a beautiful alien babe would have flown out the airlock....


***


"What did you do to your eyes?" Eve's sister Kassandra exclaimed.  "And what are those things?"

Eve sighed.  Dinner with her family sounded pleasant.  You could say I'm having dinner with my mother, my kid sister, and my grandfather, and it sounded perfectly normal.   Then you got together, and it was four teenage girls in silver bikinis, all about the same build.  You couldn't look at a space babe and think grandfather.  It just didn't work.  Eve had to remind herself that these girls were named Kassandra, Ula, and Marianna.  It was easier to think of them in those terms.

If that weren't enough -- she'd completely forgotten to warn them about her eyes and antenna.

"I..." she said.  "That is... I wanted to look more like Sally Stardust...."

Kassandra rolled her eyes.  "Really?  You're still pining for a cartoon girl?  You look ridiculous!  And here I had thought my sister looked sorta cool...."

"What are those for, Dear?" Ula asked.  "What do they do?"

Eve touched her antennae.  "They... don't do anything," she said.  "They just make me look like an alien...."

"You look," said Kassandra, "like an idiot!"

"How have you been doing, Dear?" asked Ula.

"I've been fine, Mom... I mean Ula," Eve said.  "Other than being pretty well bored out of my mind, stuck on a space station...."

"Tell me about it!" Kassandra said.  "They've got me taking classes all day!  Language, interstellar history, math, navigation, shooting practice and martial arts...."

"We all have to do some of that," Marianna said.  "An earth education doesn't cut it in outer space."

"So tell me, Eve," said Ula, "have you found a nice boyfriend to settle down with?"

Eve made a face.  "Mom -- I mean Ula -- I'm not interested in boys."

"I've been dating a very handsome space marine," Marianna said.

Eve stared at the girl who had been her grandfather only a few months ago.  "That's nice," she said.

"Then have you found a nice girlfriend?" Ula asked.

"Mom," said Eve.  "I mean Ula -- I'm stuck on a space station with one other space babe who has no interest in sex.  Where am I going to find a girlfriend?"

Eve had decided to not mention her tryst with Amaryllis.  It would only encourage her mother -- that is, Ula -- to ask repeatedly about the fairy girl, and Eve wasn't sure she wanted to see her again.

"Well," her mother said, "there are a lot of girls on this station.  Maybe you'll find someone before you leave."


***



The room was warm, almost humid.  Eve quivered with excitement.  She lay naked in a dorm room bunk aboard S.I.S.B. Space Station Prokone 4.  After dinner with the family, she had gone looking for a date -- with an alien girl if possible.

And now, here she was.  It was finally happening!

She watched as the other slipped out of her boots and bikini.  The girl had jet black skin, with solid red eyes and insect-like horns jutting from her forehead.  She smelled of licorice.  Her hair was more like porcupine spines, but in the dim light she resembled a human girl where that it counted.

This girl had propositioned her.  Eve couldn't even believe that part.  What luck!  An actual alien girl had sought an encounter with her.  It was just the thing she'd fantasized about!

The alien girl did not speak.  She was very businesslike in fact, very unemotional.  The lights went out.  The girl lay down beside Eve and embraced her.  Eve shivered in the dark.  Her hands explored he alien girl's body, and the other's hand slipped between Eve's thighs, exploring  what they found.

Eve trembled.  She felt something slide inside, and gasped in shock.  That... was more than just fingers, wasn't it?

"Is that... your arm?" she asked.

"Mmm, yes," the alien replied.  "My third arm, as they say...."

Eve frowned.   What did that mean?  But the girl grasped her more tightly, and something penetrating deeper.  She cried out as a wave of pleasure overtook her.

When it was over, Eve lay on the bed, exhausted, trying to process what had happened.  She could not deny that it had felt wonderful, and yet... so very different from her time with Amaryllis.  What had penetrated her?  Surely not just a hand, a fist....

The alien girl stood and dressed.  "Feed my young well," she said.  "Earth girls are so easy...."

Confusion flooded Eve's face.  What the quasar did that mean?


***


"You have been impregnated," Valerie 9000 said.

Eve lay on the exam table, still completely confused.  "But... she was a girl...."

"She was an alien," the A.I. replied.  "Do you even know what kind?"

Standing nearby, Muriel sighed.  "Warn you I did," she muttered.

"So... I'm pregnant?" Eve asked again.

"You are impregnated, as I said," Val 9000 replied.  "There is a difference.  She was a Space Babe agent, yes?  Good.  What was her name, and what species?"

Eve looked frightened.  "I... I didn't get her name," she said.  "She had horns, and black skin, and pure red eyes, and spine-like hair...."

Images of at least a hundred alien women appeared on the wall.  "Look carefully," said Val 9000.  "It is imperative that we know what we're dealing with...."

Eve studied the images, finally pointing to one.  "That's her," she said.  "I'm certain of it."

"That would be Agent Ch'k'ta," said Valerie 9000.  "She is a member of an insectoid species called the Arkoth'pard.  Like Muriel, they are an asexual species.  Unlike Muriel, they impregnate other beings with their young...."

"But," said Eve, "she was a girl...."

"Oola," said Muriel, shaking her head.

"Well," said Valerie 9000, "the good news is that the gestation period is only four weeks."

"And the bad news?" Eve asked.

"Once mature, the young eat their way out of the host's body," Valerie 9000 said.

Eve's eyes grew very wide.  "Well, screw that!" she shouted.  "Take them out of me!"

"It's not that simple, Eve," Valerie 9000 said.  "These are not human fetuses -- they are Arkoth'pard young.  Once planted within the host they have rights that are protected by Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire treaties.  To remove them now would be murder."

"Leaving them in means my murder!" Eve exclaimed.

"Oola, Eve," said Muriel.  "Two deaths this month already you have had...."


***


Eve Jaskuksi lay on her bunk and stared up at the image of Sally Stardust, just as she'd done for two days straight.

She placed a hand on her stomach.  She'd been given a new body, of course, one without alien parasites ready to rip their way out.  Her other body -- now rendered brain dead, but still kept alive to protect the parasite children -- lay in an incubation room in another part of the station.  They were preparing to ship it back to the Arkoth'pard home world, where it would soon be consumed from within.  But if she lay like this, with her hand over her middle, she could feel them wriggling around inside.

The sensation made her ill, and yet she couldn't stop thinking of it.  Nor could she stop staring at that image of her dream girl on the underside of the top bunk.

Sally Stardust isn't real.  The thought ran through her head.  Of course, she'd always known that, but somehow she'd convinced herself that she could bridge the gap between reality and fiction, that there was an alien girl for her out there somewhere that would satisfy her juvenile desires.  It was, she supposed, part of an unwillingness to give up her childhood.

Now what?  She had never particularly wanted to be female -- it had simply been a means to pursue a dream.  But that dream had proved childish and ultimately impossible to attain.  Now that it lay shattered, what did she want to do with her life?  Her contract with the Space Babes was for three years.  There was still the desire for space exploration -- but several months aboard a space station with little to do had dulled that dream a bit.

"Eve?"  The voice was that of Valerie 9000.  "You have a visitor."

For a moment the words failed to penetrate, then Eve's brow furrowed.  A visitor?  Who could that possibly be?  No ships had arrived that she knew of, so that only left people coming from earth via the dimensional gateway -- but who on earth would come to visit?

Eve padded down the hallway and into a waiting room, where she found a girl with lavender hair and violet eyes wearing brown boots and a rough cotton peasant dress of blue, with a laced corset bodice of black.

"Amaryllis?" Eve exclaimed in surprise.  "What are you doing here?"

They embraced, and Amaryllis gave her a passionate kiss.  "A little bird told me that you were feeling down," she said.  "I was hoping I could cheer you up."

Eve's eyes narrowed.  "Would this bird happen to be named Muriel?" she asked.

Amaryllis giggled.  "She seems like a good friend, Eve," she said.  "She was very concerned for you.  She even stayed behind on station Amethyst, so that you and I could be alone...."

She paused, then reached up to Eve's forehead.  "Oh!  Your antennae?  What happened to them?"

Eve laughed.  "They... didn't serve any purpose," she said.  "I got rid of them."

"But your eyes are still the deepest blue," said Amaryllis.  "Like crystal pools hidden in the forest... I love your eyes."

"So do I," said Eve.  "I've decided to keep those.  And the green hair."

"Show me around this station of yours," said Amaryllis.  "I saw some of station Amethyst, but it is very different from this...."

Eve took the fairy girl's hand in hers.  "Oh, I'll give you the grand tour," she said.  "I'll show you everything.  The view of earth from space is amazing!"

But not the incubation chamber where her lifeless other body lay, Eve added silently.  That had been a mistake, which she never wanted to think about again.

And as for the poster above her bed?   Perhaps she would finally replace it with a photo of a real person... one with elf ears, violet eyes, and lavender hair....

FINI