Monday, February 17, 2020

Going Home

Going Home
Mark A Davis
309



Eve the Explorer lay on a couch of pink fur.  She stared up into the bright white ceiling of S.I.S.B. space station Terra and said, "I can never go home."

"Pardon?"  The smooth, soft, feminine voice was that of Valerie 9000 -- the station's A.I., and in fact the A.I. for the entire Society of Intergalactic Space Babes.  "Did you not visit the home of your parents two weeks ago?"

"Sure," said Eve.  "What I meant was... look, are you familiar with the Wizard of Oz?" asked Eve.  Auburn hair framed her face.  She was dressed in the Space Babes uniform -- a silver bikini,  with silver go-go boots and a belt with a holstered blaster.

"Of course," said the A.I.  "Both the movies and the books."

"I've only seen the movie," said Eve.  "Dorothy goes on a fantastic adventure.  She learns to stand up for herself, and she triumphs over evil.  She makes new friends.  And we're supposed to believe that she wants to go back to Kansas?  To KansasThere's no place like home, Glinda says -- but the truth is there's no place like Oz.   There are a lot of places like Kansas, if you ask me.

"More importantly, Dorothy has been on a grand adventure and she's changed.  She can never go back to being a simple Kansas farm girl again.  The truth is that you can never go home."

"I will assume that you are speaking metaphorically," said Val 9000.

"Yes," said Eve.  "That's the very definition of growing up, don't you think?"

"It may surprise you to know that, in the books by Frank Baum, Dorothy eventually returns to Oz permanently," said Valerie 9000.

"Really?" Eve asked.  "Well, it makes sense.  It's just like Alice In Wonderland said:  I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.  That's wisdom."

"It is an old sentiment," Valerie 9000 replied.  "Veterans of war discover the same when they return home.  Novelists like Thomas Wolfe and Marcel Proust have written about it.  The past of your memory is frozen in time, while the world is ever-changing.  Attempts to return to the world of your youth are doomed to failure.

"However," said Valerie 9000.  "As to my question...."

"All of this reminds me of Donna Noble," interrupted Eve.  She rolled off the couch, kicked off her boots, and began to strip.

The computer sighed.  "Are we speaking of the fictional character from the British television series Doctor Who?"

"Right!" said Eve.  "She was the Doctor's companion, and she saved all of creation by absorbing some of the Doctor's power.  However, this threatened her life -- the human mind was not built to deal with such knowledge and power.  To save her, the Doctor erased her memory.  She forgot everything about him, and the adventures they'd shared.

"In a way, she's the only companion who got to go back home.  She literally became the person she'd been at the beginning.  She had a nice life -- got married, won the lottery.  But it was the worst ending.  Who wants to forget such fantastic adventures?"

As she spoke, Eve wandered, naked, into another room.  A regen chamber sat in the center of it -- a long tube of steel and glass, filled with a green-blue liquid.  It was tilted about sixty degrees, with an opening in the top.  Eve continued to speak as she climbed inside.

  "I've been thinking about this a lot," said Eve.  "I was Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick, and we traveled into space.  I was living the Buck Rogers dream.  Then I got transformed into a woman by some alien god.  I was upset, but the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire has the tech to switch me back easily.  Except I joined the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes instead, so that I stay in space and have more adventures.

"I can return to the old me after my three year contract is up," she said.  "Or can I?  That the thing, isn't it?  I'm a different person from who I was.  I'm no longer sure if I prefer being male or female.  That," said Eve, "is what I mean when I say I can never go home again."

"Understood," said Valerie 9000.  "But all that I asked was if you were certain that you want angel's wings, demon's horns, and aqua seafoam hair?"

Eve shrugged.  "Sure, why not?" she said.  As the regen chamber's lid began to close, she added, "I can always change it back later, right?"

FINI

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Hero Lunch: Tony's Diner

Hero Lunch:  Tony's Diner
Mark A Davis
308


John Blume was Boy Secretary -- a young man who dressed in women's clothes and worked as a secretary for one of the best-known supergroups in the world, The New League of Two-Fisted Justice.  He manned the front desk of their fancy new headquarters in New York.  Once upon a time he had been a sidekick to Grandpa Anarchy, known then as Boy Waitress, but while he kept in shape and knew some martial arts, he'd never had super powers.  These days he was just a man in a dress with a fancy name.  The job did come with some perks, however -- he knew some of the world's most powerful heroes on a first-name basis, and he even had his own trading card, part of the Sonny's Collectibles Sidekicks of Grandpa Anarchy line of cards.

Mind you, some very marginal heroes with extremely questionable powers were included in that card set.  Boy Secretary's was one.  Still, it was pretty neat.  He had the card framed on his wall at home.

John had a neatly-trimmed beard and long blonde hair in twin braids that fell past his shoulders.  Today he was wearing a blue dress with a sailor collar, white tights and black Mary Janes.  He glanced up from his desk as someone in green and white power armor flew down and landed in front of the building.  Circuit Girl entered and made her way to the elevators.  "Good day, Miss Circuit Girl," he said with a smile.  "Saved the world again?"

"I wish," the young woman replied.  "I spent the entire morning dealing with the mayor.  There have been more complaints about our saucers making too much noise at night.  I told him crime knows not day or night...."

"This sounds like something Grandpa Anarchy or Dark Dr. Dark should be dealing with," Boy Secretary noted.  "They are co-leaders of the group, are they not?"

Circuit Girl smirked.  "In this group, being leader means avoiding as much responsibility as possible.  Say, what are you doing for lunch?"

"No idea," said Boy Secretary.  "I forgot to bring anything...."

"Have you ever eaten at Tony's Diner?" the heroine asked.

"I don't think so," Boy Secretary replied.  "Is that nearby?"

"It's... quite a hike, I guess you'd say," she replied.  "It's on Lavender Avenue, right in front of the palace."

The boy's forehead wrinkled.  "Um... Lavender Avenue?  Palace?"

The girl grinned.  "Just come with me, and you'll see," she said.  "Lunch is on me."


Circuit Girl led the boy upstairs, where she changed into her regular costume.  She led him through several security checks and to a room with a large dimensional portal.  This was a a giant circle of carved metal, with a ramp leading up to it.  Strange symbols marked the outer perimeter of the circle at regular intervals.  It was like a large alien clock without hands.  The center was a liquid surface of pure aqua blue, as if it was a wishing well on its side.  It hummed like an electric generator.

Boy Secretary stared in wonder.  "Wow," he said.  "I've never used the gateway before."

"It's perfectly safe," Circuit Girl replied.  "We use it all the time."

"This diner isn't in New York?" he asked.

"Not even close," Circuit Girl replied.  She set the coordinates, and the two stepped through.

They found themselves in a futuristic room with smooth white walls and a similar gateway.  The walls vibrated softly.  The floor was rubber tile.  Circuit Girl led him out of the room and down a hallway.  They passed a window, which Circuit Girl pointed out.  Boy Secretary glanced out and came to a full stop.  What he saw outside was a starry field of black with a green-blue earth below them, partly in darkness.

"Oh my stars!  We're in space?" he exclaimed.  "It's... beautiful!"

At the same moment, a young woman in a silver bikini and go-go boots appeared at the far end of the hallway.   She had auburn hair and wore a belt with a holstered blaster.  A pleasant, disembodied female voice said, "Welcome to S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra.  My name is Valerie 9000.  Please feel free to ask me anything."

"Oh, hey!  Circuit Girl!" the girl in the bikini exclaimed, approaching.  "Who's your friend?"

"Eve, this is Boy Secretary,  who is our secretary at the New League of Two-Fisted Justice headquarters," Circuit Girl replied.  "Boy Secretary, this is Eve the Explorer.  She's a member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, and has been manning this station for the last few months."

Belatedly, Boy Secretary noted Eve's S.I.S.B. belt buckle.

  "We were headed to Tony's Diner for lunch," Circuit Girl added.

"Oh wow, really?" Eve exclaimed.  "I've never been.  Can I come with you?"

"Of course you can!" Circuit Girl replied.

The trio went down the corridor and into another room with a gateway much like the other.  "That other is the local gateway," Eve said.  "It's mostly used to pop down to earth, and to stay in contact with the League, and the Archons, and the Black Moon Maidens.  There's an interstellar gateway as well, but this one is specifically for transport to another station in another dimension."

"Wait.  Another dimension?" Boy Secretary asked, coming to a halt.

"Don't worry, it's as simple as stepping through the portal," Circuit Girl said.

They stepped through.  They appeared in a room that was broadly similar to the one they'd left -- with a gateway and an ramp leading up to it -- but it was also quite different.  The walls were wood and polished brass, with rivets and pipes and dials everywhere one looked.  The gateway itself was somehow more ancient and more imposing, a massive device of steel and brass and copper wire and moving parts, although clearly it performed exactly the same function as its futuristic counterpart.

"Wow.  This looks very different," Boy Secretary said.  There was even music playing -- the sounds of a string quartet.

A female automaton in a flowing silver gown awaited them.  "Welcome to S.I.S.B. Space Station Amethyst," she said.  "My name is Valerie 1895.  Circuit Girl I know, and I've met the lovely lady Eve.  This lovely man in the fetching blue dress can be none other than Boy Secretary, whom I have never met.  Again, welcome."

"Amethyst?"  Boy Secretary's face scrunched up.  "I think I've heard of that... it's a fairyland, right?"

"That is correct," said Valerie 1895.  "Grandpa Anarchy and the S.I.S.B. helped repel an invasion of Amethyst from space, after which this station was built to help patrol the stars above the fairyland and protect it.  I run the entire station -- I am, of course, a copy of Valerie 9000, adapted for a more steampunk setting.  As you might imagine, modern technology does not fare well in a magic-based fantasy setting.  The more steampunk our technology appears to be, the better it works, strangely enough.  Which is of course why I was given a physical, automaton body."

"I see," said Boy Secretary.  "Well, it's nice to meet you."

"What can I do for you three today?" the automaton asked.

"We came to have lunch at Tony's Diner," Circuit Girl said.

"I see.  Step this way, please."

The automaton led them past thick glass portholes and to yet another room with a gateway.  Along the way Boy Secretary saw several generic Space Babe automatons seated at desks or standing before terminals and work stations.

One final trip through a portal brought them to a room of marble and wall tapestries.  Zombies in armor stood at attention, looking at nothing in particular.  The reek of death was present, although not overpowering.  Boy Secretary wrinkled his nose.

"The Amethyst gateway is in in the palace of the Necromancer King -- unfortunately," Circuit Girl said.  "Come, I'll show you the way.

She led them out of the palace, across a square, and through tall golden gates, also guarded by zombie soldiers.  They stepped onto a wide cobble road.  Jeweled spires and domes arose around them, with colorful violet flags flapping in the breeze.  They passed a wide square with stalls filled with merchandise lined up along the walls, with throngs of people in colorful clothing.  Many of them wore things that seemed folkish or of a style more than a century old, with many tall, broad-brimmed hats with buckles on top, breeches, and women in full skirts that brushed the ground.  But there was no time to explore -- Circuit Girl led the group to a place where stood a long silver diner car -- just like those one might have seen in the Northeastern U.S. in the 1930's or 1940's.  It resembles a sleek aluminum rail car, with a long counter inside fronted by round silver stools with red leather seats, and by booths with red leather seating on the other side.

The place was busy but not too crowed.  The three found a booth and were barely seated when a waitress appeared.  This was a young tiger girl, with a catlike face, pointed ears, and orange fur with black stripes.  She wore a red dress with a white apron over it.

"Circuit Girl, welcome back!  What can I get ya?" she asked, in imitation of a Jersey accent.  She handed each a menu.

"We'd like time to decide, Katherine," Circuit Girl said.  "This is the first time here for my two friends."

"Take alla time you like!" the waitress exclaimed.  She disappeared, returning with glasses of water and napkins and utensils.  She poured coffee for each of them.

Boy Secretary was still taking in the diner.  There was a clock on the wall with the logo for the New York Giants on it, and also a Yankees banner on the wall.  There was circular glass case filled with cakes and pies.  The menu was exactly what one might expect from a diner in New Jersey or New York -- lots of fried food, with burgers, fries, and grilled sandwiches dominating.

The man at the grill turned out to be Tony himself -- a jovial, portly man in a white tee shirt and stained apron.  He saw Circuit Girl and called out to her.  "Hey there, Circuit Girl, Darlin'!" he exclaimed.  "Ain'tchoo gonna introduce mes to yer beautiful friends?"

"Hey, Tony," she replied.  "This is Boy Secretary, who mans the front desk at our supergroup headquarters, and this lady is Eve the Explorer, who is a member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes and runs their station Terra above earth."

"Youse both looks lovely today," Tony said with a smile.

"Why is there a New Jersey diner in the middle of a fairyland like Amethyst?" Boy Secretary asked.

"Well," said Tony, "that's a funny story.  I usedta owns a diner like this ones in Jersey, but one day this tornado comes along and carrys it away.  Grandpa Anarchy and Unpossible Man were there, and we all winds up here in this here Amethyst fairyland.  After a bunch of adventures, that there Necromancer King asks me to stay as his personal fry cook -- see, he was dependin' on zombies to cooks for him before that, and I ain'ts gotta tell youse what a disaster that was."

Boy Secretary blanched at the thought.  "I can imagine," he said.

"Well one things leads to another, I get Mildred to come here, and heres we are," Tony said.  "I'm the official cook o' the palace, but I also runs this here diner durings the day."

Katherine returned to their table.  "Decide on what you want yet?" she asked.

"I think," said Boy Secretary, "that I'll have the grilled veggie sandwich, with fresh fruit...."

Tony made a face.  "That ain't real food," he growled.  "That's only ons there 'cause that Princess Amethyst insisted."

"And it's what I'm ordering," Boy Secretary replied.  "It's on the menu, after all."

"Yeah, yeah," said the cook.  "I'll makes it, but I won't likes it."

"The turkey cheese steak for me," Circuit Girl said.  "What about you, Eve?"

"I'll have the mac 'n' cheese burger!" Eve exclaimed hungrily.

"Coming right up!" Tony called out.  "Don't forgets to saves room for dessert!  My Mildred makes the best pecan pie in alla Amethyst!"

"I would suspect," said Circuit Girl, "that she makes the only pecan pie in all of Amethyst."

"Dat's true," Tony agreed.  "But trust me, it's really good!"

The food was excellent -- even the grilled veggie sandwich that Tony was so loathe to make.  For dessert Boy Secretary ignored the pecan pie and instead picked a cake made with fairyberries and lavender zuna seeds, which were as small as poppy seeds but added an incredible flavor to the cake.  "After all," Boy Secretary reasoned, "it would be a waste to travel all this way for lunch and just eat food that I might easily find back home in New York."

By this time Tony's wife Mildred had shown up.  She was a round, smiling woman who, it turned out, was from Kansas City originally.  She liked living in Amethyst, and retold the story of their arrival from her point of view.

"So one day a tornado comes along and picks up the diner and carries it away.  I thought my poor Tony was a goner.  They never found a body, of course.  Turns out he was in fairyland having adventures with Grandpa Anarchy, who knew?  I found out weeks later when this Necromancer King shows up on my doorstep with Tony in tow.  We barely had time to sell the house before he whisked us away to his kingdom.  But you know, it's all right.  You don't age here unless you want to -- you gotta like that!  Of course, I was already 46 when I got here -- you think they coulda found me when I was 25 maybe?"

"Mildred was a beauty whens she was 25," said Tony.

His wife scowled.  "You saying I ain't beautiful now, Old Man?"

"Nah, youse is still beautiful," Tony said, his face flushing red.  "I loves ya Babe, youse knows that.  I'm just saying...."

Mildred laughed.  "He's so easy to tease," she said.  "That's what I love about him.  That, and he does most of the cooking.  By the way, did he tell you about his magical frying pan?"

"More than once," Eve replied.

Boy Secretary checked his watch.  "It's getting late," he said.  "We've already been gone two hours...."

"Relax," said Circuit Girl.  "Time flows differently between dimensions.  We take our time and still get back to New York an hour after we left, no problem.  That's the other reason I love coming here -- apart from the food.  I still say Tony runs the best diner on two worlds.  We'll even stop in to see my brother before returning, he'd kill me if we didn't...."

"It's certainly been the most unusual lunch break I've ever experienced," Boy Secretary said.  "Or ever will experience, I suspect."

There was a twinkle in Circuit Girl's eye.  "You've never been to the Slice of Time Bar and Grill, have you?" she asked.

"Um... no?" replied Boy Secretary.

"A brontosaurus burger might change your mind," she said.

The door to the diner slammed open and a young boy in purple knee britches and a matching waistcoat with bright brass buttons charged in.  "Circuit Girl, Circuit Girl!" he exclaimed.  "Come quick!"

"Alisto?"  Circuit Girl stood. "What is it?"

"My sister Annaballa has been kidnapped by Wicked Eustace of the Barren Pines!  She said she was gonna transform her into a Wooly Willow tree!"

"Oh, my goodness!" exclaimed Mildred.  "The poor girl!"

"But... transform her into a tree?"  Boy Secretary frowned.  "Why would she do that?"

"I don't know," the boy said.  "She's a wicked witch!  That's the kind of thing they do!  You're a hero, Circuit Girl, you've got to save her!"

"I have a spare power suit in the palace..." Circuit Girl said.  She glanced at her two companions.  "I can do this, and we'll still get back in time.  You don't mind waiting for me, do you?"

"Wait for you?" Eve said, brandishing her gun.  "What are you talking about?  We're both heroes, too -- we're coming with you!"


FINI

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Ballroom Blitz

Ballroom Blitz
Mark A Davis
307

Eve Jaskulski stared at herself in the mirror -- beautiful young girl with lavender hair in a shimmering, strapless, full-skirted gown of metallic purple.  Above her hovered a holovid drone.  In keeping with the fantasy theme of the fairyland of Amethyst, the drone was appropriately steampunk in appearance.

"Another princess dress," she said, disapprovingly.  "Yay."

"Oola!  The King of Throga, in courtesy, once a month, we do get," said her companion Muriel.  "And other outfits two more as well."  Her partner was an alien girl with green skin and blue hair.  She wore a creme-colored dress.

"Yes, I know," said Eve.  "You and I, and Lucci and Sashi, for saving him from assassins.  I suppose I can deal with wearing a fancy dress three times a month -- and we finally get to visit another world, so I'm not complaining, mind you -- but I didn't join the space babes in order to attend fancy balls."

She glanced down at the gun in her hand -- not the sleek laser pistol she normally carried, but something out of an H.G. Wells-inspired steampunk fantasy.  It had a polished wooden handle, coiled brass tubing, and a glass chamber filled with greenish-yellow liquid, like the vials of a carpenter's level.

"Does this thing even work?" she wondered aloud.

Muriel eyed the weapon.  "This device, you got where?" she demanded.  "Oola!  Commander's orders, heard you not?  Earth mating rituals to enjoy here we are to do.  Official mission this is!  Weapons allowed not, fighting allowed not, no circumstances are we to be involved in!"

"Yes, but..." Eve began.  "Wait... mating rituals?"

"Reason for this know you," said Muriel.  "To the king and queen of Throga, our first holovid, merely wearing new dresses did not show -- destroying them it also shows!"

"It was an emergency!" Eve exclaimed.  "Roquinnian Arachnoids had invaded the station!  We didn't have time to change!  "Also," she added after a second, "trying to parse your sentences is giving me a headache...."

"Oola, truth this is," said Muriel.  "But pleased, the king and queen were not.  In excrement soaked, our second gowns were...."

"We were teleported straight from a New York ballroom to the underground sewers!" Eve nearly shouted.  "It was an attack from Doctor Totengräber!  How is that our fault?"

"Assignment of blame, to do I try not," said Muriel.  "Truth only I state.  Five dresses presented from the king, destroyed you and I have, on holovid captured, to see they did.  For the S.I.S.B. Throga an important client is.  To anger them further, wish we do not."

It was true.  As a reward the king had provided them both with three outfits a month, including one fancy ball gown.  In five months, they had managed to destroy all five gowns.  But it wasn't their fault!  Wherever they were, things just seemed to happen.

"Yes, obviously," said Eve, "although I don't recall him complaining about the treatment of our gowns when we were saving his froggy ass...."

"Oola, Eve...." Muriel began.

"Plus we've established a space station above the fairyland of Amethyst for some reason...."  Eve held up a hand to forestall Muriel's reply.  "Yes, I know the reason!  We stopped an invasion from space, and now the Necromancer King is an ally, and his adopted daughter Princess Amethyst wants to host a fancy ball, and we're supposed to dance with princes and be demure and pretty and gracious and not cause trouble and this is not what I joined the space babes for!"

Muriel held out her hand.  "Oola.  Please to hand weapon?" she asked.

"Halt right there!"  a voice barked.  "Down with the Necromancer King!  Long live the revolution!"  A strange wooden soldier with no head marched stiffly into the room.  "You two are hostages of the Revolutionary Guard of...."

Eve aimed and fired.  Green energy shot out, vaporizing the soldier into a pile of sawdust.  "What do you know?" she said.  "It really works!"

Muriel scowled, hand still held out.

"Oh, come on!" protested Eve.  "He was a revolutionary!  He was trying to overthrow the king!"

Muriel said nothing.  After a few more moments, Eve sighed.  She handed over the gun.  "Fine," she said.  "I'll be a good girl.  I won't attack anyone."

A tall, muscular man in white military uniform appeared in the doorway.  "Miss Eve?" he said.  "My name is Prince Harry of Aquamarine.  I'm to be your date for this evening."

"Why Prince Harry," said Eve, extending her hand.  "My name is Eve.  It's a pleasure to meet you!"


***


Eve and Muriel watched as the holovid played.  Headless wooden soldiers ran rampant through the ballroom crowd.  Princes brandished swords.  Zombie soldiers wielded halberds.  In one corner of the room, Eve and Muriel could be seen eating hors d'oeuvres and calmly watching the chaos in the room.

Across a work surface from them sat Captain Alice -- their direct superior in the Space Babes.  As with all space babes she was a young woman, perhaps nineteen, with dark skin and curly black hair, dressed in a silver bikini and go-go boots, with a belt and holstered blaster.  If one looked closely however, the left strap of her bikini held four stripes.

"I don't understand," said Eve.  "I was good.  I didn't attack anybody.  The Necromancer King's soldiers regained control all on their own.  Our dresses weren't harmed in the least.  Isn't that what you wanted?  So what's the problem now?"

"Although pleased that the dresses were not ruined," said Captain Alice, "King Karoat of Throga was very disappointed that space babe operatives stood by and did nothing during a melee...."

Eve threw up her hands.  "Really?  Really?  How are we supposed to respond to combat situations and keep floor-length ballgowns completely pristine?"

"Throga is a very important client..." Captain Alice began.

"You'd have to retroactively edit the holovid," said Eve, "and provide us with duplicate gowns that we could appear in afterwards...."

Her voice trailed off as she saw the glint in the captain's eye.  "Crap," she said.  "We're getting two gowns a month, aren't we?  One paid for by Throga, and duplicates paid for by the S.I.S.B."

"Oola," said Muriel.

Captain Alice smiled and said, "Why, how very perceptive of you, Agent Eve!"


FINI



Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Beautifully Engineered

Beautifully Engineered
Mark A Davis
302

Lights flashed, red and pink and blue, like fireworks.  Klaxons blared.  The scent of ozone and burnt plastic filled the air.  A blubbery, multi-tentacled purple monstrosity waved at least five pistols in the air.

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, went down in a hail of laser fire.  Beside him, a red-haired girl's face exploded.  She, too, went down.

Grandpa had been about to introduce his sidekick, the Cisgender Sleuth, to the women who ran S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra -- two young women in silver bikinis and go-go boots, which seemed to be the uniform on the station.  In the next second the tentacled horror had appeared out of nowhere and opened fire.  He'd teleported in -- just as Grandpa and the Cisgender Sleuth had a mere thirty seconds earlier, only they had done so with the permission of Valerie 9000, the station's A.I. computer.

Red lasers scorched the walls and the ceiling.  The one remaining bikini-clad girl grabbed the Cisgender Sleuth's arm and pulled her through an archway.  A blast door slammed down after them, shielding them from laser fire.

"Val!  The intruder is sealed in deck 3, section five!" the girl yelled out.  "We have two people down!  Requesting all air be removed from that section!"

The muffled sounds of shouting and laser fire could be heard through the bulkhead.  There was no reply to the girl's request.  She swore.  "He's blocking Val out somehow!" she said.  "I should have realized -- he'd have to mess her up somehow just to teleport in here...."

The two were trapped in a twenty-foot section of hallway, with blast doors sealing each end.

"Who in Hades is that?" the Cisgender Sleuth asked.

"Vlorlaxio," the young woman said curtly.  "Terrorist with a grudge against us.  Wanted on a thousand worlds...."

"Grandpa's trapped on the other side of this door!" the sidekick exclaimed.

"Grandpa Anarchy is most likely already dead," the girl in the bikini said.

"Oh gods!"  The Cisgender Sleuth could feel the terror rising in her throat.

"Don't worry," the girl said.  "He's died before. You're his new sidekick, I take it?"

For the first time, the two girls got a good look at each other.  The Cisgender Sleuth was a tall girl, lanky, with dark skin and bleach-blonde hair tied back in a ponytail.  She dressed in red spandex, with a deerstalker cap and a double-breasted Ulster overcoat.  On her chest was the astrological symbol for Venus.

It might have made sense thematically, but the overall effect was of someone who'd thrown a costume together in half an hour at a Salvation Army.

The space girl had long, auburn hair.  Aside from the silver bikini and go-go boots, all she wore was a belt with a gun holster and an S.I.S.B. buckle.

"That's right," said the sidekick.  "I'm the Cisgender Sleuth."

"That explains the deerstalker cap and overcoat," the space girl replied.  "My name is Eve -- Eve the Explorer.  I was Grandpa's sidekick once, too."

"Really?"  The Sleuth studied the girl again.  She was quite healthy, with curves in all the right places -- something that was hard to miss given her state of undress.  "The name sounds familiar," said the sidekick, "but I feel certain I'd remember that face.  I've studied the roster of past sidekicks rather extensively...."

"I... look a bit different now," the girl said evasively.  She turned back to the blast door.  "Val?  Valerie 9000?  Can you hear me?"  After several moments of silence, she added, "I'm worried about Val, but I guess we're safe for the moment.  Laser fire alone can't penetrate that blast door...."

She glanced back at the girl in the deerstalker cap.  "I hope you don't mind me saying this," she said, "but that name and that look -- it really doesn't work well."

The Cisgender Sleuth frowned.  This was not the time to argue about her costume.  "Look," she said, "Is Grandpa Anarchy really dead?  You said he's died before...."

"Grandpa Anarchy has died plenty of times," Eve said.  "I couldn't give you an exact total but yes, he's dead, and no, it's not permanent.  Look, Terra is a fully-functioning Earth-based space station for the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes.  We're a division of 5E, a government arm of the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Empire, which spans a thousand worlds in the Milky Way.  They have technology that you can't imagine.  What that means is that we have clone vats and resurrection technology on board this station.  You were scanned when you first came aboard, right?  The pink light?  You gave permission to be genetically identified and mentally scanned?  Val does it without even telling you exactly what you're agreeing to, but basically, if you die, we can bring you back to life."

She paused and added, "If Val and the station technology are working, mind you...."

"Clone technology?  So it'd be me, but a different version of me?" the Sleuth asked.

"Well, technically speaking, you're already a different version of you from yesterday," Eve said.  "Trust me, don't overthink it.  You wake up and you're still you."

There was a loud boom.  The station shook.  The Sleuth said, "That didn't feel like laser fire...."

"No," said Eve.  "I was afraid of this.  Vlorlaxio brought some heavier firepower.  He might be able to break through that door.  If so, we're sitting ducks."

She ran to the far blast door.  "Val!" she called out.  "Open the blast door on deck 3 between sections four and three!"

There was no response.  Eve swore.  "Let's hope I remember how to override this," she said.  She pulled some wires from her bracelet and plugged them into the wall.  Belatedly, the Cisgender Sleuth realized that what she'd thought was a bracelet was actually a small wrist computer.

"What's your name?" Eve asked.  "It feels weird calling you the Cisgender Sleuth.  It's a mouthful."

"Rhonda," the sidekick replied.  "Look, about the name -- I did this mostly as a tribute to my brother.  He was... transgender.  He was born female. He was always a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and plus the name seemed nicely alliterative...."

"Yeah, okay, I get it," said Eve as she worked at her wrist computer.  "A tribute?"

"My brother committed suicide," the Sleuth replied flatly.  "My parents never accepted who he was, and he was teased and bullied at school...."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Eve replied.  "People suck."

Another boom shook the station.  The door on the far side of the room buckled inward slightly.

"All he wanted to do was to be a normal boy," Eve said.  "To play football, and maybe become a cop one day.  He really like superhero movies, and so I thought... I don't know.  That I'd become the hero he might have been, or at least become a hero for him, or something."

"So you didn't do this for yourself?"

"I like helping people," the Sleuth said.  She was once again staring at the girl beside her.  "Look, I hope this doesn't sound weird, and I know this isn't the time, but... I find you incredibly sexy."

Eve blushed.  "Why, thank you," she said.

"I mean it," the sidekick added.  "I'd kill for a body like yours.  I always wanted curves like that.  If I looked like you, I'd wear a silver bikini and go-go boots too."

"Got it!" Eve exclaimed.  The blast door slid open, revealing a larger room with a couple of desks with terminals.

"Well, this isn't much better," Eve said.  "I can try to contact Val 9000 manually I guess...."

She sat at one of the desks and held her hands out.  A holographic keyboard appeared.  She tapped a few keys, and a drawer slid open.  "Bingo!" she exclaimed, producing a pistol.  "I hope you can handle a blaster," she said, tossing it to the startled sidekick.

In the far room there was another boom, and the sound of debris scattering across the hallway.  The doors to the room slid shut.

"Those won't hold long," Eve said.  She went back to typing.  "Did you really mean what you said?" she asked.  "About wanting to look like me?  Because you can, you know."

Rhonda laughed bitterly.  "No I can't," she said.  "I don't have the curves.  I'd never look half as good as you in a bikini."

"Oh, you'd fit," said Eve.  They'd make you fit, trust me."

The Sleuth frowned.  "How do you mean?"

"When you join the Space Babes, they adjust your body," the girl said.  "Bio engineer it.  They'd make you shorter and more curvy.  They have certain size guidelines that they go by, and every Space Babe is engineered to fit them.  After all, the uniforms only come in one size, did you know that?"

"They... bioengineered you?  To look sexy?" asked Rhonda.

Eve giggled.  "Oh my, yes!"  She grinned impishly.  "Would it surprise you to know I was a guy before this?"

"A... boy?"  Rhonda's eyes suddenly went wide.  "Of course!  I thought the name was familiar!  You were Evander the Explorer!"

"There you go!" Eve exclaimed.  "You've got some of that Holmesian sleuthing ability after all!"

"Then," said Rhonda, "You're transgendered too."

"Well... not so much," said Eve.  "I just wanted to explore space.  The Space Babes are girls only -- but they take applications from boys, and then transform them.  In the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Interstellar Empire, it's pretty easy to change your gender.  For most it costs a pretty penny, but the government pays for whatever cosmetic upgrades the Space Babes require.

"What I'm saying is, if you joined the Space Babes, then you will fill out a bikini  as well as I do.  Bio engineering will see to that.  For that matter you could join the Interstellar Fraternity of Bunny Boys and you'd become a muscular young man -- for the duration of your contract, at least."

There was a loud boom and a crashing sound.  The blast doors burst inward, scattering debris and dust.  One door was shoved aside, leaving a two-foot gap through which they could see Vlorlaxio moving.

"Time's up," Eve said, crouching behind the desk.  "It's show time!"

Laser fire erupted.  For several moments blasts of red flew back and forth through the gap in the doorway.  One beam struct Eve in the right arm, burning it to the bone.  She cursed and shifted her weapon to her other hand.

The laser fire ceased.  A burbling voice from beyond the door called out, "Eve the Explorer!  You are injured!  Give up now!  Let me kill you, and I won't destroy the entire station!"

"Not happening, Dirtbreath!" Eve shouted back.

"Stupid, gun-wielding bimbo!" the alien terrorist yelled.  "Consider carefully!  I only want revenge on you and Grandpa Anarchy for what you did to me on Persa Three!  I'll give you one minute to reconsider!"

Eve was sweating.  She had a delirious look in her eye -- the pain was clearly affecting her.  She gritted her teeth and said, "Look, Rhonda, this might not be the best time to pitch you, nor the best example of what joining our group would entail... but being a member of the Space Babes is a fantastic job.  You get to explore the galaxy, you meet new and interesting people and alien races -- and you get to blast a lot of them with laser fire.  You're a highly-trained killing machine in a sexy bikini and go-go boots.  Everybody loves the Space Babes, and also fears them a little.  We're the perfect consorts -- one part sexy lady, one part bodyguard.  We don't discriminate either -- male, female, humanoid, non-humanoid, old, young -- it doesn't matter who or what you are before you join.  You'll become young and female and humanoid and sexy!  There are worse things to do with your life!"

"Eve," said Rhonda, "your arm is nearly burned off...."

"What, this?" Eve asked.  "They can fix this.  No problem!"

"Well," said Rhonda, "it does sound tempting...."

"Tempting, nothing!" the voice from beyond the door exclaimed.  "I've always wanted to be more sexy.  Do you think they'd take me?"

Rhonda glanced at Eve.

"Ex convicts have been accepted," Eve offered.

"Fantastic!" the creature exclaimed.  Tentacles shoved the busted doors open, and Vlorlaxio appeared before them, unarmed.  "In that case," he said, "I surren...."

Rhonda fired, striking the alien squarely in his blobby, bulbous torso.  Energy enveloped him.  He crumbled into particles and vanished.

"Got him!" Rhonda exclaimed.

Eve laughed.  "Rhonda," she said, "you'll make an excellent Space Babe!"


FINI

Friday, October 18, 2019

Family Affair

Family Affair
Mark A Davis
300


"When I was a child," said Eve Jaskulski, new member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, "I read comics and pulp fiction about Dr. Thomas Nova, his son Elias Nova, and the whole Nova family.  I dreamed about adventures in space.  I was going to travel the stars, and sleep with an alien space babe.  That's why I joined the space babes, you know."  She fidgeted in her ball gown -- a peach-colored dress of satin and chiffon with a full skirt to rival that of any Disney princess.  "I didn't expect my first assignment to transfer me back to earth."

"Oola, I comprehend," replied her companion Muriel, a green-skinned alien with blue hair.  She wore a ball gown of deep blue, with a laced bodice and laced sleeves.  "Earth never have I have been.  An exciting adventure, for me, it is."

Eve shook her green hair.  "I mean, if I knew I was just going to orbit earth, I wouldn't have agreed to become a girl!" Eve exclaimed.  The two were seated in the forward compartment of the ship, in fur-covered bucket seats, staring out a simulated view screen at starry space.

"Oola, to be female, a bad thing it is?" asked Muriel.  "Human you were to begin with, at least.  Human I was not."

Muriel was a Jangathau -- a race of amphibious aliens.  They were humanoid, but very tall and thin.  The space babes, however, had a body template and everyone who joined was transformed to match it.  Body shaping was much easier than providing uniforms in multiple sizes.

"Yes, but," Eve said, "they invited my family to meet us at the station!  You know, I wasn't going to tell them that I'd become a girl -- at lest, not right away.  Now I'm having dinner with them on my first assignment!  And in a princess dress, no less!  Talk about embarrassing!"

"For this meeting to wear our gowns, instructed we were," said Muriel.  "From a client very important they were.  Rewards they were.  Holovids of us he requests.  Oola, this you can recall?"

"I know our assignment..." Eve began, when an alarm began to sound.  A pleasant female voice spoke.

"Greetings, Eve the Explorer and Muriel the Jangathau.  I am Valerie 9000, in contact with you from S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra.  You are entering the Sol system.  I regret to inform you that, due to an unforseen gateway breach, the station has been overrun with hostile spider xenomorphs.  The station's S.I.S.B. crew are dead, and Miss Eve's family has been captured.  Please prepare to recapture the station -- full force is authorized."

Muriel frowned.  "Oola!  Spider?  Meaning of this word is?" she asked.


***


A klaxxon blared.  Red emergency lights flashed.  The lighting was dim, but everywhere you looked you saw sticky webbing -- clinging to the walls, hanging from the ceilings, strung between chairs and work surfaces and across vid screens.  As a small holovid drone hovered overhead, recording their every move, Eve and Muriel moved forward slowly, each cradling a laser carbine.  An acrid musk hung in the air -- the entire station reeked of it.

There came a scuttling ahead.  Hairy segmented legs moved quickly, black and covered with fine purple hairs.  Eve blasted the arachnid with laser fire.  It squealed like a chew toy.  Black ichor splattered over Eve and her peach gown, now ripped and torn and stained with blood and ash.  The same covered her arms and face, and webs wrapped about her tangled hair.

"I am not having a good time!" Eve screamed.  She charged into the room spraying laser fire.  Two more of the creatures -- each as large as a sheep -- splattered gore.  Webbing flared to life and burned quickly, like fireworks.

"Eve's family is in the next room," came the voice of Valerie 9000.  "Try not to set the webbing on fire.  It consumes oxygen."

"Decision have I come to," said Muriel.  "Things called spiders, I do not like!"

From the darkened doorway into the next room, a spider scuttled, larger than the others.  It knocked Muriel's rifle aside, snatched her up, and bit her in two.

"Muriel!" Eve cried out.  She blasted the creature, splattering its innards against the wall.  But it was too late -- her companion lay dead.

Eve did not have time to mourn.  Two more spider creatures appeared.  These she blasted as well, then moved into the next room.  Here she found three suspicious shapes -- large bundles wrapped in many layers of of silk, like three human-sized cocoons.  She could guess what lay within.

She locked the door to the room, drew a sonic knife and began to slash at the thread.  "Valerie," she said, "What's the rebirth status of Muriel and the station crew?"

"I apologize," Val 9000 replied, "but rebirths will not be available for approximately four days."

Eve frowned.  "What?  Why?" she asked.  "I thought they were virtually instant!"

"Agents Julia and Iqma have already received ten rebirths each," said the computer.  "In their fight against the xenomorphs, they sacrificed themselves over and over, until there were no more clone bodies available.  Four days is the minimum time required to force-grow a new clone."

Eve had noticed where they were -- the outer room of the rebirth center.  She saw through a doorway into an inner room, where glass and steel tubes filled with green water glowed faintly in the dim light.  This was the the part of the station that they most needed to protect -- otherwise, none of them would be coming back to life, at least not anywhere near earth.

"In anticipation of your next question," said the computer A.I., "yes, we did have clone bodies prepared for both you and Muriel.  However, given the emergency, Julia and Iqma used those bodies as well."

"Do you mean... there are multiple corpses of Muriel and myself on this station?" asked Eve.  The very idea made her pause.

"That is correct," the A.I. replied.

Again Eve sliced through web.  She could see cloth now -- army green.  "But I thought... I mean I don't really know, but..." said Eve, "doesn't rebirth take about half hour?  When they altered me...."

"Sculpting an existing body is much quicker than growing a clone body from scratch," the computer said.  "I am sorry, but for the moment you are the only operative on the station.  Reinforcements are on the way, but their arrival is estimated at twenty-one hours."

"We don't have time to wait," said Eve.  "What about heroes from earth?"

By now she'd revealed the person within the cocoon -- a woman dressed in strange military garb.  There was a green army jacket, paired with a brown leather skirt, woolen socks, army boots.  There were twin guns, holstered, and a strap across the chest carrying six grenades.  The outfit confused Eve, but when she uncovered the face, she saw it was her mother, Ula Jaskulski.

Her mother opened her eyes.  She stared into Eve's face for a moment, then comprehension dawned.  "Evander?" she asked.  "Is that you?"

"Yes, Mom.  It's me.  Only it's Eve now," Eve said.  "Let's get you out of this mess."

"Why is your hair green?" her mother asked.

"It's..." Eve said, "like Sally Stardust, you know.  In the comics...."

As she pulled her mother from the webbing, Valerie 9000 said, "I have been unable to contact any existing superhero organizations.  I have tried the Archons of Excellence, the New League of Two-Fisted Justice, the Black Moon Maidens, even the Daughters of Anarchy.  None are available to respond at present.  If the situation changes, I will alert you."

"My goodness," Eve's mother said.  "Look at you!  You're beautiful!"

Eve rolled her eyes.  "Mom, I'm covered in blood, webbing, and spider goo...."

"Eve is a perfect name for you," her mother said.  "I named you after your grandmother Evalynn.  But look at you!  You're wrong -- a mother can see through the dirt and grime to the beauty underneath.  You are my daughter, and you are beautiful!"

Eve's face flushed red.  She turned and began slashing at the second cocoon.  She wasn't sure what response she'd expected to her transformation, but this wasn't it.

The second cocoon revealed a young girl in her early teens, who looked remarkably like Eve.  She was dressed in one of the space babe silver bikinis, but she didn't have the curves to fill it out properly.

"Kasandra!" Eve exclaimed.

Again she got a blank stare, followed by recognition.  The girl took in the full picture -- despite the torn dress and blood and gore, Eve sported the curvaceous figure that was the space babe template.  Her sister's face filled with sudden fury.

"My brother is a green-haired space bimbo!" she exclaimed.

"It's space babe," Eve replied.  She hadn't expected this either.  In her mind she had expected support from her sister, but resistance from her mother.

"Where did you get that dress?" her sister demanded.  "The bimbo bikini isn't good enough for you?  What are you trying to prove?  Why is your hair green?"

Eve turned to slash open the third cocoon.  "It'd take too long to explain," she said.  "Right now we're trapped on a space station with alien spiders, and I'm the only one left to stop them.  And it's my first day on the job!"

Eve frowned as her grandfather Marian Jaskulski was revealed.

What was grandfather wearing?  As she pulled the threads away, a strange spandex outfit of orange and brown was revealed.  There was an oxen head on the chest, and a strange helmet with oxen horns.  Grandpa opened his eyes and grinned.

"Aniolek!" he exclaimed, hugging her with his one free hand.  "My little angel!  You make a beautiful girl!  Grandmother would be so proud!"

"She... would?"  Every reaction surprised Eve.

"Yes, yes, of course she would!" he said.  Then he added,  "But green hair?  Really?  Here, help me out, help me out, Aniolek."  As Eve freed him from the silk, he said, "Why, your grandmother almost joined the space babes herself!  Did I never tell you?"

Eve's eyes widened.  "She did?  I mean, she almost did?  Is that true?"

"Yes, yes!  When she was seventeen!"  He grinned like a happy dog.  "I was Orange Ox Boy back then, in 1969.  See my uniform?"  He stood and spread his hands.  "I was Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick, and your grandmother was his previous sidekick.  Shrapnel Girl!  A uniform just like Ula is wearing!  She was going to join the space babes -- but I proposed!  We both quit the hero business and got married!"

Eve was staring in wonder.  "Why are you all dressed like this?" she asked.

"We wanted to welcome home our little soldier!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "We're all very proud of you.  Joining the Space Babes -- it's quite a brave thing that you do!  We were heroes once, so we wanted to celebrate your heroism!"

"And no sooner do we arrive," said her mother, "then we're attacked by alien spiders!  Isn't this exciting?"

"Exciting?" Eve exclaimed.  "Mom, people are dying!"

"Death is  temporary in the space babes," she said.  "Surely they taught you that much, at least?"

"The good guys always win, in the end!" her grandfather asserted.

Eve just shook her head.  She hefted her laser carbine.  "Look," she said, "I'm going out.  Someone has to try and clear this station of xenomorphs.  Lock the door behind me.  If I die, I'll be reborn from a clone in four days, but help should arrive in twenty hours.  Don't do anything stupid."

"Aniolek," said her grandfather, "why don't you wait here with us?  If it's only twenty hours...."

"Because," Eve said, "I'm a member of the Space Babes.  This is what we do."

Tears welled up in her sister Kasandra's eyes.  "It's not fair," she cried.  "Why does my older sister get to be so cool?  I want to be a beautiful heroine.  Why couldn't I be a space babe?"

"You're too young," Eve said.  "And first, you'd have to be a sidekick to Grandpa Anarchy...."

She unlocked the doorway and stepped out into the hall, weapon at the ready.


***


Eve opened her eyes.  The light was bright.  She was floating in warm, green liquid.

She blinked.  Rebirth?  She must have died....

"Welcome back to the land of the living, Eve  Jaskulski," said Valerie 9000.  "Otherwise known as Eve the Explorer.  You have been dead for four days."

"The spiders?" Eve asked.

"All gone," said the A.I.

"My family?"

"Everyone is safe, 'Val 9000 said.  "They've been helping to clean the station...."

Eve found the locker containing dozens upon dozens of space babe uniforms -- silver bikinis, go-go boots, and belts with holsters.  She dressed quickly.

"Thank goodness for the reinforcements," Eve said.

There was a light laugh from the doorway.  A familiar girl strode in -- Muriel, Eve's partner.  "Oola, Eve!  Reinforcements, sent they were," she said.  "Jennie Nova, Llahna the Arellian, Quantum Uncertainty Girl, Vanellope -- best among the space babes they are.  Before their arrival, dead these spiders were."

"Really?" Eve said.  "I killed them all?"

Muriel laughed.  "Kill them you did not.  Dead you were.  Three others, It was...."

Another space babe strode into the room.  She had long auburn hair like Eve.  She placed a hand on her hip and winked.  It took a second for the face to register, and then Eve exclaimed, "Mom?"

"In the flesh!" the girl exclaimed.  "And very sexy flesh at that, if I do say so myself!  After all, if they can transform my son into a sexy young girl, then why not me?  I was Grandpa's sidekick one upon a time too.  Shrapnel Girl II, following in the steps of my mother!"

Eve's eyes bugged out.  She'd been worried about what her mother would think of her as a sexy girl, yet she was totally unprepared for her mother to become the same.

Another space babe entered, also with auburn hair.  She looked almost exactly like Eve.  "Hey Sis!" she said.  "How do I look?"

"Kasandra?" Eve said in a hoarse voice.  "You joined the space babes too?  But you were never a sidekick...."

"Technically I was," she said, "for about ten seconds.  Val 9000 arranged it -- signed me up with the Temporary Superfriends as Shrapnel Girl III, transferred me to Grandpa Anarchy's employ, then immediately made me a space babe.  Of course, the actual space babification took a bit longer... about thirty minutes...."

"See, we had to fight off them spider aliens," said a third newcomer.   Another girl strode into the room.  She looked familiar, similar to the others, yet Eve could swear they'd never met.  She also had pink hair.

"You were so brave, rushing out to face them critters alone," the newcomer said.  "We all decided that the least we could do was follow your lead.  And after all, I was Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick once, too!"  She stuck her chest out and added, "how do I look, Aniolek?  Like the hair?  What's good for the goose is good for the gander, eh?"  She laughed, as Eve's eyes continued to bug out.

"Grandfather?" Eve exclaimed.

"As Ula said, in the flesh," the pink-haired girl replied, grinning.  "Very sexy flesh as well, no?  I feel completely reborn!  But please, call me Mariana."

Eve remained open-mouthed.  "Of course," Marianna said, "it was only meant to be temporary -- just long enough to clear the station of spiders.  But Ula and I got to talking.  We all have dreams of adventure that were never fulfilled.  Evalynn is gone, your father is gone -- you kids are mostly grown.  What's to stop us from joining the Space Babes?  As for your sister, what better education can she get than out in space?  We all signed up for the initial three-year tour."

She laughed and added, "I think it's exactly what Evalynn would have wanted."


***


Eve watched the ship depart.  Her face was sullen, almost angry.

"So soon your family gone, you are sorry to see?" Muriel asked.

"It's not that," Eve said.  "Truth be told, it's easier to not have the three of them around.  I can't deal with a kid sister, my mother, and my grandfather of all people being sexy sixteen-year-olds.  I thought they would chastise me or berate me for being like this -- I never thought they'd join me!"

She sighed and added, "No, the problem is that I joined up to explore the galaxy, and what do I get?  One year stuck on a station orbiting earth, while my family gets to travel the galaxy.  It's really not fair!"


FINI

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Eve the Explorer

Eve the Explorer
Mark A Davis
298

A blue gorilla blew into a strange, twisting tuba, the sort that might have been imagined by Dr. Suess.  A tentacled elephant pressed buttons on some sort of accordion.  A strange, gelatinous creature tapped on a kind of xylophone, while a tall, thin being with lavender skin drew a bow across an instrument that resembled four violins and an oboe fused together.

Ethereal music played -- that of an alien orchestra with instruments that chimed and hummed and whistled and buzzed in a manner most unlike those of earth.  The resulting sound was quite pleasant, however, and clearly designed for a ballroom -- and indeed, humans and aliens alike were spinning and gliding across the dance floor.  At one end of the dance floor were the stairs from which they'd descended after being introduced, while at the other end was a raised dais upon which sat the king and queen and royal prince of this planet.  It was just like a scene from an animated Disney movie, save that some of the dancers had green skin, chitinous armor and/or tentacles.  In point of fact the queen, king, and prince resembled violet frogs.

Eve Jaskulski twirled about, green hair trailing.  She and Grandpa Anarchy danced.  Grandpa was dressed in a sharp black tux, while his dance partner wore a gown of silver and pale blue with a full gown, which billowed as she was spun and swept about.  Scenes of a countryside filled with blue grass and blue trees played across the voluminous skirt, as if it were a movie theater screen.

Until a recent encounter with a biblically-minded shaggy god, Eve had been a boy named Evander.

"You look different," Grandpa said.

"They... altered me," she replied.  "Made me shorter and curvier.  Gave me a cuter face, too, and fuller hair.  They call it babe-ification.  Of course, the green hair was my idea -- just like Sally Stardust, you know.  But the Space Babes have certain size and shape requirements.  All of their clothing -- even these gowns -- are the same size.  Our clothing is interchangeable."

She nodded to a girl with green skin and blue hair standing against a back wall.  "Muriel there, for example.  She was tall and thin as a rail before she joined -- most of her race are.  Now she and I have nearly identical measurements.  And Lucci, the one with red hair, dancing with the Thoranian Ambassador?  She was an overweight guy, and now she fits that gown like she was born to wear it.

"Speaking of which, can I just say that I hate wearing a gown?" she added as they drew close.  "Especially one that doubles as a docudrama."

"Yet for two days you've pranced about in a silver bikini," said Grandpa, "and you didn't complain about that."

"A bikini allows for freedom of movement," the young woman replied.  "In this outfit I feel like I'll trip and fall at any moment.  If there weren't a reason for us doing this...."

"Well you look lovely," said Grandpa Anarchy.  "Of course, you do realize that the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Empire's 5E division can change you back to your old male self at any time.  You can go back to being my sidekick Evander the Explorer -- for a fee."

"Not if I sign a three-year contract, I can't," said the girl.  "For now I'm a temporary member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, and all of them are female -- or at least, appear to be female."

Grandpa nodded, well aware that one of the most famous members of the S.I.S.B. was Llahna, an alien girl who looked anatomically identical to a human female, but was technically a male of her species.  To everyone concerned, however, she was a she.

"I'm surprised they would let you join," said Grandpa, "seeing as how you're not really a girl."

"That's all you know," his dance partner replied.  "Right now I'm as female as any natural-born girl.  Furthermore, nearly one-third of S.I.S.B. members were male before joining, did you know that?  That's 31% of new S.I.S.B. recruits!  And why not, after all?  Throughout the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Empire, changing your gender is like flipping a switch!  All it takes is money -- but the government pays if you join the S.I.S.B."

Grandpa Anarchy spun her about to the music.  "Yes, well, that might make sense to native-born members of the empire, but as I recall, you were decidedly not interested in being female at first.  You freaked out."

"It was too sudden," she said.  "I was in shock -- and that shaggy god wanted to make me the mother of a new race of people.  With you.  I mean, most girls would balk at being forced into that, let alone boys.  But my dream as a child was always to explore the galaxy like a Buck Rogers or a Dr. Thomas Nova -- and now I get the chance to do it as a member of the Space Babes.  Why, I'm even working with the granddaughter of Dr. Nova herself!  If I have to wear a silver bikini then so be it!"

"So you're going to sign the contract?" asked Grandpa.

"Maybe."  She tripped on her gown and stumbled.  Grandpa grabbed her by the waist to steady her.  "Curse this gown!" she swore.  "After tonight, I never want to wear another ever again!"

"You know," said Grandpa, "I hear the Space Babes attend balls like this every month."

They settled back into the dance.  "I know," Eve said.  "Quite apart from being excellent bodyguards, we're considered among the most beautiful young women in known space -- and that's not just hype, every Space Babe is young and beautiful, because the government pays for whatever youth and beauty enhancements we require.  It's the goal of many a spaceman -- or spacewoman! -- to marry a Space Babe.  We often escort important political figures and even royalty.   Joining the Space Babes is a good way to marry into money and power, to climb socially."

"Even for boys?" asked Grandpa.

 "Even for boys, yes," she said. "Especially for boys, I think. Of course, men and women can do well in the space marines , and it's not unheard of for exceptional marines to marry into wealth and power -- but even in an empire of a thousand races, where everyone can be genetically engineered, it's amazing how many consider the space babes the pinnacle of beauty. There's a certain mystique with the organization. It's actually quite an honor that they've asked me to join."

"Become a sexy half-naked bimbo and marry into power, then?" Grandpa asked. "Somehow I expect more from an advanced alien civilization -- even if they are at least 30% human."

"We're not bimbos!" Eve retorted. "Some of the empire's best scientists are members of the space babes!"

"Somehow," said Grandpa Anarchy, "the idea that leading scientists are parading around in silver bikinis does not change my mind about the sexism inherent in this organization. I've always wondered where's the beefcake division?"

"The Interstellar Fraternity of Bunny Boys..." Eve began.

"I'm being rhetorical!" Grandpa Anarchy snapped. "I mean, I know Major Tom Nova personally. Great guy, but not exactly the person whose ideas I would use to model an entire military branch of an interstellar empire. When it was just his wife and daughter and her friend, it was cute maybe. But then they added more people, and it became an enforcement arm of the 5E, and...." Grandpa Anarchy shrugged. "Anyway, the Space Babes exist, I've known about them for years, it's not apparently going to change, so that's neither here nor there.

"What interests me is that you keep saying we," Grandpa noted.  "It seems you've already made up your mind."

"I..." Eve began, then stumbled again.  "Darn these stupid heels!" she swore.  "I think I would have signed already, if it weren't for...."  She indicated the ball gown.  "This!"

"Well," said Grandpa, "it's only three years, and you can switch back when you're done.  Unless you decide to marry a Prince or Princess or whatever....."

The music was of a sudden drowned out by laser fire.  Several large creatures with wide mouths and white, blubbery bodies, like walking beluga whales in fancy suits, stood at the top of the stairs.  There were four in all, and they carried laser carbine rifles.

People screamed and dove for cover.  An acrid burnt smell filled the room.  "Death to the crown prince!" one of the newcomers yelled.  Even as he said this, Grandpa Anarchy and Eve the Explorer were drawing, from beneath Eve's skirts, weapons of their own.  Two more girls nearby also drew weapons, while another girl leaped to stand in front of the prince.

A gunfight ensued, but it was short and one-sided.  The members of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes were well-trained.  Their shots hit their mark, while those of the terrorist group were wide.  In seconds it was all over.  Grandpa Anarchy charged the last, mortally-wounded beluga-like creature and punched him in his blubbery jaw, just to make certain he went down quickly.



Later that evening, the king and queen thanked the members of the Space Babes for their service to the crown.  Four gowned girls and one Grandpa Anarchy stood before the throne as the king extolled the virtues of the S.I.S.B. and how grateful he and his entire kingdom were for having saved the life of the prince.  He offered each a reward.

"For the human known as Grandpa Anarchy," said the king, "we offer 10,000 credits, rendered in whatever form of currency or tradable goods you wish."

Grandpa Anarchy bowed.  "Your Highness is most kind," he said.  He wasn't exactly sure how much money this was, but it sounded like a reasonably good reward indeed.

"Also a passport is yours, with an invitation to visit our planet again at any time," the king added.  "This we give to all five of you.  As for the girls of the S.I.S.B. -- Eve, Muriel, Lucci and Sashi -- we are most grateful for the aid of your organization.  The gowns you wear tonight are yours to keep, and we are prepared to offer an even greater reward, suitable for such beautiful young ladies.  We have arranged with the finest dressmakers and clothiers of the city of Koreetla, on Prokone 4 in the Xiatopath Sector of the Empire -- where orbits the S.I.S.B. space station headquarters.  Each of you will receive three new outfits each month, including a new ball gown, for the duration of your service in the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, fully paid for by the Throga crown."  The froglike king smiled and added, "of course, we do not expect the tailors of Koreetla to match those of Throga, but we're told they're still quite good.  Our only request is that you forward to the crown a holovid of you in each new outfit.  We look forward to seeing how lovely you four look!"

The girls gasped.  One said, "Oola!  New dresses, a fortune is!"

"Three years, then?" Grandpa asked Eve.  "That's... one hundred and eight outfits, a third of them fancy ball gowns.  More if you re-up...."

Eve sighed.  "Just... kill me now...."

FINI







Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Grandfather Clause

Grandfather Clause
Mark A Davis
297

Agents Prolka and Surrnian, please report to floor 32, section 7 for assignment.  Agents Prolk and Surrnian to floor 32, section 7.  Attention security:  we have a code eleven security breach on floor 65.  All unassigned security, please report to floor 65....

The voice was pleasant and feminine and echoed in the wide, clean hallways.  After a while you got to where you almost didn't hear it.  This place reminded her of an airport or hospital -- people rushing everywhere, security everywhere, with the only diffeerence being that they were all beautiful young women  between 165 and 175 centimeters, and dressed in silver bikinis and go-go boots.

S.I.B.S. Space Station Prokone 4 was the official name of the headquarters of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, in orbit above the planet Prokone 4 in the Eieio (prounounced EE-Yow) Interstellar Empire.  Here could be found thousands of similarly-clad young women, each with a belt and holster holding a laser pistol.  None looked more than maybe nineteen, although she knew many were far older.  There was a template for membership in the Space Babes, and you were engineered to meet those specifications for the length of your tour.

The girl had auburn hair, and was slightly too tall to be a space babe, with perhaps not quite enough curves, though she was remarkably beautiful.  She waited in line at the rebirth stations, where multiple doorways along a long corridor each lead to a small rebirth chamber.  Other girls talked and giggled as they waited, but she was quiet.  She seemed uncomfortable.

"Next," the attendant called out.  The girl followed her into a room.

"Hello," the girl said.  "My name is Evander.  I was told that...."

"No talking," the woman replied.  "Strip!  Laundry chute is to your left."

Evander frowned, but did as she was told.  The technician was dressed no different than other space babes, but had an air of authority like that of a doctor.  She studied a holo pad.

Evander shivered in the cool air.  At least, she told herself, this strange dream was almost over.

"Name?" the technician asked.

"Evander the Explorer," said Evander.  "That is, Evander Jaskulski."

The technician looked her up and down.  "Well," she said, "aren't you a beauty?  We certainly won't have to change your looks much!  You're new?"

"Yes," said Evander.  "I just need you to...."

"Just answer the question -- no chit chat!"  The woman barked.  "Get into the rebirth chamber.  Over here, up these steps..."

Again, Evander did as she was told.  The chamber was a tube of steel and glass with a door at the top that lifted up.  She sank into the warm, greenish liquid within.  "I just need..." she began.

"What did I say?" the woman replied.  "Don't waste time.  I process girls like you all day, and I have a hundred more to do before the day's done."  She frowned at her holo pad , then added, "According to the A.I., Evander is a masculine name on your homeworld.  It recommends a more feminine alternate.  Did you have one in mind?"  The lid began to slid shut.

"No," said Evander.  "You see, I...."

The lid closed, sealing Evander in, muffling her words.  Green liquid rose over her head, filling the chamber.  As consciousness dimmed, she heard the technician say, "We'll go with Evangeline, then.  Eve for short...."


***


The world slowly faded into view.  The rebirth chamber lid was open, the green liquid draining from it.

"Now, you may notice some changes," the technician said.  "Few were needed but you were a tad too tall, and your curves have been enhanced just a bit... larger breasts and hips, slightly narrower waist.  It may take some getting used to.  Your civilian I.D. is registered under your new name, but I ran into a problem when I tried to locate your S.I.S.B. registration."

A wave of nausea struck Evander.  "I'm... not a member of the S.I.S.B.," she managed.

"Not yet you aren't," the woman replied.  "You haven't signed your contract.  But there should have been an application on file, and I couldn't find one.  Luckily I figured it out.  You were registered as a sidekick to Grandpa Anarchy, and there's that grandfather clause that exempts you from the tests.  I've set you up with a temporary membership in the Space Babes, just until you sign your contract...."

Evander climbed from the rebirth chamber.  She stared down at herself.  "Why am I still a girl?" she growled.

The technician offered a patronizing smile.  "Dear, only girls can join the Space Babes.  You really ought to know that by now...."

Evander scowled.  "But I'm not joining the Space Babes!" she exclaimed.

The technician frowned.  "I'm sorry?  Then why are you here?"


***


Once again the world swam into focus.  Evander felt the wave of nausea as the green liquid drained and the chamber lid unsealed.  His hands explored his groin, finding something that hadn't been there for several days.  Yes, he thought, finally.  I'm a man again!

"Welcome back to the land of the living," said the technician.  "It's been two hours.  How are you feeling?"

"Sick.  But good," Evander replied.  He climbed out of the chamber and stood under a nearby shower.

"I apologize again," said the technician.  "I didn't realize you weren't a space babes recruit.  You might have said.  All I do all day every day is transform new recruits."  She sighed dramatically.  "Just my luck, too!" she said.  "You made such a cute, sexy girl!  I could have invited you back to my place, and who knows where that might have led?"

Evander was confused.  Suddenly this all-business woman was retroactively propositioning his female self?  Was he hearing this right?

"But  it's the same story every time," she added.  "I meet a sexy new girl, and she's either involved already, or she's straight, or she wants to become a boy...."  She smirked.

Evande frowned.  "I..." he began.  "That is...."

"I'm teasing you, of course!" the technician said with a laugh.

"Um..." said Evander, suddenly fascinated.  "Are there a lot of girls like you in the Space Babes?"

"Lesbians?  Oh, quite a few I think," said the technician.  "After all, nearly a third of our members were boys before joining, and a lot of them still like girls...."  She glanced over at the dressing station and pursed her lips.  "You didn't bring anything to wear, did you?  I'm afraid all I've got are silver bikinis... I'll have to have something brought down.  After all, we do transform space babes into boys again on occasion.  Not all remain girls when  their tour is up!"

"Actually," said Evander, "I always dreamed of dating a space babe... one with green hair...."

But now that Evander was himself again, certain things he'd heard were lining up in his head.

Only girls can join the Space Babes.

One third of our members were boys before joining.

Not all remain girls when their tour is up.

There's that grandfather clause that exempts you from the tests.

I've set you up with a temporary membership.

Just until you sign your contract....

The space babes were established by Major Tom Nova.  His wife Destiny was the founding member.  Evander had read comics and pulp stories about the Nova family, had dreamed of adventures in space, since he was a kid.  But his favorite was a fictional green-haired alien space babe named Sally Stardust....

My goal is to sleep with an alien space babe....

"When you sign a contract with the space babes," said Evander, "how long is is the tour?"

"Three years," said the technician.  "You agree to become a space babe, of course.  There's training and missions... and you get to be a sexy girl in a bikini the whole time!  Why do you ask?"

"And anyone can join?" he asked.  "That is, anyone can become a sexy girl?  For three years only?"

"Well, we don't discriminate by race or gender," she said, "but we do favor younger members.  A lot of people apply, so there are tests to weed out the less qualified...  of course, as I said, sidekicks to Grandpa Anarchy have a special grandfather clause that lets you skip that.  It's really a Grandfather Anarchy clause, I suppose!"

"And I could stay in space," said Evander, "and go on a lot of adventures...."  He paused, then added, "Could I request green hair?"

The technician blinked in suprise.

"Of course," she said.  "So, you... want to climb back into the rebirth chamber, Eve?"


***


The door irised open and Grandpa Anarchy entered their quarters.  A girl with green hair in a silver bikini and go-go boots lay on the couch.  Grandpa frowned.  "I thought you went to get changed into a guy," said Grandpa.

"I did," the girl replied, as she read an S.I.S.B. training manual.

Grandpa sighed.  "Figures.  I loose more sidekicks this way...."


FINI