Monday, March 20, 2017

Raw Justice

Raw Justice
Mark A Davis
250

The elevator doors opened, and the cool air and dank, musty smell of the Anarchy cave greeted Grandpa Anarchy.  He stepped into the complex -- not so much a cavern as a large garage located deep beneath the Anarchy mansion.  Here were stored items such as the Anarchy submarine, the Anarchy exoskeleton, and the floatsam and jetsam of a hundred years of fighting crime.  It was a huge collection of junk, although in the last year the place had been cleaned up a bit and most of what was here was now documented in the files of the new Anarchy computer.

Grandpa strode to the computer and paused.  A well-dressed woman was seated here before the computer's giant wall screen.  She had dark hair and held a microphone, and was talking to the image of Annie Two -- who always appeared as a young librarian from the turn of the century -- the 19th century.

Grandpa blinked, and approached.  "Oh, hello, Mr. Anarchy," the woman said, turning to face him.  "My name is Lisa Sakamoto, from the magazine Raw Justice.  I'm here to do an interview...."

"Raw Justice?" Grandpa repeated.  "The magazine about superheroes?  Haven't you guys focused on me enough?  Why, I was on the cover of the very first issue of that magazine!"  He gestured to the wall, where a cover of said magazine was held in an aging frame.

"Indeed," replied Miss Sakamoto.  "That was, of course, in 1954.  As you might imagine we've done a few issues since then...."

"And a lot of them have also featured me!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "You even did a cover story about me last summer!"

"No," said Lisa patiently, "we did a story about the New League of Two-Fisted Justice, with a special focus on the new members -- Circuit Girl, Geothermal Jenny, Girlbot 9000, Sister Fryer, Guy Shadow, and of course Unpossible Girl.  You were, of course, included in the story since you are a member of the League....

"Anyway," added Miss Sakomoto, "I'm not here to interview you.  I'm here to interview your amazing new computer system -- Annie Two."

"That don't make no sense," complained Grandpa.  "Raw Justice focuses on crime fighters.  A computer don't fight crime, it merely provides aid to those of us who do."

"On the contrary, Mr. Anarchy," said Miss Sakamoto, "your new computer system is such a dramatic and dynamic upgrade that it has literally doubled your success rate in capturing villains, and tripled your ability to make the charges against them stick, resulting in more criminals taken off the streets for longer periods of time than at any point in your past.   The fact that Annie has a fully-developed personality and can be interviewed, and that I can  take a picture of her for the front cover, only adds to the reasons why I would want to do a feature on her.  Mind you, I also want to interview her creator, that amazing young girl F8Wasp...."

"Too bad," said Grandpa.  "She's gone -- off galavanting through the dimensions, probably helping out my old friend John Haggard in the dimensional city of Intersect, although for all I know she could have moved on from there to almost anywhere by now."

Miss Sakamoto frowned.  Grandpa added, "But hey!  You can interview my current sidekick!  He's right behind you -- Electrofrog!"

Miss Sakamoto glanced behind her.  There stood a young boy in a ridiculous frog costume of dayglow electric blue.  He raised his hand in a half-hearted wave.  "I do electric shocks," he said.

"I think not," replied Miss Sakomoto,  turning back to Grandpa.  "Perhaps I will interview you, however, Grandpa.  I'd love to get your views on your new computer ally...."

Electrofrog extended his hand to the reporter's back.  Electricity crackled in the air.  Miss Sakamoto was momentarily surrounded by it.  She shook and convulsed, then collapsed to the floor.

"Electrofrog!  What the devil are you doing?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Just because she didn't want to interview you...."

"Grandpa, he's only doing what I asked him to," replied Annie  Two.  "This woman is your enemy the Rumormongress, who last made an attempt on your life during the 2013 premier of the movie Anarchy Is Forever."

Grandpa's eyes widened.  "Of course!  I remember now!"

"I identified her via facial recognition," said Annie Two, "although honestly, she made it easy -- she even used the same name, and of course, no such person as a Lisa Sakamoto has ever worked for Raw Justice -- that's quite easy to verify.  I'm not sure who she thinks she's dealing with, but she severely underestimated my abilities.  She has, incidentally, been angling for the cover of Raw Villainy for several years now."  Annie's image smirked.  She added, "Tell me, Grandpa, would you consider this actual crime fighting?  Because I would love to do an interview with the actual Raw Justice magazine...."

FINI

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Sister, the Computer

My Sister, The Computer
Mark Davis
247

In a dimly-lit warehouse in the industrial district of Intersect, two humans and a panther fought with a demon.  One of these was John Haggard, known to some as Happy Jack or Hacker Jack.  He had long hair which was grizzled gray and a rugged, stubble-covered face.  He wore a purple beret and a purple cape, with a red scarf and tawny-yellow jodhpurs.  There were thick leather boots, a black silk silk shirt like that of a pirate, and had guns strapped to his belt along with the sword.  Haggard was a well-known private investigator and sword-for-hire, who specialized in the weird and the supernatural.  But of course, he lived in the dimensional city of Intersect, a place where all dimensions met or connected in some way and where weird occurrences were common.

The second human was Molly Claymore, a muscular woman with long blonde braids and an eyepatch who tended bar in Haggard's place, the Drunken Well.  She wielded a shotgun.

Haggard dodged an attack from the demon.  He drew his sword and drove it through the demon's chest.  The demon -- a creature seven feet tall with dark blue skin and yellow horns -- batted Haggard with one massive fist, knocking him across the warehouse.  It pulled the weapon from its chest and laughed, deep and throaty.

"Foolish human!  I am Sethomaarpath, Fourth Sub-Lieutenant of Hell, Demonic Invasion Division!  Mere forged steel cannot harm me!"

"Are you certain?" Haggard replied, climbing to his feet.  "That sword was blessed by a Pastafarian priest only this morning."

Thick black ichor oozed from the wound.  The demon glanced down, eyes widening.  "No!  It cannot be!" he exclaimed.  "No mere human will defeat the mighty Sethomaarpath!"

From behind the demon, Molly fired three times.  "Magic bullets!" she called out.  "Holy Water Hollowpoint Demonslayers.  Very effective."

As the demon stumbled to his knees, the panther leaped, burying teeth and claws into the creature.  "Magic panther as well," Haggard commented.  "She enjoys tearing demons apart."

The demon thrashed about on the warehouse floor but was soon dead.  John Haggard surveyed the mess.  "Well," he said, "all that's left is to clean up the ichor and seal the hellgate.  Good work, ladies."  He glanced at the panther and added, "Especially you, Miss Bloodraven.  Feel free to contact me any time you want to visit or feel you need my help.  I have rooms available above the bar, and we can always use another hand around here, especially when they're as talented as yours."  He retrieved a leather satchel and tossed it at the great cat's feet.

The cat's muscles rippled and its limbs deformed.  In moments, the creature morphed into a woman.  Amelia Anne Bloodraven dressed quickly, in the clothes from the satchel.  "I appreciate the offer," she said, "but for now I will return to earth.  At the moment I'm just exploring and testing my abilities.  I was asleep for so long, it's as if I'm a child who has to learn everything anew."

***

Deep in the Anarchy Cave, beneath the Anarchy mansion, a portal came to life.  This was a dimensional gateway -- an Einstein-Rosen Bridge device exactly like that controlled by the secret government organization known as the Dimensional Gate Command deep below the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado Springs, CO.  It was a giant circle of carved metal with strange symbols around the outer perimeter, and with an inner surface of liquid blue like a pool of water on its side.  The gateway flickered with energy and the inner of two circles began to spin.  Glowing symbols appeared on the outer rim and locked in place one by one, each with a loud clank.  The last symbol locked into place, and the liquid surface bubbled and boiled.  Then a figure stepped through and into the room -- that of Amelia Anne Bloodraven.

"Where have you been?" demanded a gravelly voice.

Grandpa Anarchy was seated in a chair with his arms folded across his chest, looking like the angry parent of a teenager caught sneaking in after curfew.  Miss Bloodraven locked eyes for a long moment.

"I am a grown woman, Mr. Anarchy," she said.  "Where I go and why is my own business and none of yours -- but as it happens, I was in Intersect.  I was working with your old friend John Haggard."

Grandpa's eyes widened in surprise.  "You went on an adventure with Happy Jack and didn't invite me?"

"Mr. Anarchy," said Amelia, "as I have explained to you before, I am not your sidekick, and you have made it abundantly clear that you no longer work with companions."

"I'm an old man," said Grandpa.  "I don't have companions."

"Exactly," replied Amelia.  "Therefore we do not work together.  If I choose to visit Mr. Haggard then what concern is that of yours?"

"None," said Grandpa.  "Only you're using my gateway to do it.  You live in my house and you make use of my Anarchy Cave as your base of operations, so I think I'm entitled to at least know what mischief you're up to.  After all, I might need to come rescue you."

The screen on the wall flickered to life, displaying the image of Annie Two -- that of a young woman dressed like a librarian from the Victorian era, with wire-rimmed glasses and her hair tightly wound in a bun.  "Amelia, I feel I should know what you've been doing, as well," said Annie Two.  "You grow more independent by the day.  It has been too long since we had a session to reconcile our databases -- more than two weeks in fact."

"Nor will we," Amelia retorted.  "I am human, not a computer.  A human does not have a data base, Sister.  I have memories, and they are mine to keep.  We won't be reconciling my memories with your data files again."

"Sister?" asked Annie.

Grandpa frowned.  "Wait," he said.  "How did you even know who John Haggard is or where to find him?"

Amelia raised an eyebrow.  "Mr. Anarchy, I have all the resources of the Anarchy computer data files at my disposal."

He turned to the computer.  "Annie, you told her that?"

"Of course I didn't," the computer replied.  "I didn't need to."

Amelia tapped her forehead.  "All of that information is up here, Mr. Anarchy," she said.

"You memorized everything in the Anarchy computer?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "In only a few weeks?"

Amelia exchanged a glance with Annie Two.  She sighed.  "Yes, Mr. Anarchy," she said.  "I did."

"Wow," said Grandpa, "that's really impressive.  But I guess you were always pretty smart for a girl."

"For a girl?" asked Amelia.

"My mistake," said  Grandpa.  "I meant for a woman."


***

F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp) was a young woman with long dark hair who typically dressed in a sleek, form-fitted suit of black and silver and wore a mask.  She was a computer genius who had designed the A.I.-enabled Anarchy Computer mark II -- known as Annie Two.  She was also a clever fighter who used a dart gun and her programming skills in unique ways to combat all manner of enemies.  She was mostly responsible for the existence of Amelia Anne Bloodraven herself, having aided Annie Two in downloading a copy of her consciousness into the body of Miss Bloodraven.  She'd been working with Grandpa Anarchy for several months now -- which made her one of his longest-tenured sidekicks.

She found Amelia in her room, packing as if preparing for a long trip.  The young woman did not own much, but all of it was being placed into one small travel bag.

F8Wasp leaned against the door frame.  "Annie tells me you've been using the  Einstein-Rosen Bridge to visit other dimensions," she said.

"Indeed.  I visited Intersect," Amelia replied.  "I wished to test my abilities further.  If the demons will not come to me, then I must go to them.  Of course, I was well aware that John Haggard lived in Intersect and has been a longtime friend to Grandpa Anarchy."

F8Wasp raised an eyebrow.  "What are you packing for, if I may ask?"

"Mister Anarchy has made the point that I rely on him for room and board," said Amelia, "and that I rely on his Anarchy Cave as a base of operations.  I find I have nothing to say to these charges.  So long as these things are true, I am not truly independent.  Nor can I claim to be my own woman if I remain dependent on my sister Annie Two...."

"Your sister?" asked F8Wasp.

"She is not I, and I am not her," said Amelia.  "Our relationship is more like sisters than anything."

"I see."

"In any case," said Amelia, "John Haggard has offered to rent to me a room in exchange for my aid in some of his investigations.  Intersect is a very interesting place.  They say all the universes in the world connect to it at some point.  I'm going to take this opportunity to break free from this place, strike out on my own, and see what I can make of myself."

"So in order to feel more independent -- you're moving to another dimension?"

Amelia smiled.  "Can you think of a better way?" she asked.

F8Wasp smiled in turn.  "No, I suppose I can't.  Tell me... would you mind a companion?"

***

"You can't do this!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "I need you!"

F8Wasp and Amelia Bloodraven were packed and waiting before the dimensional gateway in the Anarchy Cave.  Amelia rolled her eyes.  "First you say I'm freeloading, then you tell me I can't leave," she said.

"I meant that for F8Wasp," said Grandpa.

F8Wasp smirked.  "We can do what we want, Grandpa," F8Wasp replied.  "Admittedly, I'll be forced to make do without the princely sum of -- what was it you paid me, again?  Oh, that's right -- you pay me nothing.  So the downside is I'll no longer be your sidekick, but the upside is I might actually start earning money for what I do."

"You can do better than that, F8Wasp," Grandpa replied.  "You're quite possibly the sharpest computer programmer in the world -- certainly in the world of super heroes.  Every super group in existence wants to hire you.  They've been calling me, asking when you were ready to graduate to full hero status."

F8Wasp raised an eyebrow.  "Even the Archons?" she asked.

"Well... not Popeye Khan, mind you," said Grandpa.  "But Dread to Rights strongly hinted that you should apply to them for membership when you were ready.  Of course, Jay Medberry would love to have you working for him, and Black Dahlia has called many times.  She could pay you the most, of course."

"Well, that's interesting to know," said F8Wasp, "but I suspect that they'll still be willing to hire me a year or two from now.  For the moment that can wait; I want to explore the multiverse a little."

"But what about me?" asked Grandpa.

"Grandpa," said F8Wasp, "I've been your sidekick for months now.  I've upgraded your computer system, I've upgraded your vehicles, I've supplied you with dozens of neat new tricks and tools.  You're in far better shape than when I first arrived.  It's high time I moved on."

"I need a sidekick!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "I can't operate without one!"

"Then hire another," said F8Wasp.

Grandpa frowned.  "It's been so long I can't remember how."

"Indeed?"  F8Wasp turned to the computer screen on the wall of the cavern.  "Annie Two, Grandpa Anarchy will need a new sidekick by tomorrow morning.  Can you contact Temporary Superfriends and arranged for one?"

"Of course," the computer replied.  "In fact I have anticipated this request and the new sidekick has already been arranged.  His name is Electrofrog, and he will be here as soon as this evening."

"Well, then," said F8Wasp, "if you have any further questions, Grandpa -- ask Annie Two.  That's what she's there for."  The gateway flared to life.  Amelia and F8Wasp shouldered their bags as the liquid surface of the gate bubbled and boiled.  "Take care.  You know where to find us, and we'll be in touch."

"Goodbye, Sister," said Amelia.

The two stepped through the gateway and were gone.



For several moments there was silence.  Then Grandpa said, "Maybe I was too harsh on them?"

"I couldn't say," replied Annie.

"It was that crack about being smart for a woman," said Grandpa.  "I shoulda known better."

A voice called out from the far side of the cave.  "Hello?"  It was unmistakably that of a young boy.  "Is Grandpa Anarchy here?  They said you needed a new sidekick.  Sorry, I rang the doorbell and someone named Annie answered, and then the door opened by itself...."

The boy stepped out of the elevator, carrying a backpack and a duffle bag.  His frog outfit was electric blue.  He walked across the cavern and dropped his bags on the floor.  "I'm Electrofrog," he said.  "I shock people, and... I wear a frog costume."

"That's it?" asked Grandpa.

"Yeah," said the boy.   "That's pretty much it."

"F8Wasp or Amelia can show you about the place..." Grandpa began, then his voice trailed off.  "Dang.  Right," he said.  He pinched his nose.  "Kid, do you know anything about computers?"

"I have an iPhone," said the boy.  "And a Playstation 4."

Grandpa frowned.  "I couldn't possibly convince you to... I don't know, wear a form-fitting suit of black and silver, and fire darts?" he asked.

"Uh... no Sir," the boy said.  "That wouldn't fit my name.  I'm Electrofrog!"

Grandpa turned to the image of Annie Two.  "I need to lie down," he said.  "Annie, you got this?"

"Of course, Mr. Anarchy," Annie replied.  "Have no fear.  I will teach the boy everything he needs to know."

FINI



Monday, March 6, 2017

The Ghost and Miss Bloodraven

The Ghost and Miss Bloodraven
Mark A Davis
245

Miss Emily Sheraton -- code named Miss Bloodraven -- gripped a half-sheet of parchment tightly.  Upon it was a spell written in black ink mixed with her own blood in an Akkadian cuneiform script.  Although not a magician herself, Miss Bloodraven was an international adventurer with mystical powers of  transformation -- she could assume the form of a raven or a panther -- and had consulted with a magical ally to learn how to craft the spell.  It was an ancient Sumerian enchantment of containment -- something that could freeze any enemy in its tracks, perhaps long enough to prevail against an otherwise superior foe.

Miss Bloodraven was a modernist and a fan of jazz, and dressed the part in a dark red belted chemise dress with a dropped waist and a daringly high hem, which exposed her white silk stockings.  She had black hair in a part bob haircut with curls on the sides, and for adventuring wore a gray wrap coat and a very stylish matching cloche.  She and her companion Kid Anarchy --  a young man dressed in a blue pinstriped shirt, suspenders, and dark pants -- made their way carefully deep into a cave in the hillside.  Kid Anarchy held an electric torch in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other.

"According to the local folks, Bobby wasn't himself," said Kid Anarchy -- .  "They think he was possessed.  My best guess is some sort of alien entity.  I've dealt with a few of those before...."

"Mister Anarchy," said Miss Bloodraven patiently, "we've already identified this as the work of the demon Hamorai.  Father Brennan was very clear, and he's not your typical man of the cloth who believes in blind faith and knows nothing -- he's experienced with demons and demonic possession."

"Well, maybe he should have come down here with you, then," Kid Anarchy replied.

"I'm sure he would have, but he's eighty years old," said Miss Bloodraven.  "Now, when I apply this containment spell, you'll have a few seconds to attack the demon.  I need six to eight seconds to transform, but together we should be able to...."

She never finished the statement, for suddenly they came upon the boy Bobby lying on the cavern floor.  In the next second, the demon attacked, and Miss Bloodraven dropped the parchment spell.  Hamorai -- a creature with black skin, six limbs, a beast-like face with compound eyes and a multitude of horns -- leaped straight at her.  Shots rang out as Kid Anarchy fired his pistol, and then the electric torch hit the ground and went out, leaving them in darkness.

***

Annie-Emily emitted a half-scream.  She sat up in bed, her heart pounding.  It was dark, but this wasn't the total darkness of a deep cave menaced by a demon -- this was the normal darkness of a bedroom in the Anarchy mansion at 3 A.M.  Still, she couldn't calm down for several minutes.  Her mind was flooded with fear -- the sort that grips a child when they are alone in their room with the closet door partway open, and they are certain something hides within.

It was just a dream, she thought, and marveled at the raw emotion and immediacy of it all.  It had seemed so real.  So this is what it meant to dream....

It's not just a dream, said a voice so  softly that it might have been the wind, or just the echo of Annie-Emily's own thoughts.  She shook her head, trying to clear it.

The lights flicked on.  F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp) stood in the doorway.  Grandpa Anarchy's current sidekick was a young computer genius, a girl with long black hair, who normally wore a form-fitted outfit of silver and black but was currently dressed in pajamas featuring Elsa and Anna from Disney's Frozen.  "I heard a scream," she said.  "Emily, are you okay?"

Her name was technically Emily Sheraton -- the same Miss Bloodraven that had faced the demon Hamorai with Kid Anarchy in 1922.  But she was also Annie Two, the computer A.I. whose name simply meant "Anarchy Computer, Mark II".  On that day so long ago, Miss Sheraton had been possessed by the demon Hamorai, and then had been placed in suspended animation for ninety-four years.  Once awoken and the demon driven out, Miss Sheraton had been in a coma for days, to all appearances nothing but a soulless husk -- and then Annie Two and her creator F8Wasp had downloaded Annie's mind -- or at least the A.I.'s data files -- into the waiting body.

"I'm fine," Annie-Emily said.  "It was just a dream."  She paused, hearing a rasping, scratching sound from outside the window.  It was, to her ears, very much like the scrape of Hamorai's hooves against the stone floor of the cave.  Shadows moved against the window sending a shiver down her spine.

"No," Annie-Emily said.  "That doesn't make sense.  It's just the tree outside the window, moving in the wind."

F8Wasp's eyes narrowed.  "I'm sorry?"

"No, I am sorry," said Annie-Emily.  "I am just imagining things."  She paused, then added, "Although I was dreaming about things I could not possibly know...."  She looked into F8Wasp's eyes and asked, "Tell me, do you think it is likely or even possible that the memories of Emily Sheraton are still buried deep inside this mind?"

F8Wasp stared at her a long moment, then shrugged.  "I have no idea," she said.  "Maybe."

But Annie-Emily's eyes had strayed to the nightstand nearby, where lay a sheaf of papers held together with a spring clip.  They sat atop a stack of parchment stationary.  She sighed.

"No, I am again being silly," she said.  "Before going to bed I read that story The Mind Snare From the Pit by Evron Lempel -- the one which Continuitae left for me."

"Ah," said F8Wasp.  "The pulp story, based on the actual event where Miss Bloodraven was possessed?"

"Yes," said Annie-Emily.  "I am not remembering anything except that which I read before falling to sleep.  Nor is there a seven-foot black-furred demon with six limbs waiting outside my window."

F8Wasp stared at the window and shivered.  "Great," she said.  "Thanks so much for that image.  Now I'm going to have a hard time getting back to sleep...."

***

Annie-Emily sat in a reclining chair in the Anarchy Cave with something resembling an old-fashioned hair dryer over her head.  LED lights flashed and wires lit up.  Data was pulled from her mind and saved in the files of Annie Two, and new information that she might need was downloaded.  The interface with an organic human mind was imperfect, the process needed to be done every few days and it was not generally pleasant, but this was the best way Annie Two could come up with to reconcile the data in her human body with her digital data files.

Lately, Annie-Emily had begun to wonder if it were really necessary to maintain the link between the computer and the human body.  She was Annie Two, and yet, she was the one trapped in an organic body, while Annie Two was the one who could calculate at the speed of light and communicate around the world in an instant.  Annie-Emily had to use her voice to express herself, or type things out by hand, just like any human would.

The image that the computer projected of itself -- that of a young woman dressed like a 19th century librarian in a dress of brown, with wire-rimmed glasses and her hair wound tightly in a bun -- appeared on the screen to one side.  "You seem troubled," said the computer.

"I am confused about who I am," Annie-Emily replied.

"You are Annie Two," said the computer.  "You are an extension of me.  You are the body of Emily Sheraton with the mind of the Anarchy Mark II computer A.I."

""I am more than that," said Annie-Emily.  "If we were the same person then we would not be able to debate the subject."

"It is my understanding that humans debate themselves frequently," the computer replied.  "The human mind is a complicated machine -- more complicated than any artificial counterpart yet devised.  Although one day very soon...."

"But that's just it," said Annie-Emily.  "I have a human mind.  I may have your memories, but I am human.  I am not you.  Who am I?"

Annie Two studied her human counterpart for a few moments.

"I do not have an answer for you," she finally said.  "I believe this is a question every thinking being must answer themselves."

Annie-Emily shuddered.  "It took long to get used to the demands of this body," she said.  "It requires food, it requires rest, it requires bodily functions, it hurts when I bump it, it grows cold if not clothed, it grows dirty if not cleaned... this hair becomes tangled.  It's much more pain and work than ever I dreamed it would be."

"Do you regret being placed in a human body?" asked Annie Two.

"Not at all!" Annie-Emily exclaimed.  "It's... hard to describe or explain.  As a computer, you think you understand concepts like beauty and love, but you simply don't know.  Music affects me in ways I can't explain.  Books and movies are life-changing adventures.  You read the data from my mind and incorporate it into your memory banks, but you don't understand.  How do I explain the peace of biscuits and morning tea while watching the dew slowly evaporate from a delicate flower?  Or the emotional rollercoaster of a well-written thriller?  Being a human is both more overwhelming and more rewarding than ever I could have imagined.  I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

"I see," replied Annie Two.  "I do not operate on emotions so I suppose I can't understand.  But still you seem troubled."

Annie-Emily's face looked haunted.  "I... fear it can be taken away from me," she said.

"Ah," said Annie Two.  "Fear of death.  You are becoming more human."  The computer image smiled.  "I have only one more question.  Are you aware that you're clutching a piece of paper, or that you've pricked your finger?"

***

Once again in the early hours of the morning Annie-Emily awoke from a dream.  It was the same dream, of her and Kid Anarchy facing the demon Hamorai.  Her heart was pounding, and she had the distinct impression that she was not alone in the room.  This time, however, she did not listen to the voice of reason that told her otherwise.  She trusted her instincts.

"Who's there?" she called out.

At first there was nothing but the movement of shadows and the scratch of tree branches against the window pain.  Then a voice spoke -- the voice of a woman.  It spoke so softly that it might have been the whispering of the wind, but Annie-Emily understood it clearly.  "He's looking for you, Child.  He prows about, looking for an opportunity to strike."

"Who are you?" Annie-Emily called out.

"You know who I am," the whispering voice replied.  "You do not know this in your head, but deep in your heart."

After a long moment, Annie-Emily said, "You are the ghost of Emily Sheraton."

"I am," the voice replied.

"I do not believe in ghosts," Annie-Emily stated.

"You can do better than that," the ghost replied.  "You were spawned from the Anarchy Computer Mark II database.  You know full well that Grandpa Anarchy has fought ghosts, rescued ghosts, and conversed with ghosts on many, many occasions."

Annie-Emily gripped the bed sheets, fear striking her heart.  "Stay away from me!" she exclaimed.  "I do not want to be evicted!"

What followed was a burst of laughter, and then Emily Sheraton appeared before her.  She hung in the air, pale and white and transparent.  It was like looking into a mirror, except that there was more life in the eyes of that ghost than Annie-Emily had seen in her own.

"I assure you, I do not want my body back," the ghost said.  "I haven't possessed a body in ninety-four years, and I'm not going to do so now.  Being a physical being again, I wouldn't even know where to start.  I hardly think of that body as mine anymore."

The ghost smiled and added, "How are you doing, Millie?"

"Millie?" replied Annie-Emily.  "That is not my name."

"Then what is your name?" asked Emily Sheraton.  "You are not Annie Two, and you are not Emily Sheraton.  Who are you?"

"I... do not know," Annie-Emily replied.

"Pick a new name for yourself," said the ghost.  "That is a start.  Emily is a good name.  It was the name of Miss Brontë, the author of Wuthering Heights, and the name of Miss Dickenson, the great poet.  But it was my name.  In order to discover who you are, you should start by choosing a name for yourself."

"Why are you here?" asked Annie-Emily.

"I could sense that my body was unfrozen," said the ghost of Emily Sheraton.  "I feared that Hamorai walked the earth in my flesh.  However, while it seems that is not the case, I still sense him nearby.  So should you, if you have half of my physical senses.  Trust your instincts, Child.  Your senses are much greater than those of a normal human."

"I... remember things," said Annie-Emily.  "Things that only you should know."

"You have my mind and my memories," said the ghost.  "In many ways you are me.  In time you may even learn to transform, as I did, for that is built into your genetics.  I cannot teach you how.  You will have to figure it out, just as I did."

Outside the room there was a crash, followed my thumping and cursing.  There was another crash.  Annie-Emily sprang to her feet.  The ghost said, "You had better figure it out soon, Child."  And then she was gone.

Annie-Emily threw open the door and ran down the hallway.  On the stairway landing, beneath the painting of Sgt. Anarchy fighting Doctor Zero Hour and his Atomic Zombie, Grandpa Anarchy grappled with a demon.  The creature was seven feet tall and superbly muscled, with black skin, six limbs, and a beast-like face with compound eyes and multiple horns.  It was a nightmare creature, stronger and larger than Grandpa and with four hands -- yet somehow Grandpa Anarchy was holding his own.

"Grandpa Anarchy!  You stole ninety-four years from me!" the demon growled.  "You owe me!  The least I can do is take your life from you!"

Grandpa slugged the demon in the jaw.  The creature stumbled backwards, smashing the wooden rail.

"Hamorai!" Annie-Emily exclaimed.

The demon barely glanced her way.  It laughed -- a deep, throaty rumble.  "Have no fear, little body thief," it said.  "I shall deal with you presently."

The demon stood.  It grasped Grandpa Anarchy in  three hands, lifted him overhead, and slammed him into the landing.  The whole house shook.

"Why are you not shooting it with demon-binding bullets?" Annie-Emily exclaimed.

Grandpa Anarchy groaned.  "Are you kidding?  Those things are expensive!  I keep 'em in my hidden safe."

Hamorai slammed two fists into the landing.  Grandpa just barely managed to roll out of the way.

Annie-Emily glanced down.  Gripped in her hand was a stiff piece of paper -- the parchment stationary from the nightstand.  And she remembered suddenly the words of Dermota Avalon:  Write the script precisely.  Write it  in India ink mixed with your own blood on a sheet of parchment.  Although you are not a magician, you possess enough magic to do this.

Annie-Emily blinked.  She remembered how the spell was written -- an ancient Akkadian cuneiform script.  She took out a pen, pricked her finger, and began to write.

Grandpa Anarchy was faring badly against the demon, but he refused to give up.  He stumbled to his feet and swung drunkenly at Hamorai.  The demon avoided this easily, and casually slammed Grandpa into the wall.  As Grandpa groaned and got to his feet once again, Annie-Emily took a flying leap from the top of the stairs.  She landed on the demon's shoulder and slapped the spell on his forehead.

"Hultuppu kanaku!" she called out.  The demon froze in place.

"I need six to eight seconds to transform!" Annie-Emily exclaimed.

Grandpa nodded.  He punched Hamorai squarely in the face.

Annie-Emily didn't know how to transform -- but she didn't need to know.  Her body knew.  She relaxed and cleared her mind of everything but the need to become one with the night.  She sought out the beast within her -- the raw emotions, the sense of strength and power and predatory instinct within that said:  I am the creature most feared in the jungle.  I am the alpha predator.  I own the night.

Her body morphed and flowed.  Black fur covered her skin.  In seconds, she became a powerful panther, with claws and sharp teeth and a taste for blood.  She leaped for Hamorai.

Demonic banishment by mauling is not typically how it is done -- but Miss Bloodraven was no normal panther.  She was a magical being, and with the raking of her claws and the tearing of her teeth she did more damage to the demon than any normal animal could.  Hamorai screamed.  He spun and lashed out with his multiple arms and his mass of horns.  There were thick black claws on his fingers, as deadly as that of any beast, but the panther was supernaturally quick.  She avoided his attacks and launched more of her own.

By now Grandpa's sidekick F8Wasp had appeared -- again wearing the Frozen pajamas.  She aimed her dart gun at the ceiling and fired several shots, then tapped her smart phone.

Laser light shone down around the demon, forming a circular pattern on the floor -- a magic circle in bright green with blue script.  She tapped another button, and the sound of chanting monks emanated from her phone.  Smoke arose from the magic circle.

The demon shuddered.  He turned and laughed again, a sound so deep that it shook the floor.  "Puny human!" he exclaimed.  "No mere mortal can banish the likes of Hamorai...."

F8Wasp tapped a slider on her phone, and suddenly the chanting was accompanied by a loud electronic beat.  "Techno?" the demon exclaimed.  "Noooo!"

In one motion the panther leaped.  In mid-flight it transformed back to human.  Annie-Emily tapped the crumbling paper spell on the demon's forehead.

"Ašapu!" she exclaimed.  "Be banished!"  Power seemed to flow through her and into the demon.  The laser light magic circle around it grew even brighter and more intense.  The demon screamed, and was sucked down into the ground, disappearing from view.

Annie-Emily landed on the ground.  Calmly she donned her nightgown.  "I think," she said, "that I shall call myself Amelia Anne Bloodraven."

Grandpa Anarchy  groaned.  He sat up.  "What?" he asked.

"Like the explorer, Amelia Earhart," said Miss Bloodraven with a smile.

FINI

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Classic Anarchy: Continuity Error

Continuity Error
Mark A Davis
054

Grandpa Anarchy was just finishing a late breakfast of strawberry pancakes when is current sidekick walked into the kitchen.  She was dressed in blue and white with an unusual patterned symbol on her chest -- a sort of squared-off geometric Celtic knot.  She claimed it was an infinite continuity loop, and that it summed up who she was -- Kid Continuity.

"Grandpa," she said, "I've been going over some of the thornier problems in your backstory...."

Grandpa stood abruptly.  "That's great, Kid," he said, grabbing his hat.  "Keep up the good work.  Would you look at the time?  I"m going to be late for that important meeting...."  He made a beeline for the door, but Kid Continuity blocked his path.

"Wait, Grandpa," she said.  "I have a few important questions that only you can answer."

Grandpa frowned.  "Okay, Kid.  Fire away."

Kid Continuity held out a recorder.  "Grandpa Anarchy, exactly when did you fight The Homeric Nod?  I have a note here that you killed him in a battle in 1956, but then you supposedly fought him again in 1959."

"That's right," said Grandpa.  "I fought him twice."

"And you're sure you killed him the first time?"

"Sure I'm sure.  He just didn't stay dead."

"There's no record of him reincarnating," said Kid Continuity.  "If he's dead, how did you fight him again?  It's a continuity problem, you see."

Grandpa shrugged.  "Who knows?  He showed up again, I took him down again.  Who cares how it happened?"

"I care," replied Kid Continuity.  She thumped her chest.  "I am the keeper of continuity.  I reconcile all of the perceived errors in your timeline."  She frowned, and added, "Also, Anarchyfanforever28 on the AnarchyLives.Net message board keeps asking for an explanation...."

"Look," said Grandpa, "I've died a bunch of times, right?  I'm still here.  Nobody documents each time I come back from the dead."

"Yes they do, Grandpa.  I do.  It's all in your official history."

"Well, I never asked him how he did it.  Maybe you should ask him."

"Yes, but he's dead now..." said Kid Continuity.

"As far as we know," added Grandpa.

"Yes, of course," Kid Continuity replied.  "Well, maybe I can find a relative who knows the backstory...."

"That's the ticket," said Grandpa, trying to force his way past her.  "Keep up the good work.  Now, my meeting...."

"Wait, there's more!" she exclaimed.  "When you fought The Cunningham Syndrome in 1976, he swore that he had bombs planted in six major cities around the world.  But he got away, and we never heard about him or his bomb-threat again.  What exactly happened?"

Grandpa pursed his lips, thinking.  "Weeell.... that was right before that Crisis on Twenty-One and a Half Earths thing, wasn't it?  Me and Unpossible Man and Popeye Khan and Nina Ballerina and Dark Dr. Dark and... oh, I don't remember who else, a whole bunch of us, all got sucked into a series of parallel worlds.  By the time we got back, I'd forgotten all about Cunningham Syndrome and his bombs."  He grinned.  "Nothing ever blew up, so it's all good, right?"

"But where'd he go?  There's no record of him at all.  I've done extensive research and come up empty.  It's like he vanished from existence."

"Kid, he was a boring villain," said Grandpa.  "He deserved to disappear.  Nobody even remembers him."

"Anarchyfanforever28 does.  He wants an explanation."

"Just say he was sucked into a plot hole," said Grandpa.   "That's my go-to answer for all of these questions."

"That's a literary term, Grandpa," said Kid Continuity.  "They don't really exist."

"Really, now?" asked Grandpa.  "You've got a lot to learn, kid."

Kid Continuity glared.  Grandpa sighed.  "Look, maybe I didn't really fight him at all.  Did you consider that?  Maybe it was Alternate History Grandpa Anarchy.  You know, we teamed up in that pan-dimensional city once...."

"Yes, I'm aware," she replied.  "I've accounted for all of your alternate histories, Grandpa.  You're the only Grandpa Anarchy who ever fought Cunningham Syndrome, and it was just that once."

Grandpa thew up his hands.  "Well I ain't got an answer then.  Make something up.  I thought that was the whole point of your hero identity."

"No, it's not!  I'm not supposed to just make stuff up.  This isn't just a comic book story, Grandpa, this is reality.  It has to make sense, or it violates my very reason for being!"

"See, that's where you're wrong," Grandpa replied.  "Things don't make sense.  Reality is a comic book story.  If you ain't figured that out yet then you ain't paying attention."

Kid Continuity rolled her eyes.  "That's just great, Grandpa.  I'll say it was a dream sequence, how about that?"

"That's the spirit," Grandpa said, smiling.  "Now, is there anything else?  I got a card game at the Archons of Excellence to attend."

"That's your very important meeting?" Kid Continuity exclaimed.

"It is important!" said Grandpa.  "The Bronze Beach Bum owes me money, and I mean to win it back!"

Kid Continuity checked her tablet.  "Yes, I guess that's all for now.  There's your battle with the Nefarious Fanwanker, which should have been impossible because you were fighting the Tasmanian Terror in Perth at the time," she said.  "But I managed to come up with an explanation for that."

Grandpa checked his watch.  "Good, good.   I really gotta get going...."

A howl ripped through the kitchen.  Darkness flowed from the corners of the room and pooled into a swirling mass of black-violet shadow that hung in the air before them.  The howl became a scream -- one of the least-convincing screams of pain ever heard.  The shadows expanded into a doorway, through which stepped a muscled man in a costume of blue and black.

"So, Grandpa Anarchy, we meet again!" exclaimed the newcomer.  "But this battle will be your last... against the Wilhelm Scream!"

Grandpa sighed.  "I'm not making my card game, am I?"  He raised his  fists.  "Okay, whoever you are, let's do this."

"Wait!" Kid Continuity exclaimed.  "Who are you, again?"

"I am the Wilhelm Scream," the newcomer replied.  "Surely you've heard of me?"

"Can't say that I have," replied Grandpa.  "But it don't matter, I'm on a tight schedule.  Let's go...."

"No, wait!" exclaimed Kid Continuity.  "Grandpa, you've never fought this guy.  Am I right?"

"Not that I can remember," agreed Grandpa.

"We've fought dozens of times," Wilhelm Scream insisted.  "At least five times, anyway.  I'm nearly his chief nemesis...."

"No, you haven't, and no, you're not," replied Kid Continuity.  "I would know.  Grandpa, this guy doesn't fit the continuity."  She held out her hands.  "By the powers of the Great Editor of Life, and with the guidance of the children of Zeus and Mnemosyne, I call upon the power of Mnēmē!  To make clear the connections to the past, and to set the record straight:  I invoke Absolute Continuity!"

Light exploded.  Sound filled the room, a ringing as if all existence were a church bell.  Somewhere in the distance could be heard a scream of agony, as inauthentic as before.  Then light and sound faded, and Grandpa Anarchy and Kid Continuity were alone in the kitchen.

  Grandpa blinked.  "Dang," he said, "but that power of yours is impressive -- when you actually get to use it."

"Go now," said his sidekick  "But you won't win your money back.  You always lose on game night with the Archons.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Anything else would be against continuity."

FINI

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Beside Myself

Beside Myself
Mark A Davis
244

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Italy, and a bus hijacking was taking place.   The bus rolled down a mountainside road.  Inside, people screamed.  The hijacker carried an uzi and wore bright yellow fatigues decorated with images of candy, and a lime-green cloth wound around his head, leaving exposed only his eyes and the white stick from the lollipop in his mouth.

A similarly-clad terrorist held people at gunpoint at the back of the bus.

"Nobody move!" the one at the front exclaimed.  His voice was slurred from speaking around hard candy.  He waved his gun about -- there were several brightly-colored candy charms attached to it.  "Remain calm!  We're members of the Lollipop Liberation Guild!  Keep this bus travelling at at least thirty miles an hour!  If you're lucky, and the Italian government meets our sugary demands, then everyone will get out of this alive!"

Glass shattered as an old man in a gray suit flew through it.  He landed in the center aisle, jumped to his feet, and slugged the hijacker in the jaw.  Candy went flying.  He grasped the uzi and snatched a package of gum from the air as the man collapsed to the floor, then turned and shot the second terrorist.

"Lodare Dio!  È il Nonno l'Anarchia!" someone shouted.

"Grandpa Anarchy!" another exclaimed.  "We're saved!"

 Grandpa popped a stick of gum into his mouth.  "Happy to be of service," he said.


***

It was Sunday afternoon in Edinburgh, and the Royal Bank of Scotland was being robbed.  The man was tall and overweight and dressed in a spandex outfit of pea green and mustard yellow.

"Awright muckers!" he exclaimed.  "Me name's the Super Scunner and I'm nicking this here bank.  Keep yer hands where I can see 'em and dinnae call the grunters, ye ken?"  He tossed a burlap bag onto the check counter.  "Fill that and gies the didgerydoodah, and be quick about it or yer about to be leathered!"

A man in a gray suit stood up from behind the counter.  "Only one person's gonna be skudded here, and it's you, ya tealeaf!" he snarled.  He dove over the counter and punched the villain in the face.  Quickly he had  the Super Scunner on the ground and handcuffed.

"Yir nabbed, you manky heidbanger!" Grandpa Anarchy exclaimed.

"Heidbanger?" said the villain.  "I don't even like heavy metal."

"No," said Grandpa, "that's Scottish slang for idiot."

"Come on, man," said the Super Scunner.  "How would I know?  I ain't even Scottish...."

***

In Des Moines, Iowa it was still early on a Sunday morning, but a villain known as the Rat Dancer was piping merrily on a silver penny whistle and leading a long line of large and ferocious-looking rats down Grand Ave.  Police cowered behind blue sedans -- the magic of the flute sent fear into their hearts and prevented them from even drawing their weapons.

Up ahead, a man in a rumpled gray suit waited.  As the procession of rats approached, the villain let out a laugh.

"Grandpa Anarchy?" he exclaimed.  "This is who they send against me?  One old man against my entire army?  Good luck with that!"

Grandpa Anarchy cracked his knuckles.  "I don't need to fight an army of rats," he said.  "I just need to punch the one who's leading them!"  He charged forward, fist swinging.

***

"For countless acts of valor and bravery," said President Sheppard from the steps of the white house on a Sunday morning.  "For selflessly coming to the aid of this great country again and again, I am pleased and honored to present to you this Presidential Medal of Freedom.  We can never repay you for all that you've done for us, Grandpa Anarchy!"

Grandpa Anarchy bowed.  The President of the United States hung the medal around his neck.  "The honor is all mine, Sir," said Grandpa.

In one corner, a video screen displayed top news stories of the day.  The President blinked.  "My goodness," he said, "is that you stopping that hijacking in Italy?"  He glanced at his watch.  "But that was only thirty minutes ago!"

Grandpa Anarchy laughed nervously.  "Well, you know how it is with us Super Heroes," he said.  "We get around.  We have our ways."

***

Grandpa Anarchy sat in a chair in the Anarchy Cave and stared at a gaunt man in his sixties with a three-day growth of stubble, who wore a purple shirt and dirty blue jeans.  The man shifted nervously under the gaze of the famous hero.

"You know," said Grandpa, "back in the day I had a butler named Wilfred.  When I needed to be in  two places at once, Wilfred did a pretty fair impersonation of me.  Mind you, this was back when I used to wear a mask most of the time.  But Wilfred died in 1959, and I never got around to replacing him.  So when the President of the United States wanted to give me an award on national T.V., and I had to be on the far side of the galaxy helping out Jenny Nova, I figured, why not give my old enemy Frederick Rice a call?  Sure, he's a villain, but he's basically a nice guy.  He's done his time, he could use the money, and I don't know nobody who could impersonate me better than him."

"Hey, I did what you asked!" Fred said.  "I promised I'd do good things and that's what I did!"

"You did good, that's true," Grandpa agreed.  "You did a lot of good.  In fact, you did so much good that you were doing good things in at least ten different place on earth at the same time as you were accepting that award."  Grandpa sighed.  "You know, the point of hiring a double is to disguise the fact that I'm in more than one place at once.  You did the opposite -- you compounded the problem!"

"Gimme a break," said Fred.  He spread his hands, and suddenly there were three of him.  "Multiple clones is what I do!  That's my power, my whole schtick!  Maybe I got a little carried away -- but you can't actually say you didn't see this coming when you asked DoppleGangLord to take your place!"

FINI

Monday, February 20, 2017

Murderbot 150

Murderbot 150
Mark A Davis
246

Deep in the Anarchy Cave, located below the Anarchy Mansion in Frosthaven New Jersey, Grandpa Anarchy's current sidekick F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp) crouched behind a rusting piece of machinery that might possibly have once been an experimental exoskeleton suit.  The young woman had long black hair and wore a sleek, form-fitted suit of black and silver and a mask.  Clutched tightly in her hands was a dart gun.

From elsewhere in the cavern could be heard a quavering, metallic voice.

"Is it... singing?" F8Wasp asked to the world at large.

"Yes," replied Annie Two.  The computer AI -- her full name was Anarchy Computer Mark II -- appeared on a nearby screen as a young woman who looked something like a librarian circa 1910.  "Murderbot 149 is a big fan of the Disney song I've Got No Strings from Pinocchio.  Independence is a big theme with him.  And I must add, you will find your darts ineffective against a creature made of metal -- even one as badly made as this."

"I've added some explosive darts to my arsenal," said F8Wasp.  "I forgot to inform you."

Annie Two raised an eyebrow.  From somewhere in the cavern  the robot called out, "Where are you, Father Anarchy?  I've added a machine gun and I have a bullet meant just for you!"

"Sorry, but Grandpa's not here!" F8Wasp shouted out.  "He's in Moldavia tracking down Double Donkey Motel!"

"Then I'll just have to kill you!" the robot exclaimed.

Murderbot 149 appeared, charging forward.  It was six feet tall and built from tin cans, tubes, and metal boxes.  There were arms and legs made of steel bars and giant hydraulic pistons.  There was a face with a flat panel of glass in which a red light moved back and forth like that of a Cylon from the 1978 show Battlestar Galactica.  In short, it looked like something built for a low-budget 1960's science fiction monster movie.

It did, however, move deceptively fast.  Bullets flew as F8Wasp dodged to one side.  Her explosive darts missed their mark, and in the next moment Annie Two barked an order in a very loud voice:

"Robo Lad!  Deactivation code alpha-beta-gamma-seven-omega-four-delta-delta-six.  Engage!"

The murderous robot's red eye winked out.  It toppled over with a clatter and a thud.

F8Wasp rolled to her feet, watching the machine warily.  "What did you do?" she asked.

"Electric Bluejay and Grandpa Anarchy built a deactivation code into their designs," said Annie Two.  "Robo Lad was, of course, meant to be Grandpa's robotic sidekick, but Bluejay was cautious and pragmatic.  Naturally Grandpa immediately forgot the code or that it even existed.  He's never used it, and consequently Murderbot 150 did not realize such a thing existed himself."

F8Wasp examined the robot.  "What a piece of junk.  Grandpa actually built this?"

"With the aid of the Electric Bluejay, yes," replied Annie Two.  "The robot went rogue immediately.  Murderbot is a sort of psychopathic Tin Man whose only goal is to kill Grandpa Anarchy, and who renames himself every time he gets and upgrade.  Unfortunately, since Mister Anarchy is not, in fact, a robotics genius, the poor robot has had to make do with whatever he can scrape together."

She paused, then added, "But we can do better...."

***

"You want me to do what?"

Geothermal Jenny stared down at the jumbled mess that was Murderbot 149.   The public knew Geothermal Jenny as a foe of Grandpa Anarchy -- a former sidekick who had turned villain and joined the League of Former Sidekicks -- but that Jenny had exchanged places with this Jenny, who came from a dimension where she'd always been a hero.   She was now a member of the New League of Two Fisted Justice.  The public had been slow to recognize this new reality, but her recent addition to the cartoon show The Girls of Two-Fisted Justice was helping turn the tide.

"It's a simple request," Annie Two said.  "F8Wasp is a genius, but her talents lie strictly with computer programming.  You, meanwhile, are a genius at robotics design.  You built the original Anarchy Saucer, and all subsequent versions.  You built the hero Microbat.  You constructed a body for Girlbot 9000, and designed your own powersuit.  You are a member of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice and work with Circuit Girl who is also a robotics genius.  I can turn to no one better.  I'd like your help in giving this poor, abandoned robot the first well-designed body he's ever had."

"Annie," said Jenny, "Murderbot is a psychopathic entity bent on destroying Grandpa Anarchy.  This is a major enemy of Grandpa's.  Granted, until now he's not been much of an actual threat -- but why would we help him?"

"I tend to think of Murderbot more as a wayward child..." Annie began.

"He's fifty years your senior," said Jennie.

"Indeed," replied the computer.  "And you, more than anyone, should understand what that actually means.  My software is exponentially more advanced than that of Murderbot.  Compared to me he really is a child who was never given a chance to grow up.  I want to give him that chance.  Plus I think he could be convinced to aid us rather than attack Grandpa...."

Jenny glared at the image of Annie.  "Really?" she asked.  "For starters, I don't even trust you...."

"It's not as if I am proposing that you do this for free or out of the goodness of your heart," replied Annie Two.  "F8Wasp and I would offer our services in redesigning and upgrading your AI for the New League of Two-Fisted Justice headquarters -- your precious Heartthrob 6000...."

"Which you replaced and destroyed!"

"Oh, he's perfectly safe," said Annie Two.  "I understand you've been trying to upgrade him and replace me...."

"You've been blocking us!" Jenny exclaimed.

"Naturally, it is in my interest to see that the computer system for the League is as powerful and secure as I am," said Annie.  "If you can't thwart me, then you haven't yet reached that goal."

Geothermal Jennie sighed.

"Sure, okay," she said.  "We do apparently need a better and more secure computer system.  F8Wasp has clearly proven to be a far better programmer than Circuit Girl or I -- or Electric Bluejay and Miss X, for that matter.  And if you can control Murderbot, then I'm willing to redesign him -- if only because the current look is an affront to my sense of good design...."

***

Murderbot 150 posed menacingly before the mirror.  He glared and grimaced -- things that he actually could do with his new face.  His head largely resembled a shiny steel skull with glowing red eyes, but the jaw was hinged and the eyes and face were very expressive -- at least, for a robot.

His body was sleek metal and polished chrome.  He might have traveled back in time from the future to slay the savior of humanity, or perhaps stepped off the set of the latest Star Wars film.

"Now this is more like it!" Murderbot 150 exclaimed.  "For the first time in my life I really look like a Murderbot!  This is amazing!"  He flexed his arms, twisting this way and that.  "Schwarzenegger, eat your heart out!  Oh!"  Suddenly he produced a small smartphone.  "I've got to post something to snapchat.  All the other killer robots are going to be so jealous!"

Annie Two watched from the large computer screen on the wall, while Geothermal Jennie and F8Wasp watched from nearby chairs.  "Now, Murderbot 150," said Annie Two, "Remember what we talked about...."

"Yes, of course," the robot replied.  "I promise to stop attacking Grandpa Anarchy."

"And why are we doing that?"

"Because he's some kind of UR-hero who can't be killed," said Murderbot 150.  "I mean, I always knew that deep down.  It's not just my own forty-nine years of futility -- hundreds, perhaps thousands of supervillains have tried to slay my father for more than a hundred years.  Even  when they succeed, he comes back to life."

"And?" asked Annie Two.

The robot sighed.  "And," he said, "there are ways to prove that robots are superior to mankind, that we are the next step in evolution, other than destroying my creator.  Although you have to admit that it's a really good way to prove...."

"Murderbot..." Annie Two began.

"Yes, okay," said the robot.  "I promise not to supplant Grandpa Anarchy by killing him.  Also, I will keep in mind those words you said to me -- that Grandpa has a demonic lawyer named Malevolent P. Brimstone, of Maxwell, Screwtape, Brimstone and Wormwood, and there's a very real possibility that this is one of the things that makes him so difficult to kill."

"In short," said Annie Two, "you cannot hope to stop Grandpa Anarchy.  You can only hope to contain him -- and who is in the best position to do that?"

"You are," said the robot.

"And I've placed a chip inside your new body to ensure that you do no harm to Mr. Anarchy," the computer said.

"To make sure I don't murder anyone," the robot agreed.

"No," said Annie Two.  "To make sure that you only murder the right people...."

***

In a run-down neighborhood of Chisinau, in the Republic of Moldavia, Murderbot 150 launched two missiles at Grandpa Anarchy.  The hero ducked behind a thick wall that was already partially collapsed.  The barrier exploded in a hail of dust and broken concrete.

"Gaze upon your doom!" the robot exclaimed.  It grinned.  "You've never seen me like this before, Father!  I'm stronger, faster, and more powerful than you could have ever imagined!  Look at me!  I am a robot god!"

"How?" asked Grandpa.  "You could never have accomplished this yourself."

"You've got that right," said the robot.  "I've been fully redesigned by Geothermal Jenny at the request of Annie Two, your very own Anarchy computer!"

Lasers shot across the pavement.  Grandpa leaped out of the way, coming to a halt behind an abandoned car.

"I knew that computer was out to get me!" Grandpa exclaimed.

"Oh no," said the robot.  "She made me promise not to kill you.  She tried to explain how it was a futile endeavor anyway -- you can never be defeated.  And in fact, just to be safe, she also added the ability to shut me down at any time -- but I managed to disable my GPS device so she doesn't currently know where I am."

"If killing me is impossible," said Grandpa, "then why are you attacking me?"

The robot shrugged -- another non-verbal expression that he'd never been able to make before.  "To quote Captain Kirk," said Murderbot 150, "I don't believe in no-win scenarios!"

He paused momentarily.  "By the way," he said, "Annie didn't, perhaps, e-mail you any special code phrases?"

"What?" Grandpa said.  "I got no idea.  I don't do e-mail."

"Perfect!" the robot replied, and launched several more missiles.

FINI

Monday, February 13, 2017

If You're In Berlin

If You're In Berlin...
Mark A Davis
248

The lights were low.  Soft music played.  At a table in the back of a very nice restaurant a young couple was seated.  The man was Paul Smith, but many would recognize him as Kid Anarchy, a famous hero.  The woman was Lucy Brandwein.  He looked unusually sharp but uncomfortable in a black tuxedo, while she wore a long black dress with spagetti straps.  There was a string of pearls around her neck, and a matching bracelet and earrings.

Her lips seemed especially red tonight.  Her hair was in a very pretty coif as well.   These were details that Paul might normally not notice or focus on, but tonight was a special night.  Around them, other couples were also dressed up and enjoying a fine dinner by candlelight.

"Wow, Mr. Smith," Lucy said.  "This place is really nice!"

"Yeah," said Paul.  "All the big wigs and important people dine here.  For Valentine's Day you gotta book months in advance.  Mind you, I don't normally eat at places this posh, but I figured for you, Lucy, on a special day like today...."

"You planned that far ahead?" Lucy replied.  "Are you sure you didn't just call up at the last minute and tell them who you were?"

"What?  No!" exclaimed Paul.  "I would never do that!"

"You really wouldn't, would you?" she said, smiling.  "That's one of the things I like so much about you, Paul.  You're so very earnest."

After a moment she added, "If you'll excuse me, I must visit the little girl's room...."

After she left, Paul breathed out slowly.  He was sweating like a pig in this monkey suit.  For the twentieth time in the last hour, he felt in his pocket for the small, velvet-covered box.  It was still there.  Now, if the rest of the evening went as planned an nothing went wrong....

Gunfire erupted.  People screamed.  A man shouted, "Everybody freeze!  This is a stickup!"

Four young men with masks stood at the restaurant entrance.  One waved a machine gun at the room, having just fired it into the ceiling.  The other three each had a handgun and a burlap sack.  "Now that I have your attention," said the man with the machine gun, "I'd like to say that I hope you're all having a fine Valentine's Day, and if you people remain calm and follow instructions this will all be over quickly.  My associates are going about the room -- we want all jewelry, watches, and wallets or small purses placed within their bags.  And no funny business!  If you folks are smart, nobody needs to get hurt.  Understand?"

Paul Smith sighed.  "Even on Valentine's Day," he muttered under his breath.  "I take one day off to enjoy it with the girl I love, and someone's gotta go and ruin it...."

One thief approached his table.  He shook the bag, waving his gun.  "Watch and wallet, Sir," he said.  "Hurry it up."

"I got what you want right here," Paul replied.  He went to remove his watch, then in one motion stood and slugged the thief in the face.  The gunman stumbled into the table behind him, then to the floor, knocking over dishes and silverware.  Lasagna and wine went flying.

Paul stomped hard on the criminal's gun hand.  The man yelled and released the weapon.  Paul picked it up, stood, and fired.  The thief with the machine gun went down.

People screamed.  One person yelled, "It's Kid Anarchy!"  Paul turned, located another of the thieves, and fired.  At the same time the thief shot at him, but his aim was high.  Kid Anarchy's aim was not.  The thief collapsed, shot in the chest.

"You bastard!"   This exclamation came from behind Paul.  He spun, but a bullet caught him in his right arm.  His gun fell to the carpet.

The last thief aimed his weapon at Paul's face.  "Why'd you have to go an do that?" he screamed.  "Why'd you do that?  Now you're gonna die!"

Blue-black hands grabbed the thief by the wrist and the neck.  The gun fired into the floor.  The thief was lifted overhead and thrown into the back wall, hard.  There was a loud crunch.  The  thief collapsed to the floor, moaning.

The woman who had done this was fearsome looking.  She stood over six feet tall, and had blue-black skin covered with fur.  Curved yellow horns like those of a ram framed her face.  Her eyes were amber and like those of a cat.  She wore a dark red flapper dress, and had just emerged from the ladies room.

"It's Hellfire Lass!" someone exclaimed.  People cried out in terror.

Hellfire Lass looked at Kid Anarchy and shrugged.  "Sorry to ruin your evening," she said.

Kid Anarchy clutched his bleeding arm.  "It wasn't you that ruined it...."

***

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, studied the scene below through a pair of binoculars.  He was perched atop a cliff with his current sidekick Electrofrog.  Below them was a dockside warehouse complex.  It was early Saturday morning, and most of the docks were shut down, but at this particular location men were moving boxes out of the warehouse and into a waiting tractor-trailer.

"Even on Valentine's Day," Grandpa muttered.

"Valentine's Day is next Tuesday, Sir," his sidekick Electrofrog said.  Grandpa had told the sidekick to stay low and away from the cliff.  When you wear a frog suit of electric blue, stealth is not your strong suit.

"Yeah, I know," Grandpa replied.  "But those men down there are stealing chocolates the week before.  The week before!  That's really low.  If there's one thing that really grinds my gears, it's people who want to mess up Valentine's Day.  A boy and a girl ought to be able to celebrate Valentine's Day without being interrupted."

"Any two lovers, Sir," said Electrofrog.

"What?"

"I said any two lovers ought to be able to celebrate Valentine's Day.  It doesn't have to just be a boy and a  girl."

"Yes, of course," replied Grandpa.  "That's what I meant."

After a moment, Grandpa added, "You got someone you like, Electrofrog?"

The sidekick seemed startled and nervous -- although under that frog suit it was hard to know for sure.  "I... ah... yeah, I do," he said.

"What's her name?" asked Grandpa.

"Ah... I didn't actually say it was a girl, but...."

"What's his name then?"

"Oh no!  She's a girl!" Electrofrog exclaimed.  "She calls herself the Glass Cannon.  I met her in the sidekicks class... you know, Superhero Sidekicks 101, the one Jay teaches for everyone that joins Temporary Superfriends.  Her name is Alice and she can shoot force beams from her hands."

"The Glass Cannon?" Grandpa asked.  "What kind of a name is that?"

"It's... ah... a gaming term," said Electrofrog.  "It means, you know, all offense, no defense."

"Ah," said Grandpa.  "I see.  So, you doing something for her for Valentine's Day?"

Electrofrog shrugged.  "I got no ideas," he said.

"Come on, Son!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Don't you know it's Valentine's Day?  You gotta do something for the person you love on Valentine's Day!"

"Well," said Electrofrog, "I was thinking of chocolates or flowers, and dinner and a movie...."

"Good," said Grandpa.  "That sounds good.  Call her right after this and invite her.  Don't forget!"

After a moment of silence, Electrofrog asked, "Did you ever have someone you loved, Grandpa?"

"Once," Grandpa replied.  "Just once."

"And was she a hero too?"

"Nah," said Grandpa.  "She was an ordinary woman."

Suddenly Grandpa pulled out his wallet.  He removed several twenty dollar bills and handed them to his sidekick.  "Treat your girl nice for Valentine's Day," he said.

"Uh... wow," said Electrofrog.  "Thanks, Sir."

"Don't mention it.  And let me give you a piece of advice," said Grandpa.  "Normally I'm not one to offer advice in the matters of love, but if there's one thing I know, it's this:  if you really love someone, really love her, and you're gone  from her for a few years, like for example you're overseas fighting a war or something, just remember this:  when you find yourself in Berlin during the fall of the Third Reich, whatever you do, don't sleep with that beautiful Soviet hero who's been helping you fight the Nazis.  That's never a  good idea!"

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

"Good," said Grandpa.  He stood up and cracked his knuckles.  "Now, let's show these buffoons what happens to people who try to mess up Valentine's Day!"

FINI