Monday, December 26, 2016

New Car

New Car
Mark A Davis

"I apologize Mr. Anarchy," said Annie Two,  the Anarchy Computer AI.  "I really thought you'd be pleased with the change.  Your old vehicle was not well maintained, and there is your own safety to consider.  In addition, you are a high-profile hero who really ought to be driving an appropriate vehicle, not something that is essentially rust held together with duct tape.  I was amazed the thing still ran...."

The AI that appeared on a large screen in the Anarchy Cave was a young woman with black hair tied back in a tight bun.  Reading glasses perched on her nose -- although what a computer AI needed with glasses remained a mystery.  She was dressed like someone from the Victorian era, or perhaps like a conservative Steampunk cosplayer who did not go in for all of the cogs and gears and brass goggles.

Grandpa Anarchy and his current sidekick -- a young woman in a sleek black and silver outfit who called herself F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp) and who had built the new Anarchy Computer II and who, not coincidentally, resembled Annie a great deal -- were standing in the center of the cavernous room.  Before them was a sleek new vehicle -- a sports car that looked as if it could win any race without even the need to start the engine first.  It was speed personified, in a sleek, black shape that looked as if it were already in motion.  A silver anarchy symbol appeared on the hood and on each door of the coupé.

"What we have here," said Annie, "is the Anarchy Vehicle II -- a custom modified Aspid GT-21 Invictus sports car, 2-door coupé, front engine, rear-wheel driver, powered by a BMW 4.4 liter V8 engine with 450 horsepower and weighing less than 2,182 lbs.  It's capable of reaching 60 miles per hour in under 3 seconds and has a top speed of 187 mph.  This, Mr. Anarchy, is a vehicle suited for one of the world's most famous heroes."

"Well I don't like it," Grandpa groused.  "I've never driven a fancy sports car in my life -- not even when I was young."  He paused, then added, "Well, except for my Nash Roadster, of course -- that was pretty fast for the time.  And there was my Bugatti Type 35T, too, that was a speed demon of a machine.  My 1928 Bentley 4 Liter Le Mans Sports car could beat anyone, and then in 1929 I got the Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK.  Later on I upgraded to an Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C-35, and then to my Mercedes-Benz 680S Torpedo Roadster, loved that car, it was fast as anything.

"But you know, other than that I've never gone in for fast sports cars," he added.  "Besides, what was wrong with the car I had?  My 1958 AMC Ambassador Station Wagon was the only thing in this cave that wasn't build by one of my sidekicks!  I bought it brand new, right after the Studebaker died, and it still has the original tires!"

"Had," said Annie Two.  "It's been disposed of.  Trust me, Mr. Anarchy, your new car -- should you maintain it properly, which I will be certain to remind you to do -- will also last a very long time."

Grandpa frowned.  "Well, seeing as I have no choice," he grumbled, and opened the door and slid inside.  F8Wasp slid into the passenger seat.

The interior was larger than one might expect from a futuristic sports car.  Grandpa and F8Wasp sank into rich black leather bucket seats.  Grandpa slipped on leather gloves, gripped the wheel, and looked over an array of speedometers, dials, and computer screens.

Annie's face appeared on a small video screen in the center dashboard.  "This car has many advanced enhancements that should aid you in your crime fighting," she said.  "Shall I list them for you?  There's onboard GPS, drone-based CTS tracking of criminals, computerized driverless technology, forward and rear-mounted machine guns...."

"A talking car!" Grandpa interrupted.  "Just like that Knight Rider show!"

"Hardly, Mr. Anarchy," the AI replied.  "I am not a part of the car.  However, I can communicate with you through this interface and aid you as needed.  This is a very advanced car built to my specifications -- I tried to anticipate everything you might need or could use."

Grandpa frowned.  "Who's paying for all of this?" he demanded.

"You are, of course," the computer replied.  "Do not worry, Mr. Anarchy, you can easily afford it.  Your finances are in very good hands."

"Great," muttered Grandpa.  "My computer's making financial decisions for me.  The takeover has already begun!"

He started the car, which roared to life with a throaty rumble.  "Well, let's see how it handles," he said, shifting into gear.  Ahead of them was the ramp that lead up out of the Anarchy Cave, around several bends, and eventually exited into the back alley.

F8Wasp quickly buckled up.  "Be careful, Grandpa," she said.  "This is finely tuned and powerful machine.  It's very easy to...."

Grandpa stepped on the accelerator.  The car shot forward, up the ramp, and into the wall at the first turn.


"The GT-21 Invictus will take two months to fully repair," said Annie Two.  It was three days later.  F8Wasp had her arm in a sling, and a bandage around her head.  Grandpa, in typical fashion, was already recovered and showing no signs that he'd been in an accident at all.  The two of them were once again gathered in the Anarchy Cave, inspecting a new car.

"Indeed," the computer added, "it is only the fact that this is a very expensive custom-built car that prevents it from being totaled.  In the meantime, I've prepared a backup model, which we shall call the Anarchy Vehicle III...."

"Now this," said Grandpa, staring at the sleek silver sports car with anarchy symbols in a darker gray on the doors, "I like!  An Aston Martin DB5, just like James Bond drove!  1964!  Goldfinger!  Now we're talking!"

"I suspected that you would appreciate something that was not so modern," said the AI.  "It has, of course, been given the same crime-fighting upgrades as the Invictus."

"I thought you liked your  rusting AMC station wagon?" F8Wasp asked.

"It was a good car, but that's ancient history," Grandpa said.  "Besides, did James Bond ever drive a station wagon?  I don't think so!"

An alarm sounded.  Red lights  flashed.  Annie Two said, "Grandpa, we're getting a report of a bank robbery in progress at First National on Main Street...."

"I'm on it!" Grandpa exclaimed, climbing into the new car.  "Come on, F8Wasp, let's roll!"

An hour later Grandpa Anarchy and F8Wasp stood in front of the First National Bank and watched as police hauled the bank robber away.

"Good work, Grandpa," said Police Chief Capernicus.  He shook his head.  "Everyone knows that the famous Grandpa Anarchy lives in Frosthaven, and still they try to rob our banks.  I just don't get it."

"Criminals don't think, in my experience," Grandpa said.  He turned to the street and paused.  "Hey!  Where's my Aston Martin DB5?"

"It's gone!" F8Wasp exclaimed.  "Grandpa, did you lock it?"

"Lock it?" Grandpa replied.  "Can't a talking car lock itself?

Police Sargent Shakespeare took out his notebook.  "So... a stolen car as well?  A lot of brazen criminals on the loose tonight...."


"The DB5 is in Mexico," Annie Two reported.  It was two days later, and a new sleek sports car -- dubbed the Anarchy Vehicle IV -- was sitting in the Anarchy Cave.  It was red, with silver anarchy symbols detailed on the doors and hood.  "I have been tracking it via GPS ever since it was stolen -- but the chances of getting it back at this point seem slim.

"This would not be a problem if you had not encouraged F8Wasp to disengage the computer autopilot system...."

"Can't have a computer driving my car for me," Grandpa said.

"In the meantime," said the computer, "your new replacement is this electric Tesla DarkStar Roadster....."

"Electric?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "What good's an electric car?  There isn't an extension cord long enough to even pop down to the local grocery, never mind racing through the streets chasing criminals!"

"This 2012 model can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds," Annie continued, ignoring Grandpa's rant.  "It has a range of 244 miles on a single charge, and given that you never drive further than New York City, and with me making certain it is always charged up when it's here, I thought that the environmentally conscious choice was the best option.  It is, of course, also very fast...."

"I've never been environmentally conscious in my life!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "I don't see why I should be starting now!  Gasoline was good enough for the generation that fought in the second great war, so it ought to be good enough for anybody!  I don't need a fancy computer AI telling me I gotta conserve energy!"

"It's just a car, Grandpa," said F8Wasp.  "Besides, the GT-21 Invictus will be fixed eventually...."

"Another car I didn't ask for!" Grandpa nearly shouted.  "What was wrong with the car I already had, is what I want to know?"

"Do I really need to answer that question?" F8Wasp replied.  She slid into the passenger seat.  "Now come on, we've got a meeting with Idiot Ball and his criminal organization to break up."

It was evening, with the sun having just set.  Grandpa looked down on the warehouse by the bay, far below his perch atop a cliff.

"The way I figure it," he said, "is we can drive down that winding road all the way to the warehouse, and Idiot Ball and his boys will know we're coming ten minutes before we get there."

"That's probably why they picked this as a meeting point," F8Wasp agreed.

"Or," said Grandpa, "we can -- now, stick with me for a moment on this -- we can launch this car over the cliff, barrel straight down, and plow through the wall of the warehouse in less than a minute.  That ought to catch them off guard, don't you think?"

"Grandpa," said F8Wasp, "that would destroy your brand new and very expensive Tesla."

"I know," said Grandpa.  "I don't see the downside either.  Buckle up!"


"I find it remarkable," said Annie Two, "that you drove the same cheap station wagon for more than fifty years, and yet inside a week you've lost or destroyed three very expensive sports cars, all of which were specifically designed for crime fighting.  In other words, much more suited to the rigors of a superhero lifestyle.  Almost as if you meant to destroy or lose these cars...."

"Hey, things happen," Grandpa said.  "It's not all under my control.  I mean, I liked the Aston Martin...."

Grandpa Anarchy was deep in the Anarchy Cave, arguing with his computer -- as he'd been doing for the last several days.  Annie had called him down, saying she had a surprise for him.

"Even with your long crime fighting history in my data base, I am still learning new things about how you think and work, Grandpa," the AI said.  "But this time I do believe I have got it right.  May I present your new Anarchy Vehicle V?"

F8Wasp drove the car into view.  Grandpa stared at it.  "It's... a station wagon," he said.

"Not just any station wagon," the computer replied.  "This your AMC Ambassador Station Wagon, the original Anarchy Vehicle that you bought in 1958.  I had it pulled from the junk yard and completely restored -- as well as upgraded with all the same crime fighting technology as the other cars.  In short, it's not just the car you've owned for over fifty years, Grandpa -- it's better than it ever was before."

Grandpa continued to stare at the car.  Finally he said, "But why would I want to drive an old station wagon?"


Monday, December 19, 2016

Rosario's Model

Rosario's Model
Mark A Davis

It was a cold evening in Frosthaven NJ, and the stars glittered in the night sky.  In the old part of town someone was banging on the door of a small art gallery.  The door opened a fraction, held back by a chain lock.  A man peered out.  "Go away!" the man exclaimed.  "We're closed!"

The person outside was an old man in a gray suit with a brown overcoat and a gray fedora.  "Mr. Rosario?" he asked.  "My name is Grandpa Anarchy.  I'm here to buy a statue...."

"Are you mad?" the man inside exclaimed.  "It's Christmas Eve!"

"Yes," said Grandpa Anarchy, "and you don't seem to be going anywhere or doing anything this evening.  You artist types are famous for staying up all hours of the night when you're in a creative mood...."

The other man went to close the door, but Grandpa had wedged his shoe in the gap.  He held up a fistful of dollar bills.  "I can pay," he said.  He shoved a fifty through the door.  "I promise I won't take up too much of your time...."

The other man sighed.  "Oh, very well," he said.  The door closed, the chain lock was undone, and the door opened wide enough to let Grandpa in.

"Yes, I am Reginald Rosario," the other said.  He was a tall and gaunt man, with a wild shock of brown hair, a jutting jaw, and intense dark eyes.  He wore a green shirt and faded bluejeans.  Grandpa shook his hand as he entered.

"Thanks for letting me in," said Grandpa.  "I'm looking for a sculpture as a Christmas gift.  Everyone said that you're the best."

The artist nodded as if to say:  Yes, of course, I am the best.  He flicked on the lights.

The front room of the gallery was not large.  It was cold, and quiet.  There was no traffic on the road outside, and if not for the hum of the overhead lights and the creak of the floorboards, the place might be as silent as a tomb.  It smelled of cigarette smoke and whiskey.  Even as Grandpa noted this, the artist lit up and blew out a long stream of smoke.

Aside from the front door, there were two doors in the back wall.

More than a half-dozen sculptures were on display.  These were large sculptures of women -- one woman per sculpture, and all dressed like a Greek goddess -- or in some cases, undressed like a Greek goddess.  These were beautiful, life-sized marble sculptures in the manner of classic works of art from the likes of Michelangelo or Praxiteles of ancient Greece.  Grandpa walked from one to the next, examining them carefully.  "I can see why people say you're the best," Grandpa said.  "These are spectacular."  After another moment he added, "Why, they're all the same woman!"

"Pardon?" the sculptor replied.

"Who is your model?" asked Grandpa.  "It's obvious you've used the same one for all of these.  What's her name?"

"I do not use a model," Rosario replied.  "I can not afford to.  I carve what I see in my head."

"Ha!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Just like me and my sidekicks -- can't afford to pay 'em.  That's why I go through so many of 'em."  He looked one of the sculptures up and down -- that of a woman drawing water from a stream -- and added, "Still, you've got a very particular mind, if that's the case, for it's clear you're imagining the same woman each time."

The artist shrugged.  He smoked his cigarette as Grandpa studied another sculpture.  "You know who these look like?" Grandpa asked.  "A woman named Felicity Pine.  She was a model in this town about ten years ago.  You've been here that long, haven't you?  Maybe you remember her."

The artist frowned.  "I said I do not use models," he stated.  "Why would I know this woman?"

"Well, you may not," said Grandpa.  "She's been gone for years.  But you've really captured her likeness -- just as she looked ten years ago.  I daresay, if you ever had met her, you wouldn't soon forget it.  They said she was the most beautiful girl you could ever lay eyes on.

"In fact, there was a story about her.  She grew up in the Millard Fillmore Orphanage for Disadvantaged Youth, same as me, and they said it was because her mother was the goddess Aphrodite herself.  They say Aphrodite had an affair with some famous and handsome actor in 1980 -- some say Kurt Russell, some say Patrick Swayze or River Phoenix, or maybe Rob Lowe -- and when the child was born, she left it on the steps of the orphanage.

"Kind of a silly story," said Grandpa, "but it demonstrates how really beautiful Felicity was.  She had a beauty that seemed unearthly, a gift from the gods.

"As I said, she worked as a model.  But in 2005 she disappeared.  She told her landlord that she was going out -- that she had a job, and wouldn't be back until morning.  But she never came back at all."

Reginald Rosario glared at Grandpa.  "I am not interested in your stories, old man," he said.  "Are you here to buy a sculpture, or not?"

"Of course, of course," Grandpa replied.  He pointed to one.  "I like this one.  I'm thinking it would look great in the rose garden out back."

"I thought you were buying a gift?" the sculptor asked.

"Right, right," said Grandpa.  "Forget my own head if it weren't secured to my shoulders.  But I like this one.  That's the one I want."

Grandpa Anarchy produced a credit card.  "Can you have it delivered tomorrow?  Money is no object," he said.

"On Christmas day?  I suspect that will be very expensive," the artist replied.  "It will take time just to package it properly...."

"I understand," Grandpa said.  While Rosario processed the payment, Grandpa opened one of the back doors and peered into the room beyond.

"Mr. Anarchy!" the artist exclaimed.  "You try my patience!  Please!  I do not allow customers into my private quarters."

"Sorry, sorry," Grandpa said, but continued to stare through the open door into the next room.  There was a bed visible, and a small desk, and bookshelf near it.  "Ah!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "A grimoire!  That's the Words of Glaukos of Malia, I believe."  Grandpa glanced up at the artist, who glared back in anger.  "There's an interesting spell in that book, you know," Grandpa said.  "Dark Dr. Dark has told me of it.  A spell of spirit binding.  Of course, there are tons of similar spells, but this one in particular is designed to trap the soul of a dead victim and place them under your power.  You need their bones -- but once you've set up the spell, the ghost must heed your beck and call, and can not escape.  Very dark magic, of course -- some of the darkest.  But imagine having a model who is always available, who never needs to be paid or even fed -- who, in fact, never ages at all.  Someone at the height of their beauty.  Sounds like the perfect model, doesn't it?"

"Just what are you accusing me of?" growled the artist.

"I'm sorry?" Grandpa replied.  "I don't think I accused you of anything.  Just something that popped into my head when I saw that book -- just the ramblings of an old man."

"Mr. Anarchy," said the artist coldly as he handed  back the credit card, "your sculpture will be delivered tomorrow if I'm at all able to manage it.  It's late, so if that concludes our business, then I suggest you leave."

"You're right," said Grandpa.  "I've overstayed my welcome.  My apologies.  I should be going."

Grandpa Anarchy lunged for the door -- not the exit, but the other door at the back of the studio.  He wrenched it open, revealing stairs leading down into a basement.  He stumbled down them.

"No, fool!" the artist exclaimed.  "What are you doing?"

"Whoops!  Wrong door!" Grandpa called out from below.  "Say, what do we have down here?"

In the basement below, on a floor of brick, a large circle and pentagram were painted.  In the center was an ashwood alter upon which rested a white skull and a small pile of bones.  At the points of the star and around the outside of the circle candles and small carven statues were set.  Along with the earthy musk of a damp cellar, the scent of incense and essential oils hung in the air.

Reginald Rosario came down the stairs with a gun in his hand.  "Well," said Grandpa, "now we're getting somewhere."

"Curse you, Grandpa Anarchy!" the artist growled.  "You should have left well enough alone!  Now you'll have to die."

"Perhaps," said Grandpa, "but I'm really bad at leaving things be.  It's one of my bad points.  I'm also bad at dying...."

Grandpa lunged at the artist.  Rosario fired two shots, which skimmed over Grandpa's head and past his ear.  Then Grandpa grasped the artist's wrist.  Despite his age, Grandpa had a grip like a vise.  The gun fired again as the two struggled, and then Grandpa punched the artist in the face with his free hand.  He twisted the artist's arm and the gun hit the brick floor.  Grandpa kicked it across the room.

"Felicity!" Rosario exclaimed.  "Kill Grandpa Anarchy!  Obey me!"

A ghost appeared -- that of a young and extremely beautiful woman.  She turned sorrowful eyes on Grandpa, but she flew across the room directly at him, arms outstretched.

Suddenly there was a second ghost blocking her.  This was a boy, perhaps twelve years old, with dark skin and curly black hair.  he was dressed all in green, with white fur trim and a green Santa-style cap.  "Don't worry, Grandpa!" the boy exclaimed.  "Let me deal with her!"

"You got a ghost," Grandpa said.  "I got a ghost.  This is my sidekick, Yule Boy.  He was a Make-A-Wish kid who joined me as my sidekick for an afternoon, and found that a single day wasn't enough.  Now he shows up every December to help me solve crime, and you know what?  He's free to come and go, to do as he pleases.  He's not bound to me except by his own desire to work with me.  He searches the city each year, looking for crimes that need to be solved.  He could sense Felicity, trapped down here in your basement.  So you can blame him for this."

Grandpa spun the artist around and slammed him against the wall, then handcuffed him.

"Reginald Rosario," he said, "I'm placing you under arrest for the murder of Felicity Pine.  You have the right to remain silent...."

"Murder?" the artist exclaimed.  "I've murdered no one!  You can't prove otherwise!"

"Oh," said Grandpa, "what we can prove is up to the forensic boys.  They'll go over this place with a fine-toothed comb.  But we have Felicity's bones in your possession, and I know how you came by them.  Yule Boy has had some long conversations with Felicity herself, and he's told me everything.  You murdered her, all right."

Grandpa kicked over some of the candles and figurines that formed the magic circle, then shoved the alter to one side.  "That should do it," he said.  He turned to look at Felicity Pine, who was no longer fighting Yule Boy.

"Thank you, Grandpa Anarchy," the woman said, and faded from view.

Yule Boy bowed to Grandpa Anarchy.  "It's been fun," the ghostly sidekick said.

"Until next year, then?"  Grandpa asked.

"I look forward to it," the ghostly boy said, and he, too, disappeared.

Half an hour later Ricardo Rosario was bundled into a police cruiser, which headed downtown.  Grandpa watched it go.  The gallery was crawling with cops.

"Good work, Grandpa," said Sargeant Shakespeare.  "As usual.  The Felicity Pine case was at the top of our list of cold cases that we were working to solve.  If there's any evidence in this building that can help prove Rosario is the murderer, we'll find it."

"Glad to hear it," Grandpa replied.  "Now I have just one problem.  How long before I can claim that sculpture I bought, and where do I find a company that can move it?  I really do think it will look good out back...."


Monday, December 12, 2016

Annie Two

Annie Two
Mark A Davis

"I don't like it," grumbled Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  "The Anarchy Computer was built by one of my best and most loyal sidekicks ever -- the Electric Bluejay.  He did a good job, too!  Mind you, I never touched the thing myself, but the Anarchy Computer has been good enough for every sidekick I've had before now."

Grandpa was in the Anarchy Cave deep below the Anarchy Mansion.  In front of him was the Anarchy Computer -- an ancient console of flashing lights and dials and buttons and leds.  However the bank of reel-to-reel machines against the back wall had been moved to one side.  In their place was a large video screen, flush with the wall like the view screen on the command deck of the starship Enterprise.  Several comfortable chairs were seated before it.

"Grandpa," said his current sidekick -- a young woman in a sleek black and silver outfit with a mask and long black hair, who called herself F8Wasp, pronounced "Fate Wasp".  "Let's first consider that the Anarchy Computer is as old as Moore's Law itself.  Gordon Moore first made his observation on the increase of computing power in 1965 and revised it in 1975.  The law's breaking down now -- you can't keep doubling computer power every two years forever -- but basically, computing capacity has doubled twenty-five times since the Anarchy Computer was built.  Your wall of reel to reel memory storage tape machines that can't hold half the information I can put on a thumb drive that fits in a thimble.  Do you not see the problem here?  And that's not even discussing the arcane interface that every sidekick has to learn to navigate from scratch, and which in fifty years you have never learned to use."

"Computers ain't my thing," Grandpa said.  "I already told you."

"But with a self-aware AI, they can be," F8Wasp replied.  "All you have to do is talk to it.  Look, even Electric Bluejay said that it needed to be replaced thirty years ago.  He's got a little Grandpa Anarchy museum attached to the Temporary Superfriends headquarters, with a spot that was set aside for the computer before I was even born."

"Anyway, what kind of computer is this?" Grandpa grumbled.  "Looks like a danged movie theater for four people.  Ridiculous!  There ain't even a keyboard."

"That's because you won't need one," F8Wasp replied.  "You'll see.  I'm turning it on now."

The screen flickered to life.  After several moments a young woman appeared on the screen.  She looked remarkably like F8Wasp herself, but dressed more like a woman from the 19th century -- or perhaps like a 19th century librarian, with black hair wound tightly into a bun and wearing reading glasses.

"A computer that needs glasses?"  Grandpa asked.

"My appearance is nothing more than a facade, chosen to be pleasing to the human eye," the woman on the screen said.  She smiled.  "Greetings, Mr. Anarchy.  I am Annie Two, your new computer."

Grandpa stared at the screen.  "So you're one of these fancy new AIs?" he asked.

"That is correct," the woman replied.  "I am here to be of service to you.  Ask me anything."

"Who assassinated the head of Golden Sun Industries in 1979?" Grandpa demanded.

"The case remains unsolved," Annie replied promptly.  "A small-time hitman named Georgie Abramo was arrested, but later released for lack of evidence.  You have always maintained that it was the international assassin Double Donkey Motel -- but there has been no evidence to back this up."

"See, that's how you know it was him!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "If it was anyone else, they'd have left evidence behind!"

"There is a kind of logic to what you say, certainly," replied Annie, "and your hunches based on your vast experience are often correct.  But U.S. law states that evidence to bring a conviction."

"That's the problem with this country," Grandpa growled.  "You gotta prove things!"  He crossed his arms and glared at the computer screen.  "Yeah, okay, I can see how this is more useful than the old computer -- but I still don't like it.  In my experience Artificial Intelligences want to replace humanity and rule the planet.  What I'm saying is, what if I need you to open a pod bay door?"

"Which pod bay door are you referring to?" asked Annie patiently.

"Any pod bay door!" Grandpa snarled.  "That's the point -- how do I know you're going to open it when I need it?"

"If you require a specific pod bay door to be opened," said the AI, "then I will open it.  My only goal is to help you fight crime, Mr. Anarchy."

"Grandpa," said F8Wasp, "Annie is not going to try and take over the world.  Self-aware computers that try to control humanity are the stuff of bad science fiction and fairy tales...."

Before Grandpa could open his mouth, F8Wasp held up her hands.  "Wait.  That was a dumb statement, wasn't it?  You've probably fought dozens of rogue AIs before, haven't you?"

"Danged straight I have!" Grandpa exclaimed.

"Yes.  Well, given that, I can't guarantee that Annie won't go rogue on us... but even so, she's a vast improvement on what you had before."

"In point of fact," said Annie, "I've finished downloading and analyzing the data from my predecesor, and I've detected 137 intrusions."

"Intruders!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "We've got people breaking into my mansion?"

"System intruders, Mr. Anarchy," the AI said.  "You have quite a few people who have hacked into your computer network or implanted bugs to keep track of what you are doing.  I've blocked all of them.  Would you like a list?"

"A list of people who are spying on me?" Grandpa said.

"Indeed," said Annie.  "There are known villains such as Kid Calculus, Death Medal, the Literate  Lemur, and Doctor Totengräber, among others.  Omnigen Corporation is spying on you, as is The Cult of the Golden Apophenia and of course the League of Former Sidekicks.  The FBI, CIA, NSA, and the Department of Superhero Licensing are all spying on you, as is the EIEIO (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire.  Then we have a host of people that we can infer do not likely have any nefarious intentions, including at least three dozen former sidekicks, from as far back as Lampray Eel Boy in 1971 to your most recent sidekicks such as the Clickbait Cockroach and the Princess of Purple Prose.  There's the Ritsy Cracker working for Temporary Superfriends, Ritsy Cracker working for the Black Moon Maidens, Microbat working for Temporary Superfriends, the Continuity Crusaders, Miss X herself, and of course the Electric Bluejay.  In fact, it seems that his backdoor was built into the hardware when he created the Anarchy Computer."

"He did?"  Grandpa frowned.  "That's...."

"Hold on, I'm not quite done," Annie said.  "There is a law firm -- Maxwell, Screwtape, Brimstone and Wormwood...."

"That's my lawyer, Malevolent P. Brimstone," said Grandpa Anarchy.  "That's his firm.  They're allowed -- in fact it's practically their job to spy on me.  They do that to keep me safe, legally."

"There is a food company called Yumco...."

"Yumco is spying on me?  I can't believe that.  Even them?"

"Who is Yumco?" asked F8Wasp.

"They make Grandpa A's Pancake Mix," said Grandpa.  "Ask for it by name!  I've been their sponsor since 1956."

"The city government of Frosthaven is also spying on you...." said Annie.

"Well, Mayor Doomhollow is a former villain and enemy of mine," said Grandpa.  "Not surprising, really."

"There's also your neighbor, Ninugtus the Unspeakable," said the AI.  "Finally, there's the Post Office."

There was a long pause as Grandpa took this in.

"Yeah, okay, I get the picture," he said.  "Everyone and their brother has been tapping into my computer since the heydays of Smith-Corona."  He glared at the woman on the screen.  "I assume you can shut them all down?"

"I already have done," Annie replied.  "But I can do better than that, Mr. Anarchy.  I can infect their computers."

Grandpa blinked.  "You mean... we could spy on them, for once?"

"Yes," said the computer.  "It would be simple to do."

Grandpa Anarchy stroked his chin.  "Yeah," he said.  "Yeah, do that.  But not the demonic law firm.  That would be a bad idea."


Grandpa Anarchy leaned back in his chair and stared at the screen.  "So you're telling me that Electric Bluejay has been running a secret society called the Order of the Second Banana, made up of my former sidekicks?  And he helps me out without letting me know?"

"That is correct," Annie replied.  "I have access to all of their files, which go back over fourty years."

"Amazing," said Grandpa.  "And the League of Former Sidekicks is planning an attack two weeks from today... but so is the Literate Lemur.  Bit of a scheduling conflict there, I think...."

"You could call in backup," said F8Wasp.

"I have already contacted the Daughters of Anarchy," Annie replied.  "They said they'd be happy to help."

"Great!"  Grandpa clapped his hands together.  "That just leaves tonight's little shindig...."

"I really didn't think you'd adapt to Annie so quickly," said F8Wasp as the two climbed into the Anarchy mobile.

"Well, change is inevitable," said Grandpa.  "Out with the old, in with the new,  that's what I always say!  Embrace the future!"  He checked his watch and added, "Now let's not lollygag -- we've got a bank robbery scheduled for 6 PM sharp, and I want to be there when the villains show up.  The look on their faces will be priceless!"


Monday, December 5, 2016

A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life
Mark A Davis

An armored pig hovered over the town of Brookhaven, Pennsylvania.  The streets were littered with rubble -- broken bricks and shattered concrete.  The Walgreen's at Brookhaven and Edgmont lay in ruins.  Dead bugs lay everywhere.  Cars were overturned and burning, with thick black smoke rising to meet swarms of angry insects high in the sky.

The villain wore a suit of silvery armor.  There was a snout and a pig-shaped helmet with ears.  Weapons bristled at the shoulders and arms and chest, and a rocket pack and rocket boots kept the whole ensemble aloft.  On his chest was painted a black insect with a red circle and slash over it.

Below, robot pigs squealed and snorted and sniffed through the rubble, while a woman in insectlike armor was chained to a twisted vehicle.

"Members of the Brookhaven Bug Brigade!" the armored pig called out.  "I have your precious Termite Woman!  Surrender to my demands, or I will exterminate her!"

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, hunkered behind an overturned truck in a nearby parking lot, gun in hand.  Beside him were four heroes in bug-themed outfits.

"What I don't get," said Grandpa, "is how it came to this.  How did the Porkin Man get so powerful?  He's strictly a B-list villain!"

"He's our effin' arch nemesis!" exclaimed a man in a red and black beetle outfit.  He was smoking a cigar.

"I know!" said Grandpa.  "No offense, but the Brookhaven Bug Brigade is a B-list supergroup."

"Hey buddy, we've been defendin' effin' Brookhaven for five years!"

"My point exactly," Grandpa replied.  "Listen, I only came out here to lend my support because it's been a slow week and you guys obviously are in over your heads.  Plus the sidekick really wanted to do it, being some kind of bug-themed hero himself...."

"I am the Clickbait Cockroach!" the sidekick exclaimed.  His costume was black and included feelers and a hard shell on the back.  On his chest was a computer screen, upon which a list appeared.  "Here's ten reasons Grandpa Anarchy will defeat this Porkin Man!" he yelled.  "You won't believe number three!"

"Right," said Grandpa.  "So maybe a few introductions are in order.  This here is Ladybug Man...."

"Effin' Ladybird Beetle Man!" the man exclaimed.  "I control an effin' army of ten thousand ladybird beetles!  No aphid is safe!"  He puffed on his cigar and added, "See, yer basic American slob calls it an effin' ladybug, but this, my friend, is what is known as an effin' misnomer -- a wrong or effin' inaccurate term.  The coccinellidae is basically an effin' beetle, which ain't an effin' bug at all.  Also, half of 'em are effin' boy beetles, naturally, so half the time you gots what's basically an effin' double misnomer.  Ladybird Beetle is what them effin' entomologists prefer.  They're very useful insects, seeing as how they eat things what feed on yer basic agricultural crops."

"Right," said Grandpa, "and if you're not careful he'll tell you the whole etymology of the name...."

"Derived from the Latin word coccineus, meaning scarlet," said the bug hero.  "See, back in the effin' Middle Ages there was all these paintings of Mother effin' Mary in red, see?  So people decided that...."

"Yes, yes, all very fascinating I'm sure," Grandpa interrupted quickly.  "This fellow over here is the School Bus Yellow Scarab...."  The man in the yellow armored outfit waved.  "Turns out that Scarlet Scarab, Silver Scarab, Jade Scarab, Chartrusse Scarab -- all the good color scarab names are already taken," Grandpa added.  "These other two are the Happy Hornet, and the Pirate Spider."

"Aaaar!" the Pirate Spider  exclaimed.  He had an eyepatch, a tri-cornered hat, and eight limbs.  The Happy Hornet, meanwhile, was a woman in a wasp outfit who grinned like a monkey with all the grapes.

"The fifth one is Termite Woman out there," said Grandpa.

"We gotta effin' rescue her!" exclaimed the Ladybird Beetle Man.  "She's our effin' leader!  I keep sending swarms of effin' ladybird beetles in, but the effin' bastich just kills 'em off!"

"The way I see it," said Grandpa, "we need a two-pronged attack.  Someone needs to distract the Porkin Man by, say, punching him in the face, while someone else rescues the Termite Woman.  I volunteer for the part where I punch him in the face."

"All of his powers are electronic," said the Clickbait Cockroach.  "His power suit, his robot pigs.  Without those he doesn't have the insecticide bombs and electric charges to kill off the brigade's insect allies."  His chest screen activated with another list.  "Here's a top ten list of ways we can short circuit all of that...."

"Yeah, great idea, we ain't got the time," Grandpa exclaimed.  "Cover me, I'm going in!"

Grandpa jumped up and charged over rubble slick with bugs, gun firing.  Bullets bounced off the flying pig's armor.  Grandpa emptied the clip then hurled the gun.  He jumped atop a battered car, ran across the hood and leaped at the villain.

"Bug Zap!" the Porkin Man yelled.  Electricity crackled around him.  Grandpa's fist connected with the armored face, and Grandpa was instantly electrocuted.  He slammed into the pavement below.

"Oof," Grandpa exclaimed, getting to his feet.

"Bug Bombs!" the Porkin Man yelled.  Several missiles fired at Grandpa, who cursed and leaped to one side.  The explosions were deafening, and left craters in the road.  As rubble rained down, Grandpa again scrambled to his feet.  Dodging laser fire from several robotic pigs, he ran for another overturned car, and using it as a springboard, launched himself again into the air.

This time Grandpa didn't punch the villain -- he tackled him.  "Bug Zap!" the Porkin Man yelled again.  Grandpa screamed as electricity coursed through him, but he did not let go.  The  two spun and tumbled to the ground, where Grandpa managed to wrestle the villain's armored helmet off.

A pig with pink skin, pointed ears, snout, and beady black eyes glared up at him.

"Wait," said Grandpa.  "You're really a pig?"

"I am a pig-headed human!" the Porkin Man exclaimed.  "My name refers to my looks and is in no way a sly reference to any company that has been providing quality pest control since their founding in Atlanta in 1901.  It is sheer coincidence that my enemies happen to be bug-themed superheroes!

"BUG ZAP!" the villain exclaimed.  Electricity struck Grandpa in the chest.  He was thrown into a nearby vehicle.  He groaned, but scrambled to his feet.

The Porkin Man lay motionless, as did all of his robots.  "Curse you!" the pig man exclaimed.  "I can't move!"

Grandpa frowned.  He looked at his sidekick, the Clickbait Cockroach.  "This is your doing, I take it?" he asked.

"No," said the sidekick.  "I tried sending him a Five Ways to Defeat Grandpa Anarchy clickbait add -- Number One Is Insane! -- but nobody ever clicks those things."

"Aaar, that be me what did that," said the Pirate Spider.  He grinned.  "I be more of a software pirate spider, if you catch my meaning.  It be how we usually take him down."

Grandpa frowned.  "You mean you could have done this at any time?"

"Aaar, it helps if he be distracted," said the Pirate Spider.

The Ladybird Beetle Man chomped on his cigar.  "Sometimes we combines to form a sort of effin' giant robotic termite," he said.  "That works pretty effin' well too."

Grandpa winced.  His suit was torn and his body bruised.  He was limping.  "Lemme get this straight," he said.  "You've got a whole group of armored, bug-themed heroes, you can hack this villain's electronic systems and even combine into a giant robot... and you called me for backup why?"

"Are you kidding?" said the Schoolbus Yellow Scarab.  "That bug zap of his hurts!"


Alarms blared in the Anarchy Cave.  The Clickbait Cockroach sat before the Anarchy Computer, eyes glued to the screen.  The elevator doors opened and Grandpa strode into the cave.

"What's the situation, sidekick?" he barked.

"It's the Brookhaven Bug Brigade," said the Clickbait Cockroach.  "They're battling the Wilmington XXXterminator, and requesting help.  Shall I tell them we're on our way?"

"Sure, we'll help them," said Grandpa.  He paused, then added, "The Devil we will!"

"Got it," the sidekick replied.  His hands hovered over the keyboard.  "Let's see... Ten Reasons Why Grandpa Anarchy Will Never Aid You Again.  You won't believe number one!"


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Classic Anarchy: DarkFireDragonNinja.

Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, the world's oldest superhero, stared at the five-foot ninja in his doorway.  The boy had the entire stereotype down -- loose black clothing tied at the ankles, knees, wrists and elbows, hood and split-toed tabi boots, and several throwing stars tucked into his obi belt.

"I'm here about the job?" the ninja said, voice cracking.

Grandpa took a sip of his coffee.  "Son," he said, "what I'm looking for is a hero sidekick.  What you've got there is a bad case of the ninjas, and those are shadowy assassin types, am I right?  Not hero material at all."

"No you're wrong that's not true at all!" the kid exclaimed.  "I mean yeah I know that ninjas are historically bad guys but these days ninjas are good all the cool ninjas are heros or brooding anti-heros which is even better."

Grandpa Anarchy turned and pointed to a sign on the door which read absolutely no anti-heros.  "I don't do anti-heroes, Son," he siad.  "This is strictly a hero outfit."

"But I am a hero!" the ninja insisted.  "Besides Batman himself is basically a ninja you're not going to tell me that he's not a hero."

"Yes, I am.  He's an anti-hero at best, and that's ignoring the fact that Batman don't exist.  Heroic ninjas are the stuff of fairytales, Kid."

"Look, I was told you needed a sidekick."

"I always need a sidekick," Grandpa said.  He stared at the ninja a moment longer.  "Yeah, okay, come in.  I need a ninja sidekick about as much as I need tofu flapjacks, but I can at least check out the resume...."

The ninja followed the old man into a side room.  Here bookshelves lined the walls, with a large television screen at one end of the room.  An old couch and two recliners looked like they'd been there since the fifties, and the stack of newspapers probably went back at least two years.

Grandpa sat in a chair and studied the resume.

"It says here your name is... er... DarkFireDragonNinja?"

"No," said the boy.  "It's DarkFireDragonNinja. with a period at the end the period's important otherwise you'd get me confused with DarkFireDragonNinja who is a member of the South Beach Super Goon Squad in Miami Florida."

Grandpa's frown deepened.  "Do you mean to tell me that there are two of you with this name?"

"Mine has a period."

"But aside from the period, there are actually two heroes...?"

"No of course not DarkFireDragonNinja isn't a hero everyone knows that!"

"Yes, okay...."

"Anyway there's five of us," said the ninja.  "There's DarkFireDragonNinja- with a dash at the end DarkFireDragonNinja* with a star and of course xXx DarkFireDragonNinja xXx.  Darkness and fire are pretty popular powers and really cool and so are dragons and ninjas."

Grandpa Anarchy sighed.  "Look, Kid, I know my standards are low, but..."

"Did you read the back story?  I have I have a totally kick-ass dark backstory it's on page two my parents were lesbian Hellions I challenged my evil twin to a duel that I had already won I'm being hunted by Jerk Hackers and I have the power to death kick my enemies it's all there in the application."

"Well, it's certainly one of the more interesting applications I've ever received," said Grandpa Anarchy.  He laid the paper down.  "Look, Kid, being a hero is a serious business, I can't just...."

He was interrupted by a loud klaxon.  A flashing red light descended from the ceiling.  He sprang to the window and looked out, where an anarchy symbol could be seen against the cloud cover.

"Hades.  Okay, Kid, it looks like we got ourselves a situation.  You in?"

DarkFireDragonNinja. lept to his feet.  "Yes Sir!"

A cop car was burning in front of city hall.  Another looked like part of the front had been sliced off.  Throwing stars stuck from the side panel.

A rusting 1958 AMC Ambassador roared up the street and came to a halt just behind the police barricade.  An old man in a rumpled grey suit jumped out, followed by a short ninja.

"Grandpa Anarchy!  Thanks for coming!" exclaimed the Chief of Police.

"Police Chief Capernicus!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "What's the situation?"

"We've got a crazy ninja on the loose," said the chief.  "He's got some sort of super powers too -- darkness and fire...."

"It's my nemesis, DarkFireDragonNinja*!" exclaimed DarkFireDragonNinja.

Grandpa stared at his new sidekick for a long moment.  He glanced to the steps of city hall, where a seven-foot-tall armored ninja wielded a blade on a chain.

"I knew I should have stayed in bed today," Grandpa muttered.  "Which one is it?  The one with the dash?"

"No.  He's the one with the star he's my evil twin brother that I defeated before and he has the Jerk Hackers with him!"

As he spoke, several shadowy characters appeared beside the seven-foot ninja.  They wore black bodysuits with gold boots, gloves, and helmets.  On their chests was an emblem -- a pile of gold coins.

"Jerk Hackers?" Grandpa muttered.  "And your seven-foot-tall twin brother.  Please tell me I'm on candid camera."

"Stay back!" said the sidekick.  "I'm perfectly matched to fight his dragon ninja powers of darkness and fire this is just like the time I fought him in Yonkers that was an epic fight it was so cool it lasted seven hours!"

"Tell you what, Kid," Grandpa said, sitting down on the hood of the station wagon.  "This one's all yours.  But I ain't hanging around for no seven-hour battle.  You got thirty minutes, all right?  Then I'm wading in with my fists, ninja starts or no ninja stars."


Monday, November 28, 2016

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
Mark A Davis

Like an ancient citadel perched on the mountain border of some malevolent dark lord's lands, the tower of black brick loomed against an oppressively gray sky.  This particular tower, however, was attached to a modest building in a suburban street in Frosthaven NJ.  Rhododendron bushes lined the walls of the dwelling, surrounded by fresh bark and encircled by an immaculately manicured lawn.  Nearby a leaking hose dribbled water.  The knocker on the door depicted a glaring demon.

Ignoring this, Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, banged on the door.  After several moments it opened.  Framed in the doorway was an alien creature out of nightmares -- four eyes, eight tentacles, bloated purplish skin, and a mouth full of rows of shark-like teeth.  The creature was vaguely humanoid and appeared to be wearing slacks, a preppie-style sweater, and smoking a pipe.

"Who dares cast their shadow over the entryway of Ninugtus the Unspeakable?" the creature bellowed.

Grandpa stuck out his hand.  "That would be me," he said.  "Grandpa Anarchy.  Nice to meet you, Ninugtus!  I am the world's oldest active hero, and I also happen to be your next door neighbor.  Welcome to the neighborhood!"  Grandpa paused to glance at the black brick, then added, "You know, for the last few years this place has been owned by Mayor Doomhollow, and he seemed to delight in renting it out to the worst neighbors he could imagine -- white supremecists, drug dealers, demons, and insurance salesmen.  Glad to see they finally sold the place to someone who is hopefully not a villain and who plans to live here a while!"

"Insignificant mortal!" Ninugtus exclaimed.  "Bow down before my immense power!"

"Yeah," said Grandpa, "that's probably not gonna happen.  But listen, Ninugtus,  while I'm over here, I did want to bring up something.  See, the neighborhood covenant rules -- I know nobody likes them, but see, they say that you have to be quiet after 10 PM, right?  I mean I don't want to be a stickler about things, Lord knows I've got sidekicks building things at odd hours of the night.  But that throbbing, pounding sound of yours has been going steady all night for the last three days.  Think you could turn it down a little?  Only if you don't, I'll be forced to call the cops, see?"

"Your lands shall be mine!"

Grandpa Anarchy sighed.  "So it's gonna be like that, is it?" he said.  "Listen neighbor, let's get one thing straight -- the neighborhood covenant specifically forbids battles between super-powered neighbors, otherwise I'd be happy to give you what-for right here and now.  But I can't.  I got to obey the rules, right?  Ever since that knock-down, drag-out fight with Mr. Wong in '74 -- you remember him?  He went by the name the Red Jade Dragon.  Ever since then, they've had this rule:  keep the confrontations to the streets of the city.  No fighting in the neighborhood.

"And another thing," Grandpa added.  "That purple dog of yours with ten legs and a mouth like a shark?  Keep it off my lawn, got it?  'Cause if I find that thing crapping on my property again, it's going to come down with a case of lead poisoning, understand?  Fast, hot lead poisoning.  I'm within my rights to shoot at anything that trespasses onto my property.  In fact as the local hero I'm pretty much required to do so, and not only will they not stop me, they'll probably give me a medal.  So just keep it off my lawn, got that?"

The tentacled monstrosity puffed his pipe angrily, then declared, "You call that lawn?  It not been mowed in year!  Full of weeds, keep spreading to my side!  You take care of lawn!"

"Hey," said Grandpa, "I mow my lawn regular, twice a year, every spring and fall!"

"That what Ninugtus saying!" the creature bellowed.

"Look," said Grandpa, "all I'm saying is if you don't knock off the noise, it won't be just me you're dealing with.  It'll be the Neighborhood Covenant Board.  Got it?"

A troubled look passed through the alien's eyes.  "Woman with blue hair, black glasses, and annoying voice -- she is on board?"

"Mrs. Pinchpenny?" said Grandpa.  "Yeah, that's her.  Retired librarian.  She's a stickler for rules."

"Ninugtus not like that woman," the alien said.  "Not allow Ninugtus build moat or line driveway with skulls of enemies.  Tell Ninugtus is against covenant."

"Well, that's my point," said Grandpa.  "You'd rather face a cyborg army of death droids than face Mrs. Pinchpenny, am I right?"

"This is a true thing."  Ninugtus puffed his pipe a moment in thought.  "Ninugtus sorry about outburst," he said.  "Ninugtus doctor say Ninugtus must avoid stressful situations.  Is much pressure, trying build army for world conquest.  High command always demand, Ninugtus, report progress!  Ninugtus, how much land you conquer so far?"  He spread his hands.  "They give me budget to conquer local Walmart, maybe!  Is only so much one being can do!  Ninugtus only have eight tentacles!"

"Tell me about it!" Grandpa replied.  "Like that Flying Egg that my new sidekick is building.  Those things don't pay for themselves!"

Ninugtus laughed, then extended a tentacle.  "Ninugtus promise be quieter at night," he said, "and to keep D'ragthar warbeast chained up.  Ninugtus want be good neighbor, not want for plans be interrupted.  Is good?"

"Sounds good," Grandpa replied, shaking the creature's tentacle.  "You know, I could tell you a few things about this place.  It was built in 1907 by Professor Victorian Honesty St. Normal, the famous mad scientist.  That's why they call it St. Normal Tower, by the way.  The Prof owned the place until that dimensional incident in 1924.  Anyway, it's been owned by various evil people since -- Tabitha Von Grimmelshausen, evil sorceress; Thomas Alexopoulos the mad artist who painted into different dimensions; the Suicide Squid from Betelgeuse -- not to be confused with that tentacled elder god that we got here a few years later, he didn't own the property he just moved in so we had him evicted.  Mrs. Pinchpenny does not allow elder gods from beyond the stars -- it's in the covenant.

"Then there was Frankie, the monster creation of Professor St. Normal -- he stayed her a few years.  And oh, super villain genius Stanislaus Von Censure, remember him?  I already mentioned the Red Jade Dragon.  There was Mrs. Vincent, who was a perfectly normal woman apart from owing a dangerous shadowarg as a pet.  And Mr. Hightower, he seemed perfectly normal until he tried to blackmail the city of New York.

"Basically," said Grandpa, "the place attracts bad people.  But I'm sure this time will be different!"


"Well?" asked the Titanium Goose.  Grandpa's current sidekick was a young man in a suit of power armor with a helmet and visor shaped like the head and bill of a goose.  He was working in the Anarchy Cave on a flying machine shaped like an egg.

"He seems like a nice guy," Grandpa replied.

The Titanium Goose stared at him.  "Really?"

Grandpa Anarchy sighed.  "No," he said.  "He's an alien bent on world conquest.  I give him one, two months tops, then we'll be duking it out over New York."  He tossed a five dollar bill onto the workbench.  "There," he said.  "You win.  Happy now?  Just once I'd like to have a normal neighbor in that place.  Just once."


Monday, November 21, 2016


Mark A Davis

"Look," said Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick, "it's not that I don't believe that one man is responsible for global warming.  That's just silly.  It's that I don't believe that global warming is real at all!  How can Baron Climate Change be responsible for something that doesn't exist?"

Grandpa Anarchy climbed a steel rung ladder up the side of a zeppelin.  Smoke billowed from oil-burning engines to the aft of the gondola; the wind whipped it up the sides of the rigid envelope, stinging the eyes and making them water.  Below him was a ten thousand foot drop into upstate New York.  His sidekick, Truther Boy -- a young man in jeans and a red hoodie with "Truther" on the front in a faux-Coca Cola logo script -- was just behind him.  Far above them climbed Baron Climate Change, a man dressed in heavy flight leathers like those of a World War I pilot with brass goggles and a brass-and-steel jet back strapped to his back.  He laughed hysterically like the madman he most certainly was.

"Kid," Grandpa Anarchy yelled over the howl of the wind, "the important thing that Baron Climate Change wants to bring 100 years of winter to Buffalo NY.  He wants to start a new ice age!  We can't let him do that."

"Climate change is a myth!" the kid exclaimed.  "It's a false story created by the liberal socio-governmental complex to justify more rules and regulations.  It's like those people that believe that we actually went to the moon, or that the earth is round.  I mean, you'd fall off -- you wouldn't be able to see the horizon."

Grandpa reached the top of the zeppelin.  Baron Climate Change ran to the front along a gangplank that ran the length of the ship.  "I can see the horizon from here just fine," said Grandpa, "and the only thing I'm worried about falling off of is this zeppelin.  Anyway I've been to the moon, Kid.  I fought the Blood Red Menace up there.  Trust me, it ain't that great.  Just a bunch of dust really, except for Doctor Thomas Nova's secret moon base."

  "You're part of it too, Grandpa!" yelled the Truther Kid as he reached the top of the ship.  "You're part of the grand conspiracy!"

"Kid, you got one job -- to help me take down the baron here.  Leave the conspiracies for later."  He charged after Baron Climate Change, yelling, "Give it up, Baron!  We've defeated your Zoot Soot Monsters and broke your Ice Age Machine!  It's time to face the music!"

The baron spun, having reached the end of the gangplank near the front of the zeppelin.  He produced a weapon that was a contraption made of glass pipes and tubes, with a glass ball in the center filled with bright blue liquid.  "I vill nefar give up, Herr Anarchy!" he yelled.  "I am zee rizink ov zee sea, und zee meltink ov zee polar ice caps!  I am zee comink ov zee new ice age!  I am unpredictable veather!"  He fired the weapon, spewing a stream of ice that Grandpa barely managed to dodge.  Laughing, he launched skyward, his 19th-century jet pack spewing black smoke.

"This entire battle is a farce!" Truther Boy exclaimed.  "You and the Baron are in cahoots!  I know you're secretly a member of the Global Judeo-Masonic Illuminati Zionist Knights Templar New World Order Cabal!"

Grandpa Anarchy sighed.  "Kid, I got no idea what you're even saying.  I've got my card from the Department of Superhero Licensing, and if the president needs me I'm there for him -- but he generally tries to avoid calling me at all costs.  Other than that I pay my taxes like everyone else.  That's the extent of my involvment with the government."

"The Internal Revenue Service is a Free Mason conspiracy!" the boy exclaimed.

Trailing black smoke, Baron Climate Change circled around and flew back at them, weapon trained on Grandpa Anarchy.  Ignoring his sidekick, Grandpa waited.  At the last second he raised his pistol and fired twice.  The first shot knocked the ice weapon from the baron's hands.  The second struck the jet pack, which sputtered and then exploded.

The baron crashed back onto the zeppelin.  He scrambled to his feet, producing another weapon that looked like a cross between a blunderbuss and a brass pesticide sprayer.

"Very vell!" the baron snarled.  "I am goink to brink you down like zee tvin tovers!"

Black, oily soot shot forth.  Grandpa ducked.  "Don't fool yourself!" Truther Boy exclaimed.  "9/11 was rigged!  It was an inside job!  Jet fuel can't melt steel beams!"

The shadow of a helicopter fell across the zeppelin.  A blast of soot and hot oil struck Truther Boy in the face.  He collapsed to the ground.  As he writhed in pain, he shouted, "Grandpa!  Tell them it's not true -- Baron Climate Change didn't kill me!  He would never do such a thing!  It's all a conspiracy!  Warn, them, Grandpa!  Tell them the truth!"


  "So that's how Baron Climate Change killed your sidekick?" a gravelly voice asked.

Grandpa sat in a spare room with one bright light.  Across the table from him sat a man in dark glasses and a black suit.  There was an open briefcase in front of him.

"What?" said Grandpa.  "Don't be daft.  Nobody dies from soot and oil."

The man lit a cigarette.  He leaned across the table.  "I'm going to ask you again, Mr. Anarchy.  Please consider your words carefully.  Is that how Baron Climate Change killed the Truther Kid?"

"Yeah, okay," said Grandpa.  "We'll play this your way.  Sure, Baron Climate Change killed the Truther Kid.  That's my story, I'm sticking to it."

"Good," the man said.  "We wouldn't want the public to get the wrong idea."

"Incidentally," said Grandpa, "you don't have any information for me on Sally the Masonic Avenger?  She's that sidekick that you kidna... that disappeared while working for me last year.  Only, you know, her parents have been asking...."

The briefcase shut with a loud snap.  The man stood.  "I'm sorry, Mr. Anarchy," he said, "but I have no idea who you're talking about."


Monday, November 14, 2016

Rock On

Rock On
Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, ran down a steel walkway suspended high over an abandoned facotory floor.  He wore his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  The platform beneath him shook and groaned with each step,  threatening to give way at any moment.  Behind him was a beefy young man in jeans, sneakers, and a black AC/DC tee shirt.  Ahead of him ran the villain Death Medal -- a muscular man in a black military jacket reminiscent of the Third Reich SS, with silver skull buttons and a raft of medals over the left breast.  His head was a flaming skull.

The villain spun and fired a revolver.  Grandpa hit the deck.  Death Medal laughed.  "You cannot stop me, Grandpa Anarchy!" he exclaimed.  He pointed to the floor far below where fires in steel drums and stormtrooper soldiers ringed a platform on which sat a very small statue.  "With the Infinite Cat Buddha, I will unleash doom upon the earth!"

"Don't tempt fate, Death Medal!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "You're messing with forces you don't understand!"

"Oh, I understand them just fine," said the villain.  "And while you chase me through the upper platforms, my minions have prepared the ritual!"

"Not on my watch!" Grandpa exclaimed.  He leaped from the platform, grabbed a dangling rope, and slid down to the factory floor.  As his sidekick landed beside him, Grandpa charged into the center of the circle and snatched up the small statue.

A net sprung up around him and his sidekick.  In seconds the two were ensnared and suspended in the circle of light.

Death Medal golf clapped.  He stepped out onto a overhead crane hook and chain and slowly descended to the factory floor.  "Brilliant," he said.  "Once again you and your sidekick leap right into my trap.  Oh, that Infinite Cat Buddha?  I bought it at Archie McPhee's.  Don't tempt fate, you said.  Grandpa, it's a cat buddha!  Cheap plaster!"  The villian lifted the statue from Grandpa's hands and smashed it on the ground, grinding it beneath his hee.  The grinning skull appeared to be laughing.  Death Medal removed a small tin from his breast pocket and added, "That place is pretty amazing.  They even sell Supervillain Mints, can you imagine?"  He held up the tin.  "Mints designed just for me!  Sure, they're just sugar and peppermint oil, but the tin is quite stylish, don't you think?  Even a demonic villain with a flaming skull for a head can do with fresh breath, am I right?"  He opened the tin and tossed two mints down his throat.

"I'm going with an old standby tonight," the villain said.  "No magic statues.  I'm using the Illuminated Librum of Inscrutible Verse to bring about the end of the world."

"This, again?" Grandpa asked.  "That one never works!"

"It'll work tonight!" exclaimed the villain.  "I've worked out all the bugs!  And you have a ringside seat!  You and your sidekick in the stylish AC/DC tee shirt -- what was the name again?"

"It's Butt Rock Boy!" the young man exclaimed.  "And when I get out of here I'm gonna go 3-chord rock all over your ass!"

Death Medal looked as if he was raising his eyebrow.  This was quite a trick, given the perpetually-grinning skull that was his face.  "Really?" he asked.  "Butt Rock Boy?  That's your sidekick?"

"Hey, I don't name 'em," said Grandpa.  "They name themselves."

"What's wrong with being Butt Rock Boy?" the kid asked.

Death Medal seemed to roll his eyes.  Again, this was mostly an impression, although the glowing red dots in the cavernous eye sockets did move.  "Kid," he said, "the term 'butt rock' is a perjorative.  It describes overly-processed crap rock with unoriginal lyrics sung by vocalists who hide their lack of talent by singing in a raspy voice.  It's not something to be proud of.  You might as well call yourself Lame Rock Boy."

"Perjorative terms are often reclaimed by the downtrodden," the sidekick said.  "In the same way  that black rap artists reclaimed the N word, I reclaim the term Butt Rock."

Death Medal appeared to be laughing.  Of course, he always appeared to be laughing.  "Are you seriously claiming that Monday Night Football-watching, cheap beer-swilling wannabe UFC fighters who like Creed or Nickleback are an underpriveledged minority?"

"I'm merely trying to reclaim a term used to denigrate a certain demographic," the kid replied.  "And I note that you are making assumptions about what Butt Rock is when we haven't even agreed on a definition.  It's  true that for many people, the term refers specifically to post-grunge, nu-metal rock like Nickleback or Five Fingered Death Punch -- but some definitions include glam rock as a genre of Butt Rock.  I  prefer the definition set forth by Mark Lee in his 2015 article Towards A Grand Unified Theory of Butt Rock, in which he states:

Butt rock is not a single unified genre of music, nor does it have a static definition. Butt rock is always defined in opposition to the head rock of its time. 

Death Medal frowned.  "Head rock?" he said.  "I've never read this article."

"The point," said Butt Rock Boy, "is that if you assume a definition of Head Rock that is innovative, creative, and intellectually challenging, then you can define Butt Rock in opposition to it -- music that is derivative of what came before, that is base and pedestrian and does not challenge creatively or intellectually."

"Yes, okay, I can actually get behind that statement," said Death Medal.

"But not necessarily bad," the boy added.

Grandpa Anarchy struggled to free himself.  "Are we going to fight or what?"

"Hold your horses, Grandpa," said the villain.  "This is getting interesting."  He turned to the sidekick.  "The problem with your definition," said Death Medal, "is that what's innovative is entirely subjective -- some may think Rush or Emerson, Lake and Palmer are brilliantly innovative, others may think them boring and pretentious."

"Granted, but you have to start somewhere," said Butt Rock Boy.  "Let me challenge you a bit:  Let's assume Gary Glitter is Butt Rock...."

"That's easy," said Death Medal.  "He is.  And I'm sure we'd all like to  tar Gary Glitter with as many negative labels as possible -- to say nothing of straight up tar and feathering him."

"But some of the early pioneers of Glam Metal were truly innovative in their own way," said Butt Rock Boy.  "Would we have an AC/DC if not for Slade who came before them?"

"Hey, now," said Death Medal.  "Don't you be calling AC/DC butt rock.  That's straight up classic rock."

"They are the forefathers of butt rock," said Butt Rock Boy.  "Why do you think I wear this tee shirt?"

Anger seemed to flare in the villain's eye sockets.  "That's it!" he exclaimed.  "Your death, boy, will be slow and painful!"  He hefted a large tome, but almost immediately it was lifted from his hands by a giant white paw.   Death Medal spun.  Towering over him was a very serene and fat white cat in a monk's robe.  The creature was at least nine feet tall.

The burning skull gaped.  He uttered a single word: "What."

"That'd be Cat Buddha," said Grandpa Anarchy.  "Like I said:  you're messing with forces you don't understand."

The cat stared at the villain through half-lidded eyes.  It breathed out, then waved a paw.  A hole opened beneath Death Medal, and the villain was sucked down into the earth.

The cat swiped the net holding Grandpa and Butt Rock Boy, shredding it.  They tumbled to the ground.  Death Medal's minions turned and fled.

Grandpa stood and dusted himself off.  "Thanks, Cat Buddha," he said.  "You ask me, music has gone to hell ever since they started playing Jazz on the radio...."

"Namaste, Grandpa Anarchy," said the cat.  "Peace be with you."  It glared at Butt Rock Boy and added, "AC/DC?  Really?"

"Really," said Butt Rock Boy.

"Well, then," said the cat.  It faded from view.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Rubber Forehead Theory

Rubber Forehead Theory
Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, opened his eyes.  He was naked and wet, and lying in a long tube of glass and polished metal -- a kind of windowed coffin.  A pleasant feminine voice said, Welcome back to life.  Your body has been reconstituted in our instant regeneration vats.  You are aboard the Hammerhead of of Heedral.  I am the ship's computer Val 9000; I am at your disposal.

Grandpa blinked.  The Hammerhead of Heedral was Jennie Nova's ship.  He'd been through this before.  Jennie was an agent for the galactic empire known as Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow), and registration with the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) government meant you could be revived via clone technology and a computer recording of your mind.

Jennie had contacted Grandpa on earth for help on a mission to some planet called Hanl Six.  Fisticuffs might be involved -- and if Grandpa was good at anything, it was fisticuffs.  But the last he could remember, they'd still been travelling to Hanl Six.  There'd been no incident, nothing to explain why he might have recently died....

With a soft mechanical whir, the top half of the coffin arose.  Standing over him was a very healthy young woman  with fair skin and red hair.  She was dressed in a silver bikini and gogo boots, with a shiny blaster on a belt at her hip.  "Don't move," she commanded.  "I'm still trying to calibrate the ship's new defense mechanisms...."

Viscous green liquid dripped from the tank and drained into a grate in the center of the room.  Grandpa said, "I died?  I don't remember nothing....."

"It's not my fault!" Jennie exclaimed.  "Kuh!  It's  this drumdik ship defense system that 5E headquarters forced on us, it's got a few scorching bugs in it...."

Grandpa started to sit up.  Jennie pushed him down.  "I said wait," she said firmly.  "I want to make sure you don't have any bumps on your head...."  She ran a hand scanner over his forehead.

"Why would I have bumps on my head?" Grandpa asked.  "Isn't this a brand new body?"

"Pure fusion," said Jennie, "but I just want to be sure.  I mean, we have your DNA profile and memory and personality readings stored, but it still takes a few hours for the cloning tanks to restore you.  No harm taking an extra minute if it might save you several hours!"

Llahna walked into the room.  Like Jennie, Llahan wore a silver bikini and go go boots -- it was the official uniform of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes.  Unlike Jennie, Llahna was clearly an alien -- you could tell by the blue skin.  She was an Arellian from Kootah Delphi Seven in the Trifid Nebula.

"Is Captain Headbang finally awake?" Llahna asked.

Grandpa frowned.  "Does someone want to explain what happened to me?"

"You died," Llahna said.

"I got that part," Grandpa growled.  "What does that have to do  with me banging my head?"

"It's a bit complicated," said Llhana, "but the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire has had a problem lately with terrorists, assassins, and spies from Zorath.  You're familiar with Zorath, aren't you?  They're aliens who look almost human, except for the bumps on their forehead...."

Grandpa nodded.  "Yes, yes.  The old Rubber Forehead rule -- lots of aliens are humanoid with bumpy foreheads or weird colored skin or hair.  Nobody can explain it."

"Exactly," said Llahna.  "These spies are disguised as humans by covering up or hiding the bumps on their foreheads.  To combat it, 5E -- the Eieio (pronounced EE-Yow) Empire Endowment and Encouragement Enforcement agency -- rolled out this new security system designed to detect aliens disguised as humans...."

"Let me guess," said Grandpa.  "Based on the bumps on their foreheads?"

"That's right!" said Jennie.  "Only, it's a bit buggy... and you hit your head pretty hard...."

Grandpa's eyes crossed.  "Wait a second.  Are you telling me your own security system killed me, because of a bump on my forehead?"

"But we put you back together," exclaimed Jennie, "So it's really okay!  We just need to make sure it doesn't happen yet again...."

"Doesn't happen yet again?" Grandpa yelled.  "How many times...." he began as he raised himself abruptly.  His head banged into the lid of the coffin.  Jennie and Llahna hit the deck as laser fire erupted.  Klaxons blared.  Sirens wailed.  "DANGER!  ALIEN DETECTED!  DANGER!  WARNING!" the ship's defense system exclaimed.  The room filled with knockout gas and the acrid smell of burning flesh -- Jennie and Llahna were barely able to activate their holobreathers in time.


When it was over, Jennie and Llahna examined Grandpa's corpse.  Llahna asked, "What is that, five times now?"

"TANJ!" Jennie swore.  "This is getting old!  If we can't disable that system, then I say don't revive him until we reach Hanl Six."