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!"