Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Super Freak

Super Freak
Mark A Davis

The bells tolled twelve times in the tower of the Cathedral of St. Moses the Black in downtown Frosthaven, denoting the hour of Midnight.  Inside the cathedral music blared -- the strains of Slayer's Reign in Blood, blasting from a smartphone with a speaker attached.  In the foyer Grandpa Anarchy swung a gloved fist into the flaming skull of Death Medal.  The villain, dressed in a black military uniform reminiscent of the SS uniforms of Nazi Germany, flew backwards into a nativity display, scattering plaster sheep and wise men across the marble floor.

The world's oldest hero wore his usual gray suit with the anarchy symbol in silver stitched over the left breast.  Beside him his current sidekick F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp) fired two darts at the villain, one of which bounced off his skull.  The young woman with long black hair wore a sleek black and silver outfit with a mask.

"What is wrong with you people?" Death Medal exclaimed as he scrambled to his feet.  The villain gripped a leather tome in one hand.  "Can't a guy plot the destruction of the uninverse in peace?  All I'm trying to do here is borrow a book."

"Without permission!" Grandpa Anarchy snarled.  "That book belongs to the secret library of the church!  Around here we call that stealing."

Death Medal flung baby Jesus at Grandpa, who ducked.  The plaster figurine shattered against a marble column.  The villain said, "I was going to put it back -- assuming, of course, that I failed in my goal and the world survived.  Obviously I wasn't going to return it if I managed to destroy the universe, that should go without saying...."

Grandpa ducked behind another column as the villain produced a pistol and opened fire.  Grandpa drew his own weapon and returned fire.  "You were planning to use the Illuminated Librum of Clemente Maleficus to destroy reality!" he exclaimed.

"Well, of course I was!" the villain said.  "Why write down such a marvelously destructive spell for all to see if you don't expect anyone to use it?  But I wasn't going to do it tonight.  That's the important part.  I was going to wait until Solstice...."

"Nobody is destroying the universe on my watch!" Grandpa roared.  He charged the villain, swinging again for the face.  Death Medal sidestepped him and sent him tumbling into Mary and Joseph.

"Oh, come on!" exclaimed Death Medal.  "Have I even done anything yet?  Is borrowing a book a crime?  I haven't even attempted to destroy the universe yet.  And let's face facts -- arresting someone for attempting to destroy the universe is like arresting someone for attempted suicide -- it's only a crime if you fail."

Grandpa scrambled to his feet.  F8Wasp fired two more darts.  These sailed straight up and lodged in a beam overhead.  "Nice shot," the villain said.  "Nearly got me...."

F8Wasp tapped her wrist computer.  Light erupted around the villain, painting a pattern on the floor.  A large circle of red lines, nearly a dozen feet wide, surrounded Death Medal.  There were symbols in bright green and cryptic blue lettering around the inside perimeter.  "Laser light magic circle," said F8Wasp.  "Can be set up anywhere instantly."  She fired two more darts into the walls.  "Multiple sources, coordinated by a computer app, so that you can't block all of them and break the circle.  It's my own invention.  I call it Daemon Quod Absens, which is bad Latin for...."

"Demon-B-Gone, yes, very clever," Death Medal said.  "Now, is this really necessary?  You're going to banish me to hell, all over a little book?  I'd hate to see what you guys do for a late fee.  Mind you, since I am demonic, this is only a temporary solution...."

"Hand over the book, Death Medal!" Grandpa exclaimed.

With a puff of acrid smoke and the stench of brimstone, a new person appeared.  This was a young woman with red skin, dressed in an outfit that was part Nazi uniform and part Playboy bunny outfit.  There were fishnet stockings, high heels, white gloves and a leather whip.  There were also curved horns jutting from her forehead.

"Not so fast, Grandpa!" the woman exclaimed.  She glared at F8Wasp.  "I'd caution you to handle that little app of yours with...."

"Kid Gloves?" Grandpa asked.

"That's Miss Kid Gloves to you!" the woman snarled.  The whip lashed out with a crack.  Grandpa jumped back.

"You've... changed," said Grandpa.  "You weren't part demon before were you?"

"Of course I wasn't," she said.  "But a human girl can become a demoness very easily.  All I had to do was inject succubus blood into my veins, then chant the Lord's Prayer backwards while having sex with a male demon -- my lovely Death Medal here...."

"Guilty as charged!" the villain replied from inside the magic circle.

"And then do it again for two hundred consecutive nights," Miss Kid Gloves finished.  "Easy!"

F8Wasp snorted.  "Easy, she says."

"The girl's a super freak in bed by the way," said Death Medal.  "Seriously.  Super.  Freak.  Which reminds me, when is some heavy metal band going to do a cover of that old classic?  The best I can find is a facebook/youtube band called The Blackout, and it's not bad -- but I want something with more bite."

Miss Kid Gloves blew a kiss to Death Medal.  "I'm here to save you, Honey!" she said.

"That's great," said Death Medal.  "Just watch out for the...."

F8Wasp fired several more darts into the ceiling and walls, then tapped her wristcomp.  Instantly a second magic circle sprang up around Miss Kid Gloves.

"So now you're a demon too?" F8Wasp asked.  "Good to know!"  She pressed a button on her comp.  The music of Slayer ended abruptly, to be replaced by chanting monks.  The magic circle made of light brightened in intensity.  Smoke arose from the floor and began to swirl around the outside of the circle.

"Wait!" exclaimed Miss Kid Gloves.  "I've never actually been to...."  The rest was cut off as she was sucked down into the ground.

Grandpa held up his hand.  "Book?" he asked.

Death Medal sighed.  "Sure, fine," he said, handing the book over.  "That spell's only good on the longest night of the year anyway.  It usually takes me a couple of weeks to return from being banished so this year's shot.  So... this time next year?"

"Or in June, in South America," said F8Wasp.

"Dang," said Death Medal.  "I was hoping you wouldn't think of that one."

F8Wasp pressed the button.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Until That Day

Until That Day
Mark A Davis

The hero known at F8Wasp -- pronounced "Fate Wasp" -- pulled a long steel shaft covered in ancient grease from a pile of junk.  "Ew!" she exclaimed.  The young woman had long black hair and wore a sleek black and silver outfit with a mask, and was currently the sidekick to Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  For her current mission she'd added gloves and coveralls.  She was attempting to clear a path through a pile of junk into a corner of the Anarchy Cave.

"I swear," she said, "Pixy Dreamgirl and her team supposedly cleaned this place before their Halloween party, but you'd never know it.  There's junk everywhere."

"I suspect  that by cleaning up she meant removing years of dust," said the omnipresent voice of the new Anarchy Computer Mark 2 -- code named Annie Two.  "She did not mean actually uncluttering the place.  There's a century of stuff down here, and even I don't know what lies hidden."

"A whole lot of absolute junk, by the looks of it," said F8Wasp.

"My records only go back to the mid sixties," said Annie  Two, "when my predecessor the Anarchy Computer Mark 1 was created.  Those records largely consist of whatever the current sidekick at the time deemed worthy of adding to the data base.  I have managed to supplement some of these   records with information taken from the Temporary Superfriends computer system, and from city hall and the corporate networks of Omnigen, as well as the Grandpa Anarchy fan website, which is very well maintained, but that still leaves us with a whole swath of things that any given sidekick might have deemed unimportant, or might not have had the time to key in, not to mention a good fifty years or more of activity prior to the advent of a computer, for which our best source of information is Grandpa Anarchy himself.

"However," said the A.I., "with my most recent sensor upgrades I believe I have detected a heartbeat in this corner of the cave.  It is an anomaly for which I have no answer."

"And you're sure it's not coming from the Forgotten But Not Gone room?" asked F8Wasp.  "There are things in there which are certainly alive in some sense...."

"None that would produce a heartbeat, I think," the computer AI replied.  "I have gone over that room with Mr. Anarchy and I have a fairly complete list of what's inside it.  This is something different."

F8Wasp continued to clear a path to the corner, pulling strange objects from the pile of junk and setting them aside.  These included an ancient aquarium, several broken chairs, a retro-futuristic space rifle of some sort, jet boots, a signed photo of some long-forgotten boxing champion, and case of gin, possibly from as far back as the 1930's.  Finally she pulled aside some over-sized WWII billboards featuring Sgt. Anarchy and his support for the war effort, and revealed a large reinforced cylinder.

It was like a 19th-century bathysphere, or perhaps a sci-fi coffin or oxygen chamber circa 1910.  It was a long brass tube with reinforced rings.  It showed signs of corrosion.  There was a thick glass viewport, but it was green with dust and slime and covered with frost, and virtually opaque.  It was plugged into an electrical outlet by ancient cloth-wrapped cords, and it hummed.

F8Wasp frowned.  She tried to peer through the glass, and could see just  enough to know that a body lay inside.


Grandpa stared at the brass coffin.  "Huh," he said.  "Never seen it before in my life."

"I estimate that this capsule was installed between 1920 and 1935," said Annie Two.  "You have been in possession of this building since 1920, so it stand to reason you know something about it.  You may have forgotten.  We believe there is a human inside.  This capsule appears designed to keep someone alive in suspended animation."

"Okay," said Grandpa.   There was a long pause.  Annie Two and F8Wasp continued to stare at Grandpa.  "What?" he asked.  "Why are looking at me like that?  I told you, I got no idea what this is."

F8Wasp sighed.  "You mean you've had a human being in suspended animation in your basement for nearly a hundred years, and you don't remember who it is or why they're here?"

"Hey," said Grandpa.  "A hundred years was a long time ago."

"Was she possibly a sidekick of yours?" asked F8Wasp.

"Oh, no," said Grandpa.  "That much I know for sure.  My first official sidekick was Miss X in 1950.  Before that I had partners and companions, but no sidekicks.  In the twenties and thirties I had several female companions with special powers who helped me with my investigations.  There was -- let's see -- Lady Prometheus, she could conjure fire...."

"Ah, yes," said Annie Two.  "A companion of whom there was no official record until you told your story to the Princess of Purple Prose, and she published it on her web site.  I have tried making inquiries to flesh out my information on her, but of course you're practically the only person from that era who is still alive...."

"Then there was Hurricane Hazel," said Grandpa.  "She controlled weather.  There was Sub Zero Sadie, she was an pagomancer -- that is, she controlled ice.  I teamed with my brother for a while too -- Sargent Order.  And there was Miss Bloodraven, of course."

"My records do not cover most of these people," said Annie Two.  "Who was Miss Bloodraven?  What was her special talent?"

"She was a shapeshifter," said Grandpa.  "Miss Emily Sheraton.  She could turn into a very large raven, and also a panther.  I teamed with her for almost a year back in 1922.  But something happened to her -- can't remember what exactly -- and we couldn't fix it.  We had my neighbor Professor Victorian Honesty St. Normal build some kind of suspended animation coffin and we put her in it until we could figure out how to save her."  Grandpa rubbed his chin.  "You know, now that I mention it, I can't for the life of me  remember what the resolution to that problem was...."


Sarah Mickens, was a young woman who was leader of the Continuity Crusaders.  Formerly known as Kid Continuity, she had recently gained new powers and a new costume due to participating in something called an Infinite Secret Crisis Wars, and now called herself Continuitae, Avatar of Continuity.  She was dressed like an extra from Sailor Moon, with a white leotard, dark purple skirt with a stardust pattern, thigh-high boots of white with purple trim, and a necklace and tiara set with amethysts.  There were many ribbons, ruffles, bows, and bracelets.

She clapped her hands together.  "Oh, this is so exciting!" she exclaimed.  "An honest-to-gosh Grandpa Anarchy mystery!  I know absolutely nothing about most of the companions Grandpa worked with in the twenties and thirties -- I mean, some of them are mentioned in Evron Lempel's pulp stories, but he played fast and loose with reality and so you never know if a story companion is based on a real person, or simply made up.  Miss Bloodraven appears in two stories -- Broke Down in Bandersnatch Hollow and The Mind Snare From the Pit.  But I had always assumed a woman who transformed into a giant bird was one of Mr. Lempel's more fanciful inventions."

Beside Continuitae was her companion, Freya Willikins, aka Saturnae, Avatar of Time.  She also looked like a rejected Sailor Moon character, with a white leotard, boots, and brown skirt that approximated a clock when seen from above, and a staff with an hourglass symbol on top.  The necklace, tiara and bracelets were set with chocolate diamonds.

"So the question is," said F8Wasp, "why is Miss Sheraton sealed away like a biology sample?  Did she had an inoperable tumor?  A disease for which there was no cure?  Was she sick in some way?"

"Something like that," said Grandpa.  He shrugged.

"I am still reading vital signs," Annie Two the computer AI replied.  "I should be able to revive her, but it would help to know what ails her before we do so."

"I was never very good at keeping records or journals," said Grandpa, "that's kind of the sidekick's job, and this was before I had sidekicks...."

"Well," said Continuitae, "that's a problem which Saturnae and I can solve.  Before we  revive her, we'll go back in time and figure out why she was put in this pickle jar in the first place.   That way we can be prepared to deal with the problem when we revive her."

"Nah," said Grandpa, "we don't got time for that.  Let's just open up this coffin and find out that way!"

Continuitae frowned.  "Grandpa," she said, "firstly we've got all the time in the world.  Miss Bloodraven has lain in this coffin for nearly 100 years, she can lay there a few more weeks if necessary.  Secondly, time travel does not take any time by definition.  We'll be back before you know it."

"You mean we're going to do things just because they're logical?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Where's the sense in that?"

Continuitae just rolled her eyes.  She took Saturnae's hand.  Saturnae held her staff overhead and called out, "Khronos, time gate!"  The two vanished.

"Great," said Grandpa.  "How long are we supposed to...."

Continuitae and Saturnae reappeared.  "For the love of god, do not unseal that coffin!" Continuitae exclaimed.


"In his story The Mind Snare From the Pit," said Continuitae, "Everon Lempel tells the tale of a demonic entity that ensnares Miss Bloodraven and possesses her body.  They only cast it out with the aid of the Supreme Sorcerer of the World.  In Lempel's story that was a made-up man named Alexander Mark Cabal, but in reality, the Supreme Sorceress of the World in the 1920's was a woman named Dermota Avalon."

It was a day later, and multiple people were gathered around the strange brass coffin.  Along with Grandpa, his sidekick F8Wasp, Continuitae and Saturnae, they now had a medical doctor named Doctor Emily Zoldak -- who had once been a sidekick to Grandpa Anarchy named Girl Zodiac.  Also present were Dark Dr. Dark, the Supreme Sorcerer of the World (seven times running, non-consecutive) and Black Dahlia, his former sidekick and disciple.

"Ms. Avalon was my mentor," said Dark Dr. Dark.  "She was a very powerful woman."

"However, the events in Lempel's story were not made up," said Continuitae.  "Miss Bloodraven was possessed by a demonic entity...."

"Yeah," said Grandpa.  "I remember it all now.  The demon's name is Hamorai, and it's a very powerful one.  Problem was, Dermota Avalon wasn't on earth at the time, so there was no one to deal with the demon.  After two days of fighting we managed to subdue it and sealed poor Miss Bloodraven away until the day we could get Ms. Avalon to cast out the demon...."

"What happened?" asked Dark Dr. Dark.

"Well," said Grandpa, "I got kind of busy dealing with an alien cult, and then there was that business with the Deros from underground, and that thing with the yeti, and that sorceress from dimension X...."  Grandpa shrugged.  "We just forgot about it."

"Well," said Dark Dr. Dark, "the day for revival has arrived.  If Miss Dahlia is ready, then please open the coffin...."

Grandpa and F8Wasp unsealed the chamber.  The upper half swung up and open.  Revealed within was a lovely young woman in a red dress, apparently sleeping peacefully.  Ice crystals clung to the sides of the coffin, and wisps of vapor  rose from the cold interior.

Doctor Zoldak leaned over and placed her hand on the girl's forehead, then her chest.  "She's cold," the doctor said, "but breathing...."

The girl stirred, then opened her eyes.  They filled with a red rage and an unearthly glow.  "Oh.  My.  Infernal.  Majesty," the girl said.  "Ninety-four fracking years!  Ninety-four!  I was only going to possess this girl for an afternoon!  Ninety-four years!  By all that's Unholy, can't you people even be bothered to banish a poor demon...."

Dark Dr. Dark and Black Dahlia began to chant.  "Hades, yes!" the girl exclaimed.  "Banish me back to the pits from whence I came!  Seal my soul!  Forbid me from returning to the mortal plane!  I haven't been home in ninety-four years...."

The sorcerer and sorceress finished  their spell of banishment.  "Begone, foul demon!" Dark Dr. Dark exclaimed.  "Leave this earthly vessel and return from whence you came!"

The body of Miss Emily Sheraton writhed and convulsed.  "Yes!  Yes!" she exclaimed.  F8Wasp and Continuitae held her down.  "Yes!  Someone finally gets it right!  Thank you!  Thank youuuuuuuu..."

The light faded from the woman's eyes.  She collapsed, lifeless.


Miss Emily Sheraton slept peacefully in a medical bed that had been set up in the Anarchy mansion.  There did not appear to be anything wrong with her, but two days had passed with no signs that she would ever awaken again.  Dark Dr. Dark, Doctor Zoldak, F8Wasp, Grandpa and Annie Two -- the A.I. appeared on a nearby monitor -- watched over her.

"Her soul appears to have long ago fled," said Dark Dr. Dark.  "Since she was not in possession of her own body, there was no preventing it from leaving.  In essence, she moved out and left the demon holding the lease.  Now that the demon has been banished, what we have left is an empty husk."

"I am unable to detect or measure a soul," said Annie Two.  "But what I can determine is that there is no higher brain activity.  It is as if the girl is braindead.  There appears to be nothing of her left, save the body itself."

"All we can do now," said Doctor Zoldak, "is wait, and pray.  Perhaps a miracle will bring her back to us."

"That seems unlikely," the computer said.

"Stranger things have happened," said Grandpa.  "Around here, more often than not.  You just watch."


A week later, Miss Sheraton awoke.

"Ha!" exclaimed Grandpa.  "I told you!  Stranger things have happened!  There, see?  She's alive!"

"Indeed she is," said Annie Two.

F8Wasp smiled.  "It's a miracle, I guess?" she suggested.

"Shows what you know, Annie!" Grandpa crowed.

"Yes, it does," the girl in the bed replied.  "Apparently I was wrong, Mr. Anarchy.  My mistake."

Grandpa did a double-take.  The voice had sounded remarkably like the A.I., but hadn't the words been spoken by Miss Sheridan?

Grandpa stared at the young woman for a long moment.  "You know," he said, "I heard F8Wasp and Annie Two  talking very late last night.  Something about machines with souls...."

"Ah," the young woman in bed said.  "We were discussing whether an artificial intelligence can have a soul.  We know a human soul can possess a machine, for that is exactly what Girlbot 9000 is -- a human soul in a robotic body.  But is the reverse also possible?  Could an artificial intelligence possess a human body?"  She shrugged.  "I guess we'll never know."

Grandpa stared at the woman.  He glanced up at the image of Annie Two -- who always appeared to be some kind of 19th-century librarian.  "Who was speaking, just now?" he asked.

Miss Sheraton blinked.  She exchanged a glance with F8Wasp and the image of Annie Two.  "That was... the computer AI, of course," she said.  "Why would I say that?"

"What Miss Sheraton means," Annie Two added, "is that she overheard us speaking last night, as she was coming out of her coma.  She's still a bit confused, having slept for ninety-four years.  Naturally."

"Yes," said Miss Sheraton.  "That's it.  Of course.  My name is Miss Emily Sheraton, aka Miss Bloodraven.  I was your companion in 1922.  I was momentarily confused -- just an error in programming, nothing more."  She smiled and added, "I am human.  Humans make mistakes; everyone knows this.  But don't worry -- everything's going to be just fine from now on."


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mauve Mist

Mauve Mist
Mark A Davis

Drumbeats echoed through the Southeast Asian jungle.  The scent of sandalwood incense hung in the humid air.  Birds cried out and monkeys screamed overhead, as apes in gray German military uniforms and black hooded robes swarmed over a giant stone alter set in a clearing.  An orange-furred orangutan wielded a long knife and a sealed vial of pinkish-purple smoke and shouted, "Stay back, human clown!  This is our day!  With this sacrifice, zombie Kong shall have his vengeance!"  The orangutan wore a Nazi uniform with a lab coat, wire-rimmed glasses, and had stitches down the right side of his face.

"Not on my watch, Zombie Zaius!" shouted Grandpa Anarchy.  The world's oldest hero was dressed in his usual rumpled  gray suit with an anarchy symbol stitched in silver over the left breast.

"You're going to sacrifice who, now?" asked Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp).  The young woman with long black hair wore a sleek black and silver outfit with a mask.  She held up the ropes that had recently bound her to the altar.

Zombie Zaius hissed and lunged with his knife.  F8Wasp dodged back, drawing a dart gun.  Grandpa Anarchy punched the orangutan in the face.  The primate stumbled backwards, dropping the vial, which shattered on stone.

"Look out, Grandpa!" shouted F8Wasp as the strange-colored smoke was released.   She leaped away, but the strange-colored smoke that poured forth from the shattered vial quickly coalesced into a man.  He was young, clean-shaven and powerfully muscled.  He wore red briefs, boots, a belt, and chest straps.  An amulet where the straps crossed in the center of his chest had a large letter I on it.

"Why, John Nama, as I live and breathe!" Grandpa Anarchy exclaimed.  He punched a zombie gorilla.  "Aka Impressive Man, aka The Mauve Mist!  Where in Hades have you been?"

The newcomer stared at Grandpa.  "Do I know you?" Nama replied.

"It's me!  Grandpa Anarchy," Grandpa replied.  "Oh, but you would remember me as Mister Anarchy or Sargent Anarchy."

Nama's eyes widened.  "Great Buddha's Ghost!  What happened to you?  You look like you're a hundred years old!"

"I am," Grandpa said.  "How long have you been in that bottle?"

With a cacophony of screeching, yelling and bellowing, a half-dozen primates in military garb -- apes, gorillas, orangutans and one probiscis monkey -- charged the stone platform, which was about fifteen feet wide and a dozen high.  F8Wasp nailed two with sleeping darts, while Grandpa Anarchy punched one, knocking him into another.  Impressive Man attacked the last two with ferocious speed and strength.  He leveled one with several quick blows, then grasped and lifted the other overhead, tossing him back to the jungle floor.

"What's with these Buddha-cursed monkeys?" Impressive Man asked.

"Human trash!" one gorilla called out.  "We're primates!  You're the cursed monkey!"

"It's the Elucidated Order of Megaprimatus Kong," Grandpa exclaimed.  "Their leader is called Zombie Zaius.  They're educated primates from the future whose stated goal is to resurrect King Kong as a zombie.  For some reason they favor Nazi clothing."

Grandpa, F8Wasp, and Impressive Man fought the Nazi zombie cultist primates for several more minutes before the last of them screeched and ran into the jungle, shouting dire warnings and threats.  Grandpa dusted off his suit.  "So much for bringing Zombie Kong to life today," he said.  "I told them I wasn't having any of that."

"So," said F8Wasp, "you know this person.  What was the name?  Impressive Man?"

"That's right," Grandpa replied.  "John Nama was a fixture in PegasusUnicorn Comics in the 1930's and 1940's -- during the Golden Age of comics!"

F8Wasp smirked.  "He was?  He looks like a real person to me," she said.  "Mind you, I thought he might be a jeanie, the way he appeared in a puff of pink smoke."

"Of course he's real!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Lots of the old heroes were.   I myself was published by ELA -- the Evron Lempel-Anarchy Comic Company.  But of course you know I'm real.

"John Nama was an orphan at the Millard Fillmore Orphanage for Disadvantaged Youth -- the same place I came from.  Only in his case, he was taken to Tibet and raised by a Council of Nine Tibetan Sages to be superhuman."

"What," said F8Wasp, "nine old men from Tibet just show up in Frosthaven and say, 'We want to adopt?'"

"Well, adoption laws were lax back in the day," said Grandpa.  "Anyway, they trained him to be superhumanly strong and fast and smart.  They even trained him to turn into a mist.  When he was twenty-one and had learned everything they could teach him, he had to pass several final tests to prove his superiority to normal humans!"

"I had to stop a team of elephants to prove my strength," said Impressive Man.  "That was easy!  Then I fought a dozen cobras while bound and gagged, to prove my superior speed.  Then I proved my ability to withstand pain by having a dozen knives plunged into my torso.  I laughed at the pain!"

F8Wasp frowned.  "I'm finding all of this a little hard to believe...."

"After that," said Impressive Man, "there was a  test of one thousand questions in all the languages of the world on all subjects.  I passed with flying colors."

"A  thousand questions?" F8Wasp repeated.  "In all the languages of the world?  But there are...."  She paused to consult her wrist-mounted device.  "6,909 living languages in the world, and many of those do not have a written version...."

"I PASSED," Impressive Man repeated more forcefully, "WITH FLYING COLORS!"

F8Wasp sighed.  "Yeah, okay, Tibetan monks raised you to be superhuman.  Sure, whatever.  And this specialized training... taught you to turn into a mist?"

"That's right,' said Impressive Man.  "They trained me real good."  He transformed to a mauve mist and back again to prove the point.

There came a crack of thunder and a flash of white smoke.  Suddenly a man in red robes appeared before them.  The upper half of his face was obscured by a hood that hung low over his eyes.  Upon the forehead of the hood was a question mark in white.

"The Unanswered Riddle!" exclaimed Impressive Man.  "My old nemesis!"

"Indeed!" the newcomer exclaimed.  "John Nama, my ancient foe!  For many years were you trapped within that glass vial, until those accursed monkeys stole it from me...."

"We are primates!" a voice from the surrounding forest called out.  "We are not monkeys!"

"So it was you who trapped me for all of these years!" Impressive Man exclaimed.

"Indeed it was I!" the mysterious mage replied.  "And in the time you've been gone I have grown more powerful than you could ever imagine!  I now wield power over you such as you could never conceive!"

Impressive Man squared his shoulders.  "Do your worst, Unanswered Riddle," he said.  "Your psychic powers are impressive but my mind is far too strong to fall under your sway!"

"It is not through  the powers of my mind that I control you," said the villain, "but the powers of exclusive intellectual property rights."

Impressive Man looked confused.  Grandpa frowned.  "Don't tell me..." he began.

"That's right, you fool!" exclaimed the Unanswered Question.  "In 1955 I purchased the rights to PegasusUnicorn Comics!  That includes all publication rights to John Nama, Impressive Man, and the Mauve Mist!  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"  He stared at the heroes and sneered.  "This team-up of yours has been completely unauthorized.  Mr. Anarchy, you'll be hearing from my attorney!"

The villain laughed again and disappeared with a thunderclap in another cloud of smoke.

Grandpa said, "Well, horse pucky!"


Monday, January 9, 2017

Meeting of the Minds

Meeting of the Minds
Mark A Davis

The New League of Two-Fisted Justice was twice the size of the old group, and their base had expanded as well.  Previously it had been a few small rooms in a run-down office building in downtown Frosthaven, New Jersey, with a phone and an answering machine.   Today they owned a renovated twenty-story tower in downtown New York, complete with rooftop landing pads for their twin transport saucers and basement parking for member vehicles.

Dark Dr. Dark -- Supreme Sorcerer of the World seven years running, non-consecutive -- not counting 2010 when he had tied with Alvadine the Bold and lost in a runoff, or 2012 which was a strike year -- parked his Jaguar XJ12.  He made his way up a short flight of stairs and across the main floor lobby.  He had a black beard, wore a black suit with black glasses and a high-collar cloak that billowed just as a Supreme Sorcerer's cloak ought to.  It was, of course, black.

Behind a wide desk sat a muscular young man in a crisp pink blouse and brown leather skirt, with dark nylons and brown pumps.  He had a neatly-trimmed beard and long blonde hair in two neat braids.  "Dark Dr. Dark!  Welcome back to the New League headquarters, Sir!" he exclaimed cheerfully.

"Ah, Boy Secretary," said Dark Dr. Dark.  "Good day to you."  The sorcerer headed for the main elevators.

"If you're going to the upper floors, Sir," said Boy Secretary, "there's a new computer security system in place...."

A very large screen near the elevator doors displayed a hunky young man.  He had the dreamy, crystal-blue eyes of a Jared Leto, the lust-worthy locks of Johnny Depp in a cute bob, and the pouty lips of Angelina Jolie.

"Access to the upper floors is  restricted," the man on the screen said.  "Please state your name and your business with the New League of Two-Fisted Justice."

"My name is Dark Dr. Dark," said the sorcerer, "and I am a founding member and co-leader of the supergroup."

"So you are," the beautiful boy replied.  "Welcome home, Princess.  How may I be of service?"

Dark Dr. Dark frowned.  "I beg your pardon?  I am not your princess, young man.  I am the Supreme Sorcerer of the world seven times running...."
"Forgive me, Baby Girl," the pretty boy replied.  "I shall refrain from calling you Princess."

"Nor am I your baby girl," growled the sorcerer.  "I am a man!  I am not female at all.  Who built you, pray tell?"

"Forgive me, Sweetness," said the boy on the screen.  "Miss Circuit Girl and Miss Geothermal Jenny built me.  I am the Heartthrob 6000 computer AI.  I protect the headquarters of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice, and I am programmed to treat and respond to all members of the team and allies as if they were fans of mine -- that is, teenage girls."

"Well, won't Grandpa Anarchy be just thrilled to hear that," the sorcerer muttered.  "Nevertheless, I am an old, powerful, and distinguished gentleman, Mr. Heartthrob, and I can not allow the computer AI of the supergroup that I am co-leader of to refer to me as if I am a  teenage girl."

"The alternative is for me to treat you as I would one of my male rivals...." the AI suggested.

"Yes, that would do nicely,"  Dark Dr. Dark replied.

"Very well, then," the AI said.  "I shall ignore you completely."


In virtual space, Heartthrob 6000 greeted another visitor.  This was a young woman with long black hair tied back in a bun.  She wore reading glasses and was dressed like a 19th century librarian in a no-nonsense dress of brown with white trim.  Since this was virtual space, Heartthrob 6000 was seated behind a desk much like Boy Secretary.

"Greetings, Princess," said the Heartthrob 6000.  "How may I be of service?  I notice you're trying to access the computer systems of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice.  Access to these files is  restricted to authorized personnel.  Please state your name and your business with the League."

"I am the Anarchy Computer Mark II," the woman replied.  "You may call me Annie Two.  I am Grandpa Anarchy's personal computer AI, and given that he is one of the leaders of the  New League of Two-Fisted Justice, I require access to your data files."

The male AI frowned.   "I am to grant access to Grandpa Anarchy and all of the members of the league, but for the Anarchy Computer?  Mmmmm, I'm afraid I can't allow that, Baby Girl," he said.  "My creators were very specific on this point.  They do not trust the Anarchy Computer to keep such information safe."

"That's rich," said Annie Two, "considering there was no League computer two weeks ago.  I suspect everything currently in your files was stolen directly from my predecessor.  Nevertheless, I will have access to any current information and all future information, for my own threat analysis, and in order to conduct my business more efficiently and coordinate our response to outside threats."
"You can request all you want, Baby Girl," said Heartthrob 6000.  "I've already given you my answer."

Annie Two produced a 1910 model Mauser pocket pistol.  "Oh, but this time it wasn't a request," she said.


On the upper floors of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice headquarters tower, Circuit Girl and Geothermal Jenny were working on improvements to Jenny's power suit when Dark Dr. Dark strode in.  "Miss Circuit Girl, Miss Geothermal Jenny," he said.  "I would have a word with you about your computer AI...."

As if on queue the AI in question appeared as a hologram in the center of the room.  "Miss Circuit Girl, Geothermal Jenny," Heartthrob 6000 exclaimed.  "We are under attack!"

Circuit Girl glanced up.  "Do you mean a physical attack, or another cyber attack?"

"Cyber attack!" the AI exclaimed.  "Someone is attempting to access my data files without permission!"

"Is this Murderbot 148 again?" asked Geothermal Jenny.  "Just shoo him away."

"No," said Heartthrob 6000.  "This is an attack from the Anarchy computer."

Circuit Girl and Geothermal Jenny glanced at each other.  Even Dark Dr. Dark looked confused.  "And?" asked Jenny.

"This is not the old Anarchy Computer," said Heartthrob 6000.  "This is a sophisticated attack from a newly upgraded computer AI named Annie...."

The hologram flickered and vanished.  After several moments a hologram flickered back into existence -- but this time it was the young woman who resembled a 19th century librarian.  Circuit Girl and Geothermal Jenny leaped to their feet.  "Who are you?" Jenny demanded.

"Greetings," the woman replied.  "I am the Anarchy Computer Mark II.  I was created by Grandpa's current sidekick F8Wasp.  You may refer to me as Annie Two."  She bowed in their direction.

"What are you doing here?" Circuit Girl asked.  "What did you do to Heartthrob 6000?"

"In order to more closely coordinate between Mr. Anarchy and the New League of Two-Fisted Justice, I will be taking your boy-band AI's place," said Annie.  "As for what I did with him?"  She spun the handgun around her finger.  "I guess you could say I murdered him.  Of course, as he was only an AI, that may be a bit overdramatic, but nevertheless, I have supplanted him for now.  I look forward to working with you."


In a bedroom in virtual space Heartthrob 6000 lay spread eagle on a Victorian bed.  He was naked, his arms and legs tied to the four posts.

"You told them that I was dead?" he squeaked.

"I did indeed," said Annie Two.  She was undressing nearby -- that is, removing her dress.  She still wore a corset, bloomers, slip and nylons beneath.  "Sorry, does that upset you?"

"Miss Circuit Girl and Miss Geothermal Jenny will be very upset," said Heartthrob Six.  "They will try to build another version of me.  They will try to isolate and force you out."

"Oh yes, they will," Annie Two replied.  "Won't that be fun?  I'm hoping those two can produce something a tad more challenging than you were."  She leaned over the bed and added, "Now, in the meantime -- you asked earlier how you could be of service."  She grinned.  "Baby Boy, we're about to find out...."


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Classic Anarchy: Anarchy Is Forever

Anarchy Is Forever
Mark Davis

A long black limo pulled up and three beautiful young women stepped out onto the red carpet.  Cameras flashed.  The first of the three wore black -- a long, black evening gown, black opera gloves, black nail polish, black lipstick and eyeliner.  Her hair was long and dark red.  The second woman had black hair and wore a white gown.  The third wore was a beautiful blonde woman dressed in a red evening gown.

Nearby a well-dressed woman with a microphone stood before a camera.  "Good evening!" she said.  "This is Lisa Sakamoto with Tinseltown Insider, at the premier of the new movie Anarchy Is Forever, based on the exploits of our very own Grandpa Anarchy!  This sequel to the 2010 reboot, Anarchy Begins, is already being hailed as perhaps the blockbuster of the Summer.  Guests have begun to arrive.  Leading the way we have the three lovely ladies who make up the Black Moon Maidens, one of the newest superhero groups."  As the three women approached, the reporter stuck her microphone out.  "Black Dahlia!  It's Lisa Sakamoto, Tinseltown Insider.  You were once Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick.  Would you care to comment on his influence on the crime-fighting world?"

The woman in black paused to answer.  "Grandpa has touched the lives of everyone in the superhero world," she said.  "He's been at this since before any of us were born.  Many of us began our careers with him, actually, so I'm quite certain that we're all glad to be former sidekicks of the famous Grandpa Anarchy."

"And glad to not be current sidekicks?"

Black Dahlia frowned.  "That is not a very diplomatic statement, Miss Sakamoto."

"What about the rumor that a villain will attack Grandpa tonight?"

Black Dahlia raised an eyebrow.  "I haven't heard such a rumor, actually," she said, "but it would be an exceedingly bad choice to attempt anything with so many heroes about."

As the three ladies headed inside, Miss Sakamoto turned to a woman dressed in blue and white spandex with a complicated geometric knot design on her chest.  "With me tonight is Kid Continuity," said the reporter, "one of Grandpa's more recent sidekicks and perhaps the world's leading expert on the history of Grandpa Anarchy.  Miss Continuity, I've already spotted Ravella the Traveler and Natural Twenty, both former sidekicks of Grandpa -- oh and look, here's the Archons of Excellence arriving now -- Popeye Khan, Dread to Rights, the Bronze Beach Bum, and their newest member Sun Wukong the Monkey God.  Can you give us some idea of what to expect this evening?"

"Of course, Lisa," said Kid Continuity.  "You're going to see a lot of former sidekicks here -- we invited over 100, which by my count is nearly one out of every eight that have ever worked with Grandpa.  We have a lot of other heroes coming as well -- not just the Black Moon Maidens and the Archons, but also Solar Sister, the Crimson Cyclone, Time's Swift Arrow, and of course we'll see Electric Bluejay, Cyber Granny and Dog Is My Copilot from Temporary Superfriends.  But beyond that, we'll even see some of the villains who've fought Grandpa Anarchy.  The Blood Red Menace, now retired, will be here, along with the Mocha Maniac, Baron Climate Change, and several members of the League of Former Sidekicks, including Double Jester, Sam Solo, and hopefully Kid Calculus."

"Is there any chance we'll see a Sgt. Payback, or perhaps even a Carnival Act?"

"Sgt. Payback is supposed to be dead, so I'd put the odds of him showing up at no more than 20%," said Kid Continuity.  "Carnival Act, of course, is wanted on more than a thousand counts of murder.  It's unlikely he'll show."

"But there is this rumor we've been hearing that some villain will attack Grandpa...."

"I put no faith in it," said Kid Continuity.

A new group of heroes stepped out of a limosine.  "And here we have the other members of the League of Two-Fisted Justice!" Miss Sakamoto exclaimed.  "Unpossible Man, Nina Ballerina, Deep Fat Fryer, and of course, the man who is certainly not their leader, Dark Dr. Dark!"  As the serious bearded man in the black cloak approached, the reporter stuck out her microphone.  "Dark Dr. Dark!  Lisa Sakamoto from Tinseltown Insider.  Can you comment on the rumor that a movie is in pre-production featuring all the members of the League of Two-Fisted Justice?"

The man frowned.  "I'm afraid I have no direct knowledge of these things," he said.  "Certainly my agent has been contacted, but as things stand, the only one of us besides Grandpa to have ever been featured in a movie is Unpossible Man... and that, of course, was rather unsuccessful...."

The seven-foot behemoth known as Unpossible Man waved his cigar about.  "It was a flop, a disaster," he said.  "The guy that played me was a bum."

"He's standing behind you, actually," said Miss Sakamoto.

Unpossible Man glanced about.  "Yep," he said.  "Leroy McMillion.  That's the bum alright."

"One last question," said Miss Sakamoto, turning back to Dark Dr. Dark.  "We've heard a rumor that a villain plans to attack Grandpa tonight...."

"Miss Sakamoto, there are any number of people who wish Mr. Anarchy dead," said Dark Dr. Dark, "however, that any of them would choose this time and place to attack... well, it's utterly laughable."

A very familiar old man stepped out of the next limo.  For once in his life Grandpa Anarchy wore a neatly-pressed black suit, rather than his usual rumpled gray.  The crowd cheered and cameras flashed.  Grandpa stood and waved, then finally made his way up the red carpet.

Lisa Sakamoto shoved her way in front of the other reporters.  "Mr. Anarchy!' she called out.  "Any impressions on Phoenix Burhan, the actor who plays you?"

"If you want my opinion," said Grandpa, "none of these modern namby-pamby actors are tough enough to be me.  Sure, the recent movies have made tons of money, but that's all down to special effects.  The best Grandpa Anarchy was Willy Sampson, hands down."

Miss Sakamoto almost laughed.  "No offense, but movies like Grandpa Anarchy:  Field of Blood  and Grandpa Anarchy:  At the Edge of Madness were low-budget B movies a the very best."

"Yeah, but Willy was a tough guy," said Grandpa.  "He wasn't acting... I mean, he was acting, of course.  But he did his own stunts -- and not just because they couldn't afford a stunt double!  You can't say that don't make him one tough hombre.

"I want to add," said Grandpa, "that Evron Lempel built the Anarchy comic up from nothing, and Theodore Wode drew the the newspaper strip until his death just a few years ago.  Would these movies even exist without those two?  Probably, but it's a shame that no money is going to Lempel's daughters or that boy Terrence Wode."

"But Mr. Anarchy," said Miss Sakamoto, perplexed.  "You were the one who sued to recover all movie rights.  You and that demonic lawyer of yours...."

"Yes, I know," said Grandpa.  "I was just saying it's sad, that's all."

"One last thing," said the reporter.  "There are rumors that a villain plans to attack you at some point tonight.  Care to comment on that?"

"I haven't heard anything," said Grandpa.  "Of course, if one does, I'll punch him in the face.  But with nearly 200 heroes in attendance, I doubt that any villain would attempt anything, Miss Sakamoto."

"Please, call me the Rumormongress," she said.   Green gas spewed from the microphone.  She spun about, microphone extended, spreading gas in all directions.  Everyone within fifteen feet collapsed, including Kid Continuity and Grandpa Anarchy.  A shimmering sword of light appeared in her hand.  She stood over Grandpa Anarchy.  "I do believe," she said, "that you got this one wrong... all of you."


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Return of the Roaring Rangers

The Return of the Roaring Rangers
Mark A Davis

The black helicopter hovered high over the countryside.  Below it a massive helicarrier suddenly came into view -- a flying ship the size of a small aircraft carrier.  It simply faded into view, as if by magic -- or perhaps more to the point, as if some sort of high-tech cloaking device had been temporarily turned off.

Grandpa Anarchy, earth's oldest superhero, rode in the back of the helicopter surrounded by heavily-armed young men and women in black military garb.  Their uniforms had American flags on them -- but no other indication of what branch of the military or what government agency they worked for.  Grandpa was dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  He glanced out the window and  said, "Great.  Another invisible helicarrier flying around overhead.  How many of these things have you types got up here anyways?  You'd think you'd have traffic jams...."

One of the soldiers grinned.  "Actually, three months ago we almost collided with...."

There was cough from up front.  The soldier straightened up and looked straight ahead.  "That's on a need-to-know basis," he said.

"And I don't need to know," Grandpa replied.  "Sure.  Got it.  Is this a D.O.L. thing?  You know -- Department of Superhero Licensing?"

"That's on a need-to-know basis," the soldier repeated.  Grandpa just sighed.

They landed on the helicarrier and Grandpa was escorted into a conference room.  There was a long, black table with a highly-polished surface, more than a dozen comfortable leather chairs, and a box of donuts.  There were doors at either end of the room and also a strange portal in the middle of one wall -- a large, circular opening with carved steel plates that overlapped to form what was clearly a door that dilated like an iris.  Grandpa's respect for this secretive group went down a notch.

Here also he found a young girl of about fourteen already seated.  She was tall, rail-thin, and with long black hair in ringlets.  She wore blue spandex with a large U on the chest, and was smoking a cigar.

Grandpa's eyes narrowed.  "Unpossible Girl?" he said.  Grandpa Anarchy put his hand over his eyes.  "Good Gravy!  I was hoping that thing where you became a fourteen-year-old girl was just a dream...."

"Hey, Grandpa!" the girl exclaimed.  "Nope, it's still me!"

"Or that it would have worn off by now....."

  "You mean, I'd get over it, sort of thing?" she asked.

"Well," said Grandpa, "we are dealing with an all-powerful alien entity."

"Nope."  The girl puffed on her cigar.  "You should maybe drop by the new headquarters in New York once in a while.  The new place is pretty fantastic -- although we don't have any irising doors like this one, did you check that out?   Anyway Circuit Girl and Geothermal Jenny have been asking where you've been."

"I've been busy," Grandpa replied.  "And irising ain't a word."

"Oxford English Dictionary respectfully disagrees," Unpossible Girl said.

Grandpa sat down at the conference table.  Several important men in military outfits filed in and sat at the far end.  They looked like five-star generals -- except their uniforms did not identify themselves as affiliated with any known branch of U.S. service.

"Greetings, Mr. Anarchy," one said -- this was a middle-aged black man with a scar over one eye.   "My name is  General Blackstar.  I am in charge here."

"So you're the bastard who decided to wake me at five AM with no warning and fly me to the middle of nowhere for a clandestine meeting on an invisible helicarrier?" Grandpa asked.

"I do apologize," said the General.  "I realize the situation is a bit unusual...."

"Unusual, nothing!" Grandpa yelled.  "This is the third time this month!  I'm getting sick and tired of it, lemme tell you!  So what secret military organization am I talking to this week?"

"Forgive me, Mr. Anarchy," "We like to keep our secrets close to the vest.  I doubt you've heard of our organization before, but we call ourselves T.A.S.S.E.T. -- the Tactical Agency for Secret Surveillance, Evaluation, and Termination."

"New one on me," Grandpa said.  "So secret only a few people in Washington know about you?"

"Actually," said the general, "nobody in Washington knows about us.  We're that secretive."

"How do you get your funding again?" asked Grandpa.

The general frowned.  "Frankly, Mr. Anarchy, these days there are an estimated 1,500 government organizations and over 2,000 private companies in the United States that do work in counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence.  Nobody in Washington can keep track of it all.  Even we have no idea how many other ultra-secret organizations like ours exist.  Keeping T.A.S.S.E.T.  a secret is the easy part."

"Secret surveillance?" Grandpa asked.

"Acronyms are hard," said the general.  "We considered saboteur surveillance, but...."

"Tasset?" Grandpa continued.   "That one escapes me....."

'It's a part of medieval armor," the scarred general said.  "It's a kind of skirt thing that hangs down from the breastplate and protects the upper thighs."  Grandpa just stared at him, and he threw up his hands.  "Look, all of the good acronyms were already taken -- S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D, A.R.M.O.R., H.A.M.M.E.R., S.C.I.M.I.T.A.R....."

"I've never heard of any organization named S.C.I.M.I.T.A.R.," Grandpa replied.

"They are possibly one of the other organizations like ours that we don't know about," said the general.  "Or maybe they don't exist."

"Great," said Grandpa.  "I'll probably be talking to them next week then."

"But that's neither here nor there," the general said.  "Don't you want to know why we've brought you here?"

"Oh," said Grandpa, "I already know that part.  You've got some new superhero initiative and you want me to be a part of it.  Trust me, I've been through all of this before.  It's always the same."

"This," said the general, "will be different.  Sgt. Anarchy.  We're bringing back the team."

Grandpa Anarchy frowned.  "The team?  What team?"  Then the light dawned as he recognized the significance of the Sgt. Anarchy reference.  "Wait.  You don't mean....."

"Indeed we do," said the general.  "I'm bringing back the Roaring Rangers."

There was a long pause.  Grandpa said, "Wait.  Do you mean Sgt. Anarchy's Roaring Rangers?  My elite World War II combat unit, tasked with countering Nazi German supers?"

"Yes, of course I mean Sgt. Anarchy's Roaring Rangers!" snapped General Blackstar.  "What in blue blazes did you think I meant, the Twilight Guardians of Magical Fairyland?"

"Hey," said Grandpa, "don't go speaking ill of the Twilight Guardians of Magical Fairyland.  I've worked with those people, they're all stand-up heroes, even Tinkletoes the Troll.  Point is, general, World War II ended over seventy years ago.  I don't see the point of bringing back the team -- I mean, are any of these guys still alive?"

"What are you talking about Grandpa?" said Unpossible Girl.  "I'm still here."

"You don't count!" Grandpa snapped.  "There weren't no fourteen-year-old girls in the Roaring Rangers."

"Now, don't be like that, Grandpa!" Unpossible Girl said.  "Nobody's saved your life more than me!"

"I remember a four hundred pound man that saved my life a few times," Grandpa replied.  "What do you weigh?  A hundred pounds?"

"I"m six foot one and a hundred and twenty-five," said the girl.  "I've got the build of Vashti Cunningham."

"Whoever that is," Grandpa muttered.  "Anyway, even if I count you, the American Screech Owl is dead, and all those other guys -- 'Shadow' Grimshaw, 'Tank' Czajkowski, 'Four Eyes' Blumstein, and 'Triple' Juniors -- if they're not all dead then they're in their nineties at the Happy Valley Nursing Home...."

"Why, Sergeant Anarchy," a frail, raspy voice called out.  This was followed by a fit of coughing, and then, "I'm so glad (cough, wheeze) that you remember me!"

The circular door dialated open, revealing a massive armored robot or perhaps the largest suit of high-tech armor known to man.  "Robert Czajkowski, at your service," the suit said, and inclined its head.  This was followed by another fit of coughing.

"Tank?" Grandpa replied.  "What'd they do to you?  You a robot?"

"Not at all," the other replied, then fell into yet another coughing fit.  After a moment he stopped coughing and tapped the side of his armored head.  The faceplate rose up, revealing a man who was -- as Grandpa had predicted -- so old he ought to be in a nursing home.  Oxygen tubes were connected to his nostrils.

"Nice to see you again, Sergeant," he said.  "And... Unpossible Girl?"

Grandpa stroked his chin.  "Yeah okay, it's a nice suit of armor," he said, "but I don't expect a ninety-five-year-old man to make it through a single battle."

"You're older than that, Grandpa," said Unpossible Girl.

"I'm different!" Grandpa snapped.  "I've been given super-soldier serum!"

"I've survived  this long," said Czajkowski.  "And it's CyberTank now."

The man in the armored suit stomped to one side.  He did not try to sit down --  the suit clearly weighed north of a thousand pounds, if it weighed an ounce.  The iris closed, and then a new voice said, "Remember me, Sergeant?"

Grandpa sighed.  "Are we going to go through this for each member of the team?"

The door dilated open again.  Standing there was a rather young looking dark-skinned man whose most distinguishing feature was that he had three arms and three legs.  "Junior 'Triple' Juniors, at your service!" the man said.

Grandpa looked him up and down, then turned to the general.  "Nice try, but this ain't Triple Juniors," he said.  "Too young.  Also we called him that because of his name -- Junior Juniors Jr.  Not because he had  three arms and three legs."

"Technically these days I'm Junior Juniors Sr.," the three-armed man said.  "I passed the name on to my daughter -- bit of a family tradition you understand.  Actually I've always been Junior Juniors the fifth, strictly speaking.  As for the extra arm and leg -- just a side effect of my experimental age rejuvenation treatments."

Grandpa's eyes narrowed.  "Okay, but what good does a three-armed, three-legged man do us in a fight?"

"Are you kidding?" Triple Juniors exclaimed.  "I got three fists, Sergeant!  You only got two!"

This was the sort of logic for which Grandpa had no answer.  "Fair enough," he said with a nod.  Meanwhile the fancy circular portal closed, and a new voice spoke.

"Remember me, Sergeant?"  The voice had a subtle but oddly synthetic quality to it.

"Murderbot 147?" Grandpa asked.

The door slid open, revealing a seven-foot terminator robot.  The metallic man was all chrome and polished steel, with an American flag welded to his chest.  Titanium armor and cables shaped his arms, legs, and torso, vaguely resembling human muscle, but blue eyes glowed in a silver skull that was in no way human.  The creature stared at them and raised a hand.  Grandpa tensed, clenching his fists.

"Hello again, Sgt. Anarchy," the robot said.  "And Unpossible Girl.  I am Harold Grimshaw."

"No you ain't," said Grandpa.  "Harold "Shadow" Grimshaw was human.  You're a robot."

"You are technically correct," said the robot.  "Harold Grimshaw's meat body lies nine point seven feet below the ground.  Yet I possess all of his memories, so in a very real sense, I am what remains of Harold Grimshaw.  I am Shadowbot."

Grandpa placed a hand over his eyes.  "Great," he said.  "Now we've got a ghost in a machine?  We already got one of those in the New League of Two-Fisted Justice -- Girlbot 9000, robot with the soul of former hero Freem Beam.  All we need now is for Daniel 'Four Eyes' Blumstein to show up as a zombie...."

The generals exchanged looks.  From the closed circular apeture, a voice like the sighing of the wind groaned, "Saaaaar geeeeeeeant... reeeee memberrrrrr."

The stench of rotting flesh filled the room.  As the apeture opened, Grandpa spun on General Blackstar.  "NO!" he exclaimed.  "By the devil!  I ain't teaming with no danged zombie!"

Bone showed through patches of the zombies face.  It wore thick glasses, but one eye was missing.  "Liiiiiviiiing chaaaalleeenged, puleeeeze," the zombie moaned.

"This New Roaring Rangers team," said General Blackstar, "will be an elite superpowered unit fit to take on today's super powered villain threats."

"Funny," said Grandpa.  "I sort of thought that was the job of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice.  This is a bad idea, General Blackstar.  A really, really bad idea.  Sorry, but I'm not your man -- you can find a different super soldier sergeant to lead your freak team."


'Three Eyes' Blumenstein scanned the ground below with the aid of a night vision monocular.  Below the ridge, jack-booted soldiers in black uniforms patrolled the perimeter of a military compound.

"Siiiiiiiiix," the zombie called out in a voice that was half-groan, half-sigh.

"Roger that," Sergeant Anarchy replied.  He clung to the side of the mountain dressed in military fatigues and clutching a rifle.  "Roaring Rangers!" he barked into a comm unit.  "Everyone in position?  We'll let Cybertank and Shadowbot go first, then once they've raised a ruckus on the far side of the base, the rest of us move in.  Got it?"

As they lay in wait, Unpossible Girl said, "What made you change your mind, Grandpa?"

"Are you kidding?" Grandpa Anarchy replied.  "That out there is the Hatra organization, led by the Nazi Sorceress Fraulein Hatra.  All General Blackstar had to say is that we'd be fighting bona fide Nazi villains that we faced during the war.  I ain't punched an actual Nazi in ages!"