Tell Me A Story
Mark A Davis
In Cleveland, Ohio, could be found a run-down, non-descript house of moderate size. The paint was peeling and the lawn was overgrown. None might suspect that this was the headquarters of a superhero group known as the Continuity Crusaders In fact, few would even have heard of that group, because it operated in secret. Their missions involved time-travel into the past, to verify obscure facts or to fix things that no one else considered a problem.
This was also the location of the Grandpa Anarchy fanclub, not to mention the fanclub for the Girls of Two-Fisted Justice cartoon show. The headquarters of a secretive time-travel superhero group might be difficult to locate, but the location of both fanclubs were printed in the official fanclub handbooks.
The doorbell rang. The person who answered was known as En -- full name Ellen Nowak -- one of two assistants who worked for the supergroup. She wore a Girls of Two-Fisted Justice tee shirt and jeans, and had brown hair to her shoulders and thick glasses. "Yes?" she said. "Oh -- it's you."
The young girl who stood on the porch wore a long gown of purple, with a silver tiara with a quill pen studded with amethysts. A large leather messenger bag was slung over her shoulder. "Yes, it is I -- the Princess of Purple Prose," said the girl. She was a former sidekick of Grandpa Anarchy, and known for her web site on which she published fictionalized accounts of her adventures with Grandpa and of Grandpa's past. "Is the woman known as Miss Kid Continuity to be located on the premises?"
En's eyes narrowed. "She's here," she said. "Her name's Continuitae by the way.... and I'm not certain she wants to see you."
"Oh? Her name is Sarah Mickens, if one desires to become technical," said the Princess of Purple Prose. "However, I am given to understand that you are in the market for some additional administrative and secretarial aid in your group's endeavors...." The ad had, of course, not specified how to contact the group -- if you couldn't figure that out, then you weren't the right sort of person for the job.
"A secretary, yes," replied En. "Are you seriously suggesting that you came to apply for that position?"
"I am," the Princess replied. "Although I am also in possession of a suggested endeavor involving certain matters regarding Kid Anarchy's past, and the documentation thereof... in short, I have a specific proposal for Miss Continuitae that I am hoping she will be amenable to listening to."
En's eyes nearly glazed over. After a moment she said, "Um... okay. I guess you might as well come in...."
En led the Princess of Purple Prose through the front half of the house. As they walked, the Princess said, "I am under the impression that everyone in the supergroup dwells at this location save for the bride of the Monkey King...."
"Sarah and Freya live here," said En, "and Tim, and Twenty, and Bryce of course. He's the other time crisis specialist...."
"Ah, yes, the younger sibling of Natural Twenty I believe."
"Her kid brother, yes," said En, leading her into the living room.
Two women were seated on a couch. An episode of Girls of Two-Fisted Justice was playing on large screen, while another screen on the side wall was blank. The first woman was clearly the one formerly known as Kid Continuity. She wore a Grandpa Punched First tee shirt and shorts and sported long brown hair in a pony tail. The other woman had long blonde hair and wore jeans and a My Little Pony tee shirt.
Sarah Mickens frowned. "Oh, it's you," she said. "What can I do for the mighty Princess of Purple Prose? If this is about allowing fanfiction on the Grandpa Anarchy fan site, then I'm not changing my policy. Sorry."
"No, it's not that," said the Princess of Purple Prose. "My reasons for this visitation are twofold: first, I am legitimately interested in the secretarial job. I have no prior work experience other than freelance writing sales, but I have excellent organizational skills, am exceptionally well-spoken and cheerful on the phone, and my typing speed is quite good." She paused, smiling, and added, "As to the second part of my two-pronged endeavor: I have a proposal for you of which I believe you may find intriguing.
"I have been doing research into the history of Mister Anarchy, and focusing specifically on his early years as Kid Anarchy, and on the companions whom he worked with in the 1920's. Little is knows about most of these women and Grandfather Anarchy himself has rarely spoken about them. However, I believe I've assembled enough information to suggest that a book on the subject would be a worthwhile endeavor. Of course, I am given to understand that your particular methods of research are, quite naturally, more direct than mine...."
"A book on Kid Anarchy and his companions from the 1920's?" Sarah replied. "As it happens, I'm already in the process of writing such a book. My coauthors are Freya here, and Annie Two."
The Princess of Purple Prose glanced sideways at the other woman on the couch. "Who is Annie Two?" she asked.
"That's short for the Anarchy Computer Mark II," Sarah said.
"Excuse me," said the Princess. "Am I to understand that you are penning a volume of history with a computer as your co-author?"
"Indeed," Sarah said. "But not just any computer. Maybe you should meet her."
The screen on the side wall flickered to life. On it was the image of a young woman in a conservative Victorian-era dress of brown. Her hair was pulled back into a bun and she wore wire-rimmed glasses. She looked like nothing so much as a librarian from the late 19th century.
"Greetings to you, Princess of Purple Prose," the woman on the screen said. "My name is Annie Two. I've been listening in on this conversation."
The Princess's eyes went wide. "My goodness!" she exclaimed. "You seem to be quite the upgrade over your predecessor."
"You have no idea," Annie said.
A half hour later, things had been explained to the Princess and En had brought in drinks and sandwiches. Sarah had taken the opportunity to transform into her alter-ego: Continuitae, Avatar of Continuity. This involved an actual transformation sequence and a outfit that was remarkably like that of Sailor Pluto, with a blue-violet skirt decorated with a stardust pattern and a lot of amethyst jewelry. There was also a long silver staff with a symbol on the top that matched the one Kid Continuity had always used -- a sort of squared-off Celtic knot, meant to represent continuity.
"My goodness!" exclaimed the Princess of Purple Prose.
"Impressed?" replied Continuitae.
"I was simply shocked at the garish, girlish, and juvenile outfit," replied the Princess. "So many ribbons and bows! A skirt so short and full that it might as well be a tutu! So very reminiscent of Japanese animation!"
"Yes, exactly!" Continuitae replied. "Just like Sailor Moon! I'm a living, breathing, honest-to-gosh Sailor Senshi! Pretty cool isn't it?"
"It certainly gives one pause," the Princess replied. "So what you are telling me is that Grandfather Anarchy hired a sidekick who goes by the name of Fate Wasp...."
"F8Wasp," said Continuitae.
"Yes, that is indeed what I said," replied the Princess of Purple Prose. "This woman known as Fate Wasp designed a brand new Anarchy computer, with a state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence as sophisticated as any found in the world, from the ground up in her spare time with next to no budget to work with?"
"That would be, for the most part, correct," replied Annie Two. "It should be noted that F8Wasp is the daughter of a computer electronics mogul and thus had significant help from her family."
"Even so," said the Princess, "a person with such enormous talent ought to be working for you as soon as it can possibly be arranged...."
"Oh, I'd love to have her working for us," Sarah replied, "but she's off in the dimensional city of Intersect having adventures with Miss Bloodraven. In any case, just about every supergroup on the planet will want to hire her, and people like the Archons or the Black Maidens can offer a lot more than we can...."
The Princess eyes went wide. "Did you say Miss Bloodraven?"
"Yes. Grandpa's companion from the 1920's? The one who can transform into a panther? That's her," said Continuitae. "My goodness, for someone who is trying to document Grandpa's adventures you've certainly been out of the loop. Were you really Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick only a few months ago?"
"I have been... following up on my considerable investigations," said the Princess of Purple Prose. "That is why I have turned to you. With your sidekick Wayback Boy, you are far better equipped to confirm some of my suspicions...."
"Continuitae glanced at the girl beside her. "Oh, Wayback Boy? He's... no longer around, as such. The person you want to talk to is Freya here. She transforms into Saturnae, Avatar of Time."
"I ain't doing it right now," Freya muttered.
"Yes, that's fine," said Continuitae. "She's not so excited about the girly outfit. But the real question is, what can you do for us? Or to put it another way, what can a second-rate fanfiction author possibly offer us? We can write our novel without your help surely?"
"I rather think you are underestimating my abilities as a wordsmith," said the Princess of Purple Prose.
"Nope," said Continuitae. "I've read your blog."
"I've improved my storytelling skills considerably since last Fall when I wrote those stories," the Princess replied.
"Prove it," said Continuitae.
"Some of my work has been featured on the cartoon series Girls of Two-Fisted Justice..." the Princess began.
En sat up. "No it hasn't," she said. "I would know."
"All of us would," said Continuitae. "Look, you know my real name -- what's yours?"
"My given name is Aisha Shamon," replied the Princess.
En's eyes grew wide. "Aisha Shamon! You wrote that episode from last month! Mutant Snow Goons of the Serengeti! I loved that episode!"
The Princess's eyes brightened. "Thank you! Yes, that was mine! Mind you, they did rewrite it a bit... but that is high praise indeed, coming from one of the maintainers of the Girls of Two-Fisted Justice fanclub data base."
En scooted forward. "have you written anything else?"
The Princess looked about conspiratorially. "Well," she said, "I did sell two more stories to them. One -- my title was Abandoned in the Tenth Dimension -- is said to be airing soon...."
"That's scheduled for next month!" En exclaimed excitedly. "I don't know anything about it except the title...."
"Well, I wouldn't want to reveal too much," replied the Princess, "but I borrowed a villain from Grandfather Anarchy's past -- Baron-Who-Cares-For-Pets."
"Awesome!" exclaimed En. "I remember him! Oh, can I post that as an insider scoop to the web site?"
"If you must," said Aisha.
"Okay," said Continuitae, "I may have misjudged your abilities as an author. However, aside from some writing skill I still don't see what you can offer us...."
"I've been doing a lot of research on Kid Anarchy and his 1920's companions," said the Princess.
"So have we," replied Continuitae. "Our research methods are considerably more direct, as you already noted."
"Time travel, yes," said the Princess. "Do you know who Hellfire Lass was?"
"Well it's pretty clear she was Lucy Brandwein, who married Kid Anarchy," said Continuitae. "But proving that is has been difficult. She hid her past well...."
"I have proof," said the Princess of Purple Prose.
Continuitae raised an eyebrow. "Go on," she said.
The princess opened her messenger bag and pulled out a stack of yellowed papers. "Did you know that Evron Lempel left a considerable amount of papers behind?" she asked. "I tracked them down. Among them are unfinished or unpublished stories, research notes, a journal, and a multitude of newspaper clippings from the era related to Kid Anarchy. Mr. Lempel had a lot of things to say about that time period that I've never found documented anywhere else." She smiled and added, "I was able to purchase the entire collection from the daughter of a former landlord...."
"Unfinished stories?" asked Continuitae. Her hand hovered in the air, ready to snatch up the papers in the princess's lap.
Aisha nodded. "And completed stories that were never published. Plus the journal...."
Continuitae stood. She stuck out her hand. "Welcome to the team, Miss Shamon!" she exclaimed.