Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fist to the Face

Fist to the Face
Mark Davis

"Well," said Grandpa Anarchy to his new sidekick, the Glass Cannon, "how would you sum up your first week on the job?  I think we had a spectacular week!  We battled Baron Climate Change in the skies above the Brazilian rain forests, we stopped Death Medal from unleashing a heavy metal zombie apocalypse, we broke up a smuggling ring run by Idiot Ball, and we teamed up with Deathcop 2000 to smash a crime syndicate threatening to take over the city!  I tell you, Dr. Wertham had it right when he said:  Fists that smash against faces settle all problems."

Grandpa's current sidekick the Glass Cannon frowned.  This was a young woman with hazelnut skin and cornrow braids.  She wore a leotard with a scooped neck and loose sleeves that had a glass-like surface, with similar knee-high boots and wraparound mirror shades.  She was seated in a chair before a large wall screen in the Anarchy Cave.  Grandpa stood nearby.  On the screen was depicted a visual representation of the Anarchy Computer A.I. known as Annie Two -- a young woman dressed in a 19th-century outfit with wire-rimmed glasses and her hair in a bun.

"It's been pretty busy," said the Glass Cannon.  "But -- solve all the world's problems?  With a punch?"

"Of course!"  Grandpa nodded emphatically.

"Forgive me, Mr. Anarchy," said Annie Two, "but you are misquoting from a 1948 symposium on The Psychopathology of Comic Books by Gershon Legman and Dr. Fredric Wertham, two people who were decrying levels of violence in superhero comics and not, as you surmise, suggesting a blueprint for your crime-fighting career."

"Nevertheless they were right!" Grandpa exclaimed.  He held up his fist.  "With this I can solve any problem!"

"Okay," said his sidekick, "but you can't solve a wallstreet financial crisis..."

"Any problem!" Grandpa insisted.  "When the sub-prime mortgage crisis struck in 2007, I went to the house of the CEO of Bank of America and I punched that S.O.B. in the face!"

The sidekick raised an eyebrow.  "And you weren't arrested for it?"

"Well... I was," said Grandpa.  "But the case was dismissed in court.  And do you know why?"

"Because you have the best demonic lawyer money can buy?" suggested the sidekick.  "Also, because you're not black?"

"No!" exclaimed Grandpa.  "Well, partly that, but also because I threatened to punch the judge in the face!"

"Threatening a judge is obstruction of justice, at the very least," said the young woman.  "I have to believe that the only reason you weren't thrown in jail is because of your demon lawyer."

"The judge was intimidated!" Grandpa said.  "That's how it works!"

"Okay, but that did not solve the crisis, did it?" the Glass Cannon asked.  "Similarly, you cannot solve global warming...."

"Already done!" Grandpa stated.  "Baron Climate Change is in prison as we speak!"

"For the moment, yes," the sidekick said, "but Grandpa, he's not really responsible for...."

"Oh yes he is!  He admits it!" insisted Grandpa.

The Glass Cannon pursed her lips.  "Okay, let me try this from another angle," she said.  "Last year comedian and actress Leslie Jones was attacked online by internet trolls.  They hurled mysoginistic and racist epitaphs at her and threatened her with death, all because she was a woman -- a black woman -- in that Ghostbusters movie.  I guess recasting the movie with women was a threat to the masculinity of some people, or something.  But this sort of harassment of women happens online all the time, and...."

"People say this kind of crap to you?" Grandpa asked.  "I know you do that chirping stuff and facelog and snapbook and whatever on the intertubes...."

"Yes, and I'm a black woman so of course I get threats and called names, but...."

"But, nothing!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "You're my sidekick, Glass Cannon!  They can't say that kind of stuff to you!  Just tell me who they are and I'll pop them one...."

"Grandpa, this is a systemic problem.  You can't just fix it by punching people in the face...."

"Says you!" Grandpa retorted.  He  turned to face the screen.  "Annie!  I'll need a list of names and addresses of anyone who has sent a racist or mysoginistic threat to the Glass Cannon...."

"No, Mr. Anarchy," said the computer, "I will not be providing you with such a list, just so you can beat up ordinary citizens, no matter how poorly they behave online.  I've already contacted your lawyer Malevolent P. Brimstone, and he expresses support for my position on this matter in the most stringent of terms...."

Grandpa Anarchy glowered at the computer screen.  "Fine," he said.  "You won't give me a list?  Then we'll do this the old fashioned way!"

As Grandpa disappeared up the elevator, Annie Two said, "Don't worry, I doubt he'll get very far."


The man on the right wore a black tuxedo with white gloves, a diamond-studded cane, and a flowing black cape.  He was a tall man, with a diamond mask and closely-cropped blond hair.  His face was set in a permanent sneer.

The one on the left was shorter and wiry.  He was dressed all in black, like a ninja, including a black hood covering his head.

"Grandpa Anarchy, you fool!  We meet at last!" the first exclaimed.  "And I see that you have come with your pathetic black dog...."

"Her name's the Glass Cannon, and she's my sidekick!" Grandpa snarled.

"Nobody cares!" the second villain exclaimed.  "You and your Feminazi-supporting ways are no match for the Masked Mysoginoirist and the Alt-Right Avenger!"

The Glass Cannon sighed.  "Well, this won't solve anything," she said.  "Although I'm going to enjoy it.  But Grandpa, where do you find these people?"

"Good old-fashioned gumshoe detective work," replied Grandpa Anarchy.  "And I don't need no fancy computer to help me do that!"


Monday, April 17, 2017

Ghost Cop

Ghost Cop
Mark A Davis

Smoke drifted through the dimly-lit room like fog over predawn water.  The place smelled of smoke, alcohol, and old grease.  Melancholy Jazz music played in the background as several men in suits and hats sat at tables or at the bar nursing drinks.

The  doors burst open.  Framed in the bright afternoon sunlight was a tall, muscular man in the uniform of a motorcycle officer.  There were leather boots, thick pants, a leather jacket, gloves, and a helmet  with a dark visor that covered the upper half of the face.  What could be seen below that visor, however, was nothing but the yellowed bone of a grinning skull.

Nobody in the bar reacted to this.

"I'm looking for Tony Gentilini!" the skull-faced cop exclaimed.  The voice was clear and strong, but the mouth never moved.  "I know he's been moving drugs through this neighborhood, I know some of you have seen things, and I'm certain that you want to help out the law and volunteer that information like the good citizens that you clearly are."

For a few moments the room was silent.  Then one man at the bar said, "Bite me, Copper."

The death's headed cop reached the bar in three strides and lifted the man off the ground by his lapels.  "Thank you for volunteering, Citizen!" the cop barked.  "Now tell me what I want to know:  where does Mr. Gentilini warehouse the goods?"

Behind the cop,  two more figures entered the bar.  One was a very old man in a rumpled gray suit with an anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast in silver thread.  The other was a young black woman with cornrow braids.  She wore a scoop-necked leotard with a surface so bright and shiny it was like a mirror.  There were thigh-high boots with a similar surface, and wraparound mirror shades.  This was Grandpa Anarchy and his current sidekick the Glass Cannon.

"Hey, put me down!" the man in the suit exclaimed.  "I don't know nuffin!"

"That, my Friend, is the wrong answer!" said the cop.  Moments later the man screamed.  The Glass Cannon winced.  The skull-headed cop said, "I just broke your pinkie.  You've got nine more fingers before I have to start breaking arms and legs."  He leaned in close so that the man could have smelled his breath, if a skull-headed man breathed at all.  "Where.  Is.  His.  Warehouse?  I know you know -- you guys see everything in this part of town."

"Screw you, you effin'.... Aaaaah!"

The man screamed again as another finger snapped.   The Glass Cannon looked very uncomfortable.  "Hey, is he supposed to be doing this?" she asked.  "This is police brutality!  Maybe you should step in -- you know,  the old bad cop, good cop routine?"

"I ain't a cop," Grandpa said.  "But Deathcop is.  He's an old friend; he knows what he's doing."

"But you can't just let him torture a man like this!" she said.  "Whatever happened to the concept of a carrot to go along with the stick?"

"Hate carrots," Grandpa said.  "Can't stand 'em.  What kind of a reward is a carrot anyway?"

"Well, the proverb refers to training a donkey, I think...."

The man screamed a third time as a third finger was snapped.

"Now carrot cake I could understand," said Grandpa.  "I mean, can't stand the stuff myself, but lots of people like it.  That's at least something everyone recognizes as a treat.  But just plain carrots?  Nope."

The cop with the skull said, "You're Billy Bunt, right?  I remember you."  He turned to face the rest of the bar.  "I know all of you chumps."  He pointed to a man watching everything from a corner table.  "You!  You're  the one they call Little Lucy -- Roberto Luciano.  I ran you in for car theft last year."

"No you didn't," the man said.  "That was Sargent Ouellette, and he's...."   The man's voice trailed off.

"That's right," the cop said.  "I died.  You know about that, don't you?  I was tracking down Mr. Tony Gentilini last year when his boys took me out.  Funny thing is, I got sent back to finish  the job.  I've been to Hell and back, Lucy -- literally.  And if one of you don't answer some questions for me real soon, I'm gonna take you all down to Hell with me.  Don't think I can't do it -- I'm like an Angel of Death now.  And I know you guys know what that means."

"You're the one they're calling Deathcop 2000," Luciano said.

"That's me," the cop replied.

"Kind of a dumb name, if you ask me," said Luciano.  A couple of others in the bar laughed nervously.

Deathcop 2000 sat the whimpering Billy Bunt down.  He walked slowly over to Luciano.  "Well," he said, "there are a lot of undead cop heroes out there.  There's Supernatural Justice.  There's Zombcop.   There's Officer Death, and Sgt. Specter.  There's the Gumshoe Ghoul, and the Wraith Mountie.  Good names are hard to come by."

"Why 2000?" asked Luciano.

"Because Deathcop 200 didn't seem powerful enough, and Deathcop 9000 just seemed silly," the cop replied.  He placed his gloved hands on the table and leaned in so that his nose -- if he'd had a nose -- would have been touching that of the seated man.  "Now.  Where can I find Mr. Gentilini's warehouse?  Or do you want me to break a few bones in your hands first?"

There was a long silence, and then Luciano said in a low voice, "Rumor is his people been seen at a building on Third and Mason, loading and unloading things late at night.  But you didn't hear it from me!"

The cop stood and walked out of the bar.  As he passed the first man, he said, "You ain't looking too good, Billy.  You should really get that hand looked at."

Outside of the bar, the cop paused.  He glanced at Grandpa and the Glass Cannon.  "Is the name Deathcop 2000 really that silly?" he asked.

Grandpa shrugged.  "No more silly than the Gumshoe Ghoul or the Wraith Mountie," he replied.

"What you did in there, that was just wrong," the Glass Cannon said.  "That poor man...."  She turned back to the bar, and blinked in surprise.  Behind them was nothing but an empty lot, filled with weeds and litter.

"Relax," said Grandpa.  "Pete's Corner Bar burned down in 1972.  That was just the ghost of a place long since gone, filled with the souls of wise guys and losers who can no longer even get drunk.  That man will be as right as rain in an hour -- if being a ghost qualifies.  In the meantime, we've got our information, and trust me, ghosts know the neighborhood better than anybody.  C'mon, let's go take down a drug ring."


Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Mark A Davis

It was late evening.  Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, hunkered down amid the tall grass on the seaside bluff next to his current sidekick.  A cool night breeze blew the scent of saltwater and the cries of seagulls.

Below, men on a dock were busy unloading boxes from a ship -- but oddly, they worked in silence and near total darkness.  Grandpa watched through binoculars.  He handed then to his sidekick.

"He's there," Grandpa said.  "He's always so very careful to avoid being associated with his dirty work, but this is an important shipment and he's worried that workers have been stealing from him.  Tonight he decided to show up in person.  We've got him!"

"Oooh," said the sidekick, peering through the binoculars.  "They really look shady!"  After a long pause, she added, "Just one question:  Who are they, and what are they doing?"

Grandpa's sidekick was a young woman with hazelnut skin and black hair done up in cornrow braids.  She wore a leotard with a scooped neck and loose sleeves that had a glass-like surface.  There were wraparound mirror shades and knee-high boots with the same polished surface.  She called herself the Glass Cannon.

Grandpa Anarchy, dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with the anarchy symbol stitched in silver thread over the left breast, sighed.  "You've been shooting these guys all week with your fancy energy blasts, and you don't even know who they are?"

The sidekick shrugged.  "You said they were bad guys," she said.

"These guys are smugglers," said Grandpa.  "They work for a criminal kingpen that I've been trying to take down for years."

"Oooh,  got it," said the sidekick.  After another moment she added, "So what are they smuggling?"

"Lollipops," said Grandpa.

"Lollipops?" the Glass Cannon replied.  "What...."

"Lollipops laced with fentanyl," said Grandpa.  "One hundred times more powerful than morphine."

"Oh!" exclaimed the sidekick.  "That is shady!"

"More than just shady," said Grandpa.  "It's illegal -- and a danger to the public.  We need to put a stop to it.  You see that big bald guy in the center of everything?  Wearing a fancy suit?"

"I see him," said the Glass Cannon.

"That's Ichabod Berelli of I.B. Enterprises," said Grandpa Anarchy.  "Better known as Idiot Ball."

"The Big Boss!" said the Glass Cannon.  "Got it!  I can take him out from here!"

"Great," said Grandpa, "but first we want to  get closer and get all of this on film, because...."

A blinding bolt of white energy shot from the hillside.  It struck the criminal kingpin in the back, knocking him forward eight feet.  "Got him!" the Glass Cannon exclaimed.

"What?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "No!  What are you...."

Gunfire erupted.  Below them people were shouting and running about.  Some lifted their boss up and carried him to a waiting sedan, while others shoved boxes into the back of the van as quickly as they could.  The rest spread out, heading for the cliff, firing shots at the darkened hillside.  A bullet whizzed past Grandpa's ear.  "Aw, Hades!" he swore.  "Don't let them get away!"

Grandpa Anarchy drew his gun and charged down the hillside.  "Right behind you, Grandpa!" his sidekick exclaimed.

Grandpa reached the base of the hill.  He shot one man in the arm.  The second he slugged in the jaw.  As the man spun, Grandpa grabbed him and used his body as a shield.

Bullets flew.  Several hit the man Grandpa held.  He shot another gunman, then ditched the body and charged two more.  Behind him, he heard the Glass Cannon yell out, "I'm hit!  I'm hit!  Grandpa, go on without me!"

Grandpa Anarchy swore.  Both the truck and the sedan were pulling out.  He tried to aim for the sedan's tires, but one beefy man in a suit slammed a fist into his arm and knocked him to the ground.

"I'm bleeding bad!" his sidekick called out.  "Tell mother I loved her!"

Grandpa grappled with the much heavier man, rolling on the ground until he was able to get in several good punches.  The man's eyes rolled up into his head.

Grandpa grabbed his gun, spun and shot two more thugs, and then realized that  there was no one else left on the dock.  The rest had gotten away.

Swearing, Grandpa stood and made his way back to his sidekick, who lay writhing in the brush at the base of the cliff.

"I'm a goner," said the Glass Cannon.  "Tell Fernando that I really had fun on Valentine's Day.  He's a nice boy.  I really liked him.  If only...."

"Here, let me see that," said Grandpa.  He inspected the wound.  He frowned.

"You know," he said, "I had a sidekick once.  Young black man, back in 1970.  Packed a wicked mean punch, but he was almost useless in a fight, and you know why?  One punch -- even a glancing blow -- and he was down for the count.  Every.  Single.  Time."

"I'm dying here, Granpda," said the girl.  "It's not exactly the time to be telling stories, but... that sounds kind of like my father.  His name was the Glass Jaw."

"Yeah," said Grandpa.  He produced a bandaid and applied it to the wound -- barely a scratch.  "I sort of figured that was the case."


Friday, April 7, 2017

Classic Anarchy: Hackernaut

Mark A Davis

Strangely-shaped vehicles covered in dust cloth loomed in the dim light.  Grandpa Anarchy paced the floor of his Anarchy Cave.  His fists clenched and unclenched.  Nearby two people leaned over the Anarchy Computer while a third chased dust with a broom.  One was an older gentleman, perhaps in his sixties, but with the toned body of a dancer.  He was dressed in an armored suit of electric blue, with built-in wings.  The second was a young girl dressed like Fred Astaire in a black suit, top hat and spats.

The girl sweeping wore a plaid skirt of white and blue and light blue jacket.  She had white fur and the head of a dog.

"I hate cyber crime," Grandpa muttered.  "There's nobody to punch!  Gimme someone to punch, and there's no end to what I can accomplish!"

"That is certainly not true, as your well-paid lawyer Mal is very fond of saying," said Electric Bluejay.  "Patience, Grandpa.  Your sidekick and I will resolve this problem presently."

"I can't figure it," said Grandpa.  "I thought the Anarchy Computer was impregnable... I mean, you built it, after all."

Bluejay rolled his eyes.  "Grandpa, that was in the early 1960's.  The world of computing has changed slightly in the last fifty years.

"Yeah, sure," said Grandpa, "But it's been updated numerous times since then,  Bluejay."

"Don't I know it," the former sidekick replied.  "That's one of your problems.  The Anarchy Computer currently has more back doors than a door maker's convention -- at least two for every computer-literate sidekick you've ever hired."

"First thing I did," said Grandpa's current sidekick, The Ritzy Cracker.  "In fact, it's right in the instruction manual, written by Kid Calculus himself."

"Yes, yes," said Bluejay.  "And there's good logic there, but...."

"Is that them?" Grandpa asked, leaning over their shoulders.  He pointed to the screen.  "That thing there?  Where's the VR helmets?  Let's take 'em down!"

"Grandpa, this isn't the Matrix.  You can't see hackers attacking you...."  He paused as a Guy Fawkes mask floated across the screen.  "Okay, but that's just Annonymous, the international hacker group.  They keep tabs on you, you know.  But they tend to favor loose cannon justice, so they like you on the whole.  In fact, some of your computer literate sidekicks have been members, I dare say."

The Ritzy Cracker stared up at the ceiling.  "Don't know who you're talking about, Bluejay," she said.

For a few minutes the only sound was the soft sweeping of Dog Is My Copilot's broom and Grandpa's renewed pacing.  Then Electric Bluejay said, "Good grief.  Grandpa, did you give out your social security number?"

"Only to the Superhero Retirement Security Administration," Grandpa Anarchy replied.  "They needed it."

"Grandpa, there's no such thing as a Superhero Retirement Security Administration," Bluejay replied patiently.  "If there was, then I'm sure they'd already know your number."

"Well, they know it now, anyways."

"Yes.  That's the problem.  And it looks like you gave out your bank account routing number too?"

"For the Orphans of Djanatonia," replied Grandpa.  "Those poor orphans!  You gotta help in whatever way you can."

"Yes, but I don't think I've ever heard of Djanatonia."

"It's in Eastern Europe," said Grandpa.  "Or Africa."

"And you gave out your credit card too, I see."

"I'd never do that."

"But you'd verify it if your bank requested via e-mail?"

"Well, of course," said Grandpa.  "You have to.  It's to prevent fraud.  You can never be too careful."

"Grandpa, your credit card is maxed out and your bank account is empty, and it looks like a dozen more credit cards have been issued in your name using the information you supplied."

"Really?" Grandpa said.  "Well, it's a good thing my friend the Nigerian Prince is gonna split his inheritance with me then."

The Electric Bluejay sighed.  He pushed his chair back.

"This is hopeless," he said.  "We're going to have to shut everything down, isolate ourselves from the net, and scrub everything...."

"When things look bleak," said Grandpa, "I always ask myself:  What Would The Gentleman Brawler Do?"

"Yes," said Electric Bluejay.  "He'd punch them in the face."

"Dang straight!" Grandpa replied.

"But as much as I hold the Gentleman Brawler in high esteem, you can't solve every problem with...."

Sparks flew across the console.  There was a crack and a flash of light.  The Ritzy Cracker was knocked across the room.  "Power surge!" Electric Bluejay exclaimed, leaping to his feet.  Electricity arced in all directions.  Bluejay formed a barrier around himself, Grandpa, and Dog Is My Copilot, deflecting several bolts.  Energy gathered into a sparking ball of light.  It took on a human form -- a being of energy in a stovepipe hat.  It turned to glare at them, malevolently.

It raised its hands.  Electricity cracked.

"Well, isn't this a surprise?" it said.  "Grandpa Anarchy and his little hacker sidekick, along with none other than the Electric Bluejay himself -- perhaps the first of the hacker heroes.  My name is the Black Silk Hat, and I am here to...."

Grandpa Anarchy leaped forward.  He punched the creature in the face.  The being collapsed on the ground.  The electric light faded, and now there was just an unconscious young man in a black hat.

"Someone I can punch!" Grandpa crowed.  "That's my kind of hacker!"

The Electric Bluejay sighed.  "Dog, cuff the idiot.  Ritz, please shut this computer down."  He glanced at Grandpa and added,  "Really, after fifty years you'd think I'd see this stuff coming...."


Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Mark A Davis

Theodore Harold 'Paul' Smith -- better known to the world as Kid Anarchy -- awoke.  His head was pounding.  There was a lump on the back of his skull.  He was in a cage, in the corner of a cluttered room.  The air smelled of vinegar, charcoal, and... pickles?

He got to his feet.   He was wearing his normal clothes -- an off-white shirt, dark pants, scuffed leather shoes, and suspenders.  He inspected the cage.  The bars were thick steel.  The door was locked.  Although he called himself a hero, Kid Anarchy was not one of those with special powers.  Perhaps a Valentin Zholdin could bend steel, and surely Nikola Tesla could melt the bars somehow.  Kid Anarchy was left with picking the lock -- something he'd never been very good at.

Nor was there a key anywhere in sight -- although in a room this crowded with junk and lit with flickering gas lamps rather than much brighter electric bulbs, it might be in plain sight.  There were several tall tables piled high with papers and books, and glass vials and beakers.  A coiling glass  tube filled with a green liquid led to a decanter that was dripping slowly into a large jar.  There was a rifle of some sort on one table, and on another, a curious statue of a squat demon, about a foot tall.  On the far side of the room was a heavy steel door.  Beside this were stairs led up.

Kid Anarchy groaned.  "Y'know, the Brawler always told me that when investigating a Judas, to watch my back...." he muttered.  "I shoulda listened...."

"Me too, Kid, me  too," another man said.

There was a second cage not too far away.  Inside was a portly, middle-aged man in a police uniform.  "Sargent Godell!" Kid Anarchy exclaimed.

The Sargent looked up.  "Kid Anarchy.  I see you're finally awake...."

"Miss Bloodraven and I have been looking for you!" Kid Anarchy said.  "Have you found Mister Graves?"

"Yes, I...." the Sargent began, but then keys could be heard in a lock above.  The stairs creaked.  A man descended.  Kid Anarchy's eyes narrowed.

"Julian Judas!" he exclaimed.

The man was striking.  He was six feet tall and muscular, and wore an expensive frock coat of black with gold buttons and gold stitching along the hem.  he had a black vest with a gold chain dangling from his pocket watch.  A crisp white shirt, black slacks, and black leather boots completed the look -- with a red silk cravat at the neck.  His face was narrow but handsome, with black hair, wire-rimmed glasses, intense dark eyes, and a trim black beard that came to a sharp point.

He carried a green beer bottle in one hand.

"Well, look what the cat dragged in," Julian Judas said.  "Or at least, I should say, my associates Wilson and Istvan.  If it isn't the Gentleman Brawler's rich little orphaned sidekick, Little Pauley Pugilist.  Can I get you something to drink?  Ginger beer, perhaps?"  He raised his bottle to demonstrate.

"No thanks," replied Kid Anarchy.  "The Brawler always told me to never trust a relative of Jebadiah Judas.  It's Kid Anarchy, by the way."

"Ah, yes -- you changed your name," said Julian.  "Trying to distance yourself from your famous mentor, who gifted you with such a fortune?  For shame!  And such a chaotic, dreary, and negative appelation for a so-called hero of the people, too.  A sad sobriquet which declares to all and sundry that you spit in the face of those better than you!"  He smiled in a very weasel-like manner.  "I must admit, Kid Anarchy, I approve."

He paused, then added, "Are you certain I can't get you a ginger beer?  So refreshing!  I keep an ice chest full of them here in the lab, so  they're always cold."

"You're holding a police officer hostage...." Kid Anarchy began.

"Yes, well, that is my right," said Julian Judas.  "I have made a citizen's arrest.  He was trespassing on my property without a warrant,, just as you were.  Now is that any way to conduct an investigation?"

"Where is Mister Graves?" Kid Anarchy demanded.  "What have you done with him?"

"I can assure you, I do not know the man," Julian said.  "In addition I can verify that I am entirely above the law here.  You have no reason to investigate me -- my operation is an entirely legitimate one.  Would you like a ginger beer?"

"I'll take one," said Sargent Godell.  Julian ignored him.

"I chose this name...." Kid Anarchy began.

"Yes, I know," said Julian.  "You chose it in honor of the Gentleman Brawler and those terrible wobblie miners who died with him.  You think to align yourself with the people, the common folk, but I assure you these rabble-rousers, anarchists and communists do not represent the interests of anyone save themselves.  They have no vision for making America a great country -- they just want whatever they can get their greedy little hands on.  They would tear down American industry in order to feed their fat faces for a single day.  Really, is is a good idea to declare yourself an ally of such shiftless ilk?  Especially when you could do so much better.  Why, you could become someone like me -- one of the titans of industry!"

Kid Anarchy glared at Julian Judas.  The latter sipped his ginger beer, then said, "The Gentleman Brawler left you quite the sum of money in his will, did he not?  You should do what he never did and invest it."  He set the bottle down and inspected the decanter.  "I'll be the first to admit that some of the things my father did fell outside of moral decency, not to mention the law -- but I have not followed in his footsteps.  I've made something of myself, Kid Anarchy.  My company the Julian Judas Research Institute is among the leading manufacturers of modern chemical drugs.  Why, I've even perfected my father's old elixir and am in negotiations to sell it to the American military itself!  The problem with my father is that he didn't dream big enough.  Imagine it, my friend -- an army of super soldiers, stronger and faster and more resilient than any normal human being, and able to heal from wounds much more quickly -- why, they'd be unstoppable!  And if the United States declines to meet my very generous purchase price, there are other states that would jump at the chance to get their hands on this formula.

"I just need to eliminate the last of the unfortunate side effects...."

He spun about and stared directly at Kid Anarchy.  "As it happens, I need a partner to help fund a new line of research.  I'd be willing to offer you 20% interest in my company, in exchange for an investment of a certain amount of cash, to be negotiated later?  This is a very generous offer, my friend.  It would set you on the road to respectability!"

Kid Anarchy's eyes narrowed.  "You want to partner with me?"

"It's Paul, right?  Theodore Harold Paul Smith -- I remember.  Consider my offer carefully, Mr. Smith.  Surely you can not expect to make a living from dashing about the world and fistfighting with whoever you deem a villain.  That's no way to make a living, let me tell you!  Consider your future!  You may be a young buck now, but soon enough you'll want to marry, settle down, and raise a family.  You have no education and precious little talent.  How do you expect to support your family?  You need to strike now while the iron is hot, before you've frittered away that inheritance and are left with nothing.

"Could I get you that ginger beer?"

"Yes, please!" said Sargent Godell.  "My  throat is parched!"  Julian Judas continued to ignore him.

Kid Anarchy said, "You sure do like that  stuff."

"Oh, indeed!" said the scientist.  "Brewed right here in Cleveland!  Ginger has many anti-inflammatory properties.  It's good for nausea and indigestion. muscle pain and soreness.  It helps fight infections and stimulates the brain.  I recommend ingesting as much ginger per day as you can reasonably manage.  I have my cooks use it in every meal, with pickled ginger on the side and candied ginger as a snack afterwards.  You haven't lived until you've tried my Molly's lemon-ginger cake!"

  "Are you gonna let me out of here," asked Kid Anarchy, "or are you going to stand there all day flapping your gums about your favorite root?"

Julian shrugged.  "You haven't indicated whether you would accept my offer."

"Me, team up with you?" asked Kid Anarchy.  "There's not a chance in hell."

Julian sighed.  "A pity, although hardly surprising.  I had hoped you would see reason, but I suspected that you were too pig-headed.  It turns out my initial instincts were correct."

"At least I know how to knot a tie," Kid Anarchy muttered.

Julian raised an eyebrow, then turned to the police officer in the other cage.  "My apologies, officer -- Sargent Godell, wasn't it?  Let me fetch you that ginger beer."

As he was doing this, Julian said to Kid Anarchy, "You know, when someone finally put a bullet in the brain of that self-important, self-righteous busybody known as the Gentleman Brawler, I had thought my life would have gotten easier.  To my discredit I thought nothing of his little sidekick -- but you've been making quite the name for yourself ever since, haven't you?  You and your far more talented companions.  The first was Lady Prometheus, a remarkable woman who can conjure fire like some fabled sorcerer.  Now it is Miss Bloodraven, a woman of even more astonishing talent.  Where you find such women I'll never know.

"Where is Miss Bloodraven, by the way?"

"She's in New York, checking into another kidnapping case," said Kid Anarchy.

"Ah, pity.  I had so hoped to meet her!  Now she is a woman who intrigues me  greatly!  Able to transform into a panther, as well as a raven?  Such magnificent abilities!  It's a wonder she chooses to work with a street thug such as yourself.  Why, these qualities of her are exactly what I wish to build into the next generation of my patented elixir... if I could only study her hereditary molecules and discover the secrets hidden deep within her nucleotides, I might...."

"It's always about that damned elixir with you, ain't it?" growled Kid Anarchy.  "Just like your father!  Well, I got news for you -- what Miss Bloodraven does is magic.  You can't quantify it with your science.  And I have a suspicion, Mr. Judas, so tell me if I'm right:  all those reports of a monstrosity wandering the streets at night and terrorizing the townsfolk?  It's you and that damned elixir again, isn't it?  I know how you work -- just like your father, experimenting on people without their knowledge or agreement...."

An inarticulate half-choke, half-scream emanated from the second cage.  Sargent Godell bent over, grunting.  The green bottle which Julian had handed him fell and shattered on concrete.  His body rippled and morphed.  Black hair sprouted from his face and forearms, and his shirt began to rip and tear.  In seconds, the police officer had transformed into a muscular half-human beast.

"Whaaaat haaave youuuu dooone tooo meeee?" the creature exclaimed.

Julian frowned.  "Hmm.  Another bad reaction.  I simply must eliminate those if the military is to make any use of my formula."  He glanced back at Kid Anarchy.  "Yes, of course I've been conducting experiments -- I have to find a way to perfect the formula before I sell it, don't I?  All in the name of science!"  He glanced back at the officer and added, "Oh, don't worry, it's not a catastrophic reaction.  You should be back to normal in just a few days.  As for Mister Graves, well... things did not go quite according to plan...."

"You are responsible for his disappearance!" Kid Anarchy snarled.  "I knew it!"

"You know nothing," said Julian.  He retrieved the rifle from the nearby table and aimed it at Sargent Godell.  Kid Anarchy yelled and launched himself at the iron bars of his cage.  Julian fired, and the Sargent collapsed.

"You murderer!  To Hades with you!" Kid Anarchy yelled.

"Oh, it's only a tranquilizer dart," said Julian Judas, setting the rifle aside.  "No need to be so dramatic!  I find that they moan and complain and make all sorts of terrible noises, so it's best if they sleep it off.  Not to mention, I've laced this particular dart with an antidote which will return him to normal faster...."

A large raven flew into the room, and landed before the bars of Kid Anarchy's cage.  It dropped a set of keys on the ground, then turned.  Suddenly the creature shifted and grew, morphing into a large, powerful panther.

Julian Judas's face lit up.  "Why, Miss Bloodraven!" he exclaimed.  "I thought you were skulking about, and now you've chosen to grace us with your presence!"  He drew a pistol, aimed, and fired -- but missed the panther.  Instead,  the bullet struck the keys and sent them skittering into the corner, out of the reach of Kid Anarchy.

The panther leaped, but Julian avoided it.  He snatched up his rifle again and fired several shots into the panther.  "I simply must have some tissue samples!" he exclaimed -- but the panther did not even slow down.  It charged again, lashing out with its claws and raking the left arm of the scientist.  Julian cried out in pain and dropped the rifle.  As the panther growled and stalked about him, preparing to strike again, Julian snatched up a vial from the work table and downed the contents in one gulp.

His arms swelled.  His clothing ripped and buttons popped off.  He grew a foot  taller and gained more than a hundred pounds of muscle.  Suddenly the man before them was no mere businessman or scientist, nor even a strongman such as one might see in a carnival -- he was a monstrosity, a human with the strength of a  gorilla.

As the cat leaped, Julian met it with a swing of his fist.  The cat crashed sideways into a workbench, scattering equipment and papers.  One lamp shattered, setting the paperwork on fire.

The cat rolled to its feet and leaped again.  Julian caught it with both hands and redirected it over his head.  The creature crashed into Kid Anarchy's cage, bending the steel bars.

Julian laughed out loud.  "Is this not how it should be?" he exclaimed.  "Man versus beast!  Science versus magic!  I will show you how a superior human intellect can win out over your superstitious mumbo jumbo!"

The big cat launched itself again.  This time, as Julian tried to meet it in the air, it twisted and avoided his grasp.  it sank its teeth into his right shoulder.

In the meantime, Kid Anarchy found that the bars of the cage had been bent just enough that he could squeeze through.  He quickly retrieved the keys and unlocked the second cage.  The thing inside that was the police Sargent stirred.

Julian Judas screamed.  The cat flung him across the room.  The man rolled and came up with his pistol again in his hands.  He fired at the panther, emptying the clip.   The cat appeared unaffected.

The fire was raging now.  Julian backed towards the stairs.  He grabbed a lever on the wall and flipped it.  The heavy steel doors nearby began to open.  A horrible stench filled the room -- stronger even than the smell of smoke and spilled chemicals.  An unearthly moan emanated from the room beyond.

Julian turned and smashed the steps with his massive fists, then leaped to the landing above.  He called down:

"Gods of Hades!  All of my tranquilizer darts, and all of my bullets?  You really are something special, Miss Bloodraven.  Clearly I've made some grave miscalculations and shall have to cut my losses.  I do of course realize what a tired and worn cliche it is for the hero to burn down the innovative and revolutionary scientist's lab, but still, these things do happen.  Oh, but I suppose Kid Anarchy has never even read Mary Shelley?

"In any case, I do believe this is the end.  I shall of course sue the Kid Anarchy estate for damages to recover my costs.  There are many valuable things in this facility which you are in the process of destroying.  In the meantime have fun with Mister Graves -- he had a rather violent reaction to the elixir I'm afraid, and won't be his old self again.  Good day to you!"

By now the steel doors were fully opened, and something emerged amid the smoke and fire -- a creature unlike any of them had ever seen.

It was vaguely humanoid in shape, but stood about ten feet tall.  It had thick leathery skin of a purplish-gray hue.  The legs were like tree trunks, as thick as those of an elephant and with spidery, fleshy roots or tentacles spreading from the base.  The arms likewise had a multitude of rootlike tentacles sprouting from shoulder to wrist; they writhed and wriggled like worms feasting on a carcass.  The face did not look human, nor like any creature known on earth.  The eyes were huge and white, with no pupil, so that the creature appeared to be blind.  The nose was a dangling snout like that of a tapir.  The entire lower jaw and neck area was one large gaping, tooth-filled maw.   There were larger tentacles sprouting from its back as well.  Yellow ichor dripped from every part of its body.  In all, it was impossible to believe that this thing had ever been human.

The stench was unbearable.

"Get the Sargent out," barked Kid Anarchy.  "I'll deal with this thing."

The panther growled.  Kid Anarchy added, "You're injured!  Also, you have the best chance of catching Julian Judas.  I can take it!  Now go!"

The cat snarled again, but turned to the creature that was Sargent Godell who was stumbling towards the broken stairs.  Kid Anarchy grasped a broken table leg and brandished it against Graves.

The creature bellowed.  Kid Anarchy swung with his makeshift club.  The creature caught the club almost casually and flung Kid Anarchy across the room.  He crashed into the broken workbench.

"The Brawler always told me that fighting demons and eldritch horrors was a fool's game," he muttered, climbing to his feet.  "I probably shoulda listened to him...."

Having lost his club, Kid Anarchy grasped the first thing he could find -- which turned out to be the small demon statue.  It was squat and ugly, but heavy.

The creature swung again.  Kid Anarchy ducked below the punch and darted around the creature.  Leaping up, he brought the statue down on the creature's skull.

The statue shattered.  The creature spun and knocked Kid Anarchy a dozen feet across the floor.  Unnoticed in the increasingly smoke-filled room, wisps of smoke arose from the shattered statue.  Moments later, as Kid Anarchy was again knocked into a wall, a sharp-dressed man appeared.  He had red skin and small yellow-white horns jutting from his forehead, and closely-cropped black hair with a beard that came to a point.

He watched as Kid Anarchy was again launched across the room.  By now nearly everything in the place was on fire.

"You have my thanks for freeing me from my prison," the newcomer said.  "However, I must inform you that this favor is given freely of your own will, and was not requested or coerced on my part, nor does this favor confer upon me any need to provide a reciprocal boon in return, nor does this in any way constitute an agreement of any kind between us.  In short, I owe you nothing, and have agreed to nothing."

"Got it," Kid Anarchy grunted.  He peered at the newcomer through the smoke.  "Are you a demon?"

"I am indeed," said  the demon, "and in anticipation of your next question, no, this monstrosity is not.  I have no idea what this thing is...."

"A human who's been transformed with an elixir," said Kid Anarchy.  "Can you kill it or stop it somehow?"

"Really," said the demon, "do I look like that sort of demon?"

Kid Anarchy ducked another swing from the monster.  "You look like a lawyer," he said.

"Indeed," said the demon.  "I am Malevolent P. Brimstone, a partner of Maxwell, Screwtape, Brimstone and Wormwood, which is a fully-staffed and thoroughly modern demonic law office operating on the mortal plane...."

Once again the creature's massive fist slammed into Kid Anarchy, who bounced off the wall.  His lungs were on fire, as was the sleeve of his shirt.  He tried to stand, but the room swam before his eyes.  Just before he passed out he saw the blur of a black panther charging into the room and at the monstrosity.


Kid Anarchy awoke on the lawn outside the house.  Red lights were flashing, and firemen were dousing the building with water.  Miss Bloodraven was leaning over him, a look of concern in her eyes.

"Julian Judas?" Kid Anarchy asked.

"He escaped," she replied.  "When under the influence of his potion he's very fast."

"The creature?  Mister Graves?"

"Dead," she said.  "I've spoken to the police and the fire chief;  they'll simply tell the family that he perished in the flames.  But Sargent  Godell is fine -- he's back to himself."

"What about the demon?" asked Kid Anarchy.

"Mal?  He left his card," she said.  "He says he can defend you in any lawsuit regarding the destruction of villainous laboratories -- but that you would need to discuss compensation first, as he does not work pro bono.  However, as his first customer in over a hundred years he said he could extend an offer of a special incentive program...."

Kid Anarchy stared at the card.

"Y'know, my mentor the Gentleman Brawler always told me to never make a deal with a demon," he said.  "But I've never listened to anything he said, and I'm going to need a good lawyer...."