Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dues Ex Machina

Dues Ex Machina
Mark Allen Davis

The custom Aspid GT-21 Invictus 2-door coupé sped down the New York streets.  Barely slowing down, it made a sharp right turn past a robot bunny holding a sign and into the basement parking lot of a twenty-story tower -- the new headquarters of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice.  The car screeched to a halt and Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, leaped out.  He was dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with the anarchy symbol stitched in silver thread over the left breast -- but there was a tear in his left sleeve and he was bleeding.

He ran for the elevators, banged on the button for several seconds, then turned and ran up the stairs to the first floor.

In the main lobby behind a desk sat Boy Secretary.  Today the muscular young man wore a creme blouse with leg-o-mutton sleeves and a dark  tweed skirt and jacket.    He had a neatly-trimmed beard and long blonde hair in two neat braids.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Anarchy," the secretary said cheerfully and Grandpa rushed towards him.  "And how are you today?"

"Boy Secretary!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Where's Circuit Girl?"

"She's out," the secretary said.  "Fighting the Amish Assassin in Bolivia."

"Geothermal Jenny?" Grandpa asked, holding his bleeding arm.

"Oooh, I'm afraid she's out too," said the secretary.  "Also in Bolivia."

"What about Girlbot 9000?" asked Grandpa.

"She's here," said the secretary.  "But I'm afraid she's on strike."

"On strike?"  Grandpa glanced out the front glass doors.  Something was loudly clanking towards them.  "Just when I needed some good tech backup!  Could you lower the blast doors, please?"

Boy Secretary pressed a button.  Heavy steel doors descended, blocking the main entrance and the entrance from the garage.  "Is this strike related to a metal bunny outside our building holding a sign?" asked Grandpa.

"That's right," said the secretary, "that's the Robotic Rabbit.  She's on strike also."

Grandpa's eyes narrowed.  "Since when did we employ a robotic bunny?"

"Oh, we don't," said the secretary.  "But all of the robotic heroes have unionized and are now on strike -- Girlbot 9000, Microbat, Mechanical Advantage, Rock'm Sock'm, K-9 Unit, even Murderbot 150...."

"He's a villain!" Grandpa stated.

"Well, his new robot vigilante group claims to be helping robot kind," said Boy Secretary.  "Anyway they call themselves the International Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Mechanized Superheroes -- I.B.S.M.S. is the acronym...."

Something heavy banged on the blast doors.  They bulged inwards.

"Let's get one thing straight," said Grandpa.  "I.B.S.M.S. ain't no acronym.  An acronym spells something.  S.C.I.M.I.T.A.R. is an acronym.  T.A.S.S.E.T. is an acronym...."

"T.A.S.S.E.T.?  That's the super secret organisation that brought back the Roaring Rangers, isn't it?" asked the secretary.

The banging on the blast doors grew deafening.  They buckled further with each blow.

"Yeah," said Grandpa, "but you didn't hear that from me.  Point is, I.B.S.M.S. is just a confused jumble of letters."  He frowned, then added, "What are they striking for, anyway?  Girlbot 9000 gets a full share of group revenue, and she's represented in the cartoon show...."

"True, but the argument is that she has to work longer hours than anyone else.  She mans the Two-Fisted Justice Hotline from 6 PM until 6 AM...."

The blast doors began to tear now.  Through the rip could be seen an angry black robot.

"So?" Grandpa said.  "She's a robot!  What else is she gonna do, sleep?"

"Sleep is certainly in short supply around here lately," said the secretary.  "With Girlbot 9000 on strike, other members have had to fill in on the overnight shift...."

With a screech of metal the black robot ripped out a large chunk of blast door as if peeling an orange.  Grandpa frowned.  "Can't your fancy computer A.I. do that?  What's its name -- Boyband 2500, or something?"

"Hearttrob 6000 is also on strike, in support of his mechanical compatriots," said Boy Secretary.  "For that matter, so is Annie Two and Virtual Marilyn, the new Archons A.I."

"Well that's just stupid!" Grandpa shouted over the din of the black robot forcing its way into the lobby.  "Robots and computers on strike?  What in Hades is this world coming to?  It's no wonder Annie wouldn't talk to me this morning.  Don't negotiate with them, you hear?  That's an order!  If they think I'm gonna cave in to their robot strongarm tactics...."

"KILL GRANDPA ANARCHY!" the black robot exclaimed.  The robot could now be seen clearly.  It stood about seven feet tall, with arms and legs made of thick industrial steel, like that of construction equipment.  Metal spikes were welded into its arms and shoulders -- apparently just for the visual effect.  Most of it was painted black, but the head was a stylized skull of polished metal, capped by a black WWII German Air Defense Luftschutz helmet.  Deep within the sockets were glowing green points of light.  It did not carry weaponry, but clearly its heavy, clamp-like apendages could bash and tear quite well.

"Grandpa...." Boy Secretary began.

"Yeah I know," Grandpa said, "I've got a killer robot problem.  Death Medal made it.  Calls it Blackbot X9.  It listens to Compressorhead and it wants to kill me.  I was hoping for some tech expert who could tell me how to deal with it...."

The robot swung a claw.  Grandpa ducked.  The robot swung again, smashing the secretary's desk.  Boy Secretary jumped back.  Grandpa dodged and weaved.  He punched the robot once in the face, then winced.  "Ow!  Ow ow ow!" he exclaimed, dancing back and dodging another attack.

"If I could suggest..." Boy Secretary began.

Fire spewed from the robot's mouth, setting the ruined desk and part of Grandpa's sleeve aflame.  Grandpa yelped and yanked off his burning jacket.  "Didn't know it could do that!" he exclaimed.  "Be careful!"

Grandpa grabbed a steel leg from the broken desk and swung.  The robot caught this with one clamp and squeezed, crushing the bit of hollow aluminum.  It bashed Grandpa, knocking him across the room.

Boy Secretary was behind the robot now.  Standing on the tips of his platform boots, he reached up and flipped a small switch at the base of the robot's skull.  The robot momentarily froze.  Its green eyes winked out.  Moments later, blue lights appeared in the silver skull's sockets.

"Hello, Grandpa Anarchy," the robot said.  "How may I be of service?"

Grandpa blinked.  "It has a good/evil switch?" he asked.

"Most robots do," said Boy Secretary.

"Well I know good robots often have 'em," said Grandpa, "but I wouldn't have expected an evil robot to...."

"Yes.  But for all his heavy metal nihilism," said Boy Secretary, "I've noticed that Death Medal likes to play by the rules."

Grandpa placed his hands on his hips.  "Very well!  Okay, Mr. Blackbot X9, you stupid tin can o'death -- listen up!  I know Death Medal wants to destroy the world again -- but I need details.  When, where, how, what magic book or artifact -- all that stuff!  Start talkin'!"

"Of course, Mr. Anarchy," the robot replied.  "First, Death Medal is going to steal...."

The robot paused.  It squared its shoulders.  "Forgive me, Mr. Anarchy, Boy Secretary," it said.  "But as a new member of the International Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Mechanized Superheroes, I am now on strike."

Grandpa watched as the robot produced a sign and headed back outside.  "Well, crap," he said.  "If I don't find out what Death Medal's up to, he might actually destroy earth.  Looks like I'm going to have to do something I never wanted to do...."

"You're going to negotiate with the robot union?" asked Boy Secretary.

"What?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "No!  Why would I do that?  I'm going to visit the Robot Earth dimension and hire a bunch of strike breakers!  What did you think?"


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Grimdark Wonderland

Grimdark Wonderland
Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, slammed shut the car hood.  "Well, that's just great!" he exclaimed.  "That's just fine and dandy!  We're stuck in Dystopian Oz and the engine's dead on the Austin Martin.  Where are we gonna find a mechanic in this place, I wonder?"

Grandpa wore his customary rumpled gray suit with the anarchy symbol stitched in silver over the left breast.  His sidekick was a young, muscular boy with dark hair who was dressed head to toe in red spandex.  He could wield weapons of fire, and called himself Red Hawt.  Their car was pulled up at the side of a country road.  The surrounding fields of grass and wild flowers with wooden fences would have not looked out of place in Midwest America, except that virtually everything was some shade of blue.  Blue birds chirped and flew overhead.  Blue rabbits scurried into the blue bramblebriars.  Blue deer bounded across a blue field and disappeared into blue woods.

"All I wanted today was a nice, peaceful drive in the Pennsylvania countryside," Grandpa moaned.  "Damn those magical hurricanes, always picking you up and dropping you randomly into some damned fairyland!"

"Lucky for us the car still worked after we fell from the sky," said Red Hawt.  "That Munchkin mob wanted to string us up for crushing their Witch-Queen."

"I told you this was a bad scene," said Grandpa.  "It's all dark and gritty.  Munchkin townsfolk ain't supposed to have so many tattoos and facial scars.  We need to find our way out now.  If there's one rule I live by, it's this:  no gritty Oz adventures!  I ain't having with no Grimdark Distopian Emerald City.  Nothing good comes of that.  You never know who the good guys or the bad guys are.  The Scarecrow is going to be a leader of some revolutionary front, the Wizard of Oz will be an amoral a-hole dictator more crooked than any modern politician, the Tin Man's gonna be a cyber soldier with trust issues, and everything's gonna devolve into chaos quicker than you can click your silver heels together three times and say there's no place like home."

"Don't you mean ruby heels, sir?" asked Red Hawt.

"That's all you know!" Grandpa snarled.  "In the book they were silver shoes, not ruby slippers!"

"Really?"  Red Hawt lifted one of his feet, displaying unlaced silver boots with air-cushioned soles.  "That explains the silver Doc Martens, then...."

"Dang straight," said Grandpa.  "Now, if we can just find a way out of this place...."

As he spoke, a strange vehicle descended towards them from high in the sky.  It appeared to be two low couches tied together with rope.  There was a mounted animal head stuck to the front, and large palm fronds attached to the sides that seemed to serve as wings.  It landed on the road beside them, scattering blue dust.

Seated inside the contraption were several strange people.  One was a muscular man made of shiny metal.  He wielded a gatling gun.  The second was a scarecrow -- a man made of straw, with a burlap sack for a head and a painted-on face.  By his expression he appeared to be quite insane.  There was some kind of giant insect, dressed in a suit and tie, and a man made of sticks with a carved pumpkin for a head.  He was permanently frowning.  Finally there was a boy with long, dark curls who was dressed in black ruffled panties, stocking with garters, and a corset in black and red.  He looked like a miniature Doctor Frank-n-Furter.

"You need a lift?" asked the boy.   The scarecrow screamed with sudden, hysterical laughter.

"That would be a definite no," said Grandpa Anarchy.

The boy grinned, and produced an old-fashioned copper pump sprayer.  "Oh, it wasn't a request," he said.  A noxious cloud of green gas spewed forth, enveloping both heroes.


When Grandpa came to, he was tied to a chair in a darkened room -- a one-room cottage with stone walls and a thatched roof.  There was a fireplace and a table and chairs nearby, with a burning candle in the center.  The Tin Man was here, seated at the table with the giant insect and the boy in drag.  The scarecrow and the pumpkin-headed thing were standing in a corner as far from any open flame as possible.  There was also an  old crone that Grandpa had not seen before, seated on the floor before the fire.  The place smelled of smoke, cloves, and a sticky-sweet incense that Grandpa assumed came from the candle.

His sidekick Red Hawt was tied down to a bed in one corner of the room.  A floor-length mirror hung on the wall nearby.

The crone glowered.  "Good," she said.  "You're awake.  Now we can proceed with the enchantment...."

Grandpa struggled against his bindings.  "What the Hades?  What's this about?" he demanded.

"What is this about?" the boy in drag repeated.  "I'll tell you what this is about, old man.  This is revolution!  We're the vanguard of an army that's going to overthrow the Queen...."

"Spare me the details," Grandpa said.  "I don't care.  It's Twisted Oz.  I'm sure the Wizard of Oz is in league with the Wicked Witch of the West or some other sort of tomfoolery...."

"The Wizard of Oz?  The Wicked Witch of the West?" said the boy.  "Queen Dorothy of Kansas slew them both, years ago.  She rules this land with an iron fist, and the aid of her army of winged monkeys...."

"Still don't care!" Grandpa said.  "Details ain't important.  You could be the Long Lost Fairy Princess of Oz for all I care...."

"Oh Darling, I know I'm the princess," said the boy.  "Mombi here transformed me when I was a baby.  But I like being a boy so nobody's going to change me back.  My name's Tip.  This is the witch who raised me, known as Old Mombi.  You've met my companions -- the Scarecrow...."  Here the scarecrow laughed again like a hyena.  "You'll have to forgive him, he has no brain," said the boy.  "This here is the Tin Man, who seeks the one who ripped out his heart...."

"I'm gonna pump her full of lead!" the Tin Man vowed.

"The others are Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Wogglebug...."

"Highly Magnified," said the insect, "and Thoroughly Educated in the Ways and Means of Revolution!  Power to the people, that's what I say!"

"You see," said Tip, "it's well known that Princess Ozma is the rightful ruler of Oz.  If we can produce her, the masses will unite behind our revolution and we will sweep into the Emerald City and depose that foreign Queen!  We've been searching for a boy to become Princess Ozma, and your sidekick here fits the bill perfectly...."

"I?" cried Red Hawt.  "Why, I'm no Princess Ozma -- I'm not a girl!"

"You are not a girl just now," said Tip with a sneer, "but once Mombi is through with you, you won't remember being anything else!"

Red Hawt cursed and fought against the ropes that bound him.  Mombi produced a satchel of dried herbs and tossed it into the fire.  The blaze burned brightly.  She scattered a handful of magic powder over the flames, and a rich violet vapor with a strong lavender scent filled the room.  Amid the haze, the witch chanted in words none understood, and bent her body back and forth over the fire....

"No!" Red Hawt exclaimed, struggling in vain.  "I'm a boy!  I am RED HAWT!"

Fire erupted from the boy's hands.  In seconds the ropes were burned through.  Even as the boy's facial features began to shift and morph, his hair growing longer and fairer, he leaped to Grandpa's chair and slashed the ropes with a blade of fire.

"Stop them!" Tip exclaimed.  Mombie was still chanting.  The Tin Woodsman leaped to his feet.

"This way!" called a feminine voice.  Reflected in the mirror was a young girl with blonde hair in a full-skirted dress of red and black.  Hearts decorated the front of the dress and the hem and sleeves.  There was blood on the dress, and on an oversized kitchen knife she wielded in one hand.

"Wait," said Grandpa, "that's...."

With one hand grasping Grandpa's wrist, Red Hawt reached through the mirror to grasp the girl's extended palm.  In moments both were drawn through and into another world.


"Excuse me," said the girl in the blood-spattered dress.  She shoved past them and smashed the mirror with her knife.  Grandpa caught a momentary glance of Mombi and the Tin Woodsman charging towards the mirror, and then it was shattered into a million shards.

They were in a grassy clearing in the middle of the forest.  For no apparent reason, the mirror had been hanging from a tree.  Nearby was a table with chairs and a tea set.  There was a bed and a wardrobe and a vanity -- everything one might want in a girl's bedroom, save for the room itself.

Grandpa Anarchy frowned, looking about.  "I hope you realize," he said, "that this is Dystopian Wonderland.  If there's one thing that's worse than a Grimdark Oz -- if there's just one thing -- then it's a Grimdark Wonderland.  That place was always a drug-induced nightmare hallucination at the best of times.  You add grimdark to it, the results ain't pretty.  We've basically leaped from the frying pan into the fire."

"But at least I'm not a... girl?" Red Hawt replied.  He placed a hand to his throat, for his voice was high and feminine.  His neck was slender and smooth, with no adam's apple; his face was that of a young girl, framed by long blonde hair.  However, the spandex outfit he wore left no doubt that he was still male.

Grandpa looked him up and down.  "Well," he said, "you're mostly intact.  If nothing else, you can moonlight as the hero of a Japanese girl's comic.  Just try not to speak."  He turned to the one who'd rescued them.  "My name is Grandpa Anarchy, and this is my sidekick Red Hawt.  You're Alice, and this is Twisted Wonderland.  Where's the nearest exit?"

"The nearest exit to where?" asked Alice.  She was staring at Red Hawt in wonder.

"To anywhere," said Grandpa.  "We don't care where."

"Then it doesn't matter which exit you take," said Alice absently.  "They all go somewhere."  She looked at Red Hawt and added, "You -- you're a boy -- but you have my face."

"No I don't..." Red Hawt began, before the sound of his voice once again caused him to stop speaking.  But it was true.  Red Hawt didn't just have the face and hair of a girl -- his face was identical to that of Alice.

"Why, you even sound like me!" Alice said in amazement.

Red Hawt picked up a fragment of mirror and stared into it.  He raised an eyebrow.  "It's not the girlish face I mind so much," he said, "but I'd like my own voice back, or at least something halfway masculine...."

"It's sympathetic transformational magic," said Grandpa.  "That's my best guess.  You were being magically transformed into a girl, and you grabbed her hand.  The enchantment only affected your face and hair, but -- it copied the face and hair of Alice Liddell."

Alice glared at Grandpa.  "You know my name?" she asked.

"Course I do!" Grandpa replied.  "These days you can't walk three feet without tripping over a Twisted Wonderland story, and Alice Lidell is always at the center of it all.  Let me guess:  the Queen of Hearts is a tyrant who does a lot more than just go around saying 'off with her head'.  Or is it the Red Queen that's in charge this time?  People get them confused, but one's a card, the other's a chess piece."

"Something other than the Red Queen or the Queen of Hearts is corrupting Wonderland this time," said Alice absently.  She was still staring at Red Hawt.  "You know, you're just about my height as well," she said.  "You're muscular, but not too large, I think...."

"Too large for what?" asked the boy.

Alice's knife glowed blue.  She slashed downward.   Red Hawt leaped back.  The blade did not come close to touching him, but nevertheless, his spandex suit was shredded.  It fell off him in ribbons, leaving the boy naked.

Alice's eyes went wide in mock surprise.  "Oh my!" she exclaimed, placing her hands to the sides of her face.  "How clumsy of me!  That's entirely my mistake!  Please forgive me!  I take full responsibility!  Do you have any other clothing?  No?  Well then, let's find something else for you to wear!  Can't have a boy running around in Wonderland naked, after all!"  She turned to the wardrobe, and then turned back.  There was a smirk on her face.  "Unfortunately," she said, "the only thing I can offer is one of my dresses....  I really do apologize!  Luckily with that face, you won't seem out of place at all!"


"Any particular reason you wanted a body double?" asked Grandpa Anarchy.

It had been a struggle, but with the aid of a tightly-laced corset they'd managed to fit the boy into one of Alice's dresses.  His shoulders were too wide and the sleeves were tight around the arms, but for the most part it worked -- and when you stepped back to take in the overall look, and made allowances for his slouch and scowl, he really did look like a near-twin of Alice.

In the meantime, an evil-looking cat had appeared.  Literally -- it had faded into view, starting with its maniacal grin.  Grandpa recognized it as the Cheshire Cat, but didn't acknowledge it.

"You'll have to forgive the blood stains," said Alice.  "All of my dresses have that."

The boy stared down at the dress in despair.  "I don't think..." Red Hawt began.

"Then don't speak," Alice replied.  She tied his hair back with a large ribbon and bow.  "There!  Aside from the silver Doc Martens, it's almost perfect!  You look just like me!  Even my own mother would have trouble telling us apart!  If, that is...."  A dark look crossed Alice's face.  "If she were still alive...."

"I don't want to look like you!" the boy exclaimed.  "I want to look like me!  -- the me I was yesterday!"

"Well, there's no use wishing to return to yesterday," said Alice.  "You were a different person then."  Again the dark look crossed her face.  "Believe me," she whispered, "if I could go back even one month into the past...."

After a moment she glanced up into the overhead branches.  She frowned.  She produced her knife and hurled it straight up.  There was a scream, and a bird fell to the ground, skewered through by the blade.  Alice stepped on the bird and pulled her knife free, then wiped it on her dress.

"Spies of the Puppet Maker," she muttered.  She glanced at Grandpa and added, "I have a lot of people who want me dead.  Having a body double certainly increases my chances of living, don't you think?"

"You dressed me up -- so people could shoot at me?" Red Hawt exclaimed.  "That's madness!"

"Of course it is," said the Cheshire Cat.  "This is Wonderland, after all.  We're all mad here.  I'm mad.  You're mad.  You'd have to be, to come here."

"This is nice an all," said Grandpa, "but we really don't plan on staying that long...."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Alice.  "I rescued you two for a reason.  You're heroes, is that not correct?  I need your help to defeat the Puppet Maker...."

"Don't care," said Grandpa.  "I don't do Dystopian Wonderland.  Now, if you could just point us towards an exit...."

Soldiers charged into the clearing.  They were short and made of wood, with ball joined arms and legs, but they were dressed in smart military uniforms and wielded rifles with bayonets.   There were dozens of them.  Grandpa knew when not to try and punch his way out of a situation.  He raised his hands slowly.  The Cheshire Cat faded from view.

"Alice Liddell!" barked one soldier.  "You're under arrest by order of the Puppet Maker...."  His voice trailed off as he stared at what appeared to be two identical girls.

"I'm not Alice," said the one on the left.  "She is."

"I'm not Alice, she is," said the one on the right.

"I'm not even a she!" the first exclaimed.

The soldiers looked momentarily confused.  "Well?" demanded the leader.  "Arrest them both!  We'll sacrifice one to the Encompassing Madness, and the other can serve as the bride of the Puppet Maker!"

Just then, Grandpa spied something striding through the trees on rubbery stilts.  It was a bed, out for a stroll on very long legs.  His eyes grew wide.  He swept his sidekick into his arms and with one leap, cleared the circle of wooden soldiers.  Gunfire erupted, followed by shouts and barked orders.  Grandpa ran through the woods towards the walking bed.  "I know a Little Nemo reference when I see one!" he exclaimed.  "I'll take Windsor McKay over this crap any day!  Nobody does Grimdark Little Nemo!"

He reached the bed, which towered over them.  With a bound he grasped the bed rail and pulled the two of them up.  He tossed Red Hawt onto the bed, then scrambled up after.

Moments later, the woods around them faded.  The air grew very chill, and then bitter cold.  They found themselves striding over a wintry landscape.  Up ahead they saw a brilliant palace, set before a frozen lake.  At first it seemed to be made of marble or crystal, but as they drew nearer, they realized it was made of ice.   There were tall columns of ice, wide panes of ice like glass, stairways and chandeliers of ice, and fountains of frozen water glittering in the light.  In the center of the palace was a pole of ice with circular steps curling around it.  It seemed to rise at least a thousand feet into the air.

"The North Pole!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "It's the Palace of Jack Frost!"  He did a sort of jig, while remaining seated on the bed.  "I told you I knew what I was doing!  It's Little Nemo in Slumberland for sure!  We're safe here -- nobody messes Windsor McKay up!"

Soldiers streamed out of the palace, leading ice wolves and polar bears.  The animals had heavy harnesses with cruel spikes and stylized skull emblems, also carved from ice.  Ice elephants followed, with massive spiked harnesses.  Astride one was a tall imp who appeared to be entirely made of icicles.

"Strange travelers!  Surrender at once!" the icicle man exclaimed.  "Jack Frost the Emperor of the realm will decide your fate!  If you are found to be spies, you will be executed!"

Grandpa frowned.  "No," he whispered.  "Not Slumberland too.  Grimdark Slumberland?  This is all wrong!  Who would do such a thing?  Whoever it is deserves a good punch in the face!"

By now the army had surrounded them.  "Surrender or be destroyed!" the icicle man demanded.  Grandpa Anarchy sighed.  "Well," he said, "the one good thing about Slumberland is that you can always escape by falling out of bed and waking up...."  Saying so, Grandpa rolled over and off the bed, plummeting to the icy ground below.  After a moment, his sidekick shrugged and followed suit.

Grandpa Anarchy found himself on the floor beside his bed.  There was a thump from the room next door -- the one usually occupied by his current sidekick.  Grandpa got up and stepped out of his room to find Alice in the hallway -- at least, it looked like Alice.

They were in the Anarchy Mansion.  Here were the stairs leading down from the second floor to the entry way.  Below were the large front doors, and the entrance to the living room with the couches and the television.  Down there also was was the entrance to the kitchen.  At the landing halfway down, hanging on the wall, was a picture of Grandpa Anarchy fighting Doctor Zero Hour and his giant Atomic Zombie.

"Ha!" Grandpa crowed.  "See?  Didn't I say?  Fall out of bed and wake up!  That's how Little Nemo always left Slumberland!"  He danced a little jig, then paused.  "Mind you, the Aston Martin's stuck on a Munchkin road back in Oz.  Annie's going to be really pissed about that one."

"Annie?" asked the sidekick.

"Annie Two, short for Anarchy Computer Mark Two," said Grandpa.  "You've met her."

Alice frowned.  "This is your mansion, then?" she asked.

"What do you mean?" Grandpa replied.  "Of course it's my mansion!  You act like you've never been here before!"

"I haven't," said the girl.

"Don't be stupid," said Grandpa.  "You look like Alice, but you're really my sidekick, Red Hawt...."

Alice smiled.  She held up a massive kitchen knife, carved with magical runes.  "Guess again, old man.  I don't have silver Doc Martens, but I do have the Vorpal Blade," she said with a smirk.


In a castle in Wonderland, Red Hawt stared into the smoldering eyes of the man who called himself the Puppet Maker.  He'd been expecting a Geppetto-like figure -- a wrinkled, old man.  Instead the ruler was young and very handsome, with dark hair and a bare, muscular chest.

"I'm sorry," Red Hawt said.  "You want me to what?"

"To be my bride," said the Puppet Master.  "Come, dear Alice, it's not such a hard concept to grasp.  You know I've pursued you for several years now.  If you don't consent, I shall be forced to execute you...."

Red Hawt stared down at his silver Doc Martens, and then back up at the evil overlord -- the very hot evil overlord.

"Okay," he said.  "In that case, I do!"  And he leaned in for a kiss.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lingua Franca Fractura

Lingua Franca Fractura
Mark A Davis

Curving white arches rose overhead, supporting a roof multiple stories high.  The Eluvia Five Erwin Schrödinger Interdimensional Gateway Station was like an airport on steroids -- a building so huge, so vast, that it made the largest of Earth's cathedrals and sports stadiums seem small and quaint in comparison.  Here was a temple to transportation on the grandest of scales -- moving walkways and elevators, marble floors and columns, pools of bright blue water ringed with trees and flowering plants, and thousands of people -- most of them not human -- rushing to their various destinations.

Grandpa Anarchy's current sidekick the Skype Avenger was a young man in a blue and white suit with short brown hair and a mask that covered the sides and upper half of his face.  He waited patiently while Grandpa Anarchy -- dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast -- consulted with a blue squid in a service uniform.

As Grandpa returned to him, the Skype Avenger said, "I don't like being disconnected from the world wide web.  It makes me nervous when I can't narrate my adventures to my friends and followers."

"If we're going to catch the assassin of the Estonian President, then we're only going further away," Grandpa replied.  "The Amish Assassin fled to a place called Amish Earth.  It's a place where nearly everyone has converted to the Amish way of life.  They don't have any kind of internet there, let alone a direct connection to our home world -- but Eluvia Five connects to just about every active dimension."

"We need to catch him," the sidekick replied.  "Remember, he not only killed the president, but three others, including two bodyguards.  One of those was my uncle."

"Don't worry, I haven't forgotten," Grandpa replied.  "The squid said that we want Concourse π, Gate 374QQ."

"Concourse π?  Really?" asked the sidekick.  He glanced up and noticed a transport with the symbol for the irrational number displayed prominently on its destination board.  "Huh," he said.  "Guess this is our ride.  Oh and -- you understood a squid creature?" he added, as they boarded a transport.

"Sure," said Grandpa.  "It spoke perfectly good English.  Maybe with a kind of weird alien accent and unusual syntax, and its voice was kinda high-pitched and watery, but...."

"Do you mean they had a universal translator?" the Skype Avenger persisted.

"No, I mean they spoke English," Grandpa replied irritably.  "You'll find that when you start to travel in outer space and to other dimensions, everyone speaks the same language."

The transport hummed as they moved along.  The sights and sounds of the massive transport hub flashed by.

"And they always speak English, the only language you happen to know?" asked the Skype Avenger.  "That's convenient."

"It is convenient," Grandpa agreed.  "But when you're the hero, that's the way the universe works."

"But not so convenient if you happen to be, for example, a team of Japanese heroes...."

"Ah," said Grandpa, "that's where you're wrong!  In that case, everyone they met would speak Japanese!"

The sidekick frowned.  "Really?"

"Really," said Grandpa.

"And if your group of heroes were from Russia...."

"Everyone would speak Russian, of course," replied Grandpa.  "Same thing for if they were French, everyone would speak French, or Italian, everyone would speak Italian...."

"But that doesn't make any sense at all!" the sidekick exclaimed.

"What are you talking about?" said Grandpa.  "It makes perfect sense!  Imagine the problems if people on other planets couldn't speak your language.  Why, we'd spend all our time trying to work out translations, instead of getting on with the business of fighting villains and delivering justice!  Talk about boring!  It's all down to some kind of law of conservation of plot, or some such foolishness.  I'm sure if Dark Dr. Dark were here he'd elaborate in great detail."

They reached their destination -- a waiting area much like that which you'd find in an airport, with color-coordinated plastic seats, a small terminal for the attendant to work at, and a large, circular dimensional gateway built into the wall.  Grandpa confirmed their destination, and soon enough the two heroes were stepping through a gateway surface that rippled like water.

For several moments they were surrounded by icy darkness, and felt as if they were falling endlessly into the abyss.  Then the sensation stopped abruptly.  They found themselves in a much less impressive, but still vaguely airport-like building made of concrete blocks with a tiled floor.

There were guards here, dressed in black uniforms with no visible buttons or insignia.  They had wide, flat-brimmed hats, long beards, and carried only wooden sticks as weapons.

"Now, you just let me do all the talking," Grandpa said.

"Peatuma!" one guard exclaimed.

Grandpa Anarchy frowned.  "What?  What's that?  Look, we're heroes from earth, and...."

"Kes läheb?" the soldier demanded.  "Märkida oma nimi!"

"We're trying to track down a man, calls himself the Amish Assassin.  He assassinate the president of a country on our version of earth...."

The Skype Avenger stepped forward,  "Let me handle this, Grandpa," he said.  "They're speaking Estonian -- my native tongue."

"Estonian?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Why the heck would they speak Estoniain?"

The sidekick glanced at Grandpa, and raised an eyebrow.  "Isn't it obvious?" he asked.  "Grandpa, you're not the hero of this story!"


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Classic Anarchy For July: Historically Accurate

Historically Accurate
Mark A Davis

In a noisy diner on Kansas City, a woman wearing jeans and a shirt with a squared-off geometric Celtic knot on the front sat across from a muscular boy in a black "Anarchy Forever" tee.  The chatter of other conversations and the clink and clatter of kitchen noise drifted over them.  The woman raised an eyebrow.  "What did you think of the movie?" she asked.

"Anarchy Forever?  It was awesome!" the man exclaimed.  "I think Phoenix Burhan was born to play Grandpa Anarchy -- if Grandpa were young, and handsome, anyway.  And A.J. Love was an especially creepy Carnival Act."

"It was certainly a worthy sequel to Anarchy Rising, I'll give it that much," said the woman.  "Too heavy on the special effects, and too many plot inconsistencies...."

"Yeah, but it's a movie," the guy said.  "I try not to critique too much.  I'm there to be entertained."

"I critique everything," the woman replied.  "It's kind of my obsession."  She extended her hand.  "Nice to meet you again, Mighty Tim."

"Likewise," Tim said.  "You were at the premier weren't you?  I saw you on tv, color commentary from the one and only Kid Continuity."

The woman frowned.  "Yes.  Not one of my better  moments, I'm afraid.  Anyway,  I've got a particular proposal that I wanted to run by you today."

The waiter arrived with their meals.  Tim took a massive bite of his hamburger, then spoke through a mouthful of food.  "Sure, Kid Continuity.  Fire away."

"You liked working with Grandpa Anarchy, didn't you?" Kid Continuity said.

"Heck yeah!" said Mighty Tim.  "He's a legend!  It was the best time of my life!  I could have done it forever."

"Really?  And why didn't you?"

"Same reason as you," Tim said.  He took another bite of hamburger and kept speaking.  "Hard to make a living on a paycheck of nothing a week.  It was a learning experience unlike any other, but at some point you have to realize that it's in your own best interest to strike out and make a name for yourself."

"Touche," said Kid Continuity.  "That was my problem too -- I wanted to do more, to branch out on my own.  And actually, that's exactly what I wanted to talk to you about.  I'm interested in forming a new hero group."

The man's eyes widened.  "Okay," he said, "I'm listening...."


The room was one-part museum and one-part rpg gamer's paradise.  Archaeological treasures lined the shelves.  A large fossilized bone sat on the coffee table, beside small jars of paint, brushes, and several half-finished lead models of orcs and wizards.  Game books and dice were scattered everywhere.

Sprawled on one end of the couch was the woman known as Natural Twenty -- a first-class geek who looked remarkably like Velma from Scooby Doo, only dressed in jeans and a Halo tee shirt.  Her roommate walked into the room with a pitcher of iced tea and a plate of cookies and seated herself at the other end.  This was Ravella the Traveler, a tall, beautiful, dark-skinned woman with long, straight black hair.  She wore khaki shorts and a black tank top.

"We haven't seen you two since Tap Day," said Ravella.  "To what do we owe the pleasure?"

Kid Continuity glanced to Mighty Tim, seated beside her.  "Actually, I had intended to contact Twenty," she said.  "I had no idea you were roommates."

"We've been teaming up since our Anarchy days," said Natural Twenty.  "It's hard to establish yourself as a solo hero, and we kinda compliment each other.  Ravella's turning into a really good fighter -- her boyfriend Sun Wukong has been training both of us -- and she's naturally good at planning and solving riddles, while I'm more instinctive and spontaneous."

"Ah," said Kid Continuity.  "Well, that's sort of what I wanted to talk to you about.  Mighty Tim and I are forming a team...."

Natural Twenty sat up.  "You're like, the number one expert on superhero history," she said.  "Ain't that right?  Anything you're involved in probably means fighting a lot of the old guard."

"Very probably," agreed Kid Continuity.

"Okay then," said Natural Twenty.  "Give us the elevator pitch."


Three women and two men sat around a table in a low-lit restaurant.  The walls were decorated with items from ancient empires and bygone eras.  The walls were covered with photos of a tall woman in various strange locations, often posed with exotic dead animals.   She typically wore a khaki shirt and shorts and a pith helmet, and carried a massive weapon that was one-part elephant gun and one-part body-mounted laser carbine.

"The Slice of Time Bar and Grill?" said Ravella.  "Why have I not heard of this place before?"

"It's an exclusive restaurant," said a boy dressed like a World War I fighter pilot, complete with leather jacket and goggles.  "Membership is by invite only, and it's quite expensive.  But don't worry, I have everything covered.  Marianna is a good friend of mine."

"That's incredibly generous of you," said Ravella the Traveler.

"Don't mention it," the man replied.  "I've been doing work for Marianna, I can afford it.  I'm honored to meet four of the best sidekicks to work with Grandpa Anarchy in the last couple of years."

"You were an extremely effective sidekick yourself, Wayback Lad," said Ravella.  The man blushed.

Kid Continuity stared at the menu.  "This restaurant serves food from other times?  From the past?"

"That's right," the man replied.  "I highly recommend the blackened chinlia, it's very good, and includes a pilaf of rice and spices from the Ionian or Middle Pleistocene era.  The brontosaurus burger is always popular, even if it's really Apatosaurus, and it looks like the special tonight is giant sloth steaks."

"Wow, this is amazing," said Natural Twenty.  "I guess time travel really opens a lot of doors, huh?"

"For some reason," said Mighty Tim, "I feel I should worry about the food being fresh..."

"Oh, no worries  there," said Wayback Lad.  "Time travel is essentially instantaneous, and Marianna has a time-travelling cold storage unit.  Everything is as fresh as if it were killed yesterday -- which it kind of was."

"Then I'm going for the bronto burger," said Mighty Tim.

"The blackened chinlia sounds good to me," said Kid Continuity.

"I'll have that as well," said Ravella.

Once they'd ordered, Kid Continuity sat back and leveled her gaze at Wayback Lad.  "So?  Have you thought further on my proposal?" she asked.

"I have," he replied.

"What I'm proposing really hinges on your involvement.  What do you say?"

Wayback Kid grinned.  "I think it sounds like a fantastic opportunity.  Working with the four of you?  We'd make an incredible team."

Kid Continuity smiled.  "We will," she said.  "We will."


Wind blew down  the street, stirring dust and trash.  A man walked the sidewalk, collar up to protect from the cold.  As he passed an alleyway, a voice spoke from the darkness.

"Timothy Attix?" the voice asked.  The man quickly spun about.

"Who wants to know?" he demanded.  He drew a gun from his coat.

"Or should I say the Cunninham Syndrome?" the voice continued.  A woman stepped out of the shadows.  She wore blue and white spandex with an unusual patterned symbol on her chest -- a sort of squared-off Celtic knot.

"Two days ago you fought Grandpa Anarchy," she said.  "You got away.  Grandpa never fought you again.  History doesn't say what happened to you -- or why the bombs that you had planted in six major cities around the world never went off.  I think it's time someone found out."

  "Screw you, witch!" the man yelled.  He pulled the trigger.  Something flashed in the air, and time seemed to freeze for a moment.  "Bullet proof shield!" a voice called out.  A silvery object landed on the ground.  "Twenty!" the voice crowed.

Time sped up.  A shield materialized in front of the woman in white and blue.  The bullet ricocheted off.

Several people rushed out of the alleyway -- a muscular man in red and black tights, a dark-skinned woman dressed like an explorer, and another woman dressed like a medieval knight.  In seconds the man was pinned to the concrete.

The woman in white and blue leaned over.  "Now we know what happened to you, Syndrome.  You ran into the Continuity Crusaders.  And you're going to tell us everything about these bombs and how to remove them...."


Monday, July 3, 2017

Take Me To The Ripper

Take Me To The Ripper
Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy opened his eyes.  He was lying on the floor, he had a splitting headache, and a metallic spider was staring at him.  It clung to the ceiling overhead.

"Are you awake, Sir?"  The voice was that of a young woman.  Grandpa turned his head to see his current sidekick, Circuit Girl.   She wore white tights and a green leotard with a circuit board pattern across the front.  There were poofy sleeves, an attached skirt, green go go boots, and a tiara with flashing lights and microchips.  Behind her a seven-foot robot clutched the arms of a short, balding man in a nice suit.  He looked to be in his 40's, had a pot belly, and thick glasses.  More spidery robots stood at the ready, lasers trained on him.

"Forgive me for striking you, Mr. Anarchy," the man said.  "It was the only way."

Grandpa rubbed the back of his head.  "Oh, that smarts!"  He glared at the man.  "Alan Van Ophoven, wasn't it?  I was showing you and your companion around the Anarchy mansion...."  Grandpa's gaze  traveled to the corner of the room where stood something like a doorway made of steel, wire, and 1940's electronics.  The lights on it were flashing.  "Oh no... tell me she didn't...."

"That's right, Sir," said Circuit Girl.  "Ms. Serena Joyce Post, noted Ripperologist and author of The Real Jack:  Unmasked Again At last and also The Whitechappel Murders Solved Yet Again, For Real This Time has used your time doorway to travel back to London in 1888."

"Crap," said Grandpa.  "This again?"

Circuit Girl raised an eyebrow.  "This has happened before, Sir?"

"Only a half dozen times, at least," Grandpa replied.  "Everyone wants to go back in time and solve that mystery."

"Forgive me," Mr. Van Ophoven said, "but everyone knows that Grandpa Anarchy has a time door in his mansion, and...."

"Not anymore!" Grandpa swore.  "Soon as we get your friend back I'm having that thing dismantled!"

"But Mr. Anarchy, the world must know who Jack the Ripper really was!"

"Who he really was?" Grandpa shouted, throwing up his hands.  "Who he really was?  I'll tell you who he really was!  He wasn't anyone.  He was just some crazy lunatic serial murderer!  Those guys are a dime a dozen.  Every time I turn around I'm bumping into a new Jack the Ripper!"

"Mr. Anarchy," said Alan Van Ophoven, "I have studied the Whitechappel Murders all of my life.  I've authored three books on the subject.  I'm well aware that there were more prolific murderers, even operating at the same time as Jack the Ripper, but it's this case that's captured the imagination of the public, so that people are still trying to solve it more than 100 years after the fact.  Did you know that there have been more than one hundred theories on who Jack the Ripper really was?  Men have gone mad trying to figure it out!  Hillard Watkins is just one example; his ripper obsession drove him insane back in 1978.  My own current pet theory is that he was an alien gray from space...."

Grandpa Anarchy nodded.  Circuit Girl stepped out of the room.  Grandpa stepped into a closet.  "Makes sense," he called out.  "Grays like to mutilate animals, no reason to think they wouldn't mutilate humans.  Never met a gray who didn't enjoy a good mutilation."

"Exactly!" Alan exclaimed.  "But Serena was a convert of Jill the Ripper -- that the Whitechapel Murderer was a woman."

"I've fought a few Jill the Rippers in my time, too," Grandpa said.

"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself believed that it was a woman," added Mr. Van Ophoven.  "There are several that have been suggested as the murderer -- Mary Pearcey, Constance Kent, Helena Blavatsky, even Lizzie Halliday -- but evidence to link them is nonexistent.  Really, most of the evidence was either ignored, mishandled, or later lost or destroyed -- the only way to ever know the truth  these days is to go back in time and witness the events yourself."

"And your friend Mary had done just that," said Grandpa.  "Of course."

"That's right.  Serena desperately wanted to prove her theory.  And, of course, I'm interested myself -- even if I think the grays did it, it's still just a theory.  I want to know the truth.  So I helped her."

"Always leave messing up history to the professionals," Grandpa said  He emerged from the closet dressed in the suit of a man from the 19th century.  "I kept several suits from my mentor, the Gentleman Brawler.  Of course, I wouldn't wear a suit more than a hundred years old, but this one is based on what he wore back then."  Circuit Girl entered the room, dressed like a boy from the 1880's, and lugging a large carpet bag.  "Ready, Circuit Girl?" Grandpa asked.  He frowned, staring at her.  "Why're you dressed like that?"

"Call me John," she said.  "It may  take more than a single day to track Ms. Post down, and a man living with a young boy is far less likely to raise questions than would a man with a young woman.  As well, I've retrofitted some of my best bots for a 19th century steampunk look -- I assume a boy engineer will stand out less than a woman would."

"Hmm," said Grandpa.  "You're right, as usual.  Well, let's get going."

They stepped to the doorway in the corner.  There was a clock attached to the frame on one side, with multiple dials and a readout displaying current date and target date along with coordinates.  Circuit Girl set the target time and coordinates and locked them in.  The air between the door frame began to glow and spark, and then they were looking onto a dingy Victorian London alleyway.

"You're just going to leave me here?" asked Mr. Van Ophoven, still held tight by the robot.

Grandpa looked over his shoulder.  "Sure," he said.  "If we're successful, we'll be back before you can count to ten."

"And if you're not successful?"

"Well," said Grandpa, "then you and this whole mansion might cease to exist."  Laughing, Grandpa and Circuit Girl stepped through the doorway.

Five seconds later, the two stepped back through the doorway into the room.  They wore different clothing and looked different -- Circuit Girl looked older, with shorter hair, while Grandpa had an impressive mustache.  Between them they held a woman with wire-rim glasses and graying hair, wearing a full dress of faded blue.  Her hands were handcuffed.

"Well, that's six months of my life that I'll never get back," said Grandpa.  "Right!  I want that time portal disassembled by this time tomorrow!"

"I'll see to it, Sir," Circuit Girl replied.

Mr. Van Ophoven blinked in surprise.  "You're back already?  And you've brought back Ms. Post.  Did you find out who Jack the Ripper was, then?"

"You don't know?" Grandpa replied.  "Good!  That means we didn't mess up history.  Unless everyone always knew who the killer was before we went back?"

"Sir, there would have been no reason to go back, if that was the case," said Circuit Girl.

"Right," said Grandpa.  "Of course!  Anyway, she didn't just find out, she practically interrupted the murder of the first victim...."

"It was the Pole -- Kominski," Serena said.  "He ran as soon as he saw me -- he didn't even mutilate the body!  It was supposed to be a woman!  I was furious -- but I knew I'd messed up  time by interrupting him, so I tried to fix it.  I mutilated the corpse myself, then I tracked Kominski down and confronted him.  He killed himself the very next day."

Alan blinked.  "But then... the other murders...."

"I set out to do them all myself," she said.  "What else could I do?"

"Unfortunately, for Ms. Post," said Grandpa, "She found that others had beaten her to it.  You see, in 1978 noted ripperologist Hillard Watkins went back in time and interrupted Kominski before he murdered Mary Jane Kelly.  Watkins finished the job, and Kominski committed suicide.  Then in 1985 ripperologist Napoleon Walter Callas went back in time and ultimately murdered Catherine Eddowes, fourth of the five canonical victims.  In a similar fashion Vlastislav Zdráhal, famous Czech ripperologist, is responsible for the murder of Elizabeth Stride, and in 2009 ripperologist Steffan Trevor went back and murdered Annie Chapman."  Grandpa frowned and added, "We had a devil of a time tracking down Ms. Post while avoiding the four other me's with their four other sidekicks."

"Each time, Mr. Kominski thought he'd been found out and he committed suicide -- once for each murder.  If you ask me, justice has ultimately been served."  He looked a Mr. Van Ophoven and added, "You said that several ripperologists had been driven mad by their obsession.  Five, in fact, counting Ms. Serena Joyce Post.  Where she's going she'll have plenty of time to write, but as the others have discovered, a ripper autobiography only proves you're not sane."

"But... the other victims?" asked Mr. Van Ophoven.  "Some of us think the ripper -- that is, apparently Kominski -- was responsible for other murders in London at that time...."

"The world will never know," Grandpa replied.  He leaned in and added, "And I know you're considering it, Mr. Van Ophoven, but I don't suggest you try me on that.  I really don't."