Mark A Davis
"Grandpa Anarchy, come look at this."
Deep in the basement of the Anarchy Mansion, Grandpa Anarchy's current sidekick, the Compound Eye, sat before the famous Anarchy Computer -- clearly the latest in high-tech crime-fighting computer equipment circa 1962, with reel-to-reel tapes occupying one long wall, another large wall of dust-covered machines with blinking lights, and a jacob's ladder for that added special effect. True, it had been updated with a few more recent additions -- new keyboard and monitors, cameras and the like -- but it remained essentially the same computer it had been for fifty years.
The Compound Eye was a young woman in an all-black costume with insect-like armor and huge, glittering compound eyes built into the face mask -- as if she had once attended a horror convention dressed as Jeff Goldblume in the Fly, and then adapted this into her hero costume.
Grandpa, dressed as usual in an old gray suit with a silver anarchy symbol stitched over the chest, and wearing a gray fedora, ambled over and glanced over her shoulder. He saw images of villainous minions, a battle between himself and one particular villain, and a wall of text, along with numbers in big fonts off to one side.
"What am I looking at?" asked Grandpa.
"I was scanning the entries on Lairbuildr," said the Compound Eye, "and look who I came across!"
"Lair Builder?" Grandpa's eyes narrowed.
"No, Lairbuildr," said the sidekick. "It's a villain crowdfunding service on the darknet. You know, like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Mr. Medberry taught me how to find it and monitor it...."
Grandpa, who only touched computers when he wanted to smash them, was now completely lost. "Dark what? Kick who? Go where?"
"Grandpa," said the sidekick, "do you know what crowdfunding is?"
"Of course I know what it is," Grandpa snapped. Several moments of silence followed. "It's... giving money out to random crowds... right?"
"Close!" she replied. "It's actually a method of raising money from crowds of people via the internet. For example, if I wanted to publish a how-to book on Sidekicking for Grandpa Anarchy, I could go to Kickstarter and request money."
"Kid," said Grandpa seriously, "not to curb your enthusiasm, but you've been my sidekick for all of two weeks. I hardly think you're qualified to write a book on the subject."
"Just an example, Sir," she said.
"And people will give you money? Why?"
"Because they want to see the book published? Also I could offer enticements -- a signed copy for a certain level of contribution, or maybe at the highest level of contribution I'll print their name as a thank you acknowledgement in a preface to the book. Or whatever. The sky's really the limit -- only your imagination holds you back. People have used this to fund game development, to fund books, to fund music releases, to fund movies, to fund art and graphic novels. Whatever you can think of that you'd want to raise funding for."
"Let me get this straight," said Grandpa. "Let's say I want to fix up the Anarchy Mansion. I can just ask people to give me money so I can do that?"
"Sure," replied the sidekick. "For an incentive you could give away signed photos for a low level contribution, on up to a personal meeting with you and a tour of the mansion for the highest level."
Grandpa frowned. "Strangers touring my mansion? I ain't having that!"
"Just a suggestion, Sir," said the sidekick. "If you wanted to crowdfund a remodel, of course."
Grandpa stared over the sidekick's shoulder. "Wait a second," he said. "That's Kid Calculus, isn't it?"
"That's right, Sir," she said. "Your number one villain."
"He ain't my number one villain," Grandpa snapped. "He's just some young punk with delusions of grandeur."
"Well, he's crowdfunding a new secret base from which to relaunch his attacks on you. You blew up his mobile sky battleship a few months ago, remember?"
"Blew up real good, too," Grandpa replied with satisfaction. "I'll never understand why people want to build flying fortresses. They crash, and it's never just dents that the body shop around the corner can pound out." He studied the screen. "Still," he said, "A bad guy's gotta have a base of operations, I guess. You can't blame him for wanting to build a new lair -- and I'm sure he sunk everything he had into that battleship, so this interweb funding racket thing must be his only option."
Grandpa stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Okay," he said. "The max contribution is ten thousand, right? Put me down for that."
It was impossible to know the Compound Eye's expressions, hidden as they were beneath the bug-faced mask, but she stared at Grandpa for a very long moment. "Grandpa," she said, "you want to help fund his lair? Why?"
"A villain in a lair makes for a good confrontation," Grandpa replied. "Lairs are fun to blow up. And I noticed that the top tier included a special invite to the grand opening." Grandpa Anarchy grinned. "Should be quite the shindig, don't you think?"