Mark A Davis
Lights flashed, red and pink and blue, like fireworks. Klaxons blared. The scent of ozone and burnt plastic filled the air. A blubbery, multi-tentacled purple monstrosity waved at least five pistols in the air.
Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, went down in a hail of laser fire. Beside him, a red-haired girl's face exploded. She, too, went down.
Grandpa had been about to introduce his sidekick, the Cisgender Sleuth, to the women who ran S.I.S.B. Space Station Terra -- two young women in silver bikinis and go-go boots, which seemed to be the uniform on the station. In the next second the tentacled horror had appeared out of nowhere and opened fire. He'd teleported in -- just as Grandpa and the Cisgender Sleuth had a mere thirty seconds earlier, only they had done so with the permission of Valerie 9000, the station's A.I. computer.
Red lasers scorched the walls and the ceiling. The one remaining bikini-clad girl grabbed the Cisgender Sleuth's arm and pulled her through an archway. A blast door slammed down after them, shielding them from laser fire.
"Val! The intruder is sealed in deck 3, section five!" the girl yelled out. "We have two people down! Requesting all air be removed from that section!"
The muffled sounds of shouting and laser fire could be heard through the bulkhead. There was no reply to the girl's request. She swore. "He's blocking Val out somehow!" she said. "I should have realized -- he'd have to mess her up somehow just to teleport in here...."
The two were trapped in a twenty-foot section of hallway, with blast doors sealing each end.
"Who in Hades is that?" the Cisgender Sleuth asked.
"Vlorlaxio," the young woman said curtly. "Terrorist with a grudge against us. Wanted on a thousand worlds...."
"Grandpa's trapped on the other side of this door!" the sidekick exclaimed.
"Grandpa Anarchy is most likely already dead," the girl in the bikini said.
"Oh gods!" The Cisgender Sleuth could feel the terror rising in her throat.
"Don't worry," the girl said. "He's died before. You're his new sidekick, I take it?"
For the first time, the two girls got a good look at each other. The Cisgender Sleuth was a tall girl, lanky, with dark skin and bleach-blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. She dressed in red spandex, with a deerstalker cap and a double-breasted Ulster overcoat. On her chest was the astrological symbol for Venus.
It might have made sense thematically, but the overall effect was of someone who'd thrown a costume together in half an hour at a Salvation Army.
The space girl had long, auburn hair. Aside from the silver bikini and go-go boots, all she wore was a belt with a gun holster and an S.I.S.B. buckle.
"That's right," said the sidekick. "I'm the Cisgender Sleuth."
"That explains the deerstalker cap and overcoat," the space girl replied. "My name is Eve -- Eve the Explorer. I was Grandpa's sidekick once, too."
"Really?" The Sleuth studied the girl again. She was quite healthy, with curves in all the right places -- something that was hard to miss given her state of undress. "The name sounds familiar," said the sidekick, "but I feel certain I'd remember that face. I've studied the roster of past sidekicks rather extensively...."
"I... look a bit different now," the girl said evasively. She turned back to the blast door. "Val? Valerie 9000? Can you hear me?" After several moments of silence, she added, "I'm worried about Val, but I guess we're safe for the moment. Laser fire alone can't penetrate that blast door...."
She glanced back at the girl in the deerstalker cap. "I hope you don't mind me saying this," she said, "but that name and that look -- it really doesn't work well."
The Cisgender Sleuth frowned. This was not the time to argue about her costume. "Look," she said, "Is Grandpa Anarchy really dead? You said he's died before...."
"Grandpa Anarchy has died plenty of times," Eve said. "I couldn't give you an exact total but yes, he's dead, and no, it's not permanent. Look, Terra is a fully-functioning Earth-based space station for the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes. We're a division of 5E, a government arm of the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Empire, which spans a thousand worlds in the Milky Way. They have technology that you can't imagine. What that means is that we have clone vats and resurrection technology on board this station. You were scanned when you first came aboard, right? The pink light? You gave permission to be genetically identified and mentally scanned? Val does it without even telling you exactly what you're agreeing to, but basically, if you die, we can bring you back to life."
She paused and added, "If Val and the station technology are working, mind you...."
"Clone technology? So it'd be me, but a different version of me?" the Sleuth asked.
"Well, technically speaking, you're already a different version of you from yesterday," Eve said. "Trust me, don't overthink it. You wake up and you're still you."
There was a loud boom. The station shook. The Sleuth said, "That didn't feel like laser fire...."
"No," said Eve. "I was afraid of this. Vlorlaxio brought some heavier firepower. He might be able to break through that door. If so, we're sitting ducks."
She ran to the far blast door. "Val!" she called out. "Open the blast door on deck 3 between sections four and three!"
There was no response. Eve swore. "Let's hope I remember how to override this," she said. She pulled some wires from her bracelet and plugged them into the wall. Belatedly, the Cisgender Sleuth realized that what she'd thought was a bracelet was actually a small wrist computer.
"What's your name?" Eve asked. "It feels weird calling you the Cisgender Sleuth. It's a mouthful."
"Rhonda," the sidekick replied. "Look, about the name -- I did this mostly as a tribute to my brother. He was... transgender. He was born female. He was always a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and plus the name seemed nicely alliterative...."
"Yeah, okay, I get it," said Eve as she worked at her wrist computer. "A tribute?"
"My brother committed suicide," the Sleuth replied flatly. "My parents never accepted who he was, and he was teased and bullied at school...."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Eve replied. "People suck."
Another boom shook the station. The door on the far side of the room buckled inward slightly.
"All he wanted to do was to be a normal boy," Eve said. "To play football, and maybe become a cop one day. He really like superhero movies, and so I thought... I don't know. That I'd become the hero he might have been, or at least become a hero for him, or something."
"So you didn't do this for yourself?"
"I like helping people," the Sleuth said. She was once again staring at the girl beside her. "Look, I hope this doesn't sound weird, and I know this isn't the time, but... I find you incredibly sexy."
Eve blushed. "Why, thank you," she said.
"I mean it," the sidekick added. "I'd kill for a body like yours. I always wanted curves like that. If I looked like you, I'd wear a silver bikini and go-go boots too."
"Got it!" Eve exclaimed. The blast door slid open, revealing a larger room with a couple of desks with terminals.
"Well, this isn't much better," Eve said. "I can try to contact Val 9000 manually I guess...."
She sat at one of the desks and held her hands out. A holographic keyboard appeared. She tapped a few keys, and a drawer slid open. "Bingo!" she exclaimed, producing a pistol. "I hope you can handle a blaster," she said, tossing it to the startled sidekick.
In the far room there was another boom, and the sound of debris scattering across the hallway. The doors to the room slid shut.
"Those won't hold long," Eve said. She went back to typing. "Did you really mean what you said?" she asked. "About wanting to look like me? Because you can, you know."
Rhonda laughed bitterly. "No I can't," she said. "I don't have the curves. I'd never look half as good as you in a bikini."
"Oh, you'd fit," said Eve. They'd make you fit, trust me."
The Sleuth frowned. "How do you mean?"
"When you join the Space Babes, they adjust your body," the girl said. "Bio engineer it. They'd make you shorter and more curvy. They have certain size guidelines that they go by, and every Space Babe is engineered to fit them. After all, the uniforms only come in one size, did you know that?"
"They... bioengineered you? To look sexy?" asked Rhonda.
Eve giggled. "Oh my, yes!" She grinned impishly. "Would it surprise you to know I was a guy before this?"
"A... boy?" Rhonda's eyes suddenly went wide. "Of course! I thought the name was familiar! You were Evander the Explorer!"
"There you go!" Eve exclaimed. "You've got some of that Holmesian sleuthing ability after all!"
"Then," said Rhonda, "You're transgendered too."
"Well... not so much," said Eve. "I just wanted to explore space. The Space Babes are girls only -- but they take applications from boys, and then transform them. In the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Interstellar Empire, it's pretty easy to change your gender. For most it costs a pretty penny, but the government pays for whatever cosmetic upgrades the Space Babes require.
"What I'm saying is, if you joined the Space Babes, then you will fill out a bikini as well as I do. Bio engineering will see to that. For that matter you could join the Interstellar Fraternity of Bunny Boys and you'd become a muscular young man -- for the duration of your contract, at least."
There was a loud boom and a crashing sound. The blast doors burst inward, scattering debris and dust. One door was shoved aside, leaving a two-foot gap through which they could see Vlorlaxio moving.
"Time's up," Eve said, crouching behind the desk. "It's show time!"
Laser fire erupted. For several moments blasts of red flew back and forth through the gap in the doorway. One beam struct Eve in the right arm, burning it to the bone. She cursed and shifted her weapon to her other hand.
The laser fire ceased. A burbling voice from beyond the door called out, "Eve the Explorer! You are injured! Give up now! Let me kill you, and I won't destroy the entire station!"
"Not happening, Dirtbreath!" Eve shouted back.
"Stupid, gun-wielding bimbo!" the alien terrorist yelled. "Consider carefully! I only want revenge on you and Grandpa Anarchy for what you did to me on Persa Three! I'll give you one minute to reconsider!"
Eve was sweating. She had a delirious look in her eye -- the pain was clearly affecting her. She gritted her teeth and said, "Look, Rhonda, this might not be the best time to pitch you, nor the best example of what joining our group would entail... but being a member of the Space Babes is a fantastic job. You get to explore the galaxy, you meet new and interesting people and alien races -- and you get to blast a lot of them with laser fire. You're a highly-trained killing machine in a sexy bikini and go-go boots. Everybody loves the Space Babes, and also fears them a little. We're the perfect consorts -- one part sexy lady, one part bodyguard. We don't discriminate either -- male, female, humanoid, non-humanoid, old, young -- it doesn't matter who or what you are before you join. You'll become young and female and humanoid and sexy! There are worse things to do with your life!"
"Eve," said Rhonda, "your arm is nearly burned off...."
"What, this?" Eve asked. "They can fix this. No problem!"
"Well," said Rhonda, "it does sound tempting...."
"Tempting, nothing!" the voice from beyond the door exclaimed. "I've always wanted to be more sexy. Do you think they'd take me?"
Rhonda glanced at Eve.
"Ex convicts have been accepted," Eve offered.
"Fantastic!" the creature exclaimed. Tentacles shoved the busted doors open, and Vlorlaxio appeared before them, unarmed. "In that case," he said, "I surren...."
Rhonda fired, striking the alien squarely in his blobby, bulbous torso. Energy enveloped him. He crumbled into particles and vanished.
"Got him!" Rhonda exclaimed.
Eve laughed. "Rhonda," she said, "you'll make an excellent Space Babe!"