Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Story

[This is a story I enjoy reciting aloud to groups of people. It usually gets a good reception, if they stick with it and get past an opening that sounds like it's just a rude joke. It's a retelling of a story I read in an anthology some years ago -- no idea of title, author or publishing history -- does anyone recognize it?]

Our story begins on a cold, wet, slushy Winter night, many years ago, when a group of impoverished swineherds were sitting up with their charges, cursing and quarreling and fighting over the jug, when the ground before them suddenly split open, and with a gout of flame and a roiling cloud of sulfurous smoke, a hideous demon rose before them.

"Are you scared? Good. Now listen close: five miles to the south there is the ruin of an abandoned tavern, and in it you will find a whore who has just given birth. Bow down before her child and worship him, or I'll break your heads."

The demon vanished, and the swineherds hastily hurried off. Soon they came to the ruined tavern, and in it they found a skinny, ragged girl clutching an ugly little baby covered in black hair. They bowed down before him and then hurried off as quickly as they thought safe, except for one of their number who paused to take off her shawl and tuck it around the child, saying, "The mite looks cold."

Once they were alone again, the child said, "Mother, those people bowed down before me because they were afraid of Father and Father's demon, but I don't think that is why the woman gave me her shawl."

"No, dear. I think she did that out of friendship."

"Is friendship important?"

"I think sometimes it is."

Soon after, the mother and child were joined by new visitors, this time three Princes out of the East.

They too bowed down before him, and then the first approached and set down an urn full of silver coins, saying, "People will do almost anything if you give them enough silver."

The second Prince then approached, and opened a chest of opium, saying, "People will do things for opium that they won't do for any amount of silver."

The third Prince offered the child a vial of arsenic, observing, "If you meet someone who can't be bought with silver or opium or anything else, you can always get rid of him."

Then the three Princes bowed low and retired, leaving the mother and child alone again.

Eventually, the child said, "Mother, the Princes bowed down to me and gave me gifts, but they did that because they thought they could gain power by helping Father, didn't they? I don't think any of them was a friend."

"No, dear. Princes seldom have any friends."

Last of all from out of the West came the child's father himself, a far more terrifying creature than his servant. He looked down on his son and said,

"It is good. This child will grow and be loved and feared by all for his powers of illusion-making and prophesy, and he will be sought by all kings for their courts. And soon the Great King will be born, and you my son will be his teacher and counselor, and shape him into the king I need, to conquer the realm I need, to raise the army I need for the final battle, and all will occur as I desire."

Saying this, he departed, and the mother and child knew they would not be disturbed again that night. After a long silence, the mother finally spoke, saying,

"Dear, is it true what your father said, that you have the gift of prophesy? Can you see the future?"

"Yes, Mother. I can see the future more clearly than Father can, and I know something important that Father doesn't know."

"What's that, Merlin?"

"I know that Arthur will be my friend."

[I love that story.]

Weird But Apparently Real Books on Amazon

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Assassins Can Fail In More Ways Than One

This is my fair warning for those who think that bullets can trump ballots.

Here, Put This in Perspective While You're At It

Sunday, December 20, 2009

We Can't Find Our Christmas Card List

So if you were expecting (or would like to get) a card from us, please e-mail me at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unexplained . . . .

Over at Shakesville ( ) the Question of the Day is whether you have had any personal experience of "the unexplained": ghosts, UFOs, telepathy, &c.

It reminded me of when my brothers and I were little, and we would make up our own radio shows, complete with commercials and theme songs. One of our favorites was introduced with a thin, spooky voice singing: "Unexplained . . . unexplained . . . Unexplained Phenomena!" [THUMP THUMP!]

Here is my answer, inspired by a couple of dozen earlier ones:

I have always described myself as suffering from tinnitus (in the form of prolonged high-pitched whines akin to the behavior of malfunctioning electronics), but after reading a comment at Shakesville, I'm thinking of starting to call it "exploding head syndrome":

In response to someone who has been troubled by undulating walls, I observe that I can deliberately make a wall or ceiling begin to seemingly undulate, if I stare at it long enough. It's just an artifact of the way the nervous system is put together, not a physical phenomenon. You don't need to be scared of it. In fact, it can help to pass a boring interval.

In response to several references to sleep paralysis, I told the story of how I once came into my little son's bedroom and saw him staring wide-eyed at the ceiling. He seemed so strange, for a moment I thought he must be dead, but when I spoke to him, he blinked and then closed his eyes and relaxed into normal sleep. I woke him to sleep. Wow.

In response to someone whose "UFO" turned out to be a blimp, I said that I once saw a blimp passing overhead, and for a moment of terror and elation was convinced that I had slipped into some alternate world.

Regarding ghosts, I don't believe in them, but if I ever see any evidence of their presence, I won't go out of my way to ignore it, either.

But my one genuine unexplained experience is having read a summary of a comic book story (Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes #195, 1973: before it was ever published, and possibly before it was written. Pretty minor, right? But I have no rational explanation for how I could have the vivid memory of reading a text page in a comic book which described the debut and apparent death of ERG-1 before he was published. Spooky....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nice Wood

Today, as we have more than once, my wife and I were driving in the hills east of Corvallis, and passed Nicewood Drive, only this time we looked at each other, snickered and exchanged those fateful words:
"Nice wood...."
"Wanna fuck?"
Because you're only young once, but you can be immature your whole life. 8-) :-})

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fridtjof Nansen

Over at Sadly, No!, they are discussing the question of whether the far-right goofballs have ever liked any of the other Nobel Peace Prize laureates (at least while they were still alive).

One commenter brings up the 1922 laureate, the now mostly forgotten Fridtjof Nansen, and much of the subsequent comments are to the effect that Nansen was way cool and probably proto-metal.

Not so sure about his being metal, but he was definitely cool.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Earth-349: Aquawoman

Disclaimer #1 This story is set in a hypothetical parallel world within the pre-Crisis DC Universe, based on a story in Superman #349, but not limited by that story or any other.
Disclaimer #2 Some characters appearing in this story are based on copyrighted characters owned by DC Comics, Inc., Marvel Comics and others. Their use here is not intended to infringe or disparage those copyrights.
Disclaimer #3 This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the easily offended, especially those who are uncomfortable with such topics as transgender, transformation, polyfidelity and participatory democracy.

Gloriana Curry, known to the land-dwelling public as Aquawoman, considered her reflection in her bedroom mirror. She liked the mirror very much: oval, a meter and a half tall, an ormolu frame, salvaged from the wreck of the Antilie (sank in a storm, July 23rd, 1911, near Bermuda). She thought the reflection was...adequate: 421 moons old (32.2 years, land-reckoning), blonde hair, fair skin (evenly colored but not very smooth), tall and muscular (chest very broad, making her breasts look smaller than they really were), belly firm enough that she could still wear her unforgiving shirt of orichalcum scale mail. No scars, thanks to the excellent Atlantean healing capacity. Her right hand was still a little pale, and the wrist would probably always be slightly crooked where it had grown from the stump of the one she'd lost, but it was no longer so noticable that she felt the need for gloves. Absolutely stunning legs, by the standards of either land people or Atlanteans (did they look better bare, or in the green tights? Tights today). She would do for a routine appearance as the Queen of Atlantis. Queen of Atlantis was a very fanciful translation of her actual title. A better one would be First Speaker of the Executive Council of the Poseidonis Reach. Her executive position was an elective one (though it did involve wearing a crown and carrying a ceremonial trident), and her territory did not by any means cover all of Atlantis. The city of Poseidonis and its environs, plus its assorted vassal city-states and allied settlements and nomadic tribes, accounted for only about half of the population, and maybe a third of the inhabited area of the Atlantic Ocean basin (the Reach was defined by tides and currents, not lines drawn on the seafloor). Still, calling her a Queen did no harm, and calling the Poseidonis Reach "Atlantis" harmed only those insufferable merfolk in Tritonis, so what the hell?

Aquawoman thought of a Quaker fishing boat captain she knew, who had recently been named Clerk of the Committee for Ministry and Oversight of the Gulf Coast Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends of Christ. She made a mental note that when next they met, she would address him as "Archbishop of New Orleans".

It was not a ceremonial occasion, just a semi-formal birthday party for the oldest member of the Council, so she would forgo the crown, the trident, the walrus-hide mantle and the tedious riding of an Atlantic Giant Seahorse. There would probably be a good crowd even so, because people would be wanting to see the royal consorts. With a final check of her tights for wrinkles, she swam out the nearest window and down to the plaza, where her husbands and most of the other guests were waiting. It was rare enough for all five of her husbands to be gathered together in one place. They all had their jobs and their private interests, and if it didn’t happen that one or more of them was away from the city, he was likely to be occupied with some project elsewhere in town. For once, though, she found them together: Turth, scion of a Poseidonis family even older than her own. Malco, a legless merman from Tritonis. Glibdup, a clawed and scaly gill-man from the chilly coastal waters of Rhode Island. Blue-skinned Niaremus, an adventurer from Earth-348. And perhaps the oddest of all – “Hey, where’s Todd?” Nobody seemed to know. Turth said, “He was definitely going to be here, but I haven’t seen him all day.” A boy in an Army uniform, barely into puberty, swam into the midst of the royal party, glancing uncomfortably around at the consorts but remembering to salute the queen, and said, “Excuse me, Ma’am, but the Black Manta is approaching from north by northeast, showing truce lights.” Todd Arliss’ family had been shipchandlers for over a century, and had inherited a very substantial business at the age of 19. He had insisted on selling the business and spending almost his entire fortune on illegal experimental treatments intended to give him an Atlantean metabolism, allowing him to live in the sea, go to Atlantis, and plight his troth to Aquawoman. He had been phenomenally lucky. He might have died, or become a mindless Aquabeast, or worse yet from his point of view, been turned into a too-exact duplicate of Aquawoman. Instead, he had wound up as the curly-haired, round-cheeked amphibian the Atlanteans fondly called Aquababy. Even then, there was no guarantee that the adventurer and stateswoman would want anything to do with a somewhat-obsessive admirer. But he’d proven to have many attractive qualities, and in the end had been allowed to become her fifth companion. He’d also proven very popular with the people of Atlantis, who had made him something of a mascot. It had been very clever of the Ocean Master to choose him as a hostage. By the time Aquawoman had reached the dome that covered the city, the Ocean Master’s immense black submarine was holding a position less than fifty fathoms from the glass. It loomed there, resembling nothing so much as an immense sperm whale’s penis, with the Ocean Master himself perched suggestively at its prow. Atlantean soldiers were arrayed in a half-sphere before the vessel, spearguns ready. Aquawoman swam up to the officer in charge. "Has he said yet what he wants?” “Yes, Ma’am. The crown of Queen Clea.” “He can’t have it,” she said automatically. The officer nodded curtly. Moments later the four husbands and most of the Council arrived. Aquawoman told them what the Ocean Master wanted, and assured them that she considered paying the ransom out of the question. Malco was dubious, and tried gently to suggest that they at least consider it. The others all disagreed strongly. Turth spoke smoothly to calm Malco, with a trace of condescension. “We must not, of course, allow...that fall into such hands as those. The Ocean Master is bothersome enough as a science pirate; giving him the power to truly master the world’s oceans would be disastrous. Nevertheless, for our beloved brother’s sake...?” Aquawoman nodded. “For Todd’s sake, we should consider all our options. And what better place to discuss the matter than in the Nameless Vault?” A generation before, Atlantean archaeologists had found an ancient crown once worn by the Wizard-Kings, a hideous thing formed of seven serpents. Everyone who saw it was troubled by the evil power emanating from it, but the silver-haired Queen Clea had dared to place it on her head. After that, she had displayed increasingly spectacular magical powers – and increasing megalomania and depravity. The escalating crimes of Queen Clea, and the civil war that eventually resulted, had nearly destroyed Poseidonis. Once she had been neutralized and the crown secured, it had been stowed in the Nameless Vault, along with other items deemed too dangerous to be used. The Executive Council, Aquawoman and her husbands made a crowd that did not easily fit down the narrow passageways that led below the city to the Nameless Vault. The Vault itself lay in the deepest and oldest of the Palace’s sub-basements, in the natural caverns and chambers hewn from living stone that had underlain the city when Atlantis was still above the surface. Its door was of a kind of steel otherwise unknown on Earth, possibly older than Earth itself. The lock was two years old, from Stark Industries, and required three members of the Council to authorize entry. The Vault-Keeper, a broad-chinned oldster in a red robe, stood by watchfully as they unlocked the massive door. As the door swung open, a perverse corner of Aquawoman’s mind reflected that the term “Nameless Vault” could also be translated as simply “a secure unnamed location”. The contents of the vault seemed deceptively ordinary. On one table stood an insulated steel vial labelled simply “Virus”. On a set of shelves were several boxes of waterproof punchcards, marked “Master PC”. Presumably PC stood for “punchcard”, but what made a computer program so dangerous? A television set, looking to be about ten years old, seemed laughably out of place until it moved, turning toward the visitors as though it were alive. A sealed package offered no clue of its contents, except for being marked “SRU”. It seemed to Aquawoman that the Vault badly needed a catalog. At the very back of the Vault, on a pedestal as though in a museum display – or on a blasphemous altar – a dreadful object waited. Three snakes glared off to the left, three to the right, and the largest looked forward, its eyes projecting a challenge. Come wear me. Come, and have power over the sea and the land. Come and be like Clea, only better, more perfect. Wear me, and be a real queen, feared and loved by the whole world. Not taking her eyes off the crown, Aquawoman said to her companions, “This is what we’re here for. Let’s go.” The Ocean Master had his feet planted on the prow of the Black Manta when Aquawoman returned. It was a strange, nonsensical position to hold underwater, but landsman that he was, he doubtless thought it looked dramatic and authoritative. He remained in position as Aquawoman swam out to meet him. He saw that she did indeed have the Serpent Crown with her. She was wearing it. The Ocean Master spoke through a hydrophone in his ornate helmet, “The Queen of Atlantis will surrender the Serpent Crown to the Ocean Master, and thereby acknowledge him her overlord and the true ruler of all the Earth’s oceans.” “Francis Marion Ormsby, if you think I’m going to let you leave here with Clea’s crown, you’re a dumber sprat than you were when you tried to pants me the first day we swam together!” “I need the crown,” the Ocean Master said coldly, not showing any sign that her backhanded appeal to familial ties had touched him. “I have to have it, Atlantean, in order to fulfill my destiny. Hand it over, now, or I’ll kill your precious Aquababy before your eyes.” She swam toward him, her eyes burning in a manner that suggested red lightning might shoot from them at any moment, or perhaps from the eyes of the serpents in her crown. The ancient and obscene power of the object carried a weight of silent menace. “Yes, you could do that, and it would wound my heart in ways I doubt you can even understand. But with my surviving husbands to console me, I’d manage to go on. I’d retain enough of my self-control to begin the hunt for you right away, and you’d find that 71% of the planet’s surface area is not room enough to hide you from my vengeance.” He remained still for a long moment, his face unreadable in that mask, and then he turned to his nearest henchman, a silver-blonde youth in the ragged remnants of a U.S. Navy enlisted work uniform. “Let him go.” Less than a minute later, Aquababy swam out through an airlock, waved to the crowd as they cheered him, then swam toward his wife. The so-called Ocean Master slipped into his vessel through a different airlock, and the Black Manta began to turn slowly in place, preparing to depart from the city. There was more loud cheering as the invaders fled. Aquababy swam to his wife’s side, but held back at the sight of her wearing the crown. He was not an Atlantean, and had not even been born yet when Queen Clea made it infamous, but he knew its reputation as a corrupting influence. He was clearly wondering whether Aquawoman’s sacrifice had been worth his life. Aquawoman pulled the crown from her head and crushed it between her hands. The baked-clay replica crumbled to powder and dispersed in a muddy cloud. To the people of Atlantis she called out, “The crown of Clea is safely stored away, and that’s where it will stay!” and then kissed her husband very warmly and firmly. They broke from the kiss and began swimming back toward the palace side by side, surrounded by her other husbands and, more distantly, by government officials and the adoring populace. Aquawoman gave a long telepathic sigh. “I swear, I don’t know what it’s going to take to make him put a stop to all this Ocean Master nonsense. I may have to marry him."

Niaremus turned to Malco and raised one long eyebrow.

"Marry him? Isn't he her half-brother?"

"Step-brother. Former step-brother, since her father is divorced from his mother."

"So I suppose a relationship between them would only be..."


Todd swam close to Aquawoman, bumping against her frequently in an intimate gesture that would only be tolerated between lovers.

"Have I mentioned lately what a really magnificent woman you are?"

"I'm not sure how recently the last time was," she replied lightly, "but feel free anytime it comes up."

"It's relevant right at the moment, hon. When I heard you telling Ormsby, 'Go ahead, there's four more where he came from'--"

"That's not what--"

He shushed her.

"You said what you had to say. I have no complaint. Quite the contrary. I love and admire you more for having had the strength to say it. When you stood him down like that, I think it was the first time I'd ever really seen you look like a queen."

Aquawoman made a dismissive gesture.

"Me, a queen? I'm just a nice girl with five husbands."

More Earth-349 stories can be found at

Contact the author at

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On the Streets of Portland

KPOJ, "Portland's Only Progressive Talk Station", is sponsoring a team in Portland's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, called "Get Outta My 'raq", thus demonstrating that multi-layered cultural references don't need to be subtle or clever.

But it does bring to mind this image, which I have not yet been able to expel, of Lady Babylonia entered in the race, going down the streets of Portand with classical draperies over a sports bra that contains her Junoesque though alas occupied bosom.

Her cousin Portlandia hands her a cup of Bull Run water as she passes, while the Dragon of the Ishtar Gate yelps happily at her heels.

I blame Detective Neptune, myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Give You My heart

Once there was a boy who loved a girl, as so many do. And like so many boys, he had been told by his mother that one day he would meet a girl and want to give her his heart. So he did.
He came to her door with the front of his shirt still bloody, so that she cried out with alarm when she saw him, but he brushed aside her concerns and pressed a bundle wrapped in white paper into her arms.
“Go on, unwrap it,” he said eagerly. “See what I have done for you!”
Backing into her house, still casting anxious glances at his bloody shirt, she carefully unwrapped his gift. When she saw the rounded bloody mass, excitedly throbbing in her hands, she nearly fainted.
She looked up at him, horrified.
“It’s my heart. I have given it to you!”
She looked at the heart in her hands, and then at the bloody front of his shirt.
“But why would you do such a thing?”
He looked stunned.
“Last night, you said you loved me, and I said I loved you. Isn’t that what you ought to do after you have pledged your love – to give them your heart?”
She cradled the heart in her arms and stroked it gently with her fingertips. He moaned softly with pleasure.
“But…that’s just a saying. You shouldn’t do it literally!”
He shook his head, confused
“Are you saying you don’t want my heart? I thought you cared!”
“I do care. I care too much to see you put yourself in so much danger over a silly gesture like this.”
His eyes darkened.
“You think it’s silly? I did this for you!”
“Well, you shouldn’t have! Don’t you see how dangerous it is to take your heart out like this?”
As she spoke, she carelessly clutched the heart just a tiny bit too hard. The boy gasped in pain and doubled over, clutching at his heartless chest.
“Oh, dear, did I do that?”
“I’m sorry, I know you didn’t mean to do that. Just…be careful with it.”
She gave the heart some careful strokes, then stopped and sighed heavily.
“God, I wish you hadn’t done this. There are other ways of showing that you care. You didn’t have to do this to yourself – or to me.”
“What? What do you mean, do this to you?”
“Well, look, what am I supposed to do with your heart? Am I supposed to just carry it around with me all the time?”
“Well, why not?”
“For one thing, I have work to do. For another, it’s just too much responsibility. Carrying your heart around with me is like having a baby to look after. If I make a mistake, I could kill you, or cause you so much pain.”
“Well, what do you want me to do then? Take my heart back? Put it back in my chest?”
“Yes. Your heart needs to be in your chest, protected by your ribs. That’s where it belongs. That’s the best place for it. It won’t mean I love you any less.”
The boy sighed.
“All right, then.”
He unbuttoned his shirt, and reached for his heart.
“No. Let me do it.”
She nestled the heart lovingly in its spot, and gently reconnected the aorta and vena cava. She withdrew her hands, and his ribs quickly closed around his heart. The skin followed moments later.
The boy looked down sadly at the unbroken skin between his nipples.
“I’m sorry you didn’t like your gift.”
“Well, I’m sorry I couldn’t accept it. I do love you, you know.”
She placed her hand on his chest.
“I can still feel it beating, you know.”
“Yes. Come feel mine.”

Sunday, May 31, 2009

See You Later...?

Little Boy, I hope I get to see you again before too much time goes by.

But I would settle for being able to write you latters, send you birthday presents, and maybe talk with you on the phone once in awhile.

So, I hope your mother relents enough to let me have a mailing address and e-mail where I can reach you.

I hope so.

And I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Earth-349: General Jumbo

Disclaimer #1 This story was inspired by a story in Superman #349, but is not
limited by that story or any other.
Disclaimer #2 This story features characters based on characters owned by DC
Comics, Inc., Marvel Comics and others. This story was written for
entertainment only and is not intended to infringe or disparage those
copyrights, even though they should have expired decades ago and freed those
characters from the dead hand of perpetual corporate ownership.
Disclaimer #3 This story was inspired in part by the short story “Boobs” by
Suzy McKee Charnas, but not so much that anybody’s likely to call it an
Disclaimer #4 This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the easily
offended, especially those who are uncomfortable with a feminist analysis of
precocious breast development in jailbait.
Note 1: General Jumbo will be a pretty obscure character to USAn readers, but
Britons should recognize him. More information can be found at
Note 2: This story is dedicated to “Melons” and all the other girls who have
had to endure the sort of cruelty Amanda suffers from in this story.

Mummy always says I’ll be glad one day to be “well-endowed”, and maybe
I will, but if so, couldn’t the silly great things have waited until “one day”
to come along, instead of popping in unannounced during the summer I turned
“One day”, according to all of Mummy’s friends, the boys will be
worshipping me on account of them, but so far it’s been nothing but teasing and
rude jokes and hands grabbing at them.
I swear, if one of the boys would just look me in the eye and tell me
that my knockers were driving him crazy and could I please take off my jumper
and let him have a feel, I might just say yes. I could see doing that for
Nigel Barr or Bert Gregory. They’re halfway human most of the time and they
used to act like they were my friends (although I haven’t got the least wish
for a “boyfriend”). But not for that beastly Colin Gillie. He’s the one who
really made my life miserable over the things. He was the one who started
calling me “Jubblies” instead of Johnson, and when he got four of the best for
it, he changed it to “Jumbo”, and pretended it was just because I was so tall.
I don’t think the adults were fooled, but it gave them an excuse to pretend
they were fooled, and most of the time that seems to be all they want.
And it was Colin Gillie who got that pack of boys chasing me down
Mulberry Lane that day in April, when I really thought something bad was going
to happen.
I was walking home from school. It’d been a long day and I was good
and ready to be home and watch a little tele. I was adjusting my bra, trying
one more time to find a way to make it actually comfortable, when I heard
Colin’s nasty voice behind me.
“Look at that, even she can’t keep her hands off them!”
And it was his nasty voice, not the one he used for talking to boys or adults
or other human beings, but the one that was for talking about my tits and the
creature unlucky enough to be standing behind them.
I looked behind and there were Colin and Nigel and Bert and a couple of
other boys I recognized from the comprehensive, though I couldn’t put names to
I shouldn’t have run. I should have walked up real close and showed my
teeth and called Colin a nice ripe bad name. If I’d done that, they might have
left me alone. Instead, I started to run, and when I did Nigel yelled “Get
her!” and they were off after me.
If it had only been Colin by himself, or Nigel, I expect he wouldn’t
have gone past copping a feel, but with the lot of them together, each one
afraid to back down before the others did, it might have gotten a lot worse.
In the books I’d been reading lately, boys did terrible things to girls at
times like this. They didn’t go into detail, those books, but that made the
terrible things all the more terrifying.
In the books, it was bad girls who had things happen to them, but I
wasn’t so stupid as to think that there were really rules about who bad things
happened to in real life.
Besides, any girl in those books who had big tits was always a bad one.
I ran, and the boys all came baying after me, and the more I ran and
they yelled, the more frightened I became. And it would have to be the part of
Mulberry Lane where the creek ran along one side and there was a stand of trees
along the other, and no houses for a couple of hundred metres, and there was
nobody else around.
I rounded a turn and the boys were still after me. I was taller than
all of them except Bert, and I probably could have just outrun them, but I was
scared and I wanted help, wanted adults or better yet a policeman nearby. I
wanted to be amongst people, not here in this frightening place where there was
nothing between the boys and me but the law of the jungle. Yes, I was getting
all out of proportion here, but that’s the way I was thinking right then.
Up ahead was a garden wall, and I ran right up to it and grabbed its top and
hauled myself up. I balanced on top of the wall, trying to get a purchase with
my feet, and felt myself starting to slide over the other side. I remember
thinking that with my buttercakes on the far side of the wall, I had gravity on
my side. A hand grabbed my foot and I kicked back, connecting with somebody’s
face, and served him right.
Somebody’s hand went up under my skirt. I don’t think he did it on
purpose, I think he was just grabbing for me any which way, but whoever he was
got hold of the waistband of my panties and I screamed and made a crazy
scramble that put me over the wall in a tumble, scratched and bruised and
panting. I sat up and there was a tank pointing its cannon right in my face.
It was small enough that you could cover it with a hat, but somehow it
didn’t look like a toy. Looking down that pen-sized barrel, I felt as though
it could shoot a small but very real hole in me.
There were more tanks, I now saw, and behind them squads of tiny soldiers scrambling over miniature terrain, forming up to face me. I was in a garden, back of a house, and it was all little ridges and hills and tiny trees and houses, all made to the scale of the soldiers, who were maybe five centimetres tall. With all those little guns pointed up at me, I felt like one of the monsters in the films they showed at the Palace on Saturdays, except for
the “bombs and shells have no effect” part.
I stood up slowly, and the guns all tracked on me. The soldiers aimed their
rifles (I learned later that only their bayonets were functional, but I didn’t
know that then), and the tanks swung their turrets, all aimed at my chest. I
held very still.
“Here, girl, leave off the toys and come play with us!”
I looked over my shoulder, and there was Colin grinning over the wall at me.
I stood there, frozen between a danger I didn’t really understand and a danger
that just seemed crazy, and then I heard a buzzing noise like a giant wasp, and
a tiny little fighter jet flew between Colin and me and shot something at him
that exploded like a squib in his face. Colin fell backward, squawking, out of
I stared at the wall for a moment and then remembered the army behind me. I
was turning to face them again when I heard a sharp voice.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my garden?”
On the far side of the tanks and soldiers, a tall thin man with white hair was
holding a small metal box with a long antenna coming out of it. He was pushing
buttons on the box, and turning a little dial, and the army was moving away
from me. The man looked rather familiar, though I couldn’t place him.
“Those aren’t toys, you know. Their weapons are real. You could have been
badly hurt.”
The man wasn’t very cross, he was obviously more concerned for me than anything
else, but he also seemed like a very authoritative person, like a teacher or
even a clergyman. I’d never dropped a curtsey to anyone before without having
been reminded ahead of time to do it, but I did for him.
"Amanda Johnson, Sir. I’m sorry for intruding, but there were these boys….”
He nodded, and then he bowed.
“Yes. I saw that one nasty fellow, and you were obviously afraid of him, so I
saw him off. Christopher Pike, Miss Johnson.”
“You’re Professor Pike? You’re the one who invented Robot Annie!”
I expected him to smile and look proud at that, since Robot Annie is so
famous, but instead he just looked sad, and then he said, “I worked on that
project, yes, but I’m not a member of that group anymore.”
He sort of shook himself, and then he smiled at me.
“Well, let’s get you inside, where you can telephone home and have a
cup of tea to settle your nerves.”
That sounded lovely to me, so I went to walk with him into the house,
and that’s when I found out that the boy who’d been yanking at my panties had
ruined the waistband, because they fell down around my ankles right in front of
Professor Pike himself. Worse yet, there was no way I could just pull them up
and they’d stay up, so I was forced to step out of them and stuff them in the
pocket of my blazer. The Professor was ever so kind, though, and didn’t say a
It was the most remarkable cup of tea I’d ever had. In the Professor’s
parlour, more little creatures like the little army bustled about. A teddy
bear, three feet high, brought sugar and milk to the table, and a little
footman walked across the tabletop to scoop up sugar for me. The teapot rolled
over to my cup on little wheels and poured itself without spilling a drop.
The Professor told me that he was living in Dinchester to have a quiet
place to work on robots for the military. They were going to be used for
things like sneaking cameras behind enemy lines, or bombs that could fly
themselves to their targets. For fun, he’d built his first prototypes in the
form of toys, but he’d given them the kind of motors and sensors that the real
military robots would have, and had even armed some of them. The planes fired
missiles that exploded like squibs. That was what he’d used on Colin. The
tanks had the barrels and firing mechanisms of small pistols (“twenty-twos”, he
called them), and while they normally just fired blanks, he’d loaded them with
real bullets to do some target practice today.
He explained that the government was eager to have weapons that could
keep Britain a world power, even though we had no atomic weapons, and also
wanted to encourage science, even though we had no space program. He made a
joke, saying, “And if we’ve got any superheroes stashed in a bunker somewhere,
I’m not aware of it!”
We went out into his garden after that, and he showed me what his
little army could do. He let me handle the control box, and told me I was
a “natural”, which made me feel terribly proud. I told him about how the boys
harassed me on account of my tits (only I said “bosom”), and he was very
“When I was your age, I developed the foulest breath on Earth. No
tooth powder or mouthwash could control it. I learned much later that it was
an infection, and it took sulfa to get rid of it, but at the time it was just
misery for me. The kids all called me ’Stinky’ and that name came close to
breaking my heart.
“And then one day a boy called me ‘Stinky’ one time too many and I just
snapped. I grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him up against the wall,
good and hard, and I put my face up close to his so he could get a real faceful
of my breath, and I yelled, ‘That’s Mister Stinky to you!’ And somehow, that
was the right thing to say, because after that they did call me Mr. Stinky, and
it didn’t seem so bad. I had my Mum knit me a sweater with a big picture of a
skunk on the front, and I had more friends and less trouble.”
I could only shake my head at this story, finding it hard to believe
that I could ever make a decent name out of “Jumbo”.
The Professor had a caller then, and I was ready to say goodbye and
head for home, but he invited me to spend some more time with his little army,
and left me alone in the garden. I set the soldiers to drilling in formation
and the tanks to patrolling along the garden wall, and started getting familiar
with the planes. It really was amazing how much you could get the little
things to do, with just one little control box with only a few buttons and a
couple of dials.
It felt good, having those little machines under my command. It felt
like nothing I’d ever done. The sense of power, of control, of having a kind
of talent for running things, was simply marvelous.
For so long, I’d felt as though I were helpless, pinned down by adults
and their rules, by boys and their mad hands, by girls and their envy, but at
least here, in command of the Professor’s little army, I was in charge.
I was making the planes fly in formation and then break off one by one,
while part of my mind was working out how you could set up little tabletop
battlefields and have people hire them like pinball machines, when I heard a
cry of pain from the house.
I ran back to the French doors and saw two men raising the Professor
roughly from the floor, while a third stood over him with a pistol in his
hand. There was blood coming from the Professor’s mouth.
“I’ll say again,” the man with the gun said, “is there anything you’d
like to take with you? We really do want you to comfortable in your new home.”
I should have been too frightened to do anything, except maybe run the
way I had from those boys. But right at that moment, I didn’t feel like a
schoolgirl – I felt like a general. So I twisted dials and punched buttons as
fast as I could, and the Professor’s little army went marching through the
French doors with guns blazing.
I saw later that I really shouldn’t have fired so many of the guns.
The three men were all wounded, and one of them nearly died, and it was only
luck that the Professor wasn’t also shot. Still, I did manage to stop them
from abducting him.
My little army stood guard over the men while I telephoned the police,
a little plane circling above them as they cringed together and held
handkerchiefs to their wounds.
I got a nice letter from the police and my picture in the paper.
Everyone at school made a fuss over me, and so did my family, but I assumed
that would be the end of it. At tea a few days later, though, the Professor
surprised me. He told me that he wanted me to come by every day and drill his
army, and even take some of them out with me to march and roll and fly around
town. He said it would serve as a test of his robots’ powers, and also let me
get practice at using them. He said that I had a real future as an operator of
little machines like his, and that there would be lots of jobs calling for that
kind of work in the future, both in business and in the military.
The idea of being part of a new industry, and maybe a new kind of war,
was kind of interesting, but I’ll admit that what really sounded good was
getting to have my own personal army to follow me around.
I have a permit from the police to take the little army out in public. The tanks and planes only fire squibs now (even an adult wouldn’t be allowed to
load the tanks with bullets), but those can be quite useful in distracting and
confusing a person. I’ve already helped the police capture a man who was
robbing a shop, and disarmed a bomb someone left in the Mayor’s office.
Things are different at school, as you might imagine. Nobody tries to
bully a girl who commands an army. They call me General Jumbo now, and you
know, I do like the name better, just as Professor Pike said. I even have a
cap with gold braid on the bill, and a military tunic.
Double-breasted, of course.
Contact the author at

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Goodbye, Little Boy

I hope you enjoy wherever it is you are going.
I'm sorry that I probably won't see you for quite awhile.
I will miss you. But then, I already miss you.
And I'm not the only one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Boy

Two years old today.

And what a trip it has been. Glad you made it.

Wish I could be there to celebrate it with you, and I'm not the only one.

I will hold you in the Light.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Pro-Sex Feminists" vs. a Feminist who is Pro-Sex

I am so confused. I have been a feminist since before pubefrty (but no, I already knew I was a boy :-), and was never under the impression that there was anything anti-sex about feminism, and yet look at the hassles that a feminist advocate for battered women underwent because she also writes erotica:

I'm confused. I wonder whether Suzie Bright might help me figutre this out. Suzie is my second-favorite horny feminist, after my wife.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Little man, What Now?

Years ago, I saw a film on television late at night, titled, Little Man, What Now?. It was a remarkable film about a young couple struggling to survive in a country where everyone but themselves seemed to be going crazy over one ideology or another, each promising to bring the country out of the Great Depression and provide every citizen with his/her due.

Rather than embrace any of the various movements, they preferred to just muddle through, raise their baby and hope for the best.

It could have been set in almost any Western country in the early 1930s, but it is especially poignant because it is set in Germany, and we who watch it a lifetime later know what lay ahead for them.

Poor souls. To say nothing of their baby....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Earth-349: The Return of Brainiac

Disclaimer #1: This story is inspired by a story in Superman #349, 
but is not limited by that story or any other.
Disclaimer #2: This story makes use of copyrighted characters 
owned by DC Comics, Inc., and other publishers.  It is written for 
amusement only and is not intended to infringe or disparage those 
Disclaimer #3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 
or the easily offended, especially those who have difficulty with 
themes like involuntary pregnancy and lactation.
Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Femur of for 
creating the modified cover to Reality Flux #15, which in part 
inspired this story.
Thanks to Boglin, who created “Spider-Goblin”, inspiration for the 
Black Widows.
And big thanks to Gangnet, creator of the monumental Bent
Silver, who explained why the number 38 is sacred to Supergirl.

Linda had fallen asleep at the breast, Karen's nipple slipping from 
her mouth with a stream of milky drool.  Karen was just laying her 
down when Clark began to wail.  Karen sighed and hurried over to 
his crib, wanting to silence him before he woke any of the others.
Too late.  In the gray metal bin beside Clark's, Edna was now 
wide-eyed with pursed lips.  Edna was new, only a few feedings 
old, but Karen already knew that when Edna's lips pursed like that, 
she was about to give forth with an explosive, owl-like scream.  
She snatched up Edna even before Clark, automatically pressing 
her to the breast Linda hadn't been using, as much to muffle her 
cry as to offer her a nipple.  Sure enough, Edna's scream vibrated 
joltingly into Karen's breast, but then she settled down and started 
to suck.  Unfortunately, that left her other breast for Clark.  The 
nipple was still wet and sore from Linda's nursing, and Clark was a 
real vacuum-pump sucker.
Wincing, Karen accepted the discomfort.  Just one more, among 
so many.  It had really been a bad year.
She lowered herself carefully onto the bench that projected from 
one wall of the nursery, wishing yet again that she had a rocking 
chair, and swayed slowly forward and back, murmuring softly and 
rhythmically to Clark and Edna, trying to let her mind wander.  
There were only so many things for her to think about.  Inevitably,
one of them was to relive her last day of freedom. 
It had been a Saturday morning, blessedly free of anything to do.  
Karen Zorelle had a busy life, but she had carefully kept Saturdays 
free of obligations.
Tuesday through Friday there were classes in the morning, waiting 
tables in the afternoon.  Monday, a full shift at the restaurant.  
Sunday there was church, and usually a full afternoon of parish 
work.  But on Saturday, she didn’t have to do a thing.  Not even 
get out of bed if she didn’t want to, she thought as she stretched
in bed.
But she did want to, of course.  Actually, she wanted to do a lot of 
things she wouldn’t have time for the rest of the week.  Climbing out 
of bed, still in an oversized blue T-shirt and red panties, she went 
into the kitchenette of her little apartment and checked on her 
The machine had been busy through the night (she kept it in the 
kitchenette so its clattering keys wouldn’t wake her up when a 
message came through at 3 AM), curls of yellow paper piled up on 
the floor.  Karen tore the end of the paper off the printer and 
carefully rolled it into a scroll, with the first message at the top.
She poured a cup of lukewarm tea from the pot on the stove and sat 
down to read.
The teletype had been a blessing to so many people: shut-ins, the 
socially awkward, people who worked in remote places.  Also to 
people with interests more specialized than network television and 
major-league sports.  A teletype message, once it was composed 
and recorded onto punched paper tape, could be sent to one 
person or dozens, just by feeding it the right address-tapes.
Karen communicated daily with all sorts of people over the teletype: 
her numerous and far-flung family, old classmates, and people who 
shared her interest in the vaguely defined phenomenon of the 
There’d been the occasional being with unusual abilities down 
through the centuries, people like Hercules and Makeda of Sheba, 
but in the eight years or so since Superwoman had first appeared, 
they’d seemed to be appearing out of nowhere.
Often, it was rumored, they’d been ordinary people until something 
extraordinary happened to them.  Karen collected fragmentary 
reports and rumors about the superhumans, the lawful and the 
ill-behaved, exchanging news and speculation about them.
Growing up in the little town of Argo City, Missouri, she’d never 
seen a real superhero in action.  She’d seriously considered 
trying to get into Metropolis University, or Empire State, in the hope 
of seeing them more often, but had finally settled for Stanhope, near 
Gateway City.
She also nurtured fantasies of having an “origin incident” of her own, 
and becoming a heroine called “Supergirl”, or maybe “Power Girl”.  
She indulged herself to the extent of using the name Power Girl as 
her teletype handle.
Karen read through her messages, sorting out the ones from 
hero-fans so Power Girl could reply to their comments.  From 
London, Cricket Babylon had sent “Through the Red Lens” #43 
(she alternated titles, reporting well-documented incidents through
her “Green Lens” and freewheeling speculations through her “Red 
Lens”).  Hamlet, self-appointed curator of an imaginary Flash 
Museum, had sent “Flash-Gram” #105 from Hub City.  Mister Action, 
who apparently had a major crush on Superwoman and probably
lived in Metropolis, had sent “Pen Pal” #18.
Karen carefully cut the long scroll apart, setting aside messages 
from other people in a pile and dropping the inevitable, 
paper-wasting unsolicited advertisements in the kitchen wastebasket.  She took the small sheaf of fan newsletters back to her teletype 
and began composing “Power Girl Press Release” #12.
“The big news from New York, of course, is the capture of the 
Green Goblin.  Turns out Funky Flashman was right all along: he 
was Norman Osborn.  But what really interests me is the unmasking 
of the Goblin's Black Widows.  Now, I never heard of Mary Jane 
Watson, Gwen Stacy or Felicia Hardy before, but you'll kindly recall 
that back in '63 I suggested that April Parker was Spider-Woman, 
and when the wall-crawler disappeared and the Goblin turned up 
with a hench-harem with the same powers as Spidey, I thought it 
likely that one of them was the former Spider-Woman.  If Bellevue 
ever manages to get the girls coherent again, now that they're off 
whatever it was the Goblin was feeding them, it'll be interesting to 
hear Parker's own story.
“Last year, both Batgirl and Robin disappeared from Gotham.  
Batgirl later showed up in Washington, D.C., of all places, 
sometimes seen teamed with the male Captain America who 
appeared in the capital at the same time.  But Batwoman 
remained a solo act until just recently, when she showed up with a 
new protégée, the Huntress.  Apparently about ten years old, the girl 
in the tiger skin moves and fights as though she had about twenty 
years’ training.  Maybe Batwoman should give up the vigilante
business and open a school, if she’s that good a teacher.
“Cricket Babylon has some strong opinions about how people are 
depicted in comics.  [This was a powerful understatement: Babylon’s 
scorn for certain comics had been both pungent and obscene]  I 
can’t really comment on that, because I usually don’t read superhero 
comics.  I get impatient with the way the writers take liberties
with the facts; even the ones like Detective Comics, where the 
heroes act as consultants, tend to be ‘based on actual case files’ 
the way gingerbread is ‘based on’ stalks of wheat.  You learn about 
as much about Superwoman's actual life by reading an issue of 
Action Funnies as you learn about a wheat farmer by eating a
gingerbread man.
“When I read comics, it's for entertainment.  I'm fond of the science 
fiction anthology titles like Reality Flux and Altered Fates.”
She worked on her newsletter until 11:00, when the I Ching 
Boutique would be open.  She needed a new bra.  Even the one 
that had always fit best didn't fit very well anymore.
She tried on bras for half an hour before she finally accepted the 
owner's offer to measure her for a custom fitting.  Dianna White 
worked quickly and efficiently, and she'd made her own measuring 
tape out of soft flannel, which Karen especially appreciated.  The 
dark-haired woman took her measurements and gave Karen
the bad news.
"The reason none of the bras you tried on would fit is simple, Karen: 
you're no longer a 38D."
Karen sighed.
"Great, so now I'm a 40?"
"No.  Now you're a 38 double-D."
Her eyes widened.
"I'm only 19!  How big are they gonna get?  What'll happen when I 
have kids?"
Dianna chuckled, not unkindly.
"Don't worry; my rates for custom work are quite reasonable."
A little window shopping, lunch at a curry restaurant downtown (an 
indulgence on a student's budget, especially when she was going to 
have to pay for a custom-made bra, but she liked indulging herself), 
then back to her apartment.  She did some more teletyping, made 
herself some supper and teletyped some more.  She finally had the
tape punched and edited by nine that night, scotch-taped it to the 
end of the well-worn tape that held the addresses on her mailing list, 
and fed the whole spool into her teletype.  She watched it start 
feeding, imagining with satisfaction her words pouring out of several 
dozen teletypes all over the world.  Once she was confident that it 
would keep on feeding and not snarl, she turned from the teletype
and finally gave a thought to her homework.
Reluctantly, she picked up the stack of folders that held her various
assignments, opened the one on top (U.S. History 221: Civil War I to the Mexican
War), and tried to focus her eyes on the fuzzy purple print of a ditto-copied handout
It seemed fuzzier than usual.  And then fuzzier still.  And then the stack of folders
slid from her lap.  And then she was leaning over to pick them up, and somehow wound
up on the floor.
She never did see who or what it was picked her up.
Karen awoke to the sight of a dull gray wall that was neither metal nor
plastic.  She rolled over, noticing that she was naked and that her body ached in
several places, and saw more dull gray walls, and something that looked like a
dime-store counter made of the same stuff.  The ceiling above her was giving off a
pallid white light, apparently coming from the entire surface.
Karen rose shakily to her feet, feeling the most acute ache in her breasts,
which felt very heavy.  It occurred to her that she might have been raped, but there
was no special soreness between her legs.  At about the same time that she rose high
enough to see inside the long gray trough that stood nearest her, and could see that
it was divided into four trays, each with a small body in it, she also heard one of
them start to cry.
Instantly, the ache in her breasts became more acute, and Karen had a
nightmarish insight into where she was and why she had been brought there.
There were four babies in four little cribs in the nearest trough, and three
more gray troughs beyond that, taking up most of the gray chamber.  The first child
she saw was a boy, pale and totally hairless, with very large eyes.  The next was a
dusky girl, with a full head of black curls and oddly elongated ears.  The third was
a ruddy girl with long fingers.  The sixth baby had fine wispy maroon hair, and
seemed to have no visible sex at all.  The ninth was a boy covered from head to foot
in coarse black hair, like a baby gorilla, but with unmistakably human face, hands
and feet.  There were twelve in all.
And they were all green.
Pale translucent jade green, dark olive-green that was almost brown, dappled
aquamarine like a body seen underwater, but always distinctly green.  As though
they'd all come from different mothers, but had the same father.
It was the better part of a day before it occurred to her that she might
have gotten the correct answer on the first try.
There was no mistaking what she was there for, however: the aching in her
taut, heavy breasts made that obvious.  Almost before the reality of the situation
had sunk in, Karen was cradling the baby who was crying the loudest -- a grass-green
boy with thick blond hair -- and holding him to her breast.  She'd seen her mother
do it often enough, and had no trouble cradling him in her arm, supporting his head,
and pressing beside her nipple so the bulk of her breast didn't force him away.
She'd watched her mother nursing often enough over the years, so she knew
how it was done.  But somehow Mom had never mentioned that it could be painful.  It
hurt, more than she would have guessed, but the little guy was hungry, and her
breasts were aching with milk pressure, so she kept at it.
Mom had dropped hints over the years that nursing could feel very, very
good, and Karen had guessed that the feeling could be sexually charged (she
certainly enjoyed playing with her own nipples, and could only imagine what it
would feel like for a lover to kiss them).  She did feel some sexual arousal, and
also noticed that there was pleasure in the relief of pressure, like taking a leak
when you'd been denied for a long time.  The pain she figured would lessen, in time
While he nursed, she examined him more closely.  He was male, with a normal-looking
uncircumcised penis.  There was a tiny patch of white on the tip, under the foreskin.
Gently she pushed, to peel it back, and saw that there was a tiny round swatch of
something white and fluffy, like toilet paper or flannel, stuck over the urinary
meatus.  She was afraid to try to pick it off; she'd leave it be unless he showed
signs of distress.
Examining his penis reminded her that he had no diaper.  None of the babies
did.  That was going to be a problem, and sooner rather than later, especially
considering how much the little green sprout was drinking.
Cradling the boy, she walked around the room, looking over the children.
All twelve had little white patches, always in the analogous place.  The
seemingly-sexless child had a patch surprisingly far back, almost to the anus,
which she saw also had a little patch.  That was the clue, quickly confirmed on all
twelve: a little patch on the anus, that stayed in place unless she pulled at it
steadily for several seconds, and which smoothed down again when she placed it back
on the anus.
So, apparently she didn't have to worry about diaper changes; some
mysterious arrangement, using alien technology (a disintegrator?  a teleporter?),
had solved that problem very elegantly.
Walking around the space, she found her own sanitary arrangements, which
were just as elegant and outwardly simple: a shallow hole in the floor.  Wastes
which fell in it vanished without a fuss.  A small square of the same fluffy white
stuff wiped her clean, and stayed clean itself.
At the opposite side of the chamber was a small recess in the wall, holding
a bowl.  She pulled the bowl out, looked it over and set it back in, and it was
instantly filled with a mound of moist bluish stuff, somewhere between bread and
pudding in texture and not very flavorful.  She was a little hungry, and quite
thirsty, so she ate most of what was in the bowl and then set it aside.
She continued around the room, and almost missed the door.  Fine cracks
marked a section of the wall which, if it were removed, would make a standard-sized
doorway.  There was no sign of a handle or hinges, just the cracks.  And another set
of even finer cracks in the middle of the door, which she saw formed three circles
joined into a "V" by straight lines.
Now at least she knew whose slave she was.
Colu Dox had been born with powers and abilities far beyond those normal for
the inhabitants of the planet Yod: he was stronger, faster, vastly more intelligent,
nearly invulnerable.  On Earth, he might have become a superhero, or at worst a
supervillain, but Yod had a different culture, different rules, different
expectations.  Dox became a tyrant.
His reign had not been a popular one.  Coups and revolutions were more or
less constant, and each time his reprisals against the rebels were more terrible.
Finally, he responded to a worldwide revolt by releasing a deadly microbe to which
only Dox himself was immune.  Left alone, Dox used computer-controlled machinery to
keep Yod's industrial plant running and began preparations to resettle the planet.
He roamed the galaxy, abducting thousands of people from different worlds,
holding them in suspended animation until the day he would arrive home.
The people of Earth first became aware of Dox as a mysterious voice speaking
from Metropolis University's BRAINIAC computer.  At first, even some of the
engineers on the project believed that the machine's thousands of relays and vacuum
tubes had somehow produced a conscious mind.  By the time it was revealed that the
computer was being manipulated from afar by a flesh-and-blood alien, the public
couldn't stop calling him "Brainiac".
Superwoman had defeated Brainiac and returned him to Yod alone, leaving
Brainiac's spaceship in the hands of experienced space travellers among the
Dox had returned two years later, this time as the leader of a legion of
super-powered beings from many planets, including one who claimed to be Captain
Comet of Earth (an identification made problematic by the fact that "Captain Comet"
had been the fictitious hero of an early television serial).  Superwoman had
unmasked the group's leader as the infamous Brainiac, and his dupes turned against
So, now Dox apparently had a new scheme to provide himself with subjects:
abduction, but also mass breeding.  The babies were obviously half-Yodian,
presumably bred from Brainiac’s own sperm.  A sick assembly line, with captives
performing separate tasks, in some ham-fisted notion of efficiency.  Karen thought
the man really did act as though he had a computer for a brain.
She kept nursing the green boy until he fell asleep; by then, two more
babies were crying.  She'd seen Mom with an infant on one breast and a one-year-old
at the other, but didn't feel up to trying the trick just yet.  She nursed one while
holding the other on her lap, singing softly to it.
She found herself singing a lot, in her new life.
Boredom was her worst enemy.  There were no books, no newspapers, no TV, no
teletype, no adults or even children to talk with.  There was no cooking to do, not
even any mindless housekeeping to divert her.  There were just the babies, sleeping
waking and crying, and all she had to do with her day was rock them and nurse them.
Not that there were any days, or nights.  The lights were always on, and the
babies, of course, were always waking up hungry, so she could only sleep in
irregular snatches, between feedings.  None of them stayed satisfied for long, and
there were twelve of them.
She sang to the babies.  Soothing sounds, to keep them from fussing;
occasionally a bouncy tune to make a cranky baby giggle.  And it was one of the few
mental activities that satisfied her, dredging up songs from her memory.
She noticed she was singing "O Tannenbaum" a lot.  She sang the German
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren
she sang the English words
Each bough doth hold its tiny light
To make the gloomy winter bright
she sang the secessionist lyrics from Civil War II, which she'd learned in eighth
grade history class.
Avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore
And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland, my Maryland
she sang the lyrics she'd learned in the Girl Scouts, at Arctic Survival Camp in
O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk,
Vhy do I eat you, Lutefisk?
You smell like bleach, you look like glue
You taste yoost like an overshoe
she sang the words her grandfather had used one night, when very drunk
It waved above our infant might
When all about seemed dark as night
It witnessed many a deed and vow
We will not change its color now
The tune didn't really make her think of Christmas, which would only have
made her sad; instead, it gave her a feeling of quiet, calm endurance, the kind of
patience required of a prisoner waiting for parole, or a besieged city waiting for
Or, she supposed, a family gathered in the dead of winter to cheer themselves up with rich food
and bright lights.
She named the babies.  They didn’t answer to their names, and she had no-one else to talk with
about them, but it wouldn’t have been right not to.
She named them after her parents and grandparents: Fred, Edna, Jordan, Laura, Eben, Sara.
She named them after her brothers and sisters: Lena, Linda, Jerry, Helen, Joey, Margo.
It wouldn't have been so bad if they'd just let the babies grow up a little.  Seeing them learn to
crawl, to walk, watching their heads fill up with words, long before words began to spill out.  That
would have been more fun than these wordless, squirming babes-in-arms, even if they would have
been more work as they grew more mobile.
But when the babies got to be three or four months old, they would disappear while she was
sleeping, replaced by newborn infants, the stumps of their umbilical cords sealed with white
patches.  Clearly, Brainiac wanted her to nurse the newborns, not to rear the toddlers.
It hurt to wake up and find a baby gone, replaced by some newborn stranger.  But after the first
couple of times, Karen reconciled herself to it.  As time went by, her dreams were filled more often
with images of purple-skinned drudges carrying the babies away through a haze of sleepy-gas, or
of metal tentacles writhing from slots in the ceiling, but she never had a clue to how it was really
done, or what was done with the babies afterwards.
Although she had some dreams on that subject, too.
Having used up her immediate family, she named the next batch of babies after old boyfriends
and schoolmates: Irma, Tina, Lorna, Carlos, Lillian, Byron, Dick.  After that, she named them after
people she knew over the teletype: Kurt, Jim, Morty, Jules, even Cricket.
Sometimes she would test her memory by dredging up teletype letters, movies she had seen,
books she had read, summarizing them for the babies as they nursed.  She was surprised by how
much she could remember of the Cherry Ames books she’d read when she was ten: Cherry Ames,
War Nurse.  Cherry Ames, Ski Lodge Nurse.  Cherry Ames, Refugee Camp Nurse.
One day it occurred to Karen that they’d left one title out of the series: Cherry Ames, Wet Nurse.
She laughed hysterically over that, until it started to make the babies cry.
She remembered all of their names as they came and went: Jimmy, Clark, Lucy, Steve, Oscar.
Some she gave names based on their appearance, like a pet’s name: a girl with a white streak
through her orange hair became Streaky, a boy with milky-jade skin the color of cleansing powder
was called Comet.  A hairless monkey-faced boy was called Beppo, like an organ grinder’s
Karen ate and nursed and rocked and comforted, and slept when she got the chance.  She tested
her memory, singing and talking.  She tallied up the babies’ names, and when she got to 48,
realized that she had been through four complete cycles of approximately three months, and had
been a prisoner for about a year.  By coincidence, it was only a few hours later that her captivity
suddenly ended.
A draft of air woke her.  Air moving as it never had before, and sounds echoing from spaces that
had never been there.  Karen sat up and saw that the doorway in the wall was open, the door gone
without a trace.
Moving warily, acutely aware that she had no idea what was beyond her own little chamber, aware
that she had no weapons, no defenses (aware for the first time in months that she was naked),
Karen stepped through the doorway.
A long corridor curved identically off in both directions.  Small sounds came form the left, so she
went that way.  She saw a blue person lying on the floor, draped with a red blanket.
No, it was a pink-skinned person in a Superwoman costume, she saw after a moment.  A glittering
gray tentacle, more lifelike than the machinery from her dreams, held a stubby green lamp above
the fallen body, even though the corridor was well-lit.
Finally Karen understood that the person really was Superwoman, overcome by Kryptonite.  Next,
she saw a pair of larger tentacles hanging down from the ceiling, reaching for the fallen heroine
and then jerking back, apparently suffering some kind of mechanical failure.
Not expecting to succeed, Karen stepped up to the small tendril that held the Kryptonite and
yanked at the luminous ingot.  It came away easily, Karen almost fell over, and then she ran back
into the nursery and dropped it into the potty hole.  She gave a cry of triumph as it vanished, and
she hurried back to the fallen Superwoman.
Pulling the crumpled cape away from her would-be rescuer’s face, Karen was stunned to find that
the person in the blue suit was actually a blonde boy of about thirteen.  He looked up, blinking
weakly, smiled nervously.
“Um, thanks,” he said in a soft, very pleasant alto voice.
Karen smiled.  “Thanks for getting my door open, if I’m not mistaken.”
He nodded, sitting up, then getting shakily to his feet.
“Yeah, I think I’ve shut down most of the main computer’s control systems, but some of the
independent defense systems are pretty clever.”
He looked up at the impotently-writhing tentacles.
“But fortunately, not perfect.”
He brushed himself off, seeming to grow larger as his power returned to him.  He bit his lip and
tried to look Karen confidently in the eye.
"I'm Superwoman’s Secret Emergency Weapon Number 38.  I was built in this form in order to
confuse and mislead criminals.  Um, my internal power source is based on her own powers, that’s
why it’s vulnerable to Kryptonite."
Karen waved her hand, silencing the boy’s clumsy explanations.
"Look, I don't care what you are, or where you came from: whether you're Superwoman's kid
brother, or an immigrant from Earth-252, or if you actually are Superwoman, transformed by Red
Kryptonite.  Whatever you are and whatever you're doing here, if you want me to keep quiet about
you, I will."
The boy bit his lip, nodded.
“Um, thank you.  You and the other, um, women will be all right now.  The ship is yours.  And yes,
my existence is supposed to be a secret, so . . . .”
Karen ended his discomfort by offering her his hand.
“So this never happened.  I never saw you.”
He shook her hand, nodded again and punched buttons that opened a door in the opposite side of
the corridor from the nursery.  The door closed, and a small window appeared in it.  Karen watched
through the window as an opposite door opened onto starry space.  It was an airlock.  The boy
faced outward while it cycled, and flew away without a backward glance as the outer door closed
and the little window discreetly vanished.  There were only faint cracks to show there had been a
door in that spot.
Karen looked left and right down the corridor, which seemed like a vista of infinite freedom after a
year in the little nursery chamber.  But Irene was crying, and she herself was hungry, so she nursed
the little beige girl and ate a bowl of blue pudding, and after that she badly needed a nap.
The small figure in red and blue flew down towards the ice-covered mountain too rapidly for
ordinary eyes to notice.  Once past the immense golden door, he went directly to his bedroom and
began to change.  He was in yellow shorts, pulling on a green tunic with horizontal shoulder-wings
when a platinum-haired girl of about nine entered without knocking.
"Somebody saw you this time, didn't they?"
He stared at her for a moment, then went on dressing, saying nothing.
"The Drygur Moliom is gonna have your hide if she finds out."
"She won't.  I wasn't on Earth."
"Du-uh!  Neither is she, half the time."
"Well, anyway, she won't find out, so don't worry about it."
"Who's worried?  Like I care if you get in trouble."
They went out into the common room that connected the three small bedrooms.  He picked up a
puzzle-sphere and poked at elements deep inside with tiny puffs of controlled breath.
"It's so dumb.  She's always on us about how the greatest thing anybody can do is to help people,
and then she won't let us do any helping."
"Not until the time is right, yeah, I know."
"I'm almost as old as she was when she started out, and she was self-taught."
"I know, I know.  Heck, I agree with you.  But you didn't hear that from me."
"Not a word," he sighed, nodding, "not a word."
When Karen woke, the door was still open, and the corridor outside was full of women.  Blue
women, red women, impossibly tall and slender green women, immense hulking women with rough
orange skin and breasts like warheads.  Hairless grey-skinned women who looked like they spent
a lot of time in the water.  Black-furred women with eight breasts.  A woman with three breasts in a
row, in flagrant violation of bilateral symmetry (Karen wondered if it were a cosmetic addition).
Some of them carried babies or toddlers.  About half of them were visibly pregnant.  All of them
were visibly relieved.  Most of them were milling about with nothing to do, but from time to time
individuals and small groups bustled past, intent on some task.
Karen wandered the corridors like the others for awhile, feeling something build up inside her.
Suddenly she felt a sigh escaping from her as though it had gathered from all corners of her body,
and a huge weight was lifted from her shoulders.
She was free.  Whatever happened next, whether she saw Earth again one day or not, she was no
longer a prisoner of that diabolical nursery.  She felt the way she had when the disarmament treaty
had gone into effect, and the world had been freed from the threat of nuclear war.  There might be
all sorts of bad things in the offing, but the worst was over, and she had survived.
Shaking herself, Karen found the strength to go back to the nursery again.  Peri and Morgan were
both red-faced from crying, so she cradled both of them, giving them each a breast.  When they fell
asleep, she fed Freddie, who was not in so much distress, then took advantage of the lull to go out
again and find one of those purposeful types.
She found an orange-skinned woman with what looked like purple tentacles growing from her
head, passing out green shifts to nude women.  Karen accepted one, relishing the sensation of
fabric against her skin for the first time in over a year.  She made a note that she'd have to cut the
front more deeply, to allow her to nurse with it on.  She also considered, for the first time in a long
time, how much bigger her breasts were after a year of very intensive nursing.  She could only
guess what her bra size would be by now.
Tugging the shift into place, she hurried after the woman.
"You're one of the ones in charge here, aren't you?"
"Well, I'm working, anyway."
Karen took an armload of shifts and helped distribute them to those who desired clothing.
“There’s somebody aboard here who knows how to pilot this thing, right?”
“Sure.  Many of us were taken off ships in transit, and some were pilots.  We’re in control of the
ship now, but since we’re only a couple of months out of Yod, we’re going to make the landing.
Once we’re settled there, anybody who wants can make arrangements for flights back to their
home planets.  Wherever you’re from, someone’s bound to be heading in its general direction.
“As for me, though, I’m planning to stay on Yod and help raise the kids.  I don’t think I could stand
to be separated from the bunch of little crawlers in my compartment.”
Karen thought it over.  Staying on Yod would mean giving up on Earth, probably for good.  Never
seeing her family again, never continuing her education.  Yod had advanced technology, much of
it still in working order, but it was still a mostly-vacant world, with dangers she could only guess at,
not the least of them being the threat of Brainiac's coming back.
It might also mean living on a planet of women and children, seeing men rarely, if ever.
But going back to Earth meant never seeing any of the babies again, and she was so sick of
having her babies taken away.
“So will it just be the three hundred of us, and the babies, when we get there?”
“No.  There are nine other ships, all under the control of their former captives, converging on Yod
right now.
"There's also a prison asteroid in Yod’s solar system, where Dox confined various enemies of his
regime in the early days.  Supposedly it had been destroyed, but apparently Dox was actually
keeping them incommunicado in case he needed healthy Yodian males after all.  Recently, they
managed to get a ship to Yod, and now they're ferrying prisoners home.  There are ten thousand in
all, and between them and us we seem to have all the necessary skills to keep a civilization
Karen was a little dubious.
"Enemies of the regime?  What kind of enemies?  Gangsters, disaffected youth?"
"Some of them were from a rather disorderly subculture made up of the attendants to herds of
meat animals on the plains of the Eastern Continent, but most were members of an emergency-
services guild which conspired to overthrow Dox soon after he took power."
Karen began to smile.
"So, let me see if I've got this straight.  We've got three thousand women on their way to meet ten
thousand firemen and cowboys. . . ?"

Note:  Please send all comments to

Friday, March 13, 2009

Medical Problems

There is a person who needs to know that my back problem is shared with all of my grandfather's descendants, and therefore he is susceptible to it.

I hope he learns about that. It could be important to him one day.

Not that this is the only reason for me to want to be in touch with him, but that is another matter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


News about me: My injured back is feeling much better, thanks to physical therapy and regular exercises.

News about my father; He fell and injured his hip, and he is going into a nursing home.

News about my son: After being out of contact for over a year, without even the unpleasant updates provided by police and rehab centers, I had begun toresign myself to thinking of him as dead. Then the other day my daughter called and said she had seen him, that he looked reasonably healthy and did not show any obvious signs that he was either drinking again or homeless again.

There is news about a couple of other people in my life, but maybe I will save that update for later.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Back Hurts

It hurts just an awful lot. Taking pills and going for physical therapy and stuff, that kind of hurts.

I feel like such an old man. Can't ride my bike or nothing.

Guess I had better quit working a job that tends to involve lifting people. That phlebotomist course is looking better all the time, if only I could get enrolled in one.

I can still have sex, though.*

*This last item is for the benefit of a recent visitor who feels that my filtered "adults only" blog isn't hot and spicy enough.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Earth-349: Zatanna

Disclaimer 1:  This story is based on a story in Superman #349, but is
not limited by that story or any other.

Disclaimer 2: This story features characters based on copyrighted
characters owned by DC Comics and Marvel Comics, but is not intended to
infringe or disparage those copyrights.

Disclaimer 3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the
easily offended, especially those who are not comfortable with themes
of gender transition.

The television talked to itself while John James Zatara adjusted his
shirt front and straightened his tie. As he looked over his reflection,
he considered how male dress had changed over the years: once, a black
swallowtail coat, boiled shirt front, white tie and top hat had been
the nighttime formal uniform. His father, Giovanni Frederico Zatara,
had performed in evening dress to show that, like the guests he
entertained, he was a gentleman.

As the heir to a famous name and the proprietor of a famous act, John
Zatara wore white tie and tails because people expected it of a
magician. Some of the younger ones even thought of them as "magician
clothes", having never seen anyone else dressed that way. He liked it
that way, and he liked even better that standards of fashion were now
so relaxed that he could wear evening dress in broad daylight and be
thought merely colorful, rather than boorish. As far as John was
concerned, every man owed a debt of gratitude to the hippies for that.

Still, perhaps evening dress was getting a little too traditional as
magician wear. He wondered how he might look, performing in some other
outfit, like the fringed buckskin jacket and beaded headband worn by
that beginner at the last meeting at the Magic Castle. He'd used his
shoulder-length hair for some clever misdirection.

Zatara glanced at the television, where a group of colorful dressers
were being interviewed: The Human Torch, a huge woman holding a mallet,
and a robot -- no, not a robot, it was that armored mercenary, Iron
Maiden. They were announcing the formation of a group of superheroes
to respond to crime and disaster as a team.

That was a reminder of the other career he had inherited: the use of
real magic in the cause of justice. Since his father had departed on a
long tour of otherdimensional realms, there seemed to be more and more
call for Zatara in that line, too, using his last name as his nom de
guerre, just as he did for the stage show. Maybe he should even
consider joining these "avengers", or one of the better-established

Zatara smoothed his thin moustache, inspected his slicked-down hair,
placed his equally shiny top hat on his head and inspected himself.

"Rorrim esrever," he said softly, and the mirror's image turned about,
showing Zatara himself as others would see him from every angle.
Everything looked all right that way, too.


Zatara whirled about. Nobody should have been able to enter without
tripping at least one of several wards. But here was this small, slim
man in blue tights and loose blue blouse, smiling maliciously, a gaudy
red cloak spread behind him.

"Make it quick," Zatara snapped, trying to sound casual. "I still have
to practice for tonight's --"

The stranger's hand rose in a classic sorcerous gesture.

"Redurtni eb sselrewo-"

A steel clamp seemed to close around Zatara's mouth. As he struggled
with the silencing spell, the stranger began a longer and probably more
powerful one.

"By the power of the dread Dormammu, let John Zatara be enclosed by the
Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!"

Something began wrapping itself around Zatara, something that was not a
red ribbon, nor a curving beam of red light, but more like a long strip
of red space.

He knew now who this was. Other magi had encountered this man, who
wrought spells of immense power, invoking the names of beings which did
not exist in this universe. He called himself Doctor Strange, and he
was apparently a sorceror from some other universe. He was dangerous,
and probably mad, and wizards more powerful than Zatara feared him.

"And now, in the name of Satannish and the Vishanti, may the Nullity of
Agamotto fall upon this wretch! Let him join the ranks of the Unmanned!"

Zatara's jaw was free again, and at once he began trying to break
Strange's spells. But "Sdnab evlossid" proved as useless as "Egnarts
llaf peelsa"; Strange kept on reinforcing his spell, and Zatara felt a
disturbing sensation from his crotch.

He understood what was happening. Some wizards gained power through
sex; others built up power by denying themselves sex. But a man who
had been castrated, or made impotent, had almost no chance of working
any sort of powerful magic. And Zatara could feel that his fate was
not merely to lose his genitals, but to be stripped of all sexual
identity and nature at the most basic level. The space within these
bands was inimical to maleness, so Zatara's manhood was being erased
from existence, and there seemed no way to stop it.

"Doctor Strange! Why are you doing this?"

Strange chuckled. "Power, of course. There's a limited supply of
magic in any given universe, so by...neutralizing other magi, I make
myself more powerful."

That was nonsense. Like when Father Reynolds had told the "Boys'
Health" class that masturbation would use up your supply of sperm. But
Strange clearly believed it, and Zatara was going to pay the price for
his stupidity.

Zatara felt his organs shrinking in his pants, and knew that his
manhood and his power would soon be gone. He raged silently against
his fate, trying desperately to find an out. He was in a space where a
man, where masculinity, simply couldn't exist. He couldn't get out of
the space, and he couldn't survive as a man inside it, but...

He threw back his head and screamed, "Arataz emoceb elamef!"

Strange threw up his hands, not to cast a counterspell, but simply from
shock and fear. "No!" the otherworldly sorceror cried.

"I MA NAMOW!" Zatara shouted vehemently, and the sensation between the
wizard's legs changed dramatically.

"Sdnab enogeb!" a new voice called, and the alien bands obeyed,
shattering and dissipating. Strange gestured frantically, and an oval
doorway opened behind him. He stumbled through it, followed by the
command, "S'egnarts sllab kcik sevlesruoy!" Zatara heard a satisfying
cry of pain as the doorway closed, too fast for pursuit.

Then the only child of Giovanni Zatara looked into the mirror to survey
the damage. "Emutsoc hsinav," she said, after a long look at how
absurd she looked in John Zatara's evening dress. She swallowed hard,
and ran her hands down her naked body, over her breasts and belly,
toward her crotch.

There was no going back, of course. Strange's spell had made the
survival of John Zatara's manhood impossible, and it was gone, gone,
gone, forever. She would have to make a new life as...Anna Zatara, she
thought. Her grandmother's name.

Anna Zatara was good looking, aside from a little too much in the belly.
It had looked all right on John, but standards were different for women;
she'd have to go on a diet immediately. She took after her Turkish
mother more than John had; her skin was even a little darker, and
John's strong black eyes had become devastating. Her breasts were
small and firm, her legs absolutely perfect.

"My name is Anna Zatara," she said aloud. For good measure, she
repeated it backwards.

If she tried to be John Zatara hiding behind a woman's face, she would
never make it. She had to make a new start, a new life, and that life
would begin with that name.

She would work a spell to create new records that would show John
Zatara had a twin sister. She had been very ill as a child, and had
been forced to live at a Swiss clinic for years. Afterwards, she had
stayed at a boarding school to be near her doctors, until at last she
was completely cured.

She would confide in the people closest to her. For the others, a
subtle spell would give them the feeling that they'd always known, in a
vague sort of way, that John had had a sister.

An accidental death for John, followed by a quick cremation (it would
be simple to cast the illusion of a corpse over a mannequin), would
finish the job, and Anna Zatara would begin her new life as...what?

A magician, certainly.

"Emutsoc no!" Once again, she was covered by John's ill-fitting
evening suit.

"Emutsoc emoceb eninimef." Anna felt the fabric shift and warp,
fitting itself to her, John's undershirt shrinking and thickening into
a brassiere. Boxer shorts become briefs, socks turned into taupe
pantyhose, and his trousers turned into a knee-length skirt. His black
patent dress shoes reappeared as similar slip ons. She no longer looked
absurd. But she did look dowdy. Try again.

"Emutsoc emoceb...yxes?" The skirt became very short satin shorts, the
hose became black fishnets, the vest brazenly
thrust her breasts up and forward, the shirt front became very light
and thin. Her aspect suddenly changed then, as her shoes became dress
black pumps with elegantly shaped high heels.

"I do not mind looking like this, not one bit." She would look good on
stage. Her career would survive.

She would look good to men. Was that what she wanted?

She looked at her watch (which had become a lady's watch without her
even thinking about it) and decided there was time for a quick

"Tod dna Dot raeppa."

Dot and Tod, the near-identical blonde teenagers John often conjured up
as stage assistants, emerged from a puff of smoke, just as they did on

"Come here, Dot." The girl obeyed, smiling.

Anna took the girl in her arms and kissed her. Dot obeyed, putting her
arms around Anna, keeping her lips together until her tongue responded
to its cue from Anna's, breaking away as soon as Anna relaxed her
embrace, stepping back, still smiling emptily.

Anna smiled sheepishly. It had been a pleasant enough kiss, but only
pleasant. But perhaps that was simply because Dot and Tod were
constructs. They seemed a little more real every time she called upon
them, but she knew they weren't "really" real.

Then she kissed Tod, and knew for certain that Anna was as heterosexual
as John had been. Kissing Tod felt very good. Feeling his body
against hers felt better. Feeling the hint of a growing erection
against her belly felt better still, and her head swam when she thought
of what it would feel like to have him inside her.

But Anna was a virgin (literally; she had checked), and she didn't want
her first time to be with a lifeless, probably soulless, certainly
brainless creation of her own mind. She thanked them, and they bowed
in unison and vanished in another puff of smoke.

She noticed that the magic seemed to flow more easily than it had for
John; three changes of clothing (four, counting the dissolution of her
clothes at the start) and the summoning of Dot and Tod had been almost
effortless; it looked as though Anna would be much more powerful than

She wondered if that was because of the same influence that seemed to
concentrate so much supra-normal power in women like Superwoman, the
Flash, Green Lantern, and so on. True, there was Wonder Warrior and
a few others, but there did seem to be some force at work
giving the most power to women. Perhaps it had even been fated that
John Zatara should give way to Anna one day.

Which reminded her of another power she possessed that John hadn't.
Parenthood had appealed to John more than marriage had; he'd thought
occasionally about adopting children. Now she had the option of
becoming a mother, and the prospect was far more thrilling -- and
intimidating -- than fatherhood ever had been.

And children born to a magically-powerful mother were likely to inherit
the trait. John had been concerned for the future of the family,
unless he could find a compatible mate among the female mages.
Perpetuating the power would be much easier for Anna.

Such matters would have to wait for later, though; it was almost
showtime. She hurried through the maze of corridors backstage, ducking
under pipes and stepping over cables as even the biggest stars were
forced to, using a near feline grace even in her new heels. In the
wings, she whispered, "BoB, raeppa."

A gorgeous golden cloud burst on center stage, and a silver-haired
gentleman addressed the audience. "Good people, I regret to inform you
that Zatara the Magician will be unable to perform for you tonight."

A murmur rose form the audience, composed of groans, yelps of outrage,
and cautious pleasure from those who suspected this was a setup for a

"In his place, I hope you will welcome the mysterious, magical and very

Anna found herself blushing at Bob's words, which she had not composed
for him. As he disintegrated back into golden fog, Anna stepped out
onto the stage, and her new life began. Yes, Zatanna sounded perfect.