"Grandma Lu?"

The old woman looked up at her great-grandson, "I'm fine, Charles. Will you turn up the tv set a little louder please?"

The young man tutted, "You know how it just upsets you," but he did as he was requested. She leaned forward. The news report showed a trio of bizarre, glowing entities flying through the city, whom the announcer identified as affiliated with the New Gotham criminal, Doctor Triple Manikin.

She sat back and closed her eyes. "Thank you Charles, you can turn it off now."

"Do you want me to help you back to bed, Grandma?"

She shook her head. "No dear, I'm just going to rest my eyes for a bit. You can go home now, the nurse is due in an hour. I promise not to die before then."

He frowned, "Don't even talk like that." He leaned forward to kiss the dry, parchment-like skin of her cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow, ok?"

She nodded, "Just leave mix up some wheat germ and yoghurt for me before you go, and bring me my vitamins." He sighed, but she felt he should have known her routines by now. As she sat eating slowly, she listened for the sound of his car leaving. When she was sure he was gone, she picked up a telephone to call a taxi. "I need you to be here in a half-hour."

She took her cane from the side of the chair and slowly helped herself up. Carefully, she walked over to the side of the door, where she sat to rest. Let the taxi come on time, she prayed. She didn't want to have to explain things to her nurse, a well-meaning but rather stifling child.

She heard the unfamiliar horn from the driveway, and stood again to make it to the front door. Carefully she opened the door and hobbled out of it, turning around to close the door, rummaging in her purse for the key to lock it securely.

The taxi honked again. "I'm coming," she shouted. The effort made her throat hurt. She made her way down the driveway until the driver saw her.

"Jesus lady, this cab is for you? I'm sorry." He got out and walked over to her quickly. "Can I help you, ma'am?"

She smiled at him gently and extended her arm, "Thank you young man. What's your name?"

"Ivory Black," he said, taking her by the arm and helping her to the passenger's side of the taxi. "Where can I take you, ma'am?"

She scooted in, "Take me to the public library," she said.

As they drove on, she told him, "I might need some help while I'm running my errands. Can you assist me? I can pay for your time, of course."

He looked at her dubiously. She seemed like a nice lady but she looked like she was about to die any second. He couldn't believe how old she looked. Well, he thought, he might as well keep an eye on her so she doesn't keel over or something.

As he helped her from the taxi to the central library, she thought: I can't believe I'm doing this; but there's nobody else to protect this city. Neither her children nor her grandchildren had received any of her ... special inheritance.

As the taxi pulled up, she turned to the driver. "Wait for me," she said. "You're the boss," replied Ivory. She got out of the car and shuffled over to the steps leading up to the library. She stopped, and sighed, rested her cane on the first step and proceeded to work her way up.

Ivory Black ran out to assist her, taking her by the arm to guide her. She pulled her arm back angrily. "I said wait for me. Now do as I say or I'll call for another taxi when I'm done."

He pulled back, "Ok ok, whatever you want ma'am. It's your dollar."

He watched impatiently as she slowly made her way up the steps. Shaking his head, he walked to a newspaper stall by the side of the street and put a quarter into the slot for the day's news. He leaned back against the car and settled in for the long haul.

She reached the top of the steps and turned around, to make sure the driver wasn't looking at her, then rested her trembling limbs against a pillar by the side of the front door. She took several long, deep breaths, trying to meditate enough to restore her strength, and pushed her way through the front door.

She ignored the helpful librarian and shuffled to the computer monitor, and began to type with practiced ease. It didn't take her long to access the police department archives to get information on Doctor Triple Manikin.

She made a couple of printouts and stuffed them into her purse. These stupid New Gotham criminals and their stupid obsessions, she thought to herself.

She made her way out the front door, scowling at the sun as is set over the horizon. No time, no time ... she tried to hurry down the steps but was limited by the unsteadiness of her limbs. She cursed obscenities to herself until she finally made it to the ground floor.

Ivory looked up, and ran around the taxi to open the door for her. She practically fell into the front seat, and he returned to the driver's side. "Where to next, ma'am?"

She passed him a slip of paper with the address. "The abandoned manikin factory on the edge of town. Now."

He nodded, "You're the boss," and the taxi sped across town.

They were halfway through the center of town when the street in front of them was devastated by a force bolt. "What the heck?" Ivory swerved to the side of the road. A trio of glowing figures ... a giant amoeba, an ape, and what appeared to be a cyborg ... were being directed by a man in a bright yellow and red uniform to devastate the area, the amoeba dissolving storefront after storefront and the ape grabbing loot while the cyborg seemed to teleport from place to place, destroying security vehicles as they tried to approach.

"What the heck is that?" Ivory shouted again. The woman grabbed him by the lapel. "Keep driving," she said tersely. "But ... " "Keep driving!"

He backed away from the pit in the center of the street and started to traverse side streets, until they came to the old manikin warehouse. The taxi pulled up and stopped, and the woman got out of the car.

The cabbie watched her. "Are you sure this is the right place, ma'am?"

She turned to him. "This is the address I told you. Now stay here while I go inside."

He shook his head, "No way am I letting you go in there alone, lady. I'm coming with you."

She said, "I know I told you I might need help while I'm running my errands, but this isn't one of them. You stay in the car."

He stood his ground. "If something happens to you, how do I get paid?"

She glared at him for a several seconds, then took a deep breath and shrugged. "I suppose I can't stop you if you're set. But I will write a letter of complaint to your manager."

Ivory grinned, "Suit yourself."

The pair wandered through the darkened parking lot, their way illuminated only by a flashlight the woman took from her purse. She reached the front door and tried the handle. "Locked," she complained. She looked at Ivory. "I suppose you might as well make yourself useful, since you're here. Can you force that door open?"

Ivory grinned, "Just let me at it." He gave an experimental push, and the frame seemed to creak. "This is pretty old wood," he said, and slammed his shoulder into it. It gave way easily and he caught himself before he landed on the floor. She walked past him. "Let's go."

"What're you looking for, lady?"

"I'll know it when I see it. Oh ... " she saw the advanced machinery on the side of the near wall and walked over to shine her flashlight on it. Her eyes widened when she saw the digital readout, and her flashlight followed the wires leading from it back to the doorframe. "Get out of here," she shouted hoarsely, "now!"

Ivory wandered over, "What're you ... oh," and he grabbed the woman, picking her up and running for the door. "Stupid man," she flailed, "can't you follow directions! Stu - " she was interrupted by the explosion which knocked them both to the ground.

She huddled against the ground, feeling the rubble pour down on her. "Ivory?" she turned to him. A piece of metal from the blast has burst through his throat. "Stupid, stupid man," she muttered to herself. She sat up painfully. "Stupid woman."

Her eyes sought out the taxi. It didn't seem to have been damaged by the blast. She grit her teeth, and went through the dead man's pockets, looking for his keys. Slowly, she walked back to the taxi and got into the driver's side.

She tilted the rear view mirror to look at herself. She winced at the dirt on her face and her hair, and at the blood streaming down her cheek. "Stupid woman, you look a fright." She rummaged around the car and found a box of tissues and a flask which appeared to have whiskey, and another bottle containing sparkling water. "Thank you, Ivory," she whispered to the dead man. She brushed off what dirt she could and tried to straighten her hair, used the whiskey from the flask to disinfect the cut on her cheek and the water to clean off her face and hair and brush down her clothes, and then slumped back in the seat exhaustedly.

"Stupid woman, think. Where would he be?" She went back to the papers she had and rummaged through them. "Very well then, we'll do this the hard way."

She started the car and headed towards the tourist district. The first hotel she came to, she stopped the car and made her way to the front desk. She took out the computer printout she had made of one of the photos of Doctor Triple Manikin's civilian identity. The clerk seemed a little appalled as she approached.

"Excuse me sir," she said, making her voice tremble. It was easy, she was barely standing up as it was. She showed him the picture, "I'm looking for my son. I was supposed to be meeting him at a hotel in town but I forgot to write down the name. Is he staying here?"

The clerk glanced at the printout dubiously. "No ... not familiar at all."

She nodded, "Thank you kindly," and walked back to her car. She drove to the next hotel, and the next, and the next.

Finally at the Triple Star Inn she drew recognition, "Oh, of course, Mr. Ecks. He specifically requested Room 3C." The woman smiled to herself. "He didn't mention his mother would be joining him though."

She wrung her hands, "Can you please take me to his room? I've been trying all day to find my son and I'm so tired ... "

The clerk was reluctant, but finally she convinced him. "Do you need help getting to the room, ma'am?" he asked. She turned around, "No ... no I'll be all right. Thank you, young man."

She walked across the lot, and let herself in with the key the clerk had given her. Her eyes scanned the room ... there in the back suite was what she was looking for. She smiled to herself as she approached the machinery. What a clever little toy, she thought as she reached into her purse and pulled out a screwdriver, after which she sat down next to it and waited.

She had fallen asleep when the door opened. The man from the photos entered, carrying several laundry bags. He kicked her in the side. "Who the hell are you?"

She clutched desperately at the headset attached to the device. "I'm the one who's going to put an end to your little crime spree."

He laughed, and kicked her again. She groaned, and turned the machine on. "Stupid old woman," he said, "Even if you were able to figure out how my invention worked, it's been specifically programmed to respond to my unique body type, and ... oh." He watched as three glowing versions of the woman appeared in the room. The three of them stretched, and became younger and younger, eventually taking the form of a woman in her early 20's wearing what appeared to be a cowgirl's uniform. "Mmmm nice," they said in unison. "I forgot what it feels like to be able to move so easily. I can see why you're so attached to this little toy."

Doctor Triple Manikin snarled, "I don't know who you are or how you were able to make my machine respond to you, but this game has gone far enough." Shimmeringly, three mutated, glowing figures appeared before him, and spread out around the room, enclosing the women. "We've been using this technology for years and have more experience in everything it can do. We've got you surrounded."

The three women laughed cheerfully. They drew their glowing guns in a whirl. "Stupid man, you never read much about Tombstone history around the turn of the century, or you'd know me. As a teacher of mine once said," and suddenly each of the three women tripled to form a total of nine, "You can't surround the Six-Gun Triplicate Kid!"

The battle was intense. The women's mastery of Carggite martial arts which took advantage of their tripled state, learned in the 30th century long before their host had become stranded in the 19th, and their concentration to focus the destructive power generated by the machine through their six-guns, proved more of a challenge than their foe had anticipated. Eventually, numbers told.

Luornu Liebowicz watched as her foe fell to the ground, unconscious. She disconnected herself from the machine and sat back, exhausted, in the wrecked room, contemplating what to say in a phone call to her great-grandson Charles.

APPENDIX:

Six-Gun Triplicate Kid = Six-Gun Kid + Triplicate Girl

Doctor Triple Manikin = Doctor Double X + Manikin