The Adventures of TOM STRANGER: Interdimensional Insurance Agent
This is a serialized free series that he is releasing. I will add new sections as he releases them.
Posted on May 17, 2010 by correia45
October 5th, 2012
President Baldwin surveyed the Whitehouse underground war bunker. The greatest minds in the country were gathered here, appropriate for their greatest time of crisis. It had only been two days since a hole had been torn between worlds, but already all of Europe and half of Asia had been conquered and consumed by the slimy purple bastards.
The Secretary of Defense stood at the front of the room, giving the most important PowerPoint presentation in human history. SecDef had even worn his nicest eye patch. It was the black one with the embroidered USMC bulldog on it. The fate of all mankind rested on the decisions that would be made in this room in the next few minutes. So of course, Powerpoint wasn’t working. They’d wasted ten minutes trying to get it running.
“Piece of ****! ****-knuckle **** pot!” the SecDef shouted as he kicked the projector. “What’s the deal, Ed?”
“It says it suffered a fatal error,” the Secretary of Education said as he poked ineffectually at the keys.
“Fatal error?” SecDef drew his .45. SecEd was smart enough to get the hell out of the way. “I’ll show you a fatal error!” POTUS covered his ears just in time as the computer exploded in a very satisfactory manner. The Secret Service detail was used to these kinds of outbursts, and barely raised their collective eyebrows.
Tom Stranger had a seat just behind POTUS. He leaned forward to whisper, “It doesn’t really matter which dimension you’re in, Windows still does that. There’s even one Earth where Bill Gate’s cyborg head is god-emperor, and they’re still forced to use Vista.”
POTUS shuddered at the thought.
“**** squat **** son of a ****monkey!” SecDef grumbled. “I’ll do this the old fashioned way!” He snapped his fingers and two generals and an admiral brought in a dry-erase board. “Dismissed **** stains!” SecDef bellowed as he drew a dry-erase marker from his dry-erase marker holster. He popped the cap and started drawing stick figure versions of the alien invaders.
“They call themselves the Horde of Righteous Purification, but they don’t talk much, because they’re usually too busy eating babies!” SecDef deftly drew a frowny face on one of the blobs. Then he thought better of it and drew a bunch of sharp teeth as well. “They travel from planet to planet. They face-**** the ever livin’ **** outta that planet, eat everything, steal all the resources, and then stick a black hole in the core before they leave, just to be dicks about it!”
“Have we tried negotiating with them?” the Secretary of Health and Human Services asked.
POTUS groaned. He didn’t really know what Health and Human Services did. “Duh. You think I’m stupid, Tina? Of course we did. But they ate the ambassador. And then they ate the Secretary of State. Then they ate his dog. We even tried playing the keyboard, like in that one movie with the mash potato mountain, but they ate John Tesh too. John Tesh and his keyboard! I’ve depopulated half the state department. It was like an all-you-can-eat bureaucrat buffet,” POTUS sighed.
“But what if we were nice to the—“
SecDef hurled his dry-erase marker at the SecHeHum. “Shut your pie hole, hippie!” Sadly, because he only had one eye, he lacked depth perception and struck the Press Secretary in the nose. But SecHeHum hid under the table just in case. Victorious, SecDef drew another marker from his holster, purple this time, and continued his briefing. “The Horde lives for war. They’ve been biologically augmented for the last million years to be perfect killing machines. They don’t have tanks. They are tanks!” He colored the many tentacles and murder sparklers and eye ball cannons purple. “Their air power is made up of giant purple pterodactyls, with scramjets for buttholes. They fart themselves to mach 4 and sexually assault F-22s!” He switched to red to draw flames as little stick figure human soldiers were crushed mercilessly beneath the tentacles. “Their vats grow a fully combat effective Death-Mauler in ten minutes!” SecDef made explodey noises as he drew.
POTUS spoke up. “And you don’t even want to know about their Harvesters!”
“What do they Harvest?” the Secretary of Agriculture asked suspiciously. He knew a thing or two about harvesting.
“SCROTUMS!” SecDef shouted.
Every man in the room cringed and crossed their legs protectively. “Nuke ‘em!” screamed SecEd as he pounded the conference table. “Nuke the **** out of them!”
The room began to chant “NUKE! NUKE! NUKE!”
“That’s the spirit!” SecDef answered. “Too bad we’ve been nuking them left and right since breakfast. France is now a glass parking lot with permanent nuclear winter so the Horde went ice skating on it! They are immune to radiation, bullets, electricity, disease, lava, and personal insults. We’ve tried everything. They sweat nitro and sneeze acid, and when they’re not killing, they’re practicing killing, or sharpening things so they can do some stab-killing! They exist only to blow **** up…” he trailed off, a single tear forming in his good eye. “My God, they’re beautiful.”
The greatest minds available began to panic. Which was understandable, since half the world’s population had died in the last twenty-four hours, but it was an election year, POTUS knew he needed to get this situation under control, right the hell now, so he stood and flung his chair across the room. He went through a lot of chairs that way, but it got the point across. He’d risen to fame and popularity by playing a decisive man of action during the five seasons of the #1 most successful Libertarian Space Cowboy show to ever air on TV, so everyone knew not to screw with him. The room grew quiet. “Ahem… That’ll be all R. Lee.”
SecDef didn’t hear. He was drawing a bunch of little stick figure army men and saying “No. Not my scrotum!” in a very high pitched voice. Sadly, the purple blob thing got them. “AAHHHHH! NOOOO!” Deep voice; “This will look good on my trophy necklace.” Then more exploding noises.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” POTUS spoke calmly. “This situation is under control. All is not lost. Allow me to introduce Tom Stranger.”
“Your reality took out a policy with my company back when John Wayne was president,” Tom walked to the front of the room, passing out business cards the entire way.
INTERDIMENSIONAL INSURANCE AGENT
“Interdimensional insurance?” the Treasury Secretary asked. “What’s that”
“It’s just like home owners insurance, but for events relating to rifts between realities,” Tom answered.
“Are you the guys with the cute little gecko?” SecHeHum squeaked from beneath the table.
“No,” Tom said. “That’s Geico.”
“What about the duck?” a Secret Service Agent asked.
“No. That would be AFLAC.”
“What about that weirdly attractive red headed woman with all the makeup who lives in that somehow Orwellian white room?” the other Secret Service Agent asked.
“Flo?” POTUS asked. “Damn, yeah, she is hot.”
“No,” Tom answered as he adjusted his bowtie.
SecDef looked up from his dry-erase massacre. “Cartoon secret agent chick that fights robots?”
Tom shook his head sadly. “ I’m afraid my firm does not have any sort of attractive, ironic, or humorous mascots. What we do, however, offer is a full line of interdimensional insurance services. Since this Horde incident originated on Earth #789-Alpha-12567, they fall under your extended Space Marauder Protection. We’ll just need to fill out some paperwork, and by paperwork, I mean blowing up a bunch of aliens, but we’ll get this all wrapped up in no time.” The room breathed a collective sigh of relief. Tom had been voted number one in customer service for three years running.
“So there are other Earths?” SecAg asked.
“Every time a Planck event warps the geodeosynergy matrix, a Thorne Conundrum will cause an alteration in Hawking space,” Tom said happily. When SecAg looked at him blankly, Tom realized he needed to tone it down for this universe’s Cow Lord. “Yes, a whole bunch of Earths. A different one for every decision ever made.”
POTUS whistled. That was a lot of Earths. There was an Earth where he’d had oatmeal for breakfast, and he didn’t even like oatmeal. “So what happened to 789 whatever?”
“Sadly, that version of America hadn’t kept current on their policy and they were harvested. It was a strange planet. You see, they spent all their budget on odd things, like tarps, or buying perfectly good cars so they could destroy them so they could buy new cars, or acorns, or Canadian style healthcare.”
“What’s a Canadian?” Secret Service Agent #1 whispered to #2. #2 shrugged. Whatever it was, it sounded silly.
“I wonder how they could possibly have gotten in such bad shape?” POTUS asked. “We were doing awesome until that whole invasion thing.”
“In that horrible reality, Firefly was cancelled after just one season your Excellency,” Tom Stranger explained. Everyone present recoiled in horror. Tom was used to the shocking variations between alternative worlds, but because of his extensive travels, he was extremely knowledgeable. “There was never a Libertarian Space Cowboy revolution. You were never elected. Instead the Republicans ran a senile version of Colonel Tigh and the Democrats won, with, what I believe was Steve Urkel.”
“Impossible!” SecDef shouted. “Lies!”
“You have a show on their History Channel where you shoot watermelons with machineguns. Only you didn’t have the eye patch.”
SecDef put on his war face. “OooRah! ****in’-A. Now that would be sweet!”
Tom Stranger nodded. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Thank you for picking Tom Stranger for all your interdimensional insurance needs.” He clapped his hands twice and his giant robot battle suit crashed through the bunker wall. The twenty-foot tall velociraptor-shaped monstrosity of plasma weapons and bio-armor had a single bumper sticker between its death ray and the napalm sprayer. It read; You’re in Strange Hands with Tom Stranger.
“Thank you, Tom Stranger!” POTUS shouted, climbing on the conference table and lifting one fist heroically into the air. “America! **** yeah! Coming again to save the mother-****ing day, yeah!” he quoted from the National Anthem.
Tom leapt into the cockpit of his battle suit just as his cybernetic implants kicked in. “It’s time to kick some ass and adjust some claims.”
ANNOUNCER: “ Don’t worry everyone, coverage of the Annual Macy’s Draw Mohammed Day Parade will continue in a minute, but first a word from one of our parade sponsors, Stranger and Stranger Insurance. Because you’re in Strange Hands with Tom Stranger.”
CUT TO -
EXTERIOR SHOT – DAYTIME IN A PARK. Children play on a jungle gym. Happy parents look on. There is giggling and birds singing. Suddenly a tear appears in the fabric of space and time and dinosaurs wearing Nazi uniforms spill out onto the playground. Parents scream as children are plucked from the slide and eaten.
VOICEOVER: “Has this every happened to you?”
CLOSEUP. A doll lies on the ground and is squished beneath a dinosaur foot with a swastika on it.
CAMERA PANS BACK TO REVEAL TOM STRANGER: “Hello. I’m Tom Stranger, of Stranger and Stranger Interdimensional Insurance. Did you know that over a million paradoxical Hawking rifts occur every day across the multi-verse?”
EXTERIOR SHOT – STATUE OF LIBERTY. A giant Cthuloid tentacle horror beast is humping the Statue of Liberty’s leg like a deranged poodle.
TOM STRANGER: “Well, now you do.”
MAN ON THE STREET INTERVIEW: “It was horrible. One minute we were eating dinner, and the next, this buffed guy wearing a hockey mask and driving a dune buggy crashed through our dining room. He said his name was Lord Humungous. The next thing I knew I was hanging from a bungee cord, having a chainsaw fight against a retarded guy with a bucket on his head! Master Blaster! NOOOOO!!” – he begins to sob.
Tom Stranger appears and pats the sobbing man on the back in a reassuring manner.
TOM STRANGER: – looks at camera – “But because Mr. Lawson here had Stranger and Stranger Post-Apocalyptic Barbarian Insurance, he was fully covered. “
CUT TO-INTERIOR SHOT-THUNDERDOME – Tom Stranger is arguing with Lord Humungous and somebody that looks like Genghis Kahn. Hell, it probably is Genghis Kahn. Lord Humungous throws his hands up in the air and stomps away, obviously frustrated.
TOM STRANGER VOICEOVER: “I was able to get Mr. Lawson’s dimension fixed back the way it had been, and they even had to pay to vat grow him some new legs.”
MR. LAWSON: “These new legs are way cooler than my old ones! Whee! Thanks, Tom Stranger!”
EXTERIOR SHOT – THE PLAYGROUND. Nazi dinosaurs are all trying to do that Heil salute, but it is difficult with their stubby little arms. Tom Stranger falls out of the sky and lands, crouched, in the middle of the Nazi dinosaurs. They turn to look at him, surprised. Tom Stranger reaches both hands into his suit coat and comes out with a CCW (CorreiaTech Combat Wombat) pistol in each hand. A Tyrannosaurs with a little Hitler mustache roars, but then Hitlersaurus Rex explodes into a shower of blood and meat chunks as a 3mm hypervelocity round strikes it at over 50,000 feet per second.
CUT TO – R. LEE ERMEY: “I’m Secretary of Defense, R. Lee Ermey. We got invaded, but my dimension had Stranger and Stranger extended space marauder coverage. After being ****ed over by a horde of purple ***** sucking **** rags, Tom kicked their asses! It was a mach 4 pterodactyl rodeo! OOOH RAH! Tom Stranger’s customer service is OUTSTANDING!”
EXTERIOR SHOT – PARIS: Gritty shaky-cam style – The Eiffel tower is on fire. It is chaos as an army of My Little Ponies run through the streets with chainsaws. A mime silently pleads for his life but is brutally chainsawed by My Little Pony Sparkle-Butt. Blood splatters the screen as the camera falls with a clatter.
VOICEOVER: “No one thinks they need Interdimensional insurance until it is too late. Don’t let this happen to you…”
CUT TO – A hand wipes mime blood from the camera lens. The camera is picked up. In the background a Stranger & Stranger BattleMech stomps the stuffing out of Sparkle-Butt, then turns to the camera and gives a robotic thumbs up.
TOM STRANGER SITS BEHIND A DESK, LOOKING CONCERNED: “Think of us as homeowner’s, but for your dimension. All three of my hearts swell with sadness every time I see a planet destroyed when it doesn’t have to be. Because here at Stranger and Stranger, we care.” TOM STRANGER ACTIVATES A HOLOGRAM ON HIS DESK. HE IMMEDIATELY CHEERS UP. “And we’ll even provide a free rate quote from us and each of our competitors.”
CLOSE UP OF HOLOGRAM – Stranger & Stranger is like billions of dollars cheaper. The next quote is for Conundrum & Company.
TOM STRANGER: -mutters as he stares into the hologram- “I hate you Jeff Conundrum, so very much.” – VOICE DROPS TO A DEADLY WHISPER – “You’ll pay, Conundrum. I swear you’ll pay.” - TOM REMEMBERS HE IS ON TV. TURNS BACK TO CAMERA AND GIVES A FRIENDLY SMILE.
FADE TO BLACK
THE WORD “TESTIMONIALS” APPEARS.
CUT TO – ADAM BALDWIN: “I’m Adam Baldwin, President of the United States of America on Earth 345-Bravo-98081. You may remember me from such programs as Big Hollywood the Animated Series, The Grimnoir Chronicles, and the Serenity trilogy. Tom Stranger saved our entire planet with his—“
GOES TO SPLIT SCREEN -
BARACK OBAMA: “And I’m El Presidente for Life on Earth 782-S-32591. We also use Stranger an–”
ADAM BALDWIN: “Hey, I was talking, jerk.”
BARACK OBAMA: “Well, I got bored. And that hat makes you look stupid.”
ADAM BALDWIN: “I think it makes me look cunning. You take that back.”
BARACK OBAMA: -nose in air- “I’ll have you know I’m very important on my planet.”
ADAM BALDWIN: “And I swear on Charlton Heston’s magic laser sword that I truly do not give a flying crap. Apologize to my hat.”
BARACK OBAMA: “ I only apologize to dictators, terrorists, and occasionally the mayor of Cleveland, if I get caught up in the moment. It’ll be a cold day in Kenya before I apologize to a libertarian-space-cowboy.”
R. LEE ERMEY: – shoves his way onto camera – “Let me through, Prez. Nobody talks **** to my dimension! Hey, big ears! I know you! You’re that maggot that can’t even pronounce Corpsman correctly! Nobody disrespects my beloved Corp or my President’s hat! I’ll plant my Space Marine size 12 combat boot in your corn-hole! Hey! Yeah, I’m talking to you, maggot! Eyes over here. Your teleprompter can’t save you now!“
BARACK OBAMA: - confused – “You kiss your mama with that mouth?”
R. LEE ERMEY: “No, but I kiss yours with it!”
BARACK OBAMA: – sputters – “This means war!”
CUT TO – TOM STRANGER AT HIS DESK, PERPLEXED. – shrugs – “Well, that just goes to demonstrate that when multiple alternate realities collide… things can get a little…”
VOICEOVER GUY: Strange?
TOM STRANGER: – chuckles – “I suppose so. “ HUGE EXPLOSION NOISE IN BACKGROUND. “Wow. That guy from Family Matters is going to be in for one heck of a surprise when he finds out their policy lapsed when their check bounced! Well, it looks like I’ve got to get back to work. It’s been nice chatting with you, Earth 745-Q-15832. Enjoy your Mohammed Day parade.”
VOICEOVER GUY: – whispers to Tom.
TOM STRANGER: “Oh… this is a dimension where the people stood up to those bullies. Oh. Sorry about that. I mixed you up with that other Earth where their comedy program network talks a big game, but only makes fun of religions that don’t cut people’s heads off. This multi-verse thing can get really complicated. My sincere apologies to your…” TOM CHECKS GUIDE BOOK, “Emperor ManBearPig. Bye bye.” TOM WAVES AT CAMERA.
FADE TO BLACK.
In orbit around Earth #169-J-00561
The docking procedures seemed to be going smoothly, which made Tom Stranger happy, since even the slightest error could destroy their shuttle and eject them into the hard vacuum of space. Tom, having been biologically and cybernetically augmented by the finest tech available from a thousand worlds, would easily survive, but atmospheric reentry was hell on the wardrobe, and he’d worn his favorite bowtie. The charcoal three-button suit from Men’s Warehouse was easily replaceable (since it was a well-known fact that 92% of the cataloged alternative Earths in the multi-verse did in fact have Men’s Warehouse), but the tie was irreplaceable. He’d found it in a thrift store on Home Office World. It was green, with small black polka-dots, which his secretary said brought out the color of his eyes (the green of which was actually the color of the holographic targeting system implants), but regardless, it was Tom’s favorite bowtie, and blazing through the atmosphere in a five-thousand mile-an-hour fireball would surely destroy it. His intern would probably not fare too well either.
Curious, Tom Stranger turned to the new intern. “What’s your rating on the Grylls Survivability Scale?” The GSS was the industry standard measurement of survivability in unforeseen circumstances, i.e. a score of how difficult it was to kill you. A 1.0 was the amount of trauma necessary to kill a single Bear Grylls. (which was a remarkably consistent measurement across many worlds). Being ejected into space was a solid 4 on the GSS, or enough to kill four Bear Gryllses, or a single Bear Grylls four times. Tom Stranger’s GSS was a 142.9.
But Stranger & Stranger’s newest intern was busy staring out the porthole, holding onto the overhead strap with white knuckled terror. “Is that duct tape? Is that space station actually held together with duct tape?”
“What did you expect from a planet full of space barbarians?” Tom shook his head sadly and checked his infolink. The intern, apparently named Jimmy Duquesne, rated a measly .07 on the GSS. Which was a rating just above that of a standard Earth chicken. “You know, when I first got into Interdimensional Insurance, we had to be at least as tough as a space marine. Are you sure you want to take this internship?”
“Dude! Man! No way—“ Jimmy turned away from the porthole and vomited, which was an especially bad move in zero G. Tom activated his personal energy shields to protect his suit from the incoming second hand nachos. It took Jimmy a minute to compose himself. “I just needed the credits to graduate. I signed up for insurance agent because it sounded easy. I didn’t know about extra dimensions or outer space or nothing.”
“And you didn’t notice when we went through the Thorne-Gate to get to this dimension?”
“I thought all the flashing lights were because I was still tripping, man! My roommate made ‘shroom brownies last night.”
“And when we boarded this archaic shuttle on Earth 169-J-00561?”
“It looked a lot like my older brother’s Nissan Pulsar, man! How was I supposed to know?”
“There are solid rocket boosters mounted on it,” Tom pointed out.
“I don’t know, man, I thought they were like… pontoons or something.”
Jimmy was even dumber than most college interns. “Hmm…” Tom checked his infolink again. It was like Wikipedia, only correct, and downloaded directly into his brain. Jimmy was from a relatively backwards Earth where the populace had limited exposure to the Multiverse. Plus, Jimmy had attended that reality’s Chico State, which explained the sorry condition of both Jimmy’s brain cells and liver function. “It seems there’s been a mix up in HR. It says here you were supposed to be sent to a call center in Nebraska where you would provide auto insurance quotes for Allstate… Oh well. I’m sorry Jimmy, but Stranger & Stranger only accepts the best.”
“I’m totally cool with that!” Jimmy screamed as their shuttle collided with the space station.
“ Very well. If you live through this I’ll take you right back to your dimension.”
“What?” Jimmy squeaked. “Dude, I don’t wanna die!”
“I’m afraid that I can’t promise that. You see, the most important duty of an Interdimensional Insurance Agent is to take care of our customer’s needs, no matter the risk, no matter what the cost. I’ve made a sacred vow that good customer service is more important than my life. And this mission is the deadliest type of all… We’ll be lucky to get out of here alive.”
Jimmy’s eyes widened. “What is it?” Then he flinched as a nacho struck him.
Tom lowered his voice to a dangerous hiss. ”Expect the unexpected. Stay behind me. Stay low. Do not make any noise. Do not make eye contact. And for heaven’s sakes, pull up your pants and turn your hat around the correct way. This is Arbitration.“
“Well, howdy, Stranger!” Jeff Conundrum shouted in greeting as Tom Stranger and Jimmy the Intern entered the space station’s conference room.
“Conundrum…” Tom muttered. Instinctively his hand moved to the CorreiaTech Combat Wombat under his suit, but Tom hesitated. Blasting Jeff Conundrum into a red mist would be satisfying, but wouldn’t necessarily be providing his client with the finest customer service possible.
“Howdy, Stranger. Ha, ha ha! Get it?” Conundrum was rotund, and as always, bore an expression of red-faced, forced joviality. Conundrum’s neon blue hair and glowing suspenders offended Tom’s conservative senses. Conundrum was always loud, always on, and always, always annoying. “That never gets old!”
“Yes. It does,” Tom stated, glaring at his nemesis. “What are you doing here, Jeff?”
“For the arbitration.” Conundrum jerked one fat thumb at the space mutant sitting at the head of the conference table. “Conundrum and Company has been hired to insure Goreblog the Death-Slayer.”
The space mutants seated around the table were all massive piles of steroid-enhanced muscle, but Goreblog was by far the biggest. The king of the space mutants was sitting, but still towered several feet over Tom’s average height. He wore a necklace of baby skulls and every inch of his muscled torso had been tattooed with pictures of Garfield, and various cartoons of Garfield engaging in acts of violence and depravity. Goreblog the Death-Slayer stopped absently scratching his back with a giant board with nails in it, long enough to nod his spiked football helmet toward Tom. “Hey.”
“Mr. Goreblog,” Tom said politely. “Your fleet of mutants has invaded Earth 169-J-00561 and committed a series of atrocities, including cannibalism, genocide, and the indiscriminate playing of Insane Clown Posse music in public at extremely high volumes. This dimension is covered by Stranger and Stranger. This is a violation of–”
“Hey, whoa there, Stranger in a Strange Land,” Conundrum said, holding up one bloated hand. “Save it for the Arbiter.”
Tom resisted the urge to blast Conundrum through the bulkhead. “Very well.”
Conundrum laughed. “What did I tell you, Goreblog? Doctor Strangeglove here is all business, all the time.” He reached up and slapped the barbarian cannibal on the back. Goreblog growled and Conundrum stepped back. Jimmy the intern huddled behind Tom’s legs.
“Mr. Stranger?” Jimmy’s voice was meek. “I don’t feel so good.”
“That’s probably because of the sub-optimal gravity created by the station’s rotation… and the fact that my scans are showing you possess a blood alcohol level sufficient to incapacitate an adult water buffalo.”
The arbiter arrived a few minutes later. Interdimensional Insurance Agents never knew which Galactic Arbiter would be assigned to the case, only that they would always be fair, their judgment wise, and their justice swift. Tom had worked with this particular one before. “All rise,” grunted the cannibal space mutant serving as the bailiff. Everyone did so, including Goreblog, who had to duck to keep from impaling his helmet spikes into the ceiling. “The honorable Chuck Norris of Earth 872-Round-House-Kick presiding.”
“Holy crap, it’s Walker Texas Ranger!” Jimmy cried. Tom kicked Jimmy where he’d been hiding under the table. You didn’t want to upset a man so incredibly awesome that they’d renamed his home planet after one of his karate moves.
The arbiter scowled, took off his cowboy hat, and took a seat at the head of the table. “Gentlemen, this is cutting into my Total Gym time, so let’s make this quick. What seems to be the issue?”
Tom Stranger cleared his throat as he activated his hologram display. “These space mutants have invaded this dimension without provocation. My client planet needs them to leave and seeks damages for th—“
“Easy there, Strangers in the Night, exchanging glances,” Jeff Conundrum interrupted. “This dimension clearly provoked my client. They were just begging for Goreblog’s unholy wrath.”
“Is that true?” Chuck Norris asked. “And I warn you, Mr. Goreblog, I eat space mutants for breakfast… Literally. In fact, I had one on my waffles this morning, so do not test my patience.”
Goreblog reached one armored gauntlet into his leather vest and removed a single Polaroid photo. Chuck Norris took the picture, studied it for a moment, then passed it to Tom Stranger without comment. The picture showed a white fence with the words Space Mutants r teh suck and lame spray-painted on it.
“As you can clearly see, teenagers from this dimension defaced Mr. Goreblog’s fence. He had no choice but to destroy their entire planet in reprisal.” Jeff Conundrum stuck his thumbs through his suspenders. “Ergo, all the damages from this invasion are not Mr. Goreblog’s fault. In addition, his mental anguish and suffering from this vandalism requires compensation.”
Chuck Norris stroked his manly beard thoughtfully. “I’m afraid he’s got a point, Mr. Stranger. Sounds like your client started it, and as galactic law clearly states, don’t start shit if you can’t finish it.” Much of the galactic code of laws had been based upon the Planet of Texas.
But Tom Stranger hadn’t been given the award for best customer service for three years in a row for nothing. He flipped the photo over to hide it from view. “So… Mr. Goreblog… This fence of yours that was defaced, what kind was it?”
The space mutant leader looked to Jeff Conundrum in confusion. Conundrum seemed surprised at this development. Goreblog looked back at Tom Stranger. “Uhhh… pokey with stabby spikes?” Tom shook his head. “Uhm, does it have skulls on it?” Tom shook his head again. “Metal with razors and landmines?”
“Three strikes,” Tom Stranger made a tsk-tsk noise as he passed the photo back to Chuck Norris. “And no touch down.”
The arbiter took one look at the photo and frowned. “That is clearly a vinyl fence, Mr. Goreblog… Did you just try to fabricate evidence during my arbitration?”
“I didn’t know anything about this, your Awesomeness!” Jeff Conundrum begged.
Chuck Norris slammed his fist into the table, because only a wuss needed a gavel. “I find in favor of Stranger and Stranger. The space mutants need to pay for the damages and return to their own dimension. Arbitration is adjourned.”
“ENOUGH!” Goreblog rose, grabbed the conference table and flipped it across the room, revealing Jimmy the Intern, who screamed and crawled under Chuck Norris’ chair. “Foolish humans, Goreblog has no fence! I swear on the soulless void of Arbuckle that you will feel the wrath of Goreblog! ATTACK!”
Tom’s targeting eye scanned the forty enraged giant space mutants and then the structure of the space station itself. “I’d suggest keeping small arms fire and energy weapons usage to a minimum,” he said to Chuck Norris. “Or this whole place will come apart.”
“Fine.” Chuck Norris stood and cracked his knuckles. “I haven’t face-punched anything to death yet today anyway… and it’s almost noon.” Chuck and Tom stood back to back as the slavering mutants surrounded them. “What about your friend?”
Tom looked to where Jimmy the Intern had assumed the fetal position on the floor and had begun sucking his thumb and rocking back and forth. “Please, try not to trip over him, Mr. Norris. He’s new.”
The mutants attacked in a screaming wave of clubs, meat cleavers, and roid rage. Tom pulled one of his cufflinks off and threw it to the deck, where it exploded into a cloud of nanobots. The microscopic robots immediately began to devour the first rank of enemies. Tom leapt through the black cloud and mass of dissolving tissue and melting bones, and landed in the mutant’s midst, where he really got down to business. Tom Stranger moved faster than the mutant’s eyes could follow, striking with surgical accuracy and superhuman strength, each blow of his hardened fists sending mutants flying.
Meanwhile, Chuck Norris had responded with sheer badassitude. Tom looked up from decapitating a mutant with a length of monomolecular wire to see Chuck Norris round house kick Goreblog’s head entirely through the mutant’s own torso and out his rectum, literally turning the space mutant king inside out. Tom’s considerable knowledge of biology had not considered that possible. He automatically updated the Chuck Norris Wiki on his infolink.
They had been outnumbered twenty to one (13.333 to one if you counted Jimmy, which Tom did not, since Jimmy had spent the entirety of the battle being kicked back and forth like a fleshy soccer ball) but it was over in seconds. Tom dispatched the final mutant by chopping its head off with the reinforced edge of his hand.
The space station shuddered as a drop ship fell from the dock. Tom watched out the window at the flash as Jeff Conundrum escaped. Tom scowled after the departing ship. “We’ll meet again, Conundrum,” he promised.
Chuck Norris dusted off his jeans. “I got mutant on my boots. I think they’re ruined.” he stated flatly, then spotted Goreblog’s corpse and cheered up. “I think I’ll skin that big one there, make me a new pair… Thanks for the assist.”
“Always a pleasure, Mr. Norris,” Tom said happily, moving aside as a mutant torso fell from the ceiling and splattered on the floor. “Will that be all then?”
“Don’t forget him,” Chuck Norris said, pointing at Jimmy. “I do believe he’s wet himself. Sheesh. These kids today.”
Tom Stranger grabbed Jimmy by one foot and dragged the incoherent intern down the passageway. Jimmy’s crazed babblings struck a cord and Tom had a sudden thought. If he’d been given this guy on accident, that meant that Stranger & Stranger’s proper intern had been accidently sent to Nebraska. The thought of somebody with so much potential being chained to the soul-crushing abyss of an Allstate call center filled Tom with dread. He dragged Jimmy faster.
“Ow, hey! Dude!” Jimmy shouted as Tom tossed him into the airlock. “What’s the dealio?”
Tom Stranger did not know what a “dealio” was. “Quickly, Jimmy, we must get to Nebraska!”
TO BE CONTINUED
This episode was retrieved from the files of one Larry Correia, of Earth #582-T-55451, discovered in the flaming wreckage of a convention center in Nebraska. Stranger & Stranger accepts full responsibility for the outcome of this event.
Violence nearly erupted when the fat guy wearing elf ears cut in front of the fat guy dressed as a Klingon. Insults were exchanged in Klingon and Elvish. Shoving ensued. I looked up from the signing table, hoping for some good old fashioned nerd on nerd face punching. Sadly, the shoving match didn’t last long, as both men quickly became too winded to continue. Grumbling, and out of breath, they got back in line, hoping to get an autograph from the lady that played Bystander #14 in Superman 2.
“Crap, I was hoping to see somebody get stabbed with that goofy Klingon sword,” I said to the other sci-fi/fantasy authors arrayed behind the signing table.
“It’s called a Bat’leth,” corrected one of the fans standing in another author’s line. The sci-fi fan (or so I assumed judging by his Star Fleet pajamas) regarded me with barely concealed disdain. “It is a weapon of honor. You would know that if you weren’t such a ha’dibah.”
I had no idea what that meant, but I was relatively certain that I might have beat that guy up in elementary school once. “Hoookay, then,” I answered, whistling. I went back to signing books.
As a professional fantasy novelist, I’m geeky by most normal human standards, but here at KhanQuanCon XIV, or whatever the hell it is called, (this year’s convention motto: Ice Skating Space Mutants of Nebraska) my geek-fu was considered weak. I don’t own any costumes (unless mutli-cam and body armor counts), I’ve never memorized an anime, I’ve never played Magic the Gathering, and I’ve especially never learned any languages that originated on a TV show. (unless Spanish originated on a TV show… I’m not actually sure about that. I’ll have to check Wikipedia. Though, since I can only swear in it, technically that isn’t “speaking”)
I passed over the freshly signed copy of Monster Hunter Omega-Force Sparkly Twilight Killers 2: The Reckoning. “I’m glad you liked it.”
“Not really. I thought it was boring and derivative. I’m just going to sell it on E-Bay.” The “fan” scowled as he looked at the title page. “You call that a signature? It looks like a lightning bolt. You suck.” He waddled off, hoisting up his XXXL cape of invisibility for dramatic effect.
I sighed. Some people were still a little bitter about the whole trailer park elves thing. I looked at the lines of waiting fans. “Alright, who’s next?”
A nondescript man stepped forward. He was wearing a suit (obviously from Men’s Warehouse, I’d guarantee it) and a green polka-dot bowtie. He was about average height, average build, average looking, so average in fact, that it was almost like he was genetically manipulated to be totally unremarkable, but unlike most of the attendees, he was well groomed, alert, and suspiciously free of “Con-Funk”. He tilted his head, as if listening to something speaking in his ear, before he addressed me carefully. “Are you Larry Correia?”
“That’s what the sign says.”
“No,” he looked down at the cardboard placard, then turned it around so I could see. “It actually says James Gandolfini.”
“Well ,that explains why people kept bringing me Sopranos stuff to sign. Con organizers get us confused all the time.”
“Yes. The resemblance is eerie.” He handed me a copy of The Grimnoir Chronicles 7: When Men Wore Hats, one of my most popular works. (sales had really taken off since the hit movie version starring Adam Baldwin).
“Who should I make this out to?” I asked, readying my Signin’ Pen.
I signed the book, drew a happy face with a fedora (because I feel guilty that I have such a crappy signature, I’m forced to compensate with doodling), and then passed it back over.
“Thank you, Mr. Correia.” Tom Stranger stuck the book into his suit pocket and it disappeared cleanly, as if the pocket was somehow bigger inside than it appeared. His manner turned deadly serious. “Now come with me if you want to live.”
“Uh…” My phone rang. “Hang on a second.” I took out my Blackberry. It was my Dead Six co-author, Mike, calling. In addition to writing a series of thrillers together, I was also Mike’s moral compass, financial advisor, and life coach. Knowing Mike, this call was probably some emotional crisis caused by one of his many bad choices. “I’ve got to take this.” Tom Stranger nodded, and went back to scanning the room. Mr. Stranger was an odd duck, but then again, so were most Larry Correia fans. “Hey, what’s up, man?”
“Dude…” Mike sounded extremely groggy. (even more so than usual) “I just woke up on the floor. I’m at that Asian massage parlor on State Street in Ogden.”
Many of my phone calls with Mike began with him waking up somewhere, most often alleys. “You know, that’s not a massage parlor, right? That’s a Chinese restaurant.”
“Huh? Oh… huh. The girl did look at me like I was crazy when I offered her a tip for a happy ending. I think they drugged me.”
“Okay. Check to see if you’ve still got both kidneys.”
There was a long pause. “Awww… damn it… I’ll call you back.”
I put my Blackberry away. “Okay, Mr. Stranger. Sorry to cut you off. What were you saying?”
“Come with me if you want to live.”
“Dude, I’m not Sarah Connor.”
“She got hot in T2,” said the science fiction author to my right. Like most science fiction authors, he was bearded, wearing a big black coat, and a hat.
“Too bad the TV show got cancelled,” said the fantasy author on my left. Like most fantasy authors, he was bearded, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and a hat.
For some strange reason I felt the sudden urge to buy a large hat and quit shaving entirely.“I’m sorry. What were you talking about again, Mr. Stranger?”
He handed me a business card. Unlike most business cards received at Cons, this one was not printed at home, nor did it have any unicorns on it. It looked professional. “Interdimensional Insurance?”
“That is correct. And I am afraid that a rift has occurred here at this KhanQuanCon XIV science-fiction and fantasy convention event. You are covered by Stranger & Stranger, so I must protect you.”
This was a whole new level of crazy. Even by Con standards. I decided to humor him. “I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’ve never bought Interdimensional Insurance.”
“No. But the Larry Correia on Earth 686-Gamma-13006 has purchased ourcomprehensive plan. Thereby indemnifying all Larry Corrieas in existence across the known Multiverse.”
“Sounds expensive,” said the author at the far end of the table. She mostly wrote romantic emo vampire fiction for tweens. Her fans really hated my guts.
“Indeed,” Tom Stranger explained. “It is exceedingly expensive. In fact, the annual premium is greater than the GDP of most planets. The Larry Correia of that reality is extremely wealthy.”
I nodded appreciatively. “He must’ve had some New York Times bestsellers.”
Tom Stranger shook his head. “No. He does not write books, though he does have a popular web comic about an anthropomorphic moose that solves mysteries, though that is not the source of his wealth, more of a hobby as I understand it. Rather, that Larry Correia is the founder of CorreiaTech, which has revolutionized warfare across the entire Multiverse. He is commonly considered the greatest genius of all time, having invented the inertial dampener, the cold-fusion miniaturized power cell, and no-wrinkle slacks.”
“Wow…” I had once tried to change the water pump on a Chevy Caprice and it had caught on fire and burned in my driveway. “I’m not really that technically minded.”
“The primarily difference that my infolink can discern between you and that particular Larry Correia is that he attended a college physics lecture that you missed. Inspired, that version immediately invented the world’s first energy shield using only a box of Wheat Thins and a medium sized Holstein cow. You, on the other hand, missed that class, because you had somehow gotten your head stuck in a mailbox. ”
“Yeah, I remember that. Good times… Wait a second… How do you know that?” The ‘Great Mailbox Incident of ‘98’ was particularly embarrassing and I had made sure to never post about it on the internet, nor had Tom Stranger been one of the responding paramedics. “You must be from the future!”
“Not the future. Another dimension. Now quickly, Mr. Correia. We must get out of here. The demonic invasion has already begun. Luckily for you I was coming through Nebraska to pick up my correct intern when I detected the rift. Jimmy Duquesne here is my temporary intern.” Tom Stranger turned to introduce me to his intern, but there was no one around. “Darn it, Jimmy, where have you gotten off to now?”
Suddenly, there was a scream from one of the game rooms. A man stumbled out into hallway, covered in blood. His clothing was tattered, his hands were twisted into razor sharp talons, and his glowing red eyes bulged out of his skull as he gnashed the air with his fangs. He lurched into the crowd, howling as he began to claw madly at the other attendees.
“Damn LARPers,” muttered the sci-fi writer. “Think they own the place.”
“Nice costume!” somebody dressed as Sailor Moon told the demonic Live Action Role Player. The LARPer’s head rotated all the way around in a complete circle like something off the Exorcist. “Cool effect!” but then it was too late, as Sailor Moon was dragged to the ground in a spray of entrails and giant yellow hair extensions.
“I don’t think that’s a costume,” I said as a lung flew across the convention center and knocked over an R2-D2 cutout. “That mother-****ers possessed!”
Tom Stranger reached into his suit and withdrew a small, but extremely awesome looking handgun. He aimed, and the demon exploded into a cloud of meat. Blood splattered the walls and attendees. Unfortunately, the other Con attendees who’d been scratched were already mutating.
“Well, shucks,” Tom Stranger said as the blood cloud rained down. “I was too late.”
NARRATOR: During the last episode of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent, rampaging demons had invaded a science fiction convention in Nebraska. Have you ever seen that Italian movie, Demons, by Lamberto Bava? From Italy, 1985? Okay, it is pretty awesome. Especially like when that hooker’s face explodes with the big green puss ball before she turns into a demon? It was just like that… Well, anyways, Tom arrived in order to help that dimension’s version of Larry Correia, because another dimension’s Larry Correia had purchased Stranger & Stranger’s Comprehensive Plan. The following events were recorded by Larry Correia (in a very Clive Cussler like turn of events) . I mean the first Larry, who’s a novelist, not the rich one. I know this parallel dimension thing is complicated, but try to keep up.
Advertising created by the Robb Allen School of Interdimensional Design
This episode of the Further Adventures of Tom Stranger has been brought to you by CorreiaTech. Now with 70% more Wombat.
We were trapped. Some sort of demonic magical force-field was covering all the doors and windows. The main hall and game rooms had already fallen before the fearsome onslaught. The demons had swept through the convention, killing many and mutating others. It was ugly.
The surviving geeks, authors, gamers, and fan boys of KhanQuanCon XIV were making our final stand. We’d barricaded the green room door with a pallet of self-published comic books, temporarily stopping the demon’s advance, but we could hear the mad scratching of their instantly infectious talons on the other side.
“Those comic books won’t hold forever,” I stated with grim finality.
“They’re graphic novels,” corrected the author with a sniff. He adjusted his beret. “They’re about man’s inhumanity to man and our existential struggle for—“
“Crap, dude, whatever. Fine, those graphic novels won’t hold forever.” I looked over at the last folks who’d made it in before we’d sealed the door. “What’s the status out there.”
The girl in storm trooper armor was really shaken up. “The monsters attacked the room holding the panel on writing space alien on human love scenes. It devolved into how to write Kirk/Spock slash fic. It washorrible.”
“The panel discussion or the demons?”
“The demons… mostly. The panelists put up a good fight, but they were overrun. I didn’t see anyone make it out alive.” She began to sob. “It was awful. Oh, John Ringo, NOOOOOO!”
“Keep it together, Trooper. We need to think of a plan. Has anybody seen Tom Stranger?” The other refugees exchanged confused glances. “Average guy, average height, average looking, has a bowtie? Awesome laser pistol?”
“Oh, that guy.” A Jawa pointed at the barricade. Or maybe it was a short dude in wearing a robe made out of brown carpet, but the LED light eyeballs were a cool touch. “He stayed out there . Said something about having to find his intern.”
Crap. That meant that the Interdimensional insurance agent I’d just discovered I had was probably dead or worse. We were on our own. “Okay, listen up. We need weapons.”
One of the Society for Creative Anachronism people stepped forward and lifted his sword. “Thou dost knoweth of our exquisite blades and skills, me lord. The foul denizens of Hades shall taste our steel! Huzzah!” Everybody else wearing a tunic or chainmail also yelled huzzah. I estimated at least a dozen huzzahs, which is certainly an above average number of huzzahs. “If we can but liberate our stores in the marketplace, we can arm the entire vanguard with halberds and falchions!”
“Huh? What are sandwiches and birds supposed to do?”
“No, Larry,” Sarah Hoyt interjected, “Those are medieval weapons.” She was all sorts of smart about historical stuff like that.
“The Russian lady is right.” The SCA guy switched back to normal English. His name tag read Sir Galen. “There were a bunch of axes and swords over in the sales room. If we make it over there, we can slay the **** out of these ****-nozzles.”
Now, that I could understand. “Okay, you guys can do that while the rest of us do something useful. Who’s got real weapons?” Most of the Baen authors and Barflys present immediately drew their concealed handguns. Luckily they knew that those No Guns Allowed signs were just helpful suggestions. Somehow Michael Z. Williamson had even smuggled in an M-16. “Freaking A, dude, how’d you get that in here?”
Mad Mike shrugged. “I stuck some gears on it and told security it was part of a Steam Punk costume. If we were at LibertyCon I would have brought some real guns.”
“Excellent. We’re going to have to kill every last one of these things if we’re—“
“Hey. Who put you in charge?” asked an exceedingly large woman wearing a Team Jacob t-shirt.
“That’s Tony Soprano! Don’t piss him off!” hissed her friend in the Team Edward shirt.
“I’m not James Gandolfini. I’m Larry Correia.”
“The author?” Nothing. “The Monster Hunter series?” Blank stare. “Grimnoir Chronicles? Dead Six?” I sighed. “Never mind. Listen, lady, if we’re going to live, we’ve got to fight.”
“Violence never solved anything,” the Jacobite answered with the grim finality of a hippy who’d never once read a history book, ever. “I say we hide here until help comes. We’ve got food.” She pointed at the table of M&Ms and Ritz crackers (and you guys never knew how many perks there were to being a writer!).
The buzzing of my phone distracted me from the Twi-Hards. The display on my Blackberry indicated that it was my co-author Mike, calling again. I excused myself from the crowd and answered. “Dude, now isn’t a good time. I’m trapped at the Con by a bunch of demo—“
“It’s always about you, isn’t it?” Mike grumbled. “You’re a terrible life coach.”
I sighed. “Okay, what happened. Did you find your kidney yet?”
“I think so… The Red Dragon Triad has it. I’m having a car chase with one of them now. But I kind of… well…”
I used my stern voice. “Mike… You know Step Four is making a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. What did you do this time?”
“Well, I sorta kidnapped one of the girls from Chinese food place on accident.”
Someone was shouting in Chinese in the background. She sounded really angry. “How do you accidentallykidnap somebody?”
“Hey! **** happens, okay? Quit judging me,” he shouted. Now I could hear police sirens in the background. “Aww man. I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later.” As he hung up, I could make out the unmistakable rattle of machinegun fire. I shrugged and put my phone back in my pocket, despite Mike’s many poor choices and need for constant encouragement, I had my own problems to deal with.
Suddenly there was a rumble from the ceiling. The tiles broke apart and dust rained down. Immediately the Baen Barflys began to engage the hole with small arms fire. Tom Stranger popped out of the hole and dropped to the floor, dragging another person with him, the bullets sparking harmlessly off his CorreiaTech personal energy shield. (I so should have paid more attention in school).
“Ceasefire! Ceasefire!” I shouted. “That’s my insurance agent!” The wild gunfire tapered off.
Tom Stranger dusted plaster off his suit coat. “Please excuse my rude interruption. I had to rescue my intern. ” Tom Stranger scowled at the pathetic slob of a young man lying pathetic on the floor in his stained Chico State t-shirt. “I told you not to wander off.”
“But, but Mr. Stranger. We’re at a Con!” Jimmy pleaded. “There are girls. In costume… Girls in costume!” Tom Stranger didn’t respond. “Chain mail bikinis leather corsets, and Princess Leia! Princess Leia, man! And some of them have really low self esteem! I had to work my magic, know what I’m saying?”
“Is he drunk?” I asked.
“Usually,” Tom Stranger responded. “Jimmy, this is our client. Mr. Correia, this is Jimmy Duquesne.”
Jimmy looked at me. “Dude, you were awesome as that gay hitman in The Mexican.”
There was a sudden crash against our door, hard enough to shake all the graphic novels, followed by a sanity-rending scream of hate and sheer crankiness.
“What’s that?” someone dressed as Dr. Horrible shouted.
“They’ve summoned a Balrog,” Tom Stranger stated with grim finality. “It is a nearly unstoppable force of evil. I would say it is at least a two-hundred on the Grylls Survivability Scale.”
That was a lot of Bear Gryllses. “Why don’t you just shoot it with your fancy laser pistol?”
Tom Stranger shook his head. “I lost it trying to save Jimmy from a demon.”
Jimmy got upset. “Demon? But she seemed so into me. Are you sure she was a demon?”
“I thought perhaps her tail or bat wings would have been a clear indicator, but you are a remarkably unobservant little man…” Tom Stranger turned back to me. “I have many CorreiaTech devices on my person, but only my Combat Wombat is powerful enough to pierce the nether-hide of a greater demon. I will have to retrieve it. It was by the swag table.”
The Balrog crashed into the door again. We wouldn’t have a chance in the enclosed space of the green room. I looked out across the sea of con-goers and saw grim determination on their pasty faces. It was time to go on the attack. Nebraska was counting on us.
TO BE CONTINUED…
EDIT: For behind the scenes info about the origin of the CorreiaTech Combat Wombat logo, go herehttp://blog.robballen.com/2010/07/16/p4195-in-a-dimension-far-far-away-a-short-story.post It is rather awesome.