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.
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 was horrible.”
“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 accidentally kidnap 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 here http://blog.robballen.com/2010/07/16/p4195-in-a-dimension-far-far-away-a-short-story.post It is rather awesome.