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 our comprehensive 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.”
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