Friday, March 8, 2013

The League of Intergalactic Grandpas

As some of you know I entered the 2013 NYC Midnight Short Story Competition. It is an elimination contest. In each round the writers are divided into heats and given a genre, an object, and a character. The top stories from each heat advance to the next round. One of the nicest things about this contest is that those entered can post their stories for the others to read, review, and comment. I post my story here for you, them, and and anyone. 

GENRE: Action/Adventure
OBJECT: an alter ego
CHARACTER: a grandfather

So sit back. Disconnect your reality switch. I hope you enjoy my little adventure. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present...

"The League of Intergalactic Grandpas"
Bill Bibo Jr

“Assemble the League in fifteen minutes. We'll make them pay for this insolence!" 
Paul threw back his black hood and laughed the laugh of evil revenge just as the door opened and his wife tiptoed in.
"Sorry, dear, you go on with what you're doing. I don't mean to interrupt," she whispered and handed Paul a small piece of paper. "Just in case you're going out."
Paul waited until she tiptoed out before scanning the note.
"Captain, make that thirty minutes. I have to put some gas in the Imperial Cruiser. And remind me to pick up some milk and eggs on the way home."
The League of Intergalactic Grandpas in “The Scone Wars”

The Grand Ballroom of the Hotel du Saint Pierre was filled to capacity plus a little bit more around the sides if anyone actually counted. At a table near the stage a group of young wizards waved their wands chanting every spell they knew in the hope that their diet sodas would change into something more profound for the evening’s festivities. A troop of armored soldiers sat on either side of their dark lord looking disappointed their weapons weren't allowed in the ballroom. Nearby a table of trolls pounded their table calling loudly for their meal.
Paul couldn’t take it anymore. The pounding was making him even more nervous. He had to ask them to be a little quieter. He slid his chair back clipping the heel of a very large and very muscular man dressed only in fur trunks and a feathered headband. His body was tinted a deep orange with intricate patterns painted on both arms indicating he was a barbarian mercenary from the planet Blombar. Paul looked up into the warrior's face and he wasn't smiling.
"Amazing costume," Paul said quickly. "My colleagues and I run a blog, 'The League of Intergalactic Grandpas'. Perhaps you've heard of us? We're covering the convention. I'd love to interview you later about your influences."
The barbarian's growl turned immediately into a thin crooked smile.
"I'd love to," he said. "You know I try to base my costume on the books of…”
Paul quickly lost interest. He scanned the room. Kooks and crazies every one of them, but they were his kind of people. Infinite-Con was the largest gathering of sci-fi fantasy and pop culture devotees in North America. Tonight was the Annual Award Ceremony. Paul and his two best friends were nominated for Blog of the Year.
Paul swirled his black cape and held up a hand. The barbarian went silent.
“Excellent. Can I tweet you when I have some free time?” Paul asked.
The barbarian nodded and walked away smiling.
“Nicely deflected, Overlord,” said Roger.
Roger's specialty on the blog was super heroes, in the movies, comics, wherever you found them. Paul felt sometimes he went a little too deep into the genre. Tonight he was dressed in blood red tights, mask, and obligatory cape depicting his online persona, Captain Redheart. He'd recently taken to wearing his costume more days than not. Then again the ladies, especially those in attendance this weekend, seemed to go for it as proven by the gorgeous young mermaid at his side. 
Paul looked over to his companion for the weekend. Charlie, like most young kids his age, was nose to his cell phone. Paul wished that Charlie would pay a little more attention to what was going on. It wasn't every day that his grandfather was nominated for a national award.
The third member of The League was late. Terry covered the world of horror from blood sucking vampires to brain eating zombies. He was also a conspiracy buff and amateur ghost hunter. He told Paul that he had to check some equipment he had placed last night. He promised he would not miss the award ceremony.
Three others filled out the table. Dressed identically in white polo shirts, khaki shorts, and something that looked like a camera around their necks, Paul could not figure out what characters their waxy complexions were portraying. He tried asking them but they wouldn't leave character. They smiled, nodded, and whispered rapidly to each other. The middle one finally said, “You may call us Bob.”
Paul spotted Terry by the doors in the corner and waved. When Terry saw him he came running, nearly knocking the tentacle off of a green octopod. He was out of breath when he reached their table. He was clutching one of his recorders.
 “Guys, you have to listen to this. I think I've discovered something,” he whispered.
“Can it wait, Terry? They're about to serve dinner,” Roger said.
“No, it can't,” Terry said. He glanced around and bent down lower. “Something is going on. You have to listen to this. Come with me. Now.”
He turned and ran out the door. Roger shrugged, kissed his young mermaid on her gill, and followed.
“Charlie, will you be okay here?” Paul asked looking over to their table mates.
They all smiled, nodded, and whispered rapidly to each other. The middle one said, “You may call us Bob.”
“Why don’t you come with me,” Paul said.
Out in the hallway Terry waved them to a small alcove.
“Last night I set this recorder in the exhibition hall near The Star of Oblivion. I checked it a few minutes ago,” he said looking each direction. Determining it was clear he pushed “Play”.
Silence. Static. A guttural noise, low and dark.
“Now if you think that is some ghost talking, I have a mermaid waiting…” Roger began to move back to the ballroom.
Terry cut him off with a look that hurt more than a slap. “Just listen,” he said.
More static.  Silence. A male voice. “The Star of Oblivion. Beautiful, isn’t it?”
A second voice, younger, also male. “Yeah, I guess. But what is it?”
“Who cares? I just know it’s worth a lot of money to a certain collector.”
“So what are we waiting for? Let’s grab it and leave this freak show.”
“Not now. There are too many people about. We’ll do it tomorrow night, during the awards. Everyone will be in the ballroom. We’ll have it all to ourselves.”
“And then we blow this place?”
“Then we blow this place.” Static. Silence.
Terry shut off his recorder.
“What do we do? They're planning to steal The Star and kill everyone in the process,” Roger said.
“I don't know,” said Paul.
“The Award Ceremony is going on now. By the time the police got here, it might be too late,” Terry said. The recorder rattled in his hands.
Charlie looked up from his phone. “Why don't you steal it yourself?”
“What?” said the grandpas.
“If you take it and hide it, the thieves can't get it. Maybe they’ll just leave and not blow up the convention.”
“I like it!” said Roger and started toward the exhibit room.
Paul grabbed him by the cape and pulled him back.
“We need a plan,” he said.
Roger pulled his cape free and ran.
“We don't have time for a plan,” he shouted over his shoulder. “We have to save the day.”

When the others caught up Roger was standing behind a large palm tree. He motioned the others to hide around the corner.
There was only one guard, a chubby volunteer who had drawn the unlucky short straw to stay behind watching over the entrance to the Star of Oblivion exhibit. A smattering of applause bled through the doors of the ballroom and the guard looked over in that direction. So did Paul. Both wondered what they were missing.
Roger gave the others a thumbs up and ran for the guard.
“Captain Redheart!” he shouted and hit the guard on the neck with what one might guess was a karate chop.
“Ouch!” said the guard, jumping to his feet. “What'd you do that for?”
Roger paced in circles, clearly disappointed that his feat of physical strength had not worked. Paul saw he was getting ready to attack again so he casually walked up to the stunned volunteer.
“Sorry about my friend. He gets a little wound up. He forgets his medication at these things. I hope he didn't hurt you,” Paul said.
“No, I guess not. But the exhibit's closed.” the guard said rubbing his neck.
“I know. We're your replacements. You get to go in. There’s a spot at a side table being held for you. Look for three guys dressed alike with cameras.”
“That's great. I've never been to one of these conventions before.”
“New guy gets the worst job. Happens all the time. Go on. We'll take it from here.” Paul said dismissing the young man with a wave of his hand.
The guard barely had “Thank you” out before he was across the corridor and into the ballroom.
“He forgot to leave us the keys,” Roger said.
“No problem.”
Terry took out a credit card, slid one side to reveal a compact set of lock picking tools. In seconds they were in.
The exhibit room was dark with one spotlight in the center of the room illuminating The Star of Oblivion. It was round, smooth, and entirely black with three stunted projections. The official story stated that a Siberian farmer found the Star in his field. He claimed it fell from outer space. When local authorities tried to discredit him, the internet legend grew. Now here it was, inches from Paul's out stretched hand.
“So we meet again,” said a voice by the door.
It was the orange-tinted barbarian mercenary from the planet Blombar and once again he wasn't smiling. His partner, badly dressed as an ogre, or at least that’s what Paul thought it was supposed to be, pointed a gun at Charlie's forehead.
“Sorry, Grandpa,” Charlie said.
“Let's make this quick. You give us The Star, we give you the boy.” said the barbarian.
Paul looked at his grandson and then at The Star in his hands.
“Can I ask one thing? Why blow up the convention?” he said.
The ogre looked over at the barbarian. “What’s he talking about?”
“I have no idea. We just want The Star. We have no intention of blowing up anything.”
“No, that would be our intention.”
Stepping out from the shadows were the Bobs. Each held their cameras out in front of them.
The ogre turned his gun toward them.
“Stop right there,” he said.
Arcs of orange light leapt from the cameras striking the ogre. He crumpled to the floor. The barbarian ran to his side.
Terry made a run for the door but one of the Bobs blocked his way. He motioned Terry back toward the others. Another Bob grabbed hold of Charlie pointing his camera at him.
“Now it is our turn. Give us The Star and we shall give you this small human child,” said the Bob.
Paul handed it over.
“Now give me back my grandson,” he demanded.
The Bob said nothing but peeled back his hand as if he was removing a glove. Beneath the disguise was a green tentacle. It rolled it around examining The Star and pushed one of the projections. The Star attached perfectly to his camera.
The Bob set The Star back in its display case.
“Now what?” asked Paul.
“Now in fifteen of your minutes The Star of Oblivion will ignite sending everyone in the Ballroom to their own personal oblivion. I love it when a weapon truly does what it says it will do,” the Bob said.
“But why?” asked Roger.
Tentacled Bob nodded to the others who removed their disguises as well.
“Half the people in that room are not from this planet. They are visitors using your convention as a cover. What better place for a large number of aliens to gather undetected?”
“I knew it,” said Terry.
Everyone stared at him.
“We intend to send a signal to the Intergalactic Alliance that we will not tolerate their intervention.”
“You’re nothing but space terrorists,” said Roger. His eyes narrowed and his fists clenched. “Well, not on my watch. This is my planet, Mister. Captain Redheart!”
He threw himself at the Bob knocking him to the floor. Terry and the barbarian jumped the Bob by the door. Charlie bit the tentacle of the Bob holding him. It screamed in pain and released him. Paul grabbed Charlie and they ran from the room.
Paul threw open the doors to the ballroom. The audience turned and seeing him began to applaud.
A ninja next to Paul said, “Wow, man, great entrance. Congrats on winning Blog of the Year.”
Paul and Charlie wove through tables and well-wishers to the stage. Paul wondered how they could get everyone out of the ballroom. He might have won the award but how can you celebrate when across the hallway there were three aliens with a bomb.
Thanking the MC he took the microphone. “Thank you, everyone. We, The League of Intergalactic Grandpas, are much honored. I’m sorry I’m late but I have to tell you…”
Charlie grabbed the microphone from his grandfather. “We just saw Joss Whedon and Neil Gaimann in the bar across the street.”
In seconds the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel du Saint Pierre was empty.
“Nicely done. I almost regret having to do this.”
In the doorway was a Bob. He aimed his camera at Paul and Charlie.
Suddenly he folded forward and fell to the floor. Behind him stood Roger’s mermaid holding a chair.
“Well, I didn’t regret that at all,” she said.

“So you’re not a volunteer but a Federal Agent?” Terry said.
The grandpas, Charlie, and the mermaid sat around a table in the empty ballroom.
“That's right. We knew The Star wasn’t naturally formed or of terrestrial origin, but we didn’t know what its purpose was. So we staked out every place it was exhibiting hoping to find some clues. Fortunately you got them to show their hand, so to speak,” she said.
“And we missed dinner,” Roger said.
“Fine. I'll take you all out. My treat,” said the mermaid.
“This will make a great blog post,” said Paul.
“I’m sorry, you can’t tell anyone what happened,” she said.
“Not even if I write it as fiction?”

One year later Paul again stood on the main stage at Infinite-Con.
“I’d like to thank everyone for making us your Blog of the Year two years in a row and your choice this year for Best New YA series. I, and all Intergalactic Grandpas, thank you.”


as always, thanks for reading me

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