(Author’s Note)… It did seem obvious, as I reread this draft of the fourth book in my action/humor science fiction series: ‘The Otherwhere Chronicles’, that it might take you a while to get up to speed if you don’t know any of the characters because you haven’t read any of the other three self-published books… available over there—> in my sidebar. But just go with it. See if it entices you to want to read more. What is the worst that can happen? I mean, yeah, you can wait until they make them into a movie, staring Brad Pitt as me… I mean, not this me, the me in the story, the one from the other dimension exactly like this dimension, only chock full of aliens.
In future author’s notes, I will give some of the backstory. I will tell you more about me… uh… the other me… and the aliens, and I will throw in some pictures of the aliens too. Mostly, I am using posting this on my blog as an excuse to finish the final edits.
Oh, also, this might not be the final name of this novel. I might go with: The Gate Between Otherwheres, or: The Otherwhere Invasion.
Almost as an afterthought, Mr. Toad added one more thing. “I nearly forgot, Arthur,” which Arthur found hard to believe, “there is a rather large human who has been hanging around for the last few days. He claims to be a friend of yours. He is waiting inside.”
“Did he give you a name?” Arthur asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Toad told him, “a Mr. Jon Von Icon, as I recall.”
“Big Jonny,” said Arthur happily, and picked up his pace.
Arthur had missed seeing Big Jon when he had been on Earth the last time. Jon Von Icon was an old friend. Not growing up together old, but they had been friends a long time. Jon had been a good friend of a girl Arthur was dating when he was twenty-something. Jon and the girl had moved from San Diego to attend U.C. Berkeley from the same high school. Arthur is six feet four inches tall, as I may have mentioned, and Jon is three or four inches taller than that, which I presume accounts for the nickname.
Jon was not only tall but massively built. I don’t mean chunky, he was just big. But he was also smart, sweet, and kind in that way that big men sometimes are. He rode a motorcycle and usually wore black leather riding jackets and boots. With his long, dark, ringlet-curled almost Rasta-style hair people could be excused for thinking him a hard-ass. That is until he smiled. Jon was a nice guy.
Jon rose from the couch in the lobby when he spotted Arthur, and as they approached each other he said, “Hey,” in that drawn out way he had of saying hello, and the two met in a back-slapping bear hug. And Jon didn’t seem to want to let Arthur go. Arthur was okay with that until Big Jonny whispered in his ear, “I am so sorry.”
Arthur realized with horror that this Big Jonny wasn’t really his Big Jonny, and that he might be about to die. This wouldn’t be just another attempt to capture him with a transport beam. And I haven’t even told my mom that I am an Admiral and Supreme Commander of the Combined Allied Defense Force, he thought sadly. He could feel Jon doing something with his right hand where it rested on the small of his back, and he knew he had to do something as well.
Before he even began to try to think of a plan, his ingrained memory stone-aided martial arts training caused his hands to open and move, his fingers pressing into nerve bundles on the base of Jon’s neck and spine. He felt his almost-friend stiffen as the attack on the nerve centers overrode his nervous system, locking his body down tight. All the other beings stood calmly about the room, watching the touching reunion, completely unaware that the hug had transitioned into a life or death struggle.
“Uh, people, we have a slight problem here,” said Arthur in a weary voice. He suddenly realized that he hadn’t slept for more than twenty-four hours.
His friends exchanged confused glances. Ooox took a step closer to the two embracing humans. Perhaps the big one was trying to squeeze Arthur to death, and Ooox took his job as bodyguard seriously. Ox also moved, trying to fulfill his role as head of security.
“Stop,” said the General and the Warlord simultaneously, their keen military instincts sensing the danger if not its exact form.
“I think my friend Jon has a bomb or something,” Arthur tried to explain. “I have him immobilized. There might be a detonator in his right hand.”
Everyone started shouting, but Arthur couldn’t help but notice that not one of them moved. That only lasted a second or two, but it felt longer to Arthur. Then Mr. Toad, the General and the Warlord were leaping into action. Mr. Toad herded everyone else out of the lobby and told them to clear the building and the entire area. Meanwhile the General and the Warlord moved closer to inspect the unusual scene of this most uncommon terrorist attack.
Arthur broke in before everybody started to move. “Gup, I would really like you to stay. You are my tech guy. If anyone can defuse a device from another dimension, I know you can.”
Gup nearly shed tears of gratitude, but managed to just nod as he stepped up beside the other two Xxos. Ooox and Ox wanted to stay, but Arthur made them leave. He was at least kind enough not to say that the time of usefulness for either a bodyguard or a security chief had already passed. Or maybe he was just too tired and afraid to think of it.
Mr. Toad returned a few moments later holding a small video camera, a hybrid human-alien device manufactured by the Universe Company. Arthur asked Mr. Toad to withdraw to safety, but the plucky little executive secretary refused to budge. “I am sending this video feed to Tarlek Da,” Mr. Toad stated firmly. “His lab is safely far away. He may be able to assist us. He is, after all, a weapons specialist.”
What Arthur and even Mr. Toad did not yet know was that Mr. Toad had inadvertently brought one other thing with him when he returned to the waiting room. It was a Reporter globe, and it just drifted through the door behind Mr. Toad before the door swung shut. In less time than it takes to tell, a large percentage of the universe was once again glued to their monitors watching Arthur Blacke make a spectacle of himself. What they didn’t know was why watching Arthur hugging some other hairy human was supposed to be newsworthy. But strangely or not, virtually none of them decided to watch something else. Indeed, most of them contacted friends and relatives and told them to start watching too. The universe collectively decided to have faith in Arthur Blacke, faith that he would wind up in some outlandish and entertaining predicament that would make for interesting viewing. Well, they had no idea how right they were.
Arthur just stood still, pressing his fingers into the back and neck of the friend who was an enemy. He could hear Gup and the Xxos discussing what to do from behind him. “He is definitely holding a switch of some kind in his right hand,” confirmed Gup.
“There are wires running from it into his sleeve,” said the Warlord.
“And he is holding the switch down, which means it is a deadman’s switch,” stated the General.
Well of course it is, thought Arthur, if I let him go, he lets go of the switch and we all go boom. And my fingers are really getting tired.
“Move the camera please, Mr. Toad,” Arthur heard Tarlek Da saying over a phone speaker. “I need to see what the switch is wired to. Arthur, can you lean back so that we can get in between you and, um, that other fellow?”
“Not without letting him set off the bomb,” Arthur said seriously.
Bomb, thought the universe’s viewing audience, what bomb? You could really count on that Arthur guy to put on a show.
“What if I just hold down the switch and take it out of his hand?” asked Gup.
“That will only work if there are no backup detonation methods,” pointed out Tarlek Da.
Arthur decided to try talking to Big Jonny. He whispered in his ear, “Jon, can you hear me?”
“Uuuuunnnnggghhh,” said Big Jonny.
“You don’t really want to do this do you?” Arthur asked.
“Uuunnnhhhhhhh,” replied the nerve-locked individual.
“Are they forcing you to do it?” Arthur prodded.
“Uhhhhhhhhhhhh,” came the strained and less than helpful reply.
Then Arthur’s cell phone rang. What is it, Arthur pondered, with cell phones? He felt a tentacle lift the phone from his belt holder.
“It is Capt. Browne of the Obama, Arthur,” said the General. “She says it is an emergency.”
“By all means, put it on speaker,” replied Arthur with a sigh.
“Sir, I was not informed you were back on Earth, but one of my off-duty officers said he saw you on the TV in the ward room.”
“I was about to call you, Captain, but something came up,” said Arthur dryly.
“So I have been told, Sir,” said Captain Browne with equal aplomb. “But I have to report that scanners are picking up a large fleet gathering outside the solar system. It isn’t the Xxo fleet, Sir. I’m afraid the invasion may have just begun.”
Invasion, wondered the universe’s news junkies, what invasion?
“You’ll have to start the dance without me, Captain, I’m a little tied up at the moment,” was all Arthur could think of to say, at least at first. “No, wait, pull all your, uh, our forces back to the far side of our system. Do not engage the enemy until I give the order. You must stay alive and in one piece until our friends arrive. Maybe they can attack from the rear. We have to stall for time.”
“I’m not going to argue with you, Admiral,” said Capt. Browne. “That fleet is already huge, and it is still growing. And you try to stay in one piece as well, Sir. Obama out.”
Very funny, thought Arthur peevishly.
Admiral, wondered the Universe at large, did she just call Arthur Blacke Admiral?
Great, Arthur decided to himself, the Supreme Commander just gave his first order; run away. My life is a bad comedy sketch. “Jon,” he whispered fiercely, “whatever hold they have over you isn’t going to go away if you blow us up. You can’t trust Fahh, you know that. We have to beat him.”
“Uhhhhggghhhh,” came the strained reply.
“Is there a backup detonation method?” Arthur asked softly.
“Uhhhhhhhh,” was the expected but completely useless answer.
Arthur felt the cramps in his fingers getting worse. That’s when he noticed the Reporter hovering near the ceiling. He felt himself beginning to get angry, and it occurred to him that the enemy most likely monitored the news also. So now they knew he was alive but helpless, and that he had just ordered their only defense force to retreat, and that there were reinforcements on the way. To top it all off, he was making the worst début as a Supreme Commander in all of military history while billions of people watched.
Could this day possibly get any worse?
Well of course it could.