The CWAL Rubber Room
"Show us on a map of Europe where the bad man touched you."
1. A Song of Ice and Babies
[CASTLE CATTLE PROD, CANADA ]
[GRAND IMPERIAL OFFICE]
(Fron sits at his desk listening to 'Under Pressure' and playing what appears to be a modified version of Kerbal Space Program. He is piloting a ship wallpapered in maple leaves which is busy gently nudging a small asteroid towards a lunar base flying the American flag.)
(RANDOM FUNCTIONARY materializes into existence out of the vacuum foam in an event of quantum randomness so improbable that in a billion lifetimes of the universe it should not have been expected to happen. We are very privileged to have witnessed such an event. A new religion forms about the event. It spreads through the civilization. Soon the event is the whole of the history. There was nothing before the event of a man. He has become truly god.)
(Random Functionary walks into the office.)
Functionary: Sir, there's been a raven.
Fron: You mean an owl.
Functionary: I'm afraid not, sir.
Fron: Damn it, why does Lothos always get the fun pastiches? Never mind, what does it say?
Functionary: It's from Irvine. My Lord... the grill is dead.
(Fron rises silently, and strolls over to stare out the window. After a long while, he speaks.)
Fron: The grill...
Functionary: There's more, sir. Iolaus is coming here.
Fron: Iolaus? When will he arrive?
Functionary: Three days ago, sir. Passenger aircraft are significantly faster than most birds.
Fron: Augh! Wait, is that-
Iolaus: (Not listening) Terrible thing that, the grill. I remember it well. Anyway, Fron, the old Foreman grill at headquarters died and Supernook's been ordered back into rehab under suspicious circumstances that I choose to take no interest in so I need you to come back to Irvine and help me run CWAL. Also, Dragoneyes and I got married and these are our children.
(Dragoneyes follows Iolaus into the room, along with Dark Chrono in elaborate armour. Iolaus gestures to the three strangers who entered behind them. When they step into the light, all three are clearly part-dragon, and half-protoss.)
(Fron stares at Iolaus in silence for an endless second. He looks at Dragoneyes, at Dark Chrono, and the children, mouths what might be the word "Bean", thinks for a moment, and reaches a decision.)
(Fron turns on his heel, grabs his coat, and exits the story.)
Dragoneyes: Well now who's going to help us save Canada?
(As if in response, a spectral figure of a middle-aged gentleman fades into view in the middle of the room, playing with some string. He his accompanied by a number of equally spectral Irish terriers that seem to fluctuate in number as one tries to count them.)
The Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ghost: Did someone offer to HELP SAVE CANADA?
(As all eyes turn to the ghost, no one notices a thick sheaf of important-looking paper that has suddenly appeared on Fron's desk, nor sees who has put it there. If anyone were to look they might notice a heading, in bold, reading "CEASE AND DESIST"...)
2. This Big "Operation" of Yours
[CWAL HEADQUARTERS, A STARBUCKS, IRVINE, CALIFORNIA]
(Lothos and Arcturus enter by the front door, arguing with each other)
Arcturus: I keep telling you, when you insist on setting a place on fire it becomes very difficult for the police to convince themselves to ignore us.
Lothos: And I keep telling you it's not a revolution if something isn't on fire.
Arcturus: That wasn't a revolution, you were just mad that EB Games only offered to two dollars in trade on Dreamcast pony-breeding game.
Lothos: THEY OFFENDED ME. Also, fingerprints, man!
(Abruptly, Arcturus and Lothos stop dead, realizing that everyone in the room has gone silent and are staring at them. A barista behind the counter is unknowingly pouring foam which spills over the side of an already-full mug, her jaw seeming to hang halfway to her knees.)
Arcturus: This... is not the correct Starbucks.
[ACTUAL CWAL HEADQUARTERS, THE STARBUCKS ACROSS THE STREET FROM THAT OTHER ONE, TWO MINUTES LATER]
(Arcturus and Lothos enter by the front door, no longer arguing with each other. Also, Fron is here.)
(Surprise! I lied before.)
Arcturus: Fron, you tin-pot dictator! Hasn't the CIA had you killed yet?
Fron: Die in a fire, Arcturus!
Lothos: You heard about the grill, I suppose?
Fron: The old grill, yes. I don't know why it should seem so important, but it's been here 20 years, and it feels...
Dark Chrono: IT IS A TIDING OF DOOM.
Arcturus: Oh, good. You're here too.
Dark Chrono: LONG HAS THE GRILL STOOD. WHEN THE FIRST CWALERS WERE SORE BESET AND FRIENDLESS, HOUNDED FROM OUR FIRST MEETING PLACE AT THE DENNY'S THAT WAS, WE FOUND THIS PLACE AND THE GRILL WAS HERE. PROPHECY FORETOLD THAT AS LONG AS THE GRILL ENDURED, SO TOO WOULD CWAL. THERE MUST ALWAYS BE A GRILL IN STARBUCKS.
Fron: Okay A of all why are you here and second, why are you talking in capital letters?
Dark Chrono: NONE OF YOU EVER PAY ATTENTION TO ME IF I DON'T.
Arcturus: Lothos isn't even paying attention to you now.
(Lothos has already wandered off and is sitting on the couch in front of the TV. He chooses this moment to turn back to the conversation and wave at them.)
Lothos: Hey guys! Look! (Pointing at the TV)
TV: ...And again for those of you just joining us with convenient dramatic timing, reports are that NORAD is tracking a number of apparent alien space ships that have recently entered Earth orbit...
(No one is actually listening to the TV, as they have all gone to look at the news on the Internet instead because of what century this is.)
Fron: This is... uh. I'm not exactly familiar with what I'm looking at.
(The CWALers are gathered around the largest monitor available, looking at a picture off NORAD's twitter of the ships in orbit.)
Lothos: Looks like the Enterprise, a Star Destroyer, and-
Dark Chrono: THAT ONE'S A PROTOSS CARRIER. I RECOGNIZE IT BECAUSE OF THE WAY IT IS.
Fron: Yes, we... we recognize it too.
Dark Chrono: I'M JUST SAYING.
Arcturus: They posted a newer picture. Wait, that one's a-
(A chorus of ten thousand voices speaking as one suddenly emerges from every speaker in the building.)
Voices: WE ARE THE BORG. CEASE AND DESIST. YOU WILL END YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY VIOLATION. RESISTANCE WILL BE LITIGATED.
(A swirl of green sparkles deposits a thick document in Arcturus' hands. At the front is a short summary letter that begins with "CEASE AND DESIST" and ends with the signature of one "Fourth of Twelve, secondary legal council to Unimatrix Zero One, Esquire")
(The speakers cut off, then give a moment of static before a new voice begins speaking from them.)
Captain Picard: Attention members of Operation Can't Wait Any Longer, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard representing the United Federation of Planets.
Lothos: OH MY GOD HI CAPTAIN PICARD YOU'RE MY FAVOURITE
Captain Picard: Obviously I can't hear anything you're saying to me. We are here to request and require that your universe immediately cease the unauthorized use of any people, object or concepts originating from ours.
Lothos: You're from a communist utopia with no concept of money or ownership.
Captain Picard: Once again I can't hear anything you're saying that may have been an argument against my statement and must assume you agree with me completely. Good day.
(The speakers cut off again. A shower of sparkles, blue this time, deposits another cease-and-desist on the desk in front of everyone. A Protoss recall portal opens up and drops yet another one next to it.)
Arcturus: Are all the fictional space people we've ever met showing up to be mad at us for having met them?
(The CWALers swivel at a "pop" sound behind them. A teenager with messy brown hair and a distinctive scar on his forehead is suddenly standing in the middle of the room. He walks over to Lothos and hands him another cease-and-desist with contemptuous relish.)
Harry Potter: We've all had quite enough of this "Kleptoverse" of yours, Lothos. Have an original idea!
Lothos: YOUR OWL DIES IN THE SEVENTH BOOK!
(Potter is already twisting in place and vanishing with another "pop" before Lothos finishes yelling.)
Fron: So... the universe is being sued. By other universes. For violating copyright. I wish I was surprised.
Dark Chrono: YES, I HAD CONSIDERED THIS. IT IS IN LINE WITH THE "COSMIC CENSORSHIP HYPOTHESIS"...
Arcturus: That's definitely not what that means.
(There is a knock at the front door. More like pounding, slow and rhythmic. With a sigh, Fron goes and opens it.)
(Sephroth stands in front of CWAL headquarters. His katana is held to one side, and his long white hair billows behind him in a wind that doesn't seem to actually exist. He glows alternately white and red with power, clouds boil in the sky, and an ominous Latin choir seems to sing from everywhere and nowhere.)
Sephroth: Behold! My-
Fron: Oh my god you are NOT HELPING.
(Fron slams the door. As he turns back inside, he sees another cease-and-desist on the floor from Square-Enix.)
Fron: Ideas, anyone?
Arcturus: I say we just ignore them. What are they going to do, take us to court?
[FIVE MINUTES LATER]
(The CWALers stand in something that might be called a courtroom, if you combined both the legal and feudal meanings of "court". They are at one end of a long, broad, and high-ceilinged hall, on a raised dais and looking down a long clear aisle. On each side of that aisle, against the walls, are what amounts to stadium seating full of dirty, jeering peasants. A gilded throne sits on a platform which floats unsupported in the air before them. In a magnificent red robe and fancy hat, JOHN DE LANCIE sits in that chair.)
John de Lancie: You are charged with violating the intellectual property of other universes for your own childish antics. How do you plead?
Arcturus: Not guilty?
John de Lancie: The prosecution presents, as evidence, the fact that you're doing it right now.
(One of the nearby soldiers casually guns Jolt down. After a few moments, Jolt reappears standing over his own body, grumbling sullenly.)
Dark Chrono: WE CAN ESCAPE TO THE SPACE BETWEEN SPACES
(Dark Chrono points to the wall behind the dais, at a swirling blue something with a sense of being a doorway which has seemingly appeared at his words.)
Fron: (Grumbling) That still doesn't make any sense.
(Grumbling aside, the CWALers run through the portal. As it closes behind them, a cease-and-desist attributed to Steven Spielberg flies into the wall where the portal was and falls to the floor.)
3. Fanfare for the Common CWALer
[THE "SPACE BETWEEN SPACES" OR WHATEVER]
(The CWALers emerge from the portal into what looks like a medieval village. A few dozen simple wooden houses are arranged in no particular pattern around a large grass common and a few dirt paths. The village seems completely unpopulated, but in good repair. The time of day is strangely indeterminate, but light seems to come from everywhere and nowhere.)
Arcturus: Your "space between spaces" seems to be a decommissioned ren faire.
(After a moment, the CWALers become aware that they're not alone. Two women are standing a dozen or so meters away, dressed like medieval noblewomen. One has reddish-blond hair and the other, shorter women has dark brown hair in a long braid.)
Blond Woman: Men! Always showing up where they have no business! (sniffs ostentatiously)
Braided Woman: I should box their ears! (Tugs braid angrily) If I see another fool man showing up in tel'aran-
(Fron hurriedly leads the CWALers out of the village through another portal. Unnoticed, another cease-and-desist attempts to chase them, flapping through the air like a paper bird.)
[CWAL HEADQUARTERS, TWENTY-SEVEN SECONDS LATER]
Arcturus: So, to review the events of the past several minutes, none of that was even slightly helpful.
The Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ghost: (Appearing suddenly in a pillar of light) Hello! I'm here to SAVE CANADA!
Fron: This isn't Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King.
The Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ghost: Last I heard Canada was part of the universe, eh Sonny Jim?
Fron: "Sonny Jim"?
The Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ghost: (Ignoring him) I am a fully ordained barrister and solicitor at law-
The Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ghost: -and I'll give these transdimensional legal bullies a drubbing they won't soon forget! Ha! Spectral Anti-SLAPP team AWAY!
(The Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ghost extends a fist upward and then ascends upward through the ceiling, followed by dozens of ghostly Irish terriers.)
Fron: I think I can safely say none of us expected that.
(Arcturus walks over the computer, then motions everyone else over around him.)
Arcturus: NORAD's still posting new images of the fleet in orbit.
Lothos: Can't really see much.
Arcturus: Rask! Enhance!
Arcturus: The picture! Enhance it so we can see more detail!
Rask: I can't really... How about I just take our own pictures with the high tech imaging array instead of relying on twitter?
Arcturus: Isn't that what I said?
(There is inexplicably a sense of eyes being rolled. The image on the monitor is replaced with a much better one of the same fleet. Zooming in, transparent and faintly blue terriers can be seen biting the hulls of the starships.)
Fron: I choose to assume this has solved our problem permanently and forever.
(The Starbucks front door opens, and Intruder enters carrying a box.)
Intruder: Hey guys, I heard the old Foreman grill finally died so I went and bought a new one.
Dark Chrono: LO, THE PROPHECY IS FULFILLED AND THE DANGER HAS PASSED.
Intruder: ...I'm gonna make burgers.
Dark Chrono: INDEED.
- [STORY] Anthems for a Twenty-Year-Old Grill - Fron 00:01:18 12017-11-12