ARTHUR NOTES: Okay. You might want to make yourself a hot dog sandwich and some apple cola. This is a long 'un!
Contact me if you'd like to read to full version of the epilogue. Director commentary, widescreen and hot music videos not available.
Chapter 3: Armageddon Out of Here
The Day of Wreckoning
It's the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Lousy)
Ah, you pick whichever one you like.
Strong Bad, don't forget what I told you...
"Mmmph. Simon's Quest... Amazing Island... Yoshi's Island... Yoshi's Safari, Yoshi's... Cookie?"
"Strong Bad..." a different voice piped up.
"And if this happens one more time, I'm gettin' The Cheat to install a padlock up there. Freakin' grey matter staining my upholstery..."
"Hey, Strong Bad." The voice continued.
"ARE YOU SAYING EVERYBODY WHO LIKES TROGDOR HAS MENTAL DISORDERS?"
"Strong Bad!" The voice shouted. Strong Bad's scattered thoughts suddenly aligned themselves. He opened his eyes and his blurry vision focused in on a familiar forlorn face.
"Strong Sad! Oh, man, am I glad to see you!" Strong Bad said.
"You are?" Strong Sad asked.
"Not really." Strong Bad said. "But that's the waking-up thing to say."
"I figured as much." Strong Sad sighed.
"Oh, man." Strong Bad laughed, rubbing his head. "What a crazy dream I had! I dreamt that Homestar and me were going on this weird trip through all these weird places full of weird people. It was... uh..."
"Weird?" Strong Sad suggested.
"That's it, man." Strong Bad said, sitting up. "Am I glad that it was all just some bizarre dream and had nothing to do with reality in any way."
"Uh, I hate to be the one to tell you this..." Strong Sad sighed, gesturing around. Strong Bad looked up in shock. They were all standing on what appeared to be a stone disc about a half-mile in diameter. Massive walls of marble pillars surrounded the entire area, reaching high into the sky, which itself was black and rumbled with purple electricity.
"Hey, no fair!" Strong Bad yelled, lying back down. "I'm going back to sleep. I was enjoying myself."
An opinionated, if cuddly ball of fur bounded onto Strong Bad's belly. "Neena! Munnawaneema!" it squeaked.
"Oh, hey, The Cheat." Strong Bad sighed, sitting back up. "How'd you guys get here, anyway?"
"Wunna na waneema." The Cheat shrugged.
"Yeah, I'd say that's about it." Strong Sad sighed. "The ground just kind of fell away from underneath us, and we ended up here. I personally don't think it had anything to do with my weight, but what do I know? Then we found you and Homestar just laying here."
Strong Bad looked and saw the rest of the Free Country gang hanging around, looking confused and disoriented. More than usual. Marzipan was kneeling on the ground, cradling a still-unconscious Homestar's head in her lap.
"I don't think you're holdin' his head at the right elevation, there." Coach Z was suggesting. "He might swallow his tongue or somethin'. I've seen it happen."
"Coach Z, Homestar doesn't have a tongue." Marzipan reminded him.
"Oh." Coach Z scratched his head. "Biology wasn't my best subject."
Tentatively Homestar blinked and opened his eyes, taking in the sight of the vision in pink beaming down at him. "Wow!" he exclaimed in awe. "Saint Peter looks just like Marzipan!"
"Homestar, it's me." Marzipan replied, equal parts affection and annoyance.
"Even better!" Homestar exclaimed, sitting up. "Uh, how did we get here?"
"Search me, Homestar." Bubs shrugged. "One minute we were back home, and the next minute we ended up here."
"Well, obviously we have been brought here by somebody with a grudge on the twelve of us." The King deduced.
Pom Pom bubbled for his friends to look around. They suddenly realized that a massive group of characters had somehow joined them in this strange place. Everybody was there; the 20X6 crew, the 1936 gang, Teen Girl Squad, Limozeen, Thy Dungeonman, the Cheat Commandos and a variety of miscellaneous others. Marshie swooped around like a maniac and the Goblin danced obliviously and the Yello Dello looked on in disdain, as though she had better things to do. There woulda been a Pteracheat™ there, too, but he demanded too much money, and we blew the budget on the portals. Crossovers aren't cheap, you know.
In any event, despite their initial distrust of each other, Homestar and Strong Bad's previous encounters with everybody was enough to bring them together, and soon a heated discussion began over who was responsible for all of this. While this debate raged, a small group of less-than-popular characters had a quiet discussion of their own.
"And that's the way I have the most important of bushes to creepouch behind, Ginabert." Senor Cardgage was saying, much to the general disgust of the others.
"Uh... right." Reynold snivelled. "But seriously, those guys don't listen to me at all. Their heads could be on fire and they wouldn't let me tell them! What an army."
"All I want is a half-cup of gruel." Sickly Sam whined. "If that's too much to ask, then I'm sorry."
"I know how you guys feel." Strong Sad sympathised. "I think I might need therapy, as I've actually been conditioned to loathe the sound of my own voice. I'm literally resenting myself right now as I'm saying this. And people wonder why I keep to myself."
Perhaps Strong Sad would have felt slightly better if he had known that a longing pair of female eyes belonging to yet another born loser was scoping him out. "I think I have a chance with this guy!" What's Her Face cooed to herself.
"Forget it." So-And-So piped up. "He's too fat."
"And too... elephant." The Ugly One added.
"I don't think he's elephant enough." Cheerleader countered.
Meanwhile, the argument had blossomed into a three-way debate between, Strong Bad, the Strong Bad and StinkoMan. Pom Pom was acting as moderator, but not even he could keep the tempers and egos entirely in line.
"Hey, pillow-man!" StinkoMan shouted at Marshie. "Are you the one who is behind all this?"
"I'm not behind anything, you silly crank!" Marshie laughed as he swooped around. "I'm always in front!"
"Lousy cotton swab." Gunhaver growled.
"Well, then who is?" Strong Bad demanded.
"Now all..." a loud voice suddenly proclaimed, "will be revealed." Everybody turned to the source of the voice and saw an apparition of a cloaked figure standing over all of them. "I am the one who has brought you here."
"I knew it!" Homestar exclaimed. "It was a guy in a hoodie all along!"
"So! You finally decide to show your pig of a face!" StinkoMan bellowed. "I have a rather large score with which I will settle with you!"
"That robey makes his figure look... foldy." So-And-So scoffed. "I'm totally not into that."
"Are you now or have you ever been associated with certain parties who employ certain frogs?" Gunhaver interrogated. "And remember, this conversation is being – Crackotage, get a pencil and some paper – recorded!"
"...What?" the Homestar Runner asked.
"Surprised to see me again, Strong Bad?" the cloaked spectre asked.
"Do I know you, man?" Strong Bad asked. "I don't recall being acquainted with any ghoulish cloak-y types."
"Ah, how quickly you forget." The ghoul replied. "Has it really been that long... old friend?" he pulled off his hood, revealing... Thanos? Darkseid? Galactus? The Anti-Monitor? Howard the Duck?
"What the crap... the Deke?!" Strong Bad was incredulous. "You're not still sore about that incident on the court all those years ago?"
"Oh, you'd better believe it, Strong Bad." Intoned the poorly-dressed man with the hideous facial hair. "I have waited long for this."
"Man, you need to learn to let it go." Strong Bad chided. "You're only embarrassing yourself more, you know."
"Not anymore." The Deke snarled. "That was my winning basket, not yours! I never had a chance to play with the pros because nobody paid any attention to me! All of that stupid grandstanding and self-promotion had everybody focusing on you, and you didn't score three points that entire season! You were a stone in my shoe for my entire career, and I demand revenge!"
"I don't believe this!" Coach Z was in shock. "Who woulda thought that the Dork was evil?"
There was a brief pause, and then the denizens of the various universes burst into uncontrollable answer. Strong Bad clutched his stomach in glee. Homestar fell to his knees, doubled over in laughter. Limozeen laughed until they began to choke or dry heave. The Teen Girl Squad was rolling on the floor, giggling and squealing. StinkoMan danced in joy, various liquids flowing from his nose. The Cheat Commandos laughed in perfect unison, hands on hips. Strong Sad didn't laugh, but he appreciated the intellectual level of the situation. The Homestar Runner looked around, wondering what was so funny.
"Stop that laughing!" the Deke thundered. "Shut up! That's a command!"
Homestar looked up, tears streaking down his face. He somehow got his wind back. "Whatever you say," he wheezed. "The Dork!"
This only prompted another fit of hysterics. The Deke stomped the ground in fury, and thunder rumbled in the skies above. Whether these two events had any relation is unknown. In any event, it was enough to stave off the laughter just enough. "That's another thing!" The Deke roared. "You were always getting Coach Z to say my name, because you knew that he would pronounce it that way!"
"So, let me get this straight." Strong Bad rationalized. "You wanted revenge on me, so you became a cosmic entity? Wouldn't it be easier to, you know, spray-paint my name on a few bathroom walls?"
"Yes, but not as satisfactory." The Deke dismissed. "Once I had mastered the art of universal decay, I found a great many worlds beyond yours. So, I made a decision. Why would I bother merely destroying you and your friends when I could destroy everybody in this segment of the universal continuum? Look at all the different versions of you contained here. Look at all the universes that were inadvertently created through brainwaves of yours. What better revenge than to destroy all of this in a single blow?"
"So, how'd you get us all here?" Strong Bad asked, out of obligation towards the plot exposition.
"Shattering your various universes was simple enough." The Deke gloated. "I set up a series of portals that bled one world into another, and eventually caused them all to collapse. Like water from a sponge, you all came tumbling out and ended up here. It's a little arena I cooked up in this nexus of the universes. And it is here where you will all engage in combat." There was general consternation at this point.
"Combat?" Homestar asked.
"Are you daft, man?" the Strong Bad sniffed. "I am not some rooster for you to provoke for your entertainment!"
"NO! I'm too young to be engaged!" Cheerleader protested.
"Sounds great! When do we start?" Fightgar enthused. He noticed everybody was staring at him. "What?" he asked.
"WHAT? I think that you must have crazy things in your head if you think that we will fight each other!" StinkoMan yelled. "I would much rather fight YOU!!!" he shot forward with a lightning punch aimed directly at the Deke's face, but to his surprise he shot right through him, painfully smashing into the wall.
"Nice try, you Far Eastern fool." The Deke sneered. "But in becoming a master of cosmic manipulation, I have become immaterial! You can't physically harm me!"
"Aw, that bites." Homestar sighed.
"Unfortunately, it also means that I can't physically harm you." The Deke admitted.
"Yay!" Homestar cheered.
"So instead," the Deke explained. "I decided to..."
"I've heard quite enough!" a stately female voice rang out. Everybody looked up and saw the latest arrival; the Grape Fairy, elegantly riding her bumblebee, Honeywind. Homestar and Strong Bad in particular were in awe; they now know whose voice had been warning them all this time.
"Stay out of this, old woman." The Deke snarled. "Not even you can match my power now!"
"Your power is not as great as your confidence, the Deke." The Grape Fairy admonished. "I will not allow you to meddle with these worlds anymore. Be gone!" A wave of her elegant wand, and the Deke was buried in a mountain of grapes.
"Well, that was... anticlimactic." Strong Bad commented.
"Works for me!" Homestar smiled. "Well, folks, I guess all that's left to do is fweeze-fwame and woll the cwedits! Good night, evewybody!"
It was not to be. The Deke calmly stepped out of the grapes as though they didn't exist. "You have not won this time!" the Deke shouted. "Let them come forth!"
Before the Grape Fairy could react, a flurry of attacks shot at her from all directions; flames, lasers and thrown projectiles. The volley was too much for Honeywind to handle, and he went down in flames. The massed characters watched in horror as the Grape Fairy disappeared over the horizon, a sudden mushroom cloud erupting in their wake. A smell not unlike that of honey-roasted raisins filled the air.
"I thought that was a little too easy." Strong Sad sighed.
"Before I was so rudely interrupted by certain departed individuals, I was about to say that I have scoured your universes for the greatest evils I could find. I collected five; all the perfect mix of extremely powerful and mindlessly obedient. I summon them now!" the Deke declared.
From behind the pillars the villains appeared one by one. First came the Robot, his visor glaring as he scanned for his next victim. "Preparing for annihilation." The Robot droned.
After him skittered a veritable army of bloodthirsty Unguraits, chattering viciously among each other as they prepared for the fray. "Ssslay those who walksss in the light of the cursssed sssun!" they snarled.
The Free Country gang gasped as the third figure emerged. "Prepare to die!" Homeschool Winner declared. "For I am Homeschool Winner, which no man can..."
His speech was cut off when he was casually squashed flat under the treads of what was really the third villain – an ugly stock-footage tank, bristling with heavily-armed Blue Laser henchmen.
"WE'LL SET OUTER SPACE ON FIRE!" the Blue Laser leader screamed, popping his head out of the main hatch.
A screaming guitar solo heralded the arrival of the fourth villain – the rapidly-approaching-cliché-status beast of nightmares, Trogdor the Burninator.
"Fat Dudley, hand me my walkin' stick." The Homestar Runner drawled. "That's one big gully snake."
"These five will be the ones whom you combat." The Deke grinned.
"Five?" Strong Bad asked. "I only count four!"
"Look closer, Strong Bad." The Deke replied. Strong Bad looked around until something caught his eye. There was something sitting on the dragon's beefy arm. On closer inspection, it almost looked like...
"Gweat oogly-mooglies!" Homestar exclaimed. "What the cwap is that thing? It's like me, only... weird-looking."
Indeed, it greatly resembled Homestar, only it had more rounded contours and looked like it was made of... felt? Suddenly the faux-Homestar detached itself from the dragon's arm and hopped down to the ground.
"Is that thing... a puppet?!" Strong Bad asked.
"Surpwise, surpwise, suckers!" the puppet gloated. "I'm secwetly evil! Betcha didn't see that one coming!"
"I did, but Homestar didn't." Strong Bad answered.
"Twue, twue." Homestar affirmed.
"C'mon, the Deke." Strong Bad scoffed. "A freakin' puppet? I thought you could do better than that!"
"I'll have you know that the puppet holds one of the greatest weapons in the universe." The Deke replied.
"The power of bad kawaoke!" the puppet declared, pulling out a microphone.
"Well. Now we all know each other." The Deke laughed. "And just to make this even more fun, I've put an extra spin on the battle. In a short time this entire universe will collapse, destroying everything within it. So, you have a choice. You can let my servants destroy you, or you can fight until this entire realm swallows you up. Either way, I will have my vengeance and be highly entertained at the same time. The choice is yours. Well, without further ado..."
He stepped aside, revealing the nervous-looking British Announcer. "I must say!" the Announcer dithered. "This is most unprofessional! Most unprofessional, indeed!" However, a menacing look from the Deke brought him back in line. "Ladies and gentlemen," the Announcer declared, nervously. "The battle begins... now!"
The Robot brought his weapon systems online. The Blue Lasers armed their weapons. Trogdor threw his head back and screamed an earth-shaking roar. The Unguraits matched him with a savage battle cry. The puppet calmly did some vocal exercises. The rest of the combatants prepared for battle with a mix of anger, fear, and foreboding.
The battle was on.
The Blue Lasers and Unguraits, with their advantage in numbers, quickly split up and took the fight to the individual characters. Trogdor and the Robot opted to simply storm right through the crowd, the various characters fleeing from their wide-arcing attacks. And the puppet bided his time, waiting.
Homestar and Strong Bad were in the fray, warding off the enemies from the weaker members of the Free Country gang, namely the King, who was running around blubbering his head off, and Homsar, who didn't seem to know what was going on.
The Robot had opted to mix it up with Thy Dungeonman. "Have at you, you walking foundry!" Thy Dungeonman roared. "Taste the sting of my dagger!" Unfortunately, all he pulled from his loincheesecloth was a somewhat moist loofah. "Blast!" he shouted. "I must have left ye dagger in my other loincheesecloth! Those things look so much alike, you know..." he was barely able to dodge another volley of laser blasts.
The Cheat had eked out an excellent strategy against the Blue Lasers, that of disguising himself as one of them and then siccing The Sneak on them once he had infiltrated them. Other Blue Lasers were running around like ninnies as the Yello Dello pecked their heads ferociously and Strong Mad punched them clean across the arena, even as he bawled over the fact that he was beating up cute The Cheats. The Blue Laser leader was bellowing orders ineffectually through all this, until the Homestar Runner calmly knocked him over the head with a loaf of stale maggot bread.
The Unguraits were proving particularly worrisome, especially since they were sadistically ganging up on the Teen Girl Squad. Cheerleader was holding them off rather well, using her lip gloss as a rapier, but the others were having serious problems, especially What's Her Face. An Ungurait cackled with perverse delight as it knocked her to the ground with a claw swipe and then brutally kicked her head against the floor. Reeling with incredible pain, What's Her Face tried her best to see through her pain-blurred eyes, as the savage creature stood over her, ready to make the killing strike.
BAT! Suddenly the Ungurait was knocked clean off its feet by a little extraterrestrial wielding a Louisville Slugger. The creature hissed a challenge at the intruder, but was knocked out cold by another decisive swing. What's Her Face managed to sit up and watched as the tiny alien jumped into the fray, clobbering Unguraits left and right. She blinked back tears of joy.
"THOMAS LOVES ME!" she squealed in unadulterated joy, getting the full-panel Cheerleader-like treatment for once in her life.
Of course, this meant that she didn't notice another Ungurait coming from behind until it had slashed her head clean off. "Ow! My neck!"
So-And-So and The Ugly One watched the unfolding drama with weary sadness.
"Her heart will go on." So-And-So sighed, trying to kick an Ungurait off her leg.
"Her... head will go off." The Ugly One added, as another Ungurait injured himself trying to gnaw through the steel wire that passes for her hair.
Combating the Unguraits alongside Thomas was the Poopsmith, who was clubbing the vicious creatures handily with his trusty shovel. In some odd way, he felt a strange sense of déjà vu, almost as though he had done this before somewhere...
The big fight, of course, was the unstoppable StinkoMan versus the invincible Trogdor. It was practically a realization of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. The Cheat Commandos were providing cover fire, and by "cover fire" I mean they were hiding under cover out of fear of being set on fire. All the while promoting their "Frogdor the Bullfroginator" stand on the issue, of course.
"Huh!" StinkoMan exclaimed as he returned to the ground. "That dragon holds much mighty power! And some powerful might!"
"Let us aid you in your battle, StinkoMan!" Home Starboy insisted. "Please oh please!"
"Okay." StinkoMan conceded. "But don't try to look greater than me, since such things are impossible!" he shot into the air. "DOUBLE DEUCE!"
"HOME STAR RUN GO!" Home Starboy cheered, firing energy blasts from the glowing star on his chest.
"MYSTIC SHINY BAUBLE!" Marzi-chan shouted, twirling around and throwing what was undoubtedly a powerful piece of costume jewellery.
"CHEEEEEEEAT!" CheatCheat squealed, rubbing his fur together to create a massive surge of sinus allergies.
"Ylang ylang." Pan Pan muttered, nonchalantly throwing a rice ball at Trogdor.
The resulting explosion shook the entire arena, but it only succeeded in throwing Trogdor off his stride. "WHAT?!" StinkoMan exclaimed. "Our combined powers have not destroyed him?! This makes less sense than the last three chapters of Akira!"
Meanwhile, Coach Z, stout-hearted type that he is, picked a fight with what looked like an easy mark – the puppet.
"Well, if it isn't Coach Z." the puppet sneered. "Weady to wumble, old-timer?"
"I hate ta do this to a guy who looks so much like Homestar, but ya leave me no choice." Coach Z replied, whipping out a microphone of his own. "I can lay down some fresh beats on the mike myself, don't ya know."
"Bwing it on!" the puppet challenged.
"Okay. Fer my first number, here's an old fave I likes ta call – These Peoples Try to Fade Me!" Coach Z declared. "Ah one and a two and a..."
It was then that the puppet sprung his trap. "Twopical laser beams! Laser beams of love! Twopical lima beans! When you're away it's like a void..."
By this point Coach Z had dropped his microphone and was curled on the ground in a trembling ball, yanking his hat over his head in a vain attempt to drown out the lethally crappy music. "MAKE IT STAERP! MAKE IT STAERP!" he screamed. "I'm losin' brain cells here and don't have many to spare!"
Seeing Coach Z's plight, Limozeen, who at this point didn't have much to do, raced to the rescue. "STEP OFF, SOCK BOY!" Larry screamed. "WHY DON'T YOU PICK ON SOMEBODY YOUR OWN SIZE?"
"Like you, shorty?" the puppet taunted as Marry and Perry helped drag Coach Z away from the conflict. "Well, well. If it isn't Limozeen, the gweat washed-up guys of '87. I'm gonna enjoy this."
"We're not washed-up, dude." Gary countered. "We're Limozeen! We never die, we never wash."
"Oh yeah, that's a good one." The puppet scoffed. "Get with it, you guys. They Might Be Giants is the hot sound of today! You guys are just yesterday's garbage!"
"Oh yeah?" Marry fumed. "We'll just see about that."
"Nice generic tough-guy retort, dude." Perry whispered.
"Thanks." Marry replied.
"All wight, ladies. Let's get this thing going!" the puppet challenged. The music started again. "Wemember to take your vitamins, put them in that plastic thing with the date on them..."
The assembled rockers grimaced in profound pain. "Come on, guys!" Gary yelled, strumming a few warm-up chords. "Let's hit this polyester poser with the POWER OF ROCK!!!"
"Five, six, seven, four!" Perry counted off.
Limozeen hadn't lost their touch. Their music exploded through the air like a hurricane of rock and roll. Larry whipped out his mike and belted out the lyrics to one of their old favourites: "Because It's Midnite." They had felt that "Box" was more artistically pleasing, but they couldn't deny the appeal of their first Top 40 hit.
When the music died the puppet seemed taken aback. He crinkled his face in hatred. "All wight, you guys. You wanna play wough, huh?"
"I don't get it." Marry gasped. "We hit him with our best shot, and he hardly was fazed!"
"C'MON, GUYS!" Larry yelled. "LET'S HIT HIM WITH... SONG #13!"
The rest of the band gasped in horror. "Larry, you know we can't do that, dude." Gary cautioned. "We made a pact to never perform that one again."
"There's such thing as too much rock n' roll, even for us." Perry added.
"And you remember what happened... to Jerry and Barry." Marry mentioned, solemnly.
The puppet took this opportunity to attack. "I'm tellin' bad jokes now, the ones you've heard a million times, the kind of jokes that little kids tell ya... Why was I stapled to the chicken?"
The band members groaned and covered their ears as the musical torture racked their brains. "Guys," Gary said with finality. "I don't think we have a choice. Let's hang this sock out to dry."
"For all the great rockers who finished the journey!" Perry added.
"Uh... what journey?" Marry asked.
"They died." Perry explained.
"Oh, right. That journey." Marry replied.
"LET'S ROCK AND ROLL!!!" Larry howled, and the song began.
The performance was like nothing that was ever heard before or will ever be heard again. The song was so incredibly rocking that it'd give you seizures if I tried to describe it. All of the band members were on top of their game. Perry's percussion was like rolling thunder, Marry's bass shaking the ground like an earthquake, and Gary's guitar solo sounding like... uh, a really good guitar solo. Larry in particular threw himself into the performance, radiating passion and intensity as though he was plugged into a power source. The area was so immersed with such pure rock n' roll that all of the other battles – even with Trogdor – were forced to halt as the music shook the entire arena.
Finally the final spine-tingling note rang out. The puppet let out a small squeak and flopped limply to the ground.
"We did it!" Gary panted. "We 'Zeened him but good! Good job, Larry." There was no response. "Larry?" the band looked and saw Larry sprawled facedown on the floor, the mike rolled out of his limp hand. "Oh, no! Larry!" he gasped as he rushed up to his fallen bandmate.
"I knew it." Marry sighed. "Poor guy rocked himself to death."
"Gone up to that big tour bus in the sky." Perry sniffled.
"Larry! Speak to me!" Gary pleaded, crouched over the singer's form. "Say something, man!"
Suddenly Larry jumped to his feet. "WE ARE LIMOZEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!" he screamed, his voice echoing.
"That's our Larry!" the rest of the band smiled, high-fiving each other with their unwavering camaraderie.
"Well, guys, looks like we taught that puppet a lesson." Gary smiled. "Music is a powerful tool, and not to be..."
The lecture was interrupted when a large section of the arena a few feet away from them exploded. The rockers turned and saw Blue Laser shrieking at his tank operators. "YOU IDIOTS! YOU COULDN'T EVEN HIT THOSE UGLY WOMEN FROM 20 FEET AWAY!!! WHAT AM I PAYING YOU FOR?"
"Well, uh, you're not paying us anything, sir." A henchman snivelled.
"WELL, I'LL PAY YOU EVEN LESS IF YOU DON'T OPEN YOUR EYES!" Blue Laser screamed.
"MAN, THAT GUY HAS AN ANNOYING VOICE!" Larry commented. His bandmates were giving him funny looks. "WHAT?!" he asked.
"Guys, I think we need to help these people." Perry commented, even as Thy Dungeonman jumped out of nowhere and began slapping Blue Laser across the face with his loofah.
"But how?" Marry asked. "We can't fight! Remember what happened when we had scheduling conflicts with Taranchula? I'm still limping from that."
"Maybe." Gary said. "But every army needs..." he strummed his guitar for emphasis. "an anthem!"
"C'MON, GUYS!" Larry yelled. "WE'RE GONNA ROCK THESE GUYS TO VICTORY!" and so the band began to play once more, this time to rally their allies and boost their morale.
Not that it was doing much good for the Cheat Commandos, who were still locked in grim combat with the Robot, who was effortlessly shrugging off their best attacks and laying down a constant volley of laser fire. "Ha!" Ripberger yelled, doing an effortless flip towards the steel behemoth. "Silent as a cobra, four times as stealthy, and ten times as deadly!" he declared, tossing a throwing star at the Robot. It bounced off the fortified metal with a pitiful clink.
"It isn't even dented? Oh, $#$#! What are we gonna do now?" Fightgar exclaimed.
"Watch your mouth, Fightgar!" Gunhaver scolded. "This is a kid's show!"
"So how come we solve all of our problems with violence?" Reynold asked, but nobody responded.
Firebert boldly pulled out a detonator and pushed down on the plunger, but it was of no use. Probably because there was no dynamite actually wired to the detonator. Another blast from the Robot sent the Commandos scattering, leaving Gunhaver alone.
"Y'know, it's kind of a funny thing." Gunhaver said as computer-guided crosshairs locked onto him. "I do have a gun, you know, but right now it's at the... uh, monogramming shop or something..."
ZAP! The Robot's beams struck the ground with deadly accuracy. However, Gunhaver was no longer standing there.
"...but I can still haver!" Gunhaver finished, running for it. Nonplussed, the Robot began to scan for his next target. He found a large grey humanoid mass who was currently lying prone on the ground, his hands clasped behind his head.
Strong Sad looked up and saw the Robot bearing down on him. "Oh, great." He whined. "Of all the days to not be ignored..."
He scooted back away from the incoming android, only to end up with his back against cold stone. "Oh, this is wonderful." Strong Sad sighed. "Sticking to the perimeter was such a good idea."
The Robot locked onto the target.
Strong Sad racked his brains. How do you deal with a robot?
"Uh, everything I say is a lie?" he tried.
The Robot armed his laser cannons.
"Um, I'm not the target you're looking for?" Strong Sad tried again.
The Robot began his internal countdown.
"So this is how it ends." Strong Sad sighed. "I live in pain, and I die in pain. I guess it's what I deserve. It's not like anybody will miss me. My only regret is that it didn't happen soon enough. It's so terribly depressing."
A single tear rolled down the Robot's cheek and into its internal circuit board. As can be expected, he suddenly shuddered and teetered as powerful electricity roared across his body, shorting down his functions one by one. Finally unable to maintain equilibrium, the Robot crashed to the ground, one final message squawking from his voice box. "I'm Kilrooooooyyyyy..."
"Oi! Look!" Fightgar shouted. "That 'ippopotamus beat that junk pile!"
"That's my boy, Strong Sad." Coach Z commended, helping the depressed fellow to his feet. "You tricked him into depressing himself ta death, just like in that book."
"Book? What trick?" Strong Sad asked. "I was just being honest!"
"Eh, if you say so, Strong Sad." Coach Z shrugged.
"This is pointless!" Strong Bad yelled, dodging another volley of stock-footage blasts from Blue Laser's snipers. "It doesn't matter who wins the fight if we don't find Eh! Steve!"
"Well, where is he?" Homestar asked, sending an Ungurait flying with field-goal kick. "You'd think we'd have bumped into him by now."
"Come on, Homestar." Strong Bad scoffed. "If the Deke knew that Eh! Steve was the only thing that could stop him, he wouldn't bring him..." he paused as his train of thought came together. "That's it! Eh! Steve's universe must be the only one still intact, or otherwise he'd have ended up here! And since this is where all the worlds come together, there must be a portal leading there somewhere around here!"
"Well, it's not awound here." Homestar said. "Those things are pwetty easy to see."
"I've got an idea." Strong Bad declared. "Hey Pom Pom!" he yelled. Pom Pom, who had just beaten the snot out of a Blue Laser hand-to-hand expert, bounded over.
"Gimme a boost, man." Strong Bad ordered, making a running jump. "Habbada HUP!" He bounced off of Pom Pom's belly and shot into the air. On the other side of the arena, he could clearly see a flash of purple. "I found it!" he yelled as he came down, Pom Pom carefully catching him. "Come on, you guys! We have to get over there!"
The trio cautiously made their way through the melee, dodging and countering attacks all the way. Finally they reached the other side. "Okay!" Homestar announced. "Let's jump thwough that portal and find Eh! Steve!"
"One second, man." Strong Bad warned, grabbing Homestar's shirt to keep him from going too far. "You're a good idea-man, but your follow-through is substandard at best. Aren't you forgetting one large, green thing?"
Strong Bad was right. This was the segment dominated by Trogdor, who was currently locked in combat with an airborne StinkoMan. "YA-HAH!" StinkoMan yelled as he connected a solid punch to the beast's jaw. "Fighting a dragon will increase my experience points by at least a thousand!"
Unimpressed, the dragon unleashed a burst of flame that hit StinkoMan sidelong, sending him to the ground. "WAAAAH!" StinkoMan screamed, his hair aflame. "My blue hair! My source of power!!!"
Squirt! Suddenly StinkoMan's coiffure was extinguished, thanks to the Homestar Runner, who had calmly taken a sip of discount milk and belched it onto the warrior's head. "Wow! Thank you SO much, greyman!" StinkoMan sighed. "For a minute there I thought that I was about to be killed! Or maybe even demolished!"
"T'weren't nothin'." The Homestar Runner shrugged. "That reptile's one tough sourdough cookie."
"You said it, gramps." Strong Bad agreed. "It's more or less indestructible."
"How are we gonna get awound it?" Homestar asked.
"It's worse than that, man." Strong Bad added. "Even if we did, the Deke would probably make him follow us. That wouldn't be good at all."
"This cannot be good!" StinkoMan piped up. "I think it would take the many combined strength of the all of us to even hold it down!"
"And how the crap could we possibly do that?" Strong Bad grieved. "How could we get everybody in on this at once?"
"I could help." Silent Rip suggested. "I've been wanting to use this microphone on my helmet since the day I got it. I could tell everybody what's going on."
"How could you tell everybody with your microphone if nobody else has headphones?" Strong Bad asked. Silent Rip scratched his helmet and shrugged. "Oh, never mind. Just do it, man." Strong Bad finally conceded.
Strong Bad smiled as Silent Rip relayed the message to everybody, but his attention was jerked back to the situation at hand with Homestar's cry. "Stwong Bad, look!"
Trogdor had recovered from his bruised jaw and had backed his latest prey again the wall. And the prey was Marzipan.
"You're being a very bad dragon!" Marzipan scolded, despite her terror. "Obviously nobody bothered to raise you properly. I'll bet you don't even know how to use a fork!"
"I gotta help her!" Homestar shouted, but Strong Bad firmly held him back.
"Don't be a martyr, man." Strong Bad reasoned. "You'd get barbecued as soon as you get within ten feet of her!"
"But Stwong Bad, she's my girlfwiend!" Homestar insisted, his voice breaking. "Saving her fwom dwagons is like my job!"
"And running headfirst into fiery infernos won't do you or her any good, man!" Strong Bad reasoned, trying to resolve his own warring emotions.
"But... but I can't just leave her like this." Homestar insisted, softly. Trogdor leaned his massive head to within inches of Marzipan's body, cavernous nostrils ravenously inhaling her delicate scent.
Strong Bad glanced to the side and saw that Limozeen was still playing on the sidelines. "You won't have to, man." He said, thoughtfully. Suddenly he dashed forward and grabbed Gary's guitar. "Marzipan, catch!" he shouted, heaving the instrument at her.
Marzipan grabbed the guitar and stared at it. "This looks like a very angry musical instrument." She complained.
"Just play it!" Strong Bad yelled.
Marzipan hesitated for a moment, and then softly began strumming on the strings. Trogdor reared back at the sound, slightly surprised. Marzipan's gentle voice made him hesitate even more.
"And when I look at the sky,
That is when I
Feel the clouds smiling back at me..."
The dragon seemed torn between his desire to destroy and his longing to hear more of this beautiful sound. "I knew there was a weason I'm her boyfwiend." Homestar said to herself.
"Okay, everybody's ready to go." Silent Rip reported. "All you have to do is give the word."
"Thanks, man." Strong Bad replied. "I appreciate this."
"Hey!" Silent Rip shrugged. "Gunhaver always says that nobody lives forever."
Strong Bad looked back at the dragon, and saw that Trogdor was now effectively immobilized by Marzipan's song. "Let's do it, man!" he barked at Silent Rip.
"NOW!" Silent Rip shouted. As one, all of the many characters abandoned their fights with the remaining Unguraits and Blue Laser soldiers and attacked the dragon en masse. So distracted was Trogdor that the assault took him completely off-guard. He fell to the floor with a thunderous crash, flailing furiously against his restraints. He inhaled sharply.
"Look out!" Strong Bad yelled. The characters vacated the area near Trogdor's mouth and jostled him so the burnination instead blew right into the Unguraits, who were running to join the conflict. The creatures screamed as they fled, their robes on fire.
Trogdor thrashed again, and the characters this time manoeuvred him so his beefy arm made a direct hit with the Blue Laser tank, sending it flying out of the arena. "I HATE THAT FROG SO VERY MUCH!!!" The Blue Laser commander screamed.
Homestar and Strong Bad saw their chance. They bolted past the downed dragon, towards the portal. "Go go go!" StinkoMan shouted. "We will make sure it does not follow you!"
"But Marzipan..." Homestar hesitated.
"I'll be fine!" Marzipan insisted, still tempering the dragon's rage with her music. "Just go!"
"GO!" Strong Mad shouted, holding the dragon's powerful jaws together, as The Cheat held the beast's eyes shut.
This time there was no hesitation. Homestar and Strong Bad jumped through the portal and disappeared, leaving their friends and allies to grapple with the savage monster. Little did they know that they were followed...
Plunk-plunk plunk-plunk plunk plunk-plunk-plunk
Plunk-plunk plunk-plunk plunk plunk-plunk-plunk
FREE-RANGE FEVER AND THE NOT-THERE HAIR
A rather weak flash heralded Homestar and Strong Bad's arrival to the odd universe of Sweet Cuppin' Cakes. The portal crackled and buzzed unsteadily as it winked in and out. Otherwise the scene was eerily still, the two-tone sky unchanging, the tiled floor seeming to go on forever.
"It's weal quiet, Stwong Bad." Homestar commented, warily.
"And it's gonna be quiet for good if we don't find Eh! Steve." Strong Bad added.
"I'm the last train back to Palomino!" A voice hollered.
"Aaaugh!" the dynamic duo yelped, Homestar jumping up into Strong Bad's arms. The two spun around and saw Homsar teetering cluelessy behind them.
"What the crap are you doing here, man?" Strong Bad angrily demanded. "You tryin' to give me a heart attack or something?"
"Bring me the head of Slippery Jim!" Homsar drawled in response.
"Whatever." Strong Bad growled, dumping Homestar unceremoniously to the ground with a crash. "Let's go find Eh! Steve before it's too late."
The trio made their way towards the only noticeable figures on the horizon – a shapeless, hovering blue blob and a tiny worm sticking out of the ground. The worm chattered meaninglessly to itself as it wiggled back and forth. The Cowcopter stared in what was either rapt attention or a coma.
"Push up, pull down." The Worm cooed. "Up and down and up again!"
"Uh, look, guys." Strong Bad interrupted as he approached. "I hate to break up this hilarious comedy, or... drama or whatever this is supposed to be, but we really need to find Eh! Steve. Do you know where he is?"
"Rvrvrvvrrvvvrvrvrvrrr?" The Cowcopter asked.
"Eh! Steve!" Strong Bad repeated. "Have you seen him?"
"Rvvrrvrr. Hrrrvrrvvvrvvrrrvv." The Cowcopter murmured.
"You don't speak English, do you?" Strong Bad sighed.
"Up and up and up and up!" The Worm strained at it stretched itself out of the hole as hard as it could go. The Cowcopter suddenly became voraciously interested.
"And waaaaaay down!" The Worm squeaked, disappearing back into the hole. The Cowcopter stuck his head in the hole, trying to get a bite at the retreating annelid. However, it was then that the hole somehow turned itself into the barrel of a cannon, which blasted the hovering beast into the stratosphere.
"Okay, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but sewiously, that didn't make any sense." Homestar declared. He then turned to Strong Bad and gasped. "Hey Stwong Bad, how come there's two of you? And what happened to one of your heads?"
"What? Huh...?" Strong Bad asked, turning to see his keyboard-headed doppelganger standing beside him. "Oh, it's you. What's up, man? Have you seen Eh! Steve?"
The KeyboardHead Strong Bad made no response, except to play "Safety Dance" on his head. At his feet, Ready For Primetime did a very small dance indeed.
"Wow." Homestar commented. "I oughta invite those guys to my next dance party!"
"Homestar, don't you get it?" Strong Bad growled. "If we don't find Eh! Steve right now, there's not gonna be any more dance parties!"
"You mean the Deke hates those too?" Homestar gasped. "The cweep! Let's find Eh! Steve pwonto!"
"You kadiddle-hoppin' outlanders lookin' to find Eh! Steve?" rasped a gravelly voice in a deep South drawl. All turned and saw a badly drawn Wheelchair scooting towards them. "I've got a bone t' pick with that dirt-bred claim-jumper myself!" it exclaimed.
"Look, Stwong Bad!" Homestar gasped. "Bubs has wealized his lifelong dweam of having wheels! But they have come at a tewwible pwice..."
A well-aimed boxing glove to the jaw ended Homestar's monologue before it could get any dumber. "Have you seen him?" Strong Bad asked the Wheelchair.
"Not recently." The Wheelchair barked. "But if that turn-coatin' owlhoot ever shows his lily-livered face around here again, I'll send him to his doooooooom!"
"You don't get it, Ironsides." Strong Bad insisted. "If we don't find him quickly, we're all gonna be doomed. You, me, everybody. This universe is ready to collapse as it is!"
"Eh, I don't give a flyin' ladybird about collapsin' universes and all that hoo-ha." The Wheelchair growled. "I'm gonna dance on Eh! Steve's grave tonight, and there's nothin' he can doooooo!" he roared, speeding off to the distance.
"I don't believe this." Strong Bad sighed.
"I know what you mean, man. A dancing wheelchair? That's something I gotta see!" Homestar exclaimed.
"Homestar!" Strong Bad yelled, grabbing the athlete by the collar. "Can't you be serious for just a minute?"
Homestar opened his mouth to say something doubtlessly ignorant and hilarious, but he was interrupted by a sudden rattling noise. Both turned and saw that one of the floor tiles was jiggling furiously, as though there was something inside trying to break free. There was a sudden POP, and then Eh! Steve stood before them in all his trapezoidal glory.
Strong Bad released Homestar's collar and rubbed his own forehead. He should have known. Eh! Steve always shows up when you least expect him, and this most recent discussion was the only one that didn't involve him. Strong Bad quickly approached the unblinking creature. "Okay, man. We're running out of time! Do whatever it is you do and save the universe!"
Eh! Steve did absolutely nothing. He simply stood and stared at Strong Bad. Strong Bad cleared his throat and tried again. "Look, man. The Deke says this place is ready to blow! Just look at..." he gestured towards the portal but was immediately silenced when it crossed his line of sight. "Oh, holy crap..."
The portal, now taxed beyond its limits, sputtered, heaved, and then split clean open. The main universe beyond it – the battle arena – had collapsed under its own strain and imploded, all mass contained within drawn to a single infinitesimal point, the equivalent of a supernova in reverse. The resulting vacuum had caused the now burnt-out portal to suck in any mass to feed it, and this small universe was all that there was left. Floor tiles were torn from the ground, stars were yanked from the sky, all rushing inexorably towards the howling, spiralling eddy.
"You're too late, you fools!" the Deke's voice permeated all. "You're dead! You're all dead!"
Strong Bad was barely able to fall back, avoiding being whisked away with the ground beneath him. Suddenly he, Homestar, Homsar and the local creatures, including a now-restored Cowcopter and a returned Wheelchair, were trapped on a small island of solid ground, which even now was crumbling away. Not only was the Deke cruel, but sadistic as well, it seemed.
"Eh! Steve!" Strong Bad shouted over the roar of the incredible force. "Just do your freakin' thing, man!" But Eh! Steve still did nothing, standing still and silent as stone. The rest of the Sweet Cuppin' Cakes crew were also silent, calmly regarding the collapse as though it were nothing. Did they not comprehend what was happening? Did they even care? Unspeakable anger and frustration tore at Strong Bad. Not only was their only chance for survival refusing to co-operate, but now that the initial shock had worn off, he realized that everybody they had left behind in that universe was now...
No. He wouldn't even think about it. If he thought about it, it would crush him, and the Deke would have won. He couldn't give up, no matter what the loss. No matter what. He snapped back to reality just in time to see Homestar lose his footing and tumble towards the void. In a sudden flash Strong Bad lunged forward, barely grabbing Homestar's leg. He slowly and cautiously pulled him back to temporary safety. Maybe they would all be dead in a matter of seconds, but Strong Bad wasn't going to let the Deke have that satisfaction until the very end.
It was then that Homsar, who had been obediently quiet through all of this, chose to speak. "Dya-a-a-a-ah! My nose ain't a man no more!"
Strong Bad wanted to yell at Homsar to shut up, but any such protest died when he noticed that Eh! Steve had a gleam of curious familiarity in his eye. Almost as though... he had found a kindred spirit?
"Stwong Bad, look!" Homestar gasped. Eh! Steve had raised his stick-like arms, and his mouth slowly detached itself from the rest of his body. It rose high into the wind-battered sky, shining like a star. There was an odd feeling of serenity among all present as they watched the spectacle, transfixed. The roar of the abyss and the Deke's deranged laughs of triumph suddenly seemed muted. Violent tremors shook Strong Bad to the ground, inches from slipping away, but still he somehow had the strength to watch.
And then it happened. The mouth exploded into a brilliant flash of pure white light, and the words "EH! STEVE!" echoed across the cosmos.
"LET IT BE!" the Worm squeaked. Strong Bad vaguely thought he had heard the Deke scream, and then everything went white, and then black...
Thank you, Strong Bad.
"Mmmmph... Crazy Castle, Kickle Cubicle, Balloon Fighter..." Strong Bad opened his eyes, fighting off the incredible glare. "Uh... Ice Climber, Bokasuka Wars..." finally he sat up and rubbed his eyes. Looking around, he saw that he was sitting in a meadow in Free Country USA. The grass was green, the sun was warm, the sky was blue and that unidentifiable bird was singing. And Homestar was sitting next to him.
"Hey, Stwong Bad! Keeping wegular?" Homestar asked, cheerily.
"Oh, hi, Homestar." Strong Bad grumbled, massaging his sinuses. "What happened?"
"I dunno." Homestar shrugged. "I just woke up and found all of us lying here. Were we having a slumber party?"
Strong Bad looked and saw Bubs, Coach Z, The Cheat, Marzipan, Pom Pom, Strong Mad, Strong Sad, the King of Town, the Poopsmith and Homsar also sitting around, looking groggy.
"Hoo-eee!" Coach Z moaned, holding his head. "I think I'd better switch my perscriptions. I'm totally trippin', yo."
"As much as I enjoy communing with the grass, how did we get here, exactly?" Marzipan asked.
"I'm not entirely sure." The King mused. "The last thing I remember is eating glazed pike in my dining hall."
Pom Pom looked at his cell phone and bubbled that it was now three hours after the last time he had any recollection.
"Time does fly when you're having fun, doesn't it?" Homestar asked.
"So, uh, does anybody else find it creepy that we're all sitting in a field with a three-hour gap in our memories?" Strong Sad asked.
Everybody mused for a moment. "Naaaahhh." They chorused in unison.
"Oh, well." Bubs shrugged. "Come on over to my shop, everybody. Snow cones are on me!"
"Say they're on Homestar and you have a deal!" Strong Bad replied.
And so the little group left, Bubs leading the way, Coach Z making a mental list of his over-the-counter supplements, Homestar chatting up Marzipan, Strong Mad hoisting The Cheat onto his shoulders, the King insisting that he get served first, Strong Bad talking with Pom Pom, and the Poopsmith tagging along for the heck of it. Strong Sad hesitated a moment, trying to make sense of it all, but then decided that knowing the truth would probably just depress him further anyway. He slowly shuffled after the rest of the group, Homsar merrily bobbling after him.
Elsewhere, a stalwart group of heroes fought a stalwart group of villains somewhere in the deep past, their morals as black-and-white as their coloration. In a more colourful world, one blue-haired individual continued his never-ending quest to be the greatest, a group of bizarre but loyal companions behind him. Elsewhere still, a group of confused adolescents struggled to succeed in a world that was singularly hostile against them. There was the resolute group of musicians who were determined to rock until they died. And the world where an elite fighting force was locked in eternal war with an evil organization, although neither knew why. There was a medieval world constantly ravaged by a dragon with an implacable appetite for destruction. And a world of silicon and electricity where nothing was the same for long. None of these worlds were aware of the others, nor of the fate they had narrowly avoided.
None of them harboured any memory of the ordeal. They had witnessed the destruction of their worlds and the end of existence, and to force them to live with that knowledge would have been too cruel. All of them had been relieved of their recollections of the ordeal. All but one.
Senor Cardgage sat alone in his bushes. Although the air was warm, he shuddered and hugged his knees tightly against himself, trying to see anything past his fogged glasses. "All of it, Saratina." He slurred to himself through his tightened throat. "All of it went up. Excertainly so. It all did. It all did... seein' cadavers, yes I do..."
Hey, all those traumatic memories had to go somewhere.
Eh! Steve watched the sky with what could almost be interpreted as a slight smile. He knew that his ability to make the universe explode would come in handy someday. He had counteracted and reversed the Deke's sabotage, removing not only the destruction from the Deke's doings, but the Deke himself. He was now the sole resident of a void of his very own, his powers ineffective, his shouted invective against Strong Bad only echoing back at him. His evil would not threaten the multiverse again. Eh! Steve knew that nobody was aware of the debt they owed him, but he hardly cared. He had fulfilled the task appointed to him, and he would always be watching. Always watching.
The sound of the Wheelchair's squealing tires stirred Eh! Steve back to reality. Eh! Steve smirked and returned to the chase. Back to business as usual.
Epilogue: Somewhere in Georgia
In a small residence in an undisclosed location, there sat a somewhat disorderly room full of miscellany. Posters, toys, sheet music, computer terminals, microphones, keyboards, guitars, scribbled notes, programmers' manuals. And lying next to a blinking computer terminal sat a small puppet in the likeness of Homestar Runner. On the puppet's lifeless face, a sinister grin began to form.
The colour of infinity inside an empty glass...