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Old 03-09-2020, 05:56 AM   #1
TVAdam No More
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Default Level Projects Presents...

After I finished all 40 issues of The Masked Bagger in 2017, I decided to write some spin-offs. I decided I needed a brand name, like Marvel or DC and chose "Level Projects" - since my stories take place on the five different levels of Earth. I went with "Projects" instead of "Stories" or "Comics" because that means it's more than just the one thing. Also, these aren't comics, despite being superhero stories with occasional pictures. First up is my issue 1 release of the following titles: Jarlen Mather, Pizza Delivery, The Badass Banta Bowler and Stories of Level Projects. The last title is an anthology series. I am officially re-releasing the first issue of Jarlen Mather with a few changes to make it take place in 2020, rather than 2018 when I originally wrote it. That way it's not so detached from the rest of the series.

So, coming up... the issues!
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Old 03-09-2020, 06:11 AM   #2
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Jarlen Mather, Pizza Delivery
Issue #1. Tiptoe Through the Tulips
Released on March 9, 2020

Main Characters: Jarlen Mather, Henry Hobart, Tera Mather & Mr. Kramden
Guest Characters: Oswald Smitty, Officer Jones & Chris Ward
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Old 03-09-2020, 06:57 AM   #3
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Once upon a timeÖ

Itís 4:30 pm. Jarlen Mather, a pizza delivery guy for Kramdenís Pizza is on the road, working the 9 to 5 shift. He finds the address and pulls into the driveway. 32-year-old Mather steps out, approaches the door and rings the bell. A tall, muscular man named Trent answers.

Jarlen Mather: Good evening - Jarlen Mather, pizza delivery. Your total is $23.50.

The guy hands him a twenty-dollar bill along with four ones.

Trent: Here you go. Keep the change.

Jarlen tries not to be negative, not even over a fifty-cent tip.

Jarlen Mather: Thank you.

Heís about to hand over the pizzas when he takes a peek inside. He sees a woman who has obviously been crying, with bruises on her arms and a black eye.

Jarlen Mather: Maíam, are you okay?

Trent: Sheís fine. Now give me the pizzas and leave the premises.

Jarlen Mather: I was asking the lady.

Abused Wife: (frightened) IÖ Iím fine.

Trent: There. You happy? Now give me the pizzas and I want my tip back.

Jarlen Mather: Maíam, Iím going to get you some help.

Trent: Just give me my damn pizzas and go away!

Jarlen throws the pizzas up in the air and then rams both fists into Trentís stomach, causing him to fall back just as the deliverer of pizza catches the pies and throws them on him. He also reaches into his pocket and pulls out two quarters and hurls them at Trentís face.

Jarlen Mather: And THEREíS your change back!

CUT TO: The next day, Jarlen is in Mr. Kramdenís Office.

Mr. Kramden: Are you nuts, Mather!?!

Jarlen Mather: You actually expect me to be in that situation and NOT help the woman?

Mr. Kramden: What situation? There was no situation! You donít know why that woman was crying, and you donít know how she got that black eye!

Jarlen Mather: Come on, Mr. Kramden. It was pretty obvious.

Mr. Kramden: Well anyways, youíre not the police!

Jarlen Mather: Well I *do* refer to myself as ďJarlen Mather, P.D.Ē

Mr. Kramden: Yeah and you gotta stop doing that.

Jarlen Mather: Come on, P.D. You know, ďpizza delivery.Ē

Mr. Kramden: Yes. I comprehend what youíre saying. You still gotta stop.

Jarlen Mather: Look, I donít regret my decisions. That woman is away from that goon today because of me. I did good.

Mr. Kramden: You interfered where you shouldnít have and thereís a good chance this Trent fella is gonna sue us. I canít afford to lose this business. Itís my pride and joy. Iím sorry but Iím gonna have to let you go.

Jarlen Mather: Please, just give me another chance. I wonít do this again.

Mr. Kramden: (sighs) Okay. Only because I like you, but Iím moving you to the 6 to 2 shift.

Jarlen Mather: 6 am?

Mr. Kramden: Are we open at 6 am?

Jarlen Mather: Are we open at 2 am?

Mr. Kramden: Our hours are 9 am to 2 am. Youíve only worked here five years. I figured youíd know that by now.

CUT TO: Jarlen enters his apartment. His wife Tera is waiting for him.

Tera Mather: So, what happened?

Jarlen Mather: I got reamed by the boss.

Tera Mather: But did he fire you?

Jarlen Mather: No. Um, but you might have preferred he did.

Tera Mather: Why?

Jarlen Mather: I now work the 6 pm to 2am shift.

Tera Mather: Are you kidding? I work 9 to 5. Weíll barely see each other anymore. You have to get your old shift back.

Jarlen Mather: I canít. Thatís over.

Tera Mather: Then quit.

Jarlen Mather: I canít. We need the money.

Tera Mather: Iím not saying stay jobless. Find someplace else to work.

Jarlen Mather: But I love delivering pizza and I have seniority. And look at everything itís lead to. I saved the day at Kroger a few years ago because of this job. I even went to another planet and battled evil because of this job.

Tera Mather: Yeah, I still donít believe you went to some planet called Scrum.

Jarlen Mather: Thatís because I didnít. I went to Scrom. Itís called Scrom.

Tera Mather: Whatever.

Jarlen Mather: Fine. Iíll look for another job. But my new shift starts tomorrow, so I have to work on a new sleep schedule now.

CUT TO: 8 pm the next day. Jarlen is on a delivery. Sitting on a bench on the sidewalk by the house, is Henry Hobart, a homeless man. When Jarlen heads back to his car, he approaches Henry.

Jarlen Mather: Wait right there, sir.

Jarlen goes to his car and gets out another pizza and a pop. He brings them to Henry.

Jarlen Mather: Here you go.

Henry Hobart: Whatís this?

Jarlen Mather: Iím told that on every Thursday, the Carters order three pizzas and every Thursday, the pizza delivery guy has to walk past you to get to them.

Henry Hobart: Thatís true.

Jarlen Mather: Well now that Iím on this shift, Iíve decided to make sure you get a pizza of your own. I hope you like pepperoni.

Henry Hobart: I love it. I justÖ IÖ I donít know what to say. I canít pay for this.

Jarlen Mather: I donít want your money. I just want to do good in this world. Even a small act like this can go a long way.

Henry Hobart: This is no small act, mister. I thank you. Youíre an angel. A true human angel right here on Earth.

Jarlen Mather: Iím no angel. Iím just a guy who delivers pizza and cares. Now enjoy that pizza before it gets cold.

CUT TO: Around 11:30 at night, Jarlen is driving around making more deliveries. Itís surprising to him how popular pizza delivery is in the midnight hours. He sees his next delivery is to a guy named Ward. He gets to the house and rings the bell. Chris Ward opens the door. The two men recognize one another.

Jarlen Mather: Hey, Chris. Howís it going?

Chris Ward: Hi, Jarlen. Things are good. I donít know if you heard or not, but I got married a couple years ago, to my high school sweetheart.

Jarlen Mather: Congrats, man. No, I hadnít heard. Does she know about your double life?

Chris Ward: Oh yeah, but I havenít been Cart-Boy since the Masked Bagger left this Earth level back in February of Ď17.

Jarlen Mather: Why not?

Chris Ward: Itís not been necessary. Since the demise of the Kroger Devil, there havenít been any super villains at the store.

Jarlen Mather: Well thatís great. Too bad the same canít be said for the rest of the world. Just the other day, I got a woman who was being physically abused by her husband away from that creep.

Chris Ward: Good for you.

Jarlen Mather: Yeah. Unfortunately, as a result, I have these new late-night hours.

Chris Ward: Be careful. A couple nights ago someone from down the street, on Cooper Road, was murdered around midnight. They never caught the killer.

Jarlen Mather: Do they at least know who it is?

Chris Ward: Nope. Just some random psycho.

Jarlen Mather: Well hey, thanks for the heads up. Hereís your pizza.

Chris Ward: Oh, thanks. I know itís late for eating pizza but I work third shift now and Iím off tonight and too lazy to make something for myself. Rachelís asleep, so I canít ask her to cook for me. But besides that, weíre not a married couple from the Ď50s, where sheís expected to wait on me hand and foot. She, uh, made that pretty clear from the beginning.

Jarlen Mather: Teraís the same way, but weíre a partnership. So, I would never expect her to wait on meÖ or surprise me with breakfast in bedÖ or remember my birthday.

Jarlen drifts off for a second, thinking about how sad it is that his wife forgot his birthday this year. He then returns his attention to Chris.

Jarlen Mather: Well anyways, I gotta get back to work. Thatíll be $14.95.

Chris hands Jarlen a twenty.

Chris Ward: Keep the change.

Jarlen Mather: Thank you.

Chris Ward: Well good to see you again. Have a good one and stay safe.

Jarlen Mather: Thanks. You, too. Bye.

Chris closes the door and Jarlen turns around and begins heading back to his car. Just then he hears someone off at a distance singing ďTiptoe Through the TulipsĒ loudly to themselves. He thinks itís a tad weird, but gets in his vehicle and drives off.

("Tiptoe Through the Tulips" by Tiny Tim

CUT TO: Jarlenís at home, laying down on his couch when Tera comes into the room, holding her cell phone.

Tera Mather: Jarlen, someone was murdered last night on Cullen Drive.

Jarlen Mather: Anyone we know?

Tera Mather: No, but itís still scary.

Jarlen Mather: Iíll say. I was delivering pizzas on Cullen Drive last night, too. Did it say what time the murder took place?

Tera Mather: Between 11 and midnight.

Jarlen Mather: Okay, I was over there around 11:30. This is starting to freak me out.

Tera Mather: Did you see anything strange?

Jarlen Mather: No. The only strange thing was that there was some creepy guy singing a song. I figured he was just a drunk or something though.

CUT TO: A few nights later, Jarlen is out delivering pizza to a hungry customer. As heís walking back to his car, he hears someone down the road once again singing ďTiptoe Through the Tulips.Ē

Jarlen Mather: Thereís that drunk again. Although this isnít Cullen Drive. Dude gets around, I guess.

CUT TO: Jarlen is once again on his couch when Tera comes into the living room.

Tera Mather: Jarlen! There was another murder last night!

Jarlen Mather: (uninterested) That sucks.

Tera Mather: What if itís the same guy who killed on Cooper Road and Cullen Drive?

Jarlen Mather: Why do you think thereís a connection?

Tera Mather: I just have a feeling. Plus, Iíve been watching murder shows lately, so thatís where my mindís been.

Jarlen Mather: Well where did it happen this time?

Tera Mather: Greene Avenue between 11 and midnight.

Jarlen looks freaked.

Jarlen Mather: I delivered a pizza on Greene Avenue around 11:20, and that singing drunk was there. You might be right. It might be a serial killer!

CUT TO: Jarlen is at the police department, reporting whatís been going on.

Officer Jones: All you have is a ďsinging drunkĒ?

Jarlen Mather: I know itís not much to go on, but itís something. Maybe heís not a drunk at all. I just assumed he was drunk. I mean who sings loudly past 11 at night? Either someone whoís inconsiderate or drunk.

Officer Jones: It doesnít make sense. The killers used a different modus operandi each time. The first victim was stabbed, the second was strangled and the third was bludgeoned.

Jarlen Mather: Okay, well there you go. Theyíre purposely using a different M.O. each time. Probably so you wonít suspect itís the same person, and theyíre plan is working. And I know you were being fancy by using the term ďmodus operandi,Ē but seriously, just say ďM.O.Ē

Officer Jones: Look, you may be right, but youíre starting to piss me off. So, weíll take the information youíve given us into consideration and have a nice day, Mr. Mather.

CUT TO: Jarlen is out late again delivering pizzas to the hungry citizens of Springfield. As heís walking back to his car he hears that same man singing loudly again. He looks in the direction of where the voice is coming from but doesnít see anybody. He gets in his car and drives towards the singer. All of a sudden, thereís silence. Jarlen doesnít see anybody, but he notices a door to a house is ajar. He pulls in the driveway and gets out. Once on the porch, he slowly opens the door further.

Jarlen Mather: Is anybody home?

No one responds.

Jarlen Mather: Donít be afraid. I come in peace. I just saw your door was opened and, being a concerned citizen, figured Iíd check on you.

Thereís still no response. He looks closer and sees what he believes to be a dead body on the floor. He feels around on the wall for a switch and then turns the lights on. Yep. Thereís a dead body. Scared, he instantly turns the lights out and calls the police.

CUT TO: Jarlen is at home with Tera.

Jarlen Mather: You were right, babe. Itís the singing guy thatís been doing the killings. I mean I canít prove that just yet, but itís gotta be him.

Tera Mather: You realize you donít have to prove anything. Youíre not a cop.

Jarlen Mather: Well no, but Iím in this now. Besides this guy is killing potential customers. So, itís personal.

Tera Mather: I didnít marry a police officer. I married a pizza delivery guy.

Jarlen Mather: You married a man who likes to help people. I donít need to be on the police force for that.

Tera Mather: Iím just worried something might happen to you. Please just let the police handle this. Stay out of it.

Jarlen Mather: I, butÖ well. Okay, fine. Iíll just deliver pizza.

Tera Mather: You promise?

Jarlen Mather: Yeah.

Jarlen doesnít want to lie to his wife but he also wants to remain involved.

CUT TO: Itís another Thursday night and Jarlen is out to give a pizza and pop to his new homeless friend, Henry Hobart.

Henry Hobart: Thank you again, Jarlen.

Jarlen Mather: Youíre Welcome. Iíve gotta say Iím glad to see youíre still here. Itís been scary lately with all those murders.

Henry Hobart: Murders? Where?

Jarlen Mather: All over the city. I believe itís the same guy.

Henry Hobart: Why do you think that?

Jarlen Mather: Because every night that I hear this strange guy walking down the street, singing loudly, the next day I find out thereís been a murder. Except one night, I was the person who discovered the body. And this was moments after I heard the guy sing.

Henry Hobart: Uh-huh, well. How do you expect me to go to sleep on my favorite bench, knowing thereís a crazed killer on the loose?

Jarlen Mather: Iím sorry. I thought you knew.

Henry Hobart: I donít have a cell phone with internet access. I donít read the paper. I donít watch television. I live a clueless-to-my-surroundings life. Iíve always enjoyed it until now.

Jarlen Mather: Canít you stay in a shelter until the cops get this guy?

Henry Hobart: Things are a bit weird between one of the women who stays there and me. I donít want to deal with the drama.

Jarlen Mather: Look, this guy is clearly killing people in their homes.

Henry Hobart: (happy) And I donít have a home!

Jarlen Mather: Exactly. Youíre safe!

Henry Hobart: Now weíre so happy, we do the dance of joy!

Jarlen Mather: Huh?

Henry Hobart: Sorry - Ď80s sitcom reference.

CUT TO: Inside Kramdenís Pizza Parlor. Mr. Kramden spots Jarlen.

Mr. Kramden: Jarlen, I need to talk to you.

Jarlen Mather: What is it, Mr. Kramden? Youíre here kind of late.

Mr. Kramden: Iím putting you back on your old shift.

Jarlen Mather: Why?

Mr. Kramden: Because thereís a serial killer on the loose, and itís just too dangerous to have you delivering pizzas around midnight.

Jarlen Mather: Are you worried about me?

Mr. Kramden: Look, I just donít want one of my employees beingÖ you knowÖ brutally murdered while on the job.

Jarlen Mather: Yeah but whoever has the late shift is going to have to deal with this threat.

Mr. Kramden: No. Youíre the only person fool enough to try and get involved in taking this killer down.

Jarlen Mather: Why is everybody against me capturing a killer?

Mr. Kramden: Because itís not your job. After tonightís shift, take the next day off and then return to your old shift. The master has spoken.

Jarlen Mather: Okay, if you want me to stop referring to myself as ďJarlen Mather, P.D.Ē then Iím gonna have to ask that you stop referring to yourself as ďThe Master.Ē

CUT TO: Jarlen returns to Henry Hobart with a pizza and pop around 11 at night.

Henry Hobart: Whatís this? Itís not Thursday.

Jarlen Mather: I know, but this is my last night on the late shift, so I thought Iíd bring you a pizza tonight.

Henry Hobart: Iím going to miss them. Iíve grown accustomed to the pizzas.

Jarlen Mather: Yeah, I shouldn't let my shift change effect your eating. I'll still get you pizzas every week but itíll have to be earlier in the day.

Henry Hobart: Oh, okay then. Sounds good.

Jarlen Mather: So, have you seen anything strange going on tonight?

Henry Hobart: You mean a musical murderer? No. I havenít.

Jarlen Mather: Well maybe he wonít strike tonight.

CUT TO: Oswald Smitty, the man whoís been doing all the killings, knocks on a door to a house he sees has lights on inside. Heís got a gun in his jacket pocket as he plans to shoot this victim. A woman in her mid-forties, named Jodi Brock, answers the door.

Jodi Brock: Yes?

Oswald Smitty: My car broke down and Iím one of the few people on Earth who doesnít have a cell phone. I know this is an imposition, and you donít know me, but could I come in and use your phone? I need to call my wife to let her know Iím okay.

Jodi is uncomfortable at the thought of letting this stranger in, but decides against her better judgment.

Jodi Brock: Okay. Sure. My phone is right in here.

She walks to the phone. Oswald turns around and quietly closes the door and locks it. He then continues following her.

CUT TO: Jarlen and Henry are still chatting.

Jarlen Mather: Listen, I have one more pizza to deliver. Itís just down the road here. But Iíll be back and we can chat some more.

Henry Hobart: Sounds good.

Jarlen decides to walk the pizza to its destination. Itís just a few houses down from where Henry is sitting, eating his food. Jarlen knocks on the door. Jodi is tied up and gagged. Sheís scared for her life as Oswald has his gun aimed at her. The knock at the door frightens him.

Oswald Smitty: Whoíd be knocking on your door at this hour?

Jodi is unable to speak with her mouth gagged. Suddenly they both hearÖ

Jarlen Mather: Jodi Brock? Iím here with your pizza.

Oswald guides Jodi down the hall into another room.

Oswald Smitty: You stay here and donít make any noise or the pizza guy gets it, too.

Oswald heads over to - and opens - the front door.

Oswald Smitty: It smells delicious. How much do I owe you?

Jarlen Mather: Youíre not Jodi Brock.

Oswald Smitty: No, Iím not. Youíre very perceptive. Iím Jodiís brother. Iím visiting from out of town.

Jarlen Mather: Really? Because Jodi told me she was the sole survivor of her immediate family. You see, I take the time to get to know the people in these neighborhoods as I deliver pizza to them.

Oswald Smitty: I donít know what to tell you, bub. She lied to you to gain your sympathy, I guess. Iím her brother.

Jarlen Mather: (hollers) Jodi, are you okay?

Oswald takes out his gun and presses it against Jarlenís stomach.

Oswald Smitty: Sheís fine. You, on the other hand, are in a world of trouble.

Jarlen Mather: Sing for me.

Oswald Smitty: Huh?

Jarlen Mather: Just sing.

Oswald starts to quietly sing his trademark song.

Oswald Smitty: ♪ Tiptoe to my window. By my window, that is where Iíll be. Come tiptoe through the tulips with me. ♪

Jarlen Mather: Is she alive?

Oswald Smitty: At the moment.

Jarlen punches Oswald in the face, knocking him down to the floor, and runs into the house, searching for Jodi.

Oswald Smitty: You son of a bitch!

Jarlen finds Jodi and immediately opens a window. He picks her up and puts her through it to hide her from the psychotic killer. She lands safely outside before Oswald barges into the room and shoots at Jarlen. He misses. Jarlen runs towards the gunmanÖ and right past him. Oswald takes another shot and again misses his live target. Hearing some commotion, Henry looks over and sees Jarlen running towards him. Heís confused.

Jarlen Mather: (yelling) Henry! Get in my car! Now!

Henry goes over to the vehicle, but itís locked.

Henry Hobart: Doorís locked!

Jarlen Mather: Crap!

Thereís another gunshot as Oswald attempts to kill the pizza delivery guy, though he misses yet again. Jarlen takes out his keys and throws them at Henry.

Jarlen Mather: Get in the passenger seat and start the engine!
The keys, however, land under the car and Henry canít get them.

Henry Hobart: Thisíll take a minute!

Jarlen Mather: New planÖ. RUN!!!!

Now both Jarlen and Henry are running away from Oswald, who begins singing his song while heís chasing after them.

Henry Hobart: Wait!

Henry and Jarlen suddenly stop.

Jarlen Mather: What?

Henry Hobart: I just found a quarter on the ground.

He bends over and picks it up and puts it in his breast pocket. They continue running.

Henry Hobart: So, I think I know who the killer is!

Jarlen Mather: Who?

Henry Hobart: The guy shooting at us!

Jarlen Mather: That would be MY guess, too!

The guys cut through peopleís yards, trying to lose this guy, which for a moment they do. The two stop to catch their breath.

Henry Hobart: So, whatís the plan? Are we going to run away from this guy or catch him?

Jarlen Mather: Youíre right. We canít let him get away. I happen to know a police officer lives down the road. Letís head to his house and lead the singing killer right to a cop.

They both start running again, and sure enough Oswald spots them and continues chasing. He shoots a few more times and misses. Clearly using a gun isnít his best method for killing. Jarlen and Henry end up at the police officerís house and get on his porch and begin knocking on the door. Thereís no response.

Jarlen Mather: Uh-oh. Heís almost here!

Oswald gets to the house and points his gun at the duo.

Oswald Smitty: End of the line. And not a moment too soon. Iím exhausted.

Oswald shoots Henry in the chest. He goes down.

Jarlen Mather: No!

Oswald Smitty: And now to do to you what I did to your hobo friend.

Jarlen Mather: Not to mention all those others you killed recently.

Oswald Smitty: How did you know it was me? I used different methods each time. Quite clever, if I do say so myself.

Jarlen Mather: I was outside almost every night you killed someone. Iíd hear you singing that stupid ďTiptoe Through the TulipsĒ song. Whatís up with that?

Oswald Smitty: I just really love that song - big Tiny Tim fan - and killing brings me such joy. I love belting it out after a good murder.

Jarlen Mather: Youíre psychotic.

Oswald Smitty: And?

Jarlen Mather: Well, IÖ

Oswald Smitty: Iím going to shoot you, and if you donít die in thirty minutes or less, your killing is free.

Jarlen Mather: I get that youíre referencing pizza delivery but it really doesnít make much sense in this case.

Oswald Smitty: Iím psychotic. What do I care?

Just as Oswald is about to pull the trigger, the front door busts open and the police officer has a gun of his own.

Officer Jones: Drop your weapon! I heard the whole conversation! You, sir, are under arrest for countless murders in Springfield!

The killer drops his gun and raises his hands. Jarlen tends to Henry.

Jarlen Mather: Henry! Iím so sorry I got you involved in this. Iím going to call 911.

Henry Hobart: Wait a second. That hurt like Hell, but I think Iím going to be okay.

Jarlen Mather: What makes you say that?

Henry pulls out the quarter from his breast pocket, the one he slipped in
there during the chase.

Henry Hobart: He shot my quarter.

Jarlen begins to laugh out of relief and then helps Henry up to his feet. The two men watch Officer Jones cuff Oswald.

CUT TO: Jarlen is at home, telling Tera about what had happened.

Jarlen Mather: So, everything worked out. I helped catch the serial killer. Henry survived being shot, thanks to a quarter in his pocket, and Kramden put me back on my old shift. I feel good.

Tera Mather: (angry) What Iím hearing is that you broke your promise to me, to not get involved.

Jarlen Mather: Well, uh, I mean. I didnít seek the guy out. He was at the house I was delivering to. Are you mad?

Tera Mather: Yup.

She gets up and walks into the other room.

Jarlen Mather: ďLetís get married,Ē she said. ďItíll be nothing but joyful bliss,Ē she said.

CUT TO: Jarlen gets on the porch of a customer and rings the bell. A Man comes up and opens the door.

Jarlen Mather: Hi. Jarlen Mather, pizza delivery.

Jarlen looks behind the man and sees a frightened young lady. She mouths the words ďhelp me.Ē

Jarlen Mather: Here we go again.

Jarlen drops the pizza as he rams both fists into the male customerís stomach.


Last edited by Adamantium; 03-18-2020 at 08:06 AM.
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Old 03-09-2020, 07:17 AM   #4
TVAdam No More
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Join Date: Sep 11, 2002
Location: Springfield, Ohio
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The Badass Banta Bowler
Issue #1. The Greatest Bowler in the World
Released on March 9, 2020

Main Characters: Banta Bowler/Michael Forman, Pat, Stephanie Banta & Darnell Simpson
Guest Characters: Elvis Pinson, Doctor Whetstone, Officer Jones & Mindy Dalton
Attached Images

Last edited by Adamantium; 03-09-2020 at 07:58 AM.
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Old 03-09-2020, 07:57 AM   #5
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The Badassery BeginsÖ

Inside the Banta Bowling Alley. Pat is running the counter, when a man approaches.

Pat: Welcome to the Banta Bowling Alley. How can I help you?

Man: You can give me all the money in the register.

He shows off his gun, which causes Pat to slyly push the purple button under the counter. He then pretends to be afraid.

Pat: Okay, I will. Just, uh, bear with me. Iím nervous.

Man: Nothing to be nervous about as long as you do what I say.

Pat: Then thatís exactly what Iíll do Ė what you say. Let me just open the register and take out all of the money and then hand it to you. Would you like it in a bag?

Man: Of course, I want it in a bag!

He hands Pat a bag for the money.

Pat: Then, you know what, in a bag it shall be in.

Man: Just do it.

Pat: ďNike,Ē I like that.

Man: Hurry up and put the money in the bag!

Pat: Everybodyís in a hurry these days.

Banta Bowler is standing behind the man. His palm opens up and a bowling ball emerges. He then takes hold of the ball.

Pat: Letís get that money so you can be on your way. I donít want to hold you up. No pun intended.

Pat puts all the money in the bag, but instead of handing it to the crook, he tosses it behind the guy, who then turns around to see Banta Bowler standing there. The hero punches the crook in the face with his bowling ball. The man goes down, knocked out cold.

Pat: Strike!

Banta Bowler: You know what to do. Call Officer Jones.

Pat: Right. On it.

Banta Bowler: If you need me, Iíll be in the break room.

Pat: Brooding?

Banta Bowler: Itís what I do.

He heads to the break room as Pat begins to call the cops.

CUT TO: Roberts-Sloan Mental Hospital. Elvis Pinson, main nemesis of The Banta Bowler, walks down the hallway and knocks on the door of psychiatrist,
Doctor Whetstone. The good doctor answers.

Doctor Whetstone: Come in.

Elvis enters and sits down.

Doctor Whetstone: Good afternoon, Elvis. Iím the new psychiatrist here. However, just because Iím new to this facility, doesnít mean Iím new to my field. In fact, I worked at Kroger for a few years and treated most of the villains after they were reformed. But enough about me. How are you doing today?

Elvis Pinson: Hopeful for the future. Iím due to leave this place in a couple of weeks. My sentence is up for my crimes. I have to admit, Iím glad I was sent here instead of an actual prison. I wouldnít last in prison.

Doctor Whetstone: Well from my understanding, at you trial, you plead insanity, and therefore were sent here. But you seem to be reformed, and the head of this facility feels you can lead a normal, productive life in society again. Just know that if any of your crimes repeat, you will go to prison instead of back here.

Elvis Pinson: I understand.

Doctor Whetstone: SoÖ anything else on your mind?

Elvis Pinson: My whole adult life, my goal was to be the worldís greatest bowler. I created a serum that I believe would have given me the talents to claim that title, butÖ something happened. I donít remember what. Itís a complete blank. Shortly thereafter, the Banta Bowler came to be. I often wonder if he stole my serum. I just wish I could remember the events leading up to that.

Doctor Whetstone: Are you opposed to being hypnotized?

Elvis Pinson: Not if it will help.

Doctor Whetstone puts Elvis under. A couple minutes later, the scientist recalls what went down in his lab that fateful day. His brain is filled with the memories long lost. It was Michael Forman who entered his lab and was doused with the serum. Elvis remains sitting on his chair with a goofy grin on his face.

Doctor Whetstone: Uh, Elvis. Youíre kind of creeping me out. Youíre out of the trance now. Is everything okay?

Elvis Pinson: Everything is wonderful. You helped me, Doc. Thank you for your time!

Doctor Whetstone: Hey, it was just a couple of minutes.

Elvis Pinson: Never underestimate the power of just a couple of minutes.

Doctor Whetstone: Iíll have to use that line on my wife.

CUT TO: The Banta Bowling Alley Ė Michael Forman is sitting in the break room with the lights out. Pat enters and immediately flips the switch, turning the lights back on.

Michael Forman: Hey, whyíd you do that?

Pat: Turn the lights on? Because itís dark in here.

Michael Forman: Which represents my soul.

Pat: You know, Mike, Iím tired of this. Why are you so dark? You donít have a horrific origin story like Batman or The Punisher. No one was killed to get you where you are now. You even captured Elvis Pinson a couple of years ago. Yet you act so gloomy all the time. I donít get it.

Michael Forman: Itís called depression. You donít need to have your family gunned down in order to get it.

Pat: Thereís anti-depressants.

Michael Forman: You know how I feel about medication. I donít even take pills for a headache.

Pat: I know. You *love* a good headache. It helps to keep you in a bad mood.

Michael Forman: Forget that. What are you doing here?

Pat: I just came to grab my lunch out of the fridge. My girlfriend is on her way, and weíre having a picnic outside. Itís a little thing called romance. You know about romance, donít you?

Michael Forman: I should. Iím dating Stephanie.

Pat: Another reason not to be down all the time.

Pat grabs his lunch from the fridge and returns to the doorway.

Michael Forman: Turn off the lights on your way out.

Pat does as heís told. Michael continues his sour mood in the dark.

CUT TO: Two weeks later. Michael Forman is at the counter of the little restaurant inside the bowling alley. Darnell Simpson enters the room.

Darnell Simpson: Oh, hey man. Whatíll it be today?

Michael Forman: Iíd like a pizza burger and fries.

Darnell Simpson: No drink?

Michael Forman: Nah, Iím getting a 20 ounce out of the machine.

Darnell Simpson: Okay, thatíll be six bucks.

Michael hands Darnell the money.

Darnell Simpson: Thank you. So, is Stephanie coming in today?

Michael Forman: Just because Iím dating her, Iím supposed to know her schedule?

Darnell Simpson: WellÖ yeah.

Michael Forman: Sheís off today.

Pat enters the room.

Pat: Michael, can we talk?

Michael Forman: Can it wait? Iím about to have lunch.

Pat: I just got wordÖ they let Elvis Pinson out of the institution today. Heís a free man.

Michael Forman: Oh, really? Not a big deal.

Pat: WHAT!?! You were obsessed with catching him!

Michael Forman: (quietly) Whatís say we walk away from Simpson before we start discussing the matter?

They walk over and sit down at one of the tables. Darnell goes back in the kitchen to make the pizza burger and fries.

Pat: So, whatís up? Why arenít you more bothered by this?

Michael Forman: I got him. I did my part. What happened to him after I turned him over to the cops isnít my concern. He didnít kill anybody. He doesnít deserve life in prison or anything. Before you think Iíve snapped, youíre right. This *did* bug me when I first heard about it, but Iíve made peace with it now.

Pat: So, thereís no problem then?

Michael Forman: Nope. Pinson can do whatever he wants. Heís a free man and Iím fine with that.

CUT TO: Elvis Pinson is sitting in his car in the bowling alley parking lot. Once Michael Forman exits and gets into his car, Pinson follows him. After a five-minute drive, Michael makes it to his house. Stephanie is there waiting for him. Elvis watches on as she goes up to Michael and kisses him.

Elvis Pinson: So, youíre dating the boss lady. Thatís some useful information.

Elvis drives off. Michael walks Stephanie inside his house.

Michael Forman: Thanks for meeting me here, babe. I hate to get right to the point, but thereís something I have to tell you.

Stephanie Banta: Are you cheating on me?

Michael Forman: What? No.

Stephanie Banta: So then, youíre dumping me?

Michael Forman: No. Boy, the men you dated in the past have really done a number on you.

Stephanie Banta: Keep talking like that and *Iíll* be the one who dumps *you*.

Michael Forman: Fair enough. Iím sorry. Look, Iím not cheating on Ė nor dumping Ė you. But what I have to say *is* serious.

Stephanie Banta: You have cancer?

Michael Forman: No. Do you want to keep guessing or can I just tell you?

Stephanie Banta: Just tell me already.

Michael Forman: You and I have been dating for a few years now. Iím very happy with you. Youíre the best thing thatís ever happened to me, Steph.

Stephanie Banta: Yes!

Michael Forman: ďYes,Ē you agree youíre the best thing thatís ever happened to me?

Stephanie Banta: No. Youíre going to ask me to marry you. ďYes,Ē I accept.

Michael Forman: No, thatís not it. I mean, one day, definitely. Youíre the one I want to spend my life with, but thatís not what Iím trying to say now.

Stephanie Banta: Well, you wanna speed this up?

Michael Forman: Fine. You know how our alley has a superhero?

Stephanie Banta: How?

Michael Forman: No. Iím saying, you know *that* our alley has a superhero?

Stephanie Banta: Well, of course Ė The Banta Bowler.

Michael Forman: Yes. Iím him. Thatís me. Iím The Banta Bowler.

Stephanie Banta: *Youíre* The Banta Bowler?

Michael Forman: You say that as if thereís no way I could possibly be him, yet I am.

Stephanie Banta: Iím just stunned. I mean, how?

Michael Forman: Back in 2014, I was doused with some chemicals by Elvis Pinson. It gave me some powers. Iím not only the greatest bowler in the world, but I can also create bowling balls from my body. I just stick out my arm, the palm of my hand opens up, and a bowling ball comes out. Also, I have super strength. Not Hulk levels, but stronger than I was. So, what do you think about this?

Stephanie Banta: Were you ever going to tell me?

Michael Forman: I just did.

Stephanie Banta: You kept this secret from me for four years? How could you?

Michael Forman: Superheroes keep their identities a secret. Itís kind of their thing.

Stephanie Banta: Who else knows?

Michael Forman: Just Pat, I swear. And thatís only because he figured it out one day.

CUT TO: The next day. Mindy Dalton (of The Masked Bagger fame) enters the restaurant in the alley. She walks up to the counter. Darnell is there. They instantly recognize one another, because he worked at Kroger 717 for a few months in early 2019.

Mindy Dalton: Darnell, howís it going?

Darnell Simpson: Oh, hi, Miss Dalton. Itís going fine. So far, this job seems right up my alley. Pun intended.

Mindy Dalton: Haha, well we miss you down at Kroger, but at least youíre happy here.

Darnell Simpson: How is everyone at the Ďol 717?

Mindy Dalton: Good. Chris Ward has moved to third shift. Katie Collins left to go into management training. So, pretty soon, sheíll actually be manager at one of the stores. Hailieís pregnant. Mr. Bartlett isÖ well, Mr. Bartlett.

Darnell Simpson: I miss them. Well, not Bartlett. So, what can I get you?

Mindy Dalton: Iíd like a large pepperoni pizza. Iím bringing it to the huddle today.

Darnell Simpson: Okay, thatíll be $10.75.

She pays him.

Darnell Simpson: Thatíll also be a fifteen-minute wait. Iíll let you know when itís done.

Mindy Dalton: Thatís fine.

Michael Forman walks in and spots Mindy. His face lights up.

Michael Forman: Mindy! Howíve you been?

They both hug. Remember, as members of the Level Defenders, the two of them went to planet Scrom and fought in a war together. So, theyíre good friends.

Darnell Simpson: How do you two know each other?

Michael Forman: Springfieldís a small city. Everybody knows everybody.

They walk out of the restaurant.

Mindy Dalton: So, youíre still doing the whole Banta Bowler thing?

Michael Forman: Yeah. You still Retail-Red?

Mindy Dalton: Oh, no. Thereís been no need ever since Masked Bagger retired and went home. But Iíve kept the suitÖ just in case.

CUT TO: Michael and Pat are in the break room.

Michael Forman: I told Stephanie that Iím the Banta Bowler.

Pat: What? When?

Michael Forman: Yesterday, after work.

Pat: Well, whatíd she say?

Michael Forman: Sheís not happy about the lying and deceiving I did. She said weíre not broken up, but she needs a few days to process this information.

Pat: Gosh, I always thought that telling the woman you love that youíre a superhero would get you laid that very instant.

Michael Forman: Me, too.

Suddenly, Officer Jones enters the break room.

Officer Jones: Michael, thereís been an accident at your house.

Michael Forman: What happened?

Officer Jones: We donít know all the details yet, but a bomb went off and your home has been destroyed.

Michael Forman: Was anybody hurt?

Officer Jones: No, thank God. But there was a note addressed to you.

He hands Michael the note, who reads it to himself. Then, in a fit of rage, he crumples the note up and throws it to the floor.

Michael Forman: Elvis Pinson!

CUT TO: Michael and Pat arrive at the chard ruins of Formanís home.

Pat: Look at that. Iím so sorry, man.

Michael Forman: He knows Iím the Banta Bowler. He must have finally remembered. I knew it was only a matter of time before heíd recover those damn memories.

Pat: Do you think he thought you were home?

Michael Forman: No. He left the note, remember? Heís just trying to destroy everything around me, first. He said ďThree Pins.Ē If heís trying to knock down all ten pins of my life, and my house is just three of them, I wonder what could be next.

Patís cell phone rings. He answers it.

Pat: Hello. (pauses) Youíre kidding me. (pauses) Was anybody hurt? (pauses) Thank God. Iíll be right there!

Michael Forman: What happened?

Pat: Elvis Pinson just blew up the bowling alley. It looks pretty much the same as your house right now.

Michael Forman: The bowling alley? I take it by your ďthank GodĒ that nobody was hurt?

Pat: Nope. Darnell discovered the bomb and escorted everyone out. By ďeveryone,Ē I mean the ONE customer. Business has really been down lately.

CUT TO: The duo return to the now chard ruins of the Banta Bowling Alley. Forman finds a note on the ground. He picks it up.

Michael Forman: ďTwo Pins.Ē Really, my house is three but my workplace is only two?

Pat: Thatís too high a number if you ask me.

Michael Forman: Thatís five. Five more to go. I literally only go from home to work and back again. Thereís nothing else he could destroy.

Pat: I just had a horrible thought. What if itís not something, but rather someone?

Michael Forman: Stephanie!

CUT TO: Elvis Pinsonís inside an abandoned warehouse, where he has Stephanie Banta tied up to a giant bowling pin.

Elvis Pinson: You are worth five pins. You have no idea what Iím talking about, but trust me, thatís a compliment.

Stephanie Banta: What are you doing this for, Elvis? Is it because I fired you?

Elvis Pinson: Of course not. Wait, you fired me? When was this?

Stephanie Banta: You stopped coming to work and then you showed up one night, threatening to kill everybody in the building. That was the debut of the Banta Bowler. This all eventually lead to you spending a couple years in an insane asylum. Did you really think you still had a job there?

Elvis Pinson: I guess I didnít give it any thought. Never mind that. Your predicament is all because of the Banta Bowler, or as heís also knownÖ Michael Forman!

Stephanie Banta: Yeah, I knew that, already.

Elvis Pinson: (embarrassed) Oh, you did? I wasnít sure. I mean, it's supposed to be called a "secret identity," but whatever.

CUT TO: Since he left his outfit in the trunk of his car, Michael made the transformation into Banta Bowler. He and Pat end up at Stephanieís house, no on one is there.

Banta Bowler: Stephanie! Are you here!?!

Thereís no response.

Pat: Thereís no response.

Banta Bowler: I know that! Where could he have taken her?

Suddenly, fifty or so pin-people pop up out of nowhere and surround the Bowler and Pat.

Pat: Just for the record, I donít know how to fight.

Banta Bowler: I didnít my first time, either. But itís either fight or die. Youíll learn.

The two start to fight the pin-people. Bantaís punching and kicking like a madman. Pat is doing his best, but taking a few punches. When it looks like Pat is being cornered, Banta Bowler comes over and rescues him by focusing on those pins to beat up. The pin-people were sent there to bring the hero to the villain. So, as the fight is happening, the henchmen are moving out of the house and down the road. The heroes donít even realize theyíre on the move. Theyíre so busy fighting, their location isnít even on their minds. The fight goes on and on. As pin-people are killed off, new ones enter the fight to replace them. Itís ongoing.

Pat: Iím exhausted, dude. Where the hell are they coming from?

Banta Bowler: I have no idea, but just keep doing what youíre doing!

Pat: Iíve got a better idea.

Pat runs away.

Banta Bowler: Thatís an idea, though I wouldnít call it ďbetter.Ē

CUT TO: Itís a while later and the hero and pins are now outside the warehouse. Elvis Pinson is watching with delight as the real fight is about to begin. Banta Bowler punches a pin-person so hard; it breaks through the door of the warehouse. The hero takes a peek inside and notices a giant bowling alley lane.

Banta Bowler: What is this?

Elvis Pinson: The tenth frame! If I get a strike, I win!

Banta Bowler sees Stephanie tied to the number one pin in a set of giant pins at the end of the lane. He looks at the opposite end and notices a giant bowling ball.

Banta Bowler: Whatís going on here, Pinson? Giant pins, giant ball. You overcompensating for something?

Elvis Pinson: I press a button and that big Ďol bowling ball goes rolling down the lane and will get me the strike I so richly deserve.

The baddie looks closely at Stephanie.

Elvis Pinson: Oh my. It looks like our boss and your lover, Stephanie Banta, is tied up to the head pin. She will certainly be killed on impact, but just think of how good it will feel for me to win this game with a three hundred score. Thatís a perfect score, you know? Something like that is bound to make me the worldís greatest bowler.

Banta Bowler: Getting ONE three hundred game doesnít qualify you for the title of ďWorldís Greatest Bowler.Ē Getting three hundred of them does. Never being able to get below a three hundred, no matter how hard you try does. Donít forget who youíre talking to. Iím the worldís greatestÖ

Elvis Pinson: (angry) Donít say it! Iím so sick and tired of hearing that phrase! It was my dream. Like your dream was to see Stephanie naked. You somehow managed to achieve that dream. At least Iím assuming, since youíve been dating for years now. But my dream was in my graspÖ and YOU stole it from me!

Banta Bowler: If you had your secret lab somewhere besides the workplace, I never would have been down there. Then, you could have used the serum on yourself and entered plenty of bowling tournaments or whatever you planned to do with that title. I didnít ask for any of this, but this is the card I was dealt.

Elvis Pinson: The bowling alley was my second home. I loved it there. I hired some Scrominians to build me a lab. Iím sorry, Scrominians are an alien raceÖ

Banta Bowler: (interrupts) I *know* who the Scrominians are!

Elvis Pinson: Not everybody does. Take a chill pill. So anyways, once I had my lab, I began creating. I made those pin-people using a mixture of human DNA, some wood, plastic and other ingredients I wonít go into because it would cause you to judge me harshly.

Banta Bowler: That ship has sailed.

Elvis Pinson: One might say I became a ďmad scientist,Ē but I hate that term. Especially since itís true in my case. Despite everything I could create, I still had but one goal Ė to be the best bowler on Earth. To dazzle everyone with my feats of bowling talent. So, I began working on a serum. Next thing I know, YOU barge into my lab and steal my dream! I hate you, Michael Forman!

Banta Bowler: The feelingís mutual.

Elvis Pinson: And now look at you. Youíre a superhero for crying out loud.

Banta Bowler: And I keep pin-scum like you in your place!

Elvis Pinson: I made you! Well not that silly costume. Yikes.

Banta Bowler: Silly? You think *this* is silly?

Banta Bowler then head-butts Pinson, knocking him out. The bowler drops him to the floor. Ten pin-people arrive to attack the Bowler.

Banta Bowler: Not them again!

They fight for a few minutes. During the battle, Pinson comes to and gets up.

Elvis Pinson: I want to get a good view for the crushing!

He runs over to the side of the middle of the lane, where heíll be able to watch the giant bowling ball ram into Stephanie, killing her on impact. He takes out a little remote control and presses a button. The giant ball is ejected and begins rolling down the lane.

Stephanie Banta: Michael, help me!

Banta Bowler looks over at her and notices whatís going on. He ditches the pin-people and runs as fast as he can, managing to get alongside the giant ball.

Banta Bowler: Stephanie!

Not knowing what else to do, he rams into the ball from the side. Thanks to his super strength, the ball is knocked off course and slams right into Elvis. Banta goes over and unties Stephanie.

Stephanie Banta: Michael! I knew youíd save me!

Banta Bowler: One of the perks to dating a superhero.

Stephanie Banta: Yeah, but I wouldnít need that perk if we werenít dating to begin with.

Banta Bowler: I guess youíre right. So, does this meanÖ

Stephanie Banta: I love you, Michael. I want to be with you.

They hug and then kiss. Meanwhile, the pin-people surround Elvis Pinson. The bowling hero turns around and spots this. He then walks over to his arch nemesis to discover that heís dead.

Banta Bowler: Heís dead.

Stephanie Banta: You had no choice, Mike.

Banta Bowler: I didnít intentionally kill him. I was just preventing the ball from hitting you. He shouldnít have been standing where he wasÖ or, you know, done any of this stuff to begin with.

Stephanie Banta: Letís go back to the alley.

Banta Bowler: Um, about that. Thereís no bowling alley anymore. Pinson had it blown up.

Stephanie Banta: What?

Banta Bowler: Heís a madman. *Was* a madman. Can I stay with you for a while?

Stephanie Banta: (excited) Is this a proposal?

Banta Bowler: No. Itís just, Elvis blew up my house, too.

CUT TO: The site of the bowling alley. Pat is standing at his spot, or whatís left of it. Michael enters the scene.

Pat: Mike, Iím sorry about bailing on you earlier. Iím glad to see youíre alive.

Michael Forman: Itís no biggie. Youíre not a superhero. I canít expect you to fight supernatural villains alongside me. But I thank you for sticking with me as long as you did. I got him, by the way. Elvis is dead.

Pat: You killed him? I didnít think you had it in you. I mean, I know youíre a gloomy Gus and all, but to actually murder someoneÖ

Michael Forman: No, it was an accident, but nevertheless, heís gone. I can begin to rebuild my life. And I mean that literally. I hate to do this, but we should call up some Scrominians to build the alley and my home. Iíll just stay away, as Iím still having flashbacks to the war I was in with them.

Pat: This place is lucky to have you as its hero. I mean it was until you, uh, let it get blown to smithereens.

Pat smiles at Michael. Michael doesnít return the smile.

Michael Forman: If you need me, Iíll be down in Pinsonís lab Ė the only thing that survived the blast.

Pat: Youíll be down there brooding?

Michael Forman: Itís what I do.

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Old 03-09-2020, 08:11 AM   #6
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Join Date: Sep 11, 2002
Location: Springfield, Ohio
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Stories of Level Projects
Issue #1. The Legend of Barney Kroger
Released on March 9, 2020
Host: Alfred Serling
Characters: Barney Kroger, Kenner, Kronenberger, Henry Preston, Jilmont-Creer, Kroger Devil, Masked Bagger & Time-Clock
Attached Images
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Old 03-09-2020, 08:12 AM   #7
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Join Date: Sep 11, 2002
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Alfred Serling: Hello, I’m Alfred Serling. I’ll be your host for “Stories of Level Projects.” As long as you continue reading, I’ll take you on a journey throughout the five different levels of Earth. Some of these stories will feature characters you already know, while others will introduce you to some interesting new ones. In this debut issue, we go back to continue the journey of Barney Kroger after Masked Bagger returned to 2014 in the tenth issue of The Masked Bagger, titled “Kroger Genesis.” Our story begins on a hot July day in 1883. The setting is The Great Western Tea Company. Kenner, a man in his mid-thirties, walks inside the building, prior to the store’s grand opening. An evil feeling comes over him…

Kenner: And Bingo was his name-o.

Just then, Barney Kroger walks up.

Barney Kroger: Hello, sir.

Kenner: Hi.

Barney Kroger: What, may I ask, are you doing here?

Kenner: I was just checking something out. Why?

Barney Kroger: Because I’ve bought this building and plan to turn it into a grocery store, which means you’re trespassing.

Kenner: I’m sorry. I didn’t know. However, I should warn you. I’m not like most people. I have a certain ability to detect when evil is present or on its way.

Barney Kroger: What are you insinuating? Are you calling me evil?

Kenner: No, of course not. I’m simply telling you this building is on a cursed land. A devil will be created once you open for business. You need to burn this place to the ground, and then you need to walk away and never look back. Buy a different store.

Barney Kroger: I can’t just buy a different store. I purchased this place with my life savings, three-hundred-seventy-two dollars. Do you see another three-hundred-seventy-two dollars just laying around for me to take and invest with?

Kenner: Only the owner of the land can defeat such evil. I can help out – and you have my offer – but I cannot do it without you. You have been warned again.

Kenner turns around and begins to walk away but then stops and looks back at Kroger.

Kenner: Best of luck with your grocery store, though you’ll need more than luck once the devil arrives.

He then hands Kroger a card with his telephone number on it.

Kenner: If you need my assistance, call that number. You *do* have a telephone, correct? I realize not everybody has one.

Barney Kroger: Of course, I do. I’m always up to date on modern technology. I also have wheels for my wagon.

CUT TO: Barney, standing behind the main counter, is picturing all of the hustle and bustle of a busy store. Just then, Henry Preston walks in.

Henry Preston: Mr. Kroger, I’m here for the big grand opening.

Barney Kroger: Wonderful.

Henry Preston: So, are we it? There’s no more employees?

Barney Kroger: Not yet. As time goes by, I’ll hire some more men to work here.

Henry Preston: Seems like we’re a bit unprepared.

Barney Kroger: That’s the booze talking, Preston.

Henry Preston: Come now, Mr. Kroger. I haven’t had a lick of the stuff in hours.

Barney Kroger: I wish to believe you, but you’re a known drunkard. If you weren’t my best friend’s sister’s husband’s third cousin, I would never have hired you.

Henry Preston: Stop with that nonsense. You hired me because your main competitor, Roy Carter, paid off people not to work here. I’m the only man you could get. And I want to thank you, Bill’s wife, Delilah’s brother, Stan’s best friend, Barney.

Barney Kroger: Very well. Let’s uh, clean up the place some. I’ll be in the back. You can sweep out front.

Barney leaves the room. Henry grabs a broom and goes outside. Just then, a flash of lightning appears, and two men arrive.

Masked Bagger: What’s this?

Time-Clock: Tag. You’re it!

The villain gets off the 717 Guardian and stands over him.

Time-Clock: I’m going to take off for a while. If you don’t find me by the time I leave this period, then you’re stuck here forever!

Masked Bagger: What? Where is “here”?

Time-Clock: I believe you mean *when* is here? For you see…

Henry Preston returns inside the store and sees the two strange-looking characters.

Henry Preston: I don’t believe it – a man made out of metal!

Time-Clock extends his left arm and shoots a laser beam at Henry, killing him instantly.

Time-Clock: Like I was saying; this is a time game.

The terrible time villain turns around and runs off. Masked Bagger rolls over to the late Henry Preston and checks on him. Yep, he’s dead.

Masked Bagger: Rest in peace, sir.

Masked Bagger stands up, still trying to figure out where he is. The store doesn’t look anything like what he’s used to. For one thing, it’s just one big room. There are no aisles or departments. Just a big counter with groceries on the shelves behind it. Masked Bagger heads for the door and steps outside. Bagger sees a man riding a horse and buggy. There are other people walking around, dressed up in clothes from the olden days. The 717 Guardian realizes he really has gone back in time.

Masked Bagger: Oh boy!

Masked Bagger walks back inside. Barney Kroger enters from the back room. He’s surprised to see a man in a mask there. After a short conversation with the Bagger – you can read “Kroger Genesis” for the full dialogue – Barney looks over and sees the late Henry Preston dead on the floor. Assuming he’s passed out drunk, Barney runs over to him.

Barney Kroger: Henry. Henry, are you soaked? Drinking whisky before we’re opening the store!

Masked Bagger: He’s dead. I saw the man who did it. He was also dressed in a costume.

Barney Kroger: Dead? It can’t be.

Masked Bagger: Looks like things are off to a rough start.

Barney Kroger: Are you evil? Did you kill Henry?

Masked Bagger: What? No! I swear. I’m the good guy.

Barney Kroger: Maybe that Kenner fella was right.

Masked Bagger: Who’s Kenner? Does he make toys? Because I think it’s time the world has it’s first wave of Masked Bagger action figures.

CUT TO: Out of the dirt, crawls an evil being. One day he will be known as The Kroger Devil, but for now, he’s simply a devil. He laughs as his full body is above ground. He looks ahead at The Great Western Tea Company and grins.

Kroger Devil: I have my very own playground.

CUT TO: While Masked Bagger has left the store briefly, searching for Time-Clock, Roy Carter, owner of Carter’s, the grocery store across the street from the upcoming business, enters.

Roy Carter: This is a fine establishment that you have here, Kroger.

Barney Kroger: Thank you.

Roy Carter: It will certainly be a shame to watch you have to close it down.

Barney Kroger: What would cause me to do such a foolish thing?

Roy Carter: For the reason being you are opening it across the street from Carter’s. Everybody in town knows and loves Carter’s.

Barney Kroger: No. They shop there because it’s the only place *in* town. I am giving the people an alternative. Besides, I shall take pride in what I sell. I am very particular in my merchandise.

Roy Carter: The people far prefer the comforts of a place they already know as opposed to some mysterious new business.

Barney Kroger: I’m not worried.

Roy Carter: (angry) You haven’t seen the last of me!

Barney Kroger: That’s grand because you’re welcome to shop here anytime.

Barney smiles but Roy groans and walks out.

CUT TO: Three days have passed. So much has happened. Barney hired Adam Hauck, who used the alias of Marty McFly, to be his first employee (replacing the deceased Preston). The business was an instant success, crushing the competition in such a short amount of time. Kroger Devil possessed Roy Carter into killing the store’s founder, but was unsuccessful, thanks to an appearance by the Masked Bagger. Later on, wanting to have some more fun, Kroger Devil makes his presence known. However, he’s interrupting a fight between Masked Bagger and Time-Clock.

Kroger Devil: Well, well, what do we have here? A man in a mask fighting a man in some freaky metal armor.

Masked Bagger: You answered your own question, Devil!

Kroger Devil: You don’t get to speak my name, Masky! I want to talk to the man in charge. Give me Kroger!

Barney walks outside.

Barney Kroger: I’m here. What do you want with me?

Kroger Devil: I’m gonna burn this place to the ground. I just want you to know that, and that there’s nothing you can do about it.

An army of little demons appear behind Kroger Devil. Their hands are made of fire, and they look anxious.

Barney Kroger: Just hold it right there. No one will harm my building, but even if they do, it won’t change anything. I’ll just rebuild. You can destroy the building but not the spirit of the man or his will to go on.

Kroger Devil: So, I have your permission to destroy the building?

Barney Kroger: Not quite.

Kroger Devil: Good. I like it better this way. Demons… destroy!

All the little demons run to the building. Masked Bagger runs in front of them and, as they try to enter, he kicks them away. This doesn’t stop them. It only slows them down. They are determined to get inside. The 717 Guardian doesn’t stop, either. He keeps on kicking them away from the building.

Barney Kroger: I know who you are, Devil. I was warned about you. I also know that I am the only person who can defeat you.

Barney runs for the Kroger Devil. They roll around on the ground for a little but, fighting. The demons are wore out. After a few minutes of wrestling a devil, Barney looks up and sees Kenner standing there. By this time, Masked Bagger and Time-Clock have returned to 2014. The hero had no choice. He had to leave then or never return to the future. Kenner takes out his M1879 Reichsrevolver and shoots the Kroger Devil. It phases him and he rolls off Barney.

Barney Kroger: Kenner! Thank the good Lord! I remember you telling me that only *I* could kill this devil?

Kenner: That’s true. He’s not dead. I’ve made contact with my friend, Kronenberger. I want you to come with me to meet him.

Barney Kroger: I’m rather busy at the moment. This is all rather exciting.

Kenner: Trust me, Kroger, you’ll want to come with me.

Barney Kroger: Where are we going?

Kenner: To another planet. It’s called Scrom.

Barney Kroger: Balderdash!

Kenner: You’ve just met a devil, which is of the supernatural realm, however, you think it insane that we travel to a different planet?

Barney Kroger: Exactly. We all know other planets exist besides Earth, however, there’s simply no way to reach one of them. So, just how do you expect us to?

Kenner: Kronenberger is going to open a beam of light and it will transport us there instantly.

Barney Kroger: I’ll say it again. Balder…

Just like that, the beam of light shines on the two men and they arrive at Scrom.

Barney Kroger: …dash!

He looks around, notices he’s in a different location and instantly passes out. Kronenberger looks concerned at Kenner.

Kronenberger: Will he be alright?

Kenner: Of course. You have to remember; we Earthlings don’t have this kind of technology yet. I’m one of the few humans to have visited your wonderful planet, so I’m immune to the ill effects of an alien environment.

Alfred Serling: Let me interrupt to answer the question that I’m sure is in your mind. What is Kronenberger doing here? He’s a character from “The Level Defenders” issue of Masked Bagger, which took place in 2017. Scrominians age slower than humans and have much longer life spans. Kronenberger was born in 1822, making him 61. They spend only a year a babies, twenty-nine years as kids and thirty years as “teenagers.” So, this particular Scrominian is the equivalency of a 20-year-old on Earth. The men have blue bodies and the women have pink bodies. Both sexes on Scrom are nude, while the men don’t have nipples. The sky is gray while the grass is purple. Other than that, Scrom resembles Earth greatly. One other difference is that Scrom is much more advanced than Earth, technologically speaking. Okay, back to the story. Barney wakes up…

Kenner: Kroger, will you be fine?

Barney Kroger: I shall. This is just a lot to take in. A planet other than Earth… and I arrived here in mere seconds? I cannot wait until I tell everybody back home!

Kenner: Uh, well, you can’t.

Barney Kroger: Why can’t I?

Kronenberger: Only a few select human beings know of us and that’s the way we’d like to keep it.

Kenner: Besides that, nobody will believe you. They’ll think you mad and have you committed.

Barney Kroger: But you would back me up?

Kenner: No.

Barney Kroger: Well in light of that, I suppose, I won’t tell anybody about this place.

Barney looks at Kronenberger and is disturbed by what he sees.

Barney Kroger: By George man! Where are your nipples?

Kronenberger: Nipples?

Barney Kroger: And for Heaven’s sake, put on some clothes! I can see your John Henry!

Kronenberger: Humans are so prudish. Scrominians have no need for clothing, and male Scrominians have no need for nipples.

Barney Kroger: Male Earthlings have no need for nipples either, but we *have* them! And I don’t care how un-prudish your people are, you should still cover that up. What if a lady should come across you?

Kronenberger: The ladies don’t wear clothes either.

Barney Kroger: That is so un-lady like!

Kronenberger: It’s simply not necessary. The weather here remains at 72 degrees. We don’t have rain or snow like your planet, and again, we’re not prudish or shy about our bodies.

Barney Kroger: Could you cover that thing up for me?

Kronenberger: Envious?

Barney Kroger: Hey now, my “business” is none of yours!

Kronenberger: Envious.

Barney Kroger: I am not!

Kenner: What’s say the two of you stop talking about who’s got the bigger dick and we get down to the reason of why we’re here? We don’t have a lot of time to spare, after all. The Devil could have already torched The Great Western Tea Company.

Kronenberger: “The Great Western Tea Company”? That’s a terrible name.

Barney Kroger: What is a better one?

Kronenberger: You should simply call it “Kroger.”

Barney Kroger: I’m not so egotistical as to name my own business after myself.

Kenner: Actually, I think “Kroger” has a better sound to it than “The Great Western Tea Company.” Kronen, here, has a good idea.

Barney Kroger: You know, now that I think of it, it really *is* a good sounding name Especially with a Carter’s across the street.

Kronenberger: Now that that’s taken care of, I understand you have a devil problem. I’m a scientist and inventor. I’ve come up with a way to capture a demon. He will be held for slightly over a century.

Barney Kroger: That’s a long time.

Kronenberger: No (BLEEP).

Barney Kroger: (appalled) And you Scrominians curse like sailors, too! Is there no decency in your race?

Kronenberger: Would you like my help in containing your devil or not?

Barney Kroger: Of course, I would.

Kronenberger: Then stop judging my people and shut up!

Barney turns to Kenner.

Barney Kroger: Are you going to let this alien talk to me that way?

Kenner: Yes, I am.

Barney Kroger: Well in that case… (turns to Kronenberger) anything you say.

Kronenberger: Very well. Now there is one thing that will stand in our way. The containment unit needs something to activate it. Something I don’t have in my lab.

Kenner: What’s that?

Kronenberger: It’s a substance called rusdix.

Barney Kroger: And where is this “rusdix” kept?

Kronenberger: Inside the palace of our lord and emperor, Jilmont-Creer.

Kenner: I don’t understand. You’ve done this before. You’ve given me plenty of containment units over the years. Why is it suddenly a problem?

Kronenberger: We’ve just had a change in lord and emperor recently. The previous man was kind and helpful. This new guy isn’t. We’ll have to sneak in and get it.

Barney Kroger: No. I don’t like this idea at all.

Kronenberger: Do you want your store to be devil-free or not?

Barney Kroger: Of course, I do, but this sounds far too risky. I’m not a fighter. I’m a grocer.

Kenner: We have to do this. Lucky for you, Krogs, I *am* a fighter.

Barney Kroger: Can you never call me “Krogs” again?

Kenner: Fight me over it.

Barney Kroger: Why would I fight you when there are Scrominians to fight?

Kenner: So, you’re in? Let’s go!

Kronenberger: One more thing. Earthlings aren’t well-liked in this planet. There is no way the two of you will be able to just up and enter the palace.

Kenner: What are you saying?

Kronenberger: You’ll both have to strip down and wear blue body makeup and wigs.

Barney Kroger: Absolutely not!

Barney turns to look at Kenner, who is already stripping off his clothes.

Kenner: You don’t have to tell me twice. This sounds exciting!

Kronenberger: That’s the spirit.

Kenner: Where do we hide our weapons?

Kronenberger: We’ll pose as soldiers. Which means we’ll have holsters for our guns. Lucky for you, modest Kroger, the holsters actually cover up your manhood and rear end. So, you won’t have to expose yourself… unless you want to.

Barney Kroger: I don’t.

Kronenberger: Well then, let me get you men some guns.

Kenner: No thanks. I’ve already got mine.

Kenner picks up his M1879 Reichsrevolver.

Kenner: Let’s go get us some rusty dicks!

Kronenberger: Rusdix.

Kenner: Right. What did I say?

CUT TO: Kronenberger, Kroger and Kenner (the latter two made up to look like Scrominians) are standing in front of the palace of Jilmont-Creer.

Barney Kroger: How do we enter the palace?

Kenner: We shoot our way in.

Kronenberger: Of course not! Jilmont-Creer has a strong admiration for soldiers. We’re welcomed at all times. This is their respite from the fray.

Barney Kroger: He sounds like a good man.

Kronenberger: Trust me. He’s not.

The Scrominian knocks on the front door. The palace guard opens it.

Palace Guard: Yes?

Kronenberger: Hello, sir. Just a trio of soldiers here, looking for a place to rest.

Palace Guard: Access… granted.

Kronenberger: Thank you.

The three men walk inside.

Palace Guard: Down the long hall to your left. Remain there as long as you’d like.

The guard closes the door and goes back to his post. The three guys walk down the hallway, in search of the room.

Barney Kroger: So, where is the rusdix kept?

Kronenberger: I haven’t a clue.

Barney Kroger: Say WHAT?

Kronenberger: Relax, human. We’ll find it and take it.

Just then, a guard who had overheard the three men, comes out and points his weapon at them.

Palace Guard #2: What do we have here? A trio of thieves! I overheard everything. You will be killed at once and your bodies; stuffed and mounted. Now up against the wall.

They line up against the wall at the end of the hallway. Just as the guard is about to aim his gun at the guys, Kenner quickly takes his gun out of its holster and shoots the guard, killing him.

Kronenberger: That was a bad idea, Kenner.

Kenner: Why?

Kronenberger: Scrominian guns don’t make a sound. You’ve just alerted everyone here that there are humans in the palace!

Barney Kroger: Let’s just find the rusdix and get out of here!

Suddenly, an army of guards enter the hallway, leaving the trio with their backs against the wall.

Kenner: Wow, there’s only three of us and what looks like a couple dozen of you. I like those odds.

Palace Guard #3: Don’t be foolish, human. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Come with us to see emperor Jilmont-Creer or we will be forced to gun you all down where you stand.

Barney Kroger: I don’t know about you guys but I suggest we choose the former.

Kronenberger & Kenner: Agreed!

Alfred Serling: You weren’t expecting a battle between the three heroes and twenty-something palace guards, were you? That would have been a massacre! So instead…

CUT TO: Kronenberger, Kenner and Barney Kroger are taken to Jilmont-Creer’s office, where he’s sitting behind his desk.

Jilmont-Creer: And what have we here?

Palace Guard #3: Three intruders disguised as soldiers. They were attempting to steal some rusdix.

Jilmont-Creer: Kronenberger, did not you already ask me for some rusdix earlier and I turned down your request?

Kronenberger: Hence, why we’re here to steal it.

Jilmont-Creer: Then I have only four words to say; off with their heads!

Kenner quickly whips out his gun and shoots Jilmont-Creer in the head, killing him instantly. This shocks pretty much everyone in the room.

Kenner: And I have, let’s see, ten words to say; you should have taken our weapons away from us first.

He turns around and faces a few palace guards.

Kenner: Your leader is dead. If you want to follow in his footsteps, come at us. If you want to live, go retrieve some rusdix for us and we’ll be on our merry way.

CUT TO: After their victory, the three men are back at the lab.

Kronenberger: We could become a trio of heroes. With our names, Kroger, Kenner and Kronenberger, we could refer to ourselves as the KKK.

Both Barney and Kenner look at each other uncomfortably.

Barney Kroger: Uh, no. That’s not a good idea.

Kenner: No. Definitely not. On Earth, the KKK were some really bad men.

Kronenberger: Well then, how about The Three K’s?

Barney Kroger: That’s still too close to KKK.

Kenner: Right. It’s as if we’re trying *not* to say KKK.

Kronenberger: How about The Scrominian and His Two Earthling Buddies?

Kenner: You know, I’m really more of a loner. I’d rather not be part of a group.

Kronenberger turns to Barney.

Kronenberger: Then we can call ourselves KK.

Barney Kroger: That’s just removing one K from KKK. I don’t like it and while, I’m not a loner, I’m not a hero. I very much want to return to my store. I’m a businessman.

Kenner: Listen, Kronen, we have to be on our way. So, if you’ll kindly beam us back down to Earth, we’ll appreciate it.

Kronenberger: Of course, my friends.

Barney Kroger: (to Kronenberger) If you ever need my help with anything, just send me back to your queer little planet and I’ll help you.

Kronenberger: Thank you, but what could you provide for me?

Barney Kroger: It’s just a friendly gesture, you ass!

Kenner: Looks like Scrom has warped him. He’s had a naked adventure and now he’s cursing like a sailor.

They laugh.

CUT TO: Back on Earth, Barney Kroger and Kenner head back to The Great Western Tea Company. However, they find it burned to the ground.

Barney Kroger: It’s gone. My building is gone. Does this mean the Devil has perished with it?

Kenner: No. It took the creation of your business to make him, but once he’s been made, he exists until you end him.

Suddenly, the Kroger Devil appears out of the ashes of the store.

Kroger Devil: Well, look who’s back! I hope you like what I’ve done with the place.

Barney Kroger: It looks just fine. I just need to make one small correction.

The devil looks around.

Kroger Devil: What could *that* be?

Barney Kroger: This.

The owner of the store pulls a small, metal device from his pocket. He presses a button on it and it instantly sucks the Kroger Devil inside it.

Kenner: You got him. It’s over.

Barney Kroger: Well that was rather easy. Now comes the hard part; rebuilding.

Suddenly, a beam of light shines before the two men and Kronenberger appears.

Barney Kroger: Kronenberger! It’s you!

Kronenberger: Yes. I admit, I just wanted to see how well things turned out.

He looks over and sees what’s left of the building.

Kronenberger: Is that your grocery store?

Kenner: It was.

Kronenberger: You know, Scrominians are known for doing construction work far faster than any human being. I’ll work through the night and finish up tomorrow around 5 o’clock pm.

Barney Kroger: That sounds wonderful! Just one thing. You’re on Earth now, so put on some damned pants!

CUT TO: Barney and Kenner watch as Kronenberger has just finished rebuilding the business. He even went back to Scrom to get plenty of merchandise to sell. After all, Earthlings and Scrominians consume the same stuff. With the place completed, Barney then puts up a new sign. It no longer says “The Great Western Tea Company” but rather “Kroger.”

Barney Kroger: And I’m back in business. I cannot thank the both of you enough. This has been an incredible journey.

Kenner: Incredible journey for you maybe, Barn, but this was just another day in the life of Kenner Tincher.

Barney Kroger: Oh wow, your last name is Tincher? I figured you only had the one name.

Kenner: Who has just one name? That’s ridiculous. I just don’t like using my first and last names together since they both end in “er.” It’s too repetitive for my liking.

CUT TO: A couple hours later, Barney is standing behind the counter when all of a sudden, a flash of light appears. Both the Masked Bagger (a couple years older) and Time-Clock have returned.

Barney Kroger: Why it’s the Masked Bagger! Don’t that beat all?

Masked Bagger: Mr. Kroger, you remember me?

Barney Kroger: You’re not forgettable. Besides, you left only yesterday. Not enough time has passed for me to forget you.

Masked Bagger: Listen, something has been bugging me. Henry Preston, in the original history took a bullet for you. But Time-Clock killed him before he was able to. Now the history books have changed, naming me as the big hero. Can you please give the credit back to Preston? He should still be remembered as a hero.

Barney Kroger: Of course, I can, but I still feel the need to give you credit as well.

Masked Bagger: Well go ahead. I don’t mind *some* of the credit.

Time-Clock: I hate to break up a reunion between friends, but…

Time-Clock rams into Masked Bagger and the two future men vanish in a flash of light. Moments later, Kenner comes out of the back room.

Kenner: I just buried the containment unit. That does it for me. I’ll be on my way now, Barn.

Barney Kroger: Please tell me you’ll visit.

Kenner: I’ll try to come back. I really like it here. Maybe I’ll even lead a normal life one day: get married, have children, be happy. But for now, I have to continue my pursuit of stopping evil.

Barney Kroger: You’ve certainly stopped evil here and I am eternally grateful.

Kenner: With the containment unit, that devil will be trapped for little over a century.

Barney Kroger: God be with the poor souls who work here when that monster is freed.

Kenner: Someone’s confident his business will still be up and running in 130 years.

They both smile at one another.

Alfred Serling: And that’s the end of this particular story. It’s not the end for these characters, however. There are still more adventures centered around Kenner, Kronenberger and of course, Barney Kroger. When will I tell those stories? Well, I’ll get around to it one day. Until then, just do whatever you want. I’m not your boss. I’ll be here waiting for you to return to read some more Stories of Level Projects.


Last edited by Adamantium; 03-09-2020 at 10:15 PM.
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