Don't everyone thank me at once. Actually, no, that would be kind of cool. Go ahead and do that.The first day that I saved the world started out normally enough. After working all morning on a particularly groundbreaking and funny piece about the long development cycle of Duke Nukem Forever entitled "Duke TAKIN' Forever", I decided to treat myself by taking the afternoon off and heading into town for a new dvd I had been meaning to pick up. As I neared the front entrance of my local mall, a strange man approached me.

"Hey you!" he said, "I'm going to destroy the Earth!"

"Nooooo!" I cried out, dropping to my knees and clawing at my face.

"Yes, it's very alarming. But all hope is not yet lost. I will spare the planet if you pay a very specific and predetermined ransom."

"How much is it? If I don't have enough, can someone else pay it?"

"No, only you. The ransom is... how much do you have on you?"

I opened my wallet and counted, having to start over just once when I mistook a rather presidential looking photo of my cat as a dollar bill.

"Twenty three dollars."

"Curses!" cursed the strange man. "That's exactly what the ransom is. I really wanted to destroy the planet but I suppose I'll have to leave it unharmed once you hand that over."

"Haha!" I laughed triumphantly as I took the money out, but then I paused. Something about all this didn't seem right. "Wait a second. How exactly were you going to destroy the Earth?"

"In the worst possible way."

Damn, that was pretty much the worst possible way. This guy was good.

"Rather ingenious, isn't it?" he asked, noting my reaction. "There'd be nothing left."

I nodded solemnly, but things still weren't quite adding up.

"If you wield the power to destroy the planet, why do you look like a bum that hasn't bathed in months? You smell like a skunk that fell in a river of cheap cologne then got hit by a speedboat made of bologna."

"Because uhhh... it costs a lot to make a world-destroying device. All those flashing buttons and the finest adamantium-plated Monster audio cables are expensive. It pretty much wiped out my checking account, leaving me with nothing for a personal wardrobe or a place to sleep at night."

His story made sense, so I handed the money over and went home. The collector's edition of Revenge of the Nerds with commentary by Booger would have to wait. Over the course of the next few days I found myself in a deepening depression. I had saved the world, but no one knew about it. The fact that the planet still existed should have been reward enough, but I wanted others to know what I had done and because of that I felt ashamed. Imagine that, saving the world and feeling ashamed of all things. On top of it all my Playstation 2 broke, leaving me with no way to play my regular edition dvd of Revenge of the Nerds.

As I neared the front entrance of my local mall the following week, the strange man approached me once again.

"I'm going to destroy the Earth unless you meet my ransom again."

"But I already paid you! You can't keep doing this!" Already in a foul mood, I pressed him angrily. "What if I just punch you?"

"I have people waiting in case that should happen. The planet would explode, and we would release photographs that would make it look like you did it so that everyone would hate you. You'd be like Steve Bartman times two."

"What? How?"

"We have Photoshop." he replied, whispering the word with the same hushed reverence one uses when referring to a temperamental God or a stack of Playboys they found under their father's bed.

"You bastard."

"You have acquaintances, don't you? People you know. And family members?"

"How do you know all of this?" I whimpered. His information was impeccable.

"When I destroy the Earth and frame you for it, how will your acquaintances and family members feel?"

"They'll be ashamed of me. I guess my family will probably have to change their last name and move somewhere new."

"Yes," he said smugly, "you really have no option but to hope you can meet my ransom."

I had to think quick. If the odds that I had exactly the right amount of money last time were slim, having enough a second time would be impossible.

"Wait, if I punch you you'll destroy the Earth. What if I kick you?"

"I'll destroy the Earth."

"What if I sort of push you down to the ground?"

"I'll destroy the Earth."

Damn. He had planned for every possible attack and plotted a unique counterattack for each.

"I can see you've outwitted me, so I guess it's up to luck now. What's the ransom?"

"What's in that box?"

"Oh, this?" I asked, remembering the reason I had come here. "It's just a broken Playstation 2 I was going to get fixed. My landlord installed European outlets in my apartment to save money so of course on his way out he stepped on it."

"That's the ransom. A broken PS2 and whatever you have in your wallet. Gimme it and I guess I'll have to let the planet live." He reached out greedily with his grimy hands and with each wave of a finger I was met with the scent of a different combination of Mad Dog 20/20 and decomposition.

"Perhaps now you'll learn your lesson," I gloated as I handed everything over to him. "Good always prevails over evil. No matter how many times you may try to destroy the world, there will always be someone like me to stop you."

He ran off toward a distant pawn shop in defeat, and I never saw him again.

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