Almost the End of The World

Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, a young mother looks past the kid learning game on the computer.  “I’m sorry, Princess.  I just need to– just a minute.”  She pulls the tiny chubby hands away from the keyboard and looks intently at the image.  “Oh, this is not good right now.  I can’t deal with it right now.”

In North Carolina, an accountant looks at the blog comments and calls out to his beloved spouse, “Dear, is Foxfier trying to pick a fight with me, or is this a code?”

CACS rushes to the computer and looks at it.  She gets a pad.  “I see, let me check a couple of anime references…”  Half an hour later, she hands RES the notepad.  He blanches.  “I see.  Well. There’s only one thing for it.  Wayne Blackburn must be told.


Wayne thinks long and hard, and then writes a seemingly innocuous email to Bobtheregistered.


Bob the registered gets off Baen’s bar and sighs.  “This won’t end well,” he says to himself as he sends a message off to Emily Nelson.  Who reads it, discusses it with Steve and says “So, what do we do? We can’t send Nemo.  I refuse to risk him.”

“I know, but I think I can write some code that delivers the message.  Let me see, who would it be safe to send to?  Do you think Herbn will get it?


A day later, Herbn pauses in the middle of reading a kindle book.  No, this paragraph definitely doesn’t belong.  How did it get there?  Is it time to let 60 guilders know?


Three days later, Shadowdancer opens a jar of vegemite, and finds a folded paper inside a carefully sealed bit of plastic.  She opens it and reads the message from 60 guilders.

She calls Dorothy Grant on a carefully secured line.


“I see,” Dorothy says.  “Pass word onto Dave Freer, I’ll rally Alma Boykin.”


Meanwhile Orvan Ox, on his delivery route notes that a certain house has a flag displaying three daisies hanging from its front porch.  It would be normal in Spring, but in January, really?
He gets on the phone and calls roommate “Call Amanda Green,” Ox says.  “Tell her to pass on the word and get ready  It’s a real one.”


In a small house in TX, Amanda Green opens the trapdoor on the floor and gets out the equipment that’s been waiting this day. She makes a comment on Suburbanshee’s blog and hopes Banshee gets it.  Did she get that word play about St. Catherine’s birthday jsut right, that banshee will get “Wheel in the sky?”


Joel gets the message from Banshee’s encoded email and starts plotting access to a tall roof.  The problem is carrying the weapon through New York City.  Everyone is so suspicious these days.  Maybe he can disguise it as a flowerpot?  Oh, yeah, and he has to get a message to Kate.
After long thought, he sends her a postcard showing the Empire State Building, with a single sentence “The butterfly sings.”  That should do it.


In Pennsylvania Kate Paulk is getting the secret equipment assembled in the outbuilding.  “Bugger if they get away with this.”  Almost casually, she dials David Pascoe and tells him “The kilt is purple.  I repeat, the kilt is purple.”


David Pascoe rescues a crucial piece of the weapon from the baby girl and glares at it.  He has to assemble it before the toddler finds another use for the parts.


Drak Bibliophile sighs, then starts removing his books from the bookshelves.  Why had he thought it would be a good idea to put it behind the shelves?


‘Nother  Mike in Japan, is trying to remember where he hid his equipment.  Oh, yes.  He’d put it in the classroom, disguised as a student project.


Around the world, Cyn Bagley, Alpheus, William Stoddard, Francis Turner,  Mary Catelli, Eamon,  C. Taylor, Uncle Lar, Caitlin, Dr. Mauser  and TXR and many, many others set up their weapons, and look at the messages they received, make sure they have the right coordinates and struggle to program them in.


Deep in her secret laboratory, Sabrina Chase checks the calculations.  “D*MN it,” she says and sends a hurried correction through the grape vine.  Stephanie Osborn receives the correction and adds solar activity effects.  Then corrects the corrections.


At Pete’s Kitchen, having a seemingly innocent dinner with the Denver contingent, Sarah asks Kortnee “Did anyone tell Chris Chupik?”


In the frozen wastelan…. we mean civilized parts of Canada, Chris gets a phone call from Captain Comic.  He’d earlier failed to get a message sent by moose, because there are no moose in his neighborhood.  Really, what do you people think Canada is, eh? And some people thought that Bieber was disproportionate aggression.  Ah! I’m glad we send you Bieber. Yes, I am that heartless. He thinks all this, but aloud he says,”What?  Again?  ALL of us?  Are you sure?”

“Sarah said the carp fly at midnight. She used that phrase at instapundit last night, too.”

“Yeah, yeah, right code.  Oh, damn, I planned to write tonight.”  As he gets off the phone he thinks, “I bet no one has told Kirsi.  I’d better call Finland.  Us great white North people have to stick together.


Five hours later, as the alien ship approaches the Earth, it is hit by coordinated rays from the secret weapons long ago distributed, secretly, to the seemingly normal readers of an unassuming little blog.


A few minutes ago:

Sarah struggles to her blog.  These emergencies really need to stop being so tight.  You’d think the galactic alarms would get tripped before yet another invader is less than a month from attacking the Earth.  Coordinating a defense all over the world is not easy.

But hey, the Huns did it again.  She makes coffee by touch, because her eyes refuse to open until the second cup.

Better put up a seemingly silly post on the blog, to let everyone know the danger is past.

No one will suspect such a far-fetched thing is real.  It’d be like suspecting us of having gone back to change history after that horrible election.  No one would ever believe any of this drivel.

Good work, everyone.

249 responses to “Almost the End of The World

  1. Fortunately for you lot, the Vegimite was conspicious because such an abomination does not normally reside in my pantry, thus noticed. (The Housemate and the kiddles like Promite, which had staged a revolution and ejected the Vegimite from their domain with extreme predjudice.)

  2. *embarrassed face* I actually made the cut and I’m considered a Hun.

    Also, the only possible use of vegemite is making very, very bad beer on a scientific vessel and if you need beer that badly….

  3. Christopher M. Chupik

    “In the frozen wastelan…. we mean civilized parts of Canada”

    Today’s high in Calgary: -23.

  4. What, no ox?

    • Ox slow. He’s part of the Ready Reserve.

    • ACK. I can’t believe I didn’t write that part in. Give me a minute.

      • Are y’all ok in Castle Rock? Odd day for a disaster story; in downtown Colorado Springs and Old City it’s about 40mph wind and gusts of fifty or so.

        • Hey, when I lived in Idaho, we had a name for weather like that!
          I believe it was “Spring”.

          (I’m not dismissing that this type of weather can be damaging, Especially with lots of trees and wet ground. But it’s still in my wheelhouse as “unremarkably normal”.)

        • We ended up not going to Castle Rock, because the insurance hasn’t approved the spinal fluid draw yet. I’ve been hearing this a lot lately. maybe when they do another hospital closer to home will have an opening.
          I haven’t looked at the weather reports so I don’t know if we’re having bad wind. The trees seem to be moving in the park, as far as I can see, but nothing out of the ordinary.

          • I think I mentioned this before, but you need to keep a close eye on billing. The modern trend is to split what used to be a single procedure into three or more separate billing items, each with its own deductibles and co-pays. They can nickle and dime you to death if you don’t get the billing information ahead of time.

            The other thing we’ve run into is places that wait until you’re in the office before they tell you they won’t bill your insurance – they want 100% in cash, right then (with handy 34% E-Z credit applications on hand), and you’ll have to get reimbursed from your insurance company. Which probably isn’t set up to do that, so you’re screwed.

            The last trick is a *hefty* charge for them to submit their forms to your insurance carrier. Why something that used to be a minor part of office overhead when it was done laboriously by hand is now worth $100+ for a few moments at the computer is beyond me…

            • We’ve had a few medical places try to bill us in violation of our insurance agreement, too.

              “Amazingly” it stopped as soon as we politely “reminded” them we’re in-network…but argh.

              • I know a lot of people have trouble with the Mayo Clinic model, where the insurance is part of the hospital and all of the doctors that work there, but we have Kaiser (which is similarly integrated) and it is so much smoother. If the doctor approves it, it’s approved, and not segmented out, and the doctors are not paid piecemeal either, so they have no incentive to recommend things just to get paid.

                (The problem a lot of people have is the model is very much standard care—if you have something out of the ordinary, it can take a lot more pressure to get appropriate treatment. FWIW.)

                • Kaiser is pretty good most of the time. We have had some screwups but not enough to make us leave. On the other hand, we are kind of locked into living where there is Kaiser available and AFIK that isn’t Texas or any other red (Constitutional) states.

            • There have been times when the insurance company sent the doc the money after I had checked that they were reimbursing me.

              • Our particular repeating problem is being dunned by third parties we never heard of for “lab work.” Sometimes months after we last saw a doctor.

                Oh, and both doctors and third parties who don’t want to provide an itemized bill by US Mail. Or think it’s worth some substantial “service charge” to provide one.

                Since they’re usually the same ones who don’t want to bill the insurance company, I’m pretty sure *something* crooked is being attempted.

                • “Since they’re usually the same ones who don’t want to bill the insurance company, I’m pretty sure *something* crooked is being attempted.”

                  Or they’ve figured out something that most people haven’t: they don’t work for you. Their employer is who pays them. And most of the time (90%+) that isn’t you. That’s the nasty part about free markets.

                  “Minerva, if I sell a horse, I won’t guarantee that it has a leg on each corner; the buyer must count them himself. ”
                  –Lazurus Long, Time Enough For Love, pg 208

        • Professor Badness

          Just got a phone call from Mother Unit, who’s driving through Colorado Springs. The amount of semis flipped over and trees snapped off is awe inspiring.

          • I went and looked, when I noticed Charles’ comments. It’s… amazing. the area of our old house is without power…

          • I “impressed” my mom by predicting inside of three hours when Snoqualmie Eastbound would close, and when it would close going Westbound.

            Based off of “when will Seattle be heading home?”

            I don’t wanna even think about what it’s going to be for monday…..

          • During my recon run, I saw the power line along highway 115 outside Cheyenne Mountain was blown down, five or more snapped poles. I counted twelve overturned semi tractor-trailer rigs.

  5. Was that the Clinton/Trump election or the Brexit vote? In any case, had you done anything I would thank you all for it. In the pluperfect subjunctive, as they say. . . .

  6. Sigh. When I finally get my decoder ring, the message will most likely just be an advertisement for Ovaltine.

    (Still better than Vegemite, mind you.)

  7. Well done team. As members of the unorganized planetary militia this mission will be recorded in all your files. Please remember to allow your flower pots to recharge for 24 hours before returning to concealment.

  8. Ummm. my weapon had a secret component that causes nightmares… propaganda is always useful as a deterrent 😀

  9. The imaginary weasel pokes his head around a corner of reality to better view the aftermath…

    Ma’am, when you try to alert me, please take signal polarization into account. You instead reached a distant cousin of mine, around a different corner of reality, who forwarded the message too late for me to come help.

    The imaginary weasel walks away muttering about humans and their inability to do simple 5-d geometry…

  10. Glad you could handle this while I’m out sick. Thanks!!

  11. Gaaah, the lack of sunspot activity has thrown off ALL my hyperspace models like you wouldn’t believe. This, children, is why we have code reviews! Oh, and did anyone *slightly* misplace the Olympic peninsula drain plug? It seems to have sunk again.

    • Um, I think I found your problem; the cat dropped a toy in the drain hole, and everybody assumed it was the actual plug. *sigh*

      I keep telling the boys that there’s no call for jerry-rigging when you can do it right with the proper parts, but they keep insisting that they need to stay in practice…

    • Somebody had Steve coding instead of code review. Give him him the specs ahead of time so he can properly test it. I’m sure plain coding is a refreshing change from all the testing he does.

  12. The Phantom lurks at the ready, awaiting the next callout. They also serve, who only sleep comfortably while others work. 🙂

    Incidentally, rural Southern Ontario is experiencing a heatwave today, +20F. Soon I shall break out the beach wear.

  13. Wait! “the carp fly at midnight“????

    Was that Mountain Standard Time, Eastern Standard or Greenwich?

    Oh dear. I wonder if we haven’t made a terrible mistake.

  14. <> And to think that all the non-odds are worried about folks having defensive arms more modern than a musket. If they only knew! 😉

    • (please insert a ‘chuckle’ leading the prior comment – my bad w/improper formatting). :-/

    • If they knew what a drunk Russian can do with a shovel and a cutting torch, they’d have a nervous collapse.

      • Between the Russian landmass and the Arctic there’s a sea passage. Not every year, but most years, ithe ice is thin enough for icebreakers to clear a way for ships to make it through. (that’s how the Nazi pocket cruiser Komet made it through to Alaska in WWII)

        Later, to facilitate navigation, the Soviet Union built nuclear powered icebreakers to clear the passage, and set up a chain of nuclear powered lighthouses for navigation.

        After the fall of the USSR there was no money for maintaining the lighthouses, so the keepers simply locked the doors and walked away.

        There wasn’t any money for maintenance, so there certainly wasn’t any money for decommissioning. They left them running. Unattended.

        Years later, Russian scrappers found them and started disassembling them for their metal. And they were still running…

        • When you mention nuclear powered lighthouses, do you simply mean radioisotope generators (RTG)?

          • The article on Englishrussia didn’t say. You’d expect them to be simple thermoelectric sources like we used on satellites, but they were talking about them still working more than 20 years later… and you need kilowatts to run a lighthouse.

            I’d like to know, myself…

      • They don’t even need the cutting torch.

        By 1944 German doctrine was not to retake ground via local counterattack if it could not be done within 24 hours on the Eastern Front because after that Russians would be too well done in for ad hoc attacks to dislodge them.

      • Someone actually forged a functional AK receiver out of a shovel. I don’t know if he needed a torch or just used his BBQ.

  15. *reads*
    *reads again*
    *considers forwarding*

    That’s it, I GOTS to get me some of them thyroid medications…

  16. De hole ting, it vass FUN. Ya sure, ya betcha!

  17. You know, any properly prepared invader would LOOK at the climate statistics, not the open media broadcasts and propaganda, er state tourism documents. But no. *surveys frozen invaders* Texas in winter is COLD, you fools. I wonder if the metal can be recycled or if it shock-cooled too much?

    • *raises finger* Winter in parts of Texas are cold, even for those who don’t have thinner blood.

      I totally don’t get the folks who go “desert, that must be warm all the time!” Uh, no. Desert means it’s basically naked, so can get bleep cold at night!

      Husband keeps sending weather reports where they’re flipping out about the extreme cold snap…even if their lows are 20 degrees higher than reality, it’s not REALLY cold. I swear, he’s going to get BOTH of my parents willing to retire and move down there just for jacket weather nights.

    • My first visit to Texas was a long weekend in Dallas… which got hit with a snowstorm about the time my flight landed in the evening. I woke up to find the lawn of the Dallas Union Station covered in snow, and in a stroll down the streets people had built a small snowman on the table of the outdoor part of a cafe. The next day the snow was gone.

      I was in Houston on a business trip about this time of year. It was usually about five degrees warmer than Cincinnati, despite Houston being a good 600 miles further south. A colleague from Calgary was also present, and complained because he missed a warm spell due to the trip – for about three days it was 15 degrees warmer in Calgary than Houston. OTOH, for a couple days it was warm enough for me to walk outside with just a light jacket.

    • I heard that Dorothy got a cool doohickey for her plain out of it. Something about a transdimmensional portal opener. I guess I’ll be seeing her more often.

  18. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I haven’t logged onto the bar in a very long time, I don’t think I have contact information for the Nelsons, and I’m flattered.

    I forget to check my email for months at a time about as often as I forget breakfast until evening.

    • We’re listed Bob. Known as hiding in plain sight. High Tech Red necks are always ignored. Did anyone notify Dr Pournelle? I believe he wrote the original plans. 😉

  19. I almost feel sorry for the alien invaders. Almost!

  20. Holy Wilson Tucker, Batman!

  21. Patrick Chester

    So how much alien alloys and elerium was salvaged from the wreckage?

    (Okay, maybe I’ve played too much or watched too many Let’s Plays of X-COM.)

  22. Hang on…

    “…seemingly normal…”

    Oh, right, fiction.

  23. Professor Badness

    Note to self; Move the weird looking flowerpot to the top of the hill out back, and not next to the woodshed.
    Or, what’s left of the woodshed.

  24. *cuts eye holes into newspaper and “reads” quietly on park bench*

  25. Meanwhile, I missed all the fun because I was taking a nap after going to work at 4 a.m. 😉

  26. I don’t want this responsibility! 😉

  27. Why had he thought it would be a good idea to put it behind the shelves?

    Advantage: unauthorized personnel will become so distracted by reading material that they will stop looking for it.

    Disadvantage: authorized personnel will become so distracted by reading material that they will stop looking for it.

  28. It cheers me to see how many tinylings are in this, on the periphery. To ensure the planet survives in years to come, of course. 😉

  29. Just what I needed for the end of a long (stretching the term here) weekend.

  30. Ehem.

    Fluffy is keeping the BBQ nice and warm for the pork and chicken and beef, and boiling the water for the corn on the cob, and the sea serpent is running the clam bake and lobster, and the aardvark is offering all sorts of beverages from hot chocolate to Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, and that’s just the dishes I notice.

    Just ’cause they’re feeling nice, mind you.

    Not a victory feast or anything.

  31. Heh, my Bio everywhere says, I have a heat ray and I’m not afraid to use it.

    And I ain’t.

  32. It’s always the seemingly innocent dinners that lead to the most fun *grin*

  33. Hey! How did *I* get dragged in on this?

    (Googles screen name and ATH)

    Oh, right. All that live-trolling at WorldCon.

    Fair enough.

    “The chair is against the wall. John has a long mustache. The pearl is in the river.”

    (Whispers aside to hopeful Meryl Streep: We mean Madame President Nikki Halley)

  34. Grist for the mill, grey goo o’erwhelming our childhoods, strip-mining our memories. It is clear that this industry despises innocence, which does sorta explain their fight for Roman Polanski:

    NBC’s ‘Emerald City’ travels to a violent Oz that wants to be the next Westeros

    … [H]ere’s the network’s “Emerald City,” a gloomy, violent and often sluggish take on L. Frank Baum’s storybook world of Oz that premieres Friday night. Long in development (it was touted on NBC’s menu a season or two back, then vanished, then returned), “Emerald City” vividly imagines an Oz that more closely resembles the worst of Westeros, the chaotically dangerous continent of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Most of us know Oz mainly from the Technicolor wonders seen in the 1939 MGM musical version of “The Wizard of Oz.” While it could certainly be a fearsome place, at least it had lollipops.

    This Oz is bleaker, steampunkier and far more cruel — and if you haven’t clued in already, “Emerald City” is not a good choice for younger viewers. An adult Dorothy Gale (Adria Arjona), a small-town Kansas nurse with all sorts of unanswered questions about her real parents, seeks shelter in a police car during a tornado and is swept away through a dimensional portal, crash-landing in Eastern Oz. (A German-shepherd K9 is in the car with her and becomes her loyal companion, Toto.)

    A fierce tribe of locals, believing Dorothy has killed a witch, begrudgingly sends her off on a pollen-dusted stone path (a.k.a. the Yellow Brick Road) to the Emerald City and the all-powerful, deeply neurotic wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio) who rules there. It isn’t long before Dorothy and Toto come upon the ruins of a burned village, where they free a man named Lucas (Oliver ­Jackson-Cohen) who has been tarred and feathered and left on a cross to die. Beset by amnesia, he offers to accompany them to see the wizard.

    Other basic outlines of Oz lore are similarly established bit by bit, with little cues and symbols to reward fans of Baum’s entire oeuvre — which, as children’s literature goes, was always an acquired taste. Unlike some other inventive modern adaptations (such as the Broadway musical “Wicked”), “Emerald City” is devoid of charm, relying mostly on malevolence as its central theme. Its tone is far more bitter than ABC’s storybook drama “Once Upon a Time,” yet the seriousness doesn’t rise to a “Game of Thrones” level.


    My hunch is that those who’ve read and studied all 14 of Baum’s “Oz” books will find more to appreciate here than the casual Oz visitor; they may also take umbrage at some of the pick-and-choose ways that “Emerald City” has adapted the saga and its metaphors to modern use. Further subplots follow the woes of Jack (Gerran Howell), who, after a traumatic injury, has his limbs replaced with tin and his heart replaced with an artificial ticker; and Tip (Jordan Loughran), a boy who becomes a girl, who, a Baum reader may well presume, is destined to become Princess Ozma.

    There’s a lot here to sort through; unfortunately, the makers of “Emerald City” are not particularly skilled at the sorting process necessary for a sprawling tale. Oz is a fascinating place at first, but, like Dorothy, one soon gets the itch to leave.

    • Sorry – reaction to Emily61 question about whether it is presently summer in Oz.

      Apparently, Winter Is Coming.

    • They have to ruin that, too?

      • Oh lord, you have NO idea.

        “Our story is a reflection of society today, through the point of view of Dorothy.”

        • I gained some comprehension of how the dystopia had become standard in alleged entertainment when I wound up in Los Angeles (wasn’t a place I wanted to go) and saw residential Los Angeles, Los Angeles… at night. It felt wilder in some uncomfortable ways than the ‘wild’ places I’d been. I felt kinda like I’d blundered into a modern movie set only sans crew.

          • (Nods) If you want to understand Hollywood, you have to understand Los Angeles.
            Once you understand that, a lot of things make sense, and you stop hating Hollywood writers–instead, you pity them.

        • And now I finally watched that.

          I find I am ever more agreement as to the educational value of television… as described by Julius “Groucho” Marx.

      • Everything must be destroyed in order for them to build the new (according to them) view point.

    • I don’t mind imaginative retellings, even adult versions, but “often sluggish” tells me they failed right off the bat. Play with it all you want but don’t make it dull.

    • Sounds like the other dragging and dull, tribute with no love for the source, “Tin Man.” (I’m sure at least half of he budget was the long distance bill from Zooey Deschanel phoning it in.)

  35. Thank Ghu you didn’t need the aid of this Junior Hun for THIS one. That timey-wimey expedition to change the elections was just a bit harrowing, and I lost my fez in the process…

    Computer’s been down for more than a week, and who knows what would have happened when I passed on the code words from the teeny-tiny Kindle keyboard AND auto-corrupt thrown into the mix!

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