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I’m Sure This Exists Somewhere on the Web August 23, 2013

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words.
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but I read it twenty something years ago, and never forgot it.  I hope this leads to a further spread of this fantastic story, and not a DMCA notice.

Gary Achenbach

Copyright 1993

<deep breath>
Right.  The following story is an original piece inasmuch as these particular
words (to *my* knowledge, anyway) have never been strung together in this
fashion before.  However, story elements have been lifted from, at last
count:  the Terminator films, the Evil Dead films, the entire martial art
genre, the Cthulhu mythos,  and countless other sources too numerous to
list.  Any resemblence to any real persons, alive, dead, or Al Gore, is
entirely coincidental, except for when it isn’t.  The following story contains,
and is limited to, gratuitous violence, gratuitous sex, occasional lack
of continuity, deus ex machina plot contrivances, and a total lack of
character development.   As far as I know, this story is completely devoid
of any literary merit.  If you don’t care to read any further, don’t.  If
you think this will offend you or even just irritate you, decide for yourself
whether or not you wish to read further.  If you wish to read further and
be offended and/or irritated, feel free to do so.  If you wish to express
how much this offended and/or irritated you, feel free not to.  If you
do not, upon completion of reading, find this story offensive and/or
irritating, but do, however, find this disclaimer annoying and/or irritating,
rest assured that the author shares your opinion.  Please fasten your seatbelts
and extinguish all smoking materials.]

***[The present.  Pre-disruption]***

     Life used to be simpler, Charles thought vaguely as he ran down the
street, firing randomly with twin Uzis into the shambling mob of zombies
shambling menacingly forward.  Every now and then, he’d throw a grenade into
a particularly large clump of them.
     Both Uzis ran out of ammo at the most inopportune moment, as so
seldom happens.  Charles shrugged and tossed them aside, dropping into
a defensive stance.  If he had to die, he’d make sure a good number of the
Dead…well…died more than he did.
     "YOU STUPID BLOCKHEAD!" someone screamed.  Despite himself, Charles
grinned.  The cavalry had arrived.  The next few minutes were a confused
jumble of warcries, machine gun fire, and the whoosh of jury-rigged flame-
     Captain Schroeder strode dramatically out of the disproportionate
haze of smoke, an smoking M60 held in each hand.  As the bullet-ridden
zombies stirred randomly, he fired brief bursts with an amazing lack
of recoil.  The faceless extras comprising his squad busied themselves
with dragging the doubly-dead zombies into big piles and turning flamethrowers
upon them.
     Schroeder tossed one of his heavy machineguns aside in order to salute.
"General, your distraction worked.  The sector’s ours.  Beethoven would
be proud."
     Charles sighed deeply.  "Good…he would?"
     "Oh yeah.  If he were here."
     Charles gestured to the flaming piles of vanpelts.  "Maybe he was."
     "That wasn’t funny."
     He shrugged, and removed a large walkie-talkie from his belt.  Thumbing
the transmit button, he said "General Brown speaking.  All officers report
to HQ.  Out."

     He didn’t look particularly old.  His eyes were whirling pools of
something inhuman, but they weren’t old.  A young demon’s eye’s, perhaps.
The darkly glowing apparition that he was speaking to, however, was old.
Very old, and very powerful.
     –how goes the plan, my servant?– the manifestation asked, wavering
     Linus did not look up from the ground.  Even as he was now, he could
not bear the direct sight of his Master.  "All the materials are at hand.
The platinum, the crystals, the DNA samples from Stephen Hawking…"  He
went on in this vein for some time.  He’d been gathering up these materials
for the last twenty years, more or less simultaneously with raising his
army of the dead and subjugating the world in the name of his Master…at
least, subjugating those parts that Brown’s Alliance hadn’t taken back or refused
to give up.
    –excellent.  you will require one more vital ingredient.–
    "What ingredient, my Master?"
    The manifestation was silent.
    –if you laugh, your agony will be greater than anything anyone has ever
experienced or will ever experience again.–
    Linus shuddered.  "Understood, Master."
    –you require a handful of dirt.–
    He didn’t laugh.  He didn’t really have a sense of humor anymore.  But he
was still dumbfounded.  "Pardon your servant, Master, but..could you repeat
    He nodded sagely.  "Dirt.  Of course.  The ritual can begin within minutes,
then."  As he said this, he scooped up a clod of earth from beside him.
    –no, you fool.  not just any dirt.  you need special dirt for this task.–
    He dropped the handful of earth.  "Special dirt?"
    –soil charged with innocence.  soil charged with youth.–
    "The soil around any number of your sacrificial altars, then."
    –no.  soil charged with hope, soil charged with illogic and desire.–
    Linus hmmed.  "Tall order.  Take a few days longer…"
    –not just anyone’s hope and illogic…–
    "…and desire and innocence.  Master, could you just cut to the fucking
    The manifestation paused.  –your lack of deference begins to irritate
me.  i spare you now, but not again.  you require soil charged with all
these things.  charged by *you*–
    Linus looked up.  He screamed, briefly as the sight of his Master tore
away another shred of his humanity and sent it spinning into oblivion,
and said "You yourself took those from me, Master."
    –in exchange for power of which you could only dream–
    "Very true.  But they are gone, lost in the past."
    –yes.  and that is where you must find this last material.  loam from
a place where, year after year, you charged it with your childhood innocence
and naivety, with your darkening desire.   the place where you finally
succeeded in calling me.–
    Comprehension dawned.  "The pumpkin patch…"
    –you must go there the night before the one you called me.  it is fore-
told.  you should not have any problems.  you already have enough ingredients
to conjure the device needed.  here is what you need:…–

     "Van Pelt’s stronghold is thirty miles thataway," Brown gestured with
one hand while slamming the pointer against the tactical map, which had
so many symbols and different color-coded regions on it that it was near
unreadable.  "Those thirty miles have more Dead per square yard than the
entire European front.  A straight assault won’t get the job done."
     "Therefore we need a distraction," said a harsh mechanical voice.
     Brown nodded to his second-in-command, who was scratching his ear with
a hind paw at the moment.  The vocoder, built into his collar, spoke again,
its miniature speaker making a slight pop.  "My division is ready.  Lietenant
Woodstock will be beginning the diversionary air assault at 1800 hours, October
30th"  Colonel Snoopy finished scratching his ear and began to noisily
lick his groin.
     It had been a pleasant surprise when it was discovered that the
perennially-silent Franklin had been probably the smartest man alive on the
planet, even before Van Pelt unleashed his hordes of darkness.  When Snoopy
had been hovering on the edge of death some 20 years earlier, he not only
healed him, but took the time to install a wide array of nanoimplants in
his brain, in effect adding an artificial human cortex on top of the already
abnormal dog’s brain.  A few interface plugs allowed Snoopy to hook up
to speaking devices, vehicles, and robotic arms.
     Woodstock and sundry other animals had come a few years later, when
he’d shrunk the devices down even further.  He had solved a major manpower
problem at the time.
     "We’ll be putting up literally everything we have that can fly, under
Woodstock’s command," Brown resumed.  "As yet, the Dead can’t do much against
air assaults."
     "But Van Pelt is certain to have AA defenses in place," Schroeder
pointed out.
     "Which is why it is a diversionary assault.  While Woodstock is trimming
the defenses in that regard, *we* will be making the primary assault from the
one direction Linus won’t be expecting us."  Brown made an odd motion with
his hand.  "We…will tunnel.  Franklin has designed a tank that can travel
underground at speeds of two hundred miles per hour.  We’ll be in Van Pelt’s
stronghold before he realizes what’s happening.  And once we’re in, the
operation becomes a straightforward seek and destroy.  With any luck, Van
Pelt will be a corpse before the stroke of midnight."

      Van Pelt stood in front of his time machine, finally satisfied with
his work.  The core of it was rather simple–a basketball-sized crystal
tinted a rather sickly green.  It really wasn’t a full-blown H.G. Wells
type of thing–it was created specifically to send him back in time twenty
years and bring him back after his task was completed.  All he had to
do was activate it by spilling a drop of blood on it and go.
      But, it just wasn’t impressive enough, he had decided.  This, after
all, was the device that would lead him to building the device that would
finally give the world into his Master’s hands.  He had spent weeks after
the crystal itself had grown adding several dozen Jacob’s ladders and huge
Tesla coils about the thing.  So many, in fact, that walking to the actual
crystal was a task fraught with danger.
      He held his hand over the crystal, and intoned the activation mantra
in a stentorian voice.  Just before he jabbed his middle finger with a
ceremonial needle, every alarm in the stronghold went off.  It was very
      Cursing, he stormed out of the time travel chamber to see what was

      "BANZAI!" is what Woodstock would have been screaming had he been
wired into a vocoder at the moment.  He wasn’t, so he simply thought it.
What he was wired into was a heavily-modified F16, so loaded down with
ordnance that it could barely stagger through the air.
     Things got easier as he activated the computer-controlled bomb
release series.  Tactical nuclear cluster bombs arced away and detonated,
carving a twenty-mile wide path of destruction through the haplessly milling
Dead below.
     Woodstock felt mildly worried as the shockwaves tossed his plane
about the sky like a ping-pong ball, and thought a brief prayer to the
Seed God, Keeper of the Holy Feeder, asking simply that the EMP shielding
on the plane’s miles of circuitry held out.  It did, and Woodstock mentally
wrestled his fighter under control.  He quickly chose some tempting clumps
of Dead and dropped some fuel-air explosives that were only slightly less
impressive than the peewee nukes themselves.
     It was around this point that several warning buzzers went off.  He
chirped in frantic alarm and thought his plane through a series of evasive
maneuvers that would have killed him had he not been sealed in several
cubic feet of acceleration gelatin.  Through a combination of skill and
luck, he managed to avoid the dozen or so SAMs that had locked on his plane.
     Then things *really* got hairy.

     Several hundred feet below ground, a wedge-formation of several dozen
unlikely-looking vehicles burrowed busily.  Inside lead-lined compartments,
the various shock troops under Brown’s command tried to ignore the fact
that they were seated over a barely-controlled fusion reaction.
     The moles spat out a constant stream of superheated plasma ahead of them,
vaporizing the dirt and rock and essentially surfing down the lava-slicked
     Things went well until they burst out of the rock and into a very large
cavern.  Trailing plasma and clinging magma, the moles slammed to the
ground in a lazy arc.

     Inside his control room, Van Pelt watched the air assault being
systematically carved apart with an air of smugness.  Bombers and fighters
were blown out of the sky with pathetic regularity, though a few seemed to
be dodging with truly unlikely luck.
     He dismissed the tremors rumbling through the ground.  Any thought of
a subterranean attack was absurd.  Even Brown wasn’t foolish enough to
try to attack through a tunnel network so infested with Dead that it made
aboveground look like a walk in the park.

     Brown hadn’t planned on the cavern being there.  He’d expected to
emerge more or less in Van Pelt’s basement.  According to the instruments
the stronghold was half a mile distant.  It could be worse, he supposed,
and gave the order to disembark.
     Squads of the most elite troopers in the Alliance fanned out from
the steaming moles, in textbook-perfect formation.  Nightvision goggles
made the cavern seem bright as midday.  Swarms of red dots, cast from
the weapons’ laser scopes, swam dizzyingly across the walls.
     Portable radar mappers swept the cavern, uncovering multiple tunnels.
Soon, an easy route was discovered leading to Van Pelt’s stronghold.  The
small army moved out.

     Snoopy paced irritably across the bridge, his claws ticking continuously
on the floor.  He stopped at a console, his harness unfolding a telescoping
arm, which tapped a few buttons.  Cameras panned across the battle raging
outside.  His augmented brain weighed the kill ratios of the air forces.
     "Diversionary raid my ass," his vocoder barked.  "We’ll have this
wrapped up by the time the mole squad breaks through."
     A faint rumble ran through the floor, as several Phalanx point-defense
cannons blew an incoming SAM to shreds.
     Snoopy gestured at a large clumping of radar emitters on the ground
radar display.  "Someone please destroy those," he said.  Faceless extras
hit the proper buttons.  The "Leviathan," the half-mile long, rocket-propelled,
armor-plated, radar-invisible atomic dirigible that was the flagship of the
Alliance’s air forces, swung a few degrees to the left.  One of the two
hundred untapped weapons bays irised open and fired a salvo of tacnukes
at the largest remaining SAM site.  A bit of overkill, but it definitely

     The walk through the caverns was relatively quiet for about fifteen
minutes.  Then, as the walls crumbled apart, unleashing a veritable sea
of Dead, things got very noisy indeed.  Continual gunfire, screaming,
explosions…that kind of thing.

     There was a single functioning SAM site left.  It fired its last salvo
of eleven missiles seconds before it was destroyed by approximately thirty
different bombs.
     Ten missiles locked onto the drifting bulk of the Leviathan.
Four immediately did a neat 180 and slammed into the ground, sophisticated
electronic brains curdled by the ECM gear the airship carried.  Three more
veered to various harmless tangents, following clouds of chaff, flares, and
electronic decoys.  Two were carved apart by the point-defense phalanx
cannons.  The final one punched through the Leviathan’s most lightly-armored
section and exploded in the primary hydrogen envelope.
     The Leviathan used hydrogen for lifting power because it was easy
to produce with its onboard fusion reactors.  Also, hydrogen, even the
tons of it contained, simply couldn’t combust with enough force to damage
the frame of the airship.  The Hindenburg had essentially been a cloth
bag.  The Leviathan was made of a composite Kevlar laminate with the
strength of titanium.  There was a difference there, you can see.  So the
problem was not the explosion itself.  The problem was that the explosion
consumed all of the gas that kept the airship afloat.  Very quickly.
Almost instantaneously, in fact.
     Gravity took note of the situation, and the Leviathan obtained all
of the aerodynamic properties of a large rock.  Oddly enough, it fell.
With a tremendous amount of force.
     It collapsed the caverns below it.

     Brown and the remnants of his assault force were so busy trying to
stay alive that they didn’t even notice when they emerged into Van Pelt’s
stronghold.  Things did get easier, however, when the caverns suddenly
collapsed behind them, burying the onrushing wave of Dead.  The ones
that had made it through were quickly disposed of.
     Unfortunately, when the caverns collapsed, the wave of rubble killed
the three remaining members of his squad.  Charles stared blankly at the
settling wall of dust.  Schroeder had been in there.
     Grimly, he reloaded his assault cannon and proceeded, alone.

     The eleventh missile described a brief circle as it searched for
a target.  It found one.
     Woodstock tried to dodge this missile like all the others.  Seconds
before impact, he realized that there was no way in hell.  Unfortunately,
the ejection mechanism didn’t seem to work.
     He solemnly uttered the age-old bird death thought.  "Fuck."

     Van Pelt chuckled as he saw the Leviathan smash into the ground.  His
chuckle died when his floor tilted slightly.  "Right," he said to himself.
"That’s over with.  Now…back to the past."  He strode purposefully to
his temple/laboratory.

     Snoopy crawled, snarling, out of the twisted wreckage of the Leviathan,
miraculously unharmed.  The scent of scorched metal and dead bodies assaulted
his nose–the battlefield was silent.  He shook his head to clear it, and
began padding toward Van Pelt’s battered stronghold, some hundred feet distant,
hackles raised.

    Linus and Brown rounded the corner simultaneously, and stared at each
other in unavoidable shock for a few seconds.  Finally, Linus smiled
sardonically.  "Well, well.  If only we had a wall to lean against, we
could philosophize."
     Brown sneered.  "Philosophize this, you son of a bitch."  He levelled
his assault weapon.  Van Pelt made a casual gesture, and an unseen force
yanked it out of his hands before he could fire.
     "You never could get it right, could you?"  Linus sighed.  "You…"
He gestured again, and Brown yelled as an invisible hand picked him up and
slammed him into the ceiling. "…stupid…" and Brown crunched into the
floor "…blockhead."  He made a final gesture, and Brown hurtled down
the length of the corridor like a bullet through the barrel of a gun.  He
crashed into the far wall and lay unmoving.
     Van Pelt nodded decisively.  "Right."  He continued on his way.

     Brown woke to a worried lapping at his face.  He snapped alert and
rolled to his feet, muscles tensing.
     "Calm down, General," Snoopy rasped.  "I can smell that blanket-lugging
bastard here."
     Brown rubbed his head.  "Those statements don’t necessarily go
together."  He retrieved his gun.  "Can you track him?"
     "Can you walk on two feet?  Come on."

     "…and don’t waste time talking to the fucker this time…" Van Pelt
heard as he lanced his middle finger.
     Brown didn’t.  He dove, rolling, through the doorway, placing a big
red targetting dot on Van Pelt’s forehead.  His finger tensed…
     The drop of Linus’ blood struck the crystal.  There was a flare of light.
Brown’s assault cannon roared and tore a huge hole through the space where
Linus had been standing.  "FUCK!" snarled Brown, throwing down his gun
in disgust.
     The crystal rolled off of the housing, and bounced across the floor to
stop at his feet.  As Brown scowled at it, a single drop of blood from one of
his myriad minor flesh wounds fell onto it.  There was a flare of light,
and he was gone.
     The crystal began to steam.  Snoopy shrugged as best as he was able
and opened a small cut on his muzzle.  A drop of blood fell onto the crystal
just as it shattered.
     And then there were none.
     Outside, everything froze into a free-standing probability wave…waiting.

[Commercial break.  Get Met.  It pays.]
***[20 years earlier]***

     It was Halloween.  The gang, at a mean age of 15, had gotten a bit
to old for the trick-or-treating, but still gathered for a party.  Peppermint
Patty had contacted some older friends, and there were kegs there.
Costumes ranged from the elaborate to stupid.  Most of them were drunk.
     The main joke was about Linus.  He was, apparently, spending the night
in the pumpkin patch.  Granted, Sally was with him once again, but the
general concurrence was that there were better make-out points.
     "Like, I’m sure," Lucy was saying, loudly.  "Gawd, my brother is
     "Oh, he’ll grow out of it," said one of her girlfriends in a mock
serious tone of voice.  "Like, when he’s thirty-five or something."  The
gaggle dissolved into howls of laughter.
     "What do you think, blockhead?" Lucy called out as Charlie Brown
drifted by.  He was wearing his standard costume–a white sheet covered
with irregularly spaced holes.
     "Ah…fuck you," he said without real emotion.  Puberty hadn’t made
Lucy any prettier, but it sure as hell had made her bitchier.
     "Like you’d know how!" she retorted, cuing the Covens’ giggle fits.
     A fairly typical party.  Childish squabbles had gotten a bit uglier,
and of course the upstairs rooms tended to have couples making out in them,
but otherwise, fairly typical.

     Sally Brown didn’t pay much attention to the fact that the pumpkin
patch seemed to have a pentagram inscribed in it when they arrived.  A small
hollow was present in the direct center of it.
     The past few years had seen Linus ditch his blanket and hit a major
growth spurt.  In the past several years, he’d led several of the school’s
athletic teams to championships, before suddenly losing all interest in
sports entirely.  This disappointed the coaches and much of the community,
but Linus did not care.
     Neither did Sally.  The intervening years hadn’t stripped away
her childhood crush on him…it had deepened it into fullblown infatuation.
She made sure that they were essentially bonded at the hip, and after Linus’
gonads had activated, he didn’t mind the fact.
     Sally had blossomed well.  That’s really the only tasteful way
to put it.  Just about every male in the school wanted her, and, truth
be told, a small percentage of the girls did to.  (The school psychologist
had personal theories about Lucy’s hostility towards the world, for example.)
     All this physical detail has to be related because at the moment,
Linus and Sally were naked, and, bluntly, fucking like crazed rabbits.
     During the height of the libido-fest, Linus’ hand moved away from
Sally’s blossoming bosom and into the pile of his discarded clothing.  It
came back out gripping a slim ceremonial dagger.  Sally was a bit too busy
moaning to notice.
     A brief thought flitted through Linus’ maddened brain.  *How can I do
this?  I can’t…*  Then a more powerful voice roared through his mind.
     As he climaxed, at the stroke of midnight, he drove the dagger hilt-deep
into Sally Brown’s chest.  Her moans abruptly changed to a shocked gasp of
pain.  Betrayal flickered briefly in her lovely eyes before the light went
out forever.
     Moving hurriedly, he layed open ribs, and ripped out her still-beating
heart.  As he deposited it in the hollow in the ground…his Master, at long
last, rose.
     Linus screamed at the sight.  Something inside him shattered forever.
Then they began to speak.
     Unnoticed, the boy who’d been watching vomitted onto the ground and
ran as fast as he possibly could.

     The party was just getting into the swing of things when Pig Pen burst
through the door, breathing harshly.  Someone screamed as he ran in–his
face was so pasty-white that they thought it was a particularly frightening
     "Euw, gross!" was Lucy’s immediate reaction.  "Pig Pen, *when* are you
going to learn to take a fucking shower?"
     He ignored her statement, used to the like.  "Linus…" he gasped,
instead.  "Linus…"
     "What about my blockhead brother?" Lucy demanded impatiently.  People
drifted in from other rooms, staring curiously.
     "He….he…he just killed Sally…"
     Lucy laughed.  "Okay, okay.  Lame joke."
     Charlie frowned.  Pig Pen looked very shook up.  "What?" he asked.
     "He…killed her, Charlie Brown.  Oh God…"  He fainted.
     Peppermint Patty, perhaps thinking to be "helpful," walked over and
dumped the tub of water and apples over him.  It did bring him round again,
though, sputtering and choking..
     A sick coil of fear twisted in Charlie’s gut.  Linus had been acting
progressively weirder as Halloween approached…  "Bullshit," he said.  "This
isn’t funny."
     "I’m not joking!" snarled Pig Pen.  "Linus killed your sister, Charlie
Brown!  Something came out of the ground!"
     The discussion went on in this vain for quite some time.  The practical
upshot was that several of the gang decided to follow him back to the
pumpkin patch to see for themselves.

     They saw for themselves.  A stunned silence settled across the group
at the sight of Sally’s gutted body.  Charlie Brown led off a resultant
chorus of vomitting and dry heaves.  There was a long moment of silence.
     "My God.  She’s dead," someone said, quite unnecessarily.
     "Yes," said Linus, stepping out of the darkness.  "But worth it."
     Brown’s head slowly lifted.  "You.  Twisted.  Motherfucker," he heard
himself say.
     "All of you laughed at me.  Year after year after YEAR, you laughed
at me.  Now…now you will kneel before the Great Pumpkin or die."
     And all of them saw the Great Pumpkin rise from the ground, a form
of darkness and hate and rot incarnate.  Laughing, it surged forward.  The
gang split up and ran.  And ran.  And ran.

     "It’s time to stop running!" Brown yelled.  "We have to fight back!"
     It was a week later.  The gang was starved, thin, dressed in rags.
They all kind of looked like Pig Pen now.
     The town itself had been levelled.  The ‘Great Pumpkin’ had sank
back into the ground…and every corpse in the cemetary, and quite a few
out of it, had clawed their way out of the ground and set out on a rampage.
That had been the first night.  And the second.  The third…no one in the
town was left alive except the group of frightened children.  The fourth
night, the National Guard came.  The last of them died out on the fifth
night, but not before setting off enough explosions to burn the town to
cinders.  The fifth night passed uneventfully…the Dead were marching
towards the nearest city.  The sixth night they reached the nearest city,
and now, in the seventh, were involved with destroying it and swelling
their ranks.
     Frankline surprised everyone by speaking up.  "How?  They tore the
fucking army apart, man."
     "And left their weapons scattered behind them.  They’re STUPID,
Franklin!  The only brains of the outfit is Van Pelt!"
     "And the Great Pumpkin," Marcy said morosely.  "It’s not just zombies,
Chuck.  It’s that…demon."
     "Is it?" Brown retorted.  "Why didn’t it catch any of us that first
night?"  Silence.  "Yeah, it gave Linus his power, I guess.  But that’s
all it’s done.  All we have to do…is kill Van Pelt."
     "’All we have to do,’" snapped Lucy, mockingly.  Everyone waited,
but she had no further point.
     "All right," Schroeder said finally.  "Who’s going to accomplish all
this?  We need some kind of leader."
     Brown scowled.  "I will."
     Lucy burst out laughing.  "You??!!  You can’t do ANYTHING, you
     "Look, bitch," Brown began.
     "A test," Peppermint Patty said.  "Let’s see if Chuck really *has*
     "I know just the one," Lucy said.  She reached into her battered
knapsack and pulled out a football.  She shrugged.  "I grabbed whatever
was handy when we all left town."  She placed it firmly on the ground,
bracing it by her fingertips.  "Come on…’Chuck.’"
     Brown felt only a twinge of nervousness.  Not this again.  "Fine."
He ran towards her, legs tensing at the last moments…she *snatched*
the football away as his foot started up…and he bent his leg, and pushed
it out from his hip.  His heel smashed into Lucy’s face with a resounding
crack.  Lucy tumbled over backwards, out cold.
     "Enough bullshit!" he screamed.  "WHO’S WITH ME??!!"
     As one, the gang surged to their feet and cheered.  (Except, of course,

     Twenty years passed.  Skirmishes were fought.  Battles were won and
lost.  Brown became the head of a mighty Alliance…the Living’s only chance
against Van Pelt and his hordes of the Dead.  He watched friend after friend
fall in battle.  Pig Pen, torn in half.  Peppermint Patty…immolating herself
and hundreds of approaching Dead when there was no escape.  Lucy…dying
after coming heartbreakingly close to crushing her traitor brother’s throat
with her bare hands.  Schroeder…crushed in a collapsing cavern.  A
cybered-up Woodstock…dead in a firey explosion in midair.
     Twenty years.  And one final chance.

***[World War I.  Post-disruption.]***

     The breath .whuffed. out of Snoopy as he fell six feet into the bottom
of a trench.  The soldiers next to him didn’t even look at him as they surged
out of the trench.  Ten seconds later, the last one was cut in half by
German machine-gun fire.
      "Long way to Tipperary," Snoopy muttered, crawling hurriedly along
the bottom of the trench.  He couldn’t scent either Brown or Van Pelt anywhere
nearby, so he assumed the fact the crystal had cracked had fucked something
up in his case.
      The doughboys around him ignored him completely, apparently too
concerned with surviving the next two yard charge to worry about a small
dog sporting several metal attachments.  Snoopy was content with this.  an
old memory tugged at him…leading him somewhere specific…

     He reached his destination quickly.  An airbase, located several hundred
yards from the front.  It was abandoned, primarily due to this fact.  There
was, however, a functioning Sopwith Camel.  Snoopy whuffed excitedly and
bounded into the cockpit.  Extending his waldoes to the fullest, he could
work all the controls quite well.  He had to modify the shoulder harnesses,
but overall, not bad.
     He taxiied out and took off.  He had an old, bizarre canine fantasy
to fulfill.

     Baron Von Richtoffen was understandably surprised when the Sopwith
Camel screamed down out of the low cloud cover at the German squadron.
He was understandably even more surprised when he saw who pilotted it.
     "Mein Gott!  A dog?!  The Americans must be more pressed for pilots
than they admit!"  He scoffed and climbed steeply.
     "YEEHAA!" screamed Snoopy, nearly blowing out the speaker in his
vocoder.  He dove straight down through the German squadron.  Three of
the enemy pilots panicked and ran into each other.  He pulled the bi-plane
through a tight reversal, nearly blacking out from the g-forces involved,
and fired a brief burst into two more, neatly carving off their wings.
     The remainder of the squadron fled.  Snoopy ignored them, focused
entirely on his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron.
     "This dog is very skilled," Richtoffen muttered to imself, but in
German.  "Appropriately enough, he is a skilled *dog*fighter, hmm?"  He
guffawed loudly at his own pun.
     The duel began in earnest.

     Several hours passed.  Both planes were running on fumes.  Finally,
Richtoffen succeeded in pulling a tight Immelmann, and blew huge holes through
Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel.  Snoopy ran out of ammo, missing entirely, and began
to lose altitude.
     "Curse you, Red Baron!" he screamed.  But wait…one last chance…
He pushed his plane into a tight, do or die dive.  It succeeded.  Snoopy
and the Red Baron collided in midair.  The mingled wreckage began to
tumble helplessly towards the earth.  Richtoffen’s eyes widened as sheets
of metal sheared through his torso, and he saluted Snoopy sardonically before
he died.
     Snoopy’s body flared in light and vanished seconds before the planes
carved a flaming crater in the ground.

***[20 years in the past.  Post-disruption]***

     "About fucking time," Van Pelt muttered.  He’d thought that at
least the crystal would deposit him closer than three hours walk to
the pumpkin patch.
     At an earlier time, he might have felt nostalgia.  Not anymore.  Now
he simply wanted to get his handful of dirt and leave.  And finally, he was
     He knelt down, reaching to the ground…
     "I don’t know what you’re doing back here," Brown’s voice said.  "And
I don’t care.  I’ll kill you here as well as anywhere else."
     Van Pelt snarled and stood up, flinging his hand outward, calling
to his master to smite Brown down once and for all.
     Nothing happened.
     "You haven’t *summoned* it yet, ‘dear friend.’"  Brown dropped into
a defensive stance, waiting.  "Mano a mano.  Come on."
     "All right….all right.  Fitting.  I’ll kill you over the very spot
where I killed Sally tomorrow night."
     Brown slide-stepped forward and lashed out with a snap kick.  Van Pelt
batted it away easily, following immediately with a flurry of roundhouse
kicks and punches.  Brown blocked or evaded them all.  The two circled warily
for a time.
     Brown exploded into a flurry of blows, driving Van Pelt back.  Eventually,
a spinning crescent got through Linus’ guard and crashed with devestating
force across his face.  He stumbled away, wiping away blood.  He nodded
calmly to Brown.  "First blood.  Too bad you kick like a girl."
     So saying, he executed a jumping side kick ten times faster than any
human being had a right to.  It would have been more impressive had it
connected.  As it was, Linus landed off balance, stumbling long enough for
Brown to step in and drive an elbow into Van Pelt’s right temple.  The
blow landed, he backed off, watching his foe reel.
     "You’ve used to much fucking ‘magic’ over the years, Linus.  You’ve
gotten soft!"
     Linus shook his head sharply, regaining his senses.  "Soft," he laughed.
"No.  Your *sister* was soft."  Then he attacked, so fast that Brown barely
could track it, desperately blocking.
     Van Pelt dropped low, spinning momentarily, sweeping Brown’s legs out from
under him.  He rose, and dropped an axe kick into his face.  Cartilage
splintered, and Brown howled in pain, rolling desperately to the side to
avoid the following kicks.
     "Pity," Linus muttered.  "An inch higher and that would have killed you."
He followed the downed Brown, kicking him repeatedly.
     Finally, Brown moved no more, staring blindly upward.  Van Pelt knelt
down.  "You never could finish anything," he said, drawing a knife from
his boot.  He raised the knife high.  "Say goodnight, asshole."  He brought
the knife down.
     Brown caught Van Pelt’s wrist, stopping the knife point millimeters from
his throat.  They remained that way, frozen for the longest time.  "Goodnight,"
Brown whispered, "…asshole!"  He slammed his knee into Van Pelt’s
groin, and surged upward, literally picking Linus up and throwing him to
the ground.  He backed away, shaking his head violently, blood and sweat
flying.  He grinned through the pain as Van Pelt rose to his feet, still
holding the knife.
     "Nice gesture, Brown.  But useless!"  He stepped forward, whipping the
knife in a horizontal arc.
     Brown caught his wrist, stepping neatly around, digging his thumb
savagely into a pressure point.  Van Pelt sucked in his breath as Brown
locked his elbow and kicked his knee, causing him to collapse.  He *drove*
him into the ground, and Linus’ elbow snapped loudly and bent backwards.  He
took the knife almost as an afterthought.
     Linus rose shakily to his feet, cradling his shattered and dislocated
elbow.  He seemed about to say something, but Charles stepped in and drove
the knife into his heart.  Van Pelt collapsed, shuddered, coughed up a
mouthful of blood, and lay still.
     Brown sighed wearily, and began to walk away.  He froze at the sound
of Linus rising behind him and rasping "Brroowwwwnnnnn."
     Brown almost turned slowly, dramatically, but instead whipped around in
less time than it took to blink.  "You…cannot…" Van Pelt’s body said,
its head tilted at an odd angle, its eyes glowing a baleful red.  "…do
this…I will not allow it!"  It yanked the dagger out of its chest and
threw it aside.  "You have slain this vessel, but you will not stop
my plan!"
      "Well, well.  The ‘Great Pumpkin.’  All bluster as usual.  You’ve lost."
Fearlessly, he stepped in and kicked the corpse in the head two dozen
times.  It fell over and struggled to its feet again.
     "NO!" it screamed.  It flung an arm out at Brown, snarling something
arcane and hideously old.
     Nothing happened.
     "I bet," Brown said, conversationally, "That you can’t do anything
without a living, *willing* soul to tap…other than to animate a few
corpses here and there.  I bet that Linus provided the power all along…you
simply provided the means and corruption."
     "You’re a joke!" Brown snapped, and knocked the corpse over again.
     "Let it," hissed Brown.  "The future you two made sucks."
     A spark of life returned to Van Pelt’s eyes, and the corpse howled
FLED!  YOU…YOU…shut up…*Master*" its distorted voice changed to
Linus’ halfway through the sentence…Linus’ voice, laced with pain and
determination, and the last spark of humanity left to him.  Van Pelt looked
up at Brown.  "Charlie Brown…I’m sorry…if this can but change
everything…even if not…it’s worth it."  Linus cupped his hands, spoke
a single syllable, and they burst into blinding blue flame, consuming the
flesh in seconds and greedily marching up his arms.
     Then a curious thing happened.  Linus’ mouth opened wide in a scream…
"NO!!!!!!!!!" while simultaneously, Linus’ voice said, resignedly, "Yes."
Then the flame consumed him entirely.
     Brown stood silently for several long minutes.  As if in a dream,
he smoothed the soil of the pumpkin patch before flaring in light and

***[The present.  Branch 1.  Probability wave collapse.]***

     Brown and Snoopy reappeared in the lab in time to watch the crystal
shatter further into plain dust.  There was silence for a long moment.
     "Where were you?" Snoopy asked finally.
     "Twenty years in the past.  I just killed Linus."
     "Good.  I just killed the Red Baron."
     "Interesting."  He turned to watch several troops enter the room and
salute tiredly.
     "General…the Dead…they’ve all just…dissolved where they stood.
We’ve won."
     Brown looked around.  "’rip the universe apart.’  Right."  Finally,
he shrugged and looked at his expectant troops.  "You can spread the word
that Van Pelt is dead."
     "Is that all, sir?"
     "For the moment.  In a couple days, we’ll have to start planning the
rebuilding…but for now it’s just time to relax."

***[20 years ago.  Probability wave collapse]***

     Wait a minute, Linus thought to himself as he gripped the knife.  I can’t
do this!
     For a moment…a fleeting moment…there was some distant, dark echo…
and then nothing.  Unnoticed by Sally, he whipped the knife as far away as
he possibly could.  He thought he heard someone…was that Pig Pen?…curse
in sudden pain and limp away, but paid no real attention.

***[World War I.  Probability wave collapse]***

     No one took the captured German pilots’ account of Richtoffen’s
death seriously.  An otherwise obscure Allied pilot wound up getting the
credit for the kill.

***[The present.  Branch 2.  Probability wave collapse]***

     The gang grew up and led fairly normal lives.  Nothing spectacular…but
they were generally happy.  Pig Pen still walks with a limp, and has an
interesting scar in his foot which he still refuses to discuss.  Linus has
some dark memories that he’s succeeded in suppressing, but for the occasional
     Cliched, overused, but true:  everyone, more or less, lived happily
ever after.

3D-Printed Ornithopter in Japan August 21, 2013

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Amazon’s Mechanical Turk August 21, 2013

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is a low-cost labor exchange.  If you need a hundred people to do something annoying maybe a hundred times each, offer it to Mechanical Turk (at a price you can stand) and wait for results.  I imagine crowdsourced books to be made this way, or something translated quickly, or other "knowledge work" of a kind that would fit a model like this.
I presume it can be used for better things than that; "many people who can’t speak and have very limited manual dexterity communicate by slowly typing words and prompting a computer to pronounce them. Their communication speed averages one or two words per minute. In such a laborious process, predicting the speaker’s intent can greatly accelerate the task. This requires what is known as a statistical language model. ‘I was amazed to find that in 30 years of development of this kind of technology, no one had produced a good statistical model for the things these people need to say,’ Kristensson explains.
The main problem is the dearth of data from which to derive statistical relationships. You can’t wiretap the computers used by large numbers of disabled people. So Kristensson came up with an alternative: ask people who are not disabled to imagine what they would say if they had to communicate by this method. He used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to crowdsource imagined communications—”Who will drive me to the doctor tomorrow?” and “I need to make a shopping list.” Then he combed through Twitter, blogs, and Usenet for phrases that were statistically similar to the ones generated by Mechanical Turk. After several iterations, he had the tens of millions of phrases he needed to build a useful model."
Per Ola Kristensson is the guy who developed the gesture-based methods that Android and iPhone users type with by swiping across keyboards.
I have often wondered about what kind of projects would use Mechanical Turk, other than spamming Yelp with reviews and other kinds of astroturfing.  I suspect user experience testing and bug-hunting would loom large.

Quora is a Marvelous Time Sink August 21, 2013

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“No one wants to clean the chimp enclosure after Coconut Day.”—anonymous person on Quora.

Quora.com is a nifty little site where people will vie for the honor of answering questions…but they have to be GOOD questions.  Like the one which exposed the dirty secret of zookeepers: they work 12-hour days, like animals and generally don’t like humans (might have guessed).  The quote above comes from the responses to “What’s something that is common knowledge at your work place, but will be mind blowing to the rest of us?” as does:

“I have a friend who was a musician during the endless run of Guys and Dolls on Broadway. After a year of playing the same songs 4+ times a week, they had memorized their parts perfectly. So they removed the music stands, and started a pit-wide poker game.”

And :

Batteries are following Moore’s law

The installed price of lithium ion batteries is dropping in half every 18 months and they last twice as long … just like Moore’s law for computer chips…
well not quite Moore’s law but something very similar.

I’ve worked for a handful of lithium ion battery-using companies in electric transportation and grid storage where the price is now down to about $500/kWh to purchase. The price has declined like this in the past few years
(not official company info but mine):

You can decide for yourself how how many data points that you need to see where the  industry is trending and (much more importantly) if the trend is  sustainable. [Edit: got a quote in mid-June of 2013 at $350/kWh. While that’s a little bit above that curve, we haven’t negotiated yet either.] [Edit2  2013-08-19: I understand that Tesla is buying it’s 80kWh packs at  $150/kWh or $12,000, which if true is WAY under that curve…so it might  not yet be sustainable today but continues the trend until they are  sustainable by possibly late next year(?).]

An implication:

An electric sedan gets about 4 miles for each kWh. So 100 kWh of max storage capacity in 2017 would give a 400 mile range with (today’s) capability of a 15 minute charge time for about $10,000 (unlike about $30k or more today).
So, keeping in mind that $0.20 per mile of gas is $0.03 per mile of electricity,
in 7-10 years from now there won’t be a reason to have a gas car.

And most sadly of all,

“This is more a holistic point about political events you see on TV, but nothing happens "by accident". Even for the most minor event or tour, someone’s been in contact with the organizers for two weeks, and has been on-site for three days already briefing anyone and everyone. That spontaneous person coming forward to give the Candidate flowers? Pre-approved and vetted. The safety signs on the wall the Candidate is walking by in a factory? Sanitized for possible negative angles. The everyman-esque ordering of a coffee while the tour bus has an impromptu stop? The store manager knew the bus was coming, and what everyone would be ordering (how do you think there was parking for two buses and a security entourage?). The forklift that just happens to be blocking anyone from getting a photograph from an angle that would show how few people are present in a venue? Not parked there by accident. The four workshops located in a row that the Candidate just toured? They don’t usually work there. The training class that the Candidate just visited? It doesn’t usually happen on this day, and the last one ran two months ago. The local guy in jeans who’s standing at the back and clapping enthusiastically, but maybe not staring at the stage? He’s the professional who put this on, and is already thinking of where his next event is.”

Samsung Flexible OLED Display August 13, 2013

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Teaser headline…much like the little get-together I endured in SOMA this evening, hoping for a glimpse of the fable flexy display…alas, it was not to be.  Samsung bodies were there in force (including  Shankar Chandran, the VP of innovative division or whatever the hell they are calling the bait and switch division) but no prototypes are in evidence since CES, when they displayed and demoed this:

Well, you would think that setting up a meeting with a hundred or so geeks with a technical bent would have set Samsung to bringing a boatload of demos and prototypes to a tech-hungry audience.  You would, right? 

No such luck; they brought pizza, as if that would bring a pack of yapping techhounds to heel.  Not so, my brothers.  A fellow I met explained it to me:

“They set us a little contest: $10, 000 Grand Prize, $5,000 First Prize and $2,500 for designs which would use their flexible OLED display for a great product…which they will probably steal and use themselves.”

Makes perfect sense.   Of course, the people they were trying this trick on were, in all probability, at least as smart as they are.

Good luck with that, fellas.

I Just Love Watching Kids Splash in the Pool August 11, 2013

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New Kid in Town August 10, 2013

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Scientists describe Lavasoa Dwarf Lemur as new primate species

The newly described Lavasoa Dwarf Lemur (Cheirogaleus lavasoensis) inhabits three isolated forest fragments in the extreme south of Madagascar. According to current knowledge, it does not occur outside this area. The exact population size is unknown. Preliminary estimates indicate that there are less than 50 individuals remaining.

Photoshop Milestone August 10, 2013

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Well, not so much for Photoshop, but for us poor suckers who believe faked photos.  Dartmouth and UC Berkeley researchers created a software program that can tell if a photo is faked by testing whether the shadows within are consistent with a single light source throughout the photo.

"Our method shifts the dialogue from ‘does the lighting/shadow look correct?,’ which is well known to be highly unreliable, to a discussion of whether an analyst has correctly selected the location of cast and attached shadows in an image, a far more objective task," says senior author Hany Farid, a professor of computer science and head of the Image Science Group at Dartmouth. "In this regard, our method lets humans do what computers are poor at—understanding scene content—and lets the computer do what humans are poor at—assessing the validity of geometric constraints."

The study, titled "Exposing Photo Manipulation with Inconsistent Shadows," was presented last week at the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGGRAPH conference, to be published in the journal ACM Transactions on Graphics in September.
I wonder how many fakes this technique will catch.

I Was on Vacation or I Would Have Seen This August 10, 2013

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much sooner,

Hat Creek Radio Observatory Frog Pond August 7, 2013

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A photo of the missus and myself taken by a sharp-eyed observer from the road.  This little pond was teeming with frogs and fish and birds and rushes and aspens and lots and lots of algae.  It’s the most alive little place we have seen this entire trip.  It is surrounded on all sides (except the road side) with volcanic boulders and hardy scrub oaks, or valley oaks.  It looks like high desert elsewhere, essentially:


Note for the weary reader:  I keep referring to Hat Creek Radio Observatory, for which we detoured from our planned route only to find it closed (it was a Sunday).  I will keep this inconvenience enshrined in this fashion for as long as the Web shall last.

Star Party Animals August 7, 2013

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II was cooling my heels in the parking lot at Bumpass Hell when I met a bunch of very nice astronomy geeks setting up.  It was new moon, so the skies should be free of annoying moonlight, except…


well, thunderclouds off in the distance.  Undaunted, the astrogeeks set up anyway:


Their ‘scopes varied considerably, but all (except one?) were professionally made.  We moved the car to the exit of the lot so we wouldn’t blind them with headlights leaving earlier than they would.  And lots happened, for us rookies: myself, my sainted, white-haired mother and my sister:

First off, the first visible things were Venus in the west, then Arcturus overhead, then Saturn in the south and Vega to the north (I cheated and used Google Sky to identify them except Venus and Vega.  I felt like an ubergeek because I already knew those).  Then, the ISS went overhead and I was able to make out its shape through my own binoculars.  It was visible for about thirty seconds (protip: apparently you can see the ISS just after dusk when it passes overhead, but not later, since it depends on catching the rays of the sun for visibility, so just after dusk, or nothing.  We discovered that many satellites are visible through binoculars or naked eye viewing, but you need perfect dark like a mountaintop thirty miles from the nearest town).  One of the guys set up his scope to show us Saturn.  My mother is 84 and hadn’t ever see Saturn through a scope; neat.1  He also showed us two star clusters before the aforementioned thunderclouds shut down seeing for everyone.  We left at about 10:30, and they stayed up all night talking.  I got a phone call from them at about eleven, since they had found my wallet in the parking lot, lost when I lay down to look at satellites through binoculars.

1 I had the strange pleasure of walking down Geary (I think) thirty years or so ago and a guy zoomed to a stop across the street as we waited for the light to change, leaped out of his van and set up a telescope on the sidewalk.  He had people looking through the thing as they passed by, at Saturn.  Turns out he was John Dobson, inventor of the Dobson scope and founder of San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers.  I now live two blocks from him, although I haven’t run across him yet.  He would be 98 years old now, if still alive.

PS. My wife and I ran across another guy doing this June 15th…but he wasn’t as inviting as a whole bunch of them.  Safety in numbers, I guess.


A View of Crater Lake (California) August 7, 2013

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A mere few minutes from the fabled Hat Creek Radio Observatory, Crater Lake is a cinder cone with fresh water in it, and small fish, according to a fisherman we met who didn’t seem to mind.  Because it’s volcanic, it has mostly boulders around it, which really make it scenic, like above.  We got there the first week of August, so the temperature was probably as nice as it gets, and will only stay that way for a week or two.  Mountains, you know. 

Camping is available, as is picnicking, but it’s miles from nowhere so be warned.panoCraterLake

Click to embiggen.

In the Meadow Behind the Cabin August 6, 2013

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I found this.  Awesome in appearance, grand in size (about four inches across), he is the king of all local mushrooms, having defeated his rival in battle (below).


Family Portrait August 6, 2013

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In the middle of a hike.  Resting, honest.

I’m on Vacation For a While August 5, 2013

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but I promise to post photos and video.