8FOLD: Mighty Medley # 5, May 2014, by Brenton, Perron, Russell, and Russell
joltcity at gmail.com
Thu May 1 16:23:04 PDT 2014
==EIGHTFOLD PROUDLY PRESENTS ITS 108TH PUBLICATION==
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============= ISSUE # 5 MAY 2014 ==============
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=========== SAXON BRENTON, ANDREW PERRON ===========
============ MARY RUSSELL & TOM RUSSELL ============
================ Editor, Tom Russell ===============
CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE
"Splat!", by Mary Russell
Of powers derived from insect bites and uncles. A meditation on the
female form, and on the impact of tall buildings. Practice makes
not-quite-perfect. Her insidious, hated nemesis, its countless arms,
and how it will be no match for the power of books.
"Beyond the Fields" Part 5, by Saxon Brenton
In which Deidre concludes her narrative of how she came to possess the
painting. Actually containing the advice to the Host regarding the
infiltration and investigation of humans that was promised in last
month's teaser, that's what your editor gets for reading ahead. Also:
a name dropped: the simple joys of a shared universe.
"Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 4, by Tom Russell
Skin of Snake and Dash Adams are introduced to their employer. On the
exacting standards of Ashes in the Wind, and the fame of Mr. Adams.
The benefits of never missing. War stories shared over breakfast; the
fate of Micah Jenkins arousing anguish, as it would in any gentleman
of the South.
"Debate in Dialogue", by Andrew Perron
In which we eavesdrop on beings that are, perhaps, beyond our ken.
Their lofty cosmic rhetoric on the nature of the universe. Also,
name-calling. When the abstract fails, even such as they must turn to
the realm of the corporeal and practical.
"The Bergeron Run", by Tom Russell
In which Darkhorse enters a race, and is asked to take on a handicap.
The consequences thereof. Time is given up, but never wasted. What the
future holds in store for certain other personages with which the
reader might be well-acquainted.
==================== "Splat!" =====================
========== copyright 2014 Mary Russell ============
Splat. Or at least that's how it felt. At least this time it was her
back and not her front. As much as it hurt, it didn't hurt as much as
when she crashed into the side of a building face first. Well, her
nose was still intact and the bruises were already starting to fade.
On her face anyway. Other places, she had moments when she thought
they may never be rid of the bruising. She feared she would go through
life wearing long sleeves and ankle length skirts and no more showing
copious amounts of cleavage. Well she would if she had cleavage. No
more sexy anything. Still, she was excited. She had felt the wind in
the glass canyon catch her. She had controlled it enough to turn and
smack into the side of a skyscraper with her back. Because she had
control, not accidentally like yesterday. She was getting better at
She was better today than yesterday. And better yesterday than last
week. And better last week than last month. And better last month than
the month before. And so on and so forth. Et cetera. Et cetera.
She hated that caterpillar.
It was growing chubbier. It was living a completely luxurious
lifestyle in that lab. And what about her? She had this damn cone on
her head, shooting out silk sometimes without her permission. Her neck
was widening. Really! She knew she wouldn't be using the neck brace
much longer. They didn't make a bigger size. She hated that insect.
She didn't hate all caterpillars. Just the one that bit her. And
turned her into a superfreak. Squishing was too good for that bug. She
wanted to pull all its legs off. Slowly. Make it suffer. Then pile
books on top of it. Slowly. One book at a time. Just that one bug. Not
all bugs. She didn't hate all bugs. Just that one. The one in her
uncle's lab. Chewing merrily away on all those free leaves in that
climate-controlled case. Alright. The one she wasn't suppose to touch.
Still, it had bit her.
She was aware of something. A sensation in her back. She flipped so
she was facing the 80th floor window, still dangling from her silken
thread. The woman was yelling at her and pounding on the glass. It was
the cleaning lady. Why was there always a cleaning lady? It didn't
matter what time of night, there was always a cleaning lady. Except
for that one time when it was a cleaning guy. The woman stopped
banging on the glass but she continued to yell.
She couldn't hear the words but she could see the words that were
being silently yelled. "Are you alright, Webgirl?"
"Yes." She screamed so loud that for a second she thought the whole
city might have heard her.
This simple cleaning lady had used her name and not in a snarky
way. No interwebs remark. No "it was a caterpillar and not a spider,
there are no webs involved". No one understood that Silkgirl didn't
have the right... something. Webgirl. Now that had the right ring. She
wished her PR guy would get more enthusiastic about it. She threw her
head back and thanked no one in particular. Oh, what a joyous moment.
The cleaning lady started to get taller. No not taller. Webgirl was
sliding. Sliding down the side of the building. Suddenly there was
another splat that echoed in her head. She was sliding down the
outside of a stupid building. Why had they built it there? Right in
her way? She was going to die because they built a stupid building.
She was going to be a puddle of gooey red on the sidewalk. Oooo. That
was so gross.
It took 2 dozen floors before she remembered her thread. She
dangled, somewhere in the fifties, for an hour, her arms crossed,
staring at the city, and thinking of ways to kill that bug.
============ "Beyond the Fields" Part 5 ===========
========== copyright 2014 Saxon Brenton ===========
Deidre took a drink from her glass, then continued:
"Anyway, while I was in Edmonstown I set myself two main tasks.
Firstly I wanted to investigate the middle of town, because there were
indicators that the effect was centred there. For one thing, there
were a number of businesses and homes that had been left empty when
minority groups had moved out, and those were thickest in the central
business district. For another, there had been two letters to the
editor from out-of-towners, plus a few random blog posts, all
commenting on the change in attitude. A rough plotting out of pro-
versus anti- sentiments pointed to the same conclusion.
"The second was to meet and schmooze with the leaders of the newly
formed neo-Nazi group, to see whether they had any direct links to
whatever it was that was going on. That proved surprisingly easy, since
they had meetings open to the public and it's easy enough to work your
way up the chain by pretending to be interested and supportive of their
ideas." She shrugged. "Most people will open up and talk about the
things they're interested in if they have a receptive audience. That's
a human trait, by the way," Deidre said to the angel, "not something
specific to racists.
"But none of them, not Warburton or any of his flunkies, had
anything that I could detect that would account for any sort imposed
attitude change. Now, I know that there's an awful lot of different
types of weird effects, and you can't rule them all out, but I was able
to account for those men not being significant in a synchronicitous
way, and they didn't seem to have any magical or psionic effects
lingering about them.
"During that time I was also walking about town, playing tourist,
looking for the hypothetical nexus of the effect. About the same time
that I had given up on the branch leaders being the cause or even the
carriers of what was happening, I happened across the painting. It was
on display in the window of a store called the Old Oak Chest, off in a
side street. Strangely for something that had diffused its effect
uniformly across the whole town to the point where I couldn't initially
triangulate on it, all I needed to do was see it to detect its inherent
"So I went inside and talked with the owner, who was a Mr Patrick
Steele. We had a rather lengthy discussion where I played the part of a
homemaker who was taken with the painting, and I asked where he'd gotten
it and if there were any more. It turns out he had no idea. It had
simply turned up, there was no paper trail for it, and the best he can
guess is that one of his employees had purchased it without taking any
documentation. Of course I took the effort to follow up that
possibility, and all his shop assistants have denied being the one to
take possession of it.
"I bought the painting and locked it in a magically shielded box,
and moved it to an out of town location. That helped a bit, but once
I knew what to look out for it turned out that its influence couldn't
be fully shielded against, even by encasing it in a magic null substance
like insipid wormwood." Deidre brightened a little. "On the plus side,
that did mean I was able to go back and re-investigate Edmonstown for
anything comparable, and I'm reasonably sure there aren't any other
talismans like it. On the other hand it seems possible that its
influence will continue to seep out over time. As far as I can tell
direct visual contact - like from being on public display - has the
quickest effect, but being locked out of view doesn't actually solve the
problem. The fact that that I was never able to figure out what it was
or how it was doing stuff was also a hindrance. It never detected as
any of the usual sorts of magic or psionics or mad science, and I was
thinking of calling in a favour from Dr Tarif over in Jolt City to have
it analysed for *really* exotic hoodoo. Instead I played a hunch that
maybe it was a mimetic effect, and called on the Host to have a look at
it. And here we are."
========== "Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 4 ==========
=========== copyright 2014 Tom Russell ============
In the morning, Silke introduced his two companions to their new
employer. "Skin of Snake," said Silke. "This is Mr. Strife."
Strife hesitated, then shook the injun's hand.
"Younger brother of Ashes in the Wind," Silke said to Gulliver.
Gulliver nodded. "How is the old crab-ass?"
"Murdered," said Skin of Snake. "But avenged."
"Sorry for your loss," said Gulliver. "He were a crab-ass, though."
"He was difficult, yes, and demanded the best of those around him.
If he found you and Mr. Silke fit to ride with him, then I will ride
Silke then directed Strife's attention to Adams.
"Dash Adams! Well! It is a rarified pleasure! Even I have heard
tell of, and eagerly followed, your exploits, sir. But when Mr.
Gulliver said that Silke was going off to fetch the second-best killer
in the world, I couldn't have imagined I'd be shaking hands with the
famed Dash Adams!"
"Second-best?" said Adams slyly to Silke and Gulliver. "You wound
me, sirs, if surely and only in jest. Habeas corpus; produce the body.
For if you produce such a living man who thinks himself my better, he
will swiftly be rendered merely a body. So, speak of the dead, or soon
to be, Mr. Gulliver."
"Gulliver talks too much," said Silke.
All fell silent, and especially Gulliver.
Over breakfast, Gulliver found his voice again, as he always did.
Adams was a talker, too, and quite inclined to recount his service in
the War Between the States. Strife proved a receptive audience, as did
"How did you escape, with your leg stuck?" asked the boy earnestly.
"Well," said Adams with relish, "that was the question that did
weigh upon me rather heavy-like. For even if I got my leg unstuck, I
could not outrun the Yankee host. And I suppose, looking at it in
hindsight, that I might have squirreled myself away somewhere, and hid
in the dirt and the mud. But frankly, child, that weren't my style, so
it never occurred to me at that time. So I did the onliest thing I
could do. I did the thing I was best at. I shot and killed every last
one of them. One bullet for each man, smack, dab, here." With his
prime finger, he tapped the boy between the eyes. "It's a wonder how
many men a man can kill, provided he never misses. I never miss."
"Wow," said the boy, smiling brightly.
"You certainly didn't miss Micah Jenkins," said Silke.
Adams stood up in a sudden and terrible rage, reaching over the
table and spewing obscenities. Silke appeared uniquely unperturbed,
and Adams stopped cold. But it was not the man's cool composure that
gave Adams pause. It was the unmistakable feeling that there was a gun
pointed at him.
Adams looked to his right, and saw the boy with the pistol with the
pearl handle. "I never miss, either. Kindly unhand my Pa."
Adams sat down, making a bit of a show of his preening
graciousness. "I realize, Mr. Silke, that you were just taking the
piss out of me, as my braggadocio was perhaps unbecoming. And, as we
are newly acquainted, you would not know that the accidental death of
the Brigadier General is a topic that causes me deep distress." But
Silke knew, and Adams knew he knew.
Silke stood and looked at his boy, and his boy knew from the look
that Silke was going out again, and that he was to follow, as surely
as if his father had crooked his finger, or nodded his head, or spoke.
"Going to get Peake, Mr. Silke?" said Strife.
Silke stopped for a second and let the knotty muscles in his chest
twist about. "Not yet," said Silke.
"Because it is Mr. Peake that I have hired you to find. Primarily."
Silke had already answered the question, and was generally not in
the habit of repeating himself once he had done so. And so without
another word, he and his boy left.
============== "Debate in Dialogue" ===============
========== copyright 2014 Andrew Perron ===========
"Worlds are born wounded."
"Not wounded! Simply incomplete."
"That is where we differ. In any case, worlds are born with pieces missing."
"In some worlds, these pieces take millions of years to coalesce in
steam and thunder."
"In others, their appearance is planned like clockwork."
"And yet others are never complete."
"Those where the wounds stay open forever..."
"...and those where pieces slot into place, only for new holes to
grow around them never-ending."
"Ah, yes, that last one. It's terrible, is it not? Never being
whole, never having the necessary consistency..."
"On the contrary! This is the essence of life itself. New places to
explore, new cycles of growth and birth opening up just as the
previous cycle ends."
"Foolishness! Stupidity! Woeful naivete! What a world needs is
stability - a place for everything and everything in its place.
Leaving a wound wide open will lead to confusion, chaos, and
"You're still clinging on to this 'wound' idea. You'd plug up
humans' mouths so they couldn't eat, their ears so they couldn't hear,
their noses so they couldn't breathe, and their-- well, what I'm
saying is, you would demand the all-encompassing smoothness of death!"
"And you would demand a frightful uncertainty, never knowing for
certain, always having something left open to the chaos of the void!"
"Draconian tyrant of pointless scruples!"
"Blotch-ridden emperor of misrule!"
"It seems that we cannot agree."
"And we certainly cannot agree to disagree."
"Well then. If the issue cannot be resolved by debate, how about a
"Put one's metaphorical money where one's mouth is? Very well. But
upon which plane shall we have our contest?"
"Oh, I think we both know the answer to that..."
================ "The Bergeron Run" ===============
=========== copyright 2014 Tom Russell ============
Melody Mapp's wristwatch gives her super-speed. It's also keeping her
alive. She doesn't have much time left, but she's going to spend every
second on the run as the third, final-- and greatest-- DARKHORSE.
Just before he went to prison, Brian Clipper once told her that a
speedster's most important power wasn't running faster than the speed
of sound or up the sides of buildings, nor creating miniature
tornados, nor even vibrating your molecules out of synch with reality,
"though vibrating is very, very useful. No, best arrow in our quiver
is our popularity. Speedsters have always been loved, and we can do
more with that than all the rest."
Melody didn't really grok it until she found a hundred thousand
international sponsors for Atlanta's Breast Cancer Marathon. Like most
things in Melody's life, she pushed hard for the first few steps, then
it picked up speed. Coverage lead to more coverage, donors to more
Not everyone is supportive. Some grouse that Darkhorse is doing it
for attention, just another celebrity pretending desperately that she
cares. The foundation doesn't pay them any mind; money is money, and
sponsors for the event are up across the board, not just for Team
Aunt Dani wouldn't have paid attention to them, either.
She would've been proud.
Even if it's for a cause, a race is a race is a race, and at least
some of the grousing concerns how fair it will be with a speedster in
the running. A solemn promise not to use her powers doesn't appease
them, so Darkhorse agrees to have her watch electronically hobbled. As
even popular heroes have a lot of enemies (more enemies, probably), a
temporarily powerless speedster is a juicy target. Blue Boxer and his
Daylighters offer to provide security, and DFCA Secretary Trimmer
makes it happen. As for the actual hobbling, Fay Tarif is called in to
"Well, I can do it, kiddo. I can do anything, I'm awesome like that."
Fay hesitates. "But... it's going to steal some of your time."
The watch can only keep her alive for one-hundred eighty-six more
days. "How much?"
"You'll lose two days. Maybe two and a half."
One-eighty-four, eighty-three. It's not much time, but really, it's
never been much time. From the start, she's dedicated herself to
making that time count. Towards making it matter. That doesn't change
now that she's approaching the home stretch. The money she's going to
raise, the good it might do? If it helps get us one second closer to
the day where no one has to die the way Aunt Dani died?
It's worth her two days.
=============== See you next month! ===============
All stories are the copyright of their respective authors. Dr. Tarif
is Tom Russell's; all other characters belong to the authors in whose
stories they appear.
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