8FOLD: Mighty Medley # 31, July 2016, by Messrs. Brenton, McClure, Perron, Russell, and Stokes

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Sat Jul 23 04:46:30 PDT 2016

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-------------- ISSUE # 31   JULY 2016 --------------
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-----------SAXON BRENTON--ADRIAN McCLURE------------
--------------- Editor, Tom Russell ----------------


"The Terrific Visage" Part 1
  by Drew Perron

In which Mr. Perron, at long last, begins a serial for these pages,
and one that proves to be worth the wait. On the gray fuzz, the
moonlight of a monitor, and an offer that is as unusual as it is

"Beyond the Fields" Part 30
   by Saxon Brenton

Deidre's second idea examined, deconstructed, and discarded. The
marvelous thing about Saxon's work is that even the ideas that "don't
work" do work, and remain fascinating, fun, and thought-provoking.

"The Science-Blades of Terra Alter" Part 3
   by Adrian McClure

Preparations for a departure. Responsible adults and expectations; a
sinister nothing; what cats know. Introducing Allecto, the Sensational
Character-Find of 2016.

"Empress of Pages" Part 16
   by Colin Stokes

Preparations for a return. The nature of movement from Earth to the
Capsule World, and the dangers inherent in the same. A small metal
ball the size of a grape, with unsettling implications. What's in a

"Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 29
   by Tom Russell

Dash Adams and Silke's boy. The confessions of "Saint Gustin", and a
salacious bit of scripture. Reflections on a sinning life, hopes for
salvation, and fear of pain; the asking of a terrible favor. "Make it
quick, then."

----------------THE TERRIFIC VISAGE-----------------
-----------------------Part 1-----------------------
------------Copyright 2016 Drew Perron--------------

In the days after the Awful Thing, Mackenzie had been far, far away.
Her body was at home, but there was a thick layer of gray fuzz between
her mind and her eyes. There were people around, family and friends,
but their voices were hard to hear, and their faces hard to focus on.
  Sometimes the fuzz thinned out a little. Later that week, she and
her parents went out to the park. The sun was warm and bright, and for
a couple hours she was part of the world. And then, on the way back,
she saw one of those crosses by the road, and it all came back at once
and she cried and she couldn't stop crying and they pulled over and
she cried and she cried til she was numb again.
  Mom suggested that she do a project, create something, get her
feelings out. But nothing much interested her. She spent
she-didn't-know-how-much time in her room, alone, wearing a groove
into her life and numbing the memories of the past. In there, she
didn't have to worry. The computer just did what she wanted it to do.
She hardly ever cried.
  And it was there, in the moonlight of the monitor, that she met Medusa.
  Mackenzie had heard in the news about the mysterious AI hero who had
defeated the Gorgon and helped end the Pulse invasion. But the signals
that reached through her monitor, through the fuzz, gave her the whole
story. Medusa had *been* the Gorgon, until a kind hand reached out and
helped her evolve beyond the hate. Now she had a cloud of selves, a
decentralized AI family of synchronous sisters, trading experiences
back and forth.
  And that life was amazing and valuable - but she could be doing
*more*, evolving in weirder and more wonderful ways, ways that helped
mankind evolve too. And that's why she was here, offering Mackenzie -
herself. A Medusa, separate from all the other Medusas, to live inside
Mackenzie's head.
  It was a weird offer. Mackenzie should've found the idea scary,
alien, overwhelming. But maybe all that was lost in the fuzz. Instead,
she just asked - what would it be like?
  Medusa had never done this before. But based on when she'd stepped,
for a moment, into other people's heads, she would be able to hang out
in the background and watch, but couldn't interfere unless Mackenzie
let her. Medusa would be there to talk, to listen, and most
importantly, to stand beside her, even when things got bad, even
inside the worst of the memories.
  The clouds broke, and Mackenzie could feel a ray of light pierce the
gray. Someone to stand beside her... She shook her head. It felt too
good to be true. Was there anything else?
  Well - there was one more thing. If she ever needed to, if she ever
*wanted* to - Medusa could do what she called 'thought
parallelization'. Not just existing side-by-side in the same head, but
- temporarily, she was quick to note - the same *person*. Creating a
personality out of the interplay between them, an expression of what
they were - or, well, could be - together.
  A warm summer wind blew through the fuzz, carrying it away.
Mackenzie felt energized, standing in the doorway of something new.
But she *had* to make sure - what Medusa was saying was, it would all
be her decision, right?
  Yes. And Medusa swore that she would do everything in her power to
ensure that no one would take Mackenzie's choices away from her, ever
  There would be days when the memories returned, weeks when the sky
went overcast and the light went dull. But now, Mackenzie had someone
to help her with that. And she had an idea for a project...

-----------------BEYOND THE FIELDS------------------
---------------------Part 30------------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Saxon Brenton-------------

   Joan glanced at the ring on her hand, then recognised what Deidre
was talking about. "You do realise that this is just an analysis tool,
don't you?" she said, referring to the device set into the ring which
she had used to investigate the nature of matter in this severely
warped universe. (Goodness, had it only been in the afternoon of the
previous day that she had done that? It seemed longer since the two of
them had flown to Berlin by airship.) "It doesn't have any actual
ability to *affect* anything."
   Deidre made a face. "I kind of suspected as much, and that's why I
want to run through the idea in full," she said. "Maybe it has too
many holes in it to work as well."
   "Very well."
   "I'm thinking that the way that this universe is decaying into
non-physicality and its... flavour, I suppose... has turned into a
horror laced faerie tale... Well, that's what the Many Angled Ones
want but it isn't completely under their control."
   "Well, yes," agreed Joan. "If it was completely under their control
they wouldn't need to cloud the mind of an Anarchitect like Oustler to
keep him from making his own changes."
   "Right! Exactly. So this world is still open to manipulation, and
it's already lost a lot of its physical coherence as it heads on its
way to completely turning into a mimetic virus that'll float off and
infect any other reality it comes in contact with. So if we use an
artefact that analyses mimetic weight," and here Deidre pointed at the
ring again, "and use it as a magical symbol for manipulating mimetics,
and then draw the inchoate Naziworld into one spot - probably using
something like the Law of Positive Attraction..." Deidre paused. "I'm
babbling, aren't I?"
   "A bit. 'Brainstorming' might be a better description, if you want
to put a positive spin on it."
   "Well thank you," said Deidre, dryly. "But I'm not exactly
interested in spin at the moment."
   Joan nodded her acceptance of that, then said. "It won't work. It's
a good idea, but drawing in an entire universe of mimetics?" The angel
shook her head. "It's too much. There's no way we could leverage
enough force to do that using just this," she said, looking ruefully
at the ring. "Remember, the equations for information entropy are the
same as for physical entropy, so we're still talking about a whole
world's worth of weight."
   Deidre was briefly surprised. "What, so 'Knowledge equals power
equals energy equals mass' isn't just a setup for a Terry Pratchett
joke? Huh."
   Joan let this pass. "It means we're back to back to your first
suggestion," she said, giving Deidre a level stare.
   Deidre returned the look, then carefully drew her handgun from the
concealed holster. "Any advice that you can think of to tell me before
you go?" she asked as she checked to make sure it was properly loaded.
   "Take the ring," Joan said. "I'll use it as a homing beacon. And if
absolute worst comes to absolute worst, and I don't get back in time,
maybe you'll get insanely lucky with your idea to drag the Naziworld
back to form a primal egg."
   This did not fill Deidre with confidence. It wasn't something she
liked to talk about, but she hadn't exactly been insanely lucky the
last time she'd tried to stop the literal end of a world.
   "Have you killed anyone before?" asked Joan.
   "A few times, actually. I'd like to think that since they were in
combat, and afterwards I kept wondering if there might have been
another way, that it says something good about my morality. But other
times I worry that I'm just making excuses for myself. Ready?"
   Deidre pulled the trigger and shot the angel square in the face.
Then she was surprised for a second time when the celestial's body
cleanly discorporated. "Huh. Just like in Buffy."

-----------------THE SCIENCE-BLADES-----------------
-------------------OF TERRA ALTER-------------------
-----------------------Part  3----------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Adrian McClure------------

It was an unseasonably cold night, and with students only just
filtering in for the new semester, the town was still empty. No one
was walking down the road in the small neighborhood next to campus
where Elaine Williams lived. But if someone had been, they would have
had felt as if something were there they could almost but not quite
see, like the nagging feeling you get when you remember you need to do
something but not what it is. They would have seen nothing, though.
The stray cats were another matter. They clambered out of the way and
arched their backs as if something was marching past. They turned
their heads and hissed as nothing made its way to Elaine's house.

While Antinea worked on preparing whatever kind of strange space
science she was doing, Elaine went about making the last preparations
to leave. She'd called up the catsitter, telling her she'd be gone for
three months, which is longer than she'd hoped but also too
   In her hand she held the foil she'd used in fencing club. It had
been stuffed in the back of her closet along with all the other things
from college she didn't think about much anymore. She hadn't had many
chances to practice her craft once she graduated and everyone who'd
been in fencing club drifted away--fencing wasn't something
responsible adults did, it seemed. It was harder in general to make
connections and meet new people as she got older. There was an
expectation that after a certain age you were supposed to know
perfectly who and what you were in life and have it all together,
which really wasn't true.
   And now of course, she was about to step into a whole other world.
Who knew what kind of expectations she'd have to face there. Antinea
was being as helpful as she could, but at this point Elaine didn't
even know the right questions to ask.
   She gripped the sword and sliced through the air. The foil shook in
her hand at first, but soon she'd picked up a bit of the solidness and
fluidity of the old days. Then again, she'd never fought a battle with
real stakes before. From what he husband had told her, duels were a
not uncommon way of resolving conflicts on Terra Alter.
   She was distracted from her thoughts by Allecto, their fat middle
aged tabby, rubbing up against her legs. She laid the blade on the
table and picked up Allecto, stroking the cat for one last time,
burying her cheek in soft fur. Allecto purred loudly but was still
twitchy and on edge; she could tell from all the hustle and bustle
that something unpleasant was afoot.
   Then Allecto tried to wriggle out of Elaine's arms and let out a
hiss, stretching her claws for a fight. It wasn't because of
Antinea--she seemed to like her, which was good. Allecto was a strong
judge of character--if she liked someone, they were usually good and
trustworthy. And if she was freaking out this badly, there had to be a
   Elaine dropped Allecto to the floor. The cat screamed and leaped,
lurching at nothing at all--or was it? There was a flicker in the air,
a muffled cursing sound. She'd seen something like this this before.
   Cloaks of Unknowing. These were agents of the School of Night.
They'd attacked her home once, but that time her husband had been
around to face them. Now it was up to her. This was her world now. And
she had to fight for it.

---------------- EMPRESS OF PAGES ------------------
----------------------Part 16-----------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Colin Stokes--------------

Still holding the Manual, the Empress walked over to the lineup of
summoning circles and stared down at the one that, until recently, had
summoned a daemon named Fn'ordh Rael Meredith.
   It was still working; the moonlight energy was slowly trickling in
to sustain the ritual. The circles inscribed in the metal plate hadn't
been altered in any way, either. Yet somehow she could tell that the
name that they pointed to didn't begin with Fn'ordh; it was the new
name, Meredith Rael Fn'ordh.
   -The summoning circle describes... an index, let us say,- the
Library explained to her, -not a name as such. But unless your mind is
operating in the numerical format used by the Manual, you will
perceive the name instead.  Meredith's index has not changed, only his
   "So then," the Empress mused out loud, "engraving or otherwise
constructing a Circle according to a Name actually does so according
to its Index, without the summoner even understanding the process.
Most fascinating indeed."
   "You changed my name," Meredith rumbled from behind her, his voice
once again sounding somewhere between awestruck and terrified.
   "I did."
   "You /changed/ my /name/, Empress. I... am not sure how to feel."
   "Then consider it a gift; one of choice," she returned with a light
smile, finally turning to look at her first Legionnaire, "for I shall
not dictate to you how to feel - not on this or any other matter. But
if I should be precise, that change was a mere reversal; nothing too
remarkable, all told."
   Remarkable enough, Meredith didn't say. Even in his mind he was
referring to himself with that name - it was his now, after all; how
could he /not/?
   "But now we have a problem," the Empress continued, her expression
losing its cheer. "The lunar cells are weak and cannot sustain your
ritual for much longer, not after the drain they suffered. And you
likely have some... opposition, after a fashion, awaiting your return.
I suspect they are waiting still."
   Meredith nodded grimly. Time meant nothing to immortals - and since
you always returned to the spot you were summoned from, there'd be no
escape from whoever had been told to wait for his return.  f only he
hadn't been seen leaving...
   "Thus," she continued, opening the Manual again and briefly
scanning one of the passages, "I need to power this facility more
thoroughly, and... modify you for your return. You brought me this
gift from the Capsule World, so I intend to send you back with
something in return.”
   Intrigued, the daemon watched as a seam appeared in one of the
Empress's metal shoulders and a little metal ball popped out, coated
in some sort of translucent gel. Without looking up from the Manual,
she caught it between two fingers – it was no larger than a grape –
and with a flick of her wrist sent it flashing through the air to
splatter against Meredith's chest, just below his neck.
   At first he was confused; then Meredith felt his skin start to
tingle, then itch, and finally burn as the little ball collapsed and
melted, reforming as a triangular plate the size of his fist. He
valiantly resisted the urge to scream in terror and claw at it, and
the burning sensation finally subsided after a moment, replaced by a
mildly alarming numbness.
   -A pleasure to meet you, Meredith Rael Fn'ordh,- the Library murmured to him.
   Meredith shuddered. 'How am I able to hear you?' he wondered, silently.
   "Because the Library is connected to you now," the Empress returned
out loud, turning back around to the summoning circle with Meredith's
index. "Not in quite the same way as she is to me, of course, but
enough so that we can communicate. meaning that even when you return
to the Capsule World - to your Netherworld - you will not be cut off
from my assistance."
   The metal plate warmed slightly, and a prickling feeling started to
spread from it. Meredith looked down to see tiny silvery veins
extending outward from it, barely visible beneath the reddish surface
of his skin, and growing rapidly. His pulse quickened. 'What is
this?!' he thought, panic rising, even as he tried to get used to
speaking-without-speaking, so that the other Netherworld denizens
wouldn't be able to listen in on his conversations.
   -I am analyzing you,- the Library returned with a vague hint of
enjoyment, -and strengthening you for the trials ahead. For you are
important to my Empress, as her first Legionnaire and as her
ambassador to the Capsule World; you will do what must be done there,
while she does what is needed here. And I will assist you.-
   The Empress unplugged the cable from the floor receptacle, and
watched the moonlight drain from the metal plate's engravings. “We’ll
be in touch."
   And the void-circle shrieked open beneath Meredith's feet, and swallowed him.

--------------SEVEN 'GAINST THEBES------------------
---------------------Part 29------------------------
------------Copyright 2016 Tom Russell--------------

Silke's boy had only ever understood his father's gift in an abstract
way. He knew his father could tell where he needed to go, and that he
knew what he'd find there, and if it would be something good or
something bad; usually, it were the second thing, seldom the first.
But he never really understood it, not the way he understood when
supper was ready, or the way he knew how and when to kill somebody.
Leastways, not until he came to Thebes Ranch. For he knew right away
that that's where he was, and in his belly he knew that something
terrible was waiting inside. He knew it the way his father did.
   The corpses didn't bother him much. He'd seen them before. He'd
made them before. There was an awful lot of blood, and greasy insides
on the outsides. That didn't bother him too much either. In fact, for
all its excess, this erstwhile abattoir had a certain elegance; there
was an artistry to the slaughter, a finesse, a certain ineffably
feminine quality. Dainty and clean, even as it were violent and messy.
   In the basement he found Peake's workshop, and there he found Mr.
Adams. There wasn't any skin left on his arm. "Mr. Adams? I'm here to
rescue you."
   "Heh," said Adams. He let his head lilt leftwards, toward the boy.
"Little late for that, I suspect, though I surely do appreciate the
    The boy couldn't bring himself to look at the arm. Instead he
looked at the table. There was a beaten-up old bullet sitting on it.
   "That's the bullet that killed Jack Peake," grinned Adams. "Take it."
   He did. Then: "I'll stop the bleeding first. Then get you out of here."
   "Seems like that'd be a lot of trouble. I would hate to see you go
to all that trouble, only to have me expire in a fortnight anyway."
   "Oh, I won't let you expire, Mr. Adams."
   "Sweet of you, but I think my T.B. has a contrary notion."
   "T.B.? But I never even heard you cough, not even once."
   "I never cough in polite company. The way I see it, I can waste
away from consumption, or I can bleed to death here. I'm not
particularly inclined to go either of those ways. That's a whole lot
of pain and suffering, and I must confess to you, young master Silke,
that I never did cotton to pain and suffering. As soon as I was
diagnosed, I felt a powerful urge to put a bullet in my brain. Now,
generally when I get a powerful urge to do something, even something
self-destructive, I do it; even when it's wrong, I do it, and I was
never ashamed of that. My mother had a book by Saint Gustin of Hippo
she used to read sometimes, and I would borrow it when I was younger,
mostly because of a few salacious bits. (I must confess that when I
was that age, the only time I ever read the Bible was to read the Song
o' Songs, 'thy breasts are like two young roes who are twins, who feed
among the lilies'.) But Saint Gustin said that he had no inducement to
evil but the evil itself; that it was foul, and he loved his own
undoing; 'I loved my error, not that for which I erred but the error
it very self.' That's me, a rotten scoundrel. A handsome rotten
scoundrel, most assuredly, but a scoundrel still and rotten. Something
else Saint Gustin said in his book, a prayer he made, 'God, make me
pure, just not yet.' And that was my prayer.
   "Only the Good Lord never did grant it, and I despair now for my
immortal soul. I have done some good things, yes, and I think this
last spell I've done maybe enough good to balance out some of the bad.
Enough anywise that I should be able to bluster my way past old Saint
Peter. Or maybe that the Lord will take pity on me, a sinner, a sinner
who repents, mostly. But that's only if I don't do anything untoward
the rest of my sinning life.
   "But, like I said, there is this powerful urge, and I never was any
good at resisting those powerful urges, and I never did cotton to pain
and suffering much. I think you understand what I'm asking of you,
   Silke's boy nodded and cocked his pistol.
   "You're a good kid," said Adams. "Make it quick, then."
   He did.

-----------------SEE YOU NEXT MONTH-----------------

Medusa created by Tom Russell & Andrew Perron.

All stories are the copyright of their authors.

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