8FOLD: Darkhorse # 6, "Colder Day By Day"
joltcity at gmail.com
Sun Jun 12 07:12:52 PDT 2016
Melody Mapp was fourteen and dying when her mother gave up her own
life to give her six more years. Since that day, Melody has used this
borrowed time, and the super-speed that came with it, to protect the
Earth and make a difference.
She has two days left.
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~ NUMBER SIX : Colder Day By Day ~
[8F-165] by Tom Russell [PW-19]
PREVIOUSLY, IN DARKHORSE
Melody and a teeny-tiny Cal Morgan were teleported to an unknown
parallel earth, and are trying to work their way home. Meanwhile, the
Daylighters, unaware of exactly what has transpired, are trying to
track down Gareth Roberts, a mancer who might know where Melody is.
This earth is lush and green. Cal wonders if it's their earth, then
notices the pteranodon overhead.
"So, not ours," says Cal.
"Not ours," nods Melody. "Give me a minute to catch my breath, and
we'll try another. Wait, there's something in my ear."
"Sounds like a personal problem."
"Ssh. Medusa, is that you?"
"Wait," says Cal, "how are you getting Wi-Fi here?"
"It's a local instance, off-line. Where've you been, Medusa?"
"The sudden teleportation crashed my system. It has taken me a long
time to reboot since I am disconnected from my 'siblings'."
"That makes sense."
"What's she saying?" demands Cal.
"Ssh, the grown-ups are talking, Cal."
"Oh my God, you did not even."
Melody takes the conversation to super-speed. "Medusa, what
information files and algorithms do you have access to?"
"About forty percent are stored in my local memory," says Medusa.
"The rest are stored in the network. I'm assuming you're asking after
something in particular, and that you don't want a full inventory.
Even at super-speed, it would take something like three hours. And
given Cal's current predicament, it would not be an efficient use of
Melody looks at Cal, who is oblivious. "Run that by me again, Medusa?"
"Humans aren't meant to be an inch tall," says Medusa. "Cal's gene
lets her survive it, but it doesn't mean that her body is used to it.
That's why the enlarging process the first time around takes at least
six hours. As the body get used to it, it gradually develops a
tolerance, and then people can make the switch down and up again
"Yes, that's what Dot said."
"A corollary to that is that if a person is shrunk down for too
long before their system has been able to adapt to it, they will
remain miniaturized indefinitely."
"Can you define 'too long'?"
"By my calculation, Cal would need to be restored to full height
within the next twelve hours. Given that it's going to be a six hour
process, we need to get her back to our Earth in six hours."
"Is that a hard deadline? If we get there in seven...?"
"Then the enlargement would need to take place over the course of
five hours. At that point, it's not safe, and there is a significant
chance of organ damage and failure."
"Six it is, then," says Melody. "What are the chances we can find
an enlargement ray on one of these parallels?"
"The problem is that the only radiation she would respond to would
be native to our Earth's frequency. She'd be immune to the rest."
"Okay," says Melody. She turns to Cal. "Cal, I'm going to set you
down for a minute. Don't get eaten by anything."
Cal says something unprintable.
Melody crouches down over the dirt, and draws three perfect circles
with her finger, each forming the point of a lineless triangle. She
draws two more circles, two more points, which form a triangle with
the right-most point of the original triangle.
"Okay," she says, slowing it down so that Cal can hear it too, "so,
the original plan was that we were just going to hop to random Earths
until I found one I recognized. Then I could use that one to get us
home. But now that we have a super-amazing supercomputer in my ear, we
might be able to make the process a lot less random.
"Each Earth has a frequency relative to every other Earth. So, from
Homicidal Bunny Earth to, I don't know, Dinosaur Earth, there's a
frequency." She draws a line connecting the first two points of the
triangle, and labels it A. "And from Dinosaur Earth to wherever we go
next, we'll just call that World 3, there's a frequency." She draws a
line from Dinosaur Earth to the third point, and labels it B. "Which
means, of course, there's a frequency connecting the next Earth with
Homicidal Bunny Earth." She draws the hypotenuse.
"What, you want to go back there?" says Cal. "You almost died. I
almost died! Almost dying does not feature on my bucket list!"
"No," says Melody. "I'm saying that, if we have A and B, Medusa can
figure out C."
"Ooh, nice plan, Pythagoras."
"It's not a geometry thing," says Melody. "It's a frequency thing.
The frequencies to depart a given Earth are only slightly different
from one another. Medusa, am I hot or cold here?"
"I think I need to turn on my cooling fan," says Medusa. "It's much
too hot in here."
"Medusa says I'm right," says Melody. She draws lines connecting
World 3 to the fourth point, and the fourth to the fifth. "And, of
course, she can calculate the frequency between four and five. More
importantly..." Melody draws a big honking line from five all the way
back to Homicidal Bunny Earth. Then, at super-speed, she draws five
more points, comprising two more adjacent triangles, connecting the
lines for each, and then drawing another big honking line connecting
the last world in that sequence to Homicidal Bunny Earth.
"Okay," says Cal, "so now you'll definitely know how to get to
Homicidal Bunny Earth. You're mapping the unknown multiverse. Great.
How does that get us home?"
"Because we already have this data for the eleven Earths I've
visited voluntarily from our Earth. Using that data, and using this
data that we collect as we world-hop, Medusa might be able to
determine how to get back home."
"So, we're just randomly world-hopping until then," says Cal.
"At first," says Melody. "But as we collect more data, Medusa will
be able to refine her calculations and her models. She'll be able to
suggest specific frequencies. Those will take us to Earths that are
more likely to, hang on," she punches out a dinosaur, "so rude!,
Earths that can give her valuable results. That's going to speed the
whole thing up exponentially."
"It might not be fast enough to help Cal," says Medusa.
"It's going to have to be," says Melody.
"Have to be what?" says Cal. "What does it have to be?"
"Melody," says Medusa, "are you going to tell her? She should know
what's at stake. It's her life. Her body."
At super-speed: "No, she'll just wig out. We don't need that drama
slowing us down." Melody offers Cal her hand, and the tiny woman
climbs on. "Alright, time to collect some mother-effing data."
Sault Ste. Marie Airport.
Gareth ducks into the men's room the moment he spots the
umbrella-mancer lounging near the gate. Well, that puts the kibosh on
Said plan had involved using his vibration-manipulation magic to
mimic a type of magic commonly called the "don't-notice-me effect". He
would then waltz onto the red-eye heading back across the pond, since
no one would even think to ask him for a ticket. But with a fellow
(and well-warded) mancer actively looking for him, and probably having
shielded her fellow super-folks to make them immune to the effect...
Damn, damn, damn. This is not how all this was supposed to go down.
And on top of it, he's lost track of both his sister and Darkhorse,
which should be bloody near impossible. No, not near, just plain
impossible. He can track anyone anywhere on the whole world once he's
tagged them. It's how he and Rhys managed to find where The Company
had been holding Eira in the first place.
Their powers were still new to them then. Rhys was out of control,
roasting the bastards alive. Gareth hadn't perfected his preferred
method of execution, a single concentrated pulse directed right at the
brain. Instead, he just vibrated the bodies apart. Eira killed her
torturer by teleporting him fifty stories up in the air. Gareth made
sure that they let one of them go. Eira and Rhys were livid, but when
he explained that he had tagged him, and that they could follow him to
pick up information on The Company, they saw the light. They gathered
their intel, and then they planned their attack, only to have
Darkhorse ruin the whole bloody thing. And now he couldn't detect her,
or Eira. He could still sense that Company man, though. "You'll get
yours," he whispers violently.
He senses something else as well. Every living thing has a
vibrational frequency, and there's something crawling around in his
boot. An ant? He hates ants. He reaches in to fish it out, and that's
when it springs out of his boot and becomes a five-foot costumed
"Punch in the face!" She swings her left fist.
Before it can make contact, a diffused field of vibrational energy
sends her spiraling back. The side of her head smacks resonantly and
no doubt painfully with the sink, and she collapses unconscious on the
dirty tile floor.
"Well," he says. "One dead hero's as good as any other." He's
preparing his coup de grace when he feels something sharp and pointed
at his back.
"Your sister wasn't our only teleporter," says a voice, and then he's gone.
An hour later. The book store: temporary headquarters of the
Daylighters. Simon wheels his sister inside.
"Hey," says Derek. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," says Kate. "Not, not a hundred percent, but well enough
to be of use."
Simon looks at Derek, and clearly doesn't agree with Kate's assessment.
"Have you found Cal yet?" says Kate.
"Not yet," says Derek. "Our guess is that she was caught up in the
teleporting effect. We're hoping she's with Melody. Where Melody is,
we don't know. But we're working on it."
"Working on it how?" says Kate.
Derek explains about the mancer that tagged Melody before she
teleported away, and that said mancer should be able to track where
"Okay, but what's a mancer?"
"Um," says Simon, "so I guess there's magic now? Magic is a thing, now."
"Lucky for us, we have Rainshade," says Derek. "She's become our
resident expert on magic. These guys were after Melody because the
other day she stopped them from blowing up a building."
"What, they're terrorists?"
"Pretty much," says Derek. "Conspiracy theorists. They think
there's some world-wide anti-mancer mega-corp."
"Nah," says Derek. "Rainshade looked into it, it's all a bunch of
bunk. Unfortunately there is a bunch of anti-mancer hysteria, and
jokers like this, running around trying to blow up buildings, it's
just feeding that fire. Anyway. Rainshade led a team at the airport to
try to flush him out. They didn't see him, but they found Microdot
unconscious in the men's room. Best guess is she hopped onto his
person and hitched a ride."
"Is Dot okay?"
"She woke up pretty quick. We got some doctors with her now. C'mon,
she'll be happy to see you."
"Just a concussion," says the doctor.
"Just a concussion," repeats Dot. "Yeah, well, a concussion is
enough, believe you me. I don't need anything else on top of it. Oy.
Hi, Kate. Kate's brother."
"Simon," says Simon.
"Nah, I'm just going to call you Kate's brother, if that's okay."
"How are you feeling, Kate?"
"I'm fine," says Kate. "It's nice to be all in one piece again."
"You jumped on the mancer before he left?" says Derek to Dot.
"Cal wasn't with you?"
"No," says Dot. "Is she missing?"
Derek nods. "That confirms it, then. She has to be with Melody."
"Melody didn't come back?" says Dot.
"No," says Derek. "We're not sure where the teleporter took her to.
We're not getting any signal from her headset. Apparently the mancer
you were following is tracking her. So if we can find him, we can find
her. And Cal. Rainshade's still looking."
"So," says Dot, "if I placed a subcutaneous tracking beacon on his
ankle, that would be helpful, yes?" She reaches into her utility belt
and pulls out a receiver.
"Give it to me," says Kate.
"Uh, Kate," begins Derek. "I don't think you should be in the field
again so soon."
"You're entitled to your opinion," says Kate. "It's wrong, but
you're entitled to it. Sending a big ol' team against this guy is
going to flop. He's just going to rabbit. I can move quicker, and more
importantly, quieter, by myself. He won't hear or see me coming. If
I'm phased enough, he won't even be able to detect me with his
vibrational shenanigans. And, FYI? You need someone immune to
vibrational shenanigans. That would be me."
"I get where you're coming from," says Derek. "And it makes sense.
But we don't know if you'd really be immune. We don't know how your
powers are working right now. There are too many variables..."
"Look it," says Kate.
"You're in trouble now," says Simon. "She only says 'look it' like
that when she's pissed."
"Not helping, Simon." Kate turns back to Derek. "You're trying to
protect me. That's sweet, and dumb. Mostly dumb. And patronizing. You
were trying to do the same thing to Melody back in August, even though
she was absolutely the right person for the job, and as a result, I
spent the last four months in a living hell. Now you're trying to do
the same thing to me, and now Melody's going to pay the price. And my
sister! Only it's not going to be four months for them, because ten
a.m. tomorrow morning, Melody is going to be dead."
"What?!" says Simon.
"He didn't know?" says Derek.
"No," says Kate. "It wasn't my secret to tell. Simon, Melody is
dying. That watch that gives her the super-speed has been keeping her
alive, but it only has enough juice to last until tomorrow morning.
Doctor Fay and everyone else have tried, but no one can find a way to
buy her more time. And as near as I can tell, she just spent the last
four months she has on this Earth trying to bring me back home. So I'm
going to be damned if I'm going to let her die with only my obnoxious
brat of a sister to keep her company. Derek, I'm the right person for
this. Don't screw with me on this."
"Alternatively," says Derek, "we send Rainshade. She knows magic.
It's kind of her whole thing."
"I'm not leaving the fate of one of my friends, and my sister, in
the hands of your girlfriend, Derek."
"Now listen, Claire is..."
Kate snatches the receiver from Dot. "Too late, I already got the
"Kate," protests Derek. He tries to grab the receiver from her, but
his hand merely passes through it.
Kate springs up from the wheelchair. Her legs are a little wobbly,
but that doesn't stop her from walking into, and then through, the
Derek facepalms. "Dot, please tell me you have another receiver."
"I could tell you that, but it wouldn't make it true."
"Thanks," says Derek wearily. "I got to get in touch with Claire.
She's still our best bet."
"Derek?" says Dot. "There's something else."
Dot looks at Simon. "Maybe Kate's brother should step outside." Simon leaves.
"So what is it?"
"It's about the sister. Cal. If we don't start enlarging her in the
next five hours, we might not be able to."
The snow is falling down
Gets colder day by day
I miss you
The children will sing
He'll be back at Christmastime
"2000 Miles", Chrissie Hynde
COPYRIGHT (C) 2016 TOM RUSSELL
Dr. Metronome created by Tom Russell & Jamie Rosen.
Medusa created by Tom Russell & Andrew Perron.
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