8FOLD: Mighty Medley # 30, June 2016, by Messrs. Brenton, McClure, Perron, Russell, and Stokes

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Thu Jun 16 16:49:57 PDT 2016

-------------EIGHTFOLD PROUDLY PRESENTS-------------
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-------------- ISSUE # 30   JUNE 2016 --------------
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-----------SAXON BRENTON--ADRIAN McCLURE------------
--------------- Editor, Tom Russell ----------------


"Empress of Pages" Part 15
   by Colin Stokes

In which the Empress and her Library scratch the surface of the
possibilities inherent in the Manual. Of the language of machines, and
a stunning and literal reversal.

"Science-Blades of Terra Alter" Part 2
   by Adrian McClure

Tea with a Space Princess. Life in the orbit of Venus Fortuna. The
mechanisms and realities of traveling across space.

"Beyond the Fields" Part 29
   by Saxon Brenton

The first of Deidre's two ideas unpacked, and the second teased.

"Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 28
   by Tom Russell

A moment of truth; a matter of lives, and of death, with high noon
fast approaching.

"Livestreaming Consciousness"
   by Andrew Perron

In which Mr. Perron provides a puzzle, and invites you to tease out
its solution. The answer in our next installment.

The Editor would like to extend his congratulations to Mr. Colin
Stokes, who was very recently voted RACC's favorite writer at this
year's RACCies, by virtue of both his work in his own imprint, and his
continuing serial in these pages, "Empress of Pages", which was
likewise recognized as RACC's favorite story arc. These wins were very
well-deserved, and the fantastical firmament of our own Eightfold
Universe (which, I am pleased to note, was declared RACC's favorite
imprint for the second year in a row) is far brighter and more
lustrous because of the Empress, her Library, and her daemon, all
three of whom we join presently.

---------------- EMPRESS OF PAGES ------------------
----------------------Part 15-----------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Colin Stokes--------------

-There are obstacles,- the Library mused, -that must be cleared before
domination of the Underworld becomes feasible. As ever, the pathways
to success are numerous; yet I cannot see the aftereffects of each as
clearly as I must, to suggest the proper course.-
   The Empress nodded, silently, and continued to scan the Manual,
following the four distinct threads within. The disclaimer, the
historical narrative, the index, and the... something she didn't quite
grasp - and it was the fourth thread that made up by far the largest
section of the Manual (though the history might have come close, she
mused, if it wasn't so infuriatingly brief). She understood the words
used, mostly, but the sentence structure and grammar was like nothing
she had ever seen. It didn't even seem like it was meant to be
readable by humans.
   Wait. Wait a /minute/. 'Library,' the Empress thought, mentally
articulating now, 'this last part - is it some kind of... machine
   The Library didn't respond in words, but she felt the AI shift
gears internally, suspending current processes and initiating new
ones. It was a curious sensation, but she had gotten used to it long
ago - though this was the first time in a while she had felt the
abrupt disconnect-and-swerve. The Library never attended to everything
all the time, but the two of them were typically in sync when it came
to matters of focus. Not this time - at least not yet.
   It might have been two seconds, or three. -It appears to be program
code, yes, though a variant unfamiliar to me,- came the Library's
rather pensive response after the pause. -The structure is... similar
enough to others.  One moment and I shall try to extract something of
   "Empress?" Fn'ordh ventured, walking back into the lab. She had
given him leave to explore the facility while she studied, since he
needed to stay summoned for a while and she wasn't the best of
conversation partners at the moment. "I have returned, and I think-"
   "Not a good time, Fn'ordh," the Empress murmured quietly, her eyes
wide as white numbers and wireframes danced across her vision while
the Library did... whatever she was doing. Rereading and manipulating
her memory, most likely. (It sounded worse than it was, honestly.)
   -We are going to need more energy for these processes,- the Library
announced as the artifacts in her vision faded, -but we can certainly
execute them, merely by virtue of possessing the Manual. It is the key
to the more complicated functions of the Underworld; without it, only
simple summonings are possible.-
   'So it is as powerful as I thought?'
   -If not more so,- the Library returned. -Shall we... practice?-
   'That /would/ seem to be the best course of action.'
   One of the Empress's wires shot out without warning, making Fn'ordh
take an instinctive step backwards. Seizing a cable off the wall, it
pulled it over to where the brunette was standing, then retracted. She
plugged the cable into the floor receptacle and waited until the
moonlight drew a plain triangle around her boots, then lifted the
Manual and flipped to the page in question.
   Her eyes flared golden, and the Empress began, knowing that the
energy - and thus the time - was precious. =Manual, Call Rename.=
   The triangle at her feet started to bleed out the moonlight
rapidly, its solid lines turning into messy smears, and the Empress
winced inwardly. This would drain more than expected - but she /had/
to press on. =Argument, Index-of: Fn'ordh Rael Meredith.= Out of the
corner of her eye she saw Fn'ordh shuddering. That was as it had to
be, too. =Argument, Join: Reverse: Word-Array-of: Name-of: Index-of:
Fn'ordh Rael Meredith.=  And the daemon shuddered again.
   "CONFIRM RENAME TO," the Manual spoke in a flat and grinding
metallic tone, then in a perfect copy of the Empress's own voice,
"Meredith Rael Fn'ordh."
   The triangle snapped back to its pristine state, no longer blurred
by the power washing through it, and the Empress snapped the Manual
shut, smiling. =Fn'ordh.=
   "Yes, Empress?"
   =Fn'ordh Rael Meredith.=
   Fn'ordh cringed a little at the use of his- ... he felt nothing. "What-"
   =Meredith Rael Fn'ordh.=
   Fn'ordh shuddered violently, unexpectedly, the way only his true
name could affect him. "Empress!" he shouted, aghast. "What have you
/done/?! My name, you - how is this possible?! Who knows what
/madness/ this will lead to?!"
   =The real question, Meredith,= came her reply, =is whether the
/Throne/ knows.=
   And Meredith was silent for a long, long time.

-----------------THE SCIENCE-BLADES-----------------
-------------------OF TERRA ALTER-------------------
-----------------------Part  2----------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Adrian McClure------------

So here she was, making tea for a space princess. For her husband's
other wife, someone who she'd heard so much about but had never
imagined meeting. Antinea didn't look like she belonged here--it was
like keeping a sculpture from the Louvre in the living room. Then
again, she seemed uneasy about it too--she was making an effort to
stay composed, but her fingers were tapping on the table. It was
reassuring in a way to see that, for all her overwhelming beauty and
elegance, Antinea was just a person. Elaine felt the tension in her
shoulders relax a little bit.
   "OK," said Elaine, "what's going on, exactly? Explain it to me like
I'm five."
   Antinea nodded. "Jason was on his way home when the gate... blinked
out, somehow. None of our seers or our devices can tell where he is."
   "So why do you need me?"
   "Because... I don't understand him fully. You know parts of him
that I don't. We'll need your help to build a truer image of him, and
that will help us find him." Elaine sensed an explanation wouldn't be
coming for a while.
   There was a lot about the setup she still didn't understand. As far
as anyone knew, Terra Alter wasn't a parallel Earth. It was a world
elsewhere in the galaxy, in a solar system that was almost the mirror
image of Earth's, give or take a few planets. The Venus of that
system--Venus Fortuna, the arcane astronomers called it--was a
beneficent influence, moving in prograde rather than retrograde orbit,
as opposed to the Venus Infortuna that balefully watched over her own
Earth. The whole thing was strange and perplexing.
   "Wait. If the gate isn't working, how did you get here?"
   "Through a quantum-aetheric projector," said Antinea. "I won't be
able to stay here for much longer." Elaine noticed that for all she
seemed to be really there, slowly drinking the tea, she was starting
to flicker like an image on a screen.
   "And how am I getting there?"
   "We'll create a body for you there and move your consciousness into
it for a time."
   Elaine's heart stopped. The reality of what they were
discussing--the possibility of her going to the other world--hadn't
hit her until then. "What you're describing... that sounds almost like
   "It is," said Antinea. "That's why I wanted to give you a choice. I
know you're brave, from what Jason told me, and I know how much you
love him. But if it's too much for you, I can find another way."
   Elaine turned away from her and looked out into the yard. Spring
was at hand, and the flowering trees were starting to bloom. The new
semester was just starting. She'd have to make arrangements for
teaching her class while she was gone, and she had no idea when she'd
be back...
   Could she really do it? All the things Jason told her about sounded
fascinating and marvelous, but could she actually live through them?
Sometimes it was hard for her to get up in the morning and teach her
classes. Could she handle facing monsters and enemies that were out to
kill her?
   But Antinea was right--maybe not about her being brave, but about
how much she loved Jason. They made sacrifices for each other because
staying together was worth it. That was how it worked.
   "All right." She turned around and looked Antinea in the eye. "I'm in."

-----------------BEYOND THE FIELDS------------------
---------------------Part 29------------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Saxon Brenton-------------

   Deidre looked at the smoldering form of Joan lying on the floor of
the force field that they were imprisoned within, and fought to
suppress a feeling of horror and nausea. Deidre had seen worse. And
Joan was an angel, so she was tougher - almost certainly a *lot*
tougher - than a non-powered human. But it was a visceral reaction,
and hard to master even under the best of circumstances, let alone
when it was a friend.
   "What do you have in mind?" Joan asked. Her words were a bit
slurred, probably from blast damage to the throat and jaw, but she
seemed coherent and decisive. That was a good sign.
   Deidre squatted down on the balls of her feet, and without quite
realising what she was doing took Joan's remaining hand in hers. "Like
I said, I've got few ideas. But I need to run them by you to see if
I've got the specifics right, otherwise we'll just be wasting our
time. Are you able to focus?"
   "Ha," said Joan. "A good question, but don't worry about me. The
material body I manifest is an extension of myself, and provides
sensory feedback. But I'm not subordinate to it, and I've dialed down
my senses. I'm just registering a dull ache at the moment."
   Deidre gave her a wry grin. "I'm not going to try and tell you I'm
not jealous. I doubt if I'd be even as good a condition as 'conscious
but screaming in agony' if I were in your shoes."
   "Help me up," said Joan.
   Deidre gingerly patted about, making sure that Joan and the remains
of her clothing weren't hot. After confirming that they weren't,
Deidre propped her upright so that she could sit leaning against the
wall of the force cube. Once that was done, and Deidre was sitting
cross legged in front of her, Joan asked, "So what do you have in
   "Okay, first up. A while ago you mentioned a friend who'd been
killed on the material plane and was now in a coma in Heaven.
Taraniel, I think his name was? Right. That might be useful in getting
a message back to Heaven and calling the cavalry, or something. Is it
the case that an angel will bounce back to Heaven when they're
destroyed on the material plane, or do they need to be retrieved? Do
they always end up unconscious when they get there? Or is there some
other way we could send a message back?"
    "Ah, so that's what you meant about killing me," Joan said. She
considered briefly. "That's a good idea, actually. We tend to
discorporate from the material and reintegrate on the spiritual
planes, and often that means being shunted back to Heaven. Whether we
lose consciousness depends on how we were bodily destroyed, and how
much trauma we take. I suppose if I shut down any sort of way of
feeling physical pain, then braced myself," she reasoned, "you could
dispatch me back to Heaven and I'd remain aware and able to
communicate." Then she frowned. "But there's a potential problem.
There are ways that immaterial beings can be trapped on the physical
plane, and this" and here Joan used her remaining hand to knock
against the side of the force cube, "could be one of them."
   "Would the Man With The Green Gloves have needed to cripple you if
he was imprisoning you?"
   "Needed to? Probably not," Joan admitted. "Wanted to? If he was a
sadist, sure. I mean, I wasn't in a very good position to see, but he
seemed to take a lot of pleasure in watching you be overcome with
   "And horror does seem to be one of the underlying themes that
they've built into this pocket world," agreed Deidre.
   "It's still a good idea. We just need to test whether we can get
out," said Joan. "Now, what's your other idea?"
   "It's an awful lot more pie-in-the-sky," said Deidre. "We create a
mundane egg, using that," she said, pointing at the piece of jewelry
on Joan's wrist.

--------------SEVEN 'GAINST THEBES------------------
---------------------Part 28------------------------
------------Copyright 2016 Tom Russell--------------

Silke felt something twist inside him, and, reckoning it were
something he ought to pay attention to, he handed his pouch and his
papers to his boy, delegating to him the task of rolling a cigarette.
   Three-Nine watched the boy as he set to the task. "Tobacco is
hazardous to humans," chirped the machine.
   "Aw, what do you know?" said Silke's boy. "You don't even breathe."
   Paul Strife looked up at the boiling yellow sun. "It'll be noon soon."
   Silke didn't say anything.
   "I said, it'll be noon soon," repeated Strife. "Gulliver should be
back by now, right?"
   "Maybe. Maybe not. Could be he's helping the doc. Could be he's
just waiting to make sure the injun will pull through. Thanks." This
he said to the boy, who handed him the finished cigarette. Presently
he lit it.
   "I appreciate the sentiment, I really do," said Strife. "But your
injun was in a bad way. It could take hours. We don't necessarily have
   "No." Silke frowned, threw his cigarette on the ground and stamped
it out. "Waste of good tobacco."
   For Jack Peake had appeared afore them, and as soon as he was
standing, he threw down Ned Strife's massive corpse. "He's dead," said
Peake, his voice shrill and raspy. "Your injun did this. And that's
all I want. The ranch is yours, Paul. I don't want it. I don't want
anything now that Ned's gone, excepting that injun."
   "Afraid we can't oblige you," said Silke. He put his hand on his gun.
   "You gonna outdraw me now, John Silke?" Peake curled his lips back
in a black laugh.
   Silke shook his head. "But we won't give you the injun."
   "Then I'll kill you all," said Peake. "I don't want to," he
continued, looking at Strife. "I tell you, I ain't got no quarrel. The
ranch is yours. Just give me the injun. You know where he is. I know
you know where he is."
   "The ranch is mine?" said Strife. "Free and clear?"
   "Free and clear."
   "No dice," said Silke.
   "This is my birthright, Silke! Everything we did, we did for this.
Hank died for this. And you're asking me to throw it away for a
half-dead indian?"
   "You're better than this, Paul," said Silke.
   "He's in Bleeding Branch. They took him to," and here he stopped,
as Silke had put a bullet in his brain. Peake whipped past them, on
his way to town.
   "Guess I'm out of a job," said Silke.
   "He deserved it," said the boy, spitting.
   Silke slapped him once, and hard. "A bad man and a weak one ain't
the same. I raised you to know the difference. Marshal? Best we saddle
   "He'll be there long before us," said Three-Nine.
   "Reckon so," said Silke. "Maybe Gulliver will buy us some time, if
he ain't been drinking. Or maybe even if he has. Peake's wild now.
It's in his eyes. Might make him sloppy. Boy, you stay here. A good,
Christian burial. For both of 'em."
   "What about Mr. Adams?" said the boy.
   Silke held his breath for a moment, then released it. "Barely
alive. At the ranch. He don't have long."
   "Then he needs someone to bury him, too."
   Silke nodded; they saddled up and went their separate ways.
   "We might not come back from this, Mr. Silke," said Three-Nine.
   "I reckon we won't," said Silke.
   "You might not see your boy again."
   "No," he said. Then: "No, I might not."
   That was it. That was all they said. It was noon exactly, and the
sun was high and yellow in the clear blue sky.

------------LIVESTREAMING CONSCIOUSNESS-------------
------------Copyright 2016 Drew Perron--------------

  Writing is really hard. I'm exhausted.
  I'm staring at a blank screen. I keep tabbing away to do something
fun and build up energy, but the second I come back it all drains
away. I have ideas, but no idea how to execute them.
  All right. It's time for the blocked writer's desperation move: A
story about having writer's block! No, wait, even better, the writer
in the story will *also* be writing about a writer who's writing about
writer's block!
  I wonder how many levels of meta I can do before I have to start
writing an actual story. I wonder if I can work in chainsaw duels on
motorcycles somehow.
  Okay, this is stupid. I've got a few paragraphs down, but they're
all just my train of thought. (Idea: Make it a literal train?) It's
time to brainstorm. Just write down whatever comes to mind.

                            HDPETSST ONESFTII

  ...you know. That seemed more, I don't know, *coherent???* when I
was writing it??? (God, is it that late already?) I mean, no ideas are
bad ideas, but maybe let's try again...

                            HDPETSST ONESFTII

  Not just gibberish, but the *same* gibberish. This is moving out of
"weird" and into "creepy". I'm starting to worry less about getting
this story done by deadline (it's after midnight anyway) and more
about becoming a patsy for some kind of eldritch horror. I don't want
Pittsburgh to end up like Las Vegas.
  Okay, no, no, you're overreacting. Anxiety. Let's just... get some
advice on this, yes good, who's up. Oh thank god, Sen is smart and
cute and won't call the cops and the FBI and the CIA and the
Daylighters on me. Probably.
  She doesn't. She doesn't think it's long enough to be a memetic
virus, and anyway, I'm not acting weird. (I mean. For me.) Actually,
she thinks it's code - it looks kind of familiar, like something she
read about in a book...
  Once we figure out how the code works, it's pretty simple. What the
message asks is equally simple. Whether we should listen... that's not
so simple. What if it is, truly, a virus in disguise? A door into
terror? A demonic ritual cloaked in joy?
  In talking it over, we let ourselves segue into normal topics, silly
topics - which Final Fantasy is the best, what the significance of the
Muppets is to modern culture, which of your characters would you want
to make out with (and with which would you want to do more). It goes
on for a couple hours before we come back to the message.
  She admits she's not sure what to do. She decides to sleep on it. I
acknowledge her decision, tell her goodnight and that she's loved.
Then I'm left alone with my thoughts.
  The birds are starting to chirp. The sun isn't up yet, but it will
be soon. The story isn't done, and I'm left with nothing but the
  What do you think? Should I say the words?

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

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