8FOLD: Darkhorse # 8, "Be Courageous and Be Brave"

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Sun Jun 26 05:22:51 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.

    ____             __   __
   / __ \____ ______/ /__/ /_  ____  _____________
  / / / / __ `/ ___/ //_/ __ \/ __ \/ ___/ ___/ _ \
 / /_/ / /_/ / /  / ,< / / / / /_/ / /  (__  )  __/
/_____/\__,_/_/  /_/|_/_/ /_/\____/_/  /____/\___/
        [8F-168] by Tom Russell [PW-21]

   Melody has been abducted by Jetpack guys. Cal Morgan, still
bite-sized, snuck along and is trying to effect a rescue mission.

Our Earth.
   Kate jerks awake, flailing her arms, disoriented.
   "It's alright," says Rainshade. "You're safe now."
   Kate sits up. She's in a hotel room. Tacky boat painting, awful mattress.
   "Do you remember anything?" says Rainshade.
   Kate shakes her head. "I was going after the mancer. Then..."
   "You found him."
   "Yeah, I don't remember that at all."
   "Not surprised," says Rainshade. "Mystical amnesia. Common side
effect when you go after a powerful mancer without the proper wards
and experience."
   Ugh, that's some vintage Rainshade right there. Kate never did like
her. Originally, it was because while Kate was being chased for
violating the Fitzwalter Rule with her phasing belt, Rainshade was
violating it with a super-tech umbrella. Of course, that hatred was
based on a faulty assumption, as it wasn't a super-tech umbrella, but
merely a totem to channel her metamancy. But by the time Kate knew
that, she had gotten to know Rainshade, and so soon found many
legitimate reasons to despise and distrust her. Still. She was the one
that pulled her back together, and apparently rescued her from the
mancer. "He got away?"
   "Yes," says Rainshade, "but not before you got some vital intel. We
know that Darkhorse and Calliope got teleported to a parallel Earth.
We're not sure which one. We're assuming it's an unknown, otherwise
they'd be back by now."
   "So, what, they're just randomly world-hopping, is our theory?"
   "Not exactly," says Rainshade. "Assuming Melody's local instance of
Medusa is still working, Derek's assumption is that they're making
targeted jumps, collecting data that Medusa can triangulate to
extrapolate closer and closer frequencies."
   "Assuming that's right, what are we doing to help?"
   "We're making targeted jumps ourselves, sending self-replicating
Medusa-loaded radio-bots to try and meet them halfway. If one of them
gets to the same Earth as Melody and her Medusa, it can give her the
frequency to jump right back to Earth."
   "And if Melody's Medusa isn't working?"
   "Let's hope that's not the case."

It's not long before Cal finds herself at the top of a long, spiraling
staircase, which makes sense, as tall retro-future spires aren't
exactly known for their horizontalness. The fact that each step
stretches out before her tiny, tired legs like it was thirty or forty
feet, and that the drop-off from each step is a couple of stories,
makes this a little more daunting.
   "Maybe I can survive the fall? Probably? Probably-ish?" She's not
really eager to just try it and find out that she can't. This is a
super-cool rescue mission, after all, and breaking her leg, or back,
or neck, or et cetera, isn't particularly super-cool. Microdot
probably told her what kinds of falls she could survive one way or the
other; she told her about the whole proportional strength thing after
all. But Cal kinda tuned her out after a while, especially when she
started talking about Ruby Keeler musicals. Ugh. Why do all the
super-people have to be such giant boring nerds?
   Well, except for Melody. She's okay, mostly, except for the part
where she's completely perfect. That crap is irritating. But like I
said, okay, mostly. So, let's do this thing, because she's worth it.
   Cal peers over the ledge and takes a deep breath. "Here lies Cal
Morgan, 6 July 1997 to 24 December 2014. Died falling down a flight of
stair." She jumps.
   "Oof! Little hard on the knees. Okay, so I can survive that. Great.
Now I just have to do that several hundred more times."
   She strolls over to the next ledge, and then immediately backpedals
away from the huge fricking spider crawling up the step with its
woolly mammoth legs. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back off. Go away. Go away
spider nobody loves you. Shoo-shoo-shoo."
   As if in defiance, the spider rubs its mandibles together and
continues to advance. There's not really any room to run away, as
pretty soon Cal will have her back against the wall. Well, her back
against the stairstep, anyway. She can't really circle around either,
because spiders are super-fast, "you're even more super-fast up-close.
Only one option then. Here lies Cal Morgan, a spider ate her while she
was trying to punch it in the face."
   As Cal runs toward the spider, it stops its own headlong rush,
rearing back. POW! She socks it right between two of its eyes. "Oh my
God, I just caved in part of your face! I'm sorry, spider!"
   The spider quickly turns around and races down the steps, disoriented.
   "Geez, now it's probably going to crawl off and die in agony or
something. Now I feel kinda bad. A little bit." She rubs her fist on
her pant leg to wipe off the eye-gunk. Then she jumps down to the next
step. "Not excessively; it was a spider."
   A couple dozen more steps, and she comes to a landing. There's a
door on her right, some kind of retro-future slidey-door. There's
about a quarter-inch between the bottom of the door and the threshold,
and so it's pretty easy for Cal to crouch down on all fours and shimmy
underneath it to take a peak. Just some rando half-naked jet-guy
making out with half-naked Melody. Wait, what? "Melody?"
   "Oh my God, Cal?" Melody does that annoying twirling cyclone thing
that speedsters do to get dressed in a hurry. "Cal, where are you?"
   "Under the door." Cal rolls into the room. "Seriously, Melody, what
the hell?"
   "I'm escaping," says Melody, scooping her up in her hand. "I
seduced the guard." She points to the guard. The guard smiles, weakly
and uncomprehending, and gives a meager little wave.
   "But that's the guy that shot you!"
   "Well, that was before he got to know me," says Melody. "We're
friends now. It's all good." She looks at the guard.
   The guard just sorta nods, dumbly.
   "You weren't 'seducing' him, like it's some kind of stratagem! You
were 'seducing' him, like you were getting your groove on! I came here
to rescue you!"
   "And you did," says Melody. "You absolutely did. You rescued me.
You rescued me from making a mistake. A yummy mistake. With washboard
   "I know you can't see this right now, because of how tiny I am, so
I'm telling you: I am rolling my eyes at you as hard as I can. As hard
as I can! You can't just sex your way out of being taken captive!"
   "I mean, it's worked for me before," shrugs Melody.
   "Oh my God."
   "In my defense, it was Valentine's Day, and she was kind of cute,
for a homicidal psychopath."
   "It's like I'm the responsible adult now," says Cal, dumbfounded.
"We have literally found a parallel earth where I'm the grown-up. The
multiverse really is full of infinite possibilities."
   "Cal, I really appreciate you coming to rescue me," says Melody. "I
don't even know how you got here, or how you found me. That was really
remarkable. Thank you."
   "You're welcome," says Cal reluctantly. She turns and looks at the
jet-pack guy. "He is pretty cute."
   "I know, right? He's like parallel-earth Chris Hemsworth."
   "Hamswoort," attempts the jet-pack guy.
   "Hemsworth," corrects Melody.
   "Alright," says Melody. "Hemsworth, do you think you can get us out of here?"
   ("He's not super-bright, is he?" says Cal.)
   ("Believe me, he doesn't need to be.") Melody wiggles two fingers
like they were feet, and crooks her thumb toward the door. Then she
points at Hemsworth, and then at herself, and then finally back at the
door. "Get us out of here?"
   Hemsworth nods and buttons up his shirt.
   "Aw," says Cal and Melody simultaneously.
   Hemsworth punches in a key-code, and the slider-door slides open.
He pokes his head out and, surmising that the coast is clear, signals
to Melody to follow.
   It doesn't take them long to get outside. Their spire was one of
many such structures, and Hemsworth one of many jet-pack hooligans
darting to and fro in the skies above them.
   "Thanks," says Melody. She kisses him on the cheek and speeds off,
Cal in tow. "Well," she says, once they're far enough away from the
city and out of sight of the jet-pack guys, "that went about as well
as could be expected."
   "Hmmph," fumes Cal.
   "Medusa, do you have the next earth lined up for us yet?"

So, one problem with hopping to unknown parallel earths is that more
often than not you find yourself very much in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Which is why it's not a surprise that Melody and Cal find
themselves in the path of an oncoming hurricane. Melody starts
   "I'm going to put you in my pocket," says Melody.
   "Oh my God, don't you dare put me, okay, so I'm in a pocket now."
   "I might lose my grip on you. Hurricane winds are not something I'm
going to mess around with. Huh."
   "Huh is never good with you."
   "Another hurricane. Okay, so we're going to run in a different
direction... and there's another one. Hurricane Earth is not my
favorite parallel earth. Medusa, I'm going to need the next earth's
frequency PDQ, thank you very muchly."
   "Working on it," says Medusa. "Oh, hey, this is weird. I'm talking
to one of my 'sisters'. The Daylighters sent out drones. I'm using her
information and ours to plot a jump directly to Earth. It will take a
minute tops."
   Melody relays this to Cal, who is fairly happy about this news.
   "Oh, damn," says Melody.
   "What is it?" says Cal. "Just a reminder. Still in your pocket.
Still kinda pissed about it."
   "There's a city down there," says Melody. "It's right in the path
of the hurricanes."
   Cal squirms her head out of Melody's pocket. "They're going to get
clobbered. We should help them."
   "Agreed," says Melody.
   "Melody, wait," says Medusa.
   "What do you mean, wait?"
   "My sister's timestamp is different than mine," says Medusa. "I've
been monitoring the passage of time in the last few seconds, and I've
confirmed that time passes exponentially faster on this parallel earth
than ours."
   "So, that just means we're running out of it faster," says Melody.
"They're running out of it faster down in that city."
   "So is Cal. So are you."
   "...How long?"
   "If you jump now, we can get Cal's treatment started immediately.
If you stay for just a few minutes, it will be too late."
   "I can jump back?"
   "As fast as time passes here, the city would be long gone."
   Melody swears under her breath. "Cal, change of plans, we gotta go home now."
   "But the people! You have to help them! It's kinda what you do!"
   "Cal, I was trying to explain this before I got shot," says Melody.
"Short version is that if we don't start the enlargement process by a
certain time, it's not going to be safe for you."
   "And let me guess, that certain time is now?"
   "Yes," says Melody.
   "Jesus," Cal grimaces. "But we can't just leave these people to
die! You can't. You can't put me above them. It's not fair to them."
   "But I can't ask you to--"
   "Nobody's asked me anything," snaps Cal. "Everything's just
happened to me! My whole life. But this time, I get to make a choice.
And I want to make the right choice. So let's do this."
   "Cal," says Melody, "if we don't go now, you're not going to get
larger ever again. You're only ever going to be the inch."
   "Then I'll be The Inch," says Cal.
   Melody secures Cal back in her pocket.
   "Melody," says Medusa, "you're running out of time, too. If Cal
knew you were dying..."
   "Medusa, I need the most efficient evacuation route for every
living thing in that city, and I need it now."

On that blighted, miserable world that we call Hurricane Earth, there
are still stories of the Darkhorse:
   How she bore them through solid walls;
   How she scooped them up before trees came crashing down;
   How she brought them to safety;
   How she gave them hope;
   And how, when the hurricanes, like wrathful demons, turned their
attention from the ruined city to their safe haven, she dared them to
chase her, and they gave chase, and neither she nor the terrible
storms were ever seen again.
   Some speak of her warmth, or of her speed;
   Some, of her language, alien and unknowable but sweet and melodic;
   Some, of her laugh;
   Some, of her smile;
   Some, of the sadness in her eyes.
   Between that day and this, a relatively short time as we measure
it, countless generations have come and gone.
   Each night, the science-prophets read the ancient signs, for it is
foretold that one day the great storms will once more ravage the
   But they do not fear them, for it is said that when they return, so
shall she.

   And may you grow to be proud
   Dignified and true
   And do unto others
   As you'd have done to you
   Be courageous and be brave
   And in my heart, you will remain
   Forever young
      "Forever Young", Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan,
       Jim Cregan & Kevin Savigar



Dr. Metronome created by Tom Russell & Jamie Rosen.
Medusa created by Tom Russell & Andrew Perron.

More information about the racc mailing list