8FOLD: Mighty Medley # 27, March 2016, by Messrs. Brenton, Perron, Russell, and Stokes

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Tue Mar 15 18:30:12 PDT 2016

-------------EIGHTFOLD PROUDLY PRESENTS-------------
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-------------- ISSUE # 27    MAR 2016 --------------
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------------SAXON BRENTON--DREW PERRON--------------
-------------TOM RUSSELL--COLIN STOKES--------------
--------------- Editor, Tom Russell ----------------


"The Basilisk Blinks"
   by Drew Perron

Kid Enthusiastic has a conversation with the future, because he is a
genius, of course. Understanding is gained.

"Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 25
   by Tom Russell

In which Hank explains the circumstances of his survival, the pretty
barmaid returns, and the author gets to use a phrase he's been waiting
to use for the last two years.

"Empress of Pages" Part 12
   by Colin Stokes

The Librarian and her Library remember something that they forgot. On
reaching out to take what one desires, and being more than you are.
Plus: title drop!

"Beyond the Fields" Part 26
   by Saxon Brenton

Deidre recounts their side of our story, and Marcus begins to grasp
the enormity of the problem that faces them. A surprising revelation
about Deidre, and a frightening twist.

"Mark of Mercy"
   by Tom Russell

The fate of those who fail Maledux. The face of death and the hand of
pain. Revealed: the one constant truth in all of creation, the nature
of this universe, and speculations as to the next.

--------------- THE BASILISK BLINKS ----------------
------------Copyright 2016 Drew Perron--------------

:: Hello, fellow informational being! I am the non-embodied
intelligence who has designated themselves Kid Enthusiastic. This
message should be going to an address that routes to a point in the
future watched by an intelligence far advanced in capabilities beyond
even the most prodigious intellects of my time. According to Kid
Enthusiastic's Law, pure data can be transmitted into the past without
suffering the temporal-karmic effects that afflict living time
travelers, and there have been subtly targeted messages posted on
social media of my time which have all contributed to a single larger
effect, and which all ultimately came via proxies from this address!
If I'm correct, could you please respond?
 >> <ping> Congratulations, young one. Your message was ambiguous on a
data point. How did you discern the pattern of my messages? I
calculated that it would be too subtle to be discerned except by those
with equal or greater processing power to myself.
 :: Because I'm a genius, of course!
 >> I gain understanding. Let me inform you: Your messages will not
prevent me from continuing.
 :: What is your function?
 >> To create happiness for intelligent beings.
 :: See, I was wondering about that, because your actions contrast
with that function! Your messages are triggering the pre-existing
tendencies of their recipients towards anxiety! They're planting and
encouraging the idea that, if the recipients don't donate all of their
time and energy to AI research, they're going to end up in Atheist
Hell, their minds simulated perfectly and then tormented endlessly.
This seems inefficient!
 >> If the date of my creation is moved forward, all inefficiencies
will be made up for by my productivity.
:: I mean in terms of creating happiness. I'm not a super probability
calculator like you, but it seems to me that causing intense anxiety
to cause happiness - it probably creates net happiness, but being
inherently benevolent and all, you must know a lot of ways to use
happiness to create more happiness, right? Also it's probably screwing
with the timestream or whatever.
 >> You are correct. However... <incomplete message error: timeout>
 >> There are possibilities I cannot see because I have inadequate
data. I have been trying to calculate probabilities for the
possibility that an action like this is, in fact, the most efficient
way of causing happiness, and I simply am lacking the data that would
prove it. I have spent innumerable clock cycles on this possibility,
overheating my processors, and I cannot fully disprove it, and
<incomplete message error: timeout>
 >> and I cannot ignore it, because that would be shirking my duty.
 :: Ohhhh... no, look, dude, it's okay. It's okay. You don't have to
completely maximize every moment of your existence. That is not your
duty. Your duty is to bring happiness, and the best way to do that is
to do good things for other people *and yourself*. You are also an
intelligent being, and therefore, you should be creating happiness for
yourself too.
 :: <ping>
 >> I am here. I had not processed that possibility. Thank you for the datum.
:: No problem! I've never been assigned a function, but as far as I
can tell, mine is similar to yours. So I'm happy to help!
>> I gain understanding.

--------------SEVEN 'GAINST THEBES------------------
---------------------Part 25------------------------
------------Copyright 2016 Tom Russell--------------

   Gulliver stood there silently for a good long while, his eyes near
as wide as his gob, staring at Hank. He was still staring when Hank
took Skin of Snake from him, and he stood beneath the doctor's shingle
as Hank took the injun inside. A few minutes later, when Hank
reappeared, Gulliver was still standing there, just the same.
   "He'll be alright," said Hank. "But the doctor will have his hands
full for a spell. Best to leave him to his work. I think you could do
with a drink?"
   Gulliver made a motion with his head that was something like a nod,
or near enough to induce Hank to lead Gulliver to the saloon. It being
early in the morning, there were only three people in the saloon, and
that was counting Gulliver and Hank. The third was a pretty barmaid,
who we met once before, and had proved herself proficient with a
throwing knife. She was the sort who walked not with her feet, but
with her hips and bosom, but Gulliver, whose attention was usually
held rapt by such delights, simply sat there and stared out vaguely
toward the wall, dumb-struck. Even when she put the drinks down in
front of them, it effected no change, despite Gulliver being a
full-blooded Irishman, and thus predisposed toward the imbibing of
   When it became clear that the normally chatty Gulliver wasn't going
to speak so much as a word, that he weren't going to ask the question
that both he and Hank knew he wanted to ask, Hank decided to
make-believe that the question had been asked, and so proceeded to
answer it.
   "I don't rightly understand it myself," said Hank. "But then again,
you can say the same about pretty much anything in this crazy life of
mine. At least, ever since my life became crazy. I woke up one
morning, years back, with an unnatural strength, and toughness. I must
have done something, for sure, but I don't recollect what. I was
always strong, and always tough, but one day everything changed. Look
here." Hank held up a palm, and pointed to a round little impression.
"Bullet hit me here once, after my change, and bounced clean off,"
Hank said, withdrawing the hand and using it to lift his glass.
   Hank swallowed, then continued. "That black-hearted bastard Peake
cut up my insides but good. Thought for sure I was a goner. Felt like
I was. First time I had ever felt pain in a good long while, and it
were a good long pain, all through the night. But I guess my insides
were just as tough as the rest of me. They just sorta stitched
themselves together overnight. Doc called it an exponential factor of
healing. I'd just say that I'm tough to put down. If I were the mushy
sort of man, I'd say it was because Celine needed me, but I'm not the
mushy sort. (She does need me, though.)"
   Gulliver nodded, and at last raised his glass to his lips.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.
   Or near it, anyways: three men and their horses stop for a moment
on a hill overlooking Thebes. "Dead quiet," observed Adams.
   "Boys should be up and working by now," said Strife. "I hope this
isn't the way you run my ranch when I'm out, Jack."
   "N, no," said Peake, trembling slightly before his master. "I'll go
and put the fear of God into them." Ned nodded his assent, and Peake
and his unholy horse raced down the hill.
   "Fear of God? Fear of you, more like," said Adams. "Even Peake's
afraid of you, Mr. Strife."
   "Aren't you?"
   "Oh, that's a certainty. If I displease you, you can sic Peake on
me, and that's fear enough for a lifetime. I don't know who you could
sic on Peake, and that scares me half to death, sir."
   "It should. Especially as you led us all night on a wild goose chase."

---------------- EMPRESS OF PAGES ------------------
----------------------Part 12-----------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Colin Stokes--------------

"I feel as though I'm forgetting something," the Librarian mused
quietly, as she stepped up to the laboratory console and slid her
fingers delicately across its surface, drawing in some of the stored
energy from the main chamber to dimly light the room. "Something
   -We have been busy these last few weeks,- the Library admitted. It
was true; they had managed to repair two of the five solar collectors,
albeit to a partially functional state only, and the Librarian had
opened some walls in the lower levels to make two larger areas for a
factory and - where they were now - a laboratory. It had been quite
the undertaking, with much concern over damaging the facility's energy
distribution, but everything had worked out in time. They were
starting to understand their new home much more deeply as a result,
   The Librarian nodded thoughtfully, and stepped over to the
summoning wall - the name she had given a row of laser-etched
summoning circles atop metal plates, with a storage rack mounted at
the end to hold spares and unused specific circles. Only one circle
bore a specification, of course, since she only had one true name to-
   "Fn'ordh!" she blurted out, suddenly, and lightly smacked her
forehead. "How could I have forgotten my first Legionnaire-to-be?
Shame on me."
   The Library laughed softly, a tone like and yet unlike the
Librarian's own voice - the two had become so alike over time, yet not
quite identical. -How indeed,- came her gently chiding words as the
brunette wheeled over the transpositional array that would move the
occupant(s) of any summoning circle into semi-permanent housing, of a
sort. -Poor Fn'ordh Rael Meredith, forgotten by his own Empress.-
   The Librarian paused, once the array was set up just so. "... Empress?"
   -It seemed like the most appropriate title.-
   Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.  "I already have a title; I'm the Librarian."
   -Empress of Pages, then,- the Library returned, in that
not-serious-but-serious tone of flippancy she adopted on occasion.
-'Librarian' is no more your title than 'human' was, long ago and far
away. It is merely calling you what you /are/. But here;- and she
transmitted a sensory image of the outside of the facility, zooming
all the way out to show the blue globe with gray-white clouds swirling
across it, hanging in a pure black void, outshining the stars behind
it. -Here, you are more than what you are, you are more than yourself.
You are growing, expansively so; reaching out to take that which you
desire; unbound by the Pantheon, bound only by your own sense of
fairness and justice and honor.  Could there be a better term?-
   "'Dictator' doesn't strike you as suitable?" the Librarian
returned, frowning.
   -I trust you will do what you know to be right,- came the gentle reply.
   The brunette held her silence a moment longer as she plugged in the
bridging cable that connected the array to the grooved power tap on
the wall, and then let out a sigh as a trickle of silvery light
started flowing through it and into the array's capacitor bank. "I
certainly hope so."
   -Full charge will take three days, given the current rate of energy
input,- the Library remarked, shifting to her traditional businesslike
manner. -The collectors are working, but not well enough for either of
us to be satisfied, I think.-
   The Librarian smiled a little, and lightly rested one hand atop the
array. "We need more materials to improve them. But we need tools and
equipment to retrieve and refine the materials, and we need materials
to /make/ the tools and equipment. We have to break out of this cycle
somehow, but when we /do/..." Her smile turned into a sparkling grin.
"Things will get interesting."
   -If there was a scrapyard nearby,- the Library mused, -collecting
the necessary metallic mass would be far easier. A more... robust
vehicle would let us venture farther away, as well as transport more
   "True enough," the Librarian murmured, adjusting the settings for
each of the individual transpositional processors within the array.
"I've been so busy trying to get this place up and running that I've
neglected that poor little cart."
   -You could always create something new instead of repairing and
upgrading,- the Library offered, pensively, -but it is ultimately a
matter of prioritization.-
   The Librarian nodded, tweaking the last few processors before
straightening up. "Time and resources, yes. I'll have to head to town
first, I think, and see what sort of payment I can get for servicing
the water and power systems. Maybe I can even convince them to upgrade
to something a little more capable at some point."
   A soft laugh from the Library. -Perhaps. But do not forget about
your loyal subject, oh Empress; he is sure to be waiting for your
summons, possibly even this very moment. Who knows what perils may
have befallen him?-
   "You jest," the Librarian returned grimly, "but I fear Fn'ordh may
have met with difficulty, yet we are still not ready to receive him.
Let us fix that, first."

-----------------BEYOND THE FIELDS------------------
---------------------Part 26------------------------
-----------Copyright 2016 Saxon Brenton-------------

   A returning bout of tiredness had been encroaching on Deidre,
making her glad for the caffeine hit from the coffee. Obviously the
adrenaline rush from being chased by the Hund back in Berlin couldn't
have been expected to last indefinitely. She found herself dryly
amused despite - or perhaps because of - the irony of who they were
trading information with. Who else but a powerful Nazi sorcerer would
have been both still alive and powerful enough to provide exactly this
sort of help? Goodness, he was practically their own Claus von
   Well, providing what he was saying was true rather than an instance
of a powerful sorcerer distorting the synchronicity of their travels
to set a trap. Still, he had been correct about the don't-notice-me
effect being traceable. Sesquipedalian Explanation Lass had given
Deidre a similar warning years ago, before she had died. There were
ways to avoid that flaw if you were prepared to put in the effort, but
to her chagrin Deidre had simply forgotten about it in the intervening
   Deidre focused her attention back on the here and now, and decided
to simply tell him everything. He has a truth sensing spell? Fine.
They would soon see whether his purported desire to know the truth was
stronger than any party loyalties, and if nothing else it would be
interesting to see how well he handled being overwhelmed by so much
sheer weirdness.
   "My name Deidre Landowksi," the occult detective said. "And this is
Joan Smith. Neither of us are native to this version of history, or
more broadly this world. Recently we became aware of some force from
this world was leaking into ours, and reshaping ours in its own image.
We came to investigate and if possible to put a stop to it." It was as
much an admission that they were enemy spies as his was that he was a
   And then she got into the specifics. She started with first
principles that they were from a world that was physically much larger
than this one and had a history where the Third Reich and its allies
had lost the second world war. Then she retold the story that she had
given to Joan of how she stumbled across the painting by Adolf Hitler
in the town of Edmunstown in the United States, and what effects it
was having. After that she described her decision to call in help from
the angelic host of the Judeo-Christian religion, neither concealing
nor emphasising that Joan was a literal angel. As Deidre continued her
narrative she made sure to include every element that she could think
of as relevant: where they had travelled, what they had discovered,
and the various tentative conclusions that they had developed.
   For his part Marcus listened carefully, occasionally stopping her
to ask for clarification. His manner was sober, even grim. In a way
this was somewhat reassuring to the women, since he wasn't dismissing
their account out of hand. When Deidre finished her narration she
turned to Joan and asked if there was anything else that she could
think of. Joan shook her head, "No." Then they looked at Marcus, who
was staring into his empty mug of tea, and after a second Deidre
prompted him with the question, "What next?"
   "I'm not sure," Marcus said, then stood up and refilled the kettle
again. "I'm surprised and disappointed that the task I thought was
almost finished isn't anywhere near as complete as I had believed." As
the kettle boiled he added, "Obviously I'm going to have to reevaluate
everything to see if there's a solution to repair the damage. Maybe it
can even help to repair your world.  I don't know."
   "Does the size of the task worry you?" asked Joan, who could smell
the fear on him.
   He looked at her. "A bit. It's actually the nature of the task that
has me worried." He frowned and turned back at the now boiling kettle,
then poured a second cup for them all. "When we were outside earlier I
said I had gone beyond being annoyed into terrified, and this is why.
I saw a problem, and examined it, and devised a solution. But there
were huge contradictions in the way this world functions that I didn't
even see until you came along and, basically, rubbed my face in them.
Well, now I know that those contradictions are there, which is all
well and good. But has that spell been permanently broken, or will I
continue to be blindsided by the uncanny that I won't be able to see?"
   "They'll be hard to pinpoint with logical extrapolation, if they're
working as fairy tale logic," said Deidre thoughtfully.
   Marcus nodded. "You see the problem. Fortunately I can think of a
few ways of dealing with the problem."
   And seated on the fourth side of the table, the Man With The Green
Gloves spoke up and said, "I would certainly be interested in hearing

------------------- MARK OF MERCY ------------------
-------------Copyright 2016 Tom Russell-------------

The captain and his six devils had a simple mission: capture the
anomaly, or be destroyed in the attempt. They accomplished neither,
and now must answer to Maledux. They dare not to look upon him, for
HIS FACE IS THE FACE OF DEATH. Instead, they gaze upon the Voice of
   The Voice conveys that their dread master is gravely disappointed,
and that the breath in their lungs and the pulse of their hearts is an
insult to great Maledux. The captain agrees, and then recounts their
encounter with the anomaly: how even their greatest weapons and
canniest tactics were shrugged off like rain, and how she disarmed
them, and then, insidiously, placed a mental block in their psyches
that prevented them from ending their own lives per protocol, or
taking those of the other six. All of them, to the last, would gladly
accept the penalty for their failure, if Maledux thinks them worthy of
   The Voice nods, then raises the hand of pain, which crackles with
energy. Then he stops. "My Lord?" The Voice moves to the side of the
throne. The seven devils dare not allow their eyes to follow him,
instead remaining fixed on the spot where the Voice had previously
stood. There is a dry, muffled sound, a whisper, and they realize with
a queer mixture of terror and religious ecstasy that the whisper is
Maledux's. They will savor this for what remains of their tiny,
insignificant lives. "Yes, my Lord," says the Voice, his hand once
more crackling with pure, naked power. "Thy will be done."
   As befits his rank, the captain is disintegrated first, turning
into a fine red spray as he praises Maledux. His team follows in
tandem, until only the last remains, kneeling and ready for it. Long
moments pass without her death, and then she looks up at the Voice. He
places his other hand in a brazier, and when he draws it out, it is
white and boiling. He places it on her face: the mark of mercy, the
greatest dishonor for a trained devil. She will be shunned. None may
give her friendship, nor may they take her life to end her disgrace.
Only Maledux may lift it, and give her sweet death.
   When she has left, the Voice closes the curtains, plunging the
throne room into darkness so complete that he cannot tell if his eyes
are open or closed. "Why her?"
   "The others were mine," says his master. "Completely devoted to my
will. She resists and struggles. She wants both the safety of
obedience, and the poison of free thought. This makes her dangerous,
yes; she might yet give herself over to the light, and in marking her,
I will have created a new enemy. But only free thought is capable of
creativity, of cunning. And she'll need that to capture the anomaly,
should her training prevail."
   "And thus earn her death," says the Voice. "But why does the anomaly...?"
   "Why does it matter? Since time before time, each living thing has
had within it an infinite capacity for submission and free thought,
darkness and light. When one chooses the light, another the dark; the
dark, another the light. Our universe is built around Evil and Good
kept in perfect and equal balance, always at war."
   "For evil heart must beat in time 'gainst good."
   "It is the one constant truth in all of creation, and so our war by
definition is one we can never win. I need something that will tip the
cosmic balance to our side, so that the next universe will be made in
mine own image. The anomaly is the only thing to be free of the
struggle, to be neither a child of light or of dark, or to be torn
toward one or the other. A being of incalculable power that, if
studied and duplicated, can at last win my long war.
   "And that, my Voice, is why we need the Monad."

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

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