8FOLD: Darkhorse # 3, "Like a Window To Your Heart"

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Sun May 22 05:34:57 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 four days left.

    ____             __   __
   / __ \____ ______/ /__/ /_  ____  _____________
  / / / / __ `/ ___/ //_/ __ \/ __ \/ ___/ ___/ _ \
 / /_/ / /_/ / /  / ,< / / / / /_/ / /  (__  )  __/
/_____/\__,_/_/  /_/|_/_/ /_/\____/_/  /____/\___/
  ~ NUMBER THREE : Like a Window To Your Heart ~
        [8F-162] by Tom Russell [PW-16]

   Melody and her friends have determined how to bring Kate Morgan
(Dr. Metronome II) back to our reality for good.
   It's happening tomorrow.

Monday morning, Melody is fighting mancers. She hates mancers.
   Well, hate's probably too strong a word. She doesn't really hate
anybody, even black capes. She has nothing against mancers as people.
It's just the whole magic thing that weirds her out. Rainshade, always
mildly irritating in the best of circumstances, becomes full-blown
obnoxious whenever anyone expresses any uneasiness with the world's
booming new population of magic-users. "You have super-speed," she
once said to Melody. "Knockout Mouse can change the density of her
fist. Featherweight can lift a tank with two fingers. Why doesn't that
make you uneasy, but magic does?"
   Because all those things are science, even if they're weird
science, and science everybody can understand. Scientifically-enhanced
super-folk have been running around, in one form or another, for the
better part of a century and a half. Magic (real, true, inscrutable
magic) is something else entirely, and that makes Melody's skin crawl.
(She didn't tell Rainshade that, of course. She knows better than to
get sucked into that particular death-spiral. It's like discussing
Ferguson on Facebook.) It also doesn't help that none of the gosh-darn
mancers have the plain simple decency to wear gosh-darn costumes or
have gosh-darn codenames.
   One of the two she's tangoing with this morning has some kind of
vertigo-inducing control over ambient vibrational fields. For some
reason, this also makes any projectiles he throws (or fires; the
schmuck is gun-happy) unerringly accurate; they even bend and
course-correct in mid-flight. What kind of goofball stuff is that?
What do the two things have to do with one another? It doesn't really
matter of course; it's easy enough to counter-vibrate to shake off the
vertigo, and to phase through his bullets. A bone-smashing sock on the
nose is enough to put that guy down for the count.
   The second guy is a pyromancer, so he can generate and control
flames. Also heat, which also means the general humidity, leading to a
particularly dense London fog. Our scene is London, BTW, where these
two turkeys were trying to blow up an office building as some kind of
half-assed protest. (From what she could piece together, they're some
kind of conspiracy theorists, ranting about a secret anti-mancer
conglomerate called The Company, for which this office is a front.
Yeah, right, and McDonald's is a satanic cult.)
   Melody stopped them before the fire-guy could light the fuses, and
the two mancers had run off with a pretty blonde hostage. A second
super-speed punch knocks the pyromancer out cold, and she scoops up
the blonde in her arms, putting a couple of blocks between them and
the bad guys before setting her down.
   The blonde pushes her away, angry and wild-eyed. "Get away from me!"
  "I'm sorry, miss," says Melody. "I understand this was traumatizing..."
   The blonde disappears with a flash of light.
   "Wait, what?" Melody turns around and sees the blonde standing over
the two dudes. She zips back, but is too late; the teleporting blonde
and her fellow mancers are gone.

"How was London?" Derek asks on her comm-link when she's half-way
across the Atlantic.
   "Mancers," she grumbles. "Bright side, I stopped for some authentic
English food."
   "So, it was terrible, right?"
   "Worse than my Aunt Dani's," says Melody.
   Derek laughs. "You know, I remember talking to her, years ago. When
she first moved in with your mom? And we were talking about... uh,
this other person we knew, who would cook for everybody from time to
time. That person, name was Pam, she was like restaurant chef
material. Like, gourmet soul food. Dani, uh, and Dani said, you know,
that Pam's food was inedible. She hated Pam's food! Thought we were
all just being polite when we told Pam we liked it. Your aunt just
always thought her own cooking was something special."
   "Well," says Melody, "I guess it was."
   "Yeah, I know what you mean," says Derek. "I miss it. I wouldn't
want to eat it, but, you know, I miss it. Miss her. She'd be proud of
   "Was there a reason you called?" Melody asks as she lets herself
into her apartment in Georgia.
   "Uh, yes, actually. I got a call from Simon Morgan. He wanted to
know if you could possibly stop by. In costume. His sister's having a
bit of a meltdown, I guess. Again. But worse this time? If that's
   "Okay," says Melody. "I'm on my way. How's the fine-tuning?"
   "Medusa's predictive model has narrowed down the places where Kate
could appear to fifteen 'hotspots' within fifty miles of the casino
where Zero Below is playing in Sault Ste. Marie. Each hotspot is about
a half-mile square. And Microdot's been tinkering with Wazowie's
shrink rays. It should extend the time that Kate appears from two
seconds to four."
   "That's still seven-and-a-half square miles to search in a fifty
mile radius in the space of four seconds."
   "Two hours ago, it was twenty hotspots, two miles square apiece.
We'll get there, Melody. And you're not going to be the only pair of
boots on the ground looking for her."
   She nods. "Well, I'm at her house now. Keep me in the loop." She
switches off her comm, then knocks on the door.
   Simon steps out onto the porch and closes the door behind him. "I
kinda screwed up," he says, grinning awkwardly from embarrassment.
   "I kinda sorta told her you took her DNA sample."
   "Why would you do that, Simon?"
   "She wanted to know why one of her... lady-things was missing."
   "Yes. A lady-thing."
   "You're a big boy, Simon. You can say the word."
   "Tampon," he says. "She was yelling at me, accusing me of being a
pervert, and I was trying to talk around it, but I just couldn't
think, and I'm terrible at lying, did you know that I'm terrible at
   She nods. "You are terrible at lying. So, what did you tell her, exactly?"
   "I told her that Darkhorse needed her DNA to save Kate. I didn't
tell her, you know, what Kate does, or why you in particular were
trying to save her. And when she started in at me about it, I got
kinda flustered and clammed up, and that made everything ten thousand
times worse. She's really, like, freaking out and I can't get her to
calm down."
   Melody squeezes the bridge of her nose with her thumb and prime
finger. "Okay. And what do you want me to do?"
   He shrugs. "What you usually do. Save the day. Please don't be mad at me?"
   "Well, I ain't happy at you," says Melody. "And this kind of thing
isn't really my thing. But okay. I'll talk to her. I'll try to think
of something."
   "I'm sure you will. You're usually pretty quick on your feet." He
hazards a grin. She glares at him, and the grin fades. "Thanks," he
   She phases into the living room.
   "Cal's in her bedroom," says Simon, trying to be helpful.
   "I know," says Melody. "I can feel the vibration of the music in
her headphones." She holds up her palm and wiggles her fingers to suss
out the exact frequency and identify the track. One of Wazowie's.
   She knocks on the door.
   "Go away!" comes the voice from the other side. The frequency gets
muddier, harder to discern; she's cranked it way up.
   "Calliope," says Melody, knocking again.
   The music gets louder. "If you keep turning it up, you're just
going to damage your eardrums, oh my God, did I just say that? When
did I become old?"
   There's no answer, and since it's not like a rebellious teenager
not to snark when given bait like that, Melody rightly concludes that
Calliope didn't hear it. Rather than trying to fight to be heard over
the din, Melody vibrates her own vocal chords so as to manipulate the
ambient vibrational frequency, causing her own words to be transmitted
directly into Calliope's headphones. "Calliope, this is Darkhorse. Can
I come in and talk to you?"
   The music clicks off. "My name is Cal! I hate the name Calliope!"
   (Melody remembers that Calliope wasn't her birth name, but a name
that she chose herself-- one of several in the last four years. But
she doesn't say anything about it.)
   "Cal," says Melody. "I need to chat with you."
   "Fine. Chat." The door opens. Cal doesn't look a thing like her
sister. Kate's pretty, and has a soft round face framed by dark brown
hair, long and thick and smooth. Cal's all sharp edges, with clearly
delineated cheek bones and slightly sunken eyes. The left half of her
head is shaved. A coarse shock of bright red occupies the right half,
but Melody can see the brown starting to peek through the dye.
   "So, what," says Cal, "are you a dyke?"
   "You stole my used tampon, so I figure, I don't know, you're some
kind of a dyke-vampire or something."
   "First of all, cool it with the d-word. It's not cool. I have
friends who are gay. I bet you do, too."
   "Alright, fine, whatever," says Cal with practiced indifference.
"You still stole my tampon, which I got to figure is some kind of
weird sex act. All your fame and crap isn't enough to get you off?"
   "I needed your DNA," says Melody. "I needed it to confirm something
about your sister's DNA. Something that might help us bring her back."
   "What, from the dead?" scoffs Cal. "She bought it during the Last
Story. Along with a hundred thousand others."
   "She's not dead. She's just kinda... it's complicated. But because
of what we found out, because of your DNA, because of you, we can
bring her back."
   "Yeah, DNA you took without my permission," shrills Cal. "Why the
hell would you and yours do anything for Kate? What has she ever done
for anybody except, except," she clenches her fists and her eyes, then
releases them both at once. "Except disappear? Except leave us? Name
one thing! Name one thing she's done!"
   "You mean besides raising you and Simon?"
   "Oh, come off it," says Cal. "I'm sick and tired of hearing how
Kate gave up so much for us, blah-blah-blah. Throwing that in my face
every hour of every day. Like it gives her a free pass to do whatever
the hell she wants. And then she has the, the, the temerity!"
   "Nice word choice."
   "The temerity to give me crap because I don't work at the animal
shelter or play the piano or whatever."
   "Are you finished?" says Melody.
   "Oh, lady, I have not even gotten started," says Cal. "She
disappears for days!, weeks!, and now it's months!, months at a time!,
and then she says that she raised us? She was never there. Not when I
needed her. Not now."
   "Your sister was..." Melody trails off. "It's not my place to tell
you what your sister was doing. That's Kate's decision to make."
   Cal slides the headphones off her ears, letting them rest on her
neck. Then she slumps onto the bed, her torso bent forward, arms on
her thighs, legs dangling over the side. "You think I'm an idiot,
don't you? You all think I'm an idiot, that I can't see what's in
front of my face."
   "So, you know."
   "Of course I know," says Cal. "I've always known. The first time
the new Metronome appears, it's in my house, couple days after my mom
dies, after she tries to drown Kate in the bathtub, and this superhero
shows up because a stupid little girl is afraid to go into the
bathroom by herself? Of course it's Kate. I can put that much
together, you know? But they think I'm so stupid. They think I'm still
that stupid little girl. Her and Simon. She tells Simon, but she can't
tell me? And she's gone for the last four months, he can't tell me?
Everyone thinks she's dead, and he still can't tell me who the hell my
sister is, what she died for?"
   "But she didn't die," says Melody gently. "She's alive. And we've
known that since the day she disappeared. Simon's known that since the
day she disappeared."
   "But he didn't tell me!" says Cal. "So, what, it's okay that he
lets me think she's dead? That's screwed up. That's so screwed up.
Tell me that's not screwed up."
   There's a cough at the door. "Yeah," says Simon. "Yeah, it's screwed up."
   "A and B conversation, Simon," snarls Cal.
   He retreats, closing the door.
   "How little does he think of me," says Cal, "that he won't tell me?"
   "I can't really answer that question," says Melody, squirming a
bit. "And you kinda just told him to leave you alone."
   "Yeah, but I didn't mean it," says Cal, casually rubbing the dry
skin on one of her elbows. She sniffles, and a sniffle soon turns into
an involuntary sob, and a sob into full-blown waterworks. "It's like
they think I don't worry every time she disappears? That I wasn't
proud of her back in oh-eight? That I didn't deserve to know? That I
didn't love her enough? I loved her! But she pushed me away. She let
him in, but she pushed me away."
   "I think you push back, Cal."
   Cal runs her sleeve along her nose, carrying away fresh bubbly
snot. "Yeah. It doesn't make it right, though."
   "Look it," says Melody. "This is something you need to talk to Kate
about. And your brother. It's a family thing. I'm kinda out of my
depth here. Give me a sentient, exponentially-growing parasitic plant
to fight, I can do that. This kind of drama, interpersonal dynamics,
I'm useless."
   "Everyone has family," says Cal.
   "Not everyone," says Melody. "I'm not an orphan or anything. Well,
I guess I am now. I used to have family. And they were good to me. But
they're gone."
   "Sorry, I guess."
   Melody shrugs. "It's like that song. 'The price you pay for loving
me is you gotta let me go.'"
   "Wait, you listen to Wazowie?"
   "Not on purpose," admits Melody. "I like music with a melody." She
smiles inwardly. "Like, Supertramp."
   "Oh my God," says Cal. "I am so, so sorry."
   "Shut up, they're objectively awesome. But Wazowie's a friend of
Kate's, too. She's helping me bring her back. Tomorrow night. Assuming
it works, which I'm hoping it does, you want to come along? Maybe let
your sister recover from spending four months scattered throughout the
atmosphere before you hit her with the heavy stuff you all have to
work out, but you can probably give her a hug at the very least. Don't
know if you're a hugger."
   "I might make an exception," shrugs Cal.

Cardiff. The pretty blonde teleporter is bandaging her brother's broken nose.
   "Looks like you got the worst of it, Gareth."
   "I know that," hisses Gareth, the vertigo-inducer.
   "Better you than me, mate," says the pyromancer with a cackle.
   Gareth points his hand in the pyromancer's direction and gives a
twist of the wrist. The pyromancer falls to one side.
   "Bloody hell," says the blonde. "You're like a bunch of bloody children."
   "I didn't do anything," says the pyromancer.
   "Shut it, Rhys, or I'll port you over the Atlantic."
   Rhys grumbles, then contents himself with making little flames
spring and snuff from his fingertips like candles.
   "Darkhorse ruined everything," says Gareth. "We spent months
tracking the Company down. Now they're onto us. We'll never get a
chance like this again."
   "There's always the circle," says his sister.
   "Bunch of wankers," spits Gareth. "Self-righteous hypocrites too
full of themselves to pull the trigger. Jesus, Eira, you can't be that
   "I'm smarter than the lot of you," says Eira. "There. Finished."
   Gareth rubs at the bandages. "Thanks."
   "So," says Rhys. "What's next?"
   "Well?" says Gareth to Eira, almost as a challenge. "You're so
smart. What's next? And don't say the bloody circle."
   Eira purses her pouty lips in thought. "You said it yourself:
Darkhorse ruined everything. The long underwear crowd sticking their
noses into our concern. This is about mancers, and should be handled
by mancers. Us, the circle, whoever, we're never going to take down
the bloody Company when we got them lot swarming around us."
   "Agreed," says Gareth. "So what do we do about it?"
   "We make an example," says Eira. "You can find Darkhorse, yes?"
   Gareth nods. "I tagged her when she punched me. Her vibrational echo..."
   "Yes, yes," says Rhys with disgust. "We're all very impressed at
the wide and diverse applications of your magical abilities."
   "Shut it, Rhys," says Eira. "Or I'll port your insides on your outsides."
   "Can you even do that?"
   "You want to try me?"
   Rhys grumbles, but doesn't press it.
   "You can find Darkhorse," says Eira. "I can get us right up to her.
And then you pull the trigger."
   Gareth grins, beaming. "I have just the thing," he says, rushing to
the back of the room. After a bit of rummaging, he returns with a
transparent piece of metal held between a pair of tweezers. "Ghost
   "You only have the one?"
   "One's all I need."

   She said losing love
   is like a window to your heart
   Everyone can see you're blown apart
   Everyone can see the wind blow
    "Graceland", Paul Simon


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

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