8FOLD: Darkhorse # 4, "Yearning to Be Done"

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Mon May 30 09:20:28 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 three days left.

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  ~ NUMBER FOUR : Yearning to Be Done ~
        [8F-163] by Tom Russell [PW-17]

   Kate Morgan (Dr. Metronome II) has been scattered in our atmosphere
for four months, only coming together (and then only for a brief
moment) when certain factors are in play. One of them is ambient
shrink-radiation during Tina Wazowie's punk rock concerts, and it's at
one of these that Melody and her friends will endeavor to bring Kate
back for good.

Tuesday night, Sault Ste. Marie. Melody gets Simon and Cal backstage
before the show.
   Well, as far as the girl at the door, anyway. She's carrying a
trumpet and dressed in a red-and-white courtier's outfit. "Who dares
seek an audience with Tina Wazowie, the Polish Princess of Punk Rock,
long may she reign?"
   "Darkhorse, third of her name," says Melody flatly. "And the Morgans."
   "Ugh," says Cal, clicking her teeth. "Don't lump me in with him."
   "Gee, thanks, sis," says Simon.
   The herald blows her trumpet (poorly, but with gusto) and announces them.
   "Well," comes Wazowie's voice, "let 'em in, dummy."
   The herald steps aside, letting them in.
   "Sorry about that," says Wazowie with a low-key, breezy smile.
"I've been upping the inaccessibility factor as of late. Kinda
Diocletiany. It's nice to get my peepers on you, Melody."
   "Melody?" says Cal.
   "Thanks, Wazowie," says Melody.
   "Wait, did I just derek you?"
   "Yes, you just dereked me."
   "I mean," says Simon, raising his hand, "I already knew."
   "I don't really care," announces Cal. "You really know my sister?"
   "You mean Katie? Sure," says Wazowie.
   "She doesn't like being called Katie."
   "I know," says Wazowie. "I get away with it because I get away with
things. It's kinda pretty much my superpower, getting away with
   "That, and the whole ice thing," says Melody.
   "And the whole ice thing, for sure," says Wazowie. "So, two powers.
That's not greedy, is it? I pull it off, anyway. Some guys, they go
around with two powers. 'I'm invulnerable and I can fly.' I mean, what
is that, man? Flying should be enough. Or being invulnerable. Now, I
could see if someone was nigh-invulnerable, because that's really like
half a power, so that'd be one-and-a-half. But two seems like too
much. Except for me, I can get away with it, cee-eff the above. You
guys have powers?"
   Simon raises his hand. "Super-awkwardness?"
   "Yeah? I can see that. That works for you, man. How about too-cool
over there?"
   "No," says Cal.
   "Huh," says Wazowie. "Melody, I'd figure with Kate having the gene
that one of them would have it too... and you're looking at me funny.
Yes, you are. It's that look you give me when you want me to stop
talking, but you're trying to be subtle about it. Subtlety, man. It's
the enemy of emotion."
   "Wait," says Cal. "Do I have powers? You said there was something
in my genes that helped you figure something out for Kate."
   "So, she does have it!" says Wazowie. "Melody, you're giving me
that look again."
   "What, you weren't going to tell me?" says Cal. "Can I do what Kate does?"
   "Kate has a belt," says Melody. "But the gene she has lets her use
it safely. You have it, Simon doesn't. Sorry, Simon."
   (Simon shrugs.)
   "So, without a belt, I'm..."
   "Well," says Wazowie, "that and the shrinking thing."
   "Seriously?" says Melody.
   Wazowie looks perplexed. "What?"
   "Shrinking?" says Cal. "Like, shrinking-shrinking? Like, getting
tiny so someone can just up and squash me? That's literally the worst
   "It's not the best," says Wazowie.
   "How would I even do that?" says Cal. "Do I just, like, concentrate?"
   "No," says Melody. "It doesn't mean that you can shrink, it means
that if you get hit by a shrink-ray, you can survive the..."
   Wazowie blows on the shrink-ray. "Now we just need to give her a code-name."
   "Oh my God," facepalms Melody. "This is why we don't hang out."
   "I thought it was because you secretly have a crush on me and
couldn't bear to be in the tempting, forbidden-type presence of my
   "What? No," says Melody.
   "I mean, everyone secretly has a crush on me. It's part of my aura."
   "Oh," says Melody, "you have an aura alright." She bends down and
offers her hand to the one-inch tall Cal. Cal reluctantly climbs onto
Melody's palm. Cal is screaming something. Melody can't really hear
it, but gets the gist readily enough. "It's going to take at least six
hours to enlarge you."
   Cal squeaks in protest.
   "We'll see if Dot is here yet," says Melody. "She might have a
headset you can use so we can hear you." She turns and glares at
   Wazowie grins. "You can't be mad at this face. Literally impossible."

Microdot does have a spare headset, and Cal wastes no time expressing
her disapprobation at this turn of events. Melody's more than a little
irritable herself, but Wazowie is right: she can't really be mad at
that face. It's like being mad at a puppy who craps on the rug; it
doesn't know any better.
   Just before the show begins, the other Daylighters arrive. Medusa's
predictive model has winnowed the number of places where Kate could
appear down to six, each of them about a hundred yards square. Derek
assigns squads to fully cover each sector, each person armed with a
shrink-ray mass-produced from Dot's design, free of charge, by Cradle
Tech Solutions. When they see Kate, they'll hit her with a low but
concentrated dose of shrink radiation, just enough to bring her atoms
back together into a physical form, without actually making her any
shorter. (Of course Derek puts himself in the same sector as
   Melody's sector is something of an exception; she's the only one
with a shrink ray, since she can get from any one area of her sector
to any other in less than a second. She's assigned four "spotters",
each with a headset. Simon is one of them. Cal would be one, but it's
decided (much to her chagrin) that she should be sequestered into a
safe place where she won't be stepped on.
   "I was supposed to help!" she grouses to Melody over her headset.
   "You did help," says Melody. "If it wasn't for your tampon, we
wouldn't be here tonight."
   "Ugh," says Cal, clicking her comm off.
   "That was kinda mean," says Simon.
   "Look it," says Melody, "I only have so much patience for the
petulant teenager stuff. It overlaps significantly with my patience
for quote antics unquote. Between Wazowie and your sister, my patience
is rapidly approaching zero."
   "I know what you mean," says Simon. "It's one of the things I
admire about you."
   "That I have zero patience?"
   "No, no," says Simon. "I mean, you're around my age, and Cal's.
Most people our age are like Cal. Kind of a, well, a mess. But you,
you've got it together. You're serious, driven, responsible. That's
att, um, uh, admirable. So. Go. Go you."
   Even over the comm she can hear the red flush of his cheeks. (Oh my
God, does Kate's little brother have the hots for me?) "I think you
mean, go us," she says. "You've got it together too."
   He stammers out a "thanks". (Oh my God, he does!)
   Kate had said something to that effect a month or so before she
disappeared. Melody had just returned from an extended stay in Lemuria
and had been "complaining" about Terry's rather persistent pursuit of
her hand in marriage. "You should go out with Simon," she had said.
   "Your brother?"
   "Yes. Both of you are total nerds. You'd be cute together. In a nerd way."
   "Oh, like you're not a giant nerd."
   "Oh, I'm like Queen Nerd," said Kate. "That's why I want to
strengthen the alliance between our nerd houses by giving you Simon.
Our vast and prosperous nerdoms will be joined together in personal
union. Like Poland and Lithuania, but with nerds."
   "At least until Christmas," said Melody. "Your brother's kinda
cute, but it's the same reason I keep telling Terry no. Why bother
starting something if it's not going to last?"
   "Nothing lasts, though," said Kate. "Everything ends eventually."

Because life is nothing if not a series of anticlimaxes,
disappointments, and lack of closure, when Kate shows up, it's not in
Melody's sector, and she's not the one who aims the shrink-ray and
pulls the trigger to release the short, concentrated burst of
radiation that allows Kate Morgan to at last be collected into one
piece. It's Rainshade of all people who does it; Kate never liked
Rainshade. For a moment, and only for a moment, Melody is distraught:
she should have been the one to bring her back. She's the one that
worked for it, obsessed over it, figured it out. But only for a
moment, because really, she's just glad that Kate is back.
   By the time Melody and Simon get to Rainshade's sector, the latter
has already wrapped the naked Kate in a blanket for warmth, sitting
her down inside a book store. Fahrenheit Man is standing fairly close
by to give off ambient heat. Kate's not only cold, but looks
disoriented and sickly. She doesn't really seem to recognize any of
the costumed heroes gathering around her, or to even be aware that
anyone is there.
   Simon pushes his way through the little crowd, singeing his elbow
against Fahrenheit Man. "Kate?"
   "Simon," says Kate. Her voice is a dry, raspy croak. "Simon," she
says again, and she starts to sob.
   He hugs her. "Kate. What took you so long?"
   She laughs, still sobbing.
   "Cal's here, too," says Simon. He looks up. "Could someone...?"
   Soon, Cal is handed to Simon, who holds her up to Kate. Kate stares
at her in disbelief.
   "It's a long story," says Simon.
   Kate holds out her hand. The transfer is a little clumsy, and Cal
ends up face down on Kate's palm. She shakes her fist as Simon and
then, struggling, she gets herself back on two feet. (Shrinking tends
to throw the vestibular system out of whack.) Cal then turns to Kate,
and starts saying something.
   "I'm sorry, Cal," says Kate. "I can't understand you."
   Simon starts taking off his headset, but Kate is already bringing
Cal next to her ear. Cal leans forward, gripping Kate's antitragus.
Then she says something. Kate closes her eyes, smiles, and nods; the
nodding throws Cal off balance again, and she ends up sitting on
Kate's palm.
   Kate swings her hand back in front of her face, and looks at Cal.
"Thank you." She looks at Simon. "I don't want to drop her..."
   Simon takes Cal from her, and deposits her on one of the bookshelves.
   "Are you okay?" says Simon when he returns.
   "Yes, I think so," says Kate. "How did you bring me back?"
   "Melody figured it out," says Simon. "She's been working on it the
whole time you've been gone."
   Melody appears in front of her. "Hey. Kate, there's a doctor on the
way, who's going to look at you, okay?"
   "You've been through a lot."
   "I don't remember it," says Kate. "Other than. Other than I was
scared." She starts to shake. It's hard for Melody to watch; Kate was
always the strongest out of all of them. "I was gone a long time."
   "And now you're back. It's going to be alright, Kate."
   "What day is it?"
   "It's December twenty-third," says Melody.
   "It was August," says Kate, a little far-away.
   "It was," says Melody. "Here comes the nurse, okay?"
   "December," says Kate. "Melody, you only have two days left!"
   "We'll talk later, okay? You have to go with the doctor now."
   Melody and Simon transfer Kate to a wheelchair, and a nurse begins
to wheel her off to the super-paramedics outside.
   "What did she mean?" says Simon. "That you only have two days?"
   "I don't know," lies Melody. "Until Christmas, I guess. Do you guys
celebrate? In a secular, crassly commercial way, I mean."
   "Not really," says Simon. "Mom's whole thing was that we already
got eight presents. But you can only get so many dreidels and
chocolate coins before you start getting a little Christmas envy.
Like, I'm good with thousands of years of beautiful and ancient
tradition, but it doesn't have light-up swords or battle damage
   "Tell you what," says Simon, his voice cracking. "I'll get you
something if you give me something."
   "What do you want?" says Melody.
   "Well, you tell me first."
   "I already got it," says Melody. "Your sister's back."
   "Well, that's what I wanted too," says Simon. "So, Merry Christmas."

   "Rhys?" Eira creaks open the door.
   "I'm coming, love."
   "Come a little faster, then."
   "Hmm," says Rhys. "You're usually telling me the opposite." He
pulls her closes and kisses her.
   She kisses him back. "Grow up. This is serious. We have to go now."
   "Why now? If he kills Darkhorse a week from now, she'll be just as dead."
   "Because Gareth wants it," says Eira.
   "And why do you always give your brother what he wants?"
   "He's family."
   "He don't care a lick for either of us."
   "He cares about me. It's you he doesn't care about, Rhys. So maybe
let's try not to piss him off, yeah?"
   "Yeah, yeah," he says. He follows her out of the room. Gareth is
standing by the window, brooding as usual.
   "So nice of you to join us, Rhys," he says. "Now, this should be
simplicity itself, yeah? Eira ports us a few feet from Darkhorse.
Rhys, you start in with the fireworks as soon as we get there. While
you've got her distracted, I plug her with the ghost bullet." He lifts
one side of his overcoat, and pulls out a white pistol. "Soon as she
hits the floor, we port out. Simple and clean, yeah? Nothing can go
wrong because the plan is so simple and clean. Are you ready? Eira,
I'm going to turn up my frequency so you can glom onto her location.
Do you got it?"
   "Then here we go."

Sault Ste. Marie.
   The three mancers appear in the middle of the book store. They're a
few yards from Darkhorse, but those few yards are occupied by six
Daylighters. More heroes are on the other side of her, and others
behind the mancers. They're surrounded.
   "Hell!" says Rhys. "It's a bloody convention! Eira! Get us out of here!"
   "Nope," says Melody. She zips right at the three mancers, grabbing
Eira. "Get the other two, I got their getaway!"
   There's a blink of light, and Eira's gone. She takes Melody with her.
   Gareth immediately turns on his vertigo effect. But something's
wrong with it; it's like something's countering it.
   "Bloody hell, bloody hell!" says Rhys. He starts shooting bursts of
flames wildly. Just as soon as they appear, they're snuffed out. He
whirls around, confused, and during that moment, Wazowie encases his
fingertips in ice. A kick to his stomach sends him sprawling to the
   Gareth flexes his field and finds the problem; a fellow mancer.
This one in spandex and carrying an umbrella. A sudden, localized
pulse directed at her brain knocks her out. She has some kind of ward
protecting her, so it's not going to be fatal. Ah well. It still does
the trick.
   Rhys looks up from the floor to see Fahrenheit Man. The fiery hero
grins. "Like to play with fire, do you?"
   "Gareth!" screeches Rhys.
   "Sorry, mate," says Gareth. "But I never liked you anyway, and I
can't have you tell any tales." He pulls the same trick with Rhys that
he did with the umbrella-girl. Only Rhys doesn't have any wards
protecting what he calls a brain. A full-blown vertigo effect puts all
the costumed tossers off-balance, and he makes his escape.
   It takes a moment for it to subside, but they all feel mildly
nauseous afterwards.
   "Is she okay?" asks Wazowie.
   Derek is already taking Rainshade's pulse. "She's going to need a
doctor." He kisses her cheek. "I'm going to get this guy, honey."
   "Did Darkhorse ever come back?" says Fahrenheit Man.
   "No," says Simon. "And I can't find Cal."

   And the mercy seat is waiting
   And I think my head is burning
   And in a way I'm yearning
   To be done with all this measuring of proof
   An eye for an eye
   A tooth for a tooth
   And anyway I told the truth
   And I'm not afraid to die
     "Mercy Seat", Nick Cave


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

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