8FOLD: Mancers/Daylighters: Brave New World (1/3)
joltcity at gmail.com
Fri Jul 10 06:40:31 PDT 2020
Taking control of the MEDUSA network, the body terrorist CARACALLA
has used HOTSPUR - a malevolent and insane artificial intelligence -
to turn the DAYLIGHTERS into living robots and engines of destruction.
RAIDNE, a secret offshoot of MEDUSA working with CAL MORGAN (THE
MIGHTY INCH), has usurped control from Hotspur of many of the
Daylighters, rendering them dormant.
Caracalla and his organization FEVER are working for THE COMPANY, a
mystical shadow conglomerate dedicated to the destruction of the world
at the hands of DREAD VENUS, and allied with THE PULSE COLLECTIVE, a
space empire with which the Earth is at war.
Working both within The Company and the Daylighters, but only in
pursuit of her own agenda, is CLAIRE BELDEN (RAINSHADE), paramour to
Daylighters founder DEREK MASON (BLUE BOXER).
Claire recently imprisoned and impersonated KATE MORGAN (SHIMMER),
during which time Kate taught herself magic, apparently part of
Claire's larger plan.
Having freed herself and imprisoned Claire, Kate reaches out in a
dream to AZABETH COLLINS, a member of THE SECRET CIRCLE, a group of
mancers opposed to The Company...
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BRAVE NEW WORLD
------- ROLL CALL --------------------------
Bethany Clayton, KNOCKOUT MOUSE, age 32.
Controls the density of her right hand.
Cal Morgan, THE MIGHTY INCH, age 18.
Raidne, age six months.
An instance of Medusa; a whisper in Cal's ear.
Members of the secret circle:
Maile Akaka, age 20.
Aeromancer (weather magic).
Pilar "Pill" Garcia, age 34.
Collector of magical artifacts and lore.
David Collins, age 31.
Mnemonomancer (memory magic).
Azabeth "Beth" Collins, age 37.
Oneiromancer (dream magic).
Kate Morgan, SHIMMER, age 29.
Phases through matter; nascent magic-user.
Derek Mason, BLUE BOXER, age 26.
Held captive by Caracalla. Daylighters founder.
Melody Mapp, DARKHORSE, age 21.
Controlled, like many, by Hotspur. Speedster.
Claire Belden, RAINSHADE, age 31.
Imprisoned in a mirror by Shimmer.
I. ARE YOU SURE YOU GUYS AREN'T SUPERHEROES?
The key Pill gave her - the key of keys - is fashioned out of bone.
The bow of the key is a carving of a white skull, with small black
jewels for eyes. A skeleton key, she had explained: apparently the
artificer or druid or whatever that created it took the name quite
Maile puts it into the lock, and gives it a twist. After the
tumblers click, she hears the deadbolt move, and then the chain. Pill
wasn't kidding; this thing really can open any door.
She pockets the key and reaches for the knob, quietly pushing her
way in. The living room is neat and orderly, and runs without
interruption into the kitchen. Maile's old apartment could probably
fit in this room twice over with space to spare. Must be nice to have
that kind of money.
There's a hall at the back, going off into two directions; two
bedrooms, she figures, with a bathroom between them. The door to the
bathroom is slightly ajar, and there's some light splashing out
through the crack.
"Hello?" Maile calls.
In a flash, a woman rushes out of the bathroom, running right at
her with some weird metal thing on her arm like she's going to slug
her. Maile immediately backpedals, putting her hands up. The woman
stops about eight feet from her, fists clenched, ready to throw down
at a moment's notice.
Probably wouldn't be her first fight tonight. There's a large white
bandage at her side, held in place by tape. There's enough pink
seeping through that Maile figures it must hurt. She's a black woman,
maybe thirty, athletic build, and besides the bandage she's wearing
sweat pants and a sports bra. On her left cheek is a sort of black
scar, with lines stretching out like veins. Something about the scar
looks familiar, but Maile can't place it.
"Who are you?" the woman demands.
"My name's Maile. Are you Bethany? Kate sent me. Kate Morgan?"
The woman relaxes, and that gives Maile her answer. "How do you
know Kate?" says Bethany.
"I don't," says Maile. "But she asked us for help."
"I have a few friends waiting downstairs. But I thought a
one-on-one might be best for first contact."
"Okay, but who are you?" says Bethany. "You're not one of the
Daylighters. Are you some other team?"
"Wait," says Maile. "Is this superhero stuff? Are you a superhero?"
She snaps her fingers. "Knockout Mouse! I knew you looked familiar. I
had your poster when I was in middle school."
"Wow, that doesn't make me feel old at all," says Bethany. "So,
you're not one of us?"
"No," says Maile, laughing.
"But that's a mancer's mark," says Bethany, nodding at the back of
"Yep," says Maile. She snaps her fingers, and outside, it begins to storm.
"So, you guys are wizards?"
"Probably more of a druid-rogue multiclass. Have you heard of
something called The Company?"
"Yes," says Bethany carefully. "I was told they're not real."
"They're real," says Maile. "I know from experience; used to work
for them. Now I'm with the secret circle, who fights The Company. So,
that's who we are."
"And Kate, what, called you?"
"She came to us in a dream. One of the people I got downstairs, she
does dream magic. Kate wasn't super-clear about what she needed help
with. Dreams aren't a great medium for communication unfortunately.
But, she told us to find Bethany Clayton (kept showing us a mouse,
which makes sense in retrospect). There was something about her being
replaced, but back again. And she wanted us to tell you about
Bethany trembles. "What about Caracalla?"
"She said his real name is Anders."
"Anders," repeats Bethany.
"Does that mean anything to you?"
Bethany lets out a sudden angry scream and punches the sink. The
steel basin crumples and cracks like styrofoam, and the tap snaps off.
Water bursts out in a jet. She stands there for a moment, panting and
gritting her teeth.
"Here," says Maile, moving past her. "Let me take care of that."
She gets under the sink and turns off the tap. It only takes a moment,
but by the time she's finished, Bethany's bandage is soaked red. "I
think you busted open your stitches."
Bethany nods and heads into the bathroom. Maile hesitates, than
follows, hovering by the door.
"Anders is Anders Cradle," Bethany says after a moment. "He's been
all tied up with the Daylighters since day one. Stopping Caracalla is
the reason we got together in the first place."
"I begin to see your frustration," says Maile. "Cradle as in Cradle Tech?"
"Yeah." Bethany sucks her teeth. "Come in here a minute, hold this for me."
"Hold what for, oh God." The wound is over three inches long. It
looks deep. Too deep. 
"Hold it together so I can get a good stitch."
Maile does as she's asked. It's not so bad so long as she doesn't
look at it. She wonders if she used to be this squeamish back when she
killed people. "Cradle Tech is part of The Company. Has been for
years. And Caracalla, that's the FEVER guy, right?" (Bethany nods.)
"So, maybe FEVER is part of The Company."
"If that's the case, a lot of things start to make sense," says
Bethany. "Cradle wouldn't have the money or the infrastructure to pull
off half the things FEVER has done. Something like The Company would.
But Claire told us it wasn't real."
Bethany stops stitching. "You know her?"
"I haven't met her," says Maile. (Well, not that she can remember,
anyway.) "She works for The Company, only sometimes she helps us out?
It's very complicated."
"Do you trust her?"
"No," says Maile immediately. "She killed my friend David. She also
brought him back to life. He's downstairs."
"Are you sure you guys aren't superheroes?" Bethany finishes the
last stitch, and Maile snips the string with the scissors. "Thanks.
I'm going to suit up. Go ahead and call your team."
It's weird seeing her in the costume and mask. Maile can't remember
ever seeing a superhero in person, only on TV or in photos. It looks a
lot more ordinary than she would've thought.
Maile makes the introductions. "This is Beth. Dream magic. She's
the one that talked to Kate. David, her husband. Does memory wipes and
has a magic sword. And that's Pill. She has a bunch of magical doodads
that do a bunch of different things."
"This is your whole team?"
"We don't put everyone in the field at once," says Maile. "Too
risky." It's a risk just having David out in the world while the
necromancer is gathering power, but Pill thinks she's found a way to
mask his presence, at least temporarily, and David's being very
careful about how much he uses the ancestral memories, so there's no
need to worry the nice superhero lady about that right now. 
"Okay," says Bethany. "This will have to do. I'm not sure why Kate
reached out to you exactly, but I can guess it has something to do
with FEVER and Hotspur. Cliff notes version is that Cradle got access
to the Medusa subconscious, and somehow Hotspur used that to hijack
the Daylighters, control their bodies."
"Like, how many Daylighters?" says David.
"All of them," says Bethany. "I happened to not be wearing mine
when Julie Ann Justice started quoting Shakespeare at me. So, that was
my evening. At some point, this person, entity, whatever, called
Raidne took over from Hotspur, put Julie Ann in sleep mode. I've got
her in my spare room now. Raidne is doing the same for a lot of other
Daylighters, but a lot of them are still unaccounted for. I don't
suppose you know who Raidne is?"
"One of the sirens," says David. "Uh, Greek myth."
"I got that much from Google," says Bethany. "I'm looking for more
of a non-mythological answer."
Suddenly, her radio switches on and a voice blares over it.
"Bethany! Open your gee-dee window!" Maile thinks the voice sounds
"Cal?" says Bethany. She opens the window, and a moment later, what
looks like a toy jet swoops in, landing on the countertop.
A hatch opens, and a tiny woman in mud-caked spandex jumps out.
"Oh!" she says, looking at Maile and then Pill. Her voice is
amplified by a speaker, probably built into her suit. "It's you guys!
Where's your cat?" 
"Left her at home," says Maile. "You're the one that stole the car for us."
"Technically, Raidne did the work. But I was the one chatting you guys up."
"Cal, you know Raidne?" says Bethany.
"She's my girlfriend," Cal cheerfully announces. "She lives in my
suit. Say hello, babe."
"Hello, everyone," comes a new voice over the speaker; it's soft and raspy.
"That's your old Medusa," says Bethany. "The one that was supposed
to be deleted."
"Well, her name's Raidne now," insists Cal. "Good thing she stuck
around. That's how we got you that tip."
"So you were Tiny Dancer. Why didn't you meet my contact?"
"Strikeout?" says Cal. "I did. But then we went to tell Kate. But
it wasn't her. It was Rainshade pretending to be her. I got out, I
sent Strikeout a message telling him to do the same. I, uh, I don't
think he got out, though."
"You made the right call. Rainshade's well above your weight class."
"Rainshade?" says Maile.
"Claire Belden," explains Bethany, and Maile's whole group lets out
a collective groan. "That must be what Kate meant about being
replaced. Maybe being back again means she escaped."
"You've talked to Kate?" says Cal.
"They have," says Bethany. "In a dream." Then, to Maile: "Kate's her sister."
"I'm assuming Kate is her big sister?" says Maile, grinning.
"Yeah, that's hilarious," Cal grumbles.
"Sorry. Raidne, we're trying to figure out what's going on with
this Hotspur situation."
"I've got one-hundred thirty five Daylighters in sleep mode," says Raidne.
Cal chimes in. "When we kinda-sorta met you guys earlier, we put a
bug on the computer system where the Hotspur interface originated, and
that's giving her limited access to FEVER's back door. Oh, Bethany, by
the way, FEVER has infiltrated Cradle."
"We're past that," says Bethany. "FEVER is Cradle, and also The
Company, which is also real, and Anders is Caracalla."
"Okay, yeah, that's bad," says Cal.
"I can't shut out Hotspur completely," continues Raidne. "And
there's a group of Hotspurs here in Jolt City, centered on a Cradle
site, that I can't touch."
"They're guarding something," says Maile.
"Probably a way to turn it off," suggests Bethany. "And if it's
that important, Anders is no fool, they're gonna be heavy-hitters. A
lot of them will be my friends, and I'd rather get them through this
in one piece."
Maile frowns. That's not usually their style, but they're not
usually scrapping with innocent people. And as the old saying goes,
when in Jolt City, do as the superheroes do. "Okay, kid gloves, then.
But if it comes down to us or them, me and mine are going to do what
we need to. I need you to understand that."
Beth Collins isn't going with them. "I'll be of more use in the realm
of dreams," she explains to Bethany as Maile tucks her in. "There is
meaning to a place. Because it is your bed in which I slumber, we will
"Uh, okay, sure. But I don't know if you'll be safe here," says
Bethany, throwing a glance down the hall at her guest bedroom. "What
if Julie Ann wakes up, Hotspur takes control again?"
"Either I will be fine, or I won't," says Beth with a casual shrug.
"Sometimes you must trust in the universe. From one Beth to another,
know that I have a good feeling about this. Now, you must leave me."
And so they do; Maile closes the door behind them.
"She always like that?" says Bethany.
"No," says Maile. "First couple months, she was in a coma."
Bethany drives a tiny Honda; Maile rides shotgun and Cal hangs out in
the cup holder, while David and Pill are crammed into the back.
Bethany parks in a lot about two blocks from the complex. It's a large
plot of property, cordoned off by a high stone wall, complete with
security gate. Over the wall and in the distance peeks the top of a
"This is it," says Raidne. "I was hoping I'd find some blueprints
online or in the city's files, but no dice."
"That's alright," says David. "I think I recognize it. I think I
built it a hundred and twenty years ago."
"You think you built it," says Bethany. "A hundred and twenty years ago."
"One of his ancestors," explains Maile. "Do you think you remember
David closes his eyes, then nods. "I don't suppose you have any paper?"
Bethany reaches between the driver's seat and the armrest and pulls
out a spiral bound notebook. "I'm a scientist. I always have paper."
David takes the notebook and a pen and begins to draw.
"So," says Maile, "we talking architect or construction?"
"Architect," says David. "The Company hired him to build it." He grimaces.
"Then they put me into the walls and I starved to death. So, that's
a fun memory. I'll mark me with an x."
"You don't need to do that."
"Jesus," says Bethany. "Why do people even work for The Company?"
She's asking Maile, who is about to fumble for an answer when Pill
provides one. "The Company, uppercase C, is not so different than any
company, lowercase C. They demand everything from you, your time, your
loyalty. They tell you you're family, that you're all in this
together, that you'll all succeed together. And as long as you're
useful, they reward you. But the loyalty's not reciprocal. Minute you
stop being useful, you're dead to them. The Company just takes it a
little more literally."
"Done," says David, putting a rough floor plan on the armrest. Cal
leaps up from the cup holder, pulling herself up onto the notebook.
"I ain't no architect," she says, "but this is a wonky building, right?"
Maile smirks. "He never said he was a good architect."
"There were requirements," protests David. "Client demands."
"A lot of entrances," says Bethany. "Only they don't connect to the
rest of the place. A lot of these hallways go nowhere, too."
"Give me the pen?" says Pill. Reluctantly, David hands it over.
Pill lightly traces a swooping line connecting one of the entrances to
another, then a second line connecting a second pair of doors. She
keeps going until each door has been connected to each other door,
forming a mass of intersecting curves. When she lifts the pen from the
paper, the black ink glows red.
"This arrangement of doors forms a ward," she explains. "Basically
the same thing as Shallow House."
Bethany and Cal look at Maile expectantly.
"It's where we live," says Maile. "If the house thinks you're an
enemy, the rooms and hallways shift to stop you from getting where
you're going. Sometimes it still thinks I'm an enemy. Last week I
spent like thirty minutes trying to get to the bathroom."
"The house thinks?" says Cal. "Like, 'the setting is a character'?
I hate 'the setting is a character'."
"You and me both," says Pill.
"So," says Bethany, "what you're saying is, this floor plan is
useless. (No offense, David.) Is there any way to disable the ward?"
"Maybe," says Pill. "David's ancestor built it. That means it's
going to be friendly to that person above all. That's probably why
they killed him."
"I have those memories," says David. "So maybe, potentially, if I
go deep enough into those memories, it will think I'm him and let me
in, you're all with me, so it lets you in, too."
"It's worth a shot," says Bethany.
David shoots Maile a worried glance. The necromancer is still in
his memories, and going deep like that might make it stronger, might
even call its acolytes to them despite Pill's safeguards. The last
thing this stew of super-folk, body terrorists, and Company
shenanigans needs is a dash of dagger-wielding cannibal nut-jobs in
"There are risks involved," she says. "But I think they're worth taking."
"Okay," says Bethany. "So, I'm looking at this and the building
itself is pretty much centered on the plot. Long unobstructed
stretches from the outer walls. Assuming competence on the part of the
baddies, any way we approach is going to have eyes on it. Maile, I
need a heavy storm, real cats and dogs stuff. Once their visibility is
reduced, I'll advance from the front entrance, draw their attention,
maybe even draw out some of the Hotspurs. That will give the rest of
you a better chance of getting in unseen, from this direction." She
looks up from the notebook, locking eyes with Maile. "Why are you
grinning like that?"
"Nothing," says Maile. "I'm just used to calling the shots. So are
"Do you think it's a bad plan?"
"Not bad exactly, no," says Maile. "The broad strokes are right.
Rain, yes. That's good. Distraction, yes. Smart. But it'll be me and
Pill drawing their attention so you and David can sneak in the other
"Ahem," says Cal.
"You, David, and Cal."
"Ahem!" says Cal.
"No," says Bethany flatly. "FEVER knows me. FEVER hates me. I'm
going to be a juicy target."
"And the minute you get into it with them, you're going to spring a
leak," says Maile, pointing at her side.
"Don't be worried about me."
"I'm not," says Maile. "But if you can't keep them distracted for
long enough, the whole thing goes south. FEVER hates you, they want
you dead. The Company hates me more, and they want me alive. If Cradle
is a good Company man, he's going to throw everything he can at me.
Pill and I can handle it."
"I've seen them in action," confirms Cal. "You guys were rad."
Maile can tell that Bethany is about to relent, when suddenly
someone starts beating on the window. Bethany throws open the door,
knocking the dude onto the ground. She jumps out of the car, her big
right hand at the ready. Then she hesitates.
"Say something that's not Shakespeare," she demands.
"That hurt," says the guy. Maile can't quite place the accent. "A lot."
Bethany reaches down to help the guy up. Maile and the others
scramble out of the car.
The guy looks like he's been through the wringer. His clothes are
raggedy, a huge shock of hair has been torn out, and he's only wearing
"He's one of ours," says Bethany, almost by way of apology.
"Hello," he says, smiling awkwardly. "They call me Klutz." 
"How'd you find us?"
"I'm not entirely sure. I got the emergency signal for my Medusa, I
put it in my ear, and the next thing I knew, I was over there," he
points down the street, "and my Medusa had shorted itself out." He
holds it in his outstretched palm.
"Was that you, Raidne?" asks Maile.
Klutz grins sheepishly. "It almost certainly was me. Bad luck
powers. My Medusas never last for very long."
"Now that he's here, he can help us?" suggests Maile.
"No," says Bethany flatly. "He's not staying. He'll just get us all killed."
Cal speaks up. "I don't think that's fair. I mean, yeah, things
just go haywire around him, but who's to say it won't go haywire in
our favor? That's what happened in that restaurant, and he ended up
saving Kate. She calls him her good luck charm. So maybe right now she
needs his kind of luck."
"Is Kate in trouble?" says Klutz. "I want to help if Kate's in trouble."
"And I don't want your help," says Bethany. "There's too much at
stake, and too much that can go wrong without you all but guaranteeing
"How does it work?" asks Maile. "Can you control it?"
"No," he admits. "Wherever I am, stuff just goes wrong in wildly
improbable ways. Catastrophic probability manipulation."
"So, it's like an AoE thing," she says. "It's an aura. So everyone
in your splash zone turns into Keystone Kops, basically?" He nods.
"That's everyone as in everyone, not just the folks on your side?"
"That's what I'm talking about," squeaks Cal. "There's bound to be
a lot more of them than us. So they're going to have a lot worse
"It could work," says Maile, looking at Bethany.
She frowns. "With you and Pill? The diversion?"
"Your team," says Bethany. "Your call."
COPYRIGHT 2020 TOM RUSSELL.
Medusa created by Drew Nilium and Tom Russell.
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