Mighty Medley #7

"July 2014, by Messrs. Alambre, Brenton, Jurich, Perron & Russell (ASCII friendly edition!)" by Tom Russell

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---- ISSUE # 7     JULY 2014 ----
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---- Editor, Tom Russell ----


"Beyond the Fields" Part 7, by Saxon Brenton
In which the treasonous Nazi Necromancer Marcus Oustler fakes his
death. On the difficulty of disappearing without a trace.
Self-sacrifice: the mark of true dedication, or of true fanaticism.
The Ritual of the Stifling Air, and the dread Effacements of Atlantis.

"Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 6, by Tom Russell
Our story continues to mosey along amiable and slow; the things worth
doing are worth doing slowly. Silke and Adams rescue a
damsel-in-distress, who is neither of those things.

"The Case of the Troublesome Texts" Part 5, by Andrew Perron
A story ends, but it also begins? The Agents of SMAK bring a case to
its logical conclusion. Touching briefly on what their organization is
supposed to do, and also what they are supposed not to do. (Spoilers:
they do both.)

"The Cure for The Common Cold", by Peter Jurich
Concerning a man with humble, but precisely-defined, ambitions. The
scorn of his colleagues, but most of all, himself.

"I Am a Good Dog", by Wil Alambre
The rewards of patience and discipline. A night on the town is a feast
for the senses: the taste of rain, and the smell of smoke and
violence. What happens when you don't follow the rules.

--- "Beyond the Fields" Part 7 ---
--- copyright 2014 Saxon Brenton ---

   Much later a grinning and somewhat inebriated Sturmbannfuhrer Oustler
walked through the snow back to the Reichsmages chapter house.  He'd
enjoyed the evening more than he'd expected, and Frau Margarette's company
had been delightful.  He felt a flicker of regret that he would not have
the opportunity to pursue her further acquaintance, but he had work to
do.  Still, his presence and subsequent departure from the Yule festival
would make an excellent cover story.  The hard working necromancer,
known for years to be obsessive in his researches, tries to do a magical
experiment while half drunk after a party.  The resulting explosion
destroys the building and kills him, leaving no trace of the body.
   Oustler first went to the staff common room.  He deliberately placed
both hands on the back of a steel framed chair, using the iron in its
construction to ground himself so that no negative emotions or magical
emanations could radiate into the environment and contaminate the local
aether.  His death would be hard enough to fake as it was.  Then he cast
a simple spell to sober himself up.  After that was done he made himself
a cup of hot cocoa and then went around gathering up a few items before
making his way up to the roof of the north tower.
   He stepped out into the open area on the tower top, locking the door
behind him.  There was not much snow dusting the space that he wanted to
use, and it was the work of a moment to sweep it clear with a broom of
rowan twigs.  Then he paused and looked out over the countryside of
   It was an achingly beautiful midwinter's night, cloudless and still.
Oustler had always felt a particular fondness for the SS state.  More so,
in fact, than he had emotional attachment to the SS's nominal spiritual
home of Wewelsburg Castle back in Westphalia.  Oustler gave it one last
look, then took out his dagger from his belt.
   This was his honour dagger.  When he had first joined the SS and
sworn his oaths, it had been on this dagger.  More specifically, when he
had been initiated with the Ritual of the Stifling Air, it had been with
this dagger that he had consecrated his soul to the SS cause and to the
Aryan Christ.  That oath was a powerful magical link by which he could be
traced by other Reichsmages.  If he were to successfully fake his death
and go renegade those three things - the dagger, the oath, and the soul -
would need to be destroyed.
   To obliterate your soul is neither easy nor painless, and requires a
single-mindedness that is quite rare these days.  As Marcus Oustler stared
at his dagger he mused at how much easier it would be to corrupt it with
debauchery, kill it with metaphysical trauma, or hide it away in a duck
egg.  However these options were useless for his purpose, because in each
case the soul (or its remains) would still exist in some away and could
be traced with the proper necromantic forensics or divinations.  His
status among the ranks of the still living would quickly become obvious.
   Fortunately there were ways around that problem, and the Effacements
of Atlantis was the quickest and easiest that the Sturmbannfuhrer knew
of.  It was a ritual that murdered the soul and decreated its substance,
and was also - Oustler rather cynically suspected - the real reason the
Olympian gods had sunken Atlantis.  The notion that Atlantis had been
cast down because of its warlike tendencies was fatuous when you
considered what the rest of the world, the Hellenic states included, had
also been like.  However once the gods had realised that the sorcerer-
priests of Atlantis had a ritual that actually threatened their
metaphysical food supply...  Well, clearly from that point Atlantis' days
had been numbered.
   Sturmbannfuhrer Oustler drew a thaumaturgic heptagram, set his
dagger down at its centre and began the Effacement.  Ten short minutes
later it was done.  He then paused only long enough to confirm that the
spiritual amputation that he had performed on himself was properly
cauterised and not life threatening.  Then the soulless man began a second
ritual; one which he had purposefully designed to *look* as though it was
a high-powered but otherwise straightforward cleansing of the astral body,
but which would quickly escalate out of control with catastrophic results.
   And that was why around about half an hour after midnight the north
tower of the chapter house exploded, flinging massive stone blocks up to
two miles distant (one of them damaging part of the dinosaur stables),
and causing a large part of the rest of the building to collapse and
catch fire.

--- "Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 6 ---
--- copyright 2014 Tom Russell ---

When they returned to Strife's room, Silke didn't speak nothing of the
man what whittled, and so neither did his boy. The boy immediately sat
himself down in the corner next to Adams, taking a keen and special
interest in his rifle. Adams gladly rattled off the mathematics of the
model: rate of fire, reload time, effective range, maximum range, and
the boy listened, rapt.
   "Adams," said Silke abrupt-like. "With me."
   Adams mussed the boy's hair and stood up. The boy started to
follow, but then he looked at his father, and knew he was meant to
   Strife coughed. "Going out again so soon, Mr. Silke?" Silke nodded.
"But not for Peake." Silke shook his head. Strife nodded, glum but not

They walked in silence for a spell, heading west of the city. Finally,
Adams asked Silke where they were going.
   "This direction, mostly," said Silke.
   "I've a feeling you don't much like me, Silke."
   "I don't much like anybody," said Silke.
   "But especially me," insisted Adams. "Went to the trouble of hiring
   "Not to like you."
   "Pity. Being likeable is what I'm best at, besides killing. Even
the people I kill like me."
   "Well, those ones don't need to like you," said Silke. He pointed
at an old tree a couple hundred yards yonder. Circling 'round the tree
on horseback was a mean-looking posse with a pretty, trussed-up
blonde. She wore a shirt and pants.
   "They mean to lynch that poor vision of loveliness," said Adams.
"She must've done something awful to deserve that."
   "Must have."
   Adams grinned. "I like a girl what got something awful in her." He
pulled out his rifle and took a breath. By the time he let it out, he
had killed all eight men. Presently he and Silke approached the tree.
   "I must confess," drawled Adams, "you do look gorgeous all helpless
and tied. But as I am a gentleman, I will free you presently and take
no liberties."
   "No need." The blonde's muscles flexed and the ropes snapped. "Not
to appear ungrateful, gentlemen, but I'd prefer it if you hadn't
killed them."
   "You'd rather get your neck stretched?" said Adams.
   "I had it under control."
   "Uh-huh," said Adams.
   If it wasn't Silke and it wasn't Adams, Silke might've cautioned
Adams about his tone. But it was and it was, so he didn't.
   "I needed one of them alive," grumbled the blonde. "For
   "Of course," nodded Adams. "I'm sure you can be quite intimidating.
They would've been all a-quiver, girlie."
   The blonde backhanded the tree; it fell over, uprooted.
   "As am I now," said Adams. "Apologies, miss..."
   "My name is Hank," said the blonde. "Hank High."
   "Pardon me saying it, but you're awfully curvy for a Hank," said Adams.
   "I decided some years back that my name was Hank and that I was a
man," said Hank. "And so that's who I am and what I am. Want to make
something of it?" Hank grinded left fist into right palm. "I'd be glad
if you did."
   Adams looked at the tree. "We've no quarrel, uh, Hank."
   Hank looked at Adams. "I don't think I much like you."
   "I'm getting a lot of that, lately," said Adams.
   Hank pointed to Silke. "He's alright, though."
   "Him?" scoffed Adams. "He hasn't even said anything!"
   "He don't have to," said Hank.

- "The Case of the Troublesome Texts" Part 5 -
--- copyright 2014 Andrew Perron ---

   The Science, Mathematics and Abstract Knowledge Team was a new
initiative on the part of the Chicago police force. They were supposed
to provide support for cases involving specialized technical skills in
a way that was quicker and more flexible than lab testing and
consulting academia.
   They were *not* supposed to be going out on their own with no
backup. And now the two SMAK Team agents, Sam Octeday and Mark
Sincere, were hanging precariously in midair as a criminal completed
his master plan.
   It had started out so simply. They had realized that the blank text
messages being sent to prominent city aldermen were spelling out a
message using the phone numbers as an alphanumeric code. The message
had an address, a time, and an amount of money - fourteen point three
million dollars, the same amount that a local billionaire was donating
to city homeless shelters. While he was presenting them with a check,
the actual transfer was being done electronically - and the address
was an old warehouse downtown that had been converted into one of the
Second-to-None National Bank's server farms!
  They had rushed to the warehouse, and the guards were asleep! They'd
kicked the door in - which tripped the snare that had yanked them off
the ground. Now they were dangling near the old building's high roof,
held together by a slim cord that bound their ankles while a figure
far below typed gleefully.
  "Well, pard," said Mark, "it's been a good run, but I don't
know how
the power of logical thinking is supposed to get us out of this one."
  "Don't give up too quickly," said Sam. "There's a logical
to every problem, if we can just figure it out..." She glanced around
the building. "And I think I've got it. See that platform over there?"
  "You mean that platform ten feet higher than we are, on the other
side of the room?" Mark's tone was skeptical, to say the least.
  "Precisely." Sam's tongue spoke sureness. "Remember the Case of the
Conjoined Cuckoo? The solution to that one was the pendulum of a
  "...of course! A pendulum is a weight that hangs down and swings
back and forth, like a playground swing. If *we* can swing, we'll fly
up in the air and - hopefully - be able to reach the platform! But do
you think we'll make it?"
  "I think we don't have a chance!" Sam stretched out her arms and
swung her body back and forth. After a try or two, Mark managed to
match her motions.
  They swung higher and higher, faster and faster. Sam tried to block
out the mental image of a foot slipping out of the cord, of a body
flying through the air. The platform was almost within reach...
almost... *almost*...
  There! Her fingers wrapped around the metal railing, and she hauled
them up onto the catwalk. They unsnapped the snare and ran down the
service ramps.
  Among the whirring boxes, a man in a fancy fedora cackled gleefully.
"All I have to do is press Control-Alt-F1, and the money is mine!"
  Mark and Sam leveled walnut-handled stun-guns. "Hands off that keyboard!"
  He spun around, eyes wide. "The SMAK Team!"
  Mark smirked. "Shoulda known. Luke Luciano, the Steganographic Swindler."
  Luke scowled. "I've failed so many times! This time I was due!"
  "Sorry, sir," said Sam, "but that's the classic Gambler's
The only thing you're due is ten to fifteen in the state pen."
  "And you can take that to the bank!"
  Laughing over the bad guy's grumbles, the SMAK team fistbumped in triumph.

--- "The Cure for The Common Cold" ---
--- copyright 2014 Peter Jurich ---

It is Tuesday afternoon and, in full costume and with his usual
theatrics, The Common Cold splays on my couch. I think; The Common
Cold has forbidden me to look at him during our sessions.
   The Common Cold, like many black capes, is very childlike in that,
when it comes to dramatic diatribes, he is convincing. But talking
about his feelings is something else. He knows what's going on in that
head of his; he simply lacks the vocabulary to explain it fully.
   "Just say whatever is on your mind. I'm not going to judge you."
   I can hear the leather squeak under his uncomfortable squirming.
   "I know, I know," he says. He hates being reminded of that, but it
always gets him to talk. "It's just, well, there's like this voice in
my head =E2=80" constantly =E2=80" when I'm out doing my thing, you know?"
   "What does the voice tell you?" I ask. I hear my own voice echo
inside of my grandfather clock. I hear a few subtle chimes within.
   "It tells me, well, that I'm an idiot, that I'm no good! It tells
me to just give up because who cares about a silly little cold
   I face the clock because I can use the glass as a mirror. In that,
I can see The Common Cold's hands writhing in frustration. Every word
stings him as he spits them out, but it gets easier with every breath.
   "Do you think you're an idiot?" I ask.
   "Do I =E2=80" " He is indignant at first, but softens. "I, I dont
he says. "I sometimes wonder that maybe someone like me should have
more of a vested interest in what I do. Other black capes, they do it
for the money, right? The power, the reputation. But me? I just want
to inconvenience people. That car in front of you that swerved on the
freeway? Well, its driver sneezed! That's what I want my work to be."
   "Then that should be good enough," I suggest.
   "The other villains... The other villains make fun of me."
   "For what?" I ask.
   "Like they tell me Who's going to want to fight a black cape who
only wants to make people sick?' And who does?"
   "Common Cold, you really need to understand something," I say. "How
many really famous villains can you name off the top of your head?"
   The Common Cold thinks for a moment, pointing the long and
exaggerated rubber nose at the end of his face mask high into the air.
"Umm, seven, I suppose."
   "Seven. And do you know out of how many those seven came from?"
   "Probably hundreds," he says readily. He's catching on.
   "Maybe even thousands!" I say. "My point is, Common Cold =E2=80" "
   "Don't look at me!"
   "Sorry. My point is that the chances are very good that any one of
the other villains who make fun of you, they will end up nobodies,
succumbing to a straight edge future in corporate America. Maybe
they'll find a nice non-profit to take them in, and they'll think back
on their days of villainy with longing, but write them off as youth
and rebellion. Is that what you want for yourself?"
   The Common Cold stands. Moments like this are why I got into social
work. "No!" he exclaims. "I do not! I will not!"
   "Of course not. You know you have what it takes to be great."
   His face goes white at the word "great". "What I mean," I say,
that you have the talent to infect people all over Chicago. They may
not ever know who gave them the cold, but they'll sure be mad about
it." The color returns to his face. "You're going to be fine..."
   "Don't look at me."
   "Sorry. You're going to be fine."
   "You're right. I can sneeze on a target ten feet away!"
   "Just don't sneeze on me." A little humor to lighten the mood.
   "Then don't look at me."
   We laugh. He leaves. The Common Cold will come back next week, his
confidence drained. We will have the exact same conversation, and he
will again forget to pay me.
   Great villains are not born over night.

---- "I Am a Good Dog" ----
--- copyright 2014 Wil Alambre ---

   I'm a good dog. I lay still. Curled up on rug by the window.
Watching the sun go down. I'm not allowed outside while sun's up. Only
when sun is down.
   Sounds of a knife on wood. Smells of meat being cut. I walk to
kitchen. Master is preparing food. I sit by his feet. I wait. I don't
move. I don't make a sound. I stay still as he fills my bowl. He looks
at me. I wait. I'm a good dog. He snaps his fingers and I dive into my
food! Juicy meat! Good food!
   I finish my food. He's waiting at the back door for me. I walk over
to him and sit. I sit still. He removes my collar and my name tag. He
checks that my eyes are clean. Pets my head. Yes! He places the hood
over my head. Makes sure I can see. He places the harness on me. Makes
sure cape isn't in my way. He holds out his hand. Shake paw! I bark
and shake paw! Petting my head. I'm a good dog.
   He opens the door and tells me to go outside. The sun is down. The
air is cool. I get to go out! I get to play! I run and run and leap
into the air and don't come back down!
   Higher and higher. Faster and faster. So many smells up here! So
many sounds up here! So many stars up here! Wind pushes from below and
from the side. Whispy clouds are racing. I chase one. It's soft and it
falls apart in my teeth. I bite and it comes apart and tastes like
rain water. I see another trying to get away! I chase it! Chase! Ha ha
   A spark from below. Bright and angry. A loud crack. I know that!
The bad noise! I run and I dive down. Down and down. Past the clouds.
Towards the city and the buildings and the streets. The smells become
thicker. But I recognize the gun smell and I remember the gun spark.
Run run run.
   A thin alley in a dirty place. It's dark here. All the street
lights are out. All the windows are closed or boarded. Smells of
garbage. A scream! That way! Run run run.
   A lady. She's running. She's scared. I can hear her breathing
scared. I can smell her sweating scared.
   A man. He's chasing. He's scared too. And he's angry. He has a gun.
I can smell smoke and violence on him. He is a bad man!
    I run past the lady. She makes a surprised sound. I jump at the
man. He makes a yelp, like a cat tumbling out of a tree. He knows me.
He points the gun at me. The noise and light and smoke smell. The
feeling of flies on my skin in the summertime. He tries to run. I slow
down to chase him more! Ha ha ha!
   I catch up and bite his arm. Not too hard. Mustn't hurt. He tries
to shake me off, but I don't let go. I hold on good and shake. Shake!
He shakes all over! His shoes go flying off! Shake shake shake! He
goes limp. I drop him on the street. Sniff sniff. Yes, he's still
alive. He stinks of sweat and urine, but he's still alive.
   I bark! My special loud bark! The police will hear. The police will
come. They'll find this man and lock him in a cage. He won't be
allowed to go outside or run or jump anymore. He didn't follow the
   Not like me. I'm a good dog!

---- See you next month! ----

All stories and characters are the copyright of their respective authors.