[personal profile] chanter_greenie
This fic is the first of what I suspect will become a gigantic series, all set in what [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith and I have termed the orange!verse, an alternate universe to the Schrodinger's Heroes series for which she gets a large amount of credit. She's not the only author responsible for that series, but I owe her for helping me turn my wish fulfillment daydreams into stories. This ficlet takes place in what we've termed the scarlet!verse, i.e. the core dimension. There is some spillover from the orange!verse, but that's a plot point, so I won't spoil it. For more info on the Schrodinger's Heroes project, see her journal. Upcoming fics will mainly be a) backdated a few years, and b) set in the orange!verse. This is meant as an establishing point.

It's hot in Waxahachie the night Pat climbs into Scarlett's driver's seat, shuts the door behind him, and reaches for the radio controls.

He's got somewhere to be eventually, sure he does. The members of his household rather expect to see him home before dawn on most nights, or at least expect a call if he's more than passably certain he isn't going to make that cutoff and the world isn't in imminent danger of going boom in a cloud of name-your-substance. Averting worldwide catastrophes, he's learned, get a definite pass from his spice, especially if he makes the explanations good before he stumbles off to bed. But tonight, the world isn't ending, and it's only closing in on ten besides. He's got time.

Life is pretty mellow in the compound for now; Quinn's curled up with a book or three, Kay's off somewhere, Ash is hip-deep in code and happy as the proverbial clam, Alex and Morgan are tinkering with a three-dimensional model of a solar system with a trio of glass-encased rose suns among its depictions. Tonight, though there's no wood to be found for knocking, life is good where Pat's concerned. He turns the key in the ignition just enough to briefly spark lights and seatbelt alarms, settles in, and hits seek as the overhead flicks out again.

He leaves the windows rolled up because one, Scarlett's long since gotten air conditioning enough to stand up to Texas temperatures, and two, plain old Earth mosquitos are plenty bad, never mind what kind of otherworld bugs run the risk of escaping the ring. As it is, it's cool enough tonight that the AC isn't an issue, and as for the other problem, nothing's buzzed in his ear yet. Wait, scratch that - the radio lands on someone wheezing highly-specific fire and brimstone, and honestly, Pat would almost take audible mosquitos instead. Scarlett's the only one who sees his grimace at the windshield. "Oh man. Seek again, willya?"

Most other cars wouldn't respond to a request like that. Then again, most other cars aren't Scarlett. Pat drops his hand from the control panel, flops back in his seat, and the dial spins unaided as a feminine voice drawls in the back of his head. "Harshing on the old mellow," is what it says. Pat doesn't reply in words.

He doesn't immediately register just where that dial stops the second time, only that it's done so. He figures Scarlett must've lit on something else--between her own skills and Bailey and Alex tinkering around a little, her radio's downright excellent--but a half-lidded glance at the dash gets him--1044? He blinks. 1044 glows back at him, lighted amber on the frequency display.

Forget leaning back in his seat. The hell is that? 1044, he knows, is smack in between a couple of stations. What's more, all that's coming out of the speakers now besides a faint crackle of off-tuned country and an even fainter, distorted whisper of a commercial is dead air. Really dead air; the static's gone the sort of quiet it gets when there's somebody on but they're not playing anything. The between-songs sort of quiet. The 'the lights are on but maybe nobody's home and they left their equipment on when they locked up' sort of quiet. Nobody drops a hymnal, nobody coughs, nobody rattles a CD in its case. There's some sort of electrical hum, almost a vibration on the air, drowning out the radio snow, but that's the same all over when a DJ forgets to play another record or go to a commercial. If this is some pirate hatemonger warming up for another tirade, Pat thinks that lingering mellow of his is going to go up in a mushroom cloud pretty damn quick. "Scarlett, just what're you do--"

--ing? is how he means to finish that question, but the last syllable never forms.

It isn't the car that interrupts him. Not directly. Sure, it's coming out of her speakers, but it's--

Somebody's home, all right.

The unexpected peal of a dozen bells tolling in concert is almost enough to startle him facefirst into the steering wheel. "Jesus!" he yelps, but by then the sound of what he's hearing's hit him properly, and it's the space of one quickly indrawn breath before he--there's no way to explain it gracefully--plain old shuts his mouth and listens. Harder than he meant to, even, after a second or two more go by. His eyes are fixed on that four-digit frequency readout even as another display on Scarlett's augmented dash starts glowing. He doesn't lean back.

Pat's never heard this song, or anything like this song, in his life. Educated man though he may be, he's not above admitting he's never imagined bells played like combined pieces of one instrument, like piano keys or violin strings. Not every note is perfect, a little voice (his own, Scarlett's silent) notes detachedly in the back of his head. He ignores it.

It's supposed, he thinks, to be a joyful piece. That much comes through plenty clearly in the sound of it, minor key or no minor key. Pat's held breath rushes out of him somewhere around the second repetition of the original tune, but his chest keeps aching despite that. It's supposed to be uplifting, and he can't deny that it is.

Something's gone hot and prickling behind his eyes by the time the melody changes. He's got a lump in his throat when the minor-almost major-minor progression of it's tolled back to a chord vibrating on the air, and by then he's certain, as much as he can be certain with gooseflesh climbing up his arms, that the continued ache he's feeling has nothing at all to do with his lungs.

It's supposed to be an uplifting song, whatever it is. Whatever it was. Pat can tell this.

His hands shake, just a little, where he's unconsciously dropped them into his lap. It's a minute before he makes a significant move. Scarlett's radio shuts off with a click and the associated readout goes dark, but the isolated peanut bulb on her dash continues to glow, casting a faint yellow light over its panel.

On that panel, a graph silently begins to plot itself.

Pat blinks hard, swipes half-heartedly at his eyes, opens the driver's side door and reaches for his phone. This might, he speculates a little bemusedly even as he keys in Bailey's number, be a night he makes an I'll-be-late call home after all.

Scarlett's door closes, untouched, behind him.

Footnotes get through like this:

* These are the bells that Pat hears. This is not the complete piece, but I couldn't find a recording of it in its entirety. I'll keep looking. I assure you, it starts as it goes on, emotional impact-wise.

*This fic's title comes from the phrase adjacent channel splatter, or interference from a nearby frequency on a radio dial.


Date: 2013-02-08 07:51 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I am so happy to see this!


I love how the story builds slowly from a lazy, pleasant night to an odd event to hints of greater tension to come.

Also, I'd really enjoy finding out what happens next as Pat seeks an explanation for what's going on here.

Editing notes:

>>the last sylllable never forms.<<

That should say "syllable" above.

>> The unexpected peel of a dozen bells <<

That should say "peal" above.

>>On that panel, a graph begins to silently plot itself. <<

That should say "silently beginst to plot" above.


Date: 2013-02-10 07:34 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>>Edits have been made!<<

Glad I could help.

>>I admit I had a harder time with this fic than I've been having with the parts of the storyline set in the orange!verse. I'm still not entirely happy with the pacing,<<

It worked for me.

>> and I struggled with describing the actual signal without employing my synaesthesia as a prominent descriptor.<<

Looking at the comments, this also worked for other readers. I sympathize with the challenges, though -- it can be hard to avoid a sense you have, or an interpretation, that doesn't fit a given story.

>> I'm just starting to get the next fic in the series together, also located in the scarlet!verse. Enter the rest of the team, and jump forward a day or so <<

Yay! I'm glad this will play out.

>>I can't wait to get to posting the orange!verse fics. There are so many people I... I almost said want you to meet. Oh heck. :) That probably sounds weird. You know what I mean. <<

Well, I thought you were going to say "want you to meet" when I read the first part of the sentence. That's not weird to me; it's part of my everyday life and always has been. You've see what I write. I ramble across universes, and I'm cool with it.

Heck yes, I want to meet them!


Date: 2013-02-11 07:40 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I tend to collect people around me who have an affinity for weirdness.

Otherwise, well ... "humans are too fragile and easily exhausted."

Date: 2013-02-08 10:27 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Whoa, yeah I see what you mean about the music, it's like accidentally tuning into something being broadcast from Heaven... which is probably the point.


Date: 2013-02-08 06:39 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
That may well be what inspired the music in the first place. After all, we have some that came from fairyland; why not Heaven too?

Thank you

Date: 2014-04-10 10:05 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
This is a clear, distinctly different 'world' than Ysabetwordsmith's, and you convey that in a few paragraphs without bashing the reader over the head with clues. I really, really appreciate that.

Please keep writing.

Date: 2017-09-19 09:15 am (UTC)
acelightning: G-clef crossed by lightning bolt (music3)
From: [personal profile] acelightning
The YouTube video is, as it says, the opening phrase of a patriotic song from the Dutch Revolutionary War, played on a carillon.



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