- Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad Lass
- Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten
- Issue #87 – Descendants… In Space
- Issue #88 – Tome of Battle
- Issue #89 – All That Glitters
- Issue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks
- Issue #91 – Rock and Roll Lifestyle
- Descendants Special #8 – The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll
- Issue #92 – Homage
- Issue #93 – Day of Recovery
- Issue #94 – The Knight, The Witch and the Gadgeteer (FaerieQuest Part 1)
- Issue #95 – Into The Woods (FaerieQuest Part 2)
Rock and Roll Lifestyle (Part 1)
“….the top story of the week, the Seventh Annual Global Systematics Festival of Music kicks of this weekend! Since 2070, Global Systemics has presented a showcase for new and rising artists from rock to rap, country to folk. Stars are made or fall into obscurity over three days and nights every year right here in Los Angeles. This year, all the eyes are going to be on Sonia Remington; the famous model who shocked everyone last year with her sudden career change and then her sleeper platinum hit Sun and Pearl.
“Rumor has it that Remington won’t be using her road band for her GSFM appearance. Instead, she’ll be with little-known Virginia alternative band, Snackrifice, co-founded by Remington’s go-to songwriter, Lisa Ortega. We’ll see how they do with their golden chance this weekend, along with dozens of other hopefuls and you can watch it all live here on Sound TV. From Los Angeles where preparations are underway, I’m Evangeline Doward. Now back to Bob in the studio.”
Whatever Bob had to say was cut off by a whoop from the group assembled in the downstairs commons of Freeland House watching the report on television. The members of Snackrifice had invited all their closest friends over for the viewing party and Laurel had been more than willing to offer up Freeland House for it.
Kay, her hair painted gold for the occasion, glomped Lisa. “National television! They just said our name on national television! Do you have any idea how huge that is? This Week In Music gets four million live views alone on the SoundTV channel! People are going to be looking us up right now!”
“Congratulations, you guys,” Cyn said, raising a beer in salute. He powers kept her from getting drunk, but she still drank in mixed company to fit in, “I mean, we all knew about your gig with Remington for a month now, but damn, that made it seem real didn’t it?”
Jessica was staring at the television even though the subject had moved on to the sex scandal surrounding Jimmy Avalanche, lead singer of Violence Museum. “I… still can’t believe it. I’ve watched every GSFM since it started… I never imagined I’d get to play at one.”
“Hmm…” an imperious voice said over the general buzz of conversation. No one knew who invited Lily, but they assumed Callie had just been too nice to tell her not to come. So there she was, sitting on the couch next to Kareem, on his opposite side from Desiree. “Is there anything your band needs? Costumes? Roadies? Representation? Know people and I would be happy to comp you.”
Lisa rolled her eyes. “You’re a little late on the offer, Lils. Three days before our big break that could make us big and now you want a piece? Where was this generosity two years ago when we were just starting out?”
This only got a shrug from Lily. “High school is in the past. I’m in college now: more worldly and mature. Besides, it wasn’t as if it was evident that you would be a success then.”
“Not too much different.” Lisa said flatly.
“Oh don’t take it that way. You know what I mean.” Lily folded her arms and turned up her nose. “There are thousands of high school bands that don’t hold together and Snackrifice was constantly changing members that weren’t you two.” She gestured around, “Half the people here have been your drummer at one time or another.”
She blinked and took a mental count again. “Though I suppose I should have taken your extraordinary luck into account. What other aspiring musicians would just happen to fall ass first into being friends with so many talented-to-passable drummers?”
Kay laughed nervously then said, “Shut up, Lily.”
“Yeah, this is Snackrifice’s night.” Warrick declared from the recliner where he and Tink were snuggling. “And this is super-cool, guys. I couldn’t be happier for you. The only thing that would make this better would be if we could go see you live.”
“I wish.” said JC. “Even if an LA hotel wasn’t expensive as hell, it’s GSFM week: no one’s going to have a vacancy. Not even people renting their spare room online.”
At this, Lily’s eyes lit up. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that…”
Melissa, who was leaning against the wall, watching Kareem, Desiree and Lily with feigned disinterest, raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you’re going.”
A serene smile spread over Lily’s face. “Well… I understand that most of you don’t know a great deal about the corporate world, but many companies reserve permanent suites to house employees on business trips to major cities. It guarantees availability and location, which in turn allows the company to anticipate things like travel and room service expenses more easily.”
“You’re right.” Melissa said dryly, “I don’t know much about the corporate world. You had a point? No matter how much you like playing manager to Callie, you don’t actually have a company.”
Lily smiled sweetly at her. “But my mummy is a vice president for one and guess where they keep just such a suite? The Princess Regency Hotel in beautiful Los Angeles California, a mere ten blocks from where the Global Systematics Festival of Music is being held. Oh my, it does seem I had a point, doesn’t it?” She sat up straight and gave Melissa a challenging look.
Handing Juniper the drink he’d gotten up to get her, Malcolm gave her an askance look before whispering, “What’s with those two? I understand Lily isn’t everyone’s favorite person, but there seems to be a special kind of hostile in effect there.”
“They used to be friends.” Juniper said as if that explained everything—which to her it did. She smiled as she accepted the drink from him, completely missing how Jessica was looking at them.
Or how Meghan was looking at all the couples. She’d come without her boyfriend Hank, but that had become the norm in the last few days. Any time someone tried to broach the subject, she quickly maneuvered the conversation away. Not knowing much about Lily however, she was also the most receptive to the idea. “That sounds cool—I don’t suppose your mom has a private jet.”
“She does have one at her disposal, but she has to use that this weekend. Conference in Mumbai.” Lily said, “So the suite can be arranged—everyone is one their own for transportation.”
Callie, who along with Cyn was hovering near the pool table, which was currently doubling as the snack table, looked up from her little pile of carrot sticks and pigs-in-a-blanket. “I wonder how long it would take me to run to Los Angeles?”
“More importantly, do we have time for a road trip? Finals are the week after next, but what’s more ‘college’ than blowing off a few days of classes for a road trip?” That was JC, who had gotten up to stretch his legs after waiting patently with the others for the news about Snackrifice’s appearance to come up.
“Hmm…” Cyn said, mocking Lily’s earlier dramatic hemming and hawing even as she was stuffing her face with nachos. At least she took the time to swallow before speaking. “Somehow I keep for getting I’m a privileged little rich girl now too.” She also took the time to stick her tongue out at Lily, two years worth of attempted high school bullying coming home to roost. “And I also have a relative involved with a huge company—only my brand new grandpa owns his. I bet he’ll hook us up with a jet—especially once I tell him it’s to go cheer on my friends and their big break.”
She gave a crooked grin. “And while we’re there, we’re going to hit LA like the fist of a mighty god. Last time we…I was there, I only got to go to this really good Chinese place, but with three days…” her eyes shimmered as she fantasized, “We can get breakfast at the Crepe Machine, Lunch at a Hungry Jack’s Maxi-sized Food Truck—and oh my goodness, dinner at Evershine—did you know all their sushi is farmed?None of it clones? Have you guys ever had non-cloned tuna? Because I haven’t. Oooh, and maybe Ollie will be able to get away from work for a whole weekend and he’ll be there. Mmm, tuna and Ollie…”
“You are not doing anything weird with your boyfriend and food in my mother’s suite,” Lily said, appalled.
“What? I would never do anything kinky with food. That’s a waste of good food.”
“Okay,” Lisa mercifully interrupted, “That went to strange places quickly. Lily… okay, I actually appreciate the offer. It’s likely I can speak for the whole band when I say it’d mean a lot to us to have more of our friends there. I’m not going to throw something like that back in your face. Thanks.”
Lily inclined her head, proud but for once not gloating. “Think nothing of it.”
“And, in the spirit of that,” Lisa added, “I’ll talk to Sonia tonight about getting all-access passes to the festival for everyone who can get out there. I wish I could help out there, but we just sank a lot of money into a new server to handle the load of people wanting to download our stuff once this whole thing hits and we’re pretty much relying on Sonia and her label to comp us for this trip as it is.”
Kay was still grinning all over herself. “But this time six months from now? Don’t be surprised if we have our own private jet! This is going to be amazing!”
At the same time, in Milwaukee, the same webcast was being played to a considerably different reaction. In the apartment shared by the bass player and lead guitarist of the self-described professional road band that sardonically called themselves Vacuous Stand-In, the lead guitarist, Bobby Scramble was lying on the couch, half-watching the broadcast while updating his Quintessence account on his palmtop while Debby ‘Downer’ Egan, their drummer, sat on the opposite and of the couch, snoring loudly and no seeming to notice that Bobby Scramble’s legs were stretched across her lap.
The place slightly better kept than the stereotypical rocker flophouse: yes, there were beer and liquor bottles in varying states of emptiness on most surfaces, along with takeout and pizza boxes, but the place wasn’t a complete sty and had been vacuumed and dusted at some point in the recent past. In fact, the current state of decay was only a few weeks old—dating back from the moment the band learned that Sonia Remington wasn’t going to be using them at GSFM and one of the people who lived there had started a short trip to the bottom of the bottle.
“Turn that shit off.” Joe ‘Baldy’ Adams stumbled out of the hall joining the living room to the kitchen and, further along, the bathroom and bedrooms. He was pale in the ‘belly of a cave fish’ sense, with a shaved head and normally wore tiny, round glasses and a nose ring, though those weren’t in evidence as he was, fresh off a drunken slumber and well into a hangover. “I don’t need to hear any more about that bitch.”
Bobby Scramble levered himself up enough to peer over the back of the couch. He was black and fairly well built as opposed to Baldy’s scrawniness. Long, black hair down past his shoulders was starting to curl after a few weeks away from the loving care of his stylist. “Joe, you’ve gotta let this shit go. Road bands get kicked to the side: that’s how it works, man. Hell, how many times have we gotten kicked and you haven’t given a damn.”
He gestured to the walls of the living room where posters for their most successful previous partners were hung, some freshly vandalized with felt-tipped pen.
“None of them were going anywhere and you know it.” Joe stumbled over to the bookcase where their stereo and a small colony of whiskey bottles resided and started looking for one that still had some booze in it. He found on that still had a few centimeters of liquid at the bottom and upended up over his mouth. It provided barely enough to wet his tongue.
For a minute, he stood there, looking at the bottle as if expecting an apology for this lack of alcohol, then he gave up and tossed it on the floor. “A platinum single right off the bat. How many times does that happen?”
Bobby Scramble snorted. “A platinum single we played all the tracks for. First million this band’s ever made. And we get royalties—first time for that too. As long as she doesn’t get stupid and put the album up on a subscription service or something, we’re gonna have at least some money coming in a long time from now. Face it: Remington was the best thing ever happened to us.”
A snarl escaped Joe as he moved over to the actual bar, which was largely bereft of liquor bottles because they were everywhere else. “Now she’s happening to a bunch of stupid kids from out east,” he grumbled, “At the GNS… GM… in LA! How many millions are they gonna get outta that? OUR MILLIONS!”
At the loud noise, Debby made a noise in her sleep, but settled down.
Bobby Scramble rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever. What we need to be doing is getting out there and finding our next gig—just us or another road band job, doesn’t matter, we can still get a little lift off this ‘band that got Sonia Remington to where she is’ mojo.”
Meanwhile, Joe had found a bottle of wine and, after some wrestling with the bottle opener, got the cork out. He took a long swig, then scowled at Bobby Scramble. “Maybe you can live off just ‘lift’, but we deserve the whole thing.”
“I could live with just getting a maid in here and you takin’ a shower at this point. Jesus, Baldy..”
Joe flipped him off with both hands, which almost made him spill his wine, then stumbled off back down the hall.
“I am this close to bailing if he keeps on like this,” Debby muttered, not opening her eyes. “At the very least, I don’t trust him with the money anymore. And I think you and I should hang at my place more if he’s gonna be all Ahab-meets-Howard-Hughes.”
“Don’t you watch movies that don’t have guys shooting guns?”
“Why would I do that?” ha asked, then laid back down. “Anyway, don’t worry about Baldy. He’s too wasted to spend our money on anything more than more takeout or another fifth.”
Back in his room, Joe slapped a bunch of beer cans off his desk chair and collapsed into it, clutching his bottle of wine. Sinking into it (and the wine). His breathing was rough and ragged as he stewed in his rage.
He could still hear Sonia on the phone, telling him her decision; about how she thought she ‘owed it’ to her songwriter. That she’d ‘see what she was going to do band-wise after the festival’. As if she could just come back to them after shutting them out of the biggest thing possible for their careers.
Not that he told the rest of the band about that. They’d just take it though. Like they took being tossed aside in the first place. That’s what kept them down all this time: they were too accepting of whatever came or went.
Maybe some of that was the booze or the hangover talking, or the fact that he hadn’t sobered up since getting angry drunk after their conversation. The drink was also helping him form an idea.
A very bad idea. In so many ways.
After some searching, which involved pulling open every drawer in his desk and dresser, then running his hand under his pillows and mattress, and knocking aside everything on his nightstand, he finally found his palmtop on his desk right in front of where he’d been sitting when he started.
More fumbling finally got his contacts open.
Mistakes of drunkenness past had kept a lot of those names and numbers in there; names of his past, back when he was running not just with the wrong crowd, but the worst crowd. It was one of those names he picked out to call.
“Hey, it’s the rock star that thinks he’s too good for the fams. What they hell do you want, Baldy?”
“Come on, Rock, don’t be like that. Shit man, I had to get out of town, or I was goin’ away for good. That what you wanted? Five-O takes me in and tries to cut a deal with me? ‘Cause I was lookin’ at twenty years and I didn’t even do that shit.”
“That, or you coulda taken it like a man like you’re supposed to. What the hell do you want, Baldy? I got loyal guys to talk to; real work to get down to. Kinda thing you used to do.”
“Yeah and that’s what this is about,” Joe slurred, “Got some work for ya.”
“Like I’m giving you a discount. You’re lucky I don’t track you down and put your face through a window.”
Joe took another swig of wine. It wasn’t really helping the hangover. “Not…” he winced at the volume of his own voice, “that kind of work. You heard of Sonia Remington?”
“Yeah, I heard you and those losers you hooked up with were playing for her. Way it looks, you made some money.”
“I want her dead,” croaked Joe.
“Deeeeeeeaaaaad. Not alive. D-E-D. You got me?”
“Not that last part but—we don’t do that shit for hire, Joe.”
Joe drained the last of the wine and tossed the bottle over his shoulder. “But you know who does.”
There was a long pause before Rocko came back. “…yeah.”
Typing clumsily into his desktop, Joe brought up the band’s bank account. “Seven-fifty K enough to get someone? And they gotta be badass: Remington’s skins like… tough or something, so you can’t just shoot her.”
“I… think I can do something for you,” said Rocko.
“Great. Set it up.” Joe hung up and started laughing. Laughing until his head hurt. Laughing until he passed out again.