A thousand words from a work in progress, a short story which grew into a novella, the beast-
Bruce Clinkenbeard got called away by a harried looking aide speaking urgently into her comm. Tori went with Rockhead and a half dozen cops, leaving Melody, who wandered over to me.
"I just met your cousin."
"I saw that," she said. "And?"
That was a good question. Where had I been meaning to go with this?
"He's not who I thought he'd be?"
Melody just waited.
"I thought he would turn out to be just another pol. We get reformers every few years in the habitats and they always turn."
"Bruce is the real deal. More like his grandmother than my sister, her namesake, is."
"How so?" I thought I was asking how her cousin was like Captain Cee, but no.
"Hannah has been trying to break the mold, the Captain Cee shaped mold, which people have forced her into. But she isn't the Neo-Victorian young maiden, either."
"Fascinating, that, but back to Bruce and the Captain?"
"Pure charisma, pure leadership. To be able to make people want to do your will, and to always put your people ahead of yourself."
"Does he have some kind of savior complex?"
"Maybe that's what it is. But he doesn't demand blind loyalty. He doesn't demand much, except decency. He challenges you to be... more."
"More? More what?"
"There's who you are, right now, and who you could be. God's Hank, if you get the reference."
"Stephen King's 'The Stand'. Tom, 'that spells moon', the retarded man they send into the Walking Man's territory. Under hypnosis, when they're giving him instructions, they contact another personality who calls himself 'God's Tom'... he's the only one they send who makes it back. Being clever and brave wasn't enough-"
"Those others got to 'stand', and helped take the adversary down, step by step. Things started to slip through his fingers, because they got to be clever and brave, instruments of a benevolent force. Call it God, or the better elements of human nature."
"Making the worlds a better place by doing what you were meant to do. He talked about your grandmother in that way."
"Are all of you Clinkenbeards mad?"
"Perhaps just a little touched."
We had another band practice that night- three practices really were not going to be enough. I was hoping we'd earn points on novelty... we intended to make the best of it. Then we got the call.
"Hank? Hendricks here... I'm afraid that I have some bad news. Fitz just called and canceled."
Fitz's Brew and Eats was a working class joint with live entertainment. We'd played there three times in the last few months, as much as anywhere. Places like that were our steady gigs.
"I don't suppose it had anything to do with his scaliness?"
I took a deep breath.
"Were there threats?"
"Tell Fitz... thanks for those other gigs, and maybe we'll play his place again, if he grows a spine!"
"I leave that last bit out. His wives their other husbands and children, they work there or hang out there, after work and school."
"Trust me, I leaned on him a little. I was his best man, twice!"
"But you're also a godfather three or four times over, aren't you... I'll let the band know."
From the looks on their faces, the band had already figured it out from my side of the conversation.
"I talked to a guy I know about gigs over in Ariel..." my favorite troublemaker volunteered. Shuttling over to another habitat wasn't cheap, but if we could book a couple of shows, it'd make sense. "Probably going to have the same problem, though," Karl added.
"I would imagine."
"Come on, guys, let's keep a positive attitude!" Joey said.
I think we all gave him the middle finger, except Melody. Rockhead chuffed something, I'm pretty sure it was agreement.
There was a knock on the wall by the open door of this warehouse space we were using for our practice sessions.
A young woman, well dressed, stood just inside of the door, accessorized with about a hundred and ten kilos of muscle and bone. The man cleaned up well, even presented an ironic smile, but his entire being still screamed 'thug'. Just with discretion and finesse, somehow.
I blinked, but before I could say anything, Joey jumped up and ran over.
"Hera? Great to see you, but, um, what're ya doing in this part of the hab?" He glanced nervously at the bodyguard. "Hey Jeff."
"Geoffrey tried to convince me to just comm you, but I wanted to meet your band and... is that your dragon?"
"Well, he's our drummer. He's nobody's dragon but his own, except maybe Melody's," I said, and Hera positively beamed at me, a ten megawatt smile.
"Uh, Joey, you maybe wanna-"
"Ooh, yeah. Hera, this is my brother, Hank, Melody, Karl, Rockhead, and that's everybody. Oh, everybody, this is Hera Adamantine and her muscle, Jeff."
"Geoffrey Goode, Joseph. I am honored."
She held out her hand, not to shake, apparently, and I bumped her knuckles. That earned me a funny smile, and she bumped knuckles all around, until she got to Rockhead. She spoke him in Chinese, Mandarin, in fact. She had gotten the email, I guess.
"Yes, Karl, I know. Adamantine Builders, that Adamantine."
The penny dropped and I smiled an evil little smile. Melody came over to me and nudged me with an elbow. A rather sharp elbow.
"No. As in, don't you dare."
"Please? Please?! Do you have any idea-"
"Yes. As a matter of fact, I do."
I considered 'Joseph' and Hera, and sighed.
"You are no fun at all."
Melody gave me a look I pretended to ignore, and stole El Kabong without asking permission.
Melody stuck her tongue out at me and said, "Is this a practice or what?"
Then she swung into a very good version of Scarborough Faire. Not exactly our rock and roll stuff, but I liked it, and so did Ms. Adamantine.