The Mid-West Mission (Part 2)

The flight from La Estrella International to Sioux Falls Regional Airport was done in Business Class. As much as Zara wanted to put her new costume on she opted for comfortable jeans, a pale orange strappy top, and a soft, white cardigan. Radiant had changed from his hero costume into one of his many business suits, and was busy making notes on his laptop as they crossed half the country.

Zara’s own laptop was much smaller than the executive business model her uncle was using, and instead of pages of documents she was updating the track selection on her JukeMan. Files ripped from her CD collection were being dragged across as the charge was topped up. She wondered just how many albums she could get through before they landed.in South Dakota.

 

It took seven and a half albums before she was off the plane. Standing in the reception area at FSD, Zara stretched awkwardly as she waited for her uncle to collect their belongings from baggage and grab the keys for their rental car. She had already wandered around the gift shop eyeing possible present ideas for her father and her older brother. Nothing in particular leapt off the shelves, she couldn’t imagine a keychain being of particular interest, and they all had plenty of mugs.

There had been some appreciative looks from a couple of teenage boys hanging out at one of the restaurants near the security checkpoints. Zara couldn’t help but think they’d be less interested if she summoned up a blade of starlight or fired off some starbolts. It took them a little while to draw up the courage and make their approach.

“Hey.” One tried to say in a deep voice that cracked a little at first. “You new in town?”

“Zara,” Albert called, “our car is ready.”

“‘kay!” She replied, giving both boys an apologetic smile before hurrying after her uncle, grabbing her bags from him as soon as she caught up. “Thanks for the save.” She quietly said as she fell into step alongside him.

“Turning down attention can become a bit of a pain.” Her uncle replied.

“All those galas and charity events?” Zara asked, receiving a knowing nod in reply. “Is that why Dad avoids them?”

Albert was silent as they exited the main building and made for the rental area. “It’s one of the reasons. Your father prefers to leave that sort of thing to your aunt, your grandmother, and myself.”

Zara didn’t need to ask anything else on that matter. Caleb Starr was the only one of the children of Saul “Shining Star” and Ruth “Mirage” Starr not to have any powers. Instead of hero work, he opted to help oversee the various family businesses that had blossomed out of Starr Studios.

A hand placed on her shoulder roused her from her thoughts. Albert gestured to a 2004 Mason Sprinter in royal blue. “Our car.”

“Looks nice, and comfortable.” The blonde spoke up after taking a quick walk around the four-door. “I can put an album on, right?”

“Just one for the moment.” Albert replied, opening the trunk to deposit his cases. “Maybe another later, depending on traffic.”

Clambering in and sinking down into the front passenger seat, Zara sighed in relief as she stretched her legs out and made the most of the leg room. “Are you okay with the Tokyo Dragonboyz?”

Slipping his jacket off and laying it on the back seat, Radiant climbed in and started the engine. “Zara, I’ve never heard of them.”

 

As the CD was fed into the machine and started to autoplay, a pained expression crossed the hero’s face as he navigated his way out of the car park. Barely one track in and he couldn’t wait for track twelve to end. If Albert Starr was lucky, this trip would be the first and only time he’d hear of them.

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Gimme More

Author’s Note: Another #MachinaeMonday post, inspired by the music of the Swedish SID-Metal band Machinae Supremacy. This one follows on from the events of last week’s post, Origin (Part 1). This took a rewrite to get going properly, but could definitely do with more edits. Still interested? Click the cut to get started.

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Origin (Part 1)

Author’s Note: It’s #MachinaeMondays, and this week there’s another bit of fiction inspired by my favourite band. This one’s a bit longer than the usual posts, being part one of an origin story that this time covers a man named Steve. So, under the cut, is 4k~ words of music-inspired sci-fi, from one of the myriad settings floating around in my brain.

A normal daily post should come up later on. Until then… Origin.

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Machinae Monday 1

Author’s note: Later on this evening (UTC 0 evening that is. Currently midday as of writing this), I’ll be over on Plug.dj with a bunch of Machinae Supremacy fans and maybe some of the band, chatting and playing tunes. The music’s always been a big inspiration for me, and inspired a setting too. As a teaser for the MachinaeTribe and other folks, here’s some short setting snippets on each of the 8 tracks I aim to play tonight. The normal story of the day will come later on!

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Kisses

Her daughter had control of the car radio. It was a common place occurrence really, though to say it was the radio would be an oversimplification. She’d gone and plugged her music player into one of the ports on the dashboard, and was flicking through the shuffle playlist. As Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ started up, she tutted disapprovingly. “I do wish you wouldn’t listen to this song, it’s not very appropriate.”

The sigh her daughter gave was an impressive one, working in the slouch of the shoulders and the hanging of her head. “You’re so old fashioned at times, Mum, it’s just a song.”

“It’s pandering, that’s what it is. If you listen to the lyrics and analyse the meaning, you’d see what I mean.” She sniffed, getting a little annoyed that the song was still on.

“Not this again,” the daughter whined. “We’re off to Lakeside for some shopping, not Desert Island Discs.”

Sighing softly, she glanced over. “All right, I won’t, but just promise me that if you do kiss any girls, it will be for the right reasons. Not for being drunk, for trying to impress boys, or without any committal.” Taking her hand off the gearstick, she patted her shoulder. “Just ask mum, she’s been on the receiving end of someone leading her on, just to score points with someone. It really hurt her.”

“Okay, I promise I won’t do any of that if I kiss any girls.” Her daughter said with a flash of a smile, changing the track to Muse’s ‘Supermassive Black Hole’. “Better?”

“Much better.”

There was silence between them for a few minutes, before her daughter piped up with a question. “How long did it hurt for? Being lead on, that is.”

“A little while… but I saw what happened, got up the courage to talk to her, and sixteen years later we’re married with a daughter with a somewhat questionable taste in music.” She laughed warmly, heading for the junction off the motorway.

“Hey! Don’t make me point out your Pat Benatar albums!”

The music was soon ignored for a vigorous and spirited (and very fun) debate on the pros and cons of artists from various genres and eras.

Solitary Nights

There is something altogether enchanting and peaceful about the night-time hours, and as of late I’ve found myself sleeping much less and exploring the joys of the witching hours.

One of the things I enjoy is the lack of phone calls or knocks at the door. Radio and television become weird little versions of themselves, with the BBC Radio stations in particular having their own little sub-culture, including a BBC 2 Radio show where there is the 3.46 club for people up at that time in the morning to contact them and let them know why they’re up.

In my younger years, I would often sleep when the bird chorus was sounding for the break of dawn. Golden sun streamed through my windows in the summer, and a never-repeated song would lull me to sleep. I always would joke that being serenaded by the birds was preferable to being dragged from my dreams by their incessant chirping.

Of course, it being dark outside and quiet inside, the slightest noises and sounds of the house cooling work to make it sometimes frightening. I’ve prowled about the house checking on a noise I found particularly suspicious only to find nothing out of the ordinary.

Outside, the places you know well take on sinister mutations in shapes and shadow. One New Year’s Day, I walked from a friend’s house to my own at 5am. The chill of the night sunk deep into me, and even with the street lights there was an alien, secret feel to it.

As oppressive as it felt, it was liberating too. Maybe that is why I enjoy writing at night so much. Because it feels like my own time, free for most of what I wish to do.

Ceefax Serenade

She always wondered why her elderly parents went to bed as early as they rose the following mornings until she had to stop there, due to work being done on her house. It was five AM in the morning, and noise downstairs had woken her up. As she wrapped a flannel dressing gown around herself to pad down the staircase, she wondered if her children had woke early.

She paused at the lounge when she saw the light of the television on. If her boys had snuck down to watch cartoons… the look of imminent scolding fell from her face though as she poked her head around the door-frame.

In the middle of the lounge, in front of the bulky CRT television that her parents wouldn’t part with on the fact it ‘still worked just fine’, her mother and father were dancing to the soft, easy-listening music that accompanied Pages from Ceefax, the quaint little information display on BBC2 filling time between programs.

– Click me for background music via YouTube! –

They didn’t pay any heed to the words on the screen, flickering every so often from news story to sports and other topics. There were no lights on other than the early sun slipping parts of itself through the thick curtains and the glow of the screen itself. They were just lost in the music and too busy reading the wrinkles on each other’s faces and the twinkle in their eyes.

She stopped herself from calling out to them, unwilling to spoil the moment. Instead, she wandered back up the staircase, the soaring saxophones and the accompanying acoustic guitars lingering in her mind as she began to realise just why they got up so early.

It was much later in the day, while her father was at his allotment, that she asked her mother just what was happening.

“Why, when your father worked, he’d have to get up early.” Her mother said, rolling out some pastry. “So I’d make us our breakfast, pack him his lunch, and we’d have the BBC2 on for news, and something we could dance to without interruptions.”

“That’s… really sweet, and romantic, mum.” She smiled, before looking worried. “But what are you going to do next month, when…” She left it hanging ominously.

“When they stop playing it on the digital?” Her mother filled in, before smiling. “Well, there’s always the iPod.”

 

Author’s Note: Next month, the Digital Switchover is complete in the UK, and as such, Pages from Ceefax will no longer broadcast on any Digital channel, as the service ends. When I was little and would wake early before primary school, I could always count on it being on, and then the Open University programs about things I would never study at my little school. Like neural regeneration in goldfish.

Minim

The sound of chaos coming from the music room prompted Mister Bleckley to bolt into it, panicking for his star pupil. What greeted him was not a scene of medically-induced musical cacophony, but of a rising star in violin playing trying desperately to follow the pace of the sheet music.

“Miss Geraldine, whatever is the matter?!” Bleckley exclaimed as he closed the distance, breathing hard from his exertions.

“It’s the sheet music, it’s… take a look!” The young girl gestured after carefully setting her instrument to one side.

As he did so, he noticed the composition had been altered by the addition of a herd of musical notes that should simply not have been there, making the piece almost unplayable and definitely impossible to enjoy.

“I bet my silly brother is playing tricks on me again.” Geraldine harrumphed.

“Oooooh, this. I’ve seen this before.” Bleckley said with a chuckle, taking the sheet. “It was not your brother, Miss Geraldine. They’re simply Minims.”

“I can read notation, I know what they are!”

He gave a quick flick of the sheet, the tiny black musical notes falling off onto the floor. Geraldine let out a squeak of terror as the notes began to dash and dart about on the floor before squirming under the floorboards.

“What… was… what?! What?!”

“Harmless little things really, Miss Geraldine. Minims. Drawn to the sound of music, and they get confused when they come across notations. It’s where we get the name for them from.” Bleckley explained gently, before setting the sheet back down for her. “Pay them no heed, you’ll know for the future. Now, from the top?”