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It’s the present-day America, but in which all narcotics were legalized fifteen years ago with the advent of the Freedman Bill (called the Legalization). While there is finally plenty of money to pay the police, teachers, and other public workers, and no one in the country is without insurance or food and shelter, the government now utilizes many methods designed to keep drug use to keep it within a “safe” parameter…violating many of the Constitutional rights in the process.
The country is torn by this decision; there are the “Realists”, who feel firmly that since drug abuse isn't going away, that they should tax it, make it available, and put these trillions toward improving our country. The “Idealists” are convinced we are allowing our baser instincts to be used for the good of the politicians, and fiercely fight to overturn.
In this midst of all this, rock band Deus Ex Machina (Latin for "God From the Machine"), having won an American Idol-type competition, executes its first tour. Roped into participating by his lead singer girlfriend, Raven Lashua, bassist and aspiring politician Ashe Brecken is dismayed when his band wins. Hoping to turn his instant celebrity toward a purpose, he begins working with Stay Straight, an organization dedicated to overturning the Legalization. What he doesn’t know is that Raven has reasons for supporting the Freedman Bill…and is willing to secretly sabotage his life’s work to protect it. After a public humiliation spurs his desire to overturn the Bill, Ashe employs deadly designs to make the statement that the Bill Equals Death. Turning to someone he’s long despised to assist him in this dangerous efforts, this longtime band of musicians and friends are now in the midst of changing not only the nation, but the whole world…but at what cost?


Submitted:Jan 31, 2013    Reads: 125    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   


Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000205 EndHTML:0000077311 StartFragment:0000003013 EndFragment:0000077275 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/Mike/Desktop/ScarlettStuff/NARCOTICNATION%20FIRST%203%20CHAPS.doc

NARCOTIC

NATION

(a sex, death, drugs & rock n' roll novel)

An addict. A slut. A sexual sadist. A saboteur. A terrorist.

A band.

By

Scarlett Savage

(310)228-7103

scarlettrsavage@gmail.com

Copyright ã2012

PROLOGUE

When the bomb went off, the explosion took out the first floor.

Huge angry waves of orange flame burst out of the windows, then sank back against the brick walls, which protested and blackened. Charred smoke choked the street, creating night where there had been day only moments before. People poured into the street from the neighboring buildings to see what was going on even as they were shoved out of the way by the fire fighters; the police were moving everybody back to create room for the workers.

And the Kingston Pharmaceutical Plastics Factory continued to burn.

For a few terrifying hours, it looked like the building would come down, just as the towers had come down on that horrible, terrible day back in 2001when two hijacked planes had flown into the Twin Towers.

When Detective Granger arrived on the scene, one of the first things he noticed was that the building's employees were all standing around in the street; someone had warned them this was coming, and they had bugged out. This was no accident.

The second thing he noticed was a girl dressed in coveralls, bone thin and ragged, holding a young man, maybe twenty-five, right in the middle of the fracas.

She wasn't running from the flames and he couldn't; the man's head had been crushed, by the looks of it. Blood was coming out of his ears and the corners of his eyes, and one side of his skull had been smashed in with such force his head looked misshapen--like a half-deflated basketball. A half-deflated basketball fouled with blood and brain matter. She just sat there, rocking him back and forth, back and forth, as though he were a drowsy infant. She was staring into his eyes, trying to see something that wasn't there. Something that very recently had been.

As Granger approached the girl, he glanced around--seeing some paramedics offering assistance to the crowd, he waved them over. From the looks of it, though, this guy was long past the point where assistance would do any good.

He watched the girl. She was in shock while everyone around her was in a state of gleeful panic.

Why do events like this bring out the joy in people, the people that have to come and see, and then tell, endlessly tell what they saw, enlarging the import of their role with each telling?

But he knew. Of course he knew. He'd been in two wars, four tours of duty in Afghanistan, and he had seen this before. They were thrilled, bursting with energy and adrenaline because they were alive, and because of what had happened, there had been a chance that if they were standing in the wrong spot, they might not have been. But they were.

Maybe I can blame them for coming out and watching like a bunch of ghouls, he thought, but I cannot blame them for the joy of being alive. Food would taste better tonight, wine would be sweeter tonight, and sex that had been rote yesterday would be incredible tonight.

We forget, because we get spoiled by the fact that we wake up every day, that existence isn't a given. When we get reminded of that, for a brief time, life is no longer dull and dreary and grey. It's fan-fucking-tastic.

He turned his mind back to the job.

To the girl.

"Are you injured?" he asked her gently. She didn't seem to hear him.

"Miss, I'm talking to you," he repeated loudly, but he hoped not harshly. She had her friend's blood and brains on her hands, after all; she was in enough pain. "Are you injured?"

She did seem to hear him then, but as if from a long distance. She turned to him, and he was taken aback. She was emaciated and she was bedraggled; her face was covered with soot and her eyes full of a howling pain.

And she was the most achingly beautiful girl he'd ever seen.

He shook his head, focusing again.

"Miss, can you hear me? Hello?" Is she concussed? he wondered. Or just in shock? He hoped the paramedics would hurry-it wouldn't matter to the dude in her arms, but it might matter for her. He couldn't see any lumps, but he was too far to make an examination. Plus, she had an awful lot of hair.

"Yes," she replied, her voice hoarse from the smoke and very likely from screaming, he guessed. "And no, I'm not hurt. I don't think."

Even as she spoke, one of her hands wandered into her coveralls, found a small green pillbox, and pulled it open. She deftly popped a couple of "Barneys"-a nickname for the popular purple codeine pills inspired by the huge goofy dinosaur--into her mouth. No wonder she wasn't feeling any pain. Nothing he could do about it-since the Freedman Bill passed, taking drugs was as legal as breathing the air. He'd been against it-as a cop, he saw what drugs did to people and (tax benefits and job creation aside), he didn't see how flooding corner store shelves, not to mention people's veins, with legalized drugs would help the people of this country.

But he'd been in the minority. Men in his own precinct would clock out and reach into their lockers, pulling out heroin kits or bottles of laudanum to use when they got home. They could easily afford it, as a hike in pay for teachers, cops, and firemen had been among the first "improvements" the Freedman Bill offered.

And there was nothing Granger could do about it but give them dirty looks.

"Who are you?" he asked the girl now. "Was your friend hurt in the explosion? Did you see what happened?"

Suddenly a tall, blond man wearing very expensive clothes and designer jewelry hurled his way through the crowd toward them.

"Jessie!!" He was screaming as he pushed and shoved. "Jessie!!"

Maybe this tarted-up dude could tell him who she was.

When Blondie got to them, his eyes widened in horror. He sank to the ground beside the dark-haired guy's crumpled body, reaching for his face despite the fact it was covered in gore.

"No," he whispered. "Oh, no, no, no. . ."

"He's dead, Ashe," the girl replied tonelessly, as though the obvious needed stating.

"No," repeated the blond man in the pricey duds. Then, "How? He wasn't supposed to be here-how did he even know?"

"Don't you see?" the soot-covered beauty asked, almost in a daze. "Don't you get it? I told you. I told you I was damned, and you didn't believe me. You should have, Ashe. You really should have."

Detective Granger heard every word of this, but stayed on the periphery, watching for the paramedics and keeping the crowd at bay. He could grill them later; he would listen now.

"But . . .how?" The blond man she'd called Ashe was asking, in anguish. "How did this even happen?"

"He must have followed." The girl responded. "He wanted to stop it."

What did she mean, Detective Granger wondered. Stop what? The explosion?

A patrolman appeared at his side, huffing and puffing from elbowing his way through the throng of people.

"Holy shit, it's true," he wheezed, leaning against Granger for support. Granger looked down at the hand the patrolman had placed on his shoulder and raised an eyebrow, but the patrolman didn't notice. "It's really them," he said in disbelief. "I saw it online and I thought it had to be a hoax, but . . .it's really them."

Christ, it had been. . .what, seven minutes . . .and already it was online? The magic of technology.

"You know them?" He asked the patrolman, physically taking the beat cop's hand off his person. "You know who they are?"

The patrolman gave Granger a look that made him feel twenty years older than he was.

"Everyone knows who they are," he responded. "They're bigger than Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber combined-this year, anyway. They're with Deus Ex Machina."

Granger arched an eyebrow.

"Deus Ex Machina," interjected an onlooker helpfully; she was staring at the blond dude almost in awe. "It's a theatrical term. It's Latin--means, 'God from the Machine'. They explain it on the CD cover."

Granger rolled his eyes; overeager witnesses fleshing out pertinent information with useless details gave him heartburn.

If they were that famous, when word of their identities spread, Granger realized, the already amped-up crowd would be whipped into a frenzy. He was going to have to get them out of there, and soon.

"She's the drummer," the patrolman confided. "He's the bassist. . . and that's . . ." He pointed to the body, frowning. "I'm not sure which one he is. They're rock stars."

Rock stars? Granger thought incredulously. He looked back and forth between them. He would not call them rock stars; rock was the Beatles and the Doors and even Nirvana. Whatever they played on the radio today today, that was not rock.

None of this made sense. He looked at the pair on the sidewalk. "Are you two involved in this somehow?" he demanded.

The paramedics parted the crowd with a gurney and knelt beside the lifeless body to check vitals- too little, too late.

As the paramedics worked, Ashe cradled the dead man's head, stroking his gore-matted hair.

"We're not terrorists," Jessie called out, in answer to his question; maybe having her friend pulled from her hands brought her back to the here and now. "We're not."

Granger unholstered his gun in an instant.

"Then what are you?" Granger asked forcefully; she had spoken the t-word before anyone asked it of her. In the political climate of the past fifteen years, that would not slide. "I will not ask again."

They looked at each other, over the lifeless body, as if asking themselves that same question. Then the blond man spoke.

"Once upon a time," Ashe whispered, so softly that Granger had to strain to hear him,

"we were all just friends."

CHAPTER ONE

Mandatory posting on all Drug Stores, High School Guidance Counselor's offices, and police stations:

REGULATIONS/PENALTIES FOR THE FREEDMAN BILL

You must be eighteen years old to purchase governmentally packaged, stamped and sealed marijuana cigarettes.

You must be twenty-one to purchase anything with a morphine base, including heroin.

You must be twenty-one to purchase cocaine or methamphetamines.

You must be twenty-one to purchase all narcotics previously requiring a prescription by a physician.

All narcotics prescribed by physicians can be purchased through the buyer's insurance; everyone using the drugs recreationally must pay the full market value.

All high-school freshmen will be required to take and pass a nationally approved Narcotics Health class in order to complete their high school education.

Anyone under the age of eighteen apprehended with marijuana cigarettes and anyone under the age of twenty-one caught with any above the above-listed drugs will lose their driver's license for six months, and complete an intensive narcotics education program administered by their home state at the cost of five thousand dollars. They will be required to attend daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings for six months. They will be required to work eight hours of community service every other Saturday for six months. They will also be subject to random blood tests by their teachers, employers, or employees of the state who can and will show up at their school, their home, and their place of employment at random intervals, to be decided by the state, until the six-month period has expired.

Any second-time offender to under-age usage will lose their driver's license for one year. Their insurance companies will be informed which will likely result in a significant increase in their co-pay. They will complete a yearlong intensive narcotic education program at the cost of ten thousand dollars. They will be required to attend daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings for one year. They will be required to work eight hours of Community Service every Saturday and Sunday for one year. They will be subject to random blood tests by their teachers, employers and/or employees of the state who can and will show up at their school, their home, and their place of employment at random intervals, to be decided by the state, until the year-long period has expired.

Random drug-testing will be administered to anyone purchasing narcotics by employees of the store from which said narcotics are purchased. They can also be administered at random by policemen, doctors, employees of the state, employees of their insurance company, and the employer of the individual at their discretion. Anyone showing signs of addiction or showing signs of usage at work subjects themselves to such testing.

Anyone driving under the influence of narcotics automatically loses their license for one year. Repeat offenders will lose their license for five years. A third offense will cost the user their license permanently.

A legal limit will be set for each narcotic; records will be kept for what each individual buys. Anyone trying to purchase more will be denied. Anyone caught buying for a person who's at their monthly limit faces an automatic six-month jail sentence, a loss of their driver's license for one year, and four hundred hours of Community Service.

Anyone purchasing narcotics for minors receives a jail sentence of up to five years, without benefit of a trial by a jury of your peers.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TAKES THESE RULES AND REGULATIONS VERY, VERY SERIOUSLY. THINK BEFORE YOU BUY!!

CHAPTER TWO

It wasn't hard to pick out when it all began. In fact, if any of them were asked (had all of them been able to speak, that is), they'd all have gone back to the same exact moment in time.

They'd been slated for a rehearsal-having just gotten home from college for winter break-and the Brothers Brecken were late. Normally this would have been inexcusable-Raven ran a tight ship when it came to rehearsals, and Chase had booked a fair number of gigs for the holiday season. She and Jessie had driven down from UMaine at Orono last night; Ashe was getting his master's at the Gorham campus, where Bryce was studying his undergrad in education. Chase had opted out of college altogether, much to his parents' everlasting dismay, to focus solely on music. It was almost as if, Ashe thought in later years, he knew what was coming. Maybe he did, Raven would muse in response; she was a big believer in intuition of all kinds.

But today a Nor'easter was blowing outside, and they'd opted to walk, rather than dig Ashe's jeep out of two feet snow for a three hundred foot walk. But this also meant they had to carry their equipment, including their battered amps; that, combined with the news she had for them, put Raven in a forgiving sort of mood.

She sat on the ancient couch in the basement languidly, sipping her coffee, as the boys made their greetings to Jessie's parents. It had taken Raven a long while before she'd felt comfortable in the McAllister's upper-middle class home in Portland; she'd lived the first sixteen years of her life in a one-bedroom apartment on the East End with her single mother. Technically, she supposed, her mother wasn't single; her second marriage to Valium and Vodka was a full-time relationship. By the time she'd OD'd, and Raven had awakened to find the corpse that had once upon a time given birth to her in her wedding dress (which no longer even remotely zipped), with Raven's baby book and a small velvet box with a hock slip in it, Raven supposed she'd been dead for so long on the inside, maybe she thought Raven wouldn't notice. Jessie's parents had gotten there before the police had and without question packed up her things and brought her into their home-her home, too, now, they insisted. She and Jessie had been best friends for years at that point, and they had often told her she was just like a daughter to them; this was just making it official. She'd been numb with grief and gratitude, but it took a full year before she felt comfortable using the key if no one else was home, and until she was able to call the room she lived in "my room" instead of "the guestroom", as it had once been. They'd told her good grades and respect for the rules was all the repayment they'd ever want, and she believed them, but at parent-teacher meetings in high school and Parent's Weekend at college, was all she could do not to burst into tears when they proudly showed up, announcing themselves as "Raven Lashua's parents". Jessie adapted much more quickly, calling them from Day One "me and Raven's Mom and Dad"; she had informed her parents what Raven's home life was like, and it had led to her salvation. Despite the fact she'd sworn the younger girl to secrecy, she knew she owed Jessie's lack of discretion pretty much everything, and she would never forget it. Her loyalty to the young drummer bordered on feral. This was her family now. The McAllisters, and the noisy boys getting prepped to rehearse in the sound-proofed basement now.

By the time everyone had stomped all the snow off their boots, hung their coats by the radiator, and given each other hugs and nods hello, everyone was dying to know what had put the Cheshire cat grin on the petite brunette's face.

Satisfied they were all paying attention, Raven held up a piece of paper. Holding it high, she announced, "I've got it."

"Then stay away from me-I'm allergic to penicillin." Bryce piped up, and Jessie giggled before she could stop herself. Raven attempted to sear her with the glare of her eyes, and nearly succeeded; chastised, the pretty redhead fell silent.

"As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted," she began again, "this in my hand holds the promise of our future."

"And it's so little, too," Ashe breathed in mock-awe. Raven ignored him, handing the paper to Chase. He unfolded it, his face turning from curiosity to incredulity. Jessie could stand it no longer.

"What? What what?"

"Jesus wept, is there an echo in your head?" Ashe asked, annoyed. Jessie flushed scarlet, and Raven gritted her teeth. The way Ashe picked at Jessie was the one thing they ever fought about.

"Where did you get this?" Chase demanded.

Raven grinned. "A girl who was in Hair with me has a brother at BU who's entering." Raven didn't add that she'd had to sweet-talk the faxed copy over the phone from the brother, who was in the firm grip of a morphine high; she didn't want to give Ashe a chance to start off on his anti-legalization convictions. She usually admired how deeply he stood by his beliefs, but this was not the time.

"I swear I'm going to brain the person who doesn't clue me in, little brother," Ashe's tone left little to the imagination. The sooner this rehearsal was over, the sooner he could be along with Raven; she'd been all but married to that play for the last two moments.

"American Rock Band-New England," Chase was saying. He was having trouble breathing. "Aerosmith came out of Boston, buddy."

"So did New Kids On the Block." Ashe remarked, studying the flyer.

Bryce was beginning to drool. The winners of those kinds of TV-frenzies won a fat check, of that he was sure. That was worth getting excited about. Thrilled, even.

"But Chap Heiller?" Ashe asked thoughtfully. "Why would a famous producer produce a totally unknown group?"

"He hasn't done anything since the lead singer for Stress Flex had that hit five years ago, then the singer quit to have a kid." Chase offered.

"And then they faded into oblivion," Ashe interjected.

"And he's probably looking for a new sound. Look what both Pop Idol and American Idol have done for finding musicians." Chase plunked down on the couch next to Raven and grinned conspiratorially. Raven didn't grin back. She wasn't about to share credit for the plan just yet.

"You guys can't be serious about this." It was not a question. Ashe found himself playing the voice of reason often with the group over the years. It was a position he usually shared with the lusciously brilliant Raven. But at this minute, Raven's rationality

seemed to have pissed its pants and split the scene. "Come on, Chase, this isn't for us, this is for bands who are planning to go pro. We make spending money and get free food at bar mitzvah's. That's a whole different ball game."

"Says who?" Chase wanted to know. "Take a look at the requirements. Have to have been performing for a year or more on a paying basis. Have to have performed original music during said time. Must have never recorded professionally before. Have to have ambitions toward a full time music career. We fit every category they specify."

"Some of us do," Bryce added, still thinking of how he'd spend the money if they won; Chase ignored him.

"We're good, and you know it-we're always the first ones called for choice dates for The Zone and The Old Port Tavern, and we're a great draw. Ask anyone."

Ashe would have objected again, but his eyes caught a line at the bottom of the page. he read the short line, and looked up at his brother, chagrined. Well, I won the battle, but its gonna suck for you, so sorry, little brother.

"Moot point, anyway; the application for this thing had to be postmarked two weeks ago."

Chase snatched the paper away from Ashe to scan the page for the damning words himself. Bryce felt sympathy rise in his chest. Whatever else this thing was, he could already feel the hopes dancing in Chase's heart. Chase had never been one of the "I am an artists because I don't want to have a real job and because society sucks" that littered the streets of Portland, Maine. He didn't look the part, for one thing; he didn't have any tattoos or anything pierced, his clothes were always clean and seldom (if ever) purchased at a thrift store, he rarely drank and never touched the drugs that seemed to go hand in hand with the arts, even before the Legalization. Bryce himself began playing when he realized it was an outlet for his angst, the hurt inside for being short and not-quite-handsome, to being invisible to girls unless he made them laugh. Party on, brother, there's always an excuse to need to feel bottle-better. Bryce had always prided himself on knowing the score

But Chase wasn't like that. For Chase, music was a story and he its teller, and it had never been more complicated than that. And because he believed in the tales he wended, he pushed as hard as he could in as many directions to keep telling them. A lot of people who visited the Hotel Pine Street (the name of their college apartment so dubbed because all the boys lived there at one point or another) scoffed at the notion that Chase would ever be a "real" artist. He was too organized, too driven, and in all ways, too clean. Real success in rock had always been people who seemed to be born of pure indifference.

Bryce, being of the torn jeans and not giving a shit crowd himself, blew their opinions off, but every now and then he felt the urge to tell his best friend to dim the intensity. It wasn't. . .well, cool. The urge, thankfully, had always been transient.

All in all, being that Portland was a little city with a big attitude, and that Bryce knew that Chase considered many of these people little more than the future welfare recipients of Maine, Bryce didn't bother taking sides. Way too much work.

Before Chase's face completely fell off, Raven spoke, "Well, my sweet Chase-chase, I guess the day has finally come." She lit a cigarette, as Chase looked at her sharply.

"What day?" he asked cautiously.

"The day," she exhaled her lungful of smoke, "when you fall to your knees and thank God for my existence."

He suddenly knew what she'd done, the same way he knew he was right-handed.

"You did?" he managed, trying not to let his hopes skyrocket, but hoping anyway.

"I did." She didn't look over at Ashe, who was glowering in the corner nearby. He was her boyfriend, not her mother; she didn't have to consult with him on everything-or anything, for that matter. "Had the application in with our demo with three days to spare. I also forked over the fifty dollar application fee-you can all thank me by means of repayment."

Chase leaped to his feet and seized her up with such a tight old she lost her breath. "Put me down, you butt-monkey," she laughed, hugging him back. Bryce picked up the cigarette she'd dropped, reasoning he wasn't so much stealing a butt as preventing a house fire, and inhaled deeply.

Jessie, who'd been completely silent during this exchange, was too stunned to think, to speak, even. Some things you want so badly, you didn't dare play, because that would be tipping your selfish hand.

So sad there's disease and hunger and abuse in this world, but if you could swing it, I'd like to be a rock star. . .see what you can do, Big Fella, k?

Chase dropped Raven unceremoniously onto the couch. "Okay, you knew I'd thank God for your existence, but did you ever think I'd, you know, mean it?"

She took an affectionate swat at him, reclaiming her cigarette from Bryce.

"What I don't get," Ashe said, each word a stone of ice, "is how you could put everyone's name on it, and not at least consult the people involved."

Now Raven did look at Ashe, and her smile faded. He was right on that score, and she'd known it even as she did it. But filling out the application had been so exciting, she frankly didn't give it much thought. Well, Scarlett, she thought, tomorrow's here.

"It's not that much different than what we do anyway. . .just that we'll be playing for America via cameras instead of drunk family members at parties or the twenty-somethings down at the Zone . . .and we stand to make a LOT more money," she finished lamely. It did sound quite an awful lot different, now that she really thought about it. But Ashe, thankfully, let that part go.

"That's a huge IF, and you know it. And this is going to take a lot more than any of those things. Time that some of us spend on silly frivolities, like getting our dissertations done. But you knew that, before you sent in the app."

Jessie felt her euphoria draining away, leaving only dismay.

Ashe was a Serious Student, for sure; he was always talking sociology, and economical statistics, most particularly those connected to the Freedman Bill. He'd talked about going into politics the way Chase talked about being a rock star, and with the same determined intensity, since the day she'd met him.

But looking at him now, his long blond hair flowing to his shoulders, his thrown-back shoulders, his bottled fury, his tall slouched posture . . .he looks more like what we all want to be than any of us, and he doesn't even want it.

"So, don't do it. Go after that degree, no one will blame you." She butted out her Marly. "No hard feelings. As for the rest of you . . .vote."

"Oh, Christ." Bryce sat up.

"Vote," Raven insisted. "Those in favor of asking advantage of this opportunity . . .raise 'em." She put her own hand up in the air; Jessie mirrored her (Big fucking surprise, thought Ashe; the young drummer had never had much of a mind of her own, which is why he had little or no use for her), and then Chase added his own hand. After a moment or two, Bryce followed suit. He'd already mentally spent his share of the wind fall. Chase looked expectantly at Ashe.

"In or out, Blondie?" His words were flat, and their eyes met as they wordlessly battled.

Do you have any idea what you're asking of me?

Yes, I do.

You could get another bass player with a fucking phone call, for Christ's sweet sake!

I don't want another bass player. I want you.

I have my own thing to do!!

I know. I still need you. But I won't beg.

No?

No.

Ashe finally looked away, and cleared his throat. "You idiots look like you're waiting to be called on for a spelling bee."

They dropped their hands back into their laps, and continued to stare at hopefully at him. Everyone but Raven. Her eyes were firmly in her lap, at fingers that wouldn't stop twisting, even as she desperately tried to look casual. That she couldn't even look at him spoke volumes about how much she wanted this. It tipped the scales considerably.

"I must have holes in my head . . .holes," he repeated, "the size of fucking baseballs."

"He's in," noted Bryce casually, and began setting up his keyboards.

"Wait!" Raven called, favoring Ashe with a brilliant smile that promised repayment in delicious ways later in the day, "we have to get a few things straight first." She clasped her hands together like a school teacher, and addressed her band of students. "This calls for organization, for planning for strategy. This means we rehearse every day, no matter who's PMS'ing or who's futilely chasing the newest blond on campus--"

"Jeez, keep you guys waiting just once while I try to fulfill my deepest needs--" Bryce began, but Raven cut him off.

"It's going to mean getting well rested and in shape," here she groaned, she hated working out like other people hated getting water boarded. "It's going to mean checking egos at the door and using our best original stuff, no matter who wrote it. We're working solely for the product now. Understood?"

"We're a product, even." Ashe shook his head. His mind's eye conjured up an image of his political ambitions as it took a suicidal flight through a plane glass window, while

Chase and Raven tatooed "Wannabe Musician" across his chest and placed him on the shelf of a grocery store right next to the chicken parts some people fed their animals.

"Yes," Raven slapped her hand down the table for emphasis. "For the next few months, that's exactly what we are."

"Wait," Jessie held up her hand haltingly; only Raven knew how hard it was for her to speak in front of even a handful of people, so crippling was her shyness (but put her onstage behind her drum kit and she was a goddess, Raven thought fondly; it was a startlingly beautiful contradiction). "I just . . .I had an idea for our name."

They had used Smoke & Shadows when they played professionally, but it was only a keepsake name, a place filler until something better came along. It had occurred to her two months ago, as she was assistant stage managing the USM production of Hair that Raven had played the lead role in. It was an old theatre term, in Latin, and as soon as she heard it, she knew it would be the final brick in the wall, so to speak.

"Well, baby?" Chase probed gently, and she looked at him, smiling in that soft radiant way of hers.

"Deux es Machina," she said softly. "It's Latin."

"What does it mean?" asked Bryce.

She smiled again, more proudly this time.

"God from the Machine," she answered.

There was the tiniest of pauses, and then Raven stood, addressing the group as a whole.

"Questions?"

Apparently, there were none.

**********

From the Portland Press Herald:

Amidst a crowd of onlookers, Father Patrick Muldoon doused his body with gasoline and set fire to himself on Congress Street at approximately three-fifteen Thursday afternoon. Suffering third degree burns over ninety percent of his body, he was pronounced dead en route to Mercy Hospital.

Father Muldoon had gained statewide recognition in recent years insisting

that Rowe v. Wade and the Freedman Bill were in violation to god's wishes and

a direct threat to all humanity. In his organized protests he preached that the legislature of mankind was increasingly invalidating each human being's worth in a gross attempt at population control and "the almighty tax dollar".

At the time of his self-sacrifice, Congress Street was filled with members of his congregation who supported, but did not join in with, his fiery statement. Police have determined that none of the group made any effort to assist or hinder the

Man of God.

In a remarkably similar case in 2009, were a family of three died in Gassaway, West Virginia. After writing a note stating that "the loss of our lives is in direct protest to the government's decision to rape its once great nation by disposing so casually of human lie and its morality." The Hartley family-Thirty-six-year-old Theodore, twenty-nine-year-old Sarah, and eight-year-old Curtis-sat praying around the kitchen table until they were overcome by noxious fumes expelled by their gas stove. The family and their two dogs were buried later that week in a private service.

Father Muldoon's many supporters have been charged with conspiracy as he made his intentions well known in previous sermons.

************

From the Arizona Sun:

Classes were called to a halt today at Arizona State University when a large contingent of students, led by Harvard Law alumni Maeghan Maloney, staged a sit-in on the campus' center quad. Police found the students peaceful and non-aggressive, but adamant in maintaining their legal right to protest.

Ms. Maloney spoke for the masses in a prepared statement, "the motivating factor behind our actions is the sheer outrage that our government, the democracy of the United States of America, has chosen such Big Brother-esque tactics to regulate what is supposed to be a legal right. If the government found it acceptable to exploit this weakness and charge exorbitant taxed sums on said legal substances, why the binding methods? Our question is: what's next? What other monkeys will be placed on the collective back of society in an attempt to gain submissive control of its citizen's body, mind and deed? We feel the government

is exerting force well beyond what is chronicled in our legislature, and we wish to see the freedoms and respect this nation was built on restored."

In a CBS special report Senator Charles Freedman (Massachusetts, R) addressed Ms. Maloney's statement.

"By regulating control over the sale of legalized narcotics, we are trying to minimumize the negative repercussions. For years, we've imposed strong mandates on the sale of alcohol and tobacco-the laws surrounding the use of narcotics are no more threatening to our country's freedom than the laws we use to dictate proper vehicular conduct. As Ms. Maloney and others expand their research, they will undoubtedly realize the safety for our citizens is our highest priority. Perhaps at that time more support of this government's laws will ensue."

Ms. Maloney and her followers scoffed at this "apples and oranges" comparison, but grudgingly agreed to end their protest pending further speculation.

**********

From the New York Times:

A record number of fatalities marked the month of May among junior

nationwide as the use of illegally obtained narcotics increased. Marcus Taylor,

Harvard Alumni, and founder of Stay Straight, the national anti-legalization and

narcotic education program, had this to say:

"These untimely deaths are the direct result of the blind eye this society is

turning to its children. Last year, this country spent sixty billion dollars on weight-loss miracles, one hundred thirty billion on alcohol and tobacco, and other lethal drugs. Less than one percent of those combined totals were spent

educating as to the effects of these poisons on the mind and the body. In the bigger cities we used to use our alleys for trash; now every day of the week, the

found bodies of death-by-drugs corpses are some times stacked chest-high. And you all are too busy counting profit margins."

Marcus Taylor abandoned his law practice to wage a full-time war against the bill seven years ago, and has long since beseeched his countrymen to join him in his battle.

*************

From People Magazine:

In the Beginning

Deus Ex Machina

Deus Ex Machina, a harmonious quintet from the shores of Portland, ME,

exudes the same sort of pure gut-punching rock and roll we first heard fifty years ago, with the arrival of the British Import Led Zeppelin, or some of the grunge bands from our own soil in the nineties. Like these groups, Deus Ex Machina (Latin for "God From the Machine") approaches the songs on this major-label debut as if each were the first blood drawn in a war waged against complacency.

Such powerful infernoesque singles as "Real" and "The Beast is All Red" will rip emotion from even the most jaded of listeners. Raven Lashua's voice is what may have happened if Mariah Carey had been born with Aretha Franklin's soul.

Ballads such as "At the Back of the Room" and "Run For Your Life"

grate and hypnotize. Chase, the younger of the Brecken brothers, and Bryce Thomas provide the melodic guitar and keyboard acrobatics while older sib Ashe Brecken and drummer Jessica Leigh McAllister lend the solid rhythm chains to

bind it all together.

This mismatched yet expensively attired mélange have yet to prove if they can stay afloat on the steam generated by this introductory effect. But their mock dignified and eclectically snotty attitudes are just the thing to restore your faith

in the new generation of rock and rollers. Dues Ex Machina just might bring faith to a whole new generation.

C. BOUCHARD

************

For Father Patrick Muldoon and his congregation, for Maeghan Maloney and her band of peaceful followers, for Senator Charles Freedman, for Marcus Taylor, and for Dues Ex Machina, a new day had begun.

The rest can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Narcotic-Nation-Scarlett-Savage/dp/1482016362. Be sure to "like" and if you so wish, write a review!





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