If music be the food.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Music can be one of the most entertaining forms of art known to man. It can also enhance ones performance and ease pain to some. But to some who are different, these traits can also be used to defend a world from disaster.

Submitted: August 16, 2012

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Submitted: August 16, 2012

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IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD.

By: Lloyd F. Beasley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.

From Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night,” (1602) Duke Orisino’s speech.

I have done many tasks in my short lifetime.  Everything from watching over a nuclear aircraft carrier to cleaning up pizza puke from tweens who thought they were indestructible and could eat more in a single sitting than some entire villages in the third world eat in a week.  All the time, I always had my music, playing on everything from a battered and well-worn 8-track player to the state of the art iPods issued by the military themselves. All the while, the sound of my music would pull me through the stress; the weary, sleepless times and tiredness which filled me.  It would allow me to replace weakness with sudden strength, performing more than even I had thought possible.  It would allow me the ability to continue fighting the unseen enemies and even comforted me when I didn’t know why I was fighting or who.  I never understood why I was chosen; the ability would sometimes hit every generation of a family, or never be there in others.  Sometimes, one out of a hundred thousand would find they had it, while others would never even know it existed.  The military tried to use science to duplicate the result, only to find that it was one of the mysteries of the human mind neither they could duplicate nor no other human would manifest nor understand.

 

 

Chapter One:

 

“It will be the music which saves the planet now, commander.  The kids as you call them and their music, not your atoms, gases, viruses and missiles.  The sound of human voice, the instruments the singers play and the melodies will stop the Dross, not bombs and guns.”  Professor Eldrich said sternly.

“You can have your hippie sing a longs and weird musical devices.  I trust a good old nuclear bomb and steel jacketed bullets to handle these alien invaders.  Flutes and guitars don’t inflict injury on an enemy.  When I fight a war, I want to see the enemy and watch him fall.  This isn’t war; it’s a science fiction geek’s nightmare.”  General Donham snapped.

“Those who live with a sword will die by one.  Fools will never learn, General.”  Professor Eldrich sighed heavily.

A middle aged man walked into the room, carrying a small briefcase.  He smiled at both men and sat the case on the table near the entry beside a computer terminal.

“Have you two been discussing world events again?  It looks like the General is getting a bit red around the collar.  Haven’t launched a nuke in weeks, huh General?”  The man smirked humorlessly. “Or launched an attack on a group of shadows and blown something besides the enemy to small bits?”

The General turned on his heels and walked toward the door, stopping suddenly.  His face was red as he glared hatefully at the newcomer.

“You know, I hate you.  I hate all of you mutated freaks.  Soldiers know their places; you on the other hand are like some college bound hippie freak, no discipline, respect or place in this battle.  You were born a defect, not like other humans.  More like those freaks we fight now, those alien freaks that showed up, the Dross.”  The General spat insolently.  “If it were not for orders, I would have put you and your band of hippie trash out on the streets a long time ago.”

“And if not for you and your shooting missiles at that Dross scout ship a few years ago, we would not be needed, now would we?  If I remember right, the United States, Great Britain  and Russia shot nukes at a passing scout ship and alerted the Dross to the fact we were nuclear capable and had interplanetary fighting capacity.  Which put a target straight on Earth’s back.  And it was by chance the doc here found the Dross had a weak spot to certain musical combinations and we had some sort of ability to withstand more than humanly possible by listening to the same musical tones.  Which by the way includes being able to resist and tolerate immense amounts of stupidity and General ineptitude. Now, if you do not mind, General Sir…I have much to work on with the doc.”  The man responded with acid in his voice.

“One day, I swear I will personally place you in the stockade and throw the key away, Tony.  And I will relish the chance.”  The General spat as he slammed the door behind him.

“You shouldn’t antagonize him, Tony.  He is one of the most powerful military officers in the country.  And he does his best at controlling the invasion.  He is from a different breed of man, the warrior class.  Seven generations of military officers can tend to harden one’s attitudes.”  Professor Eldrich smiled crookedly.  “Just as a differing DNA strand or environmental factor can alter a man’s view of a situation.”

“Or could it be the magic of some hidden dream realm, or the fable of unicorns crossing your grave or even the mystical warlock Merlin still hanging around after all these centuries bestowing virtue and strength to warriors?  You guys have no idea what makes us different.  They wanted to utilize our abilities as a weapon even before the Dross showed up.  As far back as the crusades in Europe they saw some people would gain strength and the ability to withstand cold and extreme pressures from music or chants, and our own military used us in experiments even into the 1990’s.  I know, I was one of their indifferent volunteer white mice they had running around in their mazes for their amusement.  Then they throw us away until they dig up our files to help clean up the mess they made with these shadow beings.”  Tony sneered.  “Only this time we hold the deck of cards and they have to work for us.”

“We work for no one but for everyone in this country, Tony.  We are a research group, under the military control but still civilian.  Which is a word containing the root word civil, meaning courteous, polite and accommodating.  You can leave any time you wish, and not one person on this team will think less of you.  You are a volunteer here, but your abilities are needed.  You have a level of control over the audio adrenaline that not many have reached.  You also have that knack of finding other Adriels in a world where they are getting scarcer.  You also realize the need for secrecy, if the rest of the population knew the intent of the Dross, there would be worldwide panic.  People would be leaving for the colonies at such a rate the ships needed would be flooding hyperspace and people would resort to drastic measures to evacuate.”  Professor Eldrich warned.

“I guess I’ll play with you all.  I just wanted to be left alone, that is why I took that job in such an out of the way place.  No one had even thought twice about Sand Hill Tennessee.  Let alone that school there.  I figured I could spend the rest of my life working as a janitor, cleaning up puke and where those tweens couldn’t even hit the urinals, but no.  The government had to track me down after they started a war with these Martians and little green men who only show up as shadows. Who would have thought we were really not alone as the master race of the universe?  We, the human animal, the perfect example of evolution who only try to exterminate ourselves every few hundred years with the newest devices we can think up.”  Tony smiled wryly.  “Anyway, here is the report on the kids I have been watching.  Two are definite Adriels; they have a small band at the school.  The third, she is kind of a weird one.  Wannabe Goth, spends a lot of time hooked to a set of earbuds and dressing like a Halloween reject.  Kind of a smart kid, but she acts like she’s ashamed of it.  I want to try to steer her into the program, but it is going to be difficult.  She really doesn’t trust adults.  I got some info from her file, she’s foster kid, been in several homes.  And she hates all of the government types, especially anyone who might be part of the foster system.  The last  two could be acceptable and show a more than average Adriel level, but they have about as much music talent as a kid with a tin can.”

”So what is the problem?  You hate every government type you encounter, even those who sign your checks every month.  You nearly took a swing at the operatives who met you back when we invited you into the program.”  Professor Eldrich smiled in amusement.

“Invited?  So this is a party now, eh prof?  You guys in the suits and lab coats.  I’ll see you later doc.  I need to go rev up on some Japanese rock or something. I feel like I’m a few notes short of a full track right now.”  Tony grumbled.  “I’ll be in the soundproof room if you need me, then I have to run to work and clean up behind a group of kids until twelve tonight.  You know, neko ni koban, coins to a cat.  Presents to ones who don’t appreciate it, that sort of thing.  You know, that quiet job I had intended on doing until I croaked?”  Tony smirked

“You have come to be a real tough case, Tony my boy.  You only see what you want and need, what about all of those kids at your school?  What kind of life would they have if the Dross took over the planet?  No free will, just a place for some alien being to inhabit.  How would you like the knowledge that you, and a small group of people like you, could have prevented that?  Listen, you spoiled brat!  It was the military who started this war.  And the government officials who are trying to keep it under cover.  You are not the only one to have lost something here, and I was a tool of the military when we first met also.  I wanted to help people by finding what made your type so different.  But it is up to you to be the mainline against them.  Too many people have been lost to the Dross and their habit of feeding on human minds.  It is a horrible way to die, and even more horrid to have to live on after the Dross have finished with you as zombies. And you know very well what will happen to your precious music if the Dross are allowed to control the Earth.  Kaput and kaput!  Don’t whine to me about your so called perfect sane life.  Get out of here and come back when you can act like an adult.  You may be over thirty, but I swear at times you act worse than some of the teens you alert us to!”  Professor Eldrich groused.

Tony moved to the door, silent.  He turned to pick up the briefcase, and noticed Professor Eldrich bent slightly over the desk staring at a picture he had in a spot easily seen from anywhere in the room.  His shoulders moved spasmodically, and Tony picked the briefcase up silently and opened the door.

“Sorry, doc.  I can be a jerk at times.  I still pray for her, though I have lost my faith in religion.  We will find the antidote, I know if anyone can you will, and she will get better.  Until then, keep my mind on the job.  I’ll keep you up on my progress with the neophytes.  If they work out, it will mean the first ones in over a year and we can hopefully have them with us.”  Tony said as he disappeared out of the door, closing it silently.

Professor Eldrich reached over to a picture in a gold frame on his desk.  He lifted it sadly, then pressed it to his chest.

“Lilly, he will work out.  And we will make those vermin pay for each and every one of you they took.  And if possible, we will bring you all back.  If not, perhaps in the next life we can grow old together.”  He sighed, starting to sob quietly.

Tony walked silently down the hallway, ignoring the people in military uniform and lab coats until he stood outside of a door with a large sign on it.  He stood and read it again, although in the past two years he had read it over a thousand times:

Caution:

Sound proof room-Adriels admittance only!

Do not enter when red light is flashing!

Extreme danger when light is flashing!

 

Tony read the sign several times, then pulled the door catch and entered the room.  It was like any other room, with a large sofa and desk in  one corner.  A computer sat on the desk which Tony moved aside, removing a laptop from his briefcase and sitting it where the keyboard for the other had been.  He flipped a switch by the desk, and the light outside the room began to flash red while the automatic locks fastened the door securely.  He removed a small device from a pocket in his shirt and fastened it to the laptop, keying in instructions on the laptop’s keyboard.  After he was done, he sat on the sofa, placing his feet on the coffee table and pulling a small iPod from a holder on his belt.  He examined the device, then placed the earbuds from it in his ears and sat back, closing his eyes as the iPod began to play.  A feeling like drifting came over him, then a feeling of being recharged.  He had often described the effect like energy coming from the air and entering him, often when he was sitting quietly listening to his music he would feel as if he were being recharged.  Or when he was working he would get a jolt of energy like a second wind in a race.  However it was, he had no idea why or how it worked, only he had been able to feel it since he was old enough to listen to music.  As he sat, the music playing in his ears, the room began to shimmer slightly.  He was used to it, in the earlier years it had been unnoticeable. Now, he could actually cause a buildup of static when he was meditating, at one instance becoming so heavy it actually set a chair he was in on fire.  That was the reason when he wanted to meditate and recharge like this, he used one of the soundproof rooms at the research center.  He also suspected they had sensors which watched him and monitored his activities, but he could care less about their research.  As he sat and listened, his thoughts drifted off to two years before.

 

Tony had just finished cleaning the halls and was on his way to pick up his trash barrel when the radio crackled.  The voice, as usual, was unintelligible, so he started towards the office.  On the way, he noticed several students in the gym, playing musical instruments but not very well.  He pushed on, trying to ignore the cacophony going on in the gym.  As he entered the office, he noticed it was full of people, but two stood out from the rest, they were in dark suits and carried small cases.  As he walked over to the counter, the two moved up.

“We will need a few minutes of your time.”  One spoke.

“What is this about?”  Tony asked.

“You were in the Navy at one time, and were on the USS Thompson.”  The taller spoke.

“Facts.  Now what is it you two are here for?”  Tony asked.

“You were involved in a special projects division task.  We need to ask you a few questions about your involvement.  Is there someplace we can speak, in confidence?”  The second asked, glancing around the crowded room.

“Come on.  We can use the teacher’s work room.”  Tony snapped.  “I can tell where this little conversation is going.  If I am needed, call me on the radio.  I have to talk to these two gentlemen.”

Tony led the pair out of the office and down a hall to a small room.  He checked and found it empty, so he motioned the two in and locked the door, flipping a sign to read ‘conference in progress’ showing outside the window.

“O.K.  It’s your fifty cents fellows.  But if you are trying to get me for a lab rat again, it has been asked before.  And the answer is a resounding no again.  I don’t work for Uncle Sam anymore and I do not take orders form Secnav or any other command authority, got it?”  Tony snapped.

“I am agent Samuels and this is special investigator Wills,  and we are from the bureau of science and technical development in Washington DC.  Your name came up on a routine search of the subjects who participated in the program while on active duty in the military.  Your file showed great promise before the program was shelved.”  Samuels said. 

“You were involved in the project while you were in the Navy.  A medical test involving your ability to withstand adversity while listening to audio stimulation.”  Wills explained.  “And we need your assistance once again.”

“No dice boys.  I am out of the Navy, out of the special projects division and out of the mainstream of this mess.  I hear you all have a real mess on your hands, you and the Brits shooting up a few Russkie missiles and causing quite a mess with space junk crashing down to earth.  But I guess that would not have anything to do with me, since I am not a space case.”  Tony smiled.

“We are not at liberty to speak of it.  However, we do have this for you.”  Wills said as he produced papers form his briefcase.  “Short form is you have been served.”
“Served what?”  Tony exclaimed.  “Breakfast in bed?  Tea and crumpets?  Fried rice and a spring roll?”

“You are under a federal summons.  You are to report to the veteran’s hospital in Johnstown tomorrow morning at zero six thirty.  You are not to discuss this with anyone, we will see to it that you will be excused from work for the next five days.  If you are not there, a federal marshal will come to this place and arrest you for contempt of federal court, and I will guarantee you will not like to be led from this place in handcuffs by them.”  Samuels threatened.

“Here is your copy of the orders.  I apologize for the rude way we have had to do this.  You were very difficult to track down and the government has spent quite a sum looking for the subjects from the program.  I hope we are clear about the consequences of failure to comply.”  Wills said apologetically.  “Once you are briefed, you will understand why these difficult measures are needed.”

“I am sure I will.  And they wonder why I came to this backwoods to get away from the rat race.  More like get away from the rats.  Tell your bosses I’ll be there.  But I am not going to be a happy camper!”  Tony snapped as he stood up and strode out of the room, slinging the sign to the blank side.

 

Tony awoke from a half sleep, sitting in the room where strange flickers moved ghost like around him.  As his eyes focused, the lights faded and he stood up, stretching.

“Really energizing.  Feel like I can take on the world, even you nosey buzzards outside in the observation room.  Isn’t it an invasion of privacy for you to watch a guy sleep?”  Tony smirked evilly.  “Guess it is time for a black eye again.”

He stepped over to the computer, unhooking the device he had hooked up and shutting down the laptop.  When the screen darkened, he placed it into the briefcase and walked toward the door.

“Oh, the latch.  Fine, I’ll just undo it from here.”  He smiled.

A bright light lanced from Tony’s hand and the door latch popped open immediately.  He grinned as he walked into the hallway, knowing in a room somewhere in the building there was one or more technicians who were now temporarily blinded by the sudden bolt of light energy.

A short time later, Tony entered the doorway to a small school building and placed his lunch bag in the work room.  He then walked into the hallway and over to the gym where he took a broom and began to sweep.  Several music instruments were set up on the stage and he watched as a small group of students walked over and began to aimlessly bang on them.

“I know you can play, why not try something?  A little ‘Stairway to heaven’ or something.”  Tony yelled over the din.

“Hey, a request.  Let’s try it guys.”  A sandy haired girl said.

The others picked up the instruments and began to play.  The drummer and guitarist were playing well, while the other guitarist and singer were definitely not going to make it.  Tony smiled as he watched and noted the slight glow around each.  The two who were playing well had green glows, while the others had a dark grey hue.  He held out his hand and noted the green of his own halo was fluctuating in steady patterns.  A buzzer sounded and the gym began to fill with noisy students who were waiting for the busses to run, so Tony walked out into the hall and grabbed a barrel on a hand truck which he hustled down the hall dodging students and teachers in a rush to leave.  He paid special attention to one short hallway where a black haired girl in dark clothes stood, propped against a wall with a large set of headphones on her head and music loud enough Tony could hear it at a distance.  She looked up as he passed, and nodded.

“Dead Kennedys.  You probably never heard of ‘em.”  She said dourly.

“Heard of them, not my especial liking.  More the sixties to eighties myself.  Some metal and foreign mixed in.”  Tony replied, not sure she heard.

“Each their own.”  She replied shortly.

Tony continued down the hall and began to pick up the trash when the girl walked up, removing the headphones.  She walked a short way, following Tony as he picked up the room cans and  poured them into the barrel.

“Heard you talking to old lady Gripper yesterday.  She's my math teacher this year, until I graduate out of this place into high school. You really like music, huh?  What type of player you got?”  She asked.

“An early iPod, one of the second gen video ones.  Only four gig memory, though.”  Tony replied.

“Nice.  The newer ones have more memory and touch screen, but they break easy.  Friend of mine had a 16 gig touch screen iPhone, piece of crap.  I have a smaller third gen video, four gigs.  Does what I need and won’t blow out if I drop it on the way to school.  Much as I have traveled, I needed one that would take a bit of banging around.  I noticed you listen to yours a lot, do they get on you for listening when you work?”  She asked.

“Try to.  But I just listen after hours when there isn’t many people in the building.  Hard to hear my phone or radio so I use cheepie headphones when I have to, but I prefer my noise cancelling earbuds.”  Tony said.

“Man, would I like to have a set of them.  I'll bet it would even cancel out the noise of the foster parent's fighting.  They get radically loud sometimes.  But these aren’t the worst.  Ones before them didn’t like me spending so much time listening to my music, said all it was all Satan music.  So they snuck in one night and stole my CD player and sold it and gave the money to some charity.  To save me from Hell they said.  Whackos!”  She said, half frowning.

“Some people can do things to extremes.  Even religion.  I guess I may listen too much to my music, or to the other sounds.  My computer is mostly music and video files, so I guess that would be a big part of my life.  Don’t know what I would do if they outlawed music.  Probably shuttle off world to one of the colonies if I could get the money to afford the ticket.”  Tony admitted cautiously.

“Nah.  I like earth.  I really don’t think I would like living on one of the colonies under a dome hoping it wouldn’t break and kill everyone but the rich politicians.  And with those weird alien dudes, who knows what would happen out on one of the other planets.  At least here on earth we have free air and some freedom to walk around.  Like, on the moon you have to suit up to go anywhere outside the city.”  The girl smiled.  “I hate being a prisoner in these temporary homes, but it will be over soon.  As soon as I turn eighteen I can be my own person and not have to put up with the loons who take kids like us in for the money.”  She said.  “By the way, my name is Dass.  Before you ask, I don’t know why, or if there is a meaning to it.  My birth mom just had the name put on my birth papers and it has stuck through all the foster homes.  I have been in the program all my life, from one home to another.  Guess no one thought the crazy kid who saw ghosts everywhere was a keeper.”

“Hard break.  But in the end we are who we make ourselves, not how we were brought up.  We each control our own destiny.”  Tony offered.

“A philosopher floor sweeper. I’ll shout at you again sometime, Socrates. I’ve got to catch a bus; if I am late the foster parents go nuts.  Afraid I’ll jump the fence and they will lose their income source.”  Dass laughed as she darted out the door, throwing on the headphones.

“Interesting kid.”  Tony mused as he smashed trash down into the barrel.  “As Spock would say, ‘highly illogical.”

Tony continued working locking doors as he went down the hallway.  After a few hours the sun began to sink low and the shadows seemed to grow from the floors and walls as he turned from the final door and moved into the dimming light of the hallway.

“We obey and come as we were commanded.” An eerie voice droned.

“Not you guys again.  I know it is your nature to come out of the dark, but there is going to be a party here tonight and the Dross are not invited.  So tell your leader to back off and go back to where ever you idiots come from.”  Tony growled.

“You are inferior, only useful as vessels for containment of our energies, and feeding of our essence.  We were once rulers of Aehrt, and will rule this planet once more…”  The voice began.

“Yeah, yeah.  The Dross shall inhabit this world once more. The planet’s rightful owners, we are vermin to be harvested by the superior Aehertians. Mere food and containers for your superior intellect, blah, blah, blah and such speech.  Same worn out diatribe as always.  You guys really need to invest in a public relations shadow.  Well, let’s get this over with.  The cleansers are probably on the way right now to pick up you guys remains.”  Tony said in a mocking yawn.

Tony pulled the earbuds from his pocket and pushed them tightly into his ears.  As the music began he moved into the center of the hallway and the shadows grew larger, advancing out of the walls and floors.  Those closest to him began to take on silhouetted shapes of faceless human forms which advanced slowly toward him.  Tony stood firm, holding his arms out to his side while electric energy crackled in the air around him.  Suddenly, he pulled his arms from his sides up in front of him, drawing them into his chest, turning his palms out from his chest and forcing invisible energy from his palms toward the advancing mass.  As the energy struck the forms they dissolved into ash gray powder, fading like a mirage.

“Retreat!  He is one of them.”  A gravelly voice grated from one of the shadows.

“I told you I sensed a strong energy sign here.  An easy catch you said!  Many bodies to take and feed us!  I have a good mind to leave you to this flesh being!”  Another voice hissed.

The shadows vanished into the structure of the building, leaving only Tony and a thick cover of gray ash on the floors and walls.  Tony grimaced, then reached and turned the iPod’s volume control down, still watching the hallway vigilantly.

“Nasty creatures.  Well, my bounty counter says I got twenty this time.  They bailed out before I could dust more, but not bad for one attack.  They owe me a lot more, but that will come!  A chip for each one, not that I need more chips.  Good old American cash would be a lot better.”  He lamented to himself.

A clatter behind him made him turn violently, almost slipping on the dust now stirred into a cloud near the floor.  Standing in a doorway leading from a restroom was Dass, her eyes wide in shock and disbelief.  As she slumped to the floor, Tony leapt the distance between them and caught her, lowering her gently to the floor.

“You saw them?  And you were able to kill them.  What are you?”  She asked in shock.

“What did you see?”  Tony asked softly.

“You saw the nightmares, and you killed them.  You held your hands together and they turned to dirt.  I have seen those things for years, and what they do to people, how they go insane or simply go missing.  The doctors said I was suffering from some sort of mental breakdown.  That those things were a figment of my imagination.  But I just saw you do something to them, and they turned to this stuff.”  Dass stammered.

“Technically, you cannot kill Dross since by our standards they are not alive until they commandeer a body.  And all those things they told you were figments, well, I wanted to ease you into this, but they are definitely real, if any of this lifelong nightmare we live can be called real.  In a few minutes a small group of people will come in the front door, and you will need to accompany a few of them.  As soon as we tie up here, things will get explained back at the studio.”  Tony promised coldly.

“Listen bub!  I’m not going anywhere but home with the nightmares around.  I don’t want any more to do with those things!  I lost enough people to those things!”  Dass snarled.

The doors burst open and several people in uniforms rushed into the building carrying strange looking devices.  Two in identical gray suits and sunglass flanked Dass, each holding an arm.

“Is this the subject?” One asked in a business like voice.

“Her name is Dass.  She shows a strong pattern for Adriel positive, and has a history of being able to see the shadows.  Take it easy on her, she hasn’t been indoctrinated yet.”  Tony requested.

“Indoctrinated? What gives here? I am not going anywhere with the double mint guys here.”  Dass shouted panic in her voice.

“She is a potential candidate.  So be easy if she resists.”  Tony warned.

“Resists? You dang right I am going to resist! This is kidnapping!”  Dass shouted.

One of the men pressed a small object into Dass’ arm and she slumped in between them.  They hustled the limp form out of the door and into a waiting black van while another man walked over to Tony.

“Guess I will have to sub for you tonight. Looks like you will be needed at studio, so I will handle the cameras being altered.  It will look like another boring night for Tony the janitor.”  The man said humor in his voice.

“Well, there is a dance tonight, so have fun.  And be on the alert, she witnessed an attempted possession tonight.  The cleaners should have things set by opening time.  I think it was an advance group, looking to try something at the dance tonight, but I don’t think they will be back again tonight.”  Tony smiled grimly.  “Now, I have a load of work to do explaining what has been going on the past four years to a particularly tough young lady.”

Dass was sitting restrained in the back seat of the van, wondering what she had gotten into this time, when she saw a larger group of people entering the building with machines on their backs.  The last thing she remembered was two duplicate janitors standing in the entry, and the feeling she was not going to ever be the same again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

II.

Tony stood beside the hospital bed, flanked by doctor Eldritch and General Donham. The three men were in a heated discussion when Dass came to and tried to move, but found she was held by belt like restraints across her body, arms and legs.  She let out a scream and jerked against the restraining devices violently.

“I see your candidate is awake, and doing the obligatory screaming and fighting.  Judging from the amount of shrapnel she is wearing and the bright colors she is one of the fine youth the educational establishments of our country is putting out.”  The General critiqued.

Tony ignored the General and kneeled beside the bed.  He reached over and removed some of the restraints, raising the head of the bed so she could see and be more comfortable.

“Better be careful, mop jockey.  I may bite!”  Dass sneered indignantly.

“Quite alright, young lady.  He has had all of his shots, and I can assure you he will heal quite fast in the event you do.”  The doctor smiled wryly.  “Besides, I do not thing you would proffer violence against our friendly old floor sweeper here.  I would not venture such a guess for the General, though.”

“Alright.  I’ll bite the bait, who are you and why am I here.  And why is a janitor able to see those nightmares?”  Dass questioned.

“Well, janitor.  You brought her here; you want to simplify the explanation?”  The General sighed with a superior attitude in his voice.

“Dass, this will be a lot to wrap yourself around, but what you have called ‘nightmares’ is a life form that had to abandon Earth eons ago.  They had evolved into a pure form of mental energy that inhabited human forms like vehicles.  Once they accomplished that, they took to the stars, destroying worlds in an effort to feed themselves on human bodies, like a vampire of sorts.  They returned to our world a few years ago to find us, the human race, had evolved here and were the new occupants, and we were ripe for the picking as the saying goes.  But the infection was still here, left by a race who attempted to annihilate the Dross, who call themselves the Aehertian.  The Dross are interested in removing the disease, using Earth as a food source and a source of hosts for their life form and base where they can continue what the Hom interrupted many years ago.”  Tony explained.

“How have humans survived, if the planet was contaminated to where they had to leave or be killed?”  Dass asked.

“The Aehertians are vastly different from us, my dear.  They have very sensitive mental forms, and sound is toxic to them, especially certain combinations.  What we have evolved to enjoy is pure poison to them.  So we use the most powerful weapon ever devised against those attackers.  We have bands that play music in areas the Aehertian cannot tolerate.  Music is our protection from invasion, and some of you have a genetic ability to use the energy from music in various ways.”  The Doctor smiled.  “We call people like you Adriels, short for audio adrenaline support.”

“I call them genetic freaks and that noise they listen to crap.”  The General huffed.

“As I said, before being rudely interrupted by our friend here, some of our race possess a unique ability.  They can see the Dross, sense their presence and have ability to use sound energy to do amazing things.  They can withstand enormous pressure, heal themselves from critical injury and even manifest energy into a defensive weapon.  You are one of such people, able to channel sound energy to resist infection, disease and environmental attacks, even change energy from one form to another.”  The Doctor added.

“This ability is limited to certain individuals.  We have tried to recreate the genetics and conditions, but have had no success in the field.  It seems this is a natural defect in a person’s genetic code.”  The General said flatly.  “If it were possible to impart this ability to a disciplined combat force we could eliminate these vermin once and for all.”

“I believe they call that genocide.”  Dass spat.

“I call it survival.  First we eliminate the diseased enemy, then those who are infected with their control, and we can get back to the business of restoring the world to a better place.”  The General shot back defensively.

“Seems I heard the same speech in history class.  From a German named Adolph Hitler.  His perfect Aryan nation.”  Dass countered.  “So Tony the janitor, the guy who stays to himself and listens to an iPod all the time is a secret agent in a war with despicable aliens.  Who would have ever thought it?”

“Hey, I was a sailor once in the good old United States Navy.  Not my fault I ‘volunteered’ for some program experiment testing music’s effect on work and productivity.  Nor was it my fault the science frocks took it to other extremes and went a few steps further in the experiment and discovered our Adriel tendencies.  When they shut down the testing suddenly we all thought it was because they got what they were after, not that we scared the bejees out of them and they wanted to keep it a secret about our genetic defect,  So I got out, drifted a while and moved to Sand Hill where I got the janitor job.  I didn’t know my secret records had been sent to a lab in D.C. where after a good number of years they would be dug out after the government shoots a few nukes at a passing scout ship from the once thought dead Aehertian race.  Those bums would have steered clear of the earth thinking it was uninhabited and contaminated, but no!  Our glorious military has to send up a flare saying ‘come ‘n get it, dinners waiting!’  So for four years now we have pushed against them.  Losing people to the sleep, to them taking them as transportation and food, and to combat injury.  A little over a hundred seventy five of us Adriel fighting an innumerable number of those shadows.  Losing some of our own to the sleep.  Backed by the science frocks like Doc, the civilians who know what is going on in space and the military like General Mills the cereal dude there.”  Tony smirked

“That is why I prefer dealing with soldiers.  They have respect and discipline, unlike these malcontents and genetic freaks.”  The General scorched, walking away.

“Hey, don’t go away mad, just go away.  And take your war plans with you.  We will send these aliens packing and you can go back to trying to nuke each other out of existence.  Just like the good old days.”  Tony taunted.“One of these days, I am going to forget why we keep you around, and I will personally lead you to the stockade for eternity.  Genetic freaks and hippies, two of the same kind.  You probably smoked pot while on duty in the navy.”  The General spat as the door closed behind him.

“Hey!  This is a medical ward, not a war room, a-bomb breath.”  Tony laughed.  “Good riddance.  His nuclear glow was giving me a terrible atom tan.”

Tony?  Our guest?  You are not setting a very good example of what we are all about here, and are you not setting a poor example for a future compatriot?”  The doctor admonished.

“Yeah, he just rubs a raw wound.  The navy used me and others as lab rats and never even let us know what was really going on.  They knew some people respond differently to music.  And the main purpose wasn’t to see if music could improve productivity, but if our difference could be weaponized, create the super sailor who could withstand more difficulty than ordinary seamen.  Only, it backfired on them and they shut it down, never letting us know what we were or what they exposed us to.  Top secret, filed away and brought out when they needed us.  Forced back into service, and not even a thank you to Asgard for their work.  Sacrifice!  And filed away again like some piece of equipment.  A tool for the military to use and mothball.  Now they want me to do it all again.  I would stand off a ship full of Dross shadows to avoid that again.  Sorry…Dass.  I have to go.  Doc, I need some time in the chamber, take care of the kid for me.”  Tony half cried as he walked quickly toward the door.  “I’ll be back later on, I promise.”

The door shut gently, and the room became quiet once more.  The doctor reached over and finished removing the restraints, allowing Dass to sit upright in the bed.  He handed her a pink iPod and earbuds, and smiled broadly.

“Hope you still do not want to bite.  I do not have Adriel properties so I do not heal well and have not had all my shots up to date.  I am more of a Beethoven person myself, but as you are an Adriel, you will have much different taste in music than others.  It seems the genetics are affected by differing tonal qualities in every person.  However, I would recommend updating some of the music on your player.  It is rather…unusual.”  The doctor smiled.

“Yeah, for real.  Some of it I don’t really like and I don’t even listen to it, I just have it on there to spook people so they will leave me alone.  You never know when some weird song will spook some biscuit so they will walk on the other side of the hall and leave you alone.”  Dass replied, more civilly.  “I don’t play well with others is what the head shrinkers say.”

“Strangely, none of the Adriel I have worked with have played well with others until they understood why they were different from most other people.  I guess the strength being different gives you is expressed in being a loner.  But once you realize there are others who see and hear like you do, you gain more from that knowledge than you do from being alone.  I wish we could impart that tidbit to our friend Tony.”  Doc said solemnly.

“So for each of us, the music we listen to affects our ability differently?  Like, I may have even more if I can figure out which songs are best for me?”  Dass asked.

“I’m more of a Beethoven person myself.  But then again, I am not as Adriel sensitive as you or the others.  He was observing the school, looking for candidates for the program, however reluctantly.  You see, child, we all listen to music.  It has been that way since we were created, from the rhythms of rain and creeks to the thunder of modern rock.  It relaxes, comforts and even aids in healing normal human beings.  It was also the poison the Hom used to attempt in removing the Aehertians from being a threat to the other worlds they were going to attempt to conquer.  By making them nomads without a firm base to operate, the Hom were trying to protect other worlds.  Unknown to them, we evolved and thrived on the old home world of the Aehrt race, who have now come back to try again at domination.  But as an Adriel, your genes are more geared toward sensitivity to sound, which makes you able to see the Dross shadow troops and sense the energy you gain from the right combination of sound.  Tony is a type one, General class Adriel.  His exposure to certain elements in the military, along with their special brand of scientific, well let’s call it research for the time, unleashed a specific potential in him.  Luckily, their project was disbanded before too much altering took place.  He will retain his ability for life as a type one.  There are others, which range down to type five Adriel, who for some reason grow out of their ability, usually for some reason around age twenty.  No one knows why for sure, this is still an ongoing project which I would like to continue even after the world is freed of the Aehertian threat.  We have found that when a type one combines his talents with a group, they increase their energies exponentially, so we set Tony up with Asgard, who he found at the school.  Tony is limited; his energy only spans a short distance from his person.  While he may be able to cover a county, with the right band and music he can protect several states.  The music from our bands plays somewhere twenty four hours a day.  The band does a multiple job, they play music which the Dross cannot tolerate, they amplify Tony’s ability as well as their own and by recording the music can operate all day and night in effect.”  Doc said.

“Interesting.  So we have a mutation which causes us to be able to see these aliens, and also to be able to store up energy given off by sound.  I always felt different, odd in fact.  But to find out the janitor was an agent for some spy ring taking on the nightmares and to see how we can fight them, that is bad as can be!  And that explains how I am able to get over being sick or hurt so quickly.”  Dass sighed.  “I always saw the nightmares, saw them take people and drive them crazy or how they acted different after they encountered them.  Everyone thought I was nuts, sent me to doctors who wanted to keep me on drugs to keep me from imagining things.  Shrinks always blamed it on ‘emotional trauma’ or some fancy shrink term.  I saw my parents when they took them, how they went off and drove the car into a block wall.  So I wasn’t nuts.  Go figure, it was aliens.”

“The United Nations security council has ordered all information on this classified, and no official information can be released. The General population has no knowledge of their existence, and all inhabitations are either eliminated or put into deep sleep, a coma of sorts that halts aging and functioning.  Some of us live double, even triple lives while working to control the Dross and their infestation.  When he was managing Asgard, Tony worked as a janitor at your school, a promoter and part time DJ, and as an agent for us, an Adriel.  Asgard was his last assigned group.  Very talented kids who were type five Adriels, when we knew little about what type five were capable of, and their fatal limitation.  He lost them last year, and has taken it pretty hard.  They used the last of their ability and saved a large group at a music festival last year.  Tony was severely injured physically and disappeared from music industry for a time.  He devoted himself to hiding the existence of you and the others in the school, a crime to the military which could have gotten him into a lot of distress.  It weighed on him and he didn’t want to risk anyone else from the area, so he hid you and the others for many months, then an attack alerted the military’s intelligence branch and here you are.”  Doc explained.

“That General, Tony called him General Mills; I sensed a lot of hostility from them both.  What is the story there?”  Dass asked as she swung her feet over the side of the bed.

“Kind of a joke there.  General Mills makes breakfast cereal.  Tony calls it ‘sugar reinforced junk food.’  Much as he has come to consider the officers of the military, excess baggage for the cause of getting rid of the Dross.  There is much you will have to learn, both about this world now and yourself.  Much of what you will learn here you would never comprehend without help.”  Doc whispered.

“So what you are telling me is the school janitor is some sort of agent who fights aliens only a small group of genetic misfits can see or get rid of.  Way cool there doc.  But I do not think the foster parents will agree to my going off and fighting aliens, it might affect their income source.”  Dass grimaced.

“As I have said, if you agree to work with us, all of that will be taken care of.  We can arrange almost anything, even an adoption as we have done with the others who will make up this new band we have for Tony.  The most difficult part will be gaining his acceptance of the group.”  Doc wavered.

Tony walked purposefully down the hallway, ignoring anyone who he passed.  He pulled the door to the soundproof room open with a jerk and slammed it behind him.  He pulled his iPod and the other device from his pocket, plugged them both into the computer, then flopped down on the sofa, pulling up the left sleeve of his shirt. He slid his finger along the top of his wrist and the skin moved back, revealing a small screen and touch pad similar to the one on his iPod underneath.  Seconds later, the screen lit up and he sat back as music flowed into his ears.

“Darth Vader, eat your heart out.  Welcome to the dark side of the studio.”  Tony mused grimly as he adjusted the volume.

The music was slow and calming, and in seconds Tony had leaned back and was drifting in a fog.  In his mind it was no longer 2013, but late in 2011, a little more than twelve months before. 

 

The lights were dim and there was a rumble, like in an expectant crowd.  Lights blazed forward to the stage, where a large sign in the background now flashes ASGARD in a flare of LED lights.  The band moved forward on the stage and began to play as the crowd jumped to their feet.  The band had grown massively in the short few years they had been playing, thanks in part to the studio and their blitz campaign of media exposure. Tonight, they were giving a benefit concert for a local food bank, part of the ‘giving back’ tour Tony had devised to get more play time to help push back an offensive by the Dross.  There had been numerous freak storms lately, and the food banks shelves were almost bare.  Tony and the band knew storms were a natural part of life, but they also knew many of the storms lately were not natural, but alien in nature.  The Dross had been attempting to alter earth’s weather in an attempt to scramble the signals from the music in preparation for their attempt at removing sound from the planet and making it fit for their return.  Tony watched the audio and lighting controls, static charging his body.  As the band played, he noticed their auras were not as bright and full of color as usual, something he had noticed in the last few concerts, as if they were weakening for some reason.  He filed it as a question for Doc at their next meeting.  Not far into the third song, the band began to get out of time, like a distorted tape playing.  Shadows crept from the background and the music began to warp and hiss statically. The lighting faded, despite Tony adding more lights to the stage, and shadow crept eerily out toward the crowd.  The crowd pushed away, then broke into blind panic as the shadow spilled like black liquid over the sides of the stage and


© Copyright 2017 Corvair. All rights reserved.

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