Misery’s Beginning Part 2

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Eddie stared at his slightly worn face in the mirror as he was getting ready.

His youthful eyes seemed old; he had seen so much with Atticus. Their first run in with a Rouge all those years ago, the subsequent skirmishes since then, his encounters with alien life forms both good and bad- he could see all of that in his eyes.

“Is that a gray hair?” he said to himself as his eyes locked onto a patch of hair over his right eye.

His fingers immediately and instinctively ran though his dark brown hair and pulled out the suspect hair, sure enough it was gray.

“Better than losing it,” he said as he let fall into the sink.

Their activity with Atticus wasn’t all bad; there was some good that they did. But it was hard, he like his father, wasn’t a fighter. He had the soul of a poet and the heartbeat of an artist, Eddie’s music was first and foremost in his life and long after he finished running head long into danger, long after Atticus was gone from his life, he would have his music. The music helped him, kept him fighting because he knew no matter how weird or hard things got, he would have his music to come back to.

“Gotta focus,” he said to himself as he shook his head to rattle the cobwebs out. “Have to get to the meeting on time today, or try to be on time anyway. Better be a real rehearsal this time too, our East Coast mini-tour starts in two days.”

 

The steel gray sky reflected the stillness of the grayish ocean below. The lone figure sat on the sand with his surfboard standing next to him.

“Should have checked the surf report before I left,” he said. “There’s nothing today. Still peaceful though.”

He scanned the area; he was the only one out on the beach this morning. Not a jogger or person walking their dog, or someone using a metal detector looking for who knows what- no one. Where was everyone?

He glanced at his watch, it was almost 8:00 and he had to be at the station by 8:30.

“Better get going,” he said under his breath as he stood up taking his backpack in hand.

He pulled his surfboard out of the sand. He had specially made before he moved down to California from his time up in Seattle. While not a big surfing mecca, his friends up their taught him and he seemed a natural for it. It was white with two blue lines that curved in and out of each other, like a double helix. It wasn’t an expensive board, but he loved it just the same.

As he ran up to his pick-up truck, he saw a line of three more cars pulling up to the beach.

Now the come, he thought.

He placed his surfboard into the back of his truck when something shiny in the cab caught his eye.

“Aww man!” he exclaimed as he tore into his bag. “I did it again.”

He dug into his bag; sure enough his keys weren’t in there. He sighed as he looked back into the cab and saw that they were sitting in the seat.

“Maybe I. . .” he said as he tried the door. Sure enough it was locked. “Nope, locked up tight.”

He sighed again as he looked around, the people in the cars that had just pulled up were still milling around inside their cars. No one was paying attention. With one quick movement he pulled up on the locked car handle and like it nothing, the handle broke into tiny pieces in his hand. The door flung open instantly.

 

Wellington Charles Xavier MacArthur IV, but few people used or even knew his real name, everyone knew him as Quad.

Quad was an avid surfer, participating in amateur surfing competitions whenever he could and had made the cover of ‘Surfing Monthly’ as their ‘Next Big Wave’, predicting that he would be the biggest star in professional surfing if he made that step. Often tempting, but Quad knew he never knew that he could do it.

Quad was heir to the MacArthur Global Communications Company- something that he kept closely guarded for his own reasons. Eddie knew part of the story, Quad and his dad had a falling out and Quad left home at a young age- at least that was the story that was told to Eddie by Atticus. Because of this, Quad liked to keep a low profile as possible, as low as one could in a rock band.

Quad came to the group the summer before the start of their sophomore year of high school.  He was slightly older than the group; being 21 when he showed up. Much like his personal past, the reasons for his coming to the group was unclear to Eddie and the others, but he was a Half Breed like them and Atticus trusted him and assured the group that they had nothing to worry about. When Eddie deiced that he wanted to form a band, Atticus had him teach Quad the fundamentals and he became rhythm guitar for what was later named, Misery Road.

Quad was incredibly strong; he could pick up and toss an SUV like nothing and his muscle coordination was heighten- speed, agility, balance; everything was magnified to a superhuman degree. The limit of his strength was unknown; Atticus repeatedly told him to be careful and not get too reliant on his seemingly endless strength as every Half Breed had a limit

It was because of his strength, agile and balance, that he could never go into professional surfing. Atticus’s stern warnings about not revealing their powers to the masses and about the obvious advantage rang in his head.

“I ruin more car doors this way,” he said under his breath as he shook his head. “Got to swing back to my place and change cars and then get a new handle after our meeting.”

 

Eddie glanced at his watch as he dug into his pile of clean tee shirts on the floor in his office. Molly had taken over the closet in their room so he was demoted to using the one in his office. His nice shirts and pants were hung neatly, but he kept his clean tee shirts in a pile on the floor much to Molly’s disappointment. It lead to long and heated discussions but in the end, Eddie’s adamant point that no one ever went into his office except for him and would do his best to make sure that the rest of his house was in the picture perfect condition that Molly liked it to be in if she only gave him one room to be a guy and wallow in his own crapulence.

“8:25, I’m right on time,” he said to himself.

It took Eddie 15 minutes to get from his house to the studio. Outside of their work with Atticus and legit band stuff with radio stations, the label and shows Eddie rarely made it on time anywhere. It took the concentrated efforts of Locke, Molly’s dad and Atticus to get him to their wedding on time; even then they barely made it. The others in the band were used to it by now; it was part of his charm and it was easier to work around it than it was to fight it.

“Black, black, black,” he said a loud as he dug through his pile of tee shirts; most of them were black in various states of fading. “Maybe Molly and Locke are right; I need more color in clothes. Wait! I see something in the bottom!” he exclaimed as he dug deeper. Sure enough there was a dark gray tee shirt. “Neat.”

Eddie pulled his dark gray shirt on, it was a plain tee shirt with some discolored spots on it which he couldn’t remember if it was the design or one of his ‘around the house shirts’. Either way, it would do.

“Ready to go,” he said as he smoothed the shirt against his chest.

 

Unlike like some rock musician who flaunted their wealth with flashy cars and big houses, Eddie was more leveled headed than that.

They owned a small three bedroom house in Santa Barbara, modest in comparison to some of the other houses in the area; it suited their needs perfectly as both spent a lot of time on the road having a small house to maintain was a good fit.

There were only three things that Eddie had splurged on; his guitars, a Mini Cooper for Molly and his vintage scooter.

He had a huge collection of guitars split between his home and his studio. What bags and shoes were to Molly, Eddie had the same feeling about his guitars. At last count he had over a hundred ranging from acoustic to electric to some very expensive antique guitars. He also had quite a collection of his trademark blue guitar, every hue, shade and finish of blue. He had no autographed guitars and swore he would never own one saying that he could never bring himself to play on it and took great satisfaction in trying to play with all his guitars as much as possible. What good is buying a guitar if you couldn’t play it?

Molly had hinted and talked about owning a Mini Cooper since they had seen The Italian Job. It was a surprise after the Honeymoon present to her, a lavender Mini Cooper for Molly, complete with giant bow on top of it. It was cliché and cute, things that Eddie really didn’t do, but anything to make his wife happy.

Then there was Eddie’s scooter, a vintage blue scooter that had belonged to his dad. His mom had moved from their family home to a smaller place that suited her better and while helping her clean out the garage had found it hidden underneath an old drop cloth. Andrew had bought it broken a long time ago with hopes of fixing it up and using it, but never got around to it. Eddie offered to take it off her hand, would be cool to have something like that of his dad’s, naturally she complied.

It was a labor of love for Eddie, having no mechanical aptitude whatsoever.  It had taken almost a year to get it up and running, working on it a little bit at night, over the weekend and with help from Locke, books and the internet.  Despite some stares and snickers early on when he would drive it around town, Eddie had the last laugh when gas prices sky rocketed and he could get to and from the studio and his normal day to day on a full tank of gas for a week and a half.  It was a piece of his late father and he liked having it around.

 

“Eddie!” he heard a familiar voice called out.

Spinning around he saw Jason Workman, his next door neighbor trotting over.

Jason was like the little brother that Eddie never had and always wanted. He was seventeen and entering his final year of high school. Strangely, even though they weren’t related, they had similar physical features; same height, same cool blue eyes, hair was different but in the same family (Eddie had dark brown hair and Jason had very light brown hair). Body wise they were almost the same, Eddie had a thin, well-built frame thanks to his training with Atticus and habit of running, light weight training and the elliptical machine when not on tour; Jason’s frame was more broad and thick, his father was an avid weight lifter and seemed had passed on the same trait of weight training to Jason.

Jason was an only child and being an only child himself, Eddie knew what it was like to grow up without anyone close in age to play with. They were almost 13 years apart, but Eddie didn’t mind playing with Jason or watching Power Rangers with him, gave Eddie a legitimate excuse to watch it.

But now that Jason was older, things seemed to have balanced out. Jason came to Eddie often for advice or help with his homework. His home life was not the greatest, his parents were pressuring him more and more to be the person that they wanted him to be and not the person that he wanted to be. They were tolerant of the typical teenage type of rebellion- the wild hair colors, odd dress and the like, but there was something bigger brewing, Eddie couldn’t put his finger on it, but Molly and everyone else repeatedly told him not to get involved, it wasn’t his place, no matter how close they were.

 

“You on the way to rehearsal?” he asked.

“Yeah, I am,” answered Eddie as he strapped on his helmet. “You want a ride to school? Got the spare helmet in the house, its Molly’s though, hope you don’t mind lavender.”

“Nah, is cool,” answered Jason with a laugh. “Purple and light blue don’t really go together. I’d look like a reject from a Nick Jr. show.”

Trent had taken Jason to a punk rock show the weekend prior, just a few local punk bands in someone’s backyard. Jason had wanted to dye his hair blue for the show with that hair dye that washes right out, but Trent had used too much and was still tinting back to his normal color, even though almost a week had past, you could still see that his hair had been blue.

“You’re leaving soon, aren’t you?”

“Two days from now, I think,” answered Eddie. “What’s the day? Thursday? I think we leave tomorrow then. Did Locke email you the tour schedule?”

“Yeah, but only up till you guys get to NYC,” replied Jason.  “There’s nothing on the website either.”

“We’re going to hang out there for a few weeks,” said Eddie. “Atticus figured that since we had to go there anyway, might as well squeeze in a few last minute shows. We’re going to meet Rivers, our photographer, up there. We’re going to be editing the DVD that comes out later this year. Then back home for a break and then some press and stuff for the new album.”

“Am I getting first press?” asked Jason with a glint in his eye. “Of the DVD and the album?”

“Maaaybe,” answered Eddie. “Legally I shouldn’t, it should go to our label right away, cause they have to do whatever it is that they need to do to it, but don’t be surprised if you get a plain brown envelope in your mailbox soon. And we’re still mixing and arranging the album, so can’t give you that yet.”

“Awesome!” exclaimed Jason. “Oh, and what we talked about the other night, I’m still going to go through with it.”

Eddie sighed, Jason had managed to get a fake ID and wanted to go get a tattoo, Eddie tried to talk him out of it, but to no avail. Had Jason wanted to use it to get booze or cigarettes or something like that, Eddie would have been a little more okay with it, but this was permanent.

“Your dad is going to go ape crap if he finds out,” warned Eddie as he sat down on the scooter. “Hope you realize that, like King Kong sized ape crap.”

“I do,” replied Jason nervously. “But, I got to go; I’m going to be late for school. We’ll talk tonight, promise.”

Jason was non-confrontational sometimes, most of the time, at the first sign of a serious discussion he bolted.

“Okay Jason, I’ll call you tonight,” said Eddie as he started his scooter.

“Get out!” she screamed. “Just get out!” She reached under her bed and tossed a shoe at her former boyfriend’s head.

He moved his head as the shoe whizzed by and slammed into the wall behind him.

“How did you get in anyway?” she asked.

He dug into his pocket and held up a door key. “I know where you keep your spare key,” he snapped as he threw it back at her. “I just came back for this,” he said as he held up a gray scally.

The girl rolled her eyes. “You and that stupid hat. How many of those do you have? We broke up last night, in case you forgot or weren’t paying attention. The thing about you Trent, it’s always about you.”

“Cause I won’t go to your stupid friend’s baby shower?” he asked. “I’m not going to know anyone there.”

“It’s not about the shower Trent, it’s just. . .” she stopped herself midsentence. “You know what, forget it! We talked about this last night and if you can’t remember or care about what we talked about then I guess we are done. Get out!”

Trent cracked his neck; he had only been with her for about two months but during the last two weeks it had moved from a casual thing to something more serious than Trent was looking for at the time.

Trent was the drummer in Misery Road. A hot head from Boston, he was never without his scally cap.  Despite all of his faults- rude, crass, inconsiderate- deep down he was a caring guy. He was the type that would give you the shirt off of his back, often with a curt comment, that was his way. All one had to do to get on his good side was make a positive comment about the Red Sox and buy him a beer and he was your friend for life.

Trent transferred to the high school Eddie and the others went to their junior year, the rumor quick spread that he had been kicked out of his old school in Boston.  At first Eddie thought this was the story that Atticus had made up to get him out here, but it was in fact true. The person who had trained Trent in Boston thanked Atticus profusely and hoped that Atticus’ calm demeanor could curb Trent’s bad traits, something that had yet to happen.

His brazen and crass attitude attracted women left and right, they wanted the “bad boy”. But whenever he got serious with one, he would start feeling trapped and would find something wrong with her and break up with her within days of them becoming a couple.

“Fine,” he said with a Cheshire cat smile. “I’ll go.”

Trent closed his eyes and in a flash of light he was gone.

Trent possessed the power of teleportation- in a flash of light; he could pop from here to there.

Knowing the nature of his power and the lack of self-discipline, Atticus spent more time with him than the others, because of this Trent’s power increased tremendously.   He was able to teleport up to two others along with himself and could create ‘warp bubbles’- a projectile form of his teleportation, handy for redirecting enemy fire. Much like a teleportation device from sci-fi movies, one bubble would make whatever it came in contact with teleport and the other bubble would act as the point of reconstruction. The only drawback to his power is that he had to see where he was teleporting to; even the warp bubbles were limited to his field of vision. He could not teleport ‘blind’, otherwise he could end up inside a wall or teleport into something cause serious injury.

“That showed her,” he said to himself as he materialized outside.

As he walked to his car, he felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket. He sighed as he pulled it out; he knew who it was from, Atticus.

‘I know what you did. Get here now’

“Always ruining my fun,” he said.

 

Misery Road’s studio was on old converted gas station and garage on the out skirts of Santa Barbara. Atticus had made it his home when he had come to Eddie, Molly and Locke all those years ago. Despite Eddie’s original wished for Atticus to keep the gas pumps out front because in his words were ‘cool and vintage’, when cars kept stopping in wanting to gas up and have their car serviced in the garage, Atticus had them removed. As a gag present for Eddie when he got married, Atticus gave him one of the pumps, all cleaned up and repainted.

When Eddie had decided to give it a go to form the band, Atticus had offered it to make it their studio and office; it had been refurbished and sound proof for their training so they wouldn’t have to do that much work to it. It served several purposes- they could rehearse for as loud and as long as they wanted, they could continue their training and hold their mission briefing- it was the perfect place for them.

Lately though, it was serving more as a meeting and training facility than it was for rehearsal.

Half Breeds tended to show up in waves, there would be a surge of them discovering their abilities or just causing trouble for a brief period of time and then die down. But lately, there seemed to be a steady stream of them for the past year. As well trained as they all were to handle the situation- good, bad or otherwise- Eddie was starting to feel slightly overwhelmed.

While Eddie felt a sense of duty and obligation to help others like himself, his music would always come first no matter what. He had made this clear to Atticus when he formed the band that his music would come first, Atticus had agreed telling him that his personal life was much more important than the work that they were doing and they were all free to leave if they so choose to. But it was such a rush, how many people could say that they met and talked to real aliens? Sure there was a danger, but the rush that Eddie got from what they did was almost like the rush he got from being on stage and he was addicted to it as well. For now, he was juggling both and would do so for as long as he could.

He could hear someone wailing on the drums from outside as he pulled up.

Eddie sighed as he parked his scooter, more girl problems Trent?

Trent had a new girl almost every day and each of them created a new set of problems for him. Most of the time he kept quiet about them, but if it was serious girl trouble; he took it out on the drums.

“Eddie!” he heard Molly call out. Eddie spun around and saw Molly in the passenger seat of Quad’s truck.

“Hey you,” he answered trotting up. “Wassup? When did you get up this morning?”

“Early,” Molly yawned. “Kat was in Europe and we had a conference call so I had to be there like at 4 AM. Got most things I needed to done though, so just some more loose ends tomorrow and I’ll be all ready to go with you guys.”

“Where are you off to?” asked Eddie.

“Trent’s giving me a headache with all his drumming, so we are going on a coffee run,” Quad answered. “Wanna come with?”

“Nah, better go see what’s up. You know what I like babe.”

“Venti green tea with honey and a splash of milk,” replied Molly. “We’ll be back.”

Eddie grabbed onto the door of the truck and kissed Molly as Quad drove away.

 

Could I love her more?

 

The sound inside of the studio was deafening. Atticus had locked himself inside his office was busy typing at his computer and talking on the phone.

Please be setting up dates for after New York, please, for the sake of the children, thought Eddie.

Due to their work with Atticus he became their manager, the less outside people involved the better. Atticus had planned everything when they first started out as a band, the label that they had signed had a few Half Breeds that Atticus had either met or trained and were on the up and up, but unlike Eddie and his group were trying to live a normal life. Being that they had some people on the inside track though, they could have more freedom to perform their as Atticus called it ‘extra-curricular activities’.

“Locke?” he called out.

I can barely hear myself, I seriously doubt Locke can hear me, thought Eddie.

Trent was totally lost in the zone, he was drenched in sweat. He had stripped down to his wife beater and had taken off his scally cap.

This is bad, thought Eddie.

Trent’s cap never came off; even when he slept he had it on. The few times he had taken it off, it always meant business. Something serious had happened.

Suddenly Eddie felt a cold wind over him, he could see his breath.

Where did that come from?

Eddie shivered and turned around and saw Locke and another man standing outside the large roll up that lead to the back of the lot.  Locke had perfected the subtle ability to get someone’s attention by chilling the air around someone with his left hand, effective in any situation.

“How long has been at it?” he yelled at Locke as he walked over.

“What?” Locke shouted back straining to hear him.

“HOW LONG HAS BEEN AT IT?” Eddie shouted louder than before.

“What about a rabbit?” Locke asked Eddie.

“Ed wants to know how long Trent has been at it,” the other man shouted at Locke.

“Like right when he got here,” answered Locke. “He came in and sat down and started wailing.”

“Did you try to talk to him?” shouted Eddie.

“What?” Locke shouted back straining to hear him again.

“DID YOU TRY TO TALK TO HIM?”

“What about Invader Zim?” repeated Locke.

Eddie rolled his eyes at the other man standing next to Locke, his ice blue eyes were laughing at what was going on. He loved the banter between Eddie and Locke, they fought and bickered like an old married couple more than Eddie and Molly fought and bickered.

His name was Lex, former bass player of the mid 80s rock band Running Skard and now working as the sound technician, roadie, whatever the band needed musically he was there for them. He was tattooed, pierced and had this fierce blue eyes that could look right through you. Most people never gave him a second look while he walked down the street, just an aging punk rocker had they got to know him though, they would have discovered that he was intelligent, musically gifted being able to play more instruments than Eddie could and a genuinely nice guy to talk to.

Lex’s coming to the group was by chance. He had trained with Atticus years before Atticus had come to train Eddie, Molly and Locke and just happened to answer an ad that his manager had tipped him off to about a band was looking for a sound technician and to fill in on various instruments should the need arise. A Running Skard reunion tour had been in the works, but fell through due to scheduling conflicts and Lex needed a job. He was hired without question or reservation, having someone who had trained so closely with Atticus was like having him with them on the road.

“He wants to know if someone talked to him?” he told Locke.

“Oh!” exclaimed Locke. “You need to speak up, I can’t hear you,” he told Eddie. “I tried to talked to him, he won’t respond. Never seen him this focused. Watch this.”

Locke picked up a nearby rock on the ground and threw it at Trent, it came within striking distance of Trent when it disappeared in a flash of light and reappeared on the floor next to Locke’s feet.

“Never seen him this focused,” Locke commented. “When I went up closer to talk to him, I ended up back here. I showed Attics and he said that he’s never seen anything like that before. He’s totally in the zone.”

Not totally, thought Eddie.

Eddie went back to where Trent was drumming like a mad man and started talking to him. With the sound of the drums, Eddie could have just been standing there just opening and closing his mouth pretending to talk to Trent.

As Eddie “talked” to Trent, he seemed to get louder and faster in his drumming. His cold, dead stare seem to shift and change, like he was hearing something that he didn’t like. His mouth started to curl up, his brow furrowed until a wave of anger washed over him when the drumming stopped as he sprang to his feet.

“Dude!” he exclaimed as he threw down his drumsticks. “Really? You gotta rag on my Sox like that?”

Trent’s hands were clenched into fists, chest heaving, shirt soaked in sweat. He looked ready to hit Eddie when Eddie gave an evil grin. Trent grumbled to himself and sat back down.

“Hate you,” he told Eddie as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“Problem solved,” said Eddie as he sat down on a nearby stool. “Just have to know how to speak Trent.”

“Way to go Ed,” commented Locke as he sat down next to Eddie. “What’s wrong Trent?”

“Nothing,” answered Trent as he sat back down behind his drums.

“Can’t be anything Trent,” replied Eddie. “You had your cap off and were playing the drums like a crazy person, that’s like DEFCON 1 dude. Or is it DEFCON 5, whichever one is bad. What’s going on? Who did you break up with?”

“It was Tammy,” he answered. “Why are girls out here so difficult and complicated?” he asked in frustration.

“You’ve been out here since high school; do we really need to have this conversation again?” Locke asked Trent. “You should know by now that the girls out here are different from back in Boston. Do you want to handle it this time Eddie?”

“Nope!” he exclaimed as he jumped off of his stool, hands in the air as if he didn’t want to have anything to do with it. “I’m biased, I have my girl. Plus Molly has a bad habit of showing up right when I say something that puts me on the couch for the night. Trying to be good before we leave, you and Lex handle this one.”

“All right,” agreed Locke. “Now Trent, as we said before, the girls out here are very different. How would you categorize them?”

“Well, it’s been awhile since I dated someone or even looked,” he started. “But I would guess tree hugging, vegan eating, neo-hippie moon maidens in touch with their inner goddess? Does that sound about right?”

“I know that,” replied Trent. “I get that and have accepted that. She just wanted me to do something that I didn’t want to do.”

Eddie flopped down on the couch and buried his head into one of the pillows. He wanted so badly to be involved in this conversation, but was adamant about not being a part of it. Something he would have said would be taken out of context and get back to Molly and would make being on the road for a few weeks even harder.

“What did she want you to do?” asked Locke.

“Go to her friend’s baby shower,” he answered.

“Which friend tier?” asked Eddie from under the pillow. Eddie pounded the cushion he was sitting on. He broke his own rule.

“Yeah, that’s a good question, how close of a friend was her friend?” Lex asked Trent.

“I don’t know,” Trent said as he furrowed his brow. “Close, I think, I don’t know. She had a few pictures of them together all over the house. . .”

“Her bestie?” asked Locke in disbelief. “Yeah, you should have gone.”

“Oh yeah, I agree,” Lex agreed as he nodded his head. “You should have gone.”

“It was tonight,” protested Trent.

“You should have gone,” replied Lex.

“I didn’t want to go,” Trent said a little more angrily.

“Did you have the talk?” asked Locke. “About being more than just friends?”

“Yes, we had the talk,” Trent mocked.

“Then you should have gone,” Lex and Locke said at the same time.

Eddie was moaning under the pillow, he so badly wanted to throw his two cents in but was trying to stay out of it.

“Trent, in any relationship there is a measure of give and take,” Lex reasoned. “I hate the ballet, but I took my last girlfriend to the ballet a few times because she liked it and she wanted to go.”

“Yeah, it’s not all about your Sox and going to your bar,” added Locke.

Trent and another Boston transplant in Santa Barbara owned and ran a bar together in town called Sully’s, named after Trent’s best friend growing up. His regularly took his dates there, but only there. He wouldn’t take them any other place, which usually led to a fight and then a break up.

“I think we’re going about this all wrong,” said Lex. “I think the main problem here is that type of girl Trent goes for . . .”

“Which is all,” interrupted Eddie.

“Yeah, but mainly tiny blondes who are barely 90 pounds sopping wet who are ‘actors’ or ‘models’,” added Locke. “You know, fun girls. The kind you don’t take home to meet the parents or your friends. I think we need to put Trent in the direction of some girls that would fit more with him. Now what kind of girl would be more Trent’s type?”

“Unfortunately Trent’s type are wearing Birkenstock’s and listening to k.d. Lang,” said Atticus who had come out of his office and was standing right next to Eddie with a stack of folders under his arm.  “Thank you to whoever stopped Trent, I thought that drumming would never end.”

Atticus was a quiet man, most of the time no one really noticed he had entered the room until he said something.  It was an innate feature of all Watchers- to be silent, unseen.  He had been on Earth for centuries, falling in love with the beings that had become his adoptive family.  He was very passionate about his kids- both on the field and for the band.  As the manager of Misery Road, he wanted to see them succeeded, as their Watcher; he wanted them to stay alive.

“Ooh, Atticus with a burn,” laughed Locke.

“Well, was bound to happen one day,” said Atticus with a small smile. “If you gentlemen are done, may we get started?”

“Yeah, let’s get this over with,” said Locke as he flopped down on the couch next to Eddie.

“Nice attitude there,” remarked Lex.  “You gonna wait for Molly n’ Quad?”

“Molly was in earlier so I went over all the pertinent details with her,” answered Atticus as he handed one of the folder he was holding to Eddie.  “Told her to fill in Quad while on their coffee run.”

Eddie shook his head in disbelief, only Molly could get up at the crack of dark, do her secular job and get to the studio ready to do her other job and still look good and be sharp, one of the many reasons Eddie married her.

“I have a question,” Trent said as he raised his hand.

“Already,” commented Atticus as he handed him his folder. “What is it?”

“Is this a working gig?” he asked. “Rent is due this week, going to need an advance so I can pay my share before we head out.”

“They are always working gigs,” answered Atticus. “This time you are going to someplace fun, I promise. This time you are going. . .”

“YES!” Lex exclaimed as he read the first page of the folder. “We’re going to New Orleans!  I haven’t been there since, since. . .”

“Since slavery was legal down there,” quipped Eddie.

“Ha-ha, knee slap,” said Lex sarcastically.  “Me and the Running Skard guys use to go down there all the time during our down time.  I don’t remember much, and what I do remember I can’t really say, but it is a very cool place.”

“Glad you are so eager to go,” said Atticus. “I have a contact down there who says that there has been a rash of bizarre incidents- isolated ones. The police have been trying to keep it quiet since the Bourbon Street Music Festival is coming up the night after you get there, they don’t want to scare the tourists.”

“Are we playing there?” Trent interrupted.

“Not going to dignify that with an answer, you should already know where you are playing, if you had read your email and paid attention once in a while,” replied Atticus. “My contact, an Oracle named Mother Cassidy, says at first these occurrences were innocent things, but have slowly been growing more and more hostile. She is asking for our assistance in helping her find out who is doing these things.”

An Oracle was an alien being that served as a kind of counterpart to the Watchers. Being more in tune with the things unseen, if a Watcher could not find it, an Oracle could. ‘Kinda like having Goggle personified,’ Atticus said of the Oracles.  They were one of the few alien races that remained in their native form and had not grown a human husk or “borrow” a human body to use while on Earth.

“What kind of incidents are we talking about?” asked Eddie. “On a scale from ‘that’s odd’ to ‘Quick, call Mulder and Scully’, where do they lie?”

“Aww man!” exclaimed Locke in disgust. “Turn to the back pages!”

Eddie flipped through the folder to the last page- it was a grainy, black and white photo. Eddie could make out the image clear as day- those small black eyes, the round head with that almost human flesh colored body.  It was the one thing that sent fear down Eddie’s body, only this time it was the size of a small car, it was a giant potato bug!

“No! No! No!” exclaimed Eddie as he dropped his folder the floor. “Evil! Unclean!”

“Edward, will you calm down please,” calmly ordered Atticus. “They are not that bad.”

“Yes they are,” snapped Eddie. “They are disgusting, vile creatures that serve no real purpose.  Why Noah took them on the ark, I will never know.  There is no way you’re going to get me down there if that’s what we are fighting, NO way. You go ahead and call the next super hero team on the list, I am out!”

“Hey guys, we’re back!” called out Quad as he walked into the room carrying a tray of cups of coffee. “What’s up?”

“That,” answered Eddie as he kicked over the folder to Quad.

Quad looked down at the grainy picture of the potato bug and immediately jumped in the air, dropping the coffee he was carrying causing a small wave of coffee to spill across the floor.

“Aww man! Seriously, what is that? That ain’t right?” he exclaimed.

“Green tea for Eddie,” sang Molly as she sauntered into the room, her mood quickly changed when she saw the guys all looking like they had seen a ghost. “What’s wrong?”

“They saw the picture of the bugs,” answered Trent as he was trying to balance a drum stick on his finger tip.

“You’re staying remarkably calm,” commented Atticus.

“A bug’s a bug,” remarked Trent. “One of my uncles was an exterminator, I seen’em and

killed’em every summer I worked for him before I came out here. Bugs don’t bother me.”

“Hmmm, oh yeah? Look at the last page,” said Lex from behind his folder.

Trent rolled his eyes as he picked up his folder and flipped through to the last page, just like the photo of the potato bug; it was a grainy still from a security camera, only this time it was a Green Japanese Beetle, about the size of a large dog.

“SICK!” he exclaimed as he tossed the folder to the ground.

“Guys grow up,” sighed Molly. “Seriously, you guys have fought worse, that chick that could fire that gooey stuff out of her nose that hardened like steel.”

“That one guy who hocked loges that exploded,” said Atticus.

“How about that one guy who far. . .” Lex started to say.

“Okay, I get it, we fight the Half Breed version of a freak show,” Eddie interrupted. “All we need is to fight a duck-woman and we’ll be all set. Can we move on from this?”

“We can, if you are all done screaming like a bunch of girls,” answered Atticus. “Are you?”

“Yes,” answered Trent, Eddie and Quad in unison.

“Good,” replied Atticus. “Now these photos were taken from one incident, the only one to be caught on video. Fortunately Mother Cassidy was able to intercept it before they were able to get out.  Most of the time these anomalies seem to vanish before the authorities can arrive.”

“What other types of things have happened?” asked Molly.

“Or is it always those evil potato bugs,” added Eddie.

“Not sure, Mother Cassidy reported a few instances of giant bugs, one neighborhood was overrun by corpses popping up out of the ground of a small cemetery, one street of six legged dogs and cats; it was even a whole apartment building of people sprouting extra limbs. Although Mother Cassidy couldn’t confirm it, but judging by other incidents, I wouldn’t be surprised if these things did happen.”

“Now that’s gross,” remarked Molly.

“I’ll give you that one,” said Atticus. “The reason why we haven’t been sent down there is because there was no solid evidence, just the photos which could have been someone just having fun with photo shop and the internet. There is some alien tech out there that could do similar things listed, if it was just that then her team could handle it, but Mother Cassidy could sense the power of this Half Breed but wanted solid proof before contacting us so you knew what you were up against. She didn’t want you to go up against the unknown, she need to make sure it was a Half Breed and not something else. The photos, the video and her investigation lead to one conclusion. we could potentially be dealing with a Half Breed with the ability of thought projection.”

Lex’s eyes shot up from reading the file. “What did you say?”

“Thought projection,” repeated Atticus.  “No one Half Breed has an exclusive power, at least with reported Half Breeds. For example, Eddie’s electric arch is blue, someone else could have a red one . . .you get the idea. I’ve been searching for another one like you Lex, I think I did.  Go to New Orleans, meet Mother Cassidy, find the Half Breed and talk to him or her then report back to me. Any questions?”

“Yeah,” answered Trent raising his hand.

“Yes, Trent, this is also a working gig,” replied Atticus exhaustedly. “You are playing stage 3 of the festival and the next night at the House of Blues and I happen to have an advance for your share of the rent, but only that much. Happy?”

“Very much so,” answered Trent with a grin.

“These are just a few East Coast gigs to get you up to New York,” said Atticus. “You are going to be in Charlotte next and then New York where you will meet up with Rivers to finish shooting your DVD there. Your tour won’t start up again until you finish the DVD, which needs to be done about two weeks after you get to New York so it can get to the label so they can do whatever needs to be done with it. I’ve rented a small studio and loft while you are up there. There are a few more dates before we break before the end of the year, and then we ramp up for the third album.”

Rivers was the bands photographer and videographer.  Another Half Breed with the ability to breathe fire and glide on air.  He took great pride in the oxymoron that was his name- a guy named Rivers who could breathe fire. Corny at best, Rivers had an odd sense of humor- he was a Mel Brooks/Monty Python guy in a teen sex romp comedy world.

“Anything else we should know about?” asked Eddie.

“No, not really. Just stay in more contact with me a little more than usual, I am sensing something, uneasy.”

 

“Eddie I am packing your four pair of black jeans, your three nice dark blue ones, and your faded jeans,” said Molly as she went through Eddie’s closet. “Are you going to wear T-shirts or are you going to do your button shirts this trip?”

Molly always packed for Eddie when he went on tour; she wanted to make sure her man looked his best on stage. Eddie didn’t mind, it made it easier for to focus on the tour, which from Molly could tell, he was. Eddie was intently staring at his guitar with his back toward Molly.

 

He’s preparing, she thought, he always gets like this the night before.

“Oh Locke called while you were in the shower, he wanted to know if he could borrow your long sleeve black button shirt for your first show in New Orleans, told him it would be tight on him, but he wants to borrow it anyway, is that okay?”, she asked as she went back to getting his things together.

“Eddie?” she asked as she took the black shirt out of the closet.

There was something about the way he didn’t answer her that made her go over to him to see what he was doing.  He had his guitar in his lap and was staring down, she had thought that Eddie was doing what he usually did before touring, but he was staring at a small photo, it was a picture of Eddie and Jason taken when he had taken Jason for a long weekend when they had played down in San Diego for a few nights. Eddie had called Jason up to sing back up during Fahrenheit 4-5-1, something Jason said he wanted to do, but never had the guts to do it. The photo was of Eddie and Jason on stage together singing. It was a fond memory for both of them.

“You’re thinking about Jason, aren’t you?” Molly asked as she sat down next to Eddie.        “Yeah, I am,” he answered. “We talked this morning; he was going to go do it this afternoon.”

“You can’t stop him Eddie, that’s not your place, if you wanted to do the right thing, you should have told his parents,” said Molly as she put her arm around him. “You did your best, but he’s going to what he wants to do.”

“I know, I know,” replied Eddie. “But I thought I could reason and talk to him. Make him see that doing this was not the right way to make a statement.”

“None of us want to see anything happen to Jason, he like a little brother to us all, more so to you,” consoled Molly. “But this could be one of those things that just needs to happen.”

“It’s still hard though,” said Eddie.

“Maybe it won’t be that bad,” said Molly. “You didn’t tell him, did you?  About how he’s might be a Half Breed.”

“No I didn’t tell him,” replied Eddie. “Atticus and I fought about it the other day.  Did you notice how he hardly looked at me during the briefing?”

“I still think you should have told him,” said Molly. “Atticus said that there are so few Half Breeds that give off such energy that Watchers are able to pick up on it, even if the person is not aware of their power. Jason is one of those.  Atticus practically fell out of his chair the time Jason came over to the studio two weeks ago.”

“I know I should have told Jason, but it was ultimately my call,” said Eddie. “How much easier would our lives have been if you, Locke and I didn’t know until later in life?”

“As I recall, if it wasn’t for us aware of our power, I wouldn’t have gotten to know you and Locke,” answered Molly.  “Freshman year, I think, no wait, toward the end of middle school.  Our field trip to the Natural History Museum, I was with my A-crowd click in the front of the group, Locke was with all his meathead jock friends and you were in the back of the line brooding as usual writing in that worn journal of yours.”

“First of all, I wasn’t brooding,” interrupted Eddie. “And second, that journal eventually had all of the songs that we recorded on the first Misery Road album, save ‘Hester’s Sin’.”

“Well at the time, most of the kids thought that it was your plot to kill everyone,” said Molly.

“Okay that I didn’t know,” replied Eddie in a hurt tone.

“We were what, 13?  Don’t take it to heart babe,” replied Molly. “Anyway, that’s when that psycho Half Breed tour guide started using his power to siphon all of the air out of the building. Had it not been for you and Locke, I definitely would have been dead cause he had me cornered and there wasn’t enough air to use my scream, but who knows how many more people would have died.”

“Someone else could have saved us, you never know,” said Eddie coolly.

“Now, you’re just giving me a hard time,” laughed Molly.

“I am a little,” chuckled Eddie. “The thing is Atticus said it was ultimately my call, and I chose to wait until we get back from touring and finishing the DVD. Hate to be like, ‘Hey Jason, you’re part alien, see you when we get back from New York’. I want to be here to help him through it. If anything happens to him, Atticus will be right here to make sure he’s safe.”

“Sounds like you have everything figured out,” said Molly as she took the guitar out of his lap.

“Always do . . . well sometimes . . . not all the time,” stammered Eddie.

“I got to finish packing and then call my brother before we leave,” said Molly.  “You get back to psyching up for your tour.”

 

“Are you sure you know what you are doing?” Lex asked Trent as he lied down on his stomach. “Like on a scale from 10 to ‘I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing’, where are you?”

Atticus had asked Trent to learn how to tattoo, it would make things easier to have one of them tattoo Lex than for him having someone else do it.

Lex had a ton of tattoos all over his body- sporting sleeves that started from his wrists all the way up his arms to his shoulders as well as numerous tattoos all over his body. Something he had started before his band days and had continued for all of his adult life. Knowing from a young age that music would be his career, he knew that no one would really care if he was fully sleeved. Most of them were of animals or mythical creatures of some sort, they were all painstakingly detailed and stunning to see in person. Lex’s tattoos were so legendary that they were often sought after for photographs for tattoo magazines and for classes which was how he was supporting himself along with working for the band and for the little money he received from his former band. Not only were they a sight to see, but they also served a purpose.

“Yes, I’m sure,” answered Trent taking the tattoo needle in hand. “I spent like three weeks tattooing on pieces of pork with the skin on them with that disappearing ink Big-A gave me. Now do you want me to touch up your dragon or not?”

Lex possessed the near God-like ability of thought projection.  Even among reported Half-Breed powers, no other Half Breed had this ability. With his ability he could bring to life his tattoos, not just an image of the tattoo, but to real flesh and blood life complete with their own personality and abilities.

Even with this incredible power, it was limited- he could only bring to life his tattoos and he could only bring them to life one at a time.

His most powerful one was a large black dragon that he had tattooed on his back. It was an impressive sight to behold when he manifested it. It was his pride and joy, something that he worked on long and hard on, spending an obscene amount of money on it, even before he knew about his powers.

Lex would always make sure to touch up his dragon tattoo before they went out on a long tour.  He wanted to make sure that it looked perfect, the closer to the real thing; the easier it was for him to manifest it.  Lex had several tattoos on his body that he could not manifest because they had gotten fuzzy or distorted over the years.  Mainly it was some of the first few ones he had gotten, but had since covered over most of them with other ones.

He had a blown up picture of the dragon that he got from a painting and had it hanging in one of the corners of the gas station that was his own little area to hang out in, dubbed ‘Lex’s Corner’ by Eddie.  Something about the detail of the dragon- the sleek black skin, the piercing white eyes, the razor-like wings; it was an impressive picture that made an equally impressive tattoo.

Lex rarely used it though, it was too powerful and difficult to control and maintain.  Most of his other tattoos were sufficient enough in most situations.  Since learning of his power and joining the group, he had only used it a handful of times.  But it gave him piece of mind just knowing that he had it in case he needed it.

It was debated among the others, and never in front of either one of them as to who was more powerful, Lex or Eddie? So far, the opinion was that Lex was more powerful won every time.

His reaction in the meeting was well founded. What would happen if there was another one like him with a similar power? More importantly, would they know how to use their powers? What if they were already bad? So many questions going through his head, all Lex wanted to do was get to New Orleans and find this kid.

“Just the wings right?” asked Trent. “Not too comfortable with shading yet, or curves, or coloring or anything really detailed. But if you want a line, I’m your guy.”

“Yes, just the wings,” laughed Lex.

Trent and Lex got a long remarkably well, Lex seemed to be the father figure that Trent needed and Trent was like the son that Lex never had.  They were similar to each other, Lex saw himself in Trent, he could see past the edge when others couldn’t.  He wanted to help Trent shed that edge; so far his efforts had been in vain.

“So are you okay from earlier?” asked Lex. “With the whole girlfriend thing?”

“Oh yeah,” answered Trent as he carefully worked on Lex’s back. “We had broken up last night and had to go back to get my hat this morning and we fought again, just taking it out on the drums.”

“Heard Atticus reading you the riot act when I came in, did you really teleport in front of her?” asked Lex in disbelief.

“Well, yeah,” answered Trent. “She deserved it. Plus, I’m not going to see her anymore anyway and who is she going to tell? She’s a waitress at that greasy diner at the north end of town, I seriously doubt anyone would believe her story about her ex-boyfriend vanishing into thin air. Think I’m going to take a page from your book, think I’m going to stay single for a very long time.”

“Nah, you don’t mean that,” replied Lex, “I’m sure there’s a girl out there for you, somewhere. And seriously, don’t use your powers anymore in front of the norms, no matter if they deserve it or not.”

“But you have it so easy,” said Trent. “You have no one calling you wondering where you are, who you’re with, when you’ll be home; no one taking your blankets in the middle of the night. Nothing to worry about, that must be sweet.”

“It’s lonely,” said Lex solemnly. “Being single does have its advantages, but for the most part, it’s lonely. I stay pretty busy- band stuff, our other activities, the occasional Running Skard reunion show; but at night when I get home, there’s no one there to talk to, no one to ask how my day was, just silence.”

“Then I’ll get a dog,” joked Trent. “Better yet, I’ll move in with you. That should make it not so lonely for you.”

“No really, that’s okay,” laughed Lex. “You’re good with that tattoo needle, I haven’t felt a thing.”

“Soft hands,” replied Trent. “Should have been a surgeon.”

Trent finished with the left wing and started on the right one, when he accidentally poked Lex with the tattoo needle.

“Sorry,” he said apologetically. “Did I get you bad?”

“No, just a poke,” Lex winced in discomfort. “I’ll be fine.”

Trent started again when suddenly the dragon started to move on Lex’s skin, the dragon was supposed to be looking to the left, now it was staring straight at Trent, eye’s glaring.

“It moved,” whispered Trent. “I think I made it mad. What do I do?”

“Don’t move,” whispered Lex. “Maybe he’ll settle back down.”

Even though Lex controlled the manifestation of his tattoos, occasionally if Lex would get emotional or hurt in some way, they sometimes manifested themselves when he broke concentration.  Most of them behaved well enough, but his dragon caused the most concern, which is why Atticus wanted someone to learn how to tattoo.  Each of them had their own personality.  His dragon seemed to embody all of Lex’s dark emotions- anger, jealously, hatred.  Trent had been working on him when he poked Lex, so the dragon felt the prick.  If Lex concentrated hard enough, they would not manifest, however, when Trent poked him, that momentary lapse in concentration caused his dragon to move slightly.

Trent remained motionless, if the dragon sprang to life he was in striking distance and would be seriously injured or killed if it attacked.  Fortunately, the dragon gave a very low growl and slowly turned back to the left and remained motion, crisis averted.

“I think I’m done here,” said Trent putting the tattoo needle down and standing up.

“Good call,” said Lex as he stood up. “No sense in making him mad again. I should go home and finish packing, see you tomorrow morning.”

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