The Exploding Veins
In the once bustling center of the now nearly abandoned city of Minneapolis stands the TigriTrade stadium (called the “Tig” by all). With a capacity to hold one hundred fifty thousand people, the “Tig” was a technological marvel, offering fans state of the art entertainment which included “colored sound” and Optitack Holograms (ltd.). Built by the TigriTrade Corporation back in 2027, the Tig hosted more Super Bowls over the next three decades than any other stadium in the American State.
Until one day TigriTrade filed Chapter 13 and nobody came knocking to purchase this behemoth in the middle of an imploded city. The Tig went vacant, aside from cats and tumbleweeds, and the surrounding twenty miles almost equally so. Now, six years later, fewer than two families lived per city block amid a forest of buildings left to the whims of Mother Nature. The death of the Tig was the last shovel full of dirt on the coffin of Old Minneapolis. Last year the Rockefeller Foundation completed a study comparing the number of cats inhabiting the Coliseum in Rome to the number of cats inhabiting the TigriTrade stadium; the Tig had more and they were bigger.
But not tonight.
Tonight the Tig roared to life again with the screams of a hundred and fifty thousand people, mostly young people, men and women from black to white and all the beautiful hues in between. Many of them ripped off their shirts and set them on fire. Torches! Some had driven as far as the State of Chihuahua to get here. Some had taken the AmeriRail and some had braved the Intercontinental Tollway. For the most part, though, they had arrived in beaten up old gas cars filled with people who had merely to hold up two fingers to get a ride. During World War Two, that sign was called “V” for victory. In the 1960’s, it was called a “peace sign.” In 2063, however, two fingers held up stood for the “Veins.”
A vehicle with a “V” mark on its side door meant free passage to hitchers who understood. Along the way these travelers were forced to disembark their vehicles at frequent Interstate Checkpoints for the pleasure of a “Search and Validation Process” administered by Homeland Security. They might be strip searched or detained indefinitely. Many were turned back. One hundred and fifty thousand fans endured all of that to make it inside tonight to hear the Tig roar once more.
The crowd’s collective focus lay upon the “sound man” (a local, unemployed TV repair man actually) whose sweaty hands desperately tried to fix the stadium’s sound system. His body hung a little too far away from a rickety catwalk that extended about sixty feet above the crowd. His arms barely stretched enough to reach a converter box dangling from one side of the open air arena. Plummeting to his death was the second thing on his mind. At one point, the sound came on for a moment and the man could be heard talking to himself.
“Get it right,” he whispered, but it echoed for miles.
Instantly, the crowd took up the chant. “Get it right! Get it right! Get it right!”
No future broadcast of the “Get It Right Album (Live at the Tig)” ever omitted this spontaneous exchange between the sound man and the crowd.
Finally, the dangling sound man gave thumbs up to his rag tag group of fill-in roadies waiting below him on the hastily constructed stage at the end of the field. Only four days ago they had received the call that an impromptu concert would happen tonight. That’s how it worked. Because they were impromptu concerts they were called “promptus” (or “promptoos” when tagged). The first one happened one year ago this evening. These were spontaneous, massive gatherings of people in places capable of handling it, fields, large parks, and abandoned stadiums like this one. They were not sanctioned by the State, far from it, and they always occurred in highly depressed areas of which there were plenty. Almost all ninety one states in the American State had seen at least one promptu by now. This was the first one at the Tig, though, if it happened. Promptus began and remained a cultural phenomenon unique to the American State and each revolved around only one rock and roll band, the Exploding Veins.
Wearing a microphone headset, a locally popular underground radio jockey named “Tater” Jones hobbled onto the stage. His obesity and his suspenders were his trademark and he put them to good effect as he addressed the crowd.
“Does the sound work-erk-erk?” Laughter. “Okay, good.”
“Okay people. Someone needs to say this. This is the largest promptu yet!” Deafening cheers.
“Yeah, that’s right. We got a hundred and fifty thousand people in here! You hearin me? And that don’t count the other quarter million outside neither!” Tater boasted proudly, his voice rising above a cacophony of applause.
“If we been flonked, I hope someone brought the beer!”
Tommy Flonk was a bar owner in Topeka who two months prior had convinced almost twenty eight thousand people to stand for four miserable hours in the Kansas rain to no avail. The Veins never showed. Such was born the term “flonked.”
“They said they’d come if we got the sound up! But you know what I think I know? I think I know that everyone needs an introduction. If I fall flat on my face here, then that’s okay. Should I introduce them?”
He played with the crowd for a minute until his tone and pace suddenly changed like he meant business.
“But here’s what else I know, people. I know that two guys jumped up on stage in Seattle in September and Drake shot them. You got it? And if he’d missed then sharpshooters would have taken them out. You attack EV, you either crazy or stupid or you in the CIA!”
The CIA reference, a popularly believed notion that EV was the target of a government assassination program, finalized this gargantuan mob’s transition to a psychologically homogenized mass of nearly naked, screaming humans with torches.
“Okay, people. Let’s make the right kind of headlines tomorrow. With no further introductions…the Prophets of our Age!…The wings of the Eagle of America!…The greatest rock band in the history of civilization!…gulp…THE…EXPLODING…VEINS!!”
With that, “Tater” Jones limped spryly off the stage.
In the moment before Tater screamed the word “Veins,” the clamor of one hundred fifty thousand souls intentionally rose to a zenith pitch and then, all at once, silence. This moment was one of legend by now and shared only by the hardiest fans. This moment was sacred. Darkness swept the arena as the floodlights faded. All knew to extinguish their lighters, their flaming shirts and flashlights and phones and no one was to make a sound. Only the June moon illuminated the Tig at that moment. Every last one of them asked themselves only one thing.
Were they here?
A gentle breeze blew across them for nearly half a minute until suddenly the Tig’s interior floodlights erupted, blinding the crowd to the four men rising from the ground from among them until they hovered for a moment nearly sixty feet up.
They called them “shoe skis” and they provided the wearer a limited ability to fly, with all the complications associated with that feat. Normally, you had to remain rigid when flying and most people had the skill only to move up and down. In more recent models one could hold a counter-balance in hand to free the mind from thinking about equilibrium issues. First manufactured by Robostrics in 2052, shoe skis had become just another outlandishly expensive toy for the super wealthy. Bad weather could get you killed pretty easily and so could flying too high. Other bands did use them during performances, but not like this. The shoe skis the Veins wore this evening had to be prototypes of a new design. They didn’t appear to require any attention by the wearer at all. The Exploding Veins literally flew. The four of them blasted in different directions, their shoe skis leaving a distinct color for each of them in their wake.
The show had begun.
Drake and Trenton circled their large frames around and propelled themselves at one another in order to deliberately collide. A perfect roll by each diminished the impact like they had practiced. The most famous Navajo Indian and the most famous black man in the world, perhaps in the history of the world, began to wrestle in midair. Drake, the larger and leader of the band, grabbed Trenton’s ankle and hurled his entire body feet first at Andy, the band’s “token white,” thirty feet above. The collision appeared to knock him out of a dreamy moment. Seemingly, this made Andy mad. Six foot four and slender, his body elongated and taut looked like a missile to the enthralled crowd below. He thrust his booster shoes to maximum and aimed himself straight at Drake’s solar plexus. Just before impact and out of nowhere, a black shape intercepted Andy’s flight. This was Emelio (who was known globally as Paranoid). Andy and Paranoid locked together in a mid-air tumble just feet from the tallest in the crowd before they rolled out and flew apart. The multitudes below hyperventilated in rapturous joy.
Once word was out that a promptu was definitely transpiring at the Tig tonight, the band had calculated that approximately one hundred million people per second were tuning in to watch on the Hacknet channels. Drake, lead guitar, torpedoed to the catwalk, his ski shoes barely touching the metal rail as he looked down at the throng below him. A spotlight shone upon him conveniently. Like all of them, Drake wore no shirt, only tattoos and tight jeans and shoe skis. His enormous frame could have passed for that of a line-backer. An elaborate tattoo of a bald eagle covered his entire chest and sweat rolled down the eagle’s eyes like tears. He waited for his best friend Trenton to finish landing gently on top of a rusty goal post marker about thirty feet away. Their eyes met and Drake pointed at him solemnly as if to say, “We made it.”
Pointing back, Trenton spoke into a nearly invisible “talkie” jutting from his ear to his mouth which also served as his microphone.
“What a grandiose scheme devised by children.” he exclaimed, smiling broadly. This was their oldest private joke.
They had come a long way from pounding cans for loose change on Venice Beach together as boys. Soon the cans turned into guitars and late nights practicing on the beach brought them into contact with some of the best musicians in the world. Venice Beach became a “scene” for artists and musicians in the early 2050’s in the aftermath of the creation of the American State in 2047. Old Canada and Old Mexico were annexed (“absorbed” was the word approved by the State Censor) and the upheaval created pockets of resistance which coagulated in certain areas. Venice Beach was one of them.
Back then, as now, the only job available was one you made for yourself, and you had to be a solid musician to have twenty amero in your pocket after a day performing street shows. The feeling on that beach in those years was nothing less than revolutionary, but nothing came of it except mass arrests of people never heard from again. Both the music and the lives of most of the musicians from that magic time and place ended tragically. After the corporate jackals plucked the most malleable from among them to market to the masses there was usually nothing remaining except a company jingle and an exploded vein.
Drake wasn’t going to land that way and neither would his music, he swore, and so did Trenton. The name of their band was a reminder of the fate they did not want. That was why they picked Andy to join them one day. A skinny white boy with acne, Andy sat on a pier with his legs crossed, a red bandanna on his blonde head, playing his guitar to the sea gulls. When he saw them approach, a Navajo Indian and a black man, he belted out “Our Father’s Blood,” their second number one hit just a few years later. Andy’s music seemed incorruptible. His ability to play nearly any instrument upon first contact certainly helped too, but it was his music that grabbed them. Andy’s songs spoke of America as it once was and needed to be again. They were songs that could change the world.
Many, many artists like Andy walked that beach back then but they never cut albums. The State Censor wouldn’t allow it. If an artist was too political, the Censor would begin by banning individual songs. If the artist persisted, the Censor would ban the artist outright, even mounting a court monitored home camera permanently in the artist’s home to see that he didn’t pick up an instrument.
The only way around this was to use subtlety and patience. The Veins were drawing a few thousand people per show with songs they had written themselves when they were approached to cut their first album a decade ago. They believed their success to be imminent and overwhelming and they approached that belief with sanguine maturity. They decided the only way they could stay true to their roots was to create a new language for their songs.
So it was one evening eleven years ago in relative obscurity that Drake, Trenton and Andy met together at Drake’s loft in North Hollywood in order to discuss how they would hide their political messages in their music. They created the rudiments of their language (or “veinguage,” as Andy later sang it in “Some People Think They Know”). At some point they would have to stop hiding, though, Andy argued passionately that night. Eventually, they would have to “go political” and roll out their most world-changing, in-their-face, truly revolutionary music. Now legend, Andy concocted on the fly an overly complex and logically questionable equation that formed the basis of their “threshold of action.” The three of them agreed that when the Exploding Veins attained a career milestone of six billion sales world-wide, they would unleash their political songs, State Censor be damned. Since this goal had never been achieved in human history and they didn’t even have a drummer at the time, they needed a sign from God.
As the story goes, the doorbell rang. The pizza smelled good and the delivery man was chatty. He was curious about all the instruments lying around the loft. Before Drake could answer, Emilio made a B-line to the dusty stool behind the drum set in the corner. Twirling the sticks in the air, he launched into an astounding percussion solo, passing his audition with the Exploding Veins right then and there.
That’s how they met Paranoid. After the release of their first album (“Don’t Like It That Way”) just a few months later, quirky anecdotes about his paranoia were repeated in households across the American State. Their fame came suddenly and completely and fame like that was asphyxiating. It was Paranoid who devised the mostly successful tactics at maintaining the group’s privacy. At first, the fans and the paparazzi were the only fools to foil. To do that, the Veins employed lookalikes, secondary and tertiary hovousines, as well as endless ruses and disguises and escapes, all perfected with the expertly nuanced genius of Paranoid’s paranoia. It was this that kept them sane in the early years and allowed them occasionally to escape the crushing weight of global attention. Stories of what they did or where they were actually when the world believed them to be somewhere else became an aspect of the public’s fascination with them from the beginning. The Veins wanted freedom and sometimes they were even able to get it.
Each of them met their future wives in this manner. They courted them secretly with endless tricks to distract the media. Each of their spouses understood that their world would be shattered by this kind of fame. Worse, they all knew that soon they would have larger problems than fans and paparazzi. In April, 2061, they released their fifth album, “Stone Cold.” Only two weeks later they were all together at Trenton’s penthouse in Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon when Andy got the call from their agent. Stone Cold had just exceeded six billion sales world-wide.
It was time.
That August, their sixth album, entitled “Them,” hit the Hacknet like a machete. Their first unabashedly political album, Rolling Stones Magazine called it “the bravest, most important album of the twenty first century.” (The publisher was later arrested.) The State Censor banned it immediately, of course, but that didn’t stop the hackers and the bootleggers one bit. The Veins were teetering on the edge of legal banishment yet basking in waves of public adoration just as they had expected. What an awkward position for the authorities to find themselves. To the astonishment of the Veins, a week later they were allowed to perform the entire Them album at Red Rocks in Denver.
The Veins anticipated the most suffocating attention imaginable after the Red Rocks concert and they had planned their getaway well. It was Paranoid, as usual, who thought up the escape. On the flight on their private jet out of Denver’s New World Airport that evening, Paranoid had packed four parachutes. Paranoid’s only thought as he spiraled toward the ground at eleven thousand feet with his three friends was envisioning the look on the paparazzi’s face when the band failed to disembark their jet upon arrival in Salt Lake. Late the next morning, however, Andy woke him up with trembling hands. Their jet never made it to Salt Lake. It had blown up. A freak accident they had ruled it. No survivors.
A few months before the release of the Them album, EV had quietly purchased an enormous and isolated spread of land in Idaho. Their parachutes landed them about a hundred yards from their ranch house. Inside, their wives awaited them. Originally, they had intended to remain there a few weeks maybe, to let things die down. Instead, they stayed hidden until the following June. In that time, they watched their own funerals on television and saw the world weep for them. Spontaneous vigils blemished the too-orderly cities of the world that winter. Tens of thousands of people gathered in complete defiance of orders to disburse, holding candles and saying prayers, in parks and central squares in cities all over the world. The Veins heard of “sightings” of them, like Elvis, which made them think their cover was blown, but no. They were usually sighted in a WalWorld or a McArbyBell far away.
The heart-wrenching pain of loss compelled an odd subtext to emerge in the otherwise controlled media of the American State. Weathermen and sportscasters would insert Andy’s timeless lyrics into a paragraph ostensibly about humidity or hockey. EV vigils received coverage by the press in this way too. A reporter staring at the camera broadcasting about a recent arson would have a crowd of people behind him holding up pictures of the band.
Those “lost” nine months were perhaps the best months of their lives. Death was liberating. They could do whatever they wanted within a six and a half square mile area of awe-inspiring wilderness far from anything. They had chosen well. The place was secluded. No cameras clicked when they rode their horses like cowboys and Indian, literally shooting arrows at each other from horseback with bows they had made themselves.
Nobody heard them record their seventh album either. It was entitled “Take ‘em Down.”
Exactly one year before the performance at the Tig, the Veins’ hopped out of a hovousine about twenty blocks from the old Yankee Stadium, now long abandoned, instruments in hand, and walked. They took their time, excited to perform, laughing. Along the way they informed the scattered, lost people they encountered that spring day that they were performing at Yankee Stadium in a few minutes. If they were interested they could watch the performance for free, the Veins kept repeating. They weren’t pushy about it. About two hundred mostly homeless people followed them into the stadium, watched them set up and perform, and not one among them believed they were watching the actual Exploding Veins. They performed all nine songs on the “Take ‘em Down” album at that first promptu.
There are five stages of grief and in those nine months without the Veins most of the world had reached the stage of “acceptance.” This latest but perhaps most believable “sighting” at Yankee Stadium was perceived largely by the public as a cruel joke perpetrated by opportunists. How dare they? Recordings of the Yankee Stadium performance began arriving in email inboxes all over the world, however, and bootleg copies careened through the underground. It was unmistakably the Exploding Veins, but they were performing a completely new album.
They were alive!
They showed up at the Superdome three days later and two thousand people heard Andy sing his marquis single, “Yes, We Are Alive” live, with another ten million watching on the Hacknets. In that song, all four performers are featured with solos perfected by hours of practice in an alfalfa field in Idaho. That performance, so raw and tight, forced the authorities to allow the Censor to approve the media to begin reporting that the Exploding Veins still lived.
The Veins utilized the underground to travel from concert to concert. They had a network of people existing completely off the grid who would gladly die for them. It also helped that they each possessed an “optic disguise” which few governments, let alone people, even knew existed (thank you, Paranoid). No Interstate Checkpoint or Worldport was equipped to detect them. Thus, the Veins appeared to others however they wanted and revealed themselves to very few. Mostly, they kept moving. Their ability to escape detection that first summer of promptus threw Homeland Security into frenzy. The Veins averaged several shows a week, crisscrossing the North American continent seemingly without a care. By that July, instead of simply showing up to an abandoned venue and starting to perform, EV began tipping off certain people in a community a day or two in advance that they were arriving. Crowds at promptus soon swelled to tens of thousands.
Law enforcement was vexed. These concerts took place in urban wastelands involving massive numbers of people. In order to disburse the crowds police used tasers, saps, and billy clubs at first, but by midsummer their tactics escalated to using water cannons, sound boulders, and Nexon gas. They also deployed “peanut butter” (small pellets shot into a crowd that quickly expands into inert, sticky material from which it is next to impossible to escape). For most, it was worth it.
Attendance at promptus averaged and often exceeded fifty thousand by that fall. Homeland Security attempted to infiltrate networks and groups but they could never anticipate where the next concert would occur and the best hackers in the world were underground. The authorities did have their tools though. Early October witnessed “Bloody Candlestick,” a seminal event during which fifty four people were shot dead by police with live bullets on camera at the San Francisco Candlestick Park promptu. This event prompted a Federal investigation into “promptus.” Soon, a Federal Judge placed an injunction against the Veins performing anymore “impromptu concerts.” Warrants were issued for the arrest of the Exploding Veins on suspicion of terrorism.
The Veins retreated back to Idaho, made love to their secret wives, and began recording their eighth album. Although it was originally entitled “Blue,” everybody called it “Get It Right” after the debut at the Tig. One year ago today the Exploding Veins came back from the dead, but tonight, they were outlaws.
Paranoid’s shoe skis emitted black light and the effect was that the things around him, but not him, glowed unpredictably. His jeans were black and his flight was barely visible to the crowd until he flew up to fill the moon. In black silhouette, his features indiscernible in the moonlight surrounding him, Paranoid managed to make it appear as though he were pulling his drum sticks straight out of his anus.
Trenton and Andy hovered well above and behind Drake as he began to speak into his “talkie.”
“Unbelievable turnout, Minneapolis-is-is-is! Unbelievable. Listen. We don’t have a lot of time. These things aren’t just for fun. This had better mean something. Did you know that we were the last band to play here at the Tig before she shut her doors six years ago?”
“Well, it’s good to see you again, old friend.” Drake said to Tig Stadium, looking around deliberately. Whistles and “Yeah!” rang out.
“The Exploding Veins are out of hibernation!” Drake’s deep voice proclaimed. Lights from all directions danced resplendently so as to make each individual face below distinguishable. Outside, another quarter million people packed the vast, disintegrating asphalt parking lot and a few city blocks beyond that. Sound speakers planted every hundred feet or so created clusters of people like so many ant hills as they tried to catch Drake’s every syllable. Beyond that, another three and a half billion people (and counting) had stopped whatever they were doing to watch the first promptu of 2063 at the Tig. Drake spoke to them all like he was sitting in front of them in their living rooms.
“We were in Houston last week. I was at a train stop and I saw a TSA agent club a man to death because he asked him for directions. I watched and the crowd watched. You know, we could have easily stopped it. There was only one agent and about a dozen of us but we just let it happen. That’s been gnawing at me. I was in disguise. That was my excuse. There is always an excuse. So many of us, so few of them, and we aren’t doing a damn thing.”
With that, Drake began playing his guitar. He didn’t appear to have one in his hands, though. When he plucked a string, the string glowed amber to reveal itself as it vibrated. Otherwise, Drake’s guitar was invisible. On the downbeat, Paranoid’s drums had the same feature. When his sticks landed atop the drum heads, the top of the drums glowed and then dissipated into invisibility until hit again.
Andy harmonized with his voice but massaged the sound with a prismaphone, an instrument that Andy had immortalized as no other musician. Shaped like an upside down pyramid, Andy touched certain spots upon its sheer sides to alter the frequencies of sound, but, like the other instruments, it could not be seen. The sounds it emitted could be seen though. Multidimensional colors poured from the pyramid’s narrow cap aimed downward, floating like wobbly bubbles to the ocean of raised hands below. As the bubbles landed, they burst into prismatic waves of sound.
Andy passed the melody to Trenton, on keyboard, whose fingers danced like cheerleaders over now-glowing keys that disappeared onto an unseen keyboard. Eyes closed and poised nearly fifty feet in mid-air, Trenton’s dreadlocks glistened in the spotlight as his head bobbed, his signature head gyration.
The four of them sang the final chorus together in a fast-paced, vibrantly harmonized, bellicose chant:
“It’s time to take em down!
No matter where they are!
No matter what they have!
No matter what the cost! No matter what the cost! No matter what the cost!”
Total darkness ended the song’s performance, the like of which had never been seen before.
A single, narrow light suddenly pierced the darkness to land on a hovering Andy who spoke angrily and succinctly.
“My Dad used to ride his Harley from Tampa, Florida to Sturgis, South Dakota without ever talking to even one cop! Now you are tracked. My Mom used to vote!” Guffaws and laughter.
Bass drum, boom! and Andy began singing the very catchy “If we all say ‘No’ then the answer is No!” which segue-wayed into a ballad about a man who fought in a struggle and died, but his son grew up free. It ended with Andy shooting a single, glowing blue sound nodule at Drake’s chest eagle from his prismaphone. Drake smiled broadly as the nodule exploded harmlessly upon him, and approximately six billion people laughed. Okay, maybe only five and half billion, thought Drake. High above the crowd, Drake’s braided pony tail swayed behind him. He launched into the title track, “Blue.”
Certain songs crystallize an entire generation and this was the song for this one. Over the next decade, multitudes would perish striving for the dream it expressed, with Drake’s lyrics the last words on their lips. Drake sang it simply, with only the slightest harmonizing in the background from Andy and Trenton. The song began with a discussion about the many things in the world that are colored blue. The sky and the ocean and fields of indigo, blue jays and blue jeans, eyeballs and butterflies and many other poignant things beyond the reach of the State Drake described in that flawless baritone. Blue is the color of life. It can’t be suppressed or controlled, he sang. Blue was a dream, but more than that. Blue was a goal.
The song ended with Drake dropping so fast from sixty feet that it looked as though he was plummeting into the crowd to his death, but he stopped on a dime about five feet above them. He waited for the cameras to catch up with him, laughing at the startled fans below him.
Footage of Drake’s next statement was repeated on newscasts for weeks.
“Listen. You know we love you. We know you love your country. The color is blue! The color of the revolution is blue!”
Nobody heard the hovercopters until they were directly overhead. On the underside of each was a massive anti-gravity generator, difficult to hear far away but overwhelming up close. Scores of people were thrown like pillows as these birds descended in the middle of Tig field packed with people. Other copters remained stationery, hovering, shooting “peanut butter” into the crowd and at the Veins from mounted cannons extending from their open bay doors. A single, much larger Command Chopper coordinated the operation from high above.
Trenton got smacked with some peanut butter, but Paranoid flew over to him, pulled out a small aerosol can and sprayed him with it. The expanding material began to dissolve. To Drake’s astonishment, about twenty civilian sharpshooters returned fire at the copters from positions at the top of the Tig and the weaponless civilians in the field rushed headlong into the Marines emerging from the landed copters. The Marines opened fire.
Wow, that’s crazy brave, thought Drake, and on live television. He looked over at Andy, who was clinging to the bottom of what were once the “box seats.” Andy looked back at him. They clicked on their “talkies.”
“Let’s show them how to fight, Drake!” screamed Andy. “Let’s show them how to die for their country!”
With that, Andy Haggell, the most important songwriter of the twenty first century, kicked off the wall like a back swimmer, his long body stretched out, and his shoe skis at full throttle. He aimed at the copter that shot at Trenton. Its bay door was wide open, with a “peanut butter” gun cylinder sticking out. The crew of three manning it was Special Forces, but that didn’t matter. Andy knew that only physics mattered, and two hundred and ten pounds moving at them at one hundred thirty miles per hour would likely do the trick. It did. The “trigger man” got the brunt of it and he never saw it coming. The other two panicked and began firing their weapons in desperation, putting at least one round into the back of the pilot’s cranium. The copter descended quickly. It landed upside down upon the crowd, exploding, killing hundreds instantly as well as Andy.
Drake watched his friend’s death from beginning to end. After the explosion, he slapped his naked chest hard as he began a Navajo war chant, the eagle tattoo quivering madly with each slap. He scanned the sky for another copter. All he needed was a target.
Trenton, now free, had the same plan. Drake saw him propel upward, his altitude reaching a couple hundred feet before stopping for less than a second. A thousand cameras captured his iconic black visage up close as he turned his head to begin his dramatic descent into a particularly aggressive copter. In that moment, bullets ripped open his ebony chest and half the population of the planet watched in horror as he spiraled to his death.
“My turn!” screamed Drake with hellish rage as his big toe clicked his shoe skis to maximum. In that split second a perfectly camouflaged Paranoid barreled into him upside down, knocking the wind out of him.
“Oh no you don’t, old friend,” he whispered gently, ripping off crucial pieces of Drake’s shoe skis rendering them inoperable. Paranoid carried Drake through the air by his ankles, dodging bullets, finally dropping him among a cluster of sharpshooters holding out bravely on the upper bleachers.
“They’re going to need a leader, Drake, and I nominate you!”
Paranoid flashed a penetrating, previously agreed upon fuchsia signal to his man in the control booth who understood what to do immediately. They had planned to end the show in this manner anyway, unaware of the carnage that was to unfold. Suddenly, with a flip of a switch, a phantasmagoric, four-dimensional carnival of holographic characters from American history appeared amid The Battle of the Tig.
These images floated and changed among the copters which swerved to hit them, unsure if they were phantoms or not, a panoply of Americana before them. Abraham Lincoln, delivering the Emancipation Proclamation like a humming bird, would have been shredded had he been real. No peanut butter could touch John Lennon singing “Imagine” nor Andy Griffith fishing with Opie. Dorothy clicked her Ruby Slippers as Nexon gas choked the humans below. Ike’s frown warned a final time about the “military industrial complex” as JFK’s head exploded to the triumphant sound of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah!”
In his mind’s eye in the years that followed, Drake saw Paranoid’s last words mouthed to him in slow motion as he flew away from him to his death.
“No one gets out alive.”
He soared like a silent raven of death, one bullet after another failing to stop his intended destination. Ensconced high above, the Command Chopper hovered confidently, blithely unaware of its fate. Squatting in the open bay, a Marine even chuckled as he fired his pistol at his approach, underestimating both his velocity and the importance of the drum sticks in his hands until Paranoid plunged them into his windpipe. Woe to those who piss off a Hispanic from East L.A.! Not a camera caught the action inside, but the once-stable craft began tilting until its massive anti-gravity batteries simply failed. Directly between it and the body-strewn ground were the only two remaining stationery copters. They had no warning that their command structure and their lives were lost.
That left six copters on the field containing forty cocky marines apiece against one hundred forty thousand apoplectic American patriots, supported by a quarter million more outside, and Drake. Soon, the Battle of the Tig was won.
The world watched the resistance (once called the “underground”) extinguish the fires and cover the bodies and care for the wounded, their faces stoic with silent resolve. In the midst of this devastation, Drake walked into the middle of the field carrying a pole and a plain dark blue piece of fabric, part of a Marine’s tattered uniform. He plunged the pole into the soft, blood-drenched turf in the center of the Tig and tied the blue fabric to it with some twine.
As the moon descended that June 1rst, 2063, his face tear stained, bloody and solemn, Drake saluted the new flag of the Second Republic of the United States of America for the entire world to see.