Gathered together just outside the auditorium at the main Ewa Beach compound, the twelve Core Rimmers rambled excitedly about the thought of taking a break. After the California Orphanages, they all needed some time to chill out. Many of them wanted to bring their kids, but without knowing where they were going or if there were any safety concerns, they teetered on the fence, unsure what to do. Keith suggested that they go alone, only with their security, maybe for a day or two, to check the place out. If it was safe for all the kids too, then they could return home easily enough, gather their sons and then go back again. Prez tapped his sub-vocal, asking, "Daileass, tell us about this alternative vacation spot, dude?"
Into all the Rimmer's sub-vocals, Daileass giggled, "Well, it's kind o' hard for me to explain, but if I had the choice between a few hours at Maui or a few Earth minutes at Archnania, I'd choose the latter."
"This whole idea of 'Earth minutes' is confusing, Daileass," Mike challenged.
"Agreed," Daileass laughed, "but how can time be measured at a place outside of time? The only reasonable measurement is when you guys get tired, you'll sleep for seven or eight hours, and then you'll wake with a new day. After seven sleep periods, call and I'll bring you back home."
John said, "We'd like to bring our kids too. Is it safe, Daileass?"
"You guys are so safe that you won't need security," Daileass replied. "Crime doesn't exist on Archnania. Think of the most pristine places on Earth, then imagine it even better than that; cities free of pollution, wildernesses more beautiful than Yosemite, The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone combined."
Around the group, heads began nodding. Keith said, "Make preparations on your end, Daileass. We'll get our kids."
Troy asked, "Do we need anything else, Daileass; clothes or food or instruments?"
"Nope," Daileass replied. "They look forward to meeting us and sharing everything, guys."
While Keith, John, Mike and Drew went inside the auditorium to retrieve their sons, Derrick, Corey and Stephen went to let the parents know. Remaining near the auditorium with Kaleo, Sean, Tory and Troy, Prez pressed for more information. Daileass sighed, "You guys worry too much. I know it's been a hectic week, but think about it this way; if you went to Maui, you'd have to take all your personal security along too. This is so safe that what I know you're planning, Nathan and Logan Hayes know as well. And if Logan knows, Adam knows too. Is anybody screaming? Not a peep from any of 'em. As far as the kids are concerned, they'll miss about two or three minutes of 'Toy Story'. Going to the boy's room for a healthy dump would take longer."
About five minutes later, all the Core Rimmers and their sons were gathered. Explaining to the adults that they were taking a week's vacation, but would be back in a few minutes had Derrick, Corey and Stephen hysterical. Seeing their fathers standing outside the single family homes, the Rimmers and their sons waved then vanished.
The large party of twenty-three teenagers and kids arrived at Archnania. They seemed to be in a clearing of trees. At the sight of a cloudless purple sky, with one large 'Sun' and another nearby smaller star, jaws dropped. Some gasped, some reverently called the Almighty, and the youngest simply began giggling. From where they were standing, paths lead off in eight directions.
In Prez's arms, Richie cheered, "It's like a cartoon world, Poppa!"
"I sure hope so, li'l buddy," Prez smiled.
Reyes was drinking in the new environment with android precision. The ground seemed too perfect to be real. He told Derrick, "Check out the grass, Dad. I know it's been decades since I was at a golf course, but..."
"I've never seen perfectly manicured grass like this either," Derrick smiled.
Bending over to brush his fingers over the grassy ground himself, Mike grinned, "It looks like artificial turf, but it's not fake."
Dillon knelt down to feel the grass with his hands and started giggling. He looked up and laughed, "It tickles!"
Very softly, almost as if the sound was carried on the light breeze, the entire group heard a whispered chorus of thanks being offered and the blades seemed to shimmer.
Richie told Prez, "Lemme down, Poppa." Lowered to the ground, Richie immediately took off his sandals to feel the grass for himself.
Dillon, Randy, Jonah, Frankie, Gage and Sammy followed Richie's example. The boys began giggling. Gage compared the grass to satin. Not disagreeing, Sammy offered, "It's thicker, almost like velvet."
"This place is beautiful," Troy sighed. Sean squeezed his boyfriend's hand tight and rapidly nodded agreement.
Keith nodded, "We can definitely relax here."
"There," another whispered breeze voice instructed, and all the Rimmers glanced around. The shimmering blades of grass seemed to beacon them in a direction. The youngest kids looked up at their dads and uncles, giggled, then picked up their sandals and started walking, following the shimmering grass to where, they didn't know or really care.
Following the kids, Prez sniggered, "Tell me, has anyone ever seen paths in woods without any fallen leaves like this before?"
"In my dreams," Mike chuckled.
Derrick nodded and chortled, "I hate to say it, but this is better than Maui."
"That buzz would wear off," Keith smiled. "This is simply too good to be true."
Reyes noticed, "It seems that the forest gets less dense in the distance, as we walk, almost like the trees know where we're going and are helping to lead us there."
Sean softly asked Troy, "Shouldn't we smell something?"
Troy nodded, "Yeah, I'd think so too. We would smell pine, maple or walnut trees on Earth."
"This is nice, fresh air, but not smelling anything at all seems a little weird," Stephen agreed.
Just then, the country gravy Mike had with dinner came ripping out in a loud gaseous explosion. Derrick cuffed his hubby hard on the shoulder. Mike evilly laughed while everyone else groaned then started running away. Pointing down at the ground and the shimmering blades of grass spinning around a hundred and eighty degrees, seemingly prompting them to return from whence they came, Reyes giggled, "Now look what you've done, Pop! The entire planet is telling us to leave!"
Still jogging and picking up Dee along the way, Keith playfully ranted, "Daileass said, no pollution allowed, you rank bastard!"
Troy giggled, "Get it out of your system now, before we meet any natives and get arrested."
"I guess Cory Short can never come here at all then," Mike helplessly snickered.
Still laughing and running, John focused his powers on all the running kids around him and telekinetically lifted them to run higher and faster, increasing their distance from the teenagers. Watching Mike get jabs, pokes and slaps from Prez, Keith, Derrick, Troy, Sean, Tory and Kaleo, Reyes completely cracked up and had to stop running.
At the perimeter of the forest, John let all the kids down onto the ground. They waited there for the teenagers to catch up, drinking in the site of the city perhaps a kilometer off in the distance. Beyond a crystalline archway, there wasn't a single rectangular building to be seen; all the buildings seemed to be domed and glistened in the light of the Suns. There was no city like this anywhere on Earth, no matter how well they kept their city clean, and they all knew it. All the chattering came to an abrupt halt when the kids noticed what appeared to be deer coming out of the forest and walking directly toward them. Since these deer-like creatures seemed to have no fear of them, John tried to telepathically contact the largest beast and softly instructed the kids to remain still and quiet. The telepathic contact was returned; not with words, but with a feeling of contentment and peace.
The teenagers walked out of the woods and saw eight of the deer-like creatures surrounding and getting pets from all the kids. The largest 'deer' went to the group of teenagers. Even though he had left Texas before turning seven-years-old, Prez recalled the deer hunting season there was during the weeks before the American Thanksgiving holiday. Real deer on Earth would never stroll up to a human as these animals had though. These animals seemed to only want affection, like a common domesticated horse, dog or cat. Even when Richie and Dillon raced away and to their fathers, the 'deer' didn't bolt away. Everyone was so taken with the Archnanian 'deer' that they weren't paying attention to the group approaching from the city.
"Welcome!" several voices called.
They all turned toward the voices. It seemed that they were all kids. Oddly, to the Rimmers, all of these people had yellow-blond hair. The largest among them wasn't any taller than John, about four-feet-and-ten inches tall. Prez and the teenagers each raised an arm and greeted the native Archnanians. Leaving the group and the deer, Randy, Richie, Dillon and Frankie ran off to greet them. Gage, Sammy, Geoff, Lenny and Jonah remained with their dads and the deer.
Nearer to the group yet still about ten meters away, the largest Archnanian smiled and cheered, "The Darmi like you and told us of your arrival."
Prez went into leader mode and approached the Archnanians, introducing himself and briefly explaining that his group were members of a Family Clan Short Division. He offered his hand to shake. Having not done this before, the Archnanian reached for and took Prez's extended hand, but didn't let go. "I am Uraninan," the Archnanian said.
Smiling and nodding, Prez explained to Uraninan the customs of shaking and waving hands as a method of greeting people, to prove they were unarmed and friendly. Returning with the Archnanians and the youngest sons, Prez introduced everyone in his group. With each person introduced, Uraninan held up both his arms then enthusiastically shook their right and left hands. By the time Uraninan reached John, the greeting was simplified to hugs from then on. During all the welcomes, Uraninan learned that the Rimmers were there to take a vacation for a couple of days. All they wanted to do was rest, relax, play music, and get to know the people and places of this world.
Accompanied by the Darmi and the rest of his Archnanian group, Uraninan briefly explained some of his planet's history; telling the Rimmers of the time they first met 'the Ancient One', known as Galli to Prince Dylan, when their two moons collided and became five moons; the ten generations since then, and the results of meeting Prince Dylan and the return of Galli. Excitedly, Uraninan shared, "Our planet and all it's life forms are more intertwined than ever before. The Darmi do not speak, but many of us feel and understand them. Others in our communities understand the vegetation more keenly than animals."
Sean asked, "Is that why the grass seemed to show us the way to go?"
Uraninan nodded, "Hundreds in our city suddenly stopped what they were doing and concentrated on what the forest life forms were telling them. Learning that we had more visitors, who were friends of Galli's, instructions were sent to lead you out of the forest and to our community."
Entering the city under the crystal arch, Keith smiled, "Your world is beautiful."
"Stunning might be a better word," Troy meekly offered, noticing that the Darmi continued to follow the group right into the city.
Derrick said, "From the moment we arrived, your world has been warm and welcoming. I'll be honest and say that I feel a little strange vacationing here. How can we repay you for your kindness?"
"Share what you know of your world with us," Uraninan answered. "The key to power is knowledge. We will share, and each of us will grow from the experience."
"That sounds like what I was saying last night," Prez softly told Keith. Seeing that Uraninan was interested, Prez explained, "Some people on our world don't understand that power lies within. They think they can accumulate power with money, or by forcing their view onto others, sometimes in very unkind ways."
Mike nodded and shared with Uraninan, "Derrick, Prez, Keith and I grew up together. We did our school homework together, learned music and how to play our instruments together."
"Amongst other things that we won't get into right now," Keith slyly muttered.
Drew offered, "Me and Corey share what we know too."
"We know of you and Corey already, Drew," Uraninan smiled. "You've been here before."
Corey scowled, "This is our first visit."
"From your time-line," Uraninan chuckled. "In our perception of time, we met previously, when those from your Clan came here for development of specialized computer systems."
"Oh," Corey and Drew chimed. They shrugged at each other.
"Now you understand how I felt when I first met you and you already knew me," Uraninan loudly laughed. "Remember to talk with me then as you are now." Glancing around the group, Uraninan asked, "Is there anything I can get for you specifically; perhaps food or drink?" Seeing only shaking heads and hearing a few polite negative answers, Uraninan asked, "Is anyone tired after the long walk?"
After checking around his group, Prez smiled, "We'll be fine for a few more hours, Uraninan. The little guys will probably be tired in two and a half hours..."
"Prez?" Keith softly giggled, and held up his wrist, showing Prez his watch. The digital display on Keith's watch was blinking once a second as normal, but the minutes weren't advancing. They had transported away about seven-thirty and it was still seven-thirty.
"Okay! Scratch all that!" Prez loudly laughed. His laughter was infectious and everybody in both groups lost it and cracked up.
Derrick whispered to Mike. Then Mike grinned, "Since we're here to learn and to teach, I guess it might help if you had some musical instruments. We could play for you and your people, to start repaying you for your kindness."
"Yes, of course," Uraninan smiled. The group of smaller Archnanian children around him scattered. Leading the Rimmers down the main thoroughfare, he smiled, "Thanks to Drew's and Corey's prior visit, we already have prepared a place for you to rehearse and play."
Prez, Keith, Mike, Derrick, Tory and even Reyes suspiciously eyed Corey and Drew. "What?" Drew exclaimed, and then giggled, "It's not like we knew or could've remembered."
Since this group was much like the other groups he had previously met, Uraninan smiled, "Timmy, KC, Joey and many other musician's were here. We have fashioned instruments here based on designs of instruments they brought. I hope that you will find everything satisfactory."
Almost at once, all the Rimmers assured Uraninan that everything they had experienced thus far was more than satisfactory. They walked through high arched doors into a large domed building. In moments, they realized they were in an amphitheater that was far larger than the auditorium at Ewa Beach. After listening to the Rimmers rave about the facility, Uraninan smiled, "There are almost five hundred fifty-thousand residing in this city, not counting plant and animal life. It is unreasonable to assume that everyone could drop everything to attend every gathering. Therefore, we had this building designed to handle half that number. When the Royals have announcements to make, even those that cannot attend will hear the announcement through the address system outside this building and scattered around the city." He then pressed his palm to a plate on the wall and lights turned on.
All the boys found themselves standing at the rear of a semi-circular stage, already occupied with a grand piano, sets of acoustic and electronic drums, guitars of various types, woodwinds, brass and stringed instruments of all popular types. The Rimmers mouths hung to their chests. Uraninan checked, "The Clan band, Time-Touched, performed here. Is this acceptable?"
The band members and their sons wandered around the stage. It was as if the Archnanians had made replicas of every famous brand instrument available on Earth. Even Troy, who had once seen a Stradivarius violin at the Smithsonian Institute, gasped and raved about an exact duplicate of that two-hundred-year-old instrument. Derrick now had three timpani and three gongs placed around his drum kit. Enthusiastically, Keith was checking out the grand piano. Near the electronic drum set, Reyes even had a Glockenspiel and a xylophone included with his expansive set of percussion instruments. Even the microphones scattered around the stage were duplicates of models Drew and Corey knew were the best available. The six band members were so preoccupied, they didn't even notice Drew, Corey, Sean, John and Stephen leading all their sons away and following Uraninan off the stage.
Troy went to the stage right set of electronic keyboards and started piddling about with the dials and sliders, achieving various tones and playing various tidbits of familiar melodies. Keith sat at a replica of a Hammond B-3 organ, following Troy's haphazard parts and filling the stage with appropriate harmonies. Mike had picked up a Gibson Les Paul Custom with a beautiful tobacco sunburst finish that was actually nicer than the Randy Rhoads Les Paul he had left at home. Derrick sat on the drum throne behind the acoustic drum kit. Reyes sat at the electronic drums and dialed up a very standard rock kit. Prez picked up a five-string bass, that he guessed was a copy of a Warwick walnut and maple model. Not seeing his sons anywhere around, he suddenly called out, "Richie? Dee? Gage? Sammy?"
Out beyond the stage curtains, all six band members heard the others in their group giggling. Together, Prez's four sons hollered, "Out here, Poppa!"
Scowling, Prez was just about to ask what the boys were doing when the stage curtains began opening. The first to see their boys in the front row of seats of the massive amphitheater, Prez, Mike and Derrick saw that other nearby rows were already filled, and masses of blond Archnanians were still filing in.
From behind a large P.A. mixer situated in the center of the audience, Corey and Drew waved their arms. Over the stage monitors, Drew's giggling voice was heard. "It seems the Archnanians have heard about you and want a concert, bros. You can stand there lookin' goofy and surprised, or you can play something?"
Over the main P.A. system, Corey loudly cheered, "Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls of Archnania, traveling through light years of space and out of time to entertain you, from the Milky Way Galaxy and the Planet Earth, please welcome Platinum Habits!" Unknown to any of the Rimmers, this concert was about to be broadcast throughout the city and around the planet.
Applause started to swell from the audience. Rather than just stand there dumbfounded, Prez suggested the first tune he could think of off the top of his head. Receiving nods, Prez moved forward to a microphone. Standing up at his electronic drum kit, Reyes began shaking a tambourine to set the tempo. Keith began tickling keys. Then Prez loudly sang:
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!
Troy added chords from the Hammond B-3 and Prez continued.
There behind a glass is a real blade of grass
be careful as you pass.
Move along! Move along!
Come inside, the show's about to start
guaranteed to blow your head apart
Derrick pounded on his drums and Prez sang:
Rest assured you'll get your money's worth
The greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth.
You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo.
You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll
Right before your eyes we pull laughter from the skies
And he laughs until he cries then he dies then he dies
Come inside the shows about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart
You gotta see the show
It's a dynamo
You gotta see the show
It's rock and roll, Oh!
The entire band rocked out during the extended middle section of keyboard and guitar solos, building the crescendo dramatically. While Derrick and Reyes played and the rest of the band paused, Prez sang:
Soon the Gypsy Queen in a glaze of Vaseline
Will perform on guillotine
What a scene! What a scene!
Next upon the stand will you please extend a hand
to Alexander's Ragtime Band
Roll up! Roll up! Roll up!
See the show!
Performing on a stool we've a sight to make you drool
Seven virgins and a mule
Keep it cool. Keep it cool.
We would like it to be known the exhibits that were shown
were exclusively our own,
All our own. All our own.
Come and see the show! Come and see the show! Come and see the show!
The band played out the final section of music, again building upon the dynamics until Prez hollered, "See the show!" and then they finished with a thunderous explosion of sound which was soon matched by the audiences cheers, shouts and whistles.
Stepping back and checking with his band mates, Prez waited for another song to be suggested. Troy stepped away from the keyboards, offering, "Fantasy, by Aldo Nova," and picked up a Les Paul. Everyone agreed and Keith moved to the stack of electronic keyboards at stage left. While the audience was still clapping and cheering, Keith started the synthesizer introduction. Odd sounds, extremely low bass tones and what sounded like a helicopter swirled around the amphitheater until Mike and Troy began playing the crunchy guitar chords and two sets of drums came in. Since he had suggested it, Troy sang the song's lead vocals, with Derrick, Keith and Mike backing him up. Mike played all the guitar solos while Troy played rhythm guitar.
At the end of the song, while the audience let their appreciation be loudly known, the band again stepped back. Mike suggested the next song – 'Heavy Metal (Take A Ride)'. Reyes laughed loudly, remembering the song and the flick, while Mike and Troy got the digital delays set appropriately for the tempo. Keith hung a third guitar off his shoulder then went back to the keyboards. A single chord from keys and guitars swelled and the band came together with the strong rhythm. Not having a steel slide handy, Mike used a metal pen that he happened to have in his pocket to play the slide guitar solo sections. Mike also stepped up and sang the lead vocals on the tune.
The band continued on that way through an entire two hour concert, each member suggesting songs and usually handling the lead vocals. Unprepared for this performance, Reyes didn't sing lead vocals or backup vocals. On his list of things to do during this vacation was work with the band to learn how to sing as well as his band mates. Reyes suggested 'In The Air Tonight' for Derrick to step out front and sing lead vocals before coming back to his kit and drumming during the latter half of the song. From that point on, Platinum Habits had fun playing songs from the luau and wedding concerts. The last forty or so minutes were ballads, to help themselves and the audience unwind. They finished with 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. At the end of their impromptu set, the six band members gathered center stage, held hands and bowed. The audience roared approval until three Archnanians walked down the center aisle toward the stage.
Surprising all the Rimmers, the standing audience became very quiet. Uraninan gathered Drew, Corey, the entire Hernandez family from Des Moines, and all the Rimmers' sons, and then led them onto the stage. Seeing their friends again after only a couple of hours, both groups giggled. Julio laughed, "We didn't get to see your wedding concert, and you never played for us while we were in Hawaii, sooo..." Both groups laughed and began greeting each other.
A small group of three climbed up onto the stage. Uraninan introduced King Harroldo, Prince Chance and Prince Ezraka to the Rimmers and the Des Moines team, who bowed to show their respect for the Royal Family.
For the entire audience inside the amphitheater and watching the video feeds around Archnania, Uraninan introduced each of the Rimmers to their world. Uraninan started with Derrick. Waving to the audience, Derrick softly smiled, telling Uraninan and everyone that "Prez is our Division's director." Uraninan introduced Prez next, then simply went by height, moving on to Keith, and through all the remaining visitors.
The King thanked his population for helping to welcome the representatives of Clan Short. Archnanians began filing out of the amphitheater. Glancing at Uraninan and Prez, King Horroldo invited the entire group to share a meal with his family. No sooner had Prez and several of the Rimmers politely accepted, they found themselves transported to the palace's formal dining room.
Many of the Rimmers, young and old, had their jaws hanging open. Chance and Ezraka helplessly burst into giggles. King Harroldo smiled, "Pardon our presumptuousness. I assumed you knew we were a High Race species."
While his group shook their heads, Prez offered, "We had walked out of a forest and walked with Uraninan into your city. You walked down the aisle of the amphitheater. We simply didn't expect to be transported, Highness."
"Walking is healthy, and allows us to be seen by our people," Chance giggled, "but sometimes it's unnecessary." As the young Prince finished speaking, all were seated at the long table. Chance only blinked and the table was loaded with plates of food that smelled as good as it looked. Chance explained, "We've enjoyed meals from your planet very much. I especially like your chocolate cream and custard pies."
Ezraka giggled, "That's all Chance ate for a few days."
Mike wondered, "How long is one of your days?"
Chance laughed, "How long would you like it to be?"
King Harroldo smiled, "We typically broke our days into parts. Using a decimal numbering system broken into tens, tenths and hundredths, so that ninety-nine and ninety-nine hundredths was the last moment of a single revolution of our planet, or a day by your reckoning."
"To make your stay more pleasant, we've adjusted accordingly," Ezraka said. "Each of our days will be similar to your twenty-four hour day." The watches that some of the boys were wearing changed. Some of them checked their wrists to find the hour was '58', the minutes were '89' and the day of the week was 'Ziv'. Ezraka smiled, "For your understanding, our day time will be from zero to forty-nine hours, ninety-nine minutes. Night time will be from fifty hours to ninety-nine hours and ninety-nine minutes. Your new time pieces will automatically adjust for whichever planet you're at."
Alien cheered, "Now that's a handy, versatile function!"
John nodded, "If the Elf takes us to Vulcan, we'll know what the day and time is there."
Watching the triple twins trying to talk Ezraka into teaching them how to talk to the plants, Julio giggled, "Be careful John, the Elf might find a planet that tells time by cookies... then you'll try to eat your new watch!"
Little Terry, the boy that Julio and Jesse had adopted from the orphanage raid, giggled from Julio's lap. "You're goofy, Dad!"
After another huge feast, the members of Des Moines and Pacific Rim Divisions were taken to a huge home that had been constructed specifically for visiting Clan. The youngest kids were carried by their fathers to bedrooms. Even these spaces were not what was expected; the large rooms were wall-to-wall thick padding, with pillows of various sizes scattered about.
Beginning to strip off his clothes, John offered, "Stephen and I will stay in this room."
"I was going to stay here with the kids," Reyes grinned. "The married couples need to have a room together, don't you think?"
Nodding, John giggled, "I can pull Stephen into my mind, where we can have fun, but never make a sound, unlike certain teens and pre-teens." Accusingly, he then locked eyes with Drew, and then with Prez and Keith. Corey began giggling.
Drew smirked, "You're making me and Corey sleep with the sex-machine and the sex-maniac? It's bad enough hearing them, never mind seeing them!"
"Don't watch then, perv," Keith sniggered. Drew squinted at his big brother. Corey howled laughing.
Prez checked with Richie, "Would you feel safe in here with John, Stephen and Reyes?"
Nodding, Richie yawned, "It's kewl, poppa." He then smiled, "You and daddy will be close by?"
"Right across the hall," Prez answered.
Derrick told Dillon, "All us big guys will be in the room Kaleo, Tory, Sean and Troy went into. Kewl?"
Randy asked Mike, "Can we come wake you up in the mornin'?"
"It the one thing I look forward to every morning," Mike chuckled, and then planted a kiss on his son's cheek. Soon, all the boys were getting kisses goodnight, including Reyes, and the teen fathers were leaving the room.
Leading the way into the bedroom across the hall, Derrick heard giggling from opposite sides of the room. Noticing that ivy vines had grown to separate Kaleo and Tory from Sean and Troy, Derrick scowled, "What the heck?"
Kaleo cackled, "We don't know how or why, but as we started to get undressed, way across the room from Troy and Sean, these vines just started growing."
Tory giggled, "We were considering what it might be like to make love and be seen, and the room did it all by itself."
Drew and Corey loudly laughed, "THANK GOODNESS! WE'RE SAVED!"
Sean giggled, "It's no stranger than grass showing us where to go, or trees moving out of the way."
Drew and Corey went to the opposite corner from Kaleo and Tory and started to undress. Mike, Derrick and Keith started to strip. Blinking rapidly, Prez took his shirt off and then wondered, "Troy, you have no remarks?"
Sean cracked up. A moment later, Troy giggled, "My mouth was full, Head Rimmer." Everyone in the room roared laughing.
Before all the laughter dwindled, Mike giggled, "There's some vicious exaggerations being spread about Sean."
"It's probably not an exaggeration," Troy evilly cackled. Standing in their underwear, Corey and then Drew rapidly stuck their pinkies in their ears. Another vine seemed to begin growing to build a wall around the two tweens. Troy playfully promised, "I will not rest until I can take my Tiger deep and feel his pubes tickling my nose. There's yet another challenge that needs to be accomplished while we're here."
Sean softly giggled, "When we get there, Lover. We're having lots of fun working our way there." Enthusiastically, Troy hummed affirmatively, making Sean gasp and then softly whimper. By this time, the vine around Drew and Corey was about half-a-meter tall. Prez, Keith, Derrick and Mike shed the last of their clothes. The foursome congregated and began sharing tender kisses with familiar ease.
Carrying most of their clothes, Julio and Jessie came into the room, wearing only their underwear, and started giggling at their new friends. Seeing them first, Keith grinned, "What happened, bros?"
"My parents said we needed to join you dudes," Julio giggled, "for obvious reasons."
"What, bad fashion sense?" Tory sniggered. "White undies? Dudes, join the twenty-first century!"
Swinging around, Mike laughed, "Stick your eyes, and other body parts, back behind the vines! If you wanna see, you gotta show!"
Having been recent orphans and unwilling to pass up a dare, Tory and then Kaleo wiggled their way out of their little vine-enclosed area. With his erection leading the way, Tory waved and giggled, "How's it hangin', bros?" When everyone began giggling and evilly snickering, Tory laughed, "I always wanted to say that, under just these kinds of circumstances."
"In your case, I think 'hanging' is the wrong word," Julio giggled. "Stand still, I need a coat rack!"
Trying to be more mature than anyone else in the room, Drew giggled, "None of you dudes have any shame at all!"
Almost at once, everyone chimed, "I've got no reason to be ashamed."
"Unlike you pre-teen, semi-pubescent types," Keith smirked. Mooing erupted, along with prompts for Drew and Corey to come out of their vine enclosure.
"Hey, I LIKE my furless husband!" Julio giggled.
"And Julio's pubes make great dental floss!" Jesse added with a straight face.
From behind the vines in the far corner, Troy again enthusiastically hummed affirmatively. "Oh," Sean moaned, which caused everyone else in the room to begin laughing again.
Mike sniggered, "How much longer, Sean?"
"Please don't make Troy hum again," Sean giggled.
"Troy, do you know 'Dixie'?" Julio asked with an evil glint in his eyes.
"Oh God, no," Sean cackled. Giggling, Troy hummed the melody anyway. A few moments later, Sean sharply gasped, and then grunted.
Troy giggled, "My yummy Tiger."
"Now it's your turn," Sean wearily chuckled.
"Beethoven's Fifth!" Jesse suggested helpfully.
Troy, Mike, Derrick and Keith sang, "DA-DA-DA-DAAAAAA!"
"That'll give the climax of the final movement a whole new meaning," Julio giggled.
Kaleo grinned, "Did anyone else notice Corey and Drew got very quiet?"
"Could they be playing 'Submarine'?" Jesse asked.
When there was still no response from behind the vines, Keith, Prez, Mike and Derrick softly chanted, "Dive, dive, dive!" Julio, Jesse, Kaleo and Tory added their voices to the chant. Moments later, when Troy's enthusiastic voice was heard adding to the chant, and Sean began giggling, Drew and Corey howled laughing.
"Up periscope!" Julio giggled.
After breakfast, Uraninan led the members of Platinum Habits, plus Sean, to the rehearsal building that was prepared for Time Touched. From the outside, this particular structure was shaped like a clam shell. They went inside and found a nice space, about fifteen meters wide and tapering down to about six meters. There were risers for the drums and percussion, and another set of risers behind and above where Derrick and Reyes set about adjusting the equipment, so it would be comfortable and familiar for them.
Most peculiar was that almost none of the equipment had brand name labels anywhere on them. Amplifiers were labeled for the instruments that attached to them; acoustic guitar, bass, electric rhythm guitar, lead electric guitar, electric piano, organ and synthesizers. Amongst the group of basses, Prez found what he considered to be a five-string Jazz Bass, another that looked very similar to a Rickenbacker 4001, and another that was a semi-hollow-body unlike any model he had ever seen before. There were four other basses, but they were obviously child-sized and Prez wouldn't be able to play them.
There was an impressive collection of twenty guitars for Mike and Troy to peruse. There was one Martin D-35, one Gibson Les Paul Standard, and one Fender Stratocaster; all the rest were unlabeled copies of familiar acoustic and electric guitars. Four of the guitars were child-sized, obviously for Timmy Short. Walking up the ramp to the highest risers above and behind the drums and percussion, Troy found a trombone, a trumpet, a baritone sax, a tenor sax, an alto sax, an upright bass, a cello, and two violins.
Keith was raising the racks of keyboards when Uraninan asked, "Is this acceptable?"
Chuckling madly, Prez answered, "It's all similar to instruments we know, but I guess what's blowing us all away is the lack of any brand names, and the sheer numbers of instruments."
Keith sniggered, "Judging by the knobs and pitch and mod wheels, this is a synthesizer, but without a model, I'll have to tinker to figure it out."
Up on the high risers, Troy had picked up the tenor sax and began playing the solo from 'Urgent'. When he was done, Troy flashed a thumbs up, cheering, "This works for me!" Sean cracked up.
Mike had picked up a classical guitar and began playing 'Mood For A Day'. While Mike played, Troy came down off the risers. Prez picked up the bass that looked like a Rickenbacker, and then went to one of the two bass amps and turned it on. Not plugged into the amp, or knowing any better, Prez began playing, completely drowning out one of the last two bars of Mood For A Day. Prez bellowed, "How the heck did that happen?"
Uranian chuckled, "We know that your world uses cables, or wireless radio transmitters and receivers to connect your instruments to the amplification. When we built the instruments and amplifiers, we decided to integrate the wireless components directly into the instruments and amplifiers. Also, this rehearsal space has been designed for acoustic transparency. What is reflected back to the performing band is precisely what was sent out."
Standing by the PA equipment with Corey, toward the back of the room, Drew said, "We could hear Troy and Mike perfectly, as if they were standing right here in front of us, without any amplification. Mike's gotta be twenty meters away, and Troy's at least thirty meters away."
Corey added, "I'll bet this sound system only makes everything sound better. There's nothing unfamiliar here. Just like everything else, it's unlabeled."
Crawling around under the grand piano, Keith removed the pedal extenders he found down there. He stood again, chuckling, "Somebody needs to be stretched a few inches, but that sure ain't me or Troy." Taking a seat at the piano bench, Keith inhaled deeply then began playing Chopin's Minute Waltz
Derrick prodded, "Hey Keith, work with Reyes and figure out his vocal range."
Nodding, Keith prompted, "Come sit with me, Reyes."
Walking around the percussion instruments, Reyes giggled, "I've been afraid of this since the wedding concert."
Joining up with Keith near the grand piano, Troy smirked, "It's not that rough, Reyes. Everybody has tonal range to their speaking voices, even if it's very limited, there's still a range. We just have to figure out what's easy and natural for you."
To prove the point, Keith played notes on the piano that perfectly matched Troy's last sentence spoken. Arriving at the piano, Reyes giggled, "See, this is what scares me. All you guys can easily reproduce anything you hear on your instruments."
Derrick called, "Reyes?" When Reyes looked back, Derrick smiled, "I hate to tell you, but you can hear about as well as any of us. You proved that during the wedding concert, and again for the level one kids yesterday. You're simply used to hearing and reproducing the percussion you usually play."
Joining Keith, Reyes and Troy at the piano, Mike nodded, "The piano is a percussion instrument too. Little mallets strike the strings."
Blushing, Reyes revealed, "I've never sung much, because my voice seems to be stuck in the 50's, singing falsetto."
"That's not a bad thing," Prez said. "Our job is to find songs that you'll enjoy singing, either as lead vocalist or a backup vocalist. That's part of the reason that we came here; first, so our mothers don't have breakdowns and take us off duty, and secondly, so this larger band can rehearse. I'm planning on staying here another six days, so we can get our act together…"
"And tell our mom's that we've been on vacation," Keith finished.
Troy was sharing unspoken words with Sean, and everyone else noticed. Blushing, Sean told Troy, "They went to play a concert last Friday, became our leaders the next morning, and basically haven't stopped, not much that I know of."
Reyes nodded, "There were rescues each night, Sunday through last night."
Troy gasped, "All like the California orphanages?"
"No," Keith, Prez, Derrick and Mike chorused.
Prez offered, "Mostly we've been picking up runaways and ex-street prostitutes. Last night was our first real rescue operation."
"Lucky us!" Troy sarcastically sniggered.
Keith softly tinkled the keys, saying, "Those kids are luckier. As bad as it was for us, those kids are freed from some sadistic assholes. They're being cared for, fed and made well right now. Only the first thirty-six are home and with us. I can't wait for all those kids to be part of our Clan." He glanced up at Troy, reminding, "Celebrate that with them, bro. If I could, I'd wipe every sad memory away, all by myself. That's not the way it'll happen though, and I realize that."
Nodding, Troy smiled, "Good food and being well fed will be one part."
"Having a warm, safe and comfortable place to sleep will be another part," Sean softly added.
Mike offered, "Each of the kids helping each other is another part."
"Then there's us," Prez shared. "Leadership is simply pointing the kids in the right direction. We don't need to tell them what to do, we need to show them the correct ways to do stuff."
"Actions versus words," Reyes mumbled.
Prez grinned, "Keep talking like that and you'll have a sub-vocal in your ear, Reyes." Soft chortling erupted.
Joining the band around the piano, Derrick quoted, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
"Saint Francis of Assisi said that," Mike instructed his eldest son.
Prez chuckled, "A favorite of most musician's, I think."
Reyes wondered, "Why?"
Gesturing to the piano and then playing chromatic scales the full length of the keyboard, Keith replied, "Franciscan Monks laid out the framework centuries ago. We're only following the path."
Troy, Sean and Reyes were startled by Keith suddenly playing a dissonant and loud F sharp 13th chord. "Right!" the original four members sniggered.
From the back of the room, Drew grumbled, "I hate it when they do that." Everyone turned to find Drew and Corey clutching at their hearts, and cracked up.
Keith played a D flat major chord and sang the root tone. Troy followed with the major third. Derrick and Mike sang the perfect fifth, and Prez sang the root tone below. Derrick nudged Reyes to sing. Surprisingly, Reyes sang the fifth an octave above his dad and pop.
Signaling for all six voices to break, Keith encouraged, "Good, Reyes. Now listen to only Troy, and sing the note an octave above him." Keith played only the major third of the chord and then played the same D flat major chord. Again, Keith, Troy, Derrick, Mike and Prez sang the same tones. As requested, Reyes sang the major third.
When they all paused again, Derrick told Reyes, "Hearing each of the tones in any given chord is all there is to training your ear and your voice. You'll develop the ability to hear and distinguish between four types of chords; major, minor, augmented and diminished."
Mike asked, "Is what you're singing easy, Reyes? Does it feel like you're straining to go too low or too high?"
Considering the question, Reyes blinked and then answered, "I don't feel like I'm straining."
Keith prompted, "Sing the lowest tone you're comfy with, Reyes."
Reyes sang lower, down about where his dad and pop were singing, and then shook his head. He sang a little higher and then a little higher. "That's not straining," Reyes said, and glanced around.
Keith pressed a B flat, a full tone higher than the A flat Derrick and Mike sang. Reyes easily sang the tone. In half tone intervals, Keith climbed up the chromatic scale, and Reyes matched each tone for a full three octaves. Only after Keith continued into the fourth octave did Reyes stop and shake his head, saying, "That's too high." Widely grinning, Derrick and Mike glanced at each other and then cracked up. Reyes giggled, "WHAT?"
Mike chuckled, "I can't sing a full three octaves. I can barely reach as high as where you started, Reyes."
Prez smiled, "Reyes sounds a lot like Phil Bailey, from Earth, Wind and Fire, and like Eddie Kendricks, from The Temptations too. Off the top of my head, we just added about a dozen songs to our repertoire that only you could sing, Reyes."
Patting his boy on the back, Derrick shared, "Keith can sing about four octaves. Prez, Mike and I can sing about two and a half octaves." He faced Troy and grinned, "It's your turn, bro."
Already knowing the answer, Troy told Keith, "Start at G1 and stop at E4." With Keith's accompaniment, Troy sang the chromatic scale, just missing a full three octaves by three half tones. For the hell of it, Keith played F4 and sang it. Troy matched it, and then tried for F sharp 4, but cracked. Dropping back down to F4, he cracked again. Troy giggled, "I can make that F half the time—once in a rare while, maybe."
Keith sniggered, "I'm really surprised that you don't have a full three octaves, Troy. How about we try lower than the G1?"
Troy shrugged, "Sure, start with G1 and let's see if I can make it to E1." Keith played the notes on the piano and Troy matched, G1, F#1 and F1, but E1 was too low. Going back up to F1, Troy's voice cracked again, but F#1 was a good clear tone.
Before Sean and Troy could react, they were sandwiched between Mike and Derrick. Reyes cracked up. Sean and Troy fell into a giggling fit. Derrick proudly cackled, "Between the six of us, we've got five of eight octaves covered; from Prez's baritone, up through Mike, me, Troy, Keith, and you're at the high end, Reyes. Sweet!"
Arriving at the piano with Corey, Drew said, "We found a notebook by someone named Russ, so we've got the PA system covered. Corey and I zeroed the board. All we need to do is start the sound check and get the gear set for you dudes."
"Let's get the show on the road," Prez prompted.
Keith asked, "Drew, ask for some printed lyric sheets, bro? We'll need a couple o' tunes from Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and another couple from Earth, Wind and Fire."
Corey nodded, "I'll ask Cam. Is there anything specific you want, or just whatever Cam decides to give us?"
"Those that made it into the top forty when they were new," Keith replied. "That'll give us plenty to choose from."
Sean gave Troy a kiss, and then followed Drew and Corey back to the PA system. Sean asked, "Rather than just sit here as an audience of one, is there something I can do to help?"
Corey giggled, "Sure! Six hands is better than four."
Sean cackled, "After last night, I'm not going there, Corey."
Drew sniggered, "Especially with sixty-four channels to adjust." He then pointed at the microphone inputs saying, "Each one of these knobs needs to be adjusted. Turn them clockwise until the little red LED indicators flash then back them off just a tiny bit until the LEDs never flash. This is the first level of gain staging, Sean. The red lights mean that the channel is overdriven, which means distortion."
"Got it," Sean giggled. "Red is bad."
Drew smiled, "Corey's got channels one through sixteen. I'll take channels seventeen through thirty-two. You take channels thirty-three through forty-eight. According to the notebook, we won't need to worry about channels forty-nine through sixty-four, because they're for the strings and horns."
The band decided to play an upbeat blues jam in G major until Drew and Corey gave them thumbs up to move on to the vocal microphones. While the band played, Corey, Drew and Sean got all the instrument channels set, including the various tone knobs and the individual levels adjusted. Soon, the band members heard sound from the stage monitors, and then they heard more sound coming from the stereo main speakers.
Seeing Sean, Drew and Corey all flashing thumbs up, Platinum Habits created an ending to their jam. Then the band members began testing the vocal microphones. Only Reyes took the task somewhat seriously, repeatedly saying, "Testing, one, two, three." But Prez decided to recite dirty Irish limericks learned from the AIs; Keith played 'Chopsticks' and sang about chicky titties; Mike sang 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road'; Derrick loudly snored and Troy tried in vain to sing 'Mr. Psycho Sexy'. All of this was going on at once, driving the three sound engineers to hysterics.
Through the talk-back microphone to the band members, Drew cheered, "Thank goodness we don't have to go through that at home!"
Pulling the microphone over, Corey giggled, "The fine line between genius and insanity was crossed!"
Sean pulled the microphone over and laughed, "Which of us is Mr. Psycho Sexy, Lover?"
Troy sniggered, "Me, of course!" With raised eyebrows, Keith, Prez, Mike and Derrick surrounded Troy and started feeling him up. Intensely blushing, Troy cackled, "Save it for the bedroom! Rehearsal, remember?" When the other four grumbled and wandered away, Troy giggled, "We never should have had sex in front of each other."
Prez teased, "Drew and Corey kept their wall up all night, but now they're back there with Sean."
"Betchya they don't keep their wall up tonight," Derrick joked.
Corey giggled, "The question is, when will John and Stephen decide to join the rest of the couples?"
Drew shouted, "COREY!" and howled laughing.
Sadly shaking his head, Reyes giggled, "Maybe now would be a good time to start rehearsing?"
Prez asked, "Something old or something new?"
"Something borrowed and something blue," Keith cheekily grinned.
Derrick said, "There are a few songs we played yesterday that the kids really liked. Let's start with 'Rescue Me' and 'Lunatic Fringe'." Turning to Reyes, Derrick prompted, "Play electronic drums with me."
Hearing agreements before he could try disagreeing, Reyes moved to the electronic drum kit, giggling, "Okay."
Troy giggled, "You're way too easy, Reyes," causing Reyes to deny it and a burst of laughter and commentaries. When there was quiet, Troy giggled, "Excuse me for being very new, but I'd like to hear what the kids at home call 'Old Habits'; just the four of you playing. I only got to hear about ten songs Monday afternoon. Tuesday afternoon we got to try some songs. Tuesday night's concert threw Reyes and I into the band with very little preparation. Since Tuesday, I've heard about the luau concert, but since I wasn't there, I would like to hear some of that. Reyes and I are additions to a pre-existing band."
Keith nodded agreement, saying, "Old Habits did what we could. On 'Starrider', for example, Mike would play acoustic guitar, so I would play the lead guitar solo on synthesizer. During 'Time', I would play an electric rhythm guitar part on the synthesizer, and the necessary keyboard parts."
"And Keith would also play saxophone parts on synthesizer too," Prez added. "Since Keith was so busy, I would pick up some bass parts that should normally be played on keyboards. Whenever a tune needed hand percussion, it would be done via synthesizer, or dropped completely." Focusing on Troy and then Reyes, Prez admitted, "This is exactly why we wanted to add both of you to this band. There are a handful of songs we can play as a three man band, a classic power trio, and another handful we could play as a four man band, and make it sound right, but Platinum Habits can play all those songs and literally hundreds more. We'll play some examples of those tunes and you'll hear what's missing, Troy."
"That's all I need, is to hear what was," Troy assured.
Watching Reyes and Troy walk away from the stage area, Derrick called, "Rescue Me, take one," and counted out the tempo. Reyes and Troy remained close, just beyond the stage monitors. The band played the song exactly as it had been played at the luau.
At the end of the song, Mike remained at the microphone he had been singing into, and told Troy, "It's already so different from what it was yesterday with you, dude." To further prove the point, Mike asked the band, "How about 'Starrider' next?" When everyone agreed, Mike switched from electric to acoustic guitar.
When that example finished, Troy enthusiastically said, "That was completely amazing! Yeah, it's different from the record, but so damn close it's scary!" He went to Mike and prodded, "I'll play acoustic rhythm and you play the lead part. Keith's free to play keys just like the record."
Mike chuckled, "Sweet!" and handed over the acoustic. He went to get the Les Paul from the guitar rack. The band played Starrider again, this time was even better than the prior run through.
Before the song finished, Corey, Drew, Reyes and Sean applauded and cheered. "Now," Derrick chortled, "another set of drum sounds from Reyes."
"DAD!" Reyes incredulously laughed, "Why bother with another set of drums on that song?"
"Because you're part of this band," Derrick smirked. With some encouragement, Reyes giggled his way up to the drum risers and sat behind the electronic drum kit.
Drew flashed a thumbs up, pulled over the talk-back mic and told the band, "The e-drums will go through the same phase effect as the acoustic drums. We'll have to keep an eye on levels so we don't drown out every other sound, but let's give it a shot."
The band played 'Starrider' again. About a minute into the song, while the first phased drum effect bounced around the rehearsal hall, about two dozen Archnanians entered. Sean noticed the audience gathering, but Corey was watching the effect unit and Drew was busily watching twelve drum channels on the sound board. Cameron walked up to Sean with many pages of paper. He said, "These are the lyrics the guys asked for. I made six copies of each song, one for each band member." Another swirl of tom-tom rolls traveled around the room, causing many of the Archnanians to applaud and cheer. Cameron giggled, "It sounds awesome."
"This is the third time they're playing this song," Sean sniggered. "The first time, it was only the original four; Prez, Keith, Derrick and Mike. The second time, Troy took over the acoustic guitar part. Then Reyes joined. At first, they were playing, but now with an audience, they're performing, like they do at home. I can't believe that it keeps sounding better and better."
An Archnanian boy walked past Cameron and Sean and went to the sound system with Drew and Corey. Sean and Cameron watched the boy introduce himself as Neje, and then heard him explain, "My parents helped design this system and worked with Russ. You guys don't need old folks helping you, but if you have any questions, I can answer them."
Drew grinned, "Our biggest worry is overloading the equipment."
Neje smiled, "It can happen, but it's all protected from that. The component overloaded will only turn itself off, which tells you exactly what the problem was, input signal, output signal or the processing done within the unit."
"We can't fry anything?" Corey queried.
Neje paused then giggled, "No, we don't cook electronics. Why rebuild or repair when you can add intelligent circuitry to prevent it? All you'll need to do is reset and try again."
Corey cracked up. The song ended and Drew pulled over the talk-back mic. He asked the band, "Are you dudes thinking of playing something more for Troy?"
Nodding heads preceded Keith answering, "We thought now would be good, so we can move forward."
"Play 'Tank' so we can test this gear," Drew prodded.
Taking his guitar off, Mike chuckled, "Kewl, and after this, Keith can take a break so we can play 'YYZ'." Mike put the guitar back on the stand.
Troy sniggered, "You can play both those songs?"
Prez nodded and grinned, "You wanted to hear power trio stuff."
Putting his sticks down, Reyes turned to his dad, giggling, "I get the impression that I'll be in here an extra few hours every day, just to keep up with you."
"This is the place to do it," Derrick sniggered, "spending time out of time won't waste time."
"Timing quintuplet beats is what I'll be working on for five hours later tonight," Reyes giggled, and went out to the audience.
To teach Reyes the quintuplet timing, Derrick began thumping the bass drum to a tempo about one hundred beats per minute and played the quintuplets on his snare with even accents and then with varying accents. He sped up the tempo and when Keith flashed a thumbs up, Derrick went right into the start of Tank. Prez came in with his bass guitar part, and then Keith joined in playing two different keyboards. In about a minute and a half, Keith and Prez played the same parts, octaves apart, leading into drum breaks, and then Derrick started his solo. Neither Keith nor Prez had any idea how long Derrick might choose to play, so they stepped aside.
For about a minute, Derrick concentrated on snare and tom-tom rolls. Then he switched over to the cymbals and hi-hat, only occasionally hitting his snare or tom-toms. Sean and Cameron moved forward to stand with Troy and Reyes. After about two minutes, Derrick put his sticks down and kept the solo going with his bass drum and hi-hat while taking his polo shirt off. Widely smiling, Keith rolled his eyes. Seductively licking his lips, Mike leered at his half naked hubby. Prez cracked up. Picking up his sticks again, Derrick continued his solo while twirling his drum sticks. Then he began tossing twirling sticks in the air, catching them and then hitting various drums and cymbals. If Derrick had his timpani and gongs, like at Ewa Beach, he would've continued going, but instead he signaled Drew with the sticks and the pattern of rolls and cymbal crashes. Soon, phase-shifted drum thunder blasted from the speakers and switched from the left to the right channels. Reyes was the only one that knew his dad had extended a two minute drum solo over six minutes. Keith and Prez returned to the stage to finish the last two minutes of the song.
For the applauding audience of Archnanians, Derrick stood and bowed, then found his shirt and wiped his brow. Reyes began giggling, wondering how he could ever manage to play the solo his dad had just played. Mike went to the stage to pick up a guitar, wanting to try one of the Archnanian crafted axes. Keith joined Reyes, Sean, Troy and Cameron, who were standing a few meters before the stage.
Derrick, Mike and Prez started playing YYZ. Keith and Reyes reviewed the lyric sheets Cameron had brought. Troy and Sean focused on the song the band was playing. Watching Troy's eyes dart from Mike to Prez and then to Derrick and back again, Sean slipped behind Troy, wrapped his arms around his Lover's waist, giggling, "I told you they were very good."
Nodding, Troy smiled, "Prez played keyboards. Granted, it wasn't much, but he was playing his bass with his left hand at the same time."
Sean reminded, "You're every bit as good, on several instruments, including horns that they don't play at all." Sean emphasized what he had said with ear lobe licks and nibbles. Loving it, Troy giggled and blushed. At first, none of the three band members did more than smile at the affectionate couple. When Troy's boardies suddenly tented, all three cracked up laughing. Wondering what was going on, Keith and Reyes glanced around, until they caught a glimpse of Troy's profile. Spinning around, Troy made his condition known to Sean and locked lips. Mike started playing the lead guitar solo, causing Troy to carefully turn Sean around so he could watch. At the end of the guitar solo, Prez moved back to the keyboards for a short time, and then returned to the main theme on his bass, for the last minute or so of the song.
When the song finished, Sean and Troy had to remain face-to-face, but furiously clapped their hands behind one another's backs. Once the audience had calmed, Keith said, "Reyes chose a few tunes for us to try that he could sing lead vocals on. If everyone recalls the song, let's start with Smokey Robinson's 'Being With You'. Troy, we'll need you on tenor sax." Staring at Keith like he was insane, Troy smirked. Sean began giggling. "WHAT?" Keith laughed, "You're covered now, as opposed to last night, and bath time at the river this morning."
Evilly sniggering, Mike began strumming the chords to 'One Thing Leads To Another'. Derrick and Prez joined in and all three began singing the chorus. Sean cracked up. Going to the couple, Keith sniggered, "Sean, rearrange Troy's furniture so it's pointing down, and do it in five-seconds or less. We don't want Troy needing to change clothes, or take that tangent. Save it for later."
Doing as instructed, Sean reached his right hand into Troy's shorts. Uncontrollably gasping, Troy then stole a deep kiss. Pulling his hand out of Troy's drawers, Sean broke the kiss and softly prompted, "Go play, Lover. I'll be waiting right here."
Nodding, Troy giggled, "What gets me is that they could've picked any song; one where I was standing behind keyboards, or one where I had a guitar covering my bone, but no." He unexpectedly reached a hand into Sean's shorts and pushed his dick down, grabbing another quick, tender kiss. He stepped back, turned around and went to the stage area.
Derrick, Mike and Prez stopped goofing around. Keith and Reyes went to their instruments. While Troy went to get a tenor sax from the risers, Keith played an electric piano and began a quick review of the song, singing,
"I don't care what they think of me.
And I don't care what they say,
I don't care what they think if you're leavin',
I'm gonna beg you to stay.
I don't care if they start to avoid me.
I don't care what they do.
I don't care about anything else,
But bein' with you, Bein' with you.
Honey, don't go, Don't leave this scene,
Be out of the picture, And off of the screen.
Don't let them say, We told you so.
They tell me you love me, And then let me go.
I heard the warnin' voice,
From friends and my relations.
They tell me all about your, Heart-break reputation."
Derrick, Mike and Prez joined in. Still playing his electric piano, Keith sang,
"But I don't care what they think about me,
And I don't care what they say, no.
I don't care what they think if you're leavin',
I'm gonna beg you to stay.
I don't care if they start to avoid me.
I don't care what they do.
I don't care about anything else,
But bein' with you, Bein' with you.
People can change, they always do.
Haven't they noticed the changes in you?
Or can it be that like love I am blind?
Do I want it so much, 'Til it's all in my mind?
One thing I know for sure,
It's really, really, real. I never felt before,
The way you make me feel.
I don't care what they think about me,
And I don't care what they say.
I don't care what they think if you're leavin',
I'm gonna beg you to stay.
I don't care if they start to avoid me.
I don't care what they do.
I don't care about anything else,
But bein' with you, Bein' with you,
Bein' with you, Bein' with you.
I don't care about anything else,
But bein' with you, Bein' with you, Bein' with you."
"Okay, we're in E flat," Mike said.
Prez nodded, "Modulating between E flat major seventh and C minor seventh during the verses."
With a tenor sax hanging off his neck, Troy approached the grand piano. He stood before the keys and played the chords to the bridge section, and back into the verse. Then he switched to the sax and played the fill scattered throughout the song. He then asked, "Isn't there some strings, starting at the first bridge and during most of the rest of the song?" When heads nodded, Troy said, "I can switch between sax and synth, and be available for background vocals."
Derrick checked with Reyes, "Are you ready to give it a try?"
Reyes nodded and giggled, "Keith did an awesome job on the lead vocals."
"It's the top of my range though," Keith grinned. "You would be a much better vocal match, Reyes. Troy, Derrick and I will be backing you up."
Derrick prodded, "And add some soft percussion accents, mostly bongos following the bass and snare drums, Reyes."
Troy added, "There's a dreamy, breathy quality to the vocals, so don't bruise it, Reyes."
"Let's give it a try," Reyes grinned, and put a headset back on his head. Noticing everyone was watching him, Reyes giggled, "What?"
Derrick sniggered, "It's your song, so count it off. A full four, then two more, we'll come in on the upbeat of three with toms and bongos."
"You're all freaking me out!" Reyes giggled.
The other five innocently chortled, "But why?"
Reyes giggled, "I rehearsed with bands before, and I can recall it clearly. Usually, bands work their way into songs, but not this band; here's the lyrics, and here's a quick sample, and everyone just starts playing, and it's all good, as good as what lots of pros would spend an hour or more working toward."
Prez grinned, "It's called trust, Reyes. First and foremost, trust yourself to not flub up. And trust the rest of the band to not screw up or make unexpected changes."
Mike added, "This song doesn't have solos to spread our wings and fly. It's an R&B ballad that flows, like Troy said, in a dreamy fashion. The lyrics and the music all work to bring that across to the audience. Hit your drums with loose arms, like you're half asleep and let it groove. Your voice will naturally keep that groove."
Sighing and glancing at each of his band mates, two of which were his dads, who he very much wanted to please, Reyes mumbled, "Okay, here we go." He counted out the tempo, a full four beats, and then two more. Gently hitting the bongos with Derrick's tom-tom strikes, the band pulled together. Mike played muted arpeggios on his guitar and Keith's electric piano chords blended in. Prez kept a simple bass line pumping with the drums. Troy's tenor sax part cut through. Keith and Troy harmonized background vocals. When he wasn't playing his sax, Troy added the strings parts from the synthesizer where necessary. Prez slid a few notes around his bass, bringing Troy away from the synthesizer and back to his sax, for the second half of the song.
Reyes didn't feel like he was singing; it was more like yawning words. However, what Reyes felt and what everyone else heard were two very different things. Reyes had the perfect voice to pull off a great rendition of the song. When the audience of Archnanians began applauding, and then his band mates also applauded, Reyes blushed and giggled, "Really? I almost put myself to sleep!" The band and audience cracked up.
From the PA gear, Drew laughed, "Reyes needs a boyfriend! Then he'll learn how to be completely relaxed and excited as hell at the same time."
Derrick teased, "We'll have to wake Reyes first, and then we'll run through 'Being With You' again. Sit at the e-drums, Reyes."
Mike prompted, "Troy, pick up a Stratocaster, bro."
Nodding and taking his tenor sax off, Troy asked, "What's the tune?"
"Life In The Fast Lane," Mike answered. "With you, we can make this sound better than we've ever done before."
Hanging the Strat off his shoulder, Troy grinned, "We'll need three guitars, Mike."
"Keith handles one of the guitar parts from the synthesizers," Mike smiled. "Keith can handle a decent rhythm guitar, but for this song, he's more comfortable on keys and does the job." In moments, when everyone was ready, Mike counted off, and they started playing the song. He had expected Troy to balk, or have a difficult time keeping up, but he played the part very well the first time through. Derrick sang lead vocals. To be sure that he recalled the song's drum part correctly, Reyes kept watching Derrick.
At the end of that song, Derrick prompted, "Let's slow it down now. How 'bout some classic jazz?"
Prez and Mike agreed, and went to change instruments. Mike picked up a guitar that resembled a Gibson 335. Prez went to get an upright bass, and Troy went to get a tenor sax. Keith moved over to the grand piano and began tickling the keys. Seeing Prez and Troy come down off the high risers, Keith began playing the Count Basie tune Lil' Darlin'. Derrick switched to brushes and Mike began strumming chords in a Freddie Green style. In moments, the band joined together. The band improvised for almost ten minutes, with Troy, Mike and Keith each soloing on the melody. Everyone was becoming more impressed with Troy's musicianship.
At the end of the song, while the audience was applauding, Mike called, "Hey Cam, can you see what can be done about getting an archtop jazz guitar?"
Cam asked, "Please be a little more specific, Mike?"
"Like a Gibson L5 or ES-175, dude," Mike prompted. "The 335 is awesome for blues, and it did the job, but a hollow body archtop breathes better for jazz." Gesturing to the racks of guitars, Mike said, "There's a great collection of solid body axes here, but this one is the only semi-hollow body in the group. A Gretsch Tennessee Rose, or an Ibanez George Benson Signature model; any of the above would've done the trick."
Processing a breathing guitar, Cam giggled, "Alden's working on it."
Drew laughed, "You had to tell them that, Cam?"
Cam and all the band members shouted, "WHAT?"
Corey giggled, "Now they know that you're linked in with Alpha Prime Earthbound AI's!"
Cam sniggered, "This is a bad thing?"
Keith smirked, "Finding out our Toy Rimmers are withholding their techie tricks is the bad part."
"Oops!" Cam giggled.
Before the rehearsal digressed into a Toy Rimmer bash fest, Troy began playing Harlem Nocturne. The rest of the band joined in, evilly glaring toward the back of the room at Drew and Corey.