The 404: Part Four
Have you ever freaked out about a school project only to remember that it's not due for another month? Well yeah, that sort of happened to The 404.
Of course, we didn't have a set time for the concert. We still needed more songs. We had about seven pretty decent songs, but Pen insisted we needed at least eleven.
Well, the one about rain that Terrence made up and I polished became number eight, and that left three to go.
Three songs to write and get good at before we had to perform, and Sloth would inevitably show up at the concert. How long could we possibly stretch this process out before the person who owned the venue where we intended to perform gave up on us? Loris calculated twenty-seven days. We'd been keeping Krellun Beat Cafe waiting far too long already, even if he was invested in the band.
Sadly, this time passed. We wrote the three other songs (Laughter in my Nightmares, Perfect Loss, and Graveyard Garden), got very good at playing them, and called up the Krellun Beat Cafe to ask when we could play. He gave us a date two weeks from that day. He said we'd get some posters to hand out and put up places in a few days. We could hear the relief in his voice, and some of the more sensitive band members felt sorry for making him wait so long.
The others begged me (despite the consensus originally being that it was rude) to not tell Sloth when the concert was, but I refused. Sloth's my friend—in a twisted way—and I couldn't betray his trust. They were all disappointed in my honesty, but didn't say anything further on the topic.
I told Sloth the date, gave him a few posters to put wherever he deemed proper in the Space Station, and left it at that.
I hung one on the bulletin board at Ms. Vladderly's Pretty Decent Living Allotments and one at every Kreludorian and Space Station business I could find that hadn't be already poster'd by one of the other band members.
Finally, it was the day of the performance.
And I was a ball of nerves with a lot of loose wires sticking out somewhere that weren't correctly plugged into the old noggin. I swear that some of those mental Firewire cables had been shoved hard into a port meant for a USB.
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Work went humming along as it always does. A little bit of a kitchen work here, a few levels of the real-life game Space Station; Deliver the 2:22 PM Snack! and then a few quick winks in the bean bag chair in the rec. room.
After I was tired of sleeping—don't you hate it when that happens?—I got up and walked all over the place, wondering if my voice was ever going to be screeched over the loudspeaker again, or if I really had nothing more to do until I left early for the concert.
I walked along corridors I'd never explored. I rode in ancient, do-it-yourself elevators where you had to lift yourself with your own strength. I even went into the controlled zero-gravity room and walked on the ceiling without signing any waiver or anything. I just walked in there and spent and hour and floated until I got bored. Then I left that magical room and trudged along what seemed like many miles of hallway until I reached Sloth's office.
It was really the only logical place to go. I mean, I'm not really employed by any Sergeant, Lieutenant or the cook. I'm employed by Sloth directly. Not everyone in the Space Station; Sloth Division is. It comes of all those Officers, Sergeants, Lieutenants, etc. hiring their own assistants without confirming it with anyone else, then just paying them out of their own paycheck. Not that Sloth cares. As long as they're loyal, they're welcome.
When I came in, Sloth was wearing his 404 robe and a red and black striped scarf. His feet were up on the desk, and he once again looking at those weird little index cards. The two he was holding right as I walked in were green and pink.
Of course, when he noticed me, he put them away. He always does.
"Bif! What's up?" he said cheerfully.
"I have nothing to do, sir," I admitted.
"Oh. Want to model this dress?" he asked, holding up a weird looking contraption edged with jellybeans.
"Not really, sir," I said, eyeing the dangerous implement of extreme femininity.
"Too bad. I just got one from playing this game called Blumaroll. I thought it was rather fun and perhaps–"
"No. Never again," I growled.
"Ok, ok," he said, smiled weakly, and put the dress under his desk.
Some things never change.
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It was seven o'clock. I was sitting in a makeshift backstage in the Krellun Beat Cafe. The only thing that separated me and the audience was the ratty red velvet curtain with green velvet patches hung from the ceiling.
My drums were already set up on the other side, but I had my drumsticks in hand. All the other could cling to their instruments in desperate terror backstage, but Terrence, Loris and all were a bit empty handed.
Uuvie was sobbing onto Xion's fin. Pen and Vic were trying to do some sort of zen breathing thing, but were still all jittery.
None of this would have been so serious if it weren't for Sloth sitting in the front row, wearing his 404 robe and grinning like all-get-out.
We would have be normal nervous, yes, but now we were nervous squared. But really, above all, we were embarrassed.
Everyone walking in the door felt the awkwardness like raw electricity in the air even before they saw the all-too familiar tri-spiked hair-do of our dear would-be overlord. It was no comfort that when he noticed you pass by him, he would stand up—displaying his dedication to the band you had come to watch on the front of his robe—and would shake your hand and ask how you knew about the band.
I could kick him in the shins right now. Although, so far, no one had come in, seen him, then left, so that was good. In fact, no one had exited as of yet at all, although a lot of people were milling around near the back rather than sitting down, and those that did sit down were a careful five-chair radius away from Sloth.
The owner of the cafe came backstage, sobbing. He was a pleasant enough rainbow Elephante, but he was not used to live performances that were attended by highly powerful, dangerous, and well-known supervillains.
"Guys, Sloth is in the front row!" he sobbed, ringing his hands.
"We know," replied Loris. "Mr. Brilliant Bif here invited him."
"I did NOT!" I shouted quietly. "He invited himself!"
The owner was a bit shocked, but continued on being worried. "What shall we do?! People are coming up to me and asking me if it's part of the performance or something, but I don't know what to say!"
"Tell them they'd better enjoy this performance; it's our last," said Vic, face immobile and drawn.
"Yeah, after the world hears about this, we're toast," intoned Pen, face white—er, well, whiter than normal with a big of greyish bags under the eyes, making the rest of face seem whiter somehow—and antennae drooping.
"Don't be too dismal," said Xion, critically. "Perhaps we'll get a weird following."
"I don't want weird following me around," said Pen, wrinkling his nose.
"No, it's not like that," I said.
"Then what's it like?"
"Well–" began Xion.
"Well, as long as you guys don't mind performing in front of... him, I'm O.K.," interjected the owner, looking a bit annoyed at not being included in the conversation.
"Yeah, we've been ready for this, just... not up front," whimpered Uuvie. "We weren't expecting him right up front."
A thought blew into my head. "Hey, owner man, why don't you tell him to go sit in the back so he doesn't block the view of those short than him?"
The Elephante wailed and whined. "Why do I have to do itttt?"
"Well," I began, "we're not supposed to be seen out there until we go on stage. Can't really go out there now."
"What if he turns me into a pile of sludge, or transmogrifies me?!" the Elephante squeaked in terror.
"As long as you don't butcher Vivaldi's Piccolo Concerto in C you'll be fine," I quipped.
"Eh?" asked the Elephante, wiping sweat from his brow with his entire swallowtail jacket.
"Nothing. Just go out there and ask him, politely, to move for the convenience of his fellow concert-goers," I said, waving at the Elephante to leave; he wasn't helping us calm down at all. "If you have any trouble, tell him Bif said he has to."
The Elephante left, muttering about forbidding live performance from here on out, and there we sat, all still nervous wrecks.
Finally, Loris stood up, eyes glassy and face set in a determined grimace. "Well, let's get out there. After all, the show must begin, then continue to go on."
The showmen and women inside of us stirred. She was right; the show must go on—or, rather, start at all, then keep going from then on and not stop.
To be continued...