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Guitar Heroes (IC)

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Zöe noticed that Erin was still walking with her as she left the Admin Office on her way to the dorms.

"Look, do you get it now? I know theoretical temporal physics isn't exactly your cup of coffee, but I don't know if this is a closed loop or not. Stuff that happens here might affect me, or I might be effectively outside the timestream and ripple-proof. I dunno yet. So if Mom and Dad never hook up, maybe I'll stick around, or maybe I'll disappear. And if I don't exist anymore, then I can't figure out how to save them thirty years from now."

"But if I just tell them they have to be together, I'll kill the spark and make sure they never fall in love. So I gotta play this cool. Please, please don't rat me out. Mom didn't want me to worry about this kinda stuff when I was 16. It's not fair if I do it to her."

As they were walking, a brightly-colored flier caught Zöe's eye. "Huh. Bandmates wanted..." She tore off one of the perforated strips of paper, studied the phone number, then crumpled it up and shoved it into her bag.

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Erin tucked her hands into her pockets. "I think you're making a mistake doing it this way," she told Zoe. "Alex," she couldn't say your mom, it was too weird, "is smarter than you're probably giving her credit for, and very curious. She's going to figure you out eventually. Anyway, she already plans to hook up with Mike, just not for another ten years or so. This thing with Mark is... I dunno, just a thing. But I won't tell," she finally added. "That's for you to do." Even back now, Erin was big on people being responsible for their own actions. Possibly why she and Uncle Mark hadn't gotten along well as far back as Zoe could remember. "What are you going to do?"

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"Thanks. I know Mom - I mean Alex (I really gotta stop calling her that) will figure me out eventually. She's the smartest person I know. But the later, the better. Wait - Mom and Mark? You're farking kidding me. Maybe this is an alternate universe after all..."

Zöe opened up the door to her new room, dropped her pack, flopped down onto her bed, and grabbed the phone. She squinted at the scrap of paper and dialed the number.

"What am I gonna do now? I'm gonna take a deep breath, clear my head, and go. Go do something fun, go make some new friends, go try to make the best of getting stuck in the Dark Ages and try to forget about how freaking crazy upside down my world just went."

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Erin stood in the doorway for a minute. It looked like Zoe was done with their conversation for the moment, but she had one more question. "It's true that you know all of us in thirty years, isn't it. Not as teammates, maybe, but you recognized Mark and I too, didn't you?" The idea of still being around in another thirty years was somewhat surprising, even in a timeline that had just gotten blown all to hell. It wasn't something she'd really considered as part of her lifetime program.

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*Ring...Ring...Ring...* "Hello!" Eddie picked up his phone. He didn't know the number, but then in his line of work he got a lot of calls from people he didn't know. If you were going to run a successful DJ business, you had to keep you're options open. "Eddie here, may I ask who is speaking?" He was oddly hopeful about this phone call...

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Zöe cupped her hand over the receiver. "Yeah. Everything else was true. You guys were all still around. You, Mark, Mom, Dad, Eddie, James, Q, even Chris. You were like an aunt to me. We got along a lot better back then."

"Hey Eddie." She cupped her hand over the receiver again. "I can't believe I'm answering the ad. THE ad! I had all of Eddie Ozan's albums."

"I saw your flier on campus. I'm interested, and I can drop some wicked licks. You free this afternoon? How about you meet me at the Guitar Center in the Bayview Mall, and I'll show you my juice?"

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Whoever this girl was she talked exceedingly fast. "Woh slow down there. You're calling about the band I'm gathering, and it sounds like you play guitar. Both good, we still need a guitarist. But you still haven't answered my question. Who are you?"

His good feeling had been right! He needed a guitarist for his band, and one had just fallen into his lap. With any luck, they would be on their way to rock and roll stardom before the end of the school year!

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"I see..." That one would take some serious thinking on, later, Erin decided. "Alex and my room is right down the hall, it's the one with the sparkly stickers on the door. You can ask us or the RA if you need anything. Later." She ducked out of the room to leave Zoe to her conversation, heading back outside to see if any of her friends were still around anywhere. She wasn't sure what she was going to say to any of them, but she figured she'd think of something.

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Zöe once again cupped her palm over the receiver to muffle the second conversation. "Thanks, Erin! And remember - you don't have to lie!"

She turned back to the phone. "My name's Zöe. I...look. You'll know me when you see me, OK? Just be there." She hung up, then dashed out the door and took off running.

A few seconds later, she stepped into the Bayview Mall guitar store. She tapped a sales clerk on the shoulder. "Hey, can I test-drive that Fender Strat? The blue one. Cool. Can I hook up to that amp over there?"

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*Click* The phone listed "call ended" Well... guess there's no help for it. He thought as he saved the number in his phone and walked over to his closet. He rifled through a drawer full of t-shirts trying to find a good one. He held up a black shirt with a blue stylized "VH" on the front of it. Wonder if she's as good as another Eddie I know...

He slipped the shirt on, and pulled on his Converse All Stars (the blue ones). He had already been wearing his jeans.

A few minutes later, he left through Claremont's front doors. Thankfully the mall wasn't far. It was a walk, but it wasn't that bad. Eddie took off at a run, his headphones blaring the music of one of his favorite all time bands..."Hot shoe, burnin' down the avenue!..."

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When Eddie reached the guitar store, he heard the main guitar riffs of "Pretend We're Dead" by L7. At first, he assumed it was piping in over the P.A. system, but when the vocals didn't kick in at the correct time, he realized someone inside the store must be playing it on one of the display guitars.

As he walked in, the song abruptly stopped, replaced by a guitar reinterpretation of Brad Fiedel's iconic theme to the movie Terminator 2. This was swiftly followed up by the first unmistakable (to anyone who ever watched a late-night infomercial for a classic rock compilation album) 25 seconds of "Layla," by Eric Clapton's old band Derek & The Dominos. A little bit of searching revealed the source of this miniature rock odyssey: A teenage girl with fiery red hair, sitting on a raised platform. At first, Eddie could've sworn it was Alex. But Alex wouldn't be caught dead dressed like this. This girl wore a worn flannel shirt, open and unbuttoned, over a black tank-top with a "Metallica" logo over the chest, a plaid pleated skirt, torn fishnet stockings, and black leather lace-up combat boots. Her legs dangled back and forth and her long hair hung loose over her face as she picked and strummed her way through "the classics" on a blue Fender Stratocaster.

Thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music, past and present, Eddie easily recognized the various solos she jumped through. 05:55-07:05 of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven." The first 30 seconds, followed by 03:34-05:11 of "Master of Puppets" from the eponymous Metallica album. The last one they recorded before their bassist was killed.

When she segued into the Metallica solo, she jumped to her feet, gritted her teeth, and really got into it. Her hair waved and cut through the air as she banged her head. She didn't "play" the guitar so much as she attacked it, beating it within an inch of its life.

By this point, most of the customers and employees alike had stopped what they were doing to watch her. Several of them were nodding their heads to the rhythm of the songs and grinning. A couple of the clerks whispered to each other and laughed. Then they ran and grabbed a large fan, plugging it into a nearby outlet and placing it at an angle right below the girl, so that it blew up into her face. The rush of air sent her hair flying back in all directions. She didn't appear to notice.

When the "Master of Puppets" solo ended, she broke into 04:00-06:08 of Dragonforce's "Through The Fire & Flames." At the 06:08 mark, she abruptly stopped playing, shook her head, exhaled, and jumped down from the platform. She handed off the Strat to one of the clerks. "Thanks." He laughed. "Yeah, sure. Don't mention it."

The girl then turned and walked straight up to Eddie. She used her fingers to brush some of her hair out of her face. "So...whatta ya think? Are we in business?"

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This girl wore a worn flannel shirt, open and unbuttoned, over a black tank-top with a "Metallica" logo over the chest, a plaid pleated skirt, torn fishnet stockings, and black leather lace-up combat boots. Her legs dangled back and forth and her long hair hung loose over her face as she picked and strummed her way through "the classics" on a blue Fender Stratocaster.

I...wow...PLEASE tell me that's her! Eddie was speechless. He was stunned by both the girl's skill with a guitar as well her looks. She looked a lot like Alex. Alex was nice enough, and certainly attractive, but there was enough competition for her the Eddie kept his distance. Not to mention that Alex's bookishness was not his thing. But this girl - From the Metallica shirt right down to the boots. "Wow." Was all he could muster.

he girl then turned and walked straight up to Eddie. She used her fingers to brush some of her hair out of her face. "So...whatta ya think? Are we in business?"

When Zoe walked up to Eddie, that huge smile she remembered seeing on the TV and internet so often lit up his face. He was obviously was excited to see her.

"Hell yea! That was amazing! But how did you know who I was? I've never seen you before. I think I would remember..."

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"But how did you know who I was? I've never seen you before. I think I would remember..."

...FARK!

"Um...I...uh...saw your yearbook pic! Yeah! I saw the ad on campus, asked around, and one of the students showed me your yearbook pic." Nice save. I hope. I would be the worst secret agent EVER.

"I'm new. Just transferred to Claremont." She offered her hand to Eddie. "Zöe MacMillan."

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Eddie eyed the girl a bit strangely. But I'm not IN the yearbook. Not yet, anyways... Oh well, I'm sure it's no big deal. He shook her hand anyways. "Well, it's great to meet you, Zoe. I'm glad you want to join the band. You're actually the first guitarist that was interested, but you rocked pretty damn well up there, so it's not like I would really consider turning you down!"

Eddie folded his arms across his chest. He figured he'd better ask a few more questions..."So I noticed that you were playing a stock guitar. What model do you own?"

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Zöe slowly rolled her eyes, shrugged, and gave an exaggerated toothy smile, paired with a pair of worried eyes that made it clear her heart wasn't in it. "Um...yeah. About that. I'm kinda broke right now. I did just qualify for a scholarship, and I've got some part-time work lined up. But it's gonna take a while for the paperwork and stuff to go through. Right now, I don't have much more than the clothes on my back. I am, for the moment, without tools. Sans-instruments. A lumberjack without an axe. A surgeon without a scalpel. Let's just say this year didn't get off to the best start."

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Oh that's no good! She can't play without an instrument...

Eddie cocked his head to the side and smiled. "Well I guess we are going to have to fix that, aren't we?" He began to walk around Zoe into the heart of the store where all the coolest looking guitars were kept. Once she caught up with him, he looked at her and said, "Can't have my star guitarist go without a guitar. Pick one." Again. It was that smile. If anything identified Eddie as himself, it was that smile. Huge, heartwarming, kind, amazing. "See, I've got a job, and some extra money to burn..."

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Zöe's eyes widened into circles as her jaw dropped open. "No farking way. Seriously? Are you sure? I mean, if you front me, I can totally pay you back. But it'll take me a while. Seriously?"

Sprak, Z. Looks like you made an impression. Not only does the Eddie Ozan want you in his band, he'll pay you for the privilege. Did my luck just flip a U-turn?

"Um...you totally don't have to do this. But if you insist and all..." She pointed to the blue Fender Stratocaster she was playing a few moments ago. "I know whatcher thinkin'. I'm gonna go for the Dean Z, because my name is Zöe and it looks cool. But the Fender Strat was the chosen weapon of Eric Clapton. Pink Floyd. Ynwie Malmsteen. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix. The Beatles, The Who, even Buddy Holly. Rock was built with the Stratocaster."

She raised an eyebrow. "Two-hundred and fifty bucks? Are you sure you wanna drop that kind of cash on me?"

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"Oh, believe me, I know what this guitar has done for rock." Eddie said, motioning for her to pick up the one she wanted. "And I don't want you worrying about how much it costs either. My expenses are rather low since my parents are paying for tuition. I've been putting most of my paychecks away for this exact purpose. You can't start a good band unless you're going to bank roll it somehow. I'm hoping after we put together a small album we can get some sort of funding from somewhere."

Once Zoe had her new guitar in hand, Eddie began to walk towards the counter. "I'm sure it's all wishful thinking, but all the same...Oh, uh, you need a case for that?"

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When the cashier handed Zöe the guitar, she just stared at it longingly for a minute. "Whoa..."

She shook her head when Eddie interrupted her reverie. "Um, yeah. I managed to get out with some bare essentials, but I lost all my gear. My inventory includes nothing even vaguely music-related. Unless you count socket-wrenches as makeshift drumsticks. But I don't play drums. I mean, I like banging on stuff in a primal, caveman way as much as the next person. But I'm not a big enough dick to be a drummer. And I'm not OCD enough to look forward to a fun night of counting. And I'm talking too much. Shut up, Z. Your mouth is undoing all the hard work your fingers just laid down."

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"Alright, then, let's get you a case too." Eddie only smiled as she ranted on and on. Despite what she might have expected, he only seemed pleased as punch at her rantings. He even laughed at the bit about the caveman. "Now way! Keep talking. It's actually really funny. And don't worry about most of the accessories and stuff. I have picks and cables and amps already." Eddie said giving a small hand wave at the rest of the equipment a guitarist would need.

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"Sprak, dude, I can't thank you enough. I thought I was gonna go nuts waiting for my next chance to jam. Wow." She handed the guitar to the sales clerk so he could drop it into its new case, then turned around and gave Eddie a big hug and a peck on the cheek. Then she leaned back some, using the counter to support most of her weight, while still mostly pressed up against him. Her arms were still wrapped around Eddie, but her hands fell from his back down to behind his waist. If she had any familiarity with the concept of a "personal space bubble," she wasn't showing it.

"So what'd you have in mind, genre-wise? Metal? Punk? Industrial? Alternative? Rap-Rock? Please don't say 'Country.' Anything but Country..." She released Eddie from the embrace and stuck her finger down her throat as she made a mock gagging sound.

"I've kinda been on a 1990s metal kick lately. Metallica. Nothing after Load, of course. Even most of that disc was sprak. Pantera...is Dimebag dead yet? I mean...uh, nevermind. Fear Factory, before Dino Cazares left and they went all limp. Tool. ÆNIEMA, of course. Not the suckfest that was Lateralus & beyond. Nine Inch Nails and Stabbing Westward, of course. Oh, and Otep! Shamaya's like my idol. Nobody ever thought a chick could do a metal scream like that. It's like when no one thought a human could run a 4-minute mile, until Roger Bannister did it in 1954, and suddenly everyone could do it. Y'know? I'm totally down with punk, too, though, if that's the direction you wanna go. I can't get enough of Bad Religion and L7. Didja wanna go all serious, or self-parody, like Type O-Negative or Dragonforce?"

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When Zoe leaned in close and kissed him, Eddie's face went red. "Hey, don't mention it!" He beamed down at her. And oddly enough didn't even flinch at her contact or blatant disrespect of the concept of personal space.

The color in his face calmed down quickly enough. When she mentioned country, however, another thought crossed his mind, though he didn't voice it. Dude! If she wasn't so damn awesome this might actually be creepy! I wonder if that was was just a lucky guess or what? He spared a quick glance down at how he was dressed to see if it gave off any sort of clues as to his music tastes. The Van Halen band shirt spoke for itself, but nothing else was really all that obvious. "I don't think you're going to have to worry about hearing any country out of me. I don't know any one that hates the stuff more than I do."

He nodded along with her when she prattled off a list of bands as long as his arm. Is it possible she knows as much about music as I do? He thought.

"Those bands are all great, you got that right. I certainly plan to draw influences from all of the greats. But I do want to throw a little of our own personality in there as well. Kind of how Silvertide sounds oddly familiar to AC/DC. Damone to Iron Maiden, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, etc..." Eddie leaned up against the counter as he talked as well, waiting for the clerk to put all of the items together. "Our other band mates don't seem to have much of a preference so far. Alexis and JJ have both said they would leave that much up to me. And I am more than sure that they both can handle themselves on Drums and Keys for whatever we end up settling on. Do you have a preference?" He finished with his ever present smile.

This is actually going really well. I just hope I don't screw it up!

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"Honestly? If it was up to me, I'd lay down some truly Epic Rock." Eddie could actually hear the capitalization in Zöe's phrasing. When the cashiers finished ringing them up, she grabbed the guitar case with one hand, and Eddie's hand with her other. She swung her arm like a pendulum as they walked out, taking his with it. "It's seen some brief resurgences here and there, with bands like Dragonforce, but truly intricate guitar playing is becoming a lost art in popular music. I mean, don't get me wrong - I like a good solid crunching 'chug chugchugchug chugchugchug chugCHUGCHUG! rhythm as much as the next person. But I wanna bring back the kind of 3-minute long wicked solos that made people wonder if you had six fingers on each hand, the kind you couldn't throw a stick in the '70s and '80s without hitting three of, and stick 'em in the kind of pulse-pounding fist-pumping head-banging metal that makes parents and record companies stand up in front of Congressional committees!"

This is actually going really well. I just hope I don't screw it up!

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As they walked out of the shop, Eddie used his free hand to give a tug on his t-shirt. "Like the kind of technical guitar playing that Van Halen did so well. I totally agree with you. If you can lay it down, I would be more than happy to put our names on it!" Once they were out of the store he stopped abruptly. "That reminds me," He said with a smile, "I should show you the practice space that we rented." He jerked his head off to the left in a direction that would lead them down the street and further away from Claremont. "I rented a small storage space that we can use as a garage to practice in. I also have keys for everyone so that we can leave our stuff there and not have to worry about needing other band mates just to get at our stuff." Eddie gave her hand a slight tug. "Wanna see?"

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"Fark YEAH I wanna see!" Zöe grinned and rammed her shoulder against Eddie's. Then she closed her eyes tight and gritted her teeth for a few seconds, squeezing Eddie's hand so hard she almost broke it. Eddie suddenly felt like he just downed a triple-espresso. The whole world started moving in slow-motion, until the people around them were practically statues. "I just learned this trick today. Welcome to my world. Lead the way!"

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