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The Battle of the Bands (IC)

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The Riverside Park was Packed! People were everywhere, milling in and around the parking lot. A large stage was set up at one end of the lot, with tents around it for those that would be performing. The first band that played was rather amateur in Eddie's opinion, and he thought about how in a few short minutes he would be blowing them out of the water.

Taking a sip from the bottle of water the organizers had supplied him, he looked in the mirror set up in one of the tents. For the first time in a while, he had actually bothered to put the orange highlights in his hair. It was a special occasion, after all. He gave the slight amount of gel in his hair a slight touch up, then turned to Zoe and the others. "You look beautiful," he told her. He landed a kiss on her forehead and gave her waist a squeeze. "We're up after this current band finishes, third in the lineup. It's a good spot to be. You guys ready to show the crowd what Octopus Dropkick can do?" He asked the rest of his band.

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James smiled ruefully as he checked his guitar, making sure it sounded just right. He hadn't done much to dress up or special for this. He was 'dressed down' for the occasion with worn and slightly torn jeans, a favorite t-shirt that hadn't been obliterated by some problem or another yet and a button up shirt thrown over it, hanging loose. He shook his head, loose black hair swooshing around before settling, as he settled the guitar strap on his shoulder.

He wasn't particularly concerned about winning. This concert was for Eddie. And that meant James was going to do his best to make sure his friend won by a landslide, even if it meant showing off with a level of skill he'd never really used before. Of course, James wouldn't be particularly concerned about winning against any band in the world really. He, and this group, really were that good. He nodded, flashing a wry and confident smile. "We're good. It's a done deal already. They just don't know it yet," he said confidently.

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As with previous years, hundreds of Freedom City youths turned out for the WKYO 96.4 FM "Whacko Radio" annual Battle of The Bands. Some of the assembled teens and twenty-somethings were dedicated participants in the local underground music scene, or at least friends and significant others of such. Others, recently unencumbered by their educational pursuits, just drifted in because it was free, and easily accessible by mass transit. The crowd ebbed and flowed against the stage like the tides against the beach. Music fans clad in all manner of denim, flannel, fishnet and leather did their best to affect an air of world-weary cynicism as they wandered back and forth between the booths, shielded from the unrelenting sun by massive canvas pavilions. Vendors slung overpriced food and drink, friends and families of the aspiring bands hawked their homemade merchandise and demo CDs, and the station employees handed out leaflets advertising upcoming shows and did their best to convince people to sign up for junk mail. With the temperature climbing into the low 80s, the vendors made a killing moving bottled water as fast as they could restock it.

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Zoe's strawberry-blonde locks cascaded down to her waist, unfettered in anticipation of the impending vigorous headbanging. She stood resplendent in what passed for "semi-formal" attire in the eyes of a retro-punk riot grrrl with gothic undertones. Her green-&-black plaid pleated skirt ended above her knees and highlighted the similar hue of her eyes. Her black fishnet tights were torn in seemingly random places, places only the most knowledgeable, perceptive, and cynical of observers would suspect were specifically, painstakingly chosen for maximum visual effect and minimum structural weakness. They terminated into a set of knee-high black leather combat boots, covered in chrome buckles, studs, and spikes which shimmered under the sun's unforgiving rays, as did her many varied ear-piercings and wrist-spikes. Her black spaghetti-string cotton tank-top stood out against both the assembled crowds and her own wardrobe, as the chest was emblazoned not with a band logo or a sarcastic quote, but rather, a simple stylized white raptor in flight.

Zoe responded to Eddie's kiss by closing her eyes, smiling, and planting one of her own on the base of his neck before nuzzling her nose in the same spot. Their fellow students couldn't help but notice that, whenever Eddie was around, she actually seemed to stand in one spot for once. She reached up and gave one of Eddie's spikes a playful flick with her fingers. "Really brought your A-game today, Hot Stuff." And he's not the only one, she mused to herself as she stole a few glances at the resident demon prince. He actually kinda looks human for once.

Zoe extracted herself from Eddie's grasp with a smack on his bottom, then disappeared, reappearing an eyeblink later on the other side of the tent with a set of headphones on, the blue Stratocaster Eddie'd bought her at their first meeting slung across her shoulders. Both were plugged into the nearby amp, which showed flickering lights on the console as she strummed, tuning and adjusting. She moved slowly enough that her bandmates could see her, but too fast for them to make out anything but an indistinct blur, like an overexposed photograph.

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Chris pulled Liz through the teeming crowds, steering past people deftly and just barging past when need be. "Come ooooon..." He felt her lagging behind, and slowed so she could catch up. "I promised Eddie we'd get to the front!" He tugged on his black trilby anxiously. "They're the next guys oooon."

"Kenzie, it's your fault we're late," sighed Liz, pulling her hair back into a ponytail. In accordance with the occasion, she'd dresseds in black jeans and boots, along with a white tanktop and purple streak in her hair. "Do I need to remind you who was busy uploading all their music into the computer?"

Meanwhile, Chris had not gone with general vibe and was wearing a mismatched combination of muddy blue jeans, a Freedom City Comets t-shirt and a black trilby (with his Geckoman costume underneath). "I needs my Paramore when I'm working, Liz, you know that! Don't judge me!" He tugged on her arm. "Please."

Liz again sighed, running her hands through her hair and then shoving them forwards through the crowd once more. "Remind me again why we date?"

Chris pretended to think on this for a while before pulling out a pair of aviators and putting them on. "Style. Yeeeeah."

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At first, Warren had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn't going to fit in with everyone. But after a few practice sessions, he found he worked well with Eddies little project. He was still freaked by how fast Zoe seemed to move, but that feeling was starting to fade. For today, Warren was wearing a pair of jeans and black t-shirt with Megadeth stamped on it. He still had his Gibson Explorer with him, but managed to put on a easily destroyable faceplate on it just to hide the the regular design on it. He only had one guitar after all.

"Just about." Warren said as he made a few more adjustments, trying to get the tune right. Superhearing helped get the pitch perfect after all. "Yep, I'm good now man."

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"Cool." Eddie replied to his friends, as the third song in what he liked to think of as their opener played. "Time for the finishing touches then." He adjusted his belt so that his torn blue jeans sat a little lower on his waist. Just enough to show the elastic on the boxers he was wearing, which happened to be covered in Jolly Roger pirate symbols. The hems of his pants now nearly covered his black converse high-tops. He turned to the small mirror they'd set out in the tent, and pulled a small black case out of his pocket. Opening it, he used the tool inside to put a small line of eyeshadow beneath both of his eyes. It wasn't much, but it made his eyes stand out better from farther away.

Stepping away from the mirror, Eddie almost tore his t-shirt off. "Won't be needing this." He dropped it on the floor next to the messenger bag he always carried with him. Then stooped into a crouch and fished around in the bag for a second. He pulled out a slightly faded black button down shirt and threw it over his shoulders. Not bothering to button it over his chest, he began rolling up the sleeves so that they sat at his elbows. Another rummage through the bag produced a pair of black fingerless leather gloves, which he pulled tightly onto his hands. Though the gloves had wrist straps to secure them, he didn't bother Velcroing them. He let them hang instead. The next accessory he pulled from his bag was a strip of leather, with small studs on it. He held it up to his neck, displaying it for the group to see. Though the question was posed to the whole group, he only looked at Zoe, "Spiked collar? Yea or nay?"

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To all her fellow super-powered teens inside the tent, it appeared as if Zoe was in two places at once. The blurry image of her tuning her guitar flickered, but didn't fade as she also stood before Eddie, one hand resting on her hip as the other stroked her chin contemplatively.

She shook her head. "Nah." She rubbed his bicep affectionately. "No offense, Babe, but I haven't seen someone that overaccessorized since The Raven. Now, where's that set list?"

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James just chuckled and shook his head. He never was in to the whole punk/rock setting; certainly not enough to bother with clothing for it. He preferred his own stuff anyway for comfort and style. "You're fine Eddie." He looked around for a moment. "Think I saw it on a shelf a few minutes ago, back there somewhere," he said, pointing over one shoulder with a thumb, replying to Zoe.

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"Wouldn't overdo it." Warren said as he reached behind him and grabbed a slightly battered jacket and slipped it on. It was techncially too hot to wear one, but he didn't want to feel too boring compared to everyone else. He grabbed a few spare guitar picks from his case and slipped them into his pocket. "Trust me, going in overdressed doesn't always work." As he talked, he listened in on the other band, trying to see how much longer they had before they were up.

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"Actually, James," Eddie forestalled him, "I have the set list. Well, the new one, at least." Eddie tossed the studded collar over his shoulder absentmindedly. It had been a joke in the first place, and he was done with it, now that the joke was over. "In light of recent events, I figured we could do something special." Eddie pulled a piece of loose leaf out of his back pocket. It was folded into four sections, and he quickly undid the folds, flattening it out on the desk in the tent where the mirror was so everyone could see it.

Eddie held the paper down with his left hand. "We're gonna start with our original, Evil's Day," he shrugged, stabbing at the paper with his right index finger, "It's the only one that Warren has really had the time to practice with us as a whole, and we have to play something we wrote." Eddie drew his index finger straight down the page, going over the names of the next three songs. "The rest of these, I'm pretty sure you all know." He looked over his shoulder at his band-mates, "Or at least you'd better." His eyes narrowed, daring any one of them to threaten the glory of this idea, "We're gonna do our own little tribute concert." His face lit up with a wide, devilish grin.

The band that was currently on stage seemed to be winding down. As they finished their last song, Alexis chimed in with his verdict. "I'm game. Sounds like we're up in five, guys." The drummer whacked his stylized magical drumsticks together, producing a shower of sparks that light up the room in front of him. It did a good job of calling attention to the thin wife-beater shirt he wore, the spiked black leather belt with the enormous steel belt buckle fashioned to look like a demonic skull. His shredded jeans were strapped tightly to his legs, ending when they tucked into his black leather cowboy boots. Though his enormous mop of thick brown hair was tied back with a red bandanna, Rambo style, he still had to brush some out of his face before saying, "Let's tear it up!"

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Zoe didn't so much "dart up to Eddie's side" as she "vanished and reappeared adjacent to him an instant later." "Wait, I know these songs...Ah sprak! He was still alive?" Her face went a little paler for a moment. Then she cleared her throat. "*ahem* I mean, um...wow. That's sad, that he died. Before his time. So farked up." She nervously pushed her hair behind her ear and looked at the floor.

Zoe pushed her guitar behind her back, interlocked her fingers, and gave her knuckles a crack. "Fark it, let's do this!"

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He chuckled at Zoe's out-of-time slip. Apparently she was expecting something different. "Yeah, just horrible," he said with a laugh. "Anyway, a tribute it is Eddie." He looked the songs Eddie wanted and shrugged one shoulder. He didn't particularly care what set of songs they played honestly, as long as they were good ones. "Let's rip this place up already," he said grinning, anxious to get started.

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Was still alive? Oook then. Warren though when Zoe reacted to the news of his death. He shrugged it off though, she probally didn't get the news as often. "Lets do this for the man himself." Warren said as he stood up, rolling his shoulders and sliding his guitar behind him. "Well, Don't see much point in standing here much longer. Lets go do this." He was just as anxious to get out there as James as far as anyone can tell.

Wonder if I should mention to Eddie about the underwear thing... The though crossed his mind as he saw everyone ready to get moving.

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The next five minutes were a blur for the members of the band. They walked out to a silent crowd and only a few scattered hoots and hollers from friends that knew them. Not many knew who they were, but after the performance they were about to give, none of them would forget.

---

Octopus Dropkick was finishing off their introductory song, and the crowd was loving it.

"Thats why we saaaaay!

We're here to staaaaay!

It's Evil's Day!"

It was on of their few original pieces of music the band had time to practice with their new guitarist. After the last verse, the crowd went wild. It was few minutes before Eddie could get them to calm down enough to talk. But it was worth it. He had something important to say.

"The lovely Zoe on guitar!" Eddie pointed, Cheers came up from the crowd. "Our newest member, and newest classmate: Warren!" Another pointed finger, another set of cheers. "And the rock upon which we build our foundation: Alexis!" Eddie turned and offered both of his hands to the drummer, who stood and waved. "And last but not least," Eddie pointed a finger at James, "Our very own James Profit! Devilish destroyer of stringed instruments!" The crowd went wild.

"Now as many of you know," Eddie gave a signal to Zoe, who began playing a small riff over and over again. Recognizing it, Warren joined in, but went no further into the song. "Recently, the music world witnessed a horrible tragedy. The death of a great man." Eddie hung his head for a second in honor. "Ronnie James Dio had the voice of an angel. He's one of my greatest inspirations, and I strive every day to honor his memory."

Eddie began pacing around the stage with his microphone, pandering to the crowd here and there. "Ronnie was a great man. He single-handedly spawned a new generation of musicians. He inspired an entirely new genre of music. He invented on of the most iconic symbols for what we do," Eddie waved to his band members with a sweeping gesture, "He truly was a great man, and when I found out that he passed away, I was heart broken."

The crowd had gone silent, the only sound in the Riverside Park was the haunting sound of the next song's opening riff being played by Warren and Zoe. "At that moment, I swore I would do something to honor such a great man."

[groove]21575744[/groove]

Suddenly, James joined in with the other guitarists, completely obliterating the opening riff of the song.

"My name is Eddie Ozan. We are Octopus Dropkick, and this..." Eddie raised his right fist high in the air, and extended his index and little fingers vertically. "This...IS FOR DIO!!!"

"When there's Lightning..."

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James worked the guitar like he never had before, at least not in front of anyone anyway (and certainly not a huge crowd). He put every ounce of skill and demonic talent (not that most people realized it) he had into the playing the song. He might lack the creative ability due to his heritage but he could play like nothing else on this world. He stood towards the back, letting the spotlights and crowd focus on the other two, keeping them closer. This was their band really. He was just here to help put on a show for his friends.

And what a show it was!

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The crowd were going completely nuts. After a while of getting rammed into the front, Chris just shrugged, nodded and Liz and the two of them dived into the mosh pit. It was a raucous, but harmless affair, people here for a good time rather than violence.

Nonetheless, Chris was glad he healed so fast, good humour or not, some of the slamming hurt like hell.

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"When there's Lightning..."

"...You know it always brings me down..."

"...'Cause it's free, and I see, that it's me..."

"...Who's lost and neeevvveeerrr fooouuunnndd!"

"...Who's lost and neeevvveeerrr fooouuunnndd!"

Zoe backed up Eddie's vocals with her own, adding a layer of resonance and flavor that the original song had lacked (although it was no poorer for the absence). At some points, she sang into her own microphone, while at others, she rested back-to-back with Eddie and shared his.

Her waist-length tresses whipped around her in a cyclonic nimbus of orange-red flame as she banged her head along to Stick's drum beats. She didn't "play" her guitar, so much as she attacked it, clawing and beating it within an inch of its life. It whined and barked and screamed as she strained and squeezed every chord from it. Occasionally, one of the fans pressed up against the front of the stage could swear that they saw her hand in more than once place on the neck of the guitar at once, but then they'd blink their eyes and assume it was a hallucination.

When Eddie thrust his microphone out toward the crowd at the first chorus, their screams could be heard from miles away.

"LIKE A RAINBOW IN THE DARK!!!"

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Warren was completely focused on his guitar, years of practice and dedication shown to the raging crowd before him. His fingers danced across the fret board and strummed strings with precision. He didn't play with the same sort of savagery as Zoe. He seemed almost calm as he played, but the grinding and notes seemed to match what he actually felt as the song played. Sticks drums and Eddies singing seemed to grow louder than they normally should. He didn't notice his powers acting while he played, only thing that mattered then and there was the music and the desire for everyone to hear it.

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Noisy did not even begin to describe the sound the crowd was making. Even with Warren unconsciously increasing the volume of their performance, Octopus Dropkick was struggling to play and sing louder than the crowd was cheering.

"No sign of the morniiiing.

You're a rainbow! In the dark!

Uhhh-oohhh-oooo-oh!"

The second song petered out, and without even so much of a thought toward taking a break, the band rolled right into the next one.

The old ones speak of winter Eddie sang,

The young ones praise the sun

And time just slips away...

Sacred Heart was a slower song than Rainbow in the Dark. But it was no less epic, and no less well known. But the best part about this song was that it gave Eddie a chance to really show off.

During the first guitar solo, Eddie turned his back on the audience. He faced James, who was doing his solo in the middle of the stage, and raised his hands. And suddenly, fire exploded from the stage! Or at least that's what it looked like to the audience. From out of the flames, where James had been standing but a moment earlier, rose the head and neck of an enormous dragon. There was a pause in the solo, and the dragon reared its head back, opened its mouth, and looked like it was about to roar. When it thrust its massive head forward, instead of a roar, the only thing that escaped it was the renewed, and more powerful guitar solo.

Raising his hands to the flame, and enjoying the solo, Eddie simply stood on stage, looking like he was enthralled by the beast. Then he turned back to the audience suddenly and began singing once more.

You fight to kill the dragon He held the mic in his left hand and swept his right to the side. Suddenly, extending from his hand was four feet of solid steel, glowing orange. Again, it was another illusion. But the audience didn't know that.

And bargain with the beast!

And sail into a siiight!

As Zoe finished his line for him, Eddie held the microphone aloft in his left hands, forming the devil horns around it. :rock:

Eddie was about to slay the dragon. NOW this was a Dio concert.

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Suddenly, as the song reached its apex, and the dragon faced its sword-wielding destiny, the speakers screeched and squealed and then went completely silent. A teenage boy in the center of the crowd knelt down and rested on all fours. A figure shrouded in shadow, his features obscured by a long coat and wide-brimmed hat, stepped upon the boy's back, using him as a human soapbox. When he spoke, his voice echoed through the giant speakers on the stage.

"NOISE! This is not music! It is merely noise! Noise, dressed up in outlandish costumes and cheap parlor tricks to distract from the utter lack of substance, yet another symptom of the decline of our civilization!" He ripped off his hat and overcoat coat with a flourish, revealing a tuxedo. He brandished a thin metal rod in his right hand. Tiny diodes on the rod began to flash and blink.

"If an appeal to the mob is what it will take to restore our very culture, then so be it! The war to take back music begins today! So sayeth THE MAESTRO!!!" Basil Fatherton waved his sonic baton at the crowd. Hundreds of people's jaws fell slack in unison as their eyes lost focus. "Destroy the stage that birthed this atrocity, and the jackanapes who perpetrated it! They are the real criminals!"

The crowd turned to the stage and the booths, and swarmed over them, shoving and striking at every piece of equipment, musician, and station employee they could reach.

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No! Eddie yelled helplessly when the music shut itself off. NO!

Then came the Maestro's big speech, and the wave of mind control. Eddie was too flabbergasted, and stunned to clap his hands over his ears, but it didn't matter. The mind control had no effect on him.

Suddenly, the speakers whined once more, as the were forced to come back online under Eddie's control. He lifted the microphone to his lips. "I SAID NO!!!" His voice projected over the crowd, just as silence fell. "This is my show. And I will be damned if I am going to let you take control of it. Oh yea, and one more thing: If you EVER- Eddie pointed the glowing illusory sword at Maestro, "Insult Dio again, I will make sure that its the last tune you ever sing!" Breakdown threw the microphone to the ground.

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Oh sprak,, Zoe thought to herself as The Maestro proclaimed his indictment of Dio and the crowd erupted into pandemonium at his command. She turned to her bandmates, slipping out of her guitarstrap and letting her prized electric-blue Stratocaster clang and clatter to the stage floor. "I'll be right back!" She leapt down off the stage, hit the ground running, and vanished.

She sped off back to the Claremont Academy, weaving around cars through traffic, occasionally pushing off against a bumper with her foot for an added boost. She ran sideways up the walls of buildings and along the tops of tree branches, whatever provided the most direct route. Once back at her room, she tarried for less than a second, but when she arrived back at the park, it was clad in her vibrant blue & orange jumpsuit, the white "Z" emblazoned across her chest like a lightning bolt.

Gotta get a lid on this before the whole thing blows wide open! Her worried countenance hardened into a mask of grim determination, Zephyr rushed the crowd. She moved "slow" enough to be seen, but she left a series of visual "echoes" behind her wherever she went. By the time anyone saw her, she wasn't actually there anymore. It appeared as though Zephyr broke apart into a thousand Zephyrs, each one of them charging a different person. She grabbed arms, twisted shoulders, kicked the backs of knees, and seemingly simultaneously, over 400 dead-eyed fans-turned-haters were tripped, rolled, and thrown to the grass, along with their puppetmaster.

"You can't kill The Metal! The metal will live on! Basil Fatherton tried to kill The Metal! But he failed, and was thrown down, TO THE GROUND!"

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The Maestro sputtered and growled as he made his best attempt to roll over and rise from the ground in a dignified manner, and failed miserably. "How DARE you?!" he exclaimed as he made a futile effort to brush the dirt and grass from his tuxedo. "TRUE enlightenment comes from TRUE art, but we must TEAR DOWN before we can rebuild!" His thumb pressed down on one of the glowing LEDs on his sonic rod, and it began flashing. He pointed it at the stage, and everyone in the crowd felt a sudden rumble resonate through their stomachs. The the tip of the rod seemed to explode into a blinding blue flash and a deafening shriek as the stage exploded out from under Octopus Dropkick. The wooden planks making up the floor shattered into splinters. The instruments and speakers broke apart, hurling chunks of metal and plastic into the front of the mosh pit. Almost two dozen people were knocked up off their feet and hurled to the ground.

If either the sonic shockwave or the resulting shrapnel so much as broke Chris Kenzie's skin, it healed too fast for him to notice. Unfortunately, Liz Lawlett was not so fortunate. Like the other kids in the pit, she'd been scrambling and pushing and clawing her way up toward the stage, fully intent in tearing it down with her bare hands, and when it exploded, she was knocked free from Chris' desperate grasp and hurled into the air. Now she lay upon the grass, unmoving and covered in her own blood.

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Like Eddie, Alexis had been slow to react, failing to clap his hands over his ears. After the dust cleared from the explosion of sound, however, the man was still standing. His drum kit was not so lucky, however.

Alexis scowled at the Maestro. Too angry for words, he ran forward to the edge of what was remaining of the stage, and swept one of his golden drumsticks through the air. A wave of sound swept forward aimed at Maestro.

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