"Three days off," Neal said, throwing himself down in the seat nearest to Jon. Journey had just finished the second of two sold-out shows at the Verizon Wireless amphitheatre, and the busses were finally rolling out. "About fuckin' time."
Jon, who was dozing off, said, "And I'm gonna spend it sleepin' and talking to my kids on the phone."
Aug walked down the aisle of the bus and said, "I just don't wanna see these leather pants for three days. I think they're gonna get up and walk away on their own, soon." He paused. "Where'd Deen and Ross go?"
"They're on the bus behind," Neal said. "Hangin' out with Allen and the techs. Said they're more interesting than us."
"I second that," Jon said sleepily, keeping his eyes closed. "'Course...you could be a little less interesting."
Neal snorted and got up to move away, leaving Jon alone. Aug yawned and followed suit, heading for the back of the bus.
Jon sighed and set about drifting off, ears still mildly ringing from the show. It had been a good one; the crowd had really been into it. They were all getting too old to do this, but he didn't want to give it up quite yet. Retirement would be full of fatherhood and producing albums for other bands, both things he looked forward to. But he wasn't ready to give Journey up. Not yet.
"I'll always know where you are," a soft female voice said from the seat beside him.
He didn't open his eyes. "I was wondering when you'd be back," he said. “I've been thinking about you."
Actually, he'd been overanalyzing her and where she fit into everything. On one hand, there was the fact of her existence, which hadn't been fully explained. Something had occurred to allow her to be walking around. Something bad enough to require their own music to protect them. Yet, having his own music speak to him on a human level rather than just in his heart was unsettling. Not unwelcome, but unsettling. The band and its music now had a face and a shapely form. He had always felt he had two lovers - his wife and his music.
Now the metaphor was too close for comfort.
When Liberty didn't reply, he said, "You're not what I thought Journey would look like. But I guess I never really thought about it. You seem...just right somehow, though."
She smiled a little and drew one knee up into the seat she occupied, folding her hands around it. "Your children don't look the way you imagined, either," she said.
Jon grinned and opened his eyes. "I never got a chance...to thank you. For saving Aug. I got a lot of questions, about - "
"You only believe in God when you come undone," she said, interrupting him.
"What?" Jon said, recognizing the lyric. What was she trying to say, especially when she could speak plainly to him - and only him - when she chose to?
"Magic leaves you with only clues," she said. "There's only so much one man can do."
"Okay," he said. "I can take a hint. But...if we called it quits tomorrow..."
"Your music would still go on," she said.
He looked at her. That didn't answer his question, but he didn't push it. Not yet. He just nodded a little and thought about Bad English. "How come you waited until I was alone?"
"Easier, for now," she said. "Easier for you to listen, easier for me not to be distracted. I wanted you to know - there are many more like me. There'll be a struggle. Everyone should be together."
"Has this got anything to do with that record company that's basically forcing the others out of business?" he said.
"What brought us all awake, I'm not sure," Liberty said. “I only know we're awake, and that not all of us wish to preserve music."
"We got other band's bodyguards to worry about too, then," Jon said with a weary sigh. "Great."
"That's why I'm going to be gone for a couple of days," she said.
"Gone?" Jon said. "You mean...you're always here?"
She smiled. "Just because you don't see me, you think I'm not with you?"
"I didn't - that's not..." Jon stammered.
"It's okay," Liberty said. "I just wanted you to know. And be careful. I'll be back soon."
Then she was gone, and Jon opened his eyes, for real this time.
* * *
She wasn't sure if it would work; she didn't know where she'd gotten the idea. She had only met the dreadlocked senshi once, and only when both their bands were in jeopardy from Napster. Even then there hadn't been much contact, so the chance that her call would be answered was slim. She wasn't certain what kind of reception she would get.
Still, Liberty stood outside the gates of Trent Reznor's house in New Orleans, and silently called.
It was past midnight; she wasn't positive if Reznor was home. For all she knew, she'd be seen as a threat. But she wasn't sure where else to turn quite yet, and she needed help. She'd felt some strange affinity with the senshi that watched over Nine Inch Nails. The girl with the blue opal eyes was fierce and loyal; she knew that much.
She had to start somewhere. They all needed to be together. Something bigger was coming, and Oblivion was bringing it. Everyone would need to choose sides, and the sooner she discovered how many allies they'd have, the better. They needed to start recruiting, and building a force.
Liberty wasn't sure how long she stood there before a silent shadow came to stand beside her.
Halo stares at the lone figure standing by her ward's house. A fellow senshi looking for her? Here in Hell? And at Trent's house? That was uncalled for. Unprofessional. Come looking for her at Nothing, but not here. This wasn't even Halo's normal place of residence. Though, it was good timing on the fellow senshi's part. Trent happened to have forgotten some songs at home and was in need of them. A really loud industrial song was pouring out the speakers. Trent was drumming away with his fingers. Halo was behind him, staring out the window at the approaching woman.
Who the hell is that? Another fucking groupie that just has to try to catch a glimpse of Trent. "Hey, piggy pig pig," Halo says to Trent as she pointed at the woman. She pointed to the driveway and said, "Everything is safer."
"Ah, come on Halo. It's just another fan," Trent says.
"Just caught up in another of her spells," she warned. "Okay, okay, I'll use the driveway," Trent said. A white van pulled up the driveway. The woman wouldn't be able to see them now.
Trent got out and walked through the gate, to safety. Halo stepped out of the van and breathed. The air was free of fear and lust, maybe there was no threat. Halo slowly walks to the sidewalk and follows the peach colored wall. As she rounded the corner of the wall she caught sight of the woman. Great God! That's no groupie! It's fucking Journey! She smiled and quickly closed the distance as she embraced the Sailor.
"Where the fuck were you? A million miles away," Halo said. She pointed to the house and said, "You know me, well, you think you do. Just a reflection, just a glimpse... now you know this is what it feels like. Twenty six years on my way to Hell."
Liberty nodded. "It's the lovin' things that keep us wandering...come with me." She handed Halo a bit of folded newspaper, then paused while Halo looked over the ad. It read:
OZZFEST - THE GORGE IN GEORGE, WA, JUNE 25th 2001
"The people that we want to know," Liberty said. She wanted Halo to understand how many other senshi would be there, how many they could meet and gather to their cause. "We can do it, if you put your mind to it." She paused again, pointing to the house, looking apologetic for appearing so suddenly. "Time placed its hand on me. So now I come to you."
Halo takes the Ozzfest ad and stares at it. "I like to have fun," she mumbles to herself. "Those who've had a taste and starfuckers...hands of hope stick thru the cage of this endless routine," she says as she mulls the idea over.
"I'm leaving today," Liberty said. "Can't help myself...won't be the last time. Ain't looking for trouble. It's a changing skyline, and war is for fools." She grinned. "The choice is ours to make. Saints, or sinners?"
Halo stares at Liberty and then at the house. She could hear a door close and a dog bark followed by the sound of Trent's voice. "Hey, Halo! Are you ready," Trent called out.
Halo stared again at Liberty as she said, "Tried to overcome the complications...the time is drawing near." She caught sight of Trent and yelled to him, "The currents have their say... on my way. Even so far away, I can still feel you," she added, hoping he understood that he was safe.
She turned back to Liberty as she handed her a small stone from the yard. "You give me the reason...let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised," Halo said in an excited tone. Then off to Ozzfest they went.
* * *
They hadn’t quite realized the scope of the festival itself; neither of their bands had been on this tour and had never seen it firsthand. A capacity crowd of 20,000 wandered the grounds of the outdoor amphitheatre, most drunk, some passed out, several naked. The scents of beer, pot and human sweat took up most of the air while the two senshi tried to navigate the crowd.
“Long as you’re happy and free,” Liberty commented, smirking, as a topless woman with her breasts painted with airbrushed skulls walked by.
Halo laughed at the bare cleavage and said, "Little piggy needed something new."
Security had never seen them; they’d simply walked in the gates. The people they’d hitchhiked with from New Orleans had never seen them either, not tuned to their wavelength. So now they wandered the crowd at will. A band called Otep, with a woman screaming hysterically at the mic, was on the main stage. They had decided on their trip there to monitor both stages and contact whatever senshi they encountered. Maybe not every senshi would be happy to see them, but they had to make a connection with anyone they could.
Safety in numbers.
They passed several younger people dressed mostly in red and carrying red dufflebags with the Trojan logo on them. They were tossing condoms to the crowd, which proceeded to blow them up and bounce them around like beach balls.
Halo stops and stares at the Trojan girls. She shook her head as she said, "It's your sex I can smell."
Liberty eyed the band on the main stage and said, “One man’s truth is another man’s fear,” indicating that she had no real wish to try approaching this band.
"The truth from which you run," Halo said in a sarcastic tone. She honestly didn't care which ones they met with. As usual, she was mentally somewhere else.
Liberty pointed toward the second stage, which was up the hill. A band called Nonpoint was busy howling their rage to the world, but not as menacingly as Otep had been. “Crisis is cool,” she said. “Barbarians play.”
They walked up, passing booths that sold anything from hemp bags and clothing to jewelry to mementos from the festival. There was a wax statue of Ozzy Osbourne that fans were having their picture taken with.
When they managed to wade through the press around the second stage and get around behind it, they found roadies lounging and waiting for their moment between sets. Among them was a slightly sullen young man with dark hair. A senshi. It was obvious the roadies couldn’t see him.
Before they could get any closer or speak, he glanced up, saw them…
And laughed. It was sardonic, jeering laughter, and left little doubt as to how open he was to discussing anything with them.
With nearly identical sighs, they walked away.
“Well my friend,” Liberty said, “open your ears and eyes and let’s see what you can find.”
Halo was beginning to wish she had stayed at home. All these hard ass metal heads were giving her a headache. She stood on the hillside, turned away from Liberty, staring at the tour busses. Maybe she had overlooked something. She mumbled, "I don't know what else to do." But then the feeling came. She almost always could sense a nearby senshi. But this feeling was different. She knew who was resonating this energy. "Fucking starfucker... I guess the joke is on me. I get what I deserve," she said as she caught sight of Marilyn Manson and company. But it wasn't the band she was interested in. It was the Satan look-alike that was with them.
”Wicked prophets kill…speaking his name,” Liberty said distantly, staring at the same figure Halo was, a tall, bald man she had never seen before. She was amazed at the power resonating from such a young senshi…or young in comparison to herself. But this one was obviously a power unto himself. Liberty looked at Halo questioningly.
Halo turned away, not wanting to deal with it/him. "Smashed up my sanity," she mumbled. There must be someone other than Coma. "Gotta get through to the devils of truth," Halo said as she began to wander towards the Main Stage. "I take you where you want to go," she said to Liberty. Would she follow?
”I’ve got this feeling that things will work out,” Liberty said, falling into step with Halo.
Yeah, near the tour buses and the beer garden was the place to be. The two of them snuck past security with no problem what so ever. And almost immediately entering the other side Halo spotted Ozzy with a young female. The female was obviously Sailor Black Sabbath, someone that Halo hadn't met yet, but knew she'd like. Halo and Liberty stood back for a moment and watched. The senshi was telling Ozzy something and Ozzy returned with yelling, "What? I can't fucking hear you!" Halo laughed as she called over to SBS, "I want to reach out and touch the sky!" How would SBS receive them?
Sailor Black Sabbath looked over at them - of course Ozzy couldn’t hear them, the shuffling, aging rocker was half deaf - and she burst into maniacal laughter. It was, however, not the same type of laughter Nonpoint had directed at them. The dark haired, leather-clad senshi wearing several crosses, both upright and upside down, pounded Ozzy on the back, waved a hand at him, and bolted toward Liberty and Halo at top speed, nearly bowling them over.
She grabbed Liberty in an over-enthusiastic bearhug, greeting a fellow elder senshi. She said, “What is this that stands before me? Freedom fighters! You know I’m talking as a friend.” She released Liberty roughly - everything she seemed to do was rough - and laughed again, holding out a hand for Halo to high-five her.
Halo met Black Sabbath's high-five with an equal amount of Death Rock strength. Halo was wearing a huge smile, which was rare for her. But why not? It wasn’t everyday that she met one of her bands idols. "I'm black as your soul. Through these blackened eyes... You can find happiness," she said to Sailor Black Sabbath, knowing she was with a rock sister of sorts.
“Could it be the end of man and time?” Black Sabbath said, peeking at them over the top of lavender-colored, round glasses. “It’s not the way that the world was meant.” She made a sweeping gesture that encompassed most of the crowd and, incidentally, the band currently onstage and Marilyn’s crew. “Don’t let those empty people try and interfere with your mind. Sunday’s star is Monday’s scar.”
“Join the fight for the things you know are right,” Liberty said. “You won’t be just one more casualty? You can help us.”
“Believe in me!” Black Sabbath enthused with another mad laugh. “I’ve lived a thousand times. A smiling face, it means the world to me. Everything is gonna work out fine.”
Halo clapped an arm around Sailor Black Sabbath's shoulder and said, "We're in this together."
“Live life and light the fuse,” Liberty said, grinning.
“Never say die!” Black Sabbath shouted, waving at them as she dashed back to Ozzy with more mad laughter.
Liberty looked at Halo and opened her mouth to say something, but her eyes widened instead as a tall, burly, wild-haired and wild-eyed figure tapped on Halo’s shoulder.
They both gaped at him. Black Label Society’s senshi.
“HELL YEAH, MOTHERFUCKER YEAH!” he asserted. Then he walked off after Sailor Black Sabbath.
Halo blankly stared after Black Label. "Goddamn," Halo said in a puzzled tone. What the hell was that, she wondered.
“I don’t mean to be unkind, but…lock up your women, like you know you should,” Liberty said, eyes still wide.
They walked on a little, mildly stunned but feeling a little more optimistic about their chances. They passed the VIP area near the beer garden and paused to regroup. There didn’t seem to be any other senshi around at the moment, just band members milling around busses and tents, swigging water and laughing.
Liberty pointed back toward the main stage and said, “To survive the tide…divide,” she said, hoping Halo would understand that she was suggesting they split up to cover more ground.
Halo shrugged and said, "The currents have their say." She gave a slight wave to Liberty in agreement.
Liberty nodded. “I hope that you remember…what you find.” She pointed at the beer garden. “I would find you,” she said with raised eyebrows, hoping she wasn’t being abrupt. She turned and headed off toward the main stage, waiting for the bands that were due up soon. If she watched long enough, others of their kind would show themselves.
Halo stood there for a minute, watching Liberty walk off. "Try to hide," she mumbled to herself as she looked around. She hated being by herself, especially at concerts. Where could she go? She watched everyone pass her by. No one really looked interesting enough to talk to. She walked to this other side and mixed with the crowd. A young man wearing a NIN shirt passed by. "Mr. Self Destruct," Halo called out to him. They stared at each other as he continued to walk.
Halo laughed as the guy walked into a garbage can. She glanced up the hill to the second stage. There was quite a bit on commotion coming from there. Coupled with an interesting energy level. She evenly paced her steps as she neared the stage. There was something familiar about the band, but she wasn't too sure what it was. The band was unknown to her. What could it be? She snuck around back stage and looked around for a senshi. Anything? There was a young, yet another shaved-head man sitting on a spare amp that was tucked to the side. His face was deathly white, a black cross intersecting it. She stared at him for a long time and then slowly approached. With an expressionless face she asked him, "A devil of truth?"
”I’m what you’ll never be,” the senshi sneered through black lipstick, barely affording her a glance. “Don’t want your fingers in and out of my life.”
An annoyed look came over Halo as she shook her head. These young senshis have no respect for their elders.
She brought her hand up to her aching head. She made a quick frustrated movement with her hand at him as she said, "Forget it!" She turned around to walk away, but instead she walked right into Coma. She let out a "Fuck," as she realized who it was.
Coma was wearing his well-known evil smile as he looked down at Halo. He turned to the Undecided Godhead and spoke. "Hey! Mr. Superstar...I turned all your lives into this, you dolls that I made. I didn't have to sell you. Repent! That's what I'm talking about." Coma waited for Godhead to apologize to Halo.
Godhead blinked. “Your condemnation,” he muttered. He looked at Halo’s back and spoke in a low, silken tone. “Come on now, you know I won’t hurt you.”
Halo turned to look at Godhead and said, "Thought I really didn't give a shit? Taste the wealth of hate in me."
Coma said, "She's got her eyes opened wide, she's got the dirt and spit of the world...we all sing the death song."
”This ain’t my revolution,” Godhead said with a shrug. A grin lay just beneath the pallor of the senshi’s face, however. “But I can trick myself like everyone else.”
A Britney Spears lookalike walked by them. All three of them shivered.
Halo began to remember her original intentions. "Everything I've heard just might be true. The plastic face forced to portray. All the insides, cold and gray," she said as she watched the girl. "Teeth in the necks of everyone you know. The blind have been blessed with security," she said, hoping they understood her.
Coma stares at her and speaks, "Seems Obliviating."
Halo turns to him with a shocked yet relieved look. "The heavens fall, but still we crawl," she said. She felt a moment of doubt as she said, "Please come with me."
Coma's sinister grin creeps on to him. He speaks, "I'm not a slave to a god or a world that doesn't give a shit. I am a revelation. I don't need to choose a side."
Halo frowned at his response. Great! What was this all really worth if she couldn't have her other half on her side?
Coma's mood gives in a little. He took Halo by the shoulders and pulls her away. Far enough to be out of Godhead's earshot. Coma speaks, "You never gave me a fucking chance. You wanted so badly to make me this thing and I want you now. I've bled just to have your touch."
Halo couldn't help but laugh. "Why are you doing this to me," she asked as she tried to back away.
Coma holds tight to Halo as he speaks, "You are the one I want."
Halo just shook her head as she broke the hold he had on her. She stepped way just far enough to be out of his reach. She crouched down to the ground as she held her head. "God damn this voice inside my head," she said…
* * *
Liberty had found a higher place to observe from, walking up the hill a little and standing on a decorative rock wall. She waited for nearly ten minutes before another source of energy got her attention; it resided near a large, open white tent that had been set up in the open. A long line of fans were gathered around it, bordered by security. Within she could make out a long table, pictures being autographed; band members she didn’t recognize sat at the table, looking mildly grim, smiling only occasionally as they bent to the task of signing as many autographs as possible. Behind them, unseen by fans or security - and, she got the impression, even the band - was a senshi.
She hopped down and headed that way, keeping her eyes peeled as she went. She needed a closer look. She hoped the worst she might get would be derision. She had no wish to start anything up in a crowd of this size and nature.
She slid into line with the other fans, cutting in between them without their notice. The other senshi didn’t seem to be picking her up yet, so she took the time to size him up. Slightly taller than herself, angular features, dark hair that was short on the sides and longer on the top. His hair was in his eyes, so she couldn’t see his expression, but it seemed severe. He was dressed darkly, dark t shirt and jeans. He seemed commonplace, unfinished, as if he hadn’t grown into his band. True, the band only had one album. But the nature of the music and the people who made it should have shaped the being before her. He seemed neutral, uncaring.
A female fan behind her said, “Disturbed fuckin’ rocks. I love that whole east-Indian thing in the shit that’s playing on the radio. This dude wails.”
Disturbed? Was a senshi guarding - or not guarding - a band named Disturbed worth approaching?
Then she thought about Nine Inch Nails and how wrong she would have been to judge by image alone.
He looked up then and saw her, and she got a glimpse of wide, black eyes and a small goatee. His bangs partially shielded his eyes, but still, the gaze was intense across that small distance. There was no recognition, or even caring, in his expression; he shrugged at her indifferently, scratching at some unseen annoyance beneath his shirt with a hand that bore a fingerless glove. She signaled to him, gesturing behind the tent, raising her eyebrows. He shrugged again, but didn’t ignore her or negate the possibility.
Liberty waited until she was at the table, and looked carefully at the band members as she passed them. A young bald man with a severe expression that easily turned to a grin when responding to some comment; his demeanor said *I’m the lead singer* and she recognized it because she’d seen it a million times. Most lead singers wore their position like a badge. There was another man with a mid-sized beard, another with shoulder length hair and broad features. Their senshi didn’t look like the amalgam he should have been. Was he that young?
She met the senshi’s eyes again and gestured to one side with her head. This time, he straightened from his slouch and walked out of the tent, disappearing behind.
Liberty slipped out of line, but not before the lead singer looked up sharply in her direction. She startled, thinking there was no way he saw her; she went on quickly without looking back, not wanting to risk it. As she came around the tent, she found the senshi sitting slouched on a cooler. There was various equipment and refreshments back there, paper cups and cigarette butts strewn about.
The young man gave her a sidelong look, not bothering to turn toward her. “Are you still breathing?” he said softly in a mid-tone tenor. “Do the wicked see you?”
Liberty sighed and moved to sit across from him on another cooler. “Open up your eyes,” she said softly.
“I can hear the voice but I don’t want to listen,” he said. “I don’t want to let them hypnotize me.”
“Reach out your hand to me,” Liberty said. “It’s the only way you’ll see.”
“I’m feeling nothing,” he said. “Call to no one, trust in nothing. So tell me, what am I supposed to be? I’m not a goddamn drone.”
“Be the soldiers for your lives,” Liberty said.
“And expect to keep sane?” he said. He snorted, gesturing at the tent. “Leave it, and I might crack.”
“All we can do is try,” Liberty said. Then she gave him her name. “Liberty.”
He looked at her for a long moment, then shrugged again as if it didn’t matter. “It doesn’t really seem I’m getting through to you,” he said. “All that was good has died and is decaying. The demon in me…” he paused. Then he repeated, “Tell me, what am I supposed to be?”
Liberty realized with a start that he had no name, not yet; he wasn’t fully formed. His identity hadn’t become clear to him yet. She hadn’t realized this could happen. “Take your life as you feel it,” she said. “See the line of sight inside your mind. Fight for all to see.” Then she repeated what she’d said to Black Sabbath. “You can help us. Take a chance.” Then she stood and gestured him along. “Are we people that you want to know?”
He frowned. She decided she might have to give him a nickname of some kind. Then he stood abruptly and came close, looking at her with an intensity she had known must be there. “Look in my face, stare in my soul,” he said.
She looked close in his eyes and said, “Every single face, there lies a trace of sadness felt before. It goes on and on and on.”
“Why do you like playing around with my narrow scope of reality?” he said.
“Every word I say, I say true,” Liberty said. “You can do what you want to. There’s only so much one man can do.”
He snorted again, but his expression was weary. “The world is a scary place. But I don’t get it. Strap me down and tell me I’ll be all right.”
Liberty smiled a little. “Come with me. We are many.”
He backed away a little and said, “Should I get ready to play?”
He pointed to himself and said, “Rift. I might say…you’re making me known.”
Rift. Well, it was a name. And all the better that he’d claimed it himself.
She led him away from the tent, back toward the beer garden, deciding to find Halo and introduce their newest rookie.
As they walked up, Liberty saw Halo crouched on the ground with her head in her hands, with Marilyn Manson’s senshi - what was his name? - standing over her. Behind and to their left was another senshi, one she didn’t recognize. But he seemed no less threatening. And he was very young, as young as Rift. Immediately concerned, she came closer and stood ready to defend Halo.
Coma saw Sailor Journey watching them. He shouted out at her, "Hey you! What do you see?"
”The same thing,” Liberty said coldly. “The great pretender. Hands of sin.”
Coma stares at the unknown Sailor and speaks with a mocking tone, "I'm just a sample of a soul made to look just like a human being. I am the face of piss and shit and sugar... the God of Fuck...I'm a million different things and not one you know. You built me up with you wishing Hell. You do just what they tell you." Coma than turned to the senshi known as Rift and said, "Each thing I show you is a piece of my death. A black rainbow, a rebel from the waist down...we all sing the death song."
“Pride without shame!” Liberty snapped. “Broken!”
Rift looked between Coma and Liberty, then at Halo, in utter confusion.
Halo kept her head down as she mumbled, "Cover in hope. Still cannot fix this broken machine."
“Friend,” Liberty said to both Halo and Rift, “hold on. A fool’s illusion, one more lie!”
Rift looked at Coma and said, “Is she not right? Is she insane?”
Coma allows a concerned look to be cast towards Halo as he speaks, "The lips of a scared little girl. She is mine. Her hair hangs in swollen strings, I'm choking on her, it feels so sickening. I would have told her then... she was the only thing I could love in this dying world." He then turned to Rift and said, "I don't want you and I don't need you. Don't bother to resist or I'll beat you...let the ugly light of the world in and we are no longer blind."
Halo sat down on the ground and could only shake her head.
“I don’t wanna be innocent, you know,” Rift said. “Gonna fight the war and use my music as a weapon.” He moved as if to stand with Coma and Godhead.
“Do you hear me?” Liberty cried. “He’s the king of fools! Where are you?”
Rift stood between them, watching everyone’s faces, looking for sincerity or at least conviction. “I can feel the subliminal need to be one,” he said softly. “All the people in the right wing, all the people in the left wing…” he trailed off.
Coma's evil grin returned as he spoke to Rift. "Young Believer, my right wing is flapping, the left wing is grey." Coma then turned to Sailor Journey and said, "Don't let them know how far you go...you've poisoned all your children to camouflage all your scars. Don't be surprised when we destroy all of it."
Liberty snorted and folded her arms. “The more you got, the more you want. It leads to nowhere.”
Halo slowly lifted her head and stared for a very long time at Liberty. "Listen to the words he'd say. It's funny how everything you swore would never change, is different now. Like you said, you and me...make it through...didn't quite." She paused as she slowly said, "Didn't turn out the way you wanted it to. Fell apart." She stared at Coma and said, "Now I belong."
Liberty stared. She wasn’t surprised; she understood, on some level. She simply had not believed it might come to pass. What they’d gained that day seemed a loss, if the dreadlocked senshi wasn’t committed to saving more than her own Beautiful Liar from the looming threat. If she chose no side, then she had…no cause, or so it seemed to Liberty.
“You only believe in God when you come undone,” she said softly. There was no recrimination or judgment in her tone.
Then there was silence, as all stood on the verge of their choices.
And then another figure walked up, drawn by the signals of so many senshi.
They were suddenly faced with an orange jumpsuit, with a shifting face - no, it was a mask. A rough, leathery looking mask, a face of dry death. Tendrils of corpse’s hair flew from the pate of the mask, and gleaming-mad eyes stared from within. He radiated madness and power, an intensity that left the rest of them staring.
No one spoke.
Then the jumpsuited figure threw his arms wide in a crucified pose and roared.
Members of the crowd milling nearby either cheered or ran in panic. Journey clapped her hands over her ears and stumbled away in amazement at the sheer volume.
Coma released a demonic laugh.
Halo shuddered as she hit the deck as if bullets were flying.
Godhead’s eyes nearly popped from his head, and he slipped back around the stage.
Rift stood and stared, barely reacting.
“Slipknot!” some members of the crowd shouted. “Slipknot!” Others glanced around in confusion, unable to see or hear the figure.
There was a blur of orange as the avatar of Slipknot plowed in amongst the remaining senshi, knocking Liberty to the ground and grabbing Rift by his hair, shaking him in front of Coma. He looked Coma up and down. “I don’t know about malevolent,” Slipknot growled, “but sure as hell decadent.” Then he threw his head back and laughed, throwing Rift to the ground before throwing his arms wide again. “AM I THE ONLY MOTHAFUCKA WITH A BRAIN?”
Coma grabs on to Slipknots so called hair and speaks, "Hate every motherfucker. Let’s just kill everyone and let your god sort them out!"
Slipknot laughed uproariously and walked away as if Coma hadn’t spoken, shoving drunken fans as he went. Some cheered.
Rift picked himself up slowly and went to Liberty, helping her to her feet. “There’ve been several complications,” he said. “I kind of like the misery you put me through. Questioning, wavering…” He paused, looking at who remained. Then he glanced at Liberty again and walked away.
“Meet again!” Liberty called.
Rift glanced over his shoulder and waved in a noncommittal gesture before shoving his hands in his pockets. He kept walking.
Liberty turned back to Halo. There was no point going on with the mission if her companion wasn’t interested. She wasn’t foolish enough to try and change Halo’s mind - she owed her at least that much respect. “If he should break your heart,” she said softly, “I’ll always know where you are.”
Then she too waved, and without waiting for a response, walked away into the crowd, blending in, vanishing. Leaving Halo and Coma alone.
Halo was trying to collect herself. What the hell just happened? She watched Liberty walk away. There was a part inside her that wanted desperately to run after her. She knew better. She understood what Liberty stood for. She wished Liberty understood what it was she was trying to do. She believed in it too, but... Then there was Coma. Turning to him she shook her head as she said, "Anything you ask, you know I'll do. Maybe I'm all messed up, maybe I'm all messed up in you... My moral standing is lying down."
Coma stares at the woman before him. Coma said, "The boy that you love... Mr. Big Rock Star, is the man that you fear. There's not much left to love."
Halo stared at him for a really long time. How dare he! Attacking her boy. But then she began to think about it more. What would he have to gain by saying that to her? He was trustworthy. What was it that he saw that she didn't? "The flowers of naiveté," she asked him.
Coma shook his head and said, "The first flower after the flood. When you hate it you know you can feel, but when you love it you know it's not real." Coma moved in closer, inches away from her face, and said, "Halo, I'll do anything for you... I'll kill myself... Don't you know I worship you?"
Halo stared at him as she exhaled. "I don't want to listen, but it's all too clear... Could you try to help me hang on," she said in an uncertain tone.
Coma smirked at her as he said, "Baby, if it hurts just tell me... Fuck all your protests and put them to bed."
Halo wasn't too sure what would happen next, but she was ready to find out. "If you could show, help me to know, how it's supposed to be," she said as they seemed to melt into one. Who ever said rock was deader than dead?
* * *
Time passed in the senshi realm, but it remained the same in the real world. It was only about a month later when Halo resurfaced at the same spot. Journey was playing the Gorge. Halo knew she'd find Liberty there, being the everfaithful senshi that she was. Halo walked around searching for some sign of Liberty. She couldn't really pick up on her tune. Then a man passed by, almost walking through her. Jonathan? And then everything went into slow motion as Liberty followed close behind. Did Liberty grow to hate her for what she had done? Why didn't she acknowledge her? Then she realized she hadn't become visible yet. Her blue cloud faded away as she called out, "Push it away, but it all comes back again!"
Liberty paused mid-stride, looking amazed. She hadn’t expected to see Halo again this soon, if at all. And she wasn’t certain which ‘side’ - if there were true sides, in anything - the senshi was on. Truth be told, she’d felt mildly responsible for ‘losing’ the girl with the opal blue eyes.
She glanced after Jon, then looked around quickly to see if Halo was alone. She wanted badly to trust her, but she thought first of her band, as always. No telling what she’d been through, or been convinced of by the silver-tongued Coma. “Is it heaven or hell?” she said softly. “Caught in a crossfire?”
"It's hard to believe it could come down to this, isn't," Halo said as she reached a hand out towards Liberty. "Like you would always say, we'll make it through. I made the choice to go away... Something I had to do... Need to contaminate to alleviate this loneliness... Try so hard to make the devil fit... My disease... my infection," she said as she glanced over her shoulder.
”Think what you’ve had,” Liberty said. “Remember. So easy to fall, so hard to get over…steals your soul.” She paused, reaching an answering hand out to Halo and gathering her close. “As long as you’re happy and free,” she said. Then she held her away to look at her.
Halo stared back at Liberty with an all-knowing look on her face. "This isn't just like you imagined it," she said knowing she'd have to explain.
”There’s no harm,” Liberty said. “We’ve all been waiting. You’re not…so different. Not without a place in the wind.” She paused. “Your face is dark and your eyes are wild.”
"You think I tried, I gave up... But this plan has long been underway. You think his teeth are in the necks of everyone you know... I'm okay, I'm on track. Got to get back to the bottom. The devil, he has something to say. Take it from me. He's going to cause the system to fall. He's one of the chosen ones," Halo said as she hoped Liberty understood what she was saying.
Liberty cocked her head to one side in confusion. “Can’t see a castle,” she said. “Could it be that you feel so all alone?”
Halo turned away and called out, "Starfucker!"
Liberty tensed. Coma was here? Close to her band? She hadn’t sensed him…
Halo turned back to her with a joyful look and said, "He flexed his muscles to keep his flock of sheep in line... My disease, my Mr. Self Destruct, he made a virus that would kill off all the swine...I've done all of this for you." She then turned back to two figures that were walking towards them.
Who was it? The figures moved in closer... to god and then it was clear. It was Coma accompanied by a three or so year old boy. Halo had a huge smile as she laughed at Liberty's shocked look. "There's a devil sleeping in my bed... One act of consecration... A promise carved in stone," she said as she turned, took the boy's hand and brought him close. "Baby Nothing," Halo said to Liberty.
Liberty could do nothing for a moment but continue to stare in abject shock.
Coma stands silent watching the women interact. Coma closes in on Halo and speaks, "My mechanical bride, my phenobarbidoll. Mommy's got a scarecrow." He then turns to the Sailor and speaks as he points to the boy, "Build a new God, he is posthuman, an Anti God... Here's your Antichrist Superstar."
Halo laughed as she smacked Coma's arm. "No, you don't," she said as she laughed.
Liberty crouched down to have a closer look at the boy, to look close in his eyes. Tousled dark hair, and opal blue eyes with far too much intelligence and wisdom for such a small being.
Not just a young senshi from a newly formed band. Something new, something more. A lot more. “I’d do anything to hold you,” she said. “One feeds the fire.”
The boy stood silently, taking in the words of the unknown Sailor. He held out his hands as if showing the Sailor something that wasn't really there. "See the long thin shadow of the reaper, see the long thin shadow of the road. I am everything and just a little more. The boy that you see is the man that they fear," the boy said to Liberty.
Liberty rose to face Coma squarely. “So now you lived a mystery,” she said. “She’s changed you.”
Coma stares at Sailor Journey with an emotionless look. Coma speaks, "You were from a perfect world, a world that threw me away. I went to God just to see, and I was looking at me... Saw Heaven and Hell were lies... Shock is all in your head. Look at me now, daddy's someone else. Forgiveness? “
Liberty glanced at Halo with a smile. “A mother’s face she wears,” she said to Coma. “Your seventh son. Mother, father, dreamer. “ She paused. “I’ll tell you, straight from my heart. Within myself I was wrong.”
Coma speaks, "When the boy is still a worm it's hard to learn the number seven."
“There’s no turning back,” Liberty said. “A king is born to a house filled with rage. I hope and pray you see your world inside her eyes…” She looked at the child again. “Devotion,” she said to him with another smile, crouching again as she did so. She would never, could never, look down on this child.
The boy takes a hold of Halo's hand and says, "I'm going home." Halo smiles as she runs her hand though his hair. "Anything for you," she says back to him. She smiles and nods a goodbye to Liberty.
Coma stares at the Sailor for an amount of time and then speaks, "Nothing heals and Nothing grows..." Coma waves and walks away with his newly formed family.
Hell will raise again at a later time.
Liberty watched them walk away with mixed feelings. So much possibility...
She shook herself out of her reverie and retraced Jon's footsteps toward the staging area, knowing he'd gone back to the busses. His path was a gleam of something close to light in her vision. When she caught up, she stood quietly, watching from shadows of her own making. Listening to Aug tell a joke to Allen, the crew chief, watching Neal's guitar tech, Jason, tune one of the guitarist's Les Pauls. Jon was tying his shoes and stretching, getting ready to go on.
He looked up and caught sight of her and mouthed everything okay?
Liberty nodded. She thought they just might be.
* * *