Warped Glory

This time round I have a story in which there are no heroes. It might seem like one or two are but they aren’t meant to be. It’s a world in which everyone is out for themselves. At the time of writing it there was no thought as to what inspired it but looking at it now it has Deus Ex and Cyberpunk 2077 in there, just without the majority of the more advanced technology found in those. Don’t really want to say anymore than that or I might ruin what happens. So without further delay, here is Warped Glory.

Backstage at the Run-Run club, a bar popular with many of the locals in Arami City, Deshawn Jevons has only just entered the premises. As is often the case with the narcissist bassist and founding member for the hugely lauded Crow Murder Revival, he swaggers through the backstage corridors. They are tight, overly so, not because Deshawn is a large man, he’s about average, but because Run-Run is an old building. One of the oldest in Arami, a feat it has achieved only due to the clientele who oft frequent its private rooms. Ones which overlook the dance floor where most of the attendees cavort about with reckless abandon while drinking themselves into a stupor. That isn’t all they have a tendency to do but it is the only act that is legal.

However, that does not mean that the other acts are done in private. No, that rarely happens. And if Deshawn were not backstage, but rather in one of the private rooms with their window wall, he’d soon spot the sort of indulgences the patrons like to partake in.

Alas, tonight that is not going to be possible, and having wound down a number of tight spaces, ignoring the queries regarding whether he is who he looks like, Deshawn reaches CMR’s rehearsal room. Immediately he pounds through the door, which he closes and locks behind him.

“Where the FUCK have you been?” Are the first words which greet him.

They are uttered before he’s had chance to turn about and take in the room, or its occupants. Not that he needs to. He has been to Run-Run enough over the years to have the layout memorised by heart.

That was not always the case. In fact, he still recalls the first time CMR had played here. He was much younger then, barely a teenager, but overly wide eyed and in awe of the world. There is no way Deshawn could be accused of such things now. He grew cynical quick. That, in his eyes, is what happens when you’re allowed to experience the truth of the world around you. Rather, than be shielded and protected from it, like he had been growing up outside of Arami.

Regardless of what he has become, Deshawn continues to recall the smells of his youth. All of them make his stomach turn. To him they were not pleasant. Most seemed to be various species foul stinking shit. He’d worked as a lad shovelling it out to help. Not that he was ever given the choice. It was either do as his father said or face the belt. That was a long time ago and he hasn’t seen his ‘family’ in many years. For all he knows they might be dead. He doesn’t feel anything when considering that possibility.

At one time, when he’d first ran away from home, there had been days when he had wondered. But his aunt, may her soul rest, had been more of a mother and father than his actual parents had ever managed. Sadly, she’d also been a bit of a corporate whore. Something Deshawn didn’t learn until many years later. Perhaps mercifully by that time she’d grown ill. It might sound cruel but that stopped them from fighting. And for all her ‘mistakes’ he continues to hold the woman, not her profession and career, in high regards.

Well aware that a fight may be about to ensue, Deshawn spins round to discover the three other members of CMR plus their manager there waiting. All but CMR’s drummer, Gypsy, have affixed the bassist and founding member, sole remaining too, with damning looks.

“Relax Roe, I’m here aren’t I?” Is the reply given to CMR’s manager, the man who issued the question, a demand really.

“Nearly an hour late, dude. What the fuck is…”

“Cool it. I’m here. We’re playing.” Deshawn interjects meeting the stares with one of his own.

The only difference is that his stare urges the angry men to challenge him. He wants it, craves it. He even believes a fight might be good fun. He hasn’t had one in a while. Not a decent one anyway. Then again he doubts his manager, vocalist or guitarist would be capable of rating high enough to be considered decent in a fight.

Bean, CMR’s vocalist, is all bark, Roe is short and aging, while Zen is more interested in being the sheep that follows the herd. In this case the herd is Bean and Roe. Gypsy meanwhile has a tendency to stay out of it. A great drummer but a crap rockstar, that is for sure. The man has almost no opinions he is willing to give. He just wants to go with the flow. Stay out of arguments and play his kit. Usually that’s a good thing, but every now and then it would be nice to hear what he thinks. Deshawn has tried to pull it out of him. Five years and so far he’s got nothing. It could be Gypsy has no opinions, in a completely different way to Zen, and if that is the case then the founding member of CMR guesses he can live with it.

Aware that the battle is a lost cause because CMR is Deshawn’s, Roe shrugs, admitting defeat but adds, “Your set is fifteen.”

“In fifteen, got it.” The bassist replies finally breaking his stare now that it appears abundantly clear the confrontation, which never materialised, is over.

“No Dee, your set is fifteen minutes long. Not you’re on in fifteen. You were supposed to be on an hour ago.”

“Fuck that Roe! CMR play forty minimum. You know that.” Is the anger infused reply from Deshawn who once again is spoiling for a fight.

Who he intends to fight matters little to him, but that is exactly what he is craving.

“Then you should’ve got here an hour ago like you were supposed to Dee.” Bean stresses taking the side of CMR’s manager. Something he often has a tendency to do. And if Deshawn didn’t know him better he’d guess it is with the ultimate goal of pushing him out of the band.

That isn’t happening. Not now, not ever. That is the assurance the bassist and founder would give. Especially, considering CMR has had five vocalists to date, proving that Bean can and will be replaced if he forgets his place.

“Shut the fuck up before I break my bass over your empty skull, dickhead. You’re the vocalist. Nothing else. Don’t even write our lyrics. So zip it before I show you the real meaning of pain.” The bassists’ wide index finger points towards Bean, who to his credit shows no signs of fear. Alas, there is one thing that will forever, in Deshawn’s mind anyway, count against him. That is Bean, real name Matthew Harrington, is from a rich background.

You might be wondering how rich. He’s a corporate director’s son. In fact, both his parents are corporate directors. So if there is anyone who would be labelled a poser, if it got out, then it would be Bean. Especially, since he’s kept his background and family a secret from the world.

How the media haven’t found out and ragged on him, well that might have something to do with Roe issuing legal notices that dissuade them from considering such actions. Lest they wish to face a potential legal battle with a minimum payout in the paperwork being ten percent of the infringing companies profit for the last eighteen years, for each member.

Yeah, Deshawn might think Roe is a shitstain, but he’s a useful one. At least he is at times, very certain and specific ones.

In the face of Deshawn’s threat there is no reply. Not that he expected one, at least from Bean anyway. Though, with it clear that the matter is resolved, well not really but about as close as CMR ever get to a resolution, the bassist shoves his way past, grabs his bass, does a quick check concluding that it is tuned well enough for Run-Run, he meets eyes with Gypsy who he nods to and gets a reciprocal one back in response as he air drums and then announces, “We gonna get this shit done?”

Bean and Zen exchanges looks while around them the paint continues to peel off the walls. No one could ever say that the backstage area of Run-Run is a paradise. It isn’t. It’s much like every other rundown club in Arami that is owned by a greedy balding douche, and that is all the independent ones. There aren’t as many indie clubs as there used to be. Most are corp. owned establishments now, which is why CMR struggle to get booked. Not that it’s dampened their prospects. They could take up a residency in Run-Run, or any of the other clubs like it, and be set for life.

Thousands always turn up whenever they are due to play. Thankfully, unlike some of the remaining indie spots, Run-Run is on the larger side. Nothing compared to many of the corp. ran mega clubs but you can pack a good eight to nine thousand in. It’s cramped, hot, sweaty and dangerous if you do but in Deshawn’s mind that is the beauty of rock n roll. The real stuff he means; not the corporate controlled dross which fills the mainstream to bursting with aims set on guiding the young and impressionable to be obedient little bots.

Before realising he never did get a reply from his bandmates, except for Gypsy who did a quick little number on a nearby wall, Deshawn is walking up the ramp that links the cramped stage to the area behind it.

It wasn’t easy getting to this point seeing as fans had been allowed, which in reality means they gained access by nefarious means, into the backstage area in hopes of meeting CMR. The bassists reply to such an obstacle? He barrelled right on through them delivering sneers and shouts in their faces. Evidently these fans are lifers, the name given to the most hardcore of CMR’s supporters, as all they did in reply was mirror right back at Deshawn what he had thrown at them.

As ever the bassist was at the head of the single file line that is the bands members. It’s a little thing but something he insists on seeing as he is CMR. The others might not like it but that is the truth. He was here before all of them and he will be here once they are all gone. Something he likes to remind them all of as often as he can.

Truthfully, he might sack Bean tonight, after this gig. He’s been getting far too big for his boots. Thinking he’s here because he’s somehow indispensable, a unique performer. What a dick, Deshawn thinks, because he couldn’t be more dispensable if he tried. There is nothing unique about him. And he only sounds good because the rest of CMR are playing alongside him. Who would he be without them? The answer is no one. So, maybe it’s time to prove that to Bean. Either that or commit the cardinal sin of sinking his career for good by releasing information about who mummy and daddy are. The media would be hungry for that, until they’ve had their fill and all that is left is the carcass of his failed musical dalliance.

Having stepped out onto the stage the first thing that had hit Deshawn, as it always does, were the blinding lights. He continues to squint, with his dark eyes narrowed, hoping that it’ll be enough, the pain will pass soon and that they will have adjusted.

Inevitably they do and within a few extra seconds they prove it by growing accustomed to the brilliance. A smile slides across Deshawn’s face, spanning from ear to ear. Then it twists into a snarl; the trademark expression for which he is best known.

Yet, many continue to believe its part of some sort of act. The truth however is that it’s the result of a fight he got into as a teenager. It hadn’t been pretty and the damage he suffered in that brawl means that it is easier for him to snarl than it is for him to hold a smile. Something he has stated every time he’s been asked about it in an interview only for people to continue to get it wrong. Not that he cares, not really. After all, what people think of him is of little concern. At one time it was and would have been, but those days are gone. He does what he wants, when he wants. If that wasn’t obvious by his late arrival it will be once he’s finished with this performance.

With all the band members of Crow Murder Revival in place, Bean screeches into the microphone, “Run-Run are you ready for the Revival?”

It takes a great deal of restraint, something he does not have much of off-stage, for Deshawn not to roll his eyes at the utterance of his bands vocalist.

Nevertheless, it cannot be argued that the statement, as contrived as it might be, has the desired effect as the crowd goes wild. To be blunt, they look wild too but then they always look like that when CMR play. It’s the effect the band has on its fans; the bassist is pleased to get to say while Bean continues to drone on about something or other. He really couldn’t try any harder to look like he’s anti-corporation if he tried.

To Deshawn it sounds forced, but whether it does to anyone else, he can’t say. And no, Zen and Gypsy do not know Bean’s background. They know his upbringing but not that their vocalists parents are the epitome of what is largely wrong in Arami.

Yes, the city is a corporate haven; one that was built by the man for the man. Yet, it is in as much a state of decay as any other city in the world, whether that be New York, London, Berlin, Moscow or New LA. No one speaks of the original Los Angeles, for that brings too much pain for everybody involved.

Finally, the count from Gypsy begins. Deshawn was beginning to think Bean would never shut up and that he’d have to deck him so they could get past the forced frontman ego portion of the show. But thankfully, just as the thought had crossed the bassists shaved head the lights had dimmed. Then the drums kicked in, Deshawn accompanying them soon after.

A little intro between the pair is completed before Zen adds his gut punch of a guitar lick. It dances atop the rhythm set by Dee and Gyp, the nicknames oft used by the rest of the band to refer to one another. After all, let’s face it, calling everyone by their full first name, even if it isn’t there actual birth name, can get a little taxing. Short is better. That is why CMR songs barely ever reach three minutes. Because of that Crow Murder Revival, as sweat pours, bodies gyrate, pogo, fly and shove, manage to get through nine songs.

When it is over, Deshawn is not only bathed in sweat, Run-Run always having been poorly ventilated and cooled, but pumped with energy. So much so he could go at least a couple more times he reckons. Alas, their set is done. They were meant to be the first of the night. Yeah, it’s odd that at Run-Run the act who gets the longest stage time is the first but it works for CMR and seems to have little effect on attendance for the rest of the evening. Likely because everyone is so pumped up and filled with adrenaline that they just want to keep on partying. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Monday night or a Friday, like today, the patrons always go hard. So hard they have to be turfed out; unwilling to leave at what they know is closing time. To achieve that, well that is when and where the clubs security enters the picture.

Big, hard guys the lot of them and none have qualms about using bone crushing force to eject anyone non-compliant with their orders. That is regardless of size, orientation, faith, yadda yadda so on and so forth. And yes, there are always, inevitably, a few for do not comply. It’s to be expected in a city rife with corporate hate. Which in itself is funny because some of these very same people desperate to stand against the crushing fist of the man will themselves be corporate slaves who come Monday will jump back on the wheel that is crushing their souls to dust.

The bassist gets the feeling those people don’t see the irony in it. And when he was younger he would’ve sought the ‘posers’ out to flatten them. Nowadays, he dreams bigger, much bigger. Alas, the size of his dreams have no bearing on how easy it is to get from the stage and back to the rehearsal space, which is it say infinitely more difficult. Still, he’d call it a good time. Especially when some misplaced fuckstick dared to call his character into question by besmirching it with claims he’s a corporate supporter.

The girl in question who was responsible for blurting such accusations? Deshawn laid her out. He doesn’t usually hit women but made an exception seeing as she looked, in his eyes, more manly than most beer swilling drunkards who fight under the overpasses every night before getting up whenever they do to perform manual labour on building sites.

With CMR back in the rehearsal space, dubbed as their dressing room too, Zen wastes no time in cracking open a fresh bottle of spirits. It’s the only type of liquor the guy will drink. What brand it happens to be is anyone’s guess. Yet sadly his tongue gets no looser when he’s fucked up than when he’s not. To the point that you would be forgiven if you thought he never got drunk. The reality is that he does, often. To be honest, Deshawn suspects Zen might be intoxicated most of the time. But while he continues to play and perform the bassist has no issue with it.

First time he fucks up though, he’ll be out the door. No way back, no mercy, no remorse. Deshawn doesn’t give a shit what problems that might cause. Chiefly because any issue will be a short term one only. After all, there are plenty of guitarists out there who would kill to take Zen’s place. Most will be worse, some will be better and the rest will be almost identical. At least that is what the founding member believes.

Not that such a thing matters as Zen isn’t getting canned tonight. Bean should be. He’s still grinning like a prick but Deshawn doesn’t have the time tonight and having set his bass down makes towards the exit.

“Where you going Dee?” Gypsy questions sounding more than a little hurt.

You see CMR’s drummer is the longest serving member, after its sole remaining founder. And while he doesn’t share his opinions he does like to share when it comes to celebrating. The only problem is that Zen and Bean are not his kind of party people. Deshawn on the other hand very much is.

When they first got together, Gyp and Dee would tear it up; party without ever planning to stop. It’s how they wrote so much of CMR’s music, in the earlier days at least. Then, as inevitably they always do, along came managers, record labels and all that other corporate bullshit. The stuff Deshawn really hates with a passion. Also the sole reasons as to why CMR have had seven cancelled contracts, each netting them a seven figure paycheck.

And in hopes of counteracting, at least some, of that corporate fluff Deshawn has moved onto other things. These other things are illegal, not drug illegal, no far worse than that. You see, he’s become something of a terror around Arami. Even runs with this camera guy named Spectre who films all the corporate hating acts that they perform so they can be posted online for the world to see, and they do see it.

The only reason Deshawn isn’t in handcuffs is because he keeps an otherwise low profile. If he didn’t the authorities would have… well, they’d have done nothing except probably tip the corporations he’s made trouble for off, so they could enact some payback for themselves.

For anyone sat there thinking, why if the cops know do they not do anything? Well, it’s because there are two sets of law in Arami. One is the police and the other is corporate security. The police are poorly funded and were only implemented to deal with petty thefts, so the populace would have someone to blame and call on in their hour of need. Meanwhile, corp. security is the real law in the city. They, and yes there are a number of different security firms as each answers to a different corp., deal with issues that directly affect their respective paymasters’ affairs.

Obviously, that means as a result they couldn’t care less about the little guy, the individual. Unless you are a director or a board member, that is. No, they care only about what affects those whom are their employers.

“I got somewhere to be.” Is the reply uttered by the bassist who makes no effort to halt his progress toward the exit.

“Fuck, you gonna go run with that shitbrain camera douche again, aren’t you?” Bean exclaims trying to play the big hard man but failing miserably, in Deshawn’s eyes anyway.

“Zip it Bean. What I do with my time is my business. That is, unless you want to drink through a straw for the next few months.”

Hands raised in surrender while making attempts, ineffectively, to make it look as though he isn’t terrified, Bean sidesteps so he is no longer blocking a section of the closed door which Deshawn is heading straight for.

To beat the bassist of CMR to the destination, Bean had been forced to rush beyond his limited capabilities. It had almost resulted in him stumbling over a chair and coffee table. If that had happened Deshawn would’ve stuck around, a few minutes, only to laugh. Yet, it would have been more effective than this weak attempt to get in his way.

“He’s gonna get you in serious shit Dee, don’t do it. Corp. security are after your head. If they find you…”

It’s already too late to warn the bassist for he is out the room and part way down one of the several corridors which permit him backstage exit from Run-Run and so Roe trails off, gives up his attempts to dissuade the Crow Murder Revival’s founder from deserting a night of partying to partake in whatever dumbass stunt called a ‘cause’ that has been dreamt up this time.

Frustrating isn’t a strong enough of a word for how the bands manager feels, but he’s got nothing better to describe his feelings on the matter.

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