7/12/2012

Night Bird Flying - Epilogue: Ezy Rider





Johnny stood in front of the mirror, the razor in his hand.  He looked at the mane of hair on top of his head and rolled his fingers through them one final time before clicking on the razor and sliding it across his scalp.

When he walked out of the bathroom, minutes later, Uncle Chuck walked by and jumped in surprise.

"Boy, you scared the shit out of me!" he exclaimed, holding his chest tightly.  "You cut off your hair."

"Yeah," Johnny said, nodding as he rubbed his head, the spikes of the short hair prickling his fingers for the first time since he was 12 years old.

"You got a weird-shaped head, you know that?" Uncle Chuck asked, continuing into his room.

"Yeah, I think it looks good too," Johnny chuckled as he walked in the opposite direction.

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Johnny sat in the audience of the Garfield High School Senior Class Graduation with his newly shaven head.  He watched his fellow band mates receive their diplomas and watched Chase Walker, of all people, give the valedictorian speech at the podium in the center, the majority of it consisting of what the administrators wanted to hear.  Bullshit.

"...And with this new avenue of life we all must face in the near future after leaving this great school, we'll always be carried along by the weight of our memories.  And so I give my beloved school, Garfield High, one final kiss goodbye...as it kisses my lily white ass!"

Chase stepped from the podium, turned around, and pulled up his gown, mooning the entire stadium in the nude.  Everyone gasped in horror and Johnny was the first to burst into laughter at the sight.

Johnny was sentenced to only two months in jail due to the murder charges that had been pinned on him and was given the reduced sentence due to Paul's interference.  Paul's false documents that allowed them to perform the concert were miraculously never discovered, Paul blaming it on the breeze that took it out of his hands a few minutes after the concert was finished.  Will's body was found several hours later in the woods and labeled a “suicide”, liberating Chase and May from the restraints of Witness Protection.  They both had their names legally changed to their appointed ones, as they had grown fond of “May” and “Chase” for the many years they carried them.  As soon as Johnny was released, Paul revealed that he would be turning over the managerial ranks to his son, Marty, who, after a month of searching, got the band a deal with the newly redesigned Pioneer Records, the previous label of which had given birth to Guardian Avenue‘s fame.  After video of their illegal concert went viral, the popularity and fanbase that arose from it inspired Pioneer Records to take them in.  They began to work on their first eponymous debut LP, which was released the following year to critical acclaim and immediate recognition from the music world.  On the cusp of becoming revolutionaries of popular culture, Johnny B. Goode and Electric Church stood their ground through it all and the ball was now finally rolling strong.

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Johnny sat in the limousine that he'd ridden in for many years now.  It was the reunion concert of the century.  Johnny's Afro had grown back a few years after the band was signed and now, after all these years, it was his signature look.  He strummed the strings of his latest guitar, the Axis, a blue-shaded Stratocaster that he still played left-handed.  His hands were wrinkled but strong and he was surprised that he was still familiar with the beginning riff of one of his band's first songs, “Magma Dance.”  It was funny, thinking about it now.  Barely anyone had even remembered or heard of that song.  The various albums and singles that received Platinum and Diamond awards, as well as numerous Grammy's seemed to heavily outweigh that old legacy.  Only those that watched their bio-film would really appreciate the retro stuff.

The limousine stopped and the driver got out to open his door.  Johnny stepped out, wearing a pair of shades to shield the thousands of flashing lights going off in his face.  His guitar was slung across his back as always.  The afro had grown so much that it was long now, going down past his shoulders right by a fully grown beard spread across the bottom half of his face.  His face had aged a lot but he was still healthy for his age.  He flashed a peace sign at the thousands of adoring fans that jumped around, screaming, crying, and reaching out to touch him.
Once down the red carpet, he stepped back stage and was greeted by the staff.  Martin stepped up to him, gruff and bald with a beard of his own.

"Always fashionably late, yeah Johnny?" he said with a smile, adopting a bit of his father's British accent when he spoke.

"You know me," Johnny said with a raspy voice and a dazzling smile as he spotted Chase by his wife, Shelly Walker.  He was still petite, now sporting a pot belly and a sagging face, but with long hair, tied back.  Shelly's hair was still as short as ever and the two made it look as if the officials behind the concert had pulled a random individual's grandparents off of the street to perform tonight.  He waved over at them.

"Hey Chase," he shouted with a large smile.

“Johnny,” he said vibrantly, shaking hands with him as he approached.

"How're the grands?"

"As good as their ever going to get," Chase shouted, wheezing as he laughed.  "Katherine is singing now."

"Ah, I bet she'll get her first Grammy before she's 20."

"Not if Chase is her singing coach like he said he'd be," Shelly teased.

"Again with this," Chase said, turning to Shelly.  "She's going to get that Oscar because of me, you'll see."

"Oscar?  Seriously, Chase?  I think you're losing your mind, old man, we're talking Grammy's."

"Hey, shut up," he said, pushing her playfully.  “That's what I meant.”

Johnny smiled and approached them, sweeping them both into a hug.  "I'm glad you guys never changed," Johnny muttered warmly.

Through them, he spotted Joey walking up with his spiked Grey hair and sleeveless shirt that displayed two arms covered in still fresh tattoos.  Joey had rejoined the band after his five-year incarceration and continued as bass for the entire duration of the band's career.

"Joey," Johnny said, approaching them.  "Lesley and Dino ready in the back?"
"Yeah, they already opened with a few Machine Gun songs," Joey stated quickly.  Lesley and Dino split from Electric Church after a five-year run to form their own band.  Lesley was the lead singer while Dino played drums and with Johnny's help, they employed several others, including Lorenzo and Apricot, the latter of which had been forgiven for her travesties and given a second chance with this new band that called themselves “Machine Gun.”  On several occasions, Electric Church and Machine Gun teamed up for collaborative albums, the first of which was called Class of '70.  "You sure you okay this time, Johnny?  We don't want you fainting out there again."

"No, trust me, I'm better than I was back in '14 and that was my prime," Johnny said with a smile as he traveled deeper backstage and spotted a very elderly black man in a wheelchair being tended to by a nurse.  "Hey, old man."

He turned to Johnny slowly with weary eyes and smiled brightly.  "How you doin'?" he said weakly, holding out a hand to shake.

Johnny bent down so the man could hear him more clearly as he shook it.  "You didn't have to make it, Uncle Chuck, I could have had it taped and sent it back to the home for you."

"And miss what I helped create," Chuck muttered with a large gummy smile, his hands shaking with age.  "Not a chance."

Johnny chuckled and patted him on the shoulder lightly.  "Well I'm really glad you decided to come.  I hope you have a good time."

"Hey!" he shouted as Johnny started to walk away.  "Don't mess up!"

"You know me!" Johnny shouted back as he continued through the backstage area, which was crawling with young people.  They moved about busily and in a haste, trying to get the concert ready.  It was a sharp contrast to all of the band members, as everyone that was used to this kind of atmosphere was calm and relaxed.

"Johnny!" a female voice shouted as she approached him.  He turned to see a beautiful elderly woman with long luscious hair standing before him, her youth still shining in her eyes.

"Hey May," Johnny said warmly, embracing her in his arms.  "I already met up with Chase.  Where's Leon?"

"He's getting ready," May said, straightening up Johnny's shirt.  "It's really been fifty years today, can you believe it?"

"A little bit, seein' as I see a parody of that concert we did on television every day," Johnny chuckled.

"I'm sure that's what the Beatles felt when they reached your age too.  You nervous?  All you've done is sit in the studio and produce all day for the past twelve years, so I'd understand if you're a bit rusty."

"Hey, it's a hard job," Johnny said, playfully complaining.  "How do you know about what I do?"

"Well, you married me, so it's my obligation to know."

"It's your obligation to do anythin' for me as my wife."

"Damn straight," May smiled, tapping his lips with her finger.

"Hey Grandpa," a young voice shouted from behind May.  His caramel colored skin and facial features might as well have made him a spitting image of a young Johnny.  His Afro was curlier, tied to the back of his head, and he sported a goatee, but other than this, the resemblance was spot-on.  He strummed the guitar sharply and smiled.  "We're ready."

"No you're not," Johnny said rolling his eyes as he walked towards him, immediately adjusting the tuning pegs on the boy's guitar.  "Always tune before you're ready, Leon, I've told you this before."

"Oh, Sorry, Pop, I won't let it happen again."

"You're lucky, I'm lettin' your band even get up there.  I don't think you can handle that many people."

"Pop, me and my band have done countless performances like this.  Its nothing new."

"Is 3 million new to you?" Johnny asked, looking at his grandson with a serious face.  Leon's smile disappeared quickly.

"Excuse me," he muttered awkwardly as he turned around and headed in the opposite direction.

Johnny turned back to May and she laughed.  "Amateur," he said, smiling.

"We're on in 5, people," Martin shouted walking through the backstage area, repeating himself as he went through so that everyone got the message.

"All right," May said, hugging Johnny tightly as he embraced her back.  "Good luck.  Bring the house down."

"You know me," Johnny said smoothly, reaching in to kiss her on the lips as he walked away.  He turned back and winked.  She smiled and Johnny felt the love he had for her wash over as strongly as it did all those years ago.

Johnny walked back into the part of the backstage area where he'd just previously met up with Joey.  He approached him from behind and put an arm around his shoulder.  The two caught up with Chase and Shelly near the entrance to the stage.  They all embraced each other.

"This one's for Oliver," Johnny said to them, as they all nodded in agreement.  Oliver Mann, who had written over thirty of the band's most popular songs during his time as a professional songwriter, had passed away fairly recently and this reunion concert had been dedicated to him.  The band had been together for fifty years and everything they had been through, from its formation, to the near-catastrophic and chaotic roller coaster of their beginnings, to their triumphant rise to fame, had led them to this place and it was clear from the roars of the crowd outside in the stadium that it had definitely been worth it.  What had once been a simple means of survival through social oppression had turned into something much bigger entirely.  From a simple punch to the stomach, a trading of ideals between two social outcasts, and the unity of collective teenage angst, a legacy had been born.  Millions of screaming fans were chanting their names.  Music had been revolutionized by them.   Artists of today's time modeled their music through a solid foundation formed by Electric Church.  This was it.  This was Johnny's band and together, they had changed the world.

"...Without further adieu," the announcer shouted passionately into the mic in the center of the stage.  "I'd like to re-introduce to you, the most critically acclaimed band of our age, performing for the first time in over a decade.  The unbelievable, the legendary...ELECTRIC CHURCH!"

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Johnny stepped out of the bar several hours later, alone.  The concert of the century was over.  The festivities were done.  And in two days they would start again.  After each concert, even when they were starting out, he would celebrate with the rest of the band, the entourage, and the groupies for a little while but before long, he would find himself alone, deeply meditating until it was time to get back to socializing.  As with every night, the tour bus would be leaving at 2am and he needed to be getting back now.

He walked along the street that evening, passing by a homeless man who sat on the corner of the sidewalk, strumming his acoustic guitar lightly with a fedora hat on his head, obscuring his face.  Johnny stopped by the man briefly and stared down at him, waiting for the man to notice him.  He looked up and Johnny saw that he was white and much younger than himself.  He looked nothing like his father.  It was only his imagination.  However, Johnny enjoyed the music he played, so he reached into his pocket, pulled out a roll of bills, and laid it into the musician's case before continuing on.

"Thank you, sir," the man saluted politely.

Johnny nodded to him and continued along the sidewalk, reminiscing over how when he left his mother's home that night over 50 years ago, he had contemplated whether his journey would lead to endless possibilities or countless misfortune.  The end result was both.  And now that he had gotten this far, it didn't seem as distant as he might have once dreamed.  He'd done what he wanted in life.  He started a band, they excelled.  He got married and had children.  There were ups and downs to this incredible life but he still came out on top.  However, this wasn't the end.  Not by a long shot.  In Johnny's mind, he was still young.  He was still learning the rules of life and it wouldn't end until he laid his head to rest for good.  He smiled to himself.  His life was great.  No matter what happened in the distant past or what the future may hold, he knew he and his friends had succeeded in providing the world with something that would keep their memory alive for years to come.

The musician watched Johnny disappear down the street and continued to play his guitar.  He began to sing.

"Mama told him someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big ol' band,
All kinds of people come from miles around,
To hear you play your music till the sun go down.
Maybe someday your name will be in lights,
Saying 'Johnny B. Goode Tonight'."

Johnny B. Goode By Chuck Berry

Johnny B. Goode By Jimi Hendrix

Night Bird Flying Reference List


Jimi Hendrix and other Rock Reference list:
- The lyrics to each song after which the chapters are named, reflect the events of each chapter.

- Johnny B. Goode's name comes from the title of Chuck Berry's most famous song, also frequently covered by Jimi Hendrix.

- Johnny's appearance is loosely based on the likeness of Jimi Hendrix, who was also a left-handed guitarist.

- Johnny's guitar, the Night Bird, is named after the song, Night Bird Flying, after which the story is named.

- The principal’s proposal to get Johnny to break up with his white girlfriend in exchange for a clean record comes from a fake story that Jimi Hendrix told to the gullible media as the reason for his own expulsion.

- Johnny is playing the guitar and says to Will "At least I've still got my guitar.  Look out now."  The line comes directly from the original Are You Experienced version of the song, “Red House.”

- A passing traveler goes by Johnny saying, "Play on, brother."  The line comes from the song, Highway Child, after which the chapter was named and is also repeated in the song, If 6 Was 9.

- The city of Ladyland, California is named after the Jimi Hendrix Experience's third and final studio album, “Electric Ladyland,” along with the name of the bus station Johnny arrives at, Port Electric.

- Uncle Chuck's appearance is loosely based on the likeness of Chuck Berry, as is his first name.

- Uncle Chuck's neighborhood, the Gypsy Sun Park, is named after Jimi's temporary band set-up during the Woodstock '69 performance, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows.

- Johnny's second school, Garfield High, is named after the actual school that Jimi Hendrix attended during high school in Seattle, Washington.

- Maybelline Walker's first name comes from another popular Chuck Berry song of the same name.

- The story behind Johnny's name in which he mentions Johnny C is a reference to Johnny Cash.

- Johnny confronts Hal and Hal mistakenly calls him "Lenny."  This is a reference to Lenny Kravitz.

- In Uncle Chuck's car on the ride home from his first day at Garfield High, Johnny says "I don't take nothin' for an answer.  Especially no."  This is a line from the Hendrix song, Voodoo Child.

- The first name for Johnny's band, Class of '70, is named after the year that Jimi Hendrix died.

- Marty McFly is named after the character from the movie, Back To The Future, because of his rendition of the song, Johnny B. Goode, performed by the character of the same name.

- After kissing May, Johnny comments by saying "Felt like kissin' the sky."  This is a line taken directly from the song, Purple Haze.

- Johnny's father, James Marshall Goode, has his first and middle name derived from Jimi Hendrix's legal name.


- The band's first venue, Shire Village is based on a frequent venue where Jimi performed during his time in New York City, Greenwich Village, although it does not resemble it in appearance.

- Joey's arrival at Apricot's house with the shotgun is a reference to the events in the song, Hey Joe, after which the chapter is named.

- Johnny's three occurrences on his way to the apartments, watching children playing Cowboys and Indians in the park, the young dismal woman in the wheelchair, and the drunken man thrown out of his room by the angry woman are all moments that are chronicled in the song, Castles Made of Sand, after which the chapter is named.

- Nesta's appearance and mannerisms are loosely based on Bob Marley, along with sharing the same name (Bob‘s middle name was Nesta).

- Electric Church is an actual belief that was popularized by Jimi Hendrix and the Jimi Hendrix Experience as well as many other followers of psychedelic music during the 1960's.

- The club, The Spanish Castle, is named after the former club in Washington that served as inspiration for the song, Spanish Castle Magic, after which the chapter is named.

- The band that helps Electric Church, Dragonfly, has their name taken from a line in the song, Spanish Castle Magic.  When Johnny expresses his gratitude toward Lesley, he states "Its already taken about half a day to get there."  Both references originate from the line: "Its very far away, it takes about half a day to get there, if we travel by the Dragonfly."

- The concept of Johnny talking to May through the window and being shot by Will is loosely chronicled in the song, Wait Till Tomorrow.

- May's real name, Ramona Miles, is named after another, more obscure Chuck Berry song, Hey Ramona.

- The lines that Johnny's father's spirit sings come directly from the song, All Along the Watchtower, after which the chapter is named.

- Guardian Avenue's former manager and current mayor of Ladyland, Chandler Michaels, has his name derived from Jimi Hendrix's two managers, Chas Chandler and Michael Jeffrey.

- The singing voice that Johnny hears in his dream sings fragments of the lyrics to the song, Night Bird Flying.

- When May greets Johnny outside in the studio hallway, she says "Can I step into your world for a while?" taken directly from the song, Hey Baby (New Rising Sun).

- Just before striking Will, Johnny says the words "Fall Mountain," a line taken from the song, If 6 Was 9.

- When Johnny says his final farewells to the Night Bird, he says "Fly On" taken from the songs, Night Bird Flying and Little Wing.

- Johnny's new guitar is named The Experience, after The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

- Johnny's guitar in the Epilogue is called the Axis, after The Jimi Hendrix Experience's second album, Axis: Bold as Love.

- Johnny's grandson in the Epilogue, Leon Goode, is named after Leon Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix's younger brother.

- Lesley and Dino's second band is called Machine Gun, named after the song by Jimi Hendrix.


Black Guitar By Goliath Warfare - A song written and performed by QJ Goodwin along with fellow musician, Terence Harris, with lyrics heavily inspired and based on "Night Bird Flying."

Night Bird Flying - Chapter 20: If 6 Was 9




"All right, let's review the plan," Paul stated anxiously, as everyone was now awake and ready for the concert of the century.  For everyone else at their school, it was the beginning of Final Exams, but for this particular group of people, it was the beginning of a legacy.  They all sat in the studio room, listening intently to Paul as he spoke.  Everyone had their instrument in its case next to them, aside from Chase, who would have his set hauled to them later, along with the stage, the sound system, and the rest of instruments once loaded up.  Now all they needed to do was follow the proceedings according to plan and everything would work smoothly.  Hopefully.

"The production team will arrive at the school at exactly 9:45am to set up equipment.  Prior to that, you guys need to be able to skip class in a safe place until that time.  At exactly 9:58am, May, who took her first period exam earlier last week and will be accompanying you guys, will be the one to plant the burning T-shirt inconspicuously in the trash can of the girl's bathroom and pull the fire alarm.  The real fire will be what will prevent the students from re-entering the building for a while, so they have absolutely no choice but to attend this concert.  It's up to the rest of you guys after that point.  Any questions?"

"Yeah," Chase said, raising his hand.  "What's being done security-wise?  Like as far as keeping security or any cops that may be called from ending the concert."

"I have a falsely fabricated document right here," Paul said, pulling out an official-looking packet from the side of the soundboard.  "It's a fake warrant that I'll flash in their faces if they cause any trouble, showing that we have authorization from the Superintendent to be there.  When and if they realize that it's not real, it'll already be too late and the concert will already be finished.  Any other questions?"

Dino raised his hand carefully and Paul pointed him out.  "Um, you do realize that this concert could cause you to lose your job, right?"

"Fuck my job, you're my job now," Paul said with excitement.  "I've been prepared for the consequences since I thought of the idea."

"Yeah, but you could also go to jail for violating May and Chase's terms of release," Shelly said, intervening.  "I mean, is it really worth it?"

"Is it really worth-" Paul cut himself off and chuckled.  "Shelly, you guys are the band I always wanted.  I mean no offense to Chuck and all, but you all bring out the teenager in me, no lie.  I've had the idea and the ambition to do this thing since I was in school.  I'm living the dream with you guys, you all should be grateful that I'm even behind this.  If I had even suggested this to the band I was with back in Oxfordshire, they would have laughed in my face and told me to shove it up my arse.  So when you ask me if it's worth it, I say we'll see how it goes and if it goes well, its worth my dick and two quarters, how 'bout that?"

"What'd he just say?" Lesley asked turning to Shelly, who shrugged cluelessly.

"I'll see if I can get out of class to help set up too," Marty said, stepping up from the chair he'd been sitting in by the soundboard.  He had been with them the entire time but whenever he was around his father, he never talked or really had much time to talk at all.  When he spoke up, Paul snapped him a dangerous look.

"No, you're going to stay in your fucking class and take your damn test until you hear the alarm, sorted?" Paul said, pointing at him threateningly.  "You are under no circumstances permitted to join us until the allotted time stated earlier, understood?  You're lucky you even get to see the concert based on the plan we've set up, so be grateful and leave it to the professionals.  Have I made myself clear, Martin?"

Marty looked away in embarrassment.  "Yes sir," he said somberly, slouching back into his chair.

"All right, any more questions before we head off for the day?" Paul asked one last time.  Each of them had a sense of determination in their eyes and it was evident that they were all more than ready.  "All right.  Remember to lay low until the right time.  I'll try to call when we're on the way."  Paul paused and sighed.  "Now I'm not much of a religious nut, but I believe, based on the way things seem to go with this band, particularly in this crazy town, a prayer might be in order.  Better safe than sorry, eh?  Let's join hands."

Everyone in the room: Johnny, May, Chase, Shelly, Dino, Lesley, Paul, Chuck, and Marty stood up and held hands in a collective circle.  Johnny had been between Uncle Chuck and May when they began to start.

"Johnny, you want to do the honors," Uncle Chuck said, turning to him.

It took him off-guard.  "Uh, yeah sure, I guess I can do it," Johnny said, shrugging.  Everyone bowed their heads and closed his eyes.  "Bare with me guys, I'm just goin' to do this the best I can...Dear Heavenly Father...um...thank you for inventin' the guitar and um...music in general...without which we wouldn't be here...thanks for uh...unitin' us for a common purpose...and though what we are doin' may not be right in the eyes of everybody who may view it, our intentions are for the best...I think...I'm pretty sure...If not, help make it clear to us, a sign or somethin' would be good..."

Johnny opened one eye and surveyed the room momentarily before starting again.  "No?...Okay, thanks anyway...um...Because we all want to do this for a good cause or a good enough cause, please give us the strength to perform at our absolute best so that we can change the lives of those that witness it and start a legacy.  And uh...just in case, we're prayin' to the wrong God, you know...Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Vishnu, Ra, Quetzalcoatl, Zeus, Odin, Xenu...that last one is for Scientology I think-"

"Johnny," May said, cutting him off as the others snicker.

"Right, right...You know who you are.  We thank you for all you've done for us and hope that you continue to provide us with what we need to make this concert and our careers as musicians the best we could have ever hoped for.  In your name we pray, Amen."

"Amen," they all said simultaneously, as everyone began to pick up their equipment and belongings.

"All right guys, let's head out."

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It was 7 O’clock when Johnny and the Electric Church stepped out of the Retrovan that was being driven by Paul onto the front of Garfield High School‘s campus.  Johnny saluted to him and walked into the building, each of them by his side.  This was it.  It was about to happen.

They walked into the building and looked around at the students that conversed among each other, unaware of the events that would be taking place that day.  Johnny was the only one carrying his instrument as always, while the others left theirs with Paul to be hauled in with the rest of the equipment.  Johnny looked over at the group.

"We should talk to Nelson, he'll help us out," he said to the others, who nodded back at him.

"Well, uh, I guess I'll see you guys later," Marty said, stepping away.  Johnny exchanged looks with the others.

"Marty," he called.  "Stay with us, man.  We'll take the wrap for you on it.  You believe in us just as much as your dad does so you deserve to be just as involved."

"Oh thanks, man," Marty said, brightening up.  "I'll pull my weight, promise."

"All right, let's head over before the bell rings," Johnny said as he led the group down the hallway past the cluster of students that were making their way to class.  The collective group of them all together drew attention from the crowd which led to a few jeers and frequent whispers followed by loud giggles.  It almost felt like a natural occurrence when it came to this school, but like animals before a disaster, Johnny and the band could feel a change coming on, something that would drastically alter the status quo of the entire establishment.

The group entered the Art Hall and headed for the Theatre room, where a few students were conversing in the back.  Johnny entered the room alone while the others waited in the hallway.  Mr. Nelson sat at his desk, his feet propped on the table as he laid back in a deep sleep, his mouth hanging open.

"Hey!" Johnny called out, causing Mr. Nelson to jerk violently and nearly slide out of his chair in surprise.  When he realized that it was Johnny, he calmed down.

"Johnny, you scared the hell out of me!" he said passionately.  "I thought you were administration."

"Sorry," Johnny said quickly.  "We need your help."

Johnny quietly informed Mr. Nelson of their plans, elaborating on the purpose for the event the most, so as to not cause him to worry or talk them out of going through with it.  When he was finished, Mr. Nelson nodded his head slowly in thought.

"I think you guys may be on to something," he said encouragingly.  "It's a bold move, but it definitely sounds legendary.  This is what I'll do."

Mr. Nelson leaned forward and opened the drawer in desk.  When he spoke again, it was in a near whisper to make sure they weren't being overheard by the others.

"Take this key," he said, reaching into the drawer, pulling it out, and handing it to Johnny.  "It'll unlock any door in the school.  Head over to the auxiliary building on the E Wing and hide up there on the roof.  Don't make too much noise though.  Chances are you'll get expelled if you're caught up there."

"Thanks, Mr. Nelson," Johnny said appreciatively, taking the key.  "I'll give this back as soon as I can."

"Keep it, you just didn't get it from me," Mr. Nelson winked and turned back around in his chair.  "Make sure you get there before the bell.  They have automatic outside locks on the building doors for the exams that the key won‘t open for.  It's stupid but it's there."

Johnny waved back at him and walked into the Art Hall.  "Auxiliary building," he stated simply as they began to head back into the hallway where they'd come from.  Seconds later, the minute bell rung to signify the beginning of exams.  The doors to the Auxiliary building would be locked in approximately one minute if they didn't get there on time.

"Let's go, let's go," Johnny shouted, coaxing the group along the corridor.  They began to run and eventually sprint down the halls, accompanied by a large amount of students that were also running to avoid being late for class.  The group had to travel all the way to the other side of the school by the gym, then take a sharp right and turn down another hallway before bursting outside.  By the time they were out, the final bell was ringing.  Johnny sprinted as fast as he could to the Auxiliary building, which was only a few yards away.  The bell would only last for fifteen to twenty seconds and by the end of it, they'd be too late.

Johnny reached the door just as the bell stopped and put force on it, taking a heavy sigh of relief when it opened with ease.  He turned back to the others, holding it for them as they walked through, then closed it behind him.

"It opens from the inside so we're good to get out," he informed, heading for the stairs adjacent to them.  "Let's get up to the roof."

"The roof?" Chase repeated curiously.  "Never been up there.  Awesome hiding spot."

Johnny led the group up the stairs until they reached the second floor of the building.  There was a door near one of the classrooms that had a sign on the front signifying that it led to the roof.  Johnny reached it and stuck the key into the lock, turning and opening the door.  He held it open for the others and the group walked up the last flight of stairs until they reached the door at the top.  When they emerged onto the roof, there was an immediate feeling of appreciation for the weather around them as they surveyed the world from the top of the school.  It was a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky.  The air was warm with a gentle breeze that coincided with it.  There couldn't have been a more perfect day for a concert.

"Dude, imagine if we could have the concert up here," Chase said enthusiastically as he walked to the edge of the building.  "Just like the Beatles' Apple Studio Rooftop Concert.  Not much room for a crowd down there but otherwise it'd be perfect."

"Try not to make yourselves visible," Johnny said cautiously.  "Don't want to get caught up here."

"Man, high school," Dino sighed, his hands in his pockets as he walked across the gravel-covered surface of the roof's floor.  "Three years out and I still don't miss it."

"Where'd you guys go to school anyway?" Johnny asked curiously, taking a seat by the edge of the roof and making small talk, seeing as they still had a few hours before the concert would start.

"We're both from LA," Lesley replied, sitting Indian style in a random spot.  "Hal lived in the same neighborhood as us.  When we were little, we used to hang out all the time and pretend to be in a band but eventually we got the idea to actually learn how to play instruments to make it real.  We were pretty good, but then Hal moved away and got himself caught up in the social life here.  When we had already graduated and had nothing better to do, we decided to form a real band and located Hal, pulled him back to the good side, and got something started.  He had a hell of a lot of potential."

"Tell me about it," Johnny said, shaking his head.

Marty stood around awkwardly until he heard them mention Hal.  He had a College-style bag wrapped around his torso and he reached into it.

"Hey guys, I brought some drinks from home.  I got them together back when I thought I would be hanging out with you guys but when my dad told me not to, I thought I'd save them.  We can toast to Hal and everybody who couldn‘t make it."

Johnny got up from his spot while the others gathered around Marty as he pulled out an individual Fruit Punch Juicebox for all of them.

"Juiceboxes?" May smiled, taking hers.  "Nice throwback."

"Hey, nothing wrong with a few things that bring you back to your childhood," Marty laughed, pulling off the plastic straw, tearing off the wrapper, and forcing the straw into the drinking hole.  "To Hal, Joey, Ap, Oliver, Lorenzo, and the old legacy started by Class of ‘70.  Live on."

He lifted his drink as the others did the same.  "Live on," they all said in unison, pushing the boxes together and taking sips from the drinks simultaneously as they all found their spots again and sat down.

"I've got three more if anybody wants some later," Marty said invitingly.

“The group sat and relaxed for a roughly an hour, trying to occupy their minds with something other than the performance that would go down in a matter of moments.  There was enough anxiety to go around but none of them were in a rush for things to unfold since it almost seemed like this would be the end-all be-all of performances on their part.  After a while, Chase walked over to accompany Johnny, who leaned back on the roof's edge casually.

"Hey, Johnny," Chase said, sitting down beside him.  "I need a favor from you."

"Nah, I'm good," Johnny said lazily.

"I need you to give this letter to Shelly please," Chase said, reaching into his pocket and handing it to him.

"I'm a bit busy right now," Johnny said, sitting still.

"You're not doing anything."

"I'm sittin' down and relaxin', that's doin' somethin'."

"Thanks, Johnny, you're the greatest friend I could ever have," Chase said sarcastically as he stood back up and began to walk away.

"Hey, I did you a favor by goin' to the prom, I'm still waitin' on my favor."

Chase approached Dino, who had pulled out a book and was reading by the roof door entrance.  He asked him for the same favor.

"The fuck do I look like, a post office?" Dino responded aggressively.  "Nah, I'm kidding, give it here."

Chase handed him the letter and thanked him as Dino got up and walked over to Shelly who had been conversating with Lesley.  He handed her the letter but didn't tell her who it was from.  She opened it and read it curiously.  Chase, who had sat down in Dino's spot, made quick glances in her direction to gauge her reaction.

"The hell is...?" Shelly mouthed from a distance.  She held up the letter for Dino to see and revealed that it was a "Do you like me? Check yes or no" letter.

"Chase!" Dino said loudly, turning back to him.  "Seriously?"

"Seriously?" They all repeated one after another reacting to Chase's pathetic excuse for showing affection.

"Really?" Marty said joining in.  Everyone turned in his direction.  "I mean, seriously?"

"Yeah," Chase said simply standing up with determination.  "Seriously."

He walked towards Shelly slowly, taking a deep breath before continuing.  "Last time I did this, you punched me in the throat.  Because I was insensitive.  It caused the band to break up.  Truth is, I'm not a sensitive guy.  I don't know how to be all lovey dovey Edward Cullen about it.  And I know that's not what you would want anyway so...I just decided to do the best I could.  You know, I don't even care if you feel the same way; I just want you to know that I fucking love you."

Chase launched forward and grabbed Shelly by the cheeks, pressing her mouth against his.  Everyone gasped in surprise while Dino and Lesley backed away slowly.

"Holy Damn," Johnny muttered with a smirk, watching the scene unfold from afar.
It almost seemed like from that view, Shelly was enjoying the kiss.  She made no move to push him away or to get the others to pull him off.  In fact, she brought her hands up to his shoulders and rested them there.  When Chase finally pulled away, he let go of her face and her eyes were wide as she stared into his.  Chase smiled.

Shelly rammed her knee into Chase's crotch.  His eyes opened fully and the smile was still present on his face as he heaved for breath, grabbing his jewels delicately.  He fell to his knees and his smile formed a crying face as he writhed on the ground in agony.

"I swear I didn't mean to do that!" Shelly said in shock.  "That was totally reflexes."

"It's all right," Chase squeaked out in a strained voice.  "No harm done...okay, I lied, I think you might have punctured something."

It couldn't have been at a worst time for it, but the school's intercom began to blare throughout the building, "Pardon this interruption, we are now entering a mandatory lock down.  I repeat, the school is now entering a mandatory lock down.  Please lock your doors, turn off your lights, and remain quiet until further notice.  Thank you."

"Whoa," Dino said, turning to the others.  "That can't be good."

"Maybe it's just a test or something," Lesley suggested, though she was really trying to convince herself.

"Doubt it," Johnny said, standing up suspiciously.  "It's exam week, there'd be no point in a lock down test when school is about to be over.  Somethin's goin' on here."

"I think we should head out," Marty said.  "Nobody would be on campus to see us at all.  We should be fine."

"What if there's a threat," May said worriedly.  "That'd be the last thing we want to walk into.  Do you think they might have found out about what we're going to do?"

"No, nobody else in this school knew what we were doin' except Mr. Nelson," Johnny said, thinking it through.  "Unless they discovered Paul and his equipment but it's only 8 O’clock so he wouldn't have been on his way now.  I'm guessin' we should follow Marty's advice and head out, just to see if somethin' happened.  If you guys want, you can stay here and I can go down and check things out."

Everyone exchanged looks with each other as they waited for one of their own to speak up and accompany Johnny.  Shelly stepped forward.

"I'll head over with you," Shelly said hesitantly.  "We should come back soon though, if we don't find anything."

"That's the plan," Johnny said, standing up.

"I'll go with you guys," Lesley said, stepping forward and smiling at Shelly.  "Got to protect the little sis."  After becoming well-acquainted with the band, Lesley had developed a sisterly relationship with Shelly, which was just as well, as they already shared similar appearances and style.

Johnny reached down and picked up his guitar case, swinging it around his torso.

"You're bringing your guitar?"

"Yeah, just in case," Johnny said, heading for the door.

"In case of what?" she asked with worry.

"In case, I'm still out when Paul gets here," Johnny said awkwardly.  "Calm down, Shelly, we'll be fine."

"Yeah."  She let out a nervous breath and followed him to the door.  "Yeah, you're probably right."

Johnny opened the door and walked down the dark stairway that led back into the building.  As he went by the classroom that was beside the entrance to the roof, its window was covered by a shade as with each class window they passed.  He led Shelly and Lesley through the building and traveled back down to the bottom floor, where they spotted the exit.  The glass that made up the majority of the door had been blown out and glass shards were scattered across the floor in front of it.

"Somebody broke the door open," Lesley said observing the damage.

Johnny bent down and picked up one of the shards, examining it closely.  Suddenly, his eyes went wide and he dropped the shard, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone.  He scrolled through his contacts and went straight to Chase, dialing immediately.

"Come on, come on, pick up," he muttered anxiously.

"What's going on?" Shelly asked, her nerves suddenly spiking.

Johnny pressed his finger over his lips, quieting her.  "Somebody shot the windows and blew out the glass," Johnny whispered quickly, then turned to her.  "They SHOT through the glass."

Chase suddenly answered on the other line.  "Yeah?"

"Dude, I think Will is in the Auxiliary building," Johnny said softly but frantically.

"What?!"

"Stay where you are and stay on the line, we'll be right back up."  The trio started walking back up the steps quickly but tip-toed as quietly as possible.  When he emerged back onto the second floor, he started to run down the hallway back to the roof entrance, but suddenly a figure appeared around the corner.  It was Will.  Johnny jerked to his side as Shelly and Lesley did the same.  They narrowly missed being spotted.  Johnny noticed that Will had been wearing a T-Shirt as he gripped his silencer pistol tightly, displaying an array of tattoos all over his forearms.  He was walking casually with a natural human-like stride, contrasting with the monstrous nature he was truly harboring.

"What's going on?" Chase whispered through the phone.  Johnny ignored it and peaked around the corner.  Will turned from his position and headed down the hallway in their direction.  Johnny sprinted around his end of the hall and circled to the other side, Shelly and Lesley following behind.  When they reached the side where Will had just been standing, they spotted him continuing his walk down the hallway.

"Leave the roof right now," Johnny whispered.  “Quietly.”

"Gotcha."  Chase hung up and Johnny put his phone in his pocket as he waited by the roof door to open impatiently.  He watched Will circle the hall where they had just been hiding and disappeared around the corner.  The door to the roof opened slowly and Chase peered out, spotting Johnny.  Johnny jerked his head to coax him out and he snuck over to Johnny's side, followed by May, Dino, and finally Marty, who was carrying Johnny's amp.  When Marty came out, Johnny noticed that the door was closing too fast.  He tried to direct Marty's attention to it, but it was too late.  The door slammed shut.  Marty froze.  Will emerged quickly back into their side of the hallway and spotted him.

Marty dove forward as Will shot at the roof door and with a loud thud, imprinted a small bullet hole in it.  Johnny pulled him over and headed back along the hall, entering a nearby bathroom located right next to them.  Johnny ran in as the others followed him.  It was a girl's bathroom, so there were just enough stalls for them all to hide in.  Johnny picked one that was relatively close to the entrance and entered, locking it and stepping on top of the toilet.  He tried to stay completely quiet, but the others were making more noise than necessary as they found their hiding spots and soon after they all grew quiet, footsteps entered the bathroom.

They slowed to a rhythmic stroll that echoed the double-timed pace of Johnny's heartbeat.  He knew that Will was slowly waiting to pick a stall door and unleash hell.  He only hoped he wouldn't choose any of the stalls that came before the one Johnny had picked.  As Will approached his stall, Johnny could see the figure's feet walk right by.  He took a deep breath and prepared to make a bold move.

In the spare of the moment, Johnny screamed at the top of his lungs and lunged out of the stall, its door colliding with Will, knocking him across the bathroom.  On cue, the others shot out of their stalls and followed Johnny out, racing behind him.  Johnny couldn't recall running through a school hallway faster than this since his rampage in Brooks High a year ago.  Lots had changed since then but his life still seemed to be dangling on a tightrope, only now more literally.  Johnny sprinted down to the stairs and pushed the door open, emerging outside and heading onto the gravel road behind the school.

It was an open area and probably the last place they should be fleeing when running from a man with a gun.  Everyone realized this but continued onward anyway, as it was the only place left for them to go.  That's when Johnny stopped himself and let the others get ahead of him.  He remembered something.  The vision of his father.  The words that were spoken to him were now taking effect.  He couldn't run from his problems.  He had to face them head on or die trying.  This was true.  But facing his problems head on didn't mean what it seemed, especially not in a situation like this.  Something else had to be done.

Chase was now leading the group along the side of the building, trying to reach the crevice in between two sides of the school which led to one of the other entrances.  He took a quick glance behind them and saw that the assailant had stopped chasing.  He slowed to a stop and put his hands onto his knees, breathing heavily.

"I think we lost him," Chase said, as the others slowed to a stop in front of him.
"We need to keep running though," Dino replied, his hands on his hips, panting heavily with the rest of them.  "Before he catches up."

"Where's Johnny?" May asked curiously looking around.  When they noticed that he was no where to be found, everyone subtly began to panic.  They needed to find him as quickly as possible before-

CRASH!  The top floor window to the Auxiliary building shattered and a figure vaulted out of it, landing on his feet below.  It was Will.  Absorbing the shock of the fall, he turned and began to walk casually in their direction several yards away.

"What the hell kind of Steroid shit was that?" Shelly exclaimed.  At the sound, the group had migrated over to the middle of the gravel road to get a better view.

There was no where to run now.  If they ran, he would shoot and it would all be over.  They had to stand there and wait for him to approach them.  He took his time.  It was agonizingly tense waiting for him, especially when there was no clue as to what his next move would be.  They didn't know if he would murder them execution style or plant one in each of their heads as soon as he was within range.

When he finally reached them, it was almost as if the world had gone silent.  There was strange trail of mist or dirt being twirled around over the gravel by the gentle breeze as if following him ominously.  Will spoke with a deep rugged voice.

"Where's your friend?" he asked with a cocky smile.  "The one they call Johnny?"

"We don't know," Chase said securely, though his anxiety was obvious.

"Fair enough," Will said, gripping his gun tightly.  "I'll get to him later."

Will lifted the pistol slowly and cocked his head aside.

"Why do you want to kill us?" May asked nervously.  "We're your children!"

Will smiled.  "You wouldn't understand.  I love you kids but...sacrifices have to be made."

"You're psychotic," Chase muttered through clenched teeth.  It couldn't help but be noticed that none of them were particularly fearing for their lives at the moment or if they did, they definitely weren't showing it.  They were visibly nervous, yes, but Will didn't recognize the same fear in their eyes he'd noticed with his other victims.  This discouraged him slightly, as he didn’t immediately feel like their lives were his now, that he had them in the palm of his hand.  They were still in control and that wasn’t good.

Suddenly, Chase's phone began to ring, echoing a drum solo from its speakers.  Will suddenly became hostile.

"Hand it here," he said aggressively.  Chase hesitated when reaching for it and Will snapped.  "Give me the fucking phone!"  Chase moved faster and pulled it from his pocket, handing it to Will, who snatched it from his hand.  Will answered it and put the phone to his face, keeping his gun aimed at the teenagers.

"Who is this?" Will asked forcefully.

"This is for everybody you've ever hurt, you bastard," the voice on the other end whispered.

"That you, Johnny?" Will answered with a devious smile.  "Come on, no hard feelings, right?  I mean, I helped you get here, remember?"

"Yeah and now it's time to return the favor.  Fall mountain."  The last bit of Johnny's words echoed.  There was extra sound coming from behind him.  Will spun around just in time to see Johnny drop the phone and grip both of his hands onto the neck of the Night Bird, the body of it pointed up.  In one fatal swing, Johnny hurled the guitar's body into Will's head with a crack, sending him spiraling through the air and hitting the gravel ground hard.

Will landed on his back, almost unconscious but Johnny was far from finished.  He lifted the Night Bird above his head and slammed it down onto Will's face.  Johnny's expression grew vicious as he continued to slam the guitar down, grunting with every blow.  He smashed the Night Bird across Will's torso and head with as much force as he could muster, the guitar literally falling apart in his hands.  A subtle rhythm echoed in the air from the strings of the weapon with each strike.  The body of the guitar began to snap off and its strings twisted wildly in between his fingers.  Eventually the body bent off and Johnny realized he'd been screaming at the top of his lungs.  When he finally let up, Will was bleeding profusely over his barely recognizable face and bruised torso.  The Night Bird was now almost completely destroyed and virtually irreparable.  Johnny panted heavily as he stepped away from the body with a slab of rosewood in his hand, the strings of which were barely holding onto the guitar body.

The others stood in front of him and stared in shock as if he were a wild animal that had just devoured its prey.  "Johnny," Chase muttered in a near whisper.  "Y-you just destroyed the Night Bird."

"No," Johnny said, closing his eyes for a moment and then staring up at him confidently.  "I set her free."

"What?" Chase asked in confusion.  "Wait...you were planning to do that to the Night Bird all along, weren't you?"

"I don't expect you to understand but it was just somethin' I had to do for my own sake."

Johnny reached down and picked up the fallen silencer pistol.  "I don't know if he's dead," he said, handing it to Chase delicately.  "But if you want to end this, the time would be now."

Chase looked back at May slowly, who nodded in approval, and he walked forward, taking the gun from Johnny.  He gripped it tightly as he slowly walked in front of the fallen killer, taking a deep breath before raising the gun.

"I've been afraid of you for my entire life," Chase said, his voice trembling.  "And now you're lying half dead in front of me and your life is in my hands."

Chase took another deep breath and a tear roll down his face.  "You're not going to hurt anybody anymore.  This is for Johnny's father...this is for my uncle...this is for my mother...and this is for me."

Chase pulled the trigger and let the bullet fly into Will's leg.  Blood spurt from it, falling onto the gravel and Chase immediately dropped the gun, stepping away from the body.

"Killing him would be falling to his level.  I'm better than that.  We all are."

May walked out from the group, her eyes fixed on her father's unconscious body before she turned to Johnny.  "So are we still doing the concert or what?"

"Yes," Johnny said, turning to her and the group with total confidence.  "We just ended this shit.  After all we've been through, we have to do it.  Now more than ever."

"What about Will?" Shelly asked curiously.

"Paul will know how to handle him."

As if on cue, the group heard the rumbling of gravel behind them and saw three large pick-up trucks drive toward their position.  The one leading the three was filled with loads of sound equipment, wires, and instruments while the second pulled what looked to be the stage on a trailer with Chase's drum set in the back of the truck.  The third carried a variety of equipment that was most likely for back-up.  All of the trucks slowed to a stop near them and several men hopped out of both, one of them being Paul.

"All right, we're all ready for this shindig," Paul said excitedly, dancing his way out of the truck.  "We're going to set up and what the hell is this body doing in the concert vicinity?  See I knew I wasn't being paranoid when I thought to come earlier than expected."

"Paul, it's Will, don't you recognize him?" Johnny asked, pointing him out.

"Oh," Paul said, surveying him.  "Well, whoever messed up the face did a pretty good job, I couldn't even tell.  We don’t have to worry much about this.  I have some mafia buddies who will be able to take care of him in no time, put an end to the madness once and for all."

"What about the cops?  They're probably on their way, the whole school went into lock down."

"They won't come, I'll take care of that as well," Paul smiled.

"Damn, leave it to America to make it so a rich guy can pay his way out of anything," Lesley said jokingly with her arms crossed.

"Yeah, well at least he's usin' his powers for good," Johnny said vibrantly.

Paul reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, starting to dial the number when he stopped in his tracks at the sight of Marty.

"What the fuck are you doing out of class early, you bloke," he exclaimed.  "Did I not give you specific instructions to stay in class till we got started?"

"It was our choice," Johnny said, speaking out for him.  "We let him stay with us."

"I don't give a damn what you did, Johnny, this is a matter of personal responsibility and this idiot made a stupid move.  You know why, Mart, because you are stupid.  Can't do a damn thing without screwing someone over"-

"Shut the fuck up," Marty said calmly and slowly in a passive-aggressive tone.  Everyone turned to him in astonishment.

"Excuse me?"

"I said shut the fuck up, you twisted odious bastard.  If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have known this band existed so everything you see here, you fucking owe me for.  You sacrifice your shit on my behalf, because these guys chose me, ME, first as their manager before you ever stuck your big ass nose in their business, so you need to start appreciating me for what I do or you are dead to me and we are done."

To say that Paul was taken aback by Marty's sudden assertion was an understatement, but everyone around him was experiencing the same reaction.  This was the first time any of them had seen Marty like this (Or heard him curse for that matter) and now that he was actually addressing the verbal abuse and lack of support on Paul's end, it had now become evident that this was something that definitely needed to happen and what better a time than now.

"Okay," Paul said softly, his eyes wide with shock.  "Light the shirts and...and we'll talk."

"That's better," Marty said walking past Paul with a newfound energy in his step, a new confidence flowing inside him.  He bumped his father aside as he passed him and headed back into the building.  Paul blinked several times but held his tongue.

"Um," Paul stuttered.  "Who gave Martin the instructions on how to grow his own set of balls?"

"I think that would be you, Mr. McFly," Dino said with a smile.

"Yes, well," Paul replied, scratching the back of his head awkwardly.  He then closed his eyes and shook his head to get himself back into gear.  "Any questions while we start setting up?"

"Yeah," Johnny said, pointing to the destroyed piece of wood and metal dragging across the ground as he approach Paul.

"Oh that's no problem, Johnny, I've got just the thing."  Paul stepped away and went into the third pick-up truck, Johnny following him.  He pulled down the door on the back to reveal a set of custom-made guitars, perfect condition.  "Pick your victim."

Johnny looked at the guitars closely and immediately noticed the Grey Fender that sat on the far right.  He reached for it and held it in his hands, feeling its strings firmly.  It was the first time he'd handled a guitar other than the Night Bird in nearly seven years.  He reached over, grabbing the strap from the destroyed guitar.  Before taking it off, he grabbed the wood of the Night Bird for the last time and kissed it delicately.

"It's been a great ride," he whispered.  "Fly on."

He dropped the Night Bird onto the ground and adjusted the strap onto the new guitar from the left side, so he could play it left-handed with ease.  He strummed through a few chords and smiled at its comfortable feel.

"Like it?" Paul asked with a smile.

"Oh yeah," Johnny answered with energy.

"So what're you going to call this one?"

"What makes every human being stronger," Johnny said, playing his most familiar riff on the new guitar.  "The Experience."

-------------------------------------------------

"Do you want to do the honors?" May asked politely as she handed the Class of '70 shirt to Marty.

"My pleasure."  Marty grabbed it firmly and walked into the bathroom.  He took the lighter from his pocket and flicked it under the shirt, letting the flame spread across its surface before tossing it into the trash can, while May acted as lookout outside the boy's bathroom.  When Marty re-emerged, May reached to her side and pulled the fire alarm by the water fountain.  "Let's go."

The stage was set up outside.  The equipment had been plugged in.  Everyone was in their position.

"You guys ready?" Johnny asked, turning back to the others with the Experience around his neck.

"As ever," Dino said with a smile.

"All the time," Lesley responded.

"Wouldn't miss it," Chase saluted.

Shelly was the only one who didn't speak up.  She had been looking off into the distance, staring off into space.

"Shelly?" Johnny called out to her.  When he did, she turned around and walked over to the drum set.  Chase's eyes grew wider with each step she took until she was right in front of him.  She leaned down and kissed the drummer on the mouth.  Johnny rolled his eyes until she pulled apart and smiled at Chase, who returned it awkwardly.  Then she turned back to Johnny.

"Now I am," she said confidently as they heard the alarm ring in the distance.

Johnny took a deep breath and saw the first of the students exit the building.  He turned to the others.

"Let's bring the house down."

Johnny strummed the strings of the Experience, shooting through it years of anguish and energy that had been pent up inside him all this time, beginning the intro to the song, "Magma Dance."  The guitar wailed into the skies as the students surrounded the area around the stage with curious looks.  He spotted familiar people; Lorenzo, who was smiling at the knowledge that they'd decided to go through with the concert; Oliver, accompanied by Caitlin, casts around both of his wrists but a smile bright on his face; Apricot, who had been recently released from Rehab, still sporting her original attire and displaying a melancholy but proud expression as she gazed on the band that she had mistakenly forfeited her position in; Marty, who was already nodding his head in approval at the spectacle that was unfolding in front of him; May, who began to try and pump up the crowd by cheering for the band over the loud chords of the opening solo; Mr. Nelson, who smiled at the talented group of teenagers he'd once had the pleasure of teaching as well as helping to make this legendary event possible; Razzberry, who was well aware of the concert prior to it and was recording it from the camera of a smart phone; And finally Ramsey, who rolled up closest to the stage in his wheelchair.  Johnny made eye contact with him momentarily and he nodded in approval with a smile on his face.

Chase broke in with his drum intro and the band tore into the first verse of the song.  As Johnny sung and strummed his new guitar lightly, he could feel something washing over him already.  The students were looking around at each other curiously and started to conversate amongst themselves as if the band wasn't there.  However, the speakers were too loud for any of them to hear each other.  They were forced to listen.  A few of them were already bopping their heads as they watched Johnny move back and forth on the stage.  After the first chorus, the majority of them were noticeably enjoying the music.  When the guitar solo, which had been extended for the purpose of the concert itself began, several of the hipsters and scene kids from the crowd began to cheer.  The preppy kids looked at them curiously, wondering what the big deal was.  When the solo grew more complex and the tempo of the song changed, Johnny noticed them smile as they received the sudden change well.

Johnny smirked and looked down as he slid his fingers across the guitar.  He closed his eyes tightly and when he opened them again, no one was there.  Just a large spotlight in the black sky above him, a dark abyss ahead and the realization that he was the only person on the stage.  It was liberation like he'd never felt before.  He was free to be himself in this realm.  This was what he lived for.

The final note of the song was played and the crowd of students, teachers, and staff in front of them erupted into applause.  All of the students had migrated within each other, no longer separated into sections based on their social status.  They were no longer categories.  They were individuals.  Johnny looked back at the band and saw each of them smiling back at him brightly.  From the moment it had been formed, this band had always worked with an almost extreme efficiency, so much so, that it almost seemed like it shouldn't have happened; an anomaly in the stream of fate seemed to have been formed with their alliance.  And so to counter their progression, some mysterious force conspired against them.  Call it the Universe, call it the Devil, what have you.  But Johnny and the band as a whole confronted this entity, decked it in the face, and kept moving while still maintaining full speed with a tremendous momentum.  With this in mind, it was evident to Johnny that no matter the odds or what life was planning to throw at them, no one in this world could ever stop them.  This was his band.  This was Electric Church.  This was the legacy of the Night Bird.

Night Bird Flying - Chapter 19: New Rising Sun




Johnny had taken a seat on top of the kitchen counter as Chuck chronicled the story that led to the ultimate self-destruction of the man known as Wilford Miles.  With this information in mind, Johnny couldn't stop himself from feeling helpless.  It was Chuck's fault, but he never wanted things to get this far out of control.  It wasn't like being angry at him would change anything.  Not even hunting Will down and killing him would solve their problems.  Johnny hopped down from the counter and walked past Chuck, heading for the living room.  He sat down at the couch in front of the plasma TV and entered a deep thought.  Chuck turned back and looked at him, hesitating before following him into the room and sitting next to him.  It took a few moments to formulate his words.

"Do you know why I make you tell me you love me everyday before we leave each other?" Chuck asked securely.  "It's not to make you feel awkward or to annoy you, boy, it's because tomorrow is never promised.  I broke away from Guardian Avenue and disbanded it over twenty years ago because I couldn't deal with the secrecy, I couldn't conspire against my own friend like that.  But still, somehow things got out of hand and that's just how it is.  Sometimes things get out of your control and there's nothin' you can do about it.  You've just got to make the best of what you got.  And so I make sure that if things are outside of my control and I never get to see you again, we're still reminded that we love each other as family and it's never forgotten even after we're gone.  I realized this when I lost my brother before I’d gotten the chance to really let him know how much he meant to me and I swore I‘d never let that happen with you."

Johnny was listening closely but wouldn't turn to Chuck.  He didn't respond to him when he was finished, so Chuck turned away momentarily but continued.

"Your father...he was the one who taught me about Electric Church," he said as Johnny turned to him slowly.  "I don't know where he got it from but...it seemed like one day he was playin' normally and the next, he was the greatest guitarist I'd ever listened to.  I wouldn't be surprised if your skill with the guitar was inherited from him."

"It's not like it makes much of a difference," Johnny said somberly.  "As soon as the trial starts, I'm pretty sure I won't get much use out of my guitar playin'.  Not to mention, my entire band is probably goin' to get jail time as well."

"Not necessarily," Chuck said, a smirk forming on his face.  "I talked to somebody that might be able to pull some strings."

The doorbell suddenly rung.  Chuck exchanged pleasant looks with Johnny before getting up to answer it.  Paul entered frantically, tackling Chuck into a bear hug that took him back down the hallway.  When he let go, he was smiling brightly.

"Chuck, you old bloke, where the hell have you been!?" he said, shaking Chuck by the shoulders, who was getting visibly annoyed by the sudden display of affection and contact, and Paul knew this which was why he continued to do it.  "It's great to see you!"

"You too, you ugly Brit," Chuck said, slapping him in the face lightly.  "You still got that old Beatles record for good luck?"

"Of course, in the bottom drawer of the desk at my office.  It hasn't failed me yet."

"Johnny's in the livin' room.  I told him everythin', you know, about the band," Chuck said, pointing to where Johnny was sitting.  Paul turned around quickly and walked into the room.

"Hey, Johnny, I heard what happened," Paul said, his enthusiasm subsiding.  "Seems like you've entered a bit of a rough patch, eh?"

"Massive understatement but yes," Johnny said, nodding.

"Well," Paul smiled.  "You'll be pleased to hear that I can solve at least part of your problem.  Enough of it for the concert to still be a possibility."

"Yeah?" Johnny looked up curiously.

"I have a personal connection with the mayor of Ladyland.  Did Chuck familiar you with Chandler Michaels?  He was the producer of Guardian Avenue from Pioneer Records?"

"Yeah, Uncle Chuck told me about him," Johnny said standing up.  "He's the mayor of Ladyland now?"

"Yep, went into politics after quitting from Pioneer in '86.  Even though it was his quick lips that caused all this mess in the first place, I've kept in touch with him and we've been close ever since.  As soon as Chuck told me what happened, I called him up.  He's granting pardons for everybody as we speak and he'll have them all out by tonight."

"Oh, thanks so much, man," Johnny said gratefully, shaking Paul's hand with enthusiasm.  This was the miracle he had been hoping and praying for.

"Unfortunately, Johnny, it's a Good New/Bad News situation.  You see, according to city law, the mayor can only issue out a maximum of five pardons per sixth months.  And there were six of you guys facing charges.  I wasn't sure if you'd avoid full incarceration by the time of the concert or if Chuck would have the money to bail you out, so I put you on the list and I was forced to take May off, since she's not in the band."

"What!" Johnny exclaimed, beginning to get flustered.  "Call Mayor Michaels and tell him to put May Walker or Ramona Miles or whatever the hell her name is back on the Pardon list!"

"Johnny, what about you?"

"I've been bailed out so I'm fine.  The officer said the trial isn't until early June."

"But aren't you on probation or something?"

"No, my conditions of release only say that I can't leave Ladyland until after the trial and I have to attend my scheduled court appearances.  I'll be fine, May needs to be made a priority...what're you waitin' for?  Call the mayor!"

"Right, right," Paul muttered, dialing the number on his phone and stepping out of the room momentarily.

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The pardons had been written for Chase, Shelly, May, Lorenzo, and, when he recovered from his hand injuries, Oliver.  They were released with relatively no problem, with the exception of one officer who forbade May and Chase from leaving under the conditions of the Witness Protection Program.  After a bit of bribery and some extortion done by Paul to intimidate the officers (For a number of years now, Paul had had connections with a local Mafia syndicate that he used for leverage), the two were let go on the condition that they remain under house arrest on Paul's property, settled through a legal signing.  Paul let May and Chase live at he and Marty's penthouse suite, which was right across the street from the local studio that was operated by Razzberry.

A few days had passed since the incident and things seemed to be calming down.  They had definitely gone through a drastic change, as Lorenzo wasn't allowed to continue his position in the band and neither was Oliver.  Shelly nearly met the same fate had it not been for Paul, who had arrived with the pardon letters just as she had been let out of the cell to notify her father.  She dodged a considerably large bullet.  Lorenzo and Oliver's positions in the band were filled by their Stand-ins: Dino Bradley on keyboard and synthesizer and Lesley Strokes on bass and backing vocals.

And so the day of reckoning was upon them.  It was the Sunday before the concert and the entire band, with the inclusion of May who along with Chase, was allowed to be in the studio because it was owned by Paul, had scheduled a sleepover in the studio, practicing their material from that morning all the way into the night.

Johnny's fingers were extra numb after the practice since they had been working all day.  Everyone was sore and in between breaks, Uncle Chuck was there to coach them through some exercises to keep their muscles loose.  It was the first time most of them had ever had any exposure to Uncle Chuck, as he seemed relatively apathetic about Johnny's band until now.  With Paul by his side, he was, to some extent, picking the band apart and putting it back together securely.  This was a good thing, as Uncle Chuck knew first hand what it meant to create a solid band and it was a joy for Johnny, who held his Uncle's contributions in high regard.  By 11 O’clock that night, they were all winding down and Uncle Chuck led them through their final batch of stretches to end the practice.

"All right, that's it," he said, wiping the sweat from his forehead with a towel.  "You all did fantastic.  Now wash up, get to sleep, and dream epic dreams, because tomorrow, life is gonna be very different for ya'll."

Johnny wiped his own sweat away and switched off his amp while the others packed away their instruments as well.

"You know, I had my doubts to begin with, but I've got to say, jamming with you guys is freaking fun," Dino said with a smile, walking away from his keyboard.  "In my 20 years of living and playing music, I've yet to see someone who's as mesmerizing to watch play as you, Johnny.  Not to mention the music, I mean, wow."

Johnny smiled and shook his head dismissively as he pulled the guitar chord from his amp.  "None of us are gettin' out of this life alive, so I'm just doin' what I need to do to get where I need to go."

"Wow, I didn't know Buddha played guitar," Lesley joked, pulling off her bass and heading toward her case on the other side of the room.  "Yeah, you guys are pretty good.  This concert should be a synch."

"Yeah," Johnny said, his enthusiasm dissipating slowly.  His attention seemed to be taken away quickly and in seconds, Johnny was headed out the door of the recording booth where they'd been practicing.

"Where are you going?" Chase asked curiously, as he got up from his drum set.

"I'll be right back, I've got to talk to my uncle about somethin'."  Johnny walked out and back into the studio room, where Paul and Chuck were consulting.  Johnny chose not to enter immediately but instead stood by the door, silently listening in.

"Yeah, he is good," Chuck responded to Paul.  "He's really good.  It's just - I don't know.  He doesn't have that edge Jimmy had, you know?  Like it's all great and I'm sure everybody in this generation, especially all of those stupid kids at his school are probably gonna dig him for the most part, but it seems like somethin' is missin'.  Like he hasn't tapped into the old school just yet, he hasn't tapped into the Electric Church."

"Then why can't you just tell me?" Johnny asked angrily as he walked into the room.  Chuck turned around to him in surprise.  "Why do you keep sayin' I'm gonna learn it all by myself if I haven't gotten it down yet?  The concert is tomorrow, how am I supposed to learn how to be good enough for this thing in a few hours?"

"Johnny, listen-"

"No, you listen, Uncle Chuck!" Johnny shouted pointing at him accusingly.  "You don't know what I’m going through right now.  Do you know why I'm constantly practicin'?!  Because I always feel like I'm never gonna be good enough.  Every time I pick up this damned guitar, I feel like a novice.  I've felt this way ever since I learned about that damned Electric Church thing and no matter what I fuckin' do, I can't get over this shit.  And now you just basically confirmed that I'm still not good enough.  What the fuck do I do?  Am I ever gonna be good enough?  Because if I'm not by tomorrow, we might as well just cancel the stupid thing right now!"

Johnny ripped the Night Bird from around his torso and tossed it on the ground, before turning and walking out of the room quickly.  Uncle Chuck tried to follow him.

"Johnny, come back, JOHNNY!" he called as Johnny charged into the hallway.  "JOHNNY, GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE!"

The rest of the band had exited the booth curiously to see Johnny storming away without a word.

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Johnny didn't return until late, around midnight.  He'd spent that time outside, lost in thought and reluctant to re-enter the building at all, as he didn't want to confront the others if they were still awake.  His reservations concerning the concert as a whole were still running deep and if they didn't fade by the morning, he wasn't sure if he'd be up for performing at all.  In the bottom of his soul, he knew he wanted to, but without the proper confidence, he couldn't see it happening, at least not the way he wanted.  Johnny had never consciously addressed the deep insecurities he had with his guitar playing since most people praised him for it and he never had a problem with its reception.  But whenever he worried about the well-being of his band, it was always amplified with the subtle disapproval of his own musical skill, the introduction of Electric Church being a largely contributing factor to this sudden withdrawal and perfectionist attitude.  Now he was faced with an internal struggle that needed to be dealt with for the sake of the others or else their strongest link would become their weakest.

He entered the studio room and saw each member of the band covered in blankets as they slept soundly.  Chase had been one of the lucky ones to get the couch and Dino was laid out on the comfortable leather chair in front of the soundboard.  Johnny walked over to the corner of the room as quietly as he could and grabbed the blankets he'd brought from home, laying them across a vacant spot in the floor and leaning down to get into a comfortable position.  It took nearly an hour for him to fall into a slumber, but the drowsiness finally washed over him and he fell into a deep sleep.

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"She's flying down to me, but tomorrow got to set her free," whispered the voice in his head in a singing voice.

Johnny was standing naked on the edge of a cliff as he looked out onto the majestic sea, the moon shining down on him magnificently, as if he were the only creature in the world.  Suddenly, emerging from the bottom of the cliff, a large bird-like creature flew above and flapped its wings as it landed softly on the ground behind him, kicking up a small cloud of dust.

The figure had the wings of an eagle but its feathers were dark and grey.  When the figure turned around, it was a naked woman with long flowing hair, but there was only a blank cover of flesh where her face should have been.  When she walked up to Johnny, he heard the voice speak again.

"Until tomorrow, no tears will be shed, hold on till the sun gets out of bed....”

The figure strolled forward and calmly embraced Johnny, its wings wrapping around him tightly.  Johnny submitted himself and the two stepped off of the cliff, disappearing into the darkness.

“....All we've got is one precious night....”

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May woke up to the sound of strumming that echoed in the hallway.  She sat up from her sleeping bag and wiped her eyes before sliding out and tip-toeing to the door.  Opening it, she walked outside to see Johnny in his pajamas, playing his guitar lightly and sitting by the side of the wall.  He turned up at her curiously.

"Hey," May greeted, pushing back her hair slightly as she closed the door behind her.  "Can I step into your world for a while?"

Johnny chuckled.  "If there's enough room."

"What are you doing out here so late?" she asked, walking over and taking a seat beside him.  "It's almost four in the morning."

"Woke up from a crazy dream and couldn't go back to sleep," Johnny said, going back to the Night Bird and continuing along its chords.  "And the guitar was callin' me."

"Of course," May said with a smile.  "The others were talking earlier...They were worried that you were going to bail out after what happened earlier.  Do you mind me asking what's going on with that?"

Johnny continued with his guitar, acting as if he hadn't heard her.  After a few seconds, he took a deep breath and said, "I'm doin' the concert."

"You are?" May asked with a bit of surprise.  "I mean, you're not worried about getting the reaction you want-”

"It's not about the reaction, it's about sendin' the message."

"Okay, so you're not worried about not sending the message you want?" May asked, leaning forward to gauge his reaction.

He turned to her slowly, darting his eyes around the area as if unsure of what to say.  Finally, he looked her in the eye and spoke securely and confidently.  "No."

When Johnny went back to the guitar, May realized that she wasn't going to get much more out of him about the subject so she decided to change it.

"So, uh," she said awkwardly, scratching the back of her head.  "Where does that leave us?"

Johnny turned to her.  "I don't know.  Where does it?"

"Well, you were the one that broke things off back when Oliver was with us and you didn't seem like you were phased by it at all.  I thought you might have, I don't know, lost interest somewhere back there or something."

Johnny shook his head.  "I never lost interest in you, May.  I just wanted to give you the chance to make the right choice.  I wanted you to be happy with whoever you wanted to be with and if that happened to be Oliver, I'd be okay with it.  And the second he would start treatin' you bad, I'd step in, kick his ass, and take you back."

May chuckled, leaning forward and kissing Johnny on the lips.  She then laid her head on his shoulder.  "You're something else, Johnny."

"I'm everything else, baby," he said as she hit him on the chest playfully and he continued to play his guitar until she fell asleep at his side.

Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) By Jimi Hendrix