7/12/2012

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."

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

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.

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