**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**
Relocated to Andromeda when he was a child, Chase recalled the conditions of the atmosphere were not much better there. It was only in the last five or so years that the changes had been dramatic. The pockets of poison tended to linger out at sea, over the water. Hardly ever did they come ashore, except during severe climatic disturbances.
He stayed in Andromeda for the better job opportunities. Star City, New Milan and Haven were experiencing economic downturns. Despite Andromeda being in the midst of the desert, surrounded by the most desolate landscape imaginable – except for perhaps Star City – his father had gone there after his mother died because there was work and housing costs were significantly lower than Haven. Despite the Colonial Authority giving breaks on taxes for people to come to Star City to live, Chase’s father still picked Andromeda.
Chase completed an intensive degree program in marketing and promotions at the university. He graduated near the top of his class. He had been offered jobs in Haven, New Milan and Andromeda as well as several less interesting, lower paying positions with financial institutions in Star City. His father tried very hard to sell him on staying in Andromeda. “It is our home. It is where we sank roots. Maybe the entry-level pay here is not as good as Haven or New Milan but people make good money here. You have to work at it, but I think if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”
By the time Chase was ready to enter the work force, there were several local job opportunities and most paid well, so he stayed in Andromeda. He chose the job that would lead him everywhere that he had ever been since because it was closer to his home, and he could visit his father. Despite his father’s telling him it was unnecessary he spent almost every weekend at home until his father’s untimely death. After that there was really no reason for him to remain in Andromeda except that there was an active youth culture and a trendy music scene going on, one that rivaled the well-established culture in New Milan for producing innovative music and fashion trends.
Then, he met Julie.
He was scouting a band named Torment at a club called The Left Face. He was seated at the bar, appraising the crowd reaction while listening to the music. Moreover, he was gauging the band’s stage presence. After having listened to their demos his initial sense was the band lacked professional polish. Normally, he would have not given them further consideration for his firm’s representation. Yet, as he sat there he could not deny their loyal following were seriously into their music and the band was playing to the. They were much better live than the studio demo he’d heard.
When first he saw her, Julie stepped up to the bar. Tired of waiting for the waitress to refresh the drinks of her and her friend, she nudged her way through the crowd and demanded not only the bartender’s attention, but his curiosity as well. He was no longer interested in the band. He liked the way she handler herself, the grace she exuded as she excused herself through to offer her payment wand and receive her drink order. Then she turned and for a moment faced Chase.
She paused. In a way, she seemed to be waiting for him to say something. Chase could not help but stare at her. He said hello to her.
“Hi there,” as he reply.
“My name is Chase.”
“I’m sorry. Are you talking to me for some reason?”
Chase shrugged. “I noticed your shoes have real laces, not the faux ones that have become pop lately. So, I guess I wanted to ask, do you know how to tie a shoe lace?”
“Of course I do,” she huffed.
“Well, I just wondered because your right shoe lace is untied. You walk so gracefully, I think it would be a crime if you tripped over it, especially while carrying drinks.”
She glanced down. “So it is,” she said then looked up as she set the drinks on the bar and used a vacant stool to rest her foot while she tied the laces on the shoe.
“So, you were only looking out for me?”
“Yeah well, I must admit that I hoped for something better to come to mind to break the conversational ice, but sometimes you have to take what events offer. So my motives were not completely pure.”
“For telling you your shoe was untied?”
“No, for being honest. But I am left to wonder why were you checking out my shoes?”
“It’s the whole ensemble. You dress very well, dressed to tastefully attract some attention, but it’s certainly not overdone.”
She smiled. “Skillfully expressed. My name is Julie,” she offered her hand to him.
“I’m Chase. I think you might have missed that before.”
“No, actually I caught it. So, are you into Torment?”
“The band, yes. The general concept, no.”
She laughed. “My roommate has all their Mods. She knows a couple of the guys. I don’t know… they are good, but they don’t do it for me.”
“What don’t you like about them?”
“There are things…you know?”
“The shrill vocals or the lame repetitive lead guitar riffs?”
“You nailed it exactly, on both counts.”
“It’s what I do for a living.”
“You’re a critic.”
“God, no!” Chase exclaimed. Then, he laughed before finally explaining, “I do tour promotions. My company was considering representing the band. They sent me to give a listen and watch their live performance.”
“Well, please don’t take my criticism as the basis for rejecting them out of hand. They really are nice guys. I have met all of them and they are really very serious about what they do.”
“I make my own decisions, regardless of other opinions. I’m impressed at how loyal their fans are, though. I have to tell you that based on their demo alone, I would have rejected them.”
Julie looked toward the table where her friend was still waiting. “Look, Chase, maybe you need to be closer to the fray and the band to fully get the full effect. Our table is up right next to the stage. Mindy always gets a table reserved for her here because she knows the band. And since she knows them, she can introduce them to you and you can talk to them on breaks.”
Chase smiled. “Yeah, that sounds fun. Kewl,” he descended from the stool and followed her back toward her table. “Uh, just don’t tell the band or your friend why I’m here.”
“Okay,” Julie said. “I mean it wouldn’t matter all that much. They have a stage manager and all that already.”
“They have never played outside of Andromeda.”
Julie halted, and then turned back to look into his eyes. “You do world tours?”
“That is all my company does do. The last two we did were New Milan bands. I want to score at least one success for my hometown.”
Julie chuckled as she continued toward the table. As she sat down and delivered her friend’s drink, she continued, “Yeah, I mean, maybe Torment is not a good example of our music community. There are a lot of good bands here.”
“Hey,” Mindy protested.
“Well, they aren’t representative of the mainstream. They’re counter culture. That’s what I was saying.”
“Yeah, well okay,” Mindy allowed.
“I know the local music scene very well. I live here,” Chase said. Then, lowering his voice the moment that Mindy looked away to focus on the band, he continued, “The music is an important part of the equation, but on tour the band must be a full package, especially in places that have no following at all.”
“The ability to capture a crowd in a strange place makes or breaks a band,” Julie said but loud enough that Mindy overheard.
“Are you in the business, Mr…?”
“Call me Chase.”
“Chase, you sound as if you know the business. I’m Mindy,” she offered her hand across the table.
“Yeah, Mindy. I’m sorry I should have done the intros. This is Chase,” Julie offered apologetically.
“Nice to meet someone who is so informed.” Mindy shook hands.
“Well, I do what I do and know what I know,” Chase said, glancing to Julie as if to reestablish his warning to her, not to let on. In response Julie smiled. She sipped from her drink as if to quell her urge to reveal who Chase was.
“I know J-hon and Lewis,” Mindy explained. “I mean I know all of the guys, but I went to grade school with Lewis. J-hon and I used to date, but now we’re just like really good friends, you know?”
“I see,” Chase said. “They really have a way of working the crowd.”
“I have all their Mods. They are much better live than on card.”
“Some bands are,” Chase said. “I personally think that’s a gift. Live is the hardest way for a band to make it, but it’s also the only way for a band to make it in the long run.”
“J-hon told me almost exactly the same thing,” Mindy revealed with a smile.
“Then he knows. That’s a good sign.”
The band was preparing to end a song. Mindy predicted quite correctly that it was time for their break. The members left the stage and consumed enough water to satisfy the thirst they poured some water over their heads to help them cool down before toweling off the excess. J-hon and Lewis emerged from the door at the corner of the stage and joined Mindy, Julie and Chase at the table.
“This is Chase,” Mindy offered “He seems to know a lot about the local music scene.”
“Are you a DJ or a promoter?” J-hon asked.
Chase shrugged at first, but then decided that it didn’t matter all that much anymore as he had seen enough to know what the band had. “You submitted a demo to Global Group.”
J-hon sat back. “And this is our shot?”
“I come unannounced. I watch the crowd and how you work the crowd. I’ll be very open and candid with you. I’m not into your music at all. I thought your demos were flat. But you can work a crowd and that forgives a lot of sins.”
J-hon said, “I like you, Chase. At least you are up front and friggin’ honest. That’s refreshingly rare in this business.”
“I never lie to a band. That’s my credential and I don’t want to ever tarnish it. If I’m promoting you, you are good enough to be promoted. The recordings can be fixed in post-production.”
“So, where do you think we’re failing?”
“Your sound is repetitive, especially the guitar riffs.”
“Your fans are your fans. So, they’ll be fine with that, but on worldwide tour you’ll be crushed for it. You have to innovate, experiment and mix it up.”
“They’re holding me and Lewis back. Lewis writes the lyrics.”
“Who are they?”
“The others in the band. They want things a certain way. A lot of our fan base loves them, though.”
“So you put up with them because they draw some of the crowd.”
“Yeah. Well, at some point, a band becomes a business venture, right?”
“Of course it does.”
“So, what are we doing right?”
“I like the lyrics,” Chase said even as he was offering his hand to Lewis for the first time. “Good stuff, sir. The petty bullshit with the other band members can be fixed. There are thousands of percussionists and bassists as good as they are. A lot of rhythm section guys would give their right gonad for a chance to play on a worldwide tour. You tell them that. They adapt to a paradigm for success or they’re replaced. I know you can do more than you’re demonstrating. They don’t seem to want to play up to what you expect. “
“Thanks, I appreciate that level of support.”
“J-hon, it’s your band from what I understand. You have to deliver that message. If they give you flack, fire ‘em. I’ll find you replacements. That’s how this is going to work. This is what I need you to do for me,” Chase began, then paused for a few moments before continuing, using that time to finalize his suggestion. “The next set, you need to envision you’re performing before a large venue, beyond ten thousand capacity. You have to satisfy everyone in the crowd, including people who are tired of the same old lead riffs.”
J-hon stood up. “I can do that!”
“I know you can. You just need some horrendous asshole to tell you to do it. I’m that asshole.”
J-hon laughed. “Chase, you’re the man! What happens if I can pull this off?”
“You know how to work a crowd, so that’s not the question,” Chase said. “If you pull this off, with or without the other guys in the band I’ll make it work for you. Lewis here seems to be onboard, so maybe we replace two people and we’re there. Then we can start rehearsals with new members just as soon as your last contractual obligations in Andromeda are fulfilled. After that, we get you out there on your first global tour.”
As the band returned to the stage, Mindy looked at Julie and then Chase, “You’re going to sign them.”
“I haven’t decided. I need to see what they do, now. If they come together, that’s great. I don’t like breaking up something that works, even if it is not working right. If it can be fixed without sacrificing people who know one another, then that’s the best way.”
“They really are good guys,” Mindy said.
“I know they are. It’s up to J-hon and Lewis to make it work as it is.”
When the evening concluded, Chase signed the band with all present members to a one-year tour agreement. Afterwards, Chase drove Julie back to her apartment, and dropped her off at the curb. As it was late, he remained watching as she entered the lobby just to ensure that she was safe. He called her the next day. He also sent her a card and flowers at her work. He called her that evening and asked her out for that weekend.
Their relationship began.