Full circle. Some may think saying “we’ve come full circle” is just a nice way of glossing over that you never really have gotten anywhere. We’d have to admit we’ve actually gone backwards in over three years of disaster and hardship. And though we now operate in greatly reduced circumstances, we’ve found that going back to the fundamentals can still yield results. And we learned when you rejoin forces with someone you’ve known for long time, you combine what each has learned individually while reestablishing the wavelength along which you communicated before musically. So here we are, cut off from the rest of our colleagues, operating completely covert, but convinced the greatest findings yet are before us.
WHAT IS THE CENTER IN EXILE?
“Did you watch the Cavs?”
“I tried but had to turn it off.”
It was just a routine Tuesday when I arrived to start another day at The Center for Rock Research. Chris showed up about the same time and together we traversed the “ancient ruins” of former industrial buildings that make up the Center’s campus. Talk ran mostly about the Cavaliers (we both had to turn off the previous night’s game early in disgust even though we’re huge fans). I blandly slipped in a few questions of whether Chris had any experience with subs and diving. These subjects will figure in later in the story. For now just know Chris’ answer was pointedly No.
And this blasé repartee was our usual tone and tenor at the Center. It helped mask the fervent excitement we shared with colleagues that no one wanted to let show. We were working day in and day out at the best job in the universe on the cusp of possibly world shaking discoveries; We were getting so much closer to knowing the origins and workings of the Ancient Rock Rite. Artifacts recovered from our expeditions throughout the world became key in this effort once they were properly scaled with the help of our miniaturization ray. I was making decent progress for example on the Cordophone Instrument (known in the rock era as Electric Guitar or simply an “axe.”) Darren Frate, he who was never seen out of his radiation suit, meanwhile seemed like he was born to play the Lower Frequency Cordophone or bass guitar. His brother Chris Frate, one of the three Officer Colleagues of the Center, was slowly piecing together a workable Percussion Array known in the Rock Era as a drum set. Frank of course had his hands very full not only playing his own cordophone but also keyboard tonal modules (called synths) – not to mention his vast duties as administrator of the Center!
The Scientific League seemed more than pleased with our progress, having featured our work (at least the non-classified portion) in some of the leading journals. The auspicious feeling seemed to climax with our most successful presentation of findings, Project R. As you may recall, the first half of the event was based on a signal from distant space. Our new (at the time) in house computer, provided by DARPA and known to colleagues simply as the OK Computer, designated the signal only as “The Radiohead.” Once the signals were decompressed and converted we had a tonal series to try live with the now ready to go instruments.
But presenting Radiohead was only the half of it. The computer, with access to all NASA and military satellites and ground based radar, picked up distress signals from a craft inbound to earth. Its occupant transmitted that he escaped from tyrannical regime and was persecuted for his “musical beliefs.” Hey our kind of guy! We headed out in the Remote Exploration Vehicle and secretly retrieved the craft where it landed on the Lake Erie shore. It was quite the moment back at the Center where in Hanger 7, we watch an thoroughly exhausted alien emerged from the metallic pod. Apart from the shiny space suit and interesting sun glasses, he turned out to be a pretty regular guy with a wild story. His name was Anon. He traveled not only across distant space but time as well from the year 2112. We learned of a bogus societal situation on his home planet in the Syrinx system. We noticed pretty fast that it unfortunately is not that different to our own today! Like here there was no Rock n Roll. Instead of our corporate inducements and social media dictates, there was a pretty blunt “DO WHAT THE HIGH PRIESTS SAY” ultimatum for everyone. Sounded pretty bleak indeed although there was a lot of pretty jazzy exposed truss and tunnel architecture throughout the craggy rock landscape. And it was pretty cool that they lived in giant domes under a permanent starry sky. Just saying.
Then everything changed the day Anon took hike into some caves he had never seen before. Not too far into his spelunking adventure he found an old electric cordophone! As you can imagine, we were riveted at this part. Proof of the Rock Rite’s interplanetary reach! Anon reacted exactly as we would have. He set about immediately to try to adjusted the instruments harmonic tuning. If fact it appears this kid was up and jamming in practically no time. (I was curious whether he shopped and a demo and lined up management but never got around to asking).
Music seems to be all about of feeling of success being just around the corner, and then getting something very different. When Anon finally rocked out before the three High Priests, he met with TOTAL rejection of his art, his message, not to mention the solos which in my mind were freaking stellar. This led to his brooding isolation trip lasting weeks. Eventually he did the revolutionary leader thing culminating in a violent overthrow of the Temple government. Apparently things got so hectic he had to get out himself which is how ended up in the escape pod at the Center.
We got him cleaned up and settled in and pretty soon he was dusting off the music—the first chords of which were strummed back in that cave. It was a retelling of his whole adventure and we couldn’t wait to present it to our colleagues on our newly learned instruments.
Our live presentation of Radiohead and 2112 went splendidly. Everyone and everything at the Center performed at optimal levels. Our film crews were excellent in capturing the images and sound to transmit to colleagues around the world on that least heinous of social media platforms: YOUTUBE.
The rapturous acclaim led to an astounding 145 views one video file alone.
So it was on the heels of this success that Chris and I continued up the imposing East gate of the Center, oblivious as to what awaited us. I stepped up and punched in my security code, but there was no familiar click of the door lock releasing. I looked back at the code box screen. It read ACCESS DENIED.
“Look at this.”
“Try yours.” I said.
Chris punched in his code. The code box replied. “MISSSION UNAUTHORIZED.”
“Huh. What the hell is this?”
We fumbled with trying our codes once again. Since cell phone signals are jammed at the Center, we would have to schlep to a diner three blocks away to see if we call in on a land line. Beyond ignominious! That’s when I became aware of two figures approaching us. When I realized they were both in red jumpsuits and walking towards us in peculiarly deliberate gait, I pretended to continue working with the gate code and mouthed to Chris,
“Don’t look. Two guys coming toward us. I don’t like it.”
“What is going on?”
“Let’s begin a slow exit”
I managed a quick glance before we started moving. There was something really strange about these guys!
We took right to the alleyway leading to a familiar cut-through behind Power Plant Three and Miniaturization Lab that would get us back to St. Clair Avenue. We picked up our step going into the rear yard. Damn! The gate was closed leading to St. Clair. Somebody had this all figured out.
So the two of caged rats now stood surrounded by the old brick walls, the steel pull down gate and the humming sound of the HVAC units of the rear yard. We could hear our two pursuers slowing coming down the alley. The sound of their boots against the concrete echoing into the yard was bad enough, but it was much worse when they finally emerged into the yard. We were looking at ourselves. Perfect replicas (or replicants?) Chris let out an “Oh F—“. The replicants didn’t say a word but then reached into the pockets, each pulling Walthers and pointing them on us.
I reached slowly up to my radiation badge and pretended I was taking it off. “Well I guess we won’t be needing these…” Suddenly I shot a high kick to my replicant’s chest and he flew backwards tumbling across the yard. Chris took advantage of his replicant’s distraction and gave him a chop/punch combination and the fight was on! A solid year and half of martial arts training (one of the Center’s insurance incentive programs) went into dealing out every kind of blow we could think of to our attackers. We neutralized the guns by bashing their hands on a steel pipe (a steel ladder in Chris’ case) and sliding the weapons to the far side of the yard. My judo arm flip sent my counterpart tumbling through the air smashing into the trash cans. I could hear that Chris was having similar success against his replicant. They seemed to offer pretty unimpressive countermoves at best and soon we were just thrashing the hell out of them. As they weakened beyond the point of resistance, my ambition started to get the best of me. I’ve endeavored a Hollywood style overhead press of my replicant. We both came crashing down on the first try but my second attempt was successful and my assailant flew though air, crashing again into the garbage cans. A fitting finale to those thinking they could off Colleagues with a couple of Walthers. Well I guess we’re former Colleagues now…
Chris and I scooped up the guns and made our way out of the complex.
We knew we couldn’t go back to the cars and instead made our west along 39th street. We must have been easily identifiable in the lab coats, but we couldn’t just take off our “colors” and go civilian. It’s a very odd feeling to walk down streets literally looking over your shoulder. We didn’t know if they had more copies of us on hand or would simply resort to a drive by. We made our way to Broadway and hopped the fence down and started through the thick brush leading down into the industrial flats. Finally reaching the valley floor and there under the poetic ugliness (like that?) of wires, tubing, highway overpasses: seeming everything emanating from its origin up the road at the colossal, smoke belching Acelor Mittal steel plant.
A train, maybe a mile long, rumbled slowly along the Cuyahoga River ahead of us. We turned left and headed down Independence Rd toward the plant. But why were we running like fugitives? We were the ones attacked. Why not just call the police and report this? Well the last we checked WE were the government entity and even the police had to go through channels for access to the facility. We were still operating under the premise that this could be some huge mistake. But that was getting to be more and more a remote possibility. There were still no calls from the Center on either of our cells. Still until we took off our lab coats, we wanted to avoid a police investigation and the ensuing press attention. Neither of us were ready for that kind of mess.
[To be continued…]