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     Is this really necessary?  I have asked myself that question over and over. Playing shows has gotten to be so difficult. We used to have goals and aspirations. We could see the path before us. We used to know where we were headed. The way forward has been unclear for some time, so quitting live shows would make everything so much easier. There would be no way forward. Everyone could let their guard down and relax. I could spend more time in the studio. We could write simple songs. Hell, I could play weddings, get paid and no one would get hurt. There was a point long ago when the choices were so much easier. The band had no pressure on it to perform. The clubs were at the edge of nowhere. There was no need for all the security and nobody cared if you got lost or went missing. Nobody would expect you to check in on time to get counted.
     That all changed when Josie, a.k.a. Judy Jetson, disappeared before a gig at Dwnwrdspyrl. We had a good crowd there; they were ready to celebrate. That night the streets were packed and there was a lot going on inside and outside the club. The high street had a heavy military presence and the freaks were taking to the streets too. Those fuckers were crazy. When curfew was dropped, it was like they were making up for lost time. The freaks had no idea how to work together. They raged against the establishment, the martial law, but they fed the military blowback. They loved to fight, so they played into the hands of the fear mongers, the militarists. Ever since they started mixing outside our shows, the militia seemed to know who was coming to see us and those cars were getting seized or booted. People were getting searched and handcuffed. We were playing at the end of the night and our band was still spread out all over the city. Some of us tried to relax security and see old friends when curfew was dropped, but if you weren’t actually in the club you were never safe. We always had to worry that one of the dancers would get harassed. They were beautiful, and people with power always single out the beautiful ones for special attention. They would get interrogated by local goof balls, who took great pleasure in making them miss a show or an appointment, to prove to each other how powerful they were. When it got to be eleven, we were pretty sure who was being detained... nobody wanted to miss a show. If you got to Dwnwrdspyrl you were safe.
     At eleven thirty we had to take the stage without Judy. That meant changing the set list. I liked having specific dancers take the spot light for different songs. Each being strong in their own ways, the dancers would always have certain songs that were easier or more natural for them to perform. It would be a show without Falling For You. That was Judy’s favorite song. She danced beautifully to it. It wouldn’t look as good if someone else did her part. We were able to work without a dancer, but it left tension in the air too, because everyone would wonder if something was really wrong. Sometimes the missing would show up at a break or jump on stage in their street clothes. Wherever Judy Jetson was taken, she never came back. Whoever detained her wanted to leave a hole in our ranks. A space that IT was ready to fill.
     Nobody knew how many of IT there were. A lot of people didn’t believe they existed, but eventually a civilian discovered IT and that one was destroyed. The discoverer, however, didn’t live to see the sun set that day. The rumors started to circulate about a perfect human replica that was built for the military. IT had a pulse, and sweat but no tears for you. IT was a machine designed to move, act and think like a human, except IT was flawless. IT first showed up on battle fields as a medic, but IT was much more useful as an informant and assassin. The technology was then modified to infiltrate terrorist cells or insurgent groups and destroy them. IT was a tool of Python, an advanced weapons system. IT was constantly honing its skills , hunting for weakness and getting harder to detect. No wonder IT fooled me. I knew IT never made mistakes, but I had always searched for perfection. Even when IT was destroying the band, I thought Christine was without peer. All the dancers were great. I thought they were jealous of her. She was going to be the greatest. From the very first rehearsal she shone brighter than anybody had before her. I should have seen the machinations so clearly. Maybe, I didn’t want to see.
     We were desperate to continue the shows when Christine came to us for an audition. We had strict rules of engagement. All our dancers had been to the shows before we hired them. They had to show an interest in the band as a fan before we would ever consider adding them to the fold. That was the first issue, it should have been a red flag. Christine seemed to know Judy’s parts better than we did, but nobody had seen her at any of the shows. Michelle said she probably had seen someone’s videos of Judy to do her moves so well. The issue only got a little more attention at the band meeting before we came to our decision. If we had taken our time, we might have seen the danger.
     We knew we had to watch out for each other and get into every part of the production for the band to be a success. Anything less than a total commitment to a project had always been disastrous for any of my bands. This troupe was no different. We used to say, “All as one, all are one.” like we were the Cosmic Musketeers. When traveling became difficult because of fuel rationing, we started literally walking into some difficult situations. The performances had controversial songs and messages that had stirred up a lot of attention. We had the right name. A bunch of people didn’t like what they heard. There had been a lot of incidents in public places, but a dancer had never been caught unprepared. An incident on the ground breaking Group Therapy Tour led us to owning a club. The dancers took self employment, self defense and teamwork very seriously. We were able to get enough kids in the door to keep the club going, because of the university towns within the Triumvirate. Universities thrived by providing weapons systems and officers. Music and dissent thrived at the universities. It was a tenuous relationship. The Governor had taken the students for granted as apathetic, but the band was having the opposite effect on them. They were starting to get involved. Everyone in the band was a little worried.  The Governor, I call him that but The Predator was a better description, had imposed martial law to try to contain the damage. It had failed when the freaks started testing the Governor’s resolve every night and businesses complained about the disruption. We were expecting informants and traps, they never disappeared, not like dancers.
     The dancers all found the Noise at an annual dance called the Reunion. Judy Jetson was the first to find it. She threw light on the project like a flame thrower. She enjoyed kicking everyone’s ass and grew up on the streets of LA. She had the best routines and always brought her A game to any performance. Her disappearance  shook the core of the band. Michelle was next to make A Horrible discovery. She had studied law and martial arts and even though she was “from hell”, she never became a partner in a law firm. She didn’t have the right stuff. She represented the cool of water in the band. She would flow around or through her obstacles. She had traveled the furthest to join us. The divine Salvador, a.k.a. Mr. D, was an actor. He was going to the dance for years before the Noise showed up. He had been in reservation schools and was an Elder. He ran the farm back at the studio. It was he who knew how to live off the land. Mr. D. had taught us the value of the earth. He showed us what it was worth. When the band started looking for a studio, he had dreamed of the Funny Farm telling us, “with land in your hand you will be happy on earth.” He had encouraged the dancers to be politically active. Mr. D used to say, “If you don’t fight for your mother, who will?” He was pretty fearless. It was his guidance that had led Megan to enter the governor’s race. Megan was the winds of change. There was calm in her eyes even though powerful forces were at play around her. “Fighting will have no place when the world is whole,” she always said, as if she was about to make the world change, but hadn’t decided if now was the right time to do it. She never studied self-defense. She did, however, study nearly everything else under the sun. Megan was the dreamer and vocalist. She was also the poet/politician/pacifist. Now, she was the lightning rod too, so we all watched out for her. She never went out in public alone. We worked as a team. I had a part too, I am Count Beat, I produced the shows and was the glue that held it all together. I was the heart beat, the first sign of life. That, however, is the past.
     When Josie went missing in action, I chose Christine to take her place. That’s when dissent started to eat at the core of the band. That’s when I started asking myself, ”Is this really necessary? Should we keep going out into the public with the election drawing near and one of our dear friends missing?” We all wanted to keep up the pressure on the militarist governor to help defeat him, and the shows were a great way to do that. Megan needed a platform for her views, because the mainstream press ignored her. We knew the stakes were getting higher, but everyone was still eager to meet the challenge. We decided to complete the Frozen Hell tour. Our intentions were good, but good was not to come              (the story continues)