Semi sequel to http://forums.macrophile.com/viewtopic.php?t=11131&highlight=center+centre+stage
Following the further tales of a mouse with worlds of talent, but whose size poses problems for him. Not as dower as the original, but still pretty good I think.
So please read review and enjoy
In my 18 years of life, I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on the world. If you go by statistics, I"™m already a couple years pass my life expectancy, I have my own place, and a job I like, love, or tolerate depending what time of day you ask me. I"™m a mouse living in a world not of my own design, and in my own opinion I"™m doing it well. There are moments though, where I feel I don"™t know a damn thing. Of course this is one of those times.
My last set ended an hour ago, and I"™m afraid to leave. They"™re out there, waiting for me. Even through the dirt and grime covered brick walls I can feel them. It sends a shiver down my spine, and plunges ice into my soul. It takes a lot to scare me, after all I voluntarily left the safety and security of the subs to live in a city of psychotic giants. Jake was no coward. Yet right now, I really wish my mommy was here.
"Someone waiting to ambush you outside Jake?" the voice though whispered and conspiratorial still had a booming quality to it. It also made me jump, which was only going to encourage her.
"Yes." I said turning to my bass player, she was trying not to smile. I bristled inside, she was one of them, cunning ruthless unpredictable. A fang half his size poked out of the wolf"™s muzzle, as humor won out over restraint.
"Well why don"™t you just call Trace and Georgina?" Kate was referring to the two Kodiak bears that acted as my security on stage. Good people, in a shaggy, lumbering, big as a mountain kind of way.
"I don"™t need them following me home." That got a barking laugh out of the wolfess, I sighed this wasn"™t going to be my night. She got onto her hands and knees, leaning her face down to make the conversation more personal I suppose. It allowed me to get a good look at her eyes, bloodshot. She should really invest in sunglasses like I do.
"Yes your mysterious home, you"™ve worked here how long? I swear you need to relax a little, not everyone is out to get you." I winced as her breath washed over me, I don"™t know what proof she was drinking but the number had to be ridiculously high.
"Okay before I poke holes in that insane statement"¦" I dug into my bag, pulling a mint from it, it happened to take up the entire thing. After working with Kate for well over a year, I knew it was best to be prepared. She took the mint with a huff.
"Ha ha ha you"™re so funny." She said sure to give me a deliberate sample of today"™s variant of her whisky breath. She lay on her stomach, propping her face up with her paws looking down at me.
"First of all, mouse" I said pointing to myself. "M-O-U-S-E"
"And second of all?" she said chewing on the mint half-heartedly, as if it was medicine she had to choke down.
"There is no second of all. Mice that aren"™t paranoid don"™t live that long."
"Mice that go out alone into alleys filled with predators don"™t live long either." She retorted, breath a bit more bearable now. I tilted my head though, apparently she was missing a key piece of the puzzle.
"Who said anything about predators?"
Molly felt a little awkward about this. Oh sure she had gotten autographs before, and had waited for many a lead singer, guitar player, or drummer outside a venue in the past. This however was something different. The young feline searched for the best way to put it, but before she could her roommate patted her on the back and gave her a cheery smile that put her somewhat at ease.
"Oh get off it, it"™s not like he knows what you had for lunch today."
Okay so much for being at ease. The badger laughed in a good natured way, dark eyes hidden in black fur, but Molly could definitely see a hint of mirth tucked away in there. Sheila had been the one to bring her to the club; Molly wasn"™t what one would call a Jazz buff. She stuck out in the club, several piercings adorning her muzzle, ears, and eyebrows, hair dyed pink, with crimson red contacts covering her eyes. She got more than a few off looks from the more upscale crowd the club catered too.
Molly was normally of the opinion that if you couldn"™t go deaf listening to it, it wasn"™t really music. Still the evening had surprised her more ways than one, it was soothing, relaxing, offering something she couldn"™t get from an electric guitar. It wasn"™t going to supplant her love of metal, but it did offer a nice alternative, though she swore she would kill Sheila on the spot if she let it slip to any of her other friends.
Of course she probably wouldn"™t feel this way about jazz if it weren"™t for the other surprise. The saxophonist was good, really good, at first she thought that she had just been missing out on the jazz scene completely after all if he was just working a club, the guys who really make money at this must be phenomenal. When she mentioned it to Sheila, the badger laughed in her face, it took a couple regulars who over heard to explain it to her.
To put it simply, no label would ever take the risk of hiring a mouse. Even with top-notch security, the odds of some psycho fan, some over anxious predator, or any harmless accident taking him or her out would be far too great. Bad for him, fantastic for the casual fans like her, though considering the how normal mice were treated it wasn"™t all that bad for him either. She idly thought of lunch again, and winced.
"Does he usually take this long?" she said making the effort to change the subject. Sheila shrugged.
"I"™ve heard he"™s the shy type"
Molly had to bite back a laugh. Shy, and probably terrified in there, if he had seen what was in the alley. While it wasn"™t the rowdy throng of insane fan girls one might find at one of her usual haunts, for a musician of his ahem stature it was probably far more intimidating. While they were few and number, and for the most part reserved, they all had the same thing in common, they were all natural predators of mice. She didn"™t buy for a second that he only appealed to the carnivore crowd, but when you thought about it, what mouse, vole, chipmunk, or other smaller music lover would wander back here in the midst of an impatient band of foxes, cats or wolves? As far as she knew the no predation policy only applied indoors.
"I wonder why?" Molly realized it was probably best to think of an alternate way to get her autograph.
Kate was wondering if it was possible to have too much fun. It probably wasn"™t saying much of her as a friend, taking advantage of the situation like this. But it also said a lot about the situation where Jake would even think about agreeing to it.
"So we"™re agreed, if you tell anyone you did this, I"™ll gnaw through your jugular next time you"™re passed out." He said trying his best to put on a stern face, though he was mostly blushing. This wasn"™t the first time, we did this, though it was definitely the first time Jake went along willing with it.
"Yeah, yeah, like I"™m going to take threats seriously from an appetizer. Now climb in." Oh it was so hard, not to fall over laughing at that very moment, but it was a testament to their friendship and more importantly Kate"™s acting ability. She leaned over and presented her chest.
"Could you at least pretend this isn"™t funny as hell?!"
Oooh that hurt, she thought she was putting on a decent poker face. "Hey, I"™m doing this to save your life, and I don"™t appreciate"¦appreciate"¦." She tried, but couldn"™t manage to keep a straight face, and in the end burst out laughing. Her best friend took it in good stride, he only kicked her in the nose twice, not that she noticed.
"Ha ha ha, I have to hide in your bra for fear of being kidnapped, eaten, or accidentally squished by an overzealous fan, hahaha it"™s so damn funny." He grumbled several other comments that were not appropriate for younger ears, before wedging his Saxophone between her cleavage and then working his way in himself.
"Now going over out plan, I take you back to your place, I spend the night, you catch and cook me a nice rabbit in the morning." His retort was muffled by his confines. "Great we"™re all in agreement then." Though muffled she knew an angry grumble when she heard one, Kate choked back a laugh and put on her serious face, well at least as serious as her face could get after a night of less than legal drugs.
"Oh relax I step out, I take a few steps your in the clear, what could possibly go wrong."
There was another angry grumble from her top. "Oh that"™s just a myth, nothing bad will happen cause I said that. This plan is foolproof!"
Yes she decided, it is possible to have too much fun, but as long as she wasn"™t the one getting hurt, who really cared?
Jake wasn"™t really given the privilege of much of a view, so he contented himself with just listening into the progress being made outside. It bothered him that he even had the time to think about this, but he supposed her bolting out of the backstage door might be a little suspicious.
"Hey I loved you on stage tonight, cool piece." Said an unidentified voice. Jake cringed. Oh shit, he hadn"™t anticipated the fact they might flatter her. He started a silent chant, willing her to be strong, half a second he remembered who he was riding with and promptly gave up.
"Oh it was nothing she replied, in fact I-"
"Speaking of tonight, where"™s your saxophone player?"
Oh this can"™t possibly end well, question asked Jake could hear the many sounds of others approaching. Okay this wasn"™t quite how the plan was supposed to work. He could feel Kate taking a couple steps back, then come to an abrupt stop. Surrounded maybe?! Was it time to think about making a discreet escape? He almost laughed at that, how discreet could he be jumping out from between Kate"™s breasts then scampering away? No for better or worse he was stuck.
She was taking her sweet time with it too, as if she didn"™t have the skill to politely brush away fans. Granted his method in most cases was to point out something bigger, and hopefully tastier, then running away. She tried saying he had already left, that he needed to prepare for another show, that he had a headache, that he had already left for a party. Perhaps it wasn"™t wise that he let the pothead come up with his cover stories. Still it wasn"™t like there was any problem of detection. It was just some very inquisitive females asking his whereabouts, it helped to imagine them without sharp teeth.
There wasn"™t anything to worry about, he reminded himself. It might take a little longer to get home, but it wasn"™t like he was in danger or anything. Of course, one should never even think such things. It violates most codes of conduct through out the multiverse, and simply begs for retribution. In this case the heavens chose a vixen to be the one to meet out justice for the universe. She caught a scent leading right into Kate"™s cleavage.
"Do you mind?!" Kate had put up with fans before, mostly in passing. It was honestly quite a surprise to deal with them outside this middling club. She had done bigger things once, but she found it both stressful and unrewarding. Bad company mostly. The fans had always been somewhat of a saving grace though, of course back in her so-called "˜glory days"™ she had bodyguards to bitch slap over eager fans. Here she would have to do it herself.
She gave the vixen about five more seconds of leeway, disturbed that was worth sniffing with such intensity, when the fox decided to head in the direction of her cleavage, and precious cargo, it was time to lay down the law. The vixen recoiled back, and a satisfying crack, causing Kate to smile. "Look just give me a little space okay, I"™m not into scent trading" she said to the semi-astonished onlookers, to her rash action. She would have been pleased with her action, if not for one thing. Following her slap, she felt something tumble out of her cleavage, and her bra, and down her shirt. Thankfully, or unfortunately, she hadn"™t yet decided, it didn"™t fall into her pants, but instead to the ground.
Kate froze as the realization seeped in. One of her best friends, and certainly her best, over the last couple years had just taken a nasty fall, and was now surrounded by predators. Sure some of them claimed to be his biggest fans, but sometimes-baser instinct won out in the end. So the question was raised, what the hell do I do now?
If she looked down, she would draw attention to him, and god only knew what would happen after that. If she ignored him, she was letting him take control of his own destiny in the midst of several potential predators.
After a moment"™s contemplation she resumed her normal stance, albeit slowly and mindful of where she stepped. The vixen rubbed her cheek and looked embarrassed. Kate made a point to keep an eye on that one. She stepped forward slowly, no ones eyes had darted below her waist. She figured if she could keep her eyes on everyone this just might work.
"Sorry about that, it"™s just been a long night" she offered lamely. Still she had made an example of one, and no one was significantly bigger than her, so she felt it would stand up. She felt something grip tightly onto her ankle, and took that as a sign to get moving. She spun, fast enough to keep those her size looking at her, slow enough not to dislodge her passenger. "I really should be going." Jake, or what she really hoped was Jake maintained a death grip on her ankle. She realized she only needed to make it to the end of the alley. It was only a few more steps, and then they could laugh about the whole thing over at her place, or maybe his place if he ever worked up the nerve to show it to her.
The other furs were confused, but hey stars (even insignificant ones) were eccentric and often fueled on drugs, who where they to argue? Of course it was the vixen, mark still fresh against her muzzle that ruined it for them.
"There he is" she shouted in such and annoying fangirl tone of voice, that Kate felt like hitting her with a brick next time. The pressure on he her ankle vanished, and to be perfectly honest that managed to piss the wolfess off. That her close friend no longer felt safe with her, summed upped the situation neatly enough. Kate shut her eyes and let them come. She didn"™t see the first one come, but she felt her, yes felt her chin impact solidly with her forearm as Kate clothes-lined her. "Okay I"™m going to be real clear about this." She said slowly to those still assembled, moving back so she blocked the exit of the alley.
"We"™re all going to wait a few minutes before we leave this alley. Jake is going to get a significant head start, and no one is going to follow him, are we clear?"
Kate was relatively sure that a few listened to her, but they were blocked out by the four or five that charged.
It"™s never a fun time running for one"™s life. Even less so when you"™re lugging large equipment around. He tried never to think about the dark streets when he was walking home before, but tonight as he ran, they felt just a bit more ominous, just a bit more fearsome.
It"™s not that he wasn"™t aware what could happen, it"™s just that he never thought it could happen to him. To his disgrace, or quite honestly to his luck, he never escaped "˜the I"™m bulletproof"™ nature of his youth. That same mentality probably killed hundreds of mice per day, and if he wasn"™t careful it was going to kill him too.
His home was nearby though, even with the sax slowing him down, in a dead sprint he thought he should make it. There was the thudding of paws behind him, a chase beginning and he didn"™t get nearly a good enough head start to get away. He could feel a chill down his spine, he wondered where that joking feeling of just dealing with fangirls went. Behind him there was a loud commotion, and the heavy thudding of bodies hitting the pavement. He didn"™t have time to look back though, there was no telling what he"™d see and any delay at the moment, could quite possibly be fatale.
A part of his mind told him that this was all just a big misunderstanding, they just wanted an autograph, he should be proud. This was the musician part of him. When it came to free styling, performing a set, or captivating a crowd he would listen, in this instance his mouse instinct was the only vote that mattered, and they were screaming big predators, sharp teeth run.
He ducked into the next alley, already exhausted, he hadn"™t cleared half a city block yet, and if anyone were chasing him they"™d be on him in a moment. He sought the first cover he could find, diving into a pile of garbage, expensive suit he wore for his shows unequivocally ruined. He could figure out how much it would cost him later, as long as there was a later he figured he could laugh about it.
He went as still as possible, old instincts and habits rising up and telling him what to do step by step. Any embarrassment, any humiliation put aside for the moment, as he worked deeper within the refuse. He had been burrowing for a solid minute when he heard footsteps, again he went still and listened. He wished he could use his sense of smell, but he honestly didn"™t want to know what he was crawling through. His ears tilted forward, Kate would call for him, make a joke about that being a close one, and then ask him why didn"™t just slip down her pants. Then he"™d go home and everything would fade into the background.
The footsteps edged closer, and there was no call. Jake didn"™t have time to show disappointment, he just worked his way further into the back of the trash heap. It was then he discovered something rather disturbing, in his experience, walls were neither cold and or wet. Now it was entirely possible something leaked out from one of the trash bags onto the brick wall, that is would be entirely possible if the wall didn"™t have significant give to it and was currently sniffing the air.
It"™s really quite amazing the number of thoughts that can race through your mind when your life is on the line, and you"™ve been bred for situations like this. In the split second since his brain came to the conclusion, giant nose. He had run through the list of carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores that might have that type of nose, the results weren"™t favorable. In fact they were pretty terrible. Next he decided which course of action would be better, running from unknown possible predator, or running to unknown possible predator.
A girl from the show would be the best he could hope for failing Kate, and it was certainly a possibility. Not all of them had his best intentions at heart, but at least he wouldn"™t be instantly devoured. The one in the trash was a complete mystery. The devil you know (or at least hope you know.), or the devil you don"™t?
He dove through the trash back into the alley, just as a male coyote, looking like he was one with the refuse, and clearly underfed, emerged from the pile. Jake didn"™t get a good look at him, as he was picked up in the next instant by the other one in the alley. Hidden away and gripped by a pair of paws. He held his breath, in another"™s grasp for the moment it was completely out of his hands. He heard movement from the trash bags, the coyote sitting up perhaps.
"Could you perhaps spare a bit of food miss?" he said in a tired, half drunken slur.
Female, the chances of her being from the club increased. He just hoped whoever she was she wasn"™t the charitable type.
"Sorry" he didn"™t recognize the voice, no especially a surprise for him. "He"™s mine." And with that Jake slumped. Whatever happened next, wasn"™t likely to be pleasant. He wavered between, being someone"™s lunch, someone"™s pet, or some unholy combination of the two. In either case he could hear the coyote depart, grumbling something about kids having all the luck, and not respecting their elders.
Jake took a deep breath, how many brothers and sisters of his had been even allowed to compose themselves before they died? He should be proud of his accomplishments, even if they only merited a slight reprieve in his death. He wasn"™t ready, but he decided not to struggle if it came to it. Once the coyote had parted, the paws opened up revealing a calico cat adorned with piercings. Maybe he was wrong about her having been at the Jazz club.
"Band member, covered in filth and garbage an alleyway. Now this is more like it, you jazz guys are more hardcore than I thought."
Jake blinked, he maybe understood half of that, but she had to at least been to his show at least. Now it was up to her what happened next.
"I know this is kind of awkward and all, but could I have you"™re autograph?" she made it sound like some Herculean task, and after the last ten minutes, he figured he should have either broken down and fainted, or busted out laughing. Too drained for either he nodded and hefted a pen about the same size of him and signed.
"Since I gave you your autograph, do you think you could do me a favor?"
Kate was considering job prospects, on the one hand, she beat the hell out of a few patrons outside of their club. On the other hand, she did it to save their top attraction. She figured she could either haggle her way to a raise, or would be out on the streets begging passerby"™s for a spare rabbit.
She didn"™t consider the third option, and she would have smacked anyone who even suggested it. Jake was fine, probably having a laugh at the crap she just went through. Yep, just fine, it probably wouldn"™t hurt to hurry up though. You know to complain to him faster. She stopped and pick up a lead pipe off the ground, which was of course to jokingly threaten him with, not to save his life or anything. Of course not, that would be crazy talk.
She limped along, having discovered Jake"™s fanbase not only knew how to take a punch, but to give one as well. Not to mention, kick and bite.
She rounded the corner pipe in hand and nearly bumped into a Calico with enough rings in her head to blow up a metal detector. She was about to brush her aside when the calico grabbed her, then put something in her hand. "Loved the performance, you guys are pretty hardcore, we should jam sometime."
Kate managed the classic confused dog head tilt flawlessly. The moving figure in her palm, propped himself up against her fingers.
"We apparently attract all types." Jake said with a nervous laugh.
Kate blinked. The calico went to pick up a badger Kate happened to have slammed against the wall, they threw up devil horns at each other, before the cat picked her friend up.
"You attract all types, I just get the normal mind altering substance users." She said, still utterly baffled. The lead pipe fell to the ground, and clanged loudly in the still of the very early morning.
"I think I would feel safer with them." Jake said with full sincerity.
He gave her directions, no longer reluctantly. She didn"™t say a word about the scraps she had gotten, the limp she was gamely walking on, or the black eye that was sure to develop the next day. So it would be wrong for him to show the slightest sign of fear around his friend"¦ it was still weird to openly think of her as such, even if she had been one for a while now. This was a very intimate level of trust he was displaying.
"Nice neighborhood." She said with a small whistle. Jake didn"™t really look at it much, at least not at height presented from her shoulder. It was a nice upscale neighborhood, full of apartments rented by the up and comers of society. The upper middle class as it were. Where the streets are well paved, there"™s no graffiti in sight, and everyone welcomes you with open arms, well unless you happen to be poor.
"There it is down there." Jake said pointing, taking in the moment. How many mice could actually show a wolf their home without completely losing their mind in the process; then again there were plenty who said he had lost it when he said he"™d make money in the city with a saxophone.
Kate looked about, looked down, squinted, and then seemed to debate whether to lie and save face, or just admit she was lost. "I don"™t seem to see it."
"It"™s right there" Jake said in a relaxed tone, one only finds when returning home after a very stressful day. Right there between the garbage bin and small bush.
What Kate saw, was quite literally a hole in the ground. Not even a very big hole, it looked like Jake would have to inhale, then compress his spine somewhat to fit inside.
"The crack in the wall?" she pointed, and emphasized her confusion. Maybe she just missed the more obvious entrance.
"Yeah now set me down." He said not understanding the problem
"The crack in that person"™s apartment?"
"Miss Shayla, she"™s a ferret, rather nasty sort, but she has bad eye sight so it balances out"¦why are you looking at me like that."
Indeed Kate"™s mouth was agape, at least till he pointed it out, then it took on its normal playful stubbornness. Before Jake could ask just what she had planned she stuffed the mouse into her cleavage.
"Nuh uh, hell no. I did not bust my ass tonight to allow you to sleep in a hole in a wall under an old fart"™s apartment. You"™re staying with me tonight."
A muffled protest was given.
"Don"™t be like that, we"™ll have fun, maybe rock out." She said mimicking a pair of devil horns. Jake sighed, well it wasn"™t the worst way this night could have turned out. He"™d have to make due with that.