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Day Twenty-nine: Initiation

Theo stood up from the crappy office chair the club had lent him, and looked out into the dancing, grinding crowd that packed the Underdome on a Friday night. There must have been five hundred people, all pressed against each other and most definitely in violation of fire code. But they were loving it, each and every one of them – everyone who could fit on the dance floor was there, putting their bodies to the mercy of the beats that Theo was giving them, surrendering to the harmonics and the rhythms that filled every inch of the venue.

He tweaked the bass a little, giving it a velvet feel that slowed the crowd down a bit. He didn’t want to push them too far too soon. He closed his eyes and felt out the crowd, letting them move the way he wanted them to move, inching them closer and closer to that high that he promised from the moment the first foot hit the floor.

It was like sex, he often thought. Sex with five hundred people at once. He took a long pull from the water bottle. No wonder he loved it.

The crowd was starting to get its energy up again, and it was only eleven, so he moved the song to something simpler, more familiar. Give them a chance to relax a bit before going over the edge ’round midnight. Small clumps of dancers stopped, looking around as though they just remembered where they were. They hugged or high-fived or slapped an ass, and moved to the bar. The other reason to let them have their heads again, of course. As much as Theo loved what he did, he loved to get paid, too. And for a DJ like him, with what he brought to the booth, he was worth every penny they gave him.

He sat down and leaned back in the chair, taking a moment to himself. The groove-pop continued, promising the dancers a chance to relax, but with more to come if they want it. A couple of beautiful girls stood down in front of the DJ platform, all sweaty and gorgeous and alive, and they yelled something that he couldn’t hear. Well, he could. But it was more fun to pretend that he didn’t. He flashed them a hundred-watt smile, and there was a jump in the music that made them all laugh with unrestrained joy. He waved as they bounced off. The bartender took it as a signal for another water and sent his boy over.

“Great set tonight, Theo,” the kid said, tossing a plastic bottle underhand.

“Thanks,” Theo said. Even over the music, his voice was clear. “How’re we doin’ tonight?”

“We’re full up. And by the looks of it, this crowd’ll be here till dawn.”

Theo laughed. “Maybe they will, but I won’t. Your uncle’s only got me ’till three, and then I have other shit to take care of.” He drank again and waggled it at the kid. “Thanks for the water, Kev.”

Kevin smiled broadly and went to leave. Before he took another step, though, he stopped, and looked around. The DJ stage was usually a tangle of wires and turntables, at least three different Macs and milk crates full of CDs and vinyl. But when Theo was here, there was none of that. Only one laptop, and that was just playing a bright and hypnotic screen saver. And it didn’t seem to be connected to anything at all.

He looked at Theo, and Theo looked at him. He gave a wink, finished the water bottle, and turned back to the crowd. The music took a new turn, clean and renewed, and Theo immersed himself in the crowd again.

The night climaxed around two, in a confluence of sound and rhythm that left the dancers joyful and exhausted. They left in small groups, flushed and happy, ready to come back next week. Theo shut down his laptop and slid it into the new messenger bag he’d bought the week before. The computer wasn’t necessary, really, but he had to have something. No point in being too much of a show-off.

Kevin’s uncle handed Theo an envelope with a smile and a slap on the shoulder. “Same next week?” Theo nodded and left the club, the doors locking behind him.

He turned up his collar against the cold and started making his way to a main street to catch a cab. This time of night there would have to be at least one to take him home. A little sleep, a bright new day to work on some remixes and mashups and maybe a date in the park.

“Hey, man,” a voice said from behind him. It was high and tremulous, just the right sort of voice for a pitiable homeless guy. And fake. Theo could tell that much. “Got any change?”

Theo kept his head down and tried to walk a little faster. Footsteps picked up behind him, at least two. “You got nothing for me?” the voice said again, dropping any pretense of being a harmless beggar. A third person stepped out of an alley in front of him, and Theo stopped. The yellow of a streetlight glinted off a knife. “Hell,” Theo whispered.

The guy behind him laughed. “That’s good,” he said. “You’re smart. No need to get pointy things involved.” The knife-wielder stepped forward, perhaps a little more inclined towards involving pointy things, and the two guys he couldn’t see came closer as well. “You just give us whatever money you got, and you can go on home safe and sound. Everybody’s happy.”

Theo took a breath. “Fireworks,” he said.

There was a moment of silent confusion. “The hell?”

Theo let the breath out, and an explosive blast of sound erupted outwards, warping the air itself and throwing his attackers into brick walls. It also broke windows and set off car alarms on the whole block. The men lay on the ground, blood trickling from their ears and noses. After a moment, Theo could hear sirens off in the distance, coming closer. “Stupid,” he said to himself. How could he think a blast like that wouldn’t attract attention?

He started to run.

An electric-blue blur passed in front of him and resolved into a woman – taller than he, with short black hair and a full-face mask. He stopped short and let loose with another concussive blast.

The woman vanished and reappeared behind him before the echo died. “Nice,” she said. “Got anything faster than sound?”

He spun, and she was gone. “What the hell are you?” he yelled, his voice amplified and distorted. It sounded monstrous.

“She’s just making sure you’re who we’re looking for,” said a voice from the darkness. A tall man in a glowing red and black suit emerged from the shadows, as if unwrapping them from around himself. He wore a helmet that should have looked stupid, but didn’t. The woman in blue appeared next to him in a rush of wind. “We’ve been looking for you for quite a while.” He looked up, and everyone followed his gaze. “Isn’t that right?”

A girl floated down from between the buildings, bringing a soft fall of snow with her. She had pale blue skin and hair so white that it glowed in the darkness, and had compound, lenticular eyes that made her look not of this earth. She carried a staff in her left hand, and it hurt to look at.

When her feet touched the ground, she was a full head shorter than Theo. She reached up to touch his chin, and a faint hum filled the air. “You are he,” she said. Her voice echoed as he heard it, and the echoes persisted. “We need you.” Those eyes filled with light and compassion, and peered into him in a way that Theo had never known. They blocked out everything else but the hum, and the echoes, which were already starting to weave their way into a dreamlike melody.

She blinked, and it was gone. Without looking away, she said, “Take him.”

Theo had just enough time to see the man in the red and black armor raise a hand. Shadow flowed from it like a swarm, and enveloped him. All Theo had time for was one scream, and even that was cut short.

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