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Christina Kjaer

Miniature Dane and supremely laidback drummer of Sturm

0 · 546 views · located in Baltimore, Maryland

a character in “Win Hands Down”, as played by Lonesome Matsuzaka

Description

Full Name: Christina Kjær. No, it's not... It's not 'Kuh-djer'. It's more like... Well, you see, in Danish, the j is more of a 'y', and the æ is kind of... And you don't quite, uh, with the R, you... Yeah, Christina's had this conversation a lot. She doesn't go by Chris or Tina or anything like that-- it's not how her name would be abbreviated in Danish, so it just sounds weird.

Stage Name: Nah, she's not about that.

Age: Twenty nine, born 4 December, 1980.

Appearance: Christina clocks in at a very modest 5'1, a tad bit on the chubby side of things but more full-figured than heavy; she's got a handful of tattoos here and there across her pale skin, a couple of band logos, some typical artsy bullshit, one on her arm that she got covered up because, according to her, 'sneaking your way around the age limits for tattoos is a bad idea'. She keeps her dark brown hair shorn down to wiry bristles, baring her high cheekbones, thin lips, and small, slightly upturned nose; her slender, keen eyes are moss green, and as with her lips, they're very expressive. She's not very into dressing the part of a metal musician, so you'll mostly find her kicking it in simple, comfortable clothes-- sweaters, band shirts, jeans, sneakers, the like-- though she keeps more elegant fare around for when she feels like being fancy, which is pretty much never.

Role: Lonesome Matsuzaka's main character and drummer for Sturm.

Musical Style: Christina loves blastbeats. I mean, she fucking loves blastbeats. She's written at least three letters to her state's congresspeople demanding her legal right to marry blastbeats, and though she hasn't made much headway on that front, it hasn't stopped her from making liberal use of them in her playing. Granted, the style of music Sturm plays isn't the most blast-heavy form of death metal round (though there is a running joke in the band that Christina will try to convince them to let her blastbeat over pretty much every riff, no matter how appropriate), so she tries to keep things varied. Her drumming is principally distinguished by frequent rapid fills, quick shifts in style and beat, and plain intensity (she really beats the crap out of her kit). Her primary influences include Immolation's Craig Smilowski, Vomitory's Tobben Gustafsson, and Monstrosity's Lee Harrison.

Over the past year, she's also begun to actively work at honing her vocals into working order; she's still improving, so they're a little lacking in power at the moment, but they manifest in the form of a low, guttural growl.

Instruments: Suffice it to say, Christina's drum kit is far from the most garish set you've ever seen. It's a fairly simple six piece kit with a couple of rides, a couple of crashes, a beat up china. She's got this old set of windchimes she won on a bet off this really weird Irish drummer dude, but she has the good sense not to use it in Sturm.

Personality: Christina is nothing if not easygoing to a fault-- it's easy to assume she's just an airhead, but more accurately, she simply has a 'don't sweat the small stuff' approach to life. It's just that 'the small stuff' is pretty much everything: she doesn't seem to take anything seriously and doesn't seem to want to, either. She has a mischievous streak about her-- she seems to take a certain languid pleasure in teasing or pranking, albeit always in moderation-- and enjoys the kind of back and forth banter that characterises a shared sense of humour. On the whole, she's friendly, laidback, just a tad impish in her humour and gentle ribbing, but one gets the distinct impression that she's not the sort who likes to be anchored for very long-- not to a beat, a band, or a person.

Biography: Christina grew up in a small town not far from Århus, and from the very beginning... Well, she just didn't seem to really care much. She spent most of her 'academic career', such as it was, drinking and smoking with her friends, preferred jamming the latest Iniquity record to studying, and answered any question of her post-schooling plans with a lackadaisical shrug, a lopsided smile, and a 'I don't know, maybe I'll just drum my way through life, eh?'

Which, of course, ended up being exactly what she did: after all, drumming was the one thing she'd ever really cared to be good at, and despite a surprisingly good head on her shoulders, truancy and general apathy had left her with academic marks lower than Devourment's tuning. She bummed around Jylland for a while playing with this or that band before deciding she didn't fancy her opportunities as a metal drummer in Denmark; she already spoke fluent English (as nearly all Danes these days do) and most of her favourite bands were from the States, so as far as she was concerned, uprooting herself and heading Stateside was no trouble at all. After all, she'd never been-- and still isn't-- the sort of person to let herself be tied down too long.

In the United States, Christina flourished; with no family, no school, no obligations outside the various minimum wage jobs she took to eke out a living, she committed all of herself to her drumming, and she was pretty much always at work with one band or another, doing session work, touring, drifting into and drifting out of just about every extreme metal band in the area. Her meanderings eventually led her to Sturm, a melodic death metal band which was, Christina concluded, direly in need of more blast beats. As such, she considered it a form of community service that she joined the band to rectify that lack, and she's been behind the kit with them ever since.

So begins...

Christina Kjaer's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Valentina Diaz Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Ada Rae Leveque Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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When Val interrupted Izzie's admittedly fun jaunt through "Gilles de Rais", Rick dropped his volume and took the opportunity to adjust his fuzz settings. Briefly he considered gluing the knobs in place like Peter Steele (shit, was he really gone?), but as quickly as the idea came he dismissed it. So absorbed was he in getting the tone that he didn't notice the audience, at least not until Izzie addressed them.

And apparently she knew one member of Sturm, too. Not too unusual, he supposed; Baltimore was only so large of a city. No doubt they had met somewhere. No doubt he would never, ever hear how they had met. Izzie just wasn't that sort of person, which was fine. Just another layer of mystery in that enigma, wrapped in a riddle, encased in a titan.

Heh.

Oh, right, the visitors. The first two looked like salt and pepper. "Pepper" looked younger for his lack of a beard and height, and seemed like a guitarist, if only because the bag slung over his shoulder looked far too short for a bass. Besides, "Salt" looked much more suited to bass, or possibly bodyguard. Jesus he was big, right about Izzie's size.

"Saludos," he said, waving with a free hand. "Rick Silva."

-----

"Lionel," the guitarist responded, trying not to feel intimidated. Psychosis clearly had years of experience on Sturm, and though Lionel wasn't the biggest fan of the brutal-tech sound, he had to admit they had honed it to a fine art.

Patience, he reminded himself. This wasn't a competition. Music never was.

Although to the newly-arrived Christina, maybe it was in one respect. "Yeah, he got lost," Lionel said, almost embarrassed on his fellow guitarist's behalf. "He should be here soon, though. I gotta watch for him." He sidled past Christina, Zack, and an unfamiliar third person, a woman who didn't look like she belonged anywhere near two partial death metal bands. He ignored her and headed back outside, guitar-bag still on his shoulder.

And just in time, for as he walked out, a green Sentra came barrelling down the road. Lionel waved, and the car slowed dramatically, put on its turn signal in time to swing into the lot. It parked next to Christina's Accord, and out came Ted, tall and lean, rumpled sport-shirt buttoned one shy of the collar. He didn't wave to Lionel until after he'd retrieved his guitar case from the back of his car and locked it back up.

"You can stop smirking now," he growled, more annoyed than malicious. "That's Christina's car, isn't it."

Lionel tried to answer, but could only laugh and gesture for Ted to follow him into the studio.

Ted sighed, then asked, "What's with all the other cars?"

"I was aboutta say," Lionel began, quickly sobering. "Short version, we got company. Long version, we got company, and one'a them knows you."

When he got no response, Lionel glanced back. Ted hadn't stopped short like some stereotype of shock, but his face had frozen in confusion. Lionel decided to put off the ride question for later on.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Ada Rae Leveque Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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In response to Ada's query, Rick craned his neck to face her and put his finger to his lips with an exaggerated "Shhhhhh." He didn't think it would be that big a deal, since they were still setting up and warming up. So long as she didn't delay that part of the process, it'd barely even affect their rehearsal. Honestly, it was hard to be mad at Ada anyhow, though after what happened to Patrick, Rick would put nothing past Izzie.

At some point Sturm's mid-sized member (Lionel, he reminded himself) had left, leaving only the big man (Zack) and the newest arrival, a petite chica somehow smaller than Ada. Given that Ada was the drummer for Psychosis, Rick had to second-guess whether Christina (for so she called herself) was the drummer for Sturm. Time would tell.

For now, back to finding the perfect fuzz tone. Again.

-----

Ted took only a glance at the sign indicating where Sturm ought to go, and set his eyes there. Studiously he avoided a pair of eyes, but he could feel them on the back of his head. He was late, of course. Couldn't be helped now, except by getting started. He'd already warmed up some while eating his late breakfast; the easier to get started now.

Of course, if Christina would stop staring at him like that...

"Okay, I'm late," he admitted.

Whatever Christina said next, he didn't hear, as a fuzzed bass cut through from across the studio. Clearly whoever was playing it was merely testing and adjusting settings, but Ted had to admit it sounded interesting. Was that fretless? What sort of band was this "Psychosis" that would have a fretless bass and fuzz? Seemed like an odd combination.

Intriguing...oh, right, they were there to record. Ted broke back to reality just long enough to hear Christina's jibes, and promptly tried to force them out. Key word being tried.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Valentina Diaz Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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"A fair point," Ted replied. "We'll just be rehearsing. Let us know if we're too loud." He turned on his heel as he waved, and started back towards the Sturm Room.

"Nice to meetchuz," Lionel said, following his fellow guitarist to the opposite end of the studio.

As they passed the kitchen, Ted said "Morning Christina," almost as an afterthought. He hadn't registered when, exactly, the drummer had arrived, but if she was late, it wasn't about to harm things any more than his little chat with Izzie. Psychosis' other guitarist was right; there were only so many hours in the day, after all. The best way to fix that wouldn't be one of his stares, but merely getting to work more quickly, and putting in a little bit more effort.

As much as Ted and Lionel considered their axework a team effort, they were definitely different guitarists. Their warm-up routines made this obvious. For one thing, Ted had an earbud in one ear, connected to a metronome. For another, Lionel was playing excerpts from songs rather than exercises.

Each way had its benefits, but Ted preferred more abstract scale exercises to limber his wrist and fingers. Creativity would come later; this was purely mechanical. And a little aural, he admitted, as he turned the amp's treble control down just a tad. Everything fit together in its own way, sonically, mechanically, musically.

-----

Rick, meanwhile, continued his noodling, eventually falling into Wrathchild. At around the bridge he noticed the distinct lack of half of a conversation in his headphones. He had tuned the conversation out once he realized that he wasn't getting an explanation of "Jazzhole" any time soon, but the silence turned out to be more noticeable than the noise.

Though he kept playing, he looked up. There in the booth sat both Martinezes, alone, not looking angry, but not happy to be waiting. Oops.

Best not to keep them waiting. The bassist stopped playing with a sheepish grin. "Did you want another take for Gil?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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By the time Sturm's rhythm section joined the band's twin guitarists, Lionel had gone from Judas Priest and Kreator to Sturm songs. He perched on the stool with his guitar in a pseudo-classical position, running through their opening number. He hit a sour note and stopped with a grimace, but the riff continued. For a half-second he couldn't quite grasp the obvious, but when he glanced over to Ted, he realized his co-guitarist had joined in.

"Ah, nuts," Ted muttered, trailing off. "That wasn't too bad. It's a lot easier to concentrate without the screaming."

"That's why you wear the earplugs," Lionel deadpanned back.

Ted briefly glared at Lionel in response, but quickly returned his attention to the guitar, turning the volume down to run an alt-picking exercise up and across the neck. Lionel glanced over at Christina, who was clearly still a little tired as she settled in behind the drums. Then again, she always seemed a little tired before she got going. A quick jam would take care of that nicely.

Zack, meanwhile, always looked ready to go.

"Right, then."

Lionel turned his attention back to Ted.

"Now that we're all here, and we can't use the recording area...what's the warmup?"

The question itself was one of the trademarks of how Ted led Sturm (Lionel supposed he was the leader, in a loose sense). From the beginning Ted had mandated they never start rehearsal with a Sturm song, only a cover. However, he always solicited ideas for that cover, and they'd built up a small repertoire of those warmup songs.

"Pull the Plug," Lionel nominated.

~~~~~

Meanwhile, across the studio, Rick nodded to Izzie's suggestion, fluttering his fingers to make sure they were still limber. He ran through the previously-flubbed bass break one more time, sliding up into the pseudo-sweep perfectly, then trailing off from the written solo into a slow slide back down. "Listo!"

In that brief moment between that word and the start of the metronome, he did, indeed, feel totally ready. The silence reminded him a bit of the moment before the end of the intro tape and the beginning of Ada's count-in, when the only sound was the crowd, ready to become a riff-driven storm of bodies.

Five-six-sev'neight--

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Valentina Diaz Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Ada Rae Leveque Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer
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#, as written by iCakez
He reached over the bass and seized his coffee mug, taking a sip. He’d been up early and had gotten a lot done today. It had left him with plenty of time to fiddle around, and now he was stringing up and adjusting his bass. Zack enjoyed a well-adjusted, newly-stringed bass more than most other things in the world. Some people found that weird – even other musicians. He grumbled in his beard and set the coffee down, tightening the last leg to around where he figured was the right note. He fished out the tuner and plugged it in and began tuning his bass.

A few moments later he was done. Of course, Zack knew that he’d be tuning several times today, but new strings never hurt a recording. He took the bass of the table he’d made specifically for the purpose of working on his instrument, and put it back in its case. Then, just to be sure, he got out his phone and shot Christina a text.

‘Hey. Just checking. You live?’

Zack smirked and turned, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

When he reached the studio, he got his things out and went inside – coffee and bass in tow. He walked into their room and offered a couple of nods in greeting, then set his bass down and sat down on an amp. It took a second and another sip of coffee to figure out that Lionel and Ted were staring at something. Or admiring? What were they doing.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Zack asked, a growing excitement spreading in his stomach.

They were staring at something in a guitar case. That had to mean either new guitar or that some improvement had been made. Either way, Zack was curious.


In her less-than-expectedly messy apartment, Ada was still fast asleep. There was a glass of rum & coke next to her bed and her clothes were sprawled everywhere. She had initially decided to go home and have a quiet night in, but as that got boring rather quickly, she had decided to go out on the town. Ada had considered asking her bandmates, but she’d remembered that she didn’t want to die. Izzy might kill her just by having her keep up with her, and Val might just kill her. Ada was even less shy when she was drunk.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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Some musicians get an offshoot of stage fright that turned more into a fear of being looked at, an intense awareness of when any eyes were on them, whether those eyes numbered two or two hundred. Rick did not have this, so it took him a bit to realize someone was staring at him. It did not take him nearly as long to remember she was the small chica from the other band (Storm?), somehow Ada's counterpart in gender, size, and instrument.

Fortunately, she was not Ada's counterpart for inexplicable flirtatiousness. Her smile was merely professional friendliness, a necessity when two bands shared space. The smile was also a prelude to an important question. Unfortunately for her, Val had beaten Rick to the studio (again), and had thereby claimed the right to Don Cafedor (again).

"Coffee, no," Rick said, glancing at the half-full pot across the room, behind the new arrival. "Black sludge from the devil's armpit, yes," he added, loud enough to be heard in the control room, if the door were open. He never put anything in coffee, unless Val brewed it—as she had today. Maybe it helped her get those lightning sweeps, maybe it helped her keep up with Ada, but it was still too strong.

Abruptly, a weird discordant noise came from elsewhere in the studio. That had better not be Izzie's thoughts on the last take...

-----

Meanwhile, in the rehearsal room, Ted had finally gotten over looking at the new guitar and slung it over his shoulder. It felt reasonably similar to Blue Fire, but a tiny bit sharper where the upper line met his ribcage.

He flipped on the practice amp, turned the knobs to a position that sounded good, gave an experimental thumb-pluck on the low string. Sounded good. Now, all that remained was to baptize it with the chord to end all chords. F#m, add 4, flat 7. He strummed it to produce a distorted mess of dissonant notes and fret noise, because some jackass at the store had detuned it before putting it in the case.

After muting the horrible mess, Ted glared at the headstock. "Hang on a sec," he sighed, stomping the tuning pedal.

"Mother of fuck," Lionel groaned. "Warn me before you do that shit, God!" He then turned to Zack. "Sup, Zack. Please tell me you tuned your bass already."

"Bite me," Ted muttered, before giving a quick glimpse to make sure Lionel wasn't about to take him at his word.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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The rumbly bass lick improved Lionel's mood immensely. Being reminded that they were still down one member, on the other hand, did not.

"Haven't seen her," he replied. "But if she ain't here yet, she'll be here..." He lost track of his train of thought. "Lemme check," he said, abandoning his guitar midway through setup. As he started out, he began calculating the odds that Christina might get Ted's somewhat infamous Ray—allegedly borrowed from Benny Goodman—upon her arrival. The lead axe-slinger was still tuning his new guitar, so he might not care as much about minor delays. On the other hand, minor delays were starting to add up, so he might be more annoyed about this delay, simply because Christina could have been on time. Wait, was she—yeah, it was noon; Sturm was officially entering Late Territory.

Before he could reach the front door to check for the old Accord, he heard her voice from the mid-studio kitchenette. Much to his surprise, it sounded quite chipper. Maybe she could jump in fast enough that Ted wouldn't notice.

He peeked in to see her in the middle of conversation with someone he vaguely remembered as being one of Psychosis's members. Not the drummer; he had no trouble remembering the disparity of their drummer being the one he least expected. Bassist, maybe? He seemed generic enough for that part.


-----


Rick, for his part, thought the question reasonable, though he couldn't remember the answer offhand. "Longer than anyone else," he said, almost on reflex. "Except Izzie," he added, subsiding to thought. He hadn't counted his years in the tech-death machine of Psychosis. Fin de Días had started in 2001 (easy to remember because Ramón had insisted on writing a song about 9/11 because...reasons), and ended almost three years to the day after that. Then he bounced for a bit and woodshedded like mad before joining Psychosis, back when they still had a bit of a punkish edge. That would mean...

"Five years," he concluded. "What about you?" The little that his curious searches had turned up about the other band (Sturm, he remembered now) seemed to indicate they were a new band, so she couldn't have been with them that long. On that note, he absently noticed one of Sturm's guitarists had joined them, but had not said anything yet.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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A wry half-grin cracked Rick's face at the reaction Val's infamous coffee provoked. He had long ago tried and failed to make it palatable. Izzie had seen the four empty packs of cream and sugar and looked at him weird for the rest of that week. Thereafter Rick simply tried to beat Val to Don Cafedor, which was easier said than done considering her penchant for bumming a ride off the bandleader who had fired Ada's predecessor for being five minutes late to a rehearsal. To be fair, he had also reeked of tequila and tried to cop a feel on Rick while somehow mistaking him for Izzie. Maybe that had been the real reason.

He remembered that the guitarist's name had begun with an L, but would have probably guessed Leon before Lionel. He nodded politely and extended his free hand. "Rick Silva."

The guitarist took his hand in a firm handshake, simultaneously aiming a playful glare at the drummer. "Ain't my fault the venues are always so hot," he deadpanned in response. "Ted's back there," he added, jabbing his thumb backwards in the vague direction of Sturm's rehearsal room. "Still tuning his guitar, so you might not be technically late if you get in there soon..."

Something outside the room drew his attention. Rick listened carefully, hearing two hushed voices. Izzie rarely raised or lowered her voice from its typical volume, Psychosis shows being the obvious exception. That left Val, Ada, and perhaps Ted or Barbagrande (What? Rick only met the guy once). Those two seemed unlikely. Ada must have arrived. Which meant another pair of ears to hear the latest take on B&SA. Which he would probably have to redo.

He gulped down the rest of his water and started for the exit, before remembering an important question. He froze a couple feet from the door, ignored Lionel's confusion, and turned on the balls of both feet to face the baterista.

"What's your name?"

-----

The other bassist's question nearly went unanswered. Ted plucked the third string, satisfied to hear a good solid C, then remembered. "Oh! Right, schedule. We're gonna run through the songs, first off. We only have four right now, and I'd like to see how long they are. If they're too short, we might have to come up with something new." He grinned. "That little lick there sounded promising. I'd play along, but...yeah."

A pause, as he digested Zack's other comment and resumed tuning. "We might need to get another coffee maker. Did you smell today's batch?" He made a face, then turned his attention back to the tuner, seeing string four approaching its destined F.

The last two strings followed into tune quickly. Satisfied, he tapped the tuner off, then prepared again. F#—well, technically, Em, add 4, flat 7. And strum. Strum. Strum-strummmmm.

"Solid," he said. It didn't sound quite as full as Blue Fire, but it could work. He would know by the end of the day.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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"Yeah, sure, another time," Ted said. "But get thinking about what song you want for today's warm-up. I want to get right into it today. If we need to write more, best to start early." And perhaps his new guitar would help with that. Guitarists always talked about guitars holding songs or inspiring certain riffs, which had admittedly made him leery of the idea. The last thing he wanted to be was a guitar collector chasing an illusory perfect guitar. The metaphorical jury was still out on whether it was any better for him to become a guitar customizer, chasing illusory perfection in modification. Then again, he had settled on the guitar's current setup fairly quickly. But what if he needed similar pickups in this new guitar? What was the point in getting a new guitar anyway?

But he was getting ahead of himself. More important now was playability: could he play on this as well as on Blue Fire? Only time would tell.

"Let's defeat some fucking Huns."

Ted blinked and looked up. Lionel was walking in right behind Christina, with no expression on his face to complement, counterpoint, or otherwise explain his desire to murder Old Germanic barbarians. He offered no further explanation—though Ted noticed Christina give a wry grin to the guitarist. Inside joke? Inside joke.

"Right then," Ted said. "While we settle in, anybody got a warmup idea? Lionel, you don't get to pick."

Lionel shrugged and shouldered his Stratocaster.

-----

Was that...? Rick let the unexpected reference go and headed back to his band. That little break had been plenty of time for Izzie to make a judgement call on his last take. He made a mental guess of a...62.5% chance that it would pass. As he took sight of the band, all silent and staring at each other, he revised his guess to 37.5%.

Prodigal son? 12.5%.

"Yeah, I can give it another shot," Rick said. "I had some dry mouth, I bet that was affecting it." A blatant lie, like most of his excuses for insufficiently good takes. It was more his own joke for the bandleader than an actual excuse.

In the booth, he settled the headphones on, making sure the cord was running behind him (a mistake every guitarist made once—once), and fluttered his fingers to make sure they still worked. "Listo!"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Valentina Diaz Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Ada Rae Leveque Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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#, as written by iCakez
"Huns?" Zack looked up so fast his beard had to settle. Confusion was plain on his face. He was not following at all. He had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but was wracking his brain trying to remember. Then he spotted the grin on Christina's face. He looked at Ted for help, but realized that his bandmate had seemingly shrugged it off.

Ah. Inside joke. At least they arrived at the same conclusion. He wasn't meant to understand what that meant.

"Ouch. Shoot through the heart." He said, as Lionel had quickly been dealt with. He was not allowed to vote. It dawned on him that he had started the chorus of a certain Bon Jovi song, whereafter his face froze as if he had been stricken with fear. As if someone had poured icy water down his shirt. He had never liked that band. Ever. When he was a young child, he had enjoyed the usual bands that every aspiring metal head listen to. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth to name the 3 most obvious ones. As with most other people he knew who shared his taste in music, it had spiraled from there. There was a few really quite strange bands out there, that he had come across in his life. Those bands that really stick out because the music is just plain weird.

"To clarify, that is not my suggestion!" He said. He really didn't want to play that. "Uh... I don't know, Descent of the Fallen?"

[hr][hr]

She wasn't getting anything out of Val. But Ada was still curious. She sat in the chair in the corner, watching her from behind her phone. She was checking her socials. A few random people who had seen her play were commenting on various photos and Tweets. It was rarely interesting, but she was caught in the trap that was social media, so she scrolled on.

Looking away from Val, she watched as Izzie had cornered Rick. She winced, remembering the few times she had been on the receiving end of that, and realizing that she was going to be so again, later. She sighed, stomach growling. Ada shifted in her seat.

"Am I allowed to smoke in here or do I have to go out?" She asked while Rick got ready. She didn't want to leave the room as she figured that would be disrespectful - especially since she had already been late. Ada smiled brightly. An attempt to ward off any anger or annoyance.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Valentina Diaz Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Ada Rae Leveque Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer
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"Nice to meetcha," Lionel said, pondering whether any of this was a good idea. Surely she had a good reason to be getting this drunk—a bad breakup came again to mind. Though perhaps there was something more going on there. They obviously had a connection; their interactions were proof enough of that. Was she in Psychosis, too? He couldn't remember anyone else in that band except the titaness frontwoman. As they resolved to more drinks, the uncomfortable feeling settled that he was interrupting something important.

Fortunately, the game was starting, so Lionel turned his attention back to that. Sometime in the fifth inning, after the ladies had at least two more rounds, Valentina announced she was going to the john. Lionel broke off from the game to watch Ada escort her more-inebriated friend off to the proper facilities, wondering how their conversation might have gone without Valentina's interruption.

Neither of them came back out. The Orioles lost. A bitter cloud hung over Lionel as he took the bus home. Back home, he stayed up a while with a tall glass of water and SyFy. It had really gone downhill since the name-change. Since when was a dragon sci-fi? Or was the "fy" for Fantasy? Who knew?

Even heavily compressed, the opening riff to "Heartwork" was inimitable, which was partly why he had chosen it for his ringtone. The number was unfamiliar. He hit the end button and cast the phone aside. Aw shit, the dragon was poking its head in the bar now. It could set the whole place alight, with all that—there was "Heartwork" again. Grumbling, he picked it up again, ready to turn it off for the night.

It was Ted.

The dragon went on mute. "Yeah?"

"Lionel?"

He frowned. "Steph?" They'd met once, enough that he recognized her soft contralto even when it was marred with distress.

"Yeah. Ted told me to call you. He's in the hospital."

Lionel sat up straight. "The fuck?"

"He hurt his hand real bad. They're working on it now, but I dunno if he's going to be able to make it to the studio tomorrow."

"Well...shit." Lionel sighed, deflating a little inside. "What happened?"

"Tripped, fell, beer glass broke in his hand."

Lionel sucked in a hissing breath. "Fuck that shit. Fuck that. God damn."

"Yeah. He also wanted me to tell you that Izzie should have the place open when you get there, and just explain to her. I might be able to stop by and get you Ted's key tomorrow. Alright?"

"I-uh...erm-Imean, sure?" Lionel didn't really know what else there was to say.

"Kay. I gotta see how he's doing."

Lionel grunted, and the call ended there. There wasn't much else to do but turn off the movie, piss, and go to bed. Which he did, in that order.

A NEW DAY

Zack was giving Lionel a ride into the studio, so Ted felt no compunctions about coming in as early as he wanted. He hadn't slept more than a couple hours with the pain in his hand. He still brought the new guitar (which still needed a name), even though he knew he couldn't play it. The doctor had demurred on when he'd be able to play again.

He left his guitar in the rehearsal studio and went to the kitchen, hoping against hope there would be some damn good coffee. Even that black sludge would be fine if he could get enough milk in it. Rather quickly, though, the difficulties of basic fine-motor tasks like getting a coffee cup left-handed became apparent. This was going to be a long day.

It was the black sludge today. Making some mental calculations based on the smell of it, he poured it to fill the cup by only a third, then would fill it the rest of the way with creamer. This plan worked remarkably well until it came time to pour the creamer. The annoying single-serve cream-cups were bad enough until one had only one hand either to hold the cup or peel the plastic cover. Unable to move his thumb for the wrapping and splint on his wrist, Ted tried balancing it between forefinger and expressive finger, but misjudged the force needed to peel it open and ended up spilling most of it on the counter.

"Dammit," Ted growled, noting that, of course, Christina chose that moment to walk in.

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Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer
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The phrase thank God she can be serious ran through Ted's mind for a full second before he checked it and reminded himself of her year's tenure. She had proven herself much more than a hired gun with a blast-beat fetish. She had a way of knowing when a song needed Joe Morello and when it needed Buddy Rich. Moreover, her intuition seemed so basic it was second-nature to her. By the time he'd learned a similar sense of when to be, say, Eddie McFadden instead of John McLaughlin, he'd already built a reputation that took five years as a sideman to Maurice Anderson to quell.

Christina, meanwhile, was helping Ted, despite all the ribbing she gave him. It was a weird feeling for Ted, but he had to roll with it. "Thanks," he said. "I'll explain when Lionel and Zack get here." He poured the cream-cup into the coffee, watching it go from black to merely dark brown. For a half second he considered asking Christina to help him get another, but he wasn't gonna push it, especially since she needed her coffee too. Though he was starting to doubt whether this qualified as coffee, if he needed twice to thrice as much cream as his usual brew. Guess whoever brewed it was going to milk those beans for all they were worth.

...

Milk!

"I wonder," he murmured to himself, going to the kitchenette fridge. Sure enough, there was a half-gallon jug of milk, still three-quarters full. Whole milk too, which was basically a few degrees off cream, right? That was fortunately easy to open and pour until the cup was full. "Maybe that'll help," he said. He stirred the concoction, then took a sip.

The milk had cooled it enough to make it easily drinkable on grounds of heat, at least. But drinks were not drinkable on temperature alone. Mere milliseconds passed before he began to regret the decision. No doubt Christina would garner considerable amusement in the face he was making as he swallowed both his regret and the cause of his regret, leaving behind the bitter aftertaste of betrayal. Milk was supposed to blunt both the heat and the taste of coffee; why had it done but one?

Naturally, Zack and Lionel entered around that time. Ted was starting to get convinced the universe had it in for him at this moment. "Hi guys," he rasped, coughing to clear out the residue in this throat. "Hi," he repeated, clearer this time. "This drink might be illegal in California."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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Numerous words coursed through Rick's mind as he pulled in at the studio. About two-thirds of them were in Spanish. None of them were suitable for print or primetime television. He still brought his bass and the "efectos" bag with him, just in case Izzie wanted to re-track any parts, but that was unlikely. The contrapositive of her infamous perfectionism was that perfection needed no re-takes. Once she had the perfect take, whether her own or her bandmate's, she never asked for more. It was a fair tradeoff.

One whiff from the kitchenette was enough to make him glad he'd decided to grab a cup from elsewhere. That was the real reason he had been late, in a sense. The side-trip to Abaddon's had forced him to take a route notorious for traffic hangups, and this morning had been no different.

"Saludos," he said upon entering. "Sorry I'm late. Did you already soundcheck?"

-------

It took a moment for Ted to acknowledge Zack's question. Lionel supposed he hadn't gotten much sleep. Perhaps that was why he was risking such memetically strong coffee, even if he wasn't playing. That much was obvious from the splint, all the way from mid-forearm to thumbtip.

"Oh, this," Ted said, indicating it. "Yeah, about that. I had an accident last night. Overextended the tendon or something like that. Hurts like hell. I gotta ice it every day, then I'm seeing a doctor next Tuesday to get a better prognosis. They..." He faltered, took a sip of coffee, then continued: "They didn't say I'm not going to play again, but...they didn't seem to be able to say a lot. I'm gonna have to wait until I talk to the doctor. Maybe then I'll know. For now...I can't play on the record. We'd have to push everything back by a couple months, and we already have the studio time, so..." Shrug. "Say hi to the new producer?"

"Hi," Lionel said, feeling pressure settle in over him like never before. He'd expected some of this since Steph's telephone call last night, but only now was it all falling on him. All of the guitar work on this record would fall to him. The riffs weren't a problem; he might even enjoy the chance to play both his parts and Ted's elaborations, but what about the leads? Ted played a solid majority of those, and they were always so different. How could he equal that?

"Fuck," he muttered to himself. Not having much else to say, he picked his guitar case back up from where he'd left it and headed for the rehearsal room. If he was going to have to play for two guitarists, he had best start warming up.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Valentina Diaz Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Ada Rae Leveque Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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"Claro, claro," Rick said, both to Izzie's implied request he get set at the console and heading off the little interaction between Ada and Val. Maybe Ada had drummed herself a little too hard the other day, or maybe something else had happened. Izzie wasn't making a problem of it, so neither would he. "What kind of tone we going for on the guitars, jefe?" Psychosis was certainly—and intentionally—not on the sonic cutting edge. Izzie's stubborn insistence on using her old SG for pretty much everything lent their riffs a sludgier quality than most other bands of similar technicality, and sometimes they didn't saturate the tone as much. Last album had been pretty heavily distorted, but not wholly devoid of dynamics.

Izzie had the idea of where she wanted to go with this, what would work best with the clean-but-growling tone Rick had already recorded. He was less an assistant producer than he was an extension of her producer's brain, more ears to listen and more hands to work the desk while her own hands worked the guitar.

Before Izzie could respond to his query, the door opened quietly. Rick turned around, wondering who on Earth could be coming in, and recognized the guitarist from the other band. Both the band's name and the man's name escaped him for the moment, but he could tell the man wasn't in great condition. His right hand was wrapped up in some kind of splint, and he had the distinctive dark-eyed pallor of someone who hadn't gotten much sleep.

"I won't be a bother," the man said quietly. "I just wanted to, uh, watch." His lips quirked in a half-smile as he took the situation in. "Not much changes, eh Izzie?"

-------

Some time later, Ted had explained the situation to his own band, just in time for them to be finishing up the scratch tracks before tracking for real. It was some stupendous timing, if by stupendous one meant horrendous and aggravating. Half of what made Sturm unique (at least in his mind) was the harmonic play between the two guitarists, or more accurately the ornamentation Ted added to Lionel's bedrock. Since Lionel had to sing live, it only made sense that Ted played more complicated parts, but now Lionel would have to play both. And sing. At least it wasn't at the same time.

Christina came to the rescue from that morose tangent with one of her typical quips. It worked for Ted, eliciting a chuckle. His semi-formal style had started in his emigration from jazz clubs, but now he supposed it was as much part of Sturm's image as Zack's mountain-man look on the opposite side of the stage. Under the funny part of the quip, he could tell she was feeling for his pain—hard to miss how she reached across to pat him on the shoulder farthest from his injured hand.

Zack was more conventionally reassuring. "He'll do fine. We'll get through this. It won't sound totally live like I'd hoped, but we'll do what we can." What else could they do?

"Anyway," he said, now addressing the band at large as he took up his coffee and followed Christina following Lionel to the rehearsal room. "If I remember right—and I'm running on maybe two hours of sleep, so maybe I'm wrong—but I think we just had to make a scratch track for Under the Lash with the new instrumental, then we'll be ready to start actually recording. Maybe we can get Christina's drums set up; Psychosis finished up their drum stuff a while ago so there's at least one room free." He smiled to himself. "I've got an idea there, too, but one thing at a time."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ted Marubini Character Portrait: Lionel Anderson Character Portrait: Isabel Martinez Character Portrait: Zack Walker Character Portrait: Christina Kjaer Character Portrait: Rick Silva
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Not without trepidation, Rick turned back to the console, back to Izzie. He suddenly felt rather conscious of the new arrival's eyes on him, on the console, on Izzie's mic'd setup in the next room over, on everything. Was "observation anxiety" a thing that existed? Working to Izzie's standards was bad enough; now he had to work under the gaze of this nosy lisaido? ¿Por qué? What had happened to him, anyway? And why did Rick care?

"En fin," he murmured, "Where were we?" And with that, he let the aural minutiae keep him focused. He wasn't letting any observation anxiety get the better of him.

-------

Admittedly, Ted hadn't intended to arouse his bandmates' curiosity with his suggestion of having an "idea" he'd bring up later. He really did want to have all of their songs scratch-tracked for reference before they started the delicate work of setting up, but now they were curious, and it couldn't hurt, really, could it?

"Alright, fine," he said, his mock-irritated tone belied by a half-smile he was pretty sure he'd picked up from Christina. "Let's take a look at the spare recording room." This time he led the way a bit further down to the mostly empty room, a half-stack he presumed belonged to Izzie miked up in one corner, the other mostly empty.

For a few seconds he looked, wondering. Then he said, "Christina, how much room do you think we'd have if your whole kit's in here ready to go? Think we could fit it in with that half-stack?" The question was half-rhetorical. Psychosis had fit their drummer's kit in there before. But his idea involved a little bit more.

"Here's the idea," he began. "We recorded the scratch tracks as a band. It's got a cool live sound to it, even if it's a bit rough. But I don't think we can fit the whole band in here. Can't do it now anyway because of my hand, and I wouldn't want to anyway because apparently you're supposed to double track guitars. We'll see about that. But anyway, you don't double track drums. Or bass. So why not do those together? It'll take half as long as doing them separately, plus you're locked in with each other easily." He pursed his lips, looking in the live room again, thinking. Would Zack's amp fit in there? Would they have to DI it? Hopefully not; he knew Zack liked his Orange amp, and it did mesh well with his and Lionel's own setups.

"So what do you think?"