Old City Square
Years in the future...
...But not many.
The smoke in the air caught the light show from the DJ booth most attractively. It was mostly vapor, since New Clockwork Run wasn't zoned for excessive combustion, but a few of the dancers had lit up during the show, and that was okay. It was all okay. The beats were pounding and the lights were spinning and the night was only half gone into the morning. One thing that could be said for new Gnomeregan, after all, was that the nightlife was top-notch.
But what would you expect, from a city that didn't need the sun?
The mechanical tones of DJ B's work crashed over each other, Supercollider melting into Internal Combust spinning on to Black Powder Rag, the twisting knots of dancers coming together and breaking apart to the beat and the pulse and the floor-rattling throb, her music a modern take on the quintessential Gnome, myriad parts, multiple levels, all coming together in a cohesive whole, clicking along like a perfectly oiled clockwork. It wasn't until Steel Run Silver Hand whined all the way to conclusion that anyone noticed the change in the booth.
It was empty, and now the music had stopped.
A few quizzical shouts went up from the floor, but a husky cough stopped things before they got rough. A single spotlight focused in, drone servos homing on the little steel ring on her finger. She was down below the booth, on the floor, among the crowd. This hadn't happened before. DJ B was the techno angel of NCR, hovering above her adoring worshipers as she rewarded and directed them with music. This was the first time anyone had heard her speak.
Hers was a smoky voice, not matching the image she showed. A husky, tired voice, in stark contrast to the neon-spiked hair and glittering studs in her ears and nose. The only thing about her that the voice matched was the lines around her good eye. She spoke again, coughing a little into the microphone, twiddling her hands about a wooden guitar almost nervously.
"Hey. I know this isn't what you came here tonight for..."
A shout from the back was quickly stifled before it could interrupt her. This was different. NCR always was cutting-edge, and whatever B pulled from her bag of tricks never failed to satisfy. Go on, the silence said. Show us. Enlighten us and make us move, like you always do.
"This is something I want to share. Something a little different. Something. I don't know if she's here tonight, she probably isn't. But this is something for the girl who reminded me how to sing."
I sold my piano, it couldn't come with me
I locked up my bedroom and I walked out into the air
Nothing I needed is left there behind me
I walk out through the shadows of Old City Square
The lights stopped as her fingers worked over the old wood slowly, coaxing a simple melody from the body of the guitar. It swelled, but slowly, worming its way between and around the hesitant dancers. Melanie's eye closed, and a few more instruments joined her, the booth responding to her programming.
I wander the highways from Ir'nforge to Lakeshire
And I heard the songbirds of Darnassus sing
But I loved like a fountain and it left me with nothing
Just the memories of walking through Old City Square
And when her eye opened again it was glistening. She stumbled, just an instant, but caught her voice before the song fell. That tired, cracked contralto filled out as she took a deep breath, pushing forward, the song pulling her now.
Now I live in the shadows where light is electric
And time is a number that rests on a wall
And nobody knows me, my friends and my family
Are as far from this city as Old City Square
As the thick, reedy tones of a harmonica took over, she let her voice drop gratefully, catching a deep, long breath. The crowd on the floor was listening, at least, but for every one that was nodding, another was shaking her head, and three more were just confused. That's all right, though. She wasn't playing this for them. She was playing it for herself, and for her. The harmonica descended, her cue to pick up once more. Just a little further, and her voice could rest. Only a bit more.
So cover this warm night in a blanket of starlight
And I'll follow this freeway out into the air
In case you should wonder and wanted to find me
I'm traveling homeward to Old City Square
I'm traveling homeward to Old City Square
The music stopped. Her guitar let out a final squeak as she leaned forward and whispered into the mic.
"You've been a great audience tonight, folks. We'll keep you dancing until morning, I promise. Thanks for letting me do this, just this once."
As Melanie Beanhopper slumped down off the chair, the spell broke. The crowd started muttering, moving restlessly, but it parted as she walked toward the exit, a small bubble of room opening around her. She looked over her shoulder as she opened the door, and the roar of traffic flooded in briefly.
"I'll be back tomorrow."
And DJ B snapped her fingers, and the classic pulse of Stride Mesa flooded the floor, and the lights spun back up while the door closed, leaving only a memory behind.